Fall Comfort Salad

I wish I had taken step by step pictures, I am sorry, I will try to remember next time.  Actually it had not occurred to me to even share a recipe until I sat down to lunch and my partner, who had sausage and tater tots cooked in bacon grease, said oh wow that salad looks really tasty.  I knew I had to share if his bacon fat drenched tater tots left him with food envy!

Early this morning I prepared a miso dressing.  It is basically the following ingredients, shaken hard until mixed in a small jar.

Miso paste, about 2 tbs

Rice Wine Vinegar about 3tbs

Soy sauce 1tsp, do not overpower the miso.

minced garlic, 2 cloves (for good measure)

Olive oil infused with ghost peppers, did not smell so spicy but it has a kick.  Olive oil to Rice wine Vinegar= 1/3  Always use more acid than oil.

As you shake this you will sometimes notice it gets pasty and thick like peanut butter.  No worries, just add  a little more vinegar and oil, ensuring that the vinegar is at a 3:1 concentration to oil.

*You can use regular olive oil or even sesame oil if you do not like spice.


I left that to marinate together for several hours.

I took a frozen piece of Nice crusty bread.  Any kind of glutenin  (chewy) bread works.  Sorry if you are intolerant I do not think gluten-free bread makes as good of croutons, but you can try.  I grilled it in a pan with some browned butter and cut it up as it defrosted to crisp it up.  I laid out a bet of greens and then got good and fancy!!


Step one spiral slice carrots, I used the purple ones with the orange center.  They are just pretty to look at.


I chopped some celery, and sliced some cucumbers and then took scissors and cut a scallion up.  Yeah like paper cutting scissors my favorite kitchen tool these days.

I then plated up a nice bed of baby greens with plenty of spinach.  I tossed the celery and scallions randomly, but placed the carrot ribbons and cucumbers strategically.  I then added the croutons.  I also added some spicy almonds and cranberries.  The final ingredient was supposed to be millet, but I accidentally pulled couscous out of the freezer.  I heated it up quick in a pan on the stove, I do not own a microwave so when I heat stuff up it is stove top or oven reheat.


The final touch was to drizzle the miso dressing over the salad and toss some Himalayan Pink Salt in a crystalline form.  If you have never used salt for texture, you are missing out!


Fun Food Fridays: Jamaican Ital Steamed Veg

There are many ways to do this.  It all depends on what is available and how clean you want to eat.  I do not eat Ital, that means no salt, no alcohol, no animal products and no oils.  I use oil, I use salt, I drink alcohol (lately it is less and less due to budget mostly) and I eat cheese and eggs and on a rare occasion seafood.  A true Rasta eats Ital and you will know by how clean their skin is, for real most Rastas have very clear clean skin and eyes.

To start with you have to obtain vegetables.  Today I have Bok Choy, (which Jamaicans call pak chow),  carrots, scallion, onion, tomato, zucchini and some hot pepper.  Cabbage is also a staple in this dish, I just do not happen to have any at the moment.  Traditionally here you will soak your vegetables in salt water to kill off any insects/worms that might be hiding in the leaves.  In Ital cooking you simply chop it all and drop it into the pot/pan and cook it down slowly.  In my version we use a bit of coconut oil to soften/brown the onion and carrots.  I slice the onion and carrots and add them to the hot oil, stirring pretty regularly so as not to burn the oil off.  I then chop up the bok choy, zucchini and toss it in along with slivers of the scotch bonnet pepper, which if you do not like so much heat you can toss in whole, just be careful not to mash it up as that releases the heat.  Cutting sliver off the pepper releases more of the heat but keeps it in control.  I then mix it all together and cover for a bit, keeping my eye on it, because sometimes you need to sprinkle in some water to ensure it steams well.


I pictured a can of broad beans, which is commonly served with this dish.  I however, made up a pot of black beans this week, so I will be using those instead.  (Crockpots are amazing for cooking up legumes, except kidney beans!)  I reheat the beans while the veggies are steaming.  I also add a little salt, thyme or other seasoning to flavor it up.  As the green parts of the bok choy start to wilt and cook down I cut up a tomato and toss it along with some chopped scallion.  A real Jamaican cook would clean the scallion and toss the whole thing in at the beginning along with a sprig of thyme.  I like to eat the scallion so I cut mine up, scissors are my favorite kitchen tool for cutting scallion, hot pepper slices and garlic bulbs up!  *** The carrot ribbons are cut using a vegetable peeler, another favorite tool I have found!


