saladtime: chicken, feta, carrot, tomato

(Picture forthcoming.)

I just decided I have a new goal: to have an interesting homemade salad for lunch at least 3 times a week. Maybe it’s a belated new year’s resolution of sorts.

Jon and I had some chicken breasts that needed to be cooked, so I thought I’d make salads with chicken for lunch. I wasn’t expecting them to be very memorable (alas, I didn’t bother to take pictures at all). It surprised me how filling and satisfying these tasted and inspired me to try making interesting salads more often. Also, I realized I should never settle for a mediocre lunch when delicious ones can be simple!

This particular salad came about using what was in the fridge—fairly basic ingredients:

For 2 very filling salads:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1/2 C feta cheese
  • mixed greens! (I use the bag of supergreens from Costco)
  • balsamic vinaigrette (again, mine is from Costco. I love Costco.)

I made the chicken breasts the night before, seasoning them with a little salt and pepper, and then cooking them on a hot pan coated with coconut oil. 6-7 minutes on each side, or until the juices run clear. Timing will depend on the size of the breasts (yes, I just said that).

Now for the salad assembly…

  1. Fill the salad container you’ll use with mixed greens. I recommend a big one! Start by adding 2-3 tablespoons of dressing and toss to coat. If you need more dressing, add it little by little. Some of the best salads I’ve tried have just a light coating of dressing on the greens (no puddles of dressing at the bottom).  Now that the greens are lightly covered, they should sink down a bit and create space for your toppings.
  2. Slice the carrots into matchstick pieces. I cut the carrot into 2 inch pieces, cut these pieces in half lengthwise, and then sliced them finely. Cut these in half again and sprinkle on the salad.
  3. Slice and/or dice the tomato and add a layer to your salad.
  4. Cut the chicken into strips and then dice into pieces. Add to salad.
  5. Sprinkle a generous layer of feta cheese over all of this.

Voilà! A simple recipe for a deliciously filling salad.

rice soup (aka juk or congee)

Juk
My family calls this dish rice soup.  It’s pronounced something like “juk” in Chinese and is usually labeled “congee” on restaurant menus. Which is good because calling it porridge doesn’t do it justice.

It’s basically rice cooked in more liquid than you’d normally use. It is a perfect food for winter, for when you’re feeling under the weather, or if you’ve gotten a tooth extraction, like my dad did last week. My grandma has been making him rice soup all week long and I’ve been quite a lucky benefactor.

The key to good juk is to break down the rice grains until it’s all a thick and mushy soup – my grandma describes this property as “noh” in Chinese. Starting with a good broth or bones and add-ins helps tremendously. My grandma usually does pork meatballs, maybe a few dried shrimps, and when we’re fancy, adding a thousand year old egg just before serving.

It’s not literally a thousand years old. What are you thinking? It is preserved though, and I guess it kinda looks like a fossil. It’s just a duck egg wrapped in clay and other materials for a few months. I won’t pretend to be an expert on this process but I’m sure Google will be able to help if you’re curious. As far as my grandma has described, they bury them in clay pots for a bit before they’re ready to eat. They are generally an acquired taste for westerners, especially with their dark black and green appearance, gelatinous consistency, and creamy greenish yolk. They are particularly delicious when they have a snowflake/flower-like pattern on the egg (see pic below) – I think this is a sign it’s been preserved properly and the salts/reactions that give the egg their flavor and texture have done their work.

Here’s my grandma’s traditional recipe. Be warned: grandmothers are not precise cooks. But their food is somehow always tastier.

Grandma’s Traditional Recipe (written as she told it to me):

  • Jasmine Rice
  • Pork Neck Bones
  • Ginger
  • Ground pork
  • Dried Shrimp (optional)
  • Salt, to taste (at the very end)

Wash the rice. It’s best to do this the night before so it cooks better. Just wash it and let it sit in water until you’re ready to use it. Stick it in the fridge or let it sit out if it’s cold enough out. Make bone broth with pork neck bones if you have any (or other bones if you have those). There’s enough flavor to get broth out of them twice. You can cook the bones right with the water and rice, but then you might have small bits of bone in there, so you can cook the broth first and transfer it to the other pot if you want to avoid this.

