Poached Salmon with Ginger Honey Cinnamon Glaze, Coconut Collard Greens, and Red Rice

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I love when I can make a delicious dinner entirely out of what’s already in my kitchen, and all that is required is stopping on my bike ride home to pick up some fish and a head of collard greens.

I can’t even believe how busy this week is, and relish in the fact that with all that’s going on, I still take the time to cook myself a delicious meal on a Wednesday night.  Really, at a time like this, I should be eating take-out or leftover pizza from UCU last weekend.  I mean, seriously.  After driving back down to Portland on Sunday night, I spent all day Monday unpacking from the show and reorganizing the shop, prepping for the coming work week, especially because my wonderful employee is on vacation and I’m flying solo for the next 2 weeks.  Awesome timing.

Then on Tuesday morning, I signed about 1,000 pieces of paper, and agreed to a bill whose final payment is due in 2042.  Yep, I bought a house.  NBD.

Then, I’m working all week, getting the keys to the house, spending the evening with my best friend who just got back from 3 weeks in Hawaii, hosting old high school friends from out of town Saturday night, and then quickly washing the sheets so I can host my business partner for a 24 hour debrief of last weekend’s show.  And we’ll treat ourselves to a fancy dinner in there somewhere.

Oh, and then Monday I had to buy a fridge.  And a bed.

And then Tuesday I move.  Into my new house.

And then Wednesday I will go to work and spend the whole rest of the evening prepping 4 days worth of food to bring with us to String Cheese at Horning’s, the festival we’ll be at the whole following weekend.

And yet, last night I came home and still felt compelled to cook this.

As soon as I walked in the door and poured myself some iced tea, I got a pot of red and brown rice started on the stove.

A lot of times when I make a teriyaki-esque type of sauce, it involves stir frying veggies or noodles or meat first, then incorporating an Asian sauce concoction into it.  But for some reason this time, I just wanted a nice thick, bubbly sauce, so I started with that.  Pus, I have about 9 half-used bottles of red wine that I’d really love to not transport with me to my next residence, so this seemed like a good way to tap into that.

First, some minced ginger.

This went into the big skillet on medium-high heat with some honey, soy sauce, chopped garlic, and a hefty amount of red wine.  It smelled disgusting at first, but once the sauce bubbled together and reduced and the alcohol cooked off, it became deliciously sweet and dark and syrupy.

I put the salmon directly into the skillet, still frozen, and let it thaw and start to cook from the steam as the sauce continued to reduce and the water evaporated off the fish.

When it was about half cooked, I was able to remove the fish and peel off the skin with my fingers, removed the sauce from the heat and let it all sit there while I worked on the greens.

Have you ever had to deal with collard greens before?  There are few veggies out there that I won’t use in their entirety, but collard and chard stems are one of them.  I mean, if I’m making a soup the next day then sure, I’ll toss them in, but really other than that, I don’t force it.  I compost now so it’s all good.

What I like to do here is take each leaf, and quickly slice out the stem, making diagonal cuts right along each side of the rib and plucking the stem from the middle.

After doing this to each leaf, I stack them all on top of each other, roll them up like I’m chiffonading basil, make a slice lengthwise down the middle, and then again perpendicularly into strips — this makes perfect little rectangles for sauteeing.

Sliced up half an onion…

Then, in a separate pan, I heated up some coconut oil, and let the onion caramelize with some salt for a few minutes.

In went all the greens, and as they cooked down to the size of the pan, I added some jerk seasoning, a splash of cider vinegar, and some black pepper.

I wanted to add just a bit of chicken broth, but I’ll let you in on a secret.  You know those recipes that tell you to add like half a cup of chicken broth?  It’s like, who has that?  Any commercial liquid broth that’s open in the fridge will go back long before I get a chance to use half a cup of it, and any bullion requires a separate pot to make the broth in…for half a cup?  Here’s what I do: I make my own chicken stock each time I roast a chicken — about once a month — and keep the stock in serving-size containers in the freezer, usually cottage cheese-sized.

Then I use these the same way you’d use a stick of butter to grease a cooking pan: take out the fist-sized ice cube, and place it in the pan of whatever needs a little extra richness.

Not for too long — maybe 3 minutes, until just a few layers (or about half a cup!) melt off.  Then, put the broth cube back in the cottage cheese container and replace in the freezer.  No harm done, no broth wasted, no extra pot to clean.

