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food: latkes & other delights

the other day my husband came home with an idea for smoked salmon & latkes.  because let’s face it, that shit is delicious.
i’ve never actually made a latke… and my understanding was that we’d need some sort of flour to make it hold together… but thanks to the magic of google, i managed to find a way to make it happen.

we started with some baby yellow potatoes.  in truth, larger ones would have been far easier to grate.  but you make do with what you’ve got.
so i grated about 8 to 10 of those little guys…
then in a blender (because i have no food processor – yet.) i blended 1 white onion and 4 whole potatoes.
here’s the fun part… you have ring that out and get all the moisture you can out.  so i combined the grated taters and the blended mix and hung it in a cheesecloth for about 15 minutes.  i squeezed out all the water i could, then put the mix in a bowl.
added 1 egg, salt & pepper and 1 tsp of baking powder and 1 tbsp of cornstarch and mixed.
i formed them into patties and fried them until brown in lots of butter/oil and then let them cook through in the oven on 350 for about 15 minutes while we prepped everything else.

i should have taken a latkes only picture.  they were real pretty.

then we soft poached some eggs, piled on the smoked salmon, topped with a dollop of sour cream, micro greens, green onion & capers.
voila!

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i was pretty excited about the micro greens.  they make all my meals look like fancy restaurant eats.  thanks trader joe’s.

this was pretty much a perfect meal.  so many flavours and textures going on… the crunchy potato cake, the soft salmon & egg… creamy yolk & sour cream and the finishing fresh taste of the greens.
yup.  good call husband.

 

here’s something else i’ve been eating like it’s going out of style…
cauliflower.

if you cut cauliflower into bit-sized pieces and toss them in olive oil, garlic salt, salt & pepper and roast it at 400 for a few minutes until they’re golden and delicious, you have one of the best snacks ever.
for all you lovers of kale chips, you should add this shit to your repertoire.

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food: for the love of blue cheese

one of the more unusual of my food cravings lately has been blue cheese.
i’ve always liked the stuff… but it’s generally been a take-or-leave-it kinda food for me.
it’s on the wheat-free “no list” because often times the molding process is started by exposure to moldy bread, but i think that’s being overly specific. i mean, really.

so, since cheese in general is in the good books until i start my paleo adventure… i’m getting my fill. including that delicious delightful stinky and offensive blue cheese.

below is my meal from tuesday from the boundry bay brewery. where the food is ridiculously kickass. seriously. if you go to bellingham, i highly recommend going here. beer & food are amazing.

anyways.
nestled up against their incredible spicy chicken apple soup (orgasmic) is one of the finest salads i’ve had eating out. it’s called their harvest salad and is fresh fresh fresh local greens topped with blue cheese, local hazelnuts, grapes and apple. and served with a blue cheese vinaigrette. (never mind the delicious looking bread, my husband took care of that)

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this salad is a blue cheese delight. and it forced me straight to the cheese section at trader joe’s to pick up a block of my own danish blue.

i have some buttermilk leftover from my muffins and so i made a blue cheese dressing from David Lebovitz’s blog.
find it here

Blue Cheese Dressing

4 ounces (115g) blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
a few turns freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1/4 cup (60g) sour cream, regular or lowfat
1/4 cup (60ml) buttermilk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
a few drops of red wine vinegar

1. In a medium bowl, mash the blue cheese with the salt and pepper with the back of a fork until the pieces of cheese are finely broken up.

2. Stir in the chives, sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice or wine vinegar until well mixed.

3. Add a few drops of red wine vinegar. Taste, and adjust any of the seasonings to your liking and if the dressing too thick, add a bit more buttermilk.

 

all this yummy blue cheesiness ended up on a “fridge clean out” salad.
you know, where you have a bazillion leftovers with no home and so they get chopped and given the salad treatment.  (what?  just me?)

so this salad had ham, chicken, cheddar, beets, carrots, radishes, iceberg lettuce and mixed greens and dill.  and then the lovely blue cheese dressing.  nom nom nom.

