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.

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

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes with Coconut Yogurt

Makes about 10 (1/4c) pancakes

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes

I get excited about food.  Back in the States, the days we got our CSA boxes were happy days.  My husband and I would go through the box, checking out our goods while talking about this meal or that for each beautiful piece of produce we touched.  Here in the UAE, that excitement has doubled…at least doubled!  We don’t get the exotic, heirloom treasures that the Hudson Valley has given us over the years but then again, we do live in the desert.  And I don’t mean that figuratively.  We actually live in a desert.  So, any produce (and so far we’ve gotten arugula (aka rocket), strawberries, peppers, sweet potatoes, chard, beets, carrots, celery, green beans, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, a whole bunch of fresh herbs, organic eggs, organic, low-heat pasteurized milk, to name a few) we get that is local AND organic is amazing!  What really doubles our excitement is that Claire is now very much a part of our conversation and investigation of our beloved farm fresh boxes.

This week she went straight for the blueberries.   Like mother, like daughter.  They were like blue little pearls peeking up at us underneath all that glorious green.  They were irresistible.  While Claire got through one box, I managed to put another away for a special breakfast.  Little did I know how special it would turn out.

Berries in general are super stars (and why you should always go organic when buying some).  When you hear about blueberries especially, and their amazing health promoting properties, the first word to come to mind is likely, antioxidants.  And, rightfully so! Blueberries are not messing around when it comes to its antioxidant power.  What’s special about it is that the antioxidants in blueberries offer whole body support.  Each and every system in our bodies, from the cardiovascular system to the nervous system to the digestive system, benefits from the antioxidants in blueberries.

Another word that should come to mind is, phytonutrients.  While anthocyanins are the most popular, given that the berries get their blue from them, there are a myriad of other phytonutrients that work together to make this berry the super star it is.  Got cholesterol issues to deal with?  Eat blueberries.  Need a cognitive boost (as in memory, especially)?  Eat blueberries.  Got insulin issues to contend with?  Eat blueberries.  Want general protection from cancer?  Eat blueberries.

I’m sure by now you’re getting my drift.

More good news.  If you find yourself having to freeze blueberries, or buying frozen blueberries, you won’t be compromising much of the antioxidants at all!  Buy out your farmer’s blueberries and make a home in your freezer for them.  This way you can enjoy this super berry all year long!

On to the recipe now.  It became this on its own.  I’m not sure what I even had in mind anymore, but this one is a winner.  If you’re a GF eater, opt out the spelt for GF all-purpose flour OR GF oat flour.  My new favorite topping for pancakes is yogurt and I can get some pretty decadent yogurt here!  Next time I may try putting the yogurt into the actual batter to see how that goes, but if you get to it first, please let me know how it goes!

You’ll need:

  • 1 C organic spelt flour*
  • 1/4 C organic coconut flour
  • 1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut (or dessicated coconut for my new UK and AUS friends 🙂 )
  • 2 T coconut (or date) sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3 medium eggs (I used farm fresh eggs which are typically smaller, so 2 large eggs would probably be OK, too)
  • 1 1/4 C organic whole milk
  • 1/2 C coconut oil or melted butter (organic of course!)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 C organic blueberries + more for garnish

To make:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flours, shredded coconut, sugar and baking powder.  Combine well.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, milk, coconut oil (or butter) and vanilla.
  3. Add wet ingredients into dry (make a little well in the dry ingredients to incorporate evenly and prevent too many lumps) and mix just to combine.  Resist the urge to over mix!  The batter will be slightly thicker than you’re used to because of the coconut flour.  Don’t worry.  It’ll even out when cooking.
  4. Add blueberries and stir again, gently.
  5. Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat and melt some butter.  Using a 1/4C measuring cup, pour the batter into the pan and cook for 3-4minutes or until golden brown.  Flip pancake over, gently!  Resist the urge to press on the pancake!  It will cook evenly and quickly without any tampering. 😉
  6. Keep pancakes warm in the oven until ready to serve.
  7. Serve with a dollop of yogurt, a few fresh blueberries and your favorite sweetener such as maple syrup, date syrup or honey.
  8. Enjoy!

