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Last week, I had a sudden urge to bake ginger snaps.  However, due to a freaky heatwave where the temperatures out here jumped from the comfortable mid- to high 70’s Fahrenheit to an astounding high record temperature of 112F.  Now that the temperature has dropped, I spent this weekend on a ginger snap baking spree.

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I love ginger snaps, but I prefer to make them because they just taste better homemade with quality ingredients and because I really haven’t found any on the market that have the kind of ginger punch that I desire. I want my ginger snaps to be really gingery and enjoy biting into candied ginger bits.

I baked Saturday and Sunday using 2 different base batters. On Saturday, I made a base batch using a basic molasses cookie recipe I found a while back. Taste-wise, that first double batch turned out great – I made half plain, and half spiced. The only problem is that they were a little too fragile for shipping, because they’d break with a simple light jostle. I wanted to send some to my sister and a friend and having the cookies turn into crumbs en route just would not do (though I suppose they’d make a good ice cream topping).

Thus, I reworked my recipe on Sunday to make it a better cookie in both taste and hardiness for shipping and transport to my knit night. The result is a quadruple (!) ginger cookie that is great for hoarding all to myself gifting and sharing. I think altogether from both baking days, I made about 5 dozen of the Super Gingery Ginger Cookies and about 4 dozen that are spiced with a clove mix.

And because I’m so nice, I converted my own chicken scratch and shorthand into something readable and am sharing my recipe with y’all! 😉  The following recipe has the option for you to make a spiced version as well.

Super Gingery Ginger Cookies

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Ingredients
¾ cup organic unsalted butter, softened
1 cup organic brown sugar
1 organic cage-free egg
¼ cup organic molasses, unsulphured
1 ¾ tbsp fresh minced ginger
2 ½ cup organic whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger powder
¼ tsp sea salt
¾ cup chopped crystallized ginger
¾ cup chopped non-crystallized candied ginger

Variation: Spiced Super Gingery Ginger Cookies (optional)
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp cardamom

Directions

  1. In a  large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together with hand or standing mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses, egg and fresh ginger.
  2. In another bowl, combine and mix flour, baking soda, ground ginger and sea salt. If you are making the Spiced version, also add in the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. With your spatula or a large wooden spoon, stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in chopped ginger. Chill dough, covered, in refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F. Shape dough into 1” balls and place approximately 2” apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cookies have flattened a bit, browned and starting to crack on the top. Cookies should be slightly crisp at the edges and soft and chewy in the center.

Additional Cooking Notes: To prevent the pieces from sticking together when chopping the non-crystalized candied ginger, which has the texture and stickiness of gum drops, toss them with about 1 tbsp of organic granulated sugar. If you want a softer, chewier cookie, shorten the bake time. Conversely, if you like your ginger snaps to have more snap, bake them a little longer. And of course, if you want them extra gingerly, but not super, reduce the chopped crystallized and candied gingers by ⅛ to ¼ cup each. If you can’t find the non-crystallized candied ginger (I got mine at Trader Joe’s), you can substitute it with the crystallized ginger. If you can manage to make your cookies last longer than a day, the ginger flavor tends to strengthen more after 1 or 2 days.

gingers

L-R: Non-crystallized candied ginger; Crystallized ginger; Grated fresh ginger.

Enjoy!!

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So, I’ve been on this Elimination Diet for 2 weeks now. The whole point of the elimination diet is to pinpoint what foods I’m allergic and sensitive to.  While a person may not to be allergic to a food, one can still be sensitive and/or intolerant of it.  (I talk about it my plan and allergy history in this post here.)

Well, I knew that it’d be challenging and was up for it, but I had no idea how hard! It turns out that some of the foods I thought was “safe” for me to eat during the elimination period are foods to which I’m actually having allergic reactions!! Thus, my elimination diet will have to be considered a pre-elimination diet. I need to first identify what foods to which I may be getting immediate allergic reactions. Then once I identity those foods, I’ll probably need to start over on a true elimination diet to identify foods to which I might be merely sensitive or intolerant. This royally bites. The frustration certainly does not help me function and be productive when I’ve also got a major case of the blahs, but I am trying to stay positive.

