Maple Brined, Apple Wood Smoked Turkey Breast on the Big Green Egg

It was really hot today.  And by hot, I mean 100+ degrees F outside.  In fact, it’s supposed to be in the high 100s  and mid-70s at night for the next five days.  That’s a whole lot of ridiculousness.  Yuck.  So my goal for the next week is to not use the kitchen.  At all.  Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration.  I’d like to not turn on the stove or oven.  The PG&E bill is already going to be out of control.  I’m scared.  But I digress.

So to continue on with smoking some more meat, I threw on a maple-brined turkey breast while my brisket was also smoking.  Uhm.  Oh.  Holy.  Chopsticks.  Why haven’t I ever smoked a turkey breast, let alone a turkey before?!  The smell and taste of the smoked turkey was intoxicating.  It was just pure deliciousness.  I am now a firm believer that turkey should never be consumed unless smoked.  Tomorrow, sandwiches.  Thanksgiving, here we come!

Maple Brined, Apple Wood Smoked Turkey Breast on the Big Green Egg

1 (4 pound) turkey breast, bone-in
6 bay leaves, rinsed
6 sprigs thyme, rinsed
6 sage leaves, rinsed and slightly bruised
1 carrot, diced
1 small to medium white onion, diced
1 cup good quality maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 head garlic, 1/4 inch cut off from the top
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, slightly crushed
Applewood chips, soaked for at least 30 minutes

Place turkey breast in a large stock pot, and add just enough water to cover. Place all ingredients into the stock pot, and stir until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 to 24 hours.

Heat the Big Green Egg (or smoker of your choice) until it reaches a stable temperature of 225 degrees F. Add the wood chips when the coals are hot. Place a disposable drip pan underneath the turkey. Cook the turkey, skin side up, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F (about 1 hour per pound).

Remove from the smoker, wrap with foil, and place in an empty ice chest to allow the juices to redistribute.

Slice and serve.

Smoked Brisket on the Big Green Egg

It’s been a while since I’ve fired up the Big Green Egg, and not to mention, my blog.  I have no excuses.  Just pure laziness.  Oh, actually, I do have one excuse.  I’ve been cheating on my blog with my newly upgraded and sexy ukulele.   She’s a beautiful, solid koa wood concert ukulele, made in Hawai’i.  She is definitely bright and sassy!  We’ve been playing The Muppet’s Rainbow Connection together.  I wonder what we’ll play next?

I finally got the creative itch to cook something on the Big Green Egg.  My original goal was to smoke a brisket on July 4th, but I just never got around to buying the brisket.  This time I wasn’t going to let laziness or my ukulele get in the way.  I bought an insane amount of meat yesterday in preparation for grilling and smoking today.  Today was a good day.

Smoked Brisket

For dry rub:
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon cumin

7-8 pound brisket, fat cap trimmed to 1/4 inch
Wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about one hour. Pat the brisket dry with a paper towel. Rub the dry rub over the brisket until well coated. Set aside.

Heat the Big Green Egg (or smoker of your choice) until it reaches a stable temperature of 225 degrees F. Add the wood chips when the coals are hot. Place a disposable drip pan underneath the brisket. Cook the brisket, fat side up, until the internal temperature is 150 degrees F (about 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound). Baste the brisket with a few sprays of apple juice after 3 hours on the smoker to keep it moist.

Remove from the smoker, and wrap tightly with foil. Cook at the same temperature until internal temperature is 185 degrees F (about 3 to 4 hours).

Once the brisket is done, put the brisket in an insulated ice chest lined with aluminum foil. Close it for at least one hour for the juices to redistribute. The meat will hold its heat for hours in the chest, and the brisket will become even more tender. I do not suggest leaving the brisket in the cooler for more than 3 hours to prevent bacteria growth.

When ready to eat, slice against the grain and serve.

Top Ten Reasons to Stay Up Late with a Pharmacist and a Prescription for Vegan, Gluten-Free, and Raw Almond Joy Larabars

Top Ten Reasons to Stay Up Late with a Pharmacist

1. Pharmacists can do more than lick and stick.
2. Pharmacists have a long duration of action.
3. Pharmacists Rx rated.
4. Pharmacists find new routes of administration.
5. Pharmacists do it over the counter.
6. Pharmacists are patient lovers.
7. Pharmacists accept third parties.
8. Pharmacists have a quick reconstitution time.
9. Pharmacists do it without breaks.
10. You will want no substitution.

[Kinda funny or kinda geeky? Or maybe only pharmacists find this funny because we're so geeky? :)]

So do you love Almond Joys but hate that all that fake, processed chocolate and sugar?  Or tired of spending well over a dollar for one measly Larabar?  Well, go buy the ingredients or bring them out of your kitchen pantry and give this prescription a try.  And if you have this prescription filled now, you’ll get homemade Larabars within less than a few hours.  No wait times, and no pharmacist consultations. So what are you waiting for?  Stop gawking at food porn and make some of these already.  Go on.