Winter Kale and Kamut Salad

winter kale and kamut salad

I miss kale.  It’s only been about a week since I’ve had any, but I am definitely suffering withdrawals.  And, though I do not miss winter at all, I could use a huge helping of this salad.

What makes this salad particularly special is the way the flavors and textures play with each other.  Not to mention the way they deliver a wholly satisfying meal.  Yes, a vegetarian salad can be wholly satisfying for EVERYONE.  I promise.

This goody was a huge hit each and every time I made it in the past 3 months.  And, I made it A LOT!  The original recipe comes from one of my favorite sources of inspiration, Bon Appetit.  Anytime I see anything with kale, I try it.  Kale is versatile and quite easy going, going from sautés to soups, smoothies to salads and every time you eat it, you are racking up credit, giving yourself a huge dose of nutrients.  Consider it delicious, preventive medicine.

I’ve talked about kale once already, but here’s a quick reminder.  There are 3 main “anti-s” to remember about kale; antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic.  Seriously.  This is key about kale because oxidative stress (taken care of by antioxidants) and inflammation gone out of control (why we need anti-inflammatory nutrients) are 2 conditions that lead to serious health problems and diseases such as cancer.  Not to mention that kale can also reduce cholesterol and it is superb at helping the body detox.  Kale is also one of those foods that makes you happy!

This incarnation of the salad (there have been many versions) came about mostly because I needed to use up ingredients in my fridge and pantry.*  The original salad is delicious, but after many adaptations and experimentations, this is my favorite.  The pecans add much needed crunch and kamut is a yummy, nuttier, sturdier alternative to barley.

Let me know what you think!

You’ll need:

1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil (approximately)

2 T apple cider vinegar

2 T champagne vinegar

2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 T coconut sugar (I usually replace brown sugar with coconut sugar.)

1 bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and cut into 1/2-1″ pieces

1 shallot, minced (roughly 1/4 C)

2-3 golden beets, roasted and cut into 1/4″ dice

1 C kamut, soaked, rinsed and cooked off

1 avocado, diced

1/2 C pecans, roughly chopped

1/2 C Bulgarian feta, crumbled or cut into small dice (regular feta is delicious, too but this is what I had left…for a vegan option, omit the cheese and you’re still left with a pretty stellar salad:)

To make:

1. Whisk together 1/4 C olive oil, the vinegars and lemon juice and season with sea salt and pepper.

2. Add kale and shallots and mix thoroughly to make sure the kale is evenly coated.  Cover and chill for at least 3 hours before assembling salad.  This will wilt the kale making it tender for every bite.

3. Once cooled, add the beets and the kamut and mix to coat evenly.  You may need to drizzle some of the remaining oil in.

4. When ready to serve, add the avocado and feta (if using), drizzle with more olive oil and a splash of champagne vinegar to brighten it up.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper.  Stir gently and serve topped with chopped pecans.

5. The other genius of this salad (kale is first) is that it’s sturdy enough to be made 2-3 days in advance.  Just cover and chill and add avocados, feta and nuts when ready to serve.  Thanks, Bon Appetit!

6.  Enjoy!

*Since I was moving, I had to use up everything I could in the kitchen.  It’s incredibly inspiring to cook when you have to constantly substitute and re-invent things with new ingredients.

 

Cacao Rose Chai

Makes 5 C

Cacao Rose Chai

Sometimes nothing is better than a cup of chai.  It’s warm, spicy, sweet, creamy.  The blend of the spices and tea and milk (in this case coconut milk) are like a warm blanket on a cold day.  With a cup of chai, you slow down and breathe.  Literally.  According to Ayurveda, most of the spices used in chai are sattvic, or calming.  Sattva also denotes clarity, understanding and light.  Not bad for a cup of tea.

