One More Way to Keep Your Home Cool in the Summer:
Quinoa, Cucumber, Tomato Salad

Double-feature bonus posts this week! My offering to you, Dear Reader, for being a faithful audience. Enjoy!

A few years ago, I found myself buying one of those cup-salads from Whole Foods a lot in the summer. I liked it so much I figured I should start making it, so I can (a)get it without cilantro and (b)stop feeling like such a yuppie for buying a salad I could clearly reverse-engineer to make myself. Now when I’m up for more than throwing together some greens with nuts (read: up for more chopping), I’ll use this mix as the base recipe and improvise from there. I was actually pretty surprised when I couldn’t find a blog entry for this. Perhaps because it’s so straightforward, it didn’t feel like a recipe. This week’s weather in Seattle is sneaking up to the mid-80s, which counts as hot, so here’s a good option for those hot late Summer days when you don’t want to add another degree to your house by turning on cooking appliances. Air conditioning is a luxury, yo.

Quinoa, Cucumber and Tomato Salad (+Avocado)
Jumping-off point: Spicy Quinoa, Cucumber and Tomato Salad by Martha Rose Shulman (NYTimes)

– 1 cup quinoa
– 2 cups water
– salt to taste
– 2 cups skinned & diced cucumber (if you don’t skin it, it will be bitter)
– 2 cups finely diced tomatoes (used: garden tomatoes! freshly picked!)
– 1/4 c sunflower seeds for nuttiness (today I used toasted pepitas)

Optional things I threw in this time:
– 2 thinly-sliced radishes
– 1/4 c leftover chickpeas
– 1/8 c red onion, finely minced
– 2 bulbs scallion, diced
– other protein: this time I did 1 lb. chicken, diced, with arbitrary dashes of soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp garlic, and oil for sautéing.

Optional but not included this time:
– highly recommended: 1 avocado, sliced, for garnish (sadly, the bag of avocados I got this week went rotten within a day so I had to skip this delicious part).
– 1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped (I skipped this)
– 1/2 c chopped basil or mint (it was almost 8pm when I finished making dinner, I skipped this this time)

Ingredients: cucumbers, red onion, garden-fresh tomatoes. Not shown: quinoa, scallions, radishes pep it's, vinegar and olive oil.

Ingredients: cucumbers, red onion, garden-fresh tomatoes. Not shown: quinoa, scallions, pepitas, vinegar and olive oil.

For Dressing:
– 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (if you are out, you can use lemon juice, but it’s definitely different)
– 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
– 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Foreground: dressing. Background: drowning onions.

Foreground: dressing. Background: drowning onions.


1. Place the quinoa in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes. Drain through a strainer, and rinse until the water runs clear. Bring the 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and translucent; each grain should have a little thread. Drain off the water in the pan through a strainer, and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dishtowel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 5 minutes. If making for the freezer, uncover and allow to cool, then place in plastic bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing.

2. Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels.

Diving dicing dicing.

Dicing dicing dicing.

3. If using the onion, place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water and drain on paper towels.

4. Combine the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the quinoa and cilantro. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Optional: This time, I also prepped and cooked some other protein, cancelling out all those appliance-heat savings, but getting more protein in our diet by marinating chicken in soy sauce and sesame oil and sauteeing it up with some garlic.

Optional sautéed protein: in this case, chicken with arbitrary dashes of soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tsp garlic. Gluten-free option: tamari sauce. Vegan: tofu. Don't forget! Safe eating temperature for chicken is 165F! No one wants Salmonella for dinner.

Optional sautéed protein: in this case, chicken with arbitrary dashes of soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tsp garlic. Gluten-free option: tamari sauce. Vegan: tofu. Don’t forget! Safe eating temperature for chicken is 165F! No one wants Salmonella for dinner.

6. Lightly toast your seeds. Serve garnished with sliced avocado, optional protein, seeds, and mint/basil sprigs.

Yield: Serves 3-6

Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well, and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator. The leftovers will be good for a couple of days.

