Saturday, June 30, 2012

must LOVE animals

On the way to our friends for dinner the other night, we were driving down a semi-busy road on the edge of town when we see a momma duck and an entire line of babies trying to cross the road.  Dave stops the truck, and helps shield them from the traffic while they safely get out of the road.  It was tense, and the poor little babies were so scared by the cars.  Later that night he put this status on Facebook.  

On the way over to a friends house for dinner, we came upon a mother duck and her chicks trying to cross a busy road. I did the right thing and stopped traffic to let them pass. Most people were cool and happily stopped or slowly went around with smiles on their faces. But there's always the occasional ass(bleep) that can't be bothered to take a few seconds out of his schedule to respect the wildlife that gave up their home for his! Remember that while we may be at the top of the food chain, we aren't the only ones that have a right to be here!

God, I love that man. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Broccoli and chicken and....almonds?

Last night when I got home from work, half the battle was already won.  I had remembered to put a package of chicken breasts in the fridge to thaw.  Now that I was home, what was I going to make?  I did a quick search through some of my favorite cooking blogs and settled on a Broccoli, Chicken, and Almond Saute from Simply Recipes.  It looked quick, easy, and I had everything on hand.  But, more importantly, it was something I could make without many changes to the recipe.  It reminded me of a lighter version of Chinese take out.  I could definitely see drizzling it with a little bit of soy sauce (or coconut aminos) and serving with a side of rice. 

Broccoli, Chicken, and Almond Saute

2 - 6oz chicken breasts
Salt and Pepper
1 tbl grapeseed oil
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets (or a 1lb package of florets)
1/2 c slivered marcona almonds
1 bunch green onions, sliced, whites and greens separated
Dark Toasted Sesame Oil

Toast almonds in a skillet and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add broccoli, cook for 1-2 minutes, and set aside.
Heat a large skillet with 1 tbl of grapeseed oil (or oil of your choice) to medium high heat.  Thinly slice chicken.  Season with salt and pepper.  Saute chicken until no longer pink, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the white part of the green onion to skillet and cook for about 1 minute. Add broccoli, chicken, almonds, and green part of the green onions and stir to combine.   Drizzle with dark toasted sesame oil.  Serve hot.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Welcome to Taco Tuesday

Growing up in a town that's heavily influenced with Mexican culture, has really made me love Mexican cuisine. Yes, yes, I know.  Much of the food in California isn't authentic Mexican food, it's Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex, Colorado-Mex, New Mexico-Mex, etc.  While I'm not a fan of the fast food or major chain Mexican restaurants, I love local, hole-in-the-wall places like Murillos (location of hubby and I's first date!), Vasquez Deli, and Chando's Tacos. 

When I was little, my mom had a copy of the Sunset Mexican Cookbook, 1983 edition.  I remember reading it like it was a Nancy Drew book, absorbing every word in the book on how to prepare everything from tamales to enchilada sauces to flan.  We cooked Mexican food often at my mom's house: enchiladas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and chili verde.  My mom is well known for her green chicken enchiladas and a pan of those is a coveted birthday, Christmas or "just-because" gift.  

Now that I'm on my strict elimination diet, Mexican food is pretty much on the "banned" list right now.  I tested positive to wheat, dairy, coriander, and cumin, and also found that I need to severely limit my intake of corn, beans, tomatoes, and peppers in order to feel better.  That means no tortillas, no salsa, not hot sauces, no "Mexican" seasonings, no crema, no refried beans, and no queso.  While I'm waiting for that magical day in August when I can start adding foods on-by-one back into my diet,  I have been trying to eat some of my favorite menu items minus all the ingredients on my allergy list.  

