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Cooking in Spain

September 1, 2016
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Me at the doorway of our Spanish cortijo.

It’s not too often an American can do a one-month-European -style vacation, but this year, somehow, I was able to pull it off. I spend a month in Spain–part Madrid, part Tarifa and a few days in Barcelona. But, while in Tarifa, I was able to play house. We rented a small cortijo in a remote village in the mountains called Betis, about 15 minutes drive from the main town. And, being so far from civilization (ok, 5-minutes drive down the mountain to a mercado), and having access to a full kitchen, I decided I would actually buy food and stock the fridge.

Many years ago, when I lived in a tiny apartment in Madrid with my then first-husband who was Spanish, I did a lot of cooking. My Spanish mother-in-law taught me how to make the most amazing dishes and so, I got a true sense of Spanish cuisine and lifestyle. It stuck with me.

When I moved back home to NJ and tried to re-create the dishes, it wasn’t the same. The ingredients fell short or tasted entirely different. Even textures and colors were a little off.

So, being back in Spain, in a Spanish kitchen and having access to all those wonderful Spanish ingredients, I was excited to see if my memory had served me and I was able to recreate my favorite dishes. My all time favorite is the Spanish tortilla. I typically make this for my family once a month and have perfected–if I do say so myself–the rounded shape. And yet, making it in America is a challenge. The center always caves in as if the potatoes aren’t strong enough to hold up the rest of the tortilla and it tends to be a bit thin, despite following my mother-in-law’s recipe to the T.  So, when I made it in Spain this summer, I was pleasantly surprised, and reminded, that this doesn’t happen! The other thing I noticed was the color. A tortilla made in Spain is much darker due to the rich yellow (almost orange) of the eggs. Plus, the size of the eggs are enormous in Spain! Lastly, the pan I used was a bit more curved versus a shallower American pan I use back home.

Lastly, the taste was phenomenal. It brought back wonderful memories of the tortillas I made many years ago in my tiny Madrid kitchen. At any rate, here’s the recipe no matter where in the world you are…
Spanish Tortilla

A spanish tortilla with turkey paté and cured meats

A spanish tortilla paired with turkey paté and cured meats

Ingredients:
33.8 Fl. Oz. Spanish, extra virgin olive oil
4 EXTRA LARGE white potatoes
8-10 LARGE eggs
¼ milk
sea salt
ground pepper
¼ cup onion (optional)

In a non-stick skillet pour and heat a little more than HALF the bottle of olive oil at medium heat. Be sure that your oil does not burn or heat too high.

Peel the skin off the potatoes. Once skinned, take a small paring knife and slice off chips of potato onto a plate or bowl. They should not be too small, or too big. The size of a poker chip is a desirable. Add the potatoes to the hot oil and make sure they are all submersed. If they aren’t, you’ve added too many potatoes or don’t have enough oil. All the potatoes need to be covered in oil to cook. Add salt, pepper and onion. Cook for roughly 10 minutes or more, until potatoes are mushy and soft. Try not to brown them. If they are browning in the pan, lower your heat.

While potatoes are still cooking, take out a large bowl. Add 8 eggs, milk, salt, pepper. Scramble. Set aside.

When potatoes are done cooking, drain oil into heat-safe container (freeze and save this oil for the next time you make a tortilla!). Add potatoes to the egg mixture. Mix well. If mixture is too clumpy with potato and there doesn’t seem to be enough liquid from the eggs, add 2 extra eggs. Stir well.

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My family preparing to devour our Spanish meal.

Wipe any grease off bottom of skillet and place it back on heat. Add egg and potato mixture to pan, making sure it pours evenly into skillet. Pat down any clumps of potato so the top of your tortilla is even and relatively smooth. In order to cook tortilla through to center, you need to poke holes throughout and then shake pan gently. Do this repeatedly, running a rubber fork or spatula around the rim of the tortilla to lift it off the pan so as to allow air to cook the uncooked parts. KEEP AT LOW HEAT so you don’t burn the bottom.

Once tortilla is relatively cooked through (only a few spots of uncooked, moist egg), you can either flip it on to a plate and then back into the pan (pro!) or you can place skillet with tortilla under your broiler and brown the top. Your choice!


Flip onto plate and serve.* Serves 4 for dinner, 8 for tapas

I usually serve this with a side of mayonnaise for dipping, Spanish olives or capers, a green salad and lots of baguette!

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Tomatoes, Spanish olives and tuna with salt, pepper and drizzled olive oil.

Last but not least, no Spanish meal is complete without some form of salad, or, perhaps I should say, tomato. We happened to have some left over tomatoes, tuna and olives left in the fridge, and they made a perfect side dish. Tomatoes are grown all over Spain. In fact, every year they have a huge tomato festival called La Tomatina. At some point in history, someone came up with a brilliant  idea to get rid of the surplus of tomatoes that go unsold at the end of the season: have a huge food fight. Roughly 50,000 people attend this festival, the last Wednesday of the month of August, near Valencia. I’ll stick to eating tomatoes in my salad.

 

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Ancient and divine sourdough bread

October 27, 2015
Homemade sourdough with farmer's market raspberry spread and goat butter

Homemade sourdough with farmer’s market raspberry spread and goat butter

I don’t have a gluten sensitivity. Of all the things wrong with me and of all the things my stomach can no longer handle, bread isn’t one of them. And yet, when I go on a “white flour” eating binge (french baguette is my biggest weakness) I can definitely feel the repercussions. I feel gloomy, fat, achy and lethargic, and that’s just after one day.

But a bit of research and experimenting led me to sourdough. Classic, homemade, leavened sourdough. Not store bought.

It turns out,  as any reader of Michael Pollan can attest, that sourdough is not only ancient and wise, but one of the only breads dependent on leavening, not just rapid rise yeast, which helps digestion as opposed to hindering it. And while gluten doesn’t  exactly bother me, I could do without the bloating and lethargy. Sourdough seems to do the trick.

An excerpt from Mother Jones explains Pollan’s take:

“Pollan’s terrific bread section offers a possible explanation for the recent rise of “gluten intolerance” and the general bloated feeling one gets from modern bread. Today’s loaves are pumped with fast-acting industrial yeasts and never undergo a lengthy fermentation, Pollan writes. But in that increasingly rare process, “the organic acids produced by the sourdough culture also seem to slow our bodies’ absorption of the sugars in white flour, reducing the dangerous spikes in insulin that refined carbohydrates can cause.” No wonder I feel fine after eating naturally leavened bread.” MotherJones

Pollan, of course,  weaves the greatest of all bread tales in his NYT best selling book, Cooked, A Natural History of Transformation. He explains how sourdough had been invented or more likely stumbled upon 6000 years ago in Egyptian times, he discusses the leavening process and how to create the perfect loaf. He even includes mention of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, one of America’s best bread makers, as well as a link to TheFreshLoaf.com, a website for amateur bread bakers that has great links, recipes and videos.

Sourdough with leavening has benefits galore. It is the only bread I now eat. But, a word to the wise. It takes several days to make. Do your research! Or, find a great bakery.

To read Pollan’s sourdough recipe you can find it here.

