Farmer’s Market Find: Strawberries and Asparagus!

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We got the first crop of strawberries and asparagus already! Subtle signs that Spring isn’t too far away.  I am not entirely sure, but I think the two strawberry vendors at today’s market were from Southern California, where the weather is much warmer than here. Strawberries are just lovely, but they have a really thin, delicate outer and absorbs the pesticides and is listed number 1 in EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. The Dirty Dozen lists fruit and vegetables exposed to the most pesticides. I will have a lot more on the strawberry issue soon enough- California did silently pass the use of methyl iodide, scientifically proven to be very dangerous.

The take home message here is that buy organic strawberries and ask the farmer questions about their farming technique. I remember seeing one of the strawberry farmer’s last summer and spring at this market but I never talked to them. I wanted to ask them a lot more questions, because I am conflicted on  eating non-organic strawberries, but I got shy! It happens. Though, I did taste the pesticide-free strawberries and it was so good.

Smoked Salmon from Montery Bay’s Blue Ocean Smoke House

I splurged a little and got smoked salmon today ($10/6 ounces). We started eating smoked salmon much more after hiking the Kalalau trail in Kauai.  We packed smoked salmon, hard goat cheese, nuts, and grass-feed roast beef deli meat to sustain us on the two-day, 12 mile hike. Now we eat it for breakfast, a quick snack, or topped on a bed of different vegetables. Of course, we only eat wild Alaskan salmon from sustainable resources. If you are not sure about which fish are safe or sustainable check out the Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch.

Celery Root- Swank Farms

We recently had celery root dessert at Ubuntu- I had no idea it looks like this in its original form.

Cheddar Cauliflower- Swank Hill Farms

No, they don’t taste like cheddar cheese! They are higher in vitamin A (the color) and taste like white cauliflower.

Tat Soi flowers- Happy Boy Farms

The tatsoi flowers are related to broccoli family and have a really nice taste to them. They are not as delicate as they look and taste wonderful sauteed with garlic, ginger, and little soy sauce.

I was at the Ferry Building for breakfast with a friend on Tuesday morning and the Tuesday market was going on. I bought a few oranges, asparagus, and ranunculus. There were tulips too, but I just adore ranunculus. The farmer gave me an awesome tip of just putting a spoonful of sugar in the water to help them bloom. They are still blooming!

Other purchases:

Spinach (Serendipity), Meyer lemons (Hamadas), Cara Cara oranges (Ken’s Top Notch Produce), Leeks (Happy Boy Farms), Button mushrooms (Far West Fungi), and Roma tomatoes (Swank Farms). I spent a total of $32 this week at the farmers market.

 

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Whole Grain vs Refined Flour

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It is day 13 of January Rules and I am going strong. Interestingly, I have been presented with opportunities to eat processed flours- like croissant sandwiches, Mac n’ Cheese from Grub, and pizza from Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza. Constantly. I normally do follow the three rules of January Rules, or at least I thought I did. I have come to realize that my weakness for food made with refined flour is greater than I thought and I make a lot of exceptions. Pizza, croissants, desserts, breads, pasta- oh you name it and I love it. Unfortunately, all of these things are made with refined flours that have very little nutritional value and contribute to empty calories, fatigue, malnourishment, constipation, mood swings, and preventable chronic diseases.

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Don’t Hate The Brussels Sprouts (with recipe)

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Brussels sprouts are my new favorite vegetable and they are in season right now! You might just be turned off from the title of this post, but I urge you to give fresh Brussels sprouts a try. I can’t remember the actual moment I fell in love with the cute yet oddly shaped vegetables, but it was only a year ago. Last winter, I noticed them in the grocery stores, farmers markets, and restaurants. I must have ordered Brussels sprouts at one of San Francisco’s  gourmet restaurants and decided that I had to recreate the dish at home. Aside from being super nutritious, they are really delicious if cooked properly. Another added bonus: Brussels sprouts take just as much time as cooking pasta and don’t require lots of prep work. Follow these simple Brussels sprouts tips to get you started on a positive relationship with the little green veggies.

1. Buy fresh and seasonal Brussels sprouts.
2. Use real butter or high quality olive oil.
3. Steam or boil them for at 3-4 minutes to remove bitterness
4. Add roasted nuts and seeds to enhance flavor and texture.  Try pecans, hazelnuts, or pine nuts.
5. Dried fruits and lemon juice also enhance flavor and texture. Try cranberries, pomegranates, or dried figs.
6. Lemon zest and lemon juice enhance the flavor of almost any dish, without fail. Use fresh lemons.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Dill and Dates

Recently, I went to a cooking demo given by a friend, Teresa Piro, at We Olive SF. Teresa combined dill with Brussels sprouts, which inspired me for this recipe. This dish is elegant to serve as a side dish for a holiday meal yet simple enough to eat on a regular basis.

