Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ode to BOKA

I have a couple of recipes that I want to write about, but first I have to tell you about the most amazing dinner I had last night. Have you ever had a meal during which every single dish you taste just blows you away? Even the table bread?

I can't remember this happening to me before last night.

My husband and I literally followed every first bite with the words, "oh my god, that's incredible". We started the night with the amuse bouche for the evening, a smooth pumpkin coconut soup with a coconut jalapeno relish. I was surprised since I wasn't expecting anything like this, and then we were informed that the recipe is featured in a cookbook BOKA is participating in - a project for charity that several local restaurants contributed to. Our server also told us that we would be receiving this cookbook as a gift if we wanted to register our credit card with the organization. Five percent of our bill would be donated to the chef's charity of choice, the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance in Seattle.

As we paged through the cookbook and drooled over the recipes, we nibbled on a rather impressive table bread. Rustic, crusty, and airy, with a side of butter and what seemed to be a rich balsamic paste, perfectly acidic and sweet.

My husband ordered a cheese course too, though I hesitate to mention it because I don't recall what he got. Ayr? I think that's it. It came with rosemary crackers and a fig compote. Fortunately, he didn't mind sharing a bit with me.

By now I was feeling pretty pleased with the quality of food, the generosity of the restaurant, and the service. Our server was really down to earth and approachable, not sticky-sweet, aloof, or game-show-hosty. Everyone that came by our table seemed to be just as friendly and conversational.

Our main dishes managed to completely win us over.

He had the rib eye steak with crispy chanterelles, potato, creamy horseradish, and bacon vinaigrette while I had the halibut, baby artichokes, gold potato coins, lemon aioli, and tomato cardamom broth. The fact that the steak and halibut were cooked to perfection was enough to amaze us. How do they do this? I don't know, but I'm inspired to take some cooking classes now. The flavors were skillfully combined for each dish and we shared little bites of everything on our plates, with ohhhhs and ahhhhs for every one.

I managed to eat every single thing on my plate. This is something I hardly ever do but had absolutely no problem doing last night. History was made, folks.

After all of this, we opted for dessert - blueberry cheesecake with a tart lemon creme fraich that I could have sat there eating for the rest of the night. And then when our server brought our bill, he landed two warm, crispy, chocolate-dipped macaroons in front of us. I could have died, you guys. I really and truly did not want to leave the restaurant. I had to will myself to stand up and walk away from the table. It was inevitable, I know, but still kind of sad.

If you want to experience the little bit of heaven that I did last night, you can find it at BOKA Kitchen and Bar in downtown Seattle.

And if you're interested in checking out the cookbook we picked up, take a look at Celebrated Chefs for info on which restaurants are participating and how it works. You can bet we're going to be visiting most of them.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Vitamin D experiment

In the Pacific Northwest, vitamin D is a precious thing and something we typically need to supplement for most of the year. It's not so much that we get tons of rain here, but we do get plenty of gray. The sun makes the occasional cameo appearance in winter but it's hardly enough to keep our vitamin D levels perky.

I am one of the many that has had plunging levels of D for a while now but with one major drawback. I've reacted to every supplemental form of it that I could find - capsules, liquid, and added to cod liver oil. I can't even drink rice, hemp, or almond milk because they always add vitamin D to it.

When I do take it, it acts like a hormone gone wrong in my body, affecting my skin, my mood, and energy levels. While D is important to build strong bones, it is also considered by many now to actually be a hormone and not a vitamin at all. That was really evident to me once I saw how my own system was processing it (though incorrectly).

But recently my story has changed. I treated for vitamin D a few weeks ago with my NAET practitioner and then started taking it in the form of some very high-quality cod liver oil about a week after that treatment. I am happy to report that I am not reacting to it. I'm slowly ramping up my dosage and I'll be really excited to do a blood test in a few months to check my levels and see if they are improving. In the meantime, I'm going to pay attention to how I'm feeling and see if I notice a positive change from supplementing it. But the fact that I'm not reacting to it is truly impressive to me and a real marker that these NAET treatments are actually doing what they claim.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wherein the Queen of Bites attempts to give up her crown...

Not because I plan on abandoning this blog, of course. What on earth would you do without my monthly posts?

No, rather it's that I'm going through treatments to eliminate my food allergies and sensitivities. The modality is called NAET and I'm seeing a local acupuncturist who came highly recommended to me by several people. It's something I tried about 5 years ago, but I felt really confused and unsupported by my practitioner at the time. I am finding this attempt to be much more interesting, tolerable, and rewarding, and I'm curious to see how successful it's going to be in the long run. Fingers crossed.

