Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Real - vegan or meat chorizo tacos for Taco Tuesday

meat or veggie based ingredients

REAL Chorizo

Frying - with onion, giner and garlic

Veggie based chorizo (no loss of flavor)
Not high sodium/high fat processed cheese

American stye of taco (someone can't even wait for this photo to be taken)

Taco Tuesday is becoming an American institution. I see facebook status updates on Taco Tuesday activities.  Of course many people opt for a local eatery for all you can eat tacos.  Typically this involves ground beef and American style toppings along with some taco shells.  But it’s best if one doesn’t start thinking about what’s really in the cheap deals.  It’s cheap for a reason.  Whether you like vegan tacos or meat tacos, making healthy tacos is not that difficult.  A vegan chorizo or meat chorizo taco recipe is simple.   You can easily set up a taco bar at home and have people prepare the tacos either American style of the authentic Mexican style (which is a filling of your choice, onions and cilantro…no cheese, no lettuce or tomatoes).  Like any dish, a little conscious eating goes a long way. So what constitutes a healthier, yet tasty taco?
Mexican style-cilantro and onion with filling


Vegan chorizo
Meat chorizo from the butcher  (I get mine at Whole Foods)

This is a personal choice.  I am not a vegan (but I wish I was as we all know the benefits of being one), so I try to vary it.  Mostly I like making the vegan version, but my son still has a strong taste for meat.  So the real chorizo is another alternative.  This is not the sodium nitrate laden version you get from the grocery store for $3.  Instead it is real sausage chorizo and it doesn’t have infinite shelf life.  A lot of the additives of the processed food  are added to prolong shelf life.  As a consumer, you don’t need long shelf life.  You can freeze things.

With respect to price, the two are about evenly priced.  The real chorizo (from Whole Foods or a good butcher) will cost you about the same as two vegan packages.  There is no way around this.   The Yves veggie chorizo is not cross contaminated with my son’s allergens and it’s very clearly labeled, so we use this one (I buy it at Whole Foods).  It does not have GMO ingredients.  Even vegan food can be processed.  So read the label.

For frying – I like to add chopped ginger.  To me it adds a refreshing quality to the filling.  Ginger is also great for digestion. I also add garlic-again great taste.

Taco Shells:

As far as the taco shells- use a quality brand that is not made from hydrogenated products. I use Garden of Eden Taco shells.  They are made from organic blue corn and expeller pressed oil.  My son likes crunchy tacos.  I don’t buy the over processed soft tortillas you find in grocery stores.  Many of the hard shell tacos contain hydrogenated ingredients and processed genetically modified (GMO) corn.

Vegetables, etc.:

I never add sour cream….I think it’s simply gross and takes away from the fresh flavor (personal taste).  If I feel like adding some sort of creamier filling, then avocado/guacamole is the best option (again homemade, not the processed envelope variety-guacamole is very easy to make). 
I actually prefer just onions and cilantro.  When the chorizo (either one) filling is fried with ginger, onions and garlic, it already is well flavored.

My son of course loves the cheese.  Since he is allergic to dairy (and over processed shredded cheese is not good anyways, high in fat and sodium), I use Daiya ‘cheese.’  This is not a soy-based product, so even people allergic to soy can consume it.  Even if there was no dairy allergy, I would still use this product instead of the unhealthy processed shredded cheese you find in the supermarket. 

The technique is fairly simple-here are some key points for this chorizo taco recipe:

Vegan chorizo filling:
·      Since it’s already cooked, pan fry ginger and onion (until translucent) and add a little crushed or chopped garlic for the last few minutes.  Add the chorizo and heat through.

Meat chorizo filling recipe:
·      fry the meat on medium high heat in a tiny amount of expeller pressed canola oil and drain most of the juices it renders. 
·      Add onion and fry for about 5 minutes more; add garlic. 

Typically chorizo is already well flavored so you don’t need to add spices.  But you can add cumin or some other spice if you prefer the flavor.  You can also add chopped cilantro for the last minute (if you eat the Mexican style then just add cilantro straight to the taco).

Heat the taco shells for about 5 minutes at 350.

This is very simple and healthy.  One of the easiest dinners I make.

