Friday, November 30, 2007

Celebration Roast

Still holding to the vegetarian diet (lacto-ovo). So I picked up a "Stuffed Celebration Roast" from Whole Foods in San Rafael which is made by the Field Roast Grain Meat Company. It looks very tasty through its clear wrapper. And the label listed the stuffing as field roast, butternut squash, apples and mushrooms. That sounded good too!

Celebration Roast with cheesy potatoes

To pair with the roast I made a variation of a potato recipe that I learned from a long time friend (schoolmate's mother) in Marysville, WA - Mrs. Ethel Cage. She made these potatoes using a Campbell's cheese and broccoli condensed soup, but I could not locate that variety, so I settled for the Cheddar Cheese condensed soup. Basically, into square pan, layer sliced onions and potatoes (I used Yukon gold) then cover with an undiluted can of the soup, then bake covered (with foil if no lid) at 350F for about 40 minutes, until potatoes are tender. The field roast was great! It had a nice texture and flavor and it paired well with the cheesy potatoes. A nice starter of mixed greens and dessert of a sweet navel orange made a satisfying and nourishing meal.

Since potatoes and onions are definitely herbs, not to mention all the veggie things in the celebration roast, I'm entering this post into , hosted by Kalyn the originator of the event at her blog Kalyn's Kitchen. Be sure to check her site on Sunday for a delicious round-up of vegetable/herb/plant postings from around the globe. has a nice write up about Yukon Gold potatoes. And Vegetarian Nutrition has a nice write up about the health benefits of onions.

Deconstructing the Campbell's Soup Label: Don't read on if you don't want a spoiler to your soup memories. Actually, it's not as bad as I thought, and I'll be continuing to eat Mmmm Mmmm Good Soup, but as with current practice, sparingly. It's not exactly local food, and it has some interesting ingredients, although some are normal things with scientific names. It's mostly water, milk, cheese, starch and margarine/oil. Take a look, and follow the links if you are interested.

Cheddar Cheese Condensed Soup


I got started on this ingredient adventure because although the cheddar cheese soup appeared vegetarian (lacto), it didn't have a vegetarian label, nor a kosher label (kosher labels are helpful as it would show more about whether there was meat in it). So I tried calling the Campbell's folk, and surmised that they have not sub-contracted their customer service outside the country as their hours are based on Eastern Time. So I wrote them an e-mail asking about which items are vegetarian and got the following response:

"Unfortunately, we're not able to supply you with a definitive list of our vegetarian products. At this time, the following products are considered vegetarian:

1. Campbell's V8 Vegetable Juice
2. Campbell's Tomato Juice
3. Campbell's V8 Splash
4. Pace Thick & Chunky Salsa
5. Pace Picante Sauce
6. Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable Soup

Product recipes change frequently and ingredients are periodically added and replaced which makes it difficult to maintain an updated list of products that either contain or lack a particular ingredient."

Thinking about this some more, I realized that when you see "enzyme" associated with cheese, it is more often than not, rennet, a meat product, which would probably mean it couldn't be labeled vegetarian. I guess how much Campbell soup I eat may depend on just how vegetarian I want to be.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Comforts Cafe

Day-After Brunch.
After Thanksgiving that is. Paul suggested we have brunch and after numerous phone calls finding most of our favorite spots and new ones closed due to the holiday weekend, Paul suggested we try Comforts Cafe. Bingo! I reviewed Comforts for the first time October 2006 on a visit with Paul as well. It's easy to go back to the tried and true.

Lo's Eggs

I had something called Lo's Eggs. The eggs were scrambled with spinach, jack cheese, mushrooms, caramelized onions and tomatoes and topped with sour cream. These were great, and the fresh fruit was at its peak (somewhere in the world). The only disappointment was the over browned potatoes. But with all that fruit, the potatoes were superfluous.

