31 May 2010

HHDD: Avocado Cheesecake Pots

I have to admit it, right at the get-go: before I took on this challenge, I had never heard of Donna Hay.

Whoo, it feels good to get that off my chest!

For those of you who are like me, here's the rundown: she's basically Australia's Martha Stewart. No joke, go to her website; it's like a cross between Martha's and Bon Appetit. Each month, a host chooses a Donna Hay recipe for everyone to try (or tweak) and write a post about. The host then compiles the posts, and opens it to a  vote. I love a challenge, and this month's recipe sounded especially delicious, easy, and very open to interpretation.

(If you're curious about the rules of this challenge, the facilitator, Chez Us, has posted them on their website, including a list of past challenges!)

This month's challenge is hosted by Mardi of eat.live.travel.write. whose winning entry last month got her rights to host this month's event. A lady after my own heart, she picked one of my favorite desserts on the planet: cheesecake. Donna Hay's Blackberry Cheesecake Pots, to be precise, a smooth, creamy no-bake version just perfect for people like me (i.e. those without an oven...).

Of course, I always need to be different. I can't remember the last time I followed a recipe as written; it's an affliction, I'll admit. So I decided (as is allowed by the rules) that I would instead come up with my own interpretation of this recipe. The greatest thing about cheesecake is it lends itself to so many flavors.

Recipe: Grown-up Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

I originally made this compote for the Hay, Hay, It's Donna Day cheesecake pots, but I liked it so much, I thought it deserved its own page. You can put this on pancakes/waffles/french toast, in a PB&J sandwich, or top a cheesecake. 

30 May 2010

Silent Sunday: 30 May

Silent Sunday Photo: This is my cat Sylvester (he's not a morning person).

This may not seem like a food-related photo, but anyone who has a cat (or two, like me) knows that it's next to impossible to separate your cat from your food.

29 May 2010

Recipe: Chicken Paprikash (or Csirke Paprikás)

I've been promising this recipe for awhile now. I know I keep talking about Chicken Paprikash, and how wonderfully satisfying it is, well, now you can see for yourself! This is such a simple recipe: 5 major ingredients, throw 'em in the crockpot before work, and when you come home, you'll have dinner on the table in 20 minutes!

28 May 2010

This Week's Links: May 28

This week's list of smart people, and interesting ideas:

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent, well informed foodie. Imagine my surprise when I went to KitchenButterfly and discovered an ingredient I had never heard of before. I mean, this has the potential to make for one seriously interesting episode of Iron Chef: America. What is it? Black Garlic. So it has nothing to do with the theme this week, but I had to share, it's just too cool. I'm planning to order some soon; I'll let you know how it goes!

Black & White - All you need to know about garlic

For the food photographers out there, I found this great post from Camera Kitchen. I'll warn you now, if you're a DSLR user (like me) this probably won't help you too much, but for those of you using a point-and-click, here's an ingenious way to get some great first-person action shots. 

MacGyver It / Exhibit B

In keeping with the week's theme, I wanted to post something comparing the different flours on the market. But Cooking For Engineers beat me to the punch. This is an informative article, all about the different types of American flours (found out that AP is not a type of flour in Germany... still learning about flour labeling here...)

Like I keep saying, with sugar, there is no "healthy" alternative. So if you're going to treat yourself, go big or go home! Naomi at Baker's Royale has really hit a home run with this one. I thought her Crème Brûlée Cupcakes were genius... this is a whole different level of insanity! (I mean that with the sincerest awe and respect).

Have an interesting recipe or idea? E-mail me (link top right) and maybe you'll be featured on my links page! All emails will be answered. And as always, feel free to comment on this, or any other post.

27 May 2010

Recipe: Smoked Salmon & Leek Cream Sauce

I must give credit where credit is due. This recipe was inspired largely by a dinner at a friend's house, where I was pleasantly (and deliciously) surprised at how few ingredients can go into a dish with such huge flavor. So, clearly, this dish is great for entertaining, or just a quiet romantic evening with someone special.

Social Dangers of Being a Foodie

Being a foodie can be dangerous.

We are by nature inquisitive and analytical, and we're always looking for an idea or recipe to take and make our own. We look at food in restaurants and think "How can I re-create this at home?" We consider what we would change, how we can make things better.

