Laarb-inspired Summer Salad

This…this makes my heart sing. The color, the different textures, even the fun shapes! I eat salad every day, but there is something particularly exciting about summer salads. Cool, refreshing, wholesome, and extra tasty with all the super fresh produce, I’ll munch my way through salads all summer long.

For the past month or so, I’ve been making a variation on the Laarb gai salad over at Low Amine Recipes. Bright and fresh, I love the balance of tangy lime and mellow mint. If you need something more substantial (here’s lookin’ at you, Mar), you can add ground chicken, sliced pork, or whatever protein floats your boat. This salad is a great vehicle for overcooked meat – I’ve been known to overdue a few things on the grill – as it absorbs the dressing and flavors to create a satisfying complement to the vegetables. Continue reading

Crockpot Bison Stew

Do you ever wish you could come home after a long day and dinner would magically appear and be waiting for you? Let’s make that dream a reality. Introducing…the slow cooker. I grew up with a CrockPot, so that is how I’ll reference it, but the idea is the same. Prepare ingredients beforehand, set it before you go to work, and come home to magic, without risk of burning your house down. I feel like many people associate slow cooker meals with winter, but I find mine most useful in the summer when my non-air conditioned kitchen is already sweltering in the sub-tropical Japanese summer.

Yesterday I wrote about sustainable meat choices. I am not a huge red meat eater, but I’ve found that if bison is in the equation, I’ll go back for seconds (or thirds!). I threw together this dish one morning before I dashed off for presentations and school speeches. My mom was at home so she was able to monitor the meat, but if you are making this recipe for the first time (or any CrockPot recipe), I recommend doing it on a day when you are home to check on it. Each slow cooker cooks differently, so it is good to get a time frame for your machine before you leave it alone all day while you’re off at work or running errands. After the first time, though, you will have a practically fool-proof way to set your self up for a healthy and frankly flippin’ delicious dinner.

The great thing about CrockPot recipes is that they can feed a crowd or keep well for leftovers. In fact, most things made in a CrockPot (can I abbreviate this somehow? CP??) taste better the next day. It’s also much harder to overcook, burn, or dry out meat in a slow cooker – great for those of you still gaining confidence in the kitchen.

My younger brothers both loved this dish – my twenty-year old brother gobbled about half of it and my ten-year old brother also really enjoyed it even though he doesn’t usually care much for meat. By the time I got home, the only thing that was left was this small serving, which is why I don’t have a picture of the whole dish. But this was such a hit that I’m sure we’ll be making it again, so I’ll have a chance to update the picture. This is best served with a hearty dose of mashed butternut squash or sweet potato, outdoors on your patio during a summer day. At least that is what I did.

Crockpot Bison Stew

Inspired by two dishes from the Civilized Caveman, found here and here.

A note about the onions. I just used up what I had found in my family’s pantry. If you don’t have pearl onions or shallots, just add another regular onion or whatever pleases you.

20 pearl onions

3 onions

1 shallot

5 medium carrots, sliced in half moons

4 celery stalks, cut into 1 inch dice

1 1/2 large zucchini, sliced in half moons

5 garlic cloves, peeled

2 bay leaves

2 tsp Herbamare salt, divided

1 tsp thyme, divided

1/2 c chicken broth, optional

one 2 lb bison roast

Layer the onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini in the bottom of your Slow Cooker. Season with 1 tsp of Herbamare and 1/2 tsp of thyme. Add garlic cloves and bay leaves, then place the bison roast on top of everything. Season roast well with the other half of the salt and remaining thyme. Add chicken broth if you would like more of a stew, or leave it out for a more traditional roast.

Cook on low heat for 6 – 8 hours. We checked our roast after 6 hours and it was cooked through and pretty much melted into shreds when prodded with a fork. If the roast hasn’t reached that consistency after 6 hours, continue to cook until it shreds easily. You won’t have to worry about checking to see if it is done in the middle because there won’t be a middle anymore!

Feeds one hungry young man + 3 people with smaller to normal appetites. In regular serving sizes I would guess that to be sufficient for 6 people, especially if you serve with some sort of mashed squash.

Man. I just ate dinner, and I still really want to eat this. Happy crocking!

Everything IS easy when you’ve got a slow cooker!

Green Tip #5 “Prescription for Clean Water” + Garlic Oil

This may seem like a strange subject, but I learned something totally new a few weeks ago and had to share. I don’t have a lot of spare prescription medications floating around my house, in fact I have none, but many people do. And what happens when you no longer need them? Conventionally the tradition has been to flush them down the toilet, along with carnival goldfish with tragically short lifespans and Calvin’s toy boat.

But flushing medications means that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals end up in our ground water. From Michigan Medical and Veterinary Care Facilities, “Pharmaceutical contamination of water has a negative impact on the aquatic ecosystem, including fish, birds and other wildlife…Experts believe that an increase in anti- biotics in water may lead to antibiotic resistance in pathogenic organisms.” That means more superbugs in our food supply and therefore our bodies!

Look for community programs that take back leftover medications or try a website like http://www.disposemymeds.org. Another reason not to flush? It can ruin your septic system through buildup!

It may not be totally relevant for all of you, but it is a good reminder to think about how you dispose of anything, not only for the environment’s sake but for your own. We all learn in school that any ecosystem is a cyclical feature, so what we put in is what we get out of it. We want good things to come around back to us, not hazardous medical waste or polluted food supplies.

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If you want something good to come back to you, try a new vegetable or preparing your own infused oil. In another variation on the Anatomy of a Salad, I enjoyed this scrumptious, light yet satisfying dinner yesterday.

I bought a bunch of marinated or pickled veggies from the local markets yesterday, some totally unfamiliar. I love to branch out and try new foods anytime, especially when they are allergen-free and super delicious veggies! And it is the preciously short spring fava bean season. I simply shelled and steamed them for a few minutes before tossing them in with the rest of the bunch.

next time less hand and more bean!

I really enjoyed sitting at the kitchen table, shelling these beans while watching the sunset and listening to a Here on Earth podcast. It is these small moments in the kitchen that really make things worthwhile for me: tranquil, present, with the anticipation of really good food.

I drizzled the cabbage with some homemade garlic oil. You don’t need to buy the fancy bottles at the store (or create more recycling with another glass bottle!). I washed out an old sesame oil bottle and poured in some olive oil. I then added about 5 cloves of garlic, sliced, which needed to be used up before my trip to America. I then stored it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight for 7-10 days. Now it is in my fridge and waiting to be drizzled on salads, fish, roasted veggies, and whatever else I can think of! Maybe some gluten-free pasta or the finishing touch on a soup.

You could also personalize your oil by adding herbs like rosemary, oregano, or thyme, or ginger – really whatever flavor suits you! Sometimes the dead simple things are the best.

So, try something new – be it something at the market, making your own oil, or sharing a green tip with a friend. Or for the best of both worlds, share a green tip AND a meal.

Take care,

Kate