Sunday, January 16, 2011

Baked Lotus Chips

I love international grocery stores. Tasting new ingredients and new foods is an exhilarating experience for me, and one of the best places to do that is in an international market.

I went to Super-H Mart (an asian supermarket in Buford) yesterday to stock up on some rice and other essentials like siracha, fish sauce, and rice noodles. If you have never shopped at an Asian, Mexican, or International Market you are missing out. They have all kinds of interesting things to look at, and most everything is translated so you know what it is. The store I went to yesterday were giving out samples like they do in warehouse stores like Costco or Sams. Except the items they were putting out were not typical Sams fare. They were sampling salted mackeral, furikake, and wasabi rice puffs. 

Whenever I go to these kinds of places I always try to pick up at least one thing I am not familiar with to try and expand my culinary repertoire. I found many things yesterday that I am very excited to experiment with. 

From the left: Sweet Brown Rice, Enoki Mushrooms, Cactus Honey Powder, Ground Chili Garlic Paste, Lotus Root, Kimchi Furikake, and a Seaweed Infused Sea Salt. 

I plan on using the sweet brown rice as a flour to experiment with baked goods as well as trying some kind of rice pudding. I am going to use the mushrooms in a stir fry. As for the furikake, I had no idea at the store what it was but it looked super interesting. When I got home I did some research and realized it is a dry mix seasoning to sprinkle over rice. You can get it in a variety of flavors with a bunch of different combinations of ingredients including sesame, soy, nori seaweed, bonito flakes, little dried fish, green tea leaves, ginger, etc... Since researching this condiment I have found many recipes for different flavors of furikake. I enjoyed it sprinkled on air-popped popcorn last night. It is so much fun to say and to eat that I will probably be making it at home very soon. It also gives me another excuse to go back to the H-Mart sooner than later :).

Today I experimented with the Lotus Root. I found a description for it on Chowhound:

Lotus root

General Description: The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) root is the enlarged underwater stem (rhizome) of a water lily. Lotus root has been raised in ponds in Southeast Asia for more than 3,000 years. Both the leaves and seeds can be used, but the root is most common. Lotus root resembles sausage links about 6 to 8 inches long and about 3 inches in diameter. The interior has five to seven tunnels running through it that form lacy patterns when it is sliced crosswise. Lotus root has crispy white flesh with a mild flavor reminiscent of water chestnut or jicama. 
Purchase: Select firm, pinkish or grayish lotus root with smooth, unblemished skin and no soft spots.
Avoid: Pass up whole lotus root with dark or soft spots. 
Storage: Store whole lotus root in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. 

I wanted to make crispy lotus chips to go with my lunch today. I peeled off the skin and sliced into thin rounds. I placed the sliced lotus into a pan of salted boiling water and boiled for 5 minutes. I pulled them out of the water and let them drain for a second. Then I placed the slices on a pan with a little bit of coconut oil, cayenne, salt, and pepper. I baked at 400F for 20 minutes flipping halfway through. 

They turned out quite delicious. I liked the ones that were crispy around the edges with a little bit of chew in the middle. They taste similar to a potato chip but has more texture and they look cooler. I saw you can use them in a stir-fry, salads, and soup to name a few. 

I ate my lotus chips with a big green salad with romaine, raw kale, half chopped apple, and the cranberries I baked the other day. I drizzled the whole thing with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was simple but super yummy. I think I am going to eat it for lunch again tomorrow. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

DIY Select-A-Size

A part of this blog is about working towards a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. My contributions are small, but I like to think that they do make a difference. I don't keep disposable plates, ziplocs, or silverware in my house, I wash my hair with baking soda (more on that later), I compost, I clean with biodegradable non-toxic cleaners, etc. I am always looking for new ideas of things that I can implement in my life right now without needing to get a new grey water system or solar panels installed. Though, those would be pretty stinkin' cool. I am all for the self-sustainable lifestyle.

Today our topic is paper towels. Have you noticed how the Select-A-Size paper towels are more expensive? Many people justify it's expense by reasoning that the paper towels will last longer when you use smaller pieces. I agree, and it was a very smart marketing move. I definitely feel wasteful when I have to use a whole paper towel to soak up the extra grease from my husband's two pieces of bacon. Or, when some egg drips on the floor and I don't want to get my washcloth dirty. Nothing worse than having to throw away a barely used piece. 

My solution is to jump on the cheapest paper towel bargain you can find, and make your own select a size by cutting it in half. All you need for this project is a sharp knife. I would recommend that you use a flat blade knife even though it takes a bit of effort to get through all those layers. I found that when I tried to use a serrated knife the paper I was cutting disintegrated and make a huge mess. It also looked quite dastardly. 

