Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Pear Salad & Garlic Croutons

One of the benefits of living in such a beautiful area is that it also comes with an amazing assortment of local ingredients that we can cook with. Not everything is in season when you'd like it to be but there is no reason you can't eat local all year round here. That is why I recently picked up a book called "Wildwood, Cooking from the Source in the Pacific Northwest."

The book is written by Cory Schreiber who is the chef and owner of the famous restaurant Wildwood in Portland, Oregon. Although Chef Schreiber focuses mostly on ingredients from Oregon you will find it translates easily for we northerners. The seafood, wine, forest mushrooms, berries and produce that he uses can all be found here too.

This cookbook makes me wish I lived next door to a farmers market because I want to prepare just about everything in it. Consider some of these recipes:

  • Panfried Razor Clams with Bread Crumbs, Herbs and Lemon
  • Salad of Field Greens with Crispy Fried Oysters, Aioli, and Smoky Bacon on an Herbed Crepe.
  • Creamed Morels with Apple Brandy, Thyme, and Roasted Garlic.
  • Roasted Chicken Thighs with Morel Mushrooms, Asparagus and Garlic
  • Potato and Clam Soup with Sour Cream, Thyme, and Garlic Croutons.

The top two recipes you can prepare just about any time of year but the recipes with morels is a short but delicious season in the spring. I am looking forward to pairing the asparagus and morels since Chef Schreiber thinks they're a perfect match that ripen at the same time in the Pacific Northwest. In the meantime, I'm not above taking different things from recipes and putting them together in my own way.

The bottom line is that you have to use what is available in your own pantry sometimes because running to the store every time you need an ingredient is bad for the environment and not much fun either. So with some Thundering Hooves chicken thighs, fresh garlic, local pears, fresh rosemary and fresh greens on hand I put something together. When all put together it made a delicious meal.


2 T Olive Oil

2 T Balsamic vinegar

1 T minced fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

8 chicken thighs, or 4 boneless chicken breast halves

In a large self-sealing plastic bag, combine the oil, vinegar, rosemary, and pepper. Add the chicken, seal the bag, and rotate to coat the chicken. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours, turning the bag occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a knife.


2 T olive oil

1 to 2 cloves garlic, depending on your taste

2 cups 1/2 thick cubed french or country bread

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic for 3 minutes, or until translucent; do not brown! Add the bread cubes, tossing to coat. Place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside. Can be prepared in advance.

Take 1 pear and cut into slices. Place on top of mixed field greens. Prepare your dressing:

1 tsp olive oil

2 T Balsamic vinegar

1 T Honey

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk and drizzle over greens and pears. Top with Garlic Croutons and serve with Roasted Chicken.

Delicious Blueberry Smoothies for Breakfast that are good for you too

Our family always makes an effort to go blueberry picking when they're in season. We usually head up to North Bend to pick them under the beautiful shadow of Mt. Si. They are so plentiful you can fill a bucket in no time.

There is nothing like a blueberry pie in the middle of winter to improve the general mood. It is pure summer in a pie shell. Surprise your guests some time and feel the love.

The great thing about blueberries is that they freeze so easily and so well. In an hour of picking we were able to freeze about 10 quarts in individual 5 cup baggies. We could easily have picked more.

Blueberries are the most fortunate of all berries and we have a lot to choose from in the bountiful northwest. Because of their dark skin they are rich in anti-oxidents that counteract against the toxins in our bodies. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals to say nothing of tasting pretty darned good.

A great way to get a daily intake of blueberries without indulging in pie or muffins is to make a smoothie in the morning. I make one that is so yummy that you could order it as a milkshake and not blink an eye when you drank it. You can play with the ingredients but this combination really works for me.


1 banana, sliced

1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

1 cup Activia light vanilla yogurt

1/2 cup 1 % milk (adjust depending on how thick you want our smoothie)

Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until everything is incorporated and smooth. Pour into glass, top with 2 or 3 blueberries, and enjoy. Makes two 1 cup servings. (If serving only 1, cover remaining with plastic and refrigerate. It keeps very well.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Take Action and tell USDA you don't want GE food in your Organics

Once again the United States Department of Agriculture is siding with big business over the consumer. It is obvious that their clients are no longer the American people but Corporate America. They do great work for Monsanto and Beef Products, Inc. but not so much for Mr. and Mrs. Brown on Main Street.

The problem here is something called Roundup Ready alfalfa which is alfalfa that has been genetically modified to withstand spraying by the poison Roundup. Despite the fact that we don't actually eat alfalfa we do consume milk, butter, ice cream and beef. The USDA intends to allow companies to label food as organic even though the cow has been fed genetically modified alfalfa.

How does this benefit the consumer? It doesn't, of course. It does benefit the giant corporations that market and sell the food.

There is also the problem of putting real organic farmers out of business. The USDA admits that their study reveals that allowing this will hurt farmers and the organic food industry but apparently that's not enough to stop them from proceeding. Leave it to Corporate America to turn a naturally developing healthy trend into something they can profit on while leaving the entire original ideal in the dust.

