Monday, December 29, 2014

Lucky Peas for New Year, Once Again

It's that time again when we're supposed to get good luck for the year to come by eating black-eyed peas with collard greens (the color of money) on the eve or day. So here yet again is my own recipe for a vegetarian Hoppin' John that puts the collards with the rice and beans inside of as a side. It uses smoked paprika to give that smokey flavor normally imparted by ham. This is not to say you can't add your own ham bone to the beans while they cook... Nobody ever said hamming it up made you unlucky.

You can serve this with eggs or a grit souffle or a corn tart or as the center of attraction perhaps with a side of deep fried okra. Or you can, as I have, contribute it to a pot luck party.

And by the way, in Nepal black eyed peas--because of that third eye in their middle-- are called Bodhi, a very holy Buddhist word that means awake, aware, empathetic.

Happy New Year Everyone! May the Fork be With You!

My Hoppin John Recipe for New Year
For 6-8
½ lb. black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
2-3 tbsp corn oil, enough to cover the bottom of your pot
1 lg onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 sm Poblano pepper, roasted and diced
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp ground cayenne
2 celery ribs, diced
4 cups vegetable broth
½-1 cup water
½ bunch collard greens, chopped
1-1½ cups rice (depending on how thick you want this)*
Salt and black pepper to your taste

*I find using short-grained paella rice better than long grain basmati for this dish.
Heat oil in a heavy gauge casserole or stock pot. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until onion is soft and translucent, maybe 5 minutes.
Add garlic and Poblano pepper, stirring to blend.  Sauté 1 minute.
Add spices and celery. Sauté 2 minutes. (Add oil if necessary)
Add broth, water and black-eyed peas. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes.
Add collard greens, rice, salt and pepper. Cover and continue to simmer another 20-25 minutes, checking from time to time that you have enough liquid. Add water by the ¼ cupful if you need it.
Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve with freshly chopped cilantro leaves.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Festive Food

Here is something wonderfully rich, warming, vegetarian and garlic free for your festive holiday table. It's perfect for a buffet, banquet or breakfast the next day. It goes with roasted turkey or chicken, grilled fish and roast lamb. It's also a perfect vegetarian dish on its own, full of protein rich nuts, butter and yogurt. I am making this myself for Christmas dinner along with a roast lamb. I'm serving it the next day with barbeque sauced turkey.

Season's eatings to everyone!


This popular Turkish countryside comfort food is said to be a favorite of Bedouin nomads who migrated from North Africa across the Arabian peninsula. Warm, buttery bulgur rich with fragrant nuts and fruits, aglow with glimmers of carrot and cilantro, and served with yogurt makes a hearty, eye-catching feast—one that solves the problem of feeding those who won’t eat onions and garlic.

Serves 6-8 (cut in half for 3-4)

2 cups coarse grain bulgur
4 tbsp butter or ghee (divided 3 & 1)
2 med/lg carrots peeled and julienned into matchsticks
¾ cup blanched slivered almonds
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp pistachio nutmeats (raw or roasted)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
¾ lb (12 oz) dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (use soft dates)
¼ lb (4 oz) dried figs, coarsely chopped (bite-size pieces)
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp salt
½ bunch cilantro, leaves only chopped for garnish
8 oz plain thick yogurt for serving

Put the bulgur in a large bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover it with 1 extra inch. Stir to blend. Cover the bowl and let the bulgur steam for 25 minutes.

In a large heavy skillet or casserole, melt 3 tbsp of butter or ghee over medium heat. Add the carrots, lower heat slightly so they don’t burn, and sauté —stirring from time to time--until they’re soft and buttery, about 10 minutes. 

Add cinnamon and all nuts. Stir to blend; sauté on low heat another minute so the nuts begin to color. Add dates, figs and rose water. Blend everything.

Drain the bulgur and add it to the pot with salt and 1 tbsp butter.  Mix everything until the fruits, nuts and salt are distributed through the bulgur. Turn off the heat. Put a dishtowel across the top of the pot, put a lid on the pot and let the contents steam for at least 5 minutes.

Transfer bulgur to a large serving bowl and stir in chopped cilantro.
Serve the yogurt one of three ways: make a well in the bulgur and pour it in, or make a well in the bulgur and insert a small bowl filled with yogurt, or simply pass the yogurt around on its own.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Annual Reminder: Why Food is THE Gift to give

News about industrially produced food just keeps getting worse. So if you care about health and spirit of those you love and like, you should help them eat safely. Here are food gifts to get you to that goal. Naturally, they're all local produced and usually available at farmers' markets. Or you can make them yourself from what's available at farmers' markets.