Ingredients
2 lbs Brussel sprouts, washed and trimmed
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil*
4-5 medjool dates, quartered
3 sprigs of fresh dill, washed and finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh (Meyer) lemon juice
½ cup of pecans, toasted and coarsely ground
1 tbs flaxseeds or sesame seeds
Sea salt
Pepper

Method

1. Fill a large pot ½ full with water. Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the  Brussels sprouts to the boiling water and cook for 3-5 minutes. Or steam them using a vegetable steamer for 5 minutes.  Drain the Brussels sprouts in a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop them from cooking any further. Cut Brussels sprouts in half length-wise and set aside.


2. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and a pinch of sea salt and cook, stirring often, until edges begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Pour lemon juice over sprouts and stir well. Toss in the pecans, flaxseeds, dill and dates. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*You can also use a pure lemon flavored olive oil

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Farmer’s Market Find: Brussels Sprouts

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I debated going to the market today, since I have a fridge full of leftovers from Thanksgiving. Satish and I both want to keep our meals fairly light this week since we are still digesting our Thanksgiving dinner. I doubted the market would have been busy like last week, so opted on going and enjoying the quietness. There were less farmers today too; perhaps they were gone for rest of the season or just today. I bought a lot of Brussels sprouts. I never was a fan of Brussels sprouts or at least I thought I wasn’t. I actually never even encountered Brussels sprouts until my early 20’s, but I knew I didn’t like them because the kids on TV always hated them. So like broccoli, I thought it was another gross vegetable that no kid on the planet would want to eat. Then I saw just how cute they were at the farmer’s market a couple of years ago and started to cook with them. They are sooo good! I can’t understand why Brussels sprouts have such a bad rap. Anyway, they are super easy and quick to cook too. My favorite way to eat them is cutting them in half, cooking them on a skillet for 5 minutes, then tossing them with lemon juice, olive oil,  pecans, salt and pepper. I like to add shaved Parmesan cheese or dried cranberries when craving a heavier meal.  Cooking Brussels sprouts involve minimal patience and culinary skill. Brussels sprouts are related to the cabbage family and are best when in season. Try picking them in the same size so they cook at the same time. Smaller ones that are tightly closed are best. At the farmer’s markets and some grocery stores, you can buy them with their stalks still intact. This will keep them fresher longer, but storing loose Brussels sprouts in an air tight container will work too.

Brussels Sprouts on their stalk

Weekly Dinner Menu
Sunday: Stuffed Peppers (turkey and gravy), Arugula Salad (pomegranates, goat cheese, pine nuts)
Monday: Squash and Pistachio Quinoa, Kale Salad
Tuesday: Mixed Lentil Pilaf, Brussels Sprouts Salad, Roasted Beets and Persimmons
Wednesday: Turkey Tartine with Cranberry Sauce
Thursday: Sip, Snack and Shop on Chestnut Street
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Dinner at a friend’s place

How was your Thanksgiving?

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Taking the Can Out Of Cranberries

Deliciously shaped.

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Canned cranberries. I thought that was the only way it goes, never even having seeing cranberries in their fruit form. Then sometime 5-6 years ago, I saw Ocean Spray whole cranberries being sold at a supermarket. I popped one in my mouth and was really sorry. I always thought cranberries were really sweet, but was I wrong! I would have never guessed that cranberries were so bitter because they are super, duper sweet when coming out of the can. I examined the ingredients and nutritional information on the can and compared it to the whole, fresh cranberries. Here is what I found:

Canned Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Corn Syrup and Citric Acid

Whole Cranberries
Cranberries

Simple, Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries, water, sugar

Notice the significant difference between the ingredients used to make homemade cranberry sauce and the canned stuff. Sugar is not exactly the same as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and corn syrup. HFCS are created in a lab and does not come from the earth.  If you wish to believe the advertisements and propaganda put on by the industry, who have a lot of money to spare, I will not debate here.  By the way, the industry is calling HFCS and corn syrup “corn sugar nowadays to make it harmless and simple. You can decide for yourself. It’s just bad for you and it’s in virtually every packaged, processed, pre-made product.  The important message here is that you can control the amount of sugar you eat if you make the food at home. You can also choose sugar alternatives (Muscovado sugar, coconut palm nectar, dates, raisins, Agave nectar, raw honey, Stevia).  Also, another thing that everyone should be concerned with is Bisphenol A. BPA needs its own post(s) altogether, but everyone should be cautious of it as it has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, obesity, just to name a few. BPA is used to line canned and pre-packaged food, which leaches into the food.

Cranberry sauce has to be the easiest Thanksgiving dish, ever. Of course, you can tap into you creative side and jazz it up by adding one or many spices, orange juice, or anything else you seem fit. I started taking pride in making my  cranberry sauce when I read the recipe on the back of Trader Joe’s cranberries and the sight of canned cranberries just make me a little uneasy. Also, cranberry sauce can be made well in advance and actually thickens in the fridge. It’s also super easy (and cheap) to take to potlucks. Check out the recipes below on how to make your own cranberry sauce. Also, if you want to really surprise your guests, try my Earl Grey Cranberry Sauce with Dates.