For healthy eating, Essentially Healthy Food has some great ideas on lettuce wraps. Click on photo to get to their site for the lettuce wrap article.

Because of my multitude of allergies, I figured that of the few safe foods I could eat were sweet potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, brussels sprouts, chicken and fish. Safe oils and sweeteners are extra virgin olive oils, grapeseed oil, stevia, agave nectar and maple syrup.  Most of my foods I get either pesticide-free or organic. Imagine only being able to eat those foods through the course of at least 2-4 weeks.  All those veggies have certain odors…yeah, and I sure smell good when I sweat!

I was wondering why I was getting oral symptoms sometimes when I ate cabbage so I started testing that and some of my “safe” foods by themselves.  It turns out that I am allergic to cabbage and several varieties of lettuce!! My throat gets scratchy pretty much upon immediate consumption, and in most cases, part of my soft palate (roof of my mouth) gets puffy and tender.  In the case of fish (I tried wild ahi tuna and wild Alaskan cod) and stevia, my lips, cheeks and neck itches and I get tiny bumps on my cheeks, which then turns to eczema.

Because of those reactions and my concern over eating enough and balanced calories, I decided to change gears and try to figure out what low-suspect foods might be okay. I’ve since added steel-cut oats, cauliflower, almonds, pistachios and cooked spinach. I think later, when I restart the a true elimination diet, I will cut out the oats and test my tolerance and sensitivity to it. We’ll see what I can really eat first though. I love veggies, but I’m pretty sick of yams, chicken and broccoli right now, and all the veggies I can eat tend to cause bloating. ugh.

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I love baked whole sweet potatoes, but another great way to enjoy them is to slice them, toss them in some EVOO, sea salt and bake into healthy fries!

Garlicky Sweet Potato Fries Recipe With 2 Dips

I really love whole baked potatoes, but I got tired of eating it that way almost everyday, so I made myself some baked sweet potato fries. Unfortunately, I could only eat them without the dips or pepper during my elimination diet, but I hope y’all will at least enjoy them for me.  Here’s my basic recipe (please note that I mostly cook with the “a little of this, and a little of that” method, so these measurements are general guidelines):

Fries:
5-6 organic sweet potatoes, washed and sliced into about 1/4″ thick (use more if yours are small)
2-3 tbsp organic extra olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced (use more if you like extra garlic!)
sea salt
cayenne or white pepper
parsley

Dip 1 – Plum Sauce:
3 organic plums, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 tsp of fresh grated ginger
fresh lime juice (1/2 or 1 whole one depending on size and taste)
juice of 1 orange
honey or organic raw agave nectar
1/8 tsp salt
cornstarch (optional)

Dip 2 – Spicy Mango Mayo:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mango
1/4 tsp sambal hot sauce
zest of 1 lime

Toss the sweet potatoes (make sure that they’re dry) in a bowl with the EVOO, salt and pepper. Salt and pepper according to your own preferences and taste. Spread them out on a greased cookie sheet in a 450 degrees F pre-heated oven, making sure that the slices are not too close together or touching. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until edges are crispy, centers tender and golden brown, turning occasionally. During the last 5-10 minutes of baking, sprinkle and toss the minced garlic with the fries – Be careful not to burn yourself when you do this. Garnish with some chopped parsley and more pepper if desired. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving, but serve it warm!

Dip 1: combine all the ingredients except for the cornstarch in a saucepan until it boils, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. If it’s too runny for your taste, add some cornstarch according to package directions to thicken. Add the honey or agave nectar to taste. The sweetness of the sauce will actually depend on your plums, so make sure you taste it before adding your sweetener. The final sauce should be a little tangy and sweet.

