Friday, July 23, 2010

Salad Daze....

In my never-ending quest for healthier (and cheaper) lunches, I ventured over to lovely Gena's site and read her section on making meal-sized salads. I quickly threw some just-washed spinach, a little iceberg lettuce, some organic grape tomatoes, cukes, red bell peppers and scallions in.  I made a simple vinaigrette with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt & pepper.  The fresh factor is what I like best about this beautiful salad.

I brought it to work, and have been happily munching all afternoon.  It is perhaps not a meal-sized salad per se, but it is more than enough to satisfy my lunch tummy.

Oh, and you see that "plastic" fork there? That, my friends is Bioserve. It is made with wheat, and composts/biodegrades by 50% in just 90 days! Further proof that you need not sacrifice the environment to have a little conveinience. I bought the package (which includes spoons and knives) for our camping trip with Happy Aly and her husband, and I've been pleased as punch to know they are somewhere biodegrading instead of staying around until the next ice age.

What do you do to limit your impact, or footprint on Mother Earth?

I am headed off to a great adventure this weekend.  My first-ever business trip! ME! Trotting through airports, eating tiny bags of peanuts! Staying in a hotel, and getting a rental car! It all sounds very sophisticated and worldly and grown-up to me, but, I have a hidden agenda.  It's all about the food, my friends. I'm going to be that weirdo dedicated blogger that takes pictures of her food in restaurants!

Eat well, fly safe to all those who travel to better themselves and their companies.  I'll be posting soon with stories of travels to different lands, different foods and much-anticipated warm weather!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Anchorage is a pot-luck kind of town. Heck, we'll have a potluck lunch or supper just because, oh I don't know, it's Tuesday? I have tried to perfect dishes to bring to these multitudinous events with an eye toward taste (of course), and lack-o-breaking the bank.
Deviled eggs became the focus of my quest. It's funny what you can invent in your sleep! I determined that I would make several flavors of the unsuspecting ovoid, and have myself a little taste test.  I hard-boiled only two little eggs, and mashed the yolks with two tablespoons of canola (cholesterol-free) mayonnaise. The results......

From left to right, Chipotle deviled egg, garnished with a single cilantro leaf, Lemon dill deviled egg, garnished with additional dill, Pesto deviled egg garnished with a tiny basil leaf, and last, but most certainly not least, Bearnaise deviled egg, garnished with a couple sprigs of tarragon. A wider shot showing my pretty hors d' oeuvres tray....

The final shot is of my post-taste-test destruction......

The verdict? Be careful what you wish for.  Why? Because each flavor was so good, there really can be no clear winner! The chipotle egg was spicy, but not too spicy, and the cilantro was a perfect and pretty counterpoint.  The lemon dill egg was refreshing, and would be a great appetizer for a seafood meal. The pesto egg was outrageously delicious, with the crunch of finely chopped walnut, garlic, basil and Parmesan. The Bearnaise egg was cool and creamy, tasting like the best Bearnaise sauce you've ever had, but without the guilt!

My only problem turns out to be, that these updated deviled eggs are so good, I will simply have to make several of each kind, the next time I am required to contribute to our pot-lucky fun! Eat well, my friends, and stand by for new posts this week about my second quest of the weekend, replicating amazing dishes I've seen on food-based television, without the benefit of a recipe.

CONTEST ALERT! Do you have an updated old-timey pot luck recipe? Tell me! The first one to comment will receive, via email (leave me your email address) the recipes I developed for the updated deviled eggs!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Anatomy of a Craving

There are times in life when you want one thing to eat, and only that one thing will do.  Today was a day like that.  I decided I simply must have roasted butternut squash soup, pureed and with lots of intense flavor.  It started simply enough, a good-looking butternut squash that weighed about a pound and a half.

I cranked my oven to a very toasty 400 degrees, not unwelcome on this chilly, grey Alaskan summer day. I peeled and chunked the squash as well as lots of garlic, red and white onion, and red bell pepper. I cut some fresh rosemary and thyme from my little herb garden, and tossed all with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Into the really hot oven it went, with a gentle stir from yours truly every now and again (to encourage even carmelization) for an hour. After that hour, everything was all nice and soft and ready for the next step. Here it is after its hour-long roast.

Tender, sweet-roasted goodness! The garlic, especially contributes to the mellow roasted sweet flavors.  On to the next step, which was simply putting in a soup pot, adding broth, butter and cream.  I also added cayenne pepper, because I'm spicy like that, and pureed with my immersion blender.

My vegetarian and vegan friends can simply substitute vegetable broth, and appropriate products for the chicken stock, cream and butter.  The rich, velvety texture, the mix of complex flavors, and a wee garnish of cilantro completes the crave-fest. Obviously, it was and is delicious (sipping a cup while writing this post!). My new thermos and my tummy are both going to be happy this work week.

Once again, I must re-state the fact that I find it rather amusing that some people consider cooking difficult, or claim that they cannot cook. I do not think that is the issue at all! I think that some simply lack the dedication and follow-through for the task at hand, or are afraid of a bad result. Seriously, though, if one uses the right ingredients, in the correct proportions, and with an eye toward flavor and texture, you cannot go wrong. 

