Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Show You How: Summer Rolls

This story has two parts, but it really started from a blog post on vegetarian summer rolls. The picture accompanying it was the messiest, most kakio bundle of hot mess. This blogger may have gotten the recipe right, but the art of summer rolling and what the bundle should look like was a little lost on them.

Story 1:There was a show on the Food Network titled How To Boil Water with Tyler Florence (now on The Great  Food Truck Race) and some blonde gal who was just a drama major. Tyler would show her how easy it was to cook fabulous dishes even if she didn't know how to cook.

It actually was a silly show. It seemed so basic. But now that we're on this new journey, I can't rely on my food memories to cook. I realize that I spent a lot of time in the kitchen absorbing from my grandma and my mom, but this kind of cooking is totally new to me, so I feel like the blonde girl on the stool.

Story 2: We took the kids to Canada one summer and we were coming out of a pretty busy parking structure. We had to turn left, but there were three lanes of fast moving traffic to get through and it was a little mission impossible. This man behind us kept honking his horn, but we couldn't go anywhere. Suddenly, he went into the entry only lane, went around us, and as he passed my window he yelled out in a very thick Chinese accent, "I SHOW YOU HOW!!" - and then proceeded to stick his car into traffic forcing the cars to stop until he could make his left turn.

Whenever Big Spazz and I have to figure something out, and one of us gets it, that's been our mantra, "I show you how!"in that same thick accent.

I figure I'm not the only one who doesn't know the inside scoops for cleaning the ho'io so that there's no slime, or making a decent summer roll that won't fall apart, so recipes are great, but sometimes, I'm the blond on the stool so if I don't write it down, someone is always going to have to "show me how," most times Big Spazz. I keep wanting him to apply for Next Food Network Star but he hasn't figured out his point of view yet.

Vegetarian summer rolls - the best thing about summer rolls is the taste explosion that happens in your mouth from a squishy, transparent bundle. You get the gelatinous noodles and the gummy wrapper hiding crunchy pieces of cucumber and bean sprouts, and then the strong herbal smell/tastes of the thai basil, cilantro and mint. It's almost as if you face planted in a forest, but in a good way.

My first solo attempt, though, was the same hot mess I saw on the other blog.
I did one thing right and two things wrong:
The right - got all my "guts" cut into the right size pieces and put into containers for easy building.

  • green onions split in half, sliced and flattened to size
  • shiitake mushrooms - softened in hot water and sauteed with some garlic and vegetarian oyster sauce (not too much)
  • Japanese cucumbers cut into thin slices to size
  • bean thread, cooked and drained (not long rice)
  • bean sprouts, blanched
  • cilantro, chopped
  • thai basil
  • mint
  • large pieces of green lettuce to use as the base
  • warm water for my rice paper wrappers
The wrong -
1.  The rice paper wrappers should only be wet in the warm water. Soaking it for even 15 seconds will make it too flimsy and you'll have rips in the paper (the picture is of Big Spazz trying to salvage my first and second attempts)

2.  According to Big Spazz, it's actually easier if you don't put the bundle in the middle (like a burrito), but put it at one end (like sushi).
Rice paper wrapper should go in just to wet it,  then put it on the cutting board and press it down in a circular motion until it gets soft.

When putting the bundle together, place the green leaf near the bottom, but not too close to the bottom or sides. Have everything fit onto the base by building up, then roll and tuck sides in.

When making a lot, separate the layers with damp paper towels so they don't stick together.

We found this super addictive vegetarian oyster sauce at the Asian market (it's called mushroom sauce) - yum

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ho'io Salad

Fern shoots or fiddleheads grow wild in the rain of Hilo so they have been abundant at the Farmer's Markets. On the Big Island they are called ho'io. In Maui they are called pohole and the Japanese name is warabi. Plan to make this at least a day ahead. It tastes better when it has time to marinate together.
1 bunch of ho'io, prepared
I enjoy eating it but I've never made it, so with all things I'm timid about I had to ask a lot of people for their inside secrets. So inside secrets for prepping ho'io - (thanks Liana, Kanani, Shigeko, Pua)

  • Snap the stalks at their snapping point (like asparagus) and just use the tender parts
  • Put your nail in the groove of the warabi and take out the slimy part
  • Cut into bite sized pieces
  • Boil the water, drop the ho'io in and prepare an ice bath - at that point the ho'io will be done - bright green and not overcooked.
  • Drain and immediately drop into ice bath to stop the cooking, drain again when cool
Once that's done, prepare the rest of the ingredients
1/2 Maui onion, julienned