This can be hard to shut off when you are, say, invited to a friend's home for dinner. Dining at someone's home is very different from dining in a restaurant. In a restaurant, you are allowed to be critical, maybe not openly to the chef, but you can go online, and pick the dish apart on your next post, without any real fear of retribution. By putting out a dish, and making you pay for it, the chef thereby opens their dish up to criticism, and interpretation.

25 May 2010

Daily Update: 25 May

Daily Musings:

Today is all about creativity. Letting go of all the "important" stuff, and allowing yourself to just relax, and get creative can be freeing. So when you're feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath, and let yourself take a creative risk. It doesn't have to be big, you could just change up an ingredient in tonight's dinner, or come up with a game to play with your kids when you get home. The important thing is to take a break from the pressure and stress of every day life, and just do something fun and freeing!


Breakfast - Today, the hubs got to be in charge of breakfast, so we had nice, healthy parfaits: plain whole milk yogurt mixed with some mashed banana and müsli, yum!

Lunch - We made a big mistake today. We went to the grocery store hungry. If I could give you only one healthy eating tip, it would be to never go to the store hungry! Because then you end up grabbing a couple of slices of mushroom and ham pizza from the bakery... On the up side, it was only one slice a piece, and we haven't had pizza in probably a month! Given that fact, I really don't feel bad about it; you've got to let yourself go now and then!

Dinner - Cut up some lovely fresh veggies (zucchini, summer squash, and onions), sauteed with a little olive and peanut oil, a little garlic and a few tablespoons of basil pesto... it's one great sauce to put over spinach ricotta tortelloni! And my night was complete with my first round batch of Donna Hay inspired cheesecake pots for my Hay Hay, It's Donna Day submission. I have a few more ideas to try out though - I'll keep you informed!


...Well, everyone has an off day. I did run yesterday, giving me delightfully sore quads today, until I walked it out on the way to the store. Ok, that sounds like activity, but the store is probably 1/5 of a mile from my apartment building, and we walked slow (since it was so nice out!).

Table Sugar versus “Raw” Sugar: Some Surprising Facts

I started out this post intending to outline some various natural sweeteners on the market today. Then I started reading about conventional and raw sugars out there, and found out some interesting stuff.

Why do people usually choose raw sugar? Same reason you choose anything unrefined, I suppose. It's less, well...  refined, which usually indicates a more healthful product (after all, that premise applies to rice, flour, oils...). So imagine my surprise when I realized that the stuff being marketed as "raw" is actually quite refined. And that the difference between the level of pure sucrose in conventional table sugar versus so-called raw sugar is as little as 2%.

The Science Behind Sweet

Enter: The Villain

So, recent history would paint sugar as the big-bad ugly of our times. Carbohydrates are the enemy, not fat! Well, that's what they say. I, however, would tend to disagree. I think Dr. Atkins was a quack (sorry, that's just how I feel). Seriously, anybody that tells me I should cut out all carbohydrates (and advises against eating fruit) is a quack in my book. Just like most other natural nutrients, carbohydrates have a time and place where they are appropriate.

Luckily, most of the world has caught on, and realized carbs are not the enemy. Just like with fats, we've discovered that it's the refining and isolation of specific compounds that causes the most problems (trans-fats, anyone?). What has me baffled, though, is sweeteners. In all honesty, the concept of sweetening is entirely man-made. So how do we determine what's "good" or "bad" in this case?

24 May 2010

Daily Update: 24 May


Breakfast - We got a late start today (the hubs worked 3rd shift), so I started my day with some coffee, and a nice jog. Once the hubs awoke, I made a lovely brunch sandwich. Fresh soft campagnolo bread from the farmer's market, lightly toasted and spread with mashed avocado. Add to that some juicy red roma tomatoes, a little fresh mozzarella, and finally, thyme soft scrambled eggs, and I call that a great Brunch!

Dinner - This was a bit of an experimental day. When I went to the FM on friday, I bought some bratwursts, like one does in Germany. Phil (my hubs!) had said he wanted something German, so I got some wursts - some jalapeno bratwurst! I cooked them up slowly alongside some caramelizing onions, and served them with some amazing German spicy mustard (there really is nothing like German mustard!), some bread, and leftover rice.Tasty, but horribly monochromatic, and therefore, not really photo-worthy!


