Holidays are the best
Cooking for the holidays is awesome. It goes beyond cooking for Christmas or Thanksgiving, where the menu is pre-set and expected. After all, what is Christmas dinner without roast beast. What is Thanksgiving without Turkey? (Actually, the latter was pretty awesome when I was a vegetarian. )
It’s fun to cook for non-traditional holidays. It’s important to be respectful of the culture that “owns ” the holiday. Don’t exploit stereotypes. Instead, learn about the culture, figure out why the day is important and what food traditions go with the holiday.
What Holidays do you cook for?
Just an example of a few I cook for through the year.
Chinese New Year,
Our Next Holiday
If you would like to cook along with us, it makes sense to make sure you have the following in your
Rice Wine Vinegar
You’ll only need small amounts of many of these. So stocking them once will mean you’ll have plenty for future meals. You might even add them into a special bin in your cupboard, identified as an “Asian Cooking Kit”
I promise it will be worth it to be ready.
Source: Almost Dinner
Fancy Chicken and Rice
Fancy Chicken in Rice is just one of the many recipes that caught my eye in “My Two Souths“. My two Souths is a new cookbook from Chef Asha Gomez of Cardamom Hill in Atlanta. The book blends together food from Southeast Asia with down home food of the south.
I’m a bit of a cookbook collector, and now being a home owner, that has only gotten worse, as my family room has floor to ceiling bookshelves. So I often pick up cookbooks that catch my eye, though I’m often slow to cook out of them. Sometimes I try to prevent that by checking books out of the library like so:
I tried this with My Two Souths, and checked it out. I found it to be filled with recipes such as Pork Vindaloo with Cardamon Cornbread and Chicken and Waffles, Not only did I find an Indian flair added to what I would consider a classic southern recipes. (Or at least what I’ve been told is classic Southern. I’m a Pacific NW girl with Midwestern roots. ) I found recipes that were the kinds of home style recipes that I wanted to cook. I wanted to make Spiced Chai, Potato Patties, Banana Beignets. Indulgent recipes for breakfast, savory recipes for snack time, and main dishes suitable for dinners.
Take the Cookbook of the Shelf
Instead of leaving the cookbook on the shelf, and wishing for the right circumstance to make a recipe, I picked a recipe suited for my Cooking challenge, and my girls craft night.
The recipe was simple, it doesn’t require any special techniques, and only a couple special ingredients that you might not have at home. It’s a one pot dish, and with the right casual crowd, you could even just set the pot on the side table, garnish with apricots, cilantro and almonds and let your friends serve themselves. That’s what we did.
Instead of using the called for dried apricots, I used Trader Joes half dried apricots. They come frozen and offered a bit of freshness when added at the end.
I served the dish with an Indian spiced vegetable saute from Fine Cooking, and a citrus salad from Weight Watchers. It made an easy buffet.
Weeknight Fancy Chicken and Rice
From the Cookbook, My Two Souths By Asha Gomez
- ¼ cup ghee (or use unsalted butter)
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- 6 green cardamom pods, crushed
- 3 whole star anise
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric powder
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 2 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice
- ¼ cup chopped dried apricots
- ¼ cup sliced raw almonds, toasted
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
- In a medium saucepan with a lid, melt ghee over medium-high heat. Add onions, cardamom, star anise and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and a very deep golden brown, about 15 minutes, lowering heat if necessary to keep from burning them. Add garlic and turmeric; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, or until very fragrant. Add chicken and cook for 4 minutes, stirring to coat chicken with the onion mixture.
- Add stock and remaining salt, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Add rice, stir and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice has absorbed liquid, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 12 minutes. Remove lid and fluff rice with a fork.
- Transfer chicken and rice to a bowl, taking care to remove and discard cardamom pods and star anise. Garnish with apricots, almonds and cilantro. Serve at once.
For My Weight Watchers friends this turns out to be 19 Sp per serving. My tacit is to take a smaller serving and have more vegetables on my plate. If you’re cooking for it, reduce the amount of ghee you use, and skip the almonds at the end.
This Week’s Cooking Challenge
While last weeks truffle rice was perfect for this weeks challenge, I wanted to try something new.
I’m looking forward to next weeks cooking challenge.
Source: Almost Dinner
Truffle is an impulsive purchase.