If you want 2 bowls of soup, get 2 1/2 bowls of water or broth for the rice (for 2 small Chinese bowls worth of rice soup, it’s about 3/4 cup rice). If you want dried shrimp, rinse/clean them and add to the broth with the rice. Add a few slices of ginger (somewhere between 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and a few inches wide). Once the water is boiling, turn it way down. It doesn’t need to keep boiling. It might not even look like it’s cooking. If you want meatballs, add small balls of ground pork (seasoned lightly) and bring the soup back to a boil. Turn it way down and leave the lid on. Cook for at least 30 minutes or until it’s “noh.” If it’s taking a long time, take your chopsticks and stir it up in the pot a bit to break apart the rice to get it “noh.” It’s ready. You can just heat it up when you’re ready to eat it. Salt can be added at the very end – use however much you think it needs. You can even add more water if you think it’s too thick.

The easiest way to keep cooking it once the broth/water is boiling is to transfer it to the hot steamer. This way there’s no chance of it sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the rice sticks to the bottom of the pot, it can turn black and is really hard to clean.

 

The snowflake “Fa” pattern below is a sign of a quality thousand year old egg.

Thousand Year Old Egg

persimmons: fall fruit

persimmon


An appropriately colored fruit for the season. It’s that time of year again, when the persimmon harvest results in grocery bags full of these gorgeous fruits passed from my great aunt’s tree to my grandma’s home, then to my own kitchen.

I thought there were just two types of persimmons, the type my great aunt grows (shown in the photo above, and also known as ‘Fuyu’) and the kind that looks a like an overly large and edgy Roma tomato (also known as ‘Hachiya’). A quick google search proved me wrong! Turns out with all the cultivation there are thousands of varieties. Impressive, but less surprising seeing as they’ve been growing them for thousands of years in China, then Japan, and elsewhere in the world.

Growing up I knew how much my grandmother loved these fruits, so I pretended I never wanted to eat one so she could enjoy them all to herself. My curiosity only grew of course, with the high praise of my grandmother, and her frequent comparison that ripe persimmons are like honey/sugar. It’s true though, it really is like eating sugar!

Persimmons have always held such a sophistication in my mind. The colors ranging from a strange yellow-orange to a deep, almost red, color. Their texture ranges too, from firm and sliceable, to jelly-like, only scoopable with a spoon or slurped lips. They’re also not really anything I’d seen outside my grandmother’s home for quite a while.

The Hachiya variety is best eaten when it’s so absurdly ripe it’s almost like juice inside the protective fruit peel. Messy? Why yes. But every sticky drop is a treat. Even so, I think I prefer the flatter Fuyu, if only for the more varied possibilities it presents with the range in textures and levels of sweetness observed by waiting (or not waiting!) to eat them.

Once I tried to make a persimmon pie for my grandma. She was not impressed. Neither was I, to be quite honest. Since then I haven’t really tried to cook with persimmons. Not because I was afraid of it tasting bad (what can taste bad with a persimmon in it???), more so because it seems like a shame to waste the delicious and delicate flavor of the fresh fruit.

It’s not just a beautiful looking and tasting fruit. It’s got loads of health benefits too! My grandmother is nearing 90 years old and I can’t remember a single season she hasn’t gotten at least one batch from the harvests of her sister, cousin, and/or neighbor. Here are just a few reasons why you should try a persimmon now:

  • High Vitamin A and C content, as indicated by the beautiful orange coloring
    • Now you don’t have to stick to carrots to keep that vision 20/20
    • Antioxidants can help you fight free-radicals. Younger-looking skin and cancer-free cells, one persimmon at a time.
    • Vitamin C is a cold-buster. Fight the flu with fruit this season!
  • It’s a fiber-rich food
    • Fiber is good for digestion. Regulate and keep that colon clean. Know what I’m saying?
    • Keep hunger at bay
  • Copper – metal in fruit?
    • Yes. Apparently, copper is essential in forming red blood cells.
  • It’s delicious, duh.

eating at sun palace, cancun

anniversaryWe spent a week at Sun Palace, Cancun: a couples-only all-inclusive resort right on the beach. All the food and drinks you can imagine, with impeccable Service. That’s right – Service with a capital S. They surprised us with a bottle of wine upon arriving and one night we came back to our room to find champagne and chocolate cake waiting for us for our special occasion (see pic above!). Room Service never disappointed – they even made a small pot of thyme tea at our request (we got sick while there and found online that thyme tea is a popular German remedy for cold/sore throats). Knowing it was a healing/herbal remedy tea, they brought it up on a tray with a lime, cut in wedges, and honey too!