Went for a run!! Today was one of the hottest days we've seen in Germany (topping out around 80F), and I took advantage of the gorgeous sun to explore some parts of my neighborhood I haven't yet seen. Got a little lost, but it's all good!

This Week's Theme: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, probably the most controversial of all the macronutrients. Eat them, don't eat them?... Avoid corn syrup, well, it's OK in moderation... Dr. Atkins, South Beach, is there any real merit?... Who can you trust?!

We'll explore all these ideas, and much more. But I have a bit of an ulterior motive for this week's theme...

The truth is, I have a secret. I. Love. Cake.

My name is Shea, and I am a cake addict... whoo, I feel so much better!

23 May 2010

What would you like?

So I've been at this a few weeks now, and I was wondering what you'd like to read about. What is something you'd like to know more about? I've covered organics, and the first of the 3 macronutrients, fat (carbs and proteins to come).

But what do you want to read about? Here are some topics I'd love to share with you:
  • Coffee
  • Wine
  • How foods compliment one another (historically, and nutritionally)
  • Indigenous and ethnic cuisines
  • Something else?
Feel free to comment here, or drop me an email using the link on the right!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Daily Update: 23 May

Daily Musings:

It was so incredibly gorgeous out today. I really haven't been thinking of much in the way of substantial musings, all I did was enjoy the beautiful weather. On a day like today, that's all you can do: go out and enjoy the sunshine. Take a walk, and just be content. :)


Breakfast - The hubs worked the night shift, so I just threw together something simple, nutritious, and most importantly, quiet! Well, besides having to wash the dishes to make coffee (I love him, and wanted to let him sleep, but nothing was going to come between me and my coffee - no machine, french press). So, coffee made, I threw together a satisfying parfait of whole milk plain yogurt, mashed banana, and müsli (granola). It was oddly similar to a banana pudding, with great contrast in textures.

Lunch - Once my hubby finally woke up, we had a light lunch, since we were meeting his boss for dinner. A simple salad with some ham and cheese bits, finished with a balsamic dressing. Simple, balanced, and very tasty.

Dinner - I love Indian food. I can't think of another ethnic cuisine that constantly satisfies me without making me feel like I've pigged out. I don't know what it is, but Indian food always puts me in a good mood. Add to that a glass of an Indian dry red wine (I didn't even know they did that), and it was a very successful evening indeed!


We were good today, and walked downtown to meet the boss for dinner. And then we walked back. I love when the weather's nice, because then I don't even want to think about taking the bus. Two miles each way, and even a leisurely stroll gives you some good calorie-burning.

Benefits of Full Fat Dairy

For years we've seen advertising from the milk and dairy industry to increase our dairy consumption to help us lose weight. The problem I see is that most of the articles and studies in support of this claim recommend low-fat or even fat-free milk.

Across the board, people claim that skim milk is the best option because it's significantly lower in fat and calories than whole, and still offers the same benefits (vitamins, minerals, etc) as whole, without all those pesky, weight-increasing calories. It seems the world has gotten stuck in calorie counting, and has forgotten that our diets, and our bodies, are SO much more complex than that!

22 May 2010

Daily Update: 22 May

Daily Musings:

No incredibly deep thoughts today. It was a gorgeous day out, and the hubs and I took thr train to a little town north of where we live called Oberwesel, where they were having their biannual Mittelaltermarkt ("Middle Ages Market"). Good food, good wine, and good company... it doesn't really get much better!


Breakfast - We got up kinda of early, since we had plans, and I made my favorite go-to breakfast, soft-cooked eggs and toast. I'm trying out a different method than my usual way, care of Kenji Lopez-Alt, one of my new favorite bloggers, on Serious Eats.    ...So far, my eggs have over-cooked both times I've tried Kenji's way, but I blame that more on my lack of a kitchen thermometer than the method itself :) Either way, it's a fabulous breakfast.

Lunch - After walking around the MAM for awhile, I found the perfect lunch for a warm early-summer day: freash, homemade smoked local trout, served cold on rustic country bread and lettuce, topped with an herb-yogurt sauce. The hubs went for a fresh venison burger, which they smothered in an onion-mushroom- honey mustard concoction that I could have happily bathed in it was so god!