Kale Farro Winter Salad with orange ginger dressing

October 27, 2015

IMG_1758I’m not a fan of kale. There, I said it. I need loads of coaxing to add it to my salads if I add it at all. But a friend of mine convinced me to go on a cleansing diet,  which included a smoothie for breakfast, one for dinner and a hearty salad-based lunch, something to chew. She recommended that I put kale on my shopping list. So, I did.

Having run a smoothie bar in my not-so-distant past, I had a few really great smoothie recipes that I could exhume. But, for lunch, I was  hoping to create something similar to her detox lunch, which didn’t exactly come with a straight forward recipe as much as a conversation about what she plans to throw together. The conversation went something like this:

“For the juice in the morning I’ll do ginger, celery, apple, kale. For the evening, I might do raw beet, red cabbage, pomegranate and orange. Then for lunch, I eat something hardy. I’ll do lettuce, quinoa, beet, veggies, carrots, and stuff like that.”

Two days later, when it came time to start my cleanse, I definitely forgot the initial instructions and ended up combining a recipe for a smoothie and a salad.

Thing is, it was FANTASTIC.

With a few personal tweaks of my own, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients for the salad:

  • 1 cup farro (or grain of your choice)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsps onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable stock
  • 1/2 sweet potato or 1 small sweet potato
  • 1/2 large beet, or 1 small beet
  • few leaves of kale, de-stemmed
  • few leave of Swiss Chard, de-stemmed
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/4 chopped or sliced cucumber

IMG_1759 Ingredients for the dressing

  • One inch peeled and finely chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp tasting olive oil
  • 1/4 cup or more pomegranate seeds
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Dressing: add all ingredients into mason jar and shake well. 

Pour 1 Tbsp olive oil in a 4-5 quart pot and sautée finely chopped garlic, onion and celery for about 5 minutes or until tender. Add 1 cup of farro and stir. Let toast for a bit (3-5 minutes). And then add 2 cups of water and vegetable stock. Simmer for 30 minutes or until tender and water stock has evaporated or almost evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, cube your sweet potatoes and beets into one-quarter-inch bite size pieces, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in broiler close to heat for 10-12 minutes, turning once halfway through. Broil until crisp and brown. Remove from broiler and let cool.

In a separate salad bowl, toss lettuces, cucumbers and carrots. Once farro has cooled (you can also eat it warm. This is how I prefer it), mix a cup into the salad. Add a cup of the broiled root veggies as well and toss. Pour 2-3 generous tablespoons of salad dressing on top and Enjoy!!!

Add baked or broiled wild Alaskan salmon for extra protein. 

Friday’s foods…

June 13, 2015

friday foodYesterday I ate a ton. Doug came home early, so we ordered two shrimp, mango and black bean salads from Zinc Cafe, and since I cannot resist their shoestring fries, I ordered those too. By seven, we were sitting in a back booth at Bar Ferdinand, one of my favorite authentic Spanish (from Spain) restaurants going crazy ordering appetizers. We started with the “pan con tomate” a Catalan traditional bread very much like our bruschetta. Spanish olives and a sliver of Manchego cheese (not pictured) followed. Manchego is a hard sheep cheese, by the way, and one of my most favorite. Doesn’t upset my tummy too much either because it’s aged. Did you know any cheese aged over 90 days has virtually no lactose in it? It’s true!

Then came the lobster fritters. They were divine, though I could have survived without them. They were sweet and crunchy almost like a General Tso’s chicken, and I had two. A couple bites of a spanish tortilla (with more pan).

Finally, on the recommendation of a friend of mine, I ordered the octopus-citrus salad. More octopus than salad but worth every bite. I don’t typically eat or like octopus, but the chef really locked this dish out of the park.

All this, while sipping an East Side, this summer’s drink of choice for me. I’m not a gin drinker (heck, I’m not even a drinker!), but this thing goes down like cool cucumber & mint water. Deceptive and refreshing. And, two things I would never equate with gin.

Calories were off the charts yesterday. I’m not even counting them, but I can SEE that there was probably mucho damage done. Oh well, I’ll work it off tomorrow. I still hit most of my goals: lots of greens, fish only, and minimally processed choices.

And what are my eating goals?  That I rarely hit all in one day?

  • Five servings of veggies per day
  • Three servings of fruit per day
  • No added sugar (that includes cakes, cookies, pies, etc) or a minimum of 1-2 times per week
  • Only six servings of meat per week, 3-5 of them fish
  • Any meat I eat, I want grass/pastured/wild caught
  • Zero processed foods, or as minimal as possible
  • No white flour (this is almost impossible for me to attain considering how devoted I am to white floured bread, like baguette)
  • No extra coffee (other than my half cup in the morning)
  • No chocolate (dark chocolate gives me weird headaches)
  • No dairy (intolerance)
  • Eat slowly
  • Eat with people

 

 

A day in the life of an eater…

June 12, 2015

Food JournalI’ve decided to start sharing a food-photo journal of what I’ve eaten in one day’s time. A day in the life of a food fan, so to speak. Not only am I hoping it will help me to be accountable for eating healthy , but that it will also inspire others to “come clean” and share what they’re eating all day. It’s one thing when you’re at home, tracking your food in a journal that no one but you can see, it’s another when you’re exposing your diet to others. There’s a transparency that cannot be avoided.

Not only that, but when you have as many sensitivities and intolerances to food as I do, you have to track what you eat. This probably sounds completely OCD to some. But, I might be doubled over in pain and have no clue where it came from. If I track what I eat, I can more easily assess, “Oh, I had dairy on Monday, or walnuts in a salad,” so, the next time I can avoid those things.

But, just writing it down in a journal, didn’t seem as satisfying to me. I really want to see what I’ve eaten. A photo could not only track what foods I’ve eaten, but how they were made, where I might have had them and what portion size I consumed. Lastly, I really want to be able to track processed food choices. It’s my goal to ditch as much as I possibly can that is packaged or has more than 4-5 ingredients (the Oreo, by the way, has 19 ingredients, compared to four in the fresh baked sourdough I bought at Wholefoods).

But more than anything, I adore food. And I love food photos. And so, if anything, this will be a collection of food ideas and “what to do eat” daily.

Food Journal:

Yesterday was a good day for eating. I felt well, despite the heat and I was quite busy running around, though I didn’t exercise.

Morning: My usual half cup of coffee in the morning, followed by Old Fashioned oats, with half cup unsweetened applesauce, chopped up apple and some blueberries (all whole ingredients).

Mid-morning: Not pictured, I had a sip of the Extreme Green Cleanse and a few chunks of watermelon (all whole ingredients).

Lunch: Went to Norma’s, my most favorite Moroccan restaurant, and had the tofu shawarma and a side of tabouli (tabouli= all whole ingredients; shawarma = possibly processed pita bread, possibly processed tofu, plus whole ingredients)

Mid-afternoon: My one Oreo and a small bowl of cherries (Oreo=heavily processed, plus cherries, whole)

Dinner: A bowl of lentil soup that reminds me of Spain and freshly baked sourdough from Wholefoods (bread = four ingredients, zero preservatives; lentils = all whole ingredients)

Late night: (8pm for me, and also not pictured) a piece of dark chocolate so small a mouse wouldn’t be fulfilled. I eat this amount to stave off a headache. It works!

