Friday, September 12, 2008

Soyrizo Taco Salad

Since it's been the season for salads there is another one I've made frequently because it's been popular with the whole family. Trader Joe's now carries their own version of soyrizo and I've used it to make this taco salad. It goes together very quickly - you can have dinner on the table in a matter of minutes, especially if you have shredded cheese on hand.

Soyrizo Taco Salad

1 large head green leaf lettuce, cut into thin ribbons
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, rinsed and drained (I've been using Westbrae organic sweet white corn - it's really good)
1 avocado, diced
1 small can sliced black olives
shredded cheese (I like the Mexican cheese blend from Costco)
1 package soyrizo, crumbled and browned
crushed tortilla chips (it's a great way to use up the bottom of the chip bag)
diced red onion (optional)

Dressing: equal parts pico de gallo and ranch dressing mixed together

While the soyrizo browns I wash, cut and spin dry the lettuce. Toss everything except the dressing into the bowl - once the soyrizo is ready mix everthing together with the dressing. Fast, simple and very good. For a vegan version use Follow Your Heart cheddar or omit the cheese and add more avocado. If you use a gluten free ranch dressing the recipe is GF.

Tonight is the first home game for the high school football team and I'm signed up to work the concession stand (senior class fundraiser). Hot dogs, nachos and instant hot cocoa - such fun.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Arugula salad with manchego, walnuts and dates

It has happened again. Life getting in the way of cooking. No one is home anymore - dinners have been haphazard (quesadillas at 9 pm) or takeout. It is our last year with a kid in school (K-12 anyway...) so I've volunteered for a ridiculous amount of stuff - sort of the last hurrah. Hubby has sort of given up on his gluten free eating - he was at it for a few months but didn't notice any difference other than some extra pounds (presumably from all my attempts at gluten free baking???). Since he was doing it for personal reasons and not medical reasons it wasn't a big deal to stop - but it certainly gave us an even greater respect and admiration for our friends who deal with multiple food allergies and sensitivities who can't just make that choice!

One thing I've made several times in the past weeks has been this salad. It is my take on the compressed manchego salad we had at Uva Bar in downtown Disney. It goes together quickly and it's a great combination of flavors. All of these amounts are flexible - use as much or as little as you like -

Arugula Salad with Manchego, Walnuts and Dates

1 bag prewashed arugula (I get it from Trader Joe's)
5 large dates, pitted and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 large apple (I like pink lady apples) cut into thin matchsticks
Coarsely grated manchego cheese - as much as you like
I toss this all together and drizzle with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Smoked Gouda Risotto with Spinach and Mushrooms

We are back from a week in Southern California. We spent a couple of days at Disneyland and a couple of days in La Jolla. The weather was perfect, the crowds not so bad and we even had really good food! At Disneyland we opted to eat in Downtown Disney which has much better (in my opinion) offerings than within the park. At Tortilla Jo's they even have their gluten free items marked. My favorite meal was at Uva Bar where they had a tapas menu - everything we had was delicious but my favorite was a compressed salad with manchego, arugula, apples, walnut and dates. I ordered a second one ;-) Sadly I didn't get any pictures because the plates were beautiful - but we were starving.

I've been slowly getting back into the kitchen and last night I made Smoked Gouda Risotto with Spinach and Mushrooms from Cooking Light. This was a delicious mix of flavors with the smoky cheese (I used smoked mozzarella because I had some on hand) and the mushrooms. I will definitely make this again but I think next time I will buy presliced cremini mushrooms rather than using the mix of four different mushrooms - it was a lot of cleaning and slicing. For company I'd do that again but for us - I'll go for convenience next time!