They have several restaurants, and over the course of our stay we tried most of them. I’ll say that the most impressive part of each was the presentation of the food. It was lavish and clear that each plate had individual attention (even when it’s in the buffet!). When going to an a la carte restaurant for dinner, each spot has a house appetizer they serve to all guests. It was a neat surprise for each meal.

El Alamo:
This was the main eatery, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It had a buffet that served international foods for breakfast and lunch along with 2 made-to-order areas. Can’t ever go wrong eating here.
Breakfast: Daily, the buffet had cold cuts, a selection of cheese and cream, scrambled eggs, bacon and more. They changed up the preparation for beans (sometimes black beans, sometimes pinto, whole or fried). They also served a variety of other foods which were different depending on the day including Mayan style tamales, platanos with honey (or without honey some days, which I preferred), grilled pineapple, breakfast potatoes/hash browns, and bacon (which was definitely there daily). An omelette station on one side and a waffles, pancakes, french toast, eggs station on the other. They also had hot oatmeal and hot chocolate, an assortment of fruits, yogurt, cereals and sweet breads.
Lunch: The cold cuts are here again, as well as assorted fruit. There is also a selection of salads that changes daily. The made-to-order area on one side had burgers, flank steaks, chicken, a roast or some sort of carved meat, and on the other, seafood (salmon, really fresh/thickly-sliced calamari, white fish (not sure what kind), shrimp, scallops, one day they had a whole grouper available for pieces too!), sopes, huaraches, tacos, tostadas, cochinita pibil, and more. The seafood was cooked in white wine and seasoned really really well. The cochinita pibil was succulent and flavorful too!
Dinner: This place turns into an a la carte restaurant serving Mexican regional cuisine. I ordered the duck, served with squash and a pipian sauce (small green pumpkin seeds). Pretty good – I liked that the dishes weren’t the expected tacos, burritos, and tamales. We ordered a yummy fondue-like dish as an appetizer (queso fundido con chorizo). But I am a cheese fiend, so I may be biased.

La Tratto:
A restaurant with a dress code. Guys have to wear a button up shirt and nice shoes. I wonder if this is to make sure the woman gets her opportunity at a nice dinner where her man must dress up (most women like to dress up right?). Italian food is usually a pretty safe bet and it’s a safe bet here too. I ordered capellini (one of my favorite types of pasta) with the restaurant’s recommended sauce (a garlicky oil sauce) and shrimp/lobster. It was pretty good, but nothing out of this world. My mom makes a mean garlic shrimp scampi, so I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to quality.  Jon got a steak stuffed with I forget what. It had an amazing presentation on the plate but if you’re looking for a meat dish go to The Steak instead.

Oriental Lounge:
If you’ve ever had any Asian food in your life, I’d skip eating a full meal here and choose to try a new dish at any of the other restaurants (or your favorite dish you already had again!). This restaurant is on a 2nd-level rooftop, giving the location a pretty cute feel and view of the ocean below, but it’s not worth going to outside of that. They started us with edamame and a chef’s soup (which were both pretty good actually). But for claims of sushi, pad thai, and thai curry, the food did not live up to our expectations. The salmon sashimi I ordered was razor thin and doused in soy sauce before it got to the table (making it much too salty). It was a fairly large plate of 16 pieces that looked more like smoked salmon than the one or two thick pieces of fish I am used to getting when I order sashimi. Jon’s pad thai used thick chow-fun style rice noodles instead of the thinner ones I’m used to seeing in pad thai. The Thai curry I ordered wasn’t bad, but just came with the smallest serving of rice I’ve ever seen given at an Asian eatery.
Best items on the menu here were the edamame and chef’s soup (the house app).

The Steak:
A must-eat-at spot. The view alone is reason enough, overlooking the pool and beach in the nighttime. There’s a salad bar and dessert bar and an open grill where you can see your meal being cooked for you. We both wanted a New York steak when we ate here, though they had plenty of other options (rib eye, t-bone, lobster, salmon, and more). The steaks was tender and though I thought they were a little salty, they were still VERY GOOD. The mashed potatoes were mouth-watering delicious, and the bread was super fresh. The house appetizer here were chicken fingers (which were really chicken tenders) and a house dipping sauce which turned out to be one of Jon’s favorites. Would’ve eaten here again to try a seafood dish if we had another chance.

homemade mocha lara bars

mocha larabarA gluten-free treat that’s so satisfyingly simple.