Hamakua tomatoes, diced

sliced shiitake mushrooms

Fresh shiitake mushrooms were on sale at Safeway for $2.99/lb., but by the next week, it went up to $12.99/lb, so if you have to use dry shiitake, soak it in hot water until it softens, cut off the stems and slice the caps.
1/2 or 1/4 bag of the pea shoots, azuki mix

Lone Palm Farms out of Kohala, HI sells bags of pea, lentil and azuki shoots mix. Find it in the produce section by the other sprouts.

one triangular piece of aburage, sliced
Find the aburage near the kimchee or Japanese pickles in the produce section of KTA or near the tofu.
hijiki, soaked and drained

Hijiki is a dried seaweed sold dry in the oriental aisle. Soak it in cold water for about half an hour and drain. In Japanese foods it's normally served with shoyu sugar and aburage for New Year's, but it doesn't have a taste by itself. It will just soak up the flavors from the salad.
Hand mix all the ingredients and make the sauce.

Recipe for ho'io salad:
1 bunch ho'io, prepared, cut into bite-sized pieces and blanched
1/2 a sweet onion, julienned
2 1/2 cups tomatoes, diced
3-4 shiitake mushrooms, julienned
1/4 - 1/2 a bag of mixed lentil, pea, azuki shoots
1 piece of aburage, diced
handful of hijiki, soaked and drained (they will expand when sauced)
2T toasted sesame seeds

Dressing: I made a huge amount, so I ended up doubling this sauce recipe, but here's what I started with, let it marinate, try it and adjust as needed. After I marinated it, when we had it the next day, my husband wanted more acid in it so I added about 1 T. of balsamic vinegar and remixed.

1 T. light soy sauce
2 T. rice wine vinegar
1 T. sesame oil (optional) - I know it's not on our eat list, so don't put it or put a little less. It gives it that oriental flavor

I like to mix it by hand and the aburage and wakame will absorb the "shiru" - gravy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Stuck on 4: (or who the hell is Hugh Jass?)

Now that we're done with the 2nd week of the challenge, I must say, I'm a little fartless (not literally, I'm actually quite gassy).
I have been stuck on 4 pounds total weight loss for 2 weeks.

Here's what made me more mad:
Big Spazz (BS):  I've been stuck too.
Me:  Really, you've been stuck on 11 while I've been stuck on 4?
BS: No, I mean I've been stuck for two days  on 18.
Me: [silence. . .then nothing]

I have decided to go back to THE book and read between the lines, but I don't need to infer. In plain black and white it says to try and eat 2 pounds of veggies minimum. I know I'm not eating two pounds of vegetables per day. Is anybody? How?

My two part plan for week 3:
Commit to looking at salad as the main dish
do more cardio exercises

I found the recipe for the Hugh Jass salad from Peas and Thank You,  It's got a huge amount of salad for the base, other raw vegetables, a little bit of protein, a little bit of extras and a little bit of dressing.
Lunch time has been a challenge to actually finish this Hugh Jass salad, probably because it has been weighing in at about half a pound.

Me: Who is this Hugh Jass anyway? Is he a collegue of Dr. Furhman? I'm not trying to be pushy, but this Hugh Jass better get me off this 4 pound plateau. I'm not ingesting half a pound of raw veggies for nothing
BS: [laughing] say it fast.
Smart Jass!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vitamix Practice

Big Spazz got me a big, red refurbished Vitamix for my birthday to go with my favorite red rubber slippers! Fun, fun, fun!

With a glut of veggies and fruits all threatening to go bad at once, I've been putting anything and everything in the Vitamix. Some have been good and some have been fails, but even with the fails, the verdict from Big Spazz is, "that thing blends the hell out of everything." He finally knows what my green chai smoothie is supposed to look like, although he kind of misses the dregs of dates in his cup from our old machine.
In the blender: carrots, onion, garlic, veg broth, silky tofu, minced ginger
Carrot ginger soup with clouds of floating silky tofu 
A real chai smoothie, no furikake kale to get stuck in my teeth

Leftover fruit salad from this weekend, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 4 cups of ice

Melon ice
I'm so amazed that the mixer actually makes the soup hot. When I lifted the cover steam actually came out. Magic. The carrot soup was really nice and creamy. It tasted like it was salted even if it wasn't. The problem was that the ginger, even in small amounts made the soup so spicy that we couldn't finish it. Next time, I'm trying it without the ginger.

The kale chai smoothie was nice and creamy and with the bigger container, I had enough to save for another day.

The melon ice was a winner. It tasted fresh and cool on this muggy night and even though I don't like any melons, this hit the spot.