This technique works like a charm, and your paper towels will last at least twice as long. 

I realize that even though I am using my paper towels more wisely, they are still bleached and not the ideal solution. One of my future goals is to phase out paper towels completely after we use up our current stash. I am looking at getting a few natural flour sack towels as a replacement. Anybody know of a good source? Can I get them locally anywhere?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sugar-Free Dried Cranberries

I have had a bag of cranberries sitting in the freezer for a few months now. I bought them because they were featured in a big thanksgiving display in my local grocery store. You know I couldn't resist, thinking of many tasty and seasonal possibilities. But after I brought them home, inspiration never quite struck, and they stayed tucked away in my freezer.

This morning I was thinking about how much I love craisins, but I don't like how they are loaded with sugar. It got me to wondering if I could make them myself. 

I figured why not? I really don't have anything to lose. Consequently, I dumped my cranberries onto a toaster pan and added 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil. I turned my toaster oven to 300F and baked the cranberries for about 2 hours. Between the first half hour to hour they started popping. I guess that is normal so don't be alarmed. As far as I can tell nothing exploded onto the toaster. 

Here is a picture of the finished product. They turned out great, have a wonderful tart flavor, and great chewy texture. Just like they are supposed to taste like. A few cranberries got crispy, so keep a careful eye on them during the last little bit of baking so they don't burn. I don't think they need any sugar and I look forward to using them in pancakes, muffins, cookies, etc... I know these will pair great with my Coconut Dark Chocolate. Because they are not completely dried I would recommend storing them in the fridge or freezer to avoid any potential mold problems. 

Two heaping cups of cranberries produced one cup of 'craisins'.

This post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ravioli on a Snowy Day

Today is our third snow day in Homer, GA. School has been cancelled for both Chris and I for three days and we have enjoyed our time immensely. 

 Monday we went over to a friends house and played in the snow, ate chili, and made snow ice cream. Last night we had friends over to our house for dinner. My parents got me a really cool pasta maker for Christmas and I have been itching to use it. We decided to make ravioli from scratch! 

Here we are making the dough, cutting veggies for salad, and grating cheese. My significant other is the one in the middle. He is pretty cute, huh. :)

We divided the dough into quarters and rolled it out just a bit to get it flat. Then we rolled it through the pasta machine on its largest setting. Each time we rolled it through we set it a size smaller until it was as thin as we wanted. We set it on a floured surface so it wouldn't stick while we rolled out the rest. Our friend Clint is on the left holding the rolled pasta. John is manning the hand crank while Katie is feeding in the dough. I think they made a great team!

We made a basic pasta dough with  flour, eggs, salt and water for everyone else. But, I am trying to stay away from gluten, so I made a gluten free pasta for myself. I found the recipe for Gluten Free Millet Pasta at Real Sustenance. It is made out of millet and tapioca flours. I think it turned out fantastic. It is easy to roll, smooth, and has the same texture as regular wheat pasta. 

We had a bunch of different fillings to choose from. Sauteed mushrooms, spinach, onions, cheese, bacon, beef and pepperoni for the meat lovers. I filled mine with vegetables and a little bit of the beef. 

My dough sat a little too long before I made the ravioli, so they fell apart a little. But, that definitely didn't deter me from making a plateful. We went one at a time gingerly placing our ravioli masterpieces into a pot of boiling water. It took about six minutes per batch.

I pulled my batch out of the water and smothered them with some marinara sauce that we also made from scratch.

It was such a lovely meal. Fabulous people and fabulous food are always a good combination.

I had some leftover pasta dough from last night, so I made spaghetti noodles for lunch today. I was  amazed again at how easy they are to roll out. I let Chris taste, and he said it was good and tasted just like regular noodles. I love it when there are things that he likes that we can both eat. I plan on making this gluten free pasta for dinner again really soon. 

What kind of pasta do you like best? 

P.S. School is going great! I am enjoying all my classes. I am actually sad that we have had so many snow days because I like school so much. 

P.S.S. My Zumba training went great as well. As of 6PM on Sunday evening I became an official certified Zumba instructor. I enjoy the high energy, latin dance, and party like atmosphere of a Zumba class. I am working on practicing my moves, and figuring out how to choreograph and put together a workout. I will let you know when I have my first class. I am sure I will nervous out of my mind. But in the great words of our Zumba trainer "to be a great teacher you have to OWN IT and you have to BRING IT". I am planning on taking that advice to heart and really put myself out there. Even if it is going to be really scary. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Today is Saturday. A special day where Chris and I are home together with nothing to do. I love days like today. I thought long and hard about something tasty that I could make for breakfast this morning. I  don't know if anyone else does this. But I happen to think about food quite frequently. Also, more often than not,  I waste much time looking around the world wide web for ideas and inspiration. I guess you could say I like good food and good food sometimes takes some brain percolation. I knew I wanted to somehow incorporate butternut squash and of course make it dairy, gluten, and sugar free. 