Quinoa, cucumber, tomato salad with chicken: I didn't even miss the avocado!

Quinoa, cucumber, tomato salad with chicken: I didn’t even miss the avocado!

Novelty Rating: 2 of 5. This was novel when I started trying it, but now I’ve been making it a couple years. It’s only novel in that I am surprised every time, how much I like it, despite it’s being called that dreaded word, ‘salad’.
Likelihood of Repeat: 95%
Lesson(s) Learned: It’s still tasty without avocado. Those indigo rose tomatoes I grew outside on my patio have extra antioxidants, but not so much extra sweetness like the sungolds. Still, they taste good as visual candy. I was excited to eat this for lunch the next day.

Indigo Rose tomatoes (developed by Oregon State) started ripening to violet-red just in time! Started using them for this recipe, and the next morning some critters had already started chomping on them!

These Indigo Rose tomatoes (developed by Oregon State for extra anti-oxidants) from my deck started ripening to violet-red just in time! Started using them for this recipe, and the next morning some critters had already started chomping on them!


Kelp Noodle Japchae – Low Carb Noodle-mania!

Okay folks, I admit, I’ve been a little distracted by the glorious Pacific Northwest summer, traipsing about in the mountains. Between that, work, and other personal projects, feeding the Internet Blog Machine has gotten a little backlogged. So without further ado, here’s one more..


Quite some time ago, I went to school in the other Washington -the District of Columbia. While there, I was exposed to the experience of an even more humid climate than my native Midwest summer. Wandering the concrete jungle blocks from my job at a nonprofit and nerd-exciting statistics classes, I was exposed to my first taste of Korean food ever. It was ironically a vegan Korean shop, and my favorite dish was tofu japchae. In retrospect it was an easy gateway crossover from my beloved childhood Cantonese restaurant dish of beef chow fun (see fellow pun lovers’ recipe at Woks of Life, and really, anything noodle. That first taste opened me up to a whole other cuisine full of spicier, more vegetable-filled and bbq-beef-laden meals like dolsot bibimbap and tofu soup!

Fast forward to years later on a warm Seattle summer day, living with some one who eats low carb, and here is my experiment in turning Japchae paleo friendly.

Japchae Ingredients

Japchae Ingredients


5 oz kelp noodles, like these ones off Amazon
1/2 onion (medium), sliced
1 oz carrot (large carrot), julienned (or in my case, an annoyingly tedious pile of baby carrots, julienned)
½ oz shiitake mushroom (I got fresh ones but you could also use dried ones and rehydrate them beforehand. See Crazy Korean Cooking‘s recipe that inspired this post, for rehydration tips)
3 oz thin-sliced beef (i had shabu shabu meat on hand, sliced it while partially frozen)
2 oz spinach  (did not have on hand, skipped it, although it has been in every japchae I have ever eaten before)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tbs vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt to taste
pinch black pepper

Optional: sesame seeds

For seasoning:
2½ tbs soy sauce (for gluten-free use tamari sauce)
2½ tbs sugar
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
½ tsp minced garlic
a pinch black pepper


    1. Slice mushrooms and beef into thin strips.
To get really thin slices, cut meat while it is slightly frozen.

To get really thin slices, cut meat while it is slightly frozen.

    1. Marinate beef & mushrooms: in a bowl, mix beef and mushrooms by hand with 2 teaspoons of the seasoning sauce and let it marinate at least for 15 minutes.
Marinade sauce.

Marinade sauce.

    1. Blanch in high heat water 1 minute or sauté spinach (optional), drain out the water. Season spinach with a pinch of salt and ⅛ teaspoon of minced garlic. Mix by hand.
    2. If you weren’t using kelp noodles, this is where you’d cook regular glass noodles, rinse them in cold water, and drain them. With kelp noodles, boiling in water is not necessary.
    3. Coat a frying pan with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, and preheat the pan on high heat for 1 minute. Sauté carrot and onion with a pinch of salt and pepper on high heat for 2-3 minutes or until the carrots are almost cooked. Add more oil if the vegetables start sticking to the pan. Set aside.
Sautéed veggies.

