Archive | Simply Tasty Treats RSS feed for this section

Fermented Food=Happy Tummy

25 Oct

Dinner with the John & Charmaine at Farm Block


Hoooooooooly cow. So The Appleseed Collective just returned from a jaunt around Lake Michigan–straight north through the mitten, kissing the shore of Lake Superior (in both Marquette and the beautiful Keweenaw peninsula), then winding through Wisconsin, ending with an 8-hour visit to Chicago and arriving back in Ann Arbor around 5 am. ALL IN ONE DAY! Just kidding. We were gone for about 3 weeks. My apologies for the writing absence, though I hope some of the flickr photos were enjoyed. Our road diet probably differs greatly from what you might think fitting for a touring band. There are definitely groups out there that are pop-tart poppin, Big Mac sloppin, artery cloggin junk food lovers. We are very much not that. Staples of The Appleseed Collective tour pantry include: homemade granola, homemade hummus, sauerkraut, sprouted almonds, yogurt, lentils, veggies, quinoa, and nutritional yeast. Being that we are not yet world famous, we can't exactly request that gluten-free, organic, vegetarian meals be ready and waiting in our hotel rooms, so instead we find a local food co-op and cook our own meals in the homes of our gracious hosts.

We make some pretty epic breakfasts and dinners, trying to repay the generosity shown to us with delicious smells and tastes. One gets very used to eating similar things daily when on the road–the cooler holds sandwich fixings and as much fresh produce as we can stand to carry, and the granola lasted for breakfast til about 4 days from home. We found a few treats, like delicious gluten-free pizza at The Orpheum Theater/Studio Pizza in Hancock, MI, and a whiskey list beyond belief at Fitzgerald's in Eagle River, MI. The gluten-consuming part of the band fell deeply in love with Ray's Polish Fire (hot sauce from the Keweenaw) and Brandon and I found some gluten-free love in the form of chocolat/peanut butter cupcakes at Kavarna in Green Bay, WI. As I read back through this post, I think I can say with confidence that The Appleseed Collective thinks/talks about and eats food about as much or more than we play music on tour.



There are often meals that I miss while tour, and the following is one of them. The Brinery supplied TAC with a good amount of fermented magic for tour, which we proceeded to plow through since we're all totally obsessed with sauerkraut and pickled vegetables covering all other food items consumed. What we didn't have for the entirety of tour, though, was tempeh. Tempeh is one of my favorite foods. It was only introduced to me within the last year or so, and if you have not yet tried it, stop what you're doing and go get some. Okay actually don't do that yet–finish reading this post and THEN go shopping. In Ann Arbor, I am very lucky to have local tempeh handmade by the folks at The Brinery. They are fermentation WIZARDS over there. Seriously. Do you know how good fermented foods are for you? My stomach and tastebuds both cry like babies when I don't eat enough kraut. Anyways, The Brinery is knee-deep in a Kickstarter project right now, trying to raise funds to double production at their small business. This is nothing but good news, because the more money they raise, the more fermented, probiotic goodness will end up in our bellies. EXTRA BONUS, The Brinery is a local business that supports other local businesses–the cabbage and other produce that goes into The Brinery's products is supplied by nearby growers like Tantre and Frog Holler Farms. So, supporting The Brinery is supporting both your local and inner economy.

On that note, I give you the tempeh reuben.


Tis a thing of beauty, is it not?



Note: Next time Brandon makes fermented ketchup and homemade mayo, those things are going in the dressing. However, we didn't have any in the fridge, so I had to go with what was there.

