Hibernating for the Winter

29- Nesting

Winter is in full swing and all I want to do is hibernate. It’s the perfect time for nesting- working on all those art projects I never have time to complete, trying to catch up on all of our house projects, finally making time to see some art exhibits around town, the books I’ve been wanting to read, the movies I’ve been wanting to see, and lots of cooking. Hibernating requires some good comfort food. I have always taken great comfort in Asian food. All types really. Here are a few of our favorites of the last few weeks.

29- Miso 1

Miso Soup
1-2 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 small Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
4 oz Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Tamari
8 cups Broth (I used 4 cups chicken, 4 cups water)
4-5 oz Udon Noodles
1 cup Frozen Peas
1 cup frozen Corn
Fresh Ginger
1-2 Baby Bok Choy, sliced
8-10 Shrimp, peeled with tails left on (optional)
4 Tbsp Red Miso
1 bunch Cilantro, chopped
3-4 Scallions, chopped

29- Miso 2

Heat a skillet and then add the sesame oil. Add the onion and stir. Cook until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic. Stir. Add the mushrooms. Stir. Add the vinegar and 1 Tbsp tamari and then add the peas and corn. Stir. Turn off the heat and let sit while you prepare the broth. Heat the broth in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the ginger and 1 Tbsp tamari. Bring to a boil. Add the noodles. Turn heat down to medium. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until noodles are soft. Add the onion and mushroom mixture to the broth. If using shrimp, add that next and cook only until done (4-5 minutes). Add bok choy. Turn the heat down a little more and add the miso (you never want to allow the miso to boil as it is fermented and the high heat will kill the living fermented goodness and you will lose nutritional value). Once miso has dissolved, spoon into bowls. Top with Cilantro, scallions, and Srircha (or hot sauce of choice).

29- Kale

And here’s another Kale Salad with a bit of an Asian slant to it. It is a nice accompaniment to soup or to one of our new favorite ways to eat catfish- Teriyaki Catfish. Back in Seattle, Teriyaki was a weekly staple and there were so many yummy places to grab some great Teriyaki on the go.

29- Kale & Catfish

Asian Kale Salad
For the Dressing:
1 clove Garlic
2 Scallions
1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro
1 Tbsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
3 Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar
1 Clementine, peel removed
1-2 tsp Honey

Kale or Kale-Romaine mix
Sea Salt
Carrots, chopped
Radishes, chopped

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in a mini food-processor, grinder or blender. Clean the kale and remove the center veins. Chop the kale leaves in thin bite-size strips and place in bowl. Sprinkle a little salt over and gently massage the kale leaves. Set aside. Chop the carrots, radishes, and romaine if you are using it. Add to the kale. Pour the dressing over and mix.

And about those Clementines- I keep buying those cute little wooden crates filled with them. I usually give a few away and Grant and I both eat a couple a day but there are still always so many that I’ve been dreaming up recipes to incorporate them. Here is another that I adapted from a recipe I found on the internet.

29- Broccoli

Clementine Chicken with Broccoli
Serves 4
For the Sauce:
1 ½ cups Water
Juice + Zest of 1 Clementine
Juice of half a Lemon
⅓ cup Brown Rice Vinegar
3 Tbsp Tamari
½  cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, grated
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
3 Green Onions, chopped
½-1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into small pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp Black Sesame Seeds
½ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Black Pepper
2-3 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
1 small Yellow Onion, chopped
1 bunch Broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces

Pour all ingredients for the sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10 to 15 minutes. Place the chicken pieces into a bowl. When the sauce has cooled, pour 1 cup of it over the chicken, stir to coat, and cover. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours. Reserve the remaining sauce. In another bowl, mix the flour, sesame seeds, salt, and pepper. Add the marinated chicken pieces and stir to coat the chicken. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken into the skillet, and brown on both sides. Place chicken on a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Clean the bottom of the skillet. Heat the skillet (or wok) and add 1 Tbsp oil. Saute the onion, stirring, until it begins to soften. Add the broccoli and stir and then add the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water and then stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over brown rice.

29- Broccoli Chicken

My hibernation has included plenty of tunes on the hi-fi and the low-fi- I’ve been really enjoying Eddie Stubbs’ week night show and listening to the Opry at the Ryman shows as heard through good ole’ WSM 650 AM. I haven’t been out to see as much live music the last couple of months but I hope to catch up soon.