Most of what's sold commercially is sludge from China. And there's more of it all the time as our beloved honeybees die in droves, probably poisoned by industrial agriculture. The only honey you can now trust to be the real thing, pure and simple, has to come from your local farmer or beekeeper.

I always counsel people to make this during the season when fruits are flowing freely from the farm to the market but it's never too late so long as you can find locally grown fruits to work with. What's wrong with all that commercially produced stuff is its sugar overload, required by the FDA essentially for preservation purposes, i.e. so the jam can last indefinitely. This requires lots more sugar than fruit. And you definitely do not want any so-called sugar free jam if it's got poisonous aspartame, saccharine or other Monsanto chemical in it. And finally, most commercially produced jam contains "pectin", the thickening agent and it's bound to be artificially created from all sorts of stuff you don't want in your body. In fact you can make perfectly thick and tasty jam without using pectin at all; you just have to cook it a little longer, is all. Natural sources of pectin are orange peel and apples. Hint: raspberries have so much natural pectin they congeal into jam in about five minutes. Apricots go pretty fast too and no, you don't have to peel them.
(The simplest way to make jam is to put 2 cups fruit, 1 tsp light brown sugar, the juice of a lime, cinnamon to your taste, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and white sugar that varies from 1/4-1/2 cup depending on the inherent sweetness of the fruit you are using, into a tall pot. Optionally add 1 tbsp rosewater) Bring it to a boil, protect yourself and stir stir stir. It will rise and fall and spatter as it goes and eventually, depending on how much natural pectin is in your fruit, in anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes it will congeal into jam. )

Again it's the sugar and pesticided fruit you want to avoid. At this point in time, fresh cranberries are probably your best option. and they're full of necessary nutrients. Here's how to present them in a preserving jar you can wrap in tissue:

This will fill about 5 pints or 9-10 half pint jars (only use canning jars that can survive the boiling water bath)
1 lb fresh cranberries, cleaned
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch light brown sugar
1 cup water
1 tbsp freshly grated orange peel
1 cup dark raisins or currants
1 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/3 cup orange juice
Optional: 1 tsp orange flower water

combine cranberries and water in a large pot. Cook over medium heat until cranberries burst. Add sugars, raisins, orange peel, spices, and orange juice (optional orange flower water too). Cook on medium heat, stirring, until sugars dissolve. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until mixture is as thick as jam, maybe 10 minutes.
Stir in the nuts. Remove from heat. Ladle into hot jars, seal and process according to canning jar instructions. (Normally you boil the jars while making this preserve, then fill the hot jars, put on the lids and put them back into the boiling water "bath" for 10 minutes. After you remove them, each one should "pop" to indicate it's sealed.)

Here again is where you can control sugar and that ubiquitously lethal high fructose corn syrup. If you knew the ingredients in those commercially produced cookie decorations--colored goos and gunks and sprinkles that don't melt, you would not want to be near them let alone eat them. Also, now that we know it's not the gluten in flour that's killing people's stomach's but the Round-up sprayed on wheat just before its commercially harvested, you need to limit your exposure to commercial baked goods. You need to find, use and eat flour not saturated with Round-up.  So get some guaranteed organic flour from small batch wheat and bake your own cookies. Sugar cookies cut into shapes are quite simple and fun for kids. Gingerbread men aren't that much harder and can be lovingly decorated with currants, dark raisins, chocolate chips, almond slivers and the occasional cinnamon heart.

One of the easier treats to make is chocolate bark, aka moose patties. Just buy the highest quality dark chocolate bar you can find, melt it in a double boiler and pour it onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Working quickly, evenly distribute roasted almonds or pecans, dried cranberries and shredded unsweetened coconut. Set the baking sheet aside until the chocolate cools, then refrigerate overnight to harden. Break into bark and enjoy.

Among the easiest of all delicious winter treats to make is a simple version of the famed Spanish "pan de higos" or fig cake. This is essentially going to taste like fig newton filling all grownup. To make a 5" fig cake that can serve 8, all you need is 12 oz dried Mission figs, 10 raw whole almonds, 1/2 tsp anise seed, pinch of ground cloves, pinch of ground cinnamon and, optionally, 1 tsp brandy. And all you have to do is put the figs, spices and brandy into a food processor and chop for 3-5 seconds. Then toss in the almonds and process until the mixture starts to stick together. Dump it out, form it into a ball, then a disk. Line a 5" quiche dish with parchment, more twice the size because you are going to fold it over. Put the fig disk into the dish and squish it in. Cover and run a rolling pin across the top to flatten it in. You are trying to get this to mold together. Keeping the fig cake covered, put a heavy weight on top and let it stay 24 hours. Then you're done. And here it is:

