Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Greek-Yogurt Alfredo

I love pasta alfredo, but it’s hard to make it lactose-free. I ended up finding this recipe that called for Greek yogurt, though, and many brands are lactose-free, so I was excited to give it a try. The result was fantastic! The sauce was thick, which I liked, and it had the full tang from the yogurt, which was so good and so satisfying! Plus, it’s relatively healthy, as this version has no cream or cream cheese. It’s very easy to make, too, and you could simply omit the chicken for a vegetarian version. This recipe is adapted and makes 4 servings. You could add chili powder if you want, as the original recipe calls for, but I omitted it entirely and loved the result anyway.

1 lb. linguine
2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 heaping cup baby spinach
½ cup grated lactose-free pecorino romano cheese
½ cup grated lactose-free parmesan
8 oz. lactose-free plain Greek yogurt

Boil water and cook linguine according to package directions.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan and sauté chicken over medium heat, until cooked through. Turn the heat to low and add spinach. Stir to coat in oil and cook until spinach begins to wilt.

When pasta is finished cooking, drain and add to the pan with chicken and spinach. Immediately add in cheeses and yogurt. Stir to mix everything together and serve immediately.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dietary restrictions during pregnancy

I actually wrote this post in French first, then I realized that some Anglophones in my social circle would benefit from this information, so I’m cross-posting it in English (sorry for those of you who read both languages, just skip this post; but for the rest, hopefully this will help shed some light on the subject).

There is a point I want to tackle right off the bat, because it is sometimes a controversial topic: the fact that there are far more restrictions today than 30 or 60 years ago. Some people think that doctors nowadays impose too many restrictions. I know some in the generation before me (and in the one before that) who say that during their pregnancy, they ate many things that I won’t eat now, and that their baby was just fine. Sure. But that is not how I see it. For me, the "new" restrictions were unknown before, but thanks to medical advances and changes in eating habits, we know them now. It's like smoking: 50 years ago, women continued to smoke during pregnancy, because the medical world did not have enough data to pinpoint the problem. But today, we know that smoking is harmful to the fetus, and we know why, so it is recommended that pregnant women do not smoke. Fifty years ago, it was also acceptable to put the baby in a basket on the front seat of the family sedan, but if you did that today, your child would be placed in foster care until a social worker can determine whether you are a fit parent! Same goes for the restrictions that were previously unknown. And like I said, there are also restrictions that are common today, but that did not exist before because the food they affect was not as widespread then. For example, in 1980, a pregnant woman in North America would not have been told not to eat sushi, probably for the simple reason that it was far from commonplace at the time.

So there are certain foods that should be avoided altogether, and others that should be eaten in moderation. I’m giving you a list that I prepared after doing my own research, but I'm not a doctor! If in doubt, check with your obstetrician to see what he recommends. I tend to prefer to take too many precautions rather than not enough, but it is a personal choice. I hope I have identified all the foods that are of concern to me in this list, but I could have forgotten some, so this list is not exhaustive (even though it is long).

Foods to avoid
- Raw animal products, including:
·         raw eggs, unless they are pasteurized (this includes artisanal ice cream with a custard base, some desserts like chocolate mousse or molten cakes, poached eggs, homemade mayonnaise, custard, raw cookie dough, spaghetti carbonara, etc.. );
·         raw milk and its derivatives (such as certain cheeses);
·         deli meats, smoked meat, meat that is still a little rare (like steak, juicy hamburgers or duck magret), some pâtés and sausages;
·         smoked salmon, sushi;
·         shellfish (unless you cook them yourself);
·         unpasteurized honey.
- Raw vegetables if they have not been washed well (especially if they come from the garden or farmers’ market), because of the risk of toxoplasmosis.
- Sprouts, such as alfalfa, because of potential bacterial contamination.
- Unpasteurized fruit juices (unless you make them yourself and drink them immediately).
Please note that all this is because of the risk of contamination by bacteria such as listeria, e. coli or salmonella, so if for example you decide to order vegetarian sushi, you must make sure that they are not prepared on the same surface as raw sushi, not cut with the same knife, not handled by the same person.

Foods to eat in moderation
- Caffeine. Normally, a pregnant woman is entitled to 180 mg. of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to a small cup of coffee. You can of course drink decaffeinated coffee, or prefer to use your quota of caffeine for soft drinks, tea, chocolate, mocha in a dessert, etc.
- Certain allergens, such as nuts. According to the studies I've read, eating too many or too few nuts during pregnancy increases the risk of a nut allergy in the child, but there is a comfort zone of optimal consumption which does not alter the risk (risk that persists minimally anyway). I’ve decided not to change my consumption of nuts: I eat them, but not super often, maybe a few times a month.

Foods to avoid or to eat in moderation, depending on your sources
- Alcohol. All my sources say to avoid in the first trimester. Although many doctors say you can then drink a glass of wine per week, other studies (such as this one) conclude that alcohol is never safe during pregnancy. And let me interrupt you right away: alcohol does not evaporate during cooking! This has been proven by America's Test Kitchen (see here if you subscribe). Basically, for braises and dishes cooked with a lid, the percentage of ethanol does not change, even after hours of cooking. For flambés and things cooked uncovered, you end up with about 5% ethanol. It is up to you to decide what percentage you’ll tolerate, either in a glass or a plate. To help you: nonalcoholic cooking wine and substitutions (chart and article.) (If you want original drinks, I recommend Martinelli's sparkling apple juice, which I loved and which can pass for champagne, as well as Welch’s sparkling grape juices. Avoid some natural soft drinks by Fentiman's, such as their ginger beer, which contains a small amount of alcohol due to natural fermentation. For a natural ginger drink, I highly recommend Oogavé brand, which served me well for a few months. I also liked the San Pellegrino lemonade.)
- Soy. Some studies show a link between soy consumption during pregnancy and inhibition of male secondary sexual characteristics (if the fetus is male), including beyond adolescence! This is because certain soy molecules resemble certain female hormone molecules (the famous phytoestrogens). So there are scientists who say that we should completely stop eating soy during pregnancy until more is known, and others who say that soy consumption is acceptable, but it should be moderate. There are of course also studies that conclude that soy has no negative side effects, is super healthy, and that a pregnant woman should eat it every day, but these studies are so often funded by Monsanto that I do not believe a word! So I reduced my intake of soy, but did not eliminate it completely. It's a shame, because I had started cooking with tofu and edamame, and I wanted a good miso soup, soy sauce or Tofutti products...
- Some herbs and spices, such as sage (increases the risk of miscarriage during pregnancy and reduces milk production thereafter), purslane and raspberry leaves (both cause uterine contractions) or juniper (increases the risk of miscarriage and reduces fertility). Note that there are dozens of herbs that should not be taken during pregnancy; I encourage you to look up a list for yourself or to speak about it with your doctor. So I had to give up trying my pumpkin gnocchi and sage recipes last fall, as well as some stuffings. And since I do not see myself making homemade gnocchi with an infant in my arms, it will have to wait until fall 2014! Note that these herbs can be found in cooked dishes, but also in salads and herbal tea, so beware!
- Fish: some fish (cooked!) can be eaten in moderation, while others should be avoided altogether. The fish usually containing low levels of mercury, such as salmon or tilapia, or canned light tuna are safe (about 5 or 6 oz. per week), but other fish like swordfish or tuna steaks should be avoided.
- Artificial sweeteners: this depends on your doctor or the organization you trust. Some say to avoid them altogether, even if you are not pregnant, and others say they are always safe. In general, though, it is recommended to avoid consumption of saccharin and to eat other artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, etc.) in moderation. But I avoid them anyway, pregnant or not.