The fact is that the poison in Roundup, glyphosate, is dangerous to humans. "Studies have shown that glyphosate clearly is linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma and that glyphosate damages and kills human cells even at diluted levels far below recommendations." Since you can grow alfalfa that is not genetically modified why take the risk?

Please let us stop the USDA from making this dangerous decision before the February 16th deadline. You can learn more by reading this from PCC Markets and they will also provide you with a link for taking action. We are the David to the Corporate Goliath, let's see if we can make a difference.

Not long ago I found spring roll wrappers at PCC Market and since then they've become a staple in our pantry. They seem to keep forever although you will find yourself using them more often than you expected. As long as you keep plenty of fresh vegetables in your house you will always have a fresh, easy and fun meal at close hand.

Spring rolls are also a great way to incorporate vegetables into your meal in a way that children might not find so offensive. There are no limits to the kinds of ingredients you can put into a spring roll so making them kid friendly is easy. To ensure satisfaction, have a little fun, and delegate labor encourage your family to create their own!

The reality is rolling a lot of spring rolls is lake stuffing a lot of manicoti, it's nice to have help because even though it's easy it still takes time. Show your kids the technique of dipping the wrappers in water, laying them flat, placing the filling on the wrapper, and then the easy fold and roll. Try having an wide assortment of ingredients that your family will love, for example:

leftover chicken, beef, or fish

cooked shrimp


shredded cabbage

shredded carrots

green onion

green pepper

cilantro and parsley

chopped garlic & ginger

fresh bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts

chopped water chestnuts

You get the picture. There really is nothing that you can't put inside a spring roll. Maybe even try and dessert roll with fresh fruit, coconut & chocolate sauce for dipping.

Below there is a recipe that I follow with various interpretations. You can plan on cooking them or eating them fresh. I split the following batch in two and did half in the oven and left the other half fresh. The ingredients just fill a full batch of wrappers when using 2 wrappers per spring roll, which I recommend.

Shrimp Spring Rolls

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots

3 green onions chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 T chopped fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves chopped

Soy sauce to taste & pepper to taste.

Mix ingredients together. Take 2 spring roll wrappers and dip into water to soften enough to roll easily. Personally I like them pretty wet. Add 2 to 3 T of filling to lower part of wet wrapper laid flat. Roll a couple of times, fold in the sides and then roll until done. Repeat until all wrappers are used up.

You can consume just the way they are or you can preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray non-stick on cookie sheet, place spring rolls on sheet, give them light spray with same non-stick and put in oven for 15 to 20 minutes until light golden brown. Serve both with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The USDA and Beef Products, Inc.: a marriage from Hell

It is a great privilege to be able to write about food and cooking. Especially in these exciting new days of discovering local food that is grown safely and organically. It would be wonderful to be able to focus on all the good things that are happening right now but every once in a while we have to get more serious.

The fact is that the discussion about food production in America is just beginning to get heated up, (unlike our planet which started some time back). Our food policies in the United States have resulted in factory farms, E-coli ridden fruits and vegetables, and a population that is getting larger by the minute. This leaves us with lots of cheap burgers accompanied by polluted air & water, deadly diseases, and on a fast track for a handicap sticker and an automated cart at the grocery store.

The latest revelations about food policy and the United States Department of Agriculture's role in it, will not make you want to smile. The New York Times recently reported that the company Beef Products, Inc., in an effort to increase profits, found a way to make the once-relegated-to-petfood leavings into hamburger for human consumption. These fatty leavings, unfortunately, are highly susceptible to contamination so they developed a method of injecting it with ammonia.

I know that sounds delicious but it gets better. The so noble Beef Products, Inc. then found a company and paid them to do a study to see how their new ammonia process was working. The hired hand, (shockingly, I might add), found that the process was practically infallible in it's destruction of E-coli.

It was then that the US taxpayers reasonably-paid employees at the USDA stepped up to the plate to do their job; that is to make sure the hamburger was safe for human consumption. But, apparently, this job has become pretty easy because all it involved was a reading and "approval" of BPI's own commissioned study. This must have taken at least a couple of hours.

In fact in 2007 the USDA was so confident in the BPI's ammonia process they EXEMPTED(!) them from normal food testing. With that vote of confidence by the US government the company has gone on to become the golden source for almost all the fast food giants in the country. (Do we have to name names?) Even more frightening is that the federal lunch program used 5.5 million pounds of the crap in school lunches over the last couple of years.

The upshot of all this corporate favoritism is that there have been multiple incidents of salmonella and E-coli being found in BPI products. It has been the federal school lunch program that has been doing the testing and discovering the nastiness since 2005 but the USDA never got wind of it despite the fact that they're in the same department. (How is that possible to even believe?)

Now that the disgusting hamburger has hit the proverbial fan the USDA has changed its tune. BPI has lost its exemption. The question every American needs to be asking is why they ever had one to start with?