Wild Ginger

recipes for pleasure and nurishment

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Salmon en papillote

Though I was recently lamenting that I’ve not read a book in 5 months, I did have time to snag a new cookbook, Steaming Basics, from the public library. This book is AMAZING, especially if you have a fascination with dim sum. I’ve always been a fan of steam cooking. It’s fast, healthy, easy to clean up, and the food keeps its flavor better.

Since I became pregnant with our son, my mother-in-law has had us for Sunday dinners, and she’s really been there for us. For her birthday this month, I wanted to make a Sunday dinner for her, and I wanted it to be special. She’s a big salmon fan, and this dish was fun because it was like opening a present.

I mostly followed the recipe from the book. It is incredibly simple yet fancy and tasty. The sour cream creates a simple “sauce” that compliments the fish. I used wild caught sockeye salmon, with amazing flavor and color.


Parchment Paper and string

Fresh spinach leaves, enough for 4 small handfuls

4 Tbsp sour cream

Salmon filets, about 4 ounces each and no skin

24 grape tomatoes

Fresh dill sprigs


Cut four pieces of parchment paper, a bit larger than office paper size. You need to be able to gather it and seal it well enough to keep out the steam.  Place paper flat and layer ingredients. Spinach, sour cream, Salmon, dill, and tomatoes on the sides. Gather up the sides (nothing fancy), making sure you don’t have any gaps to let steam in, and tie it at the top. Put in a steamer and steam for 12-15 minutes.



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Five Spice Oatmeal Cookies

I am hosting a play group/mommy support group for our local chapter of Bradley Method for Natural Childbirth. Our group includes moms, moms to be, the smallest newborns, toddlers, and even young children. As you can imagine, all of the playing and talking makes people hungry, so there are always snacks. This can be tricky with being mindful of nutrition, food allergies, and snacks that could choke babies. But, it should also be fun and part of the overall experience.

Since it is a morning play group, I decided to have a “breakfast” theme, with fresh fruit, juice, and oatmeal–cookies. Because I am normally a flop with baking, I turned to one of my favorite foodie blogs, Smitten Kitchen, for inspiration, and I found it.

I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, adapted for my personal taste and my finicky oven. Thinking of my other cookie flops, I decided to try the recipe ahead and freeze the dough, to bake the night before. A friend came by to talk baby stuff, and I got her to eat a couple cookies. She said, “What are you talking about!? You can totally make awesome, scrumptious cookies,” or something like that. I’m just paraphrasing.


1 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder (or Cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cup raisins (or other dried fruit. I want to try diced apricots and almonds next time)
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I omitted these to be safe for nut allergies)

Preheat oven to 350°F


In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, Five Spice Powder, and salt together. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Next, stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts.

Chill the dough in the fridge or freezer to set the butter. You can chill the whole bowl, make the scoops and chill those, or make the cookie balls and put them on the prepared cookie sheet and chill. It depends on whether you are baking the whole batch right away. I was not, so the sheet in the freezer worked well for me. 

The cookies should be two inches apart on a SILPAT parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes. Baking time may varies, depending on the oven and the temperature of the cookies (My oven is off by 100 degrees, most of the time. We need a new one, but we also needed a new clothes washer, and since we use cloth diapers, the washer won out for now). Remove when they start to crisp around the edges but are not yet done in the center. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Makes several dozen.



Cucumber–Two Ways

Cucumber season is nearly upon us. Those people who grow them are desperately trying to can them and foist them off, and the rest of us who can’t say no have a growing stock pile in the fridge. Yes, sliced cucumbers are great, but we need some variety. Here are two of my favorites. The neat thing is that both recipes begin with the same steps and ingredients, so you might make them both at the same time.

Sour Creamy, Dilly Cuke Salad

This one my mother-in-law serves, and I always take seconds or thirds. She uses yogurt, but I use sour cream. Same diff. I also add dill.


3-4 cucumbers–I prefer the long, skinny seedless kind

2/3 cups sour cream–using light or fat free is fine

Several rings of red onion

1 tsp seasoned white rice vinegar or Sushi vinegar. This has a splash of sugar, which is nice.

2 pinches fresh dill (I would not use dried, but that is me)

freshly ground pepper


Peel and slice the cukes and layer them in a bowl. Slice onions, roughly the same width as cucumber slices. Add salt enough to cover them. Let sit for at least an hour so the salt releases the water from the cucumbers. Rinse well and drain. Return to bowl. Add vinegar, pepper, sour cream, and dill. Stir until the sour cream covers everything and there are no clumps.