I have only had truffle mushrooms a few times. Truffle flavored popcorn made by a friend, truffle risotto, a truffle butter atop a simple slice of bread. White truffle oil is often over used, ladled over dishes where it should be drizzled. So why get Truffles?
Fresh Produce is Important.
Stopping at Sosios, I was immediately taken by the variety of produce. Since I’d bought mushroom rub at the Rub With Love Shack, a mushroom centric dinner came to mind. Sunday night is time for a casual dinner, family dinner. There is a little extra time to do the cooking, but you don’t want to do much cleaning, nor do you want to stay up late cleaning your kitchen. So I settled on a simple dish, with comforting flavors, and a little fanciness..
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Truffled Mushroom Rice
For the Pork:
1 Pork Tenderloin, about 1-1.5 lbs
3 tbls Mushroom Rub
Salt & Pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 Degrees. Heat an oven proof pan over medium high heat.
Rub the mushroom rub all over the tenderloin & season with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the pork tender loin, browning on all sides.
Put the whole pan in the oven, and roast for 25 minutes, checking the temperature and taking it out when the temperature reads 145. Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
For the Rice
1 small chopped onion
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/2 lb mushrooms chopped
1 tsp canola oil
1 small truffle grated
4 tbls butter.
Add garlic and chopped mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are soft.
Add the rice, and 1 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook.
While the rice cooks melt butter in small pan. grate the truffle into the melted butter.
When the rice is done and has absorbed all the water (about 10 minutes). Drizzle in 1-2 tbls of truffled butter. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt , pepper or truffle butter as needed.
Serve with steamed romanesco
The post Cooking With Truffle: Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Truffled Rice appeared first on Almost Dinner.
Source: Almost Dinner
Pike Place Market in January
I started my 2017 exploration of Pike Place this weekend. I was curious what Pike Place would look like in January. I’m a local, and I enjoy Pike Place Market, but I’ve never been there at 8:45 on a Saturday Morning.
It’s quiet, quieter then I had assumed it would be. The streets were empty. It was easy to walk on the sidewalks, I had no problem ducking into shops, or pausing to take pictures. I counted the number of tourists I saw on one hand.
I easily found parking on the street at 2nd and Stewart, and paid the meter. $6 for 2 hours was a little pricey, I know there are cheaper options, I’ll find them next month. Next, I wandered through the market, looking for breakfast. After all, you can’t shop on a empty stomach.
There are many breakfast options and I have my favorites already. Biscuits, Crepes, Donuts, Humbow.
I was tempted to stop for a BBQ Pork Hum bow, a Chinese dishes of bread dough stuffed with a sticky sweet and lightly spicy pork filling. It’s a favorite but I wanted something new.
Rub with Love Shack
A breakfast sandwich was a homemade english muffin, avocado, egg, and bacon for 7.50. (I could have chosen ham, sausage or crab instead)
I added a cup of coffee, bringing my breakfast total to 11.
Satisfied, I looked over the various spice rubs and selected a few to bring home. The point of these trips is to bring the market home and cook it. This was my first step. (I chose Mushroom Rub, Spicy Tokyo Rub, Chinese 12 Spice Rub and Veggie Rub, if you are curious.) You can also buy these rubs online.
A Quiet Pike Place
I wandered through the market where the temporary vendors setup, and was surprised to see the tables empty. It was 9:15, still too early for the market to really be awake. I reached the end of the temporary stalls and found a gathering of vendors, all waiting for their assignment for the day. Even on a quiet weekend like this weekend, sales could be good. The Vendors were interested in getting their favorite spot and getting a chance to set up.
The fish throwers were hard at work, performing for crowds of a dozen or so people. Shops were just starting to open. I took a turn through Delerunti’s and took some 360 footage to show it off. (That will soon be on JetCityJo.com)
I was looking for inspiration though, the kind of things I wanted to cook for a meal or two this week. This is where the market is strange. The meat and seafood are the freshest available and priced to sell to tourists. They’re absolutely worth the price, but a little out of reach for a daily meal.
I’ll push harder next month and look for seafood, instead I started with tailgating food for the Seahawks playoff game.
Uli’s Famous Sausage company is a favorite stop of mine. Traditionally made authentic bratwursts, liverwurst, chicken sausages and more are there to greet you. Uli also makes sausages for other cultures, including South African and Latin sausages.
I was looking for something specific this trip. “Men’s Room Original Red Sausage”. It’s a traditional beer brat, made with Men’s Room Original Red beer, and the proceeds go to charity. It’s also really tasty. You can buy this online too.
