Archive for February, 2012

Chinese New Year

Anise and I went to the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival in Chinatown for the year of the water dragon (sponsored by Southwest Airlines), which went from January 14 to February 19. Unfortunately, we missed most of the street fair performances but had some amazing food, and the the parade was fantastic. My thought is also that we can always see the street performances next year now that we know more about the event and where everything is.

First, we went to the Great Eastern Restaurant for a lunch of delicious dim sum. Before you ask, yes, I took my allergy pills first. Further details will have to wait for another blog post. Thankfully after lunch we still had time to visit the farmers market at the Ferry Building Marketplace. We walked back to Chinatown and went to the wrong section but found some really neat shops. I even got two pairs of neat shiny metal chopsticks; yea for being dishwasher-safe! I also found a new love for coconut juice with pulp. It’s scrumptious and full of nutrients and electrolytes.

After walking around for a while, we found ourselves hungry again but didn’t want to sit down to eat at a restaurant. We wanted something we could eat on the go, something to snack on, so we went on a search for more dim sum! That way we’d have more time to find the perfect spot at the courtyard/park by the Chinese Cultural Center on Kearny Street, or at least that was the goal. We stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall place, called Grant Palace Restaurant, on Washington Street. They had huge eye-catching menus plastered to the windows with quite an impressive selection of dim sum. We got huge pot stickers that were two to three times the size of regular ones, almost the size of my fist! chinatown gateThe little BBQ pork steamed buns were tasty and cute. It was perfect.

We got back to the park with lots of time to spare, but apparently that was the place to see the parade if you didn’t want to pay for a $30 seat on cold aluminum bleachers, or so everyone and their children thought. The spot kind of made me feel claustrophobic, we couldn’t see very well (remember I’m short) and standing in place on concrete even in good shoes was rather foot-pain inducing, therefore we decided to take a walk up the parade route. I’m glad we did. We got to see and experience so much more. The walk was good, less pain inducing and helped us work off all of the dim sum we ate that day. (So much dim sum!) Some of the time we actually got really close to the floats and parade SF Chinatowngroups. It was great to see all of the costumes, displays, martial arts katas, dance routines, school bands, community groups and adorable children. Those kids did such a great job and were real troupers for performing non-stop for three hours. Amazing!

We will definitely have to go back to explore more of the trade and import shops. 😉 I know there was a ton of stuff we missed as we tried to wade through the crowds of people and navigate the unfamiliar streets. There are so many more Chinese restaurants to try out! We want to visit the fortune cookie factory; that line wrapped around into the alleyway. I also want get more pictures of the architecture.

San Francisco Farmers Market at the Ferry Building

Earlier this month while Anise Ferry Building Farmers Marketand I went to  the San Francisco for the Chinese New
Year celebration
, we also decided to peruse the Saturday Ferry Building Farmers Market before heading over to the street fair. Below are some of the farm merchant booths that we visited. There are also market days on Thursdays (which we attended last time) and Tuesdays. Every time we we go, we have a ton of fun smelling and tasting food and looking at all of the beautiful flowers. There are all sorts of neat and beautifully made crafts and goods. It’s always a ton of fun to visit this market.

Mariposa Baking Company They carry many gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and vegan delectable baked goodies, and I can never resist buying something from them to snack on. Please read my blog entry on them for more information. See my previous entry.

Sweets Collection was amazing. All of their edible fruit gels were not only gorgeous but super tasty. I will post more information later in a separate entry. My previous entry is here.

Scream Sorbet Delicious gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free sorbet in 6 or 8 very intriguing and interesting gourmet flavors that routinely get changed out. Very good! I usually try them all, except for the coffee flavors. Last time I bought two huge scoops!

Here I am enjoying Scream Sorbet at the SF Ferry Building farmers market.

Anise enjoying Scream Sorbet at the SF Ferry Building farmers market.

Farmhouse Culture They make sauerkraut of all kinds. Our favorite, by far, is the dill pickle kraut. It’s delicious and mostly tastes like pickles. It’s great by itself but especially on sandwiches. You can also buy shots of sauerkraut juice, which is kind of like taking a shot of wheat grass juice. It was actually pretty tasty. When you buy the sauerkraut, you can get it in a really nice ceramic jar with a rubber gasket-type cap top. That way when you go back to buy more, you can just get a refill. Unfortunately this last time we not only forgot to bring our jar but also forgot to buy more sauerkraut. There were so many neat booths filled with marvelous looking distractions.