Once the beans and rice that I cooked last night are heated up, I plate the dish.  In a traditional Ital shop you might be offered “food” to go with this dish along with chunks.  Food is basically a collection of starches; boiled green banana, Irish potato, sweet potato, breadfruit and/or yam.  It could be any combination of those or all of them.  Sometimes you are also offered a dumpling, which is basically flour and water boiled in the case of an Ital cook.  I find this much starch overwhelming.  I choose one of the items most often rice or Irish, not all of them!


Chunks are a soy product, they are a textured vegetable protein or TVP.  They seriously look a lot like dried dog food.  Typically they are boiled for 20 minutes and made into a gravy or stew with canned vegetables to be served up on top of the “food” or rice.  I chose beans today because I am out of chunks and I had made up a pot of beans earlier this week. The secret to Ital beans is to cook them in coconut milk.  This creates a tasty almost sweet gravy to mix over the food.  (Richard liked these so much I sent him home with a bag of them.)


This is a fairly inexpensive meal and quite filling.  This is my favorite Jamaican dish because it has so much vegetable in it.  Typically a boxed food, (Jamaican food to go) is served with a few shavings of cabbage a slice or two or cucumber and a slice or two of tomato.  The majority of the boxed meal is rice and peas with a bit of meat in a lot of gravy.


Friday Foods! Jamaican Callaloo recipe.

Callaloo is a staple here in Jamaica.  It is often served for breakfast and sometimes contains saltfish.  Saltfish is a salt dried and preserved cod, it is almost jerky like in texture.  The salt content is extremely high and to use this you must first soak it for several hours to soften it and pull the salt out.  Saltfish is often used as more of a seasoning than a main component to a dish.

Callaloo is a type of amaranth green.  This grows well here and is available almost year round.  You can find someone selling it in most communities and it is not often in short supply.  When I think about the Jamaican diet this dish is the one that makes me the happiest.  For some Jamaicans this constitutes most if not all of their vegetable intake for a day.  I expected much more vegetation on my plate when I first arrived, but I was so shocked by the amount of starchy foods and meat consumed in the average diet.  I cannot eat so much starchy food or I would not be able to move around!

Typically you can get callaloo either in natural state, fresh harvested or already prepared for you, cut and diced.  I prefer the natural state, as I distrust that the time was taken to clean and soak the callaloo of all worms and bugs.  But this is my personal fear and not one that most people consider.  If buying it precut you can go to the market and watch the vendors take the callaloo and bunch it up after stripping the stringy parts, at the base, out. They then take a sharp knife and around their fist start slicing away.  I find this to scary as I would likely take a large hunk of my hand off!  I prepare it differently.  I clean it and dry it, because dry produce lasts longer in the fridge.  I then pick the pieces I want out and store the rest in a sealed container with a paper towel in the bottom to soak up the moisture if any appears.  I then cut the pulpy parts off and dice away on my cutting board.

Some people prefer their callaloo steamed all the way, I prefer to saute my onions and steam at the end.  I think it adds more flavor and I use coconut oil so it has great flavor.  So I strip my onions and slice them thin and saute them.  I add garlic and a bit of scotch bonnet peppers, not too much!  I use the actual pepper and slice it open, so if you do this be aware that no matter how much you wash the pepper capsaicin is in your fingernails and will be for quite some time.  I learned that using a pair of scissors to slice it is a much easier and better for small slivers than a knife.  Once my base is cooking down, I then add my cut callaloo.  I add a small bit of water, less than 1/4 cup and put a lid on it to allow the steam to cook it down.  At this point I might add some herbs and spices, traditionally this would be whole pimento, or allspice and some thyme and a scallion.   I however like to build a big flavor and add oregano and dried basil.  If you use pimento be sure to pull those bits out along with the twig from the thyme and the scallion if you desire.  I typically cut my scallion down to bite size pieces to make it more edible, because why throw it away?

As the callaloo is cooking down, I check on it to ensure it does not burn and dry out, I also take a peeler and pull off bits of carrot, a trick I wish I had known many years ago!   I also chop up a tomato to throw in.  Sometimes I add some coconut milk at the end to simmer it down in.  This adds a truly Caribbean vibe to the meal.


There you have it, all done.  Typically served with fried dumpling, boiled banana and or a piece of yam.  If you are lucky you can find some breadfruit to serve with it.  This dish is one of my favorites.  I like to baste an egg with my callaloo but if I were serving this to a true Rasta I would put in broad beans instead for the protein source, I would also not saute anything, all steamed and no salt.