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cup medjool dates,* pitted
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 2 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 1 TBSP ground coffee beans
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Put everything in the food processor until the nuts are finely chopped and the dates have become paste-like.
  2. Pour/mold the mixture onto a small baking sheet with parchment – I used the one from my toaster oven. Press it together to make it more compact. It’ll be sticky so you could use another sheet of parchment paper in between your hands and the mixture.
  3. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for an hour or so, or in the fridge overnight. I usually put something heavy on top of the flattened mixture to help pack it down some more (keeping the mixture covered with the extra sheet of parchment or plastic wrap of course!).
  4. When it’s firmed up a bit, cut it into your favorite or most portable shape, wrap individually and enjoy!

*I recommend starting with whole dates. Removing the pits yourself is an extra step, but I find that the dates tend to be drier when they’ve been pitted and packaged for a while. If pre-pitted dates are what’s available to you, they’ll work too! You just may need to add extra dates or 1T of water at a time to get the mixture to hold.

There are endless variations! Dates are the key ingredient here – you can add or remove ingredients as you like to create different flavor combinations. I made a Pecan Pie version tonight as well using 1 cup roasted pecans, 1 cup pitted medjool dates, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla (process pecans, cinnamon, and salt until finely ground, then add dates and vanilla and continue processing until you’ve got a coarse paste).

 

 

 

wax apple

wax appleThe Asian network of grandmothers, old friends, and neighbors’ fruitful backyards is strong. A ripe tree bearing many fruit can becomes gifts to old friends, neighbors, and/or relatives who will likely parse it out to their own friends, neighbors, and/or relatives; a great way to diversify your harvest and taste some of the freshest and sweetest organic produce!

A friend of my grandma’s visited her a few days ago and brought her six wax apples. They came from the backyard of another friend, who grew a tree from a seed brought over from Taiwan. My grandma had never encountered this exotic treat before. Neither had I, and lucky for me she gave me a few to enjoy when I went over yesterday.

The wax apple has many fun and descriptive names (some of which include: jambu apple, love apple, water apple, and bellfruit). It’s related to the guava, funky family members that bear resemblance through their bellybutton-ish undersides, remnants of where the tree’s flower once was. It surely doesn’t share the texture of a guava – while a guava is gooey and can have many, many seeds, the wax apples I tried were quite firm and had no seeds (or just one, tiny tiny seed in one instance).

The wax apple’s high water content give it a crisp and refreshing bite. Sweet and juicy, its texture is a bit like a cross between watermelon and an apple. No need to peel it either – a good thing since it seems pretty delicate.

I read online that they doesn’t keep all too well, staying freshest for only about 3 or 4 days (and not in the fridge, where it breaks down much more quickly). My grandma put one in the fridge and the fruit started to split in a few tiny areas but on the very very bright upside the juices were cooler and all the more refreshing when we cut it to share.

Word on the web is that there are places in LA to get these, including the Pasadena farmer’s market. If there’s a time to check it out, it would be while it’s in season now!

 

guidelines for chimichurri

Aren’t all recipes like guidelines anyways? Why should you add ingredients you don’t like into something you will eat, or restrict your additions of things you like? You shouldn’t!

This is a quick set of guidelines for a sauce so versatile, you’ll make more just to see what else you can use it on. This may not be the most traditional version out there, but it certainly will become yours. You’ll need:

  • Garlic
  • Large bunch of parsley
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Oregano
  • Salt, & Pepper

How to make Chimichurri:

  1. Get condiment container. I like to use a glass jar that used to hold peanut butter. It’ll be useful to store the chimichurri on the table so you can put it on everything you eat
  2. Add pressed/minced garlic to this container
  3. Chop parsley finely and add to the jar
  4. Pour olive oil in so it covers the mixture
  5. Crush dried oregano to release all the goodness and flavor and add to the jar
  6. Add a few big dashes of balsamic vinegar
  7. Add salt and pepper
  8. Mix well. Taste. Adjust as necessary.

