Menu of the week: Tomatoes!

I consider tomatoes a staple food, regardless that my BF claims they can’t be a staple. My tomato plants aren’t even blooming yet, but at least are planted (30 of them), so we will be using home canned tomatoes this week. I can’t wait for Caprese – tomato mozzarella basil salad as soon as my tomatoes are ripe!

This week’s menu swap is hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. Make sure to visit and see what’s on the table this week that features tomatoes. My menu is a little late as I only returned from our weekend last night.

Monday: Indian

Butter chicken with yogurt instead of cream and butter (uses lots of tomatoes) , Saag Paneer, brown basmati turned yellow with turmeric and papads for crunch.

Tuesday: Thai

Spicy pad ped with pork and zucchini or green eggplants – whichever the Asian market has, with rice and spring rolls

Wednesday: Italian

Lasagna bolognese and green salad


Pho ga (chicken) with Goi Ga spicy salad if I can figure out a recipe similar to what I had in Chicago once. All those links combined will do the trick I hope. Cabbage, carrots, lime, fish sauce, basil and mint. Sounds good to me!

Friday: Latin American

Red snapper Veracruzana style (Mexican with tomato, olives peppers and capers) and arepas (Venezuelan)

Saturday: Mid Eastern/Turkish

Grass fed beef kabobs. The rest I need to think on. Perhaps a veggie Turkish pide as an appetizer.

Sunday:  Taqueria – out to dinner with friends at the local taqueria which is very authentic – no tex mex here!

Menu of the Week: Avocados

Green butter, that’s what they are, avocados. When I was traveling on a budget through Ecuador, we ate them daily. We spread them on bread. When I am in Mexico, not a day goes by with out some avocado consumption. So this week I will be happy to utilize them in a couple of dishes, yes, very happy.

I have 3 avocado plants growing in my house from pits that I planted long ago. No sign of an avocado growing yet, but they are nice plants. I have this week off to use up some comp time and clean the house, experiment with cooking, blog, garden and so on. I plan to experiment a bit with my lunches and am not sure what I will be doing yet, but I have a whole week to cook, so expect some perfecting of dosa’s, injera if I can find light teff flour and maybe some GF potsticker’s and who knows what else.

This week’s menu swap is hosted by Cooking and Uncooking so visit her site and check out all the menus everyone is cooking.

Sunday: Brunch: Sindu’s for the Indian buffet – more chaat and dosas!

Dinner: Mac and cheese with a green salad full of garden herbs. I finally made perfect mac and cheese, no need to improve upon this recipe ever. Luckily I wrote it down. I think it has 4 cheeses in it. I made a batch a while back and froze 1/2 of it unbaked in a casserole dish. Saucy and cheesy with a nice cheesy crust. I will post this one.

Monday: Korean – out to dinner Champung: A spicy seafood soup, mine will be with rice noodles. A friend of a friend cooks at one of our local Korean restaurants on Monday nights and we are finally going in when he is working. He can specialize my soup, kick it up and make sure that it is gluten free. I just have to bring my own GF oyster sauce.

Tuesday: Beer club (well, cider for me) Our host makes veggie sloppy joes with soy and they are gluten free. Bonfire on the lake. Perhaps I will bake some GF cookies to bring along.

Wednesday: Lunch: Subject to change but for now a green salad with avocado (I need a couple of days for my avocado to ripen), dried cherries and smoked turkey. Or I might try making an avocado dressing with lime.

Dinner: Turkish : Turkish pide – well I hope. Pide is sort of like a pita/calzone of the Turkish variety. Turkish style salad and yogurt sauce to accompany. I think I might try Gluten Free Gobsmacked’s Lavash style bread for this.

Edited to change to Mexican Guacamole, carnitas, Slaw, salsa, beans and rice. I love carnitas! I will be making this with our own home grown pig share pork – from Pancetta – that was her name.


Thursday: We are hitting the road one day early now, so I am making GF Gobsmacked wraps with turkey, provolone and avocado for the road along with some hummus and carrots. Then off to Leelanau county for Memorial Weekend. I can’t wait to get to the farm, see my niece and nephew, the rest of the friends and family and this year’s batch of chickens and pheasants. Of course I will go morel hunting and harvest a boatload of wild leeks.

