Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Fiber, Getting Enough of it, and Why?

The longer you live on this earth, the more you dread seeing your doctor.

Just kidding!

The more you dread getting your blood work done, is more like it!

I don't want to be thin, and I'm not. I want to be HEALTHY! I want my numbers to reflect that.

If I just ate what I really wanted, it would be pasta with butter and cheese, or bread with butter. And croissants, or better yet - ensemada! Note that these are all things involving white flour. And add to them white rice!

Instead, most of the above are relegated to a single serving every couple of months. Except for the bread - I need to a slice or two at least once a week . With butter.

And think about it: white EVERYTHING is boring! I need to eat fresh tomatoes several times a week, orange fruit, and green herbs.

I asked a friend if she ate brown rice; she told me she does NOW. A doctor's visit after bloodwork convinced her to make the change. Her cholesterol level was 300+! The doctor wanted to put her on medication IMMEDIATELY. She told him to give her a year to change.

By eating more fiber, fruit and vegetables, and less of the things she loves - pasta, white bread, pastries - she brought her cholesterol level down 100 points. She now eats Gen-Ji-Mai, a polished brown rice, as well as quinoa - a seed with lots of protein - and other fiber and nutrient-rich foods.

If you think all brown rice tastes the same, try the brown rice sushi at Nijiya - heaven! So good - this is something I crave! They must use Gen-Ji-Mai or something similar. There is also a delicious Gen-Ji-Mai 12-grain rice mix, which I cook in a 1:1 ratio with long grain white rice. Still healthy and lots of fiber. Add some chicken base or a little salt for more flavor and leftovers used as a salad base taste better.

Having said all that, I ate WHITE rice and umeboshi - pickled plums - for dinner tonight. Comfort food!

Do you eat brown rice? If not, why not?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Posts About Cucumbers You May Have Missed

I see that folks really want to know what to do with all the cucumbers they're growing in their gardens, or inheriting from their neighbors.

The other night, we ate JaJa Mein, and julienned cucumbers are the ideal topping for this spicy-salty dish, along with some chopped tomatoes. Here's the recipe:

Suzanne’s Jaja Mein
Based on lovelylanvin.com’s recipe

  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp ground bean sauce (Koon Chun brand)
  • 1 tsp miso
  • 1 tsp agave syrup or mirin
  • 1 Tbsp shoyu
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 heaping Tbsp chili/garlic sauce 
Combine the above sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Saute the following in oil:

  • ½ lb. ground beef or pork
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 4 stalks (counting each bulb as one stalk) of green onion, chopped 
Add the sauce ingredients and simmer 3 to 4 minutes. Adjust taste.

For noodles: place an opened serving packet from a package Sun ramen noodles in bowl. Add 2-3 Tbsp water. Cover and microwave 45 seconds, then drain. Top with 2-3 Tbsp of ground beef mixture and garnish with julienned cucumber, grape or chopped tomatoes and cilantro. Note: recipe makes about 4 servings.

You could also make a cucumber salat as a side dish, or this quick cucumber pickle. This panzanella salad contains tomatoes as well as cucumbers.

Cooling cucumbers offer a crispy contrast to spicy or hot food. What is your favorite way to eat cucumbers?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Invitation to Lunch at Work

I was so tired from work yesterday - I was in charge of the last Saturday Storytime for August - that I took a shower, then fell asleep by 8 pm! The result, of course, is that I was up at 2:30 am, and I'm still up and typing this!

I spent the morning on last-minute details for storytime, did the stories and crafts, then went up to the employee lunchroom. I was invited to join the maintenance crew; lunch did smell delicious! I usually decline, but couldn't when one of the crew paid for my diet soda, and put a plate at my seat.

On the menu was fried chicken drumsticks, steamed white rice, and taro cooked with long beans and pork. The fellow who cooked also caters on weekends and has a second job cooking for the workers at a well-known resort - talented! I was invited to eat seconds, but declined - no sleeping allowed at the reference desk! I did wash my own plate and utensils.

I later told the DH I'd had a MUCH better lunch than I expected!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Else to Make with WOW Tomatoes

There were cucumbers, older bread, and WOW tomatoes from the Blaisdell Farmers' Market. Such a deal: these lovely red, orange and yellow - the latter two, low-acid! - about 8 or 10 of them for only $5. The lovely tomato lady said they were the "salsa" bag - riper, softer victims, but I already bookmarked them for tomato SOUP.