How much of each? You tell me. These are guidelines! Remember? I’ll walk you through my thought process, but it’s fun to use your own nose and tastebuds to make this recipe unique to you. The lovely thing about chimichurri is that it keeps and gets better with age as the flavors have time to mix and develop. If you don’t plan on using it up within 2-3 days, store it in the fridge to help keep it from going bad.

  • Garlic. I am a firm believer that you can never have too much garlic. If you really, really, really need a number because you don’t want to scare your upcoming date by saying “hello,” I’d say use about 6 big cloves. Or more, depending on your affinity for this delicious bulb. Fresh pressed garlic gets integrated into the sauce really well and may be ideal, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use minced garlic if you have that handy and feel lazy (as I often do). Garlic presses are a pain to clean, they have so many little holes that the garlic bits can settle into. And my garlic press seems play hide and seek with me. My kitchen is so small I don’t know how it wins! Anyhow I’ve made this with both these types of garlic and have loved them all. You can always add more later. You do keep spare garlic right? (I keep it in the freezer to keep it from sprouting, this helps me make sure I never run out)
  • LARGE bunch of parsley. Because once you taste this you’ll want a lot of this, trust me. I like flat leaf parsley, but any will do. No need to throw out the stems, just cut off the very very ends and use the rest. If you have a food processor chopping this takes about 10 seconds. Doing it by hand can make it fun because you get to enjoy the herbal aroma a bit more and you get to be close up and personal with your food while you make it.
  • Olive Oil. Lots of this. You need at LEAST enough to cover all the contents of the jar and then some. A high quality olive oil adds lots of delicious flavor, and using enough will keep it from growing rancid (if any of the parsley is piled up higher than the oil, it may start to grow some mold).
  • Oregano. This is a key ingredient. Crush it to release the flavors right before adding it. Otherwise you might be adding orego for a while with minimal flavor impact. You’ll smell it’s essence being released right away as you crush it. I rub my forefingers and thumb together, crushing the oregano as I sprinkle it in. I imagine you could use a mortar/pestle if you have one (I don’t). If I’m feeling impatient I’ll crush a bunch in my palm with my other thumb (trying to get it to a powder) and pour it in the jar. I’d say at least 1.5 tablespoons. Start with that, you can always add more if needed.
  • Balsamic Vinegar. Another key ingredient. Ok, so it’s often red wine vinegar, but since I only store Balsamic in my cupboards this is what I use. It’s for a sweet acidity to perk up the sauce so you feel a kick. I recommend a few big dashes, but go easy on it to start and see how it changes the flavor of your sauce.
  • Salt (& Pepper). This is a very personal amount. My mom can’t handle any pepper in anything whatsoever. Seriously, freshly ground pepper is a bit too spicy for her. I love pepper! I don’t know that this sauce particularly needs it. But salt is a definite must. It enhances the flavor and what may taste kinda bland at first can suddenly be complete with a dash more salt! Just remember you can’t take it away once you’ve added it in.

One of these days I’ll try measuring out the ingredients I use. But I really do enjoy tasting and adjusting each time I make this. Also, since when are bunches of parsley all the same size?

 What to do with Chimichurri sauce

This Argentinian sauce is often used to compliment a great steak and/or sausages (in choripan). These are the obvious and delicious options, but the world is your canvas – get creative! You can use this sauce to:

  • Season classic chicken breasts: Add as a bold sauce after they’ve already cooked or as a marinade to infuse flavor. Or both!
  • Make pita chips: Simply cut pita into wedges (or whatever shape you like) and  brush on a generous layer of chimichurri. Bake for ~7 min at 400°
  • Top your eggs: Works on all kinds of eggs – scrambled, omelette-style, frittata, over-easy, sunny-side up…
  • Dip bread: Serve chimichurri with warm crusty bread for an easy appetizer
  • Make a sandwich fancy: Spread on the bread and add your favorite sandwich ingredients. Try adding your favorite cheese(s) and grill!
  • Top pasta: A ready-to-go pasta sauce – think of it like pesto, only with a pesto kick. Works with spaghetti squash too! (depending on how thick your sauce is, you may want to add olive oil to help coat your pasta easily)
  • Spice up a salad: Chimichurri’s got oil, vinegar, plus a whole lot more flavor

Possibilities don’t end here – how do you like to use chimichurri sauce?

kale chips

Kale Chips

This started when I’d bought a 10 lb bag of organic carrots from Costco. At about $5, the price certainly wasn’t a problem. No, the problem became that I had to figure out what to do with so many carrots. This shouldn’t have been too much of an issue since they’re one of those all-around vegetables, tasty in so many things and cooked every which way: roasted, steamed, soupified, muffin-ed, caked, and more.

