Monday, December 19, 2011

What's the best medicine for overall health?

Thank you to Fanatic Cook for finding this amazing and informative video.

So, what's the best medicine?  Exercise at least 30 minutes per day.  That exercise can just be walking!  Seriously, watch the video.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caribbean Baked Chicken with Pineapple Pilaf

I've been in the mood for quick, gourmet food, and when that particular craving strikes, I pull out my Cook's Illustrated magazine and America's Test Kitchen cookbooks.  Often, the recipes are too complicated for quick meals and I end up tweaking them to suit my needs.  Frequently I combine their versions with similar ideas from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman or my trusty red-and-white-checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

As though in answer to my prayers, America's Test Kitchen has started publishing seasonal 30-minute supper magazines... and I've become obsessed.  I haven't purchased every single one, but I have read them while sitting in my local bookstore.  America's Test Kitchen books and magazines are my new go-to guides on all things meal-related! 

Yet now it's December, and summer seems like a distant memory.  What I have left of summer is my 30-Minute Suppers Summer Edition, and just because I'm unwilling to stand in the frigid air over a grill doesn't mean I'm going to plop one of my favorite cooking resources back on the shelf until June.  We're baking instead of grilling, and I use pineapple instead of mango, but this dish lets me pretend I'm on a tropical beach soaking in the sun!

Caribbean Baked Chicken with Pineapple Pilaf
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Summer 2011

1/2 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and Pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 6 oz can pineapple chunks
1 1/2 cups white rice
~2 1/4 cups water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
  3. Place chicken in a small, oven-safe dish and pour half of marinade in, turning chicken to coat. Cover with tin foil and bake 30-45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Preheat saucepan over medium heat and add remaining marinade, sautéing about 30 seconds or until garlic starts to brown.  Add rice and sauté about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Drain pineapple juice into a large measuring cup and add enough water to equal 2 1/4 cups liquid; add to rice.  Add pineapple chunks to rice, stir, cover and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat to low and simmer ~25 minutes, or until all the water is gone and the rice is soft.
  6. Serve the chicken sliced with a bit of the marinade drizzled on top.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chinese Black Rice and Bibimbap

I received my January/February Cook's Illustrated about a week ago and in the Notes From Readers section, there was a question about black rice.  Here's what CI had to say:

Like brown rice, black rice is unpolished, meaning that the hull of the grain--a rich source of insoluble fiber--is still intact,  But only black rice contains anthocyanins, the same antioxidant compounds that make blueberries and blackberries such a valuable addition to our diets.  These compounds are what turn the rice a deep purple as it cooks.

Many varieties and brands of black rice are available; we cooked up Forbidden Rice by Lotus Foods, adding 3 1/2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon water to 2 cups of rice and cooking it covered over low heat.  The grains were tender in just 30 minutes (about half the time it takes to cook brown rice).  The cooked grains remained distinct and firm to the bite, with tasters describing the flavor as pleasantly nutty and slightly sweet.  As an even more nutritious, quicker-cooking alternative to brown rice, what's not to like?

With such a ringing endorsement from CI, what could I do but try black rice?

I found my rice in the bulk food section of the grocery store, and I cooked it according to the directions provided: 1 cup of rice to 1 3/4 cup water.  The rice was done in about 35 minutes and lived up to expectations--chewy, nutty and flavorful!

So, what did I serve with my black rice?  Why, bibimbap, of course!

Every Saturday, I crave Korean food.  I'm not sure what what started it, but ever since we began taking Duncan to doggie classes on Saturday mornings back in July, when lunchtime rolls around, I'm ready for Korean BBQ and all its accompanying fermented garnishes.  To make matters worse, in October I experienced Revel for the first time.  It's an incredibly addictive Korean/French restaurant down in Fremont, and just thinking about their egg bowls and BBQ pork sets my mouth to watering, even after a hearty breakfast!  Seeing as how it's the holiday season and we just shelled out $1100 to fix my little white Saturn, we're experiencing only home-cooked meals for awhile, so I needed to re-create that tantalizing pork and those crunchy-spicy veggies at home.