Yes, in the teeth of a Hawaiian summer, I make soup! Here is the recipe. I made a double batch, and we ate it hot the first time. Tonight, we ate the leftovers cold - just out of the refrigerator long enough to take off the first chill. We also ate deliciously sweet, juicy Tuscan melon - I got this from my *favorite* big box store - with prosciutto.

Last night, we ate WOW tomatoes and arugula on top of pizza that was NOT Inferno's. More about that some other time!

And I used the last of them Marc Matsumoto's Panzanella salad. Check out his personal blog, No Recipes, as well as the PBS blog. For this bread salad, there are 4 things I did differently. my leftover bread was a Kalamata olive loaf, not plain or white, and as I didn't have champagne vinegar, I used Japanese rice vinegar (milder). I used Kalamata olives instead of green ones AND capers. Finally, I have a huge bag of arugula (anyone out there have different arugual recipes?) so I served the salad on a bed of this.

How was it all? Two thumbs up from the DH! I thought the salad was a bit salty - probably because of the olives in the bread as well as the salad, plus the capers, and would cut back on the salt in the dressing. But it was all fresh, light and tasty, and the only heat in the kitchen was from toasting the croutons in a skillet. Here's a tip: keep the croutons in the pan to cool, that way they are not piled up and soggy, but stay crisp. I had leftover croutons enough for another salad.

And leftover melon and salad for lunch at work tomorrow!

What do you do to keep cool in the kitchen? Besides drinking a lot of rose!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Favorite New Drinks

Nah, nothing as exciting as ALCOHOL!

In my continuing quest to avoid drinking soda - which I like much too much - I sometimes drink Crystal Light. Yes, I know it has aspartame and acesulfame. No, I do not drink it every day. 

Here are two three four things I've recently found, that I really like:

First, Naked Juice. It's so thick, it tastes like a smoothie. It's pricey unless it's on sale. But it's worth it, and there are lots of things that cost less, do not taste good, and YOU DESERVE A TREAT now and then! I like the mango and acai. They have reduced calorie versions, too.

Second, TRUE. It's a 0 calorie powder you mix with a pint of water. I got the orange flavor from Wal-Mart. (No, I don't go there often - maybe once every 5 weeks. They carry some things I can't find elsewhere.) I love the way it  smells and tastes. I need to try the lemon!

Third, Pacific Breeze Oolong Tea in Mangosteen flavor. I've never eaten a mangosteen. This tastes slightly citrusy. Half the packet in 12-14 oz. of water still tastes good. Also available at Wal-Mart.

Fourth: Barley tea. I know. It sounds awful. But it's not. I now understand why the Japanese drink it in hot weather. One packet makes a quart; so easy, just steep in cold water. It's toasted-nutty-tasting and refreshing served cold. Buy it at Nijiya.

Now I'm hungry for Nijiya brown-rice sushi!

Vegetable Rescue, or My Version of Potato/Mac Salad

You know what potato salad is, but if you're not from Hawaii, you're wondering what the heck the "Mac" is?

It's short for macaroni, the common elbow type. Yes, there is stand-alone mac salad, but not in my house made by me! My theory is that potatoes have more nutrition than macaroni when eaten as a salad. And my potatoes were threatening to develop eyes, so they definitely needed rescuing!

They were lovely, small Yukon Gold potatoes, which I cut up into 1/2 inch dice, covered with water and nuked in the microwave lightly covered until tender. I drained them - saved the water for soup! - and put them in the refrigerator to cool.

Instead of elbow macaroni, I cooked some ditalini - short tubes about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long - but I also like another tubular pasta that is 1/3 the diameter of elbows, but a bit longer. I do not know what this is called - when I see it, I'll buy it! I drained the pasta and also put this in the refrigerator to cool. At this point, I had about a cup and a half each of potatoes and mac.

I peeled 2 hard-boiled eggs and put the DH to work mashing them lightly. I finely chopped 1/4 cup sweet onion and 1/4 cup carrot and added them to the eggs. By this time, the potatoes and mac were cool, and they were mixed in with salt, pepper and just enough mayonnaise to hold it all together. I like the Japanese-style mac salad, which uses that skinnier pasta and less mayo, so what mayo there is is not really visible. But you can taste it.

We ate this as our starch - and it IS starchy! I think I make it once a year? Along with this, we had the Panch Phoran Yam Soup, and some sweet, sweet juicy cantaloupe - so we saved the meal with lots of fiber and beta carotene.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Panch Phoran Yams Transformed into Soup

While the dish was yummy, I could tell the whole spices used for the yams were a bit much for the DH to deal with. The next time, I might whirl them in the food processor or blender before using them.

