Nourishing Chicken Stock

Makes 8 C

chicken stock

Fall is here.  Yes, even in the desert.  It’s not quite like what I’m used to.  There isn’t a crisp chill in the air, there aren’t any changing colors of leaves and there isn’t that clean, cool smell in the air.  Instead temperatures are leaving the 100s on a regular basis, the beautiful sunset is coming earlier, and mornings are cool and resemble spring. Still the cravings for nourishing soups, everything apples, pumpkin and squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, those are the same.  Fall lives in me apparently.

The basis of all soups and most meals should be a beautiful stock.  Not only will this foundation of flavor elevate your dish, it’s also a great way to get some serious nourishment into your (already nutritious) meals.  There’s a lot of talk about stock, broth, bone broth, what’s the best way to do this or that.  Everyone has their own version and that’s the reason there are so many answers.

The distinction between a stock and a broth is usually salt.  Stocks by their virtue simply provide a base from which all other foods and flavors can spring from and come to life.  You will add salt and other seasonings to your dish, so there doesn’t need to be any in the stock.  Also, as the stock reduces, so does the concentration of salt and this becomes difficult to control.

Broths are seasoned.  You can drink them on their own or use them like you would a stock, but carefully.  There is such a thing as too much flavor in a dish and you don’t want a lot of competition going on, on your tastebuds.  Stocks are meant to be balanced yet neutral. Broths are meant to impart a bolder flavor of their own.

You want the most wholesome ingredients going into this base.  It’s what good cooking is about.  And, good cooking refers both to tasty and healthy.  Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew that instinctively, so they chose whole and fresh vegetables and bones from animals of which they’d already consumed the meat.  (Back then, it wasn’t labeled organic or grass-fed because everything already was those things!  For our times though I would recommend starting your dishes off well and going with as much organic as possible and definitely, grass-fed, pastured, free-range, farm happy animals.)

Bone stocks provide nutrients from the bones of the chicken, beef, fish, whatever you’re using.  There you will find minerals such as calcium (bone-building), phosphorus (regulates intracellular pressure) and magnesium (regulates over 300 enzymatic reactions).  The latter of which is a mineral most of us (in the U.S.) are chronically lacking.  Equally important are the cartilage and gelatin found in bones.  These goodies literally moisturize our joints and skin, aid in repairing of bone and our own cartilage and help our digestion along.  For more in depth info, I found this page at The Jade Institute to be really informative.

Ingredients need not be limited to the ones below.  You could throw in leeks, mushrooms, parsnips, squash, tomatoes, etc.  Stay away from cruciferous vegetables for stocks and also spinach.  They don’t do so well in stock company.  This is a simple stock, so simple you can easily throw it together weekly.  There are many lovely stocks with earthy or sweet flavors, fish or curry flavors, or the roasted flavor of mushrooms.  Yum.  Those recipes to follow…eventually!

Stock up and enjoy!

You’ll need:

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 red onions, quartered
  • 3 carrots, chopped in 2″ pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped in 2″ pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat side of your knife
  • 2 potatoes, quartered
  • 1 sweet potato, quartered
  • 1 bunch of parsley (or stems)
  • 1 2 square inch piece of kombu
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 t fennel seeds
  • 1 chicken carcass
  • 10 C filtered water
  • large container of ice

To make:

  1. In a stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add all the vegetables.  Saute for a few minutes, just so the vegetables are coated and starting to brown.
  2. Add parsley, kombu, spices, and chicken carcass.  Then add water, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and partially cover.
  3. Simmer for 4 hours.
  4. When stock is done, strain the chicken and vegetables out as soon as you can.  Then place the pot in an ice bath (a larger container filled with ice) to cool it quickly.  Divide stock into containers to either refrigerate or freeze.

*If refrigerating, use stock within 5-7 days.  If freezing, stock will last at least 2 months.

Tahini Miso Dip

Makes 1/2 C

IMG_2084

As a mom, I’m always searching for another goody to whip up in the kitchen that just may WOW my toddler.  She’s a good eater most of the time, and I am certainly grateful for that.  Still, it’s good to keep pushing the envelope, expanding gastronomic horizons, and educating the palate.