What is your cooking style? Do you fear making certain dishes more than others? Are you a bold cook, or do you follow recipes only? Tell me! I want to know!

Other cravings that Dear Husband drove me around like the maniacal foodie that I am, concerned health advocate that I am, to purchase, included this!

My favorite couscous-in-a cup. Couscous Parmesan, made by Nile Spice. My favorite gourmet goodie store carries every other variety, but I could never find the parmesan kind!  My good friend Happy Aly brought my attention to a mecca for foodies and health nuts, a store called Natural Pantry. Now, Dear Husband has by this point endured a trip to a farmers' market, the gourmet goodie store, another farmers' market and cheerfully drove across the parking lot to the Natural Pantry. I was so excited to finally go in there, I abandoned all thought of actually getting in the car with him, and began striding purposefully across the parking lot.  Who needs a car when your legs are moving even faster, and no need to park? To make a long story longer, I clearly snagged my beloved Couscous Parmesan. The untold part of the story, is that if Dear Husband was not sitting in the car, patiently waiting for me, I would have stayed in there for hours!  Foodie mecca - yay!

I also had to make a quick stop on Friday, at a regular ole' run-of-the mill grocery store for some cilantro, and an avocado.  But look what I found!

In Alaska, our Safeway stores are called "Carrs". I found organic frozen soy beans! Right there in the frozen section! Under three bucks a bag! I could not believe my good fortune!  In case your eyes are glazing over from my over-enthusiastic rapture at finding some decent edamame, I must tell you the side story.

The side story is that it is no secret to anyone who knows me, that I really, really dislike Alaska. Snow for most of the year, cool, gray and rainy for the other four months, it is, how shall we say not my cup of tea. I have spent the grand majority of my adult life in beautiful Northern California, and quite frankly, nothing else compares. Now before judging me, understand I have lived in Connecticut, Florida, Texas, England and Arizona.  Nothing can match Northern California's naturally mild climate, lack of humidity, natural beauty and general lack of natural disasters. I have felt more earthquakes in the last 20 months that I ever felt in 20-plus years in California.  I will not go on, but you get the point.

The only times (other than having fun with friends here) I have felt moments of pure joy here, involve the fact that Anchorage is a very closed society, in some ways.  People tend to stay indoors, keep to themselves, and generally speaking, indoor hobbies are pretty big here. To wit: if you are a foodie like me, indulging your passion up here is easy. It also tends  to make one gain weight pretty quickly after moving here. Or as one Alaskan nurse I know put it "the freshman forty". Ahem. I have been lucky, and have only put on "the freshman ten". It feels strange, and uncomfortable, and I cannot wait to get back to my normal girth.  Someday.

Do you feel like your situation controls you, not the opposite?  What can you do to change your situation?

Well, I'm off to make "suspended animation jello" for Dear Husbands' dessert. I call it that because to make this for him, one must drain a can of peaches or fruit cocktail, and put it into the jello an hour and a half into the chilling process.  I don't like it, but he does, and as you can tell, he goes out of his way to make me happy - so it truly is no hardship for me to try to make him happy, too. Eat well, my friends.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy Campers

After spending the weekend of the 4th actually, really CAMPING with our good buddies Aly and MEH, I realized that even though it may have stretched our less-than-youthful bodies to the limit, we came back refreshed and renewed.  There is something to be said about the invigorating qualities of the great outdoors.  Only a few regrets; I caught no fish, which, is good because then I would be forced to make my Happy Aly bomp them on the head...JUST KIDDING, GIRLFRIEND! Other regrets, I forgot to make the durn s'mores, leaving me with all the ingredients sitting here in our home, useless, and meant to be shared with our buddies. And, of course, the weather was not ideal. Oh, well, that's Alaska in the summertime.

Recently, whilst continuing my search for healthy lunchtime meat-free meals, I came across a chickpea and quinoa curry, that was quick, easy, and  served in one of my favorite breads, Indian Naan bread.  I made a batch, and my little lunch box was ever so happy that day. As Aly would say: "nom nom good".

The rolled-up romaine contained some of the quinoa as well, and provided a refreshing crunch. I actually ended up liking it better in the lettuce.  My whole thing is to avoid that afternoon slump one gets from overburdening one's system with heavy foods at lunchtime.  I think I have cracked the code on this, but I wish I had more energy in the evenings, so I could make it happen every day.

That would be my wish this week, to have more energy on the weeknights. What is your wish? What are your regrets this week? Are you letting them take you underwater, or are you using them as motivators, and lesson-teachers?  I have learned that an old dog can, in fact learn new tricks. My lovely friend Aly (super secret nickname: Willow....because she is beautiful and can flex in the wind, but has surprising strength) has taught me that those lovely positive thoughts I used to entertain so frequently in my younger days need not be replaced with a grouchy, cynical attitude.  Thanks, Aly! Eat well my friends, and remember to learn what you can from everyone around you.