BUT I recently completed the Les Mills 21-Day Challenge, a diet that restricts your consumption of grains, dairy, fruits, and processed foods in favor of animal protein and leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables. I’ve since been trying to follow a diet similar to what was prescribed during this challenge. One sticking point is that if you eat carrots, they should be RAW.

I do like raw carrots, but there must be something more creative to do with raw carrots than simply eat them 5 lbs of them as raw sticks. Or raw cubes. Or raw disks. Searching the ‘raw’ category to find raw carrot recipes I found lots recommending using a dehydrator for all sorts of goodies, one of them being carrot chips.

Now why would I be telling you a story about carrots when this post is titled “kale chips”? Because I didn’t end up getting a dehydratorthey’re expensive yo! I couldn’t make the investment just yet on the basis of a 10 lb bag of carrots from Costco.

Anyway, let’s make a long story slightly less long. Among the recipes for dehydrated carrot that popped up on my searches, were recipes galore for KALE CHIPS, including how to make them in the oven. This, I did try.

There is a lot of variation as well as lots of unnecessarily intimidating pieces of advice. Some recipes recommend high temps of 350 degrees and a quick 10 minutes in, with which you must be vigilant, lest they burn in their 11th minute. Others recommend your oven’s lowest possible setting: 175 degrees, “or as low as your oven goes” (makes me think of the limbo… “how low can you go?”) for about an hour, with instruction to turn the oven on and off every 15 minutes. There were those advising you to make sure none of the kale leaves touchif they could fit on two racks instead of one, you surely wouldn’t regret it. At the very least you should toss the leaves halfway through the oven roasting process.

I disagreed with all of it. Surely, I thought, none of that can be absolutely mandatory. More importantly, this would be too much kale babysitting for a lazy Sunday.

I kept searching and found a recommendation posted in a thread on Chowhound that referenced Jacques Pepin’s kale chip instruction: 250 degrees for 25 minutes. Perhaps this wasn’t the whole recipe, but this was all I needed to read in order to decide the course I’d take for my kale chips.

And this is what I did.

The Kale Chip, Uncomplicated

Ingredients:

  • Kale
  • Oil
  • Salt, or other flavoring agent (optional)
  1. Rinse/clean the kale. I used dinosaur kale, also known as Tuscan kale or lacinato kale.
  2. Dry the kale. This can be somewhat laborious because kale have lots of little crinkles and hiding spots for water droplets and humidity. Paper towels, however, are pretty good at soaking up the soggy.
  3. Cut the leafy green part from the tough stems, then into manageable pieces. Kitchen scissors make these cuts clean, but you can use your hands too.
  4. Massage oil onto both sides of the kale pieces. Enjoy the added bonus of moisturized fingertips. (I used coconut oil for this, but you could use olive or another oil)
  5. Optional: Sprinkle with salt/other flavoring agent (I used Hepp’s black truffle salt in one batch and parmesan cheese in another)
  6. Pop these chips-to-be in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes*

*I recommend you use the 250 degrees and 20 minutes as a starting point. Find out what works for your oven and your tastebuds.

Ok, so the reality is that I popped these chips-to-be into TWO ovens. I did this to try and be more efficient, but it ended up being a great experiment with oven variance.

Oven 1: The oven that comes with my stove, preheated to 250 degrees. I used one aluminum cookie sheet on the top rack and a glass casserole dish on the lower rack. After 25 minutes the chips on top rack/aluminum cookie sheet ended up much crispier than the ones in the glass casserole dish. Not quite sure if this was a result of the glass side walls of the casserole dish or the fact that it was on the second rack.

Oven 2: My smaller, countertop convection toaster oven preheated it to 225 degrees. I used the small aluminum toaster tray that came with it. These kale chips became crispy much more quickly! They start being ready-to-eat chips at around the 15 minute mark but aren’t burnt if they’re in there for 25 minutes either. No one will judge you if you can’t wait and want to start eating them early. Nor will anyone judge you if you forget and leave them in an extra 10 minutes either. I certainly won’t because I was on both ends of the spectrum (yes, in a single cooking episode).

