Cooling temperatures mean apple season, at least where I’m from (Washington State) and where I lived until recently (New York). So, those of us in harvest mode head to the farmer’s market or apple orchards in search of our usual favorites. Right?!
Actually, this is a mistake. Or, at least a missed opportunity. With the greatest selections of varieties available, this is THE time to try buying, snacking, serving or baking with new-to-you apple varieties. Selected mindfully, veering onto the apple path less traveled could have game-changing health benefits compared to the same old, same old grocery store varieties. Here’s why. Continue reading →
Nevertheless, days before Christmas, on a -16°F day in Yellowstone Park, traumatic injury became my reality.
Suddenly, I’m on my back on the ice and snow-covered ground. The 700-pound snowmobile I’d ridden all day was now resting on top of my 125-pound frame. As it was pulled off me, I opened my eyes to find a circle of people peering down at me—all with a similar “Oh @#$!” expressions of on their faces. Continue reading →
And, Miso Spice makes 8! In the post, ‘7-Tips for Using Miso,’ I shared some miso basics and a few tips for using miso paste in cooking. Now, here’s one more tip for using this detoxifying, gut-friendly, enzyme-rich fermented food. Sprinkle it on savory dishes, showering them with umami goodness. Sprinkle miso on dishes as a condiment? Continue reading →
If you shoved your baking staples to back of your cabinet since last holiday season, you may need this baking soda and baking powder test. Because, just like your other ingredients, baking soda and powder freshness counts. So, before you gather your ingredients and pre-heat the oven, do this quick test to make sure your gingerbread men emerge from the oven pleasantly plump and your cakes rise to the occasion!
Why You Should Test Baking Soda and Baking Powder Freshness.
Both lose their effectiveness over time, typically after anywhere from 6 months to 1 year after opening. But, if opened and stored under humid conditions, they may not last until the “best used by” date on the container.
What is the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?
The difference is that baking powder contains an acid, whereas baking soda does not. So, when using baking soda, an acid be added separately. Either way, when the acid interacts with the soda, carbon dioxide gas develops, giving your baked goods that pillow-like loft and airiness.
Umami, the fifth taste, mystified even our greatest philosophers, Aristotle and Plato. Even they believed that there were but four tastes; sweet, sour, salty and bitter, according to NPR’s Jonah Lehrer. In fact, that was the belief of every philosopher, scientist and cook until the 1800s when French chef Auguste Escoffier changed everything.
Escoffier invented veal stock. When he did, he gave the world much more than just another starter for soups and sauces. Neither sweet, sour, salty nor bitter, its earthy savoriness changed cuisine forever. He gave us the fifth, but yet to be named taste, umami. Continue reading →
We try to limit the amount of chemicals that pass our lips. Organic whole foods? – yes! Pesticides? – No. But, what about our toothpaste?
It’s known that toxins are readily absorbed through our skin. According to the scientific literature, ‘The importance of absorption of drugs and poisons through the skin and mucous membranes needs no emphasis.’* Case closed. So, it makes sense to limit toxic exposure to the delicate mucous membranes in our mouth. Continue reading →
“You may have bought a tub of miso for a recipe and then wondered how you
will ever use it up. But, once you learn some tips for how to use it, you’ll
wonder how you ever cooked without it.” – Chef Olivia
While you might not order seaweed beyond sushi rolls or stock it in your pantry, you’re probably eating it —more than you know. Edible seaweeds, also known as sea vegetables, are frequently used in ice creams, consumer baked goods, salad dressings -and of course, nut milks (most brands except Whole Foods 360). But, if you’re not intentionally including seaweed in your diet —should you? Maybe.
I’ve been starting to work with edible seaweeds, also known as sea vegetables. Check out these 5 interesting facts about our green, brown and red friends under the sea and ideas for introducing them into your diet. Welcome to Seaweed 101!
The first post on Icelandic food provided an overview of the cuisine’s ingredients with a focus on indoor farming. This second post on Icelandic foods gives an overview of what this traveller ate (or not) in the Land of Fire and Ice.
Icelandic Foods: What’s for breakfast?
Iceland may be a little challenging for vegans. For example, the above photo shows a typical hotel breakfast buffet; liver and lamb pate, cheeses and sausages. Eggs, pastries, muesli and rúgbrauð, adense dark and sweet rye bread were also typically part of the spread. And then there is skyr, always skyr —as in all the time and everywhere!
Skyr is Iceland’s ubiquitous cultured dairy product. For over a thousand years, Icelanders have been making skyr from pasteurized skimmed milk and a bacteria culture. While it seems similar to yogurt, technically it is a soft cheese, not a yogurt.
Compared to typical domestic yogurts, skyr is non-fat, lower in sugar, higher in protein and stick-to-your-spoon thick! Ironically, this non-fat product has incredible full-fat creaminess.
While many commercial yogurts are thickened with fats and stabilizers, the skyr texture develops through a unique filtration technique which removes most of the excess water. Evidently, it takes a whole three liters of milk to produce just one liter of skyr. In contrast, the ratio is 1:1 when producing traditional yogurt. This explains why it is such a concentrated source of protein.