Dip 2: Combine all ingredients. To add a twist, you can also add some curry powder or a little bit of dijon mustard. I hate cilantro, but I think cilantro lovers would enjoy this dip with some finely chopped cilantro.

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Yummies

I’ve had quite a food adventure lately, and I thought that I’d take some time out to rub it in share.

The Juiciest Dumplings

Over Independence Day weekend, my good friend Linh, her hubby, their new baby and her brother and his girlfriend came to visit.  Linh and I have share a long love of food, both cooking and eating, except I never looked as cute and fit as her.  So, it was only natural that she would have planned her trip around food, and her family was certainly more than happy to oblige.

On the 4th, Mr. CD and I met them for lunch at Din Tai Fung, where they have THE best juicy pork dumplings around, in addition to other fantastic menu items like the juicy pork & crab dumplings, sauteed green beans, pork chop fried rice and homemade noodles.  As a former vegetarian (for 10 years), there are many meats that I still cannot stomach. Pork is usually a meat that I can’t stand to eat (but who doesn’t love bacon?), except for some reason, the juicy pork dumplings at Din Tai Fung don’t gross me out at all. I love them, especially the pork and crab ones.

Photos from the Din Tai Fung website.  Clockwise from top left: Juicy Pork Dumplings;Noodle soup with vegetables, bamboo shoots and shrimp; Pork chop fried rice (a fave of Mr. CD); Sauteed pea sprouts.

This is not the first time I’ve blogged about this restaurant…do you think that they’ll give me a coupan for all the referrals I’ve made for them? 😉 

See-Food

For dinner, I met up with Linh and her family once again (but sans Mr. CD).  We went to Newport Seafood in Rowland Heights, where they have really good and fresh seafood for a rather reasonable price.  It’s the “go-to” place for Mr. CD and me when we are celebrating something like a birthday or anniversary with something more decadent, but without the high cost. If you go there, I highly recommend the Newport House Special Crab or Lobster.

(click on photos to get to see the Flikr notes & description)

Linh’s family is thoroughly impressive when it comes to food – they can really pack it in.  No joke!  None of them are overweight or have an eating disorder either. I hate them! Not only did we stuff ourselves silly at lunch, they had spent the rest of the afternoon at the Grove in L.A. snacking and eating at the Farmer’s Market.  We ordered a lot of food for dinner too, and there were absolutely NO leftovers.  Did I mention that they had 5 meals that day?

Cheese and Wine, Please!

This past weekend, my friends had a Wine & Cheese party.  They really outdid themselves and put up quite a nice spread full of yummies! There were many varieties of cheese, all labeled with really cute toothpick flags, and we even had the option of keeping notes in our own tasting journals.

I stuffed myself silly with all the yummy cheese, crackers, fruit and other goodies. And of course, I drank several glasses of white wines (I can’t drink reds because they cause me to get horrendous debilitating migraines). My favorite was this really sweet German Riesling and another white that’s lighter with some real fruity notes (I can’t remember the name though).

Aside from a couple bottles of wine, my contribution to the party was some homemade farmer’s cheese that I flavored with herbs and sun-dried tomatoes. The cheese turned out really well and I think everyone enjoyed them. When I have some time later, I’ll post the recipe. The basic cheese-making instructions are here.

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Curry Turkey Rolls Recipe

Marie requested my recipe for the curry turkey rolls that I brought to the WWKIP picnic.  As I told Marie, I cook the way I hand-dye yarn: add a  little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a pinch of that other thing until I’m content.

I’m more than happy to share the recipe, but please note that all the measurements are guesstimates of the ingredients I put in. I kind of made it up as I went along and didn’t write anything down. Besides, you’ll probably want to adjust it to your own taste anyways.