Flying Disc Ranch grows a wide variety of dates sorted according to their degree of sweetness. Medjhool dates are the ones that you most commonly find in grocery stores and are one of the sweetest kinds, a bit too sweet to me, whereas I sometimes have found deglets noor dates in organic markets, a much less sweet but dry kind. I use both of these in making recipes from raw food books but do not really eat them otherwise except on rare occasion. I wanted to try something different, so I got three about a pound of dates recently, half a pound of unpollinated derrie (not actually formed into a date) and half a pound of zahidi. These are two of the least sweet varieties with excellent flavors. I found out that dates have to be hand-pollinated by humans (and have been for centuries), since pollinator insects won’t go near them. Flying Disc also had date coconut rolls, date nut bars and date paste, but I resisted the urge to buy any with the rationalization that I can make my own for probably cheaper. Wow! “Dates are a cross between a grain and a fruit. Dates contain one of the highest nutritional food value of any food! Protein and minerals abound.” “Dates are a cross between a grain and a fruit. Dates contain one of the highest nutritional food value of any food! Protein and minerals abound.”

Blue Bottle Coffee Company Anise bought some of their coffee for herself and her mom. (I’ll leave this for her to review, since I am not a coffee drinker.) I will tell you though that they have some really neat coffee pots by Chemex and amazing looking coffee siphons by Hario (in Bonmac boxes). They look like really cool chemistry or mad-science equipment.

After the farmers market, we went across the street to the Arts and Crafts Market at Justin Herman Plaza next to the Embarcadero Center. There are so many really talented artists and craftsmen there. There were more than a few items that we liked. They have all sorts of great items there, like cute hair clips, stuffed animals, scarves, sweaters, jewelry, trivets, sculptures, nick-nacks, decor, paintings, hats, gloves, etc. I never know what treasures we’ll find. Image Source

Mariposa Baking Company

Whenever I go to the San Francisco Ferry Building farmers market (granted I’ve only been a couple times), I cannot help stopping by the Mariposa Baking Company and buying something tasty. All of Mariposa’s goodies are gluten, dairy and/or egg free, but they taste like they are “normal” and full of allergens. You know, the glutenous, full-fat, refined-sugar kind. The textures are great, too, not flat, super dense or too sticky. The “mouth Feel” is of “normal” airy fluffy baked goods, too. Did I mention that all of their items that I have had so far are very impressive and scrumptious! Mariposa  makes all sorts of things, from cupcakes and cookies to bread and pizza crusts. I just glanced at their website and discovered they now carry pecan pie, too!

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On Tuesday,I went to Oliver’s Market in Cotati to pick up some things I needed on the way home from work.  Not only did they have bunches of asparagus for $1.69 per pound, which I bought for dinner, but also Mariposa goodies in the gluten-free breads section with a whole bunch of other locally made cookies, brownies, muffins and breads. I’m so excited! I somehow resisted the urge to get any coconut lemon bars or “cream”-filled Penguinos. Next time I may not be so lucky.

Vegetable Chicken Sausage Medley with Quinoa

Recently my husband and I made dinner together. It’s great when he has actual food ideas, even herbs and spices. He suggested something with chicken apple sausage, broccoli and cauliflower and Italian spices. He pulled out the breakfast sausage, which I happened to be eager to try. The maple went very well with the other flavors we used, too. It’s wonderful when that happens with my food concoction experiments. I took advantage of this time to use up the last of some of my vegetables that were just waiting to be made into tasty dishes, like carrots, and I felt very fortunate to have come across the asparagus on sale at Oliver’s for two dollars off the regular per pound price.

I decided that since the sausages were pretty small, we needed more protein without using up more sausage. I was thinking of using something like a grain but didn’t want to eat more carbohydrates than those in the vegetables, especially since this was an evening meal. (You’re supposed to eat larger meals and carbs during your most physically active time of the day.) I was dissatisfied with the way the quinoa turned out when I cooked it for dinner at my folks’ house. It was time to try it again, since I overcooked it last time by about three minutes. I also forgot to let it set for five minutes before fluffing it, which is very crucial.

Originally the salmon with aioli and quinoa recipe called for red quinoa, but that’s not what we had on had. I used the white variety instead. Yesterday I went to Community Market and did a little nutrition label reading at the bulk bins. I found out that actually white unsprouted quinoa has a significant amount of more vitamins and minerals in it than the red. On the other hand, red quinoa has more fiber and protein. I wonder if the red part is the seed’s skin…. Anyway, you can also get sprouted white quinoa, which has less iron but more calcium than the regular white variety. I have seen a few organic food companies sell a mixture of red and white quinoa. Maybe that’s why; with mixed you’d get the benefits of both of the unsprouted varieties.