Spiced Nuts
These are always a most welcome and useful gift.  Nuts provide protein so they're especially good to give vegetarians and vegans. Keeping in mind that walnuts help the kidneys maintain our chi, here's a recipe for Curried Walnuts:
1 lb walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tbsp corn oil
1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 325º. Blanch walnuts in boiling water 1 minute and drain really well. While they remain hot, put in a bowl and toss with the sugar and corn oil to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet and let sit 5 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes or until nuts are brown and crispy dry. While they are in the oven, combine all the spices and salt in a large bowl. Put the hot walnuts into the spices and toss to coat. Cool before packing in festive tins to give as gifts.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

More on Medicine from Your Friendly Farmer

I cannot validate that all of this post from another source is true. I do recognize that I've said what it says about the incredible value of herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley; about blueberries, cranberries, garlic and onions being the world's most potent medicines. So I have no reason yet to doubt the rest of this post from Eat Local Grown, which came with the request to pass it on. So here it is:

36 Foods That Help Detox and Cleanse Your Entire Body HOT

Practiced for thousands of years by cultures around the world-- detoxification is about resting, cleansing and nourishing the body from the inside out. By removing and eliminating toxins, then feeding your body with healthy nutrients, detoxifying can help protect you from disease and renew your ability to maintain optimum health. These foods will assist in boosting your metabolism, optimizing digestion, while allowing you to lose weight and fortify your immune system.


Artichokes help the liver function at its best, which in turn will help your body purge itself of toxins and other things it doesn’t need to survive. It ups the liver’s production of bile, and since bile helps break down foods which helps your body use the nutrients inside them, an increase in bile production is typically a good thing.


Apples are full of wonderful nutrients. You get fibre, vitamins, minerals and many beneficial phytochemicals such as D-Glucarate, flavonoids and terpenoids. All of these substances are used in the detox process. One flavonoid, Phlorizidin (phlorizin), is thought to help stimulate bile production which helps with detox as the liver gets rid of some toxins through the bile. Apples are also a good source of the soluble fibre pectin, which can help detox metals and food additives from your body. It's best to eat only organic apples as the non-organic varieties are among the top 12 foods that have been found to contain the most pesticide residues. Organically produced apples also have a 15 percent higher antioxidant capacity than conventionally produced apples.
Almonds are the best nut source of Vitamin E. In fact, just one ounce contains 7.3 mg of "alpha-tocopherol" vitamin E, the form of the vitamin the body prefers. They're also high in fiber, calcium, magnesium, and useable protein that helps stabilize blood sugar and remove impurities from the bowels.

Not only does asparagus help to detoxify the body, it can help you wage the anti-aging battle, protect you from getting cancer, help your heart to stay healthy, and is a general anti-inflammatory food. It’s also known to help with liver drainage, which might sound like a bad thing, but since the liver is responsible for filtering out the toxic materials in the food and drinks we consume, anything that backs up its drainage is not doing you any favors. Asparagus also helps reduce risk of death from breast cancer and increase the odds of survival.


This wonder fruit is packed with antioxidants, lowers cholesterol and dilates the blood vessels while blocking artery-destroying toxicity. Avocados contain a nutrient called glutathione, which blocks at least 30 different carcinogens while helping the liver detoxify synthetic chemicals. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that elderly people who had high levels of glutathione were healthier and less likely to suffer from arthritis. Consuming avocados is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake level, lower intake of added sugars, lower body weight, BMI and waist circumferences, higher “good cholesterol” levels and lower metabolic syndrome risk. 





Basil has anti-bacterial properties, and it’s full of antioxidants to protect the liver. The active ingredients are terpenoids. It is also wonderful for digestion and detoxification, too. It supports the functioning of the kidneys and also acts as a diuretic to help the body expel unwanted toxins. Basil has been known to have anti-ulcer qualities as well as antimicrobial effects that guard against bacteria, yeast, fungi and mold. Basil seed can also help with constipation. The anticancer properties of basil may also relate to its ability to influence viral infections.


A single serving of beets can do more for your health than most foods in the produce isle. Not only can they boost your energy and lower your blood pressure, but eating beets in the long-term can help you fight cancer, reduce arthritic pain, boost your brain as well as help you lose weight. Beets contain a unique mixture of natural plant chemicals (phytochemicals) and minerals that make them superb fighters of infection, blood purifiers, and liver cleansers. They also help boost the body’s cellular intake of oxygen, making beets excellent overall body cleansers. When you’re detoxing, beets will help by making sure that the toxins you’re getting out actually make it out of your body. Many detox cleanses go wrong when toxins are reintroduced to the body because they don’t make it all the way out. 