It always depends on your sources, actually, and on how much you trust them. For example, the book What To Expect When You're Expecting, which is THE benchmark of English-speaking North America, recommends tofu, soy milk, edamame and all that jazz, while I'm trying hard to reduce my intake of soy during my pregnancy. But this book, although very useful, is not necessarily known for the accuracy of its contents. (For example, it says that the more heartburn a pregnant woman experiences, the more hair her baby will have, while other reliable sources say that is an old wives’ tale.) And again, that’s not to mention medication, essential oils, cosmetics and everything!

Actually, it is a bit like Russian roulette. It's not that eating sushi automatically leads to negative effects on the fetus, but the risk is relatively high. That being said, during pregnancy, it is certain that at some point, you will eat something you shouldn’t, either because you didn’t know all the ingredients it contained or because you had simply forgotten. Usually, everything will be fine anyway, so just remember to do better next time, that's all!

Finally, to get back to the comparison with smoking, I see it as follows. We know that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, and it is written as a warning on all packages. Does it mean that all smokers will develop lung cancer? Of course not. Does it mean that non-smokers, those who avoid even second-hand and third-hand smoke,  will never have lung cancer? Again, unfortunately not. But the latter are stacking the odds in their favor, while smokers take a calculated risk. I simply choose to put the odds in my favor.

Les restrictions alimentaires pendant la grossesse

Il y a un point que je veux aborder d’amblée, parce que c’est une sujet parfois controversé : le fait qu’il y a bien plus de restrictions aujourd’hui qu’il y a 30 and ou 60 ans. Certains pensent que les médecins de nos jours imposent trop de restrictions. J’en connais de la génération avant moi (et de celle d’avant ça) qui disent que pendant leur grossesse, elles ont mangé bien des choses que moi je refuse, et que leur bébé ne s’en est pas plus mal porté. Soit. Mais ce n’est pas comme ça que je vois la chose. Pour moi, les « nouvelles » restrictions étaient inconnues auparavant, mais grâce aux progrès de la médecine et aux changements des habitudes alimentaires, on les connaît maintenant. C’est comme fumer : il y a 50 ans, les femmes continuaient à fumer pendant leur grossesse, parce que la médecine n’avait pas assez de données pour nous informer du problème. Mais là, on sait que c’est nocif pour le fœtus, et on sait pourquoi, alors on recommande aux femmes enceintes de ne pas fumer. Il y a 50 ans, c’était aussi acceptable de mettre le bébé dans un panier sur le siège avant de la berline familiale, mais faire ça aujourd’hui, on vous enlèverait votre enfant jusqu’à ce qu’une travailleuse sociale puisse déterminer que vous êtes capable d’être parent! Alors même chose pour les restrictions qu’on ignorait auparavant. Et comme j’ai dit, il y a aussi des restrictions qui sont fréquentes aujourd’hui mais qui n’existaient pas avant parce que l’aliment sur lequel elles portent n’était alors pas aussi présent. Par exemple, en 1980, une femme enceinte en Amérique du Nord ne se serait pas fait dire de ne pas manger de sushis, probablement pour la simple et bonne raison que ceux-ci étaient loin d’être monnaie courante à l’époque.

Il y a donc certains aliments qu’il faut éviter carrément, et d’autres qu’il faut consommer avec modération. Je vous donne ici une liste que j’ai préparée à la suite de mes propres recherches, mais je ne suis pas médecin! Dans le doute, vérifiez avec votre obstétricien pour voir ce qu’il recommande. Je suis du genre à préférer prendre trop de précautions plutôt que pas assez, mais c’est un choix personnel. J’espère avoir recensé tous les aliments dont je me soucie sur la liste, mais j’ai pu en oublier, alors ne voyez pas cela comme une liste exhaustive (même si elle est longue).

À éviter
- Les produits animaux crus; notamment :
·         les œufs crus, sauf s’ils sont pasteurisés (cela comprend les crèmes glacées artisanales à base d’œufs, certains desserts comme la mousse au chocolat ou les gâteaux moelleux, les œufs pochés, la mayonnaise maison, la crème pâtissière, la pâte à biscuits crue, le spaghetti carbonara, etc.);
·         le lait cru et ses produits dérivés (comme certains fromages);
·         les charcuteries, la viande fumée, la viande encore un peu saignante (comme un steak, un hamburger juteux ou un magret de canard), certains pâtés ou saucisses;
·         le saumon fumé, les sushis;
·         les crustacés (sauf si vous les faites cuire vous-même);
·         le miel non pasteurisé.
- Les légumes crus s’ils ne sont pas bien lavés (surtout s’ils viennent du jardin ou d’un marché fermier), vu le risque de toxoplasmose.
- Les pousses, comme la luzerne, à cause de contamination bactérienne potentielle.
- Les jus de fruits non pasteurisés (sauf si vous les faites vous-mêmes et les consommez immédiatement).
À noter qu’il s’agit pour tout cela de risque de contamination par les bactéries comme la listeria, la e. coli et la salmonelle, donc si vous décidez par exemple de commander des sushis végétariens, vous devez vous assurer qu’ils ne sont pas préparés sur la même surface que les sushis crus, pas coupés avec le même couteau, pas manipulés par la même personne.

À consommer avec modération
- La caféine. Normalement, une femme enceinte a droit à 180 mg. de caféine par jour, ce qui équivaut à une petite tasse de café. On peut bien sûr prendre du café décaféiné, ou préférer utiliser notre quota de caféine pour les boissons gazeuses, le thé, le chocolat noir, un dessert au mocha, etc.
- Certains allergènes, comme les noix. Selon les études que j’ai lues, consommer trop de noix ou trop peu de noix pendant la grossesse font augmenter le risque d’allergie aux noix chez l’enfant, mais il y a une zone confort de consommation optimale qui ne modifie pas les risques (risques qui demeurent présents de façon minimale de toute façon). J’ai donc décidé de ne pas modifier ma consommation de noix; j’en mange, mais pas super souvent, peut-être quelques fois par mois.