Bacon, Avocado & Tomato Scramble

Paul had a scramble containing bacon, avocado and tomato with a unique choice of jasmine rice. He enjoyed every grain and said it was good. We'll be back!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

12-hour cheesecake

12-hour cheesecake.
Well, at least that's how much time and effort Yalda put into this with her friend JC on Thanksgiving Day. And it was luscious. Another find from Sunset Magazine. Photos are of the one Yalda made. It's real name and recipe:

Orange Ribbon Cheesecake


For topping
1 large thin-skinned orange, such as Valencia
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
For cheesecake
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau, or 2 tsp. vanilla
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Preparation 1. For topping: Rinse and dry orange. With a sharp knife, slice into thin rounds (between 1/8 and 1/16 in. thick; see Notes), discarding ends and seeds. In a deep 10-in. frying pan or pot over medium-high heat, stir sugar, 3/4 cup water, and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Add orange slices and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer gently, keeping slices in a single layer and turning occasionally, until they're slightly candied and translucent and liquid has the consistency of a thin syrup, about 20 minutes (there should be about 1/2 cup liquid in pan; if less, add enough hot water to make that amount and shake pan to mix water into syrup). Let cool in pan. Cover and chill at least 15 minutes and up to 2 days.

2. For cheesecake: Preheat oven to 300°. Pour graham cracker crumbs into a 9-in. cheesecake pan with removable rim; add butter and mix. Press mixture evenly over bottom and 1/2 in. up sides of pan.

3. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in flour, sour cream, and liqueur just until incorporated. Pour into crust-lined pan.

4. Bake until center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, 60 to 70 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between cake and pan rim. Cool completely at room temperature, then cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

5. Remove pan rim. If any moisture collects on top of cake, gently blot dry. Gently lift candied orange slices from syrup, reserving syrup, and blot dry with a paper towel. Arrange slices, slightly overlapping, over top of cheesecake.

6. Measure orange juice. Bring reserved syrup to a boil over high heat. Stir occasionally until syrup is deep golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in orange juice (mixture will bubble up). Let cool to room temperature and generously brush over orange slices (you may have extra syrup).

7. Serve cheesecake, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. Use a serrated knife to cut cake, wiping blade clean after each slice.

Note: Nutritional analysis is per slice.


Makes 12 servings

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 433(56% from fat); FAT 27g (sat 16g); PROTEIN 7.6g; CHOLESTEROL 45mg; SODIUM 279mg; FIBER 0.6g; CARBOHYDRATE 41g

Cheesecake in progress

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Caffe DiVino

Nice Touches.
I stopped by Caffe DiVino for lunch last week; the last time I was there was for a very nice breakfast with Dad back in 2005. This Italian-inspired cafe bakes its focaccia fresh every day, along with its soup of the day.

Mint water

The foccacia was lovely, and I was delighted to see the touch of fresh mint in the water served to everyone.

Minestrone Soup

Each entree has a choice of soup or salad, so I chose the freshly made soup. I was surprised at the size as it was more of a bowl than the cup that I expected. (The menu is silent on the size). This minestrone was so good it could easily be eaten on its own with the focaccia for a full lunch!

Mushroom Lasagne

I ordered the vegetarian mushroom lasagne as my entree. It was chock full of porcini and portabello mushrooms with a creamy bechamel sauce. The sauce had separated a bit, and a clear yellow oil was floating in spots on top of the lasagne. I don't think this is supposed to happen, and it was just a bit too rich and oily for me. Perhaps it was the cheese that weeped the oily spots. At any rate, the four or five bites I was able to eat tasted great. It was just VERY heavy. As I walked out, I saw lots of fresh looking salads and artful sandwiches so I would definitely come back and try one of these.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Last meat-eating adventure.
I alluded to a diet that I've started in a previous post, and one of it's key features is that it is vegetarian. Last week Dad & I visited a cute tofu house in Japantown, which coincidentally ended up being the last time I had any meat/poultry/fish product except for the Thanksgiving Day diet holiday. It wasn't planned that way, it just happened. More about the diet at the end of the post. DooBu is a gem of a place, with prompt and friendly service.

Tofu Display

I was quite attracted by the artful soybean display in the front window.

DooBu Interior

The bar/serving space was open and cheery and looked quite clean.

DooBu Interior

The seating area was nicely decorated with antique musical instruments and art pieces.

Deep Fried Fish Appetizer

After we ordered, the first thing to appear was a whole deep fried white fish for each of us, a special offering of hospitality.

