Monday, September 29, 2008

stuffed mushrooms.

when i spotted this recipe in my new native foods cookbook, i knew it would only be a matter of days before i had to try it out. i bought a dozen of big ol' white mushrooms at the market over the weekend...with this recipe in mind. today i went to the market again and got the last few ingredients i needed (shallots and parsley). i came home and hardly put my bag down before i got to work! i cleaned the mushrooms with a damp paper towel and removed the stems. then i finely chopped the stems and 4 shallots and sautéed them in a few tablespoons of olive oil. when they were soft and translucent, i added 1/2 cup of bread crumbs and 1/2 cup soy milk a minute later, along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. finally, i removed the pan from the heat and added 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley. i stuffed each mushroom with a heaping spoonful and placed them on an oiled and foil-lined baking sheet. then i put them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes and they were good to go! i let them cool for a just a few minutes...that was as long as fred and i could wait before we had to try one. we went nuts! they were so good. our friend pavel popped in later this evening as fred had the plate of mushrooms next to him. he offered pavel one...and then another...and before we knew it...they were gone. another success from native foods!

fred scale: 5...hands down!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

open spaces.

yesterday fred and i went on a boat excursion that left from the west coast of the island at puerto de tazacorte. we spent 4 hours way out in the atlantic. we came in close to shore to peek in pirate caves and swim for a while...but spent the rest of the time venturing out at sea. it was the most beautiful day...the sea was so calm and the water was so warm. the sun was smiling upon us :)

"not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves." -henry david thoreau

"either we are adrift in chaos or we are individuals, created, loved, upheld and placed purposefully, exactly where we are. can you believe that? can you trust God for that?" -elisabeth elliot

"nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes." -henry david thoreau

"follow the purpose that is truly you. and effectiveness, enthusiasm, achievement, joy and fulfillment will all flow into your life." -ralph marston

the hollywood bowl.

so i've beeen LOVING my new 'native foods restaurant cookbook.' i believe it's from heaven. my swedican friend julie recommended it to me. they have four restaurants in CA and i can't believe i never spotted them. anyhow, the book is amazing and i know i'll be making at least one recipe from it every week. other than their basic tofu marinade (and the mecca azteca salad that i had the recipe for before the book), this was the first recipe i tried. fred loves thai peanut sauce on anything...and i needed to make something hearty as he had a game the next day, so when i found 'the hollywood bowl' i knew it was destiny. gotta love the little reminder of home too in the name...oh heart. the recipe called for brown rice, but i used barley instead. it was what we had in the cupboard...and fred's become a big fan of it these days anyway. i topped the barley with steamed mixed veggies and 'native foods' homemade thai peanut sauce (which, by the way, was so fun to make! roasted peanuts, soy sauce, grilled onion and garlic, coconut milk, maple syrup, vinegar...yum!). the recipe called for marinated tofu, but we had that the night before so fred requested chicken instead. i grilled a breast, sliced it and served it on top of his veggies. i could have very well had tofu again, but i decided to just go with veggies. topped with roasted peanuts and brunoise cut red peppers, this was delicious!

fred scale: 4.5 ('little less vinegar in the thai peanut sauce')

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

jessie's monday mix.

this was just a little something i tossed together a few days ago. i trusted my senses and went with ingredients that sounded like they might get along well in a bowl of quinoa: grilled and chopped onions and summer squash, chopped dried apricots, chunks of feta, juicy pomegranite, and crunchy pumpkin seeds. thanks to the savory onions and grilled squash...and the saltiness from the cheese, this salad didn't call for any additional salt or dressing. it was an ideal one-dish meal. fred and i both scraped our bowls. definitely one to remember and make again.

fred scale: 5!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

mediterranean chicken.