Blueberries contain natural aspirin that helps lessen the tissue-damaging effects of chronic inflammation, while lessening pain. Just 300 grams of blueberries protects against DNA damage. Blueberries also act as antibiotics by blocking bacteria in the urinary tract, thereby helping to prevent infections. They have antiviral properties and are loaded with super-detoxifying phytonutrients called proanthocyanidins.


These tasty treats are packed with selenium, which is key to flushing mercury out of your body. The body uses selenium to make ‘selenoproteins’, which work like antioxidants preventing damage to cells and there is growing body of evidence to show it has a key role in our health. The consumption of brazil nuts has been found to be inversely associated with risk of pancreatic cancer, independent of other potential risk factors for pancreatic cancer.
Broccoli specifically works with the enzymes in your liver to turn toxins into something your body can eliminate easily. If you’re stuck for ways on how to make broccoli taste better try dehydrating or consider eating it raw. But don’t microwave it as this destroys both the nutritional and detox potential. Broccoli contains a very powerful anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-microbial called sulforaphane which helps prevent cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and allergies.
Broccoli sprouts can actually provide more benefit than regular broccoli as they contain 20 times more sulfurophane. They contain important phytochemicals that are released when they're chopped, chewed, fermented, or digested. The substances are released then break down into sulfurophanes, indole-3-carbinol and D-glucarate, which all have a specific effect on detoxification. Add these to your salads and get creative with them in your meals. Researchers have found that an oral preparation made from broccoli sprouts trigger an increase in inflammation-fighting enzymes in the upper airways.
In addition to cleansing your liver, cabbage will also aid in helping you go to the bathroom, which in turn helps you expel the toxins, getting them out of your system so you can start fresh. It contains sulfur, which is essential when it comes to breaking down chemicals and removing them from your body. Along with other cole crops, cabbage is a source ofindole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
Cilantro, also known as coriander, Chinese parsley or dhania, contains an abundance of antioxidants. Cilantro helps mobilize mercury and other metals out of the tissue so it can attach to it other compounds and allow it to be excreted from the body. It also contains an antibacterial compound called dodecenal, which laboratory tests showed is twice as effective as the commonly used antibiotic drug gentamicin at killing Salmonella. 
The oils from cinnamon contain active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol. Cinnamaldehyde has been well-researched for its effects on blood platelets helps prevent unwanted clumping of blood cells. Cinnamon's essential oils also qualify it as an "anti-microbial" food, and cinnamon has been studied for its ability to help stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the commonly problematic yeast Candida. Cinnamon's antimicrobial properties are so effective that recent research demonstrates this spice can be used as an alternative to traditional food preservatives. It has one of the highest antioxidant values of all foods and its use in medicine treats everything from nausea to menstruation and energy to diabetes.
While they are more popular as fruits that help prevent urinary tract infections, cranberries are antibacterial and are known to remove many different toxins from your body. Cranberries feature a rich profile of anti-inflammatory nutrients, provide immune and cardiovascular support, as well as promote digestive health. Consuming cranberry products has beenassociated with prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs) for over 100 years. 

Dandelions are considered a powerhouse food full of nutrients that are essential for anyone regularly eating processed foods. Dandelion root (taraxacum officinale) is known to act on the liver and pancreas bystraining and filtering toxins & wastes from the bloodstream and its beneficial effects on liver complaints have been well documented by both Asian practitioners and American physicians. They're a rich source of minerals and provide a variety of phytonutrients. They're super antioxidants that support cleansing of the digestive tract. Try adding dandelion leaves to your salad.
The fennel bulb is high in fiber may also be useful in preventing colon cancer. In addition to its fiber, fennel is a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is necessary for the conversion of a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules. The vitamin C found in fennel bulb is directly antimicrobial and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system. 
When detoxifying your body, it's essential to ensure toxins are eliminated properly. Ground flaxseeds provide a wonderful source of fibre that helps to bind and flush toxins from the intestinal tract. They're also a great source of health promoting omega 3 oils. Try consuming two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds in lemon water every morning. University of Copenhagen researchers report that flax fiber suppresses appetite and helps support weight loss. Men should be cautious when consuming flax as the lignans are similar to the female hormone estrogen as can cause problems for some men.
Many detox diets list garlic as a crucial piece of the puzzle. The reason is that garlic boosts the immune system as well as helping out the liver. One good thing about garlic is that you can up your intake without having to worry if your body is going to get used to it or build up a resistance. Sulfur is found in high quantities in garlic -- which makes it a good detox food and its antibiotic properties heal your body. Garlic is proven to be 100 times more effective than antibiotics and working in a fraction of the time.
Along side turmeric, ginger is one of the world's most potent disease-fighting spices. Ginger spikes your metabolism, flushes out waste, is thought to help liver function, and has some astringent properties. Some detox diets ask you to chew on ginger root. You may also find that adding it to hot water makes the water taste better. Basically any way you can think of it get it into your system is going to be beneficial, especially if you’re suffering from a fatty liver caused by too much alcohol, or too many toxic foods and drinks.



