Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce

As promised the first of my recipes for a healthy and easy homemade Thanksgiving. No, nothing is easier than opening a can but this comes in a pretty close second place. I had never realized how easy this could be and how much better it would taste than the factory produced goo. So let me know if you try it. I hope you do!

Adapted from a recipe I found on Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Servings: 10
Cook Time: 10 Minutes

16 oz Cranberries, washed and picked over
1 cup sugar (I halved the sugar in this recipe and I still felt like it was a lot. You could also substitute agave but start with just a few teaspoons and add as needed as it is significantly more sweet than granulated sugar.)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (unsweetened, fresh from the orange)
1 Tbsp finely grated ginger (make sure it is finely grated)
Finely grated zest from 1 orange (make sure not to grate in the white pith as it is very bitter)

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the berries pop open. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Make sure the heat is not too high or you can scorch is pretty easily.
Remove from the heat and let cool. It will appear runnier than you expect but as it cools it will solidify into more of a jelly. You will need to skim the foam off once it is cool. It can be refridgerated for up to 3 months so it is a great make ahead dish for the holidays!

Let me know if you try the recipe! You can adapt it quite easily. Don't like ginger? Add a cinnamon stick and remove it before the sauce cools. The options are endless and certainly delicious!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Favorite Restaurants: Oishii

For those of you who know me already you know of my undying affection for sushi. Make that all out obsession. It started with a determination to try the "raw fish" Japanese food that people in my small town mocked. One day on my way from college to my job in a veterinary office I stopped in a new sushi restaurant on Route 1. I went in and told the guy behind the counter I had no idea what to order and just give me what was good. He sent me home with a California roll. I was not impressed. However I was still curious. Eventually I met a friend who did know something about sushi and I couldn't get enough.
Since then I have searched for truly great places that I love. One of the them is a restaurant called Oishii. They are fantastic but tiny and the wait can be 2 hours some evenings so I rarely go there. When one of my clients wanted to truly fantastic sushi for an event recently I knew it would have to come from one of the best and it was impressive. You can see just from this picture the quality. Just looking at it makes me hungry.

I have tried making sushi on my own. The first time was interesting. Not horrible but definitely had a homemade feel. Subsequent attempts have gotten better but there is nothing like sitting in a sushi bar letting a master make it for you.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hot Mulled Apple Cider with Rum

The best way to start off a cool fall evening in November is with a hot glass of local mulled apple cider. Since I was a child when I would smell cider it would invoke good memories. Hunting for a Christmas tree in the snow with my first boyfriend. Holiday shopping with my mother. I had never ventured to make it on my own and after several of my clients requesting cider for their events I decided it was time to make some at home. Here is my recipe. Hot mulled cider is not complicated and is easy to customize so feel free to add what you like. One recipe I did see even recommended studding an apple with whole cloves and simmering it in the pot with cider. I thought that sounded fantastic and maybe I will try it in the future.

Doesn't it look delicious!?

Hot Mulled Apple Cider with Rum
4 Servings

1 1/2 Gallon Fresh Apple Cider
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Orange, Thinly Sliced
1 Inch Piece of Ginger, Sliced
Dark Rum

Combine all the ingredients through ginger in a small saucepan. Simmer on medium-low heat for approximately 30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve to remove all solids and return to saucepan. Keep warm. Ladle into coffee mugs with 1 oz rum. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Food Dork Weekend

