August Cooking Tip – Still Hungry After Dinner?

apples in tree

The other night I made a meal totally of vegetables.  Even though it was tasty, we were both hungry shortly after.  I decided to test something I knew about but never actually tried…

I cut up a Pink Lady apple.  We both ate half and soon after the feelings of hunger were gone. 

Amongst the many benefits of apples, they are low in calories, a great source for pectin, fiber and nutrients.  The fiber slows down the digestive process leaving you feeling full longer where the pectin is great for digestion and an excellent intestinal regulator, in other words it promotes healthy intestinal flora and supports normal colon function.

Apples also contain two acids – malic and tartaric – which inhibits fermentation in the stomach thus making it one of the easiest fruits to assimilate.  They help to ease thirst as they are moistening.  Especially green varieties are beneficial in that they cleanse the liver and gallbladder.  Last, apples are high in flavonoids which help in the reduction of heart disease.

So, next time you are still hungry after dinner or are used to snacking later in the evening, why not try one of natures’ amazing  creations?   THE APPLE

Cooking for Health, Nourishment, Relaxation and Connection. Why I Love to Cook!

Quote from the New York Times Magazine, August 2, 2009:

“The more time a nation devotes to food preparation at home, the lower its rate of obesity.  In fact, the amount of time spent cooking predicts obesity rates more reliably than female participation in the labor force or income.”

Why I love to cook!

I love the creativity of it all.  I get to think – but not too hard – what I could make that is delicious, pretty easy, will impress my friends and family and be healthy. 

I grew up with 2 working parents and although Mom prided herself in making home cooked (sort of) meals, they weren’t always that tasty and mostly had one spice ingredient – Lawry’s salt.  Now I have to give her credit for her efforts but she wasn’t my inspiration.  I ended up being friends with my sisters’ best friend.  I was 16 and she was 21.  Her name was Louise and she was a great cook.  In looking back, I can still hear my Mom say, ‘when did you learn to eat that?’  The ‘that’ included (now) staples like garlic, onion, spices, herbs, and so forth.  All I could ever tell Mom was ‘Louise taught me!’

From there I got into health food – that tasteless, no salt, old dried out herbs kind of food.  I stopped using salt, stopped cooking in aluminum pans, and stopped storing in plastic in the ‘80’s.  Now most of this thought pattern has continued but I have to say I sure have learned how to make food tasty!  At that time I was quite proud of what I cooked but anyone who ate it suffered!  I didn’t know this until about 6 years ago when I made a meal for my sister.  She wasn’t feeling well and laid down for a nap.  Upon awakening she came into the kitchen to see what smelled so good.  (You see she, my brother and I were together, just the 3 of us, for the first time in 18 years!)  I can still hear her remark about those bad meals she and her family had to eat when I cooked for them all those years ago.  I had no idea!

Well, she opened the oven and exclaimed, ‘oh, a whole chicken!’  I kind of looked at her and said, ‘yea, so?’  To think that she was a stay at home mom turned stay at home grandmother and yet she hadn’t cooked a whole chicken in years.  Instead she had the illusion that cooking whole things like a chicken was time consuming and difficult.  The result was that she mostly cooked things like potatoes from a box, reheated a ham, vegetables from a can or frozen package.  Things like that.  On the other hand, I have been working full time and managing a house for 26 years (at that time).  Obviously we had taken different paths on our lives.

Fast forward to today, 6+ years later and I have grown into a better, more self-confident cook.  But let’s not go there just yet…

The true credit for my initial cooking ability came from my friends Jan and Jeff.  I met them in the late ‘80’s when I was working for them in Hawaii.  We became fast friends and I had the pleasure (both socially and gastronomically) of sharing many meals with them.  They both cooked and did so mostly together.  It was, along with a martini, a social event; a place where they would come together after a long days work to catch up, share their day.  This was an experience completely new to me and I loved it.  It opened my eyes to not only cooking but a wonderful way of engaging.  I was hooked and, although single, wanted it to be a part of my life.  I truly enjoyed the connection and delicious rewards that came with the experience.

I left Hawaii in 1990 to move to Colorado and pursue a new career – one as a massage therapist.  Among the many things I brought with me was that fantastic, mouth watering joy of cooking great food and sharing it with friends.

