Ch Ch Ch Chia!

Recently I’ve been making the rounds discussing healthy foods for the new year and featuring an item which I use in my everyday diet.  Loaded with Omega 3s, it’s a great alternative to flax seed when I’m short on time to pull out the grinder.

If you missed the ads in the late seventies, I’ve attached a picture of the Chia pet for your viewing pleasure.  (Actually it started out as a ram, but morphed into many other types of animals after breeding:)

What does this have to do with nutrition, you might ask?  An amazing amount as you will see… Click to continue reading »

Cranberry Muesli


before soaking

Mue-what?  Muesli (mews-lee) is Swiss by origin, where in the 1900’s a doctor prescribed it for his patients needing a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. (Alas, no veggies in this one.)  Mues relates to an old English word meaning moose, or pottage, and that’s just how to describe this breakfast dish.

All the ingredients of muesli are considered important elements of a healthy diet.  It can contain up to two servings of fresh fruit, reducing risk of cancer and other age-related diseases.  Whole grains are high in fiber, and when soaked, are easier to digest.  Oats, as you know, are beneficial in reducing cholesterol and therefore good for the heart.  Seeds provide healthy fats and essential amino acids; and yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein.  Cranberries are great for the kidneys and probably on sale post-holidays.  Click to continue reading »

Pass the Peas, Plea$e

OK, so they’re not exactly peas – they’re actually legumes – but even in Wikipedia I can’t find out why.  I then went to my ‘bean bible’ – Steve Sando’s “Heirloom Beans”, again to no avail.  (Steve told me he only grows new world beans, and these are from Africa.) Nonetheless, black eyed peas are prepared as a New Year’s Day tradition to ensure prosperity in the coming year.  Paired with leafy greens such as collards, you have the addition of  ‘rolled money.’  “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold,” says an old expression. I’m all for putting my money on such a combination – especially with the extra health properties they provide, mindful again of our liver.

Click to continue reading »

Healthy Holiday Cookies

As my sourdough starter activates, rye berries soak, and granola bakes…I actually found time to squeeze in this yummy recipe from a new fave book, “Baking with Agave Nectar,” by Ania Catalano.  (I mean we all need our just rewards!) These cookies use seasonal ingredients which are colorful (green and red:), high in fiber and mostly available at Trader Joe’s.  (I’m sure you have agave nectar on hand since my post on all the health benefits over white sugar. ) And shhh – they’re vegan! Even as we get down to the wire, these are quick and easy.  You, too, might find a moment to whip up a batch – for dessert on Christmas, a last minute gift, or a high protein pick me up for the big guy.

Cranberry Oat Jumbles

1/2 C grapeseed oil
1/2 C agave nectar
1/4 C firm organic silken tofu
1 TB vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 C spelt flour (or whole wheat)
1 C rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/4 C ground flaxseeds
1/2 tsp. baking soda
/12 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/4 C sunflower seeds
1/4 C raw pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 325.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Blend oil, agave, tofu, vanilla and almond extracts in food processor until smooth, about 2 minutes.  In large bowl, combine the next 6 ingredients and mix well.  Fold in cranberries and seeds.  Drop by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Makes 18-24

Sugar and Spice

You may be surprised to see ‘sugar’ in my title, but this is one of those recipes that I just can’t pass up for the holidays.  Of course, you know that walnuts are high in Omega 3’s and cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar – so every now and then we make an allowance for another ingredient.  In the picture, I used Sucanat, which is evaporated cane juice that still contains minerals (vs. other sugars which are denatured and have been stripped of nutrients.) These minerals are also essential in digesting and assimilating cane juice into the body. I was going to try agave nectar but the crystals add an important texture to this recipe.

Cinnamon and Sugar Walnuts

16 oz. raw walnuts (organic preferred)
3 TB grapeseed oil (has a high smoke point)
1 TB pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C Sucanat
1/4 tsp. sea salt

In large bowl, mix walnuts. oil and vanilla.  Drain off any excess oil.  Blend cinnamon, sugar and salt and add to nuts.  Toss them until well coated.  Spread onto a parchment covered cookie sheet and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.  Watch closely and stir nuts every ten minutes or so to keep from burning (you can see my oven runs hot.)
Once completely cooled (1-2 hours), you can package them up – if there are any left:)

Note: Sucanat has a grainy texture which is more coarse than white sugar.

Festive Fuyus

fuyus by tori ritchie

fuyus by tori ritchie

Back to our seasonal focus, I am sharing a recipe from Tori Ritchie – a San Francisco food writer, author and cooking instructor with many TV shows under her belt.  Tori offers a weekly post called “Tuesday Recipe,” where this festive salad comes from.

There are two types of persimmons.  The first is hachiya – which is pointed at the bottom and cannot be eaten raw.  You will see them hanging from trees which are otherwise barren for weeks, and can be found at their peak this time of year. Hachiyas are usually cooked until mushy and used in steamed puddings, making a delicious holiday dessert.

The other persimmon found in America is the fuyu.  These are a bit smaller, round and almost squatty. They are non-astringent and can be eaten as a crunchy snack when plucked right from the tree.  Fuyus are also great  sliced and added to oatmeal, or in salads as noted below.