fred's been craving a mediterranean stuffed chicken recipe that i made almost a year ago, so last night i decided to give it another whirl. the original recipe, from real simple magazine, calls for black olive tapenade mixed with crumbled feta cheese. i couldn't find the tapenade here, so i made my own. i mixed 1/2 cup of chopped black olives, 1/2 cup chopped green olives, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 cloves crushed garlic, about 1/2 cup crumbled feta and a dash of black pepper. i thought i had bought chicken breasts, but when they were thawed i noticed that they were more like fillets than breasts...definitely not thick enough to stuff. that wasn't going to stop me though. i spread about a tablespoon of the olive/feta filling on each pounded fillet, rolled them up and secured them with toothpicks. i browned the rolled fillets in a few splashes of olive oil for about 2 minutes per side, then added a little less than 2 cups of chicken broth to the skillet. the chicken simmered in the broth for about 10 minutes before they were cooked through. i served the chicken alongside the new fine bulgur we purchased at an organic store on the other side of the island. the grains were about the size of couscous...but had a less round texture, if that makes any sense to you grain gurus. it was perfect when topped with warmed spinach and chopped, seasoned tomatoes.

fred scale: 4.5 (he's still being stingy with those 5's!)


i'm currently reading mother teresa's 'no greater love'. with every word read, every page turned, i am continuously inspired, encouraged and amazed by this woman.

here is what spoke to me today: "do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. what we need is to love without getting tired. be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies."

Friday, September 19, 2008

no regrets.

a few days ago, heidi swanson posted a new recipe on her blog, 101 cookbooks, for her friend nikki's 'healthy cookies' eggs, no flour, no sugar. one might wonder how these could even be considered a cookie without those quintessential ingredients. well, i am here to tell you, they are cookies with a capital C. fred and i both have a knack for sweets, but not so much a knack for the love-handles that come as a result of devouring too many. so we compromise and eat them in minimal amounts...or opt for the more healthy choices. these were the latter. the main ingredients are oats, mashed banana, unsweetened coconut and chunks of rich chocolate. mixed with a few other ingredients (vanilla, coconut oil, baking powder, cinnamon, salt), then baked in the oven for about 13 minutes...they came out beautifully. i tried one before fred to make sure they didn't taste like poop. and for the record, they didn't. fred just arrived home today from his first game of the season in lleida. unfortunately, their team lost. fred, being the optimist that he is, feels alright about it and simply hopes for a win next weekend. thata boy! but a plate of 'welcome home cookies' couldn't hurt nonetheless.

fred scale: 4.5 ('outstanding for a sugar-less cookie!'

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


fred left this morning for his team's first game in lleda, spain tomorrow evening. this is the first game of the season! i wish i could have tagged along, but alas, i will gladly be propped right in front of my ibook unabashedly cheering him on.

never in my wildest dreams did i imagine that i would 'end up' with a professional basketball player. i played soccer growing up and the one year i played basketball, i ran the opposite direction in a game and almost scored a basket for the other team. definitely not my destiny to shoot hoops. but life is surprising and the good Lord has quite a sense of humor. i've learned more about basketball in these past 2 years than i ever knew...which wasn't much! i absolutely love watching fred play, which may have a thing or two to do with the fact that he is my better half, but also i truly believe that to watch anyone do anything they have an immense passion for and an incredible talent at is something quite special.

here's to my tall swede and a victorious game tomorrow! vamos la palma!


a simple reminder...

"be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love..." -ephesians 5:1-2


when venessa and i were in namibia over a month ago (over a month?! time has FLOWN by!), we got a good taste of a very popular soup called chakalaka. it is simply and wonderfully a dry soup mix made by knorr...and it really is called 'chakalaka'. knowing that i wouldn't be able to find it when i returned to sweden, and probably not here in spain either, i bought 2 packets to take home with me. i've been anxious to try it on my own and introduce fred to our african dining experience from namibia. during the week that venessa and i spent in ondangwa, we ate chakalaka soup almost every night, and almost always with an african cornmeal specialty called 'pap' (pronounced 'pop'). the customary way to eat the pap and chakalaka is to scoop out a hunk of pap and dip it into this spicy vegetable soup. i wasn't the biggest fan of pap, so i'm not sure that i enjoyed the chakalaka to it's full potential...until, that is, we were served the chakalaka over plain noodles the last night we were there. i loved it! perhaps i was just so hungry and the idea of anything in front of me besides pap was sheer heaven, not sure, but i have magnificent memories of pasta and chakalaka. that, my friends, is when i decided i had to bring a few packets home.
when fred and i were at the market yesterday, we just sort of grabbed a few standard food items and i stocked up on any produce that got my attention. we bought some frozen fish as well, what we thought was cod. last night i was sort of at a loss as to what to make (as i had quite a few new options). fred suggested something with the chakalaka soup! when he left for his evening practice, i quickly got online and googled 'cod' recipes. i found one that sounded like a perfect match to go with the soup. i sautéed 2 gloves of garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, added 1 chopped yellow onion, 2 big chopped tomatoes and 1 sliced green pepper. the recipe called for 1/4 cup of white wine, but i substituted the wine with the soup. i had already preheated the soup in about 2 cups of hot water. i wanted the vegetables to cook in a good amount of liquid. just before fred arrived home, i added the chunks of fish and let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes. i served it all over a bed of brown rice, making sure there was plenty of juice to seep through. my first bite was absolutely delicious. immediate memories of namibia, ondangwa, those sweet girls we stayed with, every bit of all came flowing back. funny how our senses can recall so much. everything about the meal was delicious...except...EXCEPT that the fish was indeed NOT cod. it was chewy and had a texture similar to squid, but we still have no idea what it was. the packaging only said 'pescado'...which means 'fish'. that didn't help us out to much. i scooped my fish to the side, as i was a little leery, but fred was a champion and ate all of his. he said it sounded like an apple he chewed it, haha. you just never know...