It's not grilling season, and even the temptation of crispy grilled pork couldn't get me to huddle over my BBQ, so instead I used a basic slow-cooker recipe.  The arugula salad is an inspiration from Revel, and tastes amazing slightly wilted with the egg on top.

The best part of my Korean food experiment is that it fed us for days.  I'd say this one pot of pork and accompanying ingredients lasted Ben and I and a couple of our friends for 7 meals!

Here are the parts of my Korean-inspired egg bowl. 
To assemble, pile it on in whatever proportions you like!

Black rice: See above for cooking instructions

Kimchi: Purchased at my local Asian food store

Egg: Fried sunny side up in a bit of butter

Salad: Arugula tossed with a light dressing made of champagne vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt and sugar

Pickled veggies: 1 shredded carrot, 1 cup bean sprouts, 1 cubed cucumber, mixed with 1 cup seasoned rice vinegar and left to sit for at least 30 minutes

Peppery Asian Ribs
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes

3 1/2 pounds country-style pork ribs
6 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup GF tamari
1/4 cup molasses
2 T brown sugar
2 T hoisin sauce (I used 1 more T of brown sugar instead because I have yet to find GF hoisin)
2 T white wine vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp hot pepper oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp white pepper
  1. Place pork ribs in a slow cooker.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all other ingredients and pour over pork ribs, turning to coat.
  3. Cover and cook 8 to 10 hours on low, or 4 to 5 hours on high.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A great ring of pure and endless light

Seattle in the fog is beautiful, the possibility of mystery around every bush and tree.  Some days the foggy world seems magical, like around any corner I might meet a pixie or wander onto a tropical beach.  Some days the fog is ominous, and mail boxes become demons stalking you through the mist. Today the fog is dark.

My friend has lost her child, her baby, her joy.  He was to come into the world a Thanksgiving baby, beautiful and brave, but instead died without taking in one breath of air.

This is my friend's story to tell, a private story and a private grief, but in this moment, I don't understand how the entire world isn't mourning her loss of this perfect soul.

I'm reminded of the last stanza of "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone" by W.H. Auden:

The stars are not wanted now: put every one out;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

When I was a younger, I read "A Ring of Endless Light" by Madeleine L'Engle about 100 times.  I loved the idea of swimming with and talking to dolphins, and for many years I wanted to become a marine biologist until I learned I'd have to dissect sea creatures and not just bask in their presence.  I've learned a lot from Madeleine over the years: how to appreciate poetry and literature, and a deep awe of science and the mysteries of the universe.  As an adult, I see she was also teaching me about loss and death and the ability to re-emerge, somewhat battered, into the light.

The death of anyone, the old, the young, the sick, is tragic and heartbreaking to those left behind, and we must find a way to blunder through the tears and darkness.  We find solace in the words and warm embrace of others until we can again walk with the living world.

The earth will never be the same again. 
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A dolphin death, O this particular loss
Is Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried, 
If This small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies then would have lied.
How shall we sing our love's song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
And nothing loved is ever lost or perished.
                                                  - Madeleine L'Engle

A great ring of pure & endless light
Dazzles the darkness in my heart
And breaks apart the dusky clouds of night.
The end of all is hinted in the start.

When we are born we bear the seeds of blight;
Around us life & death are torn apart,
Yet a great ring of pure & endless light
Dazzles the darkness in my heart.

It lights the world to my delight.
Infinity is present in each part.
A loving smile contains all art.
The motes of starlight spark & dart.
A grain of sand holds power & might.
Infinity is present in each part,
And a great ring of pure & endless light
Dazzles the darkness in my heart.
                                     - Madeleine L'Engle

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pie, Pie, Me-Ohhh-My...

There's a new pie shop in town.  Truly, how often do you get to say that?  Only in Seattle is there a specialty pie shop next door to the speciality ice cream shop Bluebird, both of which are down the street from the speciality cookbook shop, The Book Larder.

In celebration of Ben teaching his final day of classes at the community college this quarter, we ate pie!  I'd stopped into Pie a couple weeks back and had a discussion with their head baker about how they prepare their gluten-free pie and he told me that they make their GF pie crust once a week or less and before doing so, they clean all the equipment.  I felt safe eating there, but as always, it's up to you to make sure you won't get sick.  I never take somebody else's word that a restaurant is safe, I always ask lots of questions.