À éviter ou à consommer avec modération, selon vos sources
- L’alcool. Toutes mes sources disent de l’éviter au premier trimestre. Bien que de nombreux médecins disent qu’on peut ensuite consommer jusqu’à un verre de vin par semaine, d’autres études (comme celle-ci) concluent que l’alcool n’est jamais sécuritaire pendant la grossesse. Et je vous interromps tout de suite : l’alcool ne s’évapore pas pendant la cuisson! Ça a été prouvé par America’s Test Kitchen (voir ici si vous êtes abonné). En gros, pour les braisés et tout ce qui cuit avec un couvercle, le pourcentage d’éthanol ne change pas, même après des heures de cuisson. Pour les flambés et ce qui est cuit à découvert, on finit avec près de 5 % d’éthanol. C’est donc à vous de décider quel pourcentage vous acceptez, que ce soit dans un verre ou dans une assiette. Pour vous aider : vin à cuisson non alcoolisé et substitutions (tableau et article). (Si vous voulez des boissons originales, je recommande le jus de pomme pétillant Martinelli’s, que j’ai beaucoup aimé et qui peut passer pour du champagne, tout comme les jus de raisin pétillants Welch’s. Évitez certaines boissons gazeuses naturelles de la marque Fentiman’s, comme leur bière de gingembre, qui contient un peu d’alcool par fermentation naturelle. Pour une boisson au gingembre naturelle, je recommande fortement celles de la marque Oogavé, qui m’ont bien servie pendant quelques mois! J’ai bien aimé aussi la limonade San Pellegrino.)
- Le soya. Certaines études démontrent qu’il existe un lien entre la consommation de soya pendant la grossesse et l’inhibition des caractères sexuels secondaires mâles (si le fœtus est de sexe masculin), et ce, au-delà de l’adolescence! C’est parce que certaines molécules du soya ressemblent à certaines molécules des hormones féminines (les phyto-œstrogènes, c’est celles-là). Il y a donc des scientifiques qui disent qu’il faudrait entièrement arrêter de consommer du soya pendant la grossesse jusqu’à ce qu’on en sache plus, et d’autres qui disent qu’une consommation modérée est acceptable, mais qu’il ne faut pas trop en faire. Il y a bien sûr également des études qui concluent que le soya n’a pas d’effets secondaires négatifs, est super santé, et qu’une femme enceinte devrait en manger tous les jours, mais ces études sont si souvent financées par Monsanto que je n’y crois pas un mot! J’ai donc réduit ma consommation de soya, sans l’éliminer complètement. C’est dommage, parce que je venais de commencer à cuisiner avec du tofu et de l’edamame, et j’avais envie de bonnes soupes au miso, de sauce soya  ou de produits Tofutti…
- Certaines herbes et épices, comme la sauge (augmente le risque de fausse couche pendant la grossesse et réduit la production de lait par la suite), le pourpier et le framboisier (causent des contractions de l’utérus) ou le genièvre (risque de fausse couche et réduction de fertilité). Notez qu’il y a des dizaines d’herbes qui ne sont pas recommandées pendant la grossesse, alors je vous encourage à faire vos propres recherches et à en parler avec votre médecin. J’ai donc dû renoncer à essayer mes recettes de gnocchis citrouille et sauge l’automne dernier, de même qu’à certaines farces. Et puisque je ne me vois pas faire des gnocchis maison avec un bébé de quelques mois sur les bras, va falloir que ça attende à l’automne 2014! À noter que ces herbes peuvent être présentes dans les plats cuisinés, mais aussi dans les salades et dans la tisane, alors méfiez-vous!
- Le poisson : certains poissons (cuits!) peuvent être consommés avec modération, d’autres devraient être évités carrément. Les poissons qui contiennent habituellement un faible taux de mercure, comme le saumon ou le tilapia, ou encore le thon pâle en conserve, peuvent être consommés (environ 5 ou 6 oz. par semaine), mais d’autres poissons, comme l’espadon ou les steaks de thon, devraient être évités.
- Les édulcorants artificiels : ça dépend de votre médecin ou de l’organisme auquel vous faites confiance. Certains disent de les éviter carrément, même si on n’est pas enceinte, d’autres disent qu’ils sont toujours sécuritaires. En général, par contre, on recommande d’éviter la saccharine et de consommer les autres édulcorants artificiels (sucralose, aspartame, etc.) avec modération. Mais je les évite de toute façon, enceinte ou pas.

Ça dépend toujours de vos sources, en fait, et d’à quel point vous leur faites confiance. Par exemple, le livre What To Expect When You’re Expecting, qui est LA référence des anglophones d’Amérique du Nord, recommande le tofu, le lait de soya, l’edamame, alouette, alors que moi je fais de gros efforts pour réduire ma consommation de soya pendant ma grossesse. Mais ce livre, bien que très utile, n’est pas nécessairement reconnu pour l’exactitude de ses informations (il y est notamment écrit que plus une femme enceinte a des brûlements d’estomac, plus le bébé sera chevelu, alors que d’autres sources fiables affirment qu’il s’agit d’une histoire à dormir debout). Et encore, c’est sans parler des médicaments, des huiles essentielles, des cosmétiques et de tout le tralala!

En fait, c’est un peu comme la roulette russe. Ce n’est pas que manger des sushis entraîne automatiquement des effets négatifs sur le fœtus, mais le risque est relativement élevé. Par contre, pendant une grossesse, c’est sûr et certain qu’à moment donné, on mange quelque chose qu’il ne fallait pas, soit parce qu’on ignorait tous les ingrédients du plat ou parce qu’on avait simplement oublié. Habituellement, tout va bien quand même, alors on se rappelle de faire mieux la prochaine fois, c’est tout!

Pis bon, pour en revenir aux comparaisons avec les fumeurs, je vois ça comme suit. On sait que fumer augmente les risques de cancer des poumons, et c’est écrit comme avertissement sur tous les paquets. Est-ce que ça veut dire que tous les fumeurs vont développer un cancer des poumons? Bien sûr que non. Est-ce que ça veut dire que les non-fumeurs, ceux qui évitent même les fumées secondaire et tertiaire, n’auront jamais de cancer des poumons? Non plus, malheureusement. Mais ces derniers mettent les chances de leur côté, tandis que les fumeurs prennent un risque calculé. Moi, j’ai choisi de mettre les chances de mon côté, tout simplement.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hipster apples and other recommendations

Hipster apples
I love apples. I mean, I’ve always liked apples, but these days, I LOVE apples. My favorite apples are very crisp, juicy and not too sweet (I want some tartness in there, so don’t give me a Red Delicious). I like Granny Smith and McIntosh, though those haven’t been good lately (skin too thick, borderline mealy, not too flavorful). The Galas are great, but I’ve started branching out and trying less common varieties, like Jazz and Piñata. My new favorite, though, I’ve nicknamed the hipster apple because... well, you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s called Envy. (Is it still hipster if it has its own website?) The skin is mostly red, with some yellow flecks. The flesh is crisp, juicy, intensely flavored and just sweet enough. It’s probably the best apple I’ve ever tasted. Even the Engineer, who is notoriously picky about apples (he only likes Golden Delicious raw), tasted it once and said, “Dang, that’s some good apple.” It’s a seasonal variety, though, and unfortunately the season has just ended. (The produce manager at my grocery store said it’s usually available from October to January, but I only found out about it after the holidays! Now it’s all gone, and I have to wait until next fall to get more, and I missed the beginning of the 2012 season! Gah!)