School started back up for Ana yesterday and Hallie starts next week - even hubby is taking a night class (Italian - heaven help me). I think this school year will pose the biggest challenge to our family dinners - it's hard to do when no one is home!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Farm Sanctuary

On Saturday, my daughter, her boyfriend and I took the long drive up to Orland to visit Farm Sanctuary. We've been wanting to go for a long time and with his impending departure for college we were running out of time. So we left a little after noon for a 2.5 hour drive knowing the last tour was at 3. Anyone who has ever driven in the Bay Area knows that this could be a dicey proposition. I kept picturing us arriving there with no one around to give us a tour. Luck and the traffic gods were on our side and we arrived around 2:20 and they took us on a tour right then. There isn't much to say that the pictures can't tell on their own so I'll let them tell the story.

You can donate to Farm Sanctuary here.

Friday, August 01, 2008

On Saturday we had a large "catch up" family birthday party. We typically try to get together for everyone's birthday on hubby's side of the family - which means January - August . It's been a busy year for everyone and we were way behind - so Saturday we celebrated birthdays going back to April. So that was six family members plus our exchange student whose birthday is in three days. It looked like Christmas!

Because the weather has been so hot I knew I wanted to serve a dinner that was ready to go and wouldn't require anyone (read - me) being in the kitchen at the last minute. We decided we would do some grilling but that is something the guys always take over which works well for me!

On the menu was the following:

Red Quinoa Salad

1 box red quinoa, cooked according to package instructions
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice (I used at least 3 lemons)
salt and pepper to taste

Grilled Eggplant in Saffron Yogurt Sauce

This really didn't photograph well (I was in a bit of a hurry!) but tasted delicious. It was simply japanese eggplant cut in half and grilled until well browned and soft (this was done early in the day) and topped with a simple sauce of plain fat free yogurt combined with saffron infused hot water, cayenne and salt. It was topped with smoked paprika.

We also had dolmeh (store bought) that was dipped in the extra yogurt sauce, grilled corn, portobello mushrooms and red peppers. That afternoon I made a batch of gluten free bread and it was very popular with everyone.

One last popular item of the afternoon was a large pitcher of sangria. I've been making this recipe for several years and it really is the closest thing to what we had in Spain.

I had an extremely painful reminder to wear gloves when handling peppers. I bought both red bell peppers and some poblano peppers for the barbecue. I've never had a hot poblano so I didn't bother to wear gloves. Well whatever it was I cut up it was HOT and burned my hand. I think my skin was already irritated from the acid in the tomatoes and lemons I cut and when the pepper oil sunk in my hand felt like it was burning in hot acid. It was VERY painful and made it really difficult to get anything done! I looked online for remedies (typing with one hand) and tried the following; soaking my hand in yogurt, soaking it in ice cold vodka, rubbing it with a cut onion and so on. I finally popped some ibuprofen and between that and all the other things the burning eventually died down. We didn't end up grilling those peppers because I was afraid we would asphyxiate the neighborhood! Definitely a lesson learned.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Today we said goodbye to our exchange student from Spain. She has been with us for only one month but what a month it was! Several of Hallie's friends were hosting students as well and it was four weeks of parties and sleepovers, bonfires and beach trips and shopping - lots of shopping.

I have lots of food to blog about - we had two parties over the weekend. But right now I am very tired and really missing our extra girl :-)

I'll be back in a bit...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Last of the teenage years...

Today is Ana's 19th birthday - one more year and she will no longer be a teenager. How the hell did that happen? I feel very lucky to be her mom :-)

It has been a busy few days. We only have our exchange student for another week or so. I'm really going to miss her - she has been a delightful addition to our family. We spent the entire day in San Francisco on Saturday - started at the Ferry Building Marketplace at 10 in the morning and didn't get home until 9:30 that night. Our student is from the Basque area so I thought it would be fun to have dinner at Iluna Basque in North Beach. It turned out to be an excellent place for vegetarian, gluten free dining! We had:

eggplant and fresh tomatoes with goat cheese
selection of Basque cheeses with membrillo
crisp shaved potatoes flash fried with herbs and vinegar
spanish tortilla with caramelized onions
roasted red bell pepper with mushrooms and manchego cheese (this was my favorite)
batter fried spanish white asparagus (the only non GF food we ordered)