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened (none of that low fat or nonfat shit, okay?)
  • 1.5 tbsp organic sour cream
  • 1.5 to 2.5 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried organic oregano
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4  to 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1 pinch smoked paprika
  • 1 pinch tumeric
  • 1/2 to 1 pinch of white pepper
  • 1/2 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 pinch of five spice powder

Other stuff:

  • salt
  • 1/4 cup organic raisins, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • sliced smoked turkey breast
  • organic spring salad mix
  • 8″ flour tortillas

Instructions:

  1. Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for about 2-3 hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld and develop.  Then, sample the filling and add more spices and salt to desired taste. Don’t add too much salt because the turkey breast is already salty.
  2. Mix in raisins and cranberries. Let the filling soften at room temperature for about 10-20 minutes before you spread. If you’re not ready to spread yet, put it back in the fridge until you’re ready.
  3. Spread some of the mixture on a tortilla, making sure to get the edges.  How much you put depends on how much of the stuff you want in your rolls. Add 1 slice of turkey, a few pieces of lettuce and roll. Cut roll into 8 pieces.  I actually sliced the turkey into 1″ strips and laid them out so that there gaps of the filling between the strips. I found that the rolls stuck better this way after you cut it.
  4. Notes: I think that a whole wheat tortilla would be just as yummy, and if you don’t want to roll that many up, you can get the 10″ or 12″ tortillas.

ENJOY!

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Cheese!

Recently, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at making some homemade cheese, particularly in the style of Indian paneers.

I brought my homemade cheese, in both plain and curry-flavore,d to my knitting group, and they were both a hit.  If you do an internet search of “homemade cheese paneer” you will get lots of how-tos and recipes, but by request, here is how I made my version of the cheese.  Please note that I don’t really measure when I cook, so some of the measurements are rough estimates.

Ingredients & Tools:

  • 1 gallon Organic Whole Milk
  • lemon juice (I used lemon juice that I had squeezed and frozen into ice cubes before the citrus season ended.)
  • large pot (I used a large quality 18/8 stainless steel dutch oven)
  • 1 large spoon for stirring
  • cheesecloth
  • collander
  • salt (optional)
  • heavy object(s)

Instructions:

  1. Pour milk into large pot and bring to a slow boil over medium-low heat.  Stir frequently to prevent burning the milk.
  2. Once the milk boils, it will get kind of frothy (fig 1).
  3. Add lemon juice slowly and stir.  I ended up using 3 cubes. Milk will being to curdle (fig. 2) and you’ll start to see it separate from the whey (the yellow liquid).  It actually looks kind of weird and gross, IMO, but don’t let that deter you.
  4. Once it totally separates (figs 3 & 4), turn off heat. When the curds are cool enough to handle, pour or scoop them into a cheesecloth laid over a collander. Wrap the cheesecloth tightly over the curds and squeeze out the excess liquid.  At this point, I very lightly salted the curds with a large pinch of salt.
  5. Hang the cheesecloth wrapped curds to drip and drain for about 30 minutes or so.
  6. Place the cheesecloth wrapped curds onto a plate. Place another plate or some plastic wrap on top, and then add your heavy object on top to press for about 1 hour. I used a cast iron skillet.
  7. Unwrap your cheese, cut into cubes and store into an airtight container.  Or, you can just wrap the whole uncut cheese in plastic wrap.
  8. Eat and enjoy!!!

left (fig. 1): milk getting frothy; right (fig. 2): milk starting to curdle after half of the lemon juice was added.

left (fig. 3): milk totally curdled and separated from the whey; right (fig. 4): close-up of separated curds.