Skyr can be found at every Icelandic breakfast buffet and convenience store. But, it is also becoming readily available in U.S. supermarkets under the Siggi’s and B’more Organic brands. However, these brands are not considered authentic skyr. The actual Skyr brand, manufactured in Iceland, is currently only available at select Whole Foods Markets.
There were a handful of snacks which seemed to follow us everywhere.
One was HarðfIskur. Here, our guide is offering us the value pack. HarðfIskur is basically a fish jerky, available from grocery stores to gas stations.
I thought it was pretty good. But, I evidently didn’t experience it the favorite way of the locals —with salted butter, like Americans might enjoy potato chips or popcorn.
Another in the movie snack category -Icelanders love their black licorice, a softer and often saltier version than we have in the U.S. And in that same color scheme is the famous Brennivin, which literally translated means ‘burned wine’.
Nicknamed ‘black death’. This caraway-flavored, unsweetened schnapps is the appropriately assertive companion beverage when consuming fermented shark.
Yes, fermented shark or kæstur hákarl is a national dish of Iceland consisting of a Greenland shark or other sleeper shark.
Apparently the Greenland shark is poisonous when fresh and can only be consumed after a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months. Allowing the shark to ferment and cure removes the toxins from the flesh, making it edible. The result is an ammonia-filled fish which smells like something you might keep under your kitchen sink.
Is your mouth watering yet?
As you might imagine, kæstur hákarl is known as an ‘acquired taste’. It was offered to us at the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum, served in the traditional way; in cubes on toothpicks with the schnapps. One cube was more than enough. No regrets. But, I would have to agree with Anthony Bourdain who described it as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he has ever eaten.
THE BEFORE HÁKARL FACIAL EXPRESSION. (NOT ANTHONY BOURDAIN)
Our travel itinerary meant staying in a lot of remote hotels with pre fix dinners. These prefix dinners typically offered a choice between fish and lamb. Because locals and travellers alike rave about the lamb, I was tempted to try it. But, I never wanted to give up fish for dinner!
Iceland is heavenly for fish lovers. A unique combination of cool and warm ocean currents meet off the island’s shores. This creates ideal conditions for fish stocks to thrive, mainly Cod, Haddock, Pollock, Golden redfish, Herring, Greenland halibut, Wolffish and Ling.
Today, fish remains not only a key part of the Icelandic diet and culture, but is also the country’s primary export product. As such, Iceland maintains rigorous standards for healthy, sustainable fisheries and strict laws protect the coastal waters from pollution.
These rigorous standards and strict laws also benefit aquaculture. About 50 fish farms have started operating since the 1980s. The main aquaculture species, Atlantic salmon, Arctic char and Atlantic cod seem to make their way onto every restaurant menu, or at least the ones I scanned. While I didn’t realize it at the time, evidently I ate quite a bit of farmed fish. But, the taste and texture was exceptional and nothing like my experience with farmed fish in the US.
Salmon and ling cod with carrot puree and blue mussel foam
Cured salmon with celery root mayonnaise
red fish (ocean perch) and langostine with langostine hollandaise
arctic char with celery root puree
Like baked goods? You’re in luck because you won’t have to go out of your way to find some phenomenal ones. Icelandic bakers know their craft, carrying on the tradition, originating from Danish influence. The image below captures a small sample of what was commonly available at Iceland’s equivalent of roadside stands. On this occasion, our vehicle had to stop to wait out extreme weather and road closures. So, when in Rome…
Icelandic Foods I did NOT Eat
As you will see, traditional Icelandic is rather resourceful. Nothing gets wasted!
Horse – I’m not casting judgment
Hotdogs – Famous dogs, made with lamb, pork and beef
Hrútspungar – Ram’s testicles, pickled and pressed into blocks
Lamb – Lamb lovers rave about the Icelandic lamb quality
Puffin – Often smoked
Svið – a half sheep’s head with the brain removed, singed to remove the fur, and boiled
Minke Whale – Actually not an endangered species, prepared skewered, as kabob, as steaks or seared like tuna
In summary, modern icelandic food is probably much more innovative, sustainably sourced and delicious than you may have ever imagined. If you eat fish or lamb, eat as much of either or both while you are there. Everyone should at least try a few of the novelty traditional items to gain an authentic flavor for the place. And vegan, pack some snacks.
Have you travelled to Iceland? If so, what did you think of the food? Please leave a comment below!
Sunchokes might not be on your radar —but for both culinary and health reasons, you may want to check out these tubers! They look a bit like ginger and come in a variety of sizes, shapes and even different colors, depending upon the soil in which they were grown. They are generally smooth, but can be very knobby, as in the heirloom variety. Not exactly the star of the farmers’ market, they are in the shadow of the more colorful fall and winter vegetables. But, here are three reasons you’ll want to bring them home. Skip the squash. It’s not going anywhere!