It was a windy and rainy evening when I looked into the refrigerator to start dinner. There was 1 to1-1/2 cups of the Panch Phoran Yams left over. I chopped some onion and sauteed this in butter. When the onions were soft, I added the yams. I combined a cup of water, teaspoon and a half of chicken base and half a packet of powdered coconut milk, added this to the onions and yams, and heated the mixture through. After it was hot enough, I blended all into a thick soup with an immersion blender.

Warming, fragrantly spicy soup from leftovers!

The rest of the meal was leftover salmon with Thai sweet chili sauce. And a local Hawaiian side dish I'll post about separately...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Scrumptious Eggplant Redux and Indian Yams

Gorgeous eggplant was crying out to be made into dinner! I sliced and marinated them for the eggplant dish the DH loves: Balsamic Eggplant with Goat Cheese while I decided what to do with a huge Garnet yam.

I remembered researching uses for the Indian spice mix known as panch phoran. One of the recipes I found was Gordon Ramsay's Sweet Potatoes in the London Times. Online access to the recipe is no longer available at the Times website, but the ingredients are very simple:

  • 1 huge or two medium Garnet yams
  • Olive oil 
  • 5 tsps panch phoran spice mix
  • 2-3 tbsps plain yogurt
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Thumb of ginger, finely minced

I precooked the yam in the microwave for about 5 minutes, in water so it was halfway submerged, turning it several times until soft to the touch, but not mushy. Pour off the water and set aside to cool. The panch phoran consists of equal amounts of the following whole spices: nigella, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard and cumin.

When the yams are cool enough to touch, peel and slice them into 1 to 1-1/2 inch cubes. Heat oil, then add panch phoran and stir until mix starts to pop. Stir in yams, and turn and cook until slightly crispy. Salt to taste, then add in yogurt and gently combine. Top with ginger and cilantro and serve.

We ate this with quinoa and a tiny bit of leftover ahi poke. A few nights later, I transformed the yam leftovers into a warming soup for a rainy evening.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Small Celebration

Are you married? How long?

The DH and I have been for THIRTY-TWO years! And we'd been together for some years before that!

One of my excuses for not going to school reunions is that I know many of my classmates have sadly divorced and remarried. Or not.

It's not easy staying together for that many years. People change. Compromise is important. Tolerance is key.

sigh. The DH tolerates a lot of things. We agree on many. Still, we are very different people.

We produced male offspring we are very proud of!

So, how to celebrate? No big steak with lots of wine and ceremony and obsequious (I had to look up the spelling!) waiters. Though we do sometimes enjoy that. The DH jokingly named his favorite ramen place, and I gave him the STINK EYE!

Instead, on Saturday after my work day was done, we headed off to Hiroshi for happy hour. Martinis are 1/2 price and so is the food, as is the food from Vino, the brother restaurant next door. We've been to Vino for dinner, and prefer the food and vibe at Hiroshi. The bartenders, too!

Zoe was swamped last night, even though they opened 5 minutes early - at 5:25 pm. Six of us stormed in, quickly followed by 2 more, and more, until the bar was full. We knew we wanted the hamachi carpaccio and asparagus Milanese with egg, parmesan and white truffle oil. And the steak with two large shrimp on top. We also had the gnocchi with crab. DH had the Echigo beer, and I had a lychee martini. Or two. We were FULL by the time 6:30 came around, the sun was still up, and we took half the steak plate home. It made a wonderful brunch the next day!

If you like all the above, you MUST go to Hiroshi. I THINK you can also order Vino food for dinner as you sit in Hiroshi. You will want some of each!

We headed to the mall after, as I'd forgotten an errand! Then to sad Borders bookstore, a shell of its former self. Needless to say, we didn't stay long. Instead, we headed for Tango Market, for great coffee, an extremely small guava danish, and too-yummy toffee-chocolate macadamia nuts.

Next weekend is the DH's birthday, and we'll continue the celebration with several lunches!

How do YOU celebrate? And what are you celebrating?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Had a Heart Attack...on a Plate

The DH and I went to the big Blaisdell Farmer's Market yesterday. Ostensibly, we were there to buy locally grown bananas, papayas, carrots, tomatoes, green onions and eggplant.

But we also go there to eat dinner. I'd been wanting to try a dish from Soul Restaurant, but they didn't have it until this past Wednesday. I'd already tried the fried chicken with cornbread, black-eyed pea chili and buttermilk cilantro coleslaw - those last two are too, too yummy! - and the gumbo.

