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Foodie Tuesday: Weird but good - Kale chips
May 9th, 2011 by Nancy

That's Gabriel Gil, the local (and state) Iron Chef winner 2010, on the right

Last summer my family attended a local festival where the Iron Chef of Oregon regional cook off was underway.  My daughter looked on the chefs on the stage like they were rock stars!   As we were standing around watching the cleanup (my daughter thinks watching other people clean up from cooking is interesting, but doing it is not) one of the chefs offered us kale chips left behind from her plated masterpiece.  They sounded weird and looked the part as well, but were light, crispy, and absolutely delicious.


I found the recipe today at whatscookingwithkids.com from their Earth Day post, and it is slightly more difficult than ripping open a bag of junky chips.  Even that low level of difficulty is entirely offset by the lack of guilt borne of eating kale, rather than chips, by the handful.

A little more researched uncovered many recipes for these, and they’re all the same.  So are most of the comments, all variations on this – “Wow. Really. These are GREAT.”

Assuming they aren’t all gone, they pack up and travel well for lunch to boot.

Here is the recipe:


One bunch of kale, any kind

Olive oil

Salt (I used sea salt, but anything works)


Wash, if needed, and dry the kale. Note that it’s helpful for leaves be dry, as they may otherwise steam and not get crispy.

Hold each leaf by its thick stem. Pinch the base of the leaf with the fingers of the other hand and slide them up the stem. This will separate the leaves from the stem. Place the leaves in a large bowl, tearing the larger pieces into bite sized chunks as you go.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then toss them with clean hands until the pieces are coated.  Don’t over-salt like I did – use it only to enhance, not dominate.

Place the leaves in a single layer on a parchment- or silicone mat-covered baking sheet. Yes you may crowd them (they shrink with cooking) but no you may not overlap them much (they’ll stick together, then steam and not get crispy).

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes.  They will look mostly flat and limp, but they will be light, crispy wonders.

Kale+recipes+healthy

Great photo of kale chips thanks to natalieskillercuisine.com

The weirdness continues: Kids LOVE these. They will eat more kale in one sitting than I’ve probably eaten in my lifetime, then ask for more.

Variations on a theme: Try them with cracked pepper; Seasoned salt of any kind (again only to enhance); Add a little apple cider or balsamic vinegar with the oil; How about minced garlic and/or red pepper? Try grated parmesan with the finished goods.  As with most good recipes, this one is infinitely versatile to suit your own tastes – let me know what you try!

Oh! gotta go – the oven timer’s going off…for my third sheet of chips today….

Foodie Tuesday: gluten-free "granola" bars
May 3rd, 2011 by Nancy

IMG00283-20110503-1225My husband was diagnosed as gluten intolerant about 11 years ago, which means that he is allergic to wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt.

Naturally, this topic often comes up when we’re dining with new acquaintances (as all our old ones already know), and we’ve found that it gets, um, awkward when they start asking about the symptoms of gluten intolerance.

The awkward part is that the symptoms of gluten intolerance aren’t something anyone would like to discuss over a meal with friends (much less new acquaintances), so we’ve come up with a few code words. 

When asked “what happens if you do eat gluten by accident?”, we reply,

“Intestinal distress. Sudden, acute, intestinal distress.”

Forks pause (if only briefly) as our new acquaintances grasp our meaning, and also grasp that they probably didn’t want to know that over a plate of something yummy.

Anyway, the up side to gluten intolerance (in our household, anyway) is that I can probably attribute to it my love and appreciation of all things food.  I’ve found a world of great recipes, tricks, and substitutions I never would have otherwise, and this week’s Foodie Tuesday is one of those finds.

Until recently, finding gluten free options in a regular grocery store was challenging.  It’s thankfully much easier now as food manufacturers are creating and releasing new GF products all the time, but we always return to this basic tenet:

Homemade

Tastes

Better.

In a pinch, we’ll get the packaged goods; our earthquake kit has lots of cans and boxes that we rarely see in the regular mealtime rotation.  The rest of the time, we start from scratch.

