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Month: May 2016

Spicy Tuna Salad

Spicy Tuna Salad

I had a long and lazy Memorial Day weekend, punctuated only by a brief outing across the bridge from Vancouver to the Portland side of the Columbia River for lunch one day.  The days were fairly cool, but I did get some sunshine on Monday.  I want to keep the three-day weekend vibe going all week long, so decided a picnic at my desk was in order – thus, spicy tuna salad (a recipe for the potato salad that accompanies this will be on the blog later this week).

I’m a huge fan of spicy tuna rolls, but also much too lazy right now to roll my own sushi, much less make sushi rice.  I decided instead to go with canned tuna and spice it up with some siracha and sesame oil.  Otherwise, this is a fairly standard tuna salad – a little celery and a little mayo finishes it up.  I’m keeping all the other parts separate to serve at my desk on Tuesday: a piece of pita bread and a couple of lettuce leaves.

spicy tuna siracha and sesame oil

Spicy Tuna Salad
Serves 2

1 can tuna, drained
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Siracha
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Serve in either pita pockets or on romaine lettuce leaves.

Herbed Spring Sangria – Friday Happy Hour

Herbed Spring Sangria – Friday Happy Hour

herbed sangria

We had some lovely sunny days here in the PNW.  And then all the sunshine went away and it’s been raining and cloudy for days and days.  Fortunately, cherries and strawberries are now both in season and sangria can be enjoyed even when it’s raining.  My patio garden is very happy about the rain – I couldn’t resist seeing what I could do with some of the lemony herbs and dry white wine.  This recipe calls for a simple syrup with lemon verbena and lemon thyme steeped until the simple syrup cools.


herbed sangria in carafe sangria and geraniums sangria_herbs lemon_thyme

Herbed Spring Sangria

Lemony Simple Syrup
1 sprig lemon verbena
2 or 3 sprigs lemon thyme
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Bring the water, sugar and herbs to a boil.  Take off heat and let steep until the syrup is cool.

Herbed Spring Sangria

1 bottle of dry white wine
1/4 cup orange liquor (curacao or similar)
1/4 cup lemony simple syrup
8 – 10 sweet cherries, pitted
6 – 8 strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 orange, sliced thinly

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir.  Refrigerate and let sit for several hours for flavors to develop.

Cherry Almond Granola

Cherry Almond Granola

I am such a creature of habit, particularly when it comes to breakfast, especially now that I’ve learned to make my own granola.  I’ve been this way forever – I’ll confess that for most of my high school years, breakfast was microwaved chicken nuggets.  I was never a fan of breakfast foods when I was growing up.  I didn’t like eggs, nor was I a fan of yogurt.  Pancakes were good and were generally the way my family attempted to sneak more eggs and milk into my diet.  I’m not entirely sure when my tastes shifted – now my normal morning routine is both yogurt and eggs: yogurt and granola, with berries when they are season and a small amount of fruit jam when they aren’t, and a hard-boiled egg, usually with pickles.

I prefer homemade granola to store bought, so have slowly gotten back into a routine of making granola every couple of weeks so that it’s readily available.  Sooner or later, I’ll get back to making my own yogurt and I’m sure I’ll blog about it when I do.  For now, here’s a simple granola that works well with berries for yogurt parfaits.

spring parfait

Cherry Almond Granola
Serves 8

4 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup agave
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine all ingredient from oats through brown sugar.  Spread the oat mixture on the baking sheet.  Bake for ten minutes at a time for a total of thirty minutes.  Stir every ten minutes.  When the granola is baked, add the dried cherries and let cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta

In my current job, I drive, a lot.  In addition to about a ninety minute a day commute, I’m also often on the road to go to meeting in other towns.  I find, however, that I actually enjoy the time in the car, as it allows me to listen to books I might not otherwise get around to reading and listen to podcasts I almost never had time to listen to before.  One of my favorite podcasts is Spilled Milk.  Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton do a weekly podcast, eating and talking about all types of food.  Last week, as I made the trek from one town to another, I listened as Molly and Matthew talked about cauliflower.  The takeaway for me was that cauliflower tastes best when it is sliced thin, drizzled with olive oil and salt and roasted.  And that I rarely ever eat cauliflower.  I decided I needed to immediately get ahold of some cauliflower and try to roast it, since I’ve yet to meet a vegetable I didn’t like drizzled with olive oil and salt and roasted.