Sautéed veggies.

    1. Coat a frying pan with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, and preheat the pan on high heat for 1 minute. Sauté the marinated beef and shiitake mushrooms until the meat is fully cooked.
Gotta keep 'em se-par-ate-ed.

Gotta keep ’em se-par-ate-ed.

    1. Cut noodles: place fully-drained glass noodles in a big bowl and cut the noodles with scissors. You can just cut a few times randomly just so that noodles are easier to serve. Do not over-cut them.
Cut der noodles. Kitchen scissors work best.

Cut der noodles. Kitchen scissors work best.

    1. Pour the rest of seasoning sauce onto the noodles and mix well.
    2. Add all the sautéed vegetables and beef to the bowl. Mix thoroughly.
Shown here: before being fully mixed.

Shown here: before being fully mixed.

  1. Sauté the noodles mixture on medium heat for 3 minutes or until all the noodles are warm. Stir frequently so noodles don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Taste the noodles and salt to preference. Kelp noodles will soften as they warm and absorb liquids form the other ingredients, you can warm it on low heat if they are still really crunchy.

Optional: Sprinkle sesame seeds as a garnish. Enjoy!

Final product!

Final product!


Likelihood of Repeat: 80%

Novelty Rating:
5 of 5
I added some thin-sliced zucchini noodles, which added some more al dente factor while making it taste more like smooth noodles at the same time.

Kelp noodles plus a few stray zucchini noodles.

Kelp noodles plus a few stray zucchini noodles.

Lesson Learned:  It gradually dawned on me as I was making this that if tried this exact kelp noodle brand before to make some cold sesame noodles, to ill effect, making me dread the result of this experiment. When I was disappointed at the crunchiness of the noodles, I said nothing, and my focus group of one was a fan! The kelp noodles had softened as they sat with the warm ingredients between completion time and serving, sucking up some moisture from the other ingredients. Plus, the low carb factor was a strong selling factor.

A closer look at the kelp noodle brand I tried.

A closer look at the kelp noodle brand I tried: not so bad after all.

For comparison: homemade japchae with the standard sweet potato noodles. Yum.

For comparison: homemade japchae with the standard sweet potato noodles. Yum.


Tricking Yourself into Exercise:
Recipe for an Active Day

Apple trees in Meridian Park, approximately 100 years old. Netted by City Fruit to protect fruit from pests.

I really wanted you to know this:

Apples most likely originated in Kazakhstan from the Malus sieversii and brought over to America with European colonists then became a part of American culture with a little help from Mr. Appleseed himself, John Chapman. Around the turn of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed bought some apple seeds from a Pennsylvania cider mill and headed to the Midwest to develop his orchards. At the time, the Homestead Act required settlers to plant 50 apple trees within the first year of holding their land and soon the apples, along with the settlers, began to establish their roots in America.
Layla Eplett, Scientific American: Food Matters

The portion above on Johnny Appleseed was just one of many exciting things I learned while on a bike tour one recent Saturday (and subsequently fact-checked for this post, because that’s how I am). Here follows a loose recipe for an active day.

– An interest(s) that can be done outside (here: biking, learning, trees)
– Sunscreen
– Any Related equipment (in this case, a bike)
– Access to the Internet


  1. See an event online. In this case: a bicycle tour called Fruit Cycle, of heritage trees (from City Fruit‘s website).
  2. Note date and start time on your calendar. On hand: Gasworks Park at 10 AM on a Saturday.
  3. Critical non-step: intentionally avoid asking distance to be traveled (or similar details).
  4. Invite spouse, tell friends you are going (so it’ll feel weird if you shirk it).
  5. RSVP (so you feel obligated to go).
  6. Get your stuff together the night before, don’t forget some bright clothes for traffic visibility.
  7. Put on sunscreen, go on tour, be distracted and fascinated by all the things you learn and see, not noticing you are also biking around north Seattle for more than 2 hours.
  8. Realize you forgot about also having to bike home.
  9. Stop for coffee, bike home.