We even got a picture with the executive chef and owner Mattin Nobilia

The low point of the evening was realizing I'd lost my ticket for the parking garage which was bad enough. But instead of just taking my $26 the guy had to see my driver's license, fill out a form, step out of the booth to write down my license plate, see my driver's license again while the line of cars built up behind me and so on. It was the third parking garage of the day and I'd kept track of five teenage girls without losing any of them so I guess it could have been worse! A great San Francisco day overall!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Battle Mushroom: Garlic Cream of Mushroom Soup

This recipe began with a challenge from my husband - he'd been in the city and had stopped in at the Ferry Building Marketplace where he soon found himself at the Far West Fungi shop. He came home with a pound each of oyster and shiitake mushrooms which he ceremoniously handed to me and said "Battle Mushroom." I made a simple soup that we both loved - one that I've been wanting to recreate ever since. When I went to my favorite little market yesterday and saw oyster mushrooms for only $3.99 a pound I knew that despite the hot weather, it was time for Battle Mushroom II.

For this soup you will need:

1 pound oyster mushrooms, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 pound crimini mushrooms, stems removed and coarsely chopped
6 heads garlic
32 oz vegetable broth
32 oz plain unsweetened soy milk
2 T. nutritional yeast
fresh thyme and rosemary
salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar

I based the soup on the garlic cream sauce from the Millenium cookbook. Start with six (yes, six!) heads of garlic and cut about an inch off the top. Place in a small baking dish and sprinkle with fresh thyme and rosemary, then add one cup vegetable broth.

Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 11/2 hours until soft and lightly browned, let cool.

In the meantime, toss the chopped mushrooms with some olive oil (or spray oil), salt, pepper and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. Spread out on a lightly oiled jelly roll pan. You don't want anything too deep or the mushrooms will just steam, not roast. These will roast in a 450 degree oven for about 45 minutes (it's a good idea to stir them up once or twice). I have two ovens so I can braise the garlic and roast the mushrooms at the same time using different temperatures. If you have one oven you could probably meet in the middle (400 degrees) and do both at the same time.

Once the garlic has cooled and you can handle it, squeeze out all the softened garlic into a blender. Add as much soymilk as will fit plus the nutritional yeast. Blend until all the garlic is incorporated. Put this into a large pot and add the rest of the soy milk and the remaining 3 cups of vegetable broth. Heat this up and once the mushrooms are finished add about half of the mushrooms to the pot. I used my immersion blender to blend this together and then added in the rest of the mushrooms. If the people in your household aren't crazy about mushrooms, particularly their texture, you can blend all of it - or none of it. Once everything is added you will need to season with salt and pepper.

The garlic flavor is mellow and tastes like a soup made with cream and butter. I baked bread (again) and this time made individual rolls topped with gomasio (sesame seeds and sea salt). Hubby's reaction was "this is good, will you make it every day?" :-)

Mushroom Soup on Foodista

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tomato and Goat Cheese Polenta Tart

It's been a busy few days with our exchange student. We had an additional student Friday through Sunday as her host family was busy with a huge swim meet so we offered to have her stay with us. On Friday night I cooked a big Persian dinner and had one of the other host families over for dinner. It was very impromptu and worked out much better than if we'd tried to plan such a thing!

I was in the kitchen all day yesterday - more gluten free baking using the same recipes as last week. Again, success - I really like this bread! I also made a couple of salads to go with dinner.

For dinner I wanted something Italian'ish (Monday nights = Italian) and something that would use up the ridiculous amount of food I've been buying ;-) I found this recipe on the Whole Foods website and decided to give it a spin. The tart was very good - I think next time I will merge it with another tomato tart I like to make with roasted tomatoes. The second baking time in this recipe really just warmed up the tomatoes and I like to have them a little more cooked. I put it under the broiler for a minute but all that did was blacken the sun-dried tomatoes...but still, it was quite tasty. The basil in our garden has not fared well during the recent heatwave coupled with our water rationing. So I omitted the basil and olive oil on top though I'm sure it would have been a welcome addition!
Tomato-Topped Polenta Tart

1 1/2 cups finely ground dry polenta (cornmeal)
2 cups cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
4 ounces soft goat cheese
1 pint sliced cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
1/4 cup loosely packed slivered fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil a 10-inch tart pan with removable base with olive oil cooking spray and set aside.