Chai is like curry.  There are a million and one ways to make it and they will vary quite a bit depending on what region you’re in.  This is exciting for 2 reasons.  First, for purists, there’s nothing like finding a traditional version…and really, it is quite special.  Second, it leaves room for plenty of interpretation and experimentation.  These recipes are made for the rest of us to get creative, to tweak and play with until they resonate with us.

I took the 2nd route and while this chai has many (not all) of the traditional spices, I decided to play with the tea.  Purists, I believe, would choose a black tea like Assam or Ceylon.  I chose Dark Obsession Chocolate Rose.  It sounds too good to be tea, and I assure you it is, but it’s still tea.  I try not to think too much about the decadent contradiction and just enjoy it.  Sometimes the best things just can’t be explained.  This special blend comes from Marie Belle’s in NYC.  If you can, go there.  It’s a treat like no other.  (So are gifts from there=) )

As for the nutritional aspect of chai:

Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices in history with uses in the Middle East, China and the Mediterranean.  Not surprisingly, it enjoys a long list of medicinal properties as well.  Cinnamon is known to improve circulation, counter congestion and treat nausea.  It is also a stimulant and an analgesic.  Cinnamon also aids in the absorption of nutrients, so feel free to use this spice in your savory dishes, too!

Star Anise is popular in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking.  Medicinally, it’s commonly used to aid digestion, as a diuretic and for pain relief.  It also does wonders for coughs.

Clove is a particularly strong spice that is also a digestive aid and treats nausea.  Cloves have pain-relieving and antiseptic attributes.  “Clove is also used to synergistically increase the potency of other herbal blends.”¹

Black Peppercorn was once the most important spice in world trade.  It is commonly used to support circulation, stimulate the flow of energy² and improve metabolism.

Cardamom is special.  Rebecca Wood describes it as tasting like lemon zest and eucalyptus.  She also says that cardamom acts as an antidote to the stress caused by coffee on the adrenal glands, which in my opinion makes chai a great substitution…if that’s what you’re looking for.  In addition to being a digestive aid, easing coughs, congestion and breathlessness and benefiting the lungs, kidneys and heart, cardamom also makes you happy!

Black tea isn’t often considered for its health benefits, especially not next to its more famous relative, green tea.  Still, it has some health properties to boast such as; inhibiting tumor cells, being high in antioxidants and strengthening the immune system.

I encourage you to get creative with your own recipes.  Maybe you like more cloves or perhaps you’ll try a green tea chai?  If you’re feeling a bit under the weather, definitely add some fresh ginger.  Whatever you choose, I assure you that this cup of chai will get you to slow down and smell the roses.

Enjoy, friends!

You’ll need:

6 C water

10-12 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

4-5 black peppercorns

1 star anise

3 whole cloves

2 T Dark Obsession Chocolate Rose

To make:

1. Bring water and all spices to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

2. Covered, let spices steep for 10 minutes.  Then, return to a boil and promptly remove from heat.

3. Add tea and let steep for 5-7 minutes

4. Strain and discard tea and spices.  Let tea cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.  Unless you’re having a cup immediately, then prepare as per instructions below, or to taste!

To serve:

1. While tea is settling, bring 3/4 C of milk (dairy or non-dairy) to a simmer and add to tea.

2. Add 2 T maple syrup or sweetener of choice.  (Optional-you could also add 1t vanilla extract.)

3. Serve in individual cups and ENJOY!

¹http://www.chai-tea.org/benefits.html

²Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

Guinness Stew

Serves 4

guinness stew

Slow cooking does wonders for 2 things:  1. tougher cuts of meat* and 2. slowing YOU down.  December is certainly a merry and jolly month, but hidden in the merriment there can be found the stress of keeping it all together.  You know, the grab-bags, the after-work parties, the planning, the traveling, and, and, and.  We all forget to slow down and breathe until January rolls around and our resolutions are staring us in the face.  I’m convinced there are better ways to end the year…and to start another one.