Makes: 11 miles + 3 bonus mile bike ride

A few snaps from my exciting tree-bike adventures.

Refueling in Wallingford with an apple off a fallen branch.

My co-conspirator. Thanks, K!

This heritage tree is an elm in the Ravenna neighborhood. Coming from the Midwest, it was pretty amazing to see an elm at all.

Riding under a cool canopy of trees along a boulevard, also known as the University of Washington frat row. :>

Apple branch grafted on to a Hawthorne tree along the Burke Gilman Trail. The initial grafting was done last year, and the branch has since grown out from the hawthorne branch stump!

This Week’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 5 of 5, very neat!
Likelihood of Repeat:20% This percentage is a lie. That’s part of the trick to it. Honestly, I already pulled this one on myself again the next day, trying out a volunteer stint, and when I went kayak-camping the first time in my life and failed to think about the task of the return trip after paddling 4 miles out to an island, aHA!
Lesson Learned: If you feel a mix of dread and anticipation for an activity, it is probably in your long-term interest not to ask details like how far you will be going, so you take less time getting worked up about it.

Apparently, that Homestead Act spurred a whole lot of apple tree planting in the United States back in the day. These days apples you buy in the store tend to be from grafted versions, to control the consistency of produce, not big old trees like in Meridian Park shown above. I remember reading about this in school, but it’s a very different thing to really see it. It is literally one apple branch shoved into the cut off branch of another tree to make a frankenstein of a tree (done at the right time of year, with a little sealant to keep things together). It’s a real thing! That blew my mind to see the Hawthorne tree on the Burke Gilman. At least, I think it was a hawthorne tree (apologies if I am wrong). Grafting is, like, tree magic..

I’d be interested to learn more on the ebb and flow of the American cider industry in relation to the Homestead Act and Prohibition, but even googling it at this point would delay shipping this post, and also going to bed, which I’ve been trying to do at a more decent hour lately. So that’ll just have to wait another day (or you can look it up and post in the comments for us all).

Bonus delight derived from fact-checking the Johnny Appleseed fact resulting in me rediscovering a habitual favored read from when I was a kid in my parents’ house, reborn as an online source. Yeah I know, Scientific American, total nerd-dom. I don’t care, the Food Matters section makes that part of my brain that goes ‘aha!’ light up. Look! They even have one on Potential Implications Brexit May Have on Food.


What is healthy to eat? Nutritionists vs American Public


Twenty years ago, I think we knew about 10 percent of what we need to know” about nutrition, said Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “And now we know about 40 or 50 percent.”

Read more at the NYTimes’ The Upshot:

Is Sushi ‘Healthy’? What About Granola? Where Americans and Nutritionists Disagree

Interesting items included in summary:

  • Coconut oil
  • Granola bars
  • Quinoa
  • Shrimp
  • Butter
  • Apples

Just kidding on apples, everybody agrees apples are good for you (except my unique friends who are allergic to raw apples, of course).
Thanks for reading while I try out different formats and topic areas!



How to Beat the Heat: Office Edition (Skill Level: Beginner Cook)

Here in the Pacific Northwest, folks are still getting used to having more than a week’s worth of 80+F degree weather. Many houses don’t have air conditioning, and even offices can feel pretty warm. Mine is LEED-aspirational, which means the temps swing up and down just outside most people’s comfort zone, and certainly outside mine.
If you’re lucky enough to have fridge access at work, with ice cubes, and you haven’t struck on this yet, here’s a couple things to try:*

“Instant” Ice Tea!