Betty’s Summer Cuke Salad

This one takes me back to my childhood. Summer afternoons would often include a tub of salted cucumbers and onions sitting on the counter, getting juicy. I would walk by and take a dip. These were my mom’s favorite, a true sign of summer and a reminder of her own childhood. We pulled the tub out with almost every meal until they were gone, and then she’d make another batch. I especially loved to eat them beside freshly sliced tomatoes, so the juices would run together.


4 cukes–I like to use the long, skinny seedless variety

1/2 onion–red or white. My mom used white, and I like the red. Your choice


1 cup water

1 cup sugar


Peel and slice the cukes and layer them in a bowl. Slice onions, roughly the same width as cucumber slices. Add salt enough to cover them. Let sit for at least an hour so the salt releases the water from the cucumbers. Rinse well and drain. Return to bowl. Add water and sugar and stir. Let sit for at least an hour. The theory is that they get better the longer they last, but they don’t last long. I like this salad very fresh while the cukes still have a lot of crunch.


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Pantry Dinner 4.0

Like many people, we are trying to conserve money. Luckily, the baby’s food is on the house (yours truly) for at least another month. And, since it is easier to eat at home, we’ve saved some money by not going out. Another tactic we’ve implemented is actually using the stuff in the pantry and the fridge.

For dinner tonight, I began with chicken and some spinach that got wilty. From there, I went to the pantry for ideas. I spied a jar of artichoke hearts, whole grain shell pasta, and chickpeas. Next, I looked in the fridge for veggies that might soon get lost and/or go to rot. I had mini bell peppers and onion left over from making curry the other night, and on the counter, I had grape tomatoes that had gone to wrinkles.

Aha! There it is, all within reach…dinner. Usually, I don’t know what time my significant husband will be home. No, wait, my other husband. No, still not correct. That guy who comes home between 5 and 7 to prowl around the stove like a hungry wolf. Yeah, that guy. Anyway, I normally have all of my ingredients ready to toss into a pan when, through the kitchen window, I see him pedaling into the yard.

This evening, I have a big bowl full of prepped veg, legumes, and some fun Aji Amarillo chili powder from Savory, my fav spice shop in Boulder, CO. Pasta is cooked. Chicken is thawed and ready to be dredged in a bit of flour and cooked in garlic-flavored olive oil (not in the mood to peel and mince garlic cloves).

Simple as it was, this was one of the most flavorful and satisfying dishes I’ve made in a long time.

Ingredients (this is between you and your pantry/fridge):

Protein–chicken, sausage, tofu, or beans. I used chicken breast tenders, and I dredged them in whole wheat flour and Penzey’s Smoked Spanish Paprika (This is amazingly tasty. It is NOT the normal paprika you by in the spice section of the grocery store). I also used canned chickpeas.

Fresh Veg–green stuff, red stuff, orange stuff. You could also use canned diced tomatoes. I used grape tomatoes, onions, spinach, beet greens, mini red and orange bell peppers.

Pasta–anything goes. I used a medium whole wheat shell pasta. The shells held onto the sauce really well.

Artichoke hearts–the ones canned in water would be fine. Halve  or quarter them if they are whole. I used the marinated ones and that really gave the dish a zing, though you need to drain them so you don’t have an oily mess.

Spices–again, this is up to you. You could make it very spicy. Keep it plain and taste the veggies and nuttiness of the chickpeas. Whatever.


Dredge chicken in flour and pan fry in 2 Tbsp olive oil both sides until almost cooked. Take out and set aside on paper towel.

Cook pasta al dente. Rinse and drain. Set aside. Or, this is a great way to use left over pasta from the fridge.

To the chicken pan, add onions and any hard veggies, like carrots (I did not use these). Cook for a bit. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and peppers. Stir in chili powder or red pepper flakes (I used a heaping tsp of Aji Amarillo powder). Add 1/4 cup of water and keep adding as it cooks down. Cook until the veggies are tender. Slip in the chicken so it can finish cooking all the way and soak up the flavor. Last, add a bit more water and the spinach until it is wilted. Stir in the pasta or ladle over pasta. If you keep adding water (not too much), you will end up with a great “sauce.”


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Sauteed Greens With Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

We recently bought into a farm share with some friends, and so we are looking forward to some great local veggies. With farm shares, one can sometimes find surprises–what is this green stuff and what do I do with it? Greens are in and will be even through the first frost, so it is good to have a couple recipes on hand.

I’ve found some good things on Simply Recipes, though I usually use a recipe to get a general idea and doctor it up according to what I have on hand and our personal tastes. They have a great variety of recipes for greens, including this one for Sauteed Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins.