A friend used to tease me that my idea of an amazing weekend was heading to the local foodie stores or hunting for new ones and seeing what new and interesting things they have. He was more right than he knows and when I was single I used someones willingness to try new cuisines as a criteria for compatibility. There was one first date with a retired marine in which he would not eat the "weird" cheese pizza because it came from a brick oven or drink the root beer that had been brewed locally because it tasted funny. I think he barely slowed down as he drove by my house and I hurled myself from the car. When my fiance and I met I made a deal with him that any restaurant we tried that he didn't like I would pick up the check. He liked that proposition and to this date the only 2 he hasn't been crazy about was dim sum (I do not understand it) and Ethiopian food. Luckily I have friends whom enjoy both with me.
Tomorrow on my list of places to visit is the local spice market. There is a fabulous one in Cambridge that has everything you could possible desire. On my list  is cinnamon, sichuan peppercorns, and dried chiles. I can guarantee those will not be my only purchases and I will share them with all of you. Also on the agenda is a great deal of cooking to use all of my organic produce from the box. Asian food will forever be a favorite of mine and tonight instead of takeout I am making a spicy orange sesame chicken adapted from the American style recipe with some local pea pods I found at Whole Foods and onions from the box. Tomorrow night a twist on the classic Polish pierogi with sweet potato filling and caramelized onions. Dumplings of all kinds are my ultimate comfort food. There is something so homey and satisfying about sitting down to a plate of buttery and plump pierogi that is so enticing. For dessert a simple and rustic local apple and pear galette. They always look so impressive but are really quite easy yet delicious. Sunday morning a turkey trial run recipe, sweet potato biscuits. I never will serve an untested recipe on Thanksgiving and I have seen several versions of the recipe online over the years. Now that I seem to have a surplus of sweet potatoes in the house it seems like the perfect time. Hopefully all of these recipes will provide me several days of recipe posts and I will get to use my new camera to take some fantastic photos.
Have a great weekend. Any interesting culinary plans of your own?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My First Organic Produce Delivery

This morning was like Christmas to a food nerd. My first delivery from Boston Organics of local produce. I had signed up for the $29 Dogma box which was all sourced in New England. They allow you to pick the size of the box and what ratio of fruit to veggies in most of the other boxes but the local only comes in one size and you get no choice in what comes in it. I was apprehensive but looked at it as a culinary adventure. Supporting local agriculture is important to me and I was hoping this would be a nice replacement to our local farmers market that had ended last weekend.
All day I sat at my desk in anticipation of its arrival. Yes, I really am this big of a food dork. When it came I eagerly popped it open and found:
1 lb Bosc Pear (3 small pears)
1 lb Fuji Apples (2 apples)
1 8 oz Bag Cranberries
1 4oz Clamshell Alfalfa and Radish Sprouts
2 Heads of Cabbage
.75 lbs Butternut Squash (This was in replacement of a celery root which was fine by me. I like squash better)
1 Head Green Leaf Lettuce
1 lb Red Beets
1 lb Yellow Onions
1.5 lbs Sweet Potatoes

I have to admit it looked kind of small to me for how much it cost. I had yelped the company before I signed up and there were several people who mentioned they did not feel it was a good value. I wanted to test the theory so I headed off to Whole Foods after work so I could add up what this box would have cost had I just gone there and purchased it.
The verdict $20.15 at Whole Food. Almost 9 dollars cheaper. I have to say I have never seen Whole Foods be the better deal before, ever. There is an undeniable convenience factor but it isn't worth $9 to me. Overall if I was one of the people in the city who didn't have a car I think this would be worth it for me but as I can easily head to Whole Foods and buy what I want this will most likely be my one and only delivery.

My original plan was to post photos of what I did with the box so here is the first photo. A salad made with the green leaf lettuce and topping I grabbed from the salad bar. Mmmm Asian style tofu and ginger carrot dressing. It was delicious! Once I get a reliable light source I am hoping the photos will be better as well.

Have you tried something like this before in your area?
What did you think?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Organic Food Home Delivery and Recipe Testing

As I walked to the car from the last farmers market of the season this past Saturday I was a bit sad. Not only is it a weekend tradition for the 5 months that it is open but it also meant the end of truly fresh local veggies and culinary exploration in my very own backyard. We did see some thing that we found fascinating like this Massachusetts grown ginger. I don't know about you but ginger is one of those things I have never seen outside of it root form normally available in the local grocery store usually imported from a much warmer place, never grown locally.
Isn't it gorgeous!!! It was the inspiration for the cranberry sauce that I created this evening whom I will share with you later this week. There is also a local ice cream company called Batch that makes a ginger ice cream that is one of my last meal request kind of food loves. Truly, truly special. If you are from Boston check them out. It is absolutely worth it!
I had toyed with the idea of signing up for a local winter CSA for awhile but truth be told I don't like putting that large of a payment upfront for something that I have not seen and could be not very pleased. Then I heard about a delivery service in the city that drops off organic produce at your door. You get to choose the size and type of box and if you want weekly or bi-weekly deliveries. I chose the local box which is half fruit and half veggies and is all source in New England. I am curious what that will consist of during the winter months so we shall see. I plan on giving it a shot for a few weeks to see if it fits into our schedule and eating preferences. One criticism I found online was that only weak minded people need someone to tell them what to eat each week. I think just the opposite. You have to be a good cook to be able to work with whatever someone gives you. I consider it a culinary and dietary adventure. Part of the plan is to share with you how this works for us as well as some photos of the contents of the box. Wish me luck!
Tonight I created a ginger cranberry sauce made with local cranberries. Total cook time 10 minutes. I plan to photograph it tomorrow with my new camera I am thrilled about. The second recipe is a pumpkin hummus that I lightened calorically by using less tahini and olive oil.
Hopefully that will get photographed tomorrow as well but with the ever shorter days I am finding less and less moments of natural light available to me. Looks like a light box may be in my future!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Reflecting on the Holidays

