Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pangaea and the Orange Dressing

I've mentioned this before. While Quincy is a really great town, we are lacking a little bit in the restaurant department. There are actually around 10 restaurants in Quincy but because there is only one that we go to, it feels like there is only one restaurant in Quincy. That's not very many..... And the next town is quite a journey away. 

But oh, how we love this one restaurant! It is called Pangaea. If it weren't for Pangaea.....I don't know. I'm not saying we would move for sure but Quincy wouldn't be the same. We don't go there a lot; maybe once a month, but the fact that it is there when we need a family restaurant fix it is huge. It is walking distance from our house (as is all of the downtown). As a popular local gathering place it is usually buzzing with conversation, music, laughter and a busy kitchen. Out of the kitchen comes delicious, creatively presented, mostly organic and local fare. They carry a variety of local craft beers on tap so many patrons saunter right on up to the bar for their evening tipple. If you've lived in Quincy any length of time you are guaranteed to see familiar faces as you enter. The atmosphere is relaxed, the service prompt and friendly. It is always a good experience which is why we will continue to return again and again. It's a gem; I can't say it enough.

We have been bringing our son there since he was a baby in a stroller, an orange BOB that now can be seen rolling around town with a new little occupant. When they bring your plated food, they also bring a 4-pack of dressings, 3 of which are house-made. One of the house-made dressings is an invigorating orange color, kind of like the stroller. It is Leo's favorite. It is my favorite. Husband loves it too. We can go through three quarters of a 12oz. bottle in one meal. It is great on rice dishes, salads, home fries, steamed veggies, wraps, you name it. It's packed with flavor and it is healthy! One of the primary ingredients is carrot. 

I've had the recipe for years. It traveled around the Quincy underground via emails and whispers....... But for years I didn't make it. I would say most dressings that I make average 5 ingredients. This one has 11. Every time I pulled out the recipe to make it there would be one or two ingredients I was missing. Oh well. "Does anybody feel like going to Pangaea tonight?"

This dressing is worth the effort. The recipe makes a whole quart and if you like it as much as we do, that is not too much. It keeps well refrigerated. 

Pangaea's Orange Dressing
You will need:
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 cup canola oil
2 t. sesame oil
1/2 to 1/3 cup of apple juice
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup sesame seeds
a small piece of fresh ginger (~1"x1/2") coarsely chopped
5-6 peeled cloves of garlic
2+ cups grated carrot
1/4 onion cut up
3 T. prepared mustard or 1 T. mustard powder

Gathering all the ingredients is the work. Once you have them you just put them all into a blender and blend until smooth.

Ready to be drenched in orange goodness

And if you ever find yourself in Quincy, California, you know where to go: Pangaea Pub and Cafe!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Spring Herbs and Fresh Mayonnaise

Egg salad with homemade garlic mayo, fresh chives and raw asparagus
Overall my diet has improved since eliminating the things that were bothering my tummy. I also notice that rather than grazing throughout the day, my breakfast and lunch are more intentional along with being more nutritious. If there was homemade bakery in the house, which was often, I tended to snack on that throughout the day and then count on dinner to supply me with most of my protein and veggies. Now I find myself cooking rice at 8AM and chopping vegetables at noon. It does require more work than slathering some peanut butter on a bagel but the results are more colorful, flavorful, and nutritionally rewarding. When I have a carb craving the only thing that seems to satisfy it is a protein-dense meal or snack. I've been eating a lot of boiled egg salads and sardines! I open a can every day or two and last time I went shopping I bought all they had on the shelf. My previous sardine consumption probably averaged once every 5 years. As an aside, there is a funny scene in an animated film we watched a couple years ago with our son. The movie is called Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and features a young scientist who grew up in a town that used to be a thriving sardine port until it was discovered that "Sardines Are Super Gross". It is a big joke with our family now. I must admit that you are better off not scrutinizing your sardines as you consume them.

