tamari-maple glazed salmon salad

maple-glazed salmon

Lately, when eating dinner out, the things I’ve eaten have all been creative variations on the same theme. The theme is this: some type of fish, usually tuna or salmon, supported by a bed of tender mixed baby greens, and then the whole thing beautifully finished with other ingredients that are small but strong hits of complementary flavors. For me, it’s a perfect combination: a meal that’s a really satisfying way to end a long day, and a very healthy way to recharge for the next.

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quinoa with roasted vegetables & wine-glazed chicken

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I’m currently working three different jobs right now (two of them food-related), which along with other things, makes for a rather busy and energy-draining schedule. This brilliant dish, slightly adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, is something I’ve come to depend on for a much needed healthy meal, and it holds its own beautifully whether you’re eating it freshly made or re-heating it for lunch the next day.

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green lentil cakes with mustard vinaigrette

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I stumbled on this recipe while thumbing through How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, and commenced making it a number of times, making little variations each time. My husband loves lentils, and since the only other thing I’ve ever made with them is soup, I figured it would be worth a try. Lentils are high in protein, don’t require pre-soaking, cook in a short amount of time, and come in an interesting range of colors (red, brown, black, yellow, and green). As Bittman suggests, green or brown lentils are best for these cakes because they hold their shape fairly well after cooking. Although the original recipe bakes the cakes in the oven, I liked the texture I got when frying them in a cast-iron pan with a little olive oil, resulting in a nicely caramelized top and bottom, while still leaving a tender inner crumb.

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mini almond cakes with lemon ganache

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Technology, when it makes life simpler, is a very helpful thing. I’ve finally, at long last, gotten the latest version of that phone, the one that when first introduced proceeded to revolutionize the world’s mobile habits, and I’m so very happy with how much easier it is to organize my life with it. And because it is so much easier, that underlying frustration that comes with having to tolerate something that didn’t work well is gone, gone, gone; and good riddance to it.

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an omnivore’s quandary

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I am an omnivore, through and through. I’ve never subscribed to removing an entire category of food from my diet, (aside from the overly-processed kind), though from time to time I eat less of something or take a break from it for a season. For me, cooking is life, and sharing a good homemade meal is true joy. If you’re like me, and you read a lot about food, you may be weary of the changing tides of nutritional advice. Nutrition tends to be a rather inexact science, given the very individual response to food, and even though we all need the basics (protein, carbs, fat), there’s never a diet that’s perfect for everyone. What is important is that you listen most carefully to your own body and determine what works for yourself. 

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coconut maple flan with sesame caramel

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If there was one thing I was reminded of this week, it was this: I don’t have as much experience as I’d like as a cook. Because of this, I sometimes end up testing recipes much longer than a very experienced cook would, and I try things a seasoned chef wouldn’t bother with. What I lack in experience, though, I make up for in creativity, and in sheer determination to keep at it until I achieve what I had in mind. I love it when an idea works, and somehow in the long process of getting there, I wasn’t completely exhausted. I’m guessing it may have been the small doses of sugar I had from testing this recipe that kept me going.

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roasted garlic, broccoli and potato soup

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Temperatures have dropped quite low recently, and we’ve even had a second occurrence of snow. Though we do get ice storms, the soft fluffy white stuff is somewhat uncommon for these city parts of Texas. As old and expiring car batteries are prone to do, mine chose the snow day to fail to start the car. Fortunately, the cable guy working on a neighbor’s house was willing to loan his van for a battery charge. Still, the process involved me digging the jumper cables from among the clutter in our garage, removing the plastic protective cover from the battery, and properly attaching the large positive and negative clamps to their very small matching bolts on the battery. I somehow did this without blowing anything up (though the cable guy had to re-set the clamps a bit), as my husband’s words “just don’t let the clamps touch each other” were clearly in my mind the entire time. Did I mention it was freezing outside? 

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coffee crusted ahi tuna with curry cream sauce

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For several days last week, the overcast and drizzly weather created this sort of slow, relaxed atmosphere. While I worked in the kitchen, it felt like all my movements had this meditative quality, and I was exactly in that moment and nowhere else. Perhaps it’s the fall season beginning to sneak in, and that’s okay with me. When I was growing up, summer was my favorite time of year for obvious reasons; no school and endless days of swimming and playing. During those days, I was easily lost in moments without notice of time passing until the day’s end was signaled by the setting of the sun. But in the long years since then, fall, with its mellow feel has become the time of year I most enjoy, and maybe it echoes the time of life I’m in too. Dusk, when the sun begins to set, is my favorite time of day too, and a good meal is the best way to enjoy it.

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lemon rose granita

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When we lived in California, we used to regularly visit Second Street in Long Beach, located in the neighborhood of Belmont Shore. I’d forgotten how often we’d gone there, and how many great food memories I had from the small storefront or side street restaurants we loved to go to. One of our favorites was Cafe Gazelle, an Italian restaurant that despite its tiny dining space was big on atmosphere and authentic food and consistently packed out; another was a sweets shop called Grandma’s Sugarplums that was overflowing with an amazing variety of homemade desserts. After finding a parking spot, we would often start walking at one end of Second Street and just wander until we decided where to eat; sometimes we made it past the window of Sweet Jill’s Bakery while they were making fresh cinnamon rolls, and sometimes not.

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