Lay out the ingredients on the counter (much like restaurants do…except you won’t have gross spoon handles that everyone touched falling into the food)

Let your guests/family prepare the tacos as they choose. You can add your own salsa or an organic brand (I don’t).

In addition to the health benefits of making tacos at home, you may get to know your family/children/friends better.  With hectic schedules and eating out, dinner conversations are becoming extinct.  Yes, meals  and conversation are still critical to developing and maintaining relationships.

With respect to costs, it will not cost more than having a taco dinner in a restaurant.  And the quality of the food will be radically better.  As much as I love to eat out, I know that I don’t control the quality of the ingredients or the hygiene when I eat out.  Would it be great to go to a restaurant that serves this quality of taco?  Yes, but the restaurant would have to charge a lot more than its lower quality competitors and unfortunately people would not be willing to pay more.  So making a higher quality dinner at home is a better option.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The refreshing taste of the Mediterranean - Rose Water Lemonade

Organic lemonade and rosewater

With my strong love for Middle Eastern cuisine, music and beverages, this is a summer treat.  In the winter, it’s Turkish coffee or mint tea but after a little time in the sun, I needed something to cool off with.  The choices were typical soft drink, water, club soda, some form of ice tea.  No, I didn’t want any alcoholic beverages – I actually find these choices more refreshing and I need to finish a work project.

Rose water lemonade is heavenly.  Most Middle Eastern restaurants serve it.  This simple and delicious beverage is available at the Egyptian booth at International folk fest and Arab World Fest. 

I happened to have some organic strawberry lemonade available and I always have rose water.  Rose water is a great addition to Middle Eastern desserts as well as Indian desserts.  For example, the popular Indian dessert Gulab Jamun has rose water; gulab means rose. 

This is so simple.  Fill up a glass with ice, pour in lemonade of you choice (not an over sweetened one) and add rosewater to taste, stir and enjoy.   I’m not a big lemonade drinker….but rosewater makes a huge difference.

(note:  you can find rosewater in the middle eastern section of most grocery stores these days)

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

5 things I love about Door County

Door County is the peninsula in Northeastern Wisconsin.  The first time I visited Door County was with my parents as a fairly new teenager.   We went with another family and had a great time.  We only stayed a few days.

A few years ago I was trying to figure out where I could find a decent vacation spot that isn’t crowded or over commercialized and has reasonable prices as well.

So I found the place:  Door County, specifically Gills Rock….as north as we can go in Door County.  We went and it was better than I remembered.

Why?  Here are 5 reasons why

1.    The sunsets

Without question the best sunsets around here.  I am somewhat obsessed with sunsets because when I was a child in Budapest, my dad had a great job that included the perk of Summers at Lake Balaton in the company’s resort.  Beautiful sunsets were part of those summers.  Since then, I never really got to enjoy it.  Milwaukee/Shorewood is on the West side of Lake Michigan….so no sunsets.  I guess I’m just not  a sunrise person.  Sunsets are moodier and are more introspective for me.  Of course I’m not a morning person anyways.  The  sunsets are the best.  Each town has its feel – each town has  a different view and sound. 

2.    The sense of another era

Walking to the Gallery/CoffeeShop

I feel like I’m in an older America during good times
Absence of franchises beyond  Sturgeon bay.  No McDonald’s, No Applebee’s and this leads to the next reason.

3.    Great food


Where else can you find goats on a roof?  Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant (Sister Bay) is an old fashioned Swedish restaurant (as the name suggests).  Iced tea tastes so much better out of pewter mugs and so does lingonberry sauce.  Swedish meatball breakfast special is a favorite.  And this year my son ate there multiple times.  We had an excellent waitress (they all dress in Dirndl dresses) who suggested that he could have a hamburger prepared on a different area of the kitchen.  Although they use peanut oil, he ate there safely two different times and LOVED it.  Another restaurant, Shipwrecked (Egg Harbor) also was able to meet our needs.  Pulled pork with tropical coleslaw (coconut milk); I don’t even like coleslaw and this was delicious.  For us, there was delicious Cherry Wheat ale. Al Capone used to hide here.
When it’s warm, you can sit outside and enjoy.  Gills Rock has The Shoreline, which has amazing sunsets also.