Tough cuts of meat are also easily forgotten, if not completely ignored.  It takes too much time to turn them into the tender, tasty bites that is their inherent potential.  We’ve also gotten spoiled with more tender cuts.  Filet mignon, anyone?  Rib-eyes, NY Strip Steak…nope, I won’t say no to those, but to ignore eye-rounds, chuck roasts, short ribs, to name a few, would be a BIG mistake.  Good things take time and even in this day and age when everything goes so much faster than even yesterday, it still holds true.  Once in a while you’ve got to stop to smell the roses, or in our case, to stew a classic Guinness stew.

Braising is a combination of cooking techniques.  First, the meat (veggies can also be braised:) is seared on all sides.  It’s then cooked in liquid, about 1/2 way up the meat, usually covered, either stovetop or finished in the oven.  It’s an old school way of cooking and anytime my husband cooks a stew (or other braise) he always talks of a connection he feels to a long line of cooks before him, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, all partaking in this careful but loving way to prepare a meal for your family.  It’s wonderful to feel connected and it’s wonderful to get that feeling from cooking, from preparing a meal and then sharing and eating it together.  It’s nourishing on every level.

By the way, the only thing classic about this Guinness Stew is that it’s become a classic in our home.  With these chilly days that have found us, I hope that you find this dish as warming and satisfying as we do.

*Most of you know this already, but just in case:  Whenever I cook or eat animal protein, I do so because it’s sourced from local farms that treat their animals with respect and kindness.  Cows graze on grasses and roam the fields, chickens hang out by the cows eating all kinds of things we’d rather not think about.  Still, it’s their native diet and what’s better for them is better for us.  No antibiotics or growth hormones, no chemicals or funky diets made out of whatever is cheapest and most readily available.  Happy, healthy animals that come from farms where the farmers love what they do…that’s where I get my meat from.  

You’ll need:

1 lb. eye round, cut in 1″ cubes, all fat trimmed and seasoned in sea salt and pepper (don’t be shy with the salt and pepper)

1 T organic canola oil

1 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 (largish) yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 celery stalks, diced

6 sprigs fresh thyme

1 T spelt flour

1 T tomato paste (optional)

1 can Guinness

1 C vegetable stock (+ more depending on how things go!)

3-4 red potatoes, 1/2″ dice

2 carrots, 1/4″ rondelles (fancy way to say sliced ;))

1/2 C frozen peas

1 T red wine vinegar

2 T fresh parsley, finely chopped

Sea salt, to taste

To make:

(Preheat oven to 325°)

1. Heat canola oil in a heavy bottom sauce pan (Le Creuset dutch oven is amazing for this) over high heat and sear meat on all sides till nice and brown.  You may need to do this in batches and it will take 7-10 minutes per batch.  Resist the urge to move the meat around TOO much or too soon.  You’ll know when it’s time to roll them over!

2. Reserve the meat and juices in a bowl and set aside.

3. Add olive oil to pan over medium heat and then add onions, garlic, celery and thyme and a pinch of sea salt.  Cook for 4 minutes, stirring often.

4. Add tomato paste (if using) and flour and cook for 2-3 more minutes until it becomes like a fragrant paste.  Then add Guinness and stir.  Add 1 C of vegetable stock and let it come to a simmer.

5. Add meat and juices (can’t let all that flavor go to waste) and bay leaves and let it come to a simmer again.  Cover and place in the oven for 1 hour.  (You can either clean up a bit here or go and relax…you deserve it…and you’ll be back!)

6. After an hour has passed, add the potatoes and carrots and cook for another hour to hour and a half.  Check that the liquid is about 1/2 way up the meat and vegetables.  At this point it should start looking stew-y.