I wanted to experiment a little and decided I would make pancakes with grated butternut squash, chai infused coconut milk, and brown rice and millet flour. I peeled and grated the squash, I gently warmed coconut milk on the stove and then set the chai tea bags in the to steep, I ground the flours fresh, I whipped up 2 egg whites separately to give the batter more fluff, and added a bit of cinnamon just for good measure. 

I used coconut oil to grease the pan and carefully spooned out the batter. I waited. It looked good and started the bubble. I gently flipped each one. I waited some more. 

Then came the moment of truth. I took a bite and my heart sank a little. It had good texture, it was almost fluffy and I loved the flecks of orange from the grated butternut squash. However, it didn't have enough spices and it needed a little something to sweeten. It definitely fell flat in terms of flavor. Of course I ate a couple and it was definitely better with a little bit of coconut butter spread on top. 

I think next time that I will soak some dates overnight to make a paste to add to the batter. I would also like to try some fresh grated ginger and see what that does. 

So, consider this a recipe in progress. I never understood the process for how to perfect a recipe. I read about it all the time on other blogs. How they tried a recipe 6 times before it was perfect. I don't really have a lot of patience with making something multiple times. Normally, I just move onto the next thing that catches my fancy. But this time I want to try again. I want to be more intentional about creating and tweaking my own recipes. Of course that doesn't happen without trial and error. Hopefully next time, with a little bit of love and a few more ingredients I will be able to give this pancake the shining spotlight it deserves.

Now I guess I should go wash the dishes and work on some college algebra. 

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Salsa Roja

Well folks, I wrote a post about salsa roja yesterday. Somehow the text got erased simultaneously as I pushed the publish post button. Resulting in, what I imagine, was a very boring read. I sincerely apologize.

However, I still want you to know about this amazing red salsa. So I will try again. It is fresh, flavorful, bold, vibrant, and spicy. Writing this makes me want to make another batch tomorrow. As you know, I have a thing for sauces and spice. You really can't go wrong. Especially when lime juice and cilantro are added to the mix.

I googled roasted tomato salsa and found the recipe for Salsa Roja off of the One Particular Kitchen blog. I made two different batches. The first I only put one or two jalapenos in to make it mild for a Christmas Eve party. The other I put in jalapenos, serranos, and red pepper flakes to give it some intense heat for my Mom's christmas present. I am my mother's daughter in many ways, including my love for spicy foods. It was kickin'!

It is really quite simple to make and requires minimal hands-on time. You cut the tomatoes and onions, peel the garlic, and de-top your spicy pepper of choice. Place in oven at 375F to roast until soft and has a nice char. 

I had to pull the peppers and garlic out before the rest was finished cooking. So check it periodically as burned garlic is not tasty.

After it is finished roasting place tomatoes, onions, garlic, salt and cilantro in a blender or food processor and blend until you reach desired consistency. You can puree it to make a smooth salsa, or pulse it a few times for a chunkier salsa. I like mine chunky. That sounds like a bad rap song. Remember before you remove it from the blender to get a taste to make sure it is to your liking. You could get adventurous and add some fresh ground black pepper, cumin, lime juice, etc... I added all three and I thought it accented the other flavors very well. But, it is completely up to you. 

I hope you make this recipe because it really is quite fabulous. However, when you make it please get good tomatoes. The pinkish mealy tomatoes at you local Wal-Mart do not a good salsa make. I was blessed to find greenhouse tomatoes at our local Amish Grocery and Spice Store. But as they are out of tomatoes at the moment I may have to wait a little while until I make this salsa again. 

How do you like your salsa?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pumpkin Curry Pasta Sauce

 First of all, I want to give a big shout out to one of my favorite fans. This special lady read about when I broke my hand mixer trying to make all that frosting for those wedding cakes. Right away she sent me an email and said she wanted to get me a new one. It came the day before Christmas and I have made good use of it since. Thank you so very much!

Yesterday I attended orientation for college, and I was able to register for all my classes. I will be taking 13 credit hours with four classes and one lab. Tomorrow will be my first official day and I am excited! 