fred scale: 4 ('only because of the fish, but that wasn't your fault...and i loved the spiciness')

Sunday, September 14, 2008


last week i was at a loss as to what to make for lunch. so i did what i usually do and just opened the cupboards and stared at things for a while. it didn't take long before things started to come together in my head. i got the bulgur going on the stove and tossed in a bouliion cube for flavor. in a medium-sized bowl i mixed together 2 small cans of tuna, 1 small can of sliced mushrooms, 1 small jar of roasted red peppers (chopped) and 1 about 2 handfuls of pitted green olives (chopped). when the bulgur was finished cooking, i let it sit for a few minutes and then tossed it in with the vegetable and tuna mixture. the olives, peppers and bouillon provide plenty of salt, but add more if you desire. just before serving i drizzled some balsamic vinegar over it all and gave it one more toss. i rarely give my own dishes rave reviews, but this was delicious! fred went bananas over it. well, it just so happened that i stocked up on the same ingredients to have for the next 'lunch emergency.' good thing i was the perfect day to try it out again. this time i used barley instead of bulgur and it was JUST as good...maybe even more :) and i sprinkled a few pumpkin seeds on top to give it a little crunch. i had it all ready in to-go containers when fred came home from his morning practice (along with a container of sliced kiwi and honeydew melon...his favorites!) and we were out the door and headed for a beach picnic in no time. 'jessie's sunday salad' is becoming a regular.

good things come forth when you follow your instincts.

fred scale: 4.5

Saturday, September 13, 2008


today was an all around 'feel good' sort of day. fred and i got an early start and were out the door and on the go by 1030...not bad for a saturday. we drove into santa cruz and parked near the post office (el correos). i had a handful of letters to send out since i started my new resolution last week: to write at least one friend or family member a card per day. we purchased stamps (sellos) and post cards (tarjetas postales) for me to write next week. our next mission was to find a yoga studio i had found an advertisement for. we paced back and forth the cobblestone streets of santa cruz trying to find it. along the way, we stopped in the church in plaza de españa, the heart of santa cruz. the church is called iglesia de el salvador. for some, this is known to be the best example of renaissance style in the canaries. i love old churches...i love the high ceilings...the steeples...the detail...the stained-glass. this one was beautiful. its tower, made of black volcanic stone, was built after the 1553 attack of the french pirate known as pata de palo, meaning 'wooden leg'. i jotted down the service times and we decided we'd come back sometime and check it out. we continued on our journey to find the yoga studio. alas! after trampling upon many embedded stones, we found ourselves standing right in front of 'centro om yoga'! there was a class in session, so we just tip-toed in and grabbed a schedule and price list. it was super clean and smelled of aromatic incense and had a definite calming aura...i was completely sold on it. the morning classes coordinate perfectly with the times that fred has training, so i'll start my first class on tuesday. i'm so excited! afterwards we stopped at a corner café for a beverage. fred had his iced coffee and i had my hot chocolate (chocolate caliente con nata). it was such a perfect time to relax and watch people pass by. a lot can be learned by observation. we saw an elderly lady fall while walking along the bumpy stones. the gentlemen sitting at the table closest to her immediately got out of his seat to help her up. the waiter even offered her a beverage from the restaurant while she sat and regained her strength. though she politely declined, in those 2 minutes i learned more about the art and necessity of kindness. i noticed a young spanish girl sitting with her family at the table behind us. they were all enjoying a cold beverage on this warm saturday afternoon. she wanted to say cheers (salut!) with everyone at the table and 'clink' their glass. i learned the joy of celebration. we walked a bit more through town and then made our way home. we spent the rest of our afternoon relaxing at home and goofing around online. fred took a siesta and studied spanish. i searched for a recipe online for tonight's dinner and continued doing everything that sums up what a saturday should all around 'feel good' sort of day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

one lucky lady.

