Thursday, April 30, 2009

Breakfast Salad

Cooking with whole grains is a lifestyle, once converted, your refrigerator shelves will forever be adorned with transient containers of steamed grains. Don’t wait for a recipe calling for something specific, get two pots of grains cooking NOW. This simple act of preparation makes way for limitless possibilities at meal time. As you make dinner, choose a grain that is waiting for you in the fridge and add it in with the sauce, vegetables, rice, meat, beans or noodles.

Begin with a sprinkle here and there with meals your family always like to eat. As little as a tablespoon per serving will give you an idea of what flavors and textures are compatible without ruining the dish. Avoid resistance by ensuring the food tastes good. If it needs a little sugar or an extra pat of butter, be liberal in order to please the palettes of you test subjects. Once you have a knack for the sprinkle, go for the scoop and in no time you will find yourself a fellow dumper.

This is a clean-out-the-refrigerator salad for those fruits and grains way in the back that are screaming with their last breath. The sweet and fresh flavors of the dressing liven up any produce. Use what ever grains, fruits, nuts, sweetener, vinegar or oil you have lurking. As the name reflects, we usually enjoy this salad as our breakfast. But it is a wonderful side dish, fruit salad alternative or even a light lunch when served on a bed of lettuce.

1 cup barley, cooked
1 cup oat groats, cooked and rinsed
1 cup strawberries, sliced
2 bananas, sliced
1 cup pecans, chopped

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup flax oil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Blend dressing thoroughly. Pour over salad, toss to coat.

links; Whole Foods for the Holiday's

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cook Turns Farmer

This flowering kale is one of the reasons I could never go back to a small town. The grocery store in my home town doesn't even carry cilantro! There is so much available here, I didn't even know kale could be purple or white, I wonder how many other colors there are to be yet discovered. Some little farmer that grows unique produce for the joy of it, not the money they could be making by mass producing mainstream crops, won my heart when I found this at the market. I made my refreshing kale salad with it and found it had a pleasant floral flavor. After I blanched it some of the leaves turned bright blue--who knew a food could naturally be that color?

There is something so satisfying to me to grow my own food. I looked all over for kale seeds this year. I guess those have to be mail ordered. 2002 was the last time I grew a productive garden, since then my gardening attempts have been disappointing. I have the hardest time with squirrels. My plants will grow beautifully until the actual vegetables start to grow--then they are destroyed. They like my broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, spinach and lettuce. Tried blood meal, having the boys pee around it, chicken wire and now netting. I don't know how they get in. I went to a gardening seminar this spring, hoping to get some new solutions. Though they had a lot of really good information, none about pests devouring whole plants. I do think their fertilizer is working though. These are pictures of the same zuchinne plant 13 days ago and today.

Friday, April 24, 2009

One Grain at a Time

From babies first bites, they are exposed to overly processed foods. The rice flakes that come in a cardboard box are a sorry excuse for food. The baby food industry is highly deceptive in making parents think their product is superior to anything you could make at home. In a like manner they persuade parents with ever-easier to prepare products and packaging. The facts are that baby food is simple to make and more importantly far superior to the super processed, preservative laden, sugar added products on the shelves of the grocery stores.

The kefir in this recipe can be substituted for apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, it aids in making the grain more digestible and the minerals absorb able. Alternatively you may soak in just water for 3 days. If your baby is not getting used to the sour flavor, simply soak the grains while whole and rinse before blending.

First Mouthfuls (4 months and older) Millet, Brown Rice
Beginners (6 months and older) Amaranth, White Quinoa
Big Eaters (9 months and older) Barley, Oats

1 cup whole grain
5 cups water
1 tablespoon kefir

Grind grain in blender for 3 minutes. Sprinkle and whisk flour into water and kefir, slowly. Ferment 12 -24 hours. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Turn heat to low, cover for 5 minutes. Makes 5 cups. If cereal is lumpy place back in the blender or use and immersable hand blender. The cereal will be very runny, it thickens when cooled.

When babies begin with solids they only take in about 1 tablespoon per meal. In the first weeks this cereal will be thin and barely spoon-able (adding mom’s milk or water to thin it out.) Slowly babies will take in a higher quantity and a thicker consistency as much as a full cup. Keep this in mind when storing the cereal.

Cereals store well in the refrigerator for 5 days in an air tight container. When serving, use a clean spoon to scoop cereal from the storage bowl into a serving bowl, and never return uneaten cereal to the storage bowl.

