Saturday, October 15, 2016

Slow Cooker Chili

Last week a visit with Erin of Platings and Pairings had me really ready to get back to blogging. We had a great time talking about blogging, bloggers, and food over Happy Hour. We also talked about the challenges, such as this time of year when it gets dark at 4:30 outside, and our natural light is gone.  

But this time of year is so mesmerizingly beautiful outside. The weather is perfect. The leaves are golden and red, the rain relaxes me as I listen to the downfall outside. I drive around and listen to John Mayer's Why Georgia for hours.

I found myself admitting to my friend Jenna that it's exhausting to cook full time at home for our family of four. Now that my husband is working in the Portland area, I'm back to cooking dinner at home every night, plus lunches that he can pack for work, plus lunches for the girls at school, plus after school snacks. Even when I tried to resort to a rotisserie chicken one night, the idea was not received well.

Alaska, can you take him back soon?

The slow cooker is perfect for this time of year. The kids are back in school with their soccer and volleyball practices and games, meaning so much running around. Also with the Crock Pot, I'm not standing over a stove. I can get it started and go run errands (aka, go meet friends downtown for lunch).

Chili is such a necessity at our house this time of year. The nostalgic loud sound of football is always on my husband's 60 inches of true love (his TV), requiring a delivery of chili served to his recliner so that he doesn't have to step away from his Fantasy Football stats. And he says I have it made?!

Does anyone else like chili dogs with cilantro? My sassy daughter Sasha would say, "Asian."

My husband was always the chili maker of our household, until we moved to Oregon and he couldn't find his Williams chili packet anywhere. After testing the spices in a few chili batches, we have settled on this recipe.


1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1.5 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

2 lbs. ground beef
1 can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups beef broth or water, according to the consistency that you like
1 12 oz. bottle of beer

  1. In a large 12 inch skillet, brown the ground beef.
  2. Drain, then add all ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on low 6 - 8 hours.
Note: You can adjust the amount of broth or water. My husband likes soupy chili, and I know other people prefer thicker chili.... People like me..... But oh well.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Baked Miso Glazed Salmon

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can eat wild Pacific Sockeye Salmon on a regular basis! There are so many health benefits, and we love lean protein. And the glaze of miso, sesame, and mirin make an amazing flavor combination!

I never had salmon until I arrived in Little Rock for my second year of college. I grew up in Southern Arkansas, eating catfish, black bass, and other fish that were caught in the lakes of the South. My mom was an expert at cleaning and cooking fish. We had it on a regular basis. Sometimes she steamed them whole with fresh herbs and wild mushrooms. Other times fried with a side of Vietnamese dipping sauce. We used our chopsticks to peel back the skin, grab a chunk of meat, and eat from shared plates. 

This style of eating drives my husband crazy. So I serve up fish individually in our family in healthy fillet portions on each plate. In college I waited tables in an Italian restaurant that had Pacific salmon flown in fresh, served up grilled or piccata style. The portions were 6 ounces at lunch, and 8 ounces at dinner. Over the years, I leaned towards salmon more often as our fish choice because of its nutritional benefits. Basically, it's considered to be brain food.

I also recently perfected the most delicious miso sesame glaze concoction. It started with an attempt at another recipe, followed by many adjustments and the addition of gochujang, a savory Korean condiment that really leaves a lasting impression on your palate.

 I first had miso in soup form in Japanese or sushi restaurants. When I learned that you can use it as a marinade and glaze, I was completely on board. Do you know how good it is for you? You can learn more about it from one of my favorites, Food Babe.

I decided to add white beech mushrooms to dinner, because I picked some up from the Asian market the other day. I love mushrooms for their delicate earthy flavor. They hardly need anything to make them taste good. I simply added some sliced green onion, a little coconut oil spray, and a dash of granulated garlic. Then I cooked them alongside the miso topped salmon.

They turned out beautifully. This recipe has been adapted from New Seasons Market, a locally owned grocery store in my home town in Oregon. I visit them on a daily basis to try their samples and recipes. I also buy lots of sustainable seafood from them.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pad Thai with Chinese Sausage and Shrimp

Just before my husband left for his latest work project in the Philippines, we were having lunch in a Vietnamese restaurant that had Pad Thai on the menu. To my surprise, he had never had it before. To his surprise, I had never made it for him. So while he's away, I've been researching recipes. The one I liked the most came from Recipe Tin Eats. I really enjoy her site because she has very helpful notes after all her recipes.

However, my attempt at the recipe did not turn out well. So I was shopping at World Market one day, browsing the Asian aisle. I've mentioned before that I'm an obsessive label reader. I follow Food Babe pretty closely, and I abide by most of her rules. Then I found Thai Heritage Pad Thai on the shelf. No MSG, no preservatives, no bad stuff that Food Babe would disapprove of. Also, one of the ingredients was tamarind, which I noticed was a key ingredient of pad thai recipes that I looked at.