Walked around some more, got a small sweet treat, a baumkuchen ("tree-cake"). Lovely, light thin layers of cake, and just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. (Since I was focusing so hard on not getting food all over m y camera - no plates/forks you see - I didn't manage to get a photo, which is a shame, since they had a baumkuchen at the table that was almost a meter high.

We continued on, got some wine, watched some people play with fire, and then headed home.

Dinner - After such a long day, we just kept it simple: pasta with some refrigerator leftovers: tomato sauce, some leeks, a little fresh mozzarealla, and a little bit of local Italian bread with my homemade butter.


Clearly, walking around a market for a few hours constitutes as activity (and quite a fun activity at that!).


21 May 2010

Daily Update: 21 May

Daily Musings:

Music really makes everything better! Turn on some music, and things get easier -- like cleaning my bathroom. :) Remember that music and food are a lot alike: they both require a little talent and a little vision to make something truly great, something that can bring together people from all walks, to enjoy such simple pleasures of life.

So turn on some great tunes, make some dinner, open a bottle of wine, and have a great weekend!


Breakfast - Since I knew I was going to walk to the Farmer's Market in town today, I grabbed my favorite quick breakfast from my local store last night: schokobrötchen. It's like a cross between a roll and a chocolate croissant, but softer and not so heavy on the butter. Really great for quick energy for my nice long walk (and a nice treat for a Friday morning!)

Lunch - I decided to grab a little something at the FM for lunch as I went to wait for my bus. I always pick the worst time of day, and end up siting there for a half hour waiting, so I thought ahead today! Because I had chocolate for breakfast, I stopped a fresh-pressed juice stand. Mango, pineapple, orange and guava; they call it their "Vitamin PowerDrink." I call it tasty. Inevitably, this is the one day I get to the bus stop about 2 minutes before the bus, and had to chug my juice; what a shame.

Dinner - Made the hubby's favorite: salmon. Poached it in a combo of water, fresh orange and lemon juice, some white wine and thyme. A little bit of local produce (sauteed white asparagus, zucchini, summer squash, and tomatoes), and a lovely homemade orange-lemon-thyme scented basmati rice pilaf. Top it all with an orange-sekt beurre blanc... Oh yeah!

Finished things off with a little mashed avocado; drizzled the buttermilk from my butter-making escapade, and a little sugar; a surprisingly good experiment. The buttermilk is basically the sweetest milk you've ever tasted... NOTHING like the "buttermilk" you buy in the supermarket.

(Unfortunately, the beurre blanc didn't set quite the way I'd hoped, and my plating was a disaster, so no photos to speak of. But it tasted good!)


As stated above, I walked to the farmer's market. We're talking about 2.5 to 3 miles, walking briskly, because I can't help it when I've got peppy music playing!


This week's links

For anyone looking for a fun (and tasty!) challenge, check out eat. live. travel. write. for Hay Hay, It's Donna Day! Sounds like a fun challenge, stay tuned for my entry for Blackberry Cheesecake pots. A no-bake dessert, wonderful! 

We like to complain about the American food producing system, but sometimes seeing how another country handles food can put some things in perspective (of course, what goes on behind the scenes in each country is still quite a mystery). Check out this list of 16 interesting items sold in Chinese WalMarts.

As much as I hate getting out and running, or doing squats, or push-ups (until I start, then it feels so good! ...except for the push-ups), it's a necessary evil. I have finally disovered yoga I like, too! I guess the third time is the charm (since I usually don't care for yoga) but this podcast from YogAmazing is pretty awesome. AA recent episode is specifically for beginners, and the podcast is free, so no excuses!!

One of the most concise sites about cooking oils I've found - thanks Whole Foods! Please remember, though, that the majority of seed oils (canola, grapeseed, corn, etc) are highly refined, and use solvent extraction. I recommend sticking to unrefined oils, and specifically olive, coconut, and avocado.

I know sometimes my posts can come across kind of serious (I've got a sense of humor - which I'm striving to let out, but I do take food issues seriously). This is too funny NOT to share! A store in Texas is being required to get a food permit to sell edible underwear! I love it. 