I’m also doing a 4-week detox at the moment and miso, while solely my addition to this type of detox, plays a big role in my diet.  Having spent 3 years living in Japan, I’ve come to LOVE miso soup in all its variations and for every meal of the day.  Breakfast, too.  But, it’s so nice when it pops up in a place you least expect it.

A.G., a peer in culinary school, first introduced this to me when I was doing all kinds of experiments with my diet.  It’s expanded and grown over the years, but this time I’ve kept it simple, for those still tender and emerging tastebuds that can so easily be put off (seemingly) forever!

Why miso?

The simple answer is that it’s a true super food.  The details are as follows:

  • Miso is a fermented paste of soybeans, rice, barley or other grain and a koji inoculant.
  • Fermented means that is a probiotic.
  • Probiotic = bacteria.  The good bacteria that create a lustrous environment of strong cells to ward off the not-friendly bacteria.  It’s the immune boosting bacteria that also settles your digestive system.  And, it also makes you happy.  Seriously.
  • Miso is a known anti-carcinogen and is also known to reduce the effects of radiation and environmental toxins.  (Next time you’re going for x-rays, eat miso before and afterwards.  Help your body out!)

In this recipe it’s used completely raw, but when you’re cooking with miso, you want to make sure you don’t COOK the miso.  Heating miso kills all of its incredible healing properties.  So, if you’re making soup for example, add a bit of the water/stock to a small bowl and dissolve the miso in it before adding it to the pot.  Make sure the stove is off and just stir it in.  It’ll work it’s magic, in flavor and healing, on its own.

To be honest, my little one doesn’t love this just yet, but I know it’s totally up her alley.  All she has to do is try it!

You’ll need:

  • 1/4 C organic tahini
  • 2 t yellow or red miso (depending on your preferences…I used red miso.)
  • 2 T fresh squeezed lime juice (or lemons)
  • 1/2 t lime zest (or lemon)
  • 2-3 T water (you could need more depending on the consistency you’re looking for)

To make:

Stir all ingredients together except for the water.  Then, add the water in a slow drizzle to achieve the level of consistency you’re happiest with.  If it’s a bit too tart, you can add a little drizzle of honey or maple syrup to even it out.

Enjoy and smile 🙂

Cranberry Hazelnut Guaya Bars

Guaya Gourmet

Makes 16 squares

This is another variation of the original Energy Bars I posted ages ago…well, it seems like ages ago anyway.  It’s adapted from Rebecca Katz whose recipes are just delicious.  As head cook (most of the week anyway) in our home, I’ve taken charge of my hubby’s diet as he trains for the NYC Marathon.  Snacks are often the downfall of any program so it’s important to make those snacks work for you despite what regimen you’re on.  (Pregnant and nursing moms, these are great for you too.)  And, snacks are another opportunity to capitalize on serious nutrition and real energy.  We should never underestimate the power of a snack.  They get us through to the next meal and if done right, your body will be thankful all day long.

Hazelnuts, sometimes referred to as Filberts even though they’re actually different nuts, are native to Turkey.  (Most of…

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Comfort Food – Rice and Beans

Serves 4-6

Click on photo for credit.

Click on photo for credit.

Expat life is not for the faint-hearted.  It is constantly filled with goodbyes, endless packing and unpacking, adjusting and re-adjusting, and some degree of culture shock and its even friendlier cousin, reverse culture shock.  In each transcontinental trek you are faced with those questions and doubts that only expats can relate to. And, in the face of all these challenges, you often find that the reasons you chose to move; to be an expat in a foreign land, to raise your kids in that foreign land, are still the same.  Only a fellow expat can relate.

On the upside, you get really good at navigating airports and knowing which flights are the best to take.  You get so good at packing, and you learn the value of what is truly essential to you and what isn’t.  You find that adjusting gets easier (it’s just a matter of time, right?) and culture shock is amusing.  Those questions and doubts…those still come and go, but you learn to live with them. They’re part of the package, so to speak.

But when it all seems like too much, like when you’re utterly exhausted and still jet lagged and your very aware toddler is beckoning to you because she doesn’t quite understand why she hasn’t seen the sun in 3 days, those are the moments to turn to comfort food.

