Portuguese Seafood Stew

I think this is one of those moments that came from a total inspiration to cook for the ones you love.  My husband and our neighbor have been working their butts off for the new sunroom we are adding to the front of our house.  It has been 2 months now since they started and their bodies are hurting.  James accidentally stepped on a screw and Brad's back is filled with pain.  I told them jokingly "no pain no gain!", but then I felt sorry for them.  They love doing the project together as a guy thing, but they could use a little more loving support.  

I've been feeding them quick and easy meals here and there, but I realized that I should appreciated them with a special dish. To cheer them up a bit.  

James loves shrimps. And he likes them prepared either in a Norwegian way or Portuguese way the best.  I have never made this stew before but we ate this a plenty of times when we were living in Portugal back in 2004.  We were there for my photo documentary project for 9 months.  We drove around the country up and down, left and right, all over the place with our tiny cruddy fiat.  

We were on a super tight budget, so we ate mostly street food like bifana (grilled pork sandwich) or frango (grilled open chicken)
 and they were amazing of course.  But once in a while, we treated ourselves at restaurants and we quickly fell in love with seafood stew.  

It's been a long time since I had it in Portugal, but I tried to recreate the stews I remember and make it into my version of it.  I made it with fresh filet of cod, shrimps, craw fish, linguisa (Portuguese sausage) and rice.   It turned out pretty tasty I have to say.   I think stews are really fun to make once you know the basic ingredients and you can make up all kinds. 

This dish was so fun to make and  we talked about all the crazy stuff that happened to us in Portugal.   I miss  our time in Portugal.  I never felt more free, adventurous, curious, energized and clueless the whole time.  That was just such a great experience that I hope to do it again maybe when the kids are bit older.  That'd be sweet!


Chicken Salad Sandwiches for Teachers!

Do you have any feelings about chicken salad sandwiches?  I do in a very settled way.  Whenever I order a sandwich, I always look for chicken salad on the menu whether I end up ordering it or not.  Chicken salad sandwiches aren't usually Kings of the sandwich world-- more like knights.  Think Chess here.  They aren't flashy visible but stand there with a reliable attitude you can count on.  I can always fall back on a chicken salad sandwich if I don't have anything special in mind that I need to eat.

Here are some great things about chicken salad sandwiches:

1. Super easy to make
2. Can be made with any kind of left over cooked chicken, and I tend to have that
3. Can be super fun to make into different international versions with things like pesto, aioli, curry, avocado, sesame oil, miso, chili, lemon,  etc...
4. Has what I love in life. And lots of it.  Mayonnaise!

I appreciate chicken salad sandwiches.   They're simple, flexible and inexpensive.  Not much messing around and they almost always turn out yummy.  

Speaking of appreciation, I made this tray of sandwiches to honor the teachers and staff at my son's school for the teacher appreciation luncheon.  This inspired me to put in a few thoughts about chicken salad sandwiches.  I wouldn't have naturally thought this sandwich was the one to step it up for such an occasion.  But it is.  It was so much fun to make it for the teachers because I had to think how can I put it in to make it fun and extra tasty to show I appreciate the hard work they do for our kids.  You can see the bits and pieces of my appreciation ingredients in the recipe.  It's an overload!


Ricotta Pancake Tower and Mother's Day Treat at the Oxbow Farm

I hope all the hard working moms had a smashing Mother's Day!  Mine wasn't quite smashing but it was a nice relaxing day surrounded with all the things and people I enjoy and love.  

I made these decadent ricotta pancakes to kick off the day.  I am not a huge pancake fan unlike the rest of my family members, but once in a while I do crave for this pancake.  This is probably my favorite pancake I've ever eaten.  Ricotta makes the most moist and fluffy pancakes.  I slammed the homemade strawberry jam between the pancake layers and topped it with crème fraîche and cream cheese frosting.  Done.  I made myself feel very special and proud.  My family also treated me with a beautiful bouquet and cozy breakfast to start off the day before we headed out to the Oxbow Farm in the countryside.

Our friends invited us to join them at this charming farm called the Oxbow Farm in Carnation, WA, about 45 minutes drive east from Seattle.

When we got to this lovely farm, they told us that they were offering a few events and one of them was a foraging walk around the farm.  I didn't know anything about their events, but I've been more and more interested in foraging plants lately and even rented a book about it from the library.  So I was super excited to hear about a foraging walk.  I immediately told my husband about it and he kindly took the kids with him so that I could take up this opportunity.  

This foraging walk led by local ethnobotanist Heidi Bohan was a bonus event for me.  She talked about the Pacific Northwest plants that are traditionally harvested for food and medicine by the local tribal people.  Listening to her, it reminded me how my grandma used to harvest plants and told me the flowers I could eat around the fields.  

We had a nice little picnic, even grabbed a few plants to add to the garden and headed to the nearby river for a little walk.  The kids were happy running around like little puppies.  It was a great Mother's Day for me.  Nothing to hassle about and I felt well rested and recharged.  Sending all the good wishes and energy to fellow moms out there and a little extra for moms with little kids!


