I've always loved cheese but during this time of pregnancy (6 months along now) I just can't get enough cheese! Digging in my refrigerator drawer to get to that last gouda babybel wrapped in the fun waxy casing is my past time these days. Serving a spread of maytag blue cheese, brie, crackers and fig jam has become a favorite starter for guests, but most of all for me. A slice of havarti cheese in my lunch sandwich has been my choice of sandwich cheese for the past two weeks... And snacking on pepper jack infront of the television is another thing I've been doing a lot of. Like I said, I can't get enough cheese.
When the cheese eating first began I was shopping at Trader Joe's and decided on a pack of Trader Joe's Sliced Pepper Jack Cheese. I went home that night and took a couple bites out of a slice and had to leave it for Husband Borscht to finish. Why was this pepper jack so waxy and thick? Shouldn't cheese be soft, moist and smooth? The next day finding myself at Wholefoods I came across the cheese section and saw a pack of sliced pepper jack cheese by Red Apple Cheese, this pepper jack looked different, tastier somehow, more real- I bought the pack of sliced cheese, took it home, tore it open and ate a slice. Oh my gosh, the Red Apple sliced pepper jack cheese was infinite times better. The cheese was soft, moist, NOT WAXY in the least bit, and tasted the way I would imagine a block of pepper jack cheese would taste like. Needless to say, it has become my new favorite sliced pepper jack cheese. And even better, it's better for you too!
If you find that the pack of Trader Joe's sliced pepper jack or other isn't quite doing it for you, give the Pepper Jack Cheese from Red Apple Farm (available at Wholefoods) a try, you just may find your craving for that pepper jack cheese taste fulfilled.
Who needs nice neat strips anyway, especially when all they do is turn black at the cut ends from being oxidized, which is exactly what happens when that knife cuts into your beautiful basil herb, and when something as beautifully green as basil goes black at the ends it can really ruin the look of a dish. Thus tearing or ripping basil apart with your hands is much better and in my opinion less work than wielding that knife to cut your basil in strips. To keep it green tear it up... with your hands!
Carrots never made much of an impression and if it wasn't for the fact that they're loaded with vitamins that are good for your eyes I don't think I would purposely choose to eat them. Their flavor is neither here nor there and overall, seems to me at least, to be a rather boring vegetable.
I came across rainbow carrots for the first time at the Farmer's Market and thought they were awfully beautiful and different to look at compared to the regular orange ones, but still carrots are carrots, the taste of the purple, red and yellow carrots wasn't so very different to strike in me a new-found love of carrots, this only occurred after I tried a splendid recipe by Jamie Oliver which featured roasted carrots.
The carrots are roasted with crushed whole garlic cloves, a bunch of fresh thyme sprigs, salt, pepper, olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar. The whole lot is tossed together, spread out on a sheet pan tightly covered with foil and baked in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. And what you come out with is the most delicious savory carrots you'll ever bite into. The roasting deepens the natural sweet flavor of the carrots while the garlic and thyme lightly infuse them and the red wine vinegar lends an ever-so-slight zing that contrasts perfectly with the salt. This way of cooking carrots is simple and hassle-free, and the only bad thing about it is that you'll probably never go back to eating steamed carrots, ever again.
ROAST RAINBOW CARROTS (serves 2-4):
1 batch of small rainbow carrots, about 8 spears (you can use regular sized rainbow carrots as well but I found that the taste is much more intense and flavorful with the smaller carrots)
1-2 glugs of olive oil
1-2 Splashes of red wine vinegar
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Pinch of salt & pepper, to taste
4 crushed whole garlic cloves
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Scrub the carrots clean and trim the tops off the carrots (I leave an inch or so of stem on them, these turn nice and crispy when cooked but feel more than welcome to trim them all off, it won't make your carrots taste any different in the end). Larger carrots can be halved length-wise as well as cross-wise, while smaller carrots can simply be halved length-wise.
3. Lay the carrots out on the baking sheet pan. Add the crushed whole garlic cloves, sprigs of thyme, olive oil (enough to coat all the carrots), red wine vinegar (I like a couple of splashes because I love the zing), salt and pepper (to taste, a generous pinch of each should do the trick). Toss all the ingredients together with your hands, I find that all the ingredients get mixed together more thoroughly if I use my hands to toss them together.
