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We just returned from a two week road trip down to Central California. Along the way we ate quite well (with the exception of an Olive Garden wannabe in Ashland and the worst meal of the trip at the marina in Crescent City – where they serve their awful food up along with racist table literature). We managed to avoid fast food entirely, but sticking to the migraine diet was tough! I have to confess that I rarely stick to the plan when dining out. Very often there are no options on the menu that can even be modified to meet the requirements of the low-tyramine diet. Or else the essence of the dish would be so altered that I can’t bear to request an omission or substitution. On this vacation all of my dietary cheating did eventually take its tole, I think, as I ended to the trip with a series of more-severe-than-usual headaches.

The Mendocino Coast

The Mendocino Coast

One meal that did pass headache diet muster was had at the legendary Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. That night we nearly went to A16, just around the corner from our hotel, but were too put off by the uptight, taking-themselves-way-too-seriously clientele. I’m so pleased about the bad vibe because Greens was just what we needed that night: casual but elegant atmosphere and fresh, local food. We even walked away with a recipe to add to our own repertoire: pasta with white beans and broccolini, bathed in a light broth. I’ll share with you my variation here. This was the first thing I cooked when we arrived back in Seattle. It manages to be both light and incredibly comforting. And we need comfort on these dark, short and rainy winter days in Seattle.

pasta in broth with greens, white beans and shallots

pasta in broth with greens, white beans and shallots

The version served at Greens was prepared with a much lighter touch. Theirs was elegant and refined. Mine is like peasant food. To create something more akin to the original, use more broth and fewer veggies and beans.


Pasta in broth with white beans, chard and shallots

You could use homemade broth and cook the beans yourself. Or make this a quickie by using prepared broth and canned beans.

  • butter and olive oil (~2T each, or as much as you like)
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 1 clove slivered garlic
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 head chard, stems removed, roughly chopped (substitute any green you like)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb short pasta like farfalle or orecchiette
  • toasted breadcrumbs

Saute the shallots over medium heat in butter and olive oil until softened and golden. Meanwhile bring water to a boil and start cooking your pasta. To your shallots add garlic and cook for about a minute, until golden but not browned. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Add beans and chard and season with pepper flakes and salt and pepper. You may want to add more broth at this point if you prefer a more soupy dish. Mix very gently to help the flavors to meld and the greens to soften (if you are using a more hardy green like kale, cover the pan and gently simmer for a couple of minutes, stiring occasionally). It’s done when the greens are softened to your liking. Serve over pasta and top with toasted breadcrumbs.

This recipe, noodles smothered in a rich, creamy sauce of salmon, chanterelle mushrooms, and peas, reminds me of one of my childhood favorites: Tuna Noona Casserole. (Which I learned only in adulthood is referred to by most people as, “Tuna Noodle Casserole”. Who knew? And who knew that roll-em-ups are actually called “burritos”?)

I broke the rules on this one. “Smoked” items are on the list of potential migraine trigger foods. But I couldn’t resist adding smoked salmon to this recipe. It was just too perfect. If you are a very strict follower of the the low-tyramine diet from the National Headache Foundation or David Buchholz’ Heal Your Headache, then substitute poached salmon. It’ll still be very good.

assembling the ingredients

assembling the ingredients

Feeling a bit of culinary ambition, I decided to make the pasta myself. Have I mentioned before my devotion to those plump little cuties called Troffie? Troffie, as made by local pasta purveyor Pasteria Lucchese, is a short, fat, hand-rolled pasta. They are slightly reminiscent in texture and mouth feel to hand-shaved Chinese noodles. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought to myself, if I could just mix a little flour, eggs and water, roll the dough between my palms, and make my own? Easy, right?

Well it was easy. Easy to make them icky. They looked delightful before I cooked them, dusted in flour, each a little different from the next. But after they came out of the water they were super fat and jaw-achingly chewy. Where did I go wrong? Pasta experts, please give me your tips!

the pasta looked good before I cooked it

the pasta looked good before I cooked it

Maybe the pasta making is best left to the professionals. But anyone can take on the sauce:

Salmon and Chanterelle Cream Sauce

Saute a couple handfuls of chopped mushrooms in butter and olive oil till softened a bit, add 1 cup of thawed frozen peas and some garlic and saute another minute. Throw in some big pinches of flour and mix it in for 30 seconds or so. Add 8 oz. heavy cream and stir. When the cream has heated, see how you like the thickness of the sauce –  you may want to add in a little more liquid (I used chicken broth). Add 1/2 lb smoked or poached salmon and cook until salmon is heated through. Serve over pasta.

homemade makaruni with salmon and chanterelle cream sauce

homemade makaruni with salmon and chanterelle cream sauce

Beef and Barley Stew

This beef stew recipe is so good and I have no idea why. I’ve made beef stew before with varying results. It’s always good, but never worth blogging about. When Z asked me why it was so good I came back with a mystified, “I don’t know!” The broth is incredibly rich and luscious, and the stew chock-full of fall’s hearty comfort foods. Theoretically you should have leftovers to take with you to work – but we ate ours all in one day. Give it a try and let me how yours turns out.

beef and barley stew

beef and barley stew

Beef and Barley Stew

This is a good Sunday dish as it takes at least a couple of hours to prepare.