There are 15 basic nutrients they test and treat you for before moving on to all of the other possibilities. After the first one - egg - I noticed that the rosacea that had been slowly creeping up on me disappeared. Every treatment I've done since then has had some kind of small effect on my health in a very unique way. Treating vitamin D seemed to help with my skin a bit more, and treating my allergy to most spices has shifted my internal temperature. I actually like to drink cold water now, which was something I avoided like the plague before.

I'm still eating in my usual fashion until I get some of the other major allergies addressed. Then I'll do a bit more exploring with various foods and assess how these treatments are going.

Dairy is a big one I still need to do, along with soy, caffeine, and a few others.

So I'm still eating gluten and dairy free for now, though I am eating eggs. And let me tell you, eating eggs again is fabulous.

If you're curious about NAET, there is a bit of info on their website.

More to come.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Birthday Cupcakes

Yesterday was my birthday and I threw together a spontaneous "cupcake happy hour" in honor of said occasion. It was a perfect excuse for me to bake, share my bounty with friends, and celebrate my birthday at the same time. Earlier in the day, my husband and I went to see Julie & Julia so it was truly a foodie day for me.

The cupcake recipe I chose was Vanilla Cupcakes with Mocha Icing from Karina's Kitchen and they were lovely. Of course they were gluten and dairy free though I did use happy eggs in them instead of egg substitute. You could easily use the substitute if you'd like these to be vegan and they would still taste amazing. For the extract I just used plain vanilla and for the vinegar I actually used raw apple cider vinegar. Not exactly "light tasting" but it seemed to work.

(I'm actually working on getting over some of my food allergies, though I'll save that story for another post. For now, cupcakes.)

For a personal touch I chopped some dark chocolate and sprinkled that over the icing since you can really never have too much dark chocolate. It was actually my first time using a pastry bag for frosting a cupcake and it was way too fun. Next time I just need to put the iced cakes in the fridge before the frosting starts to lose it's shape. Or I need to make the icing more stiff.

Without further delay...

Vanilla Cupcakes with Mocha Icing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cupcake tin with paper or parchment liners

In a mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together:

1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Add in:

1 cup warm vanilla rice milk or water
2 large happy eggs (or 1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with 1/4 cup warm water if you want these to be vegan)
3 tablespoons light olive oil
1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon light tasting vinegar

Beat with a mixer until the cake batter is smooth- roughly 2-3 minutes.

A reminder on gluten-free vegan batters: Gluten-free vegan batters behave a little different. They are often stiffer at first, then get sticky and stretch as the xanthan gum and egg replacer do their vegan g-free thing.

If the batter climbs the beaters, slow down the speed and slightly lift the beaters to encourage the batter to migrate back down into the bowl. Move your beater around the bowl in figure eights, at a slight angle.

Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cp measuring cup, plop the batter into the twelve liners. Smooth out the tops with wet fingers.

Bake in the center of a preheated oven until firm and dome shaped. For me this took about 19 minutes, though it could take up to 22 minutes, depending upon your particular oven and altitude.

Cool the pan on a wire rack briefly, then gently pop out the cupcakes and continue cooling on a rack (this avoids steaming the bottoms).

Make your icing.

Dairy-Free Mocha Icing Recipe

When making frosting, start with a small amount of liquid and add a little bit at a time until you achieve the consistency you want. If the icing gets too runny, add more confectioner's sugar to thicken it. You can also put the icing in the fridge for an hour to stiffen it.

2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2-3 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening
2 ounces cold coffee, more as needed (or use rice milk if you don't like coffee but I thought the coffee added a nice flavor)
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla

Starting with the least amount of liquid, beat the sugar and cocoa powder to incorporate the shortening, coffee and vanilla. If you need more liquid, add a small amount at a time. Beat for two minutes or so until smooth. If you need to stiffen the frosting, add a little more confectioner's sugar.

Chill the frosting before using it. I chill it, covered, for roughly an hour.

Frost the cupcakes. Cover in an air-tight container until serving. Best eaten the first day though I served them on day 2. If making ahead of time, chill frosted cakes briefly in the freezer before wrapping individually and freezing.

Makes twelve cupcakes. And if you're lucky like me, you'll still have a couple leftover after your birthday party that you can nibble on over the next week.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy meat

A couple of months ago Elliot and I went to Greenfest in Seattle.  It was held in a large ballroom at the Convention Center downtown filled with booths showcasing natural foods, eco-friendly home designs, various "green" products, and tons of samples.  There was a huge crowd and it took a few hours just to get a look at everything.

I was like a kid in a candy store.  It was awesome.  Not only did I enjoy the theme, but did I mention that there were a ton of samples?  Of dark chocolate?