Thousand Island Dressing

1/2 cup ketchup1 cup mayonnaisde

1 cup sweet pickle relish (or chopped Brinery pickles of many varieties! yum)

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

salt & pepper to taste



2 slices gluten-free bread (I used some tasty millet-flax bread)

1/4 lb tempeh (Brinery, duh. Get hungry)

2 slices Swiss cheese

2 slices tomato

healthy heap of sauerkraut (I used The Brinery's Juniper Orbit)

1-2 Tbsp Thousand Island dressing


I begin by cooking my slicing my tempeh into stackable strips and then pan-frying in butter for a few minutes on each side. It's so simple and so tasty, especially when your tempeh is fresh and locally made. Once the tempeh is cooked, remove it from the pan and add more butter. Place the two slices of bread in the pan (at a reduced heat) and place the tempeh on top of one slice. Add the Swiss cheese on top of the tempeh and cover the pan so the cheese melts and the bread browns. Once the desired amount of cheese melting has occured, remove all items from the pan. On the empty bread, spread the Thousand Island dressing. On the loaded side, add on a heap of sauerkraut and the sliced tomato. Assemble your two halves, cut in half if you so desire, and consume ravenously while taking the occasional moment to savor how awesome this gluten-free, vegetarian sandwich is. As they might say over at Audiotree, SHABOOYA!





Always Winning

21 Sep

I keep waking up thinking about Thanksgiving. It’s happened several times in the last few weeks. Imagine being deep in a dream where you’re following your father, an international spy, up a mountain/the Great Wall of China–he’s just about to give up the answer to the HUGE LIFE-ALTERING QUESTION you’ve had the whole time (even though you can’t quite seem to articulate what that question is) when BAM. You shoot awake wondering if your grandma will be okay with you making the pies this year. I have also awoken to sudden anxiety over the gravy and what will be used to thicken it, as well as the rolls and how instead of those sweet Hawaiian guys we will be having my own salt & pepper/parmesan drop biscuits. And then I start fantasizing and I can’t meditate because all I can think about is food. It’s honestly a wonder that I don’t weigh 5 times as much as I do, although I suppose thinking about food constantly is not the same as eating food constantly. Anyways, the point is that food is a big part of my life. I’m a musician by trade, so sometimes I feel like I’m having a love affair with food blogging. If it’s wrong then by golly I don’t want to be right!

My mom has Tivo. It’s pretty cool because there is nothing good on TV during the day and when I’m totally laid out sick all I want to do is eat chicken noodle soup and watch a show about chicken noodle soup. And when I visit my mom’s, there is usually a lot of food around and a lot of food TV recorded. I skipped the soup this time and just opted for cuddling the dog and watching Top Chef Masters. Interacting with the television is such a rarity for me that I forgot I can fast forward through the commercials and I end up passing out in a pile of tissues instead. This is not the point. The point of this story is that Top Chef Masters is not the most annoying or brain-melting thing you could watch on TV, and in fact featured one of my good friends, Takashi Yagihashi, for more than half the season! Takashi is an amazing chef who I have had the privilege of knowing for quite some time (I used to babysit his kids when they were tiny and now they’re all in high school or college…whaaaaaa???? how am I that old??). He has been living in Chicago for a while, though, and currently oversees a few of his own totally awesome restaurants there (Takashi and Slurping Turtle).

Anyways, I only watched this show because I enjoyed feeling biased whenever they would have competitions and would throw dirty tissues at the screen if Takashi didn’t win, which wasn’t actually that often. He was dubbed the Quickfire King after all. I also watched this show because it’s pretty impressive to watch people cook up these gourmet dishes with very few ingredients and very little time. However, it’s still a reality show, which means it’s still totally stupid most of the time. Especially when Takashi got voted off (SPOILER OOPS). It was extra stupid then. But Takashi was a great sport, and I think his participation in the show directed some much deserved attention to his food and talents. Yay! And following in such a fashion, today’s recipe is one of his: pork fried rice. To me, this is comfort food.


Note before you make this that some of the ingredients require pre-cooking:

-the barbecued pork is up to you. Char Siu is one of my FAVORITE foods and my (Chinese) uncle Bien makes it the best, but keeps changing/not divulging his recipe (but I know he uses ketchup now!). So for the time being, check out this recipe. You don’t have to skewer and grill tiny pieces, you can marinade the whole tenderloins and cook them in the oven instead.

-cold cooked rice: cook your rice ahead of time and spread it on a sheet tray to cool. You can put it in the fridge for about a half hour to speed things up.