Pickles & Condiments

Then followed the 'banchan', or accompaniments to the meal. A nice selection, including kimchee of course. I understand that that these are supposed to be eaten with the meal, but I've never been with anyone where these things have actually lasted until the meal came!

Clam Soon Tofu

I ordered one of their combinations, and my special soft tofu soup came out first, the Clam Soon Tofu. The waitress asked if I would like the traditional raw egg cracked into the boiling soup, and I nodded yes. (The heat of the boiling soup cooks it anyway). The soup was good, and had a generous portion of very fresh clams in it.

Spicy Pork

The Spicy Pork was good too. I forgot that something that has "spicy" in its name likely is. It was very good, but the reason I'm not a fan of very spicy food is that it anesthetizes your tongue, so you really don't get to taste the other food. But since we'd pretty much finished off the banchan, and I'd made quite a bit of headway into my Clam Soon, before I started this dish, it really didn't matter.


Dad ordered the Bulgogi, described as Korean style sliced beef BBQ. He liked it, and I tried a bite as well. It was tender and nicely sauced.

Black Rice

Our meals were also accompanied by a mixture of white and black rice, which was flavorful and hearty.


And we were given a little dessert treat, a yogurt flavored drink I recognized by the bottle shape, Yakult. Despite the Korean lettering, I raised it and said, ohh Japanese?? And the waitress replied, "No, Korean". I said "Yakult?", and she said, "Oh yes, you know!" Well, it's Japanese actually, developed for ingesting friendly bacteria pleasantly, and now has become popular all over the globe. Nice touch to a very pleasant meal.

Ayurvedic Diet: I wrote about meeting Dr. Arya Bhushan Bhardwaj earlier this month, and I had a private consultation with him. My South Beach Diet had stalled, and although I knew I could go back to Phase I (nearly no carbs) to get off the plateau, it might be worth a try to see what an Ayurvedic discipline might have to offer. It is more than a diet, incorporating exercises (breathing & kicking) and herbs. Basically it's lassi, dal, fresh raw salad, basmati rice and steamed vegetables. I thought although unlikely I could stick to what looked to me as a modified fast for 40 days, if I even get close it will probably move me forward. A little over a week into it, I feel great! This may be tough on my blogging as bowls of dal and rice aren't very photogenic, but I trust I'll figure out something to blog about ;-).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mashed Potatoes

Superb Mashed Potatoes. Linda made the most amazing mashed potatoes for our Thanksgiving feast and noted that it was adapted from a recent Sunset magazine. They always have good recipes!

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes


3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1 1/2 cups warm buttermilk
1/3 cup butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


Sauté garlic in hot oil in a pot over medium heat 3 minutes. Add 8 cups water, chicken broth, potatoes, and 1/4 tsp. salt; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Drain potatoes, and return to the pot. Add buttermilk, butter, pepper, and remaining 1 tsp. salt. Mash potatoes with a large fork or potato masher to desired consistency. Just barely mash, do not 'whip'. Sprinkle evenly with chives; serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

These may not make a stylish photo, but you won't care when you put a taste of these on your tongue!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Japanese Carrot Sticks

Japanese carrot sticks. When Anna of Morsels & Musings invited me to participate in the I thought of all kinds of fun things to make. When I thought to narrow it down, it occurred to me that what it would be fun to share something simple, quick and unique during this season of compressed time. So I'm entering a recipe for Japanese carrot sticks in Anna's festive food fair event, a simple recipe which gives the unwarned a surprising and pleasing taste sensation.

Besides the carrots, it takes just three simple ingredients, and time.

