Supersnack – Spirulina Popcorn

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Spirulina Popcorn

I recently hosted my first workshop on “healthy eating made simple” sharing my learnings so far from the nutrition course I’m taking. At first I was stumped on what to focus on, but finally decided on the topic of simplifying healthy eating. I personally found it to be confusing and overwhelming to keep up with what exactly was the best diet for me and my family’s health!

Going back to the basics by adding more vegetables into every meal and reducing processed foods can add so much of the nutrients missing from our current American diet. One of the ways I’ve been heeding my own advice is in the snacking arena. With two small kids, snacking can be an all day obsession – whether to keep boredom at bay, to distract from a tantrum, to bribe for good behavior, to simply satiate to stave off hanger. So much power in these in between bites!

There are a lot of default kid snacks – much of which are made with refined flours and loaded with sugars. They’re easy and convenient and the kids love them – but there’s absolutely no nutritional value to them and these simple carbs turn into sugar after we digest them. Plus I tend to overeat these snacks when I’m hungry and then end up feeling really sluggish and generally crappy afterwards. wonk wonk.

To avoid them I’ve eliminated things like crackers, pretzels, chips, cereal, etc. (which are all of my weaknesses too!) from my shopping cart altogether and instead (still working on) filling the cupboard with healthier alternatives, one of which are organic popcorn kernels. 

They’re cheap, and so easy to pop at home for homemade popcorn to top with whatever spice you choose. Popcorn is also a whole grain and low in calories and most importantly for me, satisfies the crunch and salty umami cravings with the flavor toppings I choose.

I’ve been making popcorn in a large pot and sprinkling seasonings like old-bay, seasoned salt, furikake, nutritional yeast, and topping off with spirulina for its powers as a protein-filled, antioxidant-boosting superfood – because why not make your popcorn a vehicle for some nutritious goodness too??

Here’s an official recipe for a popcorn seasoning that I’ve free-handed for a while until I googled for some real measurements.


 

Spirulina Popcorn

adapted from Goop.com

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup non-GMO popping corn
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon spirulina
  • 3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne

Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a large metal pasta pot (or similar) over medium-high heat.
  2. Add two corn kernels, cover with the lid leaving it slightly ajar, and cook until the kernels pop.
  3. Add the ¼ cup of corn and cook with the lid slightly ajar, shaking the pot every 30 seconds or so, until almost all of the corn has popped (you’ll know because there will suddenly be much longer breaks between popping sounds). Cover with the lid and turn off the heat while you prepare the seasoning.
  4. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, spirulina, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and cayenne in a large bowl and mix together with a rubber spatula.
  5. Add the popped corn and toss with the spatula (or your hands) to evenly distribute the seasoning.

Note:

One of my favorite things to do at a local movie theater we used to live near is to concoct my own mix of flavorings with the popcorn spices the theater provided. I would spend ten minutes sprinkling and shaking while my husband would save me a seat for the movie. If you’re wondering where this was – it’s the Sunshine theater in downtown NY – not sure if they still do this though – plus I would now bring my own nutritional yeast 🙂 !

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Putting veggies first – a mini tip

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It’s been a busy summer so far with kids out of school and getting distracted by all the fun summer activities to be had here in NYC. I’ve also been diving into a holistic nutrition course to educate myself on a topic that I’ve been passionate about. The course has given me the focus I need and so far it’s been enlightening and inspiring. I hope to incorporate more of what I learn here!

Eating more greens and vegetables is a no brainer for optimal health – and is a common denominator in most dietary theories. As I’m trying to be more intentional about incorporating vegetables at the family dinner table I find that I need a better strategy than habitually keeping greens an afterthought, scrambling together a crudite platter for dinner. Nothing wrong with some raw veggies and dip, but I know I can do better.

With two little kids, there is a very small and unforgiving window of feeding time, as many parents know. So my goal is to have the veggies ready along with everything else served up for dinner – instead of finishing up the salad or roasted veggies halfway through the rest of their dinner.

One day I started dinner prep with vegetables in mind and found everything else fell into place.

Light bulb moment.

Start with the veggies.

I found that this simple mental shift was helpful in ensuring I prioritized greens to have ready right at dinner time.

So, I put veggies first.

I get the produce out of the fridge so that it’s visible. Get the peeling, washing, chopping, drying, etc. out of the way.