7. Place sauce pan/dutch oven on the stove and remove the bay leaves.  Add the frozen peas and red wine vinegar, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

8. Top with fresh parsley when ready to serve.

9. Enjoy with sourdough bread, over noodles or rice or just on its own!

Healing Potage with Parsley and Basil

Serves 4 as a meal or 6 as appetizer=)

Parsley-Basil Drizzle and Coconut Milk drizzled on potage.

As the title suggests, this potage is trés healing and last week, it was just what I needed to help me kick a cold that caught me by surprise.  With all the festivities; the cooking and eating, the drinking, snacking, socializing, the shopping, decorating and wrapping, we forget that it’s a common time to come down with colds and other unwanted ills.  There’s a lot going on and our bodies and our minds get run down eventually needing a break from all the fun.

When I’m feeling under the weather, the first thing I think of is soup to help get me on the path to better health.  Soup is love in a bowl, so it’s a good place to start.

I first encountered this (adapted) recipe in a Vegetarian Times issue some years ago.  Apparently, potage, a thick, creamy soup traditionally consisting of leeks, carrots and potato, is often served at meals in French hospitals.  That’s a far cry from what we see in most hospitals here.  It’s a very simple soup and quite unassuming considering its power in the healing department.  But, it’s often in simplicity that we find the greatest gifts.  There are several gifts that make this soup so healing.

In a nutshell:

Leek– Excellent source of carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which provide the body with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant protection.  Leeks also support movement, meaning if you are feeling stuck, physically, emotionally or mentally, you’d be wise to add these to your diet.  “They subtly tonify and support energy movement.”¹ I love Traditional Chinese Medicine interpretations of food.

Garlic– A member of the allium family that is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral.  Need I say more?  Ok, ok, one more thing-it helps eliminate toxins from the body.

Carrot– Beta-carotene is the most researched carotenoid and for good reason.  It’s an antioxidant that kicks a**!  It’s also anti-carcinogenic, anti-aging, and enhances immunity.  Yes, you should be eating more carrots.

Potato– Eaten in moderation, potatoes reduce inflammation and neutralize body acids.  They also boast a good amount of Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins.

Thyme– Thyme enjoys a long history of being used naturally in medicine to treat problems with cough, congestion, bronchitis, etc.²  The volatile oils of thyme contain enough anti-oxidants and anti-microbial properties to round out an already super-hero potage!

I thought I’d sneak this recipe in just before the fun December recipes appear, just in case.  And, you might want to re-visit Trick for Treat, too.  It’s never too late to build some credit for your body!  In case you found yourself in the red however, keep coming back to this soup.  It will always clear the way for you to start feeling better, fast!

*Note – I borrowed Rebecca Katz’s, Parsley Basil Drizzle to jazz it up a bit and boy did it ever!

You’ll need:

2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 large leek, white and pale green parts, sliced (about 3 heaping cups)

1/4 C dry white wine

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small fennel bulb, diced

5 medium-large carrots, sliced

1-2 small yukon potatoes, diced

5 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 small bay leaves

6-7 C water or vegetable stock (or water with a vegetable bouillon would do fine, too)

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

To make:

1.  Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the leek and a healthy pinch of salt and cook for about 8 minutes until the leeks are tender.  When tender, add the garlic and fennel and cook for 3-4 more minutes before adding the wine.  Cook everything together until most of the wine has evaporated.

2.  Add the carrots, potato, thyme and bay leaves and about 1/2 C of the water/stock.  Cook together until it’s mostly evaporated.  Add the rest of the water/stock and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, partially covered, or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy.

3.  Turn off the heat, cover completely and let sit for about 10-15 minutes.  Something magical happens in this time of waiting.

4.  Using a 1C ladle, ladle the soup into a blender keeping liquid and veggies about equal.  Blend until smooth (being sure to hold down the lid with a hand towel).  Pour creamy soup into another sauce pan.  Repeat the process until done.

5.  Bring the creamy potage to a simmer over low heat, if necessary.  Stir in the lemon juice and adjust for salt and pepper.

6.  Serve just as is or with Parsley-Basil Drizzle (see below)

7.  Enjoy and feel better!

Parsley-Basil Drizzle (as deliciously written per Rebecca Katz)

1/4 C tightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 C tightly packed fresh flat-leat parsley leaves

2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 T water

1/4 t sea salt

1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a blender or food processor and process until finely chopped.  Slowly pour in the olive oil (with motor running, if possible) and process until smooth.  Adjust for salt or olive oil or lemon.  Drizzle over soup and Enjoy!

¹Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=77

Pumpkin Oat Waffles

Makes 12 waffles

One of the pluses of all this crazy weather is that there’s plenty of time to use up all that fresh pumpkin puree sitting in my fridge AND freezer!  I’ve had my fill of pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies.  It’s pretty amazing all the places pumpkin sneaks its way into!  I needed a more creative way to use my pumpkin puree and waffles for breakfast was the answer.

One of the things about pumpkin in everything is pumpkin spice.  There are many variations but most have varying amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves.  I took a slightly different route and added ground cardamom and freshly grated nutmeg.  For me it made a world of difference and really woke my tastebuds up!  The other thing that made a difference is FRESH pumpkin puree.  It’s a bit of work, but if done ahead, you’ll have a ton of it for all your recipes, for a while.  And, as always, the hard work is worth it.

The yellow/orange color of pumpkin screams of carotenoids.  Carotenoids are a group of organic pigments found in plants and are responsible for the yellow, orange and red color of vegetables and fruit.  The most popular of the carotenoids are beta-carotene (alpha and gamma, too), lycopene and lutein.  How are they good for us?  Well, carotenoids are powerful anti-oxidants, protecting our cells from free radical damage.  They have anti-cancer properties and play a significant role in inter-cellular communication.  “Researchers now believe that poor communication between cells may be one of the causes of the overgrowth of cells, a condition which eventually leads to cancer. By promoting proper communication between cells, carotenoids may play a role in cancer prevention.”¹  Carotenoids also enhance immune function as well as reproductive processes.  All good reasons to incorporate these colored vegetables into your diet!  (Start with these waffles!)

I also made these waffles for Claire.  I opted for coconut milk and a blend of gluten-free flours (1/2 C oat flour, 3/4 C all-purpose gluten-free flour and 1/4 C coconut flour).  I diced a waffle and topped with fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg and a drizzle of coconut oil.  She LOVES this breakfast.  She’ll eat both the GF/dairy-free version as well as this recipe below with the same enthusiasm.  Yay!

You’ll need:

1 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 C rolled oats

2 T coconut sugar

2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 t ground cardamom

a pinch of sea salt

1 C milk (or buttermilk if you have it!) – Any nut milk will also work well here.

3 large eggs, at room temperature*

1 C fresh pumpkin puree

2 T coconut oil

1 t vanilla

To make:

1.  Preheat oven to 180° (to keep waffles warm) and prepare your waffle iron.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and soda, spices and salt.  Whisk to blend well.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, pumpkin puree, coconut oil and vanilla.

4.  Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir gently until you reach a smooth batter.

5.  Lightly grease your waffle iron with some coconut oil (or butter if you’re going in that other yummy direction) and add about 1/4- 1/3 cup of batter and spread it to the corners.  Close the lid and let waffles cook until they’re golden brown, until the light on your waffle iron goes off, or roughly about 3-4 minutes!  (It’s best to follow the directions for your specific waffle iron.)

6.  Put waffles in the oven to keep warm while you repeat the process.

7.  Top the waffles with spiced fruit, maple syrup, whipped cream (or whipped coconut cream) or have some over easy eggs with them.

8.  Enjoy!!

*If you have the time and are so inclined, separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the other wet ingredients.  Beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer (or whisk if you’re brave!) until soft peaks form.  After you mix the egg yolk/pumpkin mixture with the flour mixture and get the smooth batter, fold in the egg whites.  You’ll get a fluffier waffle!

Claire’s Breakfast

¹ http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=116

Creamy Parsnip Soup and Homemade Croutons

Serves 6

Parsnips are one of those intimidating root vegetables.  They’re not exactly in the same category as celery root or kohlrabi, for example, but they do carry a hint of intimidation in them. They look like carrots, in fact, they’re cousins. Parsnips are much sweeter, however and even nutty in flavor. And they often sit in heaps at farmers’ markets, waiting to be picked up, cooked up, eaten!

In lieu of getting our CSA delivered, the past several weeks, my husband, Claire and I have made the 1 hour trip to Blooming Hill Farm. They have a heavenly farm stand.  Let me reiterate: HEAVENLY!  It’s a beautiful farm with beautiful and abundant produce.  They also have eggs, non-homogenized milk, cheese, freshly baked breads, the list goes on.  On top of that, they have a little cafe area where a chef prepares simple fare (frittatas, pizza) with the bounty from the farm.  It was on one of these trips that I picked up everything that went into this soup.  I can’t deny that I get a sense of utter joy knowing that my entire dinner (or breakfast or lunch) came from an organic farm 1 hour away from where I live.  We’re very lucky.

So, while parsnips are busy intimidating some cooks, they’re also intimidating to inflammation and cancer thanks to the anti-oxidants they have.  They are good sources of Vitamin C (another more famous anti-oxidant and water soluble vitamin), rich sources of the B-complex vitamins, especially folic acid (pregnant mamas, take note!) as well as a number of minerals.  According to Rebecca Katz, “ounce for ounce, boiled parsnips have about 31% as much calcium as milk”.¹ (Great for vegans and vegetarians and any lactose-intolerant peeps to know.  There are MANY non-animal sources of calcium!)  Lastly, parsnips are another wonderful source of dietary fiber which is necessary for a healthy gut and colon.

A quick note before we get to the recipe.  Parsnips are quite bold in flavor and can easily take over any dish.  I used fingerling potatoes and the herbs as a way to balance the parsnips out.  I think you’ll love it!

You’ll need:

2-3 T extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 1/2 lbs. parsnips, roughly chopped (I had 3 large ones that came to about that.)

3-4 medium fingerling potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 C)

a Bouquet Garni of 3 sprigs parsley, 3-4 sage leaves and 1 bay leaf, tied between 2, 3″ pcs of celery

8 C water or vegetable stock (I used water and a low-sodium vegetarian bouillon this time.)

1/4 C rolled oats

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 T lemon zest, for garnish (optional)

For the croutons:

6 small slices of your favorite bread, large dice

2 T extra virgin olive oil

Dried herb of choice (basil or oregano or thyme are delish:)

Sea salt, to taste

To make:

1.  In a medium or large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for 5 minutes before adding celery and carrots.  Season with sea salt.

2. When mire poix (remember that’s the onion, celery and carrots in a 50/25/25 ratio) is tender, add parsnips and potatoes and season again with a little salt.  Deglaze with a 1/4 C of the water or stock and continue cooking for a few more minutes.

3.  When all those veg are sufficiently mixed together, add the water/stock and the bouquet garni.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to medium-low, add rolled oats and partially cover.

4.  Cook for about 30 minutes or until the parsnips and potatoes are very tender.  Remove the bouquet garni and take saucepan off the heat to settle for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, set up your blender and have a kitchen towel handy.

(While the soup is cooking, you can get the croutons going.  Place the croutons on a sheet pan, drizzle olive oil evenly on bread, then add herbs and salt.  Toss to coat evenly.  Place sheet pan in the oven at 325° for 10-15 minutes, checking often to make sure croutons don’t burn.  Toss when necessary.  Alternatively, you could toast them stovetop but placing the croutons in a sauté pan and cooking over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes.)