Did I mention that I don’t have a sink in my kitchen?

Yep, 4 years and approximately 3,800 meals cooked…without a kitchen sink.  Just one of the many things I’m really, really excited about in my new house.

So anyway, I took the greens off the heat and let them absorb the rest of that broth while they cooled, and returned the salmon-and-sauce pan back to medium-high heat for another five minutes or so until the salmon had finished cooking and was wonderfully warm and caramelized.


This Week’s Groceries

Trader Joe’s 7/9

  • Sockeye salmon fillets: $6.69
  • Cod fillets: $4.39
  • Roasted plantain chips: $1.69 — for the bike ride home.  
  • 2 cans tuna: $3.38

TOTAL: $16.15



QFC 7/11

  • Roma tomatoes: $1.00
  • Green pepper: $0.94
  • Half & half: $2.29
  • Cottage cheese: $2.99
  • Red onion: $0.55
  • Cucumber: $1.79

TOTAL: $9.56



New Seasons 7/11

  • Collard Greens: $2.49

TOTAL: $2.49


Chicken Peanut Bok Choy Stir Fry

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Last night felt like a huge welcome home — the first meal I’ve cooked in ten days!  Yes, between impromptu backyard barbecues, Jesse treating us to gigantic calzones on a Friday night when I had to stay home and catch up on work for the third evening in a row, and then a quick emergency trip up to B.C. to wire myself the remainder of my Canadian money that I’ve been saving since college, so that all my accounts are consolidated for my upcoming down payment on a house(!), I haven’t actually bought vegetables and done a full load of dishes and cranked out a good solid meal in over a week.  Even with my crazy insane-o-pants schedule, that doesn’t happen too often.

Earlier this week Jesse and I had been musing about what appliances and accoutrements we each have in our respective kitchens, realizing with satisfaction that when our kitchens eventually merge, there will be little to no redundancy, and between the two of us, we will suddenly own every appliance created (including a crock pot, pressure cooker, AND deep fryer).  Well, except for a KitchenAid, but I still maintain that that one’s unnecessary.

Now, I just recently acquired a super awesome heavy duty cast iron skillet, which I’ve been using to cook pretty much everything I consume, but during the mental tour of my kitchen, when I got to my well-seasoned wok, which sits in one of my big underneath cupboards, I realized that I’ve perhaps never cooked Jesse a wok meal before, and it gave me a serious hankering to do just that.

This is pretty much a re-run of my go-to Pad Kee Mao routine, but this time with chicken and some toasted peanuts for some extra protein, and to bulk it up.  I wanted leftovers, and Jesse is a serious eater.

First, I got these rice noodles soaking in some hot water, while we discussed whether or not a home warranty is necessary (I’m thinking no, when your boyfriend is a super smart contractor, right?  I’m all about taking the money that could be going to an insurance company and putting it into my own “emergency/repairs” fund).

I sauteed those up in some garlic and dark soy and sugar, and set them aside, then in the empty wok, browned some chicken and raw peanuts, with salt and chili flakes.

I sliced up some carrots and celery (on the diagonal, of course.  That’s what differentiates an Asian stir fry from an American saute!), and got these cooking with half a sliced onion and some minced ginger.  Then I whisked up a simple sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger powder, chili paste, fish sauce, and sesame oil, and added it to the veggies slowly, so that the liquid absorbed but didn’t overpower the stir fry.

Towards the end, I added a few handfuls of adorable little shitake mushrooms, and half a bunch of this awesome looking bok choy.

I spooned a little more sauce over the top, then added back in the chicken, peanuts and rice noodles, and mixed them all together until perfectly combined.

Served it up and garnished with fresh lime, sriracha, and extra sauce to taste.

And then, we drove up to Tonalli’s on Alberta and got ice cream cones.

This Week’s Groceries

New Seasons 6/14

  • Half gallon milk: $2.89
  • Shitake Mushrooms: $2.38 — would have been way more expensive but he charged me as a portobello.  Score!
  • Carrots: $1.06
  • Broccoli: $3.02
  • Bok choy: $1.76
  • Pascilla Peppers: $0.26
  • Garlic: $1.08

TOTAL: $12.40


Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Snow Peas

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Tuesday I found myself in need of a potluck offering in a pinch.  See, about five months ago, nine of my friends and I bought tickets to see Roger Waters perform The Wall, live at the Rose Garden.  It was one of those things that was so far out in the future, we kind of all forgot about it and went about our lives all spring.