Traveler’s coffee

July 21, 2014

If there’s one thing I did in Europe, it was drink coffee. And while every one was quite different, on the whole, I didn’t have a bad cup.

 

America’s most underrated espresso maker

July 20, 2014

IMG_3542So, my new friend Marisa, who, along with her husband, owns Sapori, an award-winning Italian restaurant in Collingswood, came over yesterday to teach me how to make the perfect cup of espresso. Well, sort of.

I had been researching espresso makers since my return from Spain and France, determined to improve my morning (and now late afternoon) coffee experience (addiction). I had spent hours on Whole Lotta Love, reviewing coffee makers, cringing from sticker shock at how much a so-called “good” automatic espresso maker goes for. The Gazzia Academia, for example, retails for a little over $1,600.00, and despite the fact that it can do everything–steam milk, grind the beans, make tea, I couldn’t imagine shelling out that kind of cash, even for my addiction.

And so, when I reached out to Marisa, expecting that she would recommend some high end thousand dollar espresso maker, I was in pleasant disbelief when she told me, Go out and get the Bialetti stove top Moka express.  Really? 

But I already had one. And what’s more, when I tried to make coffee in it last year during a storm when we lost electricity, it was horrible. I had stored it away with the camping equipment and thought nothing more of it.

Apparently, I was doing it all wrong. And while the Moka express doesn’t make actual espresso (quality is slightly different because you’re not exactly brewing the coffee), it comes closer than you’d expect AND you can achieve espresso-quality coffee for the cost of about $25 bucks. So, here’s how Marisa taught me to use it…

bialetti

  1. First off, I had bought a very big 12-cup pot (although Marisa says it’s more like 16 cups, as you never want to serve anything bigger than an ounce or two “shot.”) So, if you want to make espresso every morning, buy the 3 or the 2-4 cup pots, which are very tiny.
  2. Do a dry run (or a wet one, rather). Separate top from bottom by unscrewing it. Fill the bottom of the pot with water, up to the bottom of the little hole you see on the inside wall of the pot (the valve). Boil just water and then dump.
  3. Cool the pot down by running it under cold water and then pat dry. Separate top from bottom again.
  4. Again, fill bottom of pot with water to fill line–actually, there is no “line.” You just want to fill it to right below the valve). You can never make less than the recommended pot size, so that is why it’s essential to get a small pot if only you and a friend might be having a coffee.
  5. In the coffee grounds cup (the one with little holes in it) use a little demi-tasse spoon to fill the cup to a heap. Do not tamp down.  Simply fill until it is heaped in the cup (not level to the cup but has a rounded mound of grounds). Be sure to use coffee ground specifically for espresso or in between an espresso grind and a regular coffee grind. Lavazza or Illy make a great espresso ground or whole-bean coffee. 
  6. Screw the top back on tightly and place on your burner.
  7. Try to avoid putting the burner too high. While you want your coffee to percolate up into the top portion of the pot, you don’t want it to boil too rapidly. That will change the taste.
  8. Feel free to open the lid (quickly, so nothing splashes out) to check its progress. You’re  done brewing the coffee once nothing more comes out of the top spout.
  9. Serve an espresso “shot” in a small espresso cup. Two-ounce espresso cups are the perfect size. Anything bigger doesn’t really look or feel right. And feel free to add warmed milk or water to lighten it up a bit. A little sugar might be nice too.
  10. Taste the pure joy! Depending on what coffee you choose that will determine the taste, but the rich espresso strength and boldness comes from the process of the what this little pot can do!

For a video blog on making great coffee with a Moka express watch the Moveable Chef.

Secret’s Out: Mom’s Italian Dressing Recipe

January 7, 2014
My mother is a fabuous Italian cook, and one of her most coveted recipes is her salad dressing. It’s to-die for, and  if you love bold Italian spices and lots of vinegar this is the dressing for you! It goes perfect on almost any salad, and doesn’t have a lick of bad stuff in it. It’s gluten-free, nut-free, sugar-free, soy-free, dairy-free, vegan and paleo. And it’s made with the super good kind of monosaturated fat that helps you maintain healthy cholesterol level. Health benefits aside, it tastes fabulous! We prefer to put it over a romaine-endive-spring mix blend, with chopped cucumbers, carrots, celery, Jersey tomatoes and maybe even some chopped bell peppers, if they’re in season. This dressing also makes an amazing marinade for beef or chicken.
Rose’s Italian Salad Dressing
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil  (ShopRiteBrand)
1/3 cup Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Monari Federzoni)
1/4 tsp. salt (Kosher)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder (Spice Classic Brand)
1 tsp each:  parsley, oregano, and basil (spice Classic Brand)
Place all ingredients into a glass jar with a lid, and shake until mixed well.  Pour over salad (as much as you like).  You can save whatever you do not use.  Should last at least a week, maybe two.  You can also double or triple recipe.

Fresh ham for Christmas, serving 34 guests…

December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013Every Christmas, my mother painstakingly cooks and bakes for our rather large family, which, at its core, consists of 17 adults and 11 children. This year, we added a few more out-of-town guests and moved the party to my house, making it a whopping 34 guests. The typical menu includes our Italian favorites of homemade ravioli stuffed with riccota, braciole, meatballs, homemade pasta and a meat, either a fresh ham or a roast.

Normally, I would go to my local grocery store and order, in advance, a 16-18 pound fresh ham. I would ask for it to be de-boned and de-skinned, but to include both the bone and the skin so I could use it for the recipe. This year, I bought a 19-pound bone-in fresh ham from a local, grass-fed, humane farm  called Seventh Heaven. And while it was almost double the price, the flavor was well worth it.

I brought it home on the 20th frozen and vacuum sealed and just kept it in the fridge to defrost. Because of the fact that there are no harsh chemicals in the meat, it defrosts much quicker than conventional meat, so it wasn’t necessary to leave it out.

On the 24th, I cut it out of the plastic, cut off the skin from the top of the ham, put the skin aside. Then I stuffed it with a whole head of garlic, added olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper and fresh thyme from my garden. I rubbed it in and replaced the skin on top. Put the roast in a roasting pan, wrapped it up and put it back in the fridge. Dinner was set for 5pm, so I began by searing the ham—uncovered—at 425F for 30 minutes. Then I dropped the temperature down to 350F and baked the ham for another 4 hours and 30 minutes (which comes out to roughly 15 minutes per pound. I actually shaved off an extra 15 minutes because my oven cooks a bit faster). At 4pm, I pulled the ham out and the internal temperature was about 165F. My mother said it was perfect, but if I ever cook it again at that weight, I would shave off another 15 minutes. My husband carved the meat and plated it and along with the other meats and ravioli, it was on the table by 5pm,  served with its own juice on the side. The flavor was perfect.

Here’s the quickie recipe:

Day before cooking:

  • Cut skin off of ham and put aside (you will need to use the skin for cooking)
  • Peel a whole head of garlic and separate cloves; make holes throughout ham and stuff with  with cloves.
  • Drizzle the top with olive oil, and the dress with fresh sprigs of rosemary, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Rub into the meat.
  • Re-cover the top with the skin and place in fridge until next day.