5.  One ladleful at a time, carefully place hot soup in an even amount of veg and liquid into the blender.  Blend on high until ultra creamy.  Repeat this process until the soup is done.  Be sure to use the hand towel to hold the lid of the blender because the steam will lift the lid.

6.  Return the soup to the saucepan and place over low heat.  Add the lemon juice and let warm for a couple of minutes.  Do a last minute check on flavor and add salt and/or pepper as needed.

7.  Ladle soup into individual bowls and top with fresh, warm, crunchy croutons!

8.  Enjoy!

¹ Rebecca Katz, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

Pasta, Kale and Squash

Serves 4

 

Once upon a time, I would get home from work and begin the process of making homemade pasta.  It’s a simple process involving only eggs, flour and maybe a touch of water or even olive oil.  Homemade pasta is always worth it…if you have the time to invest in the wonderful tradition.  Ah, time!  Time is a luxury that comes in spurts these days.  Claire Berlin is on the verge of walking which means a whole lot is going on in our home and time in the kitchen is more limited than usual.  Instead of seeing it as an obstacle, I see it as an opportunity to think quick and cook quicker!  Delicious meals, nutritious meals need not take hours of preparation and deliberation.  Some do and that’s fine, (I look forward to those, too), but when you don’t have it, you can still eat well and feel good.

This dish was inspired by my love of homemade ravioli and around this time of year, that ravioli is usually filled with some sort of squash.  This is something like a deconstructed version.  There’s something special about the flavor of squash, the right amount of parmigiano and the sweet but bold flavor of good pasta.  I’d been reluctant to post a pasta dish because of the now ubiquitous demand for gluten-free products.  The rise of celiac disease and gluten intolerance has brought to light the many delicious alternatives to wheat based products.  And I make an effort to balance my gluten consumption with all those delicious alternatives.  Still, it’s pretty tough to beat a yummy bowl of semolina pasta!  And it doesn’t have to be all bad, either!

Durum semolina wheat is prized for its high protein and high gluten.  This helps keep the dough elastic yet maintaining its shape.  Semolina wheat is also high in beta-carotene which is an important anti-oxidant.  Whole durum will give you many of the benefits of whole grains such as fiber, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.  However, because it is ground into a flour, you lose the “intactness” of the whole grain, i.e. the germ, bran and endosperm, though they are still present because the flour isn’t further refined (as is the case with white flour).

So, having some pasta isn’t a bad thing, especially if it’s organic and as whole as possible…or as unrefined as possible.  It’s also ideal to have it once in a while as opposed to everyday.  (I know many people who get stuck on this pasta-cycle.)

Incidentally, my new favorite store-bought pasta is Montebello, an artisan and organic pasta.

Buon Appetito!

You’ll need:

4T extra-virgin olive oil,

4-5 fresh large sage leaves, whole

1 1/2 C butternut squash, diced (roughly)

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1/2 red chili pepper, thinly sliced* (Use of seeds is entirely up to you…I chose to forgo the little buggers for this recipe.)

1 bunch Lacinato Kale, stemmed and sliced

1/2 lb organic, semolina durum wheat pasta

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

To make:

1.  Place 2 T of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add sage leaves and squash and cook until just tender, about 12-15 minutes.  Set aside.

2. In the same pan, add remaining olive oil, garlic, and chili and saute for 2-3 minutes before adding kale.  Saute until kale is just wilted and a beautiful, vibrant green color.

3.  In the meantime, get the pasta cooking according to the instructions on the box.  You’re aiming for al dente pasta, cooked but firm.  (Overcooked pasta is not pleasant at all!)  Drain and drizzle with another T of olive oil.

4.  When everything is done, toss together in a bowl and serve immediately, topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

5.  Enjoy!

*The chili is divine in this dish.  The heat plays so well with the sweetness of the butternut squash.  I know a few former classmates who will love my new found love for chili peppers!