I’m still looking for the elusive Pink Pearl apple (see here, listen here), or any red-fleshed variety, but those only seem available on the West coast and in the fall…

Apps for the iPad
I’m not really used to playing video games. The Engineer is, and most of what I know is from hanging out with him (plus Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt and Sonic the Hedgehog from my childhood hanging out with my older cousin). I never grew up with video games. I’m the one who will not just push buttons on the controller, but move the entire gadget to try to get through the game! Plus, I hate any games were I have to kill stuff to stay alive; they’re too stressful to me and I really don’t enjoy them. What I like are puzzle games, but the only PS3 game I’ve enjoyed playing was Portal. So enter two iPad apps that I downloaded recently and loved: Machinarium and The Room. Machinarium is normally $4.99; I got it on sale for $1.99, but I do think it’s worth the full price. The premise is that you’re a robot and you need to solve puzzles to get through different levels; you do need to solve a little game in which you shoot spiders in order to get the storyboard for each level, but the shooting part is not so bad, and some of the actions to complete in the storyboard are really not obvious unless you are told. That being said, there are walkthroughs online if you don’t want to kill the spiders or can’t solve certain puzzles, but it’s more fun to earn it. It kept me busy for hours! The Room is $1.99; there are three levels where you are basically solving various puzzles to open a box and reveal a secret. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to the sequel.

Great brunch
Last month, we had a wonderful brunch at the Scenic Loop Cafe in Boerne! It’s a bit of a drive, but not really longer than going to downtown San Antonio from our house anyway. The café is in scenic Hill Country and has a buffet for brunch on Sundays (9 am to 1 pm). I love brunch, and the Engineer loves buffets, so this place was perfect for us. We both raved about the house fries, which are really roasted potatoes with onions and rosemary; the applewood smoked bacon was delicious, as were the sausage patties. I had scrambled eggs, and even though buffet scrambled eggs are never as good as those made by a chef at an egg station, I really enjoyed these, because you could tell they were real eggs (unlike in some places where you can tell they’re really made from a powder mix). The Engineer also loved the eggs benedict, and liked the chilaquiles. The strawberry pancakes were good, and I tasted the maple pecan French croissants (dipped in egg and cooked), too, but didn’t have room for the French toast. They also had pigs-in-blankets, biscuits, cream gravy, cheese grits, yogurt and granola, and a good assortment of fresh fruit. Service was friendly and attentive, and prices are quite reasonable ($13.99 per adult). We really enjoyed the place and will be sure to go back for brunch every once in a while, especially since it was less crowded than we expected.

Our February outings
We didn’t have an outing per se in January, but we had two in February to make up for it. We had lunch at Chart House, which is the restaurant at the top of the Tower of Americas in San Antonio. We made it a lunch so that we could have a good view of the city! It was really nice, especially when we recognized landmarks, but be aware that the restaurant will only revolve about 30% of the way during the time it takes to eat a meal (we were lucky and got the stretch that interested us). Since they were also serving appetizers from the dinner menu, we started with the hummus trio, served with pita and plantain chips – our favorite was the edamame hummus. Unfortunately, with my current food restrictions, there was only one main dish on the menu I could have (well, besides overcooked filet mignon): the parmesan chicken BLT. I must say, though, that it was delicious! It was a real chicken breast (not deli), the balsamic mayo was from a jar (so no raw eggs), I made sure to ask for the bacon well cooked, and it turns out the bread was probably pan-fried instead of just toasted. Fabulous! The Engineer also loved his chili-dusted ahi sandwich (with bacon, cheese and honey jalapeño aioli). We were both too stuffed for dessert (while there were many off-the-menu selections available, only an apple pie without ice cream fit my food restrictions anyway). It was a really nice outing. On a side note, I’m only just getting used to how many restaurants have menus that are restrictive for pregnant women; it’s worse in high-end places and perhaps French restaurants, but even Red Lobster has me down to a selection of a single dish right now!

We also went to the Asian Festival celebrating the year of the Snake, hosted by the Institute of Texan Cultures. My first impression, which I must say still dominates, was how incredibly crowded the place was! There were demonstrations of traditional music and dance numbers, plus martial arts, as well as crafts displays and stalls that sold small items (I must say that they were the EXACT same items one can buy at the foot of the Great Wall, so I suppose that makes them authentic, and also says a lot about the export business). The big draw, though was the food. The smells were fantastic, there was enough choice to satisfy everyone’s tastes, and it didn’t seem like anyone ran out of supplies. The Engineer had Indian food, while I had Chinese food, and we both enjoyed our meals. That being said, they were expensive meals… So all in all, while I’m glad we went, I don’t see myself going again next year. I’d rather just find a really good Chinese restaurant (and we’re getting pretty close, too).

We did get to explore the Institute a bit, and I was tickled to learn that Jews of South Texas have made guacamole a traditional Passover food (hey, it fits all the requirements!). And in the olden days, when people made their own matzo, they would roll spurs over the dough to get the ubiquitous holes in the crackers.

Ready-made food at Whole Foods
I absolutely love their garden vegetable “sushi” rolls (avocado, carrot, red cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, rice paper and peanut sauce), as well as their vegan chocolate pudding. Not to mention their awesome salad bar! But I recently discovered a new green veggie sushi roll that has green onions, avocado, cucumber, rice, nori and sesame seeds, and it’s fantastic. Plus, the vegan oreo cake is wonderful! I could have lunch there every day for a month and not get bored.

Udi’s granola
I tried this granola because I had a coupon, as I don’t normally buy gluten-free granola just for the heck of it. That being said, it’s actually one of the best commercial granolas I’ve ever tasted! I tried their original flavor, which is sweetened with honey and also contained pistachios, cashews and banana chips. Plus raisins, although those were a bit hard and I could have done without them. This granola is also free of cross-contamination with dairy, soy and eggs. I really enjoyed it and might be buying more in the future! (About that picture: I’m eating this with yogurt here. I sometimes like using vanilla yogurt or Greek yogurt instead of milk, depending on the day. I just didn’t want any commenters worrying that my milk had gone bad!)

American Flatbread’s Vegan Pizza
This is fantastic! American Flatbread makes thin-crust pizzas, and this individual-sized vegan one was just what I wanted. There is a tomato sauce, along with Daiya cheese that is creamy and has just the right mouthfeel. It doesn’t taste quite like cheese, but I really like the taste nonetheless. Great for us lactose-intolerant folks, and even better for those avoiding soy as well! My regular grocery store carries the brand, but not this particular pizza, so I have to go to Whole Foods to get more, but I will. Plus, I love a brand that can make humoristic instructions like the ones you see here (Neolithic method for heating the pizza).