Cooking and Serving the Sausages
Just instructions, not really a recipe.
I went for a simple serving on the Men’s Room Original Red Sausages. I baked them until they were cooked through, then kept them warm in a crockpot with a bottle of beer.
I also sauteed mushrooms in a little olive oil, seasoned them with the mushroom rub and served them as topping.
The last topping was onions, pressure cooked for 10 minutes in the instant pot, in more beer, with a tbls of brown sugar and a tossing of baking soda. (The baking soda promotes browning in the pressure cooker.)
Paired with some outdoor rolls, the sausages and topping served us well, through the Seahawks loss.
One More Stop
While the proteins didn’t appeal, the produce did. The rainy seattle weather produces special produce of it’s own. Fresh Mushrooms! So many fresh mushrooms. Fresh hedgehogs! Abalone! Yellow Foot!
Truffles were the treasure of the day. I had the guy behind the counter pick out a perfect one for a Sunday dinner. A head of romanesco rounded out my purchases and I headed home for the Seahawks Game.
Where I stopped at Pike Place this month:
Uli’s Famous Sausage Company
1511 Pike Pl. Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: (206) 838-1712
1527 Pike Place
Seattle WA 98101
Source: Almost Dinner
52 Weeks of Cooking: Fixing Polenta
My polenta problems began in the late 90s I spent a number of years as a vegetarian. When you start a vegetarian diet you get clued in to a number of new foods to eat. New staples include tofu, tempeh and beans. Whole grains come center stage, and side dishes become stars. Polenta was supposed to be an easy versatile dish that you could dress up or dress down depending on what was in season. You could serve it under a hearty stew in the winter. In the summer, slice it up and grill. Polenta can be decadent and cheesy, flecked with herbs, studded with vegetables, or it can simply showcase the flavor of the corn.
Polenta is/was confusing
Is it Polenta, Grits or just plain old Cornmeal? Polenta can be found in fancy Italian restaurants, import shops and health food stores. Grits are found in homestyle restaurants, popular in the south, and in the breakfast aisle. Cornmeal populates the baking aisle, ready to be made into crunchy cornmeal coating or cornbread.
But really it’s simple. It’s all the same thing ,dried and ground corn. The coarseness of the grain varies depending on the use. Coarser ground usually used as a side dish ala polenta or grits, finer ground cornmeal is used for breads and coatings.
It’s not that you can’t make a side out of the finer stuff, the texture is just a bit different and it lumps up quicker.
Polenta’s not hard, is it?
So why am I trying again? I’ve always had a hard time getting it just right. I’ve overcooked it, under cooked it, dried it out, left it too mushy and over salted it.
I’m a more mature cook, I do things differently now. Armed with fancy tools of the modern era I was sure that I could tame this beast.
I started with a recipe from Hip Pressure Cooking. Cutting the recipe in half, I fired up the instant pot and salted water.
Once the salt had melted into the water I stirred in the cornmeal. What I had at home was a mix of medium and coarse ground cornmeal, a byproduct of combining bulk goods in my pantry. 4 cups water, 1 cup polenta, and 1 tbs salt. (If you read the recipe she suggests 2tsp of salt for 2 cups polenta and 8 cups of water. ) I opted to add more salt out of fear of it being under seasoned.
Cooked on high pressure for 10 minutes, then I did a quick release.
Poured into a bowl, it looked perfect.
I dished out 1/4 of it into a different bowl and spooned my dinner over it.
The verdict? It was too salty. I’d over did it when I added extra salt to the water. The texture was great, the flavor was meh. Luckily enough, the shashuka I made for dinner worked perfectly with it. While the tomato sauce for the shashuka wasn’t under seasoned, the poached eggs in the tomato sauce paired perfectly.
Want to know more about the shashuka? Ask me next week.
Are you on Weight Watchers? Cooked grits run 4 SP per cup. Not bad for a side.
What is 52 Weeks of Cooking?
I’m hopping on a cooking challenge on Reddit, called 52 Weeks of cooking. There are different themes every week. This week was “fixing a past mistake.” Next week, it’s going to be rice. Join me for the adventure?
What I used:
Want to learn more:
Source: Almost Dinner
When we visited Portland last week, we made a stop at Olympia Provisions. I’m not sure my traveling companion, Kim, realized what a treat it was for me. Olympia Provisions is on the for front of what I consider the new charcuterie movement. It’s about taking local products, treating them with care and creating amazing hand made goods.