Vegan, Gluten-Free, and Raw Almond Joy Larabars

4 cups medjool dates, pitted
2 cups raw almonds
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1 cup shredded coconut
4 tablespoons chia seeds (optional)

Soak the medjool dates in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add the soaked dates, raw almonds, cacao chips, shredded coconut, and chia seeds into a food processor. Pulse until no chunks remain. Scrape the bowl down if it begins to clump. [This required a lot of patience. I may process the raw almonds first separately, followed by the cacao chips until coarsely ground. Then the medjool dates so it is not so chunky.]

Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper. Press the mixture into the pan using your hands and/or spatula.

Refrigerate for 2 hours for it to set. Slice into desired size and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  [This recipe yields delicious homemade Larabars that are simply to die for.    You won't want to freeze them.  I know because, well, I came up with ridiculously amazing concoction :)]

Vegan and Gluten-Free Miso Soup with Tofu and Wakame

When I think of Japanese food, I think of a carnivorous feast full of sashimi, nigiri, and sushi rolls; chicken or pork tonkatsu; chicken, beef, or salmon teriyaki; porky udons; and much, much more.  Everything but vegan.  Six months ago, I would have snubbed at the idea of a vegan Japanese meal.  I would have thought, “such a sad waste of calories” at that time.

Interestingly, since I’ve made the decision to eat less meat, and more veggies, my palate has become more open-minded to vegan and vegetarian fare.  I seek out vegan or vegetarian restaurants when I’m traveling.  We recently visited the East Bay and headed to the Gourmet Ghetto (aka, Berkeley) for some vegan/vegetarian Japanese food at Cha-Ya.  I have to admit, I was still a little hesitant about vegan Japanese food because I had some doubts that it was going to be as good as your traditional Japanese meal.  We ordered miso soup; sunomono; udon with vegetable tempura; and pickled burdock and pickled melon sushi rolls, and a seaweed salad sushi roll.

The dinner was ridiculously amazing and filling!  I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and how much I look forward to going back.  What stood out the most was the simple but savory miso soup that oozed with umami.  Oh.  My.  Word.  It was just delightful.  I like a good miso soup, and I order it just about every time we dine at a Japanese restaurant.  Most places are either too salty or too stingy with the tofu and wakame.  I can honestly say that Cha-Ya offers some of the best miso soup.

I left Cha-Ya feeling inspired to cook up some vegan Japanese food at home.  I started with a vegan miso soup.  It turned out pretty good… it’s definitely a close second to Cha-Ya’s :)

Miso Soup with Tofu and Wakame

6 cups vegan dashi (6 cups of water + 12 inch piece of kombu soaked overnight)
3-4 tablespoons gluten-free red miso paste
1-2 tablespoon gluten-free white miso paste
1 block firm tofu (fresh if possible), drained and cubed
2 tablespoons wakame, soaked in water for 5 minutes, drained and roughly chopped
1/4 cup green onion, chopped

When ready to make the soup, bring the vegan dashi up to a simmer (not a full boil), then take out the kombu. Bring to a full boil, and then add the wakame and simmer for one minute.

Place a small strainer over the broth. Add the miso [a little bit at a time to your preference, since miso varies in saltiness] by dissolving and pushing through the strainer. [The strainer helps to avoid a lumpy miso soup. Lastly, do not boil the miso or else you risk ruining the miso flavor.] Add the tofu and green onion.

Serve immediately.

How to watch the Amgen Tour of California (and gluten-free blueberry waffles)

food, recipe, gluten-free, rice, waffles, blueberries, gluten-free waffle

I started cycling a few years ago to get back into shape, and not because Lance Armstrong made it cool. It was a great way to spend time with my partner, social networking, to be outdoors, and not to mention all the accoutrements. I love geeking out on all the gears and accessories when I get excited about a new hobby/toy/activity. I spent so much time obsessing, I mean, researching and buying the right road bike, accessories, and jerseys. I spent a lot of my time at the local bike shops, online bike stores, and ebay. I didn’t realize how expensive the sport was, but I was in too deep to back out. Someone mentioned to me early on when I start cycling that it is expensive at first, but the gear sticks with you for a long time. And it’s true, I haven’t bought much for my road bike since my first initial hoarding :)

Anyway, I’m digressing from the title of my post. I was super excited when the Amgen Tour of California first rolled through our town two years ago. I really wanted to be at the sidelines as they rode through, but I couldn’t get the time off from work. Instead, I recorded the event and tried to watch it, but didn’t understand the overall concept of the competition. I did some more research, this time on the actual sport, and have really come to appreciate cycling. So as the Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California rolled through our town again this year, I thought I’d share with those who are interested but unfamiliar with the sport, how to watch/understand road cycling races.