I needed to try the Shrimp and Cheesy Grits - and it was FINALLY on the menu!

I ordered, then I saw the cook heat up a skillet and slip in some butter. Then LOTS of garlic. Plump shrimp - looked to be 26/30 size. Flour, a few chiffonade greens and sun-dried tomato, water. A scoop of grits - the white cornmeal kind. This wasn't fast food - it took a good 10 to 12 minutes. I made my way to where the DH was sitting. He'd already started on his spare ribs.

I sat down and opened the ecologically correct clamshell takeout box. What an aroma! I took the first bite - yikes! Can you say RICH? Cheese-y, buttery. I ate bacon fat before I realized that's what it was, 'cause I sure hadn't seen him slip that in! I made sure to eat around the fat and only ate the bacon meat after that!

Also, there looked to be cream cheese - I thought they were cheddar grits! - under the grits. It was all very, very good, but so rich I could only eat four bites - 2 of grits, 2 of shrimp - as I'd eaten a late lunch at 2 pm. More about the lunch later! Many hours after that, I was hungry enough to eat about half the shrimp and grits. Tonight I ate the rest of the leftovers for dinner. Along with half a big sliced tomato and some leftover mixed vegetables. I am STILL burping garlic!

About the lunch: it was California organic brown rice maki sushi from Nijiya. Very fresh and delicious - what a way to get your fiber! Since I hadn't eaten breakfast, it was TWO meals!

OK, I can eat that sushi lunch any day, but the shrimp and cheesy grits were a one-time experience!

Have you ever had shrimp with cheesy grits? Did you live to tell the tale?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Most Delicious Beans - the Tooting Comes with the Territory

These are the most delicious beans you will ever taste.

I eat less meat all the time. I still eat it, but the portions may be just a few bites compared to what's on the rest of my plate. Tonight, it was a strange array of leftovers, fruit and rice. The leftovers were a few bites of pork and fish-stuffed calamari that the DH brought home from a potluck. (This is what happens when you're last to leave the party - the remains are thrust upon you! It was a gathering of cigar smokers. Yes, it was outdoors, but I can't take more than 2 or 3 hours of this, and he was there for SEVEN HOURS.)

ANYWAY! The fruit was slices of insanely honey-sweet melon. The rice was also leftover, combined with beans I'd cooked. The ratio of beans to rice was one cup of beans - with some of the cooking liquid - to 1.5 to 2 cups of rice. I served it with the remains of a jar of Newman's salsa to which I added a handful of chopped cilantro, a small chopped tomato and the juice of 1/2 a lime.

When I was packaging the beans - some to eat later, others to freeze - the last Ziploc bag slipped from my fingers, and I lost a third of the pot of beans I'd cooked! I spent a moment mourning them, as they truly are the MOST delicious beans you will ever taste! Here is the recipe:

Basic Cooked Pinto Beans
Based on a recipe from cdkitchen.com

  • 1 lb. pinto beans
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 7 to 8 cups stock
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
Quick-soak beans by covering with water, bringing to a boil, then cook at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and leave for one hour. Pour off water, rinse, then place beans in pot with liquid (water is fine), onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, adding liquid as necessary. This may take up to 1-½ hours. Remove from heat, add cumin and salt and stir well. Let sit for 15 minutes. The recipe calls for draining the beans well - I don't, I keep the liquid. Makes about 6 cups of beans.

If you're adventurous, and want to make a healthy and delicious dip, try the following recipe:

Pinto Bean Hummus

  • 2-1/2 cups basic cooked pinto beans
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup sun dried tomato strips, soaked in water to cover
  • 2 cloves garlic, zapped one minute in microwave in tomato soaking water
Place drained tomato and drained garlic in food processor bowl and run until chopped. Add basic cooked beans, lemon juice, green onions and sesame oil and process until smooth enough to your liking. Add tomato or bean liquid if it’s too solid. Turn into a serving dish, top with a little extra virgin olive oil and edible herbs of your choice. Serve with multi-grain pita cut into wedges, carrot sticks, cucumber slices and celery sticks. Use remainder of beans in soup or with rice, or freeze.

Epilogue: A Short Meditation on Beans

I'm very picky about the ones I'll eat. Growing up, the only beans we saw were kidney, lima and green. Often the kidney beans and/or the limas were cooked with a lot of sugar and served as a very sweet side dish. I'm not sure if this is a phenomenon peculiar to Hawaii or local Japanese. The green beans came from a can, the freezer or were string beans served with pork or a pork product (Spam or Treet luncheon meat) and shoyu. 