A Lunch Spread
Pictured here is almost the entire Mid-day menu. Descriptions from the website:
PORK RILLETTES HAND PIE, pickles, mustard
PORK FRANKFURTER, ketchup, dijon, onions, relish on a soft bun
SWEETHEART HAM SANDWICH, bread and butter pickles, butter, dijon on brioche
MID DAY CHEF’S CHOICE CHARCUTERIE: daily selection of three meats, bread, pickles
MID DAY CHEESE BOARD: chef’s choice of two cheeses, crostini
STEAK TARTARE*, olives, parsley, shallot, egg yolk*, toasted baguette
The best thing we had was the pork rillettes hand pie, centered in the picture, served on the small board with pickled cauliflower. It was simply savory pork rilletes surrounded in puff pastry
The pork frankfurter had a great snap and smokey flavor. Topped with the classics, it came up a close second for me.
The charcutiere choices included pork rillettes, a pork pate and a sausage (either Salchichon| Spanish style | paprika, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg or NOLA | Italian style | black pepper, chili flake, allspice). The sausage was fabulous, and the pork was good. The pate was overshadowed by the previous too.
Steak Tartare is an underestimated dishes, and this one was fabulous. The egg yolk was unctuous and coated our tongues as we savored the meat. It could have used something, either a little acid or maybe a little salt. We didn’t agree on which would be better.
The cheeses weren’t anything amazing for us, the raisin chutney that came with was the perfect accompaniment for a number of the other dishes.
The one dish we weren’t into, the sweetheart ham sandwich, was improved with a bit of the chutney and a little of the coarse grain mustard.
They have cookbooks.
The Olympia Provisions cookbook is one of the many on my shelf, but it’s more then just a cookbook, it’s the start of a new hobby. The Olympia Provisions book isbig on theory for those who want to try out sausage making or charcuterie.
A New Hobby
At Christmas I used my Trager and an Amazen to make smoked cheeses as Christmas gifts. Beef Jerky is next, and with these resources in hand I see making my own version of their frankfurters and kasekrainer in my future.
Source: Almost Dinner
Why not Portland?
Kim and I were both on the holiday break this week, and we knew we would need to get out of the house at some point. “Portland or Bellingham?” I offered. Both are around 3 hours away, (Bellingham a little less). We’d pack into the Black Pearl, my Scion IQ and just go down for lunch and shopping then return in time for a little time with our sweethearts.
She chose Portland and who can blame her? Portland is like Seattle’s eclectic little sister. The food is fantastic, there is great shopping, parking is easy. The problem with Portland is that there is always just a little more that we want to see, another shop we would like to get to too, another hour we’d like to spend there.
A quick trip
With no time to catch up with friends or family in town, we kept our visit secret. We left at 8am armed with Starbucks coffee and Legendary Donuts. We avoided most of the morning commuter traffic with the late start, and rolled into downtown right around 11. Our first stop was Powell’s Books.
Powells is overwhelming in size, with so many floors that they label the room by color. We set a time to explore and meetup at the coffee shop. (Every bookstore should have a coffee shop.)
Here’s a 360 view of what walking through Powells looks like.
After Powell’s we wandered over to Cacao, my favorite Portland chocolate shop.
A small bag of chocolates later, and we jetted over to the other side of the river.
Our second destination in Portland was Steven Smith, Teamaker. Here I was treated to a tea flight.
We sampled the Chai on Nitro, then picked out 4 teas each to sample. (Very generous cups to drink actually)
I started with Jasmine Pearls, a favorite, then Lord Bergamot, then Portland Breakfast (this is a tea that thinks its a coffee.) and lastly, Spearmint to wash it all away.
The joy was also talking to the staff and other customers as we shared our holiday experiences.
Here is a timelapse view of them prepping my tea.
We wrapped it up with a late lunch at Olympia Provisions. One of those places on my bucket list. To learn more about why I’m obsessed with Olympia Provisions, pop over to Almost Dinner.
Source: New feed
All you get is 24 hours, so you have to prioritize.