Storage -Freezer
Ice cube trays work well for double batches when you don’t know how much your baby will eat in the months to come. Just pour warm (not hot) cereal evenly into trays, cover in plastic wrap and place on a flat place in your freezer. Next day, pop the cubes out with clean hands into a clean freezer bag or container, label with grain name and date made. Baby food jars and other 4 oz. containers are great for singles servings. Or freeze cereal in larger containers, just be sure to thaw in the refrigerator a couple days before you will need to use them and use them up quickly.

To reheat, place serving in a ramekin and place the ramekin in a pan of hot water with the lid on. If it is frozen, let simmer for 5 minutes. If the cereal is too thick, add a little water to the dish. Thin cereals can be thickened by adding a small about of commercial baby food (Earth’s Best is a good brand) After cereal has been served plain and vegetables have been successfully introduces, add a tablespoon pureed fruit per ¼ cup cereal.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brussle Sprouts with Bacon and Figs

The biggest problem with vegetables is not with the species themselves, but the way they are prepared. Usually waterlogged, overcooked with no attention to enhancing flavors. Some vegetables can stand alone, but many need to be gussied up. Pairing summer vegetables with fresh basil, bitter ones with something sweet and low flavor ones with high flavor accompaniments. I love standing over a display of vegetables, hand picking the perfect specimens while discussing recipes with a fellow shopper. I find myself leaving the market a little happier during these experiences.

If there is a vegetable you have not learned to enjoy, keep experimenting with it. I am convinced any vegetable can flatter any taste buds when the right preparation is discovered. For me, it is bacon. I NEVER eat bacon alone, it is not health food by far. But when a half slice of bacon can make the difference between enjoying my brussle sprouts and not, I go for it!

2 slices bacon, diced
2 cups brussle sprouts, trimmed and halved
6 dried figs, sliced
1/4 red onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese

Fry bacon until crispy and fat is rendered. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel. Blanch brussle sprouts by dunking in boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain and add to pan, cut side down. Add figs, onion and salt. Sautee 5 minutes, or until carmelization occurs. Remove from heat, sprinkle with parmesean.

links; Whole Foods for the Holiday's

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Green Chili Enchilada Sauce

This one is dedicated to my SIL Jill who frequently asks "do you have any new recipes?" Because of this simple inquiry, I was able to resurrect this lovely recipe from my sent mail. Three cheers for Gmail! I worked hard on this recipe tweaking this and that and the end result was amazing. I made triple batches and canned this stuff so I hadn't made it in a while, recreating would have been a long time coming.

I got inspiration from Cafe Rio's medium enchilada sauce--heavenly. Ask for a sample next time. We had burritos last night, I had one again for lunch today. So yummy! I use the sauce to flavor my brown rice, pinto beans, shredded beef or chicken and then pour some over the top "enchilada style." Really, I can't get enough. Control the level of heat with cayenne pepper and thin it out with water if needed.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoon fresh ground cumin seed
2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
cayenne pepper to taste
1 large can (27 ounce) Hatch green chilies, chopped
2 tablespoon white bean flour (or other flour)
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sucanat
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Add garlic, and spices, stir until fragrant. Dump in chilies with juices, sprinkle with flour and mix well. Let cook until paste forms and juices evaporate. Stir in stock and sucanat. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. Blend slightly with immersion blender. Take off of heat and stir in vinegar. Salt to taste.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This is one of my favorite meals. My family loves it too, even my husband and he is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Who woulda thought? These vegetarian pita fillers are crunchy and fla-vor-ful. I hate the ones that are served in some restaurants that are so dry and hard. I prefer making falafel patties verses balls, they make a better sandwich that way. The mix should be tender, not wet. If it is too loose to handle, add more bread crumbs or flour.

Frying is not the most healthy forms of cooking, but the crispness it brings to the party is often unreplicateable. For the healthiest pan fry, use clean , coconut, grapeseed or extra light olive oil. These oils can stand up to high temperatures without becoming toxic. Clean oil is important for two reasons; if the oil has been heated and cooled the smoke point has been lowered and the fats have started to oxidize. And if there are foreign particles in the oil these will burn as the oil reaches temperature which imparts bad flavor. Heating the oil to 375 degrees before food touches the pan ensures the steam will push most of the oil away from the food. When the oil is cool, it soaks into the food leaving it greasy. In this case it is fine to cover a wide pan with a quarter inch of oil, just keep the heat on medium high. For most frying applications more oil for cooking = less oil in the food. This is because cold food drops the temperature and the less oil there is to sustain the temperature the lower the temperature drops. Another solution to this is to fry in very small batches.

