Monday, January 30, 2012

Big Bowl and Mercadito

When I last ate at Big Bowl a few years ago, I disliked the bland food and dubious claims about use of local ingredients. It's possible that my negative opinion was biased by the fact that the place had been touted by a prominent LTHForum poster and suburban food writer whose opinions have not often matched up with mine. That said, the tasteless stir fry and clueless staff spoke for themselves.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and I start hearing more claims about natural or sustainable this or that - this time on Twitter from a different prominent food person (Ellen Malloy) - and once again I expressed my doubts. Big Bowl is a 5 minute walk from my office and it's not as if decent dumplings are easy to come by in the area, so it was with low expectations but little effort that I gave it another try.

This time I was wowed. Transluscent, tender dumplings with a flavorful minced pork and shrimp filling were better than any similar specimens I've had recently in Chinatown, and they simply blew away the miserable shumai down the street at The Slurping Turtle. They were served with a terrific black vineggary sauce studded with scallions. Even better than the dumplings was the hot and sour soup, which was neither particularly hot nor particularly sour, but was just enough of each to complement a rich, thick pork stock reminiscent of those elusive bowls of ramen that everyone seems to be trying to find in Chicago. Add in some tender slices of the twitter-advertised "herloom pork" which indeed tasted like real pig rather than chain meat, and this is a hell of a bowl of soup, which I have now had three times in the last 10 days.

Big Bowl wasn't the only chain I visited for lunch recently. I accidentally ate at Mercadito too, thinking when I walked by that it was the tapas place that Ryan Poli just helped open (That's apparently Taverneta, which I guess is owned by the same people. Who can keep track of this stuff?). By the time I figured it out I was already seated at the bar and making small talk with the staff, so I decided to stay.

I still want to try the Poli place, but lets just say I hope he wielded enough influence to distance that place from whatever the owners of Mercadito are going for. Mercadito is the Mexicanish version of a more expensive Applebees. Nicely fried plantains are served with a dipping sauce that advertises potent spices but delivers nothing but watered-down crema that's tinted light-green. A torta with tasty, shredded short ribs delivers little of the flavor from the advertised mole, and while the meat's good one can't help but note that it isn't half as beefy-tasting as the one around the corner at Xoco. And at Mercadito, the tortas are served with some Applebees-style seasoned fries, with a seasoning that's bright red in color but delivers nothing but a salt lick of flavor. Maybe this is better drinking food than lunch food, but it was inedible at noontime.

So Sick

I've been so sick this week.  It started hitting me on Wednesday and there's been no relief.  My tastebuds are completely out of whack and nothing tastes good.  I'm chalking this week's excellent weightloss to that fact.  Hopefully I'll  feel better soon, I have a couple posts up my sleeve.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dapple Dandy Pluot Oats

A little change pour toi!

You may've noticed a little change in our last post, the Frozen Lemon Cake-tart. It's been our intention from day one to make Bona Food as visually appealing as possible and to make wholefood cooking as streamlined in explanation as it is to actually do it. So we've come up with these pretty little recipe cards, designed specifically to simplify the process for you! 

Let us know what you think! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baked Felafel and Carrot + Raisin Salad

This dish came as a delightful surprise. The felafel's were inspired by this recipe by Green Kitchen Stories, but were modified due to lack of pistachios. I knew I didn't have any pistachio's, that wasn't the surprise. The surprising treat was the pairing with this seemingly simple salad of grated carrot and raisins. It was initially done out of pure laziness and the simplicity of grating a carrot was just the right amount of effort I was willing to expend. But, oh boy! The sweetness of the carrots and raisins added such a refreshing boost to the baked felafel and combined with the mint dressing everything on the plate just got along swimmingly!

Serves 2
(with a few left over for lunch)

You'll need

For the felafel - 1 tin of chickpeas, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 10 mint leaves, same amount of parsley, small handful of walnuts, small handful of almonds,  1 clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp of cumin, s + p. 

Mint dressing - 7 mint leaves, 5 tbsp of natural yoghurt, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp cumin, s + p.

Carrot and raisin salad - 2 carrots, 1/4 cup of raisins, tsp lemon juice, wholegrain mustard, s + p.

To make the felafels. 
Preheat oven to 190.
Put almonds in a food processor and smash about for about 10-20 seconds until they're small and chunky.
Set aside in a bowl. 
Add all the other felafel ingredients to processor for about 30 seconds until well combined. 
Roll mixture into little balls with slightly wet hands. 
Roll each ball in the almond bits. 
Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 15 minutes, turning at least once. 