Last summer, I was talking to a farmer at the market and they were selling prickly pear cactus pads, also knows as nopales.  I had never had cactus before and didn't know it was edible. I vaguely remember a prickly pear cactus margarita at a chain Mexican restaurant, but wasn't sure if it was made from cactus or that was just the name because of the color.  Nights involving margaritas are very fuzzy in my memory.  Except for the night there was a clown drinking margaritas at that restaurant's bar, but that's another story....  I told the farmer I had never had cactus and asked how it tasted.  He replied, "Delicious" with a big grin on his face.  I asked him his favorite ways to prepare the cactus, and he said that there was too many to count.  He started listing off all the ways you could eat cactus, and I suddenly felt like I was watching Bubba talk about all the ways you can eat shrimp. I really love that this particular farmer removes all the needles prior to selling.  They can be dangerous and difficult for the newbie to remove, and can really harm you if you accidentally ingest one. 

Now that cactus is back in season, I always make sure to get some at the market each week.  While I haven't really branched out and made them in the million and one ways the farmer said you can, I have found them to be a quite delicious as a taco filling.  This week I decided to mix them with some ground chicken.  It was so yummy, despite not having my beloved Pepper Plant Seasoning added in (I added salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders to give it some flavors).  Today I splurged and ate corn taco shells, but you could just as well put this in a brown rice tortilla or on top of a salad.  

Nopales and Ground Chicken Tacos
1 lb 99% fat free ground chicken
1 lb nopales, needles removed, cut into small, bite-sized pieces
2 tbl coconut oil
2 tbl pepper plant seasoning (or 1-2 packages of your favorite taco seasoning)
taco shells
desired garnishes: avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, crema or sour cream, guacamole, queso, chopped onions and cilantro, etc.  
Heat a heavy skillet with 2 tbl coconut oil over medium high heat.  Add nopales, and saute until soft, about 5 -10 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add ground chicken, brown and crumble, about 10 minutes.  Add your seasonings and about 1/4 cup of water (or whatever your package directions say) and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add nopales and mix together.  Spoon the chicken nopales mixture into taco shells.  Top with desired garnishes. ¡Buen provecho!


Monday, June 18, 2012

One fish, two fish...

I love seafood.  Growing up, we spent many weekends with the family at Salt Point State Park "poke pole" fishing for monkey faced eel while my uncles went abalone diving.  Dinner feasts of pan fried eel and abalone by the campfire while me, my sister, and my cousins melted our shoes on the fire rings is one of my favorite childhood memories.

One of the best things about living so close to San Francisco is the abundance of fresh seafood we have available at all times, not to mention all the amazing seafood restaurants scattered throughout the area.  Sadly, with my diet restrictions, it's too difficult to go out to eat without being "that" patron.

Saturday at the farmer's market, the fish-monger had some amazing cuts of fresh halibut, swordfish, and salmon.  I was craving a nice seafood dinner, so I decided on a nice halibut filet.  Since it was projected to be record breaking warm temperatures on Saturday and cooking on the BBQ was out of the question, I decided to pan sear it with a butter caper sauce.  Because I can't have butter, I used organic, grass-fed ghee (clarified butter with the lactose and milk solids removed, making it easily digestible for many people who need to avoid dairy).  I found so many amazing sounding recipes and combined the best of them all with what I had on hand, and modified to work with my allergies.  It was so delicious, I could eat this every day!  Although it wasn't as exciting as fine dining at a San Francisco seafood restaurant, it definitely cured my craving until I can start venturing out to the restaurant world.  

Halibut with a Butter Caper Sauce

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 lb halibut, skin and bones removed, cut into equal sized pieces (I cut it into 6 pieces)
1/4 c brown rice flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of white wine
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon ghee
1 lime 
Grilled Asparagus (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Put flour in a small bowl or plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Dredge fish in flour.  Add the fish to the pan and cook until lightly golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook the fish!  Remove fish from the pan and set aside.  Add the onions to the pan and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute about 1 minute.  Add the white wine and deglaze the pan.  Simmer to reduce the sauce a bit.  Turn off the heat and add the capers, ghee, and lime juice.  Serve fish with some of the sauce spooned over the top.  Serve with grilled asparagus, or your favorite vegetable. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

The beginning of summer

Even though fall and winter are my favorite seasons, I really do love summertime (minus heat and humidity).  I love the long days...summer gardens....BBQ' gazing...spending long nights lingering over a chilled bottle of good wine and good conversation with friends. 

