Heart of the Matter #32: Breads - Sweet and Savory

I don’t know about all of you, but I love the holiday season. It’s like a food-lover’s dream – the possibilities for making and eating delicious food are blissfully endless. I spend hours pouring over every food-themed magazine I can find and picking out all the cookie recipes and other fun foods that I want to make this holiday season…this year? Eggnog and a yule log...wow, that even rhymes. Plus, I’d love to hold a cookie exchange with my friends this year. Do you have anything you’re hoping to make this month?

The holidays are a perfect time of year for this month’s Heart of the Matter theme, “Breads: Sweet and Savory.” There are so many kinds of breads that go perfectly with the cooler weather that we’re getting here…warm, yeasty boules filled with herbs and crackled crusts, sweet loaves packed with tart cranberries and ginger to be eaten with tea, sticky rolls for breakfast…it will be a challenging just choosing what kind of a bread to make! And yes, believe it or not, we get cooler weather here in Hawaii! Along with lots of winter rain…and last week, it even snowed on Mauna Kea, the huge volcano that is on the Big Island! Even my hometown in Colorado is in the holiday spirit, getting decked out for a white Christmas with nearly 10 inches of snow coming in today!

So this month, send in your entry for a sweet or a savory bread (or heck, go wild and do both!). And of course it should please be heart-healthy too: your entry should be low in saturated fats (ie. not too much butter!), be low in salt (sodium), and if you'd like, abundant with vegetables or herbs or fruit. If you want to get more information, check out our useful links in the right hand marginal of the HotM blog. Please only use your entry for this event so that we can keep things centred on heart-healthy recipes and please link to the event as well. Send your entries to me at phillipslayden AT gmail DOT com before (your) midnight Thursday, December 31, and please put "HotM" in your subject line so I can keep track of all the entries! ;) I'll post the round-up on January 1st so that we can all eat these healthy breads as part of our healthy new year's resolutions!


Reviving Rumaki: Retro Dishes for HotM

After some technical difficulties, I am finally posting my entry for HotM...

The theme for Heart of the Matter this month is Retro Dishes. When Ilva and I decided on this theme, the first thing that came to my mind was rumaki. Rumaki was found at nearly every American party in the 1950s and 60s and I can’t think of anything more retro for my entry!

Rumaki is an appetizer that is thought to have originated with “Trader Vic” (and no, that’s not the Trader Vic of Trader Joes), whose full name was Victor Bergeron. There’s some controversy here though…Trader Vic owned some so-called “mock-Polynesian” restaurants in San Francisco, but according to Wikipedia, the earliest known reference to this little delight is on the 1941 menu of the “Don the Beachcomber” restaurant in Palm Springs…one of Trader Vic’s big competitors. Makes the history a little more interesting, huh? Check out the link on the Wikipedia page because it actually has a scan of the menu!

The variations on rumaki are vast, but in general, it’s always got water chestnuts that have been wrapped in bacon and marinated in a soy-sugar mixture before being broiled or baked. Many rumaki have chicken livers as a major component, but I left them out because the first rumaki I had (my friend Kristin introduced me to it) didn’t have them and so I’ve developed a taste for the simple bacon-water chestnut flavor. However, to throw my own spin on it for HotM, add a little Hawaiian flair (and some more Polynesia to it), and to give this little pupu (Hawaiian for appetizer) some extra vitamins, I added pineapple to the mix. To make it heart-healthy, I lowered the amount of sugar, adding sherry for a sweet flavor, and used turkey bacon to decrease the fat content. Let's revive this delicious yet forgotten appetizer! Though you might want to make a double batch – these disappear quickly!

Here’s the recipe:

Healthy Rumaki a la Hawaii, makes about 35-40

¼ cup pineapple juice (preferably freshly squeezed; or at least not from canned pineapple)

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp ginger, finely grated

1 tbsp dry sherry

1 tsp brown sugar, packed

1 small can (8 oz.) of water chestnuts

1 cup of pineapple, cored, cut in ¼ slices, then cubed (preferably fresh)

10 strips of turkey bacon, cut in half and lengthwise and crosswise


Preheat the oven to 375F (or broil, if you can - I can’t because ours doesn’t work). Cover a cookie sheet with foil. Combine the pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger, sherry, and brown sugar in a medium bowl and whisk together. Add the water chestnuts and soak for 1/2 hr in the refrigerator.

Dump the pineapple/soy mixture into a small saucepan and boil gently until reduced to about half – about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wrap each water chestnut and a piece of pineapple in the turkey bacon and secure with a toothpick. Using a pastry brush or simply drizzling, coat the outside of each little parcel with the thickened mixture, then bake for 20-25 minutes (or broil for 5-6 minutes) or until the bacon is crispy.

