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

Anatomy of a Salad

I was trying to decide what recipe to post this week. I wanted to share something that I eat often, and finally it dawned on me: salad. I eat it every day, sometimes twice a day as lunch and part of dinner. And I NEVER, ever get tired of it. When I travel for a few days and don’t get my daily salad fix, I find myself longing desperately for a giant bowl of crunchy green.

thinly sliced raw radish, steamed cod, okra, avocado, and lettuce salad with mustard vinaigrette

I know what some of you may be thinking. Salad? Really? That’s so…mundane and boring. Who truly enjoys eating salad? And when I think of the typical restaurant salad – limp, white lettuce, a few paltry out of season tomatoes, and the occasional shredded carrot – I wouldn’t be excited either. However, the key is variety! I eat salad every day, but not the same one. I love monster salads packed full of interesting ingredients and combinations.  Here are a few tips for building a stellar salad:

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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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Chicken Update + Breakfast Lettuce Wraps

Do you know what this is?

Factory farm food! From this slightly controversial, rather brazen blog, “Say hello to mechanically separated chicken. It’s what all fast-food chicken is made [of] – things like chicken nuggets and patties. Also, the processed frozen chicken in the stores is made from it.

Basically, the entire chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve — bones, eyes, guts, and all. [I]t comes out looking like this.

There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color.

But, hey, at least it tastes good, right?

I don’t think I would have put it any other way. Those chicken nuggets, or any fast food, may seem inexpensive now, but you are going to be paying much more – in terms of both money and health – later on in life if you keep eating fake, ridiculously over-processed food. This is why I always want to know where my food comes from or how it is made, and why I focus on eating whole, REAL, foods!

Luckily you can still enjoy chicken, and food in general, in its true form in a number of ways. Not only do I love chicken, but I love leftovers! I never get bored with them, and they make things so much easier in cooking because half the work is already done. One of my strategies is to cook several meals or ingredients during the weekend so I have things pre-prepped for a busier week: chopped veggies go in the freezer, chicken or turkey baked or cooked to add to salads for work, or maybe a big pot of soup to use up the rest of the previous week’s produce. On the rare occasion I do tire of something, I freeze it in individual portions so in a few weeks I can have a home-cooked meal in a fraction of the time. It saves me from resorting to take-out or the drive-thru. My last recipe gave me an ample amount of leftovers, which I turned into the most delicious lettuce wrap of all time. I want to eat it for breakfast every day! Continue reading

For the love of vegetables! + Stuffed Kabocha squash

Dinner AND Breakfast

If I could be any food, it would be something from the squash family: sweet potatoes, butternut, kabocha, acorn, etc. I’m not sure if technically sweet potatoes are related to kabocha at all, but in terms of creamy, carby, filling, versatile wonderfulness they are all in the same boat. Or rather my stomach. Here in Japan they sell yaki imo (やきいも)and I am addicted to these little gems of PURPLE roasted sweet potatoes. Roasting squash brings out its’ natural sugars, which is why I prefer roasting all vegetables rather than boiling them and then adding sugar. My favorite type of “mashed potato” is roasted sweet potatoes mashed with coconut milk and hazelnuts ~ perfect for any holiday spread or post-skiing dinner. Actually any dinner, or breakfast, or snack. You get the idea.

menagerie of imos

BUT as much as I love squash, I don’t really count it as a vegetable. It is a starch in my book. Granted, a very good starch, one lower in calories and higher in nutrients than pasta, rice, potatoes or corn. And, I have to set the record straight – potatoes and corn are NOT vegetables. Potatoes are starchy to the max, and corn is a grain. I’ll be discussing this a bit more in future posts, but I’ve already gone on enough of a tangent. Continue reading