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
I saw this movie recently, about Jiro Ono, who has been making sushi for 75 years, still goes to work every day, and whose restaurant has been awarded three Michelin stars (the highest possible rating). The movie is about his dedication to his craft (he really does dream that he’s making sushi), how he trains his employees (including his two sons), and what people say about his sushi. Now all I can think about is eating a piece of akami (lean tuna) nigiri from that restaurant. And maybe some tamago (Japanese omlet), and I’m even curious about the squid. (Jiro explains that if squid is rubbery or tasteless, it hasn’t been prepared properly; his is massaged for 40 to 50 minutes and served warm, to highlight its taste. I normally don’t like squid, but now I’m curious about his.) I must admit that since I don’t normally like seafood, I wasn’t salivating at the shrimp and mussels and stuff, but darn it if it wasn’t the most beautiful tuna I’d ever seen! There are two locations in Tokyo; reservations must be made at least a month in advance, and prices start at ¥30,000 (with the current exchange rate, that’s about US$330) per person, and Jiro serves about 20 pieces per person. If I ever go to Tokyo, I wonder if I could convince them to just sell me the one piece of tuna before their dinner seating… So Jiro may dream of sushi, but then again, so do I (and I can’t wait for the end of the summer so I can have it again).

For the dogs in your life
I made some dog treats, based on this recipe, which I doled out to Darwin over the holidays (since all the humans were having treats, too). All the ingredients are things that Darwin loves on their own, plus he loves ice cubes, so the mix was irresistible to him; as a matter of fact, he didn’t leave my side as I was making them! Start by mashing a ripe banana with 2 Tbsp. of (ideally natural) peanut butter and 2 Tbsp. of honey. At this point, resist the urge to just turn that into a sandwich for yourself. Add about 1 cup of plain lactose-free yogurt (I used Greek yogurt) and mix well. Spoon into an ice cube tray and freeze for several hours. Dole out cubes as you see fit.

Hurray for long-desired home improvements
We used to have a cast-iron/porcelain double sink in the kitchen. I hated it. It looked decent enough, though it was harder to clean than stainless steel, and I had to put a rubber mat down in one of the bowls to avoid breaking dishes. The double sink meant that I never had enough room in there to soak a pan or baking sheet. We had been meaning to change the sink, but obviously, since everything was perfectly functional, we put it off. Until December, that is, when we realized that the faucet was broken and leaking (in three places, mind you, so it wasn’t worth fixing). I twisted the Engineer’s arm and got a new sink out of it, you know, as long as we were hiring a plumber and doing work in that general area! I was crushed to realize there was not enough room for an undermount sink, but we settled on this one, which has brought me more joy in the past two months than the previous one in two and a half years, even considering that the plumber had to come back yesterday to fix another (minor) leak. In case anyone is thinking of doing the same thing, here are some Kitchn links that sum up the pros and cons of our choices: choosing a sink, undermount sinks, double-bowl sinks (again, we went with oversized single bowl instead), stainless steel (two things to really keep in mind are the gauge and the corners, which will be hard to clean if they’re at right angles), single-handle faucets (I wouldn’t consider anything else), and spray faucets (we have a spray faucet, which I feel is necessary for a sink this big, though it’s not restaurant style). For the record, our sink is a Glacier Bay model from Home Depot, but I believe the new faucet is a Moen.

Getting rid of the cast-iron sink is surprisingly hard, though. Habitat for Humanity does not take sink donation unless they are accompanied by kitchen cabinets, which is not the case here. Our sanitation system does not take such big objects (we technically live right outside San Antonio city limits and are not eligible for their trash disposal program). We’re now trying to see if we can sell it for scrap metal, or perhaps it’d be worth posting on Craigslist…

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Asian Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

I made this easy dish after abstaining from soy for a while, but sometimes, you just have to give in. It was incredibly simple, because I used store-bought broccoli coleslaw and pre-shredded carrots (I’ll have to remember those options after I give birth!). The result is a fresh, light salad, with a dressing that I found perhaps a little too liquid/abundant, but man, it really hit the spot. The Engineer liked it, but I loved it; it was exactly what I wanted that night. I realized only on the second day that I had forgotten to add the peanuts to the salad, but I still had peanut butter in the dressing, so it was all good. The peanuts would add extra crunch, but don’t feel badly if you omit them.

For the dressing
¼ cup honey (or agave)
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce (or wheat-free tamari sauce)
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. peanut butter (I like Skippy Natural)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. sriracha sauce (optional)
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced or grated

For the slaw
4 cups prepared shredded coleslaw (I used broccoli coleslaw)
2 cups prepared shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup cooked and shelled edamame
2 medium scallions, finely sliced
½ cup chopped salted peanuts (or you can leave them whole)
½ cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro

Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir until the peanut butter is dissolved. Set aside.

Combine all of the slaw ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss well. Let sit at least ten minutes so vegetables have a chance to soak up the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary Serve cold or at room temperature.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Batch of links - The long version

- I feel like I can’t post this batch of links without addressing Pastagate, which had all of Quebec abuzz this week. In a nutshell, Quebec has an organization called the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), which Anglophones lovingly refer to as the language police. The OQLF’s website is a goldmine of terminology, glossaries, grammatical rules, tips for speaking/writing better French, etc. The OQLF also has the mission of protecting and promoting the French language in Quebec, where it is the only official language but is often encroached upon by English. So for example, if a store wants to do business in Quebec, as the provincial law mandates, the OQLF is there to make sure that it can conduct its business in French (English and other languages are allowed, of course, as long as French is prominently displayed on signs and instruction manuals, and services in French can be offered). The cost and hassle of all this translation is the main reason that so many international chains are reluctant to open locations in Quebec, even though they will often invoke other, non-plausible, reasons (*cough* Whole Foods *cough*). But the OQLF has the mandate to investigate any complaints made by the public, so sometimes that gives them a bad rep.

Allow me a moment to give you some context. The two examples that are most referenced in our household are the Anglo parrot and the Irish pub decoration. In the first case, some assclown was in a pet store and complained to the OQLF that a parrot in the store spoke English, not French. In the second case, some douchecanoe complained that an Irish pub had 19th-century beer ads in English on its walls, without a French equivalent. In both cases, the OQLF had no choice but to investigate, and this made the news. People, Anglophones in particular, went ape shit. But here’s the important thing: in both cases, the OQLF ruled that the complaints were unfounded. The language spoken by a parrot is irrelevant, and since the ads in the Irish pub were clearly decorative and not really advertising products actually sold by the pub, they were fine in keeping with the theme of the establishment. Cases dismissed. So the OQLF unfairly gets a bad rep for things like that, even when it’s the one to act reasonably.