Japanese Carrot Sticks

~1 lb. carrot sticks (marinade needs to cover the sticks completely)
1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Put the carrots in a shallow covered dish, or ziplocking bag. Bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil, then pour over the carrots. Marinate from 4-8 hours, remove from marinade and serve. I like to time it so the sticks come out in 4 hours, then if there are any leftovers, those can be put back into the marinade for up to another 4 hours, which deepens the seasonings and can soften the carrots slightly. After the first 4 hours the carrot sticks are lightly, yet distinctly flavored and maintains a nice crisp crunch.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Memories 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cranberry Orange Relish

Here's to Mom.
This Cranberry Orange Relish has been a standard at our Thanksgiving table every since my mother 'stole' the recipe from Aunt Dorothy when I was a child. I slightly altered it, using less sugar and only partially 'grinding' the ingredients in a VitaMix so you can distinguish the pretty fruit. Mom wouldn't mind, she was the queen of inventiveness in the kitchen (imagine waking up to split pea flour pancakes one school morning...) she was always tweaking things! The original recipe is at my spot on Group Recipes. Happy Thanksgiving once again!

Shitake box

hroom Madness. This time I really did it. I ordered four boxes of shitake mushrooms, ready to 'flush'. For some reason I imagined that these were somehow grown in the fashion of reconstituting dried ones, will keep forever until you add water. NOT. When the boxes arrived from Fungi Perfecti, they were stamped 'Live open within 30 days", oops. These will each produce every 2-4 weeks for 16 weeks for a total of 2-3 lbs. of mushrooms.

Baby block of Shitake

So I opened a box, and reading the directions, I found that I could skip to step five (no 5 day hibernation in the fridge) since mushrooms were already visibly growing on the surface. The instructions also said not to use chlorinated water, or distilled water. So what better to mist it with several times a day than our local Crystal Geyser spring water.

Shitake with Chopsticks

The instructions recommend using chopsticks to hold the plastic away from the growing mushrooms, and putting it in indirect light. I had the perfect corner in my kitchen nook area.

Shitake tent

So here we have it, the tented shitake garden. Now I just need to keep it moist by spritzing it with the Crystal Geyser Water, watching the plastic to be sure that it has moisture on it so I know the right moisture balance is in place. Stay tuned, and I'll be cooking from my mushroom garden in a couple weeks!

This post just begs to be entered into , hosted by Truffle of What's on my Plate.

According to Fungi Perfecti's catalog, where there is a nifty table of medicinal properties of various mushrooms, Shitake or lentinula edodes have the following "Targeted Therapeutic Effects":
  • anti-bacterial
  • anti-candida
  • anti-tumor
  • anti-viral
  • blood pressure
  • blood sugar
  • cholesterol reducer
  • immune system
  • kidney tonic
  • liver tonic
  • sexual potentiator
  • stress reducer
Wow! There's a lot under those caps! And by the way, the Founder and President of Fungi Perfecti, Paul Stamets, has been actively involved in the ecological clean up of the San Francisco Bay after the recent oil spill.

And last, but not least -- HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

AFTERNOTE: Paul Stamets will be speaking at the Oakland Museum on December 1st at 4 p.m. for the MSSF 38th Annual Mushroom Fair.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sesame cookie

Where to get your Asian grocery fix in Marin.
Asian Market is the place, located in San Rafael near both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, hidden away behind Peet's Coffee. I had stopped at Jo-Ann's this afternoon to pick up some items she'd picked up for me at Costco (isn't it fun to have girlfriends where you call each other from inside favorite stores and say "Hi, I'm at "fill-in-the-blank", is there anything I can pick up for you?"). I asked her if she knew of anywhere I could get inari skins since I was loathe to go all the way to Japantown in San Francisco just for these. But one of my to-bring items for Thanksgiving at Linda's had morphed from 'green salad' to 'muchies' so I wanted to bring something a little unusual - barazushi-stuffed inari, hence the search for the skins. Jo-Ann flipped to the Asian Market in the phone book so fast and handed me the phone that it was dizzying, or was it that new diet I started on Sunday? (That will be revealed in another post... it's a doozey) So I quickly called and confirmed that indeed there were inari skins at the store.

So on the way back from Jo-Ann's I stopped in, and of course, filled my basket with things in addition to the inari-skins. It's nice to have a cross-section of Asian goods locally, even fresh items. The woman at the counter asked if I was the one that called about the skins -- good memory, and friendly. One of the things I spotted was this sesame cookie -- rather large at about 8" in diameter. Thought it would be a nice sweet snack for Dad & I. We had it while watching a movie Tuesday evening - it's like fruit leather, but just lots of sesame seeds held together by something sweet. I also tried my latest toy out for this photo. Since it's getting dark so soon, I invested in a little portable 'lighting studio' so I can take better photos of some of my home creations, or products such as this.