Again, take the liberty to experiment with your oven temperature, timing, and flavoring for your kale chip creations. Perhaps you like your kale chips at the point where they just start to become crunchy. Or maybe you prefer that they crisp up until they nearly dissolve at the touch. I didn’t flip them over halfway through the cooking process and they still turned out great! I also have a tendency to burn myself when I need to reach into the oven, so I try to avoid it when possible. I still managed to burn myself when removing one batch of kale chips from the toaster oven, as small and shallow as that appliance is. Sigh.

Have lots of kale ready (it shrinks tremendously). And be warned: they’re addictive.

 

bake your bacon

bacon baking
Bacon. It is telling you to get your bake on.

I’ve been saying the word for years, yet haven’t paid any attention. Bake your bacon and avoid standing over the burner getting splatters of grease all over your clothes, walls, and stove.

You’ll need:

  • BACON (what else would you need?)
  1. Line a baking sheet with foil (for ease of cleanup). Place the baking sheet in an oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  2. Add bacon strips to the sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. If you like it extra-crispy, leave it in a few more minutes.
  4. Remove and place bacon on paper towels to soak up extra grease, leaving your bacon crispier.
  5. Eat!

If you’re open to cooking with bacon grease, you can save what’s left in the oven for a later date. Otherwise, you can toss it in the trash (AFTER it cools, so you don’t end up with a holy trash bag and a mess to clean).

 

not potato salad (and a haiku)

not potato saladThis is basically a potato salad sans the usual star player. Lately, my family has been dining alfresco and potato salad is a summertime staple for these sorts of settings. Only, it hasn’t been making an appearance because Jon and I have been trying to keep to a low-carb diet (which I’ll admit I’ve broken horribly this past week). Since potato salad is one of my dad’s favorite picnic dishes, and we had a Hollywood Bowl concert/picnic to come, I was determined to find a way to make one we could all enjoy together.

The answer came in a cruciferous crop: cauliflower! One of the most amazingly versatile vegetables that can be used to make mash, “rice,” pizza crust and more can yet again, fill in for a what seems to be an essential ingredient in a traditional recipe. Obviously this is no traditional potato salad, but subbing cauliflower for potatoes makes this one much healthier. Cauliflower has 1/3 (or fewer!) the calories, is low on carbs, and is a great source of vitamin C (antioxidants!), B vitamins (helping you convert food into energy!), and vitamin K (anti-inflammatory!). Research from the Linus Pauling Institute has shown that the glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables can help eliminate carcinogens and prevent DNA damage that causes cancer – how’s that for a detox?

I thought I was going to write an ode to cauliflower, but found a haiku more appropriate. For one, it’s much shorter. But don’t confuse shorter with simpler–it just means you can get to the recipe more quickly 😉

Potato? Not now

Cauliflower plays hero

In salad sans spud

Not Potato Salad

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3 or 4 hardboiled eggs, diced
  • 3 strips of bacon, extra crispy please
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ to 1 cup of green onion, chopped (depending on how much you like onion. I love onion)
  1.  Chop/dice your cauliflower into bite-sized pieces (however chunky or fine you like your potato salad). Don’t worry about them looking perfect. Cauliflower can get crumbly and this is TOTALLY OK.
  2. You will blanch the cauliflower until it’s the consistency of boiled potatoes. Have an ice bath ready. Add the cauliflower to a pot of boiling water and bring it back to a boil. Keep it there for 2-3 min, until the cauliflower is just tender. Check to see if you can stick a fork through a piece easily. If so, drain the cauliflower and get it in the ice bath to stop the cooking!
  3. While the cauliflower is cooking (or while it’s sitting in the ice bath, up to you), add the mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, and paprika to a large bowl and mix together.
  4. Add the diced egg and well-drained cauliflower to the large bowl and mix well.
  5. Add the chopped onion and crumble the bacon on top. If you want to be fancy, you can save some onion and bacon bits for garnish when you serve it. Mix well again.
  6. Stick in in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors chill and get to know each other.
  7. Share your not potato salad (and maybe the above haiku) with friends and family.