For those that cannot find callaloo, you could try cale or mustard greens, mustard greens have a sharper taste so be aware of this as you season it.

Update on the Chaos that is my life!

The last month was overwhelming and I am grateful that I only worked one day.  I have only worked once so far this month, but again am very grateful.  First off, I have everything done medical wise except one Hep A shot and my yearly checkup.  The check up happens later this month.  The second Hep A is gonna be tricky, I may have to get that abroad.  Scary!

There was a screw up with both my passport and my Visa applications.  I sent off a new copy of my Visa application, that was the easy part.  The passport got mailed to the wrong location, luckily I found where it was mailed and when it got delivered.  The PC travel person is going to expedite that for me.  I was freaking out, my birth certificate is with the application and that took three weeks to get. I was so worried I would have to start over and then I would miss my deadlines again.  Luck was with me this time, all is well.  Everything is going to be okay.

Picked up most of my stuff for the trip.  I have my luggage and shoes all figured out.  I even have some movies to pack with me.  I bought a steri-pen, headlamp, small compact blanket and a solar charger today.  I have clothes and sandals ordered and they should be here this week or next.  So much of my wardrobe was not appropriate for the climate, I had a fun time buying a new wardrobe.  The only things i need now are some nice button up shirts and a few more bras and then pack it all up.

I am now volunteering three days a week at the nearby high school.  I am being educated all over again.  The students are interesting and there is not a lot of structure, it is an alternative school.  I now understand how my kids could fall behind in school and end up graduating late.  The benefit is that they learn to manage themselves, which can feel like it is backfiring.

Last week Richard messed up his foot somehow, and I ended up taking him to the doctor twice.  So my social life is now consumed with medicine and doctor appointments.  On the up note, he has decided to not drink for a bit to lose weight.  I need the break as well.  Maybe we will both drop some weight, not that he needs to.

I bought a jump rope, I forgot how bad I suck at this.  I spent about 5 minutes jumping, and I can only go about 4 rounds before I have to stop and start over.   It is amazing how much just that little bit will cause your heart to pump.  So even if I have to jump for 5 min intervals over the course of the day, I am gonna do this until I leave.  I plan on packing the rope with me, it is weighted and small enough to stuff in my suitcase.

I have been so busy that I have not been riding my bike or eating right.  Today I got groceries and bought a ton of veggies.  I also had some bananas going off and needed to be used.  Are you ready for the most amazing recipe?  Two bananas, break them up into a blender, add ice, two large teaspoons of coconut peanut butter ( you will thank me for this) add a bit of whole milk and some plain yogurt, I prefer greek, but just plain works as well.  Blend and have a happy mouth and tummy.  I actually only had about 6 oz of this.  The rest I put in a container and stuck in the freezer. You need to pull it out about 1 hour before you want to drink it and pour it out.   If you have space I suggest freezing in single servings, but I do not have the space so it all went in together.

I used whole milk because the more I read about food the more I realize all our health issues began when we declared war on fat.  All the low-fat, skim, and no-fat items are so overly processed and calorie ridden, you may as well enjoy the full fat and just control the serving size.

Vegan Creamy Potato soup with Kale/Tahini salad

Today I made the most outstanding soup.  I had a large baking potato and three small yams or orange sweet potatoes.  I decided to caramelize half an onion first.  I caramelized it in the big 5 quart pot with some olive oil. I then added some carrots and celery.  I chopped up the potatoes and added them in.  I then added some water to the pot and let it simmer.  After the potatoes were softened, but not mushy, I added some vegetable broth.  My preference it better than bullion, but I was out of that, so I went with a pre-made broth by Pacific.  I simmered this at low heat for an hour, adding fresh thyme and chopped parsley.  I then added the final touch, coconut milk.  I let it simmer until it was frothing.  Topped it with some Moroccan sea salt.  It was tasty and vegan, my first attempt at this soup vegan and I think it went well.  Sorry I have no idea of how much I added of everything.  I go by the rule to taste or your content preference.  If you like soup runny more liquid less stuff.

I had this with some cornbread and I whipped up some tahini sauce to put over rough chopped kale.  The tahini was made with the paste, sesame oil, fresh garlic, rice wine vinegar and some water.  Just before I tossed it over the kale I mixed in some Tapatio hot sauce to give it a kick.  I added some finely chopped green onions and mixed it all together.  The beautiful thing about this salad is that you can pre-dress it and it doesn’t get all soggy.


Escaping the super market trap.