This “granola” bar is a riff off a no-bake peanut butter bar we found in a gluten-free cookbook that was, in the early days of gluten-free living, our bible: Gluten Free Gourmet, by Bette Hagman. 

the original recipe goes like this:

Combine and heat in a saucepan until bubbly:

1 C dark corn syrup

1 C chunky peanut butter

1 C sugar

Combine in a large bowl:

6 C gluten free puffed or crisped rice cereal

1 C raisins

Pour the hot mixture over the dry, combine thoroughly, and press into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Allow to cool, and cut into bars.

Simple, yes?  The base of the recipe looks just like a Rice Krispie square, i.e. sticky goo poured over dry cereal.  To turn this into “granola” bars, all you need to remember is the proportions, thusly:

3 C goo to 7 C dry

 

The goo:

1 C peanut, almond, or other nut butter   This is for protein, substance, heft, flavor, etc. for the finished bar.

1 C corn syrup   Light or dark, per your preference or your current inventory.

1 C sugar

Combine these three in a saucepan, and heat until bubbly.  You may add, if it works for you, seasonings:

1 t cinnamon,

1/2 t nutmeg,

1/4 t allspice, cloves, etc.

1/2 t vanilla, almond extract, maple flavoring, etc.

The dry stuff:

4 1/2 to 5 C cereal   We usually use a combination of Mesa Sunrise cereal (which I crush lightly so the flakes are about the size of dry oatmeal flakes), and Crispy Rice, a gluten free dry rice ceral.  Corn or Rice Chex also work.  The goal here is something dry with a nice crunch, as it will soften somewhat when combined with the goo.

2 to 2 1/2 C “add-ins”   This is entirely up to you and your cupboards.  I usually use about one to 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, cut into raisin-sized bits if necessary – raisins, cranberries, cherries, pineapple, banana, apple, mango, whatever suits your tastes.  The rest of the add-ins can be seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin), any nuts you like, coconut, chocolate chips (mini work well here).

Mix the dry and the add-ins, pour the goo over the dry mix and combine (it will get stiff pretty quickly), and press the mixture into a greased 9 by 13″ pan.  Allow it to cool to room temperature and slice into bars.

These travel like champs (especially in lunchboxes), will keep for ages in the freezer, and are a marvelous treat for the celiacs in your life, but I love most that this recipe allows me to use up the last of many things that lurk in little bags in the back of the kitchen cabinets.   I mean to try a few “thematic” combinations:

Dried mango, pineapple, and coconut, with pecans (a tropical bar) (Hey! how ’bout rum extract in this one!)

Chocolate chips, almonds, coconut (sounds like a familiar candy bar….)

cinnamon, nutmeg, dried apple, cranberry, walnut (autumn special)

Throw some suggestions on the wall (also known as “comments”) below!

 

p.s. Thanks, Mike.  You’re my inspiration.

Foodie Tuesday: what to do with all the hardboiled eggs
Apr 26th, 2011 by Nancy

egg salad samI’ve got a fridge full of them,’you?

Today’s Foodie Tuesday entry offers up a quick and simple, kind, easy twist on the soggy mush of bad-egg-salad-on-soggy-white-bread: a sliced hard boiled egg with provolone, a tomato slice, sprouts, and herbed mayo on a lightly toasted English muffin. It’s brought to you by kokomama and inspired by a breakfast she noshed when working at a cafe in college.

Substitution ideas abound: no provolone in the fridge? Try havarti; tomatoes are all gone? Soak and mince sundried tomatoes, or use the marinated-in-a-jar kind. No sprouts? Any greens would probably work well, and I think I might make use of the dandelion greens in my back yard.

Note to all you Lunchsense users: this shows off several features of your lunchbox, one obvious and one not so much.  The obvious one is that the ice pack will keep this egg and mayo-laden treat fresh and cool for hours; the lesser-known (but no less valuable) feature is that since the food containers hold a sandwich in the same orientation as when it’s sitting on a plate, the sandwich guts don’t slide out from between the bread slices on your way to work.  Lunch looks just as good when you open up the containers as when you made the lunch.

