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Author Archives: Christine Willmsen (The Solo Cook)

Conquering my Fears by Grilling Cornish Game Hen

A Recipe for Breaking my Fear of Fowl

Challenge yourself by grilling Cornish game hen. You'll discover just how easy it is to cook. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Challenge yourself by grilling Cornish game hen. You’ll discover just how easy it is to cook. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Most of us have foods we hate or food phobias. My friend Shannon can’t stand olives, and Patty believes beets taste like dirt. Mine has not been a hate of fowl, just a fear of it – fear of getting sick by eating undercooked poultry. What are your food fears?

Childhood memories can taint our palate

Let’s step back about 35 years to me as a child. My family had the philosophy of we eat what we cook, no arguments. I would whine, fight and hide my shriveled peas and the over-cooked, fatty, cheap steak that tasted like rawhide.

This cornish hen is the perfect size for dinner and leftovers. Photo By Christine Willmsen

This Cornish hen is the perfect size for dinner and leftovers. Photo By Christine Willmsen

Summer in Iowa meant juicy tomatoes, corn on the cob and grilled lemon chicken. When served a chicken breast and a leg, I took a big bite and discovered veins, tendons, bones and very pink meat. I complained to my parents that the chicken was raw and that I would get sick. My parents had no compassion, saying I had to finish eating the chicken, including all the meat near the bones. I don’t recall if I ever got sick, but since then I’ve had a fear of plunging my teeth into a piece of fowl.

In fact for years I couldn’t eat any meat on a bone, fearing the meat was raw and I would get sick. No BBQ ribs and no chicken wings. Boyfriends would cut the meat off the bone for me, and other times I would order boneless poultry. I was unable to cook a full-size chicken, let alone pick it up with my bare hands and take a bite.

Cornish Game Hen for one or two people

Marinate the hen in olive oil, fig and lemon preserves and other ingredients. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients include the hen, olive oil, fig, parsley, bourbon, cloves and lemon preserves. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Now it’s time to break my food phobia by getting to know the bird on a raw level and making my own recipe.

I bought a Cornish game hen, a small bony fowl that’s a perfect dinner for one or two people. I cut it in half, right down the breastbone, flattening it a bit with my hands, hearing the bones crunch. I marinated the two halves in a combination of fig and lemon preserves, parsley, cloves and other spices.

I can finally say I broke my fear of cooking small fowl and eating it. But you still won’t catch me gnawing on chicken wings. I hope this helps you take risks with food.

Hot in the Kitchen: Grilled Lemon and Fig Hen

 

Marinated the two halves of the hen for two hours in a mix of oil, fig preserves, parsley, lemon juice and preserves and cloves. Photo By Christine Willmsen

Marinate the two halves of the hen for at least two hours. Photo By Christine Willmsen

Ingredients:

1 Cornish game hen

¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon to season grill

For side vegetables, add a sweet potato and half onion to the grill while cooking the hen. Photo by Christine Willmsen

For side vegetables, add a sweet potato and half onion to the grill.

¼ cup fig preserves

¼ cup chopped parsley

3 tablespoons bourbon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 slices of preserved lemons chopped

½ teaspoons ground clove

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Cut the hen in half, rinse with water, pat dry and flatten with hand. Mix all the remaining ingredients together and then marinate the two halves for at least two hours. On a two-burner grill, heat to medium or 400 degrees and set the other burner on low. If using a charcoal grill, put coals on one side of the grill to create the same effect. Coat the grate with olive oil. Cook skin side down for 6 minutes on medium, then move it to the low temperature area of grill for 8 minutes. Flip the two pieces and cook on medium for 6 minutes and then 8 minutes on low. Total cooking time should be about 28 minutes. The internal temperature on the thigh should be 165 degrees and juices should be clear. Let the hen rest for several minutes before taking a bite.

Cheers to conquering our food fears

Christine

Hot Bourbon Vanilla Spiced Cocktail Recipe

Warm up with a Hot Bourbon Milk Cocktail

With more cold and rainy nights ahead, I thought what better way to warm the heart and soul than with a hot toddy.