Grate carrot and toss with raisins, lemon juice, mustard, s + p.
Drizzle felafel's with mint dressing and shake on the almond bits that fall off during baking onto the carrots for added crunch! 

Oscar Party Planning Committee, Cont.

The Food!

I've actually done the "Oscar Party on a Diet" thing before.  I used "Cook This, Not That" and made the mac and cheese and the chicken tenders.  My chicken tenders did not turn out so well.  I can't remember the mac and cheese but the whole party kind of felt like a dud with my cheesy diet food.  Duds happen, what can I say.  So I want to try again to have a somewhat healthy menu but I'd like to avoid slight of hand recipes like oven baked chicken tenders, oven baked fries, etc -- they just aren't as good as the original.

What I do make is a pretty mean healthy turkey burger.  I use ground turkey breast and add an egg and chopped onion and cook them up.  They are different than burgers but good.  I really like onion so that helps.  Brian has been buying the pre-portioned turkey burgers at Costco and then using a slice of cheese and a piece of bacon.  That works really good too.  I thought sliders would be a good idea.  I don't want to do a "sliders bar" and have fixings and all that, it's too much work.  I think I will make the burger with cheese and bacon, a mixture of our two recipes, and then have mayo, ketchup, and mustard if people want them.  Maybe a slice of pickle.

From pinterest I found loads of ideas and though subject to change I think these are the new things I'm going to try:

Lasagna Cupcake -- use wanton wrappers for the "noodles" and fill with lasagna toppings (I'm going to skip ricotta because I don't like ricotta)

Caprese Salad - I think this is pretty and is not only a salad option but great for the vegetarians who come to our parties.  I usually serve a wedge of brie with cut up baguette (it's one of my favorite things) but I think this will be a better substitute calorie wise).

Fruit Kabob - also pretty but I might have too many tooth pick options and that gets time consuming so we'll see, you can always just throw all this in a bowl and have a fruit salad.


Two Bite Chocolate Cream Pie - This is only like 100 calories each, obviously they are small.  I do not like dessert recipes with weird swaps from Whole Wheat flour to fake sugar, it's just not my thing.  I'd rather go the portion control route.

I also always do tuxedo strawberries for the Oscar and a veggie tray will be imperative.  We also like to get a shrimp cocktail ring thing they sell at grocery stores.  Those are so easy!  I think that's enough food.

PS - Is it weird to do a chocolate pie the year "The Help" is nominated?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tropical Barley with Walnut Crusted Salmon

Tropical Barley, no not tropical Bali, though you might feel like you were sitting on an island somewhere once you've had a mouthful. Served today with Walnut Crusted Salmon to complete the ocean reverie.

Serves 2

Tropical Barley
You’ll need
1/2 cup pearl barley, 1/2 cup pineapple (diced), 1/2 red onion (diced) , 10 mint leaves.
Dressing - 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp chia seeds, 10 mint leaves, 3 tbsp lemon juice, 1tsp honey, 1 tsp grated ginger, s + p. 
Cook barley in 2 cups of water for about 25 minutes on high heat, until tender. 
To create the dressing dressing, add mustard, chia seeds, mint, lemon juice, honey, ginger and s + p to food processor and BLITZ! ( We added a little splash of water to loosen up the dressing)
Once barley is cooked and cooled, in a non stick pan add pineapple and red onion and fry until onion becomes opaque. 
Mix barley, pineapple, onion, mint leaves and dressing in a bowl and set aside for the salmon show. 

Walnut Crusted Salmon

You'll need

1 x 250gm Salmon steak (halved lengthways), small bunch of parsley, handful of walnuts, juice of 1 lemon, s + p. 

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. 

Blitz walnuts, 1/2 the lemon juice, parsley and some s + p in a food processor. 
(If you don't have one, just mash up the nuts and chop the parsley finely and mix in lemon juice.)

Place salmon on a lined baking tray and season salmon with s + p and a squirt of lemon juice. 

Put the walnut mix on top of the salmon, pressing down as you go. 

Bake for 13-15 minutes. 

Serve on top of Tropical Barley!

Note : Tropical Barley is amazing as a main too, just pump it up by adding a grated carrot and some matchsticked broccoli! 

Yesterday's Weigh In

I lost 2 pounds last week!  I also earned a 10 pound badge!

Man, this is hard.  I especially like the part where I weighed 228 pounds on Saturday morning and then to make certain I'd stay that weight I only ate 1080 calories and then I gained a half pound for weigh in day and I still weigh 228.5 today.  That was a laugh!

