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Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Sauce

I am a big fan of Middle eastern/Mediterranean foods and flavors. My first job in a what most would consider professional kitchen was in an upscale Mediterranean restaurant. I still have occasional work nightmares from my time working there because I was very green, but eventually moved up to one of the lead chefs. In the time I spent there, it introduced me to some dishes and recipes that I was familiar with so I learned a lot.  Recipes using grape leaves like dolmas,  tzatziki, escalivada,  Spanish tapas and sauces like romesco and charmoula were new to me but became some of my favorites.

I do not believe we ever had falafel on the menu, I believe it’s more of a middle-eastern recipe, but you can usually order it at a Greek restaurant. Also, I recently have been trying to eat less protein from animals and more vegetarian dishes. Not planning on going vegetarian or vegan or anything like that but I don’t feel the need to eat meat every day. Falafel is a filling dish in which I really don’t miss not having meat in.

This is a recipe I recently tried that you can use for lunch, dinner or prep out for a meal plan week and assemble as you go. When I made this, I prepped some accompaniments like sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, green onions, mixed greens, just so I could quickly throw it together in a pita for a sandwich or together as a salad and take it to work.

Falafel

1 lb. dry Chickpeas

1 small Onion small diced

¼ cup Italian parsley chopped

5 Cloves Garlic minced

2 Tbsp flour or chickpea flour

1 ¾ tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground cardamom

Vegetable oil for frying

For the tahini lime dressing
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions for Falafel

  1. Put the chickpeas in a large container or jar and cover with water at least 3 inches over the top. Let the chickpeas soak overnight at least 6-8hrs.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas after they have completed soaking. In a food processor combine remaining ingredients except the vegetable oil used for frying. I do drizzle about 2 Tbsp of olive oil in the mix as well to help combine everything.
  3. Pulse the ingredients until a coarse consistency is reached. Kind of like a “wet sand” consistency.
  4. Once the desired consistency is reached and you can make a test ball to see if it will form well, then cover and let it sit in the fridge for about 1-2hrs.
  5. When ready, fill a deep skillet with 1 ½ inches of cooking oil (Vegetable, Peanut, Grapeseed etc.). Put on medium-low heat.
  6. While the oil is heating, use a medium sized scoop or 2 Tbsp to scoop the falafel mixture to 1-2-inch sized servings. You can make them bigger or smaller for your preference.
  7. After the mixture has been all portioned out, lightly wet your hands and roll the falafel into balls so they are uniform in size and won’t fall apart when frying.
  8. Turn the heat up to medium and start by putting 1 ball of falafel in to fry. This will help to make sure your oil is up to temp before adding the remaining falafel.
  9. Flip the balls half-way through cooking until golden brown on both sides.
  10. Pull the falafel from the oil with a slotted spoon or spatula and let dry on paper towel.

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Yogurt Tahini Dressing

  1. Whisk together Tahini, Yogurt, Garlic, Lime Juice,  olive oil, jalapeno (optional) salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Whisk in 1 Tbsp of water at a time if the dressing is too thick.

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Assembly 

To assemble, you can put in pita bread smeared with yogurt dressing, cucumber, kalamta olives, tomatoes, green onions, feta cheese, mixed greens. Drizzle more dressing if preferred on top.

Or alternatively place all ingredient on a bed of mixed greens for a falafel salad. I tried both variations with this recipe, you really can’t go wrong with either.

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Climbing Mt Rainier

 

Since moving to Washington State as a child, there is one landmark that stands out above all others and that is Mt. Rainier. It is an icon that is immortalized on our license plates. You can see the mountain from almost anywhere in western Washington on a clear day. Rainier is the highest prominence in the lower 48 states which means the height of a mountain or hill’s summit by the vertical distance between it and the lowest contour line encircling it.

I never really considered climbing Rainier until I watched a special about how the Seahawks coach at the time, Jim Mora and his staff summited it. That’s right, believe it or not, I followed the Seahawks before their super bowl year and am not a bandwagon fan, but I’ll save that tangent for another time. After watching that special on TV and seeing this ominous mountain for most of my life, I thought how cool it would be to climb some day. However years went by and I never got serious about setting the goal to summit the mountain.