Friday: Dinner with friends in someone’s backyard.

i’m out

Rub of the Month: Fennel Fusion

Yes, I know. I tempted you all with a new feature and then didn’t post it. Well, I did say it would be a feature once a month. Here it is.

Fennel Fusion Spice Rub
4 tablespoons fennel seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons peppercorns
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
3.5 tablespoons kosher salt

Put the fennel, coriander, mustard, cumin seeds and peppercorns in a heavy pan over medium heat. Toast the seeds, tossing them around frequently. When you start to smell them, they are probably ready. Pour into a bowl or on a plate and let them cool. Then pop them in the spice grinder add the salt and blend. I like my spice rub a bit on the chunkier side, but do what ever your preference is. Give them a shake once or twice while grinding to distribute the seeds better. If you don’t let them cool first, you will have spice butter, trust me, I was in a hurry once. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar where ever you store your spices.

I owe the inspiration for this rub to Michael Chiarello and his fennel spice rub. I tried it and then began tweaking it for my tastes and needs. After much tweaking it has evolved into a completely different rub.

This rub is fabulous on a pork loin or chicken, grilled or roasted. I think it would be great on nice firm tofu too. I also use it in this dish, which is when I was first introduced to the original spice rub. However, for my veggies, I use fennel – the veg not the seed, onion and carrot. Toss them in the rub with chopped pancetta, roast until almost caramelized, add a drained and rinsed can of Great Northern White Beans, and top with Parmesan cheese. I coat the spice rub on chicken thighs, sautee them until golden brown, and then add them to the top of the cassoulet for the final baking – at the same time as the beans are added.

Similar ingredients, different dish and cooking methods.
I hope you mix up a batch of Fennel Fusion soon and enjoy it as much as I do.

i’m out

Menu of the Week: Strawberries…. a fruity memory

Bardenhagen Berries

I love strawberries!

Unless I do something with frozen strawberries, like make a margarita with them to make room in the freezer for this year’s batch, I will be passing on using any fresh ones. Why when I love them so? Because in Michigan, strawberries won’t be ripe for another month at the earliest. The strawberries in the store here are all from FL and CA and taste like cardboard.

My cousin and uncle have a strawberry farm in Leelanau and I spent many years working the strawberry packing season at 7 am. I even hoed all 10 acres three times one summer instead of waiting tables. I am used to eating my fill of strawberries all morning long, fresh from the field, unwashed, dew still attached. But now I don’t live as close, so I don’t eat as many. I miss them and look forward to them every year.

Packing strawberries involves taking the berries that have been picked into little wooden quarts from the field carrier and putting them into cardboard boxes that hold 8 quarts. These flats are delivered every morning to the local stores and restaurants.

My cousin doesn’t do a u pick. He has migrant families that arrive every year, eager for the season to start. He also has a top of the line migrant camp where they live for 4-5 months (they work the cherry and apple harvest too). These are ranch style houses with a long covered porch. The farm provides them with housing, water and electricity and work. I love walking by the camp when it is full of families. Loud Tejano music playing, terrific cooking smells wafting about, fresh tortillas everywhere, the kids are playing and people are laughing. Kinda like walking down a small street in Mexico. Most of these families have been coming back to the farm for years and are from Texas.

As you can see, strawberries hold quite a memory for me. Without the migrant labor, this farm would not function. I am thankful for them and the lives they lead. And thankful for strawberries. I really ate at least a quart a day for 3 weeks. Then when cherry season started, I ate a lot of those. I wouldn’t trade the life I had growing up for anything. Growing up on a farm gave me so many experiences that I will always tap into and cherish. At the time though, I would have loved to move back to the city, if you asked me when I was 12 after a day on the potato harvester in the hot dusty sun on a Saturday when ever one else was playing.

collage of fruit

Well now. After all of that, I guess I am going to go downstairs to the freezer and find a frozen bag of last year’s berries and whip them up with some rum or tequila. I owe them that. Often I pay them with freezer burn. Not really a fair exchange.

This week is a crazy one for me. We have our Michigan Envirothon state competition event in the upper Peninsula and I will be up there most of the week helping. The university hosting it already told me that they have some celiac students and are happy to provide me with gluten free options in their cafeteria. I perked right up with that one as I was not looking forward to working 12 -16 hour days and eating out of my cooler in the hotel.