Because of a lack of clarity on whether grain distilled vinegars irritate the gluten-intolerant, I've begun making my own mayonnaise again. When I first learned how easy (and tasty) it was to make, I made it all the time. Gradually, as I added family into the mix, I got away from it and bought Saffola instead. As I blended some up for this lunch salad I couldn't help but notice the lovely pale-yellow color of it brought about by the golden yolks of the eggs we buy locally. It made me wonder about the decidedly white color of store bought mayo. For the acid I used a little lemon juice rather than vinegar.

Homemade Garlic Mayonnaise

2 nice fresh eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 minced clove of garlic
1/2 t. kosher salt
a bottle of preferably organic canola oil with at least a cup and half left in it
(Many different oils or a blend of oils will work to make mayonnaise. I enjoy the mild flavor of canola.)

Crack the eggs into a blender or if you have an immersion blender (on my wish list) crack the eggs into a jar. Blend on low speed. While blending add lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Now begin to pour a slow stream of oil into the blending mixture. Continue pouring slowly and watch as the mayo begins to take shape. It begins to thicken suddenly. Keep pouring until it looks quite thick like mayonnaise and then stop abruptly. If you continue blending much past this point it can lose its emulsification and become liquidy again. Done!

From when you start blending it will be done in less than a minute. Some other optional additions include a teaspoon of any kind of mustard, chopped fresh herbs, or a teaspoon of wasabe powder or horseradish. Scrape into a mason jar if not already in one. Use within a week or two. I love this garlic mayo for dipping artichoke leaves! 
On another day I brought my eggs out to the garden and cut the chives directly into the bowl.

 No sardine photos....

The iris forest beside our patio

And this last, a cartoon from a recent New Yorker that my dad cut out for me. So funny! I do feel strangely trendy telling people that I am avoiding gluten..........

From a recent The New Yorker magazine

Laughter and enjoyment to you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Levels of Healthfulness

Do you consider yourself healthy? Do you eat a healthy diet? I've been thinking a lot about health lately as I navigate the process of trying to diagnose an "off" feeling in my abdominal area. I've always felt that because I don't drink soda or smoke or eat fast food that that was good enough. I eat my veggies. I love veggies! We buy mostly organic and grow and forage some of our own food. I cook almost all of our meals from whole ingredients. Our family's diet is relatively very good. But it is easy to have a relatively good diet when so many Americans eat so poorly. And as long as you eat a fairly healthy diet and feel fine, why would you worry or make a change? The same goes for exercise. As long as you are feeling fine and can still do the things you are used to doing, why bump it up a notch? Oftentimes it takes a health issue arising for us to push our eating or exercise habits to the next level. But make no mistake, diet and exercise are some of our best medicine.

We really are facing challenging times health-wise. Sometimes even our best intentions are thwarted by our exposure to toxins and pollution beyond our immediate control. Due to outdated corporation-centric laws, the burden of testing chemicals used in consumer products falls to the FDA and not the company profiting from using or producing the chemical. There are tens of thousands of chemicals in use today and very few have undergone testing to determine their effects on human health not to mention the health of the environment as a whole. In other words, we are guinea pigs in a big chemical experiment. And clearly we are suffering. Sick-care is one of the largest growing industries in the world.

It is so strange to have to tell my son that things that they sell at the store are poison or "bad" for you. "Why are they selling things that are bad for our bodies, mom?" "Because it increases their profit margin, my sweet, precious, lovely angel."

As far as my own journey goes, I have eliminated gluten and dairy from my diet but unfortunately there are still days or parts of days where my "gut" feels uncomfortable. I'm not sure what my next step will be. There is a talented acupuncturist in town. There are a variety of western-medicine type doctors. There is a homeopath. I am still in the process of discovering what my body is trying to tell me and I am proceeding with a newly revitalized commitment to being as healthy as I can be.

Alright, enough musing and ranting. How about a super healthy, bump-it-up-a-notch, raw kale salad recipe? 