Pad Thai isn't normally served with Chinese sausage, but I love the stuff. So I decided to add it.

Here's how I made this recipe my own:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lobster Noodle Soup

I spend a lot of my time reading cookbooks and cooking magazines.  This month, two recipes caught my eye. One was from Portland's own chef Joshua McFadden in Bon Appetit and the other from Dale Talde in Saveur. I recently read Dale Talde's cookbook Asian American, and I feel like I'm a better person for it. While I have a Vietnamese mom and dad, my kids have a Vietnamese mom and American dad, with a Sicilian last name. I have one daughter who is obsessed with Dutch Bros, but she has taken on pork blood in congee repeatedly. The other daughter, though, less adventurous, has been eating tripe from the dim sum cart, calling them noodles. I think she really thinks they're noodles though. Meaning that if you serve chicken tenders and french fries in your restaurant, she'll let me take her there.

I love that McFadden's Faux Lobster Pho is an Italian twist on a Vietnamese favorite. What is pho? Noodles, protein, broth, and herbs.  I do things like that all the time in my home kitchen because I like to change things up. I can't wait to try McFadden's food at Ava Genes. I've been told a few times that it is the best restaurant in Portland. 

So this recipe is a spin off of the two recipes. I'm using their lobster, noodles, shrimp paste, and pork to combine some of my favorite ingredients for soup in a very cool summer in the Pacific Northwest. I'm still lamenting the cost of wild caught American shrimp up here, because Barton Seaver still insists on it being the best quality shrimp in his latest cookbook. When I lived in Arkansas, I enjoyed having my own purveyor providing me the same great shrimp for half the price at our Farmers Market. Now I just rebel by buying lobster tails instead. I loved the outcome of my efforts.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Prosciutto di Parma Salad

My husband loves to eat a salad everyday, and I love to eat Prosciutto di Parma almost as often. This thin, silky dry cured ham from Parma, Italy has been a favorite snack of mine since I discovered it. I was waiting tables in an Italian restaurant in Little Rock during my college years when I had my first taste. I made friends with a sous chef behind the line, and soon I was enjoying leftover scraps of prosciutto on just about every shift. Thank goodness I can buy it at my local New Seasons here.

I came up with this recipe by combining some of my favorite ingredients. The first time I had a salad with mint and cilantro in it, I was eating at a place in Little Rock called Loca Luna. I thought that their Thai beef salad bursted with fresh herbaceous flavor. 

Then we had our first Williams Sonoma open in town. They used to carry a lemon olive oil that I loved. The first time I bought it, I wanted to combine it with some prosciutto. In the past I was buying fresh cut prosciutto from Boulevard Bread Company, and it was a struggle to make it out of the parking lot without digging in immediately. There were several days I was driving down Cantrell or Kavanaugh eating the stuff out of the bag. I decided I better try to eat it in a more civilized manner.

So I came up with this salad, and it was a big hit with family and friends. The olive oil and white balsamic ingredients for the dressing can be interchangeable. If I used Sicilian lemon white balsamic vinegar, I use regular extra virgin olive oil. If I use a lemon extra virgin olive oil, I use plain white balsamic vinegar. I have about 9 different oils and vinegars in my pantry. I buy mine from Benessere in downtown Portland. I love the location near Director Park.

Parmigiano Reggiano is perfect in this salad because it is also found in Parma, and I think I read that the pigs that make the Prosciutto di Parma are fed the whey of the cheese. It is also known as the best cheese in the world.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pacific Cod with local garlic salt

When I tell people in Portland, Oregon that I moved here a year and a half ago from Little Rock, Arkansas, they always ask how I like it and how different it is. The similarity is that both are very food oriented communities, utilizing the freshest local ingredients possible in the most sustainable way possible. The biggest difference is probably the fresh seafood available in a city near the great Pacific Ocean versus a landlocked smaller city.

We even have local salt! In many different flavors. These can be sampled at so many local farmers markets, whether you are in the city or on the coast. A banker friend recently revealed that his favorite ingredient in cooking was Jacobsen garlic salt, and so I had to try it! Here's how I used it!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Italian Summer Salad

My daughter Gianna loves cold food. I keep the fridge regularly stocked with cucumbers and hummus for her after school snacking. She also frequently asks if I can make her some charcuterie or a salad for her school lunch. Considering I was eating Ruffles, Kit Kat, and a Mountain Dew when I was in the seventh grade, I am happy to comply. She inspires. 

This salad was made with some of my daughter's favorite things. And now that summer is here, who else wants cold food?