Sunday, May 31, 2009

To Kick Off Your June

I have learned to never NEVER complain about having sunny, hot weather as long as I shall live. However, hot weather does take it's toll on the baker. I remember one summer day in pastry school the kitchen we were working in was 95 degrees! Inside! Our instructors response? "Get used to it! This is what it's like!"

Let's face it, when it's hot out and, like many homes in Seattle, I lack air conditioning, I don't want my oven to be on too long. I also can't make anything tricky because my butter will get too soft. Lastly, I generally don't want to spend too much time standing at my counter working on anything when I could be basking in the the sun. In conclusion, if I'm not getting paid to be baking I'm not sure I want to be doing it right now. The problem is I STILL WANT CAKE!

I found the perfect solution. This cake mixes fast, bakes in about 30 minutes, and is super easy and nearly un-mess-upable. Plus, the fresh raspberries make it a phenomenal summer dessert. Trust me- if you don't bake much, bake this one. It's really good!

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)
  • Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.
  • At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.
  • Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.
  • Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Oh, Seattle, you're such a tease!

Until I moved to Seattle, I had never experienced seasons (I know what you're thinking, but I don't consider Indiana as having seasons. It had only two times of year- snowy and humid. Also, I try not to think about Indiana as much as possible). As much as I would love to live in a place that was 75 and sunny year round, I do so love the changes of the seasons. It's a way of letting you know that you're life is continuing on, reminding you that (turn, turn, turn) there is a time to snuggle in and rest, and (turn, turn, turn) there is a time to experience regrowth, and (turn, turn, turn) there is a time TO GET OUT IN THE SUN!!!!

Normally, at this time of year in Seattle I am still eating soups, slow cooked meats, granolas, and lots of cooked vegetables. In other words, normally, at this time of year in Seattle it's still winter. We have been ever so fortunate this year to have had an absolutely beautiful May- and I don't mean beautiful on Seattle's terms where it's sunny but 45 degrees, I mean beautiful on my terms. Nearly every day has been full sun and over 65, the last week being in the 70's, and today even hit 80 (which is about as warm as it ever gets here)!

I am amazed at the way the body adapts its cravings as the weather changes. Even though I had not generally grown up this way, it did not take me long to learn the joys of seasonal eating. And now, in the midst of a 75+ degree week, my body has ever so quickly become ready for summer foods. I am now totally in the mood for home made ice cream, fresh salads, fish, grilling, fresh fruit, grilling fresh fruit...not to mention I am generally just so much more happy at being able to go outside and tend to my little zuchinni plant (more on that later). I am WARM! Yippee!

Of course (here comes the pessimism), I know this is not going to last. June is often the gloomiest month of the year in this city, but I am oh so grateful for the happy May I've had. Just like the rest of the changing seasons, it has made me ready to move forward and think about what to cook next!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eat Less- But Eat Better

That is my new mantra. Not in a "going on a diet" way, but more in a not constantly trying to keep my shelves and cupboards stuffed full of food kind of way. It is a philosophy that I have actually had for quite some time now, but have never been able to put it so eloquently. Those who know me (family and close friends) often find me silly or preachy- perhaps because I have not been able to put it clearly before.

This article from, "The Price is Wrong," is everything I already new, supplemented with a few hard facts that I didn't know, put into very strong and inspiring words. I love this quote, "We pride ourselves on having the cheapest food in the world. It’s almost viewed as a right. But the notion of all you can eat—quantity over quality—is now starting to change. Eat less, but eat better—it’s a cultural shift."

Why is it that we Americans- with Costco, the "grocery game," double coupons, etc. are so darned proud of ourselves when we come home with pounds and pounds of prepackaged food for the very least that we could spend? Ok, I know that's not fair. I, too, get very excited on finding a deal. It's thrilling to pay less for something that it was originally priced at. But is the thrill really worth stocking your shelves full of six gigantic bottles of ranch dressing that are full of fillers, artificial ingredients, and preservatives?

I am going to venture to say that perhaps (generally speaking, of course) the more bags of groceries you come with per trip, the unhealthier you are eating. Think about it- if a family of three regularly brings home eight bags of groceries there's no way they could be eating mostly fresh and healthy foods, simply because if all those bags were filled with fresh foods they would spoil before they could be eaten. Of course, there is the exception of those raw foods people who literally need to eat eleven pounds of fruits or veggies a day just to keep their calorie intake high enough to sustain themselves. I suppose they must take home a lot of bags of groceries.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

English Peas

I wanted to share with you a nice happy accidental discovery I had when was very tired Wednesday after work. Wednesday happens to be the only evening in the work week that Raj and I have to spend together. This means that no matter how tired I am or how much I don't feel like cooking, I need to, because it's the only day of the week I can cook for my husband and we can eat together.