Thanks for hosting, Ilva! You can check out this month's round-up over at Ilva's site soon and remember that all the archives are kept on the HotM blog. See you next month!


Heart of the Matter 30: Seeds, Nuts and Things (Round-up)

This month's theme for the Heart of the Matter monthly healthy eating round-up was Seeds, Nuts and Seed-like things and I'm very excited because we got a lot of entries! Thank you to everyone who participated!

The first entry came in from Aparna, over at My Diverse Kitchen: A Vegetarian Kitchen in India, who sent in her take on the theme with her Healthy Granola Squares. I just love the look of them - fat and beautiful and full of yummy seeds and nuts!

Next to come in were the Chocolate Almond Soft Caramel Muffins from Dhanggit's Kitchen. These sound so decadent and delicious! Plus, those caramels remind me of being a kid too!

Nathan Lau, whom I have had the great pleasure of meeting when he and his lovely wife, Annie, were here visiting in Hawaii, submitted his entry for Roasted, Salted Pumpkin Seeds, one of my favorite October snacks (and the best reason to carve up a Halloween pumpkin). Their blog, House of Annie, has lots of great recipes they make both with and for their family.

Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe, whose banner for her blog title I completely adore, turned in her recipe for fabulous-sounding Chocolate Sesame Cookies, which are vegan and have loads of interesting ingredients like tahini, molasses and those gorgeous black sesame seeds. Mmmm....

Tigerfish sent in a recipe for Millet Congee. Millet is a grain that I wish I used more in my own kitchen and I think I will have to try this recipe soon because I just so happen to have some in the cupboard (and congee is something I have always wanted to try)! You can see the recipe for this perfect fall dish over at Tigerfish's blog, Teczcape - An Escape to Food.

The next entry came from Tasty Curry Leaf - healthy Banana Sunflower Seed Cookies! These light, fluffy cookies use bananas instead of eggs and I think they look like a smashing success! Since we have an abundance of bananas all the time here in Hawaii, I think these will be another dish that is made soon in my house.

Champa from the blog, Stories from an Indian Kitchen, is new to blogging but thankfully already participating in events. These Vegan Almond Cookies are full of yummy things like cardamom and almond butter - I love the thought of that combination!

Our last two entries come from the blog, Pan Gravy Kadai Curry. The first entry was this Pan-fried and Almond-crusted Salmon on a bed of sauteed spinach. Since we all know the benefits of eating fish for omega-3-fatty acids to help our hearts, I'm always on the lookout for a good salmon recipe!
I have a dream of eating roasted chestnuts in New York City around Christmastime, but since it will be a long time since I go to NYC, I can't wait to try Pan Gravy Kadai Curry's second entry for Oven Roasted Chestnuts at home!

See you all next month for HotM 31, where Ilva will be host!


Heart of the Matter (HotM) 30: Seeds and Things

This month for Heart of the Matter, my co-host Ilva and I are going with the theme of Nuts, Seeds and Nut-Like Things. "Things" being other nut- and seed-like ingredients such as peanuts, which are considered nuts by most people (hence, the name) but are actually a type of legume. We got only a few entries last month (all of them fabulous!), but we're hoping to see more of you this month! Nuts make perfect Fall snacks and appetizers, are great in salads and breads...seeds are perfect in things like granolas, muffins, breads and all sorts of things. We can't wait to see what you come up with! Right now, HotM is the only thing keeping my little blog alive, but I still have high hopes for coming back sometime in the future!

So this month, send in your entry for the most creative thing you can think of to do with Nuts, seeds or other nut-like things. And of course it has to be heart-healthy too: your entry should be low in saturated fats (lean meats and fish), be low in salt (sodium), and if you'd like, abundant with vegetables or fruit. If you want to get more information, check out our useful links in the right hand marginal on the HotM blog. Please only use your entry for this event so that we can keep things centred on heart-healthy recipes and please link to the event as well. Send your entries to me at phillipslayden AT gmail DOT com before (your) midnight Saturday the 31st of October, and please put "HotM" in your subject line so I can keep track of all the entries! ;)

See you then!


A is for (Sea) Asparagus

For this month's Heart of the Matter, my co-host, Ilva, and I chose to go with the alphabet...and what better letter to begin a series of alphabetical themes than the letter, A? While you won't be seeing a complete series for some time (we want to change the themes up with all the holidays on the way), you'll be seeing different letters appear in the upcoming months.