29- Santas

Sundays are my favorite lately for live old school country music. Grant’s been playing with some great young musicians at a funky, smoke-filled double wide called Santa’s Pub. They call themselves Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers and they play 7-9pm. I’ve really enjoyed their sets. There is a whole new group of country music performers and appreciators and I’ve heard some songs I don’t usually hear down on lower Broadway. After their set, Grant and I try to make it over to The Stone Fox where Chris Scruggs holds court with the old timers (and a few youngsters with old souls) he calls them The Air Castle All-Stars. (I have some better photos of them here from when they played at my and Allison’s Red Barn Round-Up party back in November.)

29- Chris & Billy

There we get to hear Billy Robinson on steel playing the same songs he once played with Red Foley, Carl Smith, and even Hank Williams way back in the day. We also get to hear Buddy Spicher on fiddle who has recorded with all the great legends. These guys are the best of the best and that we get to just stop by to hear them play for a little while on a Sunday night truly amazes me.

I’ll close with this fruit nut bread I came up with. It is actually pretty low-fat. I adapted a weight watchers recipe actually, that I found on-line. I love the combination of dried apricots with oats. It is technically a banana bread but came out as a dense fruit bread. In perfect Johnson fashion, we found a way to make it less healthy and enjoyed it the most sliced and toasted with a pat of butter.

29- Fruity Oat Bread

Fruity Oat Bread
1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 cup Rolled Oats
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Sea Salt
3-4 Bananas, very ripe
1/2 cup Mascobado Cane (or Dark Brown Sugar)
2 large egg whites
¼ cup Plain Greek Yogurt
¾ -1 cup chopped Dried Apricots
1 tsp Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside. In medium bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In separate medium bowl, mash bananas with fork. Add sugar and mixing until smooth. Beat in egg whites and yogurt. Combine wet and dry ingredients together for a somewhat smooth consistency. Mix in apricots. Pour into an olive oil greased loaf pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until baking wire (or toothpick) comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the loaf.

How’s The World Treating You

Charlie Louvin at Grimey's 2007.

Tonight, Nashville is mourning the loss of one of its own, Mister Charlie Louvin. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him play live. I believe it was three years ago. He had a new album out and our friend Mike was elated to have him play in his record shop. It was quite crowded but we arrived early and were standing right in front so I could get some photos. As he sang, I noticed a shiny penny on the floor right between Charlie and me. After he played, he reached down, picked up the penny, handed it to me and said, “Don’t say I never gave you anything.” I still have that penny from Charlie Louvin but he gave me so much more- the songs he created with brother Ira years ago will live on forever. Their beautiful harmonies set the bar pretty high for aspiring songbirds. His stage banter was sometimes unsettling- off color jokes, sexist remarks- you never knew what was going to come out of that man’s mouth but when the music started, you suddenly knew the world was truly blessed by his presence.

Charlie's 80th Birthday party at Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree 07/07/2007.

Thank you, Charlie Louvin, and I hope you left knowing just how much better the world is because of your musical contributions.

(And now I plan to write about food that Charlie Louvin would have probably hated!)

On to some cooking… Winter is kicking my butt this year! I have been freezing cold and it just seems more difficult to eat healthy in the winter months. There are not as many yummy fresh seasonal fruits and veggies available to choose from and with the colder temperatures, I think I get an unconscious urge to bulk up with comfort foods.

I try not to eat too many soy products but in moderation, soy can be a healthy substitute for meat and there are many health benefits to eating fermented soy in the form of miso or tofu. We have been experimenting some these past couple of weeks. Here are a few simple recipes we came up with. Grant is the genius behind this first one…

Pan Roasted- Miso Marinated Salmon

2 Tbsp red miso
2 Tbsp tamari
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp warm water
2 pieces salmon
1 tsp olive oil

Mix all ingredients together to form a saucey paste. Place marinade in a bowl and place salmon, skin side down in the marinade for one hour. Flip salmon over for another hour. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon in a cast-iron skillet or any other oven proof dish with a drizzle of olive oil on the bottom to prevent sticking. Roast salmon, skin side down with some of the miso paste on top for approximately 10 minutes. Add more miso paste to top of salmon and then set under high broiler for about 2 minutes until top is brown and bubbly.

Miso Soup

Miso soup can be as easy to make as adding a spoonful of miso to some hot water! This seems too easy for me so I usually have a more elaborate plan… I like to saute onions, tofu, mushrooms, and garlic and then add some Nama Shoyu, brown rice vinegar… In a separate pot, heat some water for noodles. Add in soba noodles. When the noodles are almost done, add in a couple big spoonfuls of miso. Next, add sauteed veggies and some frozen corn. Add some spinach leaves & cilantro and eat it up!

Next, I offer up a few tofu recipes. I will admit, I don’t love tofu by itself and these recipes aren’t the healthiest ways to eat tofu but they do make the tofu taste pretty yummy! One of my very first introductions to eating tofu was when I was in college and living in Athens, Georgia. One of the hippest vegetarian restaurants (then and now), The Grit, serves up good ol’ Southern food but vegetarian style. One of their most popular dishes is the Grit-style Tofu. You can find this and many more yummy vegetarian recipes in their cookbook.