I admit this is not revolutionary or maybe not a real cooking tip, but for me the  just taking the time be intentional about something revealed an easy solution that starts with a shift in perspective.

Ideally I’d like to get to the point where I’m a meal planning machine – churning out meals planned well in advance, always having frozen back up meals stocked, not having to rely on pizza delivery (is it just me?) but this baby step – considering vegetables first before I start cooking – will one day take me closer to achieving meal prep glory.

Please share any of your tips for getting more vegetables on your dinner table. I’d love to hear them!

 

 

 

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Golden milk two ways: sleepy time and afternoon tea 

On my good days I try to switch up my afternoon coffee routine with a cup of golden milk. When I first heard about this traditional Ayurvedic medicinal drink made with tumeric I was intrigued and was willing to give it a try for all its great health benefits. Tumeric has anti-inflammatory properties and combined with the other ingredients it’s a powerhouse of a health elixir. And the name, golden milk drew me in – sounded like a luxurious way to kick off my late afternoon to tide me over before the dinner prep frenzy.

Some people might think this process is a bit involved and it’s defnitely not as simple as brewing a bag of tea, but since I make my coffee using the pour over method, this recipe has a familiar ring of ritual. Gathering the various spices, warming up the milk in a pot, whisking the coconut oil together to melt it all into a golden cup of goodness is all part of the experience and perhaps part of its health benefits. It forces you to slow down and take in the scents, the textures and the transformation of the different ingredients into a creamy golden tonic that is comforting and healing.

I’ve also tried a recipe dubbed as an “evening tea” with its addition of chamomile and it is quite wonderful and calming for unwinding in the evening.

So here they are – the two versions of golden milk tea, which could be consumed anytime of the day, but make it when you need it and see how you like it.

Note: Black pepper helps with the bioavailability of Tumeric – allows your body to absorb the good stuff (curcumin). It also adds little kick and warming quality to the drink.

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EATING IN KOREA

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We recently came back from a quick 9 day trip to Korea to visit my dad’s side of the family. There are lots of facets to look back on this memorable trip but it was an interesting experience seeing the country and its food culture through the eyes of my Japanese-American husband and two American children.

I’ve visited Korea before and grew up in an immigrant household where we mostly ate Korean food so culture shock was not expected, but traveling as a mom of two kids was definitely a far cry from my last visit as a care-free college student. With my companions (hubby, a toddler and preschooler) in tow, here are some of my observations about eating in Korea.

+ Abundance is a word that comes to mind when thinking about eating in Korea. There’s an abundance of what’s on the table – a stimulating sensorial array of small side dishes (banchan), bubbling stews, pungent pickled things. You can also expect to eat in abundance and not ever feel like you will miss a meal because there’s a restaurant on every corner. You will also have food coming at you from your host or whoever you are dining with. It’s a cultural thing to show your hospitality and love through food and offering it whether they want it or not is not the issue. My husband has already been hazed in this tradition by my parents and extended family. To put it bluntly, Koreans are generally food pushers. Don’t take offense, if someone plops food on your plate, whether you asked for it or not.

“A meal is not complete for a Korean, without soup or Kimchi,” – My aunt

+ Kid seating.  High chairs were a rare commodity. Unless you’re specifically at a family friendly restaurant, or at a theme park for kids (e.g. Lotte World), don’t expect to find any high-chairs or boosters for your kids. In most restaurants we found that there is a section for Western style tables and chairs, or in the more traditional setting of sitting on the floor with a low table. We ended up in the traditional setting most of the time. My kids spend a lot of time on the floor anyway so they didn’t seem to have minded this too much. What they did mind was taking their shoes on and off every time we had a meal ate these restaurants.

With the lack of high chairs we had to rely on lots of distractions to keep them from roaming around since they weren’t strapped down. Thank goodness for Pororo cartoons! (if you don’t know who this cartoon character is, your kids will be indoctrinated as a Pororo fan as soon as you board the plane via the branded kids plane meals and his presence all over Korea!)

+ Kid Food. There’s no special kids menu. And I kind of love this. The expectation is that the kids eat what the adults are eating. Because of the abundance of variety and omni-presence of rice there is always something that kids can eat and turn into a meal. My kids got by like this without having to resort to mac & cheese or chicken nuggets (not that we had the option!).