Spicy Kale Salad
 You will need:
1 bunch of kale (preferably curly leaf)
1 T. sesame tahini
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. tamari
1 T. water
2 T. nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic minced
1 pinch of cayenne 

Wash and dry kale. Remove leaves from stems. Tear kale into bite-sized pieces. Blend all of the other ingredients in a bowl using a fork or whisk until it forms a thick dressing. Pour over kale and massage the dressing into the kale until all pieces are well coated. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. This salad will not get soggy or wilt. Keep covered in the refrigerator and enjoy over the course of a few days. It just gets better. Raw kale is so good for you! This dressing makes it pleasurable to eat.

Enjoy and in health.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Libations in the Sunshine

Last May it was very snowy and rainy. In fact, last year there was no spring to speak of. Winter dropped us precipitously into summer in the second week of June. Since it has been two years since last spring I am especially appreciating it now. Walking about town is like walking through one big garden. The streets are lined with lilacs and their accompanying heady fragrance fills the air. Our own yard is heavy on the spring-flower side of things so right now is about about as good as it gets flower-wise.

Promise of apples to come
It was a perfect time to invite the neighbors over to try the Stephan Way Chardonnay. We gathered in the back yard and toasted the ultimate local wine experience; and here in mountains no less. The wine was a hit. We are all hoping for another bumper crop so I can give it another go with a few hard lessons under my belt.

Our talented neighbor, Scott, made the apropos wine barrel tables. He can transform wine barrels into all kinds of amazing things. He arrived at our wine tasting party bearing the gravity-defying gift below. 

In addition to actually sitting down and enjoying the proverbial fruits of previous wine-making labors, we've opened a couple bottles of last year's mead recently to enjoy in the spring sunshine. The cherry mead made with cherries from another neighbors magical tree is a lovely thing to behold; bright and clear and cherry red. The taste of mead varies wildly from one batch to the next depending on the ingredients and proportions used. This one is on the dry side; an acquired taste and one that I have. I am thankful that both wine and mead are free from gluten and a decadence I can still partake in.

I've recently started two new batches of mead; a vanilla cardamon, and a cranberry ginger. Last year's cranberry mead was my favorite of 2011's five batches. I won't share how to make it here unless I receive a special request. But just know that it is not too difficult. If you want to make your own honey wine, you can do so without too much fuss.

Cheers and enjoy!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Curried Quinoa Salad

I absolutely LOVE quinoa. Not only is it chewy and delicious and satisfying, it is a nutritional powerhouse. Besides being a complete protein, quinoa is also high in fiber and packed with iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, lysine, and other essential amino acids. Oh, and it is gluten-free. Bonus!

Several people who recently tried my curried quinoa salad requested the recipe so I will share it here. I make it a little differently every time so I will share a couple options and you can feel free to experiment. The curried quinoa with golden raisins is the base. The dressing stays more or less the same. It is the other additions that vary depending on what I have on hand. 

For the quinoa: Put 3/4 cups of uncooked quinoa into a saucepan. I double this to 1.5 cups for company and then double everything else as well. Cover with cold water and swish with hands. Gently pour off most of the water and cover again with fresh water. Let sit for a few minutes and up to 15. Gently pour off most of the water again and add 1.5 cups of fresh water. Place on a burner over medium heat. When it comes to a simmer turn the heat down to low and add 3 tablespoons of golden raisins, 1 teaspoon of curry powder, and a pinch of salt. Stir and cover. Cook until water is absorbed. Approximately 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, fluff with a fork, gently stir in additions and dressing.
For the simple dressing: Whisk together 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth, 1 T. olive oil, 2 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 t. kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper.

The additions: If tomatoes are in season, they are awesome chopped up in this salad along with a coarsely chopped hard-boiled egg and some thinly sliced scallions.

If there are no tomatoes you can try chopped crisp apple, a small handful of fruit-juice-sweetened dried cranberries and keep the hard-boiled egg and scallions.

This dish tastes delicious still slightly warm and is maybe even better cold the next day.

Serves 4 (or 8 if doubled)

Try this and enjoy!