One of the highlights for me was that we found a somewhat local farm that offers a CSA ("CSA" means community supported agriculture) for eggs and meat that is just about 5 hours from where I live in the city.  Crown S Ranch is a small, family-owned farm, and I even got to chat with Jennifer, the farmer who was running the booth.  What I love about them is that they are essentially a grass farm, similar to the one mentioned in The Omnivore's Dilemma (a great read if you haven't picked it up).  

All of their animals are raised on certified organic pastures and the farm's website describes how each type of animal is kept.  As I've learned more about food quality and sourcing, this has become really important to me.  I'm happy that these animals are able to live a life that has some sense of decency, where they can experience a relatively natural life and aren't fed a diet of antibiotics, GMO corn, and animal by-products.  I don't want to eat these things and I don't want my food to eat these things either.   

Instead they get to eat the things that they would naturally eat, like worms and grass.  They even have a chicken tractor!  

We signed up a couple of months ago and they begin delivering to our neighborhood in September.  We'll get one dozen eggs, one chicken, and a few pounds of beef every month or two.  They offer monthly tours of the farm, so we'll plan on doing that sometime this summer.  Until then, we're buying as much of our meat from local farmers markets as possible.  

I really am very excited about supporting this farm.  I'd love to see this become a trend in the States.


A month!  It really has been too long.  Please don't fester and die, little blog.  I promise I'll do better...



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sunday breakfast

Shortly after my last post, I realized I still have plenty to write about food. Especially food I love and could happily eat on a daily basis.  Food such as... pancakes.

That's right.  I said "pancakes".  I, someone who doesn't eat gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, or even much sugar, have been enjoying pancakes on a weekly basis ever since I discovered yet another gem from "The Cravings Place":  

They are by far the best hypoallergenic pancakes I have ever had.  I've tried several brands now and without speaking harshly about the less savory ones, I can whole-heartedly recommend these.  There is a good chance that unless you witness me on a Sunday morning with my plate full of tiny pancakes (I like to make mini-cakes), dancing around the kitchen, you have no idea how happy something as silly as these make me.  So far, only my husband and my cat have that honor, but now that I think of it, I would totally host a pancake party some Sunday if anyone is game.

My favorite way to eat them?  Warm, with virgin coconut butter (which has a lovely coconut flavor and aroma), a very small amount of maple syrup, and pears on top.  Mine are on the right.  Elliot prefers his with butter, syrup, and a sunny side up egg crowning it.  Actually, he eats it sunny side down so the yolk soaks into the pancakes.  I eat mine and then we kinda share his.  Heh.  

"The Cravings Place" has been a hit with me so far and has a wide selection of nut/gluten/dairy/egg free mixes that I have yet to try.  I will be sure to sacrifice my time and my taste buds and then post here with a discerning report on each product.  In the name of science, of course.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


It's been about two weeks since my return from the Amazonian jungle and I'm still settling back into things.  

It was a very intense and transformational trip, which I anticipated, and as I'm sliding back into "normal" life I feel like everything sits just a notch or so from where it used to. Life is sweeter, more vibrant (despite the cold I've had), and is begging for some changes.  Some of them I recognize and some of them I don't quite know how to do yet.  You know that feeling? Like something is pulling in a different direction but I can't quite tell how yet.  It's really satisfying when I am able to figure out how to follow that urge to an endpoint.

One of those shifts is in this blog.  It's gonna get more personal, guys. Maybe not necessarily more personal on all the intimate details of my life, but I gotta talk about more than just food here.  And really, food overlaps with so many other things in life, right?  Food is healing, food is medicine, food is enjoyment, and it's also just one of the ways that I nourish myself.  

Sure, it's an important one.  I would definitely die without food, but I'm pretty sure I would die without breath or touch.  

With that said, I'm going to reflect for a moment here on all of the ways I nourish myself in addition to food.  Off the top of my head: breath, touch, friends, community, travel, rest, yoga and dance, and of course - writing (speak of the devil!).  Music!  So many ways.  I know the list is just going to keep growing.

So what are the ways in which you nourish yourself?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sweet, sweet sugar

February probably wasn't the best month to choose for going sugar-free. Whoops.

But that's what we decided in this house and we're sticking to it.  At least it's the shortest month of the year, right?  Unfortunately it also seems to be one of the sweetest, most romantic, most desert oriented months of the year.  I kind of forgot about that when we set this plan, but now it has become painfully obvious.  It even feels a little bit like torture sometimes.  Let's just say I'm really looking forward to March!

At least we didn't go fruit-free or carb-free, just sugar and sweetener free.  I've been dabbling in the Stevia quite a bit and otherwise ogling any and all desserts that happen to cross my path.  I miss my dark chocolate.  I miss having little bites of bakery samples, or nibbling at my GF, DF, EF brownies and cookies.  I miss my tiny indulgences.