One of the most important things for me to do to feel at home is to get in the kitchen and start cooking.  That simple but ancestral act keeps me grounded.  The smell of food wafting through my home is a sure sign that we’ve arrived, and soon our bellies will be full and our hearts and minds will be calm.

Comfort food can simply be a piece of good cheese and a hearty piece of bread.  Sometimes it’s something sweet.  Sometimes it’s a bit more complicated, but every bit worth it.  Whatever it is, it’s the same for everyone; it’s usually a favorite childhood meal.

For me that will always be rice and beans.

When I visited Colombia, particularly the Antioquia and Caldas regions, I suddenly felt at home.  I was born and raised in the States and had only visited Colombia once before as a child.  Yet, when I ate the traditional rice and beans, I may as well have been in the kitchen of my childhood home.

It turns out that being a first-generation American is a lot like being an expat.  You find home in more places than one and you find that parts of you belong in places you’d never dream of and some parts just don’t belong where you think they should.  No matter how hard you try.

Food has a way of taking you home.  For me, that’s just what this dish; cargamanto beans and rice, sweet plantains, an over-easy egg, some chicharron (pork belly), and an arepa, does.  Of course, times and places have changed, and I’ve had to make adjustments.  While white rice used to be a comfort food, it no longer is and long grain brown rice in no way takes away from the beauty and comfort of this meal.  Neither does grass-fed pork, mind you!  (No pork here though, grass-fed or otherwise!)  Another ingredient that’s had to go is the Sazón Goya.  Once I found out that the main ingredients were cumin, coriander, garlic and onion powder and yellows #5 and #6 I figured it was time to make my own, minus the chemicals.  So, this may not exactly be the exact, traditional way of preparing this dish, but it comes so close not even my mom can tell the difference.  Except for the rice!

This is what I do and what I love to do.  I love to take those meals, the favorite ones and make them better by making them more whole, more nutritious and yes, more delicious.  You never know when you’re going to need to get a dose of home or for how long so comfort food should be good for you on all levels…as much as possible anyway!

Thankfully, this dish did the trick.  Feeling more at home already!

What are your favorite comfort foods?

For the beans:

You’ll need:

  • 1 C cargamanto beans (cranberry beans), soaked in water overnight
  • 1 1″ piece of kombu
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 C bone broth or water
  • 2-3 T Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 vine tomatoes, diced
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 t ground paprika
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • Several good pinches of Himalayan Pink Salt (my salt of choice, but sea salt is great, too)

To make:

  1. Drain and rinse the beans then add beans to a soup pot with the broth/water, kombu and bay leaves.  Cook on high heat for 10 minutes then reduce heat to medium/low and partially cover.  Make sure to skim any residue that has formed in the first high heat cooking.
  2. Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat and add onions.  Add a pinch of salt and saute until translucent.  Add tomatoes and all spices and cook until it becomes ultra fragrant and is a bit thick, almost like a paste.  (If you need a little help getting to this stage, 1 T of tomato paste does the trick!)
  3. Add onion/tomato mixture to beans and keep cooking on medium/low heat, partially covered until beans are tender.  It usually takes about an hour.

For the rice:

You’ll need:

  • 1 C long grain brown rice, thoroughly washed and soaked overnight in 2 C water and 1 T lemon juice or vinegar
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt (or sea salt)

To make:

  1. Place rice in its soaking water, in a small sauce pan with oil and salt.  Cook over high heat until it reaches a boil.
  2. Once it reaches a boil, lower heat to low and cover.  Cook this way for about 40 minutes.
  3. Whatever you do, DO NOT STIR the rice!  Leave it alone and it will do its job.  You’ll know the rice is done when small holes appear and the water has disappeared.  Once you’ve reached this point, quickly replace the lid and remove from heat.  The rice will finish off nicely sitting in its steam for a bit.

ENJOY!

How to Cook When You Don’t Have Time to Cook

I’ve encountered this question a lot this summer and seeing as I’m still on a vacation, I thought a reblog would be perfect for you and for me! Hope these tips help answer that all too familiar question. May you be inspired with creativity and may the kitchen gods be with you!