Next up: a healthy, refreshing sandwich that makes use of all the leftover jelly beans.
Ha, I wish.
Foodie Tuesday: Marinated Flank steak
Apr 19th, 2011 by Nancy
Flank steak. Yum.

Flank steak. Yum.

We bought half a cow last week.

If you haven’t looked into buying a part of or a whole farm animal, I’d like to endorse the practice.  We started by buying half a hog from a co-worker of my husband’s about 15 years ago, and have repeated the process several times in the last decade.

I’ll save the particulars of bulk meat buying for another day, but I wanted to mention it because of my favorite cut, the flank steak.  It’s not the tenderest cut by far, but I have an old family recipe that sends me back to my childhood every time we serve it up.  Besides, flank makes a yummy dinner one day and an even better steak sandwich, in your lunchbox, the next day.

By the way, if you’ve ever bought “London broil” at the grocery store, you probably got flank steak or top round.  London broil is a cooking method to make the best of a tasty-but-tough cut, and that’s exactly what this recipe does.

Note that the recipe probably came into my life in the late 60’s and some of the ingredients (ketchup, vegetable oil) reflect it.  I’m sure, in its day, it bordered on exotic: garlic! soy sauce! no salt (soy sauce notwithstanding)! More than an 1/8th teaspoon pepper! An actual spice!  That said, it works exceedingly well, is simplicity itself, and never fails to wow family and guests alike.

Here’s the recipe.  Simple, accessible, delicious:

Marinated Flank

Combine:

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 C soy sauce (or tamari, per your preference)

2 T ketchup (any brand will do)

2 T vegetable oil

1 t ground pepper

1 t dried oregano

Pour over a two to three lb. flank steak, refrigerate and let marinate 4-12 hours. Grill over or broil under high heat to your liking (though this less-than-tender cut does best if grilled no more than medium rare – 140 degrees), then remove the steak and allow to rest 10 minutes.  Slice thinly across the grain and serve.

Hoard the leftovers (if any), and serve on a hoagie roll for lunch the next day.

Foodie Tuesday: Hummus
Apr 12th, 2011 by Nancy

hummusSuch a simple thing, hummus.  Fun to say, fun to type, too: hummushummushummus

Every time I have hummus I have a minor-league epiphany:

Oh! This is great! I love hummus! I should have this more often!

Then I forget about it for another 6 months, only to have the insight all over again when it crosses my path.

I found this recipe and thought it offered everything I could hope for: a great basic recipe with lovely, creative adornments and embellishments, and it’s all packable for a tasty lunch.

Brought to you by Jacqueline Pham at Pham Fatale, the basic recipe is made from easily accessible ingredients: chickpeas, cumin, garlic (though she suggested pickled shallots, which sound great), lemon juice & zest, and toasted sesame seeds (though I suspect premade tahini would substitute reasonably well).

The magic begins when she whips heavy cream, adds toasted sesame oil, and folds it into the hummus just before serving. Zowie.

Thanks to Jacqueline’s fine teaching and presentation skills, you can learn how to roast the red bell peppers that pair so nicely with hummus, discover what “verrines” are, consider alternatives to the standard issue pita for the hummus-delivery-system, and know what to do if you’re out of sesame seeds.  Check it out.

Foodie Tuesday: Dulce de Leche Brownies
Apr 5th, 2011 by Nancy

Dulce-Brownies-300x275Oh, there’s so much to share, and Tuesday comes but once a week!

Chocolate. Butter. Sugar. Nuts, or no nuts. Finger food, and two-bite sized.  Honest, sublime, homey, decadent, simple, sophisticated: brownies may be the all-time perfect treat.

Besides, Foodie Tuesday was due for a sugar fix.