For your viewing pleasure (recipe to come)

20 May 2010

Daily Update: 20 May

Daily Musings:

So, today, I have been thinking that patience is a virtue. One I unfortunately am not exceptionally close with. But, every day, I try a little harder, and over the course of my life, each little bit has added up. So just remember, when you're frustrated, most of the time, it could always be worse. Try to think of what's gone right that day (or that week, if the day is turning out... disappointing). And remember, there is always tomorrow.


Breakfast - OK, I think I'm starting to notice a trend. Because of the hubby's weirded out work schedule last week, my sleep schedule fell off track a bit. Waking up late, I've been eating late. But I was good! I managed to clean out my fridge, and have a healthy lunch at the same time!

2 thin slices of toast, with some fresh mozzarella melted over them, topped with tomato (allowed it all to sit in the pan and warm up). Then I topped it all with some fresh avocado! A little salt and pepper, and it was a great open-faced sandwich!

Dinner - Cheese and herb fresh tortellini with homemade tomato sauce care of Steamy Kitchen and Marcella Hazan - I've made this sauce at least 4 times since reading the post, and haven't bought jarred sauce in weeks! Served up with a tomato and mozzarella salad, drizzled with a pesto balsamic olive oil dressing. Superb!

A small slice of fresh spongecake with whipped cream and strawberries, and that's a night!


Walked to and from my hubby's work today, about 2 miles altogether. Not a huge amount, but it's still something!

DIY Butter

So, I don't know if this can even really be called a "recipe." It's way too friggin easy.

Have you ever made your own butter? I have been saying for the better part of a decade that I would try, ever since I saw Emeril make butter on his show. But for some reason, I've just never done it. I officially have too much time on my hands, and it's glorious!

So, how do you turn this:

 (translation: Organic Whipping Cream, heat-treated, at least 30% fat)

into this: 
 (translation: super-deliciousness)

Stay Tuned...

Goals for today:

  • Attempting to make my own butter - I don't have a food processor or blender in my tiny German kitchen, so we'll see how long it takes me. I'll keep you posted!
  • Putting together some recipes I've been promising you: my Chicken Paprikas, and the smoked salmon and leek cream sauce from the other night
  • Compiling some fun facts about butter, and ways to use it
  • And I have to fit in my German class there somewhere... It's going to be a busy day! 

In the meantime, enjoy this photo of the German sunset I took last weekend. They have some good ones here...

19 May 2010

Daily Update: 19 March

Daily Musings:

It was raining today. Rain always makes getting out of bed harder. But that's a day you really need to kick yourself in the pants. Don't use the weather (or your job, or your kids) be an excuse for not taking the best care you can of yourself and those around you. Make yourself a priority.


Breakfast/Lunch - Another late start, but around lunchtime, I managed to get in the kitchen and try a new method for soft-boiled eggs (note, it didn't really work out... they were a tad overcooked, but still tasted good on toast). Here's what I had:  2 soft boiled eggs (local eggs from my Farmer's Market), 2 slices of toast (bread from a local bakery, sliced thin, about 1 cm or so), and about a TB and a half of unsalted Irish butter, which I salted myself. There's really nothing better.

Dinner - As I have literally the tiniest kitchen on Earth, we go out a fair amount. Sometimes that's just what needs to happen. Doesn't mean you can't be smart about it (not that I always am, mind you).

So tonight, our friends decided on this cute local Italian place: I got housemade gnocchi (a rather reasonable portion, kind of a shocker at any Italian place, or any restaurant in Germany!) with tomato sauce, a little bit of mozzarella, and some fresh basil! Could have gone for the creamy pesto, but I knew I wanted dessert...

Add to that one nice glass of Chianti (a wine I don't typically like too much, but it was their only dry red... and delicious!), then I split a housemade tiramisu and cappuccino with the hubs. That's a great tip too: dessert is wonderful, especially when you share! Keeps the portion size acceptable, and allows for some bonding.


So I totally meant to do some yoga before we left for dinner, but as can sometimes hapen, life gets in the way. But I didn't allow myself to make that excuse! Regardless of the rain, we decided to briskly walk home, appx 2 miles. Thirty minutes later, and a little sweaty, we got home, feeling all the better for the effort!

Canola Oil: Heart-healthy Hero, or Malignant Miscreant?