One last bit of flavor, as I started out the door of the Asian Market, I spied some rather large eggs in a flat near the door. I asked "What kind of eggs are these?". "Duck eggs", was the response, and to my "Ooooh", she quickly responded, "but these are not for you -- they contain baby ducks, a delicacy". "Baby ducks? You mean, you boil these like an egg, crack it and eat a baby duck inside?". "Yes, but these are not for you." , she warned. Yeah, I've had some 'challenging' food items before, and I don't think I would go out of my way to try this. She confirmed that these are popular in most Asian cultures. Google is great, I quickly found out these are called "Balut", and found a good write-up at Wikipedia.

Asian Market

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Staying power with good food fresh and fast.
My friend Jo-Ann introduced me a year or so ago to a good Chinese place in San Rafael, Ping's Mandarin Restaurant which as been around since 1993. Since we were in the neighborhood, Dad and I stopped in for lunch the other day.

Hot & Sour Soup

The soup of the day was Hot & Sour; it was fine. (I don't like Hot & Sour in general, so I can't wax eloquent about this one).

Chicken with Mixed Vegetables

Dad enjoyed the Vegetable Deluxe Chicken. And he enjoyed it the following day too - such generous portions, and it was very fresh. As you can see it was also made with chicken breast, which gets my vote.

Beef with Baby Bok Choy and Black Mushrooms

I tried the Beef with Black Mushrooms and Baby Bok Choy. It was also very good with tender beef slices, baby bok choy with 'bite', and smooth intensely flavored mushrooms. The lunch specials also came with a crab bite appetizer and fried rice (you can also have noodles or plain rice). This is a family-friendly place, and there are often special coupons arriving in your mailbox, so keep watch and try it out if you have a craving for Chinese.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Is there any restaurant that you could eat at every day? For a number of years, I was pretty close to doing so at Fuzio in San Francisco's Embarcadero Center. It is in the same building as my former company, and it is still the freshest promptest friendliest. I used to sit at the counter by the open kitchen and marvel at the camaraderie while dishes literally whizzed down the line to the last dress up with pretty green 'confetti', and out to the tables, hot or cold as expected.

Blue Cheese Chicken Salad

So when I was in the Financial District the other day, I just had to have my Fuzio fix. I chose to enjoy the Blue Cheese Chicken Salad. The blue cheese dressing does a great job of melding the chicken, romaine, apples, and pasta together and the diced bright red tomato makes a perky garnish. Not only was the restaurant as I remembered, even after a nearly a couple years of absence some of the staff were the same and they remembered me, as well as the friendly manager. No wonder there is a line out the door every day!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bay Thai Cuisine

Thai to die for! Now here's a tiny treasure with cheap eats. Dad, Daniel & I met at Bay Thai Cuisine for lunch the other day, and went out sockless (it knocked our socks off!). Cash only, but that's fine if you're prepared. The staff and owner are friendly, and eager to get the spicing just to your taste.

Hot Stuff

And if it isn't quite hot enough, on every table there is a homemade jalepeno sauce and chili flakes at the ready.

Beef & Broccoli

Dad had the beef and broccoli, and said it was great. Evidently since there was not so much as a grain of rice left on his plate!

Yellow Curry

I ordered the yellow curry with chicken, Thai pumpkin and other veggies, and requested a heat level between mild and medium. The seasonings were done to perfection, and its not often that I spoon the sauce directly into my mouth like a soup! This was superb! And the brown rice did not require an extra charge.

Minced Pork with steamed veggies and silver noodles

They really went all out in customizing a pork dish so that Daniel could eat it on his special no-carbs diet. They sauteed the pork slices and place them atop steamed veggies, replacing the usually cabbage in the dish. Silver noodles, rather than rice were provided as a side since they are very low-carb, being made out of mung bean sprouts. Daniel was quite impressed and said that it is better than any Thai food he's tried in Berkeley. It may be tiny (the kitchen and dining room are equal in size), but it packs a punch!