The one thing that's been so hard this year is not being able to eat at any of the food when we go to a party. After one day of surviving on carrot sticks and a Lara Bar, I decided that I'm just going to have to bring my own food and not hope that I'll be able to eat wherever we end up.  This past weekend we celebrated my Grandpa's 80th birthday and a cousin's high school graduation.  Both were BBQ's, so I decided to bring along a cold side that I could enjoy and share if anyone was interested.

One of my favorite things to make for BBQ's is an "everything but the kitchen sink" pasta salad.  I boil up all the odds and ends of leftover pasta, chop up all almost empty jars of olives and pickled vegetables, add bits of meats and cheeses from the lunch-meat drawer, finely chop up what's left in the vegetable crisper, and toss with the 17 almost-empty bottles of vinaigrette taking up the entire fridge door. It's always different, yet always delicious.   

Now that I'm on such a restrictive diet, I can't use my go-to "recipe" for the summer BBQ season.  So instead of focusing on what I CAN'T have, I looked at what I CAN have.  I had a box of quinoa in my pantry and decided to make a quinoa "pasta" salad and only use what I had on hand.  It turned out so good.  My hubby said it was "light and refreshing."  You will probably want to double the recipe for your next potluck because it's that good!

Quinoa "Pasta" Salad

1c quinoa, rinsed throughly, prepared according to package directions (can be made ahead of time and chilled)
2 carrots, shredded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cucumber, seeded, peeled and diced
12 large basil leaves, cut into ribbons
4 c baby spinach, chopped
1 can artichoke heart quarters, drained
1 can black olives, drained

1/4 c garlic flavored olive oil
1/4 c raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp herbs de provonce

Mix together cooked quinoa, carrots, green onions, cucumber, basil, spinach, artichoke hearts, and olives. Pour dressing over top and mix toghether.  Cover and chill or serve immediately.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lazy Saturdays

Saturday mornings are my favorite day of the week.  Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, year-round, the Davis Farmer's Market is open for business.  One of my favorite farmer's market in our area, this market has such an amazing selection of food, in addition to your standard zucchini, tomatoes, and peaches.  Yolo Land & Cattle sells some of the best Grass Fed and Finished Beef around.  They are very humane and respectful of their animals, which is very important to me.  Bledsoe Natural Pork has some of the most amazing pork, including smoked pork chops and bacon, I have ever tasted.  And as a bonus, it's completely allergy friendly, free from any added ingredients including any of those icky nitrates or nitrites. There are also numerous vendors selling pastured chicken and eggs, fresh cheese, wine, baked goods, and lets not forget about all the lovely organic fruits and vegetables lining the tables. 

This past Saturday, I stopped by Mission Fresh Fish's booth and picked up some fresh caught wild king salmon.  When I spoke with the vendor, she stated that the fish has been caught in Half Moon Bay only the day before.  It smelled so fresh and was so bright red, I couldn't wait to get home and cook it for dinner. I had also bought an entire flat of fresh, organic strawberries.  The farmer is in year two of the five year process of becoming certified organic so cannot legally call them "Organic" yet.  They don't use any of the harmful chemicals on their berries, which is a huge bonus for me because I am so sensitive to the sprays on strawberries.   

When I was getting ready to make dinner, I knew that I had to somehow incorporate the salmon and the strawberries together into my dinner.  I turned to Google and ended up finding an amazing sounding recipe from the Whole Foods website "Salmon with Strawberry Salsa" and I knew that I had to make something like this that would fit with my current allergy elimination diet as well as with what I had on hand.  It turned out amazing!  My mouth is still watering so much just thinking about this, that I am going to make this tonight for dinner!  

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa

2 6 oz. pieces fresh wild king salmon
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 basket strawberries, washed and dried then cored and diced
1/2 cucumber peeled, seeded and diced
1 large firm avocado diced
2 tablespoons mint finely chopped
2 tablespoons citrus juice (I used orange)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350*.  Drizzle salmon with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.   Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until cooked to desired level of done-ness.

While the salmon is cooking, mix together strawberries, cucumber, avocado, mind and citrus juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spoon half of the salsa on a plate and top with a piece of salmon.