I think I was a really annoying kid. I always liked to ask questions, sometimes the kind that parents aren't ready to answer yet, like "Hey Dad... Santa's not real, is he?" As I got older, and was finally on my own, I started asking questions about my food. These are usually harder to answer, because most often, regardless of what the powers-that-be say, the true answer is "Well, we really just don't know."

18 May 2010

Daily Update: Tues 18 March

So, I'm going to try something here... I realize I can get preachy (although that isn't always my intent... always...), but I don't really expect you to take advice from someone when you can't see the effect of the choices I make.

Using Coconut Oil

So you've decided to try it; great! Now you need to know what to do with it.  

Coconut Oil: A saturated fat than can help you get healthy?

Coconut oil has had a bad rap over the years. A few decades ago, a scientist fed some hydrogenated coconut oil to some test-rodents, and they got sick! Well, the thing is, this hydrogenated oil (read: trans-fat!) was actually completely devoid of any necessary fatty-acids. That's like blaming scurvy on the ale on a ship: the sickness wasn't coming from what they were eating, but what they weren't!

Now, there are pros and cons to everything in the food world. "Saturated fat" is probably the dirtiest phrase in a food dictionary! Had a heart attack? Cut back on the saturated fats! But consider this: saturated fat (like many other nutrients in life) has its uses. Our bodies use saturated fats to build cell walls. In fact, without enough saturated fats, your body can't function properly.

OK, why in the world have I started in on saturated fats? This post is supposed to be about coconut oil! Well, coconut oil is approximately 90% saturated fat. You read that right, 90%. So you may wonder how I can be recommending you use a fat that, by its very composition, is everything that is evil in the world of (if I may borrow a phrase from KitchenKop) "politically correct" food.

So let's look a little more closely:

17 May 2010

This Week's Theme: Fats

Nothing in the food world is more controversial than fat. I'm not talking about whether or not we Westerners are fat, or about the ever-present issue of obesity in America. I'm talking about dietary fats: what to use, what to avoid, what we should immediately blast into space so we never need to be near it again. I'm going to go over several of the fats we consume daily, and maybe introduce some new ones.

One thing is certain: you'll never look at fat the same way again!

15 May 2010

Visions of a German Farmer's Market

So, like I've said, I have a love affair with really great food! I am incredibly lucky to live where I do, because there are Farmer's Markets out the wazoo here! The major one in town runs on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday every week! It's huge, and now that the weather's nice, it's getting bigger. You can find everything down there, even a vendor selling local wine on Saturdays! So, given my ill-concealed excitement, I wanted to share some photos from my visit last Tuesday.

Later, I'll post a recipe I've been mentioning for a little while: Chicken Paprikas. (First time I have ever bought chicken from a FM, and let me tell you, it's a whole different bird!

German Radishes: I just loved the color of these! That deep magenta is just so gorgeous! 

The white radishes intrigue me as well.

Of course, you can't have German produce without red cabbage (as well as the stunning green cabbage at the top of the page). It just lends itself to such beautiful photos!

My favorite: rhubarb! One of the local shops here makes a strawberry-rhubarb cake that is unbelievable. My mom has some growing wild in her backyard, and I just love it! (One of my cousins actually like to take plain raw rhubarb, and just dip it in a little sugar and eat it that way!)

I love this chicken! This was the first day I bought farm-fresh FM eggs (3X the price, but soooo worth it!). This stand always caught my attention, not only because of the chicken, or even the cute little old man who runs it, but because of the sign! Roughly translated it means "No worries of Salmonella from our eggs!" I love it! (The eggs at this stand cost about 10% more than most of the other stands, but you can't help but love the chicken! Genius marketing at its finest!)

The same chicken, giving me the evil eye because the chicken-man decided I wanted the bird awake, and proceeded to poke it until it woke up... and fell asleep again in about a minute.

The Tomato Diaries

News Flash: People don't eat their veggies!

I think a big reason why people tend to not eat their fruits and veggies comes down to a pretty simple explanation: they don't like them! I know, it's a major shock. But here's the thing. For the past 60 years or so, food production has gotten out of the hands of locals, and into the hands of big mega-super-duper-markets. Seasons no longer matter; you can get virtually any shippable produce anywhere, anytime. This is where the problem lies. If you pick a tomato while it's still green, for instance, then ship it to a market, and expect some mom to convince little Johnny "Sweetie, it's good for you," well I'm sorry, but if I were little Johnny, I'd say no dice!