I have continued to do so and have added a great dimension – a partner – a man that is vastly interested in the senses, including taste, and is appreciative of my cooking.  It has enabled me to be more creative (and less neurotic about precise measurements in recipes) and more risk taking.  I put together dishes based on nothing more than an idea and what I have available.  The results?  Mostly I end up with really yummy dishes.  Do I still read and try recipes?  You bet!  They give me inspiration to be more creative.

Why I’m telling you all this is because of a concern for where our society is heading.  I am reading more and more about junk food, fast food, pre-packaged food all dominating what we put in our mouths.  Pre-packaged food started in the ‘50’s.  It was marketed as the ‘new way’.  The unfortunate thing is along with it has come a tremendous increase in obesity (fact) and a decrease in communication and relaxing with each other while eating, in my opinion.

The obesity stems from foods that are low in nutrition and high in (bad) fats, sugar, and salt.  These are all ingredients that, in big enough quantities, can mask the disgusting taste of the other cheap denatured ingredients.  It is a sin!  What has made us rise above other animals is our ability to prepare and cook foods, our ability to plan, store, and create meals that enable us to spend time being together (and working) rather than grazing or hunting our time away.  It has provided us the luxury of sitting down, eating and connecting with fellow human beings.

Now I realize people will argue that we still do this while inhaling a meal together at McDonalds but is it really the same?  I think not.  Not only are we missing out on the nutrients but the care, love and pride that goes into a homemade meal.  We are feeding our guts but are we really nourishing any part of our selves?  As for the ‘I don’t have time’ concept, I don’t buy it.  I continue to work full time and manage a house yet I also cook about 80%-90% of the meals.  And they are meals that are healthy, focused on local growers, very nutritious, easy to make and delicious.  This is not to say I don’t enjoy going out to eat but it makes it a special occasion and it allows me to afford to go somewhere that is healthy.

My goal is to introduce you… entice you… encourage you… and to offer you meals that will take you down this fun rewarding path.  Oh and there are some side benefits – you will feel physically better, have more energy, possibly lose weight (if you need to), and save money!  Now what can beat that?

Try out the recipes on my website.  Meanwhile I am putting together an eBook titled 30 Meals 30 Days that will offer you a variety of dinners so you won’t have to plan a thing.  There will be a list of ingredients to keep on hand in your kitchen, a weekly shopping list, and short videos to show you just how easy healthy cooking can be! 

Check back regularly for the launch of the eBook or sign up for our mailing list (no I will not give your name to anyone!).  If you choose to sign up, I will let you know when it is available.  Meanwhile, eat healthy and share good food and great conversation with your friends and family!

Chopping & Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs are a great way to add lots of flavor to many dishes.  Although they can be expensive to buy, they are cheap and easy to grow.  As perennials, they will return every year even if you live in a very cold climate.  In my garden I have oregano, sage, chives, parsley, and thyme.  I also have rosemary but it will die in a cold climate over the winter so I keep it in a pot and bring it in during the cold months.  Unfortunately basil will not winter, as often cilantro will not.  I purchase those every spring and keep them in the ground for most of the spring and summer. 

The challenge with herbs is that they tend to lose their flavor fast.  I try to never purchase dried herbs as they often are tasteless.  This video will show you the best way to handle herbs to get the maximum flavor from them.  Oh and one last note – fresh chopped herbs do maintain their flavor if kept in butter.  In the fall, before a cold frost, I usually pick lots of herbs, chop them and mix them with a little softened butter.  I put this in the freezer so I can have fresh (almost) herbs throughout the winter.

June Cooking Tip – A ‘Must Have’ Grater

Microplane Grater
Microplane Grater
A closer look.
A closer look.

 

If you haven’t seen one of these graters, I highly recommend you look into getting one.  I have had mine for several years and it is the best!  Not only does it do a fantastic job grating parmesan cheese but it is the perfect grater for making lemon, lime or orange zest.  The zest comes out nice and fine so when you add it to dishes or salad dressings, you don’t end up with chunks of rind.  I also use this for grating fresh ginger.  Again it is so fine that the ginger blends nicely into whatever you are making.

I purchased mine at Peppercorn, a local cooking store.  Here is the Microplane website, in case you can’t find it in a store near you. 

