If you can’t beet em’ eat em’.


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So it always amazes me how much the quality of ingredients affect how good a dish is. You can spend all day making a dish with great technique and plating, but if your produce is old was it worth your time? I love beets they are delicious, sweet, healthy and turn into heaven when roasted. The farmer’s market in my hood, had the most amazing beets! I grabbed two bunches not really thinking much about it, when I went to prepare them for my dish, I noticed that one bunch were the most beautiful tiger stripped beets i’d ever seen!
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I peeled them and set the oven to 400 degrees, the stripped beets I sliced with mandolin, the red beets I cut into quarters. They cooked for about twenty minutes, while they cooked I prepared the beet greens, by rough chopping and boiling in salted water for about six minutes. Beet greens are delicious and many folks just throw them out! Lightly cooked the leaves are similar to spinach and the stalks almost have an asparagus flavor to me. After they boil, I toss them in a little red wine vinegar. I decided I would serve the roasted beets with their greens and top with some local goat’s feta and some fresh dill, both that I had purchased at the farmer’s market. To get my daughter excited to eat her veggies, I did a few different plating options and let her pick her favorite. Getting kids involved and making it fun helps to motivate them to try new things….Ava loved the whole thing and cleaned her plate, as did my two year old, and my husband. Beets are always a winner at our house!
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Go out and have a veggie adventure, grow your own, or buy from local farmers who use organic growing methods, use good ingredients and you are sure to have something you will be proud of, regardless of how simple it is!
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Kid approved!

The dish that got me on and sent packing on Masterchef’s season 4

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Going on the show I thought the last thing I would need to worry about was being on the “bloopers” reel, I take pride and have confidence in my cooking.  Well oddly enough…my dish will not even be shown.  It was the dish I made for the open call and what I made for the “on camera” audition.  The food expert at the open call loved it, I felt confident heading into everything, it was not all bad as an experience, disappointing to say the least but not without a lesson.  Some contestants had great back stories and had triumphed though horrible things, others were fire dancers or made robots.  The thing we all had in common was to represent ourselves as cooks.  I gave it hell I did, I bought all the best products to use (out of pocket expense, btw) but I enjoyed filming actually.  I didn’t really expect to like all my cast mates so much, they were awesome!  We all kinda instabonded.  I loved the wranglers and all the British accents on the crew.  If you’ve seen the show you probably figured that I knew what I was in for….but I naively really believed in it, believed that if you try your best that you can come out a winner.  Life can be boring and unpleasant at times, and I felt like I had an opportunity that was extraordinary.  I got a yes from Joe,Graham said the dish was good, but my plating wasn’t great (did you see some of the dishes they put through?  seriously?) And Gordon said my salad was “nice” but my chicken was dry (air cooled, organic and $10 lbs ), too bad since he “loved my personality”.480355_612903948721495_1226222833_n  So in hindsight….as for all hopes and dreams I had for myself, I failed. Wow, that’s a sucky feeling….I wanted to throw up a little when my roommate from the show found an article that the Salt Lake Tribune had about me “being a hopeful” I felt like I was living a lie as all my friends were congratulating me with kind words….I already knew the outcome.  Coming so close and then getting dumped on your ass is quite character building and was really the catalyst to start my food blog so I could show people what I do in my style.  Well here is the dish that got me on and sent packing on Masterchef Season 4:

Serves 4

8 sheets defrosted phyllo

4 chicken breast, marinated in 2 tbsp each, olive oil, soy, and fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp dried herb de Provence, 2 cloves garlic smashed, salt and pepper to taste.  Marinate at least 30 minutes or overnight.  Sear on both sides.

2 cups baby spinach wilted

4 oz Greek Feta

4 oz whole milk ricotta

1 egg

Butter

Preheat 375 degree oven, mix your egg and cheeses with spinach.  Butter a sheet of phyllo, top with another sheet, butter, place chicken in the middle, top with spinach mixture, fold sides in first then roll from the bottom up.  Butter top, bake for 30 minutes or so till golden and crisp.

For the open call, I made it with Greek potato salad using blue and Yukon potatoes, and topped with a Greek Horitaki “salsa” of sort and micro greens.  Due to the time limits for the on camera, I did a roasted eggplant puree and an arugula salad.  I posted pics of both variations, they are both good…..and you could also do rice or mashed potatoes.

