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Can Me Some Salmon

A brief search on the interwebs yielded a mix of recipes for salmon patties, cakes and croquet. About half include canned salmon and the other half fresh. And all of the fresh salmon recipes add the extra step of cooking the salmon, then flaking and breaking it down. I think canned salmon might ultimately win the battle.

There are a few reasons to use canned salmon

  • Canned salmon saves time
  • Everything in the can can be used
  • Canned salmon is significantly less expensive than fresh salmon
  • Canned salmon is wild caught, not farm raised
  • Canned salmon adds nutrition

I’m a little busy

Fried Salmon Patty with Lemon Caper Dill Sauce

Although it doesn’t take long to cook salmon, it’s just one more thing to deal with when cooking a simple meal. So, the main dish which only takes about 15 minutes to prep, now takes even longer. First, it’s prepping a pan, then baking or roasting. Then there is the time it takes to let it cool enough so the fish can be flaked. Just the basics of prepping, cooking cooling and flaking the salmon adds about an hour to a 30 minute recipe. I’m a little busy. I have a job and sometimes I get home a little later than expected. I have stuff to do after work and on my days off, like write recipes and take pretty food pictures. I’d rather let the cannery do all of that work.

All canned salmon is caught in the wild, which means no antibiotics or funky fish food. The wild salmon eat whatever wild salmon eat, plankton, small shrimp, and small fish, among other things. The most current count for Pacific salmon are above recommended populations, so this makes them a cheap food source. The fish are caught in nets and canned at canneries almost immediately, locking on nutrient values. The last can I used were packed with very little water, and I ended up using the drained liquid in my recipe. Win for the omegas!

You’ll become a convert

Fresh wild salmon are caught during the summer and fall months during spawning. The fish are then quick frozen, although some gets to the fish markets in a fresh state. But a fish can sit in refrigeration for a longer period, and all the while the flesh is breaking down and losing nutritional value and flavor. Farm raised salmon are the most likely to arrive fresh in your local fish market. The fish can be harvested at any time of the year, keeping our desire for the lovely pink fish in constant supply. This article will give you the low-down on the differences of farm versus wild. I’ll continue to buy fresh wild caught salmon seasonally. Try some wild caught Copper River salmon – you’ll become a convert.

Don’t like the smell of cooked fish in the house?

My original ‘outdoor’ kitchen

A few good recipes will change any purist’s mind about the use of canned salmon in recipes. Of course, if you want a light salmon mousse, canned won’t work. But for salads, patties, and burgers, canned salmon is an inexpensive and fast ingredient. And just add a tasty sauce and toppings and the quick meal is done. If you don’t like the odor of cooked fish in your house, put a heavy skillet on your grill and with lots of fat, you’ll have a beautiful pan fried salmon cake in a few minutes. Or you could use my method – a hot plate on a table on the patio!

When I decided to revisit this classic family recipe, it had been at least a year since I had last made the patties. And while making it, I couldn’t believe that I dropped this off of my monthly list of recipes. It’s too easy and too quick and very tasty. Kids love the crunch and the sauce, making a happier meal for everyone.

Stories Uncategorized

An Open Letter to my Chef Friends – Make me food I can eat

An Open Request to my Chef Friends-

Celiac Disease is not a fake made up thing. And some good science has proven that gluten-intolerance is not a made up thing either.

Although there is a certain faddishness to gluten intolerance, those with the disorder know that it’s real, it’s painful, and as with people with Celiac disease, it causes inconvenience and challenges.
I have more than a couple of friends who are chefs, cook for living and more. And there are lots of people who are going gluten free for a million faddish reasons. This is where the two worlds collide. And why I get so pissed off about this story continuing with a headline that is misleading.

Over the last few years, a study out of Monash University in Australia has been touted as having disproved the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or NCGS. It’s been picked up by multiple reputable news outlets. However, a read of the overview shows that the results were inconclusive. A percentage of the participants had symptoms after a re-challenge, but medical tests did not provide anything quantifiable. The title, “No effects of gluten in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity after dietary reduction of fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates.” If I read that and didn’t continue on, I would ass-u-me that gluten intolerance is made up. Although I am not a professional journalist, a quick search for more studies, with many running as long as fifteen years prove that NCGS is real, it shows up in two forms with medical testing, but the cause is still unknown. A simple five minute internet search was all it took to learn it’s been proven to be real.