3 Tbsp Tamari

5 tsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp sesame oil

1/4 tsp sugar

1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening

3/4 lb Chinese barbecued pork (cooked), half cut into 1/2-inch dice and half sliced 1/3 in thick (or tofu or tempeh if you want it veggie!)

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 large shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced

1 carrot, cut into 1/3-in dice

1 head baby bok choy, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

6 cups cold cooked Japanese short-grain rice

2 scallions, thinly sliced

pinch of freshly ground pepper & Kosher salt

In a small bowl, stir the soy sauce with the rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar.

Heat a very large skillet. Add the shortening and let melt. Add the diced pork and stir-fry over high heat for 1 minute. Add the peas, shiitakes, carrot and bok choy and stir-fry until tender. Add the eggs and scramble just until set.

Stir in the cooked rice, scallions, Tamari mixture and pepper and stir-fry until the rice is hot.

Remove from heat and season with salt. Spoon the fried rice into bowls, top with the sliced pork and serve.



9 Aug

Oh my. We have just returned from over a week in northern Michigan, frolicking in both the upper and lower peninsulas. We had a lovely time playing at Sleepy Bear Music Festival in Lake Ann, enjoyed a little beach time at Lake Michigan, then made our way (barely) to Marquette, up and up all the way to the Keweenaw Peninsula for Farm Block Fest. It was a time full of ups and downs, camping and bug bites, amazing music and slightly less amazing food, totally badass storms and lots of time in the car. But we’re home now, gearing up for the BIG CD RELEASE SHOW TOMORROW AT THE ARK. Brandon and I have been eating deliciousness for the last few days, trying to shove as many vegetables into our bodies as we can to make up for the lack thereof experienced on the road (it’s hard to keep veggies fresh in your cooler for that long).

As we walked into the grocery store, wondering what to make for dinner, it suddenly smacked us right in the face:

collard green wraps.

I can’t say enough about these thangs. Really, though, the only words we seem to be able to get out while eating them are “dude…so good…” and then we both just make “mind blown” faces. We’re nerds, it’s true. In fact, the first words out of my mouth during dinner tonight were simply “I love food” (sorry for not initially acknowledging the lovely candlelit table, B).

So here’s what’s up.


(Serves 2)

2 large collard green leafs

1/2 green pepper, sliced thin

1/2 small cucumber, sliced thin

a few cherry tomatoes, sliced

1/2 avocado, sliced

2 heaping Tbsp baba ghanouj or hummus

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked

1/2 brick of tempeh, cut into strips and cooked

handful of pickled carrots

handful of bean sprouts

2 Tbsp crumbled feta

To prepare the collard greens, slice them in half along the stem, removing the stem and leaving yourself with two wrap bases. Spread avocado and baba ghanouj in the center of each wrap, and pile on the toppings! I listed what I used/had around, but whatever you’re interested in would surely be delicious. Vegan burritos? Falafel and tabbouleh? Collard greens are a great (and gluten-free) replacement for tortillas or pitas in a sandwich-type situation. We used tempeh and pickled carrots from The Brinery right here in Ann Arbor, our favorite fermentation location. Both mixed well with the slight bitterness of the collard greens and all the fresh vegetables offer a very satisfying (and healthy) crunch.

What will we wrap up next?

……….that joke, surely. That’s a wrap on that joke, folks. Oh gosh, I can’t stop. Someone make it stop…oh look food pictures!


(It’s Never) Too Hot to Eat

23 Jul

I’ve tried to avoid saying this here, I really have, but it’s hot. I know it’s summer, but it’s still true. It’s HOT. I have spent a mildly inappropriate amount of time sitting in the cross breeze between the two fans in my room and/or going “shopping” just to enjoy free air conditioning. Brandon seems well suited for the heat while I instead simply schvitz while sitting. I could post another recipe for ice cream or anything chilled, but instead I’m going to share a tasty, refreshing summer salad! Because you can only subsist off of frozen dairy products for so long.