As I started to taste different foods, and began to cook for myself and my family, I found that garbanzos (aka chickpeas or ceci), black-eyed peas, soybeans, black, azuki and pinto beans were the ones I liked best. I find that all of these have better texture and flavor than the other beans, IMO.

To this day, I still can't bear to eat a kidney or lima bean!

BTW, the tooting comes with the territory...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dragon and other Exotic Tropical Fruit

I just got off the phone with my son. In far-off Minneapolis, the most constant and consistant-found tropical fruit available are mangoes. From Mexico. He assured me that they're pretty good. He also enjoyed some golden raspberries, which I've never seen here in Honolulu. I did have some of those in Portland, OR that were yummy.

Still, we had some awesome locally-grown fruit last week. The DH came home with a large dragon fruit. A colleague said a neighbor found the plant growing in his yard. It looks like it was designed - an ovoid fuchsia fruit with green barbs and "scales". Here's a photo and more information from a website, http://dragon-fruit.biz/ :

I put the gaudy solo fruit in a paper bag for several days, then quartered it and easily pulled off the fuchsia skin. I sliced the fruit into bite-sized chunks, chilled it and served it with lime and mint as a side dish at dinner. The flesh was white, and freckled with seeds. I felt the taste was relatively bland - like a cross between a kiwi and melon or banana. There is also a variety with fuchsia colored fruit interior, and black seeds. I added a drizzle of agave syrup over mine. This turned out to be a good instinct, as with further research I found that the pitaya or pitahaya, the Hylocereus, is a cactus, and agave of course is a desert plant. Dragon fruit flowers look very similar to our lovely and fragrant night-blooming cereus. 

Before that, the DH came home with a rumpled paper bag that he held close. He said, "You won't guess what I have here!" An expensive wine? Truffle oil? Live Maine lobsters?

None of the above! His paper bag held five small Pirie mangoes. I wrote about the difference between the more commonly-found bold-tasting Hadens and the lovely shy sweetness of Piries here

The DH gets the job of peeling and slicing these babies, and I just eat 'em! Of course the peeling, etc. also involves sucking the remaining fruit off the peels and seeds. Out of five mangoes, four were solid specimens. The fifth must have fallen from the tree; it was too soft and bruised to eat. The mango chunks were eaten on top of vanilla ice cream, with morning oatmeal, and with a salad of baby mixed greens and shrimp. 

Too yummy! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Even veggies taste better with wine

There are lots of lovely vegetables in the fridge and kitchen baskets. These will go into a vegetable melange for dinner:

  • Several baby pattypan squash - also known as cibleme or scallopini - sliced
  • One medium zucchini so fresh it glows, emerald green - halved and sliced
  • Onion, sliced
  • Garlic - 2 or 3 cloves, minced
  • Half a carrot, sliced thin
  • One or two small bell peppers, cut into strips
  • Baby Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced thin
  • Hamakua Alii musrooms, sliced thin
  • One tomato, in chunks
  • Leftover wine
  • Herbs of your choice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Start by cooking the onion in olive oil until soft, then add the carrots, potatoes and mushrooms and saute until somewhat soft. Stir in the bell peppers, squash and zucchini, cooking until soft. Add as much wine as necessary to make things hiss and bubble, but not drown, stir and heat for several minutes. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Heat through and adjust seasoning. Drink the rest of the leftover wine if you like.

I'm going to cook some quinoa - 2 parts water to one part quinoa - and add some butter or olive oil, vegetable or chicken base or salt for flavor. The tastier quinoa is much more fun to eat as a leftover, in salads. And make it easy on yourself by buying the prewashed version, and cooking it in the rice cooker!

I'm serving the veggies with a bit of leftover salmon, but if you top it with some grated Parmesan, feta or goat cheese, with the protein-rich quinoa, it's a complete meal!

Notes: fresh spinach would be a nice addition to the rest of the veggies, but I have none. Basil would be the first herb of choice - again, none. But there is fresh thyme and oregano! Make too much of this, as it's perfect to add to an omelet, or use the leftovers as a fast dinner, topped with a sunnyside-up egg or two.

Happy cooking! What are you cooking for dinner tonight?

BTW, reader: yes, by all means use every part of the Hamakua Alii mushrooms. If the bottoms look unsightly to you, just trim that bit!