So many of my favorite foods begin with the letter A: apples, almonds, artichokes, avocado and of course, asparagus. While asparagus is a year-round vegetable here in Hawaii, I know for many of you, it is only a short-lived springtime indulgence. And besides, I wanted to capitalize on some of Hawaii's bounty that maybe isn't so commonly known. For these reasons, I chose one of my new-found favorite vegetables here: sea asparagus. Despite it's name, sea asparagus is not very similar to the asparagus we typically think of. It's more like a seaweed, I guess...or better said, a sea-vegetable. Sort of a cross between a bean sprout and a sea weed...it's a little salty, a little juicy and adds a bit of fresh flavor to anything.

This little sea vegetable grows wild in many places, but in Hawaii, Marine AgriFuture grows sea asparagus hydroponically on Kahuku shrimp farms, harvests it by hand, and sells it at Farmer's Markets and some of the grocery stores on the Island. So, while it's not a food product native to Hawaii (so many of them aren't), it is locally grown. And delicious.

Sea asparagus is very versatile, and good for you. It's full of vitamins A, B12 and B9, as well as folic acid and antioxidants. It's thought to be a good detoxification agent and good for your muscles. And it's a good source of iodine. Since LB and I eat a lot of dark, leafy greens, which also grow very well in Hawaii and are good for you, but tend to interfere with the uptake of the important mineral, iodine, sea asparagus is one way we get our weekly dose of iodine (we use kosher salt for cooking, which does not have iodine added to it the way "table" salt does).

While many people prefer to blanch the sea asparagus for a minute or so before using it, we've found that with the type of dishes we like to make with it, we like to maintain it's salty taste. While it is a bit bitter when eaten raw from the package, when mixed with oils (like the recipe below) it doesn't taste bitter at all. Below is my entry for HotM and a salad that is perfect for a potluck or a light dinner (with some crusty bread or even by itself). It's also easily cut in half. If you want to try it at home and don't have sea asparagus, this is still good with a bunch of regular asparagus - blanched first, cut into smallish pieces, and a little extra soy sauce or shoyu added.

Sea Asparagus and Tofu Salad, serves 8

1 package sea asparagus, roughly chopped
1 japanese or english cucumber, diced
1/2 block of extra firm tofu, diced
1 large heirloom tomato, diced
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. honey
Combine all the salad ingredients, except for the sesame seeds, in a large bowl. Add the dressing to a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Close the lid and shake. When the dressing is mixed, pour it over the salad ingredients and then mix, gently. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and then mix again gently. This is good fresh, or even after marinating over-night. Better still? I use the dressing for all kinds of things - lettuce salads, marinating chicken, just about any kind of anything that I want to add an "Asian" flavor to...try it!


HotM Change

Hi Everyone,
There has been a slight change in plans for Heart of the Matter this month, and I will not be able to do the round-up because I had to leave town unexpectedly. Please send your HotM entries to my co-host, Ilva, at Lucullian Delights. Her email is luculliandelights AT gmail DOT com. If you have already sent in your entry to me, please know that I have forwarded it on to her, so there is no need to re-send it if you have already. I apologize for the change and will see you next month.



Heart of the Matter 28: Budget-Friendly Foods

If you’re in the U.S. or many other parts of the world, you’ve no doubt heard about The Recession for months now. Many people are tightening their belts and making changes in their lifestyle to try and conserve funds or prepare for uncertain times. But no matter where you are, it never hurts to be a bit frugal occasionally or to have a few meals in your repertoire that can stretch your pocketbook a bit further if needed. Thus, the theme for this month’s Heart of the Matter is “Budget-Friendly Foods.”

Your challenge this month is to come up with a meal that is budget-friendly AND heart healthy…either using ingredients that don’t cost much (or perhaps you grew yourself?) or even ingredients where a little goes a long way. Be creative and share with us how you save money when you cook! What’s your go-to meal at the end of the month or before payday comes? What do you make when you have a lot of people to feed but not a lot of money?

After the round-up, we’ll all have a suite of meals that we can use to help stretch our budget next month…And who knows, maybe that extra money you’ve saved could go towards a trip later on in the summer or spent on a bushel of extra juicy peaches while they’re in season?

After you’ve made your meal and blogged about it, send me the link before midnight on Friday, July 31 at phillipslayden AT gmail DOT com and stay tuned for the round-up a few days later.

Remember that your entry should be low in saturated fats (lean meats and fish), be low in salt (sodium), and that you can be abundant with vegetables or fruit. If you want to get more information, check out the useful links in the right hand marginal of the HotM website. Please only use your entry for this event so that we can keep things centered on heart-healthy recipes.