Then a couple of years ago a friend of mine climbed Rainier and he seemed somewhat changed by the experience. He talked about how great it was and tried to convince our long-time group of friends to go, but only managed to get 3 of us to agree to climb it with him again. After we pulled the trigger and signed up through International Mountain Guides (IMG), it was time to get serious and make sure we were ready for the challenge. We were all in decent shape but climbing a mountain in the snow 14,411ft elevation takes more preparation than just working out in a gym.

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Day 1 hiking to Camp Muir

After this experience I wanted to share how I physically and mentally prepared for the climb. Even if you work out in the 3-4 days a week you will still find this climb challenging. If you feel like you are out of shape and never exercise, there is no better motivation to change that than this goal.

Go on hikes

This is the most important step. Go on hikes with high elevation 3,000-4,000ft for at least every weekend rain or shine 2-3 months with weighted pack of 20-50lbs. Start with a little weight, even if it’s 10lbs and slowly move it up to 45-50lbs.

It will get you accustomed to wearing your frame-pack and helps strengthen your core. This will also help make sure your gear is working right for your needs. Try to go to a mountain that has snow but purchase some micro spikes for your waterproof hiking boots to give you some traction.

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Camp Muir Day 1

Diet

Focus on a healthy diet, no pizza, no donuts, cut back on alcohol. There are a lot of diets out there, choose one that works best for you. Paired with these weekend hikes, you are going to get in great shape. Do not drink the night before so you are ready to put in a strong effort on a challenging hike.

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View from Camp Muir Day 1

Gear

Be sure to have all the necessary equipment (especially the “must have” items) that you don’t plan on renting. After booking the trip, I slowly began to accumulate the recommended gear so it was not a large amount of money spent all at once. I would suggest buying your backpack first especially  so you get used to it and filling it with weight for training. I ended up only renting the boots, crampons, ice axe, harness and helmet. A list of gear is linked below:

http://www.mountainguides.com/pdf/Rainier-Gear.pdf

Food

Almost anything goes when hiking. You dieted and trained for months so it’s time to treat yourself on the mountain. I packed 2 PB&Js, cold pizza for my lunches and trail mix, jerky, 3 snickers bars, 2 protein bars, peanut butter cups, gummies and I went through almost all of it. The guides will feed you breakfast and dinner on the mountain so you do not need to worry about those meals.

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Little Tahoma Viewed from Ingraham Flats Day 2

Eye care

I wear contacts and carefully removed them every night to rest my eyes. If you have daily disposable contacts, that is even better. Make sure to pack backup lenses and glasses if you have them. I would also recommend wearing a night mask on your eyes at night for sleeping as the sun will most likely still be up when you are ready to go to sleep.

Sunscreen

Bring plenty, but purchase smaller sized squeeze tubes. I brought zinc for my face and a 50spf squeeze bottle that was easy to grab to re-apply during breaks.

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Looking up to the summit from Ingraham Flats end of Day 2

Face Protection

A Buff works best (light weight). The ‘Buff’ brand is easy to find and perfect to protect from the sun, wind, snow and easier to wear and remove. I brought a neck gaiter that I use for snowboarding but would have been too warm for hiking so I purchased a Buff at IMG.

If you are considering climbing Mt Rainier, I hope this inspires you to do so. It is very challenging but also a rewarding and humbling experience. With solid preparation you will feel confident to accomplish this goal.

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On the summit Crater of Mt Rainier Day 3

How to Make Kombucha

Making your very first batch of Kombucha can be overwhelming.  It was something I wanted to try for a long time but was very apprehensive. I finally pulled the trigger and decided the easiest way to jump into it was to buy a kit and after it arrived all apprehensions were gone. The kit I purchased off Amazon is made by Kitchentoolz. There are several varieties of kits you can buy, but I chose this one because any company that spells their name with a ‘Z’ where it should be an ‘S’ (tools/toolz) obviously has some serious street cred. After using their product, I can confirm the street cred is real.

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Complete Kombucha Starter Brewing Kit with Organic SCOBY – Gallon Brewing Jar and Plastic Lid, Tea Bags, Temperature Gauge, Organic Sugar and More – By Kitchentoolz

It came with the gallon jar, sugar, SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), tea, cheese cloth, rubber band, Ph-strips, thermometer strip. I bought some 18oz bottling jars separate (not included) in the kit because I wanted to add flavors during the 2nd fermentation process. You will want another jar or bottles to transfer your tea to so you can drink it easier regardless if you decide on 2nd fermentation or not.

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Instructions per Kitchentoolz

Other Supplies Needed:

  • Plastic or wooden stirring utensil,
  • 13-14 cups Un-chlorinated, Un-Fluorinated water (I used my Pure water filter)
  • Bottling jar (air-tight, grolsche style mason jars not recommended)
  • Funnel
  • Spoon or ladle for bottling
  1. Boil the water and combine hot water and sugar in the jar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Make sure to leave 3-4 inches from the top of the jar (room for your SCOBY and starter tea).
  2. Put the tea bags in the sugar water solution and steep for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Cool the tea mixture until it reaches room temperature. You can keep the tea in the liquid as it cools, or you can take it out after 10-15 minutes. The longer the tea is left in the water, the stronger the flavor will be.
  4. Remove the tea bags.
  5. Add the active SCOBY and the starter tea to your tea.
  6. Stir the solution once and test with the provided cloth and band.
  7. Allow the mixture to site at room temperature for 7-12 (out of direct sunlight). Kombucha brews best between 68-78° F. The longer the mixture ferments, the less sweet and more pungent it will taste.
  8. After the 7-12 days you should see a new cream-colored layer forming on the top of your jar. This is your brand-new SCOBY!
  9. Pour the kombucha into another container, leaving the SCOBY and 2-3 cups of liquid at the bottom of the jar to use as a starter tea for the next batch.
  10. The finished liquid can be sweetened to desired taste, flavored and bottled. It can also be enjoyed plain.

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For the second fermentation process I wanted to make 3 different flavors. To do this I purchased fresh ginger root, 1 mango and 1 bunch of mint.

I decided to place my SCOBY in a glass container to store in the back of the fridge. I had plans to leave town so I did not have time to start another batch right away. As long as you leave your SCOBY 2-3 cups of tea and stored in the fridge it should be fine for long periods of time until you’re ready to start your next batch.

Swing Top Glass Bottles – Flip Top Bottles For Kombucha, Kefir, Beer – Clear Color – 16oz Size – Set of 6 Brewing Bottles – Leak Proof With Easy Caps – Bonus Gaskets – Fast Clean Design

Directions

  1. Use the tip of a metal spoon to scrape the peel off 1 ginger root. Roughly chop the ginger then blend in a blender with a ¼ cup of water or chop finely in a food processor. Set aside.
  1. Cut 1 mango into chunks being careful to remove the peel. Place mango in a blender with mint 4 tablespoons mint leaves and 4 tablespoons chopped ginger. Blend or process in almost puree.
  1. Cut pomegranate into 4 pieces and place seed side down in a bowl with water to leave to soak for 10 minutes. Remove from water and tap the skin side to release the seeds into the bowl. Picket apart remaining seeds from the pith.

  1. In each of the bottles:
  • Put ¼ cup mango mixture two of the bottles.
  • Put ¼ cup chopped ginger and two tablespoons sugar in two bottles
  • Put ¼ cup pomegranate seeds and two tablespoons ginger in the remaining two bottles.
  1. Fill all the bottles with kombucha leaving about an inch of air from the top of the bottles.

IMG_5656 (Edited)

Pratico Kitchen 18oz Leak-Proof Glass Bottles, Juicing Containers, Water/Beverage Bottles – 6-Pack

6. Put bottles in a cabinet or dark place away from sunlight and where they will not be disturbed. Ferment for at least 3 days or 3-7 days. Be sure to burp or open the lids to release air everyday as they will carbonate as the yeast feeds off the added sugar.