Simple
Homemade Cranberry Sauce– by Pioneer Woman (who won the Thanksgiving Throwdown against Bobby Flay)
Gingered Cranberry by Sauce by Closet Cooking
Jellied Cranberry Sauce by The Bitten Word

Creative
Earl Grey Cranberry Sauce with Dates by Club Dine In!
Bourbon Cranberry Sauce by The Craving Chronicles.

via 5 Second Rule

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Thanksgiving Side Dish: Potatoes Mashed or Not

Follow me on Twitter Mashed potatoes are delicious, but they do take some (messy) prep work  and time which may make you resort the the instant stuff for your side-dish. Instant potatoes have been an American staple for decades. They … Continue reading

A Perfect Cup of Pumpkin Chai

This chai pairs perfectly with a warm slice of pumpkin bread or fresh pumpkin pie. It is easy to make in a large batch to serve at holiday parties or even after your Thanksgiving meal. Continue reading

Meatless Monday: Pistachio Quinoa and Butternut Squash

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Since Autumn has really hit San Francisco, I have fully embraced the seasonal vegetables. Pumpkin, squash, persimmons, carrots, potatoes, heirloom beans, grapes, pistachios, and pomegranates. Mondays are my favorite days to cook, because my … Continue reading

Real Bread and a Recipe

Factory Automation with industrial robots for ...

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Tartine is simply a French word for an open faced sandwich, usually with jam or a spread on top. And I LOVE tartines. They can be casual, easy, fancy, complicated, but always scrumptious. The key in making a tartine is using fresh, unprocessed bread. The bread should be simple, like an old-fashion country loaf, made with as little as four real ingredients.  Skip the loaves that contain sugars, preservatives, additives, hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup. There is a distinct difference in taste and texture with breads made fresh at home or a small bakery compared to the bread found in supermarkets. Most breads sold in supermarkets are made on an industrial scale (mass-produced) and meant to have a long shelf-life (not grow old). Also, bread found in the supermarket is usually pre-sliced for your convenience, which would normally become stale a lot faster than an unsliced loaf of bread. To extend the shelf-life of the bread, the breadmakers (chemists) add a ton of  preservatives and possibly other additives to make the bread look attractive (dyes, bleach). The goal of industrial bread makers is to make the bread as cheaply as possible by using low quality ingredients, extending the shelf-life, and charging consumers the pre-sliced convenience fee. Taste and nutrition are really not important factors in the bread making process. However, a true bread maker puts in a lot of dedication and passion into making each loaf. Let’s compare the ingredient lists between typical store-bought bread and one that would be made at home:

Store Bought Bread

Enriched Bleached Flour [Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, Whey, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Contains 2% or Less of Each of the Following: Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Calcium Sulfate, Soybean Oil, Salt, Dough Conditioners (May Contain One or More of the Following: Mono- and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono- and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Peroxide, DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Azodicarbonamide, Enzymes), Guar Gum, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Distilled Vinegar, Yeast Nutrients (Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate and/or Calcium Carbonate), Corn Starch, Vitamin D3, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour.

Homemade/ Artisan Bread

Flour, Water, Yeast, Salt.

Slice your own bread, it’s worth it!

I  like to get my loaf from Tartine Bakery, Acme Bread, and La Boulangerie. Though I try not get it too often, as I cannot practice any restraint around a fresh, aromatic loaf. I like to eat tartines with warmed jams and nut butters, pure butter, fresh fruits, or heirloom tomatoes, cheeses,  grilled chicken breast, arugula, or farm fresh eggs.

Which loaf of bread would you feel comfortable eating and digesting? Which do you think is better for your kids and family?

Early Autumn Savory Tartine

Ingredients
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 tsp garlic, chopped
2 tsp olive oil, plus more for coating pan
1/2 cup zebra zucchini, sliced
1/3 cup onions, sliced
1 small ripe heirloom tomato
2 slices of a country loaf bread
2 tbs sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 tbs goat cheese, crumbles
2 tbs Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp dried basil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Methods

1. In a mixing bowl, toss 1 tsp olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and cherry tomatoes to mix well. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron pan (or nonstick skillet) on medium heat. Gently toss the cherry tomatoes in the pan and let cook until the skins are wrinkly and juice starts to burst out, about 7-10 minutes. Stir frequently.

2. In the same skillet or another, cook the onions until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Cook the zucchini until tender, about 5 minutes. You may need to drizzle a little olive oil over the pan so the onions or zucchini does not stick. Meanwhile, slice the heirloom tomatoes and reserve the juice.

3. Toast the slices of bread in a toaster or on the skillet (my preference, so it picks up flavor and oil from the vegetables). Sprinkle the cheeses over the bread immediately after it’s done toasting. Pour the reserved juice of the heirloom tomato over the bread. Layer the zucchini, onion and tomatoes over the bread. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and dried basil over the tartine. Enjoy warm with a side salad.

Makes two tartines.