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Detox Diet

9 Jan

So for the past five days, I’ve been on a detox diet.

I’m on the diet for a story that I’m working on about the fad of detox and cleanse diets, and the story will be partly about my personal experience. Let me just say that Wednesday (a.k.a. “day seven,” the final day!) can’t get here soon enough.

Though I also know it could be worse: my friend Quentin sent me a clip from “This American Life” where a reporter went on a three-week fast without any solid food.

So yesterday, after a trip to the Asian market, which is always a fun adventure, I made miso soup. A lot of the recipes on the diet I’m following fall firmly into the “bland” category, and I’ve been having poor results with a lot of them — they just haven’t been turning out right, which is pretty frustrating.

This soup was an exception. It was really tasty, and actually pretty closely resembled the miso soup I’ve had at Japanese restaurants, though because my diet doesn’t include soy, mine didn’t have tofu.

Miso Soup (adapted from a cleanse designed by Dr. Alejandro Junger.)

6 cups water
a bit less than a half cup of dried bonito flakes (find them at the Asian Market, 321 N 76th St.)
3 dried Shitake mushrooms, plus a handful more that you reconstitute separately (find them at the Asian Market.)
1/2 cup (or to taste) dried wakame (it’s the green stuff you see floating in the bowl above. Also from the Asian Market.)
6 tbsp miso paste (I used light miso, but use what you like best. It’s in the refrigerated section of the Asian Market by the produce.)
matchstick sliced carrots and zucchini and sliced white mushrooms (you can add whatever type of vegetables you like.)

I suggest adding Tofu if you are not on a soy-free diet.

Heat the water in a medium pot and when bubbles begin to form around the edge, add the bonito flakes. Turn the heat down and simmer for two minutes, then turn off the heat and let the broth sit for five minutes. Strain the broth and discard the bonito flakes.

Return the broth to a clean pot and add the three dried shitakes and the wakame to the broth and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Pull out the mushrooms, discard the stems and slice the tops. Add the vegetables of your choice and raise the heat a bit, but be careful not to boil the soup.

In a small bowl, blend the miso paste with a bit of the broth and whisk together. Pour the miso mixture into the pot and stir, then let the soup simmer for about ten minutes.

Mulled Wine Party

27 Dec

It’s a tradition on the Hansen side of my family to have a wintertime mulled wine party. My mother-in-law brews up a big vat of mulled wine along with hot chocolate and hot tea and my father-in-law builds a big campfire in a pretty clearing next to Indian Creek, near their house. Fixings for s’mores are, of course, mandatory.

Lots of friends and family come to the party, which this year was unseasonably warm. We’ve mulled wine in much colder weather and drank it while shivering and standing in ankle-deep snow before, so not even having to wear a winter coat this year was a welcome change.

I share a recipe at the end of this post that’s similar to Sally’s recipe. A big batch would be a great way to ring in the New Year.

Mulled Wine, via Epicurious
serves 8

2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom pods
3 black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine such as Côtes du Rhône
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 small orange, thinly sliced
1 small lemon, thinly sliced

Special equipment: a 6- by 4-inch piece of cheesecloth; kitchen string

Wrap cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and cloves in cheesecloth and tie with string. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 5-quart heavy pot, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then add spice bag, wine, vanilla bean, and fruit. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes.

Chefs for Christmas, part two

23 Dec

A handful of Omaha chefs were kind enough to answer a question or two about their holiday traditions for the paper earlier this week. I asked them all one more question to feature on the blog: “What is your favorite holiday dish?” See the first two here. Enjoy!

Chef Clayton Chapman, The Grey Plume: Cheesy potatoes!  The traditional casserole with loads of cheese and sour cream.

Chef Jessica Joyce, New York Chicken and Gyros: Although I am honestly crazy about pasta and always ate more than my fair share I can’t help but mention turkey skin with mashed potatoes and gravy.  I loved peeling the crisp, golden brown, greasy skin from the turkey and making little skin cups that I would then fill with mashed potatoes and gravy.  As an adult I now gravitate towards more sophisticated things, especially tourtieres, except when nobody’s looking!

Chef Jesus Rivera, Rivera’s Mexican restaurant: Pecan Pie, and my wife’s pasta salad is to die for.

Chef Jon Seymour, V. Mertz: My family always had a bowl of mashed potatoes topped by the homemade chicken and noodles.  It’s reminiscent of high school cafeteria turkey gravy over mashed potatoes, but exceedingly better.

Chef Gina Sterns, Dolce Cafe: Paraguayan corn bread, called Chipa Guazu. This is from a period of my life I spent in Paraguay South America.

