thai peanut sauce

i wouldn't be surprised to find out that seattle has an equal number of thai food restaurants as we do starbucks. there is never a lack of thai food. luckily, i happen to enjoy thai food. a lot. one of my favorite thai flavors is the peanut sauce. my dad used to make a home made version that was slightly more complicated and involved a stove top... but the version i've created is fairly simple and tastes great at room temp on raw vegetables or thrown into a hot stir fry.

1 cubic inch fresh ginger, finely grated
1 or 2 cloves raw garlic, chopped
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
4 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon dried chillies
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup or 1/4 cup coconut milk

notes: if you prefer a warm sauce over steamed vegetables or rice, try adding a quarter cup of coconut milk to your sauce and heating all ingredients together in a saucepan over low heat. if you prefer a thicker sauce for raw vegetables or to add into a stir fry, use brown rice syrup to slightly sweeten the sauce without adding too much liquid.

combine all ingredients in a food processor until combined to serve at room temperature or to add to stir fry. if making a warm sauce, combine ingredients in a sauce pan and cook at a low temp, stirring frequently. add additional coconut milk or water until you reach a desired consistency.

i love the sauce served with a mixture of raw and cooked vegetables and rice. this particular meal had red rice, cooked mushrooms and carrots with raw green bell peppers and avocado, served with sesame marinated bakes tofu.

pet food

i had an epiphany a few months ago when i read a fact that seattle has more dogs than we do children (no wonder i love this city)... but here are all these foodies and environmentalists and activists eating our organic produce, local fresh eggs or maybe some small-scale grass-fed beef, and what is it that we feed our pets?! most likely, some highly processed 'meat byproduct meal' crap from a bag. take a look at your pet food - if there is any vaguely labeled ingredients such as 'chicken-byproduct-meal,' you should drop the bag and go apologize to your four-legged friend for feeding it feathers and diseased meats. need more motivation to take action? check out marion nestle's book, 'pet food politics'

i could continue on this rant, or i could give you some useful suggestions of what can be done! first off, there are some very high quality foods on the market - like the honest kitchen's natural dehydrated pet foods. this is a good place to start if you don't have the time to learn more about preparing meals for animals. pet food is a science! just like us, dogs and cats require specific nutrients and ratios of protein to carbohydrates. but it is a science that can be perfected in your own home kitchen with a little bit of research and reading. i've been preparing meals for our pets based on the guidelines from a book called 'natural health for dogs & cats'

watching our cats dig their little furry faces into the first meal i prepared them gave me a surprising amount of joy. sure, i love getting to cook for and share a meal with my friends and family. but never before had i been able to do the same for our pets! i was so proud (and relieved that they actually liked my cooking!) that i think i may have scared them a bit with my enthusiasm. it's been a slow, gradual transition, but they are now on a 100% local raw foods diet!

what goes into a balanced meal for your pet? cat's are carnivores and require meat - lots of meat - and in the wild, that meat would be raw. dogs enjoy more vegetables and grains (potentially your dog could even be vegetarian if given ample supplements). our goal was to be able to track the source of the meat we feed to our pets, so we talked to the butcher at dot's delicatessen in hopes of finding some reasonably priced, lean ground meats from a local farm. for the first time in my life, i purchased beef chuck and liver and brought it home to my vegetarian kitchen.

beyond raw meat, cats and dogs also require carbs, calcium (which i learned can be supplemented by finely ground egg shells), fats and oils, omegas, various vitamins and enzymes - most of which can be sourced from natural foods or whole food supplements. oh, and nutritional yeast is the perfect meal topper for you pet (who knew??) so there is a bit of initial investment as you stock up on a few supplements and fish oils, etc. but in the end, our pet food costs have only gone up about 25% ... but it was worth it! just be patient with your pets - pet food scientists spend more time studying food additives and flavorings to make your pets addicted to their dry food than they do studying the quality and nutritional value of the food. cat's especially can be addicted to their dry food, but once they learn what real food they will love you for your efforts.

bon appetit mes chattes et mon chien! sante!