+ Breakfast. In Korea there’s no specific food you eat during “breakfast” like here in the states. The younger generation in Korea likely adopts a simple western style breakfast but at least within my extended family – they seemed to stick to the same traditional morning meal which is anything you would eat for lunch or dinner! But typically breakfast is comprised of soup and rice with some banchan. I’m fascinated by what people eat for breakfast around the word, there’s so much variety. Have you seen the NYT Magazine piece (from a few years go) on what kids around the world eat for breakfast?

Before we embarked on this trip, I had anxiety around how my kids would adapt to the new country, the language barrier and Korean food 24/7 but I was proud and relieved to see how  adaptable and resilient they were to their new surroundings.

It was also nice to have the astute and blunt observations of a 4 year old. My son exclaimed “that’s a weird breakfast!” at 8am in front of a table set with a steaming fish casserole with banchan around it. We were definitely not having blueberry pancakes that morning.

Perhaps my kids are still too young to have any sort of culture shock, since they’re still getting grounded in their own reality. Through this quick international trip, I hope the sights, the smells, and tastes of Korea are woven into their sense of heritage and family roots.

WEEKEND LINKS

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It’s a sunny weekend here in the Bay area – we’ll be spending it going to BBQs. Enjoy soaking in the summer days – we’re in the thick of it!

Here are a few interesting things I spotted this week.

Round-up of beautiful kitchen gear 

Bone broth to-go please

Reduce food waste

Taste of Syria in Paris

Daniel Boulud’s Aioli on everything 

The philosopher chef and Buddhist nun

LINKS FOR THE WEEKEND

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Photo Credit: Curiousnut.com

Hope you had a nice short week and enjoy the weekend coming up.  I promised my four year old we would make pizza tonight so I  stocked up at Trader Joe’s who makes it so easy with their pre-made pizza dough. Toppings requested are pepperoni, mushrooms and cheese. Classic.

Have you ever wondered why prices for produce in Chinatown is so low? I’ve always been baffled by this and questioned its quality from time to time but this article
helps explain.

We just got a charcoal grill and my second thought (after Galbi – Korean BBQ) was Yakitori (Japanese BBQ).

Do you own a rice cooker? Do you cook other things in it? I’ve seen my mom steam dumplings but that’s about it. Apparently you can do a lot more according to this cookbook that’s on my wishlist. 

There’s a farmer’s market happening everyday in the bay area. One of the reasons why I love it here.   Here’s a schedule if you’re in town.

And while this blog is really an escape and creative outlet for me, I have to acknowledge this week’s tragic headlines. This post from one of my favorite food blogs is right on.

 

 

FRIDAY LINKS

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Photo Credit: Food52, James Ransom

Happy Friday! Thought I’d start a series sharing links (instead of hoarding them on my bookmark tab 🙂 ) that caught my eye this week. If you’re taking a break, you can check them out below.

The easiest way to de-stem Kale I’ve ever seen! No Knife needed. Demo starts at 1:40 mark in video.

This looks like a fun project – Drawing daily purchases.

Nice to see recyclable disposable coffee pods.

Farmer’s market fruit salad recipe for the weekend.

Weekend decluttering mini-project.

It’s officially summer. Are you making cold-brewed coffee yet?

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, the Musical at Children’s Fairyland. If you have a toddler, you probably know this beloved book by heart.

 

MA-PO TOFU

mapo-tofuIt was one of those week nights I was stumped on what to make for dinner. I could possibly describing most week nights! But I stood numbly in the kitchen and tried to come up with something before hanger crept into the house. In the fridge I saw tofu and some ground pork I bought for meatballs and then boom! ma-po tofu came to mind which is interesting because … meatballs to ma-po tofu? Plus, I’ve never made it before nor have I pinned it, which is the next best thing, right?

Ma-po tofu wasn’t a staple take out or chinese restaurant dish for my family growing up.  My husband actually introduced me to the dish during our dating years. Little did I know the sauce came from a little instant pack from the Asian grocery store where all you have to do is add the fresh ingredients. AKA bachelor food. I was actually quite impressed, because he’s great at visual presentation so it possibly made up a lot for the taste. And hey, I was in love and happy to have dinner made for me. It could have been buttered toast and yum, swoon. Ah, young love.