Replace raisins with nutrient-dense Goji berries to boost your vitamin C and beta-carotene intake. Gram for gram, goji berries pack more vitamin C than oranges and more beta-carotene than carrots. Vitamin C can help remove waste from your body, while beta-carotene improves liver performance. 
Grapefruits can prevent weight gain, treat diabetes, lower cholesterol, fight cancer, heal stomach ulcers, reduce gum disease and even keep stroke and metabolic syndrome at bay. Grapefruits can treat disease as well as pharmaceuticals without the side effects. The rich pink and red colors of grapefruit are due to lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient. Among the common dietary carotenoids, lycopene has the highest capacity to help fight oxygen free radicals, which are compounds that can damage cells. The big takeaway on grapefruit is that it gets your liver fired up and ready for action, while infusing the rest of your organs with nutrient-laden fruit juice. 
Green tea is often thought of as a great addition to any detox program because of its high antioxidant value. It is the least processed tea and thus provides the most antioxidant polyphenols, notably a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is believed to be responsible for most of the health benefits linked to green tea. According to 17 clinical trials, green tea is linked with significantly lower blood sugar.
24. HEMP
Hemp might just be one of nature’s most perfect foods since it is full of antioxidants like Vitamins E and C, as well as chlorophyll which is wonderful for cleansing the body from toxins of all kinds, including heavy metals. The soluble and insoluble fiber in hemp can also keep the digestive tract clean and therefore, reduce the toxic burden on other internal organs. Hemp could free us from oil, prevent deforestation, cure cancer and it's environmentally friendly.
25. KALE
Kale is now recognized as providing comprehensive support for the body's detoxification system. New research has shown that the ITCs made from kale's glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level. This vegetable is so good for you that it is often recommended to patients that are following a doctor recommended diet when fighting kidney disease. It’s packed with so many antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties as well, not to mention all of the vitamins and minerals it contains. Leafy greens are likely the number one food you can eat to regularly help improve your health. They're filled with fiber along with crucial vitamins, minerals, and plant-based phytochemicals that may help protect you from almost every disease known.