So here’s what the scientists who study this stuff have concluded.
1. NCGS seems to affect people who have other food allergies.
2. It can appear later in life, like any other allergy.
3. Many people with endocrine problems, like diabetes and thyroid disease are more prone to developing the sensitivity
4. The allergy form of NCGS seems to come from wheat and not gluten.
5. The older people get, the more opportunity to develop NCGS.

Four out of five of those conclusions fit me; number 4 is an unknown. However, I can drink beer that is not made with wheat and don’t experience ill effects.

I have NCGS. I would love to make it go away, head to an Italian restaurant and pig out on creamy Alfredo and crusty garlic bread. I would love to make pizza like I used to with a luscious homemade crust. I would love to go to a restaurant and not freak out because of cross-contact with my salad, no croutons, because it’s the only thing on the menu that looks safe. Because if I did any of those things, I would spend the next three days curled in a fetal position in excruciating pain.

NCGS has two scientific markers; one is something similar to Celiac Disease, but not celiac. Some people have a genetic predisposition to the disease, but don’t develop it to the extreme level. Next, are people more like me, a reaction more in line with an allergy. This includes abdominal pain, oral blisters, bloating, nausea, headaches, and in the extreme, vomiting, and anaphylaxis. If there has been cross-contact or some other exposure, I know within an hour or two, because the blisters will start to pop up in my mouth.

There are a few myths associated with going gluten free, and many more statements that are being studied, but lack enough conclusive evidence to prove one way or another that going gluten free is helpful. It may not help you lose weight. In fact the opposite may occur. There is no conclusive evidence that it helps with depression, anxiety, autism, irritable bowel syndrome (see the Monash study), or several other fill-in-the-blank diseases. The reality is that NCGS and Celiac Disease only affects a maximum of 6% of the population. And not everyone who has it knows it. The other 94% of the world is safe, and will probably never have another problem.

Not My Dad’s White Bread

I love that I can go to my favorite sub shop, order for a gluten free sandwich, and the sandwich maker immediately cleans the station, washes hands, gets a clean knife and cutting board. I can go to a couple of local burger restaurants and get gluten free French fries and my burger on a gluten free bun. I can call Dominoes and have a gluten free pizza delivered! One funny moment was when I ordered tacos off the gluten free menu, the server told me I would have to be served corn tortillas, AND NOT FLOUR. I and my millions of companions are not asking for a lot.

Okay, I’m not asking for a lot. Some of my chef friends own bakeries. I would not ask any of them to go out of their way to add gluten free to their repertoire. We who suffer, skip the baked goods, buy from safe sources, or make our own.

This next part is for my chef friends who have to deal with whiny me when I come to your restaurant. You know what a crazy food nerd I am. You know that I don’t like to whine, and I don’t like asking for special favors.

Until now.

I am asking for two things of my chef friends.
1. Please check sources of what you’re reading and verify the information. Just because doesn’t mean it’s true. Ask me; I have sources.
2. Think about adding something other than salad for those of us with food allergies. I don’t mind that my order takes a little longer because you made the effort to isolate a station to make my food. Make a sauce for the chicken with cream instead of flour. Ask me; I have recipes.

Gluten-free food has become a huge money-maker in the food processing industry. Grocery stores are filled with gluten free labels. The restaurant industry has an opportunity for the same growth. I know my friends are talented enough to do this. And I know they are smart enough to do it.  I’m just asking for food I can eat.

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The Evolution of Beef Stroganoff

Family and our food history are important to me

Beef stroganoff is a recipe that has been around since the mid-19th century, and is classically a beef dish served with a sour cream sauce.  And the evolution of beef stroganoff is well documented around the world.  For my family, it may very well have originated in Russia, and been brought over by my family in 1922.  My grandmother and her siblings were orphans of the revolution, and came to America, poor and alone.  I can imagine that beef may have been substituted for another ingredient, either mushrooms or additional vegetables, or it was a very special meal reserved for special occasions.  In either case, it’s a recipe that has stuck with my family for close to 100 years!

It was one of my favorite meals when I was a kid

My mother’s version of the recipe was a quick, cheap meal to feed her brood of five children.  And it wasn’t called stroganoff.  It was hamburger gravy.  In Iowa during the mid-sixties, ground beef was the go to meat.  It was cheap, easy to work with, and good protein for large families like ours.  My mother’s version didn’t include sour cream.  Mom’s hamburger gravy was very simple, very quick, and very hearty.  And  it was one of my favorite meals when I was a kid.  It  was, ground beef, in a milk gravy sauce, with onions, lots of black pepper and served over mashed potatoes.  Sort of like SOS, but with fresh beef instead of dried beef.