But then all of a sudden, here we were at May 22, and it was go time.  Playing event coordinator while I drove back from a relaxing weekend visiting Jesse at his job site in Hood River, baked some fresh bread, got my house in gear for the week, and took a quick house-hunting tour around Southeast, I manifested a plan that involved a quick potluck dinner & drinks at our friends’ new house that they just bought and moved into.

I was really aiming for low impact here — not just because I’d already pretty much hit my grocery budget for the month, but because this week has been so jam-packed I literally didn’t think I had a window of time to even swing by New Seasons on my way to grab the fixings for a cheese board, my go-to easy potluck contribution.

No, this was one of those times I’d have to really get creative with my cupboards and come up with a contribution that was 100% already in my kitchen, including some humble cocktail fixings that I’d culled from the odds and ends of bottles from my bar and stray single cans of all-natural soda to use as mixers.

And proudly, I realized as I took an initial survey of my freezer and pantry, I could totally pull off a hearty, summery soba noodle salad without setting foot outside my house.

Drawing my inspiration (and the peanut sauce recipe) from this salad, I pulled out the blender.

As usual, Deb has concocted the perfect balance of sweet, tangy, refreshing, and delicious, so I didn’t do a single thing to change this dressing.  I just threw all of the following into the blender, and hit “go” until all the ingredients were perfectly smooth and incorporated:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1.5 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • a squirt of Sriracha

I love how cheap these packages of soba noodles are at Fubonn, and so I buy them by the handful whenever I’m there.  Today, I cooked up a full 12 oz. package.  The peas and TJ’s tofu edamame nuggets were my freezer finds, that would round out the body of the salad.

I only had about five of these nuggets left, so I fried them up in the skillet, along with about half the bag of frozen peas.  I chopped the nuggets into little pieces, stirred these into the salad along with a couple of chopped scallions, and poured the dressing over it all, stirring it in until all noodles were coated.

This whole meal took about 25 minutes to make, and after chilling in the fridge for a few hours before heading over to Andrea & Teran’s, made for the perfect pre-show dinner.

This Week’s Groceries

Fred Meyer 5/31

  • Newman’s Alfredo sauce: $2.59
  • Green onions: $0.50
  • Zucchini: $0.55
  • Seafood medley: $3.99 you guessed right, seafood mushroom Alfredo!  I missed out on having this with Jesse up at the cabin (we oversnacked on smoked salmon and crackers too late in the afternoon) so I decided to make it for myself when I got back to town
  • Sliced mushrooms: $1.89
  • Sugar: $2.29

TOTAL: $11.81

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: -$5.77 — Oops!  Got pretty darn close but I did go a little bit over.  I’ll start off next month with a $6 deficit.

Tofu Broccoli Yakisoba

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This is one of those weeks where there needs to be a variety of ready-to-eat food at the forefront of my fridge, so I don’t have to even make any food choices once my Monday/Tuesday is over and my work week begins.  

Not only am I still making up for having taken last weekend off to go up to Seattle for a family weekend, but I had Knit Night after work last night until 9:30, am teaching a Continental Knitting class after work tonight, and am manning the shop all on my own this weekend while my employee is out of town (which means getting there early and staying late so I can still get all my work done while juggling customers).

Plus, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks trying out Crossfit, which I bought a Groupon for last fall that’s about to expire.  Crossfit actually takes the least amount of elapsed time than any workout I’ve ever pursued, so this shouldn’t be such a hardship on my schedule, but just adds another element of advanced planning, given that I bike to work and everything I have to carry for a workout is now just additional weight to juggle on my ride along with whatever food and layers I’m bringing with me for the day.  Sometimes when I leave the house I feel like I should be sporting a frame pack and heading out into the woods for all the supplies I have packed on hand.

BTW, the outcome of dabbling in Crossfit is that it’s had the unintended (and ironic) consequence of making me want to join a gym.  More on that later.

So as a result, my lunches this week feature hard boiled eggs (on bagels left over from family weekend) and soft cheeses, a tofu broccoli yakisoba, a chickpea salad, and a huge pot of the easiest and yummiest soup ever — this time adding little slices of sweet apple chicken sausage.