Some of the chefs also shared recipes; find them here.

Happy Holidays!

Chefs for Christmas

21 Dec

Today in the World-Herald I have a few Q&As with local chefs from Lincoln and Omaha about their holiday traditions. I also asked each of them one additional question and saved the answers to be featured on Omavore: “What is your favorite holiday dish?” I’ll share a few of their answers today and for the rest of the week. We’ll begin with two chefs from Lincoln.

Happy Holidays!

Chef Kevin Shinn, Bread and Cup, Lincoln: It probably sounds odd, but I like the soup I make from the turkey after the main meal.  I take the carcass, and make a stock, add the leftover meat, vegetables and seasonings and let it simmer away.  I eat it daily until its gone.  It makes the holiday meal seem like it lasts longer. (Kevin’s recipe for leftover turkey soup ran today in the paper.)

Chef Erik Hustad, GUP Kitchen, Lincoln: I almost hate to admit this, but my favorite holiday dish is actually green bean casserole.  Now, sometimes just for fun, I like to make this dish with fresh green beans, homemade bechamel sauce, and fresh mushrooms.  But, there is something about the version made from canned beans, canned mushroom soup, and canned fried onions that just takes me back to my childhood, and that’s really what’s so wonderful about food.

Matt Miller’s Chestnut Soup

20 Dec

Last week my friend Matt Miller brought me a bowl of chestnut soup. I’d never had chestnut anything before, but let me tell you, this soup was amazing. I gleefully slurped it down for lunch and asked him if he’d share his recipe with Omavore readers. He agreed.

Here’s his tips: Last year, I found chestnut meat already shelled. That was the way to go. I thought the scoring was worse this year.

Some of the nuts got hard after they were roasted. Not sure if that just happens, or if I did something wrong, so I discarded those. I also didn’t strain the soup but I did purée it well. Oh, and I put in a lot more salt than they said.

The soup was creamy, rich and delicious, and the bits of crisp prosciutto added subtle crunch and a salty bite.

Thanks for sharing, Matt, and bon appetite.

Chestnut Soup with Crisp Prosciutto, via the Bitten Word.

Photo by Matt Miller.

An appreciation: Caffé Italia

13 Dec

Caffé Italia, hidden in a tiny strip mall in one of Lincoln’s off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods, is one of those places that people who love eating dream of finding.

I first went to Caffé Italia with my now husband when we had just begun dating. One of our old college professors that Matthew kept in touch with hung out at the restaurant every Friday night. He invited us to join his eclectic group of friends — artists, scholars, writers, photographers — for Caffé Italia’s Friday night dinner.

The menu only had one item each night, and everyone got it. Over the years, I remember eating some delicious lasagna and lots of homemade, light pasta tossed with perfect sauces. When the restaurant ran out of the menu item that night, that was it.

The restaurant’s half-dozen glass-topped tables were filled with an eclectic crowd. Noise levels in the small space could become deafening as the night went on. It wasn’t music, though, or kitchen noise that filled the space. It was good conversation.

During that first dinner — and the many that followed — I talked to people about books they were writing. Photography projects they were working on. International travel. Politics. Cooking. Documentaries they were filming. The future of journalism.

I also learned to love drinking from a tiny, frosty glass filled with tart Limoncello.

Caffé Italia doesn’t serve its dinners any more. After closing temporarily, the restaurant re-opened for breakfast. A barista makes all sorts of drinks with Italian Lavazzara coffee and there’s a selection of scones and biscotti. The restaurant served both coffee and sweets before it closed. Now, it just draws a crowd in the morning rather than the evening.

I had a latte and a buttery, flaky scone dotted with figs and pistachios. Matthew ate his scone with an inky-black, rich Americano. Caffé Italia is still as good as ever.

That morning, we missed our college professor by just a few minutes.

Caffé Italia | 2110 Winthrop Rd | Lincoln, NE | 402-489-4949

Gift giving: for the cook

7 Dec

Gift guides have always been one of my favorite features on blogs, and when I’ve had blogs in the past, I’ve always managed to work one in somehow. This year, I’m doing three, beginning today with the most obvious category: gifts for the cook. I chose some of my favorite tools that I use in my own kitchen as well as things I’ve recently seen and lusted after. The best part: everything comes in under $25. Click the photo for a link to buy the gift. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving week: a recap

25 Nov

Celebrated thanksgiving with the Baker family at my grandma’s house. Good food, good family time. We’re headed to Lincoln later today for our second Thanksgiving with the Hansens. Did a bit of Black Friday door busting with my sister today; we’ll do more tomorrow per our yearly tradition. Yesterday Matthew made Hansen Mac and Cheese and I tackled a vegetarian Shepherd’s pie that will be excellent with a few tweaks to the recipe come Christmas. Have a great weekend, everyone. (Thanks to my mom for helping snap almost all of these photos.)