so fred and i have been together for almost 2 years now. we're newly engaged and so excited about spending the rest of our days together :) as many of you know, one of my favorite places to be is in the kitchen...widdling away and letting my creative juices flow. i've always enjoyed cooking and baking...but more so when i found a man who appreciates food and enjoys it as much as my swede does. he is an absolute JOY to cook for. he always says thank you, always takes an interest and asks what the ingredients are and hardly ever leaves an empty plate. well, as much as i love preparing meals day after day...i've been a bit curious to see if and when he might offer to do the same for me sometime. note to readers: dreams do come true. just last night fred told me not to worry about dinner tonight, as he was taking matters into his own hands. ladies and gentlemen, i am so glad he did. he blew my socks off and totally wowed me! if i hadn't already said 'yes' to his proposal, i would have said it tonight! the fact that he made a dish of mine that i had made for him during one of the first weeks we met ('chicken and pineapple') made it even more special. he said it has always been one of his favorites. i sent him the recipe shortly after i made it...and he's made it by himself a few times. i could tell he had some was a masterpiece. another note to readers: this dish is one who's photo does not do it justice. it tastes 10xs better than it looks. fred switched the recipe up a bit and added his personal touch, which i loved. he used wild rice instead of white...and pineapple AND peaches instead of just pineapple. he is one smart cookie in the kitchen. and i am one lucky lady.

jessie scale: strong 5!

a true tale.

once upon a time, there was an old spanish man in khaki shorts and a hawaiian shirt. the old spanish man said to himself, 'hey! it might be fun to put this little car in reverse while i'm driving down this hill!' (except he said all that in spanish). the old spanish man forgot that one of the most important things to do before and while reversing is to look in the rear view mirror. silly spanish man. well, as luck would have it, at the very same time a tall swede basketball player and his little californian fiancé were driving their sweet little vw caddy down the hill. they waited a brief second for the spanish man in the hawaiian shirt to come to his senses and take notice of the white vw caddy behind him. but alas! he did not. the swede man honked his little horn, 'peep peep peep!' but it was too late. this is what happens when some fairy tales come true.


sometimes we need to be reminded of just how lucky we are to simply be be alive. the fact that any of us...that any THING exists is miraculous. anyone who begs to differ may not have had enough reminders in their life of it's fragility. we aren't as indisposable as we think.

the other day i was reminded, once again, of how every breath i take each day is a gift. of how the breaths that each of my friends and family...ones that i think of every day and ones that i think about every 3 weeks are all gifts that we accept without knowing and take for granted time after time. i do it more than i would like to admit. i take it all for granted. but times like this...serendipitous reminders...they help me to be a little more grateful for it all.

many of you are probably more familiar with the 'social networking website' we more commonly refer to as 'facebook' than you'd like to admit. for some of us, including myself, it's a lens through which we can see the happenings in the lives of our friends and family that we aren't close enough to meet with for coffee every day. the other day i noticed that a friend of mine made a short update on his status that he was 'a lucky guy.' he had left one the day before that mentioned something about an injury. i never took the time to see what all his comments were about. i finally just got too curious and had to see what he was referring to. on his profile page, many of his friends had left comments telling him to 'hang in there', 'praying for you', 'glad you're out of the hospital', 'glad your brain is functioning again'! this dated back to over 2 months ago. i immediately wrote and simply asked 'what happened?!?'. i felt so bad for being so out of the loop. i heard back from him today. this was his message:

'Long story...but I got hit by a DUI driver on 6/28, spent almost 2 months at Mission hospital with a brain injury, torn aorta, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen and bladder, collapsed lung, broken pelvis, two broken vertebrae, broken ribs, etc. etc. etc. Literally almost died...and am extremely lucky to have my brain functioning enough to be typing this comment. So anyway now I'm in full time therapy.'

