I can’t help but laugh a little. I made a pretty big vow to whip myself into blogging shape. I made a few recipes but waited to post so I could spread out my work. What happened? My husband’s new diet.
See, my husband, Jon, has always had a sensitive stomach. We constantly went back and forth about what ailed his stomach. We blamed the usual suspects like cabbage, beans, etc. So I left these foods out of his lunch. But the stomach did not subside. It reached a crescendo during Super Bowl week when my husband described the pain as unbearable. So we are in a current food overhaul. I’ve heard of some diets where people cut out common food intolerances to try and pinpoint the culprit.
Okay so let me back up- what the fudge am I talking about? Most of us are aware of Food allergies (IgE). Doctors test for these allergies by pricking a needle on your skin and waiting for signs of irritation. This is an immediate response to the allergy trigger, and most people have a general sense of their allergies. That seasonal allergy? IgE. That girl who carries around an EpiPen just in case of “nut-dust”? IgE. These allergies are easy to identify.
But food sensitivities (IgG), are more difficult to identify. Food “sensitivities” can be called allergies or intolerance. Testing for these allergies is usually done with a blood sample. Information about this is relatively new, and sadly, that means that most insurance companies don’t currently cover this testing. Basically it is a delayed reaction to the “bad foods.”
Symptoms can be a little vague. They range from digestion issues (IBS, bloating, blood in stool, constipation) to skin irritations (acne, eczema, hives) or even general aches (fatigue, headaches, puffy eyes). Many symptoms can be passed off as side effects of other ailments, so knowing that you may actually have any food sensitivities isn’t simple.
My past few workouts have been a struggle. I have a feeling my allergies have been bad and breathing is a little more difficult. So today when working out I asked my husband to turn on some music to help me keep motivated. The result was sometimes good, sometimes terrible, but overall an odd mix.
It started out by me saying he should play the Totoro theme. It was creepy. It was the perfect song for my warm up, as I swung my arms in perfect rhythm. I felt a little like doing morning warm ups at a Japanese school. Then Jon’s picked some nice songs, coupled with wildly different ones…
Azumi Inoue – Tonari no Totoro
Aaliyah – Are You That Somebody?
Aretha Franklin – Baby, I Love You
The Band – The Weight
Barenaked Ladies – Who Needs Sleep?
The Beach Boys – California Girls
Betty Everett – It’s in His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)
Billy Ocean – Get Out Of My Dreams, Get Into My Car
Billy Preston – Nothing from Nothing
Cake – Short Skirt/Long Jacket
House of Pain – Jump Around
That said, my husband did make his own real workout mix. This one is more consistent. He took some of the best upbeat songs and wrapped them around with the tackiest dance sounds out there. It is like the high end comfort food of workout playlists.
Daft Punk – One More Time
Jamiroquai – Canned Heat
Prince – 1999
Haddaway – What is Love?
MIKA – We Are Golden
Fatboy Slim – Praise You
Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal
Prince – Trust
Electric Light Orchestra – Do Ya
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now
Oliver Adams – Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat)
Night Ranger – Sister Christian
The Hit Crew – Jump On It
The Edgar Winter Group – Free Ride
Awhile ago one of my favorite bloggers, Annika of The Pineneedle Collective, decided to sell some of her old clothes. They were super cheap so I bought a shirt and a dress. They arrived in great condition and with a little bonus necklace. Well, if you live in the USA (or read a blog that is in the USA) you’ve probably heard about the “polar vortex.” The temperature in New Jersey doesn’t really get down to 10 degrees (-12 celsius). Couple that with me working in building that was an old victorian post office that has no insulation, I have been wearing mostly sweatshirts and leggings.
Then the unspeakable happened- it got above freezing. I realized I could wear a cardigan at my job and not freeze! I grabbed my new shirt and paired it with my super old American Apparel skirt. I also added a cream cardigan (those photos didn’t come out), grey leggings, and shoes (which I didn’t put on since I had an hour before work).
I super recommend shopping at Annika’s Little Pineneedle Shop. Her clothes are in great condition. I didn’t even notice how old the shirt was that I bought- she wore in 2011! Okay that might not be the oldest, but hey, things are looking sad for some clothes that I’ve worn in less time. As for the dress I bought, it will probably sit in my closet until May. The fabric is super light. I guess that is what happens when you buy clothes from an Australian.
One of my daily morning rituals is having a cup of apple cider tonic. The habit started when my husband wanted to use apple cider vinegar to help clear out his sinuses. There are lots of claims of what apple cider vinegar can do for you, some make sense, while others are a little outlandish.