Food is my life. Literally. As the manager of a division of a catering company we start work on the holidays in the summer. While the rest of the working world is taking summer vacations we are already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving dinners and what is the latest trend for the corporate Christmas party. By the time the actual holidays come around I am usually pretty burned out and rush through the food preparation in daze. (Yes, I still make everything from scratch)
This year I have decided to test some of the ideas I have had for my own holiday and share them with you. As a child I remember being given the job of opening the cans of cranberry sauce. Shaking out the can shaped blob and listening to it slap onto the plate with a sucking kurplunk. I took great pleasure in slicing it into measured discs and artfully arranging them on the special plate my grandmother kept for it each year. It never occurred to me cranberry sauce even came in different forms! So my next project is a homemade cranberry sauce that is not only delicious and will thoroughly impress your family and guests, but is easy enough you can not make an excuse not to try it this year with me! Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kaddo Bourani (Afghani Pumpkin with Yogurt and Meat Sauce)

Once in a while my fiance and I will look on the internet for a new cuisine, use to find a new restaurant, and head out for an entirely new experience. This time we found a small Afghani restaurant and I read that the pumpkin was one of the must have dishes on the menu. There are times when just a bite is enough to create a last food memory. The longer I work in the food business the harder it is for me to experience something entirely new and when it does happen the rush is something I never forget. The ambience, the smells, tastes and textures as well as the company get seared in my memory. The pumpkin dish is one of those moments.
I was determined to find the recipe to recreate it at home. I came across a recipe based on Helmand in Cambridge. Tonight I tried cooking the recipe with a few alterations to improve the healthiness of it.

It came out exactly as I remember! Each bite a delicious juxtaposition of sweet, savory, creamy, tart and earthy. What I love about this recipe is it's seasonality. Sugar pumpkins are only available for a short time during the fall months peaking in October. This past weekend I grabbed 4 while at the farmer's market. Two for pie filling and 2 for this recipe. Here is the recipe as it was written and I will indicate the changes I made as well. You choose which one you make and let me know how it turns out for you! I halfed the recipe as it was for only 2 people and it still make a great deal of food, the recipe here is as I stated, the original recipe.

Servings: 4
For the Pumpkin:
2 Sugar Pie Pumpkins, approximately 3 lbs each ( I used just 1 pumpkin)
6 Tbsp Corn Oil (I used 3)
3 C. Sugar (I used 3/4 C) I felt the sugar in this recipe was ridiculously excessive and a significant waste of calories

Yogurt Sauce:
2 C Plain Yogurt (The recipe was insistant not to use lowfat yogurt but I used non-fat greek yogurt and it turned out great)
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 tsp Dried Mint
1/2 tsp Salt

I chose to skip the entire yogurt step and just used plain yogurt. It tasted exactly as I remember.

For the Meat Sauce:
1/4 C. Corn Oil (I just used a Tbsp)
1 Large Onion, finely minced (I used 1/2)
1 1/2 lbs Ground Beef (I used 3/4 pound 93% lean)
1 Large Tomato, Seeded and and Finely Chopped (1/2)
2 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 1/4 tsp Coriander
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste (I used 1 at first but it didn't get the taste or texture right so I found it needed 2 even for the half quantity)
1 1/2 C. Water (I used 2/3 C)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Wash the pumpkins skin and using a large knife cut in half. Scrape out the guts and seeds. I was able to peel of the skin and any green portions with a standard vegetable peeler. Then cut each half into 6 pieces and place them in a single layer hollow side up in a baking dish. Brush each piece lightly with oil and spread the sugar evenly over the pieces. It will look like an excessive amount even if you cut it back but it will work out in the end.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 2 1/2 hours. Baste the pieces with the pan juices, cover again, and bake an additional 45 minutes.