I live in Seattle, so I have an advantage that many do not.  I have the Country’s longest continuously open, open market.  I have Pike Place Market.  I learned long ago that this is not just a tourist stop, but an actual shopping center.  I either ride my bike to the market or take the public transit.  I carry my own bags, knowing full well I have to carry everything back, taking only enough bags that I can carry limits my purchases.  Some will say shopping at a farmer’s market is too expensive, I say your health is more important and your mindset is wrong. Sure if you only shop in bulk, the market is not the way to do it.  However if you learn to shop more like people in small apartments with limited space, people on boats, or even in a general sense people from Europe, you will see that you eat much better quality and that the cost difference is not that significant.  One other thing you notice by shopping this way, is that by not buying more than you will use, you save your waistline.  By limiting cheese purchase, for example, you are not as likely to build up a quesadilla in the middle of the night.

Sure I shop more than others, but I plan and I know that I am eating more excellent quality than what I can get at a grocery store.  I am also free from impulse purchases, save a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers.  This, I must say was a hard thing to learn how to do.  I am a parent, and my ex-husband, whom I probably inappropriately blame for many of my problems, hates shopping.  We were weekly shoppers, I would buy in bulk.  I had a Costco card once upon a time.  This was my worst nightmare ever.  I impulse shop, and I like to make sure I have plenty.  Who on this planet needs two dozen of the large Costco muffins?   I certainly do not. Might be the cause of my never-ending battle with my waistline.  I love food, you see.  My passion for food goes beyond eating it though, I love to shop for it, to touch it, to chop and create with it.  Food is my artistic medium.  A blessing and a curse, if I had not abandoned bulk shopping long ago.

I am not claiming that I never use a typical grocery store, there are some things that cannot be found at the market.  Out of season produce, boxed and canned goods.  You see I am on a learning curve and I kick myself every time I make bad food purchasing decisions. I can tell you that shopping smaller is more economical.  I have two teens and I can feed them both, myself and my partner, who only eats with us occasionally, for little more than $75 a week.  I cheat.  I have a bin of mostly local, all organic produce delivered to my doorstep bi-weekly.  Used to be weekly, but then my kids are not home much and I was wasting a ton of produce.  For $29.74  every other week I get plenty of produce to work with.  These are the basics.  I usually get three types of fruit.  An example is two plums, two peaches and a pint of strawberries.  I also get greens, usually some kind of lettuce, a bunch of kale, chard and or spinach.  Some kind of squash, carrots and potatoes of some sort.  Typically if I ate nothing but stuff from the bin there is enough for one person for 3 days worth of meals.

This weekend I decided to make a seafood chowder and this awesome salad I found on the New York Times this weeks.  I went to the market Saturday around noon.  List in hand I stopped at my most favorite veggie stand, Sosio’s.  I like the people there, the quality is great and they can tell me what is imported and I will decide if I want that carbon footprint.  In the recipe for the salad it suggested Frissee and radicchio.  I asked about another type of lettuce to help round out the flavor.  The wonderful woman brought me this tiny head of endive, this was perfect.  I may never use regular head lettuce again.  I gathered a handful of fingerling potatoes, which I actually did not need.  I also gathered some fresh herbs and was informed Meyer lemons are out of season, so she picked the sweetest lemon she could find for  me.  You see, they know me there.  They know if they are really busy I can gather most of my produce myself.  A service they provide for people just looking for the experience of shopping an open market is that they will gather all of your produce, you never have to step inside the stand.  I have gone in with a cryptic list, in which they grab from me and show me what they interpret my list to mean as they gather my  order.  The benefit of shopping at a stand as opposed to the grocery store is that prepackaged items often have rotten produce at the bottom of the bags or clamshell containers.  At the open market this is never an issue, you can see them all before they go into your bags.

Since Burrata is a seasonal item, I half expected to not find it.  I did manage to find it in a cheese only stand.  Although disappointingly it was not fresh, but packaged.  I can forgive this since it is a seasonal item.  You could substitute regular mozzarella if you cannot find this cheese, but it is a cream stuffed mozzarella ball.  I split mine in half over two salads, which was tricky since the cream oozed out, but I managed to get it done.  The Burrata was creamy and had a light flavor, but that is to be expected with a mozzarella.