Vegetable Chicken Sausage Medley
Ingredients
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or enough to coat the pan)
1/3 C Garlic, minced
1 Small Yellow Onion, peeled, chopped
8 oz pkg al fresco Chicken Apple Maple Sausage, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Mixed Peppercorns, ground
10 Stalks Asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
1 Head Broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces, stems included
1 Head Cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces, stems included
2 Carrots, chopped
2 tsp Dried Marjoram Leaves, ground
1 tsp Roast Vegetable & Fries Spice Blend* or make up your own
1/2 Filtered Water

*Salt, onion, paprika, red bell peppers, sugar, mustard, garlic, soy bean, celery seed, black peppercorns, coriander, oregano, cumin, sage

Directions
Start the quinoa. Saute the garlic and onion in a large pan on medium-low until the onions are tender and clear. Add the sausage, salt and pepper and cook for about 2 minutes.

Turn the pan down to low. Add the vegetables, remaining seasonings and water. Turn everything in the pan with a large wooden spoon a few times to mix the vegetables, meat and seasonings. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes or until the carrots are tender crisp.

Remove the lid and transfer the meat and veggies to a large mixing bowl. Stir the meat and vegetables to get rid of heat and excess water while the quinoa sits for 5 minutes.

Italian Herb Quinoa
Ingredients
2 1/4 C Filtered Water
1 C White Quinoa, rinsed
1/4 tsp Smoked Alderwood Sea Salt (from Savory Spice Shop)
1 – 1 1/2 T Italian Seasonings

Directions
Mix together the quinoa, salt and water in a medium cooking pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Cook the quinoa for about 7 minutes. Mix in the herbs and recover with the lid. Cook another 5 or 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and place it on a trivet. Do not remove the lid. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Uncover the quinoa, and fluff it with a fork to get rid of excess moisture.

Plating
Serve about 1/4 cup of the meat and vegetable mixture over 1/4 cup of the quinoa.

Sweets Collection

When I was at the San Francisco Saturday farmers market last, the Sweets Collection booth drew me like a magnet. Not only are their creations gorgeous but edible, too! Somehow they craft beautiful desserts that look like iced and decorated cakes and glass paperweights filled with realistic 3-D multicolored flowers out of milk-based and water-based gelatin. They even use various glass stemware to provide different looks. The gel confections were so stunning, I was afraid to ask for a morsel to try but I did, and it tasted delicious.

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Black Bean Chocolate Brownies

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Brownie Bars                                           Image Source

Adriann made these for one of the gathers at Fudgy Black Bean Chocolate Browniesmy place. They were so delicious and moist. I think I ate a third of the pan by myself, only to pay for it the next day. It was extremely difficult to taste the beans in them at all unless I was really looking for their flavor. Even then, I only found it in slight hints, since these brownies are so chocolaty. Thankfully she gave me the recipe, so now I’m sharing it with you all.

I have, of course, adapted them to have lower fat and sugar contents. I really like using sugars with lower glycemic index values and swapping out at least some oil for fruit puree. I have yet to use many vegetable purees,  other than zucchini or pumpkin.

Black Bean Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients
15 oz Black Beans, drained, rinsed
OR 1 1/2 – 2 C Dried Black Beans, cooked, drained, rinsed (cooked are better than canned)
3 T Golden Flax or White Chia Seeds (really any color is fine)
9 T Filtered Water
3 T Smooth Apple Sauce
3/4 C Sucanat
1/2 C Unsweetened Cacao Powder
1 – 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 Pinch Sea Salt
1/2 C Vegan Dark or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, divided*
1/2 C Roasted Walnuts or Pecans, chopped, optional

*For more chocolaty brownies, add 1/2 cup more chocolate chips! Just make sure to divide all of the chips in half.

Directions
In a spice grinder, powder the seeds. Mix the seeds and water with a fork in a medium sized bowl to form the “eggs”. Set this mixture aside for 15 minutes. You want a thick egg-like consistency, so adjust your water to seed ratios accordingly. Mix in more ground seeds if the the “eggs” are not thick enough.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a glass 8 inch square baking pan or dish. You can also dust it with a flour of your choice or cacao powder if you like. Set the pan aside.

In a food processor, puree the beans until they are smooth and creamy. Add in the seed “eggs”, canola oil or apple sauce, sucanat, cacao powder, vanilla extract, baking powder and salt and mix until the batter is smooth. While pulsing the processor a few times, add in the nuts and half of the chocolate chips until they are incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and evenly distribute it. Smooth the top of the batter out with the back of a large spoon or a rubber spatula. Sprinkle on the remaining half of the chocolate chips over the top of the batter.

Bake the batter for 30 to 35 minutes or until the brownie edges shrink away from the sides of the pan. Test for doneness with a toothpick. If it comes out from the center of the pan clean, the brownies are done! Remove the brownies from the oven, and cool them in the pan for at least 15 to 30 minutes on a wire rack before cutting into 2-inch squares and serving them.

