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Truffle Flavored Tuscan Kale Chips

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Although I highly recommend visiting Italy whenever possible, one  need not go to Tuscany to enjoy the healthful benefits inherent in eating Tuscan kale.  It is in season now, at least here in Portland it is, and I can’t get enough!  Kale is  packed with cholesterol-lowering benefits, especially when it is steamed.  You see,  the fiber-related components in kale do a much better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed.  However, I’m going to talk about baking it today.

Kale chips can be expensive.  The most reasonably-priced ones that I’ve found come from Trader Joe’s.  However, these chips are very delicate and break into crumbles a little too easily.  They are flavorful, with some kind of cheesy, spicy powder all over them, which makes them messy to eat, in addition to being crumbly…but they do taste good.

ImageAs with most foods, I prefer to make my own.  They taste so much better when they are warm, straight out of the oven.    I have experimented with different methods of cooking them and have finally arrived at the one that I think is most successful.  The secret ingredient?  Truffle oil!  Truffle oil is popular with chefs because it not only tastes great, it is also much less expensive than actual truffles, while possessing some of the same flavors and deep, earthy aroma. The emergence and growth of truffle oil has led to an increase in the availability of foods that are flavored with truffles, in an era when the price of truffles has pushed them out of reach for most folks. Real truffle oil (which contains actual truffle, and more truffle than oil instead of the other way around) can go for $90 an ounce.  The stuff that I buy is ridiculously expensive, but….

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I have just discovered a very inexpensive truffle oil at Trader Joe’s that works almost  as well as this fancy brand that I keep on hand.  In fact, I’m planning to switch.  Why pay more when you don’t have to?  The Trader Joe’s stuff is delicious! The flavor is milder and less cloying, but that is good, because the fancy stuff costs so much…and it goes off if I don’t use it up fairly quickly.

Making these chips is ridiculously simple.  All one needs do is tear the kale into 3-4″ pieces and toss them gently with less than 1 TBS. of truffle oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt…The Meadow, one of my favorite gourmet food shops here in Portland has some delicious truffle sea salt that you can order online.  Simply click the link and visit their great website.

  Lay the oiled, lightly salted kale pieces out on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees until they are dry and crispy.

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Enjoy your delicious kale chips crisp and warm, straight out of the oven.  That’s when they taste best.

Ridiculously simple to make, and such a healthful snack!

Yum-o!

Considering Food and Booze

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I have always cared about what I have eaten, but not to the extent that I now do….and alcohol has never played a prominent role in my life… other than to spark a mild  interest in studying the cultivation of grapes and the manufacture of wine, ( since I have family in the wine business in the Napa Valley).  I would love to take a sommelier course…which is on my bucket list, but that remains in the distant and faint future.

My husband and I do enjoy going to wineries and learning whatever we can about wine, just for fun, and we have a nice collection of bottles at home.  Most recently, we visited Ceago Vinegarden  in Nice,  a Biodynamic Winery located on the shores of gorgeous Clear Lake.   (I will write about that soon, and share photos…)     Interesting stuff, wine….  I’ve just never been much of a drinker.    I go months and months without so much as a sip of it, and during those times, I do not miss it.  I will occasionally have a designer cocktail, such as the plantain margaritas from the Mexican restaurant that I wrote about awhile back, or will have a nice glass of wine with dinner…but rarely, because I have a completely different attitude about what I put into my body now.

Fresh out of high school, I wanted to be a nutritionist, but once I took all of those associated science classes, I realized what I *really* wanted to do (with regard to food) was cook it….so I did.  I trained and cooked in a number of restaurants over the years, and picked up as much knowledge as I could.  I took a lot of cooking courses, too, all related to vegetarianism, and am told today, that I cook well.

This is my personal philosophy of food and drink:  Before I eat anything, I always ask myself, “Can I afford this?”    Except for the occasional special treat (such as Lauretta Jean’s pie, for example) or that cold brew with my vegetarian Sloppy Joe at Hedge House, down the street, I view food and drink as fuel.  So I view my body the same way I would view my car if I were to plan a trip.  I’m not going to plan a long trip without putting some premium fuel into my Mercedes.  Period.

I am in grad school now, and still working full time…..MORE than full time, actually.  I work very long hours and I need to provide myself with the fuel and exercise that is necessary to keep me going.  Therefore, just as I would fill my car with petrol, I fill my body with things that add energy value to keep me going.  It’s really as simple as that.

If I am going to have a drink of alcohol (and I *never* have more than one…and I have a hard time even drinking THAT), I ask myself, “What am I going to be doing tomorrow?  Do I need energy to complete something….or will it be a day when I can take things easy for awhile?”  If the latter case is true, and usually when we’re on vacation, I might order wine with dinner or the occasional margarita or something….but in most cases, I drink water with lemon.  That makes me feel a lot better than alcohol can.

