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

Silky Green (NOT Split Pea) Soup

This can also be titled Kate vs. the broken memory card. Sorry there are no photos right now, but I promise to upload them as soon as I repair my troubled computer situation. Thanks for your patience!

When I was 4, I decided that I distinctly and utterly HATED split pea soup. Ugh. The texture, the starchy, gumminess of the peas, even the little chunks of ham were off-putting.

I remember that my grandfather was baffled that I didn’t like my grandma’s split pea soup. “How can you not like split pea soup, hetehose?!” My grandfather’s family was from Eastern Europe, and he had all these little pet nicknames for us. My brother was snickelfritz. I’m not sure what hetehose even means, or if that is how you spell it, so if anyone has any Czech, Slovakian, Latvian, or Lithuanian skills please let me know if you can help! Either way, one of them meant trouble maker, and I was in trouble. I HAD to eat that soup, don’t you know, because my grandparents were not about to see good food go to waste. Being force-fed what I viewed as the equivalent of snot liquid? Maybe that is why I have avoided green, pureed soups in the past. Continue reading

Traveler’s Chicken

It’s my dream to wind my way through North Africa and the Middle East – Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, maybe Afghanistan – and stuff myself. That’s right – an eating adventure. I rave about any sort of food from that region, tagines with lemony chicken and olives, lamb and rich, tomato-y vegetables, (gluten-free) couscous with dried apricots, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, baba ghannouj, foul mudammes, and every single amazing vegetable dish that highlights the most glorious food group in the land. And hummus, my god hummus! I could sing it’s praises for an entire week straight.
One of the reasons I want to travel to the Middle East is to experience a new culture of food – one that emphasizes sharing, hospitality, and time spent with loved ones. Not that we don’t do that in America and the West, but entire cultures and societies are built around giving plenty of time and space for meals, something that is not as prioritized in America. I not only want to eat but also learn from home cooks wherever I travel. Learning new tricks in the kitchen is what binds us together as humans. We’ve been cooking and sharing together for thousands of years – passing tips, secret family recipes, and simply sharing our knowledge with the next generation. Cooking with another person makes everything more enjoyable – the work seems easier, the food tastes better, and the cleanup is by far much more pleasantly spent in the company of others.

After a weekend of cooking – but don’t worry, this chicken only dirties one pan!!!

Until the day when I can fulfill my tabe-travel dreams (taberu is the verb for eat in Japanese), I’ll contently stuff myself with this roast chicken. One of the benefits of living alone is that sometimes you don’t have to share! A whole chicken will last me about a week – shredded into tacos or stir-frys, stirred into soups, a balanced way to complete a salad, etc. You can find me many a weekend gnawing on a leg like a shameless prize-eater because 1. I love chicken and 2. I have no one to impress at my breakfast table. 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!

Simple Green Smoothie + A Stroke of Squash Genius

I wanted to write “A Stroke of Sleep Deprived Squash Genius”, but I thought that might get a little long.

International travel, my friends, is a terrifically wonderful thing. So often we can take for granted the fact that we can get in a giant metal bird and FLY. Honestly, whenever I get a little tired of a flight: dehydrated, headachey, full of airplane food – I remember that it is a miracle that I am even above the clouds at all.

However, I do believe that our bodies have not quite adapted to the wonder of zooming through dozens of time zones in a matter of hours. After a few weeks of here-and-back-again, I am craving the balance of a few goods nights sleep in a row. While I wait for that balance to come back in my sleep schedule, I’ve noticed how incredibly valuable it is to support jet lag and travel with proper nutrition.

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A New Outlook + Braised and Roasted Cabbage

I was never a huge fan of cabbage as a child. It fell under the category of over-boiled, soggy vegetables, ruined by unfortunate preparation methods (Oh how I lament how many people must have been turned off lovely broiled Brussels sprouts or lightly sautéed spinach because they’ve only ever experienced bland, boiled, limp nothingness). And sauerkraut, sauerkraut was old people food – warm and weird and eaten other odd senior citizen favorites like creamed corn and bright yellow and pink packages of Oscar Meyer liverwurst.

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Grain-Free Okayu aka Cauliflower Stew

First off I must say that I was inspired by two things in this post – Gluten Free Girl’s “that persistent hope” on keeping her kitchen organized and La Fuji Mama’s podcast “Miso Hungry”. I’m always looking for ways to smooth out simple processes in the kitchen to make cooking, but more so cleaning up after cooking, more enticing. Especially on days when I am tired or not feeling the best – I don’t want to spend a lot of time on an elaborate meal or cleaning all the dishes afterwards.

What really struck a chord was what Shauna said about prepping vegetables as soon as she returned from the grocery store. Pre-prepped food means you are more likely to use it before it goes bad, saving on food waste and ensuring you’ll have healthy, nutritious meals rather than resorting to fast food or take out.

Cauliflower waiting to be sprayed, scrubbed, and washed

Tuesday night was a perfect illustration of produce prep harmony. My digestion had been off for a few days so I was really craving some soup. Luckily before I left for my weekend trip, I had washed, chopped, and frozen some celery so it wouldn’t go bad. I had also frozen some chicken stock, so I pulled those two out and defrosted them in some gently boiling water while I prepped the rest of the ingredients.

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