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Gotta live life without regrets regardless, I would be lying if I said I was happy with the conclusion to my journey, I was very much not…..but I did get to meet Lars and James from Metallica on my flight into LA.  I totally was worried I would look super terrible, I didn’t.  As with most things in life….aside from getting eaten by a lion or being buried alive, it coulda been worse and in like a decade it might actually be funny…what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but it can drag ya down for a bit.  I hate watching myself too….I seriously don’t register the weird faces I make….I don’t even know I do it…..haha.  What does the future hold for me?  Not sure, but I probably won’t be hobnobbing around with Mr. Ramsey anytime soon.  To some folks with real troubles, this probably comes off silly, a reality show being mean to you could be seen as a first world problem that is for sure.  I’m keeping things in perspective and as they say, hopefully time (and beer) will heal all wounds.

When life gives you lemons.....uh...drink beer.
When life gives you lemons…..uh…drink beer.

French onion tarts with balsamic dressed spring mix


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So I’ve been totally wanting French onion soup lately, but it’s not soup weather. When it’s sunny and bright outside and the house is muggy soup isn’t the most appealing thing to serve. So I decided to make a French onion tart, with all the flavors of its soupy rival, but in a portable, can be served room temp with salad alternative. This recipe is totally easy and my whole family loves it! Great for meatless Monday, and no one will miss the meat!
Softball sized onion, I got a Texas sweet onion, use what you like, but I would suggest a sweet variety. Slice all the onions and place in a heated sauté pan (medium) with 1 tbsp olive oil. Let sauté till light brow (15 minutes), add 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 tsp pepper…cook 5 more minutes, and add 1 Tbsp. butter, 1 Tbsp. parsley, 1 Tbsp. Soy sauce (great for richness and color, turn off heat. Set aside. Pre heat oven 400 degrees.
Cut one box of thawed puff pastry into eight squares, pre bake for 10 minutes….push down centers when they come out of oven. Top with even parts onion mixture and 1 oz of gruyere chesse, bake twenty minutes or until brown and bubbly, like a bowl of French onion soup! Serve with salad, mine was comprised of Organic spring mix, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. ground pepper, 2 Tbsp. pecorino cheese….salad is so easy and fresh! My kids love this salad and it so simple you can make it in 5 min, but elegant and tasty enough to serve at a dinner party!

Versatile Risotto for seasonal cooking


rissoSpring veg right now have been crazy! You can get local stuff right now that is amazing, so I I wanted to devote a recipe technique that can be used any season with whatever is local right then…it is Spring here so that is what we will be focusing on here. Not to mention I found a 2lbs box of imported Italian Arborio rice, the stuff for risotto! Gonna roast some veggies to bring out their natural sugar and starch…it’s a good time. Risotto should be done over medium heat and done with patience and care, many a risotto has been rushed and ruins the integrity of the dish…as with most things…the good stuff takes time and thought. Once mastered, risotto crafting can take on many delicious, crowd pleasing, variations…and its gluten free! So what the hell right?!
Playas:
1 ½ Cups Arborio rice
1 shallot minced
5 Cups chicken or veg stock
4 Tbsp butter
¼ Cup Parmesan
¼ Cup White Cheddar (I used a sharp, New Zealand import…but use a semi soft cheese of choice)
1 Cup dry white wine, if you won’t drink it, don’t cook with it
In a flat bottomed pot, over medium high heat, I used my le cruset French oven, put a few tbsp. of olive oil, add shallots, brown, add half of the butter, add rice, brown mixture, add wine, when it has evaporated start adding stock, ladle by ladle until the rice is perfectly al dente, probably will take about 25 minutes or so….taste as you go….add cheese and rest of butter, stir, serve right away!
A variety of seasonal treats, I choose some local asparagus roasted at 400 degrees, lightly coated with olive oil and salt for 20 min. I roasted some Leeks, same process as asparagus but takes about 15 minutes longer. I used some petite peas, and then topped it with whipped sundried tomato, which is super easy, basically you rehydrate some dried tomatoes with boiling water, for about 10 minutes, drain all but a ¼ Cup of water, add ½ Cup olive oil, and blend till foamy. Its super tasty, easy, and can be put on anything and will keep in the fridge forever.
This recipe serves four as a main.