a reminder? you bet. a reminder of so many things. of how much more grateful i need to be for my life, for my friend's and family's lives...and how important it is to be aware of what's happening in the lives of the people around you. keeping in touch is underrated. sometimes we just need a little reminder.

to all my friends and family, i love you. i am grateful for you and thinking of you right now...hoping you are all happy, healthy and safe and sound.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


so today's been a little bit of a blue day. lately i've just been in a sort of slump. arriving here to la palma has been such an exciting experience and i've had a blast getting to know the island and exploring all that is new and unique and wonderfully spain. it's so good to be united with fred again after being away for a few weeks in africa and then on my own for a few more weeks wrapping things up in sweden. i feel unbelievably and copiously blessed and am constantly astonished by all that i've been given. but sometimes, like john mayer so poetically says, something's missing. i feel so dead. i have moments of happiness, days that are better than most, friends and family that bring so much joy, adventures in the kitchen that i thrive on, but at the end of the day...i don't feel that i have done enough...that i am enough. in the midst of all those blessings i feel, i also feel so blue. and often times, i don't even know what's causing's just a feeling. today's been that sort of day...a sort of pensive, hollow day. fred and i talk about this a lot, and he is an angel to care as much as he does. he wants nothing more than for me to be happy. if only i knew how to make that happen.
well, serendipitously enough, just this afternoon i received a weekly email from the title of the email was '9 Things You Can Do to Be Happy in the Next 30 Minutes'! i couldn't believe it. i do believe these sort of occurences are preordained. i immediately opened the email and read the list. i was so encouraged and felt a sense of hope. i copied the list in my journal and plan to refer to it a reminder of where my focus needs to be. i've pasted the list below to share with all of you. and p.s. i just signed up as an organ donor. i believe i'm already registered, as i have the sticker on my driver's license, but i just wanted to be sure. as for the rest of the list, i'm on my way!

(the following is written by gretchen rubin from real simple magazine, september 2008)

Being happier doesn’t have to be a long-term ambition. You can start right now. In the next 30 minutes, tackle as many of the following suggestions as possible. Not only will these tasks themselves increase your happiness, but the mere fact that you’ve achieved some concrete goals will boost your mood.

1. Raise your activity level to pump up your energy. If you’re on the phone, stand up and pace. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Put more energy into your voice. Take a brisk 10-minute walk. Even better…

2. Take a walk outside. Research suggests that light stimulates brain chemicals that improve mood. For an extra boost, get your sunlight first thing in the morning.

3. Reach out. Send an e-mail to a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or reach out to someone new. Having close bonds with other people is one of the most important keys to happiness. When you act in a friendly way, not only will others feel more friendly toward you, but you’ll also strengthen your feelings of friendliness for other people.

4. Rid yourself of a nagging task. Deal with that insurance problem, purchase something you need, or make that long-postponed appointment with the dentist. Crossing an irksome chore off your to-do list will give you a big rush of elation.

5. Create a more serene environment. Outer order contributes to inner peace, so spend some time cleaning off your desk and tackling the piles in the kitchen. A large stack of little tasks can feel overwhelming, but often just a few minutes of work can make a sizable dent. Set the timer for 10 minutes and see what you can do.

6. Do a good deed. Introduce two people by e-mail, take a minute to pass along useful information, or deliver some gratifying praise. In fact, you can also…

7. Save someone’s life. Sign up to be an organ donor, and remember to tell your family about your decision. “Do good, feel good” — it really works!

8. Act happy. Fake it 'til you feel it. Research shows that even an artificially induced smile boosts your mood. And if you’re smiling, other people will perceive you as being friendlier and more approachable.

9. Learn something new. Think of a subject that you wish you knew more about and spend 15 minutes on the Internet reading about it, or go to a bookstore and buy a book about it. But be honest! Pick a topic that really interests you, not something you think you "should" or "need" to learn about.