In 1968 Better Homes and Gardens released the Casserole Cookbook.  We got a copy of the ninth printing in 1973 and we started to use it frequently.  I still have that copy, and pages are stained, and the Hamburger Stroganoff recipe still has a torn piece of paper marking the page.  It was a very simple recipe with canned condensed soup, ground beef and sour cream.  Other Stroganoff recipes include canned mushrooms.  Let’s just say that the rubbery mushrooms were usually left out.  I didn’t like mushrooms and didn’t even bother to substitute them with anything else.

Beef Strognoff With Zucchini Noodle

Over many years, this tasty recipe morphed from the originals from the Casserole book to my personal version.  I put the mushrooms back in, added extra sour cream, and made a simple creamy sauce that’s gluten free.  Instead of noodles, I use sauteed zucchini or summer squash.  It’s still one of my favorite meals, and using the squash instead of noodles gives me the veggies lacking in the original recipes.  It’s a win-win for me and the family.

Family and our food history are important to me.  It was rare that we had any fancy meals, but everything was cooked with care and our health and happiness in mind.  I admit to having been a very picky eater, and I’m still picky about the food I cook.  We always do the best we can with our food and our time together.  I’ve been blessed to teach some things to the next generation, and hopefully, they will pass this amazing food legacy on to their kids.  My granddaughter is already enjoying helping in the kitchen and cooking her play food on imaginary stoves.  This apple has not fallen far from the family tree!  Someday, she can make her mark on this classic family recipe.

Meal Planning Stories Uncategorized

Meal prep and planning

Meal Planning revisited

A few years ago, when I started this website, one goal was to teach people how to plan meals and shop as  efficiently as possible.  Several new services and businesses have cropped up to reduce stress for the people eating the food.  While there is nothing wrong with any of these options, planning is important.

If you use a delivered meal service, everything is in a box, the recipes, and portioned food.  A friend of mine tried a meal kit service, and liked it, but realized that she still had to cook the food.  Although some of the packaging was recyclable, much of it went in the the trash, and the food had to be shipped cross country  before it spoiled.  These are not inexpensive options.  She ordered meals at the cost of about $10 per person per meal.  Recipes changed constantly, there wasn’t much consistency with the food.  If you loved a meal or recipe, it wasn’t always available again.  Again, if you love to cook and try new recipes, it’s a great plan, but most people need to get a good meal on the table quickly, with the least amount of stress.

I test products,

and received a meal kit from a large super market chain.. Yesterday afternoon, I made the kit, a meal designated for two people.  It contained appropriately portioned salmon, Basmati rice, a packet of blackening seasoning, green beans, a small onion, a large green bell pepper, seasoned butter, a lemon, chicken stock, and slivered almonds.  My job was to read and follow directions, (important to any recipe) and make the food.  I had to provide cooking oil, salt and pepper, the cookware and my stellar knife and cooking skills.  This was not a kit for beginners.  And it really wasn’t something I would make on a busy weeknight.  Since I was photographing along the way, it took a little longer than the anticipated 30-40 minutes.  So I poured myself a glass of wine, and got down to the business of making a meal from a kit.

This is like building with Legos

Everything is in the box, and I had no say in what ingredients I can use, no room for creativity or adapting.  So I got out my knife, cutting board, cooking oil, and put a little Kosher salt in a bowl, and grabbed the pepper grinder.  I opened the box and et voila! salmon, green beans, a giant pepper, etc., etc.  First step, wash the veggies, Check!, cut up the pepper and onion, Check! heat up a saucepan, Check! and so on.  The end result was just okay; I wouldn’t pay for this in a restaurant.  It was very convenient to have everything all in one box, but I missed picking out my vegetables and adapting the portions.  The green bean to rice ratio was unbalanced.  The kits provide excellent meal alternatives, but it removes us, culturally, one step more, away from the source of our food.

A lot of people don’t want to cook.

In the past, the only options were TV dinners or frozen pizzas.  However, food manufacturers (I kind of hate that term), expanded the choices, but most were still frozen or canned, and not very appealing.  Enter the pre-made and assembled fresh and never frozen meals.  Supermarket chains, like the one that gave me the kit, have developed one meal, one tray, for one person, products and it’s all fresh, pretty healthy, and tastes pretty good.  A meal consists of a protein like chicken, pork or seafood, plus one or two sides, maybe green beans or asparagus, and something starchy like potatoes or rice, and a sauce.  Again, it’s easy pop them in the oven, and thirty minutes later, FOOD!  It still removes us from the source of our food, but the general concept is sound.