Charlie’s Smokehouse has the best-smoked whitefish I ever had (and Jordan can have it too).  A walk from our cottage, it’s an event to walk down, buy some fish and go back and eat in the beautiful surrounding.

When we don’t eat out, we make dinner.  Now one could complain that why cook when on vacation.  When you have a child with food allergies, it’s bound to happen.  And grilling with the lake as your view (we stayed in a great cottage) is not something to complain about.  Making  omelets as you’re watching the lake through the windows…..not that hard.

4.    Boating

I don’t own a boat, but when we are there I rent a speed boat several times.  Not the cheapest activity but still cheaper than buying a boat.  We have fun, speed and beauty. This boat is from Sister Bay Marina.

5.    As close as I get to relaxing

I don’t like to be on a schedule when on vacation.  And that’s exactly what I get when in Gills Rock…no schedules.  Other than making it on time to places before they close is all that’s expected.  Everything is an event and everything is laid back.  Consequently people are nice and not crabby.

Typically, we start the morning at Gallery Ten in Gills Rock; a mere walk from the cottage.  So it’s a great walk, coffee, and wifi.  The gallery has beautiful things and the building is even unique.  The mugs are unique pottery ones …which is another favorite….I love the pottery that is inspired by nature…..not overly processed or finished.

Each town has its own flavor: Egg Harbor and Fish Creek are a bit busier (not busy-it’s all relative), Ephraim and Sister Bay become more laid back (we spend a lot of time in Sister Bay).  Gills Rock is the most laid back and least busy. Nature and sunsets at their purest.

Maybe I need to return this fall, until then I will just be nostalgic. But I also need to add “5 more reasons why I love Door County.”  I was going through some photos for this blog entry and I realized that 5 reasons are not enough. The whole trip starts with a stop at the winery, to be included in next 5.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

All salmon is not created equal....not for taste or health benefit

Delicious salmon

I know a lot of people who state how they eat healthy now and include salmon in their diet.

Salmon is healthier than many meat protein due to the ‘good fat’ in salmon and Omega 3s. Most people already know this. 

But farmed salmon is not as healthy (rich in Omega 3s) as wild salmon.  Without going into too much detail, the diet and lifestyle of the wild salmon causes it to have more Omega 3s.

But there is yet another reason to eat wild salmon, it tastes SO MUCH better.  

I love smoked salmon and salmon in sushi.  But baked/broiled salmon is not one of my favorites.  Good, I know I should eat it, but I like some other fish more.  Until yesterday this was true.

Last night I made the easiest salmon dish and it tasted phenomenal.  Why?  Because it was wild sockeye salmon.  I enjoyed every bite and literally savored the flavor.

I was at Whole Foods and was looking at some of the 365 brand fish.  I have to be very careful with what fish I buy because my son is allergic to shellfish.  So cross contamination is a concern.  I don’t buy fish from the fish section of a store. 

This package had no warnings and I thought, “Well I should make it, it’s good for you.” 

I made it last night, not expecting the best flavor.  I’m going back to buy more.

The recipe was simple (on the back of the package).

Preheat oven to 275
Season with salt, pepper (I added a little paprika…Hungarian thing)
Oil a shallow baking pan
Place salmon with skin side down

Bake for about 12-14 minutes (until cooked through)
Pour ginger/lemon/soy butter (or butter) sauce over it (see below)

Raise rack
Broil for about 2 minutes

Melt about 3 tbs soy butter (I don’t consume dairy , my son is allergic to it  but if you insist on using butter it’s fine….but what I Iike about soy butter is that it doesn’t overpower the flavor of the salmon-when I did use butter I used Plugra which is a European style butter-had a very clean butter flavor)
Add about 1-2 tbsp. fresh minced ginger
About 3 tbs fresh lemon juice (they ask for 2, I think it needed 3-4)

Very healthy, quick and so tasty.  What more can one ask for?  Well yes, it’s not the cheapest food……but it was around the price of a family of three eating ‘value’ meals at McDonald’s.  Nobody was bloated; I served it turmeric basmati rice.   It was also a lot cheaper than eating farmed salmon at a restaurant (which isn’t as healthy).

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