Guaya Gourmet

Let’s face it.  The best meals you eat are the ones you cook yourself, or someone cooks for you, if you’re lucky!  Nothing beats home cooking.  You know exactly what you’re eating, how it’s prepared and YOU can control portion size.  Portions have gotten pretty ridiculous and most of us get through our plates because we paid for them.  Then we feel terrible afterwards and we think that this is normal.  It isn’t.  (Neither are “all  you can eat” buffets!)  Additionally, home cooking is usually made with LOVE, an ingredient that elevates most dishes and nourishes body and soul.

When I give workshops on Food and Health or am otherwise chatting about food and cooking, I oftentimes hear from people that they would cook and eat better if they only had the time to.  They tell me how lucky I am that I’m a health-supportive chef, that I must have…

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Grilled Lemony Kale

Makes as much as you make

grilled kale

I’ve been talking about missing kale since I left the States back in January.  Now that we’re back in the Hudson Valley for the summer, I’ve stopped talking and writing about it because I’m far too busy cooking and eating it!  What sweet joy it is to be reunited with kale…Tuscan Kale, Curly Kale, Red Russian Kale…keep it coming!

I had been eager to get Claire to try kale chips since, I have to admit, she isn’t very keen on her dark leafy greens just yet.  (Especially raw greens 😦 ) I wasn’t very eager however, to turn the oven on.  In addition to being reunited with the diverse bounty of the region, we were reunited with humidity.  Kind of makes me wish for the dry, desert heat.

So, when it’s too hot to bake or roast, it’s a perfect time to grill.  Just as I would do for kale chips, I lightly dressed these leaves, still attached to their stems, in olive oil, a bit of lemon juice and salt and pepper. That’s it.  But really, that’s all you need.  This kale is from Blooming Hill Farm, located 20 minutes from where I’m staying.  You could still taste the sweet Earth in every bite and the nourishment is the bonus.

Kale is a super food.  It’s not a trendy super food that will die out to the next trend.  Kale sets the bar for other trends, plain and simple.

Let’s start at the beginning.  Kale is a member of the Brassica family, cousins with Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli.  This is a special family of vegetables, responsible for a whole host of health benefits such as promoting detoxification, protecting against cardiovascular disease, and kicking several cancers’ a**!  Excuse my French, but kale really does perform when it comes to prevention and even treatment of various cancers.  The antioxidants, especially lutein and beta carotene, are responsible for this special power.  Kale also has what are called glucosinolates which are specifically “anti-cancer nutrients”¹.  Throw in the potent anti-inflammatory properties that kale possesses and you’ve got a winning recipe to combat oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, 2 main causes that lead to most diseases, including cancer.

Kale is also a super detox food.  The goodie nutrients help protect you from the toxins floating around whether you’re actually doing a detox or not.  Then there’s the fiber and specific sulfur compounds that actually aid in the detox process.  It would be wise to eat steamed kale or throw it into a smoothie before, during or after your detox/fast.

I would be remiss for not mentioning the abundant stores of Vitamins A and C (also antioxidants) and Vitamin K, calcium and iron. That’s a lot of muscle for a dark leafy green.

Ready for the cherry on top?  Claire loved these kale “chips”!  (Hint, hint to you moms trying to get some dark leafy greens into your kids’ tummies!)

You’ll need:

  • 1-2 bunches of kale (depending on how much you want to end up with)
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 healthy pinch of sea salt or my new staple Himalayan pink salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, optional
  • 1 t lemon zest (from an organic lemon), for garnish

To make:

  1. Turn the grill on and keep setting to low.
  2. Wash and dry the kale leaving the leaves and stems intact. Then drizzle with olive oil and turn to coat the leaves.  You don’t want to use too much oil or the leaves will simply get limp.
  3. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper if using.
  4. Arrange the leaves to line up next to each other on the grill.  After about 2-3 minutes, turn leaves over.  You may need to do this a couple of times until you reach your desired level of crunchy to wilted ratio.
  5. When done (5-6 minutes, really), remove and place in a bowl.  Garnish with lemon zest.
  6. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy all summer long!