The sugar will have all melted away and a small part will be absorbed. The pumpkin will be dark orange and translucent. You will need a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer it to a plate.

For the Yogurt Sauce:
Mix all ingredients and refridgerate

For the Meat Sauce:
Brown the onions in the oil. Add the meat and brown over medium-high heat. You will want to break the meat up in small pieces. Add all the other through turmeric and cook, stirring, a few minutes. Stir in tomato paste and water. Lower the heat and cook until it has a thick texture.

To Plate:
Put a portion of pumpkin a plate with the curved side up. Place a small portion of meat sauce across the center with a dollop of yogurt on top. The largest portion of the meal should be the pumpkin.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where the heck have I been since May?

I had never abandoned this blog in my heart. I just hadn't had time to give it my all and if you know me by now I am very all or nothing. There were dreams of grandeur for this blog and I kept telling myself I would get back to it "when I have a professional grade camera" so I could post all kinds of fancy photos of my foraging excursions. Fail. However the desire to share my love of food and living a healthy life still beat quietly in my chest. It was soft and faint but it never let me forget. You see, I also have a dream of people actually caring about this blog. That I will have followers and sponsors and what I have to say will have some type of social impact. Maybe I will even inspire someone to eat a little healthier. That would be pretty awesome. I want to show people healthy and local can also taste good. That vegetarian doesn't have to be an all or nothing lifestyle and it can be just as delicious as seeking out a really great cut of meat. Food is love, culture, our history and we don't have to have a love/hate relationship with it. We can kind find joy in eating. It just in how we go about it. I will show you. 
Healthy Ashley

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cookbook Review: Simply Delicious by Candice Kumai

Pretty Delicious was a book I came across because it was a featured new cookbook at Barnes and Noble. The tag line on the cover alluding to it being about healthy eating made me pick it up. As I sat and glanced through the pages I liked Candice's philosophy of eating whole foods, portion control, lots of fruits and veggies, and her focus of always incorporating foods with benefits. Her recipes are fresh, interesting and exciting. I like that the ingredients and techniques are not something that can not be achieved by the average home cook and she breaks healthy eating down to terms anyone can understand. The liberal use of vegetarian and vegan recipes is also a bonus and appeals to even the most dedicated meat eater. The major con of this book is the horrific and liberal use of what I would consider cheerleader lingo. Names like "brekkie" for breakfast and "skinny-wiches" are almost insulting to the reader and I feel play a little too heavily into Candice used to be model and she is pretty. Less of a focus on that aspect and more on her great ideas would help for future books she is bound to write.
Overall worth buying online for a discount but I am happy I did not pay full price at the store.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Registered my domain name today!