Combine polenta with water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Stir in the grated cheese and continue to stir 3 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer polenta to prepared tart pan. Spread it evenly over bottom and up sides of pan. Bake until dry and crisp on edges, about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and spread a thin layer of goat cheese over crust. Arrange cherry tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes on top of the cheese. Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until the cheese is softened and tomatoes are heated through. Before serving, remove the sides from the tart pan and sprinkle top with basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

From: www.wholefoodsmarket.com

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Kashk-e bademjan

Of all the Persian dishes I cook for friends, probably the most popular is kashk-e bademjan. It is the dish that can convert eggplant haters, if not into eggplant lovers, then at least into kashk-e bademjan lovers! We've had it many ways - swimming in oil with large pieces of eggplant (my least favorite) all the way to almost blended. Recently, Hallie and her boyfriend took on the challenge of cooking this for a class project. I provided oversight and entertainment (see below) but they did the work.

The recipe we make is large but it is intentional - it uses the entire jar of kashk which otherwise ends up going to waste.

Kashk-e Bademjan

4 large eggplants, peeled and sliced 1/3-1/2" thick
up to 1 1/2 cups water
2 1/2-3 T. tomato paste concentrate (from tube)
16 oz jar kashk
2 tsp salt
2 onion, very finely diced
8-10 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

Put the eggplant slices on a cookie sheet that is covered with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Spray both sides of the eggplant and put it under the broiler and cook (turning over once the first side is browned) until it is well browned and soft - falling apart. As you finish a sheet of eggplant, place it into a pot on the stove.

Once all the eggplant is in the pot, add some water (about 1/2 cup). Cook over a low heat, adding a little water at a time until it gets incorporated. I like to break up the eggplant so that there are no huge pieces (a key element if you're using this to convert an eggplant hater). Add about 2 - 3 tablespoons tomato paste concentrate. You want this to be thick, not soupy, so don't add too much water.
Once the eggplant is thoroughly cooked and blended with the water and tomato paste it is time to add the kashk. You can find kashk at Middle East markets or online. It has a unique tartness to it that is difficult to replicate with any other product. I've made a vegan version of this recipe and posted it in the past here but kashk is important for an authentic taste.

Finally, the topping. Start browning the finely diced onion in a little bit of oil. Once it starts to brown add the garlic and keep stirring until everything is very dark and well browned. It's a bit of work to cut the onion small enough but entirely worth the effort. If you are bothered by all that chopping Hallie has come up with a good approach ;-)

Once everything is done spread the eggplant into a dish (we used two pie plates) and sprinkle with the onion and garlic. It is a tradition in our family (albeit a weird one) to put the onion/garlic combo on the eggplant in some kind of design - it is usually some kind of inside joke or holiday theme (e.g. a Christmas tree). Here's what they decided on

We serve this with lavosh or for a gluten free option, corn tortillas. I also make a very quick and easy gluten free flat bread that is good with this - I'll post it one of these days.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Gluten free baking - Take Two

Since my visit to Whole Foods rounded out my flour supply, I decided to try the same recipe I made yesterday but with the modifications suggested by Book of Yum. I made two loaves instead of rolls/hamburger buns this time. One plain and one with golden raisins and walnuts. This recipe is so, so good...I ate the raisin walnut bread warm from the oven with cream cheese. Swoon.