1 tea bag of your choice
2 cups
~7 ice cubes
~8 oz hot water
Optional: your choice of creams or sugars


  1. Steep tea in one cup with hot water, let it steep a little longer than you usually prefer for hot tea, so you’ll still get the full flavor once it’s cold (when chilled, foods generally taste less intense).
  2. Fill other cup with ice cubes.
  3. Once tea is done steeping, pour over ice cubes into other cup (preferably over a sink).
  4. Enjoy!

Poor Human’s Iced Coffee
(Similar Process)

3/4 cup coffee gone room temp (generally 3+ hrs old, from the coffee pool carafe, blegh)
~5-7 ice cubes
1 cup
Optional: your choice of creams or sugars


  1. Fill cup with ice cubes until about 3/4 full.
  2. Pour coffee over ice until cup is full, sip a little off the top as ice melts, pour the rest until cup is full.
  3. Enjoy!

*If you’ve tried it already, what other combinations have you done?
Seattle’s seen it’s share of Summer drink trends, from last year’s Espresso Tonics (click here for FWW video) to the pucker-worth shrub trend. What could be next?

Likelihood of Repeat: 100% I love a ‘free’ iced cup of coffee or tea. FReeeeeee!
Novelty Rating: 2% Been there, done that.
Lessons Learned: I need to stock more herbal teas so I can keep hydrated after my caffeine cut-off time..


Run Away and Nurse Your Broken Heart in the Woods with a Hot Toddy

Sometimes, don’t you just want to set the world on fire?
No? Well, maybe at least shake it around a little to tell it to behave itself better? Doesn’t the state of it just break your heart some days?
Let’s go back to setting things on fire. I extra-think plenty on the things that are hugely wrong with the world when I’m in the city, but let’s take 10 here for a fireside break of something to warm your heart (and belly). Not discounting it: my sincerest condolences to the families who have suffered losses by the products of our institutional racism and other issues built up over decades of bias. I’m sorry the rest of the post may land tone-deaf, I have no reasonable segue to such a trivial topic below. :(..
Stay tuned for some scenic photos that will hopefully prove a little calming and restful.

French Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

China Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Some long-time readers may recall last summer’s Campfire Cooking Methods post, which included mention of a hot toddy recipe for camping. Scarcity is a blessing. I drained the last of my private collection of whiskey (population: 1 bottle) for my go-to hot toddy mix  on last month’s weekend trip to Leavenworth. I was also short on lemons a couple weeks ago while I packed for a weekend escape to the North Cascades, but I did have oranges. Shoutout to Rachelle Lucas, who supplied this gin hot toddy recipe on first googling. Same ingredients, different steps:

Video here, visual and written steps below:

Note: almost goes without saying, but scale this according to the servings you want. I actually did this one times four, but left it in its single serving here for easier scaling for you.

For mason jar:
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp gin (1 oz)
1-2 Tbsp orange juice (optional step for tastier: squeeze from 1 orange)

1/4 cup hot water

1 stick cinnamon
1 slice orange

Mason jar
Camping percolator
Fire (as in camp fire..or grill)
Mitt or other implement for high heat


Orange juiced, honey, gin and juice mixed.

Orange juiced, honey, gin and juice mixed.

1. Mix honey and gin in mason jar. Pack cinnamon sticks in a dry plastic ziploc bag. Optional: using a black permanent marker, label ziploc with proportions above.

If your brain is lazy about remembering recipe proportions like mine, jotting it down on ziploc in areas of zero cell phone reception can be useful. Or you could just remember it, haw..

If your brain is lazy about remembering recipe proportions like mine, jotting it down on ziploc in areas of zero cell phone reception can be useful. Or you could just remember it, haw..