If anyone is using for counting calories or whatnot I'd love to add you as a friend.  Leave your email address in the comments or search me on

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sweet Potato, Lentil and Quinoa Patties

High in fibre, protien and flavour! These patties are super easy and totally tasty. Leftovers will store perfectly in the fridge too - for tomorrow's lunch! 

You'll need. 
1 cup of cooked lentils, 1/2 cup quinoa, 1 small sweet potato, 1 tbsp of fresh parsley, 1 tsp cumin, 2 cloves of garlic, s + p. 
Dressing - 4 tbsp natural yoghurt, 1/4 tsp cumin, juice of 1/2 lemon, s + p (just mix)

Makes 12 patties

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. 
Chop sweet potato into chunks, drizzle with a little o-oil and s + p and put in oven for about 35 minutes, turning half way through.
Whilst this is happenin'
Cover quinoa with water (1:2 ratio), bring to boil and simmer until water is absorbed. Once done, leave the lid on for 5 minutes, off the heat. 

Add garlic to food processor and blitz til tiny, 
Add sweet potato and blitz for 5 seconds. 
Add cumin, parsley and lentils and go again for another 5 seconds.
The goal here is to still have chunks of lentils and potatoes, not a puree. 
Mix in quinoa. 

Wet your hands a little and roll mix into balls and squish into patties. 
Fry on each side in a non-stick pan for about 2-3 minutes until brown. 

Yum, you're done. 

Roasted Squash and Mushroom Whole Crust Quiche

Whole food crust, whole food insides, it's just whole food goodness. Rolled oats and wholemeal flour make up most of the quiche crust, modified from the complete flour version found here. Blind-baking sets the pastry to be lovely and crispy by the time the quiche is done and gives the perfect amount of time to prep the filling, which by the way, it totally flexible to what you have in your fridge!

Serves 5

You'll need

Pastry - 1/2 cup of rolled oats, 1/2 cup wholemeal flour, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup cold water, 1tsp salt, 1 tsp dried herbs, extra flour for rolling the dough.

Filling - 7 eggs, 1/4 cup of milk, 3 yellow squash, 1tbsp oregano, 2 field mushrooms, 1 garlic clove (crushed), 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese, 1 cup baby spinach, 10 or so chives,  s + p.

To make the pastry.

Pulverize 1/2 cup of rolled oats.
Add 1/2 cup whole meal flour, 1teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs.
Add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.
Fork around until little balls appear.
Add 1/2 cup of cold water little by little until dry ingredients come together into a big ball. 

Roll out dough with a rolling pin to about 1/2 cm thick and press into a greased quiche dish. 
Stab the surface lightly with fork ends and let rest in the fridge for 30 mins. 

For the filling. 

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

Slice squash into approx 5mm slices and put on a backing sheet to bake with s + p and oregano for 25 minutes, turning half way through.

When done remove squash and put the pastry in the oven to blind-bake for 13 minutes.  
Fry field mushrooms with garlic until they brown. 

Meanwhile mix together eggs, milk, s + p and chopped chives in a bowl. Add grated cheese. 

Scatter fried mushies, squash, spinach leaves in the pastry dish. 
Pour egg mixture evenly on top. 
Put the dish back in the oven, carefully, and bake for about 25 minutes. 

(Toothpick the middle to test at minute 25

Serve right now with some salad!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Barramundi Mexicana Medley

Hot day, take me away. A recent adventure east lead to the discovery of Guzman y Gomez and their Barramundi fish tacos. This salad was inspired by the flavours of said taco with a whole food spin. Delicious and high-protein, totally refreshing and super easy and do-able in under 30 mins!

You'll need

2 barramundi steaks (approx 250gm each), 1 avocado, 1 small red onion (diced), 1 long red chilli (seeds evicted if you wish), 8 tomatoes (diced), 2 limes, 1 bunch of coriander, 1 tin of beans (wished for black beans, but settled for red kidney beans), s + p

Serves 4

Preheat oven to 175 degrees celcius.
Marinate Barramundi with juice and zest from 1/2 a lime and s + p.
(This step can be done earlier, if you're organised.)
In a bowl put diced tomatoes, 1/2 the diced red onion, half chilli, coriander, juice of half a lime, s + p.
Mash avocado with a fork, add the rest of the onion, chilli, coriander, lime and some s + p. 
Cover both, put in the fridge and pop barramundi in the oven (for around 14-18 minutes).
Rinse beans from can juice and divide between serving dishes. 
Add the tomato salsa. 
 Flake barramundi on top . 
Pile on the guacamole mix.