Chicken & Dumpling Soup with Salad & Mustard Vinaigrette

It’s nice to call up a friend, who you expect to just hang out with, and ask what they want for dinner. That’s kind of what happened the other day.  After a few suggestions to each other, B and I  came up with this soup and salad combo. I went to Whole Foods three times to get all  of the ingredients; thankfully the one I went to is located in a shopping mall. Really it was more like three trips to my car and back; I just got in some extra exercise. 🙂

I have to say all of the flavors went very well together. No, actually the flavors were perfect. We were both quite proud of the outcome, even with our gluten-free dumpling experiment. The dumplings and dressing were most impressive and delicious. We were on a roll that night; we even stayed up late to make cookies afterward. I’ll include that series of recipe experiments in a later post.

Chicken Kabobs Ingredients
1-1 1/2 Pounds Chicken Breast, skinned, boned, cut into 1-in cubes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 C Lemon Juice
3 T Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp Mixed Peppercorns, ground
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
6 Bamboo Skewers

Directions
Preheat your grill (we used our George Foreman). Mix the oil and seasonings in a large glass glass bowl. Add the chicken, and toss the meat to coat it. Cover and marinate the chicken for at least 20 minutes or overnight. Discard the marinade, and skewer the meat, but do not tightly pack the pieces together. You can to make sure that the meat cooks evenly. Reserve the left over meat for the soup. Grill the meat for 4 to 6 minutes or until the juices run clear and meat is no longer pink inside. The internal temperature should read as 180 on a meat thermometer.

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Gluten-Free Dumplings
Ingredients
1-3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 C Onion, peeled, diced
3/4 C Celery, diced
3/4 C Carrot, diced
1/2 tsp Citric Acid (Sour Salt)
2 Bay Laurel Leaves, optional
2 qt Chicken Stock
2 qt Vegetable Stock
1 Large Parsnip, peeled, cored, diced
Remaining Chicken (from kabobs)
2 1/2 tsp Dried Rosemary
2 1/2 tsp Dried Marjoram
2 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
Kosher Salt, to taste
Mixed Peppercorns, ground, to taste
8 Kale Leaves, stemmed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
4 Scallions, trimmed, sliced
Dumplings (see below)

Directions
Saute the onion, carrot and celery in a lightly oiled stockpot until the onions are tender. Mix in the citric acid and bay. Pour in the stock and stir. Add the parsnip and chicken. Simmer the soup until the chicken is no longer pink inside, stirring occasionally. Season the soup. Pipe and cut in the dumplings. Mix in the kale and scallions and continue to simmer until the kale wilts and the dumplings are done.

Gluten-Free Dumpling Ingredients
1 C No or Low Sodium Chicken Stock
6 T Earth Balance Spread with Olive Oil
1 tsp Kosher Salt
5 1/2 oz Gluten-Free Flour
1/8 oz Xanthan Gum
1 Large Free Range Egg + 2 Egg Whites

Directions
Boil the stock and spread with salt over medium-high heat in a medium pan. Add the flour, and mix it into a dough. Remove the pan from the heat. Mix the dough with a sturdily motored immersion hand blender (we killed the motor on the Kitchen Aid one, since the dough was so sticky), mezzaluna or bladed dough blender until the dough is broken into fine pieces; you want to get more air into the dough. Integrate 1 egg at a time into the dough until it becomes smooth. Transfer the dough to a 1-gallon plastic zipper bag. Make sure to remove all of the air from the bag. Cut off one corner of the bag about 2/3 inch from the tip. Cut the dumpling dough into 1/2-inch pieces as you pipe it into the boiling soup (not a rolling boil).

Green Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
Salad Ingredients
2 Large Handfuls Mixed Salad Herbs Greens
2 Large Handfuls Spinach, stemmed, torn into bite size pieces
1/2 C Heirloom or Golden Tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C Organic Cucumber, sliced
1 Large Carrot, diagonally sliced
2 Stalks Celery, diagonally sliced
1/2 C Enokitake Mushrooms, cut into 2-inch sections

Directions
Arrange salad ingredients into a large serving bowl with the lettuces on the bottom.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette Ingredients
These measurements are estimated. Please adjust the amounts to your liking.
1 T Spicy Brown Mustard
1 T Dijon Mustard
1 T Yellow Mustard
1 T Local Wildflower Honey, to taste
1/4 C Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 tsp Mixed Peppercorns, ground, to taste
1/2 tsp Pinch Kosher Salt
1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions
Add all of the ingredients except the oil into a lidded airtight container. Shake it to mix the ingredients. Add the oil. Shake the heck out of it to emulsify the dressing. Drizzle on your salad.