Day of:

  • In order to serve this meat for dinner at 5pm, begin cooking at 11am.
  • Heat oven to 425F
  • Place ham in baking dish
  • Sear the ham—uncovered—at 425F for 30 minutes.
  • Drop the temperature down to 350F and baked the ham for another 4 hours and 30 minutes (this roughly works out to 15 minutes per pound).
  • Check internal temperature. Should be between 140F-165F
  • Take ham out of oven and let it sit for 15 minutes-20 minutes.
  • Carve and serve with juice from bottom of pan.

Sensational Squash Soup

November 13, 2013

IMG_1271

Last week, when my kids had off for a few days, we took a road trip to Quebec just for the food, the fun and the together-time that comes rather naturally when you’re stuck in a minivan for eleven hours. On day-two of our journey, we stopped in Montreal for an early lunch at a place called Olive+Gourmando and ordered everything we possibly could, including the soup du jour, which happened to be squash soup. I was so inspired by this soup that two days after arriving back home, I ran out and got the ingredients to try and re-create it. It came pretty darn close. Here’s the recipe…

Squash Soup

  • 1 large butternut squash (in case you don’t know your squashes, here’s what this one looks like)
  • 1/2 large acorn squash (looks like this)
  • 5 Tbsp butter (unsalted) (replace with 4 teaspoons of grapeseed oil to make this recipe vegan)
  • 3 Tbsp Grapeseed oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion
  • 2 Tbsp of “Better than Boullion” chicken stock (or 2 chicken boillion cubes, or 2 vegetable stock boillion cubes)
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 2 whole minced scallions
  • 1 can or 1 full cup of cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 3/4 cup minced fresh mango
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • salt, pepper to flavor

Preheat oven to 425F. Arrange rack in oven to middle.

Cut both squash in halves, removing seeds and place one tablespoon of butter on each half (4 tablespoon in total). Cover a shallow baking sheet with tin foil, and place squash (cut side up) on top. Season with salt, pepper and maybe even a little garlic powder. We have a local company here in NJ that sells the perfect blend of these, called Papa Joe’s Salt. I use it all the time, and I’m not typically one to use spice blends. Sprinkle it on generously, then roast squash for 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on when “meat” is soft when you poke it with a fork.

Meanwhile, dice your garlic and onion and throw in a soup pot on medium heat, along with your grapeseed oil and the remaining butter. Sauté.

Add 2 cups of the water and the stock to your sauté mixture. Let the stock disolve by bringing to a boil. I like to use chicken stock, but vegetable stock is fine too, and will keep this dish vegetarian. To make it vegan, remove all butter from the recipe, and replace with olive or grapeseed oil. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Once your squash is done, set it on a wire rack to let it cool. Otherwise, it’s a little too hot to handle. When ready, use an ice cream scooper and scoop out contents of three of the halves and place into a bowl. I took the fourth half, set it aside and made Whole Wheat Butternut Squash bread (to serve with the soup, of course!). In a food processor, purée the squash, adding it into the soup pot that you’ve set aside. Make sure to place the soup pot back onto the burner and keep on medium to low heat at least for 30 minutes, add remaining water, stir and let simmer. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are not ready to serve soup in 10-15 minutes, do not move on or add the remaining ingredients. Store soup in fridge or freezer  for however long without the remaining ingredients. You do this because you don’t want these more delicate flavors and textures to steep together and meld into a new flavor. What I did was leave the soup on very low heat to keep warm, for a couple hours, stirring ocassionally, while I made the bread. Once I was ready to serve dinner however, I added the rest of the ingredients…

Throw in chickpeas and minced scallions. Cook for another 10-15 minutes.

When ready to serve, add in minced, fresh mangoes and stir. Serve with warm crusty bread and butter.

Nutrition: This soup is a great anti-inflammatory. It’s also a great source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese. Low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Creamy Avocado & Banana Smoothie

February 25, 2013

Of all the smoothies I’ve made these past few days, this one is by far my favorite. I was looking online for other smoothie ideas last week, and I came upon a few cool recipes using avocados. I had forgotten how much I love adding them to drinks. Avocados don’t have a very strong flavor, but they make any smoothie really creamy and give it a milkshake-like texture. The cashews add a nut taste, and the date adds sweetness. If you make yourself one smoothie this week, let it be this.

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango slices
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup avocado
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup cashews (raw or lightly salted)
  • 1-2 pitted dates

Blend! Add extra almond milk or water if needed. And, by the way, if you make the almond milk from scratch this passes as a fabulously sweet, raw food smoothie.

Sweet Patootie, this one’s fruity

February 22, 2013

In my little world of smoothie-making, I’ve come up with some pretty weird combinations lately that aren’t likely to ever be found in a book. Yesterday’s Black Beauty is a perfect example (Eww, who wants to drink a black smoothie???). So, today, I decided to make a plain ‘ol traditional smoothie, and just give it a weird name.

Here’s the recipe:

  •  juice from 3 small to medium-size oranges
  •  about 4-5 chunks frozen pineapple
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • handful of cashews
  • 1/4 of water or more if needed

I decided to have this after a high-intensity cardio workout, thus the cashews for a little bit of protein for recovery. My stomach has also been bothering me lately (possibly the introduction of a few new ingredients in my diet), and so I used pineapple. Pineapple and papaya are supposed to be really good for stomach issues. Of course, the acidic berries and orange juice may override any positive effects from the pineapple. We’ll see! Nevertheless, this drink was perfect!

Black Beauty

February 22, 2013

Never will you see this smoothie served anywhere in a public restaurant, lest the owners want to drive all their customers away. And yet this concoction has a surprisingly fruity taste and creamy texture. The blackberries and chia seeds give this drink it’s macabre color, and the spinach doesn’t hurt either. Try adding blueberries too if you feel like it. Can’t ruin the color any more than it already is!

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 frozen, cut up banana
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1 Tablespoon black chia seeds
  • handful of fresh spinach

Smoothie Shopping List

February 20, 2013

Fun foods

A few people have sent me emails asking if I would suggest some fun ingredients for smoothies. This is right up my alley, because I can get obsessed with making these things, especially raw smoothies with ingredients I don’t typically have around the house. So, over the past couple days, I have collected a few store bought foods, mostly raw foods, to add to my smoothies. Here’s a pretty complete list:

Let’s start with coconut. Coconut water is a great base. Raw foodies use coconut in many dishes because it’s raw, versatile and healthy, and can be thrown into virtually any dish. It’s also gluten-free and dairy-free and probably the healthiest of the saturated fats.  To learn more watch this video. For our purpose of making smoothies, try to have on hand:

  • Coconut water (tastes sweet, not your typical coconut taste)
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut oil (healthier replacement for butter and to add as a thickener)
  • Coconut manna
  • Coconut meat (fresh or dried) (tastes like typical coconut fruit)

Fresh fruits. This list is endless, but here are a few of my favorites. Almost all of these can be frozen so that when you throw them in a blender, you don’t need any added ice. A word of caution: you’re not actually supposed to combine just any of these fruits, as they fall into different digestive groups based on their acidic content. Here are the fruits listed in their special groups. Typically you can combine sweet fruits with sub-acid, and sub-acid with acid. But avoid combining sweet with acid. It can be done! But, the rule is, it may upset your digestion a bit.