Many retailers have hire- a- shopper services.  For a small additional charge, you can order your food and other items online and have the option of either picking them up or having them delivered to your home.  These are great options, and as a sometimes caterer, I see this as a huge win by reducing the time to shop for the food I’m serving my customers.  I can spend more time prepping and organizing the event. But the product ordered may not be the product delivered, especially if  uncommon ingredients are needed,

I love all these options, but with all of these options, you still have to plan and create a list.  This is where my original plan comes into play, the simple, list of repeatable meals that your family loves.  Easy out the door breakfasts and lunches.  Meals than can take as little as fifteen minutes to get on the table for church and soccer nights. And more time for special meals for the weekends.

All of this makes me miss the good old days.  We knew farmers, planted our gardens, ate meals socially with family and friends.  We created our own convenience meals by cooking on the weekends and having some leftovers during the week.  While it’s still my primary method of meal planning and cooking, boredom with eating the same thing all week becomes a struggle.


























Next Project

Since August of 2015, I have been working on a farmers market for my little town.  It was born over cocktails, as most great projects are.  I expressed out loud what my friends were wishing for.  Then the project began.  The team worked at getting the permits, location, vendors, and I built the website and Facebook page.  The market opened January 8, 2016, on a sunny Friday afternoon.  This was handed off as a business to one of the team, who is more philosophically in line with the goals and purpose of a farmers market.  It was a passionate project for me, and brought me out of the desert I had been in professionally for a few years.

When the market opened, we needed to have food and goods for our customers, so I got a permit, and started baking gluten-free breads and cookies in my kitchen.  For the first 8 markets, my sales supported the costs of baking, and allowed me some contact with customers and vendors.  But sales dropped off, partly due to rain and reduced attendance, after the first excitement in the town wore off.  It was clear that this temporary baking business was just that – temporary.  I stopped baking, and took on my roll as the managing director, making sure bathrooms were cleaned, trash picked up, vendors happy, and customers talked to and greeted.

In late April, I was reminded of why I wasn’t cooking for people.  The evils of nerve damage from carpal tunnel and subsequent complications reappeared, but with a twist.  The swelling was in a different place and the pain was much more intense then in the past.  An x-ray revealed the arthritis, and the words steroids, injections and surgery were tossed out like dirty water.  As a believer in God and His immense power to heal, I accepted finally that it would not be healed, and that the mission was not about cooking for the masses, but about a mission soon to be on the horizon.

There was a sense of relief and fear, at the same time, in the acceptance of this disability.  It’s not a challenge.  To be completely politically incorrect, it’s a disability.  Try opening a jar.  The pain is searing and my hand won’t grasp the lid.  Here’s how I know the difference.  I’m vertically challenged, also referred to as short.  A challenge is something that can be overcome by adaptation of some type.  So I have step stools all over my house and three ladders.  If I need help with a light bulb or something else, I have friends who are able to help.  If I want to open a bottle of water, it’s not like I can call a friend to drive and meet me to open the water.  It’s a disability.

When I started this blog, the intention was to be a food writer, and focus on food for families, home cooks and inject some fun and history along the way.  When, a year later, my personal life needed every bit of my attention, this became neglected.  I would look at it, try to write something, delete it, and go to my room and cry – literally.  The vision of what we were going to do with it crashed and burned and the fire didn’t go out for three years.  There was no energy to re-think and re-tool, because all of those energies were going into my personal life, trying to not pick up pieces, but instead to choose the most important pieces left behind.  I pissed off a lot of people along the way, but did what my instincts told me.  There was a treasure trove of worthless crap that had to be sorted and shredded.  The shreds fed the fire until there was nothing left to burn.  I packed up the leftovers, moved and didn’t look back – much.

In August, I got some of my passion back with my friends who are farmers in this enclave of oddities in Texas.  We sipped our newly created Tequila on the Green from plastic cups on a hot afternoon at a monthly craft event.  After months of meetings with city officials, searching for help on the community we launched January 8th, 2016.  In April, when my evil hand returned, I cried again, but also there was a strange sense of peace that came over me as well.  I knew the next project was about to appear, and my full passion would be back.

“…praise the Lord, my mouth still works!”