Here’s an offering for Foodie Tuesday that may actually improve upon perfection: chocolate brownies with a sweet gooey layer of dulce de leche in the middle.  This brownie recipe is a time-honored classic that I’ve made dozens of times (even in gluten-free flour; all I add is a little xanthan gum to keep them from falling apart in my hands), and thanks to David Lebovitz and brought to my attention at babble.com, the addition of dulce de leche is simple and effective. Best of all, for those of you in the lunch-carrying corps, these are eminently packable and sure to draw longing stares from your coworkers.

dulce brownies 2

If you like that kind of thing.  It’s your call.

Unfamiliar with dulce de leche?  Here’s another link from David with the recipe.  Easy as can be: one ingredient, a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Enjoy!

Plastic: too good to throw away?
Mar 31st, 2011 by Nancy

book_plastic_greyI came across this article at the grow and make blog, and just had to bring it to your attention.

It echoes a sentiment of mine that’s been growing and developing with this lunchbox biz, which goes like this: Plastics are a useful, valuable resource created from another useful, valuable, infinitely malleable resource – oil.  We’ve all heard that plastics are going to be around for hundreds or thousands of years, which is why I’m appalled that we are churning out items of plastic that are meant to be used once and disposed – plastic packaging, for example.  According to the author Susan Freinkel, half our plastics production is for single-use “disposable” items.

Please read the article, and if you can find the time, read the book, which comes out April 18.

Plastics – a Toxic Love Story – I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Foodie Tuesday: The Pioneer Woman's Spicy Peanut Pasta Salad
Mar 29th, 2011 by Nancy

PIONEERWOMANI make the lunchbox.  YOU make the lunch.

Foodie Tuesday, week two: Where would I be without you, Pioneer Woman Cooks?

If you haven’t come across this site by Ree Drummond, you’re in for a treat – this gal loves food, cooking, good photography and her family (and much more), and rolls them all together into a website that keeps surprising and entertaining us with every visit.  When I need a delicious, comforting meal, her site is often my first stop.  My chef-in-the-making daughter browses her site partly for inspiration and partly for sheer entertainment; little does she realize, though, that in Ree’s hands she’s getting a head start on her cooking education as Ree photographs every single step along the way.

Do note: fat is her friend.  Butter is a food group, not a condiment, in Ree’s kitchen.  The results are worth it, but it takes some time to get used to measuring the stuff by the stick, not the teaspoon. Note also that her portion sizes run to the “cattle rancher” sized, especially since that’s just who she’s cooking for – she and her husband are in rural Oklahoma, where they ranch and homeschool their four children.  Whew, it makes me weak-kneed just writing that sentence.  Anyway, adjust her portions accordingly.

Now to hone in on a recipe from her site…I’m aiming for something that cooks up easily, packs up nicely in a Lunchsense lunchbox, serves well at any temperature, and is mouth-wateringly tasty to boot.  I think I’ve found it:

SPICY PEANUT PASTA SALAD

Spicy-Peanut-Pasta-Salad

Spicy Peanut Pasta salad: click the photo for the recipe.

Here we have peanut+garlic+sesame+sweet/sour effects of vinegar and brown sugar, blended and dressing room-temperature linguine and garnished with cilantro.

What I love about this recipe is that it barely breaks a sweat in the prep department: boil noodles, make sauce in blender, pour over noodles.  I also like that it starts with a solid base (the peanut sauce) made from readily available components, but it’s infinitely adjustable depending on the current inventory in the kitchen and preferences of the diners.  Outa red chile oil?  Not a problem, use…a little chili pepper, maybe, for heat, or possibly red chile paste.   No cilantro?  Sure, coarsely grate some carrots and/or cabbage and it’ll be fine.  Toss in bean sprouts or steamed pea pods if they’re around, it’ll be great.

To complete the meal Ree served it up with sliced roasted beef tenderloin and roasted asparagus – note that both of these other dishes are great served hot or cold, making them perfect lunchtime companions to the pasta salad.  They aren’t essential, though, and if you have another combo that works I’d love to hear about it!