It's interesting to see the difference in the color between the two loaves. My range has two ovens - one gas and one electric. I normally only bake in the electric oven but in an effort to get things moving I used both ovens at the same time (I started at 450 for 10 minutes and then down to 375). The loaf from the electric oven was much darker. Both loaves were delicious and made me very optimistic about our ability to keep up a gluten free diet for hubby. I feel lucky that there are so many people out there who have done all the hard work on these recipes and I surely appreciate it :-)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Gluten free baking - Take One

Yesterday was my first foray into the world of gluten free baking. My husband decided about a month ago that he would like to try a gluten free diet -we've managed to have a lot of good meals but have just avoided anything that required bread (though we did have some pretty good "panini" on waffles!). We now have an exchange student living with us for a month and last night was our first sit down dinner at home since she's been here. I was confident in serving gluten free pasta but wanted to have some kind of bread to go with our dinner. Even though I didn't have all the right flours I tried out this recipe from Book of Yum. I didn't have brown rice flour so used white rice flour - I also didn't have teff so wasn't able to try her modifications. I shaped them more like a hamburger bun (because I bought some Sunshine burgers to try out) but they didn't last long enough to try it with a burger. They were quite good! I split them in half and brushed them with melted garlic butter, sprinkled with parmesan and bit of salt and broiled them for garlic bread.

Tonight I took one of the rolls and sliced it thin, rubbed it with a garlic clove, brushed with olive oil and baked in a 450 degree oven until toasted and made crostini with olive tapenade and feta cheese. Again, we were both quite happy with the results. I went to Whole Foods and bought more flour so I'm looking forward to trying it with the modifications given by Sea.

I am thoroughly enjoying our exchange student. She is an absolute delight and best of all - she will eat anything (including tofu - tonight we had Kung Pao tofu). We took her to Berkeley today to see all that Telegraph Avenue has to offer. The girls had a great time and we saw plenty of interesting things;

And we were very curious as we drove behind this van out of the Berkeley Marina - CSI Berkeley!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Two fruit salsas

We were invited to a 4th of July barbecue at a friend's house - they live on a cul de sac - it was like something out of a tv show. They set up tables in the street, everyone brought out their chairs and we sat around and ate and ate. They barbecued burgers, chicken and hot dogs - we had grilled portobello mushrooms. I used the rest of the dressing from the ginger salad we had recently to marinade the mushrooms and threw in some onion and fresh ginger. Yum. Since I've been on a produce buying binge recently I had a lot of food on hand and wanted to make something I could bring to share. I'd been reading over at Gluten Free Girl about watermelon and how people like to eat theirs. It reminded me of a recipe I'd seen in this cookbook I bought for dh as a joke (he loves nachos and for Christmas I got him a book called "Macho Nachos" - how could I resist?). So I dug it out and made a batch of watermelon ginger salsa. It looked exactly like pico de gallo so the taste was a bit of a surprise.

Watermelon Ginger Salsa
2 cups diced watermelon
1 cup fresh cilantro, diced
1/2 cup flat leaf parsely, diced
1 cup finely diced red onion
1 jalepeno pepper, seeds removed, finely diced
juice of 3 lemons
finely shredded fresh ginger, to taste (I used at least 3 T.)
salt and pepper to taste

The book called for powdered ginger but I had all this fresh ginger on hand and it made a huge difference. I tried the powdered ginger at first but could barely taste it.

Next up was a mango salsa. For this I used two finely diced manila mangoes (the yellow ones - they are the BEST). Some red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lime, salt and pepper.

I found these organic veggie tortilla chips that were so good with the mango salsa. With the watermelon salsa I put out some blue corn tortilla chips (which, by the way, was the closest I got to any patriotic colors ;-)). The mango salsa was awesome on the mushrooms.