I decided to keep this pasta dish simple.  It consists of little more than pasta, cauliflower, some toasted pine nuts,  red pepper flakes, a few capers, and some parmesan cheese, all drizzled with more olive oil.  I would imagine it would also be good with a bit of finely chopped red onion or some crispy garlic, but since these are intended for my lunch, I thought I’d avoid anything too garlicky.  I think it is essential to use real parmesan here – we’ve fallen into a habit of buying parmesan in a tub, which is a slight step up from parmesan in a can, but not quite the real thing.  The hardest part of this recipe was resisting the urge to eat all the cauliflower right off the pan.

roasted cauliflower cauliflower pasta with parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta
Serves Four

1 head cauliflower, sliced in thin pieces
Olive oil for drizzling
Pinch salt
4 cup cooked pasta
4 teaspoons capers
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup pine nuts
Parmesan cheese to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the slices of cauliflower in a single layer.  Drizzle olive oil over the sliced cauliflower and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for fifteen minutes.

Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over low heat.  Stir several times.  Take off the heat when the pine nuts are aromatic and light golden brown.

Combine the pasta, capers, red pepper flakes, toasted pine nuts, and cauliflower.  Drizzle with a splash more olive oil and grate parmesan over the top.


Spring Saag Paneer

Spring Saag Paneer


saag paneer in bowls

One of my favorite freezer lunch meals is saag paneer.  Saag is typically made with some kind of green – in most Indian restaurants, you’ll find it with spinach.  However, a few years ago, I came across a recipe for saag paneer that was made out of chard, and since then, I’ve been experimenting with various kinds of greens, particularly this time of year when spinach, chard, and other greens are in abundance at the farmer’s market.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there is another vegetable that is abundant this time of year – the hakurei turnip.  I first encountered these in a CSA basket and fell in love with their radish size white globes and sharp turnip taste.  My favorite preparation of these is a refrigerator pickle, but then I’m always left with the dilemma of what to do with the greens.  Most root vegetable greens are edible, and I’ve experimented widely with radish greens, carrot greens, and beet greens.  I have one go-to recipe for the hakureis that uses the entire vegetable, but didn’t want to go to that effort this week.  Instead, I decided to use the hakurei greens, in combination with some chard, to make saag paneer.  Given that I was missing some of the spices I might usually use making saag paneer, I was pleasantly surprised by how spicy the turnip greens make this dish.  This is a lunch that freezes exceptionally well.

paneerpaneer and greens in pansaag paneer and rice

Spring Saag Paneer
Serves 3 or 4

1 package paneer
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch Hakurei turnip greens or other similar greens (radish greens would also work well)
½ bunch chard or kale
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup heavy cream
3 or 4 cups cooked rice

Cube the paneer.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a cast iron or non-stick skillet.  When the oil is hot, put in the paneer and brown on both sides (about five minutes per side on medium heat).  Meanwhile, chop the garlic finely and sauté in a medium saucepan in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Chop the chard/kale and turnip greens coarsely.

When paneer is browned, turn off the skillet and set aside.   Add the greens to the garlic in the saucepan and cook until they are wilted.  Add the spices and salt and combine.  Add the paneer and cook for a few minutes to combine flavors.  Add the heavy cream and cook for another minute over low heat.

Serve over cooked rice.

This post is linked to the No Waste Food Challenge at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

New Look, New Week

New Look, New Week

I realize I’ve been a bit neglectful of the blog in the last week.  It was mostly because there wasn’t much happening around my lunch that was particularly interesting.  I was out of office for meetings for the majority of the week and on the weekend, we were having some food adventures in Portland that I didn’t get around to blogging about until today.  So here’s the re-cap.