Sweet Fruits

  • Bananas (peel first before freezing). This is a staple for me. I add a banana to almost every smoothie.
  • Papaya
  • Fresh Figs

Sub-Acid Fruits

  • Apples
  • Blueberries are a superfood. Good for brain, memory and immunity. Add them in whenever possible.
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mangoes
  • Passion Fruit
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears

Acid Fruits

  • Pineapple
  • Oranges
  • Pomegranate
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi

Dried Fruits, Nuts & Seeds:

  • Dates
  • Goji Berries
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Ground flax seeds

Greens. Adding greens to make a green smoothie ups the nutritional value of any drink enormously. And these greens can be combine with virtually anything. However,  you don’t want to throw 10 greens in and 10 fruits, hoping to get super powers. Less is better. You’ll actually hurt your tummy with so many food combinations. Add one green to any drink at a time. Not all at once. Here are some that have the highest nutritional value and are, thus, my favs.

  • Fresh spinach 
  • Fresh swiss chard, red
  • Fresh kale
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Fresh dandelion (I use this a lot because it’s a superfood)
  • Fresh watercress (ditto)
  • Blue-green algae (chlorella & spirulina)
  • Wheat grass
  • Sprouts

Other Essentials:

  • Milk ( I don’t drink milk. It’s scientifically really bad for you and causes cancer. Go figure. If you don’t believe me, watch Forks Over Knives. But if you must, use organic, grass-fed)
  • Almond milk (no added flavor or sugar)
  • Cacao nibs or raw cacao powder (pricey, but worth it!)
  • Real vanilla extract
  • Vanilla beans (if you really want to make an amazing smoothie!)
  • Peppermint extract
  • Sea salt
  • Omega-3 fish oil (add 1 tablespoon to orange-based smoothies. The orange will kill the fishy taste)
  • Agave
  • Protein powders like whey or raw vegan protein (add only if you’re drinking your smoothie after a high-intensity workout and want a “recovery” drink)
  • Glutamine powder (add only if you’re drinking your smoothie after a high-intensity workout and want a “recovery” drink)

Homemade hummus

October 10, 2011

A few simple ingredients make this an easy recipe

While out in Sedona, I couldn’t get enough hummus. I don’t know what it was about the way it was made out there, but I needed to try to recreate it myself, from scratch. Not only was I impressed by the creamy, light Mediterranean flavor, but with the presentation as well. Not that I hadn’t seen hummus before, but on the East coast it’s generally served more as a side dish, as opposed to a main dish, like there. Anyway, here’s the recipe. Watch the amount of garlic you add. I think I over did it in my first batch, and so re-adjusted the recipe here.

  • 1 can (19 oz) of Cento chickpeas or “garbanzo” beans (I prefer to use dry beans. When you do that you need to soak the beans over night in a pot of cold water. In the morning, simmer on a low boil for 3-4 hours. Drain water; cool).
  • 1/4 cup Tahini paste
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 3-4 leaves of mint ( I have mint growing wild in my yard, so I love to use it when I can)
  • Juice from 1 1/2 lemons
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (I originally used 4, which was a little too much). 
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • exta virgin olive oil
  • parsley
  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • pita bread
  • kalamata olives
  • feta cheese
In a food processor, combine chickpeas, tahini, yogurt, mint, lemon juice, crushed garlic and salt. Turn processor on for about two minutes until hummus is smooth. To serve hummus, place on center of dish, drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika. Garnish with olives, feta, sliced cucumbers, tomato wedges and warmed pita bread.

Adventures in amazing dishes

October 3, 2011

As some of you may already know, my lovely boyfriend D and I got back from a four-day vacation in Sedona, Arizona. Red rocks, warm blue vistas and spiritual healing aside, there is a fourth dimension to this soul-nourishing place: food. Here are some of our top favorite dishes…

Hint,  hint… Mii Amo has their menu online and they do send you recipes if you’re interested.

Wild Caught Salmon Ceviche

June 13, 2011

Salmon ceviche with a pocketless pita and a margarita

Whether it factually states it’s summer on the calendar or not, doesn’t seem to matter to the temperature. With record highs over 100F last week, it’s definitely summer in Southern New Jersey. And with no AC in my little house in the woods, I wasn’t about to cook over a hot stove. So, I decided it was finally time to make ceviche (I pronounce it seh-veech-ay).

A good friend of mine and her husband, Polly and Pat, made this dish for us last summer while on vacation in Long Beach Island. Believe it or not, I had never had it. But it was one of those memorable dishes that, when paired with great friends, great conversation and a great setting sticks with you like a scene from a favorite novel.

Pat made his version with snapper, and I believe he used a recipe from Emeril Lagasse, but I could be wrong. I’ve even heard of serving it with poached shrimp in a coconut. Whatever the case, there are a million ways to make ceviche (and even pronounce it). But here’s a basic recipe I used (and tweaked) which called for fresh, FRESH, FRESH wild caught salmon.

Wild Alaskan Salmon Ceviche
Serves 6-8 as appetizer
• 1 pound skinless, boneless salmon fillets (very fresh)
• ½ cup fresh lime juice (from about 5 limes)
• ½ cup fresh orange juice (from about 2 oranges)
• Half a squeezed lemon
• ½ red onion, minced
• Ground pepper
• 2 tomatoes, diced
• 2 avocados, sliced
• 2 ears of steamed, fresh Jersey sweet corn
• tiny bit (maybe a Tablespoon) of cilantro, chopped

Marinating:
Cut up the raw, uncooked salmon into bite-size pieces, chop onions, and place in a glass casserole dish (use glass or ceramic, but not metal). Sprinkle with pepper. Pour the juices over the salmon and make sure the juices are covering the ingredients (if not, simply add more juice). Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours, stirring and agitating the fish periodically so that it’s completely covered in juice. Drain the juice into a small bowl and reserve.

Serving:
Toss all of the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl (don’t forget to take all the corn off the cob first!) and garnish with extra avocado. You may want to add back the marinaded juices, but this will give your ceviche a more soupy look and feel and may be a little messy when you go to spoon it onto your warmed pita.

The ceviche is best when eaten the day it is made.

Chicken cutlet, quinoa and string beans

March 21, 2011

On day-two of my gluten-free diet I invited D’s sister over for dinner. She too has a few diet restrictions, so I thought she might appreciate a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free dinner. You begin to wonder what’s left to work with when so much is seemingly lacking from a meal (whole grains that are gluten-based and dairy, for example) But, I have to say, there was nothing lacking in this meal. I did not once feel that I had altered any ingredients to the point of it tasting bland, weird or funky. And I don’t think anyone else felt that way either.

I decided to make breaded chicken cutlets with a side of quinoa (pronounced, “keen-wah”) and string beans. I would have liked a side of broccoli instead, but I need to stay away from cruciferous veggies for a while as they tend to upset delicate stomachs. But the string beans ended up being a much better pairing.

Chicken Cutlets
For the chicken, I washed them, patted them dry and then dipped them in almond milk instead of egg (which I think gave them a more crunchy, lighter texture) and then I rolled them in an over-priced brand of wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free rice flour bread crumbs, which, next time, I’ll just make myself (adding oregano, parsley, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper for flavoring). Also, instead of frying them on the stovetop in olive oil, like I usually do, I popped them in the broiler on a cookie sheet. I added a little oil to the pan and put them fairly close to the heat. Four minutes on one side and only two or three on the other. Done.

Quinoa
Quinoa is something I’ve only eaten in cold salads, prepared with vinegar (and oftentimes craisins or pumpkin seeds). Also, it’s not even really a grain, even though it acts like one. It’s a seed. And so, I’ve never really felt it to be a typical staple or side dish like rice or potatoes. And yet, the way I prepared it last night, had me convinced I could eat it every night. It came out more like a couscous side dish, than the cold vinegary tasting quinoa I had had in the past.

To prepare it, I boiled 3 cups of water with a little sea salt, added 1 and 1/2 cups of cleaned quinoa (you have to rinse it off to remove the soapy film), and then covered it and let it simmer for 10-12 minutes until light and fluffy, like rice. Simultaneously, in a skillet, I heated 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sauteed garlic, onions and carrots. I also added about a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of leftover red wine. When the quinoa was fully cooked, I tossed it into the sauteed mixture and then added sea salt, a generous portion of dried parsley (although next time I’d like to use fresh instead) and about a 1/2 a cup of almond slivers. This was the dish that went the quickest. My kids loved it; the adults loved it. And it’s definitely something I will be making again.

String beans
No canned string beans for me. I only buy fresh string beans, and prepare them the same as always: I wash them, cut off their heads and tails, and steam them for about 5 minutes. I like them firm. I drain the water, add about 2 tablespoons olive oil, the juice from half a squeezed lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt. Easy, crunchy, salty, lemony.

To top it all off, D’s sis brought over a bottle of Rioja called El Coto, which was a perfect red for the meal. We sat around the table, discussed Libya, Japan, golf, Florida, and food. I think I recall patting my tummy at some point last night, saying, “Diet? What diet?”

Heal-tummy Gluten-free kick

March 20, 2011

Socca, or as some call it, "skillet flatbread"

 

So, I’m on a gluten-free kick this month in the hopes of figuring out what is causing a lifetime of stomach upset, gas and bloating. Not that you want to hear that on a food blog. And yet,  it is giving me the opportunity to explore ingredients that I normally wouldn’t.

Garbanzo or chickpea flour, for example. I had it last night in possibly one of the greatest, quickest, easiest recipes on the planet. I came across David Lebovitz’s French food blog on how to make something called Socca— a “street food” found only in Nice, France.  The idea of France and seeing a photo of a pancake/crepe-looking thing hooked me instantly. I had to make it.

I ran down to my corner health food store and ended up buying Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo and Fava flour instead of the straight garbanzo. I measured a cup, plopped it in a bowl, added water, sea salt, a pinch of cumin (too much kills the taste of the flour) and olive oil, and broiled for a couple minutes on both sides. It was FABULOUS. And over way too quickly. But two things I want to caution you on, regarding his recipe:

1. He tells you to place oil in a pan and heat the pan in the oven first. I did this, putting the pan possibly a little too close to the broiler, and the oil caught on fire. I quickly pulled the burning pan away from the heat and smothered it with a lid. Crisis averted. But, I would suggest you watch your pan very closely and do not put it too close to the broiler. Either that, or do not put 2 Tbsps of olive oil, but rather a tiny drop. Whichever you choose, make sure to keep an eye on your pan.

2. His recipe does not call for flipping the cake over. Make sure you spread out the mix as thin as possible, but if it comes out a little thick and you don’t flip it, one side comes out nice and crusty, but the other comes out a little “soggy.” So, I suggest you broil both sides. Again, the recipe can be found here.

Then, this morning, I decided to forego my normal old fashioned, slow-cooked  oatmeal (which is also gluten-free for most people- though some still have a problem with oats), in exchange for Bob’s Red Mill “Gluten-Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal,” which is basically a mix of several whole grains: whole grain brown rice, corn, sweet white sorghum,and  buckwheat. Because of its rather bland taste, I added unsweetened applesauce and raisins and also a pinch of organic Coconut sugar, which has a low glycemic index of 35. It wasn’t bad! In fact, if you’re anything like me, you kinda like the taste and texture of mush, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a mix between pablum, cream of wheat and grits. Trouble is, despite the fact that these whole grains still retain their bran and germ, they are not nearly as nutritious as plain ‘ol oatmeal (not the kind in packets!), which has more fiber and is less processed. Giving up oatmeal for mush, therefore, is not really a benefit. I also added a tablespoon of Res-Q Land ‘n’ Sea Fiber to my OJ, which I plan to do every morning! I actually like this brand better than Metamucil, simply because Metamucil adds a fake orangey flavor to the fiber, which tastes too sugary to me. I actually prefer a more grainy, natural tasting fiber supplement.

One of the last things I did yesterday, during my heal-tummy, avoid-gluten kick off was make myself a papaya and banana smoothie. According to Johnny Bowden, PhD and author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, “papaya–along with pineapple– is one of the best sources of digestive enzymes” because it contains something called “papain,” which helps digest protein. I had it with the socca and it was pure fruity-licious!

So, after all these changes yesterday do I sense a difference? Slightly. But the truth is, it’s going to take a few days. I have to keep with it, and I have to be patient. More than anything, I have to get rid of the coffee, which is the final frontier. But so far, I certainly don’t feel like I’ve denied myself! In fact, I feel like I am embarking on a fun food journey that will hopefully have great benefits for my digestive system.

Chicken & pistachio stir fry

December 16, 2010

I almost ordered a meatball parm from the pizza place this afternoon for lunch, until I came to my senses. I had brown rice and grilled chicken left over from last night, so I tossed a few more things in to make this great stir fry for lunch. This dish, though, is probably best served as a dinner.

1 cup brown rice
1 lb cooked chicken breast, cut up into bite size pieces
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup broccoli
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup celery
1 cup fresh, sliced mushrooms
1 cup fresh spinach leaf
1/2 cup raw or roasted pistachio nuts

Sauce:
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sweet & sour sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp-1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (to taste)
Juice of 1/2 lemon (approx 2 Tbsp)
sprinkle of garlic powder
1/4 cup water

Bake, roast, grill or cook chicken stove top. Set aside.

Cook rice; set aside.

Mix all sauce ingredients, stir vigorously. Set aside.

In large skillet, medium heat, pour olive oil. Toss in hard veggies (broccoli, carrots, celery); saute about 5 minutes. You want your veggies to stay firm; try not to over cook them. Add chicken and rice; stir. Add spinach, pistachios and mushrooms and sauce ingredients; stir and cover for another five minutes on low heat. Serve!

Earthy crunchy rice and fresh spinach

December 7, 2010

Here’s a quick and healthy recipe that only takes about 30 minutes. It has a sweet, nutty taste that makes it not only a great side dish, but a main course as well. Add a Clementine  for dessert!

1 cup cooked brown rice (I’m using sweet brown rice)
2 cups fresh spinach leaf, chopped
1/4 fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped Pecans
1-2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt
pepper
grated Locatelli cheese

Cook the rice as per the directions. Usually 1 cup of uncooked rice simmers for 25 minutes in 1 1/4 cup water.

In separate pan add a couple teaspoons of olive oil and saute onions. Once onions are brown, add pecans, cooked rice, spinach, parsley, cheese and lemon juice. Stir to heat, but do not heat too long or the spinach will become too soft; add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.

Raw peach cobbler

December 3, 2010

Ani Phyo is one of my favorite raw food chefs. I have simplified this recipe by adding “optional” next to some of the more creative steps to this dish. As you can see, the peaches, dates and pistachios are really what do it for me. For the longest time, this was the only thing I ate for breakfast. Sometimes I’d substitute apples or pears for peaches. Whatever you choose to do, this recipe is great anytime.

CRUST
3 cups pistachios, dry
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 Tablespoon alcohol-free extract (optional)
¾ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
¾ cup pitted dates

SYRUP (optional)
¾ cup pitted dates
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
½ vanilla bean, or ½ Tablespoon alcohol-free extract
⅔ cup filtered water, as needed

FILLING
3 to 4 ripe mangoes, peaches, apples or pears (or a combination!) peeled, seeded, sliced, about 6 cups

To make crust, process pecans, vanilla bean, and salt into powder in your food processor. Add ¾ cup pitted dates and process until mixed well. Sprinkle half of the crust onto bottom of pie dish, and set aside. Don’t bother rinsing out your food processor after making the crust; the leftover crumbs will add in with the syrup ingredients.

To make syrup, process ¾ cup dates, oil, vanilla bean, and water as needed to make a thick syrup. Set aside.

To make filling, place sliced mango into a large mixing bowl. Toss with the syrup. Spoon onto cobbler crust. To serve, top with remaining half of the crust. Will keep for two days in the fridge.

Makes one cobbler.

Recipe courtesy of Ani Phyo

Grilled corn and avocado salsa

December 3, 2010

3 medium corn on the cob (if not in season, used canned or frozen corn) grilled and cooled to room temperature.
1/2 cup scallions
1 small garlic clove
1 medium jalapeno (cored, seeded and minced) (optional)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 medium avocado, ripe, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice from 1 medium lime
2 Tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro

In a small pan, sauté scallions and garlic in 1 Tbsp of olive oil until slightly brown. Remove from heat, drain oil, set aside.

Break each ear of corn in half and slice kernels off cob with knife into large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients, EXCEPT avocado, lime and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

When ready to serve, stir in avocado, lime juice and cilantro. Serve with a side of tortilla chips.

This recipe courtesy of Weight Watchers. (8 servings; 2 points per serving)

Sweet pumpkin bread with real pumpkin

December 3, 2010

Pumpkin bread had never been one of my favorites. When it’s made with pumpkin from a can (especially those with additives like sugar, flavor and color) it has a rather synthetic taste to it. But I was convinced that if I made pumpkin bread with real pumpkin, the taste would be hugely more appealing. I was right! By using real pumpkin, the flavor is more earthy and naturally sweet. And the texture, depending on whether you add nuts or raisins is moisture and light.

2 cups fresh cooked pumpkin (how to)
3 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
2 Tablespoons baking soda
3 cups raw sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil (I usually use a light olive oil or Canola)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup water if you’re using the fresh cooked pumpkin

Makes 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.

Add the eggs, water, oil and pumpkin. Mix until blended. If desired add the raisins and nuts. Mix well.

Pour into slightly greased and floured 9×5 loaf pans.

Bake approximately 1 hour. Check for doneness with a clean, dry knife. Let cool for 10 minutes; then remove from pan and set on baking rack.

This recipe is courtesy of pickyourown.org

Easiest pumpkin soup

December 3, 2010

I always thought soups were supposed to cook for hours on the stovetop. Not so with this yummy, quick pumpkin soup recipe.

4 cups fresh roasted pumpkin
4 cups water
4 chicken bullion
1 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced garlic (optional)
1 large onion chopped
6 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks finely chopped celery
1/2 cup almond milk or regular, organic milk (optional)
1 teaspoon thyme
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

For this recipe I used a cheese pumpkin (pictured). I chopped it open, cleaned out the seeds, cut it in fours and cooked it (skin side down) in a shallow roasting pan with a little water added for 45 minutes at 425F. When I took it out of the oven, I scooped the cooked pumpkin out of its shells and placed it in a bowl. A large pumpkin will give you any where from 4-6 cups of cooked pumpkin. WHatever you don’t need for this recipe, freeze for pumpkin bread later!

Set aside 4 cups of mashed, cooked pumpkin.

In a large pot over medium heat put butter and oil, onions, garlic, carrots and celery; saute until tender (about 10 minutes). Add remaining ingredients except milk and simmer. Serve plain or stir in milk to make a more creamy soup.

This recipe is courtesy of pickyourown.org

Whole wheat butternut squash bread

December 3, 2010

What I love about this bread recipe is the use of honey instead of white sugar and the addition of butternut squash instead of too much oil. It was taken from the Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Baking recipe book. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks for bread recipes and this one in particular is no exception. Butternut squash is one of those intimidating fall squashes that I never knew what to do with. But don’t be intimidated! Just hacked one open and followed a recipe.

Also, when you add butternut squash to anything it gives it a rich, buttery, pumpkin/sweet potato flavor. The first part of this recipe, therefore, is how to prepare your butternut squash, and the second part is the actual bread recipe.

Cooking butternut squash
First, cut the squash open lengthwise and remove all the seeds. Many people suggest you cook it with the skins on in shallow water, but I don’t mind cutting the skins off with a sharp knife. Once you’ve peeled the squash, cut it into 1/4 inch pieces and toss in a roasting dish with a little olive oil to coat. Cook in the oven at 400F-425F for 45 minutes or until soft. Remove one cup, mashed and set aside for baking. Whatever is left over can be refrigerated and added to a green salad for later, or frozen and saved for when you’re ready to make soup.

Butternut squash bread recipe
2 packages or 5 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
1/2 cup warm (105F-115F degrees; hotter than this will kill the yeast)
1 1/4 cups skim milk
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup of raw honey
1 cup cooked, mashed butternut squash
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
3 cups Stone Ground Whole Grain Whole Wheat Graham Flour
2 cups Best for Bread Flour (or any “bread” flour)
1 cup unbleached naturally white flour

Sprinkle yeast over water in large bowl and set aside to proof until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Combine milk, butter and honey in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Puree mashed squash and hot liquid in blender.

Whisk puree into yeast mixture. Beat in salt, egg whites, and graham flour by hand or with electric mixer. Beat in enough of remaining flours to make a soft dough (I found that because I use fresh squash, I need a little extra dough. If this is the case, add white or Best for Bread flour).

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and satiny. 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes by electric mixer or food processor fitted with dough hook.

Place dough in oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with damp towel and let rise until dough rises to double its size (about 1 hour)

Punch down dough and turn onto lightly floured surface. Divide in half and let rest 10 minutes.