As a child I recall when my mom would serve me warm milk before bedtime. The warm milk relaxed my body, and my eyes became heavy.  So I’ve created the adult version of this drink with some spices and a little kick. Try my warm cocktail that tastes just as comforting as when you were a young child. This is the perfect hot toddy after a day of skiing or outdoor hiking.

Combine all ingredients including bourbon, vanilla, anise, milk, maple syrup and cardamon. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Combine all ingredients including bourbon, vanilla, anise, milk, maple syrup and cardamon. Photo by Christine Willmsen

I concocted this recipe using a sample of Lagrima vanilla, made in Seattle by Neil and Rebekah Beam. They get single-source organic vanilla beans from places like Uganda and use vodka, bourbon and rum for their extracts.

Hot in the Kitchen – Hot Bourbon Spiced Milk

Ingredients:

Strain cocktail through a fine sieve. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Strain cocktail through a fine sieve. Photo by Christine Willmsen

½ cup whole milk

1 shot bourbon

1 teaspoon Lagrima vanilla (bourbon extract)

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 star anise pods

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for five minutes, occasionally stirring it. Remove from heat, and pour mixture through a small, fine mesh sieve or colander and serve in a brandy glass or coffee mug with a cinnamon stick.

Cheers

Christine

Joule Restaurant offers modern Korean cuisine

The persimmon salad is full of surprises as a starter. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The persimmon salad with bitter green and sesame yogurt is full of surprises as a starter. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Joule Restaurant is Asian fusion at its best

Cold-smoked tofu with Asian mushrooms is a star on the menu. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Cold-smoked tofu with Asian mushrooms is a star on the menu. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Don’t take my word for it – okay do – but just look at how packed Joule restaurant is every night and you’ll know why I keep coming back to this fantastic fusion restaurant that is my new Solo Hot Spot.

This unique restaurant shares space with The Whale Wins at 3506 Stone Way N., Seattle. As you walk through the front door the hallway literally separates the two chic restaurants. To the left you will find Joule encased with windows. The menu is diverse, with an emphasis on beef.

Top dishes to try

My favorite two dishes are the cold-smoked tofu made in-house and the duck pastrami with rice. The $9 tofu is silky, firm and smoky and the Hon-shimeji mushrooms add a nuttiness and earthiness to the soy vinaigrette.

Watch cooks by sitting at the chef counter. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Watch cooks by sitting at the chef counter. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The $14 duck pastrami satiates the tummy with fried rice and pickled currant. The Seattle Times’ review states the kalbi-marinated steak is a must-order.

Sally up to the chef counter, where there’s no reservations needed and is a perfect perch for a single person. Or if you are feeling social, try the communal table. The closer I am to seeing the food prepared and watching the talented chefs the happier I am as a diner at a restaurant. There’s something about watching chefs like owner Rachel Yang work their craft that totally relaxes me. In this case I’m mesmerized by this open kitchen because the staff executes each dish flawlessly and effortlessly. The team functions like a well-oiled machine, quietly humming as they cook dish after dish with ease.

Duck Pastrami with fried rice is decadent, comfort food. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Duck Pastrami with fried rice is decadent, comfort food. Photo by Christine Willmsen

At the counter you don’t feel alone and often you can spark up a conversation with the chefs or others sitting there. Yang and her husband Chef Seif Chirchi also own Revel restaurant, in the Fremont neighborhood and plan to open a third restaurant in Capitol Hill.

Cheers

Christine

Joule on Urbanspoon

Sweet Superbowl Party Peanuts

Rose Candied Peanuts

Of course the Superbowl is about football, but let’s not forget the party food. Whether you are attending another person’s party or crashing on the couch to watch the game Sunday, you must make my addicting Rose Candied Peanuts.

With just four ingredients this is an easy, aromatic snack to make that can be nibbled on while the Seahawks beat the Broncos or added to your lunch bag. This healthy, sweet combination takes only a couple of minutes to make and is easy to transport to a party.

Sprinkling rose water on the peanuts gives them a sweet, floral aroma unlike anything you’ve smelled before.

A bottle of rose water can be purchased at most Asian food stores and other gourmet markets for $5-10. I used roasted peanuts, but try almonds too. The candied peanuts can be stored for about one week if they stay out of your hands that long.