It was a nice relaxing evening - hanging with old friends and meeting some new people. The only thing marring the evening was waking up at 4 in the morning and realizing we hadn't remembered to feed my friend's dog or put him in the house in his crate! So I made a 4 am run to their house to hang out with Henry. He was fine - appreciated his food and then off to bed. No hard feelings. Such is the forgiving nature of dogs.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Siam Orchid Ginger Salad

Okay...I know I just blogged about this salad a couple of days ago. But I made it again today and without the chaos of getting dinner on the table for company I was able to really appreciate it. This salad is so good it deserved to be singled out this time. The dried peas were a little tricky to track down - I eventually found something at Whole Foods that looked like it would work (and it was only peas, oil and salt instead of an impossibly long list of ingredients). I think avocado would taste great in this mix as well. This is something we will most definitely have again and again....

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/2 cup fresh ginger, shredded

1/2 cup fresh lettuce, sliced into long, thin strips

1/4 cup carrot, sliced into matchsticks

1/4 cup red onion, sliced into thin strips

1/4 cup dried peas

2 tablespoons roasted coconut meat

1/2 cup roasted peanuts

2 tablespoons roasted cashews

1 tablespoon chopped shallot, fried

Sliced lime, for garnish


To make the vinaigrette, add the
olive oil, sesame oil, and brown sugar
to a small bowl and whisk vigorously.
Add cautiously, to taste, a bit of salt,
pepper, garlic powder, and rice vinegar.
Set aside.

To present the salad, arrange remaining ingredients in individual piles, adjacent to one another, on a large plate. Drizzle vinaigrette over each to taste and toss together, making sure to incorporate every ingredient. Add lime garnish (to squeeze on the salad).

Serve immediately. Serves 2.

From Diablo Magazine April 2005

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was Hallie's 17th birthday - hard to believe that this little one (taken the day she came home) , has now become this grown up girl...I think the smile is still the same!

Her birthday would usually mean a dinner request of Persian food, her ultimate comfort food. But, the times they are a changing and she asked if it was okay to go out to dinner instead. With her boyfriend. So off they went to one of the nicer restaurants in town which left me home to cook for the three of us who actually like Taco Tuesday! In my efforts to find gluten free recipes that the whole family will like I've been spending a lot of time perusing blogs and am completely smitten by Karina's Kitchen, aka The Gluten Free Goddess. The recipe I made the other night was so good I couldn't wait to try another.

Last night I made her Sweet Potato and Black Bean enchiladas - another winner. I had a couple cheats/modifications. I bought a jar of salsa verde from Trader Joe's and I had some frozen sweet potato fries and used those instead of fresh sweet potato. I took her suggestion of mixing in a little sour cream in the sauce before topping the enchiladas and used a sharp cheddar instead of monterey jack on top. These were so good and the mix of flavors was perfect. Unfortunately I'd been messing around with my camera the night before, screwed up some settings and the result was no pictures. I was able to fix it later!

Today we welcome a new addition to our household - for a month anyway. This afternoon I pick up our exchange student from Spain. We have been e-mailing with her and can't wait to meet her. For the sake of this blog I shall call her Ms. Potato - she knows why. :-)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pra Ram Tofu, again!

Last night we had friends over for dinner. Friends we hadn't seen in ages - the type of people you wish lived closer (they are a good hour away) so you could see them more often. Since we all liked the pra ram tofu the other night I decided to make that again. This time I used broccoli and bok choy and made a more complicated peanut sauce (from Nancie McDermott's Real Thai book).

To accompany the tofu I made a salad we first had at a nearby restaurant. The restaurant is called Siam Orchid and they have this Ginger Salad that is very popular. They serve it with all the elements separate but I tossed everything together right before serving it. I quadrupled the recipe - even though there were just four of us, I never know what teenagers will wander in and out of the house wanting food. So that meant 2 CUPS of ginger, shredded - yowza. This salad is not for the faint of heart but wow, the combination of flavors is great. Sadly, no pictures - too much of a rush to get everything onto the table.

I also made rice paper veggie rolls. I found a bag of organic broccoli slaw at Trader Joe's that made for an easy filling (no chopping!). I tossed the broccoli and carrot mix with a little bit of tamari, then put it in the rolls with strips of avocado, sliced green onion and cilantro. These were served with peanut sauce and sweet chili sauce.