Portlanders: Better Living for you!
Mar 17th, 2011 by Nancy

BLS posterDo tell, oh neighbors-to-the- north: does the new program Portlandia change the way you refer to yourselves? Are you now Portlandians, or do you remain Portlanders?

My husband and I lived in Portland for about 7 years.  Our daughter was born in there (okay, Milwaukie, technically). We moved to Bend for a lovely 18 month period, where our first son was born.  We moved to Eugene thereafter, where our second son was born.

We’re not moving anymore.

I will be making the trek at the end of this month to the Expo Center in Portland for the Better Living Show, which (if the last couple years is any measure) is bound to be a great time.

Many good reasons to go….

Food samples!

Admission is free, and here’s why: the Better Living Show organizers want to counter the impression that “green = expensive.”

A wonderful kid’s pavilion!

The weather will not improve, so while you’re waiting for a break in the rain to mess about in the garden, you can pick up some new gardening tips and ideas.

1,001 ways to green your home!

I’ll be having my annual drawing for a free lunchbox in any size and any color, but you have to stop by the booth to enter.

More samples!

Enjoy a 20% discount on every Lunchsense lunchbox set purchased at the Better Living Show!

You can train, bus or bike to the show, but if you must drive you get a buck off parking if you carpool (3 or more).

If you don’t make it to the show but do “like” us on Facebook, you will help your friends who order later – if we reach our goal on Facebook we will offer $5 flat rate shipping for all of April!

Fashion!

Lots of other presentations!

Did I mention food samples?

Last but not least, a fabulous lineup of lunchboxes!

Check here for a slideshow of last year’s event, stop by booth 529 and say hello, and maybe even walk away with a marvelous new lunchbox while you’re at it.

‘Hope to see you there!

Foodie Tuesday: a new series
Mar 16th, 2011 by Nancy

I make the lunchbox.  YOU make the lunch.

This has always been my response when customers ask if the Lunchsense lunchbox they’ve just ordered will come, um, pre-loaded.

You might think I’d be all about recipes, clever tips, great photos – an endless resource for what to put in that fancy new lunchbox.   As you might know, I’m a huge fan of food, from growing it to cooking, reading about, and most of all eating it, in (most) all its wondrous form.

But how do most of MY lunch-packing adventures go?  Not so adventurous, frankly.  I usually only pack lunch for my 3rd grader and 5th grader, and their tastes are…still developing, shall we say.  If I were to even try writing about what I usually pack for these two I’d run out of words by Friday, and you’d get pretty sick of what I had to say by about Wednesday.  ‘Hardly inspiring,  I’m sorry to say.

I’m not doing you any favors, though, if I’m not sharing some of the eye-popping, jaw-dropping, mouth-watering delectables that come across my desk and browser in the course of business, so as of today I will officially start fixing that.

By the way, how do you define a foodie?  Is it someone who’s a food snob?  Someone obsessed with eating “correctly” (whatever that means)?  Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts about “my-lunch-can-beat-up-your-lunch” food snobbery (or would that be “my lunch can have your lunch for lunch”?)  vs. genuine, heartfelt foodie-ness.

So then, today: what’s on the (virtual) menu?

Since it’s lunch, and that conjures images of sandwiches, I’ll start with this: Raspberry Chipotle sauced Pulled Pork Leftovers topped with Candied red onions & provolone cheese, found on My Year on the Grill:

pulled pork sandwich

Didja get all that?  Here it is again: sweet and smoky raspberry and chipotles slow-cooked pulled pork recipe; bright, tangy candied red onions; velvety provolone.  Crunchy+pillowy+salty+seedy bun. Pull all this out of your lunchbox and you’ll be the envy of all your office mates.  For the surprisingly fast and easy raspberry chipotle sauce, see here .

I’ll be getting Foodie Tuesdays out every week.  I’m open to suggestions as well – if you see something just too good to hide, let me know!

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