Grease two 9x5x3 loaf pans (I actually make round loafs, so I use two 9 inch round pans. Shape dough into loaves and put into pans seam side down. Cover with a damp towel and let rise again (1 hour).

Preheat oven to 350F. Bake 30-35 minutes or until instant reader thermometer inserted in center registers at least 190F. Remove bread immediately and let cool on racks.

Yields two 1-pound loaves.

This recipe courtesy of Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Baking recipe book

Couscous Salad

December 2, 2010

I’m obsessed with couscous. Especially because it takes 5 minutes to make. We have it for dinner as a side, and then I toss the leftovers in a garden salad the next day for lunch. The olive oil and lemon flavor from the couscous mixes nicely with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

1 cup chopped Romaine
1 cup chopped Arugula
A few leaves of Dandelion
1/2 Jersey tomato chopped
1/2 Cucumber sliced
1/4 cup cooked Couscous (any variety will do but I usually prefer Near East Couscous with toasted pine nuts)
2 Tablespoons Feta (optional)
2 ounces chopped up grilled chicken
A few craisins, sprinkled

Toss all ingredients together in a big mixing bowl. Serve with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing and a side of warm pita bread.

Natalie’s harvest risotto

December 2, 2010

Last night Natalie came over because her electricity was out, so we sat around the kitchen table with tea and her homemade biscotti. She stayed well into dinner and decided to make some risotto for me with the stuff I had in what I previously thought was my not-so-well stocked kitchen. This is what she came up with and I cannot say enough how delicious this was. It took a while; Doug and I didn’t eat until around 7pm. But it was so worth it!

Prep time 10 minutes/Cook time 1 hour.
1 cup brown sweet rice
5 cups water/5 bullion OR 5 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock!)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 oinion
1 sweet potato
3/4 cup roasted butternut squash
1 can (4-6 oz) mushrooms drained OR 1 cup fresh or dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine
fresh parsley
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 cup pistachios, roasted
1/4 cup grated Manchego or Locatelli cheese

In small sauce pan heat 5 cups of broth (water and bullion or chicken stock) to near boil.

In larger pot add oil and butter to medium heat. Chop onions and sweet potato and sautee until lightly softened (about 5 mins). Add rice to mixture and coat, stirring. Slowly add one cup of stock to mixture; stir continuously until mixture thickens. Repeat with all five cups (depending on what type of rice you use, this process could take up to an hour for rice to soften). Add mushrooms, squash, parsley, salt, pepper, wine and thyme. Let mixture thicken. When rice is tender and the stock has turned creamy, add pistachios and grated cheese as garnish.

Note: if rice is taking too long to soften, add a little extra water, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Then, remove lid and stir continuously until mixture thickens.

This recipe courtesy of Natalie Stone

Mama’s homemade chicken noodle soup

December 2, 2010

My mother is a great Italian chef. It’s only fair that I give her the limelight here and there. One of my favorite scratch recipes of hers in her chicken noodle soup…

Take a whole chicken and cut it up, place it in a large pot with enough water to cover all pieces (about 8-10 cups) (you can substitute 2 cups of store bought liquid chiken broth here for 2 of the cups of water) Or, if you don’t have the the store bought, add 2 chicken boullion cubes to the 8 – 10 cups of water. 4 bay leaves1 tsp pepper (or to choice)I also add an optional tbl of soy sauce for depthAdd 1 onion (roughly chopped)2 stalks of celery (roughly chopped)2 carrots (roughly chopped)Once the soup boils, lower the gas to medium and cook for about 2 hours (or until you see the chicken start to fall off the bone.)

Remove the carrots and chop into small pieces to add back into soup later.

You can strain everything, and reseve the broth back into the pot. As soon as you can handle the hot pieces, discard the onions, celery, bones, and fat, bay leaves, etc…everything except for chicken pieces and carrots. (some people process the onions and celery and throw it back in the soup, but I cut up another onion, and celery into diced pieces and add to soup along with another couple of carrots diced. and the alreadly cooked carrots.

Cook another 30 minutes until the added veggies are done. Test for flavor…you might need salt, pepper,

I cook a half pound of noodles separately and add them to a bowl and add the soup on top.

When the soup is cooled, then I add the noodles (If you add the hot noodles to the hot soup…the noodles keep cooking and they get all mushy, but if you add them after they both have cooled, it’s a much nicer soup.

This recipe courtesy of Rose Shields

Smoked trout pate

December 2, 2010

 

This is a great, quick-to-make appetizer for guests. Every time I make it people beg me for the recipe, so…here it is.

Prepare and serve in under 10 minutes!

6 oz smoked trout fillets
3 Tbsp yogurt
Grated rind and juice of ½ lemon (I use one whole lemon)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
3 Tbsp safflower oil
1/4 cup capers
toasted challah bread, to serve

1. Place all the pate ingredients except the safflower oil in a food processor, and beat until the mixture is smooth.
2. With the machine running, add the oil slowly in a fine stream until the mixture has the consistency of thick whipped cream.
3. Garnish with capers for extra saltyness. Serve with some lightly dressed salad greens and slices of toasted challah bread.

Roasted garlic and sweet potato soup

December 2, 2010

roasted garlic sweet potato soupNothing beats a bowl of hot, homemade soup on a cold night. Enjoy this one by the fireside with a chunk of crusty multigrain.

2 medium baking potatoes (peeled and cut into one-inch pieces)
2 medium sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into one-inch pieces)
2-3 stalks of celery (cleaned and chopped)
2-3 carrots (cleaned and sliced)
2 stalks of Jersey sweet corn (shucked and de-corned) or 1 can of yellow or white corn
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp black pepper
6 cloves garlic, broken or crushed (use flat of knife, rolling pin, or bottom of strong glass)
1 medium onion (chopped)
3 cups veggie or chicken broth
1-2 cups water (depending on how thick you want your soup)
1 cup milk or almond milk
Salt (only to taste; this recipe usually needs no salt)
4 oz Colby, cheddar or desired cheese (shredded)

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Place potatoes, celery, carrots and corn into shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Stir to coat. Bake uncovered 25 minutes. Turn veggies with metal spatula. Toss in garlic cloves. Bake about 20 minutes or until veggies (potatoes) are browned.

2. In a 3-quart saucepan heat remaining oil. Cook and stir onion over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

3. Add 3 cups of veggie or chicken broth and 1-cup of water to onion mixture in pot. Then add roasted veggies and garlic. Bring just to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until potatoes and veggies are very tender. Stir in milk. Heat through. Serve with a ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with cheese. Add a side of crusty bread to make the meal more complete.

Approx. 266 calories per serving.

Heart healthy hummus & cucumber pita

December 2, 2010

Only have a few minutes to prepare lunch today? Here’s an idea:

1 toasted whole wheat or multi-grain pita, cut in half.
4 Tbsps of hummus
1/4 cup chopped cucumbers
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 shredded cheese (asiago, cheddar or a variety of your preference)

Stuff hummus, cucs, tomatoes and cheese evenly in each side pocket. Serve with a side of Spanish olives, or honey dew.