I’ve always loved fresh corn on the cob. I think sweet corn is a bit of a midwestern specialty, along with blueberries and cherries–at least in Michigan’s case. The sweet grilled corn in this salad combined with the crunchy spice of the fresh radishes and the cool creamy avocado is a combination that’ll knock your socks off (why would you be wearing socks? It’s 100 degrees outside!)…help you forget for five seconds that you could probably fry an egg on the sidewalk. Now that I think of it, this salad would stand up well to a fried egg sitting on top. Then again, I’m not really very opposed to fried eggs being on anything.


2 heads butter lettuce, washed and chopped

2 heirloom tomatoes, quartered

2 ears sweet corn, rubbed lightly in olive oil and grilled

6 small fresh radishes, sliced thin



1 large avocado

2/3 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup sour cream

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp lime juice

2 tsp fresh dill, chopped fine

pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Blend dressing ingredients in blender until smooth. If it seems too thick, you can add a little olive oil (1-2 Tbsp) to thin it out.

When the grilled corn has cooled, remove from the cob either with a corn zipper (weird and awesome that there’s a tool for that) or with a knife. Combine salad ingredients, dress lightly, and serve! EASY.

I categorized this as “sides” because when I ate it, it was indeed a side dish. But, like I mentioned earlier, you could easily add a poached egg or some crumbled tempeh and call it a meal. Ta dah! Channeling Mad Men housewives again (thank goodness I have no interest in pork wearing slices of pineapple and maraschino cherries…very little interest…ok I’m now interested in revamping that).


Happy Ice Cream Day!

16 Jul

So apparently it is National Ice Cream Day. July is also National Ice Cream Month according to Ronald Reagan, who established these holidays back in the 80s. I suppose there’s a reason why they don’t make greeting cards for National Ice Cream day, and that is because everyone is too busy stuffing their faces full of ice cream to look at any card. Plus, cards do not taste nearly as good as ice cream.

Being the model citizen that I am, I celebrated the holiday by making some REAL TASTY ICE CREAM. A few weeks ago I met Jeni of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. She is a totally awesome lady who is now a James Beard winner among other shining accolades. She makes delicious ice cream. I visited one of her retail stores in Nashville while we were on tour in February. Ben, Brandon and I stood in front of the counter sampling literally every flavor. Plus some. Seriously. The kind lady behind the counter asked if we wanted to sample the ice cream sandwiches, some things from the back (that’s when I tasted Influenza Sorbet for the first time…). Anyways, the point is that Jeni’s jazz is to die for. I would probably consider buying a franchise if she’d let me, except I’d probably gain 100 pounds and lose money due to “disappearing inventory.”

So, since I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel or anything, I made one of Jeni’s recipes. It’s her best seller (she told me herself) and it’s pretty easy to see why once you shove just one (or several) spoonfuls in your mouth.


2 cups whole milk

1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp tapioca starch (or cornstarch)

1 1/2 oz (3 Tbsp) cream cheese, softened

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 Tbsp tapioca syrup (or light corn syrup)

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix about 2 Tbsp of the milk with the tapioca starch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color.

NOTE!!! This is the “dry-burn” technique. This means it’s just the sugar in the pan. In order to get this right, do NOT give in to the urge to touch the sugar! It could “seize up” and be done for. But do not fret! It’s actually quite easy to successfully caramelize sugar. Simply turn the stove on to medium heat and let the sugar sit. When you see the edges of the sugar beginning to brown, you can begin to swirl the sugar simply by shaking the pan a bit. It’s always safest to not touch the sugar, since you lessen the chance of any impurities making their way into the process. Continue to shake the pan as more of the sugar melts until it’s melted evenly and has an amber color.

When the sugar gets little bubbles popping, remove the pan from the heat and immediately but slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture in with the sugar (carefully! it’ll pop and spit). Stir til incorporated, then slowly incorporate the rest of the cream mixture.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the tapioca starch slurry.

Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes (alternately, you can just put the mixture straight into the refrigerator-we were waiting for the ice cream maker to chill entirely, so I just left the mixture in the fridge for a while and it was totally fine).

Pour the mixture into the frozen ice cream maker canister and spin until thick and creamy (usually around 25 minutes or so). Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

So, ice cream is not simple to make by any means, but it sure is worth it. Stay tuned for another flavor!


%d bloggers like this: