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

Honey Flax Banana Bread

Honey Flax Banana Bread

This was our first baking endeavour in our new kitchen with our new oven.  Besides the fact that I had missed baking, I needed to bake something to bring to our first ever dinner party in UAE…and as a family.  If you’ve never been to a dinner party with 6 kids before, you should try it.  It’s actually quite a lot of fun.  There were also chickens, cats and yes parents, too but that’s all for another post.  (Can you guess where I’ll be getting my free-range, organic eggs from?)

So, I HAD to bake something and since I’ve been working on versions of this banana bread for years now, it has become my default recipe to gift.  The only hiccup was that I could not find vanilla extract anywhere in this country.  When I commented on this seemingly odd fact, my husband reminded me that it’s because of the alcohol content.  So, no vanilla extract but loads of “vanilla flavor”…nein danke.  (If you think you’ll be seeing a recipe for homemade vanilla extract soon, you know me all too well:)

Regardless, the banana bread emerged smelling promising.  I increased the cinnamon to compensate a bit for flavor and did the same with the honey instead of using maple syrup or agave.  The result was, well let’s just say there was a lot of silence and not a crumb to be found.  This is music to any cook’s ears!

Honey is an incredible sweetener.  And, it has an incredible story.  Bees feast on flowers and carry the nectar from their feast in their mouths to the hive.  The nectar mixes with the bees’ saliva, which has special enzymes to turn it into honey.  The flutter of the busy bees’ wings provides enough air to keep the honey from collecting too much moisture, making it just perfect for us to consume!  Read more about it here.

The enzymes are why raw honey is superior to other pasteurized and processed honeys.  Honey in its raw state is chock full of anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.  It also has anti-inflammatory properties which should be ringing all kinds of bells as far as health is concerned!  (Remember, inflammation is often the root cause of MANY, MANY oft preventable illnesses.)  And, in case you were wondering, yes, there are anti-oxidants in there, too.  In ancient Egypt, honey was used to dress wounds and more recently, Manuka Honey especially is still being used as an effective treatment for burns.  Honey has a low Glycemic Index which means that the sugars enter the bloodstream slowly and steadily allowing the body time to deal with processing it.  This makes it a much healthier sweetener and one suitable for diabetics…in moderation!

It’s also a great sweetener for kids.  (Just be aware that it is advised that honey not be given to babies under one year of age.)  It’s sweet without that artificial-tasting sweet.  Trust me, it makes a difference!

You’ll need:

1 C spelt flour

1/2 C oat flour

1/4 Ground Flax Seeds

1 T cinnamon

2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/2 t sea salt

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 C raw honey (if you have it:)

2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 C unrefined extra-virgin coconut oil or melted unsalted butter (organic &/or pastured if you have it:)

1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)

To make:

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a 8.5″X4.5″ bread loaf pan with parchment paper. (I made 3 smaller ones, but this recipe will make one nice sized loaf.)

2. Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly.

3. In a medium bowl, mash bananas well, add honey and stir to combine.  Let sit for a few minutes before adding the eggs and oil (butter).  Then combine all well.

4. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add wet mixture.  Stir to combine but don’t over mix.

5. Add mixture to loaf pan and top with walnuts.

6. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes or until top and edges are golden brown.  It’s a good idea to turn the bread around midway through baking time for a more evenly baked and moist loaf.

7. Enjoy!

Black Bean and Quinoa…Burger?

For picky, I mean, moody eaters, especially!

Makes 4 adult burgers and 3 baby burgers:)  (or 6 adult burgers)

blackbean and quinoa burger

It finally happened.  What parents everywhere told me would happen. My baby girl who ate EVERYTHING suddenly only wanted bread. Oh, what a slippery slope that bread, pasta, pita, naan route is.  It happened a few days before we left the USA and it got worse when we arrived.  My daughter’s addiction also involved copious amounts of olives (all kinds), feta once in a while, and raisins.  Still, getting her to eat variety (bye, bye balanced meals) was impossible.  And like any new mom, I enabled her.

