Friday, September 26, 2014

Sugar Free Honey Cardamom Plum Butter

Backyard Brooks Plums
It's my first fall in the new house and my first experience with a plum tree. If you don't know about plum trees, the fruit seems to all ripen at one time or at least within a week or two and it's that time with my tree. I give the ones that fall off and not usable to my chickens. They love them. The rest I've been using in as many ways as I can. I even sold 10 lbs of them to a farm stand and they said they were sold as soon as they put them out. I also like putting them in my morning shake or just eating them fresh off the tree. I decided to try making a fruit butter and used two different recipes and liked this honey cardamom version the best.

I did some searching for a sugar free plum butter recipes and found one on hitchhikingtoheaven.com that looked good. I made a few changes to the measurements and added more plums because I thought it was a little too sweet. It might also depend on the type of plum you have so be sure to taste it before cooking and adjust anything you feel needs adjusting. I didn't have cardamom pods so substituted cardamom powder instead. I also used vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean.

Jarred Cardamam Plum Butter

Recipe: Honey Cardamom Plum Butter

Yield: approximately 60oz
Total Time: approximately 3 hours

Ingredients:
  • 8 cups of plum pulp (I used 30 brooks plums)
  • 1 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier
  • 2 tbsp grated orange zest (used zest from one orange)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1.5 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions:


  1. Cut plums in half and remove seed. Add to a blender and puree. You may need to do in two batches.
  2. Add all ingredients except bay leaf to a bowl and refrigerate over night to allow flavors to meld.
  3. Taste the mixture and add more honey, spices and/or plums if you'd like.
  4. Pour the pixture into a large sauce pan, add bay leaf and cinnamon stick to the mixture and bring to a gentle boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Stir the mixture often and more frequently as it gets thicker. After about an hour you may use an immersion blender to make it more smooth (be sure to remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf if you choose to do this step)
  6. Continue cooking for another hour or longer or until desired consistency. You can put a bit on a plate and refrigerate a few minutes to check consistency as it does thicken more when cool.
  7. Store in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for longer storage.
  8. My batch ended up making about 60 oz of plum butter.
Making Plum Butter

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

IFBC 2014 or Not

IFBC 2014 Gift Suite 
I signed up for IFBC 2014 right after the 2013 conference was over, excited that it was again going to be in Seattle. It was two days before the opening reception and I was getting excited, especially since at the last minute I got off the waiting list for the very limited space excursion at Sur La Table. It was shaping up to be a fun and exciting weekend of meeting lots of new bloggers, getting to sample tons of delicious food and learning new things from a wide variety of speakers. I couldn't wait!

In one day my excitement turned to feeling like I was going to die and had to cancel my spot for the excursion and cancel my dinner reservation with Jean Layton from glutenfreedoctor.com. :( I came down with some kind of stomach issue Wednesday night that had me bedridden and unable to eat for several days and am finally starting to feel better, a week later. The jury is still out on what my problem was. I visited the walk in clinic twice and got 2 bags of fluids during my second visit which made me feel a little better. They took blood tests and UA tests all of which didn't really tell them much of anything. I'm still waiting for the stool test results to come back in hopes it may show something but since I'm starting to feel better it may not really matter. At least I can eat now.

It wasn't a total loss though I did manage to pick myself up and drive an hour to the opening reception which was maybe not such a good idea given my condition. I wasn't having any sinus issues so don't think I had anything contagious but I had very little energy at that point and unable to eat. I had planned on getting cheaper parking at the Warwick but didn't think I could walk the couple blocks there and back and since I hadn't planned on staying for more than an hour I just parked at the Westin where the conference was being held.

I dragged myself from the car to the reception hall where there was a line of people waiting to get in for the food, but food was the last thing I was thinking about other than wishing I could have it. Unfortunately though, I had to walk by it to get to the gift suite which is what I was really there for. Call me selfish but I paid for the conference and couldn't eat anything and didn't have the energy to do much socializing and I wanted to get something for what I paid for.

The gift suite was in a MUCH bigger room than previous years and seemingly more organized unless I was too late and missed all the frantic pushing and shoving. Tables were lined up all around the outside of the room and a smaller circle of tables in the middle of the room with more goodies. It appeared some things had already run out before I got there though I didn't think I was that late. I missed out on getting to try some of Sahale Snacks new flavors and was the sponsor I was most looking forward to getting goodies from. I heard people were grabbing their stuff by the handfuls but others said there was a rep handing them out one per person. Maybe that changed when they saw people were taking too many. Anyway, it's a great company with a great product and I had such a good time with them last year touring the Sahale Snack factory.

