December 14, 2014

Trip to Myanmar!

I just got back from the trip of a lifetime to Myanmar in Southeast Asia. Along with three other friends looking for adventure, we chose Myanmar (previously called Burma) because, due to a recent change in governmental control, the country is open to tourism for the first time in decades. In a two week period, we traveled from the capitol, Yangon, to the second largest city further north, Mandalay. After that, we headed to the ancient city of Bagan to see beautiful temples and pagodas in a dry dessert region. We ended our trip by first going East to Inlay Lake, a cooler region where indigenous people still live their entire lives IN the lake, and then stopping on the Southwest coast in Ngapali to see the lives of fisherman on the Bay of Bengal.  I hope to blog more about this amazing trip but I wanted to start by talking about the FOOD. 

The food in Myanmar was absolutely delicious – noodle and rice based, they have an emphasis on vegetables including different greens, cabbage, broccoli and hot peppers and serve egg in almost every dish. There are a lot of seafood dishes including fish-based soups and have the most amazing firm tofu which is made from chickpeas instead of soybeans. Another fun thing about Myanmar is the sides and sauces. With almost any meal, they will bring out tiny dishes of savory and sweet sauces. Ginger and garlic take center stage, but they also use cilantro, tomato paste, crushed red peppers, cumin and small hot Thai peppers.

There is a state in Myanmar called Shan State in the East and the people there are Thai decedents. Shan noodles are a staple dish served with tomato sauce, crushed peanuts and lots of garlic. The noodles are thin and long, similar to spaghetti. The dish is spicy and served with broth on the side, and even though the daily temperatures reach into the 90’s and above, eating hot soup for lunch and dinner is strangely satisfying. I hope to learn how to make Shan noodles at home if I can. The best way to eat Shan noodles is definitely at a street restaurant, meaning there is someone cooking on an open flame outside and you sit at these short plastic tables on small plastic stools next to other diners. For some of our dinners, we could get a meal for four, plus a couple large Myanmar lager beers, for around $6. 

November 21, 2014

Simple Farm Apple Crisp

Each fall, we go to a farm to pick out pumpkins and apples. I might even indulge in an apple-cider doughnut or two. Fall baking is my all-time favorite so I needed an apple crisp recipe that would help keep apples as the main flavor without a bunch of added sugar and complicated ingredients.  This is a quick, simple crisp recipe best with apples you pick yourself during a fall adventure.  Enjoy!


4-5 medium baking apples (try Honey Crisp or Pink Lady) apples peeled, cored, and sliced thin.
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
 1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Coconut oil for coating pan
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with butter.
  2. Combine apple slices, honey, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl and stir gently to coat. Place mixture directly in the prepared baking dish and set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, blend salt, brown sugar, oats, flour, and coconut flakes until evenly combined. With your fingertips or an electric mixer, roughly blend in the butter pieces until small clumps form, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Spread the topping evenly over the apples and bake until topping is crispy and apples are tender, about 50-60 minutes. Let cool ~ 30 minutes before serving.                                                                                                                                                                       *Original recipe by Ginger Hultin Nov. 2015

November 6, 2014

Powdered Creamer: the bad, the worse and the ugly

Recently on a plane, I requested coffee as the attendant came around. Being from Seattle and Chicago, I’m somewhat of a coffee fiend and when I’m traveling I’ll take what I can get. Recent studies keep touting the health benefits of coffee so I’m drinking it (in moderation) guilt-free these days. But use caution when adding sugar or cream…this is where you can get into trouble. 

She handed me a creamer packet and I glanced at the ingredients.  To my horror, this tiny powder packet contains a bunch of chemicals and products some states are banning due to their known detrimental health effects.  Beware! Let’s break this packet down:

Corn Syrup Solids: dehydrated, concentrated corn syrup

Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil: TRANS FAT!!

Soy Lecithin   something to make it taste creamy and not separate; an emulsifier

Artificial flavor: Artificial flavors can be a variety of generally petroleum-based chemicals that flavor foods.

Sodium Caseinate: a milk protein (caution with dairy allergies)

Dipotassium Phosphate: a protein stabilizer so the product won’t clot up when hot water is added.  This product is also commonly used in fertilizer and can act as a skin, lung and eye irritant. 

Sodium Silicoaluminate:  anti-caking agent and controversial source of dietary aluminum     

Artificial color:  A combination of the seven approved artificial food dyes including Blue 1 and 2, Green 3, Red 40 and 3, Yellow 5 and/or 6.  Food dyes are petroleum based.   

Mono and Diglycerides: Made from soy, cottonseed, sunflower or palm oils, these compounds helps fat blend into water, another emulsifier. Mono and di-glycerides do not qualify as trans-fats since trans-fats are considered “tri-glycerides”. However, these can be a source of hydrogenated fatty acids without the label - tricky! Vegetarians and vegans use caution since mono and diglycerides can be either animal or plant-derived.  It’s very hard to know if not labeled. 

            All that being said, I drank my coffee black. Read your labels carefully, everyone!