Quick prioritization exercise.T take a sheet of paper, number from 1-48 down the left hand side. Those are 30 minute blocks. (1 &2 = 1 hour). Now draw a line next to the number of hours that you sleep and label it sleep. (You are getting 8 hours of sleep, right? That’s going to be numbers 1-16). Now block off time for work. Somewhere between 16-18 blocks for the average person. Add in some time for your commute, grooming, meal prep and eating. It should leave you with a block of “left over” time. For me, that’s my 4 hours of free time. See :
4 Hours of Free time.
That’s 4 luxurious hours of free time.
Except, I like spending time with my boyfriend.
I also have a dog who needs walking and play time.
My cats like having dedicated attention.
I’m working on my fitness, so I like to dedicate some time to training for my next 5 K run.
And I like spending time with friends.
Sometimes my commute takes more then 30 minutes.
I occasionally have to work late.
I’m dedicating time to be a better blogger.
I’m leveling up a character in World of Warcraft.
Catching up on our shows is a way I connect with my boyfriend.
It’s a lot to do, with only a little bit of time.
You have to prioritize.
Don’t start by reducing the amount of sleep you get, nor by sneaking out of the office early. Figure out what’s most important. What do you like to do? Is it moving you towards your goals? What do you have to do, that you don’t like but is moving towards your goals? What are the things you have to do to
Then look at the must-dos that you don’t want to do, don’t really add more value to your life but have to be done. I actually see things such as grocery shopping, laundry, dry cleaning and other major chores in this category. Its got to get done, but can you outsource it? Like cooking but don’t like grocery shopping? Find a grocery delivery service near you, try out peapod, or try to reduce your menu to a few core rotating menus that you can shop for monthly. Hate laundry? If you can’t combine it with something you like, like watching TV, try outsourcing it. Is there a laundry mat that does wash and fold? Drop them off, and let someone else worry about it.
Can’t afford to out-source? What about trading off. Find a friend who likes laundry but hates cooking. Trade off.
Or make a plan to do it together, make it part of your social time. Maybe laundry/TV night is a hot date for you and your partner. Maybe you take your dog for a walk in between loads at the laundry mat. You have to have a strategy to have it all fit in.
You still won’t tackle it all.
The truth of the matter is no matter how much you trade-off. There is no secret sauce for turning 4 hours in the evening into infinite time, so that you can watch all the TV, play all the games and get all the chores done. You can’t work 20 hour days at work and expect to have time at the gym, Work might be the most important thing right now, but you have to know what the trade-offs are.
When you prioritize you get at the core of what’s most important. If you don’t like what’s important today, it’s up to you to change it.
So the Big Secret is out.
In September, I joined Weight Watchers . After a year of inconsistent dieting, I decided to put my money where my mouth was, and join Weight Watchers. I was looking to start making some changes, to examine my relationship with food, and figure out if there was a way for me to start shedding weight.
Big Secret & Big Success
At this point, I’m down almost 40lbs from my highest. I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m finding that the conversation has changed. As the conversation changes, so will what I’m sharing here. What I cook has changed. There are more vegetables, leaner proteins and portion size is becoming more reasonable.
The biggest success for me, is tackling my mindset. A lot of Weight Watchers groups talk about “Smart Points” versus “Plus Points” versus “the classic”. In fact some people can only use weight on one version of the program.
In reality, Weight Watchers simply divides up nutritional information into an easy to track number. Instead of managing multiple macro nutrients as you do with IIFYM or other plans, you simple track your points. Stick below the points and you’ll lose weight. The trick is, you have to track it.
Big Secret & Big Futures
I’m moving forward on Weight Watchers in 2017. I’ll be bringing more of that experience into our blog here. You’ll see more vegetables in the meals, leaner meats. Less cheese, less dairy overall. You’ll see suggestions for simpler meals, grab and go selections and I’ll share how I stay on plan, even though my partner isn’t on Weight Watchers.
What I won’t do
I’m not a fan of skim or fat free milk. I won’t eat sugar free, fat free cool whip. (What is that made of ? Unicorn Farts?) I won’t give up butter, chocolate or coffee. I love bacon, and will continue to eat it. Just in smaller doses. I’ll eat real foods, and track the points for them. It all balances out in the end, if you’re smart about it.
This blog is not a Weight Watchers Blog. Its a food blog, that happens to have resources for those on Weight Watchers.
Source: Almost Dinner
I’m returning to Seattlejo.com as a central location for everything that I write. More of an index, less of a portfolio. This is a chance for you to read everything I write, in one convenient place.
Welcome to the future.