I am a Scorpio and know that the phoenix is the highest level to attain as a Scorpio.  Yup, God and astrology.  I’m dusting off the ashes and starting to rise.  The good news is that the first video and set of photos plus recipes are logged.  The evil hand is not as evil.  I can open a water bottle with a towel.  Jars are still a struggle.  But I can hold a camera, hold a knife for short sessions, type, and praise the Lord, my mouth still works!  The difference now is that there is a clear purpose to my ramblings, and I have learned to plan better, set up better lighting, run two cameras, mise my ingredients, (that’s chef talk for planning), and writing a script.

Soon I will step away from the market.  The rest of the team sets up booths there every week, and my duties as an instigator and consultant are coming to a close.  The evil hand and my sun-sensitive skin agree that it’s time to move on.


Buzz paws

Now, if I could only teach Buzz how to open jars….


Culinary Schools and the Reality of Food Service

Le Cordon Bleu to Close all US Schools

The reality of food service is that a degree is not a requirement.  But a degree from a reputable school doesn’t hurt.

About 9 years ago, I was in a situation that required I make some serious changes in my life.  After a series of medical crisis that left me with permanent nerve damage and unreliable function in my right hand as well as chronic pain, I had to make some career choice changes.  I made the decision to hit college and get a degree in culinary arts.  I have forever loved cooking, diet books are fascinating to me.  I love food science.  The plan was to get the degree, work in a field related to food, and eventually get a bachelors degree in nutrition or food science.  We had done college searches for the kids in recent years, and knew that finding the right school was extremely important. The research started.  First was the most visible, which was Le Cordon Bleu, a for-profit corporation that could send students out into the real world in as little as 6 months. And leave them with tens of thousands of student loan debt.  I opted not to attend.  There were various reasons, one of which was the money, but more importantly, the credits would not transfer to a traditional college or university.  It seemed to be a waste of time and money, especially with the desire to continue on to a bachelor’s degree.  I ended up choosing Austin Community College, and have never regretted it for a moment.  Not only did I get an education that provided a solid foundation for the future, it was inexpensive and the cost matched the truth about working in food service.   Food service is not a high paying career.

This week, Le Cordon Bleu announced it was closing all of it’s campuses in the USA.  The details in the Eater. com article revolve around a number of reasons, primarily related to the earning ability

Stories Uncategorized

More about Evolutionary Eats

Something came across my line of sight today.  A company with a very similar name is now providing a service that was never in my list of tasks; however I think the concept is interesting.  It prompted me and really gave a kick in the backside to better define the goals.

Evolutionary Eats is for people who want to learn how to be personally responsible for what they eat. My goal is to teach you how to shop for your food, or how to hire someone to do it for you. It’s to teach you how to plan meals, teach your kids to eat better food, and make good choices when they are out of sight. It is not about judgement, accountability or anything else. We are personally responsible for what we consume, in all aspects of our lives, and how we choose to view ourselves, in every situation.

On Facebook, many of my friends post photos and links to recipes.   That is part of the beauty of social media.  As a food person, I am constantly working on recipes, concepts for recipes, photo shoots, and then putting it all together in a consumable form. To be honest, most of the time I glance at the recipes and photos, and then move on. And to be very honest, I do all of it myself.  On occasion, a friend will check out something I am doing, but really it’s all me.  One person with some basic technical knowledge, slapping together something that is almost cohesive and coherent.

I listen to podcasts by  Srinivas Rao, instigator of Unmistakable Creative.  Recently, I got a big nudge.  I realized my readers need some drama, a great back story of how this came about, and why I feel so compelled to continue. The interview was with Donald Miller, author and business man.  There is a long back story, and why I know  that I am on the path God intended.  There are probably only a few people who know the whole story.   For a long time, I was a victim, and I played the role, even after I had the power to be free of it.

All of this ties to food.  Food has made me evolve, transform, so much of myself. It was always the background for what was going on in my life and in my small, limited view of the world.  Food is healing, not only for our bodies but for our souls as well.  God showed us this early on in Judeo-Christian history.  This morning for my daily reading was Leviticus 6:1-6, regarding the daily burnt offering.  It reminded me to “to keep the fires burning”; never let it go out. And to make that daily communion with God.

When I tell snippets of my story to people, they are amazed.  I believe it’s the rea-20150219_115404son it has taken so long for me to get to this point.  At one point I resovled to not tell this, because it didn’t seem to have any bearing on the goals, and I didn’t want to hurt those involved.  But now, it seems the story is important to tell.

More to come; it is about the food.