7. After 3 days taste and if it tastes carbonated enough and flavor is right for your liking, go ahead and put in the fridge. I found the ginger and sugar takes a bit longer to ferment because the yeast feeds on the fruit much better

8. You can strain the Kombucha, or drink it as is from the bottle

You can see the difference in color from the picture above after 2nd fermentation is complete. Taste is fizzy and delicious. I prefer to strain into a glass for easier drinking.

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Pratico Kitchen 18oz Leak-Proof Glass Bottles, Juicing Containers, Water/Beverage Bottles – 6-Pack

Spicy Pork Bulgogi

Whenever I go to Korean restaurant I have to order Bulgogi. I usually struggle to decide between Beef or Spicy Pork, but since I love spicy foods I typically get Spicy Pork Bulgogi. I don’t know why I didn’t think to make this at home before, but definitely will be making this again. It is incredibly easy and very delicious. Total prep and cook time is about 20 minutes not counting the time to marinade the meat.

Ingredients

1 LB Sliced Pork Belly or Shoulder

6 Tbsp Gochujang (Korean Chili Paste)

2 Tbsp Sugar

3 Tbsp Soy Sauce

1 Yellow Onion

1 Bunch Green Onions

4 Clove Minced Garlic

¼ Cup Minced Ginger

1 tsp Black Pepper

2 tsp Sesame Oil

1 tsp Sesame Seeds

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

IMUSA USA WPAN-10019 Coated Wok with Wood Handles 14-Inch, Black

Directions

  1. I bought pre-sliced pork from the grocery store, but you can also ask your butcher to slice the pork thin for you. If that is not an option slice the pork as thinly as possible. I recommend putting the pork in the freezer to slightly freeze to make slicing much easier.
  1. For the marinade, add Gochujang, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, black pepper, sesame oil to a large mixing bowl to combine. Stir to mix together well.
  1. Slice the onion and cut the green onions into 2-inch lengths bite sized pieces.
  1. Add the sliced meat to the marinade, making sure the slices are not all stuck together. Use a plastic bag to cover your hand or latex gloves to mix the marinade to fully coat the meat.
  1. Add the green and yellow onion to the meat and marinade to mix again till everything is coated. Cover and refrigerate 4-6 hrs.

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  1. After meat had marinated, prepare a wok or a large pan on high heat. Add the oil and when it reaches the smoking point add the pork and onions. Cook everything for at least 10 minutes or until cooked through and when you have browned and almost crispy.

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  1. Serve the pork on a plate with steamed rice and garnish with sesame seeds if you desire. Enjoy

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Pulmuone Teriyaki Stir-fry Udon with Steak (Review)

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This is more of a review than a recipe because I used store pre-made ingredients and what’s wrong with making an easy meal? I used store bought teriyaki udon by Pulmuone which came with 2 portions of udon noodles, vegetables and sauce packets.

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If I were to make this dish on my own, I would buy pre-made udon noodles and sauce and maybe add some scallions and edamame peas which is similar to what the Pulmuone package contained. I also seared a 4oz portion of dry-aged sirloin steak to go with it, however you could add any protein or vegetable you like to make this a complete meal. From start to finish the entire cook time was about 30 minutes, most of this was the time it took to sear and rest the steak.

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The udon stir-fry only took about 10 minutes to prepare and turned out to be delicious. I garnished the dish with black sesame seeds, togarashi pepper and fried garlic. I give this meal a 4 out of 5 skillets for it’s overall flavor and how quick and easy it was to assemble.

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to bake on 425 degrees.
  2. Cut 8oz Top Sirloin Steak into two 4oz portions. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a pan on med-high heat add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and place steak in pan when oil begins to smoke. Sear steak 2-3 minutes on first side, then sear all sides 30 seconds-1 minute. Place steak in oven for about 5 minutes.
  4. Pull steak from oven flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Check temperature should feel medium rare or at about 135 degrees.
  5. Put steak on a plate to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing

Bruntmor, Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Wok, Black, 14-inch w/ Large Loop Handles & Flat Base

For the Teriyaki Udon preparation follow instructions on the bag. Serve in a bowl with sliced steak on top and garnishes of your preference.

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Pulmuone Premium Katsuo Tempura Udon X 2

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