  • flour with salt and pepper
  • 4 T olive oil, divided
  • 4 T butter, divided
  • 1.5 lb pastured beef stew meat (I’ve also made this with lamb)
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2-3 T fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 t dried marjoram
  • 1 c carrots, small dice, divided
  • 1 c parsnip, small dice, divided
  • 1 c celery root, small dice, divided
  • 2 cloves minced garlic, divided
  • 4 cups chicken broth (or beef broth)
  • 1/2 c hulled barley (not pearled barley)
  • 1 cup chanterelles (or other wild mushrooms), chopped

Dredge meat in flour, salt and pepper. Heat 2 T of the oil and 2 T butter over medium high in a 3 qt dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot. When fats are hot, brown meat on all sides. Remove and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and saute shallot in the fat until softened. Add sage and 1/2 the garlic and saute about a minute. Add 1/3 of the carrots, parsnip and celery root and cook a few minutes until softened a bit. Add 3 cups of broth and the beef and set to a simmer. After about 20 minutes add the barley and continue to simmer. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, saute remaining carrots, parsnip, celery root and garlic in the remaining oil and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste, the remaining sage, and the marjoram. When vegetables have softened slightly, turn off the heat. Once the barley has softened up a bit (after maybe 30 minutes of cooking), add the sauteed vegetables. At this point you will probably need to add the remaining broth. I like a thick stew so I add only enough for a small amount of broth. Cook until the vegetables and barley have softened to your liking (we like our barley to retain some of its firmness).

Summer salads

Here is a collection of easy and delicious summer salads. All feature veggies from the garden or the local farmers market. There isn’t a lot of variety here, but there is a lot of yummy. And no migraine trigger foods!

Black bean and corn salad with zucchini, yellow pepper and onion

black bean, corn and zucchini salad

black bean, corn and zucchini salad

Black beans and corn figured heavily in our diets for a few days last month. With a rash of bad headaches, I didn’t reallly have the time or inclination to shop, so I relied on the pantry and the garden. For this main dish salad, saute zucchini, yellow pepper, and onions (or shallots or leeks if your poor head can’t tolerate onions). Then mix with fresh tomato, black beans and fresh corn (I find that my farmers market corn doesn’t need to be cooked). Drizzle with olive oil and mix in fresh chopped basil. I can’t describe how perfect these flavors all taste together. There’s something about the combination of cooked and raw, sweet and sharp … delish! The basil is the essential ingredient that takes it from good to amazing.

Peach and cucumber salad

peach and cucumber salad

peach and cucumber salad

Ever since my friend Erin told me about her peach and jalapeno salad, I have been adding peaches to so many dishes. Turns out, peaches go with everything. This is a very basic salad: peach, cucumber and basil over greens.

Chickpea, tomato and cucumber salad

chickpea, tomato and cucumber salad

chickpea, tomato and cucumber salad

Here’s another one straight from the garden and the pantry. Amazing? No. But solidly good, very healthy and super easy. Cucumber, tomato, parsley, chickpeas and queso fresco. Fresh cheese are allowable in a low-tyramine, migraine diet. I don’t know whether queso fresco from the grocery store technically qualifies as a fresh cheese, it is certainly not specifically mentioned in any of the lists of allowed foods. The cheese I used here is from Skagit Valley’s Samish Bay Cheese who make actually fresh cheeses (and aged ones, too, for those of you who can eat them).

Salad Nicoise

salad nicoise

salad nicoise

Salad Nicoise is maybe my favorite summer salad. This version consists of tuna, tomatoes, boiled egg and yukon gold potatoes served over a bed of mizuna and arugula. I liked salad nicoise even more back when I could actually eat olives and before I shacked up with Z who is “not a big fan” of green beans. (Though since being subjected to my cuisine – I’m going to take credit here, whether or not it is due – he has come to like eggs that are not completely cooked, mustard, and recently the best one yet: Mayonnaise! So green beans may not be far behind.) The tuna is canned albacore from Fishing Vessle St. Jude, a local family-run business that practices sustainable fishing methods.

Corn and peach salad

Corn and peach salad

Corn and peach salad

Here’s another variation on peach salad. This one is peaches and corn with parsley and basil, served over arugula. It was accompanied by salmon, barbecued with Tom Douglas’ Salmon Rub, and cornmeal griddle cakes. This meal screams summer. I wish today’s weather did, I mean, come on Mother Nature, fall starts tomorrow.