With so many changes all at once I feel like a new chapter is opening in my life. I want to be ready for anything that comes and recently I have not been feeling the best. It is not anything terrible, I just know that I am not feeling as good as I can. I think it is because of my eating habits. For someone else this would be great. I mean much of what I have been eating has been home baked with fresh ground whole wheat flour ( pizza dough, rolls, bread, pancakes, muffins ). However, I think gluten is bad for my body and I need to stop eating it. I have also given in to too many desserts with lots of refined sugar. 

I have felt lethargic and slow. I have had a sore throat and congestion off and on. My fingers and toes are always cold. Cut takes a long time to heal and my lips have been dry and cracked for almost three months now.  I am not sure if I am just fighting a cold or if something I am eating is suppressing my immune system. But, I have decided to stop eating gluten, dairy, and sugar for the next 4 weeks and see if I feel any better. I tried to do something like this going into the holidays and I just wasn't committed. But I am praying and asking the Lord for help as I try to bring healing and life through nutrition.

Today I was able to clean out my fridge and cabinets and get rid of things that expired and get everything organized. It made me feel really good, and I felt it was very symbolic of the house cleaning I am trying to do inside my body. So far my plan is to eat lots of vegetables and soups with home made bone broth. I am going to drink at least 2 glasses of herbal tea a day and lots of water. Beyond that I just want to enjoy what I eat, be intentional about savoring each moment, and give God the glory!

For lunch today I decided to make a pumpkin curry sauce to go over some gluten free rice noodles I had in the cupboard. The pumpkin and curry paired nicely with the cilantro, and I thought the coconut milk added a great creaminess. I really enjoyed eating it and will have the rest for lunch tomorrow.

Pumpkin Curry Pasta Sauce:
Serves 2
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
3/4 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water or chicken broth
1 tsp red curry paste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro plus extra for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Rice or noodles to serve

Saute onion until golden brown. Add pumpkin, coconut milk, water, and curry paste. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add cilantro. Taste and add desired amount of salt and pepper. Serve over rice noodles or rice. Garnish with cilantro.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Better Than Take-Out

Happy New Year! I can't believe it is already 2011. This new year will bring many great opportunities. I will be starting college in 2 days. I will be taking a weekly ballet class starting next week. I am going to get certified to teach Zumba next weekend. I will also be starting a new job next week. It will be a year of learning and growing and more than likely a lot of change. But that's what life is about, right? 

To bring in the New Year we had some good friends of ours come over. Whenever I am going to have people over I have the hardest time coming up with a menu. I tend to over think and over stress trying to come up with something everyone will like. I had been going back and forth for awhile, and ultimately one of my Christmas presents made the decision for me. 

My dearest husband gave me a wok. He did his research and got a flat bottomed one because of our electric range. It is hand hammered, and he even watched a youtube video on how to season it and did that for me too. What I didn't know about seasoning woks is that you actually burn the oil onto it to create a non stick surface. I have made a stir fry and we used it to cook last night and it works great!! I love my new wok. 

I decided I wanted to do asain and came up with the idea of a dinner of appetizers. We all cooked together and when we finished a dish we would sit down and eat it. Then we would make the next one and eat it.

I was planning on taking pictures of each course. But, we ate it before I could get any. I have realized that I am not the best food blogger because I am always in the moment of eating and don't think about anything else. Hmm... maybe that should be a new years resolution. Take more pictures.

Our dinner started off with some Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps. Then we moved on to a palate cleansing Miso Soup with ginger, mushrooms, and garlic. After that we made Springs Rolls which Chris and Peter fried up nicely in the wok. While they were frying, Jessica and I rolled out some Fresh Summer rolls with cilantro, avacado, cucumber and bean sprouts. To dip our summer rolls in we made a fresh peanut dipping sauce compliments of Chris. For our final course, each person made their own sushi roll. 

We had such a great time cooking together. I loved that our dinner spanned three hours and there was a lot of funny moments and all the food turned out great! I like this idea of social cooking and I want to do it more often. 

After the guys helped us clean up dinner they went to watch the New Years Eve happenings while Jessica and I made dessert. We made Coconut Cupcakes with a Coconut "Cream" Frosting. I found the recipe off a neat blog called Veg Food and Fit. The cupcakes are made with coconut milk, brown rice and garbanzo bean flour making them gluten free, dairy free, and vegan. The icing is also dairy free, and has no powdered sugar. It is made out of coconut milk, evaporated cane juice, coconut butter and arrowroot powder. I was impressed by the texture and flavor of both the cupcake and icing. They were moist, had a great coconut flavor, and one of the best gluten free recipe I have ever tried. We iced half of them with the coconut cream icing and the other half with some leftover chocolate cream cheese icing. It was great both ways. 

We topped them off with toasted pecans and some unsweetened coconut shreds. 
Yummy, yummy.