There is a tool, you can get quite cheaply at hardware stores called and infrared thermometer. This allows you to check the temperature of the surface of a pan, pizza stone, or oil. It is also fun to take it outside in the summer and check the temperature of the sidewalk.

2 cups chickpeas
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash fresh ground pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dry whole grain bread crumbs
refined coconut oil for frying

In a large bowl mash chickpeas until thick and pasty; don't use a blender, as the consistency will be too thin. In a blender, process onion, parsley and garlic until smooth, drain onto paper towel. Stir into mashed chickpeas. In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture, slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed. Form balls and then flatten into patties. Heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties in hot oil until brown on both sides. Serve in whole wheat pita's with lettuce and cucumber yogurt sauce, or on top of a salad or just a finger food snack (great for toddlers).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Health Food Store Deceptions

You think you are safe, but you're not. Even health food stores carry very unhealthy foods. UGH! You have to, have to, have to read labels...INGREDIENT LABELS that is. Even I get fooled. Take this week, for example. I have been wanting to make homemade english muffins for some time and just have not gotten around to it. So they have been on my mind lately and when I saw a bag of SPROUTS HONEY WHEAT ENGLISH MUFFINS in their bakery section, I tossed them in. They looked brownish with darker fiber flecks and the label was so generic (often a sign of fresh from the in-store bakery), Sprouts is known for health food. It's not like the bag had a big Wonder Bread sticker on it--then I would be suspicious. Well, I got home and took the time to take a lookie. YIKES!


So when did honey become high fructose corn syrup?? I know white flour is refined WHEAT, but adding molasses for coloring and bran to give the fiber a boost, that is just trying to deceive consumers. Shame on you, health food stores of America.

The facts are, a vast majority of grain products being sold today are NOT whole-grain products. Even products targeted at the health food market are usually made mostly or only with enriched wheat rather than with whole-grain flour. Foods labeled with the words "multi-grain," "stone-ground," "100% wheat," "cracked wheat," "seven-grain," or "bran" are usually not whole-grain products। Color is also not an indication of a whole grain. Brown does not necessary mean whole wheat or whole grain! When determining if a packaged food product contains whole grain or not, look for the word "whole" in the ingredient list, preferable first on the list. Also look for the Whole Grain Stamp A "good source" stamp contains at least 1/2 serving of whole grains while an "excellent source" contains at least 1 serving of whole grains. Or better yet, make it yourself.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

When I think Greek, I think lentils, pita bread, hummus, falafel and cucumber yogurt sauce--a variation of tzatziki. It is important to know all yogurts are not created equal. It is the tendency of many to go for the low or non fat varieties which are inferior in quality, flavor and nutrition. Also look out for the thickeners and additives that create a fake look-a-like. Some brands only have one kind of culture in them, while others have four to six. Some even are cultured during production then processed with heat in the packaging process, which kills the health benefits. Most yogurts in the dairy case are chock full of sugar, which counter acts any beneficial bacteria, therefore no longer fits the status of "healthy." There are usually one or two acceptable specimens hidden in there. To find the real deal find a label that only includes milk and at least 4 cultures. My favorite is Trader Joe's Organic European Style whole milk plain yogurt, the one in the red container. Do check the expiration when buying yogurt, because as it ages the cultures diminish.

Ideally you make your own raw milk yogurt. Cultures for Health have a number of options for making homemade cultured products and more. I use the viili starter which is cultured at room temperature, how easy is that!? Yogurt cultures are most active in the first week after culturing, it is virtually impossible to get a yogurt from the store in that time frame.

You can leave the cucumbers out of this recipe to give a smoother sauce. Thicken it up a bit with mayonnaise or Veganaise. I only add garlic when I need the extra flavor like in chicken gyros. Use as a salad dressing, a vegetable dip, or a sauce in any pita sandwich.

16 oz. plain yogurt
2 teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
1 clove minced garlic (optional)
1 medium cucumber, finely chopped

Combine well.
Yogurt Cucumber Sauce on Foodista

Friday, April 3, 2009

One Grain at a Time

With a pleasant nutty flavor and soft chewy texture, oats are no doubt a popular grain. Because of their high content of soluble fiber, they have been labeled "heat healthy." Soluble fiber is amazing; because it is water soluble it becomes a liquid in your body and coats bad things in your digestive tract like fats, cholesterol and toxins. This prevents your body from being able to absorb the coated item as it is pushed through your system! Another amazing benefit is the coating it puts on your stomach lining, causing sugars to absorb into your blood stream at a much slower rate.