I hope you like it as much as I do!

May Cooking Tip – Roasted Red Bell Peppers

 

 

Red Peppers on Sale!
Red Peppers on Sale!

 

 

 For the last week or so, Whole Foods have had red bell peppers on sale for 99 cents each.  Unfortunately they are not organic (in fact I find it very difficult to find organic most of the time) but they are really delicious. 

With this kind of sale, I want to purchase a bunch.  Knowing that they won’t last very long, I roast them.  Roasting is a great way to keep them fresh for a much longer period of time in the refrigerator.  Plus I think they taste much sweeter this way!

 Here’s how you do it:

Place the peppers whole on the grill or under the broiler. 

Continue to turn them occasionally until all sides are blackened. 

Remove them and place in a paper bag, close tightly. 

Keep them in the bag for at least 10 minutes. 

Take them out of the bag and remove the skin and seeds.

Place in a glass jar.

At this point you can pour a little olive oil over them, close the lid and shake to coat. 

The other option I really like to do is:

Place in a jar.

Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Add one or two garlic cloves, cut in half.

Add the juice of one orange or equivalent amount of orange juice.

Add a sprig of fresh rosemary, about 6” long.

Put on lid and shake.

Either way you can leave the peppers in the refrigerator for a good week or more.

Enjoy!

Breakfast can be healthy and inexpensive!

As we were sitting at the table talking about the cost of food and the time perception it takes to make a healthy meal, we decided to include this in our information.  So we added up what the cost of the entire breakfast was, excluding the coffee, and determined for the two of us the meal was about $3.50 total.  As for how long it actually took to prepare, it was under 20 minutes.  It was healthy and something we prepared together, making the entire experience that much better.

Here’s what we made and how we did it:

“Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Vegetables, Avocado, Cheese and Blackberries on the Side”

My part:

In a sauté pan, mixed 1 tablespoon olive oil with ½ tablespoon butter

Add ½ chopped onion

1/3   chopped red bell pepper

Add ¼ cup white wine and 1 teaspoon sundried tomato pesto  This stuff is so great to add to vegetables.  A jar will last in the refrigerator for months and you only need to use a little bit at a time, which makes the cost barely anything per serving.

Cover and sauté for 8 + minutes on medium heat until the bell pepper starts to soften

Add 2 leaves of chopped lacinto kale

Sauté for about 2-3 minutes more

Meanwhile:

Cut ½ avocado into long strips to top the dish

Rinse the blackberries

Sam’s part:

Grate about ½ cup Aged White Cheddar Cheese

Scrambled eggs:  place three large eggs in a medium bowl.  Add a tablespoon or so (a guess) of water (milk or half & half can be used).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Use a fork and vigorously whip this mixture.  In a large skillet (separate from the vegetables) melt a tablespoon of butter (enough to generously cover the bottom of the pan) using high heat.  When the vegetables are almost complete, pour in the egg mixture into the large skillet and be prepared to tend it carefully.  Reduce the heat to medium.  As the egg mixture begins to cook (15 to 30 seconds), using a spatula, begin to push the cooked portion to the center of the pan.  This allows the uncooked eggs to run around the cooked portion to contact the pan.  Keep up this process until no more eggs will run around the cooked eggs in the center.  At this point there should be a little liquid egg on the top of the cooked eggs.  Flip over these eggs so that the liquid part is down.  Turn off the heat immediately and turn out on plates in seconds.  The most important part of making fluffy yummy scrambled eggs is to avoid overcooking them. 

Presentation:

If desire, heat plates slightly on stove so meal is hot when served.

Place the eggs on the plate

Top with sautéed vegetables

Sprinkle with grated cheese

Top with slices of avocado fanned across the top

Serve the blackberries on the side

Notes:

Part of what made this meal so inexpensive is the choice of what was on sale at the market:

Blackberries .88 for 1 pint (Sunflower Market)

Avocado .99 (Whole Foods Market)

Onion – always cheap and so good anywhere

Red bell pepper .99 each (Whole Foods Market)

Lacinto Kale 1.99 per bunch (usually at Sunflower Market but this time on sale at Whole Foods)

So basically our breakfasts often change based on what is fresh and on sale.  This is just what we did this week.  Try this or any combination you like and I think you too will really enjoy it and your body will absolutely love starting the day this way!!