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38

Cacao Nut Butter Truffles

Makes 18-20 truffles

chocolate nut butter truffles

These have waited a while to make it to the blog and my apologies for those who have been waiting!  My first excuse is that they’ve hardly lasted long enough for me to get a decent picture. My second excuse is that kombucha had been waiting a while, too. Lastly, we left the desert for the summer and since arriving back in the Hudson Valley we’ve been enjoying family time and the region’s summer bounty.

But, we’re here now and these delicious morsels are getting impatient to make their debut!

This recipe comes in handy in 2 major ways for me. They are a quick and easy yet presentable goody I can whip up for play dates and other gatherings.  More importantly, they’re a great, homemade sweet that I feel good enough about to give to Claire.  I am well aware that I will not be able to control everything that goes into her mouth and little body, especially as she gets older, bolder, and sees what her peers are up to.  For the time being however, I can control bit by bit the sweets and treats she chooses and therefore minimize as much as possible her exposure to unrefined products, dyes and other chemicals and worse yet, GMOs.

So, what is it about these truffles that make me feel so good?  There are 3 short, sweet and simple answers:  Cacao, Coconut, and Nut Butter (here, cashew butter, but almond butter and peanut butter have been equally, deliciously successful).

Cacao – Its history stems from South America and Mexico and their ancient cultures knew then what science is now confirming.  Raw cacao is an incredible source of antioxidants.  It is rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, copper, zinc and manganese and in Vitamins A, C, E, and some B vitamins.  As if that weren’t enough, the theobromine in cacao, a diuretic that aids in expelling toxins, is also a mood enhancer.  That’s why you feel happy after you eat chocolate.  Seratonin gets a boost, you get the happies.  Oh, and in some circles it is considered an anti-aging food and a smart food¹.  I’m personally not going to argue with that.

Coconut –  Shredded coconut is the actual meat of the coconut and it is full of fiber (gut health galore), and minerals such as potassium, iron, manganese, and selenium.  These all serve different functions of the body ranging from bone development, nerve and muscle function and regulating blood pressure.  Coconut’s true claim to fame however, is its medium chain fatty acids (MCT). Fat, as you may now know, is a friend and the saturated fat in coconut is actually GOOD for you and your brain.  It’s good for joint and nerve function and may even reduce triglyceride levels.  We’ve been taught fat is bad, but not all fat is created equal and this fat is one of those good ones.

Cashew Butter – Cashews’ fatty acids (most of which are unsaturated) contain oleic acid, the same found in olive oil, and is good, good, good for cardiovascular health.  Cashews also contain minerals such as copper and magnesium and are also particularly high in antioxidants.  And if you’re looking to lose inches (or centimeters…however you roll) adding nuts and their butters to your diet would be a big help.

Aren’t you impressed with the über health benefits of this little truffle?  That’s only the half of it…wait till you taste it!

Cacao Nut Butter Truffles

*adapted from Food 52 contributor (It’s a great site with great ideas and once I saw this one I had to try it!)

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 C dark chocolate (the darker the better)
  • 1/2 C nut butter (I used Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butter)
  • 1/4 C + 1 T brown rice syrup OR maple syrup OR honey
  • 1 T coconut butter (optional)
  • 2 T cacao powder
  • 1T vanilla extract
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t sea salt (I used Himalayan Rock Salt because it was all I had.)
  • 1 1/2 C unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 C finely chopped nuts (for rolling truffles)

To make:

  1. Combine all ingredients, except shredded coconut, in a sauce pan and heat over low-medium heat, stir to blend well.
  2. When the mixture is melted, remove from heat and mix in 1 C of shredded coconut. Let mixture cool completely.
  3. When mixture is cooled, form tablespoon size balls and place on baking sheet. You should get 18-20 truffles.  Roll the truffles in remaining 1/2 C shredded coconut and/or nuts, if using.  Alternatively, you could fill mini-muffin cups with the cacao/coconut mixture and top with nuts or shredded coconut.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  5. Enjoy!

¹ http://www.enjoydarkchocolate.com/dark-chocolate/what-is-cacao.html