I also miss baking.  

You see, there's not a lot of baking that I do that doesn't involve some kind of sweetener.  I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day, marveling (read: drooling) at the cakes and cookies and realizing just how much I enjoy it. Plain flour, sugar, and shortening aren't that exciting on their own, but once you throw them together and add heat you can create something much more impressive and tempting than its separate parts.  It's kitchen alchemy.  I don't even care that much if I'm the one eating what I create.  It's just fun.  I was actually fantasizing about how awesome it would be to become a pastry chef or to bake professionally and spend the day making these gorgeous cakes and tiny confections that I see at the store.  Seriously, I'd love that.

So... I'll have to wait for March.  Sigh.  Until then, I will daydream of all the lovely things I want to make and try to be good.      

Friday, January 23, 2009

A love of all things coconut


My last post was three weeks ago?  Three weeks go by that quickly now? Yeesh. I have had so much fabulous food in these past three weeks, and I've been narrating them in my head without putting them on this site. Well, it's time to get cracking (and put down that damn copy of Twilight).  I have something amazingly delicious to share today.  Brace yourselves.

Admittedly, you're not going to enjoy this if you're not a fan of coconut. The only reason I know this is because my poor, poor husband never acquired a taste for coconut and has no appreciation for something like this.  He doesn't even care for macaroons.  Poor man.   

Coconut is a gem - especially for those of us that don't tolerate dairy and are looking for some good alternatives.  Pick up coconut milk, flaked coconut meat, or coconut oil to substitute dairy products.  I like to use coconut oil as a butter alternative since it solidifies at approximately 70 degrees and works well almost anywhere that dairy butter would.  

My newest discovery though (read: addiction) is coconut cream.  It is heaven, I swear.  It's basically coconut meat that has been ground very finely but stores as a solid mass in the jar.  It is more dry than oily, and is best extracted from the jar with a fork or knife as opposed to a spoon. You can crumble it on warm food and watch it melt in like soft cheese, blend it with water to make coconut milk, add it to soups and stews for flavor, and - my favorite - eat it straight out of the jar in chunks like there is no tomorrow.  I confess, I haven't been very creative with my first batch of coconut cream.  Honestly, it's so tasty I've just been eating it by the spoonful or putting a small amount on a bite of bread to savor the flavor.  Sometimes with a bit of agave or salt.  I fully intend to play around with making milk out of it and using it in recipes but I've nearly killed the jar in less than a month. Looks like I'll have to buy another one.  What a shame.

I like to get it from Tropical Traditions which gives me an excuse to peruse all of the other delicious items on their website.  Try it out and let me know what you think and how you like to eat it.  Recipes are welcome, too!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Lard: Superfood of 2009....?


I just love that I am posting in order to extol the potential virtues of lard. Especially in the face of so many lard nay-sayers out there.  After all, it is a saturated animal fat so therefore must be the cause of atrocities like heart disease and the like, right? 

Honestly, I am not convinced.  If you would like to hear the pro-saturated fat side of the argument, I suggest you check out the Weston A. Price Foundation.  They are just one of the groups challenging our current ideas around the relationship between saturated fats and disease.  Here is a list of articles on their site exploring this topic. Speaking as someone that fell utterly into the fat-free fad of the 90's, I confess that I find the opinions at WAPF very refreshing.  Take a look and see what you think. 

But I'm not really here to talk about lard as a saturated fat.  I'm excited because I've read a few sources marking lard (from pastured pigs) as one of the richest dietary sources of vitamin D. This makes sense that you would find it in concentrated amounts in the fat of an animal as it is a fat-soluble vitamin.  Vitty D has been in the news quite a bit these days because of how prevalent deficiencies are and the possible links to many health issues, including MS.  This just means we need to consume more of it either through food, supplementation, or sunlight exposure.  And considering how little sunlight we get in the lovely Pacific Northwest, getting our D from the sun isn't as easy up here as it is in sunny California.

I myself have a rather significant deficiency in vitty D as well as an intolerance to all supplemental forms of it.  That's right, all of them.  I have yet to find a vitamin D supplement that I don't react to, and none of my doctors have been able to figure out why or what to do about it.  So food sources are my only way to go.

I bought a lovely bucket of lard this past weekend at the local farmers market and I'm going to start cooking everything I can palatably justify in it (my husband deterred me from attempting to make salad dressing out of it- saying something about that being gross).  I'll retest my vitty D levels in a few months and see if they've come up at all.

You'll be among the first to know.

Also, many thanks to Seabreeze Farm and the amazing products they bring to our local farmers market every week.  I used to travel over to Vashon several years ago to get their raw milk (before I was fully aware of the dairy allergy) and they've grown so much since then.