If you have cold cooler access the whole time: mix in orange juice. Other option: pack whole oranges with a good knife and fork for juicing, or pick up some inferior bottled orange juice on the road.
2. Drive to your excitingly scenic woodsy/beachy/mountainous destination! Start a campfire (or grill).
3. Set mason jar near fire for honey to melt, boil water with campfire and percolator. Stir mixture.
4. Using high heat mitt, pour 1/4 of mason jar mix into a cup to serve, add 1/4 cup hot water, garnish with 1 cinnamon stick and 1 orange slice. If making additional servings, do the same for remaining servings. Protip: to pour with less spillage risk (and wasted alcohol!) pour liquid along the straight edge of a utensil, like a knife, into the cup. This protip brought to you by my father the chemist.
5. Stir with cinnamon and enjoy!
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 Similar to the whiskey version, but better.
Likelihood of Repeat: 100% Observant followers may notice the use of actual oranges in photos, and orange juice in the video. First trial was at Lone Fir in the North Cascades, second was at French Beach in Vancouver Island, British Columbia (yes, those are Canadian bird squawking in the background). So I’ve effectively already done a repeat. My camping buddy K said he liked this one better than last year’s version.
Lessons Learned: The satisfaction of ironically drinking a hot toddy out of a mug labeled ‘Junior Ranger’ cannot be underestimated. Also, iMovies editing via iPhone is much easier than in a Mac, but correspondingly has fewer options. Lots to learn in the video editing world for me, fun times.

Somewhere near Juan de Fuca trail on Vancouver Island

Somewhere near Juan de Fuca trail on Vancouver Island, human is for scale.

Will you be my drinking buddy, giant spotted slug?

Will you be my drinking buddy, giant spotted slug?

French Beach, BC

French Beach, BC


Kelp Noodle Japchae – Tumblr-Style Post

Today’s experiment.


What CAN you eat off the ground?

Forest Fire Fruit: Morels!

Morels, with their buddy thyme.

Morels, with their buddy thyme.

I was lucky enough to score some wild-foraged morels from my friend Tesia, after she came back from a good weekend of collecting them. Apparently, her s.o. even maps out last year’s forest fires to track where good spots to find some morel treasure. It definitely peaked my interest, especially after a stint earlier in the year at a local community garden prepping for summer, when we found a morel poking out through the cardboard laid over a garden patch for winter. No- I didn’t eat it, my fellow volunteers warned me it was ‘a city mushroom,’ with unknown consequences. Even NPR did a segment on it.

From Northern California to Alaska, commercial and amateur mushroom hunters will be scouring hills that were ravaged by fires last summer and fall. Their prey? Morel mushrooms.
“Sometimes we call it ‘chasing the burns,’ ” mushroom enthusiast Kevin Sadlier says, in search of the black morel mushrooms that grow in the springtime after a forest fire.
After Fires In West, Mushroom Hunters ‘Chase The Burn’

Apologies, much of the ingredients are amounts “to taste,” and I was trying to track too many things so don’t have any exact times on here. The Serious Eats article did not specify times either.

Now, a rare medium on this blog thus far: a video.*

Morels from your friend, the mushroom-gatherer (or from your friend at the farmer’s market)
1/2 onion, minced (alternatives: garlic, shallots, minced)
High heat oil for pan
Butter, about 1 pat
soy sauce, 1 Tbs (or less, to taste)
lemon juice, 1 tsp (to taste)
chicken stock, 1 Tbs (or less, to taste)
optional: chives, minced
salt & pepper, to taste

Optional but very useful supply:

pastry brush (or in my case, an extra toothbrush from my travels, because my pastry brush is silicone and the bristles would have been too big)


  1. Check out Serious Eats’ How To, on Morels to clean mushrooms -thoroughly (also see video far below)!
  2. Once you’ve gotten over that, heat high heat oil on high, begin searing mushrooms.
  3. Add onions, lower heat to prevent scorching.
  4. Add butter, stir.
  5. Add soy sauce, lemon juice, and chicken stock
  6. Lastly, add optional chives, and salt and pepper to taste.