Still though, being tired I decided to go simple- roasted chicken and fresh vegetables. On my way home from work I ran into the market and grabbed chicken and what I thought were sugar snap peas. When I got home I realized something was awry.

You see, sugar snap peas look like this:

While English Peas look like this:

What you can't tell from the picture is that English pea pods are also a lot bigger than the sugar snap variety. I should have known. By then I was at home and didn't feel like going out again, so I did what anyone would do and googled how to cook English peas. I found purees, soups, and salads, but I wanted something easy.

What you do is remove the peas from the shells (and mind you, a large bag full of pods yields only about a cereal bowl of peas), blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then top with butter and salt.

Oh man, these were like no peas I've ever had before. Have you ever noticed how parents buy frozen vegetables, throw them in the microwave, and then wonder why their kids don't like to eat them? Hell-OOOO! These peas were so sweet, went perfect with the butter and salt, and they pop in your mouth when you eat them! I wanted more when they were gone. So remember these are fun and easy, and to buy a lot!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Food as Fashion as Food...Part 2

I just read this article, and I found it so funny that I thought I'd share it with you. It's much shorter that the article I left you a few days ago, and couldn't be on a more different subject.

If you are not familiar with Forever 21, it is a clothing store that makes trendy, inexpensive clothing for young women. The appeal is that they are very quick to have "of the moment" pieces hit their stores fast for a lot less money than other places. Trovata, on the other hand, is a very high end, very expensive designer of beautiful clothing.

Forever 21's Delicious, Cinnamon-Dusted Defense Against Trovata's Copying Charges
Thursday, May 14, 2009, by Izzy Grinspan

"Forever 21 has been sued roughly fifty times for selling clothing that looks suspiciously like the work of other designers, but up until now, every one of those cases was settled out of court. On Tuesday, however, local label Trovata brought the mega-retailer to trial, and the resulting ruling could have far-reaching consequences for designer knock-offs.

So far, as the Cut pointed out, the case sounds like a battle of the metaphors. Trovata's lawyer compared his clients to composers: "The notes, the chords, the sharps and flats are all known; it is the way they are combined and arranged that make new music.” But Forever 21's lawyer seems to know the real way to the jury's heart. He countered:

Much like a recipe for something like apple cobbler, Trovata is saying they didn’t invent the apples or the cinnamon or the sugar, but they are claiming the right to the combination.
This is, of course, a time-honored legal maneuver known as "distracting the jury by mentioning dessert," and it definitely works, because all of a sudden we're much more interested in cobbler than justice."

So this made me think again about something I've thought about before. How do recipe copyright laws work? Are there any? How can someone mix together apples, cinnamon, and sugar and make sure no one else makes money from mixing those together? What does the variance on a recipe (half a teaspoon? more?) have to be in order for it to be printable in one's own cookbook? It can certainly be done with music, so there MUST be laws with food, also. Or is that why businesses keep recipes so secret?


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Flying Squirrel, Seven Hills, Mamma Mia!

Oh yes, I just invented a new recipe tonight. A recipe for relaxation. Here it is: pizza, wine, and musicals.

I had a long week at work- and I don't just mean it felt long because it was tedious or difficult. I mean it was literally seven days long, four of which were 14 hour days. It was loooooong.

I was finally set free at about 6:30 tonight, and the first thing I needed to do was go for a run and get all my tension out. And of course what must a girl have after a long week and a good workout? Ahhh, carbs.

I needed desperately to treat myself tonight, and I wanted pizza. Luckily, the closest pizza place to my house happens to be the up and coming Flying Squirrel Pizza Co. Also luckily, it's really, really, awesomely good pizza. It's a thin crust type of pizza with catchy toppings like lemon-herb-garlic roasted potato with blue cheese, or egg and arugula. Today I went for a more classic sausage and mushroom pizza.

After getting my pizza I was very happy when I remembered the open bottle of Seven Hills Riesling in my refrigerator that would go absolutely perfect with my pizza. It's not expensive or fancy or anything, but it's affordability (usually around $15- $20 a bottle) is one of the reasons that it's my favorite wine.