Groats are the whole grain with only the inedible hull removed, the purest form. Steel cut, also known as pin oats, are oat groats that are evenly cut into fourths, reducing cooking time and creating a nice bowl of porriage. Nutrients are still intact, but the cutting created more surface area for oxidation/rancidity. Rolled oats are steamed, rolled and dried. This precooking and extreme increase in surface area deteriorates the integrity of the grain and destroys all enzymes and most nutrients, becoming little more than fiber. Quick oats are steel cut oat that are steamed, rolled and dried reducing the cooking time even further and taking another step down in food value. These highly processed forms will store for 25 years because the enzymes that allow for oxidation are destroyed.

Whole oats have a higher fat content than most grains so when milling into flour take care to only mill small amounts at a time (less than 6 cups) and “clean” it by running a couple cups of another grain like wheat through to prevent caking. The vitamin E in oat groats provides a natural preservative in backed goods.

About 12 cents per serving at less than $1.00 per lb.
1 lb = 2.2 cups dry = 4.5 cups cooked = 3 cups flour

To Cook:
-Whole oats- 1 cup grain to 2.5 cups water. Simmer 45 minutes or Pressure 12 minutes on high, natural release. Strain and rinse.
-Steel cut- 1 cup grain to 2 cups water. Simmer 20 minutes or Pressure 6 minutes on high, natural release.

To Store:
-Whole - 1 year in an air tight container in a cool, dry place.
-Steel cut or rolled - 6 months in an air tight container in a cool, dry place.
For long term storage freeze for 48 hours before storing.
-Flour - up to 1 week in an air tight container. Or freeze up to 1 year
-Cooked - refrigerate for up to 10 days. Or freeze up to 6 months.

To Use:
-Cooked oat groats can be cooked and rinsed for use in soups, salads and pilafs.
-Bake cooked grats into breads to add chewy-ness.-Cooked steel cut oats can be used as a breakfast cereal in place of rolled oats.
-Flour may be used in place of part or all white flour in any non yeasted recipe.

Nutritional Value per 100 grams (3.5 oz)
Calories 389
Total fat 6.9 g
Dietary fiber 11 g
Protein 17 g
Carbohydrate 66 g
Vitamin E 1.09 mg 3%
Thiamin 0.763 mg 50%
Riboflavin 0.139 mg 8%
Niacin 0.961 mg 4%
Vitamin B6 0.119 mg 5%
Folate 56 mcg 14%
Pantothenic Acid 1.349 mcg 13%
Calcium 54 mg 5%
Iron 4.72 mg 26%
Magnesium 177 mg 44%
Phosphorus 523 mg 52%
Potassium 429 mg 17%
Zinc 3.97 mg 26%
Copper 0.626 mg 31%
Manganese 4.916 mg 245%

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Corn Tortillas

Store bought corn tortillas can be dry and rubbery. There are little Mexican bakeries that sell fresh ones that are DIVINE, but I don't know of one close to my house. Besides, I like being self sufficient in cooking from scratch. Corn tortillas are simple--3 ingredients. I mix it up in my Bosch with wire whips in less than a minute. The dough will be very sticky, as the masa hydrates it will be a bit easier to work with, but you must, must, must use something non-stick in the flattening process. Plastic, wax paper or when heat is involved, parchment paper.

Hand rolling is time consuming, but takes only the most basic equipment--a rolling pin. A tortilla press is a better choice, they are fairly inexpensive (look at thrift stores) and make perfect tortillas with less effort. I use a flat bread maker by Villaware. The bottom iron gets hot, which prevents sticking, so I only have to use parchment on the top (which only gets warm). These are more pricey, but we it weekly for flatbreads with left over pizza and bread dough.

You will need to cook as you press because the raw dough sticks to almost everything (including spatulas). This is where chef hands can come in really handy. But if you are rolling or using a press there is no heat and once one side is cooked it will not be sticky and can be flipped easily with a spatula. Look even my three year old can do it! I love his concentration, follows by the smile of accomplishment. If you have kids, please cook with them. It is something they can use all their lives and builds a healthy relationship with food. Even as little as two and three can do things with supervision like cut a banana for their breakfast, grate cheese, roll meatballs, sprinkle salt, grind pepper, dump in pre-measured ingredients, stir a batter or just play with a piece of dough.

2 cups Maseca Corn Masa mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup water

Mix ingredients thoroughly, then separate the dough into 16 equally sized pieces and form each piece into slightly flat little balls. Cover with plastic wrap and rest 15 minutes. Heat skillet to 450 degrees. Press balls and cook immediately. Don't forget the parchment paper! Cook tortillas about 90 seconds per side. Keep warm in a clean kitchen towel until gobble time. Makes about 16.

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