Worried sick that she isn’t eating well, or enough, (what’s that about percentiles?) results in me enabling her “pickiness”.  Please, just eat something, anything!  As if all calories are equal.  I’m a health-supportive chef, I know this!  But, I’m also a new mom and reason isn’t always the first thing that comes to the rescue when worry sets in.

Yet, logic did follow.  She wouldn’t starve.  She kept eating those (usually refined) foods because I had made them available to her.  And she knew that!  And so the experimenting began…again.

First- eliminate those bread-y foods she’s addicted to.  She’ll get hungry and she’ll eat, (eventually), what IS available.

Second- go back to basics.  For us this meant going back to foods she used to love and again, because she’s older now, tweaking seasoning, textures, cuts, and believe it or not, presentation.

Third- be persistent and consistent.  If she doesn’t want to eat something, try again another time, try another form (in soup, as finger food, puree???), but keep trying.

I’ve been surprised with the outcome.  Claire IS an adventurous eater and she will try most things.  She eats well on most days.  On others she can’t be bothered as much.  It’s led me to wonder about these terms we’re so quick to label our kids with; picky, fussy eaters.  I’m reluctant to call Claire picky yet.  I think she’s still working on developing her tastebuds and like all people, sometimes she’s in the mood for (fill in the blank) and sometimes she isn’t.  Can’t blame her for that!  But I know that if I want her to develop healthy eating habits and become an adult who eats vegetables as well as a varied diet, then I have to give her those foods now.  If I want her to grow up loving and enjoying food, from sourcing it to cooking to eating, then we have to do those things now, together, as a family.

The experiment continues!

Now, let’s get to this burger.  It has quickly become a household favorite.  As an ex-vegetarian, I find I’m always trying to find the next amazing veggie burger because so many fall flat.  (Boca Burgers are gravely insulting to vegetarians!)  They also work great for Claire because she can pick up each delicious, nutrient dense bite with her little fingers.  I opted for quinoa, in an effort to avoid using wheat products (flour, breadcrumbs) where I don’t really have to, because she’ll inevitably end up eating it elsewhere, so minimizing her exposure (and increasing diversity) is in our best interest.  If black beans and quinoa have not made a home in your pantry yet, what are you waiting for?

Happy cooking!  Happy Eating!

You’ll need:

1 C dried black beans, soaked

1 1″ piece of kombu

1 bay leaf

1 t ground cumin

1/2 t ground coriander

1/2 C cooked quinoa

1/2 C walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 C finely shredded carrots (1 medium sized carrot should suffice)

1 small red onion, chopped

1/4 C parsley, finely chopped

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

To make:

1.  Cook off the beans.  Drain and rinse and add beans to a soup pot with enough water to cover.  Add kombu and bay leaf and let boil on high heat for 10 minutes.  Skim the foam off as often as needed.  After 10 minutes, reduce heat to medium, add cumin, coriander and a nice, solid pinch of sea salt.  Partially cover and cook for 50 minutes or until beans are very tender.  When done, drain (reserve some liquid, just in case) and mash with a potato masher.

2.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the beans and mix well.  (Optional:  You could refrigerate the mixture at this point to let is set and get firm before making patties, but it’s not necessary.)  Form 6 even patties.

3.  Heat 1/2T of oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Cook burger about 5 minutes on first side or until golden brown, then flip burger and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

4.  Serve on a roll or pita (when in Rome, right!) and top with your favorite burger toppings.  I also like to serve it over an arugula salad with avocado.  YUM!

5.  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.

 

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

Autumn’s Chili

Serves 6

The chilly breeze of autumn has brought with it many cravings for fall’s foods.  The oven’s been on baking and roasting a few times already and soups and stews have already made appearances at the dinner table.  This particular dish is a favorite.  And, it’s not just because it’s delicious and wholly satisfying (it’s both to the nth degree), but because it is unassuming, too.  It seems time consuming, but it isn’t.  It seems spicy, but that part is up to you.  It seems hearty and meaty; it is and it isn’t.  This is one dish that even my most ardent carnivore friends would forgive for not having ANY animal protein in it, as they ask for seconds.  They’ve even confessed that meat would “ruin” THIS chili.  I’m not going to argue with that. We like this one just the way it is.