Kitchen Basics: Slicing and Dicing an Onion

One thing I find myself doing over and over and over again when I cook is dicing onions. They're so incredibly versatile, and can add depth of flavor to any dish. A vast number of savory dishes call for sliced or diced onion, shallot, or garlic. This dicing method, which I learned in my cooking classes in college, makes dicing onions quick, and relatively painless!

14 May 2010

This week's links

Obviously, I don't know everything (but don't tell my hubby that I've admitted that!). There are a lot of smart and creative people out there in the world, so once a week or so, I plan to showcase some of those smart people out there in the blog-o-sphere. 

Earlier this week, I wrote my first Kitchen Basics post, about how to properly (and safely) set up your cutting space. As I said in that post, the most important thing to have a good sharp knife. Read this post from David Lebowitz for some great advice on not only knife care, but how to choose a good knife. 

Given that I want this blog to focus mostly on great food, I wanted to post a nice healthful recipe here, and Marc Matsumoto of [No Recipes] has come up with something the looks truly delicious. Since it's been kind of rainy and gross here in Germany, this miso soup just comes across as real comfort food. This is proof you can eat natural, wholesome food that's still delicious and satisfying.

In this editorial from Good Eater Collaborative (one of my new favorite sites), Mike Cadoux offers some poignant (and humorous) observations of many failings in our modern processed-food world.

I have to have an article with some science and health! The only way we can make lasting changes in our diets and lives is to expand our knowledge. Everyone knows they shouldn't eat 2 or 3 Twinkies in one siting, but knowing you shouldn't and knowing WHY you shouldn't can be the difference between you and that First Twinkie.

13 May 2010

Grow Your Own, Pt. II: Terrible Beasties

So, we've discussed how to avoid weeding at all costs - it might be a lot of prep work, but it's totally worth it in the long run. The terrible garden Beasties, however, are a little more of a challenge. These are a few tips and tricks my mom uses to keep several of these plant-predators to a comfortable minimum.

Kitchen Basics: Knife Skills - Basic Cutting set up

What you need to slice and dice safely and efficiently

Grow Your Own, Pt. I: Plants vs Plants

All week, we have been talking about organics: organic meat, organic produce, etc. Often, it can be pretty expensive to buy the organic stuff though. Growing your own produce can be a much cheaper solution, and then, you can be 100% sure of what you're eating. Plus, there really is nothing on the planet quite as good as a fresh tomato, right off the plant, still warm from the sun!

For those of you with a green thumb, I'm sorry to say I'm not one of you! But, my mother comes from a long line of good gardeners (it just managed to skip me, I guess). As she was my inspiration for getting into organics and natural foods, I wanted to share some of the things she's done in her garden to keep herself, and her plants, healthy, without the use of any chemicals.

Truth in Labelling

So what are the rules about labeling anyway? If I see "Organic" on the front, what is that telling me? Why do I see "organic" in the ingredients list, but not anywhere else on the label? Believe it or not, all of these things are covered. You want to put the word "organic" on any product, you better believe there's a checklist of requirements to even consider it.

But what about "all-natural," or "hormone-free," or "free-range?"

12 May 2010

What IS organic anyway?

So I've spent a few days talking about organics, and have yet to define them. It's no hard-kept secret what organic is; the USDA posts the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (all 21 pages of it) right on their website. Of course, most of us aren't going to wade through 21 pages of government-speak legal-ease to figure it out. As crazy as it sounds, I actually read it (mostly). I even took notes.

I am a dork.

The other day, I went over organic beef in a post, but there are obviously a lot of other facets to the organic industry They even have regulations for packaging and transportation of organic goods.

Pop quiz:


...there are some approved synthetic chemicals allowed in organic foods?
...livestock CAN be vaccinated?
...that having the "Organic" seal doesn't guarantee 100% organic?
...the USDA doesn't inspect Certified Organic producers and handlers?
...there are companies who can claim the "Organic" seal without ever being subjected to certification?

Perfect Breakfast Smoothie

Smoothies are pretty much the perfect breakfast. Chock full of vitamins, minerals, and really well balanced with all your major nutrients (fat, carbs, protein) so it's incredibly satisfying. My husband was the total cereal guy in college. I was the no-time-for-breakfast girl. Then we bought the Magic Bullet (yes, the goofy-infomercial-personal-blender). Once we got it, we were making smoothies literally every morning.