The emotional highs and lows of opening a new business are rather interesting. Last week I was consumed with the terror of burgeoning responsibility and debt. This week I have have voraciously been consuming and and all information I can get my hands on, buying book after book about several different aspects of the business, researched menu planning strategies and today I registered my official domain name! This may not be super exciting to some people but to me it is pretty amazing. 
This past several years I held a string of jobs that either were owned by abusive and miserable people or was just plain bored to tears with my every day existence. Yes, I am learning so much about how to run a successful food business but I want the creativity to be mine. I want a place to channel the passion I have for food into something truly special and unique and it is impossible to do that when you are executing some else's dreams. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I have had to learn and grow but I yearn for a place bring my own dreams to fruition. 
Today I can proudly say is mine. Just the excitement of creating this new business gets me out of bed in the morning. I am filled with excitement and there are enough hours in the day to spend researching and planning. As I was reading the Boston Business Journal I saw a quote today that made me laugh. She has been running her own specialty pie company for close to ten years and it said "Someone once told me that 90 percent of running a small business is crisis management and the other 10 percent is fantasizing about not running a small business." I am excited to not be at that point just yet. :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Last night I met a former work acquaintance for drinks and appetizers after work. For me to ask a girl to "do something" is a big deal for me because in the past I would have been to scared to try and make new friends. Part of changing my life is facing down those ridiculous fears. She was my contact at a vendor we use at my day job and I always really liked her so when she left I was bummed. She is a chef so I wanted to chat with her last night about my business ideas and she what she thought. We had so much fun. Three hours straight of non stop chatting. I barely ate anything and that says a lot :).
The restaurant she picked was this high end place focusing on organic and local foods. They even go so far as to have farm partnerships which is pretty awesome. We decided to sit in the bar who focuses on all kinds of interesting nibbles and flatbread pizzas. I LOVE pizza, especially when you start putting interesting and new combinations on top of it. The problem is rarely am I impressed with pizza. You would think it would be easy to make but it truly is not. The pizza she picked had chorizo and pickles YUMMY. Mine had smoked salmon, sliced red onion, capers and aioli. I despise capers so for them to make me like it with them on is a feat in and of itself. The pork belly charcuterie was also absolutely divine. Fatty and sumptuous goodness. 
I was excited to see a restaurant like this being so popular. It gives me hope that I can open something similar and I will be successful. My mother saw an article in the Boston Globe yesterday about how Boston is really getting into the food truck scene and that they are sponsoring new initiatives to help people get these types of businesses going here. Maybe Boston is finally going to see a food revolution! It is so exciting. So after chatting with my new friend for so long she told me she thinks my ideas are hugely marketable and that there is a need for a place like this in the city. She also volunteered to go with me on some missions to study local places and see what they are selling and how they are doing it. I trust her opinions and I think it will help me with my menu planning and targeting my audience. I am on my way!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The big application came

I had sent in the mini-application a week or so ago to this non-profit that helps culinary businesses get started. As each day passed I started to think that maybe they were never going to answer me so I was surprised when I got an email from them yesterday with the next step in the process. The lengthy application. As I read it over I started to get scared. This is such a huge undertaking and who the heck is going to want to give me money? My divorce had damaged my credit and I had filled myself with horror stories of banks never wanting to lend to anyone with less than perfect credit. Then the self doubt kicks in and I start to think that nobody will want to buy my food or they will roast me on the internet. That I will fail. The fear is close to paralyzing but I am going to force myself through the fear and continue on. Maybe, I will get halfway and realize I am not ready yet but maybe I will find that I do have good ideas and that I will be successful. I am confident in my ability to understand what people want and in what price range. I know that I understand this business better than most. So my challenge to myself this week is to finish the application and send it back and get a good way into my business plan. I will never have the life I want if I live in a place of fear and self doubt. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

What interests you?

Last night I made the most DELICIOUS healthy chicken stir fry with enoki mushrooms, pea pods and Taiwanese fresh basil. The chicken was marinated in this delicious Korean style marinade and I finished it all off with touch of dark sesame oil. It was to die for and I even had enough left to make a healthy lunch this morning. Double score. My business has been on my mind all day with thoughts and ideas racing through my head. I even got to see the menu for the royal wedding today which was rather interesting. I do appreciate the British's penchant for including game animals on their menus. It would be interesting and exciting to see American's take a more active interest in the foods we eat and where they come from. Farmers markets are starting all over New England this weekend and I can not wait to be able to shop at them on the weekends. Nothing better than supporting local farmers and eating food that is grown with love. Heirloom varieties just taste so much better is incomparable. 

I have begun working on my menu and I thought I would ask all of you. 

  1. What do you wish you could find when you went out for takeout? 
  2. What price point do you shop in and what do you consider prohibitively expensive? 
  3. Is price the most important factor or is quality and supporting a local small business important to you? 
Your feedback is important to me and I hope to hear from you!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Today is the first day

Have you ever heard the saying "Today is the first day in the rest of my life"? Well, today is just that. I sent in my application to start the process of opening my own culinary business. Truthfully, I am scared but so very excited. How many people are scared to do what they dream about. I would rather try and fail than never ever try. I just have to start small and work hard and I can do it. There is nothing greater in life than to have passion for something. Food is not just an obsession, it is a compulsion. Seeing people really excited about something I show them, even better. I truly believe in my soul that people want to eat healthy, they just think it can't possible taste good either. Well, it can and it will.