That being said, here’s what happened with Pastagate: the OQLF investigated Buonanotte, a very successful restaurant that’s been in business for over 20 years, and fined them for having Italian on their menu. As in, “Pasta” as a menu header, or “polpette” and “calamari” as names of dishes, instead of a word translated into French – even though all the dishes had French descriptions. I freaked out, and I don’t know of a single person, including Francophones, who agrees with this decision! It’s been pointed out to me that it’s a direct application of section 51 of the Charte de la langue française, but it’s obvious to me that the OQLF watchdog was not using any common sense whatsoever in this case. To me, this is a cultural issue, not a linguistic one. So what if a menu says Pasta, Antipasti, Zuppa, Insalata? Does anyone have trouble understanding the menu if the descriptions are in the official language of the province? We also say pizza, sushi, injera, taco, kebab, samosa, hummus, hot dog (even in French) and many other things to describe dishes that are originally foreign to our culture. The correct term is often the one in the original language, and even when a translation or paraphrase can be cooked up, it usually chips away at the authenticity of the meal. So anyway, luckily the minister responsible for the French language at the government level wondered publicly whether this was an acceptable application of the Charter. There was a lot of public backlash, of course, along with many wonderful tweets on the subject (look up the hashtag “pastagate” on Twitter). And as of yesterday, it appears that the OQLF is backing down. They might ask that changes be made to the menu regarding font size of the French language, but not necessarily elimination of the Italian language (a petty complaint, but one that is more reasonable than its previous position).

I’m a Francophone, and a linguist at that, and I’ll be the first one to say that in this case, it was complete overkill. I can only hope that the OQLF has learned from this incident and won’t repeat the same mistake with another establishment down the road.

- A quick word about metrication in Canada, because I understand how weird it can seem to Americans. Canada used to have the imperial system of measurement until the mid-1970s, when it switched to the International System of Units (SI). As a result, Canada now has somewhat of a hybrid system, where we use the SI on paper but, in many situations, we use imperial units or American units in parallel. I was taught the SI in school, and I love how precise it is and how easy it is to convert from one unit to another. For example, 1 km is 1,000 m; 1 liter of water is 1,000 milliliters or 1,000 cubic centimeters, and it weighs 1 kg. Water freezes at 0 °Celsius and boils at 100 °Celsius. But trying to convert feet to miles is just a clustercuss! That being said, I still use both systems, just in different contexts. I’ll talk about a person’s height and weight in feet/inches and pounds instinctively, even though I’ll understand the SI equivalents, but I understand distances better in kilometers than in miles. I’ll think of the temperature outside in Celsius, but of temperature in the oven in Fahrenheit (although I am making an effort to get a feel for ambient temperatures here in Fahrenheit, since that’s how it’s going to be in the foreseeable future, but I still think of Canadian winter temperatures in Celsius and have trouble figuring out negative Fahrenheit degrees, with the exception of -40). Driving speed is not really an issue: I just look at the speed limit posted and then at the dashboard in the car, without ever bothering to figure out how fast I’m going in the other system of units. A few more tidbits: 5 things you didn’t know about the metric system; plus, did you realize that the official kilo is getting heavier? It doesn’t affect the way the unit is used in the world, but it’s still a weighty problem (pardon the pun).

- I have eaten foie gras, though I must confess I don’t really enjoy it. I was fascinated to read this Serious Eats article, though, which explains why foie gras is not always as unethical as one might think (though it’s still well worth it to look for foie from an ethical farm). And yet I’m still happy that California banned its production, even though apparently that was only one of the three farms in the country… Dan Barber also gave an awesome TED Talk on the humane and sustainable production of foie gras without gavage, and he’s trying to produce more humane foie gras himself. By the way, there is an alternative referred to as vegan “foie gras", which is actually a type of marinated tofu that I’d love to taste someday.

- Remember Pete Wells’ scathing review of Guy Fieri’s New York restaurant? This article explains how, despite the possible validity of the review, it has devolved into a division between blue state and red state, between the stereotypical people with refined taste and most of middle-class America – although the critic did say specifically that the kind of middle-class food Fieri raves about on his show was treated with very little respect at his restaurant. While I haven’t eaten there and therefore can’t comment on the validity of the criticism, I do think it’s a fair point to make, and not an elitist one at that; it’s just the tone of the review that I find particularly mean. I also enjoyed this article about culinary elitism in general. It points out, rightly, that not only are Anthony Bourdain and Paula Deen (another famous feud) perceived very differently because of the type of food they recommend, but that the same principle applies to restaurants: a side of bacon next to pancakes is gluttony (though delicious), while pork belly in a bun is high art – but not radically different and certainly not healthier! So there is a certain degree of hypocrisy at work, even when accounting for the fact that certain “gourmet” foods are simply not attainable for many people. Snobbery won’t make people eat better (healthier/tastier) food. That being said, I think it was dishonest of Paula Deen to peddle her food to the masses when she knew about the correlation between her eating habits and the type 2 diabetes from which she secretly suffered for years. Even now, she prefers to endorse a medication to manage her condition as well as her food, instead of really addressing the root causes of the disease (and she waited for the endorsement deal before going public with the diabetes), and that’s what bothers me more than the food itself.

- Did you know that the fruits and vegetables we eat today are less nutritious and less flavorful than those grown 50 years ago? Heirloom varieties really do taste better, it appears; not to mention that some scientists have proven that grocery-store tomatoes are so tasteless in part because they are red!

- I know that home-grown tomatoes taste far better than grocery-store tomatoes, and yet I still buy the latter on occasion. Like strawberries (just speaking taste-wise and not thinking about how many pesticides they contain), even though I’m never as happy with berries as I am when I pick them myself in Quebec in the summer. What many people don’t realize, though, is that grocery-store tomatoes come at a horrendous human price. Not only are most tomato pickers treated poorly, working long hours in harsh conditions (including exposure to pesticides that cause health problems) and earning below minimum wage, not to mention having deplorable living conditions, many of them are actually slaves. As in, held against their will and routinely chained so they don’t escape at night, beaten if they don’t work, and sold from one farmer to another. Some experts say that any North American who has bought a tomato at a store or eaten one at a restaurant has, at some point, indirectly supported slavery. Some food bloggers are taking a stand, and there are grocery stores that make sure their produce is slavery-free (like Whole Foods, to name just one). You can also send a letter to major American grocery store chains to inform them of the problem and to encourage them to join the Fair Food Program. This problem unfortunately isn’t limited to just tomatoes. There are ways to calculate the slavery footprint of your kitchen or, really, that of your possessions, with this quiz. I took the quiz, and apparently, 44 slaves work for our household! They mostly made some electronics and clothes, and maybe our car. Needless to say, I’m appalled by that number, and I must admit to feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things that are made either by slaves or in inhumane conditions. I don’t even know where to start correcting the problem, because it’s certainly not like things come with a label telling you how many slaves made it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

I’ve had a lot of hit-or-miss recipes for breakfast lately. My carrot-ginger muffins were a surprise because I wanted lemon-ginger muffins, but they were actually pretty good. I adapted a recipe for pull-apart cinnamon sugar muffins a while ago, because we had a bunch of cinnamon sugar left over from one of the Engineer’s cookie recipes, but it was really sweet and, overall, not to my taste. I also tried pancake squares, but found them too fluffy and quite bland, really not as good as regular pancakes. But then I stumbled upon this Meyer lemon blueberry baked oatmeal recipe on Prevention RD and it hit the spot! It’s made with whole grains, so it’s filing and healthy, and it’s delicious on its own or with maple syrup drizzled on top. It only calls for one Meyer lemon, too, though you won’t taste it much and could use a regular lemon without changing the quantities of the other ingredients. The recipe makes 6 reasonable servings.