We loves our Vitamix :-)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tricky Labels

I think a few things should be mandatory in life:
  1. Health food stores should not smell like incense or other funkiness. I don't know what I want them to smell like, but "normal" is a start.
  2. It should not take graduate degrees to read a food label.
  3. Chocolate brownies should be on the unlimited list.
  4. Vegan cheese should feel more like cheese and less like firm tofu. 
Here's what we learned after reading and doing all kinds of math: go for the low sodium shoyu. It's cheaper and it has less sodium

1 Tablespoon (15 ml) is 620 mg. A lot

Tamari - 1 Tablespoon (17g) 710 mg. Still a lot, only more.
 Liquid amino bragg 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) 160 mg. Looks like less until you do the conversion.
1 T. is 6 times more than 1/2 teaspoon (15 ml/2.5 ml)
So 1/2 teaspoon of low sodium shoyu would be 103 mg
1T. of liquid amino bragg = 960 mg Yikes!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Getting Better One Day at a Time

10 out of 42 days down and we're finally getting better at buying and cooking. We actually had enough food in the refrigerator to have some variety for breakfast this morning.
Big Spazz had fruit salad topped with cranberry granola
Boy 3 had miso soup and brown rice
I had oats cooked with blueberries and dates topped with fruit salad, chia seeds and some soymilk.

Ken even went to a UH football watching party and brought his own snacks: fruit salad, homemade baked pita chips, babaghanoush, mango/pineapple/cilantro salsa, no oil hummus and guacamole.

When we tell others what we're doing, a lot of people say, "oh I could never do that, I'd miss my meat."
We both can honestly say we don't miss the meat. We don't think about it. What we do miss is the convenience of food. It's so easy to eat junks. It's so easy to take a slab of ribs, put it in the slow cooker and douse it with barbeque sauce. When we get home, dinner is ready. We miss the ability to try special things, and not necessarily the specific everyday things that we'd normally just shove in our mouth mindlessly.

Now when we get home, everything is made fairly fresh so there's a lot of preparation and a LOT of dishes. Big Spazz is consumed with what we'll eat next and that continues to be a challenge.

What's your biggest challenge and what do you miss?

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Different Kind of Food Lesson

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. -Chinese Proverb
We hope that our change in eating habits will transfer to our children, but for Big Spazz and I, our kids are already grown except for one. It makes changing the eating habits that we raised them with a little difficult to monitor. We can only model it through our own choices.

Have we created children that are starving themselves by overeating on the wrong foods? Have we been exposing them to chemicals and carcinogens? It's not out of spite. Just out of ignorance. All we can do is change what we're doing.

But besides what we're learning, there is a different kind of food lesson Big Spazz has been teaching his boys: sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Our boys could snorkle before they could actually swim. The intent was for them to feel safe in the ocean. The first knots that they learned were those knots they needed to set up their pole or to secure the boat.

Big Spazz is not a hunter. He's actually quesy at the sight of blood. He's not a farmer. We don't even do our own yard. But he taught his children to fish and to harvest from the sea so that they could be self-sufficient. He taught them to be picky about what they take, to take no more than they could eat, to take only what they needed, to harvest correctly so that the source could replenish. So despite our attempt to eat plant strong, when Boy 3 set up a pole and caught a "keeper," daddy felt obligated to teach him how to cook his fish. 

Eat well, son, lesson learned.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pad Thai Experiment #1

This recipe is not done. It's good, but it can really be great, so this is our first attempt with notes for modifications.

This recipe is huge and fills the wok. It's enough for two dinners, so divide if you want.
16 oz. dried pad thai rice noodles (Island Naturals has brown rice pad thai noodles)
1 box of silken tofu
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 round onion, thinly sliced
3-4 heads of baby bok choy
1 bag bean sprouts
green onions, sliced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, to taste
1/2 cup ground almonds, peanuts or cashews
1 1/2 T. tamarind paste
1/2 cup hot water
6 T. low sodium soy sauce
1 t. of chili sauce or to taste, or 1-2 Hawaiian chili pepper, seeded and cut or dried Thai chilies
8 dates soaked in hot water and made into date syrup
vegetable stock for cooking onions and for sauteing bok choy
lime wedges for serving