4. Lay everything out on the sheet pan in a single layer (a single layer is one of the secrets to proper and delicious roasting, if the carrots are laying on top of each other they will not caramelize and brown, instead they will steam). Cover the sheet pan tightly with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes (if using larger carrots bake for 35-40 minutes, smaller carrots will need 30-35 minutes of baking time).
5. Once the baking time is up (30-40 minutes), take off the foil, toss the carrots and stick it back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes to brown further. If you find that your carrots are browned to perfection before the 8-10 minutes are up then of course, feel free to take them out!
The result will be a beautiful batch of caramelized, sweet roasted carrots with essence of garlic and thyme! The carrots will be charred and crispy on outer edges but soft all the way through, savory delicious!
I often go to Big Sur to retreat for a long weekend and I can say from experience, that for me, there is no other place quite like it. Off the winding 1 on the coast, hidden on the top of the hills amongst redwoods is a place where one can get away from the sounds, smells, disturbances of city life. It's a place where one can hear thoughts, hike, be calm, nap, to truly relax. Also located in Big Sur is a place called Esalen and this is where the Esalen Cookbook by Charlie Cascio was made. A cookbook filled with recipes for healthy and organic delicious food.
For me, the Esalen Cookbook is the first cookbook I've come across that featured healthy organic food that was absolutely delicious, enticing, interesting and simple to make! For this reason I'm in love with the Esalen Cookbook. Before the Esalen Cookbook I had the preconception that healthy food was all about plain yogurts, granolas, raw foods and etc (you get my point), it was all boring all very uninteresting. But this cookbook allowed me to accept the fact that there are numerous amounts of delicious, easy-to-make foods that are interesting in flavor and are healthy- it has been a real eye-opener, a real adventure!
|The back cover says|
A few recipe favorites from this book are pictured below...
|Apricot Nut Bread|
|Marion's Living Muesli|
You may look at some of these pictures and think 'that's not healthy at all?!' All the recipes use organic ingredients and some are made in ways that are healthy though they may appear not to be, for example the Panforte (which I've made 5x now) contains no sugar or butter! And, of course, it's absolutely delicious! Another feature of the book that I really appreciate are the now-and-again seen side notes on how to create vegan or vegetarian versions of the dish.
A part of healthy eating, as explained in the book, is cooking the food with love and care, a completely different and unique aspect of cooking we don't often get and see in most places, including cookbooks, cooking shows or even at home.
If you love the idea of healthy food, if you love nurturing your body and your family's with healthy organic food, if you love exotic foods, foods that make you go hmmm... then this is the perfect cookbook.
Still not sure, try one, or better yet both recipes listed below for two of my favorite recipes from the Esalen Cookbook, maybe it will help you to decide.
GRANDMA'S GERMAN GOULASH (serves 6-8)
2 tablespoons veg oil
1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 lg yellow onions, cut in 1/2-inch half moons
2 lg red bell peppers, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 large green bell peppers, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
1 1/3 tablespoons sea salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup water
1. Add the oil and meat to a preheated heavy-bottomed 6-quart saucepan or cast-iron Dutch oven. Brown the meat on all sides over high heat.
2. Add the onions and lower the heat to medium. Cook the meat and onions for 1/2 hour or until the onions have fully caramelized.
3. Add the bell peppers, tomato paste, paprika, salt, bay leaves, pepper, and water. Raise the heat and bring the goulash to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Allow the goulash to simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is soft and tender.
*Goulash is best served over creamy polenta.
*Add 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary just before serving.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT & CURRY SOUP (serves 4-6)
1 lg butternut squash
2 tablespoons veg oil
1 med-size onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons curry powder
3 cups coconut milk
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
sunflower seeds for garnish (optional)
1. Roast butternut squash on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 1 hour. Squash will be done when a knife can be inserted into the squash with no resistance (like butter).
2. Split the squash in half and scoop out the seeds which can be discarded at this point. Scoop out the pulp and set aside.
3. Place oil in a 6-quart soup pot over high heat and saute onion until translucent (about 5 min).
4. Add celery and curry powder and saute until the celery is tender.
5. Turn the heat down to medium and add the butternut pulp, coconut milk, salt and stock or water to the sauted veg. Blend with a hand mixer or whisk by hand until it is smooth in consistency. Heat until soup is hot, and cilantro and sunflower seeds (if you are using them) and serve.
I made my first batch of breakfast muffins this past weekend, unfortunately as you already know I'm not much of a baker and thus it didn't quite make it on to the list of posts to do for The Adventures of Tummy- they all can't be winners, right? However, I did learn one very interesting thing while making a batch of muffins, the trick to creating a slightly crunchy outer layer on the muffins, a very important trick if you're a muffin kind of person and it's soooo easy to do too!