Today’s Trial Ingredient Rating:

Novelty Rating: 5 of 5 O_M_G, so novel! I was looking forward to this experiment all day before I got to run home and try it out. Bonus points for finding a use for an extra hotel toothbrush.
Likelihood of Repeat: 30% Maybe if I spot some that are pre-cleaned at a farmer’s market, but otherwise, it was way more trouble to clean them than I was into, and my final product was not as delicious to me as the serious Eats article’s pictures implied.
Lessons Learned: Oh so many..
Forest fires bear fruit!
This is not a vegan food, see video below.
Lots of prep time cleaning and brush and freaking out quietly
Don’t underestimate these Pacific Northwesterners and their mild climate, some of them are hardy enough to go through all that morel-cleaning and still stomach the mushrooms.
If you think you’ll have hesitant diners, trying the morels 20+ minutes beforehand will allow you to guarantee that any food poisoning will likely hit you first, and you can be their canary.**
Unanticipated travel benefits: hotel toothbrushes can double as mushroom brushes.
Oh, and don’t forget about the bok choy you may have started steaming earlier or it’ll go grey…

One more video, on cleaning morels:
Hopefully you will find this one amusing. Not a video for the squeamish.*

*Apologies for the Bourne Identity-style shaky cam. Next time will be better.
**Don’t worry, my guinea pig friends also got a healthy slice of strawberry rhubarb pie, made to spec per Smitten Kitchen, except the tapioca I didn’t have on hand.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie: the before picture, because I didn't snap one of after that didn't already have a piece cut out.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie: the before picture, because I didn’t snap one of after that didn’t already have a piece cut out. Ok, I admit, I cheated on the crust.


The Easy Sauce You Can Bank, to Up Your Spontaneous Grill Game This Summer – Chimichurri

You guys, I have a confession: I hate cilantro.* I used to think I hate parsley, but in the last five years its resemblance to the flavor of cilantro has faded. Then, I had the privilege to vacation in Chile last year, and there was this sauce that kept appearing at restaurants with the steak. It tasted of garlic, and was full of green stuff. I liked it so much I had to stop a waiter to find out what it was. His reply was: chimichurri. Obvi, K and I had to grab some pre-mixed (as training wheels) packets on our habitual grocery-store-for-travel-keepsakes** run before we left Santiago. I think it was a Carrefour..

Fast forward months later when I finally got around to mixing it up as K seared some steak on the Big Green Egg, some balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, and a bunch of the dry packet. Eh, it was okay, but it also kind of tasted like dried leaves and dust. Long-time readers may notice this packet also made an appearance in one crispy-bottomed oyster mushroom steak post. The sauce was much improved once eaten on top of something, but I feel like anything you pour atop something else, even if a little strong, should be able to stand on its own too.

Now get back in the time machine, and move forward a little more:

Chimichurri sauce recipe from L. Borchert

Chimichurri sauce recipe, thanks to L. Borchert!

I went out and got some actual red wine vinegar to add to my pantry for this, just to get closer to the intended flavor. I was doing another recipe that called for some parsley, and needed to make use of the rest before it sits in a jar in the back of my fridge getting forgotten. Then, I mixed up a big batch of this into 3 mason jars, to last a whole month in the fridge! This sauce gives some nice interesting punch to almost anything, although I found I didn’t like adding it to something that already had flavor, like sugar snap peas with mushrooms and lemon. Having this sauce sitting around was a really convenient option for ad hoc flavor punch, I even brought it an a road trip to Leavenworth with an outdoor kitchen/grilling setup. So convenient!

Important Note on an Extra Step Beyond Recipe:
I browned the garlic first, to remove heartburn and make it sweeter.

Ingredients: garlic, fresh oregano from garden, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil, parsley, and smoked paprika from a Try the World box way back when.

Step 1: chop.

Step 2: saute the garlic until brown but before burnt (follow your nose).

End product of step 1.

Step 3: Throw it all in a food processor. Look how beautiful that paprika is, all red, on green!

Step 4: Enjoy atop steak! Shown here: steak, roasted cauliflower and salad greens.