It should be noted that I have no problem with meat.  Check out my Grass-fed Burger recipe if you don’t believe me.  I just don’t think that meat needs to be part of EVERY meal and we have so many options when it comes to animal protein that it’s nice to have an alternative if you choose to forgo meat once in a while.  I’m not espousing vegetarianism, I am afterall a recovering vegetarian, but there are several health merits to reducing your meat consumption while increasing vegetables, whole grains, beans, etc.  Enter, Chili!

What’s most special about this particular version is the use of real red chili peppers.  (When I’m in a pinch, I often add a pinch of cayenne or use red pepper flakes.)  Despite the fact that peppers are a notorious nightshade, (see Late Summer Ratatouille for more on that), this little pepper has several health benefits, too.  Peppers are famous for their capsaicin, that wonderful little quality that gives peppers its pungence and heat.   It’s also responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects it has on the body.  “Red chili peppers, such as cayenne, have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body’s ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots.”¹  Those are few good pluses for our cardiovascular system!  Peppers are also loaded with beta carotene which helps boost immunity.  Remember that goody, “eat the rainbow”, well red is a good place to start!  Eating these spicy gems will clear your congestion and benefit your gut by killing bacteria that may be hanging around.

Remember that peppers and tomatoes are nightshades and should be balanced with a bit of dairy (not to mention it’s a bit cooling and is a nice contrast to the heat) so be sure to add that dollop of sour cream or some shredded cheddar.  Your taste buds won’t argue with either!

You’ll need:

3/4 C kidney beans, soaked overnight then drained and rinsed

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced (Use of seeds is entirely at your discretion, but be cautious because the heat sneaks up on you!)

1 largish carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 t paprika

2 T tomato paste

3 large heirloom tomatoes, diced

1 bay leaf

1 C butternut squash, medium dice (You’ll have plenty leftover!)

8 C water or vegetable stock

2-3 T fresh herb of choice, rough chop (Cilantro is my default herb here, but parsley, sage or basil all work wonderfully here, too!)

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Creme fraiche or sour cream for garnish

To make:

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook onions for about 5 minutes until softened and then add garlic.  Cook for 3 more minutes.

2. Add chili pepper, carrots, celery and paprika and cook for another 3-4 minutes and then add tomato paste.  The tomato paste will serve to deglaze the goodies that have been cooking.

3. Add tomatoes, stir and cook for another few minutes.  Finally, add kidney beans, bay leaf and water or stock.  Cook the chili over medium heat for about 45 minutes.  Half way through the cooking, add the butternut squash.

4. The chili is done when the beans are soft.  Add the herb of your choice and adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.  (I didn’t have either so I topped with an avocado creme and shredded cheddar.  Yum, yum!)

5. Enjoy!  With a thick piece of sour dough bread or a baguette and you’ll enjoy 2 times as much!

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=29

Amaranth and Apple Pudding

Makes 1.5 C

These cool mornings have quickly brought with them the craving for creamy oatmeal for breakfast.  While preparing some for my husband and I, I also had some amaranth cooking for Claire.  (Quinoa was her first ‘grain’ and this would be her second.)  Experimenting in the kitchen is always fun.  Experimenting with recipes for Claire doubles that fun!

Amaranth is still somewhat of an obscure grain though it enjoys a very rich history.  While quinoa was the sacred, power food of the Incas, amaranth was the sacred, power food of the Aztecs.  (Not surprising, quinoa and amaranth are distant cousins.)  When the Spaniards arrived, they forbade the cultivation of amaranth, mostly because it was often used in sacred, religious ceremonies.  This was inconvenient for the spread of Christianity.  (Food permeates every aspect of life!)  Still, amaranth was resilient and its spread around the globe proved inevitable as its name indicates.  Amaranth comes from the Greek amarantos, “one that does not wither,” or “the never-fading.”¹  (You’ll think about this “never-fading” again, when you’re cleaning up after your baby dines on this goody!)