Grit-Style Tofu

1 block firm tofu
grape seed oil
Tamari or Nama Shoyu
Nutritional yeast

Cut tofu in cubes. Lightly oil a skillet and place over high heat. Allow oil to heat slightly and then add tofu. Saute, tossing with a spatula until evenly lightly golden brown. Sprinkle lightly with the tamari and saute briefly to further brown tofu. Remove from skillet, draining and discarding any excess oil.

Rinse and wipe skillet dry. Lightly oil skillet and place over high heat. Allow oil to become very hot. Saute tofu again, tossing with a spatula until evenly browned. Sprinkle with tamari to taste. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast to coat, tossing vigorously. Saute for a few seconds and then remove from heat.

Grit Style Tofu with vegetables and brown rice.

Because tofu is most commonly used in Asian cooking, I sometimes forget about cooking it in other styles. I came up with this next recipe as a way to broaden my thinking of tofu. I think it turned out quite nicely. We’ve been really hungry for Mediterranean food lately (and wishing for a Mediterranean climate!). There was a Greek restaurant in Seattle called Yanni’s that served the most amazing lemon roasted potatoes. We think of those potatoes quite often. They were the main inspiration for this dish. We served the potatoes and tofu steaks with a Greek salad.

Greek Style Tofu Steaks with Lemon Potatoes
Serves 2

1 block tofu, cut into 2 thin blocks approx. 1” thick
1 cup flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt (I used homemade rosemary sea salt)
freshly ground black pepper
grape seed oil

Mix flour with spices. Coat tofu steaks with flour mixture. Get skillet hot, add grape seed oil (2-3 Tbsp). Add tofu steaks to skillet and brown on each side, using tongs to flip.


Lemon Roasted Potatoes

4-6 red potatoes, washed
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sea salt (or less)
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp water

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut potatoes into cubes. Place in a baking dish with olive oil. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on top and toss with salt and pepper. Add 1 tsp water. Place in oven, stirring every 15 minutes. After half an hour, add more lemon juice. Roast for a total of 45 minutes to an hour.

And for my last tofu trick… this dish was inspired by a dish we had at a Chinese restaurant long ago.

Chinese Style Tofu with Mushrooms & Baby Bok Choy

1 block extra firm tofu, cut into little triangles
1-2 cups flour
1 tsp 5 Spice
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
2 cups mixed mushrooms (shiitakes, chantrells, button…), sliced
3 bunches baby bok choy, chopped
2 Tbsp Nama Shoyu
2 Tbsp Mirin (rice wine)
1 Tbsp organic cane sugar
1 Tbsp organic corn starch
2 Tbsp water

Cut tofu into triangles. Mix flour with next 5 ingredients in a medium size bowl. Heat pan on the stove on medium high. Add 2 Tbsp grape seed oil. Coat tofu wedges in flour mixture and place in oil. Brown tofu on both sides and then place on paper towel to drain. In another pan (or same one, cleaned), heat 1 Tbsp grape seed oil. Add onion and saute. Add in garlic, mushrooms, and bok choy. Add in Nama Shoyu, Mirin, and stir. Mix corn starch with water and sugar. Add tofu back into the pan and coat with the vegetables and sauce. Add corn starch mixture. Stir. Serve over brown jasmine rice.

All week, we’ve been totally enjoying Espresso Banana Muffins for breakfast. I found this recipe in Heidi Swanson’s cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. They are delicious!

And, I will close with another cookie recipe. This is another variation of those yummy Flat & Chewy Cookies from the Saveur and NY Times cookbook that I blogged about a few weeks back. I think the secret to making really delicious and much healthier food is using really good quality ingredients. I think you can really taste and feel a difference.

Pistachio & Cacao Cookies

1 cup packed organic brown sugar
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 sticks unsalted organic butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour (White Lily’s the best!)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
⅓ cup raw cacao powder
1 cup roughly chopped raw pistachios

In a bowl, beat sugars and butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in vanilla. Add flour, salt, soda and stir in. Add cacao and nuts. Mix until just combined. Chill. Once batter is cold, form into 3 small logs about ¾”-1” thick. Wrap in plastic and keep in refrigerator or you can freeze.

Heat oven to 350°. Slice dough logs into ½” thick discs and transfer to parchment paper–lined baking sheets spaced 3″ apart, and gently flatten. Bake 12-14 minutes.

Over and out… hey, which reminds me that I should blog about my love of Trucker Music soon!!