Persimmons have excellent stores of carotene – one persimmon gives you 50% of your daily requirement of vitamin A and 25 % of vitamin C.  They are also high in iron and said to ease digestive issues – particularly nice this time of year.

Fall Salad with Fuyus
– Serves 6

1 head escarole
2 fuyu persimmons
1 bunch chives
3 ounces Roquefort or blue cheese
3 ounces walnut halves

1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup good olive oil
freshly ground pepper
Slice the core end off the escarole, then rinse the leaves and spin dry. Working in batches, stack the leaves and slice them crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide shreds. Put the escarole in a big salad bowl. Cut the persimmons in half and with a paring knife, cut off the skin and stems. Slice persimmons about 1/4-inch thick and add to bowl. Thinly slice the chives and add them to bowl. Crumble in the cheese then add the walnuts.

Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking the mustard, vinegar, and salt together in a small bowl with a fork. Whisk in the oil. Pour over salad, toss well, then season with pepper. Serve right away.

Green Soup with Miso

I hope you had a delicious Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday (could it be becuz it’s all about food?  Well, not ALL…)

I’m sure another recipe is the last thing on your mind right now, but this is a tasty soup which could almost be classified as healing. Plus it is WAY easy! I have made this several times, playing with different herbs and types of miso.  Me-what?  Miso is a fermented soybean paste which has a salty component and can be used in soups, salad dressings, even guacamole.  Miso has incredible health properties.  It contains up to 20% protein, stimulates digestion, and adds flavor without adding fat or traditional sodium content.  Miso is also known to promote alkaline in the body and has been used to treat certain types of heart disease and cancers.

Green Soup

1 bunch organic spinach
1 medium avocado
3 cloves garlic (pressed)
1 TB miso
1 TB raw tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 cups warm water

Put all ingredients into blender and whirl away.  Serves 2.

I also use cilantro or parsley, cumin…depending on what I have on hand.

Pumpkin Primer

Wait!  Don’t send your pumpkin to the compost pile without extracting the fleshy goodness inside.  There are a variety of ways to use pumpkin,  the least of which is in baking.  The moisture is absorbed beautifully by whole grains, making the end result moist and tender.

Pumpkin is highly nutritious and most noted for its seeds, which are full of protein and EFAs (essential fatty acids.)  But the meat itself also has many health properties. It helps prevent cancers, cataracts, and regulates blood pressure.  Key nutrients are calcium, iron, magnesium and beta-carotene, which explains why it prevents visual impairment.

Your recipe will determine the preparation of the pumpkin. For baking I prefer to roast it to bring out golden, caramel flavors. The best pumpkins for baking are sugar pumpkins which tend to be a little smaller than the ones we use for carving.  To bake, cut in half and scoop out all the pulp and seeds (save those for toasting.)  I sprinkle a splash of olive oil on top and bake at 350 until tender (which could take up to an hour.)   Once cooled, you will have enough for the following recipe, and maybe more for a vegetable curry.

Pumpkin Muffins

2 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ C unsalted butter
¾ C Sucanat or brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 C fresh or canned pumpkin (you can also use sweet potato)
1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans are best)
Pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare two muffin tins with liners.

Whisk together first seven ingredients in medium bowl.

Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping sides and bottom of bowl.  Mix in vanilla and pumpkin.  Add dry ingredients, blending gently until moist.  Stir in nuts.

Scoop batter into muffin cups and top each with pumpkin seeds.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, approximately 22-24 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on rack for five minutes before removing muffins from pan.

>>Let me know if you have a favorite recipe for toasting the seeds!

Ratatouille Two Ways

I’m always trying to find new ways to use eggplant and in keeping with my motto of eating with the seasons, I thought I’d play around and see what appeased my discriminating palate. While ratatouille isn’t original, I have added just about everything from the farmers’ market (save the fruit) and cooked up two variations.

Ratatouille over Polenta

Ratatouille over Polenta

And now to mention the nutritional bennies eggplant contains: it is heart healthy, high in potassium, vitamins A, C, and B complex.  It’s also a good source of fiber and is low in calories (just 28 in 1 cup.)  I guess because eggplant seems more substantial, I would have thought that number to be higher – but that’s what makes it an ideal food for weight control.

So here’s my version of this late summer dish using those yummy tomatoes we just canned and roasted:

If you have time, sprinkle the eggplant with salt once sliced to extract some of its bitterness.  I made dishes with both soft rosemary polenta , and baked over farro pasta.

Ratatouille over Farro

Ratatouille over Farro

(like rigatoni – only whole grain)

Ratatouille – Serves 6

2 yellow onions, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes (14 oz. ea.)
2 cups roasted tomatoes
1 medium eggplant, sliced
2 zucchini or yellow squash, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced and seeded
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
Fresh oregano and sage or dried Italian herbs
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
A big wedge of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Preheat grill. Brush eggplant, fennel, pepper and squash with olive oil and sea salt.  Grill to desired texture and set aside.  Chop once cool.
Sweat onions in olive oil, lightly salted.  Allow to cook until soft, no color. Deglaze pan with small amount of vinegar and reduce until pan is dry.  Add canned tomatoes and allow to cook until juices reduce, forming stew-like consistency.  Add herbs and season to taste.  Combine with all tomatoes and grilled veggies.

Serve over soft polenta or whole grain pasta (photo below) and top with freshly grated cheese.