The Amgen Tour of California is broken up into eight stages/days, starting in Santa Rosa, CA, and riding their way to Los Angeles, CA, which approximates about 800 miles on a road bike. Seven of the eight days are road races, while the other day is an individual time trial race. To win the overall race, individual times to finish each stage are added up to determine the overall winner.. Interestingly, a cyclist does not have to win all or any of the individual stages to win the overall race. Stage races also have other classifications and awards. For example, the stage winner (i.e., first person to cross the finish line for that day) wears the leader’s yellow jersey on the next day of racing. There is also the “King of the Mountains,” in which a cyclist earns this jersey by collecting points at designated King of the Mountain locations located at the top of mountains and hills. Only the first three cyclists to reach the top on rated climbs receive points towards this award.

I know, fascinating, right?!

Stay tuned for my next post on common strategies employed to win the road race competition.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Blueberry Waffles

2 cups rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 “eggs” (Ener-G Egg Replacer)
1 2/3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen or fresh bluberries

Preheat waffle iron.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, baking powder, and salt. Then add the wet ingredients, and whisk until the batter is smooth. Fold in the blueberries.

Spray the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray, and ladle the batter onto the waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 waffles.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop… it’s porky goodness!

It was 99 degrees F outside today, and it’s only the middle of May.  Mother Nature, you are being cruel to us.  I love when you are around the 70s to mid-80s, because that’s what you are during the months of April and May.  In fact, that’s my favorite time of the year here.  So what gives?  Is this a taste of what is to come this summer?  Please be kind.  I can’t bear sizzling temperatures near/over 110 degrees F.

I couldn’t bear to cook in the house today.  We cooked in yesterday, although it was 93 degrees F outside, our house seemed like a sauna.  I suppose we could have turned on the air conditioner, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that because it is only May.  But I digress.  It was the perfect to take the cooking outdoors, and I’ll take any excuse to play, I mean, cook on my Big Green Egg.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop (adapted from Viet World Kitchen)

4 pork chops, bone-in, about 1 inch thick
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons garlic
3 tablespoons shallot
1 1/2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil

Using a mini food processor, pulse the sugar, garlic, shallot, and lemongrass to a mince-like texture. Add the pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, and oil, and process to combine well.

Place the pork chops in a large zip-lock bag, and pour the marinade to coat. Squish the marinade around to coat the pork chops evenly. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, up to 24 hours. Allow the pork chops to rest at room temperature, about 30-45 minutes, before grilling.

Preheat the Big Green Egg (or any grill) to 550 degrees F (or medium-high heat). Grill the pork chops over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, about 4 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional Place the chops on the grill rack of your Big Green Egg. Sear the chops for about 4 minutes, flip, and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove from the grill, and let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes.

My favorite way to eat these delicious pork chops is over steamed white rice with a fried egg, and nuoc cham dipping sauce.  Yum.

Makes 4 servings.

Raw Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

I was super excited when a raw foods cafe opened up in town. I decided to surprise my sweetie with a raw foods lunch recently, and let’s just say that was the first and last time that we experienced raw foods. I got this carrot, ginger, coconut soup and a Mexican kale “taco” salad, with a rocky road “fudge” for dessert. Interestingly, the woman who owned the cafe said that we should eat the rocky road fudge first to help “aid in digestion.” Hmm. Okay.

I got to my partner’s workplace to deliver lunch and mentioned briefly what the woman suggested about the rocky road fudge. Instead of following her advice, we dug right into the soup and salad. The soup was too gingery for my liking, but the salad was okay. The dehydrated chips were delicious. We followed the meal with the dessert which was amazing. Well, needless to say, we SHOULD have followed her suggestion because within a few minutes after eating we were immediately overcome with abdominal pain. And not just any abdominal pain, intense gas pains. OMG. I was fortunate to go home and curl up on the couch with a few swigs of Pepto-Bismol, but my partner still had to work.

We vowed never to eat raw foods again. Well, that vow didn’t last long. We’ve delved into some raw foods desserts and have come to really enjoy them, but haven’t quite been able to find some good savory recipes. So if you have any good savory recipes, please pass them along :)

Raw Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake (adapted from A Dash of Compassion)

For the crust:
2 cups raw almonds
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup date paste
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the lemon cheesecake:
2 cups raw macadamia nuts
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup raw agave nectar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted

For the crust:
To make a date paste, soak 8 dates in 3/4 cup water for 20 minutes. Drain and reserve the water the dates were soaked in. Process the dates with 2 tablespoons of the reserved water until a paste has formed. Store in air tight container in refrigerator for up to one month.

Process the almonds and coconut flakes in a food processor until coarse. Add the date paste, vanilla extract, and salt and process until well combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For the filling:
Using a food processor, blend the macadamia nuts, cashews, almond milk, lemon juice, agave nectar and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the cheesecake filling into the springform pan. Place the cheesecake in the freezer to set, about 3 hours, or until the cheesecake is firm to touch.

Remove from springform pan, and decorate with fresh blueberries.

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