Some people worry that wanting to be happier is a selfish goal, but in fact, research shows that happier people are more sociable, likable, healthy, and productive — and they’re more inclined to help other people. By working to boost your own happiness, you’re making other people happier, too.

el granero.

one of my fabulous purchases at hierba buena on monday was these whole wheat pizza crusts. the brand name, el granero, means 'the barn' in english. i love that. i guess it just feels like a 'natural' sort of feels earthy...and i like the earth. i didn't have any ideas in mind when i bought the crusts...though i knew it wouldn't be hard to come up with something. a light went on when i found a jar of barbecue sauce in the cupboard. i had just bought some chicken too. note to readers: barbeque + chicken + pizza = a happy fred. i had everything i needed...except cilantro! blast! i was way bummed, as cilantro is indeed a key ingredient in bbq chicken pizza, but i figured i could make due with the fresh parsley i had on hand. so i decided that one pizza would be 'fred friendly', while the other was still TBD (to be decided). i was chatting with my swedican friend julie the night before last and she was talking dinner ideas as well. she mentioned that some of the fresh produce/fruit stands in uppsala have had asparagus for sale, so if she could find it again, she would be making asparagus soup for dinner...but if not, she was planning on making a pizza! well then, now we really got to talking! i asked her what she had in mind. she mentioned this no-fail super tasty cookbook she uses for great pizza ideas, the cheese board collective works. julie was planning on making one with roasted eggplant and red peppers (both of which i had in stock!). she gave me the basic rundown of how it's made, and i threw in a few tricks of my own. i didn't have the feta or mozzarella that julie's recipe called for, so i shredded some spanish goat cheese (which has a firmer consistency than the soft goat cheese most of us are familiar with). this flavor ended up being fantastic on both the roasted vegetable pizza and on the bbq chicken, according to fred. i sprinkled a thin layer of cheese on the whole wheat crust, then i grilled the eggplant in a few splashes of olive oil and set the 1/4 inch slices aside. the red peppers i had were already roasted and jarred, so i cut one big pepper in slices and arranged them on the pizza with the eggplant. i sprinkled a handful of left over chopped red onion from fred's bbq pizza on my veggie, along with a clove of crushed garlic. then came a bit more cheese, a few pinches of salt and a pinch or two of dried mixed herbs from my mother in-law's garden. the hint of rosemary was to die for. the pizzas only bake for about 10 minutes each and before you know it, dinner is by your side. we were so excited to dig into our pizzas that i almost forgot to take a picture for you all before they disappeared!

p.s. julie ended up making the pizza too :)

fred scale: 4 ('the crust was amazing! and the pizza in general was so good, but the over all flavor would have been better with the cilantro. parsley's just gotta different flavor')

Sunday, September 7, 2008

each other.

i had an english teacher my freshman year in high school who made such an impression on my life that i still think of his wise words to this day. i remember in one class, he told us about how his father had always told him that 'if you can live and die with 5 really great friends...true and genuine friends...the ones that are always are blessed.' i've never forgotten that. perhaps that i have always preferred a few close friends than a large group, it rang more true to me. whatever the case, i've thought of those words so often in the past 11 years since.

i think about where i am today and my number is greater than 5. and never a day goes by that i don't count how blessed i am to have the friends i do. friends that share in my joys, sorrows, exciting times and friends that allow me to do the same for them. friends that continue to remind me how relationships with good people...great people...can change your life.

my dear venessa sent me these inspiring words this morning from a book she's reading...

"Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance, and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices in life no more easily made.
And give. Give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared, and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace."

we are here for each other.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

quinoa & grilled zucchini.

today was intended to be pool slash BBQ day, but the weather wasn't really permitting. don't get me wrong, it was warm, just a little too cloudy to get in the 'pool slash BBQ' mood. instead we decided to try out a new market in santa cruz and do some grocery shopping. never a bad idea in my book. we walked in and fred and i each grabbed a basket. he went one direction and i went the other. every few minutes we would cross paths and he would have things like beer, orange juice, and bread in his basket...and i had sugar-free chocolate and a plethora of produce. our local market is sort of slacking when it comes to fruits and veggies, so when i saw the selection at 'hiper trebol', i'm almost positive i heard angels singing above me. i had eggplant, lettuce, button mushrooms, red bell peppers, pomodorino tomatoes, round zucchini, peaches, bananas and apples all in my basket! i was imagining what my week was going to look like making all these wonderful vegetables at good!
after we were through at the market, we stopped at the beach to dip our toes in the sand and test the water. it was actually quite warm. if the sun were out i might have been tempted to jump right in then and there. maybe next time. the sand is beautiful, fine grains...super cool.
so we finally arrived home and i got everything unloaded and put in its place. with all our new goodies on the shelf and in the fridge, i somehow still had no idea what i was going to make for dinner. typical of indecisive me. so i logged on to a website that i can always count on: 101 cookbooks. heidi never fails. i came across a recipe of hers that i've made before, but it was so good (and i had everything i needed on hand), so i decided to make it again. i was excited to use those new round zucchinis too! the avocado lime dressing is delicious, easy and adds a good amount of flavor to the quinoa. once the dressing was tossed in, i topped it all off with grilled zucchini chunks, pieces of goat cheese, toasted sunflower seeds (i didn't have the pine nuts the recipe called for), a quartered hard-boiled egg and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro. in 3 words: not too shabby ;)