I didn't leave without meeting at least a couple of new people though. The two people in front of me in the gift suite line were both from the same area as I am in the Snohomish Valley and I got their cards. I had new moo cards all ready to go for the conference too and forgot them at home so had to hand out some older non-food ones I had with me. Oh well, at least I had something to give out. Kristi Kaiser from Inspiration Kitchen is also a food photographer and has some great looking recipes with beautiful photography to go with them on her site. I also met Kristi Rimkus from Mother Rimmy's Cooking Light Done Right who also has a blog filled with good looking healthy recipes and some great pictures too. It was nice to get to meet them briefly and hope to stay in contact with them.

I was able to attend the conference virtually through social media but it just wasn't the same and watching all the awesome looking food I was missing out on and that amazing Sur La Table gift bag people got was a little rough but I'm glad everyone had fun and hope someone lucky person was able to take my place at Sur La Table. Hopefully next year I'll actually get to go for more than an hour.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dough Zone

Dough Zone is Bellevue's newest Asian dumpling house, located in Crossroads. The lines are long for dinner but lunch isn't as bad. It's great having a bunch of fellow foodie friends on Facebook so I hear about all the best new restaurants. Mark Mizuno and his wife have been going there a couple times a week and expressing how great it is on their Facebook newsfeeds so I had to check it out for myself. Unfortunately not gluten free but I made an exception to check it out with a couple of my co-workers. One of them also made an exception to their vegetarian diet for the jian buns but I won't mention any names. I think we both agreed it was worth it.

Dough Zone is probably best known for their jian buns (jian bao). They are buns filled with a mixture of pork and steamed and pan fried so the tops are pillowy and soft while the bottom has a nice crispy texture from the pan frying. So tasty and the prices are quite reasonable too. We ordered 5 dishes for the 3 of us off the paper menu in which you check off the items you'd like. Total price, $28. Not many places you can feed 3 people for that price.

There's been a lot of comparisons between Dough Zone and Din Tai Fung which has been Bellevue's most popular dumpling house and still seems to bring in more customers. I also recently discovered Din Tai Fung is a chain located in 10 different countries. Dough Zone is still young and no chain restaurant. Most that have tried it prefer it and their lower prices. So it may not be long before Dough Zone becomes the more popular choice. They are on opposite ends of Bellevue so Din Tai Fung will still be popular due to it's location downtown which has a higher population. I haven't technically been to Din Tai Fung so can't say for sure which I prefer but I did get to taste some of Din Tai Fung's dumplings at a Foodportunity event in 2012 and was not disappointed. Have you tried them both? Would love to hear your thoughts on which you prefer.

Dough Zone serves family style and not everything comes at once so it's nice to have everything spaced out so the hot dishes don't get cold.  Our first dish was the sweet and sour cucumber which was a great way to start the meal. The way the cucumber was sliced was exquisite and allowed the flavors to get inbetween all the layers. It looked kind of like a slinky. I thought it was designed using a machine at first but looking at it more closely I think it was made by hand. Next up were the pan fried leek dumplings which were surprisingly flavorful. The two large dumplings were cut in half and what made it even better was a touch of their homemade hot sauce dropped into the middle of the dumpling. The shape of the dumpling was also very well formed and looked machine made. I was expecting the wontons in szechuan sauce to be a little more spicy but I rectified that by utilizing the homemade hot sauce to spicen it up more. Then there was the famous jian buns which I already mentioned and lastly, the vegetable potstickers. They were the least favorite of the 5 dishes we tried. They weren't that flavorful and the pan frying was not very consistent.

Sweet and Sour Cucumber jian buns wonton in szchuan sauce Pan Fried Leek Dumplings vegetable potstickers

If you like Asian dumplings this is definitely a restaurant worth trying. I'd definitely go back and try some of the other dishes like the juicy pork dumplings and I'd get the jian buns, cucumber and leek dumplings again. At this time they don't appear to be on social media and their website is not in English but there is a phone number and hopefully the person that answers speaks English.

Dough Zone
Address: 15920 NE 8th St, Bellevue, WA 98008 
Phone: (425) 641-8000
Website: http://www.doughzone7.com/ (not English)

Hours (according to Urbanspoon, may change):
Monday: 11:00am-9:00pm
Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday - Friday: 11:00am-9:00pm
Saturday - Sunday: 9:30am-9:00pm
Dough Zone Dumpling House 麵貼面 on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 08, 2014

Blue Apron Meals

I received a free trial of Blue Apron Meals from a friend and was holding onto it for a few weeks before I decided on which delivery week to get. If you're not familiar with Blue Apron, they are a meal delivery company that will ship you a box of ingredients to make 3 different meals for $9.99 per serving per meal. I think it's a great idea for those who don't like to meal plan and go grocery shopping which I think is many of us. I usually don't decide what I'm making for dinner until the same day or sometimes even minutes before I start cooking, as I am looking through the fridge and cupboard to see what I can make with what I've got. I would definitely use the service more if they used organic produce and had gluten free options. Until then, I will keep my eye on the schedule and if anything I can't resist comes up I'll be sure to request it.