This is an herb that is used in Thailand and other parts of the world as a natural way to cleanse several organs at once. It not only helps the liver but also the kidneys, the bladder, and the entire digestive tract. Benefits of using it in your cooking, or drinking it as a tea include a better complexion, better circulation, and better digestion. It is most often used as a tea in the world of detoxing, and there are several recipes you can try until you find one that suits your tastes best. 
This wonderful fruit stimulates the release of enzymes and helps convert toxins into a water-soluble form that can be easily excreted from the body. In addition, they contain high amounts of vitamin C, a vitamin needed by the body to make glutathione. Glutathione helps ensure that phase 2 liver detoxification keeps pace with phase 1, thereby reducing the likelihood of negative effects from environmental chemicals. Drinking lemon water, which is alkaline-forming, first thing in the morning will help to balance out the acidity of foods we've consumed. They also have an incredible effect in detoxing the liver. Fresh lemon juice contains more than 20 anti-cancer compounds and helps balance the body’s pH levels. Here are 45 uses for lemons that will blow your socks off.
Some liver cleanses out there call for olive oil mixed with fruit juice in order to trigger your liver to expunge its gallstones. But aside from that olive oil should be your go-to oil when you’re trying to detox the body. That’s because it has a lot of healthy properties, and makes for a better choice of fat than most of your other options. Just be sure not to cook with it at high heat. Use it as a salad dressing to help things like dark leafy greens go down. Your best choice is always ice-pressed olive oil, but if you can find a very high quality cold-pressed olive oil, although not as nutritious, it will suffice provided the quality is high and not adulterated.
This ubiquitous kitchen staple is as healthy as it is tasty. It’s brimming with sulfur-containing amino acids, which efficiently detox the liver. Raw onions deliver the most health benefits. Even a small amount of "overpeeling" can result in unwanted loss of flavonoids. For example, a red onion can lose about 20% of its quercetin and almost 75% of its anthocyanins if it is "overpeeled". Onions will soak up arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and tin in contaminated foods. The total polyphenol content of onion is not only higher than its fellow allium vegetables, garlic and leeks, but also higher than tomatoes, carrots, and red bell pepper. Onions have been shown to inhibit the activity of macrophages, specialized white blood cells that play a key role in our body's immune defense system, and one of their defense activities involves the triggering of large-scale inflammatory responses. 
Those pretty green leaves don’t just make your plate look great. Parsley boasts plenty of beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and K to protect your kidneys and bladder. Diuretic herbs such as parsley prevent problems such as kidney stones and bladder infections and keep our body's plumbing running smoothly by causing it to produce more urine. They also relieve bloating during menstruation. The flavonoids in parsley--especially luteolin--have been shown to function as antioxidants that combine with highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules (called oxygen radicals) and help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. In addition, extracts from parsley have been used in animal studies to help increase the antioxidant capacity of the blood. 
This tropical delight contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme that helps cleanse your colon and improve digestion. Excessive inflammation, excessive coagulation of the blood, and certain types of tumor growth may all be reduced by bromelain. Two molecules isolated from an extract of crushed pineapple stems have even shown promise in fighting cancer growth.
Seaweed may be the most underrated vegetable in the Western world. Studies at McGill University in Montreal showed that seaweeds bind to radioactive waste in the body so it can be removed. Radioactive waste can find its way into the body through some medical tests or through food that has been grown where water or soil is contaminated. Seaweed also binds to heavy metals to help eliminate them from the body. In addition, it is a powerhouse of minerals and trace minerals. Seaweed extracts can help you lose weight, mostly body fat.
Sesame seeds' phytosterols have beneficial effects which are so dramatic that they have been extracted from many foods and added to processed foods, such as "butter"-replacement spreads, which are then touted as cholesterol-lowering "foods." But why settle for an imitation "butter" when Mother Nature's nuts and seeds are a naturally rich source of phytosterols--and cardio-protective fiber, minerals and healthy fats as well? Sesame seeds contain minerals important in a number of antiinflammatory and antioxidant enzyme systems. Sesame representsone of the top 10 healthiest seeds on Earth.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, which gives it its yellow color. The rate at which your detox pathways function depends on your genes, your age, lifestyle and a good supply of nutrients involved in the detox process. Curcumin is used a lot in Ayurvedic Medicine to treat liver and digestive disorders. Turmeric has specifically been studied in relation to the positive effect that it has on the liver. As a high antioxidant spice, turmeric protects the body and prevents disease more effectively than drug based treatments and without the side effects.
Give your liver a big boost with cleansing action of watercress. If you’re into making smoothies for your detoxing this is a great one to blend up and drink down. This helps to release enzymes in the liver that clean it out and help rid it of toxic buildup. Eating watercress every day helps prevent breast cancer.
Wheatgrass restores alkalinity to the blood. The juice’s abundance of alkaline minerals helps reduce over-acidity in the blood and thus also Is a powerful detoxifier, and liver protector. It increases red blood-cell count and lowers blood pressure. It also cleanses the organs and gastrointestinal tract of debris. Wheatgrass stimulates the metabolism and the body’s enzyme systems by enriching the blood. It also aids in reducing blood pressure by dilating the blood pathways throughout the body. Pound for pound, wheatgrass is more than twenty times denser in nutrients than other choice vegetables. Nutritionally, wheatgrass is a complete food that contains 98 of the 102 earth elements.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Red Lentil Day

In these dark days between bright holiday feasts, it's good to feed the body wisely and well: light but hearty and nutritious. So here are three versions of a beloved Middle Eastern comfort food: red lentil soup. They are all super easy to make and very tasty. You can serve them with warm whole wheat pita.
To flesh out a meal, serve with a side of arugula and date salad, a recipe posted earlier on this blog, and then bring on crisp apples and a platter of cheeses. You'll be thankful.

It's good to remember that there are hundreds of versions of this sort of soup, so you don't have to stay enslaved to the exact recipe. You can be as creative as all the cooks who came before you and made red lentil soup.

Palestinian Shorabit Adas
This version uses squash, either yellow, chayote, pattypan or zucchini, the original idea being a way to use up the pulp that got scooped out when the popular stuffed squash was made.

Serves 4 -5

1 1/2 cup split red lentils (sometimes called Masoor Dhal)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 med/lg yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, flattened and roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 lg carrots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 med squash (see above), diced
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2-1 tsp chili depending on your taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
pinch ground cayenne or aleppo pepper
1/2 c chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water

In a medium soup pot,  sauté onions in olive oil until soft and golden, maybe 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cumin seed. Sauté another 60 seconds. Add celery, carrots, squash and chili. Stir to blend. Continue to sauté 5 minutes to soften veggies.