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food: adventures in paleo

so there’s something in this whole paleo thing that’s causing me some distress… it’s hummus.
totally not allowed.
i live on hummus.  it’s possible my body is 20% hummus at any given time.
i feel like i belong with adam sandler in “you don’t mess with the zohan”.
seriously, hummus should come out of a fire hose.  (best part of the movie, lol)

no hummus breaks my heart a little.  i know, it seems like a weird thing to be sad about, but it’s actually causing my more distress than giving up bread did.
you should know that i’ve got issues by now, lol.

my paleo comfort food cookbook has a recipe for “paleo hummus” that i thought sounded pretty passable.
so i gave it a whirl.  and here’s my result:

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it looks hummus-esqe.
tastes… like a dip, lol.
besides having no chick peas and eggplant instead, all the other flavours are there…
but it lacks that dense texture that i love.  this is almost fluffy.
but it’s tasty and a keeper.  but it’s not hummus.  just sayin’.

Paleo Hummus

  • 3 small eggplants (or 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400°. Prick the eggplants a few times with a fork and coat them in a bit of olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes (turning every 10 minutes) until they are tender. Cool before proceeding to the next step.

Peel the eggplants and remove the stem. In a food processor, puree the eggplants until smooth. Add in garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, salt & pepper. Puree until combined. While the food processor is running, drizzle in olive oil until combined.

 

since then, i’ve also uncovered a “I can’t believe it’s not hummus” recipe that sounds a little more up my alley…
it uses zucchini and macadamia nuts instead of the eggplant recipe i used… which, by the way, i think is more like a baba ganoush than a hummus, for what its worth.

i’ll probably make that new recipe in the not-so-distant future and will report back…

 

in the meantime, here’s a paleo meal that i made a few days ago and it went over so well with my husband and me, that we’ve made it twice more since, lol.

this, my friends, is pesto chicken thighs, cabbage with bacon and lemon kale.

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now, the lemon kale recipe, you’ve already seen here… and it is seriously already a household favourite.
my greens-hating husband actually made it for himself.  when i wasn’t home.  that’s how good it is.

the cabbage you see is basically a play on my brussel sprouts recipe that i adore.  it’s shamefully easy and works so well with anything in the cabbage family.
you just matchstick a couple pieces of bacon and fry them up… then throw the shredded cabbage or sprouts into the bacon fat and cook it until the desired doneness (we like it with some crunch still), salt & pepper it and throw on some crushed pecans and you’re good to go.

the chicken thighs are also from my paleo book, but super easy.
the big difference is that these are oven roasted on a rack.  which i have never done before.  i’ve always roasted my chicken on a pan, but the rack helps to get the skin extra crispy.
also contributing to the crispy is the fact that i separated the chicken skin from the thigh almost completely… then i stuffed it with garlic, basil & parsley.  and rubbed them down with some olive oil, salt & pepper.
they roasted at 400 for about 35 minutes on the rack and came out golden, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  the key here is good quality bone in skin on chicken thighs.  ours, of course, come from hopcott farms.

i never eat chicken skin… but i ate this.  all of it.
what i hate about chicken skin is that mushy gross jelly-like fat.  this had none, it was all crisped to perfection.  i think the higher heat and the separating it combined with the rack cooking was the magic combination.
so that nugget of information has been filed away for future reference.  also key, is the rub down with oil first.  i know if seems redundant and excessive to rub fat with fat, but if you don’t oil the outside, the fat won’t work how its supposed to.  think of it like basting a turkey.  it doesn’t get crisp and lovely if you don’t pour that fat over it.  so don’t skip that step.  it’s important to the overall loveliness of the dish.

food: adventures in gluten free baking

i know i’ve said i don’t want to become one of those “substitution products” people, but i also have a curiosity about this junk.
and sometimes, when things go on sale for $0.99 i become powerless against them.

the heath food store beside my office has been an excellent source of things i need and things that i definitely don’t need.
for instance, when i need a snack, they have raw nut mixes in convenient containers.
they also have gluten free cookies.
see… need vs want.

the health food store also heavily discounts products close to their expiry date.  and this is where i’m most prone to splurge on crap that i really don’t need.
and they definitely suckered me in the other day… so here’s my bounty of baked good mixes and such…

first off, the famed $0.99 muffin mix.