Curry-Flavored Cheese

I totally made this one up as I went along. I basically tossed half of the cheese cubes (well, half of what was left from me munching on it) into a some random spices that I mixed together from my spice cabinet.  I really don’t measure when I cook, and this one was no exception, so they are guesstimates and you should season yours to your own tastes.  Here’s what I added from my kitchen:

  • pinch or two of Coarse Sea Salt
  • pinch of Garam Masala (If you don’t have an Indian grocer in your area, you can find this in some of the specialty gourmet markets. If you don’t have this, a generic curry powder mix will work too)
  • pinch of dried Organic Oregano
  • half a pinch of Paprika
  • half a pinch of Coriander
  • half a pinch of Cumin
  • half a pinch of Tumeric
  • half a pinch of Curry Powder
  • small dash of Onion Powder
  • a few dashes of Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Unfortunately, my friends and I ate all the curried cheese before I remembered to take photos of them.  I guess that’s a good thing too, because that means they liked it.  I can’t wait to make thme again.

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Every year, for Thanksgiving and other holiday feasts, I try to have people over for an “orphan” feast. Basically, I invite friends who aren’t going home, don’t want to or don’t have family for a feast. I’ve been making my signature Roasted Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes since I was about 20. I’ve decided to share my recipe! The only thing is that I don’t really follow a set recipe and I don’t really measure, and every year I make it a little different. So, use this more as a guideline and adjust to your own tastes.

I think fresh and organic always better, so I buy as much from the local farmer’s market and organic as possible.

Serving Size: A big giant bowl of potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 whole heads of garlic
  • 3 large russet potatoes; whole, washed and unpeeled.
  • 3-4 small to med. yukon gold or red potatoes; whole, washed, unpeeled.
  • 1 large bunch of fresh rosemary; washed and dried.
  • 1 tsp rosemary, very finely chopped (minced)
  • 4-5 tbsp butter (or more if you like yours super buttery)
  • 1 pint half and half (you won’t be using all of it)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • parsley
  • optional: cream cheese, sour cream, parmesan and/or mozarella cheese

Roasting the Garlic (prepare this ahead of time):

  1. Cut off the top of the garlic heads so that you expose the cloves. Don’t cut so much off that you waste all your garlic. For the odder shaped heads, sometimes I take a paring knife and cut off the tops on the cloves that grow weird on the side.
  2. Place 3-4 sprigs of rosemary on the bottom of a baking dish then put in the garlic heads with the tops facing up. I use a medium-sized glass baking dish, about 8″ in diameter.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the garlic heads, so that nearly all the rosemary is covered. Cover the dish with heavy foil (or double layer a thin foil) and bake in the oven at 375 degrees until garlic is tender, brown and a little carmelized. A toaster oven works for this too. It usually takes about 30-40 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Making the Potatoes:

  1. Boil the potatoes in a giant pot with some salt and the rest of the rosemary until the potatoes are done and a fork can piece the potato easily. Be sure to check the potatoes and take out the smaller ones first. Don’t overcook them. Let the potatoes cool a little bit and peel the skins off. Be careful, because the potatoes will still be hot. A paring knife helps me lift the skins so I don’t burn all my fingers.
  2. Put the potatoes in a big bowl. Squeeze out the garlic from about 2.5-3 heads, add butter, salt, pepper and some of the oil from the roasted garlic. The garlic should come out easily, if you have some trouble or don’t want to get your hands all oily, use a cocktail fork to aid in this process.
  3. Start mashing the potatoes and slowly add half and half until it reaches the consistency you want. I think lumpy potatoes go best with the roasted garlic.
  4. Then add additional garlic, salt and pepper as necessary to taste. Stir in the finely chopped rosemary and parsley.
  5. Optional: Sometimes for extra flavor or richness, I add a little bit of sour cream, cream cheese or any other cheese to the potato mixture. If I add cheese, I usually make the potatoes a few hours or a day ahead, then I top the potatoes with a little more cheese and then pop the whole giant bowl (make sure it’s oven safe) in the oven for about 1 hour at about 300 – 350 degrees.

I usually have more garlic than I need, which I set out also for guests who like to spread the garlic on bread, turkey, and anything else on the table. The roasted cloves will also keep in the fridge for few weeks — simply place in a small jar with a little olive oil. The garlic can be used with fish, chicken, pasta, or anything else (ok, maybe not dessert)!

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