Rebecca Wood writes that, “the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has encouraged the use of amaranth since 1967 because wherever amaranth is consumed there is little or no malnutrition”.²  That’s a bold statement for the health properties of this poppy seed-like “grain”.  Like quinoa, it is a protein power-house, at about 14%.  It also contains more protein and calcium than milk.  Go ahead and read that sentence again.  This is one reason why amaranth is such a perfect food for pregnant and nursing moms and for children.  It’s also what makes it ideal for babies since babies are well equipped to digest proteins.  Amaranth contains lunasin, a peptide thought to have cancer-preventing benefits and preventing inflammation that accompanies chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.¹  It’s also naturally gluten-free, which is really just a bonus.

Amaranth can be added to thicken soups, it can be popped and spiced up as a snack or it can be added to baked goods.  It’s tiny, it’s versatile, it’s nutritious and yes, it’s delicious in all its wild nuttiness!  Your body will do cartwheels in gratitude for adding this to your diet.

Needless to say, we traded in our steel-cut oats and that morning, we all ate this amaranth and apple pudding for breakfast.

You’ll need:

1/2 C amaranth, soaked in 1 C water and 1 T lemon juice

1/2 C coconut milk

1/4 t sea salt

1 t vanilla extract

3 T raisins

1 T unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil

1/4 C stewed apple, diced (bananas work lovely wonders here, too)

sprinkle of ground cinnamon

sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg

To make:

1. Place amaranth with its soaking water, coconut milk and salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer.

2. Add vanilla extract and raisins and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid has gotten thick and creamy.

3. Remove from heat and stir in coconut oil.

4. Serve by scooping some of the pudding into a bowl and topping with apples, cinnamon and nutmeg.

5. Enjoy!  (And if you’re feeding this to a little one, don’t be put off by the mess.  Just be prepared to find amaranth EVERYWHERE – remember it’s “never-fading” – and know that it’s well worth it!)

¹http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0

² Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

Summer Squash Fritters

Makes A LOT (I think I got 3 dozen out of this batch.)

That saying, “don’t plant zucchini unless you have a lot of friends” couldn’t be more true!  They have a way of taking over a garden. Around this time, I am usually inundated with all kinds of squash from friends trying to unload.  So when that happens, it forces you to get creative.  Let’s be honest:  How many stir-frys or pasta with sauteed squash can you possibly have?  Baking muffins or a quick bread is an effective way of using some of your squash.  Pickling them is also a great choice.  (More on pickles in the coming weeks.)  Shredding and adding to salads or sandwiches works, but so does converting them into fritters.

In our last CSA box, we got a boat load of squash and after said stir-frys and pasta dishes were done, I just threw what was left into the food processor and started adding goodies to create a fritter bursting with flavor but that was light as opposed to heavy and oily, despite being pan-fried.  Seems impossible, but you’d be wonderfully surprised.

Thinking about what to write about squash, I found that there’s not a lot of research done on the health benefits of squash, especially summer squash.  They’re not dark leafy greens after all.  Yet, they shouldn’t be ignored…how can they be ignored when they’re all over your garden or taking over your fridge?!  And, that’s a good thing because  they’re fiber rich which is good for gut and colon, and also means they’re protective against colon cancer.  Fiber aids in digestion which helps move things, especially toxins, out of the body. They also help lower cholesterol and are anti-inflammatory, thanks to Vitamins C and A.  As for minerals, magnesium and potassium make an appearance but the star of the mineral show happens to be manganese.

Manganese helps the body metabolize protein and carbohydrates, participates in the production of sex hormones, and catalyzes the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.  The manganese in zucchini also increases the levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), the enzyme responsible for protecting mitochondria against oxidative stress. Finally, manganese is essential for the production of proline, an amino acid that allows collagen to form, thus allowing for healthy skin and proper wound-healing.“¹

Suddenly it seems like a good thing that these squash are taking over our gardens and refrigerators!

You’ll need:

3/4 C farmer’s cheese or ricotta

1/2 C scallions, chopped (about 3 scallions)

1/4 C basil, chiffonade* (I had some Thai Basil from the CSA so I used 2 T basil and 2 T Thai Basil to mix it up.  Super yum combo!)

1/4 C flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 C spelt flour

1/2 C Parmigiano Reggiano

3 eggs, lightly beaten

4 C squash, shredded

2 t lemon zest + more for garnish

1 t sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3-4 T extra-virgin olive oil + more as needed

To make:

1. In a bowl, add the cheese, scallions, herbs, salt and pepper and combine well.  Add the flour in steps, slowly incorporating it into the mixture and follow with the Parmigiano.

