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Author Archives: The Solo Cook

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

This Seattle restaurant’s menu is diverse and fresh

Ever-changing menu at Blind Pig Bistro makes it a worthy restaurant to revisit

Three words describe the Blind Pig Bistro in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood: seasonal, local and creative. This small restaurant seating less than 30 people is sandwiched between a Subway and teriyaki restaurant in a tiny strip mall at 2238 Eastlake Ave. E. But don’t let the size of the restaurant be the judge of what this restaurant can cook.

The small kitchen at the Blind Pig Bistro prepares a 12-courses tasting menu for visitors. A large blackboard on the wall is a menu that serves as a cheat sheet for what your palate will be tasting throughout the night. Come hungry and pace yourself at this casual restaurant that takes no reservations. It’s best to plan this dining excursion with a group of friends (a total of 4 works best) so that you can order the tasting menu that’s shared at the table for a total of $130-$170 depending on the fresh menu. For about $40 per person, you can try numerous dishes that will wow your taste buds.

Chef Charles Walpole modifies the menu every couple of days, and overhauls it about once a week focusing on local ingredients and fresh seasonal products coming from farmers in the area. Through the International Food Bloggers Conference and Urbanspoon, several food bloggers from across the country, included myself dined at the Blind Pig Bistro. Bloggers said the food was fresh, provocative and well-balanced. The favorite dishes were the steak with charred eggplant, duck and zucchini salad.

If you need to nibble, experience their happy hour of small bites of the chef’s desire for $5 and wine by the glass for the same price. Recent reviews of the restaurant include:

The Seattle Times

Eater Seattle

Seattle Met

Cheers

Christine

Blind Pig Bistro on Urbanspoon

Squid Ink Pasta with Scallops

Squid Ink Pasta Adds Color to this Recipe

Want to jazz up your pasta dinner with a little color? Try flavored or colored pasta like squid ink.  While the thought of squid for some people may make them say – yuck- I know many of you are daring enough to try it.

My video will show you just how easy it is to create this visually stimulating dish that combines squid ink pasta, scallops and fresh vegetables.

Frankly the best part of the squid ink pasta is the deep, rich black color. Cephalopods like squid release the dark liquid as a defense, and the liquid is extracted from the ink sacs of the squid when they are being harvested.

Black squid ink pasta is the perfect color contrast to the seared scallops. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Black squid ink pasta is the perfect color contrast to the seared scallops. Photo by Christine Willmsen

And for those who are scared of the flavor – fear not – squid ink pasta tastes very similar to wheat pasta with a subtle salty flavor. There typically is a small percentage of ink that’s added to the water and dough that creates the black color. Squid ink pasta and other types such as tomato, basil and spinach can be bought at gourmet grocery stores like Central Market for $9 and online at Marx Foods.

In my last video and blog post I showed you step-by-step how to sear scallops in a pan like a professional. Now that you know it’s simple to cook scallops, making this dish will be easy to do when you get home from work. A great wine to pair with this dinner is a glass of Spanish Albariño.

Hot in the Kitchen: Squid Ink Pasta with Seared Scallops

Boil squid ink pasta for eight minutes. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Boil squid ink pasta for eight minutes. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients:

1/4 bag of dry squid ink pasta

3 defrosted or fresh large scallops

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 gloves garlic minced

1/4 cup red pepper diced

3/4 cup cherry or small yellow tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped basil

1 tablespoon chopped thyme and parsley (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse scallops, pat them really dry with paper towel and lightly season with salt and pepper. Pour one tablespoon olive oil into pan that’s reached medium-high heat and add scallops. Don’t move or flip them. Cook for two to three minutes until brown. Flip and cook an additional two minutes. Remove scallops from pan and let them rest. Boil pasta in unsalted water for 8 minutes.

In the pan combine the remaining olive oil, garlic, red peppers, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Sauté for approximately six minutes on medium heat, then add basil, thyme and parsley and cook for an additional two minutes. Add scallops to the pan to warm them up. After draining the pasta, combine it with scallops and sauce.

Cheers

Christine

How to Cook Scallops

Learn how to Sear Sea Scallops like a Pro

Scallops are the prefect food for singles. They are fast and easy to cook and very healthy. But often my friends say they are intimidated by trying to cook these pearly white discs of sweet, deliciousness, often getting mixed results. The best way to cook scallops, especially if you have a busy schedule is pan-searing them over hot heat with some simple flavors. When seared correctly, scallops are creamy, sweet and carmelized on the outside.

I prefer the large scallops, which are usually available in most grocery stores. The added benefit is that these mollusks are what I like to call “power foods” because they are made up of at least 50 percent protein, low-calorie and loaded with magnesium and potassium.

Pat dry scallops, season and sear for 2 minutes per side. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Pat dry scallops, season and sear for 2 minutes per side. Photo by Christine Willmsen

You will not only impress yourself but any date or friends you are entertaining. Add the scallops to pasta, rice or sautéed vegetables.

In my next video I’ll show you a recipe and how to cook Squid Ink Pasta with Seared Scallops to truly take advantage of this healthy and easy seafood.

Cheers

Christine

How to ripen garden tomatoes quicker

Five ways to ripening those garden tomatoes

Ripen your tomatoes with these quick tips. Heirloom tomatoes like this may look deformed but have amazing flavor. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ripen your tomatoes with these quick tips. Heirloom tomatoes like this may look deformed but have amazing flavor. Photo by Christine Willmsen

With shorter days and colder nights in the Pacific Northwest, it’s time to make sure your tomatoes get ripe so you can enjoy them in salads and in cooking. I planted my heirloom tomatoes from seeds and now I’m seeing all the amazing types of tomatoes grow and start to ripen. This reminds me of my childhood days, when almost every night we’d pull a red, juicy ripe tomato from the garden and serve it sliced with salt and pepper.

Here are five tips to guarantee tomatoes will taste amazing, and sooner than later:

Tear off small suckers, leaf starts, like these off the vine. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Tear off small suckers, leaf starts, like these off the vine. Photo by Christine Willmsen

1. If you already have multiple green tomatoes growing on the vine, cut the top of the plant where new shoots and flowers are starting to form. This focuses the energy on the current fruit.

2. Remove suckers every couple days. These are the small leaves that start growing in between the main branches of the tomato plant. They will literally “suck” the plant’s energy and make it challenging for your fruit to ripen.

3. Go by feel. Don’t base a tomato’s ripeness by the color. There are so many varieties of tomatoes that aren’t your classic deep red. If the tomato is plump feeling and tender then remove it from the vine. Some of my tomatoes are yellow and ripe now.

Even though this tomato is yellow, it's ripe. Base your ripeness on feel and when tender pull it. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Even though these tomatoes are yellow, they’re ripe. Base your ripeness on feel and when tender pull it. Photo by Christine Willmsen

4. With cold, wet nights approaching, you should thin the leaves and branches that aren’t critical to growing the fruit. This ensures that air can circulate between the leaves and fruit and it will help prevent late blight and mold.

5. If a tomato is too heavy for the plant like the one in the top photo, then harvest it and let it ripen on your counter or better yet in a shoe box in a cool, dark room.

Cheers

Christine