The chowder, I confess was spendy. First I had celery and carrots and potatoes, fingerlings are my preference.  I added scallops and 2 oz of fresh steelhead salmon, from the fishmongers at the market.  I also grabbed a can of crab, this was for ease more than anything else.  I do not have the appropriate tools to crack crab and frankly this is a messy process.  I also added about 30 medium shrimp, deshelled and deveined.  With that much seafood you are looking at nearly $25.  I added organic half and half  about 20 minutes before serving.  I seasoned it with herbs de Provence and garlic, salt and pepper.  I served it in a breadbowl with a garnish of cheddar and a fresh parsley.   This is not something I would serve on a regular basis, this was a celebratory meal.  It also made a ton of chowder.  My daughter had dinner with us, so there were initially three breadbowls full.  I can see at least three more, plus my daughter had a second helping last night so that is 7 bowls of soup divided by lets say $32, for a total of $4.57 per meal.  Add $2 for a each breadbowl.  The salad was about $3 per serving and I have a ton of the lettuce mix left.  If I had limited myself to one lettuce type it would be less than $3 and I would have nothing left over.  The problem with leftovers is that most people do not want to eat them in the next few days.

To give you a bit more insight on how this market thing works, I also am a member of co-op.  I ride my bike there at least once a week.  If I put on my saddlebags, I can carry home, laundry soap, two dozen eggs, fresh yogurt, refilled oils, vinegar and a variety of produce.  Relearning how to shop was probably my most difficult, even more difficult than learning how to live without a car.  My current boyfriend is the only man I have seriously dated since I moved to Seattle, with  a car.   We use it on occasion, I am learning to rely on myself more, as I have become dependent on him to allow me to borrow the car.  The only time I will ask to use it now is if i need to go someplace that is not feasible by bicycle or to run home to care for my dog.  I live atop Beacon Hill, you see this is the second highest point in Seattle.  I work in the valley so biking home is not exactly easy, I have however figured out it takes me 25 minutes to get home, biking all the way or partly pushing my bike.  It takes me about 17 minutes to get back to his place.  In a car it takes about 35 minutes, so the reality is I am saving about 10 minutes or so.  And that is when the lights are favorable to our route.

Another thing to consider when thinking about the cost of food, is that certainly bulk buying is much more economical, if you use it all.  Far too many people throw our more food than they consume.  This makes the reality much less cost-effective.  I would rather pay $1 for a small amount of herbs I will use completely up, than a bulk of herbs which lose their flavor in a month.  I bet if you started charting how much food you throw out you will be amazed.  One thing that helped me was composting is mandatory in Seattle.  I have one of those cute little bins, which I  keep in my refrigerator to keep the smell at a minimum.  What amazed me was how often I had to take the little bin out.  Once I figured out how to minimize the waste, and juicing helps minimize that, I started to be very present with my food purchases.

In my current apartment, I have this wonderful pantry.  I purchase many dried beans and grains in bulk.  I figured out to keep them organized, I had to develop a system.  In my system I also reduced my carbon footprint.  I reuse any glass jar I get, fill them with bulk items and then store them based on category on different shelves in old beer bottle six-packs.  See Image below to get a feel for this.  You have to find jars that fit, otherwise you stack those along the wall.  By doing this, I minimize over purchasing things like flour and grains.  Limited space makes things so much easier to drop the bulk habit.  I love how a store will advertise 10 for a $10.  Ok did you realize you can buy one and still get it for only a buck?  Most people think that deal is only good on bulk, but no, at least in the city it is for whatever you purchase.  So do not get suckered into buying more than you can carry or need.


So the question is, do you still feel that farmer’s markets are too expensive or are your food purchases based in an obsolete ideology that you were fed by mass marketers?  Well which is it, are you a pawn in a monetary game or are you a free-thinker.  Seriously make a plan for a week, give yourself a minimum budget and try buying only what you can carry per market trip.  You will be enlightened, by the fact that  simple menu planning, will greatly decrease your food waste and maybe even your waistline.

Oh I guess I should mention that I only eat seafood once in a while, I am primarily a vegetarian, and that does not mean I eat fake meats.  It means that I eat eggs, cheese  and tons of beans and grains.  So my budget is likely much smaller than someone who desires to have meat at every meal.  But try it anyway.  Maybe cut back your meat portions and see how you feel and how your budget feels.

Kale with Balsamic Reduction

I have an over abundance of Kale. Enough that we will be eating Kale for days. I decided tonight to sautee some up and whip up a balsamic reductions. It is so simple yet so delicious. I am very happy with the outcome.

Light and delicious

I just cut the kale off the stem and chopped it roughly. I then took some balsamic vinegar and simmered it down into a sweet savory syrup.