They take a little time but they are easy to make and fun to eat!

Finally for dessert we were going to have this little concoction that I called Mango Splits. Slices of fresh mango with coconut sorbet topped with chocolate sauce and toasted coconut. But somehow we never got around to dessert. I think we will survive.

To go with the Thai theme of the night I bought some Singha and Phuket beer which gave us an opportunity for dh to try the gluten free beer I'd picked up for him. I was really surprised - it's not bad at all.

The night ended with two very good things - a soak in the hot tub and hubby and daughter cleaning the kitchen. Perfect!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Normally this would be the perfect time of year for eating outside but the smoke in the air is thick and awful. Mind you, the actual fires are miles away but the whole Bay Area is just one giant haze. It's weird because looking outside it seems like it would be cold - it looks like any gray November day. But then you step outside and it is 85 degrees - the sun just can't break through.

For the most part, Tuesdays are still "Taco Tuesday" - not always tacos, but some kind of Mexican food. This week we had tostadas - I baked corn tortillas, lightly sprayed with oil on both sides, for about 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven until browned and crispy. Sometimes I turn them over halfway but I usually forget to do that and they come out just fine. I like a food that is forgiving in that way.

I made what I call "cheater's guacamole" - smashed avocado with some diced tomato, lime juice and juice from a jar of pickled jalapenos. When I'm making guacamole for a party I like to add onion, fresh jalapeno, etc. But this version works just fine. We layered on the beans, lettuce, some finely shredded cheddar, guac and salsa. And ate inside.

I hope this all clears up soon. It doesn't feel like summer at all. Add in the fact that we have water rationing in place and the landscaping looks a little sad - well it's all a bit depressing! But to keep it in perspective - I'm here safe and sound and all over the state there are people whose homes are in danger, firefighters whose lives are in danger and I remember that I should, as my dad likes to say- "quityerbellyachin."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lazy, make that hazy, days of summer

There are fires burning all over Northern California and the air outside is so smoky and gray it's hard to be outside. We had a fire up the street just two weeks ago so it makes me nervous when I smell all this smoke and hear a siren. We live right near a 6,000 acre regional park that is a great place to take the dogs off leash but it is just miles and miles of dry grass. So I keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

With my recent efforts to find gluten free recipes that everyone will like, I've been scouring the internet and food blogs to find ideas. Last night I made this pesto zucchini tomato gratin from Karina's Kitchen blog. My god it was fantastic.

The crumb topping made from waffles was perfect - you'd never guess if you didn't know. The combination of the zucchini, tomatoes and artichoke hearts was delicious and the whole thing went together quickly. This got thumbs up all around and is something I will definitely be making again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sweet and sour stir fry

Last night started with ingredients very similar to those I used the other night for Pra Ram Tofu. I had on hand broccoli, red pepper and onion. I also had "veggie pork" from the Asian market. It's not a wheat gluten meat but instead made from mushroom and soy - still, I wouldn't claim it was gluten free because it had an unidentified starch and "vegetarian seasonings." But in an effort to use things on hand and because dh said he was fine with it - I used this in the stir fry. I didn't have much on hand for making a sauce so of course I hit the internet and found a recipe over at Karina's Kitchen for a simple sauce made from vegetable broth and pepper jelly. I thickened it a bit with some corn starch. It was exactly what I was looking for and went really well with the vegetables and mushroom meat substitute. I sprinkled some sesame seeds over the whole thing and served it on basmati rice.

It was a perfect evening for dining outside so that's what we did - the girls were off with their friends, so yet again we had a peek into the empty nest of the future.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Curried Chickpea Salad

Today was a rare day where a) we all ate lunch and b) ate the same thing at the same time. Weekends can be so unpredictable and we sometimes eat on the run, or just eat little bits and pieces throughout the day. But today I was craving this salad that we'd had recently and I already had a trip planned to my favorite little produce store, so I made sure to pick up the items I'd need to make this.