And with my yummy little pizza and, ok third....half??? of a bottle of wine I knew exactly what movie would be perfect to watch. Sure, I could have been intelligent and watched Frost/Nixon just so I could say I was informed and political. But not tonight. It would not have been a good pairing with my riesling. I would probably recommend something like a full bodied cabernet to go with that movie. No, I needed something light and fun, and a movie that I know got terrible reviews and no one seems to like but me (and I like it so much, in fact, that I think it might be on my "movies I could watch any time" list).

So now I feel verrrry relaxed, and I have tomorrow off to enjoy my day. Hurray for pizza, wine, and musicals!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

About the Swine Flu

I recently got this email from a naturopathic doctor I see- Dr. Virender Sodhi. I would put it in my own words, but this article is so articulate, well thought out, and intelligent that I thought I would just copy and paste word-for-word (And I don't think he minds me doing so. What's important to him is that the information gets out there). It's long, but thought provoking.

The Panic Over the ‘Pandemic’:

Is Swine Flu a Scientific Fact or Media Frenzy?

Dr. Virender Sodhi

With new alerts and warnings being issued on an almost hourly basis - with words like “pandemic” and even “plague” now being used - it’s hard not to be concerned about the swine flu outbreak. Although CDC (Center for Disease Control) is on hold issuing next warning and now toned down from the previous warnings. The WHO (World Health Organization) has decided not to raise its alert to a full pandemic, since the virus has yet to cause sustained transmission outside North America. More than 100 people have died in Mexico. But to put this in to perspective, every year more than 36,000 people die with influenza virus.

Health care authorities, politicians, and media spokespeople cite statistics, issue travel advisories, and point to maps showing the rapid worldwide spread of the virus. While authorities reassure us that a new vaccine is being developed, and anti-flu medications are being “stockpiled,” they continue to fuel the fear that we are on the brink of imminent disaster. Most of us are left wondering whether we should travel, visit public places, or send our children to school.

In the face of this growing panic, I believe a dose of healthy skepticism is good medicine. A brief look back at the history of flu outbreaks sheds new light on the current situation. The established public health response to viral outbreaks of the flu in recent years has been less than perfect. The side effects and complications associated with flu vaccines, which can be debilitating or even fatal, are never mentioned. And as usual, herbal, natural and nutritional therapies to prevent and ease the effects of viral infections are almost never mentioned. But it will certainly sell billions of dollar worth of Tamiflu, which yet to prove its effectiveness.

Although the strain of the flu virus spreading through human-to-human contact today appears to be unique, this is not the first appearance of swine flu. More than thirty years ago, in 1976, a swine flu “pandemic” was declared, and a public health effort was launched to vaccinate millions of people worldwide. As it turned out, the swine flu pandemic never materialized, but the vaccine itself claimed its own casualties. Within a few months after vaccinations began, 25 people had died, and $1.3 billion in claims had been filed by people who suffered paralysis due to the vaccine. Hundreds more developed crippling Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome, in which muscle paralysis can lead to respiratory failure and even death. Tragically, healthy young adults ended up as paraplegics.

As an Ayurvedic and Naturopathic practitioner, I find events such as these particularly frustrating. The complex balances involved in human health are poorly understood and inadequately addressed in the mainstream medical establishment. According to the prevailing mentality, the swine flu virus is on the loose and the only solution is a one-size-fits-all vaccine. Simple, natural therapies such as curcumin (turmeric) and garlic can reduce the viral load on the body, ease inflammation and strengthen natural immunities without the risk of injurious side effects.

The more recent history of the bird flu virus offers a strong case in point. Beginning in 2003, the avian flu virus began to appear in Asia. First in Vietnam, then in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, a massive public health effort was launched to dispense vaccinations as widely as possible and millions of birds were slaughtered. Ironically, however, it was traditional Chinese herbal medicine that provided one of the most effective therapies. Curcuma longa, widely known as turmeric, acts as a natural preventative against many flu viral strains. Turmeric’s active ingredients, called curcuminoids, have been shown in laboratory investigations to have powerful antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.1

Like the original deadly influenza of 1918 and the original swine flu, the current viral strain appears to over stimulate the body’s natural immune system. This explains the fact that most of the deaths so far have occurred in relatively young patients with robust immune systems. The swine flu virus appears to activate a response known as the cytokine storm, in which large amounts of immune system hormones (cytokines) are produced. Left unregulated, this inflammation can lead to respiratory and organ failure. In most cases, deaths occur when excess fluids accumulate in the respiratory system. According to the CDC, like seasonal flu, symptoms of swine flu infections can include:

· fever, which is usually high

· cough

· runny nose or stuffy nose

· sore throat

· body aches

· headache

· chills

· fatigue or tiredness, which can be extreme

· Diarrhea and vomiting

The beauty of using turmeric against flu is that it's a natural protease inhibitor. In order to affect the respiratory tract, the flu virus needs the proteasome enzyme complex. Curcuminoids inhibit the release of these enzymes, leaving the virus unable to replicate itself. Since turmeric is a natural food substance, I believe that taking it regularly can provide a safe and effective anti-flu therapy.