Hot in the Kitchen

Ingredients

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1 3/4 cup roasted peanuts or almonds

1 1/2 teaspoons rose water

Dissolve sugar in water and bring to boil in small saucepan. Combine the water, sugar and peanuts in a saute or frying pan. Cook on medium high heat, stirring often until the syrup evaporates. Sprinkle rose water on nuts, stir and let cool.

Cheers

Christine

Recipe for Kale and Leek Pancakes

Kale and leek pancakes make a perfect lunch or dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Kale and leek pancakes make a perfect lunch or dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ways to cook Kale: pancakes

The tumeric topping on the kale pancakes adds depth. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The tumeric topping on the kale pancakes adds depth. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Kale is the IN food when it comes to cooking. So I created two recipes to urge you to buy a bunch of kale and try the bold, deep, green vegetable that most people set aside because it’s used mostly as a garnish. This recipe combines kale and leeks to create a pancake for brunch, lunch or dinner.

Another way to use the rest of your kale bunch is to make a breakfast kale smoothie that is full of Vitamin A, C and K. If you are adventuresome in the dirt, plant kale in your garden. It can grow in the Pacific Northwest during the fall and winter months and is also available at grocery stores. I used the kale and leeks from Oxbow Organic Farm, a 25-acre vegetable garden near Carnation that sells its produce at farmers markets, restaurants and to weekly subscribers.

Hot in the Kitchen – Kale and Leek Pancakes

Finely chop kale

Finely chop kale

Ingredients for Pancake:

1 cup finely chopped kale (dinosaur is best variety with center vein removed)

¼ cup chopped leeks

3 eggs

Combine ingredients for batter

Combine ingredients for batter

1 tablespoon water

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup peanut oil

Tumeric adds flavor

Turmeric adds flavor

Topping:

1 tablespoon low-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon low-fat yogurt

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Dash of salt

Fry two minutes per side

Fry two minutes per side

Mix kale, leeks, eggs, water, salt, pepper and cheese together in bowl. In a frying pan, heat peanut oil on medium high until pan is hot. Use a half cup measuring tool to gently drop the mixture into the oil. Cook for two minutes on medium high until brown, using a splatter guard if grease starts to jump. Flip and cook another two minutes. Place on paper towel and drop the rest of the batter into the pan and repeat. Mix sour cream, yogurt, turmeric and dash of salt together and add dollop to the top of the pancakes.

Cheers

Christine

Energizing Breakfast Kale Smoothie

Kale Morning Smoothie

My kale smoothie will give you the kickstart you need in the morning. Photo by Christine Willmsen

My kale smoothie will give you the kickstart you need in the morning. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Get a pep in your step with this healthy, fruit and vegetable morning smoothie. After purchasing a VitaMix (a powerful blender), I’ve been creating my own combinations of fresh ingredients to make a great smoothie that’s flavorful and nutritious.

The key to this smoothie is raw kale, because it has so much vitamin A, C and K. It also is considered one of those vegetables that feeds the brain and is anti-flammatory, helping heal a sore and stiff body. Kale is a popular trend for those on the health kick, but Dr. Drew Ramsey writes you should make it part of your staple diet.

This is one of the quickest recipes you can make in the morning and even drink it on the way to work. Next week I’ll show you another recipe with kale, so that the bunch you buy at the market doesn’t go to waste.

Hot in the Kitchen – Kale Smoothie

Ingredients like carrots and mango give a natural sweetness to this quick breakfast. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients like carrots and mango give a natural sweetness to this quick breakfast. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients:

6 kale leaves

1/2 cup frozen mango chunks

3 medium-size carrots

1/4 of lemon squeezed juice

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 cup water

1/2 apple

mixerCut vegetables into large chunks and add all ingredients to VitaMix or your blender. Pulse on low for 10 seconds and then turn on high for another 20 seconds. Serve immediately.

Cheers

Christine

Chorizo Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe

Ditch the traditional sweet recipes for acorn squash and try this savory and spicy recipe. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ditch the traditional sweet recipes for acorn squash and try this savory and spicy recipe. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Spice up Acorn Squash with Chorizo stuffing

A savory stuffed squash is a great dinner on a cold night. Skip the sweet version of acorn squash with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar and go for a spicy kick by using chorizo. This is a no-fuss recipe I created after craving a stuffed acorn squash. The nutty sweet flavors of the squash explode with the combination of chorizo, which is Spanish sausage that can be purchased at most grocery stores.
Squash is high in fiber, vitamin C and potassium.