The transformation was literally overnight. One day we realized we had a couple of several-month old boxes of cereal we hadn't touched since we started with the smoothies. Plus, since smoothies are infinitely portable and only take 5 minutes to blend, I started eating breakfast on a daily basis. So now, after years of trial and error, I'm going to share with you our formula for a perfect smoothie: smooth (duh), creamy, lightly sweet without being cloying, and just enough substance to get you through several hours. Plus, it's good for you!

11 May 2010

What to buy organic...

So, we all know eating organic is a good idea. As a whole I think we can also agree that it can get expensive. So when do you pay the extra for organic, and when can you buy the conventional without feeling like you're poisoning your family? Luckily for us, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) offers a handy guide for the 12 worst pesticide offenders (called the “Dirty Dozen”) and the top 15 safest foods (the “Clean Fifteen”). They offer a handy printable list here.

Coming soon...

 Today I'm going to be taking pictures of my local farmer's market here in Germany. Right now it's Spargel season! (Asparagus, they love the white kind here). I haven't really done too much with white asparagus, so today will be an adventure. Hopefully, I'll have some tasty uses for this somewhat unusual veggie later on this week.

For today (and maybe tomorrow), you can expect:
  • What to buy organic, and what you can ignore
  • WHY to buy organic produce 
  • How to grow your own organics: Organic alternatives to conventional pesticides
  • My recipe for a quick and nutritious breakfast smoothie (you'll never go back to cereal again)
  • The method for a great stir-fry
Look forward to seeing you soon! (Oh, and to anyone who tried my Chicken Paprikas recipe link yesterday without luck, it's working now!)

10 May 2010

How to Eat Food, Part II

So I have a few philosophies about eating, borne from the past few years of self-education. Through several casual conversations with an R.D. I'm acquainted with (I hope to post an interview with her in the near future) and personal experience, I've found more satisfaction from eating according to these rules than I ever did following the general "wisdom" touted by the major food producers in America. Eat fat, eat carbs, eat whatever makes you feel good; it comes down to knowing HOW.

09 May 2010

CrockPot Roast and Veg

So you've found a local beef farmer you like. They feed their cows 100% forage, they roam around free all day in the sun, and get daily massages (the cows do, not the farmer). After much deliberation, you decide on a gorgeous 7-bone chuck roast with superb marbling. Your mouth waters, and then you realize... well what in the world am I going to do with this 2-pound roast?

I have the perfect solution for you: Pot Roast. The best part, you can stick it in a slow cooker, and you don't have to do a thing.

Organic versus Grass-fed Beef

This week's theme is "Organics." Each week (or month, haven't really decided yet...) will be dedicated to a broad theme.

Today I'm going to focus on organic and grass-fed meat. There are several reasons to consider organic and/or grass-fed as opposed to conventional sources of animal protein: ethics, flavor, health, and the general aesthetics (i.e. the gross-out factor) of the mass-production of meat.

07 May 2010

How to Eat Food

Quite a concept, eh?

The US is a veritable melting pot of different cultures, that's no secret. So I find it fascinating that with all of the culinary influence out there, most Americans have lost touch with their roots. I don't just mean cultural roots either. Our food landscape has shifted so severely in the past few decades, that we consider a paper-wrapped squishy-bun-covered patty of "beef" and a side of artificially enhanced fries to be an acceptable meal.

Well I say NO LONGER!

It's sleek! Fresh! Delightfully Retro! Here at Blissfully Unrefined, I am exploring the idea of eating actual FOOD.

05 May 2010

About Shea

Thanks for visiting Blissfully Unrefined, and welcome! My goal for this site is to make it a central place where people can come to learn about food, how their bodies use it, and get some great wholesome recipes as well. I started this site as a way not only to share the knowledge I have, but as a learning experience as well. If there's a topic you'd like to see me cover on this site, please send me an email at BlissfullyUnrefined [at] gmail.com! As I am just starting out, and my followers are very few, I will respond to any email I get for the forseeable future.

04 May 2010

New Blog -- Work currently in progress -- Check back this weekend for the Grand Opening!
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