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove from heat. Soak noodles in the hot water for 6-10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Tip: Noodles are ready to drain when they are soft enough to eat, but still firm and a little bit "crunchy". The noodles will finish cooking when they are fried.
  2. Dissolve tamarind paste in the hot water. Put the dates and hot water into a mixer and add the tamarind paste and hot water the date syrup and blend. Add the other pad thai sauce ingredients and add as much or as little chili sauce as you prefer, but don't skimp on the date syrup. Taste it and if the tamarind is still too sour, add another date or two.
  3. Place your wok (or large frying pan) over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 Tbsp. broth plus the garlic and onion. Stir-fry 1 minute to release the fragrance.
  4. Add the bok choy plus more stock. Stir-fry 2 minutes, or until bok choy is bright green and slightly softened.
  5. Push ingredients aside and add 1/2 Tbsp. more stock to the center of the wok/pan. Add the tofu to the wok by breaking apart like scrambled eggs.
  6. Push tofu aside and add a little more stock to the middle of the wok/pan. Now add the drained noodles and 1/3 of the sauce. Stir-fry everything together for 1 minute using 2 utensils and a tossing motion (like tossing a salad).
  7. Add a little more sauce and continue stir-frying in the same way for 1-2 more minutes, or until the noodles begin to soften and become sticky. Reduce heat to medium if they begin to stick and burn.
  8. Add the bean sprouts plus the remaining sauce. Stir-fry to incorporate everything together for 1-3 more minutes, or until noodles are done. Noodles are cooked to perfection when they are soft but still deliciously chewy and a little bit sticky.
  9. Sprinkle with green onion and ground nuts. Serve cilantro on the side, or if everyone eats it, add it to the dish. Add wedges of fresh-cut lime on the side along with some Thai hot sauce.
Notes for going from good to fabulous
1. Don't use the stock to saute the onions and bok choy because it made the noodles too wet.
2. Cut the bok choy into large bite size pieces and use more. If it's cut too small, the veggies tend to dissolve.
3. Save some bean sprouts on the side to serve raw on the pad thai.
4. Don't substitute peanuts for other raw nuts like almonds. Peanuts = pad thai
5. We didn't have limes, but limes are NOT optional. Go to the store and get some. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chasing Away the Blues with Comfort Food

Big Spazz was a sad, sad, puppy last night. His body is reacting to too many carrots and he feels like he's going to hurl if he has to eat one more bite of salad. With not even one week down, I felt like I needed to really take care of his spirit by taking care of his tummy.

I went back to his roots by making his version of "chicken soup" - Miso soup with goodies and buckwheat soba.

I usually use dashi to make miso soup, but that just adds salt and MSG. I just used water and started it boiling as I rehydrated my dehydrated daikon (from Marukai) and dried shiitake. When the veggies are rehydrated, slice and put back in. Besides the miso, I added cut up slices of sushi nori and tofu. We used the miso soup as a broth for the soba noodles. Up the veggie count by adding mustard cabbage, bok choy or pak choy blanched.

The good news: Big Spazz asked me to make him a salad for lunch so back to happy puppy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Open Letter to Big Spazz

To my honey,

This is an open letter to my Big Spazz who I am so proud of. After just five days, you have already dropped 11 pounds to my 1.5. You have survived the temptations of camp:
Fried kole

Smoked meat

Fried rice with homemade kimchee, steak, kalbi, stuffed salmon, sheepikaula, BBQ sheep ribs, apple turnovers and pumpkin pie. Instead you ate your veggies, fruits, oatmeal and no coffee. You are on your way! Now that you are an expert at weight loss, I need your help. Here's three reasons why I NEED a Vitamix.

Reason #1: You wouldn't send me to work with my panty showing right?
Our 20-year old Osterizer blender does not chop up kale into smoothy goodness. Instead, it chops it up into curly parsley that  finds every single crack and crevice of my teeth. Not a pretty sight. Do you see those parsley sized pieces of kale in my cup? Poor me.

Reason #2: Everyone is doing it
Here are some of my blogspirations and they ALL use Vitamix.

Yummy Diet Food
Green Monster Movement
Healthy Girl's Kitchen
Dr. Fuhrman
Chef AJ
Everyone is doing it, so why can't I?

Reason #3:Boy 3's birthday, my birthday and your birthday are in the challenge window
What better birthday treat than to make non-ice cream ice cream, strawberry sorbets or almond butter, banana and cocoa smoothies? It will be the best birthday(s) ever and the ice cream will go great with your sugar free vegan carrot birthday cake.

Please think about this small $359 request. What's $359 in a 6 week challenge? That's $60/week which would normally equal the amount of money we spend on meat alone. By not buying meat, we're already paying for the Vitamix machine that we don't actually own.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 1 Dinner Failure = Day 2 Dinner Success

Our first go at dinner was a total bust, not for lack of trying. We tried the lentil stew from Dr. Fuhrman's book, for no other reason than we pretty much had the ingredients. Big Spazz realized as he started the recipe that unless some miracle happens to the lentils, this recipe has absolutely nothing that will give it any flavor.