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it required me to add an egg, buttermilk, lemon zest, butter & blueberries.
so it was actually pretty similar to the muffin recipe i used to use.

the dough/batter was very thick.  like, i used my fingers to put it into the muffin cups.  but it actually made a “normal looking muffin” for all intents and purposes.
i got 12 small(normal sized?)  muffins from it and they were not bad at all.

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the texture is on the crumbly side, but the flavour is pretty good overall.  they are vastly improved by heating them and slathering them with butter.  but really, what isn’t?

the iron test?  my husband ate 4 of them fresh out of the oven with minimal complaints on them… really the texture and “hard to eat with your hands/requires a plate” was the only real issue he had.

so overall, a fun experiment, but i’m honestly not much of a muffin person to begin with, so i don’t think i’d rush out and buy something like this again.

my other discount baking purchases were: a cornbread mix

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and a cake mix.

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the cornbread mix will get my usual cornbread treatment… meaning i will throw in a shitload of cheddar, chipotles and green onions and that will make anything awesome.
so i anticipate that one going well.  i mean, cornmeal muffins have little flour in them to begin with, so really, how bad could this be?

and the chocolate cake mix will be made and slathered with terribly unhealthy icing and so i also anticipate that one going well.  but i’ll let you know.

my other purchase that day, and the only one i paid full price for is coconut flour:

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i’m actually pretty excited about this one. couple reasons…
first off, this and almond flour are the only real “paleo-approved” baking flours that are easy to come across.
and second, i just flat out love coconut, so i’d probably use this product anyways, regardless of any dietary restrictions.

it was not cheap.  i paid $14 for 1kg of it and i have no idea if that’s a good price or a bad price… i’ll admit, i did no research.  mostly because i have no idea where else to get it, and overall i’ve found this store’s pricing to be competitive, so i just assumed this was as well.

anyways, i have yet to crack open the bag, but i’m pretty stoked on some of the recipes that i’ve come across for using it.  people LOVE this shit.  there’s whole blogs dedicated to it.  so i assume i will also adore.

 

lastly, and maybe this should go in the “shame category” from my previous blog… but holy cracker, i found THE BEST cookies ever.
of course, those assholes at trader joe’s make them.  and they are so freaking delicious it’s not even fair.

they’re so buttery and crispy and they literally melt in your mouth with magic.
you should buy them.  even if you eat wheat.

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food: more lazy eating & making it better

remember how you start your day/week/month whatever with delusions of health and all the conviction in the world?  and then you have a crap day at work and it all goes to shit?
yes, this was me last week.

but, all is not lost.  i’ve read my paleo books and decided to test drive it.
my work does this cool 12 week challenge thing where you sign up and upload terrible fat pictures of yourself and alllll your measurements, strength test ect… and then you commit to being all around better in 12 weeks from now.
if you’re the winner, then you get fabulous prizes including some really amazing trips.  so it’s a pretty cool thing.

i did it my first year with the company… but never finished it.
and last year, i was full of excuses and was in a cast.
but now that i’m starting my 3rd year with the company (wow – REALLY? – time flies!) i’m ready to rock the shit out of this challenge.  i’m also considering starting a new blog in addition to this one thats focused on daily updates for the challenge.  not so much because i think it’ll be interesting, but because the judging is 30% based on a written essay and i think that will help my chances.