This recipe used up the 10th lemon from our dwarf tree in the backyard (three for Meyer lemon frozen cream, four for a Shaker pie and two for a loaf cake, plus one for this oatmeal). I’ve still got a few lemons to use up, so maybe I’ll try a coffee cake next.

1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
2 cups lactose-free milk (skim milk is fine)
2 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I used safflower oil)
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with non-stick spray.

Zest lemon; set lemon zest aside. In a bowl, combine milk and juice from the zested lemon to make “buttermilk”.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, salt, spices and lemon zest.

In a small bowl, whisk together the “buttermilk”, oil, eggs and sugar.

Spoon half the oat mixture into the baking dish, then half the blueberries. Add the remaining oat mixture and scatter the remaining blueberries on the top, pressing them in slightly. Pour the milk mixture over the oatmeal-blueberry mixture and place the dish in the oven.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the mixture is a light golden brown along the edges and the center has set up. Serve warm ideally, but cold if you must.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Saveur's Best Damn Meyer Lemon Cake

After making my Meyer lemon frozen cream, I wanted to keep going with Meyer lemon desserts, so I made this Shaker pie with four Meyer lemons. I’ve made and enjoyed Shaker lemon tarts before (though the last ones didn’t turn out too well), but this one had the distinction of being a double-crust pie, which I’d never had in lemon flavor before. Plus, I had a mandoline to slice the lemons, so my job was much easier this time. I found the filling to be a bit too liquid, though I enjoyed the taste, as it had enough lemon to balance out the sugar. The Engineer, however, didn’t like the lemon slices. He enjoyed the part where the lemony filling, almost like custard, met the crust, but did not enjoy the lemon slices themselves at all. When I said he should think of it as marmalade, he said that he actually pushes the zest and rinds out of the way in that, too. So there you go, it’s not for everyone.

Then I tried this Meyer lemon loaf cake, which I found on Food Gal, though it is originally from Saveur magazine. And yes, they actually do call it “the best damn Meyer lemon cake.” The recipe said that the batter would be very thin, but mine was not thin at all! It was in fact quite thick, so I was afraid I would have a repeat of this peach yogurt cake with cinnamon glaze I made a while back (good idea in theory, but super thick and dense in practice). Luckily, though, the Meyer lemon loaf came out just fine, after 50 minutes in the oven. Once the loaf is baked, you cover it with a warm syrup made with Meyer lemon juice and sugar, then let it soak in for a while. You’re supposed to invert the loaf out of the pan, invert it again so it’s right-side-up, and wrap it in plastic wrap for 24 hours. I was afraid I’d spill some syrup that hadn’t been soaked up yet, so I ended up putting plastic wrap right on the pan and left the whole thing in there, only inverting it after 24 hours. That’s what I would recommend (and apparently, so does the food stylist at Saveur). It was actually a little dryer than I thought, because the syrup had only been soaked up by the edges and not by the entire loaf cake, but man, were the edges good! It was a good cake for desserts, breakfast and snacks, and the Engineer declared it an awesome loaf. If you still have Meyer lemons, give it a try! You could also try it with regular lemons, but you’d need to up the sugar a little.

1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, plus 8 Tbsp. melted (I used vegan margarine)
2 Tbsp. fine dry bread crumbs
½ cup whole blanched almonds
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. fine salt
1 1/3 cups plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 eggs
½ cup lactose-free milk, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. lemon extract
zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a light-colored metal loaf pan (8 ½ x 4 ½ inches) with 1 Tbsp. of the butter and dust it with bread crumbs. Invert and tap out excess crumbs; set aside.

In a food processor, grind almonds until very fine, about 1 minute; set aside.

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

Put remaining butter into a large bowl and add 1 cup of the sugar. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just long enough to incorporate, about 30 seconds. Add flour mixture and milk mixture in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until mixed after each addition, scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, about 3 minutes total. Mix in the lemon extract. With the spatula, fold in lemon zest and ground almonds. (The mixture is supposed to be thin, according to the original recipe, but as I said, mine was quite thick.) Turn batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and dry, about 65 minutes. (Since my batter was so thick, I checked on the loaf earlier, and it was done after 50 minutes in the oven, but not quite done at 45 minutes.)

Transfer pan to a cooling rack. Prepare the glaze by combining remaining sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and cooking, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes (Do not boil.) Brush glaze over hot cake. (The excess liquid may pool along the sides of the pan; it will absorb completely as it sits.) Once the cake has absorbed all the liquid, turn it out of the pan with the aid of a sheet of parchment paper. Turn cake right-side up on a rack, and remove parchment. Once it’s cool, wrap the cake with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for 24 hours before serving. (As stated, if you feel like leaving the cake in the pan for the whole 24 hours, I think that’s fine too; just cover the top with plastic wrap and unmold it when you’re ready to serve.)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Batch of links

- Chef Curtis Duffy’s story of how cooking helped him escape a turbulent childhood, with a few interactive graphics like in that avalanche story. As much as I admire chefs like him, I’m also glad I didn’t marry a workaholic.

- 37 people who are worse at cooking than you. While some of these mishaps could be blamed on poor equipment or flawed recipes, there are also some pretty epic fails of human origin in there! And also, 20 hilarious Pinterest fails.

- A nice article about how social media help grow business for Jimmy Beans Wool, the company I buy most of my yarn from (I can’t say enough good things about them).

- In an ongoing tournament of cookbooks, a couple of bloggers I like reviewed two books with recipes for vegetables and confirmed my prior impression of Dirt Candy (i.e., the home cook won’t deal with that many steps, so while the recipes are engaging and all, they are not practical).

- Have you wondered how many people have been killed by guns in the U.S. since Newtown? As of today, the answer is 1,833 (see this awesome interactive map for details). And here’s an article titled Confessions of a Liberal Gun Owner that I found interesting. I’m sure I’ll stop talking about guns soon, or at least, I hope so.

- How Forks Gave Us Overbites and Pots Saved the Toothless, a really interesting read about how new technologies in cooking have altered human beings.

- Remember how you can get a tax write-off for being gluten-free? Well, now gluten intolerance has been classified as a disability. It’ll be interesting to see how the food service industry reacts!