2. Add squash and eggs and stir well until thoroughly combined.

3. Heat 2 T of oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Using a tablespoon to measure, drop batter into skillet and pan fry for 4-5 minutes before turning over and cooking for another couple of minutes until golden brown.  Remove fritters and place on a wire rack over a sheet pan (alternatively, you could line a plate with paper towels, but they may get soggy this way) to cool slightly.  Repeat and add oil as needed.

4. Enjoy!

*Chiffonade means to cut/slice into strips or ribbons as opposed to chopping which is more random.  Basil lends itself to this cut.  I haven’t gotten that far on the knife skills page, but I’ll get there!

¹http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/8-health-benefits-of-zucchini.html

What a Frittata!

Serves 4

The egg is incredible.  It’s the one food I could never give up to become vegan.  Not that I ever wanted to become vegan, but I came close whenever I chose to forgo dairy so the question was always there.

The egg is so many things.  In the kitchen it is indispensable.  It acts as an emulsifier and as a leavener.  Its whites become glaze, its yolks become soufflé.  They make pasta, hollandaise and mayo.  In desserts they provide moisture and structure.  (Which is what makes vegan baking so challenging and fun!)  Yes, the egg is talented.

Eggs are also full of wisdom.  Some say they are perfectly shaped and sized.  In that little shell you’ll get about 6 grams of protein, the highest biological value of any food.¹  Being that our human structure is built on protein, this comes in handy.  While I was in my first trimester, eggs were the only thing I could stomach as far as protein was concerned.  (As far as a lot was concerned actually!)  I ate them a lot, all the time.  While I was a bit worried with overdosing on eggs, my midwife was more than happy that I could keep them down and actually enjoyed them.  Now I know why.  Eggs are wonderful sources of choline.  First off, a deficiency in choline could lead to a deficiency in folic acid; a super NO-NO for pregnant mamas.  Choline is also an essential part of “fat-containing structures in cell membranes, whose flexibility and integrity depend on adequate supplies of choline”.²  There are 2 fat-like molecules in the brain which make up a lot of its mass, so choline is pretty important for brain function and health…not to mention the brain you’re growing when pregnant!  Lastly, it’s a component of acetylcholine, the primary chemical means of sending messages between your nerves and muscles.²  Pretty heavy stuff for a little, fragile egg.  Oh, and choline is also anti-inflammatory!

As if this weren’t enough to make it stellar, here’s another tidbit.  The yolk which is high in protein and fat also contains iron, vitamins A, E and D.  Yet another reason egg yolks are a great food for babies…and everyone!  A note to my vegetarian friends:  The Vitamin B12 found in eggs could potentially keep you from taking it in supplement form.  Hello healthy metabolism and happy central nervous system…naturally!  Of course, the egg eaten whole (yolk and white) is best!  (I just discovered the “skinny egg” which is just egg whites…bleh!)

Please click here for a guide on how to choose truly healthy eggs.  All the terms stamped on cartons are confusing and often misleading.

Now let’s get to some egg cracking!

You’ll need:

3 T Extra virgin olive oil

2 small red potatoes, sliced

1 small red onion, sliced

2 handfuls baby spinach, (about 2 cups – not packed)

Fresh mozzarella, sliced (optional-I got a little excited about the mozzarella because it’s been almost 9 months since I’ve had any, but I’ve been making this without cheese and it’s delicious still!)

6 eggs

A small bunch of basil leaves, chiffonade

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To make:

1. In a stainless steel sauté pan, add 1 T olive oil, sliced potatoes and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat.  Flip potatoes over so they are well cooked on both sides.  They may get a bit browned, but this is up to you.  Set aside.

2. Caramelize the onions in the same sauté pan with another T of olive oil.  Set aside.

3. Sauté the spinach in the same pan until just wilted.  Set aside.

4. Whisk the eggs gently and add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Heat the sauté pan over low-medium heat and add eggs.  Using a spatula, scrape in the edges of the eggs as they cook allowing the runny part on top to fill the gap.  Keep doing this all around until the top isn’t so runny (but still wet).