Buy one squash and you can enjoy one half for dinner and the other one you can warm up for lunch. This is also a great recipe if you are having a friend over for dinner.

Hot in the Kitchen: Chorizo Stuffed Acorn SquashIngredients for recipe

Ingredients:
1 acorn squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ pound ground chorizo (Spanish sausage)
¼ cup onion minced
1/8 cup red pepper finely chopped
½ cup potato finely chopped
¼ cup kale finely chopped
1 tablespoon golden raisins chopped
1/3 cup mozzarella

Score squash and salt and pepperPreheat oven to 350 degrees while you cut the acorn squash in half lengthwise and clean out the inside seeds and mush with a spoon. Score each half with a knife, by lightly cutting vertically and horizontally on the inside. Brush olive oil all over the insides of both halves and then salt and pepper them liberally. Cook for 30 minutes, while you finely chop all the ingredients for the stuffing. Sauté on medium heat the onion, pepper and chorizo for five minutes until tender and add potatoes, kale and golden raisins and cook for another five minutes. Stuff each half of squash with the mixture and cook for another 30 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella on each half and broil at 500 degrees for two minutes or until light brown.

Cheers

Christine

Roasted Parsnips with Leeks and Mushrooms Recipe

This quick recipe combines Parsnips, leeks and mushrooms for a great dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

This recipe combines parsnips, leeks and mushrooms for a quick dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Cook with Parsnips – the healthy, but forgotten root vegetable

It’s that time of year, when root vegetables like parsnips rule. But maybe you’ve never thought of parsnips or have never cooked with them before. It’s time to give them a try.

Parsnips are a cousin of the carrot and are a fantastic root vegetable full of nutrients and vitamins.

Parsnips are full of fiber and low-fat. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Parsnips are full of fiber and low-fat. Photo by Christine Willmsen

It is a great source of fiber and vitamin C, providing more than 1/3 of your daily needed dose. It also has iron, magnesium and vitamin B-6. Just because it’s a white vegetable doesn’t mean it’s not full of amazing flavor. I think parsnips show their true color when roasted.

This recipe combines the sweetness of parsnips, caramelized leeks, earthy mushrooms and a kick of red pepper.

The leek is a powerful anti-inflammatory food that also contains vitamin A and K. This low-fat vegetarian dinner is easy and satisfying.

While attending the International Food Bloggers Conference, I discovered Oxbow Organic Farm, located in the Snoqualmie Valley. This 25-acre vegetable garden near Carnation sells its produce at farmers markets, restaurants and to weekly subscribers. At the Ballard Farmers Market, I recently picked up a box of vegetables from Oxbow and their parsnips and leeks inspired this recipe.

Hot in the Kitchen: Roasted Parsnips with Leeks and Mushrooms

Peel parsnips and cut into large chunks.

Peel parsnips and cut into large chunks.

Ingredients

6 parsnips (medium size)

½ of leek diced

1 cup chopped mushrooms (save time by buying pre-sliced mushrooms)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Spread parsnips, leeks and mushrooms on foil-covered baking sheet.

Spread parsnips, leeks and mushrooms on foil-covered baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peal parsnips and cut into one inch by two inch pieces.  Clean leek by slicing it lengthwise from about ½ inch away the root through to the green ends. Rinse the leek under running water to remove dirt. Pat dry and dice ½ leek. Mix parsnips, leek, mushrooms, olive oil, salt, hot pepper flakes and black pepper in bowl. Cover large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pour vegetables onto sheet and spread out as thin as possible. Cook in oven for a total of 22 minutes, stirring and turning vegetables at 11 minutes. Optional: sprinkle a pinch of applewood smoked sea salt on top of dish.

Cheers

Christine

The multiple benefits of a Juice Cleanse

Juice as a cleanse can be your healthy restart

Sometimes you just need a kick in the butt.