First off – last weekend and this weekend, we did a combination of farmer’s market and food cart.  This resulted in lots of flowers and lots of good food:

peony and iris farmers market strawberries ingrids food pod pdx strawberry crepe farmers market

From left to right: peonies and strawberries from the Vancouver Farmer’s Market; the menu at Ingrid’s (at a food pod on Division Street in Portland; and a strawberry crepe at Vancouver Farmer’s Market.

Next, I spent several days for a meeting at the Oregon Garden Resort in Silverton, Oregon for a meeting.  I know, it’s a rough life.  I didn’t have much time to go wander the garden, but when I did, I was sure to visit the chickens in the garden.  The Oregon Gardens has a lovely kitchen garden, complete with hens and a chicken tractor.  I particularly love the one hen’s expression as we both look at the Chicken Crossing sign.

chicken crossing artichoke_in_the_garden peony and bee

From left to right: resident hens at the Oregon Gardens; artichokes outside my hotel room; a resident bee in the peonies.

And last, but not least, this weekend, I’ve been doing some cooking, so good things are coming this week on the blog.  I’ll share here photos and two links to two of my favorite recipes and a preview of one of my all time favorite spring vegetables.

harukai turnips strawberry almond milk

From left to right: hakurei turnips – these will become Pickled Hakurei Turnips – my go-to in the spring for an easy refrigerator pickle; homemade strawberry almond milk – which I made in response to the current seasonal glut of strawberries.  The homemade strawberry almond milk comes from one of my favorite blogs: 101 Cookbooks.

Finally, you may have noticed a new look to the blog – I’ve been doing this for about seven months now, and am starting to figure out my way around wordpress.  Keep checking back – I plan to continue to add new features as I go.  As always, thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Chicken, Asparagus, Roasted Garlic Pizza

Chicken, Asparagus, Roasted Garlic Pizza

chicken pizza slicesroasted garlic

One thing that has been noticeably different at the farmer’s market here in my new little corner of the PNW is that asparagus is in abundance and has been for over a month now.  It’s possible that this shouldn’t be a surprise, but in my last corner of the PNW, asparagus was available, but always at a premium – you either had to have a good enough relationship with the farmer to reserve asparagus in advance or be certain to get to the market right at the start at 9 a.m., because by 9:15, all the asparagus would be gone already.  I’ve also noticed that it is actually possible to get a bit tired of asparagus.  I seem to have used asparagus in everything, from eggs to pizza.

This recipe is the last hurrah for me with asparagus.  I’m on to binging on strawberries from here and getting ready for the inevitable surge of later summer vegetables.  This is also one of my go-to cook once and eat twice recipes for when I have leftover roast chicken. 

chicken pizza going in oven
chicken pizza complete

Chicken, Asparagus, and Roasted Garlic Pizza

Serves 6

Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water

2 ¼ teaspoons yeast (or one packet)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups flour

White Sauce

1 tablespoon butter

1 head roasted garlic – roasted garlic squeezed out into a paste

2 tablespoons flour

¾ cup half and half

¾ cup shredded cheese (I usually use a combination of parmesan and mozzarella)


½ pound asparagus, chopped into small pieces

1 cup diced roasted chicken

¼ cup finely chopped herbs (some combination of rosemary, thyme, chives, oregano, parsley)

1 cup shredded cheese

Start by making the pizza dough.  Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast becomes foamy.  Add the olive oil to the yeast, and then one cup flour and the salt.  Mix.  Continue to add flour until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball.  Turn out on a well-surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes.  The dough should be a bit sticky still but not so much so that it sticks to your hands or to the surface.  Let the dough rise for an hour in a bowl covered with oiled plastic wrap or a few clean tea towels.  Punch the dough down and let it rise for another hour.