During my more than 30 years of medical practice, I have never used influenza vaccinations for myself or my family. In spite of exaggerated exposure to these germs, I have warded off the flu with care and natural remedies only. My best advice to my patients is to use simple, common sense measures to strengthen their natural immunities and avoid infection.

When my patients ask me how they can avoid the flu, this is the advice I give them:

  • Do deep breathing exercises (outside if possible), and circulate more fresh air throughout your home. Exercise regularly. Walking for 45 minutes a day will increase the body's immune defense mechanism. However, do not over-exert yourself. Exercising longer than 90 minutes per day may actually increase your risk of upper respiratory infections.
  • Reduce the "allergenic load" in your home. Carpets, gas heaters, wood burning fireplaces, fungi, mold and chemicals of any kind can weaken your immune system. Consider using electrostatic and charcoal filters in your house to clean the air.
  • Reduce your sugar and dairy intake. Eat fruits and vegetables instead. Winter is a holiday season when we tend to consume a lot of sugar. According to published studies, seven tablespoons of sugar a day retards the immune system dramatically. One can of soda contains nearly four tablespoons of sugar. Avoid foods you are allergic to.
  • Take antioxidants. My personal favorites are combination of Amla ( Emblica officinalis), Guduchi( Tinospora cordifolia), Tulsi( Ocimum sanctum), Vasaka( Adhatoda vasica), Bahera( Terminalia bellerica), Mulathi ( Glycyrrhiza glabra)Tikatu and Amla products made into a paste. (For more information about these herbs, please visit These are natural source of anti-oxidants and an excellent immune builder. Add to this vitamin D3 5000 IU twice a day, Ayurvedic herbs can also be taken, such as Triphla and Trikatu( one three times per day), Holy Basil standardized extract (250 mg three times per day) and Curcumin (250 mg three times per day). When you have a cold or an upper respiratory infection, drink ginger, licorice and holy basil tea. Garlic and green tea also have immune balancing properties. Drink plenty of warm fluids. Add fish oil one teaspoon three times per day.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap solution. A study of day-care centers showed that people who washed their hands frequently got 50 percent fewer colds than those who didn't. I do not like antibacterial soaps because they sometimes force the body to develop drug-resistant bacteria. Avoid frequent touching of your nose, eyes and ears.
  • Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can increase your chances of catching a cold.
  • Avoid and reduce stress. Mental and emotional weaknesses have an effect on the physical system and actually increase your chances of catching cold. Perform yoga or tai chi and spend quality time with your friends and family. A study published in The Journal of American Medical Association found that people, who report three or less social ties, such as with friends, family, coworkers or community groups, are more than four times at risk of catching a cold than those with six or more such ties.
  • Do not use antibiotics indiscriminately. Antibiotics have no benefits and can weaken your immune system. According to a study published by The Journal of American Medical Association, 50 percent of the patients suffering with colds, upper respiratory infections and bronchitis demanded antibiotic prescriptions. Most of the upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics are effective against bacteria. Overuse of antibiotics can leave the body vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can be life threatening.

Ayurveda teaches that health is a matter of balance. Disease is the result of an underlying imbalance. Our bodies are constantly bombarded by contagions, and if these were the only cause of disease, we would be sick all the time. I believe that a balanced immune system is key in the quest for health and the conquest of disease. Learn to listen to your body and treat its imbalances in a holistic way. In the end, you are your own best physician.


1Siddiqui AM, Cui X, Wu R, Dong W, Zhou M, Hu M, Simms HH, Wang P. The anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin in an experimental model of sepsis is mediated by up-regulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma. Crit Care Med. 2006 Jul;34(7):1874-82.