Also, given that this past weekend was also a faux birthday celebration, I got to bring this home with me, for a little afternoon treat before this week’s classes (or dessert to eat in bed while I watch Parks & Recreation before passing out from exhaustion, whichever the case may be).


Key lime pie from The Hardware Store on Vashon Island

I also treated myself to this, which I will chop up and bring to work in Tupperwares once it ripens.  


I usually stick to a pretty strict rule of “my produce can only come from the west coast corridor,” but make an exception for tropical fruits.  It’s one thing to buy bagged spinach from Mexico when you can grow it bountifully in your own back yard; it’s another to appreciate an explosively delicious fruit that could never make it through the New Seasons door without transport.  I’m not wholeheartedly against commercial transport, I just like to keep it logical.

So, for the winning trifecta of volume + protein + veggies, I whipped up a quick and easy yakisoba.

A chopped brick of tofu, browned in the wok with salt to draw out the liquid, and a little bit of vegetable oil…


a huge head of broccoli sauteed in coconut oil…


and some Chinese egg noodles (not technically soba, but I was craving the ramen-like texture of these for some reason).  I tossed this all with a simple dressing of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and sweet chili sauce, topped with some sesame seeds, and finish it off with Sriracha whenever I’m ready to eat it.  Delicious hot or cold.


Oh, totally unrelated, but you know when you buy beans in bulk and bring them home to fill a jar you randomly grab from the shelf, and then sometimes the bag you’ve randomly filled with whatever amount of beans fills that jar just perfectly to the top?


Yeah, it’s like the universe is in order.

On to this week’s groceries…

New Seasons 3/20
split peas: $2.38
1 brick firm tofu: $1.99
dozen eggs: $2.89
pint whipping cream: $3.69 — for making butter next week
bunch of kale: $2.49
1 pineapple: $3.78
celery stalk: $0.92
head of broccoli: $2.71
large sweet potato: $2.20
grapefruit: $1.97
bunch of parsley: $1.49
sharp cheddar cheese: $2.05
TOTAL: $28.56
REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: -$0.48 — bummer!  Half a dollar over for the month.  Okay, I can live with that.  I came out $7 ahead in February, so let’s see if I can make it on just $6.50 worth of veggies next week to last me through the rest of the month!

How did the rest of my Project: Food Budget-ers do?

Pad Kee Mao

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So, I went to the Fubonn Asian grocery the other day.
It’s pretty insane how much food you can get there, in sheer volume, for $76.  This includes a ready-made seaweed salad and Vietnamese iced coffee, for consuming while strolling the aisles in awe.

Here’s one of my favorite quickie meals to make, especially when I have a lot of veggies on hand.  This, along with the Tom Kah soup, is also the dish by which I judge every Thai restaurant I go to (you know you have one), and it’s an extra treat to be able to throw in whatever vegetables and protein I want, since I always feel like I want there to be just one more vegetable in there when I order it out.

You need to get about a 20 minute head start on this one, since the first step is to soak the wide rice noodles (these packs sell for $1 each, people, and you only need to use half of one for a two-meal batch of this) in warm water.  You can do it while you’re chopping the veggies!

Once you’ve let the noodles soak, stir fry them quickly in a wok with a little bit of vegetable oil (I just use the oil that I had seasoning my wok from the last session) with 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce and about a teaspoon of sugar, then add in two cloves of chopped garlic.  Once all the sauce has been absorbed, transfer them to a separate bowl for a minute.  You need some space to cook the other stuff.

Back to the wok, saute up your veggies and whatever protein you’re using.  Tonight, I used Trader Joe’s pre-cut cod pieces, peppers, and zucchini (adding the zucchini a little later so it wouldn’t get too mushy).

Once the veggies start to get soft, add equal parts dark soy and rice vinegar, a few splashes of fish sauce, a spoonful or two of sweet chili paste, and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Once the sauce has been absorbed and the veggies are the consistency you want, add those noodles back in for the last minute of cooking and mix it all up — particularly useful if you’re using a frozen protein like the fish, which will lose a lot of water.  Let those noodles sop it up instead of your veggies!  It will make the noodles wonderfully stretchy, too.

I just happened to have some cilantro left over in the fridge, which was a spectacular addition at the end!