Well, back in the weeknight kitchen, I looked up the recipe and found one from epicurious.com whose recipes haven’t failed me yet. I saw a key ingredient was bean paste but didn’t specify what kind. As a home cook who rotates between Korean and Japanese food, fermented bean paste is a pantry staple. I had a choice between Japanese Miso and Korean Duenjang and I’m guessing Sichuan cuisine has its own version. I substituted the bean paste with the Korean duenjang because it has a much more pungent and intense flavor than Japanese miso, which I thought was a closer substitution to the flavors I’ve experienced in ma-po tofu. And it turned out lovely! I also happened to have some Sichuan peppercorn that I’ve never used. I toasted and crushed them to garnish I had an impression that it would be overly spicy so didn’t mix it in for the kids, but it’s actually mild and has a licorice-like flavor. Amazing. So next time, I’ll be including it in the entire dish for the kids as well.

Served with a side of veggies and mixed grain rice, I would also file this under healthy and kid friendly, and easy!

After the jump is the recipe from Epicurious.com that I adapted. Enjoy!

Note: After looking up several recipes, it seems this dish is traditionally spicy and fiery, this version with the Korean fermented bean paste was not. It just has the lovely fermented pungent umami flavors that my kids love.  I’ll probably try one of the spicier versions with its just me and the hubby.

Image credit: splendidtable.org

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FOOD TV

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I have a confession, I enjoy binge watching cooking shows and food related TV like there is no tomorrow. There, I said it. I suppose that wasn’t much of a confession and if you’re reading this blog then you can probably relate!

We cut the cable cord when we moved to the Bay Area two years ago and have enjoyed all that the ROKU and streaming media has to offer. I felt like I hit the jackpot this past Sunday afternoon while my little one napped and my 3 year old (and mommy) snuck in some screen time. Its been a rough few days with a virus going through my family, so I needed this downtime. So I went looking for some food related media naturally.

The PBS Roku app is full of food show gems of my childhood before glossy, high-production Food Network shows hit the scene. I remember as a kid spending afternoons after church watching Martin Yen, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Lidia Bastianich, etc enjoying them thoroughly and being entertained like it was a Saturday morning cartoon.

So while watching “Baking with Julia” I clicked on the RELATED SHOWS button and a bunch of amazing quality programing you can expect from PBS popped up. There’s a nice variety of content from full fledged series shows like “Mind of a Chef” and shorter web content like “Kitchen Vignettes.”

Here are some selects with a link to an episode I was able to check out before I had to address reality and get my waking baby and think about what to make for dinner. I think I’ll also add writing a check to PBS for a nice Sunday afternoon. Enjoy!

 

 

CIOPPINO CHRISTMAS

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Growing up I didn’t have a traditional Christmas meal. Thanksgiving was a feast and my mom made Turkey religiously, but somehow Christmas fell off the radar in the extravagant holiday meal department. After morning church service and eating lunch there my parents were usually spent and rested for the remainder of the day.  I think we may have had Jewish Christmas dinner at Chinese buffets. I’m not completely sure, but I’d believe it if I was told that’s what we did. Anyway…

Being a seafood lover I was happy to learn that it was Dungeness Crab season in the bay area during the winter when we moved here from the east coast. So obviously, the Christmas meal decision in my house was done – Dungeness Crab. Unfortunately the season was cancelled this year due to some gnarly toxic bacteria that is infesting the crabs. So I turned to the great internet to search for answers to what to eat for Christmas!

I am not a fan of ham or goose … so I decided to stick to a seafood theme. Hence Cioppino, which apparently originated in San Francisco. (Pat on the back for keeping in local.)

I found a great recipe on epicurious.

As usual, I have trouble following recipes to a tee — using precisely every ingredient. This is a very forgiving stew, but important to keep in mind the relatively quick cooking time of seafood. Throw in the fresh seafood close to when you’re ready to serve.

Notes and substitutions:

  • Whole Foods ran out of clam juice! So I used lobster juice instead. I don’t think it made a huge difference, but likely added a subtle umami, briney flavor
  • Instead of clams I used mussels which turned out lovely
  • To keep costs down (without sacrificing taste, of course!) I used Cod instead of Halibut and used frozen shrimp and scallops
  • I definitely didn’t skip the king crab, but I served it separately and not in the stew which made it feel more extravagant

Continue reading “CIOPPINO CHRISTMAS”