Gluten Free Banana Muffin

This muffin is probably the most delicious muffin I have ever made up and it is gluten-free.  My friend, Betsy imports this amazing sweet potato flour and I have made some great things with it like biscuits and cookies.  By the way, my grandmother was a sweet potato farmer back in Japan, but I had never seen flour made out of sweet potatoes.  So it is such an intriguing flour for me to experiment cooking with.  

In my house, there tends to be a few overly ripe bananas that no one wants to touch.  So I grabbed a few of those and I also had a few dark chocolates from Betsy.  Sweet potato flour, almond meal, ripe bananas and dark chocolate...  Muffins!  

My 5 year old daughter has been intensely interested in cooking with me in the real kitchen.  She can't even let me crack an egg or boil water without her!  She has to do it.  Baking muffins is a good thing to do with her.  There's no knife involved and it makes me feel like I'm a better mom for it.  But this feeling tends to quickly shift when my patience runs out or, in this case when I realized I had no muffin cups anymore.  (WTF).  No I didn't say that  out loud. Maybe whispered.  Well, this problem was quickly solved when my daughter reminded me that I used some parchment paper for cups before.  "Good girl!" I did say this  out loud.

But like I said, this muffin came out DELICIOUS.  Dark chocolate was a nice touch.  I only made six of these and they were all gone in seconds - after a few quick snap shots.   

I grew up eating sweet potatoes and bonito tuna all the time.  This blog could've been named Bella Sweet Potato instead.  Sweet potatoes are just such a healthy vegetable - high in fiber, vitamin A, iron and calcium, etc.  I probably owe my health to them.  I'm hooked on sweet potato flour.  And it makes me so excited to think what else I can make with it...  


Green Jade Rice Pudding with Candied Kumquat

This was my breakfast yesterday.  I was at Whole Foods just browsing through the grain section to find something new to cook with.  I saw this beautiful green jade rice from China.  

I bought it because I like green and I like rice.  I had no idea what it was or what to do with it. At home, I learned a little about this rice.  Jade rice is a kind of short grain pearl rice colored with bamboo extract.  Bamboo extract is what makes them look like little green jade pebbles.  

I smelled it and it doesn't smell like bamboo, but it does smell a bit sweet.  So I decided to make a dessert with it.  Rice pudding is my husband's favorite thing, so there it is.  I used coconut oil and coconut milk to make the pudding with this rice.  It just seemed like a better match than cow milk and I had lots of coconut milk in my fridge.  

Since it lost the nice green color while the rice was getting cooked with coconut milk, I added some green matcha powder to get it back.  It was a nice effort but it didn't quite work well color-wise. It did add a nice accent to the pudding though.

I also made some candied kumquat.  This brings me back to memories of my grandmother.  She used to make it all the time.  I remember the smell of kumquat marmalade in her kitchen.  The foods I post on this blog are very much influenced by her cooking and her way of life with food.  

I do miss her very much and this one is for you, Oba-chan (grandma)!


Mizuyoukan - Azuki Bean Jello

I have had some heavy news lately with people around me and their health.  It really reminded me that we are all fragile creatures at the end of the day....

A while back I started to cook much healthier and I started this blog in a way to keep records of what I cook for my family.  I don't want to be paranoid about food and worry every time I eat something - and I'm not - but there are times like now that I'm reminded to be cautious and am responsible for keeping my family healthy, as the main shopper and cook of the family.

So I thought to make this dessert called Mizuyokan.  It's a jellied dessert made with pureed azuki beans (aka. red beans), sugar and agar agar. This was one of my favorite summer desserts when I was small.  I almost never eat this anymore as I don't see it at the shops here and it's not something that people make at home very often.  But it's so simple to make, as simple as making jello.  

I knew azuki beans are very nutritious and this site explains why.  Also I think agar agar is a much healthier alternative for gelatin.  Agar agar is made from seaweed called algae, where as gelatin is made from animal skins and bones.  Since I am on a health kick a little more than usual, I made this with raw agave syrup instead of cane sugar.  All organic.

I'm not a big fan of heavy red bean desserts.  This dessert is also made with lots of water like jello and is very light.  I think that's why I liked it so much when I was a child.  

Eating this Mizuyoukan with a cup of maccha green tea lifted my heart a little and brought a little peace back to me for sure. 


Bhutan Red Rice Salad with Poached Egg

It's deep into Fall and I'm feeling a bit dark and starting to crave for simpler and healthier food.   I often stop by a grocery store after I drop off my daughter at her school in the morning.  A few days ago I was staring at some grains I've never had trying to come up with a new and exciting meal.

I found a few good ones and the Bhutan red rice I used for this salad is one of them.  I love love love rice.   I liked the dark reddish color of this Bhutan rice as well as its name.  It is imported from Bhutan and is like a wheat berry but also slightly sticky like rice.  

I don't usually think of eating rice in salad because I grew up eating rice - mostly only Japanese sticky kind -  like bread and there are a whole bunch of myths, this and that about rice that you hear and experience in Japan.  It's a stereotypical thing to think about Asians but it is very true.  But again, I only mean sticky white rice here...

This red rice, however, is very exotic to me. Perfect for a nutty fruity salad like this.  I am very happy with the result and inspired to make something else with it.  Some savory cake or soup... maybe....

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