Guam inspired Lumpia, this aint yo momma’s egg roll!

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Back to “normal” for spring here in Portland….rainy! Doesn’t really bother me all that much to be honest…and back to cooking for rainy weather, it’s a different process completely. This recipe was inspired by the most amazing dish at PDX 671, they are a food cart in the pod by my house and they serve amazing lumpia! I’ve eaten my share of eggrolls/spring rolls but these lumpia (Guam version) are outta this world! They are light, crispy, and served with the most amazing sweet and sour sauce, not the red stuff you get on your sweet and sour chicken, a light vinegar based sauce with fresh chilies. Recently, PDX 671 was featured on “Diners, Drive in’s, and Dives” and ever since then they have had weird hours, sold out, and aren’t open for dinner hours. Great for them, bad for the locals who now have to fight the tourists to get their Guam food craving. So in defiance I decided to make my own, this is my recipe and my journey. Pretty damn good, but not as good as my homie up at the Rose City Carts…damn you Guy Fieri, leave my carts alone…haha!
My delicious, but inferior lumpia:
1 ½ lbs ground pork or chicken
1 cup grated jicama
1 carrot, grated
2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp fish sauce (Three Crabs is the best, I’ve found)
1 tsp grated ginger
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 egg
1 package Egg roll wraps, the thinner the better, I got the run of the mill thicker ones, I was on foot and couldn’t be picky so I had to get what was available at my local Wholefoods, which were fine but thinner would be way better.
Vegetable or peanut oil for shallow frying
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine all ingredients, except wraps, in a bowl. Open wrapper and place about a golf ball sized amount of meat filling on to wrapper, form meat into a cigar shape, roll like a burrito (there are instructions on the back of the package, practice makes perfect!). Repeat till out of filling, mine made about 20, and they all got eaten…haha! Heat a few inches of oil in a frying pan over medium high heat, when lightly smoking add four lumpia at a time and brown on all sides. We are shallow frying here, to get the color then finishing off in the oven, a little less oil is absorbed so they are slightly more healthy….these are in no way heath food….but healthier food. As you brown all your lil buddies add them to the sheet pan in the oven, when all are finished give the rolls about 10 min in oven and they are good to go!
For the dipping sauce, I kinda did a Vietnamese version, it of course got a lil fusion action as this is not exactly the most authentic, but more inspired by the awesome spring roll sauce that I have eaten in the past.
Not that authentic, but delicious dippy time express:
½ cup sugar
1 cup hot water
¼ cup red wine vinegar, you can use what you have, not balsamic, but white, cider, rice would all be great
¼ cup fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thai chili, feel free to use fresh or serrano or whateves this is what I had on hand.
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Put sugar in with hot water and dissolve in a mason jar, add other ingredients, combine. If using the same day serve as is, if waiting till later refrigerate, this recipe makes a bunch and can be stored in the fridge as long as needed.
I served my eggrolls wrapped in lettuce leaves and topped with the sauce. Try to find the thinner wrappers I think it will help with the crispy factor…..still great, but as with most things in life could be better!
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Greek Style rock fish


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“Plaki” is a dish that is usually eaten around Easter, it is a great family style dish that is full of health benefits. As a kid I remember eating many different varieties of this dish and always loved it. I served mine with Greek lemon rice, using brown instead of white rice, and served sauteed spinach with lemon juice and olive oil on the side. You can use a variety of different firm fleshed white fish, halibut, snapper, cod, bass, I happened to find wild caught rock fish for a great price, it is a mild fish in the bass family. This dish is easy and great if you are cooking for a crowd as all the prep can be done beforehand.

2 lbs rock fish fillets
1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 medium onion, sliced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 dry white wine
2 tbsp capers
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375, in a large casserole place enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of pan….add fillets seasoned with salt and pepper, and lemon juice, place in fridge till done with sauce. In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat, add onions and garlic, saute till translucent, add wine, tomatoes (crush them by hand), spices, capers, and salt, pep to taste. Simmer 15 minutes, pour over fish, bake 25 minutes till fish is flaky. Serve with side dish of choice, great with spinach. Serves 4.