winter risotto

this risotto is full of warming seasonal flavors! creamy roasted butternut squash, sweet roasted chestnuts and savory sage folded into a slow-cooking rice risotto. delicious! risotto is fairly simple to make, but does require constant attention as you prep and cook (about 80 minutes or so). risotto is well worth the work and makes for lovely left overs too!

butternut squash & chestnut risotto:
1 1/2 cups risotto rice (arborio rice)
3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 small onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
4 ounces peeled and halved chestnuts (i used pre-cooked, vacuum packed chestnuts)
small bunch fresh sage
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pats of butter (optional)
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon coriander
salt & pepper
1/4 cup parmesan, finely grated (optional)
parsley, chopped for garnish

preheat oven to 400 degrees. in the mean time, prep and dice all your vegetables. combine the cubed squash with one tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with chili flakes and ground coriander and spread the squash out in a single layer in a roasting pan. bake up to 30 minutes until fork tender.
while the squash is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon oil and a pat of butter in a large skillet and sautee the onions, celery and garlic for 10 minutes at a low heat. try to avoid browning the vegetables. at the same time, heat 3 cups of broth on the stove top, letting it sit at a simmer. after 10 minutes of cooking the vegetables, add the dry rice and turn up the heat. fry the rice with the vegetables for about one minute until the rice becomes translucent. add a ladleful (1/2 cup) of broth to the rice and vegetable mixture. continue cooking at a low temperature, uncovered, until the liquid is absorbed. continue to add a ladleful at a time, giving the rice time to absorb. depending on your patience level you may find that you use less or more liquid... just continue to cook until the rice is tender but still has a bit of a bite to it.
check the squash! once it is fork tender, add the chestnuts to the roasting pan and return to the oven for about 5-10 minutes until the squash is very soft and creamy and the chestnuts are heated through. remove the squash and nuts from the oven and let sit until the risotto rice is finished. season the rice to taste.
finally, combine the squash and chestnuts in with the risotto. add a handful of torn sage leaves, an extra pat of butter and parmesan cheese. fold all together and then let sit, covered for 2 minutes off of the heat. if you really want to please your palate, in small fry pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and fry a few extra sage leaves. once crisp, remove from oil and let sit on a paper towel. crumbled on top of the risotto, the little crisp leaves are absolutely exceptional!

i was able to fit in a tray of roasted brussel sprouts in the oven while the squash was roasting - the timing worked out just perfectly. pile your risotto high with parsley and fried sage and enjoy!

anchovy aioli

maybe this is a petty dispute, but theres something i don't care for about mayonnaise - but i love a good aioli! especially when the aioli is made with roasted garlic and is melded with the salty flavors of anchovies. if you're afraid of anchovies - dont be! there really are not that 'fishy' ... they simply add a wonderful saltiness that you've probably enjoyed before in caesar salad dressing. here, the roasted garlic also works wonders to tone down the 'fishy' flavor in the aioli. delicious.

anchovy aioli:
8-10 cloves roasted garlic
4-6 anchovies, packed in oil
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 egg yolks, (save the egg whites for breakfast or something, please)
1/3 (+ or -) cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt & fresh black pepper

this recipe will require quite a bit of 'to taste' adjusting... i wasn't afraid of scaring anyone away with garlic and anchovy breath, but if you prefer to keep the flavors mild, simply adjust ingredients to taste.

start with blending the garlic, anchovies and egg yolks in a food processor. slowly, slowly, slowly add the oil while the food processor blends at a medium speed. you will notice as the aioli begins to lighten in color and starts to fluff up a bit. do not add too much oil that it becomes liquidy! finally add seasoning and blend for another 30 seconds or so. aioli will keep in a jar for a week or two quite nicely.

spread on some sourdough toast, top with fresh tomatoes or radish or if you're adventurous another few anchovies! salt. pepper. eat.