Add lentils, all spices, parsley, broth and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, partially cover leaving a little escape hatch for steam, and cook 30 minutes. Stir in salt and ground cayenne or aleppo pepper. Turn off heat and let soup sit 5 minutes.

Puree soup. Check for salt. If it is too thick for your taste, thin with warm water or broth. Serve in bowls. Optional: swirl a tsp of thick yogurt through soup and sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp olive oil

1 lg onion, diced

2 lg garlic cloves, minced

1 fresh red chili, seeded and minced

1/8 tsp ground chili powder

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp ground coriander

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 tsp fenugreek (seeds or ground?)

1 tsp celery seeds

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 ¼ cup split red lentils

5 cups vegetable stock and water

½ tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper

½ tsp salt or more to your taste

for garnish

 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped

 1 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves only, chopped

 juice of ½ fresh lemon (or lemon wedges for each bowl)

In a heavy gauge medium size lidded casserole or other such pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion, garlic, chili, chili powder, cumin seed and ground coriander, stirring to blend. Sauté over medium heat until onion is soft, 3-5 minutes. 

Add carrot and cook another 2 minutes. Add fenugreek, celery seeds and tomato paste, pepper and salt. Stir in the lentils, blending everything.

Pour in the stock and water in any combination you prefer. Bring to a boil.

Immediately cut heat to low, partially cover the pot and simmer 35-40 minutes.

The lentils should now be mushy and the soup thick.

Serve garnished with chopped scallions and parsley and lemon juice or wedges.

If you prefer a smooth soup, puree before garnishing.

 Syrian Red Lentil Soup

This is a very old traditional recipe from the Syrian Jews who inhabited Aleppo from 600 BCE until the pogroms of 1947.

2-½ C red lentils
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp ground coriander seed
½ tsp ground cumin
1-½ tbsp olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
2 quarts of water
Clantro, fresh and coarsely chopped
Red pepper flakes

Rinse and drain lentils thoroughly 2 times.
Place lentils in pot with water and bring to a boil; then simmer for approximately 40 minutes, stirring
occasionally to prevent lentils from sticking to the bottom.

Mash coriander, garlic, and cumin into a paste.

Heat oil in frying pan and lower to medium heat. Fry the paste for approximately 30 seconds on each side being careful not to burn it.
Add fried paste to the lentils.

At the completion of simmering time, you can decide if you want the soup thinner. If so, add additional water.
Garnish with cilantro and pepper flakes.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving Feast

Someone just asked me what I'd serve at a strictly vegetarian Thanksgiving. I'd follow the usual criteria and cover the table with eye dazzling color, stomach filling heartiness, comforting yet glamorous dishes of seasonal ingredients. Plus it has to be memorable.  So, like this:

*   indicates recipe is in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking (Wisdom Publications)
**  indicates recipe has been posted on this blog
*** indicates recipe is in How to Fix a Leek and Other Food from Your Farmers' Market (Eat These Words Press)

First Round
Turkish Pumpkin Pancakes*
or Libyan Pumpkin Dip** and
Corn Tart*
Wild Rice and Pecan Salad*
Nutmeat Paté*

Second Round
Root Vegetable Pot Pie*
or Winter Vegetable Timbale*
Red Kuri Squash with Kale Mushroom Stuffing***
Pumpkin stuffed with Rice, Saffron, Apricots**
Grit Souffle with Piperade*
Potato Tart***
Apples Stuffed with Sweet Potatoes***
Blueberry Apple Chutney***
Cranberry Walnut Preserve***

Third Round
Raw Kale Cranberry Salad*
Assorted local cheeses

It's all vegetarian so enjoy yourself to the hilt!
I usually offer a fruit crisp, Indian pudding, apple tart and chocolate cake.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

An All American Thanksgiving: New World Foods

Thanksgiving is America's take on a traditional harvest festival. That's why the menu feels inflexible: gotta serve turkey and hold your beef. But the menu can be exciting, flexible and all American if you include these authentic all-stars: foods native to the Americas.