Rainbow chard and barley soup with pork confit

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I decided I would use my chard to make a soup with the rest of my pork I had, and some barley from the pantry. I have made several soup recipes, so if you browse those you can see what we are doing a variation on. For aromatics I simply used mire poix (3 carrot, 1 medium onion, 2 spring onions, heart of celery), after I boiled my 1 cup of barley in 2 quarts of stock for 20 minutes, I added mire poix, a few cups of fresh water and a large potato, medium dice. Simmer for twenty minutes, turn off the heat and add 1 bunch chopped chard. Salt and pep to taste. I call this pork “confit” because I am using the “confit” meaning cooked it its own fat, by using some rendered fat from the roast about a tablespoon in a medium high skillet add shredded pork and sizzle till crispy and brown, top the soup off with it! Yummasaurusrex.chard

Farmer’s Market to Table


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Finally! Our farmer’s market is open! Surprisingly there were a few booths I didn’t see last season…I found some really nice stuff. Asparagus….fresh, beautiful, local, asparagus! I made a flat bread the other day with some asparagus I had gotten from out of state….it was good and all, but I can’t really explain the difference in the two varieties…the one today…eons better. It felt supple and kinda fuzzy, I kept telling the lady that they felt velvety, and she was like yeah dorko they were picked this morning…not her actual words but you get the gist. Anyway the market never fails to inspire my faith in the world…I know it’s a little weird. With temps being in the 80’s round here, everyone was out today..and unfortunately tamale lady was sold out, but we found some other things to try, and it seemed that summer had stopped by for a surprise visit! I just blanched the asparagus in sea salt, boiling water, for maybe 3 minutes and then put them in an ice bath so they retain their bright green color. I then placed them on a plate and added some walnut pesto I had made earlier (any Genovese variety would work)..seriously so good! I am always amazed by how a vegetable could taste so much better when it’s not been on a truck for a month before sold…picked before its ready so it will have a longer shelf life, ugh…some things aren’t meant to have a long shelf life, you just enjoy them why they are there and in their prime. I also found some spring onions that I used in some ramen, and I bought some gorgeous rainbow chard!

Porkadelic pulled pork…no smoker required.


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So spring here in Portland has been beyond amazing this year, last weekend we had the pleasure of attending a friend’s birthday celebration which included a very delicious smoked, pulled pork. It was awesome to be outside with friends enjoying a home smoked pork extravaganza. When you smoke a pork shoulder (also referred to as a butt) you get the most amazing bark (chewy,crunchy outside) and gorgeous smoke ring….it really is one of those things, that when done well is quite extraordinary. I do not have a smoker however, so I decided I would try to “fake” it and see if I could at least get it to a reasonable facsimile. I make pulled pork occasionally and its pretty damn good….but this time I lowered the oven temp and did it slow without any additional liquid….and uncovered to imitate the tasty “bark” on the outside.

Try butt rubbin...its fun...in fact when you can see my molars I am in my "happy place"...haha!
Try butt rubbin…its fun…in fact when you can see my molars I am in my “happy place”…haha!

Cast members:
• Pork shoulder 5lbs or so
• Rub
1. ½ cup brown sugar
2. ¼ salt…sounds like a lot, but you are using a lot of meat
3. 2 tablespoons chili powder, I used chipotle for smokiness
4. 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
5. 2 tablespoons ground pepper
6. 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
7. 1 tablespoon onion powder
Combine and rub into your butt (pork), and place in a large roaster.  In a preheated 250 degree oven cook your roast for 8 hours….yes 8….it will be fork tender and full of pan juice.  Rest for 20 minutes and its ready to serve!  Great with BBQ sauce, our friend Kevin made a great one with bourbon and red wine, or serve with the pan juice, I also like to make pulled pork chili and chili verde with this pulled pork, great filling for tacos and enchiladas.  This is a super easy technique that anyone can master and you don’t need a smoker!  Although I must mention you won’t get that great smoke ring that you get on a smoked pork butt…but this is aimed for the average joe/jane without the fancy equipment. Happy porkin! Cheers!
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