Still, as 6:30 turned into 7:30, we just had to scoop up our brown rice, put the lentil stew, now expanded to the whole pot into our bowls and hope for the best. Luckily, I had a big salad with garbanzo beans and grapefruit because the lentil stew was a flavorless slimy, chewy beany thing with no flavor but a little bit of bite. Don't know how it can be both spicy and tasteless at the same time, but it was. We tried putting Mrs. Dash, nothing. In fact I think that's where the spicy nothingness comes from. 

Tried miso. Wrong taste profile. Just tasted like miso hiding stuff that looks like baby poop.
Day 1 dinner was a failure. Oh well. Live and learn. These recipes don't fit  our flavor profile. It's ok. We march on more determined to make things we want to eat and that are healthy for us. The next time I see a lentil, perhaps we will be on speaking terms. 

One good thing was that I was full. I didn't even want a smoothie dessert. I had lentils filling up my stomach until I just could not fit anymore baby poop in my mouth. I didn't even finish my bowl; actually had the nerve to bring it to school for lunch and then opt for a plate full of salad and a shared clementine.  If you would like to try Lisa's Lovely Lentil Stew, please let us know. I will fly back from Molokai tomorrow to drop it off.

Made up for it with a green smoothie breakfast and apple. 
Chocolate green smoothie: (per serving)
1 T. flax seed
1 frozen banana
2 cups of packed greens (I used spinach)
2 dates
1 T. unsweetened cocoa
soy milk and a little water

Day 2 dinner was also a winnah winnah chicken dinner (without the chicken). No pics We were starving, rushed (2 meetings, both at 7pm) and heading out the door.

Day 2 dinner - Bocca burger burrito
4 Bocca Burgers, grilled, fried, put into Foreman grill 
meanwhile, stir fry (no oil), chopped round onion.
When the burgers are done, chop it up into bite size pieces, put into pan with onion. Add half a can of rinsed black beans and half a can of corn (saved the rest for the salad), and one chopped tomato
Stir in cumin, garlic powder and about 1/4 cup or so salsa (read the labels for salt content - we used Newman's) to taste.

Serve on a whole wheat burrito and use the salad greens to wrap into burrito. Much better! Boy 3 even had seconds.

Our Labor Day Weekend is a bit difficult with Boy 3 and Big Spazz going camping and my flying to Molokai and sailing to Oahu. I'm not cooking nor am I providing the food, so I just have to try to make good choices.

As Big Spazz says, "we're trying our best, right?" Yes.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ken I. the Science Guy

My day started off pretty good until I went to take my blood pressure test. I am normally a low blood pressure kind of gal and all of sudden I am on the borderline of needing meds? Glucose - fine; weight - I've been heavier; height - shrinking; but blood pressure - "go see your doctor."

Can I be less busy? Not really, so this diet is the key for me. Suddenly the stakes are higher. Good. A little pressure is a wonderful motivator.

Speaking of motivation, Big Spazz has finally embraced the challenge and in true Ken I. fashion, he is taking on this 6-week challenge with the logic of a scientist. He is actually reading every word, getting corroborating evidence from other food blogs and in true chef fashion, making lists and menus. I on the other hand, since I am the reading specialist, skim for what I need today and skip the chapters that look too much like science or math. I have faith in other people's reading abilities and the fact that it's not on the best seller list because nobody read it.

Big Spazz, mad scientist, is very strict on the rice or oatmeal option because if he sways from the plan, then the experiment is ruined. He also made some apples for snack today and then called to tell me that he read in the book and on other food blogs that under this plan snacking is not encouraged because you must learn to listen to your body and know the signs of hunger versus boredom. 

Well I have pre-cut apples in a bag and they look nice and juicy, so now I'm hungry and I'm going to eat them. I am not bored. In fact, I am very busy and almost harried. He will tsk, tsk at my not heeding his phone call and as he strictly adheres to the parameters, and promptly loses more weight than me, I will have a lasting memory of an apple, crunchy, sweet and gone. 

I really can't complain. My complacency at knowing what I want to do but not really going all out to preplan has opened up the way for his need to make sure that dinner is on the table at a certain time. Last night, he had a list of all the veggies and fruits on sale  for the week at the three major supermarkets. Today he is pre-scouting the health food store so that we can return again tonight. I'm sure he is using our taxpayer's time to scour menus so he won't have to fall off the band wagon when he goes camping this weekend. 

I hope everyone is so lucky to have a supportive partner in this challenge. Good luck and happy eating.