5. Add your toppings.  I did potatoes then onions then spinach and cheese last.

6. Place the sauté pan under the broiler on low, and in the center of your oven, for about 5-7 minutes to cook the top and set the toppings.

7. Garnish with threads of basil leaves.

8. Enjoy!  (We usually do a green salad on the side…yumma!)

¹ http://www.rodale.com/free-range-eggs?cm_mmc=TheDailyFixNL-_-932340-_-05312012-_-the_truth_about_your_eggs_title

² http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=92

Golden Beet Slaw with Tahini Dressing

Makes 3 C

Variations on classics are never ending in the kitchen.  It’s one of the reasons I so enjoy cooking and sharing what I cook.  We don’t usually think of beets in the midst of the summer heat.  Especially not when there are berries and lovely greens all over the place.  It seems like we should just leave these root veggies alone, till fall.  Seems!  Beets are actually harvested through summer.  Golden beets are a delightful sunny color (or sometimes they conceal a beautiful orangey fuchsia in their center) and have a crisp refreshing crunch especially when eaten raw as in this recipe.  (They’re also delicious pickled!)  The main reason I got these beets?  Claire.  It just felt like a good time to introduce her to what Tom Robbins calls “the most intense of vegetables”.  He also said, “beets are deadly serious”*.  Let’s find out why.

They belong to the chenopod family, along with chard, spinach and quinoa.  (The beet greens are not only edible, they’re delicious, too! Sauté or eat raw in salads.)  Beets are special in that their overall phytonutrient content has a special, beneficial relationship with our nervous system.  Their pigmentation is a result of betalain antioxidant pigments (as opposed to beta-carotene for golden beets or anthocyanins for red ones) which makes them very unique.  They are also high in Vitamin C and manganese (also antioxidants) which further enhances their potency.¹  To refresh our memories, antioxidants protect our cells from free radicals roaming around. Free radicals occur as a result of the food we eat, the air we breathe, the stress we manifest, etc.  Thank goodness beets are deadly serious!  They are also serious about being anti-inflammatory which wards off everything from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to cancer.  Additionally, they’re incredible detoxifiers and therefore essential to any detox program. Beet juice anyone?  And finally there’s our buddy fiber keeping things in check.  It seems that the fiber in beets is pretty special, too.  Extra good news for our digestive and cardiovascular systems.¹

Put simply:  Super unique antioxidant power + incredible anti-inflammatory power + special fiber = serious anti-cancer!  (“Betanin pigments from beets have been shown to lessen tumor cell growth through a number of mechanisms, including inhibition of pro-inflammatory enzymes.”¹)  We should throw beets a party!

Given all this, I figured these beets should be treated with a certain amount of respect.  The dressing was my way of doing just that.  Another influence from my family’s sojourn in the Middle East, tahini is likewise special and this dressing is sure to wow your palate.  Trust me on this one!  (More on tahini for another post.  I use it often.)

In the meantime, get serious about making this slaw.  Happy tastebuds, happy body, happy spirit!

You’ll need:

3 C beets, julienned or shredded (about 3-4 medium beets)

1/4 C golden raisins (optional)

2 T parsley, finely chopped

1 T sesame seeds, toasted

For the dressing:

2 T tahini

1 T brown rice vinegar (I’ve also used champagne vinegar and apple cider vinegar with equal success.)

1 T maple syrup

1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 t ground cumin

Sea salt, to taste

To make:

1. Trim ends of beets and peel with a vegetable peeler.  I chose to julienne the beets instead of shredding them this time.  I used a mandolin to get even planks and then cut 1/8″ rods using a chef’s knife.  I think it looks a bit nicer and I love the extra cutting practice.  (I have many times shredded the beets in a food processor however, and it’s just as delicious!)

2. Combine julienned/shredded beets with raisins and set aside.

3. Mix all dressing ingredients together and whisk thoroughly until well combined.

4. Add dressing to beets and raisins.

5. When serving, top with sesame seeds.

6. Enjoy!

*Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

¹ http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49  (There’s some great detailed info on this site about the phytonutrients and overall health benefits of beets.  Enjoy!)