A lot of people claim that booze makes them feel good.  I’ve never felt that way about it. I have never thought it was fun to get drunk, and I’ve never enjoyed being around others that drank heavily.  I have never viewed one’s drinking to drown one’s sorrows as being a realistic endeavor.  I’ve always felt that drinking CAUSES more sorrows than it drowns…but that’s just my personal view, and I’m not knocking anyone that doesn’t share it, so please don’t take this personally.  I just do what *I* need to do to be more efficient, because if I manage to fall behind, I might not ever catch up!

eating pom

Today’s breakfast was steel cut oatmeal with 1/2 cup of quinoa in it.  To that, I added 1/2 cup heated, organic mixed berries.  Dr. Greger (my nutrition guru – Click the link…) says that flash frozen fruits and vegs are nutritionally as good  than fresh ones…so I take advantage of their lower prices when fresh berry season ends.  I enjoy fresh organic produce when I can eat it the same day it is harvested.  The flavors are so delicious and the textures are so delightful….but today, after berry season has passed, I simply heated some frozen berries and let those sweeten my oats.  I added a touch of real cinnamon (most  “cinnamon”sold in the US is not actually cinnamon, but instead, the ground up bark from a tree that is related to the cinnamon tree.  The fake stuff is ok, but it does not have the same nutritional benefits as the real deal.)    Yum-o!  It was goooood!!

So with that….I return to my regularly scheduled work…work…work…!    Have a great day, everyone.  🙂

Portland, Oregon – The Colors of Autumn

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No matter how you look at it, Portland is a beautiful city.  Its distinct four seasons change her look dramatically from month to month, sometimes draping her in a swath of floral bouquets and, at other times, splashing her with rich, warm color that can rival any New England landscape.

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No matter what the changes are, they are dramatic…..breathtaking, in fact, even after the leaves have fallen and the barren trees stretch their naked branches up to touch the weeping winter sky.

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Not quite ready to say good bye, the last of the summer crocus peeks through the soil in a fanfare of color and charm.

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The creamy white mushrooms hidden among the piñon pine needles calm the soul and lend an air of quiet solitude among the array of festive color.

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…and next spring’s roses grow their protective armor in preparation for their own showcase that will occur after the winter thaw.

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This is autumn in Portland, where my favorite pumpkins grow and thrive in the organic garden, bringing smiles to children’s faces and love within my heart.  Living here is truly living, and it makes me feel so glad to be awake and alive. I feel fulfilled, and have intent and purpose…a reason to get up every morning and face the new day with happiness and joy.

pumpkin

Even the old feral cats that hide themselves among the bushes, know they are loved.  They are cared for in this city, where people set out dishes of food for them and offer them shelter when the cold winds sweep through after the autumn gives way to the winter months.

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The birds flock here as well, welcomed by the abundances of houses from which to choose….but beware of the cats!

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There is always someplace safe to nest and get in out of the cold.

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The little squirrels keep a watchful eye out for fallen chestnuts or popcorn from passers by.

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Portland is a beautiful city.  I think I might stay here for awhile.  It is a place for family and friends.  It is a place for art and culture, for good food and good times.  Portland  is a place for love and nature.  It is a good place to be, no matter what the time of year.

pumpkin patch

I love Portland.

Cowboy Eggs – from a part-time Vegan

After years of not eating eggs and dairy, I have now re-introduced those things back into my diet….albeit a tiny bit, less than once a week….but enough to no longer consider myself vegan.  One thing that I love to make is what I call my “Cowboy Eggs”.  This is a simple, yet delicious dish that you can whip up in no time.

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Ingredients

1 large  jalapeño (seeded and diced

1 egg

1/8 cup shredded cheddar (VERY sharp!)

1/4 large avocado

1 corn tortilla – torn into pieces

1 heaping TBL. salsa (I use my own homemade)

1 TBL chopped fresh cilantro

slight splash EVOO

salt and peppa

Serves 1

Begin by cooking the  jalapeño in the olive oil.  Add corn tortilla and cook until soft.  add egg.  Let set for 1 minute, then scramble together with other ingredients.  Add salsa.  Turn off heat.  Add cheese.  Add cilantro.  Toss chopped avocado on top.

 Season to taste with salt/pepper

That’s all there is to it.  However, you can also add garlic and onion, if you want, some spicy hot corn relish, black olives….anything you’d like.  Serve this dish up hot with some contrasting citrus, and you’re all set.  Cowboy eggs.  Tex-Mex breakfast at its best.