Turkey (wild turkeys are native. I suppose you could say the manufactured, insipid Butterball now is also)

Lobster:  Okay, here's a chance to get away from turkey and still stay all American. Have it your way.
Bison/Buffalo: Well, you know that old cowboy lament: O give me a home where the buffalo roam....
so you would not be apostate serving this in lieu of turkey. Or you could just get ground meat, and in honor of all the Chinese who built the crosscountry railway tracks, put it in dumplings

Smoked Trout: makes a great appetizer.
Salt Cod: The United States of America is the end product of the race to conquer the cod market and monopolize salt cod. So it's in our DNA. It's also in many very yummy European recipes, my current favorite being France's brandade: a casserole of salt cod and, ta da, potatoes--a gift from South America. This is such a perfect stomach and heart warming first course, here's the recipe I use:


Serves 8-10 as a first course

1 lb skinless, boneless salt cod
1c milk
1 thyme sprig or 1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
5-6 peppercorns
1/2 tsp ground allspice or 2 allspice berries
2 whole cloves
1 lb boiling potatoes, cut in 1” cubes
6 lg garlic cloves, peeled
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3-1/2 c olive oil
Pinch cayenne or red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp if you like this tangy)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 c crème fraiche plus another 3 tbsp
3 tbsp butter
1/2 c bread crumbs (coarse is preferred but fine works)

Rinse salt cod carefully, rubbing off any noticeable salt. Soak in a large bowl of water at least 8 hours, changing the water every four hours or leaving it overnight.  Drain and rinse again when ready to use.

In a medium/lg saucepan, heat milk with 1 c water. Add salt cod, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, allspice and cloves. As soon as the pot wants to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until the fish falls apart and flakes, about 15-20 minutes. Remove fish from the pot.

While the cod is cooking, put cut potatoes in another pot with a good pinch of salt and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Add the garlic cloves.  As soon as the potatoes are soft enough to mash, remove from heat and drain. Keep both the garlic and cooking liquid; you’ll need them.

Put the garlic in a small saucepan and crush or smash it lightly. Add the olive oil and over medium heat, warm the garlic. Don’t fry, just warm it.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked potatoes and flaked salt cod. Use a potato masher to blend them. Drizzle in the warm garlic and oil and keep mashing toward the look of mashed potatoes. Add the cayenne, nutmeg and lemon zest, thoroughly blending. Stir in 1/2 c crème fraiche and mash to blend.
Now using an immersion blender or hand mixer or your masher, add about 1/2 cup potato cooking liquid to thin the brandade into a soft mash. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste. 

Grease a shallow 1 qt baking dish or pie plate with 1 tbsp butter. Fill the dish with the brandade, leveling it with a spatula. At this point, you can refrigerate the mix overnight if you need to.

Heat oven to 400º. Bring the brandade to room temperature if you refrigerated it. Paint the top with those 3 tbsp crème fraiche and sprinkle on the breadcrumbs. Dot the surface with bits of the remaining 2 tbsp butter. Bake until golden on top and bubbling around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Serve immediately with toast.

Cranberries: add dried ones to wild rice or kale salad or cornbread stuffing or use fresh in a chutney.
Wild blueberries (the little ones): make a chutney (see How to Fix a Leek... book) or pie

Cornmeal: great cornbread or cornbread stuffing, cornmeal pancakes (arepas recipe in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking) maybe topped with avocado and salsa (both come from all American ingredients). or with creme fraiche from Vermont and smoked salmon from the Atlantic or Pacific. And then of course there's Indian Pudding, probably the most perfect dessert for the day: cornmeal and molasses glorified in this photo into the shape of a cake, about to be iced with whipped cream.
Recipe in Veggiyana, The Dharma of Cooking.

Squash: this means pumpkins too of course because all winter squash comes from the Americas. So indulge in squash soup or roasted squash glazed with maple syrup, another American native. Stuff large squashes with spicy chili since peppers and beans are all American too. Make squash or pumpkin pie, or check out the post before this for more exotic dishes.

Potatoes: These were the brainchildren of the Inca in South America. If you don't want them on the main plate mashed, baked, stuffed or roasted, think about a first course of lobster/potato salad with a red bell and smokey poblano pepper, both\ central American natives.

Beans: except for the fava and chickpea, beans come from the Americas. Pinto, kidney and black beans are especially tasty in cornbread stuffing or a chili stuffing for squash. Black bean soup is a great meal opener. I happen to love buttery cranberry beans, sometimes cooked with lots of garlic, tomato (another American native) and sage or rosemary.  And then, of course, there's succotash: lima beans with corn, that can be very tasty when you toss in a smidgen of chorizo or bacon, and a bit of hot pepper. I've got lots of deliciously easy bean recipes in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking if you need one.

Wild Rice: This grain, which has no relation to other rice and is especially nutritious, is native to specific lakes of Northern Minnesota.  It's fabulous as a salad with cranberries, mandarins, kale and pecans (from the South). It's fabulous mixed with white rice and vegetables as turkey stuffing. It's nutty flavor and texture is simply great plain too.

Chocolate: Now we get to the good stuff! Viva Mexico that gave us cacao. Molé your turkey if you don't want chocolate pudding or cake for dessert.
Vanilla: the original came from Mexico too, from the pod of a particular climbing orchid, so feel free to use it anyway you can.