Suja three-day cleanse with organic fresh-cold pressed juices offered me a new healthy start. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Suja three-day cleanse with organic fresh-cold pressed juices offered me a new healthy start. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Yep, that’s what I said. And frankly that’s what I needed. I had major shoulder surgery in the spring and the recovery has been slow. After months of physical therapy, I was finally given a green light to start running, swimming and lifting weights. But as I recovered I also had gained weight, lost muscle tone and felt sluggish. And I was still eating rich, sometimes fatty, foods at restaurants and in my own kitchen. I needed a kick-start so I tried a three-day juice cleanse.

I’m not into pills and dry mixes to “cleanse” or restart my healthy lifestyle, so I turned to Suja Juice, an all-natural juice cleanse that I discovered at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle. With my busy schedule I knew I didn’t have time to create all these juices myself, so that’s why Suja appealed to me. It’s so convenient. I just needed to drink six juices each day and plenty of water. No meals, no caffeine and no alcohol.

I was a bit reluctant to have nothing but juices for three days, but I can do just about anything for a couple of days, especially if I know there’s an end game. The cold-pressed juices are literally a combo of fresh ingredients like beets, apples, kale, cucumber, spinach, celery and lemon.

Fuel juice is my favorite in the cleanse line. Photo supplied by Suja website.

Fuel juice is my favorite in the cleanse line. Photo supplied by Suja website.

Day One of the cleanse was challenging, just because I was hyper focused on not having solid food to chew. However, I I wasn’t hungry and in fact the juices in 16 oz. bottles tasted great. My favorite was Fuel – a midmorning juice containing carrots, apple, orange, lemon, pineapple and turmeric. It was fresh, sweet and gulpable. My least favorite was the dessert juice – Vanilla Cloud with coconut, honey and almonds. It left a bitter after taste that I didn’t like. The juices are certified organic, dairy-free, gluten-free and non-GMO certified.

By Day Two I was actually enjoying the cleanse. I felt satiated and I had energy. That night I swam in the lap pool for 40 minutes and felt strong.

Day Three wasn’t missing solid food, but mentally I became fixated on what I would eat after the cleanse. Suddenly I was seeing all the food commercials on television with glistening burgers and salted fries and I was licking my lips. During the three days my friends and family constantly talked about food. They had no problem tempting and teasing me with details of their fabulous dinners or new recipes they had tried.

Suja offers six juices a day for the cleanse. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Suja offers six juices a day for the cleanse. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The next day after the cleanse, I was supposed to have mild foods like vegetables and soup. Well, I did have vegetables, but I added melted cheese and truffle oil. Not surprising, I had a stomach ache and the next couple meals I backed off and prepared simple dishes.

While Suja juice isn’t intended for weight loss, I did lose three pounds. Suja juice has amazing nutritional benefits and it was just what I needed to refocus on a healthy lifestyle.

Disclosure: I received a free three-day supply of the juices with no obligation to write or review the product. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

Cheers

Christine

A Great Sushi Happy Hour

Happy Hour Sushi for those on a budget

Large chunks of sashimi at Kozue restaurant make this the perfect quick dinner spot for one person. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Large chunks of sashimi at Kozue restaurant make this the perfect quick dinner spot for one person. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Kozue Japanese Restaurant is my new hot spot for singles to visit. This sushi restaurant not only has a great happy hour, but fresh fish at reasonable prices. Sometimes I just need my fix of sushi and want a place where I can grab sashimi, rolls and sake – and that’s why I love stopping in this little Wallingford restaurant, at 1608 N. 45th St., Seattle.

My go-to salad at this restaurant is the seaweed salad for $3.75. Photo by Christine Willmsen

My go-to salad at this restaurant is the seaweed salad for $3.75. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The Kozue happy hour, 5-9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5-6:30 p.m. on Friday and 3-6:30 p.m. on Saturday includes sake and rolls for $3 each.

Nibbles like the spinach with salmon skin, spicy tofu and spring rolls are also just $3. Other items on the menu that I recommend include sake sashimi (salmon) and unagi (freshwater eel).

Don’t forget to order the Black cod’n Tofu, which is two Japanese-style kabobs with tofu and black cod or the Tuna Poki Salad with avocadoes, each just $5.50.

Thanks to my friend, Athima, I discovered this hot spot that I think you’ll want to try too.

Cheers

Christine

Kozue Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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