so, the first thing i’m going to do is try full on paleo for 12 weeks.  there’s a couple reasons why… first off, i think it absolutely has to make me lose weight.  and while this isn’t a “biggest loser” competition… losing a visible amount of weight would definitely help my chances of winning.  also, i’m frankly curious about how this will change my body.
it won’t be a forever change (well, i say this now, but you never know) because there’s just some things that i’d like to keep in my life, even if it is in moderation. (cheese, i’m looking at you)

the second thing is an actual regular commitment to exercise.  moonbeam and i had a sobering moment at rock climbing last week.  where we were forced to accept that aquafit, while getting us off the couch and making us move, isn’t necessarily making us strong and fit.  it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s like step 7 of 100.  so we should really be pushing ourselves a little more.
the weather is the biggest obstacle/excuse right now… i hate exercising outside in the rain or worse, the snow.  infact, if its icy, that’s just stupid and dangerous.  BUT, i do have a free gym that i can see from my window.  and exercise dvds and such. so basically, i have excuses, not real obstacles.

the third thing i’d like to achieve is some sort of really quantifiable thing… like maybe signing up for and actually running a race… or something like that.  something that can not be faked or excused or whatever.  this is to be determined, but i love suggestions.

anyways.  goals, they exist and i’m gonna slay them.

 

and now, witness my shame of the last week.  lol.
here’s the thing about getting your mind all worked up about “something big on the horizon”… it somehow excuses yourself to make crap decisions in the meantime.  like i have to “get in all the shit i can before i’m not allowed to eat it anymore”.  because, you know, that’s logical.

so… i ate a few things.
first shame: boston pizza’s gluten free pizza crust.
this is my delicious little ‘za below.  definitely better than the me & ed’s experience.  this guy was about $9 and i got it with peperoni, feta (no mozza) and mushrooms.  it was really good.  one of the better, if not the best, gluten free product i’ve had while eating out.
it was small, but a perfect size for a meal.  i’d buy it again.

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second shame: my ongoing quest for a good mac & cheese… and we have a winner!
thank you trader joe’s.

not only was their rice mac & cheese only $1.99 for the box, but it tasted like delicious kraft dinner-esque garbage fake cheese and i loved every minute of it.
the search is over, the king is crowned.  all bow down to the winner.

(also – who are they kidding with this “serves 4” garbage?  a box of mac & cheese is a meal for one.  always has been, always will be.)

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and my final shared shame…
the soda pop.

i have a mad lust for root beer.  proper root beer.  don’t try and give me that barq’s crap.
for me, when i read the bottle, it must be made with pure cane sugar.  no high fructose corn syrup, thank you.
but really, i love all the craft brewed soda pops.
and the other day, i found this…

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remember the pop shoppe?
my husband waxed poetic over this for an hour, i swear.
apparently there used to be an actual pop shoppe by his house and they used to buy crates of them and $.25 a bottle.
sadly, i paid $2.50 each for these fuckers, but it was definitely a taste of my childhood.

books: learning about wheat belly & paleo life

i’m one of those people that absorbs knowledge. when something tweaks my interest (and even when it doesn’t) i soak up every detail.  because i am an insufferable know-it-all.
i absolutely LOVE knowing lots about a subject… because i love engaging in intelligent conversation.
there’s nothing that irks me more than when i can’t contribute because i have no knowledge on the subject at hand.

the subject that has captured my interest lately is food and diet.
obviously i sold myself on wheat-free when i tried it and found an immediate difference.  but it was a book that put it on my radar to begin with.

jen wrote a post about it a few months ago and spoke so passionately about it that it immediatly convinced me to at least try it for myself.  she’s since taken down the post and done a blog revamp, but is still on the wheat-free wagon.

the book in question: Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis

i started reading the blog at www.wheatbellyblog.com but didn’t actually pick up the book until last night.
i have some itunes $ to blow, so i thought getting it on my ipad would be perfect.

it’s very science heavy and very interesting and at times, downright scary.
i raced through it last night, but will definitely give it a second read.  i was thankful for my ipad’s ability to highlight passages for future reference, because there is much that absolutely blew my mind.

i know a few people that have gone the one step further and started on paleo… and while i don’t see myself giving up dairy, i still want to read up on it and see what its all about.
so i picked up this book: The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf

apparently this is “the place to start” if you’re considering paleo and i’ve had so many people raving about it, so i figured it was also worth sticking on the ipad and giving it a read.