Just to illustrate my point: I was at a business lunch the other day at The Cheesecake Factory, and boy am I glad I didn't order the Mexican chicken salad, because somehow they'd managed to put gluten into the chicken, black beans, or salad dressing.  Yet to find out, I had to badger the waiter, then the chef.  I'm not sure how they're processing their foods, but it made me want to save my lunch for another venue. (Seriously--black beans!?!)

But back to pie...

At Pie, they have a GF sweet pie everyday, but if you want a GF savory pie you need to order half an hour ahead of time, and they'll bake it on the spot.  They change up their flavors daily.  After checking their menu, I had my heart set on an English meat pie, or possibly roasted turkey with sweet potato.  Unfortunately, not all their fillings are GF, and my choices were vegetable curry, broccoli cheddar and egg and potato, none of which sounded as appetizing.  Far be it from me to look a gift pie in the mouth, but wouldn't it be great if they made ALL their fillings with rice flour?  That would make dining out for us poor GF people an absolute delight.  I can't remember the last time I had too many choices instead of too few.

I chose the vegetable curry pie, and they were pulling it out of the oven just as Ben and I walked in the door.  The pie shop smells amazing!  I mean, all they do is bake pie.  Chocolate pie.  Apple pie.  Meatloaf pie.  Even mac n' cheese pie!  Ben ordered the non-GF English meat pie and an apple-blackberry pie.  Sadly, they were sold out of their sweet GF pie du jour, so I didn't try dessert.

Ben reported his pie was delicious: flaky crusts, well-spiced meat, and his apple-blackberry pie wasn't "too damn" sweet.  My curry vegetable pie had a nice blend of flavors, but it was too salty for my tastes and I couldn't finish it.  The crust was lovely; not exactly flaky, because you can't get the same layers with GF pie, but crumbly in just the right way, and it melted in my mouth.

Is Pie a novelty?  Yes.  Will it stick around?  I sure hope so!  My first dining experience at Pie wasn't perfect, but it wasn't horrid either, and I think they'll get better.  And you never know, maybe I can talk them into gluten-free banana cream pie.  A girl can dream, right?

GF Vegetable Curry Pie

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chicken Fried Rice

On Thursday nights, Ben hangs out with the guys and I usually relax with the ladies.  We call it craft night but really we get together, drink wine and enjoy each other's company.  Sometimes we go out but mostly we gather at someone's house and the host will make a main dish while the rest of us bring sides, dessert and wine.  I tend to prepare spicy chicken soups and robust stews, but I recall one memorable evening when one of the girls' made carne asada.

Unlike the ladies, guys' night almost always involves take-out and the dregs of the pizza, Chinese or Indian appear in our fridge the next morning.  Recently Ben brought home pork fried rice, and while it was delicious, it made both of us horribly sick!

Now, I love fried rice and wasn't going to let that take-out disaster define my fried rice experience, so I decided to make my own.  This recipe is a concoction of what I had in the fridge and is a bit fresher than traditional restaurant fried rice.  I use high-heat safflower or sunflower oil for any cooking above medium heat, because unlike olive oil, high heat safflower or sunflower oil doesn't oxidize at those temperatures and still provides healthy polyunsaturated fats.

Try this recipe as I've written it or make your own additions!  I bet this would be lovely with fish sauce instead of soy sauce--and lots more veggies!

Chicken Fried Rice

1 cup brown rice, 2 cups water

2 tsp high heat safflower oil
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced

1/2 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
1/8 tsp chili flakes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
Hot chili oil to taste

  1. Bring water to a boil, add brown rice, cover; reduce to simmer and cook until tender.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tsp safflower oil until shimmering and add thinly sliced chicken.  Cook quickly, stirring frequently until cooked through.  Remove chicken to a bowl and cover.
  3. In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tsp safflower oil over medium heat and add onion and carrots, cooking until tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add chili flakes, garlic, and ginger and cook until fragrant but not burned, about 20 seconds.
  5. Add rice, peas, cooked chicken, pineapple juice, soy sauce and hot chili oil.  Turn the heat up slightly and let cook until slightly fried.

Serve with sake or warm jasmine tea.