How To Make Homemade Sushi

One of my favorite things about cooking is playing with my food. Composing a salad, the perfect toast or (in this case) sushi, allows me to have fun each step of the way!  For some, making your own sushi can sound daunting, but it’s actually simple. You don’t even need a sushi mat to make it (although it helps).

In this recipe, I made a vegan sweet potato and avocado sushi roll. Sushi is versatile, so play up your favorite flavor combinations! For the gals at What We Eat, we constantly make many variations of a carrot and avocado salad. So, in light of that inspiration, here is what we came up with! 

What you’ll need:

A clean dish towel

Plastic wrap

A bowl of cold water (to help the rice not stick to your hands)

Sushi mat 

Ingredients

Nori sheets

2 cups sushi rice, cooked and cooled with a splash of seasoned rice vinegar 

Julienned Vegetables of choice (I did sweet potato, cucumber, daikon, avocado, cilantro)

Method:

  1. Place a big square of plastic wrap on top of a sushi mat and place on top of a dish towel. (The towel is there to help with the mess). Place a single piece of nori on top of the plastic.

2. With wet hands, place a decent size scoop of the rice onto the nori and press down until even thickness throughout. The water will help the sushi rice to not stick to your hands. Life hack!

3. Add vegetables of choice in a straight line about ⅓ of the way in. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and top with cilantro.

4. Now the fun part! Using the sushi mat and plastic as a guide, tightly roll the sushi. Make sure the pressure is even when you roll to help prevent lumps. (Note: Chef hands in dire need of a paraffin treatment!!)

5. Allow to sit for 10 minutes rolled in the plastic before cutting.

6. Slice sushi into 8 pieces and enjoy dipped in your favorite sauce.

With Love,

Rian

 

 

On Elevating a Dish

ingredients for this recipe

I think it is safe to assume that everyone has at least one guilty pleasure food that comes from a can or box. When I grew up, many families used to fully subsist on toaster strudels and kraft mac and cheese in favor of time and Convenience. For me, it was Spaghettio’s and hamburger helper. Once of my clients has mentioned that his Mom had a “special occasion” chili casserole that that used Velveeta as a base and Fritos as a topping. When you think about it, these processed foods are pretty awful, and now I can’t believe that I ate so much instant Ramen as a growing child in need of nutrients. Unfortunately, even with this retrospective knowledge, I still can’t help but crave some of my childhood favorites every now and then.

This past weekend proves case and point. After a long day catering a very fun and intimate dinner party, Rian and I craved some easy comfort. Seeking the only open grocery store at midnight, we loaded up on Annie’s mac and cheese, Chicken flavored Ramen, and Cinnamon toast crunch. While the cereal definitely lived up to its expectations, we were saddened to find that the mac and cheese tasted like cardboard and the ramen tasted like flavored salt. Now that we know better as experienced food snobs, we could recognize how inferior these powdered, dehydrated and condensed versions of food really are in comparison to the real deal.

This was a moment when I realized how being a chef has changed my life and habits. Without even talking about it, Rian and I set about doing whatever we could to improve upon the flavor of each dish and cajole them into giving us the flavor experience we remembered from childhood. The mac and cheese received grated gruyere, chili flakes and garlic while the ramen transformed into a mediocre resemblance of pho with cilantro, mint, basil, scallions and lime juice.

cheese before baking

If only there were a way that we could still enjoy our childhood favorite foods but in a less guilty manner. I finally realized that we can take our favorite aspects of each meal we used to love and then transform them into a more wholesome version. One might sacrifice some extra time but benefit from better ingredients, flavor, texture and nutrition. For example, why not transform the above mentioned chili casserole by using fresh grated fontina and cheddar cheeses, a combination of home cooked beans, and a homemade charred corn crumble topping.

Green Beans with cream and spices

On the topic of casseroles, I find myself to be somewhat of an expert. Hailing from Minnesota, we masters of the slow cooker and “hot dish” meals. My absolute favorite was the classic green bean casserole, which included Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup and a can of crispy fried onions. In light of the coming holidays and my recent revelations, I have decided to experiment with my theory on elevating a classic by creating a What We Eat version of my favorite casserole using only fresh ingredients.

Green Bean and mushroom casserole

 

GREEN BEAN AND MUSHROOM CASSEROLE

Ingredients
2 lbs green beans, trimmed
8 ounces mixed mushrooms of choice
6 shallots (canola oil to pan-fry)
5 cloves garlic
1 onion
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Thinly shave the onion and and garlic. Caramelize the onion in a well oiled skillet. When the onion has achieved some color, add the mushrooms and cook until they have reduced and become slightly caramelized. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic. Add the flour, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and nutmeg and stir until aromatic.

Slowly pour the chicken stock and heavy cream into the skillet while stirring to combine. Toss the green beans into the skillet and stir all ingredients until just mixed. Top with an even layer of grated parmesan and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour a one-inch layer of canola oil into another skillet and heat on high heat. Shave the shallots very thinly. Working in small batches, fry the shallots until crisp and lightly browned. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to dry. Season with salt.

When the Casserole is bubbling and cooked through, remove from oven to let sit for ten minutes. Top with Crispy shallots to serve.

 

Serves 6

What’s the Deal with Full Fat Dairy?

When I worked as a primary care dietitian, not a day passed without me recommending the substitution of low-fat or nonfat dairy products for their full-fat counterparts. Whether I was seeing someone with heart disease or high cholesterol, obesity or diabetes, choosing low-fat/nonfat dairy was a no-brainer. However, a growing body of evidence suggests this recommendation may be at best ineffective, and at worst counterproductive.