again, i’m not sure i’m going to try to pick up a full paleo diet, but i have an increasing amount of friends that are in love with it, so i’d like to understand the science behind their passion.

now, with a whole new lifestyle on the horizon… this also means figuring out a whole new way of cooking.
which means, a cookbook is in order.
i did some searching and there’s a couple that caught my fancy, but i decided on this one: Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie & Charles Mayfield

i chose this one based on overall good reviews on amazon & itunes, but also on the food style.
in order to incorporate paleo dishes into our diet at home, it’s important that they still feel like “normal food”, otherwise the husband will not partake.
i’ve just started flipping through it, but i hope to find something good for dinner that i can try out.

i actually read cookbooks like they’re novels.  i read them cover to cover and absorb ideas.  it’s very rare for me to sit with an actual recipe and follow it to a T.
but i have a feeling that with this one, i’ll actually have to follow some recipes.

the biggest roadblocks i foresee with going full paleo is dairy, corn & beans.  i love that stuff.  hummus is my lifeline.
sooo… we’ll see.  but, i remember feeling the same way about giving up wheat and now i have no interest in it at all, so i recognize that my attitude may change on this front.
anyways.  at the very least, i am totally open to incorporating paleo dishes into my wheat-free lifestyle… and of course, i’m stoked to learn about something new.

also, i’d love any other book suggestions that anyone has.  not just in regards to diet & lifestyle.

food: coconut butternut squash soup

i might have a new favourite food product.
coconut manna.

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i’m a coconut lover at the best of times, but this is THE BEST.
basically it’s a pure coconut butter product and it is so yum, i can’t even.

i picked it up at choices on the weekend, but just cracked into it last night.
i figured i’d use it to add to curry or something… but then i realized, i should really be using it like butter.  or instead of butter.
infact, the best site tells me: Coconut Manna is creamy whole coconut food that will delight people looking for coconut butter, coconut cream, coconut oil butter and coconut body butter.

um, it even replaces body butter?  oh man.  i’m going to smell DELICIOUS!
but that’s a tangent.

so, i test drove this last night with my butternut squash soup.
generally speaking, when i make a butternut squash soup, i like to put a touch of curry powder in it.  well, to be specific, i have two squash options… either it gets the curry treatment or it gets a sage or rosemary or thyme or some sort of herb.
but that’s about as far as i tend to branch on the squash seasoning.

for this batch of soup, i melted the coconut manna into the pot and sauteed my sweet onions in it.
the smell of it just flooded my memory when i typed that.  it was incredible.

so basically here’s my squash soup from last night…

 

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 heaping tablespoon of coconut manna
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp curry powder (or more to taste)
  • 1 large butternut squash, roasted
  • 1 carton of chicken stock. (i only use Kitchen Basics unsalted)
  • 1 cup of half & half cream (this could be omitted, but it makes it super yum)
  • salt & pepper

Toppings:

  • Cooked sausage, crumbled & drained (i used a lamb sausage)
  • chopped flat leaf parsley

Instructions:

  1. melt the coconut manna (or coconut oil) in a pot over medium low heat.  saute onions & garlic for 15 minutes until translucent.  (you don’t really want them to brown because you’re blending them)
  2. sprinkle in curry powder when onions are almost done
  3. add butternut squash and chicken stock.
  4. blend with immersion blender (or batch into a regular blender)
  5. simmer for 10 minutes or longer to meld flavours
  6. before serving, stir in cream (don’t let it boil after this step!)
  7. season to taste with salt & pepper if needed
  8. top with sausage and parsley and chow down!

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i bought 2 GIANT butternut squash from costco last week because 1. i love squash, 2. it was local – from langley and 3. it was $5 for 7lbs of squash which is a ridiculous bargain.
i wasn’t entirely sure what to do with this squashy bounty, so when i made sausages in the oven the other day, i roasted off my squash too.  so now i have a convenient giant container of cooked squash in my fridge, for just such a soup-making occasion.  and a few smaller portions that i can throw a little coconut manna on and eat at work as a lunch.
planning ahead is *so smart!*

and now, just for fun… a soup making montage!
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