When the dough has risen for the second hour, prepare a baking sheet by oiling thoroughly.  Spread the dough out on the baking sheet, gently pulling and rolling, letting it rest several times.  When the dough is the size you want your pizza to be, cover with a tea towel and set aside while you make the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and add the roast garlic.  Stir a few times and then whisk the flour in a little bit at a time.  Once the flour is fully incorporated, let cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a minute.  Add the half and half slowly, continuing to stir until it is fully incorporated. Continue to stir until the sauce starts to thicken.  Take the sauce off the burner and stir in the cheese.

Spread the sauce over the dough.  Spread the toppings evenly over the sauce and sprinkle the cheese over the top.  Bake at 450 degrees for twenty minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden and the crust of the pizza dough is golden.  Let rest for five minutes and then serve.

I’m linking this post to a blogging challenge: Cook Once and Eat Twice hosted by Corina at Searching for Spice.


Time for Iced Tea

Time for Iced Tea

We’ve had some warm days here of late in the PNW.  A couple of days of eighty here and there, punctuated by some cooler days and rain.  Even though we are currently living in a rental and I can’t go digging up the grass (as much as I’d like to), I’ve been busy gardening in pots.  My last addition was a chocolate mint plant that I don’t fully trust not to climb its way out of the pot and colonize the yard.  So be it – it will at least smell good.

chocolate mint

I started to think that today would be a great day for iced tea, so did some pruning on the chocolate mint.  The result was this lovely iced tea.

iced tea up close

Chocolate Mint Iced Tea
Serves 4

4 or 5 sprigs fresh chocolate mint
4 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 lemon

Steep the chocolate mint in the boiling water for 5 minutes or until desired strength is reached.  Add one teaspoon sugar and stir. Cool and then refrigerate until cold.  Serve with slices of lemon.


Spring Green Buddha Bowl

Spring Green Buddha Bowl

I’ve been keeping a running list for a while now of lunches I really want to make (and eat).  Featured prominently on that list for some time now is the whole grain, healthy and happy Buddha Bowl.  The components of a Buddha Bowl can vary, but the basic foundation includes some sort of grain, vegetables, beans or nuts, and a sauce.

Spring time is such a great time for the vegetables for this lunch: at the farmer’s market on Saturday, I snagged broccolini (which, if you were wondering, is not baby broccoli, but a hybrid vegetable of broccoli and gai-lan), rapini (or broccoli raab), more asparagus, and more pea shoots.

broccolini redo spring greens rapini

Then came the challenging part.  We now live in a metropolitan area that has a Trader Joe’s, a Whole Foods, and a New Season Market, in addition to three or four Fred Meyer’s, a Safeway, and a Win Co.  Not a single one ever has every ingredient we need (at a price that’s reasonable).  In an effort to avoid spending all weekend shopping, we tried to buy everything we needed at Trader Joe’s, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find the one ingredient I wanted to make a tahini-based dressing for my Buddha bowl – the tahini.  Knowing that the week ahead was going to be busy, I went with the path of least resistance and bought Trader Joe’s peanut satay sauce.  I’m not always a fan of pre-made sauces like this, but this one is good with the flavors in the bowl.


I also bought an interesting grain mix: it’s got Israeli couscous, orzo (so technically a grain and pasta mix), quinoa, and lentils. I threw in some avocado, chickpeas, and some cashews, and sprinkled the whole thing with a little bit of pink Himalayan salt.

buddhabowl1 buddha bowl 2

Spring Green Buddha Bowl
Serves 4

4 – 5 cups of a grain or grain mix (Israeli couscous works well, as does quinoa, brown rice, or other similar grain or grain mix)
4 cups mixed greens chopped in small pieces (broccolini, broccoli, rapini, asparagus, chard, etc.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 avocado, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup cashews
4 – 8 tablespoons of peanut satay or similar pre-made sauce
Pinch salt

Follow the directions on the package to cook the grains.  Divide cooled grains between four bowls.

In a non-stick or cast iron pan, heat the olive oil.  Sauté the greens until they are cooked to your liking.  Divide the greens between the four bowls.

Divide the avocado, chickpeas and cashews and distribute between the bowls.  Add the sauce and combine.  Sprinkle with salt.

These hold up well in the refrigerator so can be made early on in the week for lunch all week long.