What I Liked:

  • Being able to choose which weeks I want and don't want to receive easily from the site.
  •  Getting email notifications with what is scheduled for the coming week and review the recipes beforehand.
  • The quality of the fresh produce was very good. Nothing was wilted or spoiled.
  • Photography and styling for the recipes is very well done and on glossy card stuck that is easy to clean if spilled on.
  • Everything you need to make the dish is included in the box in the measurements needed. Most of the fruits and vegetables however require washing and chopping yourself. 
  • Able to choose how many servings for your delivery (options of 2 or 4)
  • The recipes are available online whether you sign up for their service or not. Click the titles below to see the recipes for the three I received.
  • Vegetarian option is available. 
  • Delivery choices of Tues-Sat
  • A history of what you've received previously

What Could Use Improving:

  • Would love to see gluten free meal options.
  • Organic produce would be nice. I try to avoid inorganic and GMO produce as much as possible.
Below is a recap of the 3 meals that I received. Not all of them were gluten free but I chose a week with minimal gluten.

Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay Ingredients Chicken Satay
The chicken satay was probably my favorite of the three meals. I don't recall ever having green tomatoes before and it was fun trying something new and definitely something I would eat again. They had a nice crunch you won't get from a red tomato. The sauce had a lot of ingredients I don't normally keep in my pantry so this is where Blue Apron comes in handy. I wouldn't want to go out and buy a bunch of these ingredients and only use them once. Since they only provide the amount you need for the recipe it's no problem. For this recipe the chicken was not pre-cut and the instructions didn't seem clear that you needed to cut them yourself as it wasn't in the instructions. I would have realized that if I had read through all of the instructions before making it which is something you should always do. Marinating the chicken before cooking it kept it from getting dry after frying and it got a nice char on it. It's something I'd make again if I had all the ingredients on hand.

Pan Seared Salmon

Pan Seared Salmon Ingredients Pan Seared Salmon
This was a dish that didn't have any surprising or unique ingredients except maybe the tarragon and fennel which are usually easy to find. So I could have made this dish fairly easily without help from Blue Apron but the recipe was good and everything came out well. I was surprised by the quality of the salmon. I'm not sure what kind of salmon it was but the skin crisped up very well and I didn't overcook it which is very easy to do with salmon. That's why I like using my Sansaire to sous vide it and always get the perfect temperature every time.

 Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Stuffed Pepper Ingredients Stuffed Peppers
This was the last recipe I made and the least favorite of the three. Maybe because I am half Mexican, I expect more from Mexican food. If you like Mexican, I recommend Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless. He isn't Mexican but he's been around and it's good stuff. Anyway, the peppers didn't really hold their shape after roasting so it was difficult to get the stuffing to stay and it wasn't really that good looking of a dish compared to the other two. However, the Mexican Lime-Crema was a nice addition that helped save it. It could have also used a side dish like some beans or maybe a light salad to go with it..

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ham and Egg Cups Recipe

Ham and Eggs Cup Recipe I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to make a healthy breakfast, especially when eggs are involved. I've got 6 chickens at my new house and they give me eggs every day, more than I can possibly eat. This recipe gave me a chance to do something different with them. I've had a recipe for these pinned on Pinterest for some time but finally got around to making them while my parents were visiting a few weeks ago and have made them a couple times since then. They are fun, quick and easy to make. I like to serve it with a salad but would go well with hashbrowns or fried potatoes too.

Recipe: Ham & Egg Cups

Yield: 6-12 (2-4 servings)
Estimated Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
6-12 thin slices deli ham
6-12 eggs
coconut oil or cooking spray
salt & pepper to taste

GARNISHES (optional):
green onions, sliced
cilantro or parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated
Bacon bits

INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Coat muffin tin with coconut oil or cooking spray
  3. Place a slice of deli ham in each cup of the muffin tin.
  4. Crack an egg into the center of the ham.
  5. Add salt and pepper to each egg.
  6. Put in oven and bake for 12 mins or until desired doneness.
  7. Add garnishes of choice and serve.