fred scale: 4 ('the avocado dressing added so much flavor and made the quinoa not so dry...and i'm always a big fan of all those seeds and stuff...')

Friday, September 5, 2008

caramelized tofu.

every week i get updates from heidi swanson's blog, 101 cookbooks. i just love everything her taste buds do...and her photos and words make all her dishes that much more appetizing. her all-natural vegetarian lifestyle speaks to my heart...and stomach :) i had some tofu in the fridge and have been wanting to find a fun recipe to use it with. when i received heidi's email update this week, a light went on in my head and i remembered that she had a long list of tofu recipes on her blog. i decided to go with one of her 'favorites': caramelized tofu. she served hers over sautéed shredded brussels sprouts, but i wasn't sure how my tall swede would react to that, so i went with a bed of cooked spinach, which he loves. he also eats more than the 'average joe', so i served this dish with whole wheat spaghetti as well (quinoa, bulgur or whole wheat cous cous would be a delicious alternative). our little corner market didn't have any pecans, so i substituted walnuts. the change made hardly any difference, i am sure. the hints of garlic and fresh cilantro added so much extra flavor and balanced out the sweetness against the brown sugar.

fred scale: 4 ('i was pleasantly surprised by the tofu and really liked the caramelized walnuts')

feeding the dream.

i've often thought about opening my own store someday. sometimes that store is a café, sometimes that store is a family diner, sometimes that store is a collection of all the things i love and find inspiring, tasty, beautiful and unique. lately i've been desiring the latter. after stumbling across that biológico store i've mentioned in previous posts, i can't help but dream of one day having a place just like it :) when i was getting my hair done yesterday, fred was outside wandering the streets and found another organic healthfood store! i couldn't believe it. i was so excited. we didn't have time to check it out at the time, so we came back today. it's called 'hierba buena' (meaning 'good grass'). i found a lot of the same products as that last store, and then some! i wrote down a lot of terms i didn't know and can't wait to look them up online tonight and see how i can use them at home. they had quite a selection of aromatherapy and all-natural beauty products as well. we didn't buy anything at hierba buena, but while we were waiting for all the shops to open up after siesta, we walked around town and spotted a store called 'aloe' that was destination numero dos. they, too, had a lot of the same line of products as the biológico store, but a lot of vitamins and health supplements that the other two didn't. they had a great selection of teas and coffees too. we left with OATLY milk alternative, tropical muesli, sugar-free strawberry jam, mild smoked veggie hot dogs, whole cane sugar, and quico (quinoa/lentil/carrot blend)! these are the moments and purchases that make me so happy. i am constantly amazed by my life and all that comes my way. i just feel so darn blessed. i am feeding the dream.


fred and i decided last week that we want to make the most of our time here in la palma and do all those touristy things that people who are here not living here come to do. (yay for run-on sentences). he read that there was a ZOO (!!) in santa cruz! note to readers: jessie loves the zoo, specifically monkeys at the zoo. fred had the afternoon off, so we took a little drive. he wasn't sure exactly where the zoo was, but we thought we'd just see if we might stumble across it. well, fred just happens to be the world's best stumbler. he is so good at finding things on the road. goodbye mapquest, hello fiancé! since we serendipitously ended up in the right place, it would have been silly not to go in, so we did. the friendly man behind the desk even gave us 'residence price' tickets because fred's basketball team won their practice games this last week. no joke. he said spanish. fred understood and laughed. i didn't understand and just took my ticket. THIS, my friends, is why i will be taking spanish lessons pronto! i am missing out for sure. back to the zoo! it was such a great experience and i'm so glad we went. i saw so many birds and fish and plants and 4-legged friends that i've never seen before. we were a little bit leery when it came to standing 3 feet from the 'sleeping' crocodile, but we made it out alive. favorite experience for fred and jessie: holding hands with the capuchin monkey.

life is an adventure if we allow it to be.