We ended up with a great assortment of rainbow Swiss chard and kale: lacinato, green, and Russian (see pic below to identify–this website might also help).

And, I happened to have pine nuts AND golden raisins.I skipped the garlic, wine, and pepper flakes. I did, for kicks, put in a couple pinches of really good cinnamon. I really wanted to taste the greens, not the spices.


Roughly a pound of greens–kale, swiss chard, turnip greens. Mustard greens are good, too, but they bring a strong mustard/spice to the dish, so be aware. Chop and remove tough stems.

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts

1-2 pinches of cinnamon

1/2 cup water


Toast pine nuts in a dry fry pan. Be VERY watchful as they burn easily. Also, note the wonderful smell. Set aside.

Start with a big pan but know that the greens will cook down–a lot. Pour oil in pan and heat. Add greens. Be careful of spatters. Stir to moisten. Add raisins, toasted pine nuts, and water as needed. Continue to stir on medium heat. Cook until the water cooks off and the greens are tender and very dark in color.


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Thai Green Curry

With summer veggies in abundance, it is always good to have a variety of recipes for using up zucchini, broccoli, onions, peppers, and carrots. I especially like recipes that allow veggies to retain their crunch (and their nutrients).

Though I have made a great curry paste before, I have learned to prioritize and save time and cost when I can. Most Asian groceries carry cans of curry paste, and I keep a stockpile. I’ve enjoyed most varieties of the Maesri brand. They also include ingredients, while not fresh, that are hard to come by–i.e. lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves. I also avoid cooking with oil. This cuts back on fat and means the veggies taste like themselves instead of oil. Instead, I cook with water.

Serve this up with some rice, and you have a wonderfully fresh dinner for two. You could add meat if you like. Pork is good in a green curry, as is chicken. We had just veggies, and it was very satisfying.Ingredients:

1-2 carrots, cut into circles or square chunks (try to keep veggies around the same size)

1/2 cup scapes, cut into 2 inch-pieces

1/2 cup green beans, cut into pieces same size as scapes (I didn’t have any this time)

1 cup broccoli, cut into medium-sized florets

1/2-1 cup red bell peppers, cut into chunks

1/2 yellow onion, cut into thick slices.

1 cup zuchinni, sliced into thick circles or square chunks

Several cups of water handy

2 ounces of Maesri Green Curry Paste (freeze other half)

1 can Chaokoh coconut milk.


In a small pot, heat a can of coconut milk (you may use a “light” variety) and the curry paste. I use half of the can and pop the other half in a zipper bag and freeze it. Half is plenty. Cook through and stir.

The trick to keeping the veggies crisp is to cook them in the appropriate order. Heat up a wok or large frying pan. Put in about 1/8 cup of water and let it get hot. Throw in the carrots and scapes and stir around for half a minute. Next, throw in the green beans. Stir for half a minute. You will see their color darken. Add the peppers and onions. Stir for half a minute. Add more water if it cooks off. Add zucchini last as that can get the soggiest the easiest. Cook for half a minute or more if needed. Be sure your veggies are not getting soggy. When they are the consistency you prefer, add the coconut milk mixture and let it heat up again. Stir and take off heat. Serve over cooked rice of your choice.


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Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam

I have been on over a year-long hiatus (well, in blogging), but I also now have a five month-old baby and have my dissertation proposal approved and research (mostly) collected, so it’s not like I’ve been twiddling my thumbs.

My mother-in-law (oh, yes, and I got married, too!) has a large and prolific strawberry patch, and we have an even larger and more prolific rhubarb patch. Put the two of those together and what do you get? Well, with a bit of elbow grease, I got some homemade jam.

With an infant close at hand, I decided not to go all the way with canning, so I made a form of freezer jam, and I did not use pectin (since I didn’t have any and did not feel like lugging the babe to the store).


Nine cups of rhubarb, cut into one-two inch pieces

Nine cups strawberries

Five cups sugar (you can use more or less, but I like to taste the tartness)

Juice from one lemon


Dump everything into a heavy pot and bring to a rolling boil. Turn down heat to medium-high and stir often. Watch so it does not boil over and be sure to scrap the bottom of the pot. Skim foam. Cook for about an hour and test for consistency (see below). Pour into sterilized containers and store in fridge or freezer. Enjoy!

Test consistency– put a plate in the freezer to chill. After cooking for an hour, put a dab of jam on the chilled plate, wait a minute, and tip the plate. That should show you the consistency of the jam. Remember, this is not canned/preserved jam, so it must stay in the fridge or freezer. This should also help to keep it firm.