2Ammon HPT, Wahl MA 1991 Pharmacology of Curcuma longa. Planta Medica 57(1):1

3lyengar MA, Rama Rao MP, Gurumadhva Rao S, Kamath MS 1994 Anti-inflammatory activity of volatile oil of Curcuma longa leaves. Indian Drugs 31(11):S28

4Srimal RC 1997 Turmeric: a brief review of medicinal properties. Fitoterapia 68:483

5lyengar MA, Rama Rao M, Bairy I, Kamath MS 1995 Antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of Curcuma longa leaves. Indian Drugs 32(6):249

6MulkyN,AmonkarAJ,BhideSV1987 Antimutagenicity of curcumins and related compound: the structural requirement for the antimutagenicity of curcumins. Indian Drugs 25(3):91

7Toda S, Miyase T, Arichi H, Tanizawa H, Takino Y 1985 Natural antioxidants. III. Antioxidative components isolated from rhizome of Curcuma longa. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 33:1725

8Selvam R, Subramanian L, Gayathri R, Angayarkanni N1995 The anti-oxidant activity of turmeric (Curcuma longa). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 7(2):59

Friday, May 08, 2009

Happy Grandparent's Day!

Now, anyone who knows me and my family knows that for all of us grandkids, the dish my Grandma is most remembered for is her crepes. Every single time we spent the night at her house, we would unfailingly wake up in the morning to crepes (at our request, of course).

Our favorite was always cinnamon and sugar, but we would experiment with other toppings like peanut butter, jam, or cheese. In the end, though, the cinnamon was always the best and we would eat it until we felt sick.

My Grandma cooked for us out of total love, but I don't think she realized two things were going to happen from it:

1. She was giving us a little bit of culture. To us, crepes were so familiar that I couldn't believe later on how many people didn't know what they were. Just like any building block you give a child, crepes were a building block for an entire world of cuisine for me!

2. She created a family legend/ tradition. I was challenged as soon as I could to begin making crepes for anyone special who happened to spend the night at my house. My recipe is different from my Grandma's- just as it should be since cooking is a very personal art. If you learned to draw from a grandparent, would you copy their drawings exactly? I don't think so. This was a great example of "the older women teaching the younger women" to take care in the kitchen.

So thanks, Grandma, for the memories. You gave me a tangible, taste-able, and smellable way of remembering my younger years, and the genuine love you showed for me and my cousins. I love you.....oh, and can I spend the night some time?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My [wannabe] Life in France

I am insanely jealous of Julia Child.

And not because she became a world famous chef, had an amazing culinary career, and will now forever be a food legend. Those things are nice and all, but what really gets me is that Julia Child lived in Paris is the late 1940's. Please note that I find that just as important to living in Paris was that time period in which she did- the post WWII era 1940's. This was when most food (in France) still came from small farms, a person of normal means could afford an apartment two blocks from the Seine, no one knew smoking was bad for you, and the Cordon Bleu admitted people with no cooking experience (and still had less than ten people in a class). Oh, not to mention a person could get an amazing meal for two, with wine, for $3.70.

Le sigh

I must admit first off that I have only spent four days in Paris. However, my senses were so alert when I was there- I was really trying to take in every second- that I find I had a very rich experience. I became a true blue Francofile right from the start.

Recently I picked up a copy of Julia Child's biography My Life in France. The book is about moving to Paris with her diplomat husband, and how she began to discover food- namely, French food- and the beginning of her culinary career. As I began to read, I was pleased to see how much of my first experiences with Paris were similar to hers: The total awe of the landscape and the countryside, preferring the food from mid-range restaurants and hole in the walls to l'gourmet, fancy restaruants, and finally the total wonder that anyone could find Parisians to be rude or generally disagreeable in any way.

Our situtation differ, however, in the fact that she got to LIVE THERE! Aaaaahhhh. She got to buy cheese from the woman who knew exactly when a certain piece of camembert would be "ready," she got to learn French by conversing with the vegetable lady who could tell her exactly what she needed for that night's supper. She got to take weekends away in Provence and vacation in Cannes!

Lastly, she got to eat French food every day. She got to get up every morning and buy a cafe au lait and fresh croissant before she went to the Cordon Bleu for her culinary training! Oh to have these experiences. Sadly, I must live vicariously through Mrs. Child's beautifully written and descriptive book. Thankfully she has a vivid memory and is able to describe in detail meals that were eaten 50+ years ago so that I can pretend I am the one eating those meals.

I have been inspired now to pull out my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and cook through it from cover to cover like I had determined to so long ago. Thank you, Julia, for all you did!