Spinach salad with cornmeal crumbs and caprese

spinach salad with cornmeal crumbs and caprese

spinach salad with cornmeal crumbs and caprese

Caprese is another dish that has figured heavily for the last couple of months. We have tomatoes and basil in our vegetable garden, and fresh mozzarella is always in the fridge since it’s one of the few migraine-friendly cheeses. Plus caprese is so quick and easy. I end up eating a lot of it in the summer. It has turned into one of those foods, like salmon, that I would never get in a restaurant. It is a great snack and so many snack foods are off limits to us migraineurs. This salad consists of spinach leaves topped with fried cornmeal crumbs, tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella. I attempted to make polenta croutons from defrosted leftover polenta. It didn’t work, I got polenta crumble instead, which turned out to be really tasty. Think of it like bacon bits (your last taste of bacon will have to have been as far in the past as mine in order to even entertain the idea that cornmeal might in any way resemble licking-smacking, soul-satisfying bacon – wow that was a mouthful).

Tomato, cucumber and basil salad

tomato, cucumber and basil salad

tomato, cucumber and basil salad

Here’s another snack or side salad. Tomatoes and cucumbers sprinkled with basil, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Can’t get much easier than this.

pork chops with huckleberries and peaches

pork chops with huckleberries and peaches

I haven’t been blogging much lately, but I have been eating a lot. The next few posts document our summer meals. My repertoire has been a little limited as being busy + bad headaches + late summer garden = lots of variations on simple dishes with tomatoes and zucchini. Lately, though, steel cut oats have been appearing on the breakfast table again, an indication that the weather has been crisping up and cooling down. With summer now on the wane, many of these recipes will soon be retired for the year – so they may have to serve as inspiration for next summer’s meals.

Here’s a taste of the migraine-trigger-free meals that you’ll see in the next several posts:

  • spinach salad with rustic croutons, zucchini, tomato and corn
  • pita with hummus, lamb patties and vegetables
  • peach and cucumber salad
  • pork chops with berries and peaches
  • salad nicoise
  • corn and peach salad with cornmeal griddle cakes
  • wild rice with zucchini and zucchini blossoms

Everyone raves about their Costa Rican vacations: The friendly people, exotic creatures, lush vegetation, simple, delicious food. Not us. Our trip to Costa Rica was the worst vacation ever. It began with numerous, costly, tedious, itinerary-altering flight delays and mix-ups (I won’t describe them; I’m sure you can imagine).

Eventually, eagerly, we arrived at our destination: a secluded jungle hideaway miles from civilization. Being the low season, it would be just us, the trees, and the animals. We looked forward to a nice mix of relaxation at the deserted resort and adventure and exploration in the nearby forest and sea. The place was accessible only by boat; the nearest town a couple hours walk away. Hopping off the boat onto the beach on arrival we were greeted by the resort’s guide. He informed us that the guests included just us, one single woman traveler…and twenty high school students.

It was the first of many unpleasant revelations. The staff was grumpy and fed up after a long season dealing with foreign travelers. It rained, hard, the whole time (when they tell you it only rains a couple hours a day in the rainy season, don’t believe them). There was no wildlife. There was nothing to do. My pillow smelled like a mushroom. Breakfast every day: Cornflakes and warm powdered milk. Dinner: Canned soup. The lunch they packed for our jungle outing: Soggy saltines with Velveeta! These delightful meals were scheduled about five hours apart. I was bored and starving. The teenagers were noisy, oblivious, and constantly occupied the only comfortable seats in the place. Time has never passed so slowly.

Eating is one of the main reasons that I travel; Velveeta and Campbells were not what I had in mind when I signed up for this trip. On our way to the airport we drove through the mountains in the early morning. We stopped at a rickety roadside restaurant perched on the edge of a cliff. “Please make us Costa Rican food!” we begged. And they did. Simple, authentic gallo pinto, the traditional Costa Rican breakfast. It was perfect. Finally.

I didn’t get a whole lot out of my trip to Costa Rica. But I did discover my favorite breakfast: rice and beans. It is superb for those of us with migraines and dietary triggers. I make up a huge batch and freeze individual portions. The night before I want some, I throw a container in the fridge to defrost, and the next morning, fry it up in organic, unrefined coconut oil (which, in case you didn’t know, is good for you), tossing in a little fresh cilantro if I have some on hand.  It’s healthy, homemade convenience food. You will feel so well nourished when you start your day with a hearty breakfast of Costa Rican rice and beans.

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto

Thanks to the folks over at Toucan Guides where I found the Costa Rican rice and beans recipe.

It really feels like summer once the squash ripens. Which apparently happened a while ago in other parts of the country. Here in the Maritime Northwest it is a recent phenomenon.

This is a summery, simple meal that proves you can eat well even while excluding migraine triggers from your diet.

a perfect summer meal

a perfect summer meal

The salmon was rubbed with Tom Douglas’ Salmon Rub and then barbecued; the squash sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with basil, salt and pepper.

We’ve been eating a lot of variations on caprese lately, now that the first tomatoes of the season have arrived. This particular version is served on greens and, in addition to the basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella, includes fried polenta croûtons (from frozen, leftover polenta). For dressing, good old, migraine-friendly, distilled white vinegar vinaigrette (approximately 1 part vinegar, 3 parts olive oil, plus salt and pepper).