pigeon pea salad

there is a fabulous authentic puerto rican restaurant in ballard - la isla - that serves up a satisfying appetizer of fried green plantains to scoop up their "gandules dip" - a spicy and tangy pigeon pea salad mixed with onions and roasted peppers that leaves your mouth tasting like raw garlic for hours. the pigeon peas are about the size and color of green lentil, only a bit more plump and firm like a fresh pea. in an attempt to recreate this appetizer today, i couldn't find any green plantains within biking distance of my home, but i did find a can of goya-brand pigeon peas! la isla also serves amazing sauteed garlic prawns. i get the sense that garlic is a serious flavor in puerto rican food... which is all dandy and swell as long as your date consumes equal quantities of garlic. just sayin'...

pigeon pea, corn salad with garlic shrimp:

at least a 1/2 pound of shrimp or prawns, devained and tails removed
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil

4 ears of corn, raw, cut from cob (i like my corn salads raw - if you prefer, you could first boil the ears for a few minutes and let cool completely)
2-3 roasted peppers (i used spicy peppers freshly roasted, seeded and peeled)
1 can pigeon peas, drained and rinsed
1 pint fresh cherry or pear tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
large bunch of cilantro, trimmed and washed
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper

in a skilled, heat olive oil and add shrimp/prawns. after about one minute add the minced garlic. sautee for a few minutes on a medium heat until pink. remove from heat and let cool completely.
in a large bowl combine all the salad ingredients and seasoning to taste. once the seafood has cooled, combine with the corn salad. be sure to scoop up all the fried garlic from the pan and toss into the salad! you might also like to add a bit extra olive oil to dress the salad. serve chilled and idealy with fried plantains (warm flour tortillas is a great substitute though!)

avocado & melon salad

i remember watching in horror as my grandpa sprinkled salt onto his slices of mellon. how dare he! years later, i realized there was a reason to his madness... it's delicious! especially when combined with a little lime and spice.

avocado & mellon salad:
3 cups cubed watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, or any melon variety
1 avocado, sliced
juice of 1/2 lime
sea salt
black pepper
sprinkle of aleppo or red chili flakes
cilantro, trimmed and washed

play with the ratio of melon to avocado - i like a bite of avocado with every few melon bites. use seasonings to taste.

a note about the presentation of this salad: unless you are like me and completely enjoy playing with your food for about an hour in an attempt to make perfect little 1-cubic inch slices of fruit... you can also use a mellon baller to make adorable bite-size mellon balls. or simply sprinkle large slices of melon with rinds intact on a plate and scoop out chunks of avocado with a spoon on top of the melon slices.

Roasted Garlic & Broccoli Soup

i've been frustrated with my lack of free time for food blogging lately... i've promised myself that i will get back into the swing of it this spring, when i'm done with my yoga teacher training certification program. but this weekend i'm staying in with nothing on my schedule but sleeping and recovering from a cold. but of course, this gal's gotta make a pot of soup for herself when she's got a runny nose and sore throat!

this was a recipe i created while on a liver/colon cleanse last month... it is gluten, soy and dairy free but delicious!

vegan creamed broccoli soup:
1/2 onion
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 large head of broccoli - about 4-5 cups
3-4 cups of vegetable broth
10 cloves of roasted garlic - or to taste
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes

super simple: dice up your onions, carrots and celery and sautee together in oil until soft. in the mean time, cut the head of broccoli into small florets. toss in all of your cut broccoli and cover with 3 or 4 cups of broth. cover and simmer for about 7 minutes or until broccoli stalks are fork tender. remove from heat, stir in the 1/2 cup nutritional yeast and let cool. use an immersion blender or transfer soup to blender in batches - puree until very smooth. you may need to add a bit of broth if it looks too think. add salt and pepper to taste, or even some red chili flakes.

if you've never tried nutritional yeast before - holly cow, get on it! "nooch" (as vegans will call it) is packed with Vitamin B... which most of us vegetarians desperately lack... dietary fiber and even protein! it is fabulous in salad dressings, mixed in with fluffy scrambled eggs, dusted on popcorn, or on my favorite: kale chips. you can find it both in a powder or flakes - they dissolve easily either way, so it doesn't really matter which form you buy.