- How to make an artful sandwich. There are some really good ideas in there!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Simple comme un pesto d'hiver

J’essaie de cuisiner pas trop compliqué ces temps-ci, surtout par manque d’envie et d’énergie (malgré que ça commence à aller mieux maintenant). J’essaie aussi d’être économe en utilisant les restes d’ingrédients que j’ai déjà. C’est comme ça que j’ai fait une soupe aux tomates avec le reste de mes tomates du jardin, servie avec grilled cheese oignons-cheddar fort gallois-pesto. C’était bon, mais pas du tout photogénique (soupe aux tomates sur nappe rouge avec éclairage artificiel?). J’ai aussi utilisé mon reste de choucroute an adaptant la recette de choucroute garnie à l’Alsacienne de Claudia Roden (sans le vin et sans les baies de genièvre, mais avec un peu de bouillon de légumes à la place), servie avec pommes de terres et saucisses de poulet précuites. C’était ma première choucroute, et c’était meilleur que je pensais, mais on admettra que c’est également loin d’être photogénique comme plat!

J’ai alors fait ce pesto aux verdures hivernales avec du chou vert frisé (kale). L’été, je ne me serais pas posé de questions et j’aurais pris des poignées de basilic du jardin. L’hiver, par contre, ça devient cher en paquet d’herbes de l’épicerie… Alors voilà, utilisons une autre verdure! On peut y aller avec de la roquette ou des épinards, ou encore de la bette à carde, si on veut. Comme noix, j’avais des amandes effilées, que j’ai fait griller un peu à la poêle. Et c’était absolument délicieux! J’ai adoré le goût de l’ail et l’acidité du jus de citron, c’était vraiment parfait. Je me suis resservie une fois, et l’Ingénieur, deux! J’ai mis environ le tiers du pesto au congélateur pour une autre fois, alors je dirais que cette recette en fait assez pour environ 6 portions de pâtes (à peu près 1 ½ tasse en tout).

Pour ceux et celles qui voudraient agrémenter : les saucisses italiennes sont bien sûr de mise, mais si vous voulez une version végétarienne pour un plat de pâtes au pesto, nous avons beaucoup aimé par le passé les Meatless Breakfast Links de Boca (qui contiennent des produits laitiers, des œufs, du soya et du blé, mais pas de lactose à proprement parler).

½ tasse de noix hachées (noix de Grenoble, amandes, pacanes, au choix)
8 oz. de chou vert frisé, lavé, tiges enlevées et haché
1 tasse de parmesan râpé
½ tasse d’huile d’olive extra-vierge de bonne qualité
4 gousses d’ail, hachées
2 c. à thé de jus de citron
1 c. à thé de sel (j’en ai mis moins)
½ c. à thé de poivre

Faire griller les noix (je préfère y aller avec une poêle, à sec, mais vous pouvez aussi les mettre au four à 350 °F pendant 10 minutes).

Pendant ce temps, amener un gros chaudron d’eau à ébullition et préparer un grand bol d’eau glacée. Mettre le chou vert frisé haché dans l’eau bouillante et mélanger doucement, jusqu’à ce que le chou ramollisse (il doit quand même rester vert), quelques minutes tout au plus. Drainer le chou vert frisé et le plonger dans l’eau glacée. Drainer de nouveau, puis placer le chou sur un linge propre et l’éponger doucement.

Mettre les noix, le chou vert frisé, le parmesan, l’huile d’olive, l’ail, le jus de citron, le sel et le poivre dans un robot culinaire et activer jusqu’à l’obtention d’une consistance uniforme. On peut ajouter un peu d’huile d’olive ou d’eau (idéalement l’eau de cuisson des pâtes, si c’est l’accompagnement choisi) pour obtenir une consistance plus lisse.

Le pesto est délicieux servi avec des pâtes, mais peut bien sûr être servi avec autre chose, comme en sandwich ou mélangé à des légumes. Il se conserve quelques jours au frigo ou peut être congelé quelque mois.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Carrot-Ginger Muffins

I got this recipe from – surprise! – What To Expect. They were originally called lemon-ginger muffins, and sounded like just what I needed to calm the queasiness. Plus, I found them very interesting because they don’t call for any cane sugar, just white grape juice concentrate! However, they also call for 1 cup of grated carrots. The resulting muffins, while good, didn’t taste like lemons and barely tasted like ginger, but the carrots were definitely present, so I changed the name to adjust expectations accordingly. I did like the result, though, and it was satisfying that the Engineer called them “little bundles of goodness.” I’ll keep this recipe ratio in mind if I decide to experiment with natural sugars, too!

1 cup whole-wheat flour (I used ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour and ½ cup white whole wheat flour)
¼ cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
¼ cup rolled oats
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ cup chopped pecans (I didn’t use them)
1 cup white grape juice concentrate
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tsp. minced lemon zest
1 cup grated carrot

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line a standard-size muffin tin with paper liners. (I needed 18 in all.)

In large bowl, combine the whole-wheat flour, flaxseed, oats, ground ginger, and baking soda. Stir in nuts, if using.

In medium bowl, combine juice concentrate, eggs, oil, vanilla, fresh ginger, and lemon zest. Whisk to blend. Add the juice mixture to the flour mixture, and stir gently just until the batter is smooth and well blended; do not overmix. Gently fold in carrots.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin tin. Bake about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes. Remove muffins from tin; let cool completely. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days or individually wrapped in plastic wrap (and then in an airtight container or freezer bag) and frozen for a month.

Warming winter grain salad

This recipe is adapted from My New Roots. I couldn’t find wheat berries, so I used farro instead, but I think quinoa would be good too; I also used 2 shallots instead of a red onion, and to tame their bite, I roasted them with the carrots. I omitted the olives, and while I threw in some walnuts, you could omit the nuts if you are so inclined. And you know what? I’m in love with this salad. It was exactly what I wanted! I used 1 ¼ cups of farro, which gave 4 small servings.

For the salad
2 cups wheat berries
7 – 9 carrots (a 1-lb. bag)
1 small red onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic
vegetable oil of choice
½ cup dark raisins or chopped dates
2 tsp. sea salt
flat leaf parsley
½ cup almonds, pecans or walnuts (optional)

For the dressing
1 ½ lemons – juice and zest
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. raw honey or agave
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
pinch of sea salt

If possible, soak wheat berries overnight or for 8+ hours. Otherwise, rinse wheat berries well until the water is clear. Measure 6 cups water and add to a large pot with wheat berries. Add 1 tsp. sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer until cooked, approx. 1 hour. (If using another grain, like farro or quinoa, follow the directions on the package.)

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Wash and slice carrots lengthwise from top to bottom, then again once more on each half. Then slice the carrot across widthwise so you have eight carrots slices.

Mince garlic and combine with oil. Drizzle over carrots and onion slices and toss to coat on a baking sheet. Season with 1 tsp. salt. Place in oven. Roast for 15-20 minutes (I left them in 25 minutes), or until golden and slightly caramelized.

Make dressing by combining all ingredients and whisking well.

Remove wheat berries from heat, drain and rinse under cool water (you will know they are cooked when some of the berries have split open. They will still be very chewy). Combine wheat berries with dressing, raisins, olives, and chopped parsley. Let sit and marinate for as long as possible, or fold in the carrots as soon as they are roasted to your liking. Serve warm or cold, garnished with roughly chopped almonds and a grind of fresh black pepper.