Thanksgiving week: Leftovers and Links!

24 Nov

So in the wake of the food coma we’ll likely all be experiencing later today, I present you with a useful roundup of links to some creative ways to dispose of your leftovers. Also, some tips on how to store all that food from the Pampered Chef.

The James Beard Foundation offers us a wonderful roundup of leftover recipes, including David Chang’s mashed potato spring rolls, Sweet potato bread pudding via Saveur and a “crazy turkey burrito” via Bon Appetit.

Pumpkin pie breakfast casserole via Oh She Glows.

Larry David’s Thanksgiving Special via

My hero Mark Bittman rethinks leftovers, offering 20 mini-recipes perfect for “stimulating an overindulged brain.” (Check out the eggs baked in stuffing. mmm.)

Some tips on safely storing leftovers from the USDA.

Check out the Splendid Table’s How to eat Thanksgiving Infographic.

A few tips on food storage from Chef Jackie Blust, who works for the Pampered Chef:

  • Freeze leftover wine, broth or coconut milk in ice-cube trays to use later in soups and sauces
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours for food safety, and label containers with the contents and date
  • Make sure all your plastic containers are labeled microwave safe before you heat up leftovers

And finally, Pillsbury’s top ten list of American’s favorite pie flavors. Thanks to Village Inns around the globe for the fifth most popular pie. And Mincemeat? Really? Maybe I should add one to next year’s Thanksgiving menu.

1. Pumpkin
2. Apple
3. Pecan
4. Cherry
5. Chocolate Cream/French Silk
6. Sweet Potato
7. Banana Cream
8. Peach
9. Berry
10. Mincemeat

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Hope you’re eating lots of good food surrounded by people you care about.

Image courtesy of the Pampered Chef.

Thanksgiving week: Baker-Hansen Heritage Recipes

23 Nov

Ok, so neither of these are “heritage” in the true sense of the word, because they’ve both originated with more recent generations of the Baker-Hansen family. But they’re two of my absolute holiday favorites. One originated with me, the other with my dear mother-in-law, Sally.

I first made couscous (it’s pictured over there at left) a few Christmases ago, when I first started cooking. It has become a standard that I made for at least one holiday every year. The original recipe is from Taste of Home magazine, though I’ve altered it some since the first time I made it. My sister, especially, loves this one.

The famous Hansen macaroni and cheese became a tradition five years ago, when I started dating my husband, Matthew. He wanted to bring a dish to the Baker family Christmas, so he made the one he loves the most from his family dinner, his mom’s macaroni and cheese. My dad fell in love with this recipe, and I think he looks forward to it every year more than any other dish. I look forward to it, too — it’s really the only time of year that I find Velveeta acceptable. If you wanted to get all fancy, you could substitute the cheese product for some nice Gruyère or something, but I figure why mess with greatness?

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Sarah’s Cous Cous

2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1-2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
one medium-sized bag frozen corn
1 to 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I prefer Penzey’s cinnamon for its stronger flavor.)
1 package couscous or 1 package quinoa for a gluten-free option.

Bring the broth, butter and salt to a boil in a large pan. Stir in the corn and cinnamon. Cover and return to a boil and cook for about two minutes. Stir in the couscous. Cook the couscous in the liquid per the package instructions (I’ve found this a better alternative than what the original recipe suggested.) Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes. If you’re going to eat the dish immediately, stir in the dried cranberries, otherwise, wait until just before serving to stir them in. (If they’re stirred in earlier, they’ll reconstitute, which results in a less delicious finished product.)

Yields 6 or more servings.

Famous Hansen Family Macaroni and Cheese

Cook 1 1/2 c. elbow macaroni as directed.

In saucepan, melt 3 T. butter; blend in 2 T. flour, 1/2 t. salt, dash of pepper. Cook over simmer at few minutes (to cook flour).

Add 2 cups milk; cook and stir until thick and bubbly.

Add 1/4 c. finely chopped onion & 8 oz. Velveeta American process cheese (2 c. cubed.) Stir until melted.

Mix cheese sauce with macaroni. Turn into 1 1/2 Qt. casserole.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until heated through.

Makes 6 servings.

Mom note: I usually don’t use all of the macaroni, just judge how thick you want the sauce to be. And you may want to double the recipe.

Image courtesy of Taste of Home magazine


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