I found the idea for this in Better Homes & Gardens magazine - they didn't have a recipe but more of a "try this combination" sort of thing. The mix of the sweet grapes with the curry and cayenne is fantastic and on a hot Sunday afternoon it was just the right kind of lunch.

Curried Chickpea Salad
3 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and well drained
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, finely shredded
1-2 cups red grapes, halved (I like putting a lot of grapes - put in whatever looks good to you!)

Dressing: plain fat-free yogurt, honey or agave nectar, salt, curry power and cayenne

I didn't measure the dressing - I probably used about 1 cup of yogurt, 1-2 tablespoons honey, a generous amount of curry and salt and cayenne to taste.

I think this one will be in heavy rotation this summer since everyone in the family likes it!

All around the mulberry bush

Well, it's a mulberry tree actually...

We bought this tree a few years ago from a specialty nursery. My husband grew up in Iran and has fond memories of the mulberries they had there. Here in California there are mulberry trees everywhere but they aren't fruiting trees - just nice big shady trees. After tracking down the variety he wanted, he brought it home and it sat on the side of the house waiting to be planted. And sat. We went on vacation and it didn't get water. We finally planted it months later and it struggled but survived. Then we built our little guest house (affectionately dubbed "The Hut") and it had to be moved. But it proved itself to be the little tree that could - and it did. I was out in the yard yesterday and noticed that it now has berries and several of them are ripe! Our first berries! The first "harvest" was meager but delicious!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Black bean gyros

I've definitely shifted the way I shop due to the ridiculous price of gas (I've been paying $4.75 a gallon and it is over $70 to fill my car!). I'm much more likely to try to make something out of what I have than run to the store for a specific item. So last night I had stuff to make a salad (baby spinach, fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and basil) and tried to come up with something to go with it. In the food processor I put:
half an onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup chickpea flour
salt and cayenne

I dropped this by the spoonful into a frying pan sprayed with oil and flattened them out as thin as possible. I browned them on both sides and very carefully removed them from the pan. We had them on gluten free brown rice tortillas from Trader Joe's, sprinkled with Greek seasoning, fat free plain yogurt and fresh mint. So we decided they were now gyros.

Because I didn't really plan ahead in terms of how we would eat these I didn't season it any particular way. Next time I'll add the Greek seasoning to the mix and instead of plain yogurt make a tzatziki sauce. But they were good and met my two goals for the evening - gluten free and driving free.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Spicy Mushroom Tacos

There has been a bit of a dietary evolution here in our household - the primary vegan (Hallie) decided she no longer wanted to be vegan, dh is trying to eat gluten free and Ana, well poor kid, she is still the meat eater in the family and that is the one diet I don't accommodate ;-)

So I'm trying to find gluten-free vegetarian meals that we all like. This, of course, is all subject to change.

Last night I experimented and made what I call spicy mushroom tacos. Basically just a soft taco using chopped mushrooms for the filling. I often make "sausage" this way for lasagna and decided to give it a try with Mexican seasonings. I removed the stems and cleaned two pounds of white mushrooms. Then finely chopped them by hand (the food processor is easier but it makes it too mushy). I added in a homemade taco seasoning mix (with some crushed red pepper, cumin, chili powder etc), then let it sit for a couple of hours while we went off to yoga. These are the mushrooms before cooking.

To cook the mushrooms I sprayed a large saute pan with cooking spray and added the mushrooms. It takes awhile for them to release their liquid - after that I kept cooking until they were well browned.

I'll be honest - when I started out making these they were just going to be mushroom tacos. But if you take a close look at the pictures you will see many, many red pepper flakes. Wow this mixture was HOT. Thus they became spicy mushroom tacos.

For the tacos we used soft corn tortillas and loaded them with mushrooms, white cheddar, chopped green leaf lettuce, homemade guacamole and tomatoes.

They were surprisingly good and luckily the heat of the mushrooms was tempered by the guacamole and lettuce. I think next time I'll tone down the heat a little ;-)