Vegans should try having a glass of apple cider vinegar tonic every morning since it helps increase the absorption of calcium. Apple cider vinegar is high in acetic acid, which can increase the body’s ability to absorb vital minerals. Some other most substantial health claims of apple cider vinegar are improved digestion, increased reception to insulin, weight control, and help cleaning sinuses.
I stick to Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar since they keep the mother. This means that the bacteria that helped turn apple juice into vinegar are still in there. Think of it like that poop-gurt that Jamie Lee Curtis keeps trying to sell you. Although the bacteria cultures are different, the effect is similar.
I usually make a simple drink using just water, vinegar, and a sweetener (honey, agave, or stevia) But it came become boring. A simple remedy is just to use iced tea instead. But I woke up one morning and decided to try a little more. I brewed a big pitcher of iced yerba mate, and squeezed some limes in there. The result was amazing.
I’ve been a busy beaver today. I have been putting off launching this blog forever. I woke up and thought, I should really be productive. I did a bunch of cleaning around the house, and put together this cute outfit. I bought this wool dress from H&M years ago and it is a little bit confusing when to wear it. Today was perfect. Just enough comfort and warmth for inside the house.
In the process of taking my photo I learned fast that there is a skill to taking fashion photos. Well, I already knew this, but the reality of it set in. I am out of focus, but I will learn my lesson next time.
Irish Potatoes are a weird snack. Being from North Jersey, I never heard of them. You wouldn’t think driving an hour and half south would make such a cultural difference. Apparently, I was the only person in Philadelphia who didn’t know what an Irish Potato was. It’s such a big treat that there is a local factory that makes pre-made Irish Potatoes for the yearly demand during Saint Patrick’s Day. And I see them in every single supermarket.
My roommates insisted to break my “Irish Potato” cherry and make some. To my surprise, there wasn’t anything Irish about it, nor was there any potatoes in there. The recipe was pretty simple, crisco (or butter if you are fancy), cream cheese, and coconut. Roll it in cinnamon. Bam! Done. If I remember correctly not liking them much, but I couldn’t help but grab more.
But I am a sucker for local traditions. And seeing the popularity of cake pops and oreo truffles, I feel like it time for Irish Potatoes to shine. But I think they could be more creative, and more flavorful. I cut down on the fats, and added some leftover mashed potatoes. Sounds crazy, but this idea isn’t new. It is the basis for the Needham candies that are made in Maine.
The result? I told my husband to take to candies to work and give them out. Nobody knew. Everyone commented on how they were some of the best Irish Potatoes, so as far as I can tell I improved on the recipe. One person said that they could taste a little bit of the potato once I revealed my recipe, and I agree. But I think it add a nice velvety layer to it, and makes them a little less rich (which means you can eat more right?)
Wanna impress your friend? Make your own hot sauce. Yup, that will win you to the bad-ass chef status. But you don’t have to tell them that this hot sauce was absurdly easy to make. All you have to do is chop some jalapenos like a five year old, cram in a jar with brine, wait a few days, blend.
This sauce I made after reading a recipe for an Indian pickle recipe. It was pretty interesting, and different from most pickles I’ve read. They incorporated oil into a brine, and added sour limes at the end. This sounded pretty yummy for a hot sauce. So for this recipe you will be making lacto-acid-fermented jalapeños. It is seriously as simple as adding salt, water and peppers to a jar.
I love ice cream. I love fruit pops. I love sorbet, ice cream sandwiches, basically anything that is cold, sweet and creamy. Of coarse that creates issue when you are trying not to eat dairy. Soy, rice, and coconut milk based ice creams pack a lot of sugar and raids your wallet.
Although I own an ice cream maker, I found that making ice cream pops is a quick solution to an ice cream craving. I’ve been trying to also make some raw alternatives, with some awesome results. This week I made some Mexican Avocado Fudgsicles.
The trouble with frozen desserts is that as thing become colder, the flavor isn’t as strong. Which is why so much sugar is added to ice cream, and fruit pops. To sweeten, I used a mix of various sugars; some dried dates, agave syrup, and stevia; in hopes of balancing out flavors. The chipotle powder gives a nice kick, and matches well with the avocados.
I made the mix very thick, to give the pops an ice cream like consistency. This way you can bite into the pop and have it melt in your mouth. If you are too frustrated with your blender, feel free to water down your pops. Just be aware you will dull down the flavors, and taste to before pouring.
I first was exposed to it when I was little. My Aunt Hannah, who is Korean, brought over some “black spaghetti,” as she called it. The black spaghetti looked like packets of ramen, but instead of a soup, it was drained and covered in a sauce. I remember her teaching me the “best” way of cooking it, and going to the local Asian Market snatching them up. Fast forward to 2007. I watched the Korean Drama Coffee Prince. The first episode featured a Jjajangmyeon eat off, and dawned on me what my “black spaghetti” really was.