Terri of the Faking it Gluten Free Style blog is hosting this week’s menu swap, so pop on over to her site and check out all the menus and ideas!

Saturday: Italian

Homemade frozen spinach and ricotta ravioli with marinara. Freezing your ravioli’s works great, unless you let them thaw slightly before tossing in boiling water. Then you have one giant ravioli dumpling as they are all stuck together.

Sunday: Korean take out

Yuk gae jang soup from the local Korean restaurant down the road. Homemade beef broth, strips of tender beef, green onions, zuc, mung bean noodles, onion and chile! This soup is comfort food to me, brothy and spicy hot. Survivor Finale night – popcorn for a snack.

Monday: Wing cook off. Why not? Everyone needs to do this once in a while. We will make some Buffalo style along with a homemade buttermilk blue cheese dressing and some Asian style with a lemon grass chile garlic coconut sauce. Maybe some spicy peanut dipping sauce. Tonight might be the right night for a frozen strawberry bevy.

Tuesday: Grilled fish (what ever looks good) with kumquat chutney/sauce (I still have to create this one), grilled polenta and grilled asparagus. Edited to change to blackened red snapper Caesar salad with grilled polenta croutons.  Kumquats will have to wait. I love me some kumquats!

Wednesday – Friday: Sault Ste Marie MI, no cooking for me!

Bardenhagen Berries!

i’m out

Aloo Chaat Masala bowl

Crunchy, creamy, tangy, fresh, spicy. That was my lunch. Oh, and deeply satisfying, as well as fat free. How can one have all of the above you ask? Aloo Chaat Masala bowl. Aloo means potato. I can still taste the chaat masala (that is what they called it) I had about 4 weeks ago at the local Indian restaurant. I have been waiting to duplicated it fully ever since. Theirs came with dosa, which I have yet to perfectly duplicate, so today, mine was without a dosa (a rice and lentil tangy fermented flatbread) but with a bowl instead. Super easy to assemble and fast. You probably have the majority of the ingredients on hand.

aloo chaat masala

Aloo Chaat Masala for two

Chickpeas, one can rinsed and drained
Potato – one medium baker – cooked in the microwave, roughly diced
White onion (whites are less sharp and better for raw eating I think – you could use sweet if you have one on hand) finely chopped – really 1/4 of the onion will be plenty
Cilantro – a few stalks chopped
Gram Masala spice mix (Penzeys has some if you don’t have an Asian or Indian store around – or you can Google it and make your own up) or chaat masala mix – this has green mango powder called Amchur in it, it adds a great tang and sourness to a dish, watch for asafetida as it is often cut with a starch like wheat flour.
Raita – Indian yogurt equivalent of Mid Eastern Tatziki
Raita can be made many ways, but this is what I usually put in it :plain yogurt, shredded (the smallest holes) cucumber (max 1/4 of a cucumber) and a bit of carrot – squeezed dry so the liquid is gone, 1 minced green onion, bit of chopped cilantro, salt and nigella seeds (onion seeds – totally optional), maybe some cracked pepper, sometimes a bit of potato mashed in to thicken it if my yogurt is not thick and there is not time to drain/strain it and a dash of lemon or lime juice.
Now the raita might sound like a bit of work, but it is not. Armed with a grater, it took me 3 minutes max to grate, chop, throw it in a bowl and stir. While I made the raita and chopped the onion, my potato was in the microwave “baking”.

To assemble: pile a bit of the potatoes, a bit of the chickpeas, a bit of the raw onion and a bit of the cilantro in a bowl. Place a heaping spoon of raita on top, sprinkle generously with gram masala, depending on how much heat you like, add salt to taste. Stir or not and dig in.

It took me a long time to enjoy raw onion. As long as it is fresh and not overpowering, it really adds a nice spicy crunch. I used to hate that crunch as a kid and would pick the raw onion out of my potato salads. I guess the chaat masala bowl is a bit like a potato salad if it is all mixed up. A tasty one. I will have to add that to the potato salad idea list.

aloo chaat masala all mixed up

Adding the brown masala spice doesn’t do a lot for the sexiness of the dish for photo taking, but it sure tastes great!
i’m out