(as always, for my plethora of pictures that i do NOT post on this blog, go to

spring rolls.

i nearly went bananas when i found rice paper at the market the other day. i guess with the luck that i've had so far at finding all the 'cool and unusual to spain' foods i love, i shouldn't be all that surprised. just last week i came across a recipe for spring rolls and thought to myself, 'i would love to make those someday...' well, 'someday' came a lot sooner than i expected. i had most of the ingredients i needed at home (lettuce, carrots, cilantro, shrimp, noodles). i took a stroll to our little corner market up the street in search of bean sprouts, mint, spring onions and perhaps some peanut dipping sauce...but all i managed to come home with was a cucumber. so i made due. and 'due' was delicious! we dipped ours in soy sauce, but peanut or red chili sauce would be fantastic. i'll be keeping my eye out for other ingredients to try out for the next time...because there will be a next time indeed.

fred scale: 3.5 ('soy sauce didn't pair well enough...')

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


julie and i do an awful lot of recipe swapping. a few nights ago she told me about a recipe she found on a swedish site, elle mat & vin (elle food & wine). we've been loving the chanterelle mushrooms in sweden lately. well, i WAS before i left for la palma a few weeks ago. this recipe tonight was one of julie's recommendations: 'varm bulgur med kantareller och granatäpple'...which so beautifully translates into 'warm bulgur with chanterelles and pomegranate.' seeing as pretty little la palma is without those delicious chanterelles...i made due with great big button mushrooms. i had to make a few variations due to lack of the correct ingredients, but the dish was quite delectable nonetheless.

here's how it all went down: i cooked the bulgur in boiling water and a vegetable bouillon cube (which added an excellent amount of flavor!). when the bulgur was ready, i set it aside to keep warm and sautéed the sliced mushrooms and chopped shallots in a tad bit of butter. i seasoned those with a bit of salt and pepper and tossed them into the warm bulgur, along with a few handfuls of chopped pistachios, cilanto and a dash or two of thyme. once on the plate and ready to serve, i topped it all off with cubes of soft goat cheese (which is a bit different consistency here in la palma, but delicious just the same) and those sweet and crunchy pomegranate seeds.

i would for sure make this one again. so many flavors and textures and uber healthy to boot!

fred scale: 4 ('i'm stingy with my 5's, but this was too good to be a 4!')

after all...

after finding a salon to schedule a walk-in hair appointment apparently wasn't going to happen, i tagged along with fred to his practice yesterday. his practices are usually about 2 i knew i had some time to kill. good thing my good friend 'cannon' came along. i walked around, took some pictures, laid in the warm sunshine and avoided lizards. above are a few shots (no pun intended) of the basketball arena where he plays here in la palma...because after all, that is why we're here ;)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

heaven in a bowl.

many months ago, my swedican friend julie told me about a vegan restaurant in california that she frequented often: 'native foods'...i had never heard of the place. apparently they also have a cookbook! well, julie's been telling me about their amazing 'mecca azteca salad' and i've been dying to make it. the last week i was in sweden, before i arrived here to la palma, julie invited me over for dinner and we fine dined on this long-awaited salad at last. i still have memories of how delicious it was (and how sweet the company). there was nothing about it that i would was everything i love (besides my dear swede) tossed in a bowl. crunchy mixed lettuce leaves, soft grains of quinoa, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, avocado, mango...then sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, big, juicy raisins and a dash of cayenne pepper...all drizzled with the most wonderful mango lime vinaigrette. the dressing alone is a masterpiece of pureed mangoes, golden syrup, fresh squeezed limes, oil, vinegar, sea salt, and freshly grated ginger. every flavor comes alive at each bite taken. i will for sure make it again...and again. as for that cookbook? it's ordered and on it's way to my doorstep.

fred scale: 4.5 ('very, very good! i was tempted to hand out my first 5, but it was a tad bit too sweet')