At the time, there weren’t many online sources for the dish and when checking out local Korean restaurant, none actually had the dish on their menu. The reason is that Jajangmyeon is based on a Chinese dish, Zhaziangmian. The original Zhaziangmian dish uses hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and various bean pastes to get the black sauce. The Korean version uses chunjang, which is a black bean sauce that is much sweeter than it’s Chinese counterpart. There are many differences, but today, you are likely to see Jajangmyeon at a Chinese restaurant in Korea. Think of it a little bit like General Tso in the US, distinctly American in it’s own right but you won’t find it anywhere other than a Chinese food shop.
Today we are going to talk about a little story. This story is about the soy bean. Sure you’ve been told that it is one of most versatile ingredients in the world. Sadly, most Americans and Westerners have no clue how much is made with soy. Sure there is soy milk, tofu, soy ice cream, soy beef patties, and miso, but how much more can be made from a bean?
Take away refrigerators, and humans get pretty creative with how to save their foods. Just think about how in the west we have so many different variations of milk. There is yogurt, cremes, cheeses, and much more. Even with cheese, there are so many different flavors and textures. You have a mild cheese like mozzarella that is fresh and no fermentation. Then you have fermented cheeses like swiss that has a completely different texture, smell, and taste. You can even get a totally different cheese with a different strain of bacteria, like blue cheese. The same thing can be said about soy. Do a few things to the beans, and you can get lots of different results. Tofu is kind-of similar to mozzarella, fresh and soft. Miso is fermented and therefore has a drastically different pungent taste. So what is the “blue cheese” of soy? Surely it must be douchi.
Douchi looks like a raisin, but it is simply a fermented old soy bean. Even though soy bean’s color can be black, any variety is used for this food. Douchi is the earliest form of soy bean fermentation known to man. Older than miso. Douchi was found in a tomb dating all the way back to 165 BCE.
As I am talking about these wrinkly beans, you might be wondering what these things taste like. If you ever gotten black bean chicken on at a Chinese food take out, you tasted douchi. There is a distinct taste to the douchi beans that are salty, but can not be replaced. Sort of like how soy sauce simply can’t be replaced with salt.
The steps for making the paste require the soy beans to be soaked, steamed, and inculcate with soy koji, which is used for miso. The beans mold over, turning green. The mold is rinsed off to remove some bitter flavors, though this step can be skipped. The soy beans are then placed in a brine for six months. The end result are “black beans.” They can be eaten alone as a snack, or be made into a paste.
“Black Bean” Paste
Douchi is commonly made into a paste. Anyone who takes a dip into “asian cooking” can go crazy from all the new pastes and sauces that are needs for a recipe. Add “Black Bean” Paste to the list now. This is where things get confusing. Many culture have different names for all their pastes, and many will swear that their paste is different than others. Just think of the American biscuit. A woman from the south will say biscuits from the north just aren’t right.
The basic recipe for “Black Bean” Paste is to saute douchi in a pan with broth, water, and garlic. Sometimes oil, soy sauce, and starch are added for flavor and texture. This sauce or paste is becoming easier to find in supermarkets, but are overpriced and small.
Douchi is pretty popular in Korean food because of the rise in popularity of Jajangmyeon. Koreans call their paste chunjang. Many swear it isn’t the same as the Chinese counterpart. What is the difference? Honestly caramel. Yes, Koreans like their savory foods sweet. So if you aren’t satisfied with douchi you bought add some sugar or some other sweetener.
REMEMBER- if you are buying pre-made “Black Bean” Paste check the ingredients! If you are vegetarian or vegan, there may be caramel (milk guise) or chicken stock in the paste!
There are a few ways to use black bean paste in cooking. It is used more as a seasoning, as it is too salty to eat on it’s own. Just imagine eating a spoonful of miso? (alright I’ve been known to lick the spoon) Traditionally, you can toss a tablespoon or two in a stir fry, though you may want to omit any soy sauce or salt. It is also common to use to on different steamed meats, such as ribs or fishes. And one of the most popular dishes is Jajangmyeon, noodles slathered in black bean paste.
But truth is the sky is the limit. Maybe make dumplings with chopped veggies covered in some black bean sauce. Maybe you could try making a BBQ sauce out the paste. Heck, they have been even used in ice cream! Play around and be daring. Think of the paste a little bit like “soy sauce” in the flavor and go from there. I am sure you will blow all your friends away.