The secret is... Add the sugar in at the last minute. For example, the muffin recipe I tried out this past weekend called for flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon, eggs, milk, butter and three types of berries. All the dry ingredients ingredients (minus the sugar) are sifted and mixed together. All the wet ingredients are mixed together. The the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients are mixed together. Lastly, the berries and sugar are added to the mix and stirred carefully until just combined.
I'm no baker so don't really have a clue about the science behind all this but adding the sugar into the mix with the solid ingredients (be it bananas, berries or whatever) does make for a slightly crunchy outer-layer on the muffins that is oh-so pleasing texturally.
When I came to the realization that all I needed were my taste buds to make any kind of delicious wet salad I literally saw a light bulb go on in my head. I was excited and truly happy as if I had graduated to the next step towards becoming a really good cook, I realized all I needed aside from the chicken to make a great-tasting chicken salad were the basic ingredients: mayo, mustard, salt and pepper, onions (optional). All other ingredients such as carrots, celery and so on were merely add-ins, and these "add-ins" could change depending on what you like in your salad, depending on what you had in your refrigerator to spare or needed to use up.
Thus the greatest chicken salad recipe is your own and it always, ALWAYS, begins with a home roasted chicken. I've tried making chicken salad with the pre-roasted and pre-diced chicken from Trader Joe's and it just isn't the same which is why the best time to make chicken salad is when you have chicken leftovers from a chicken dinner that was cooked at home.
Begin by shredding or dicing the chicken into bite-size pieces, you will need to clean the chicken of any skin. It helps to just give-in to the fact that your hands will be getting dirty and greasy, once you've accepted this fact it'll make things a lot more fun.
I started off with a day old home-cooked over-roasted chicken. I really only enjoying eating dark meat and so I always have the majority of the body leftover whenever I roast chicken, I found that making a chicken salad out of it is the perfect way for me to eat the white meat, nothing goes to waste and you can have delicious chicken salad for a day or two- that's like, three to five meals from one chicken! What a deal!
Once the chicken is shredded or diced up and put into a large mixing bowl the fun part begins. Rummaging through the refrigerator! I always begin by taking out the basics: mayo, whole grain mustard (or other mustard of your choice), salt, pepper. I love a bit of bite from an onion and it just so happens that I have a shallot left over from way back when. Mr. Borscht loves carrot, I love celery and apples, we both loves capers! All these ingredients will be tossed together into the salad. After mixing it up thoroughly take time to do a taste test, very important step, add a bit more mayo, mustard or salt if needed. And always add a little bit at a time, when in doubt add just a little bit, it's easy enough to add more, taking it out on the other hand? Much harder to do.
My secret ingredient to my chicken salad is... DILL. Fresh dill is best but if none is to be had dried dill does the trick too. I always add loads of dill into my salad, it's one of Mr. Borscht's favorite things and I know anything with dill just makes it that much better for him. Mix the herbage in last, especially if it's fresh, this will keep it from getting too smashed and torn during all the mixing.
So get creative with your customized chicken recipe but remember to...
USE home-cooked roasted chicken.
BEGIN with the basic must-have ingredients: mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and onion (optional).
PICK your add-ins based on what you desire: carrots? Celery? Herbage? Cucumber? Capers? Pickles?... etc.
A LITTLE BIT AT A TIME is how you should begin figuring out your ingredient amounts, this especially applies to the mayo, mustard and salt.
My Chicken Salad Recipe
Ingredients (for 4-5 servings):
Body (no legs or wings) of 1 home-cooked oven roasted chicken (a chicken that was about 5lbs to start), in bite-sized bits
1/2 - 1 cup of mayo
1/4 - 1/2 cup of whole grain mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 stick of celery, small diced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons of capers
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 a small green apple, diced
2-3 tablespoons of dried dill
Put the chicken into a large mixing bowl with all other ingredients except the dill. Mix all ingredients together thoroughly with a spatula.
Taste test and add more mayo, mustard, salt or pepper if needed. If adding a little bit more, mix again thoroughly. Do another taste test to make sure you get it right. Keep repeating the taste test process until the chicken salad comes to your desired taste.
Lastly, add in the dill and mix again.
Serve immediately or wrap the chicken salad up tightly with plastic wrap and allow the flavors to meld and marry in the refrigerator until ready to eat.