April Cooking Tip – Salad Dressings

Salad dressings often contain lots of unnecessary and often unhealthy ingredients.  Rather than purchase pre-made dressings, why not try making your own?

If you are not sure about experimenting, you can look up all types of salad dressings at Epicurious or be brave and simply make your own.  I have an easy way to make delicious salad dressing that is tasty and healthy. 

 

Here’s the trick:

 

1.       Purchase several types of cold pressed oils such as olive, walnut, and hazelnut.  I even buy two or three different kinds of olive oil as they all taste different.  Don’t hesitate to get some high quality ones as they taste the best.  Even though they are more expensive, they go a long way as you don’t need much at any one time.  (Save your cheap extra-virgin olive oil for cooking.)

2.       Purchase several types of vinegars.  Some of my favorite ones are balsamic, champagne, apple cider, and sherry.  As with the olive oil, I purchase a few different types of balsamic.  Some of them, as the one in this months’ recipe, are sweeter so they combine nicely with champagne vinegar for a totally different taste.

3.       Always have a fresh lemon on hand.  It can either take the place of the vinegar or can be combined with it.

4.       Keep good quality Dijon mustard around.  I like to have both the regular type as well as the seeded type.

5.       Keep either some dried herbs or fresh herbs on hand.  Any combination can be great.

6.       A little honey or maple syrup is a great enhancement to most dressings.  With honey, try to find local so you get all the added benefits.  As for the maple syrup, go with the Grade B as it is higher in nutrients.

7.       Last keep celtic salt and whole peppercorns in the kitchen.  The taste of fresh ground salt and pepper is so much better – you will be amazed.

 

You can either combine everything in a jar and play with the taste until you like it or do it the easy way…

ü  Drizzle a little oil on the greens before adding anything else.

ü  Mix it in with your fingers to coat the leaves.  I like the way the salad turns out by doing this plus you use less oil with this method.

ü  Toss in the rest of the vegetables and whatever other yummy ingredients, like goat cheese, fresh herbs, cranberries or nuts.

ü  Then drizzle the vinegar(s) on little at a time.  Taste to make sure you are not getting too much.  You can always add more but not take it away!

ü  Grind your fresh salt and pepper to taste.

 

Be willing to experiment and note what tastes the best for future salads.  If you would like an entire list of recommended ingredients to keep in your pantry, check here.

 

March Cooking Tip – Quinoa

Cooking Tip of the Month

 

Quinoa (pronounced keen whah) is a member of the goosefoot family of plants.  Although it is not a true cereal grain it is often treated as one.  Being a cousin of amaranth, it has many of the same characteristics.  Quinoa originates in the high valleys of the Andes and is considered ‘the mother grain’ by the Incas. 

 

“Compared with all grains it has the highest protein content.  Quinoa has more calcium than milk and is higher in fat content than any grain.  A very good source of iron, phosphorous, B vitamins and Vitamin E.  An appropriate grain for recent vegetarians who crave nutrient-concentrated foods.”  Excerpt from Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford

 

Quinoa is easy to prepare and cooks quickly.  Unlike other grains it is a complete protein.  Its’ protein profile is similar to that of milk.  Amongst the many advantages, quinoa is easy to digest, making it a great food for endurance.

 

Fortunately quinoa is readily available in most cities.  If you have a difficult time finding it, you can order it online.

 

For additional information read “The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia” by Rebecca Wood.

 

Check out this months’ recipe that uses quinoa as the main ingredient.

 

February Cooking Tip – A Healthy Breakfast

Cooking Tip of the Month

NO TIME FOR A HEALTHY BREAKFAST?

Making healthy dishes, like this month’s recipe, before going to work is easy.  You can chop all the vegetables the night before and store them in the refrigerator.  In the morning, start the cooking before getting in the shower.  By the time you are finished getting ready for work, your breakfast will be waiting for you to eat. 

 

Note:  Just make sure you have enough liquids in the pan so as not to burn the vegetables.  Believe me I have done this!  If you know you tend to take a while to get ready, you might want to add some water to the pans and turn down the heat.

 

Read here for more tips