There were two main reasons the medical field touted the superiority of low-fat dairy for so long:

  • Saturated fat has long been associated with high cholesterol and heart disease. Full fat dairy is higher in saturated fat than low-fat/nonfat dairy.
  • Low calorie diets are associated with healthy weight management. Full fat dairy is higher in calories than low-fat/nonfat dairy.

What’s changed? The short answer is nutrition science itself. Until recently, nutrition science has focused on isolated nutrients instead of actual foods.

In the case of saturated fat and heart disease, science looked at the effect of saturated fat overall. It did not distinguish whether it came from animal fat (think the fatty gristle on a t-bone steak), dairy fat (think whole milk) or vegetable fat (think coconut oil). All foods have unique fatty acid profiles, each of which may have different metabolic effects. Even a food group’s subsets, like milk, yogurt, cheese and butter, which all fall under the dairy umbrella, have different profiles and different effects. When the full fat dairy group is teased out from the other saturated fat sources, it does not appear to be significantly related to risk of heart disease.

In the case of calories and weight control, science has long held that a calorie, is a calorie, is a calorie. Fat has more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram), so therefore reducing calories by choosing lower fat alternatives was thought to aid in weight management. However, new research indicates that full fat dairy is associated with improved weight control. While the reason isn’t fully understood, one hypothesis is that full fat dairy is more filling than low-fat/non fat dairy alternatives, so those who consume the latter compensate by eating more calories (most often from refined carbohydrates) later on.

So, what’s a dairy eater to do? Here are my recommendations:

  • Enjoy full fat versions of the dairy you currently consume if you’d like. Be moderate. Three servings of dairy a day is plenty. That could be one cup whole Greek yogurt for breakfast, a small whole milk cappuccino midmorning and an ounce or two of cheese crumbled atop a salad for dinner. At home, I’ve stuck with 1% milk because, after years of nonfat, anything more than that tastes too creamy. Similarly, 2% Greek yogurt is rich enough for me so that’s what I stick with for now. This is what I mean with “if you’d like.” The research isn’t strong enough yet to necessitate a complete overhaul.
  • Fermented plain full fat dairy like yogurt and kefir seems to be the most beneficial of all full fat dairy products, so extra points for regularly including these foods in your diet.
  • Avoid low-fat/nonfat and full fat dairy with added sugars or sugar substitutes. I know fruited yogurt is a go-to kids snack. Parents should think of these as dessert for their kids just as they would ice cream.
  • Unfortunately, research still doesn’t favor butter. Use it sparingly and substitute olive oil whenever possible.
  • The bulk of your diet should be vegetables and fruit (at least half), whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and other lean proteins like fish and eggs. These foods are indisputably good for you.

One final note. Nutrition science is so young. The direction of research today indicates that full fat dairy isn’t the no-no we once thought it was but that doesn’t mean we should accept this as indisputable fact for life. Nutrition science will continue to evolve so it’s important to be open to new developments but at the same time be skeptical about where your information is coming from. As Dr. David Katz, Director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, says:

“It is the least substantiated, most uninformed opinions about how to eat that will come at you with the greatest conviction. That’s your first clue that something is awry, because true expertise always allows for doubt.”

xo Laura

 

Pumpkin Pie Spice and Everything Nice!

There are a lot of things I love about the fall. Football, colorful crunchy leaves, thick socks and most of all – the abundance of pumpkin EVERYTHING. As I was going through Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cook book, “Sweet”, I stumbled upon a delish spice cake recipe that uses pumpkin pie spice! So in the spirit of Halloween, I had to test it.

Growing up, my mom would make the most delicious spice cakes every year (she’s an amazing baker and constantly gets asked to make her famous rum cakes, spice cakes and chocolate rolls). So, as I try to channel my mom and Ottolenghi, here is what I came up with! Of course I had to give it a flare, so I added toasted hazelnuts, fresh sage and dates to the batter. And let me tell you, the kitchen smelled AMAZING.

Recipe

¾ cup butter, at room temperature

¾ packed cup dark brown sugar

¾ packed cup light brown sugar

finely grated zest of 1 large orange

3 large eggs

½ cup sour cream

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 heaping tsp pumpkin pie spice (YUM)

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp apple cider vin

 

Rian’s Mix In’s (add anything you like! )

2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

½ cup sliced dates

1 tsp flour

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees. Grease a standard 9×5 loaf pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.
  2. Place the butter, sugars and orange zest in a bowl and beat until lightened and smooth.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract until smooth

4. In another separate bowl (lots of bowls!), sift the flour, pumpkin pie spice and salt together.

5. In alternate batches, slowly mix the egg mixture and flour mixture in with the butter and sugars. When almost combined, stir the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl until it fizzes and add to the mixture.

6. In my version of the recipe, I added in toasted hazelnuts, dates and chopped sage to the batter! Stir the additional ingredients with a pinch of flour. This will ensure that they won’t sink to the bottom of the cake. Mix to combine.

7. Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes.

8. Allow the cake to cool and serve with a glass of wine or a hot coffee (I prefer the wine). I smothered mine with homemade butternut squash and cream cheese icing, but the cake itself can stand alone. Enjoy! And have the happiest Halloween!!

xoxo,

Rian

 

 

Work-Life Balance In the Culinary Industry