*Did you know there’s a website for it?

**Travel adventurer pro-tip: a grocery store run in a foreign country is a great way to get local, cheap, authentic consumable souvenirs at local-friendly prices.


Novelty Rating: 4 of 5, novelty tastes good, this sauce can be added without too much worry of over-salting or sugar in your food.
Likelihood of Repeat: 75%
Lesson learned: Maybe not making 3 batches of it to eat in 1 month. I am mildly chimichurri’d out. Also: I like parsley! Yay, one more thing to eat!

Here, I just threw the steak in a ramekin of the sauce. Oily, but yummy.


Exercise vs Food: which one wins?

Per the poll a while ago, random musings on exercise vs. food was one of the high-ranking elected topics.

Honestly, folks, I got a little stuck on this one.* Apparently, I felt two ways about this enough that when I went back to try and finish this post, I discovered my Past Self (she’s more reliable than me) had started not one but TWO drafts of this post. One titled, ‘Food vs. Exercise: Which one wins?’ and the other titled, ‘Exercise vs. Food: Which one wins?’ These were spaced just four days apart. Hmm.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified dietition or personal trainer, only a meticulous person who tends to over/extra-analyze things.

Exhibit A: Bored Panda: What 200 Calories Looks Like
Remember that meme that went around the Internet a couple years ago? I think it was this one, or one like it. It features photos of the same-sized plate, loaded up with different things that are 200 calories. Such contrast, from 2 tablespoons of butter to a giant plate of celery, to an avocado. It seems clear from this wide variation, that it’s much easier to eat a wide variety of calories than the burn off those same calories through exercise.

Exhibit B: Real Simple: Diet or Exercise?
If you want to weigh less, focus on diet. If you want to feel better, increase energy, and other great quality of life factors, do both but focus on exercise. One motivation for me to exercise is certainly so I can eat a bigger variety of delicious foods, but I fully admit I’m always struggling a bit on the diet side, which doesn’t feel like a pressingly urgent need to fix at present. Novelty and rich food is just so delicious, and when 3 days of 7 in the week are weekend-style eating, it can be a bit much. Also, the more I exercise, the hungrier I get. What a conundrum.  Note: a convenient limiting factor in food for me is that I eat slow, and also I tend to notice the next day if I have eaten badly, so it deters me from eating badly extra frequently.

Exhibit C: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) on the benefits of exercise.
Recent awkwardly-phrased statements on alcohol, women, and pregnancy in the news aside, the authority of the CDC states that exercise reduces all kinds of risk for poorer health.


Doodle #1:

Exercise & Eating: doodle by Y. Wong.

Exercise & Eating: doodle by Y. Wong.

The size of the scales above is reflective of the time you spend in activity. It shows how it takes more effort and time to exercise for the same calorie impact vs. eating. The two are perpetually seesawing up and down depending on the latest thing I ingested or activity I did.

However, the dimension of this that I haven’t drawn is that while it takes time to exercise, the time you spend doing that can be seen as an investment in extending your healthy vibrant time on Earth. Reducing health risks can be read as increasing your chances of more healthy years. That way, I can get closer to my goal of being able to chew the occasional steak when I’m 80. As you can see from the idle doodle above, the word between the two is not ‘or’, but ‘and’. Sometimes when you have two choices, I choose the third one: both!

Now, to apply some behavioral economics fixes to my own eating habits to make them line up better with maximum satisfaction short and long-term..

Well, I promised random thoughts, so that’s all for now. What are your thoughts on exercise vs. eating?

How would you depict it?


Novelty Rating: 4 of 5, novelty tastes good, and helps me to eat a bigger variety of things that are likely good for me (see: trying new vegetables).
Likelihood of Repeat: 20% I likely won’t write about this particular topic again unless requested.
Lesson learned: using the word ‘random’ in a title makes me want to hack it.

*That, and work, and generally trying to live a full life sweeping me away.