Month: August 2014

Anti Inflammatory Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Wheat free * Dairy free * Gluten free * Vegetarian (variation) * Vegan (variation) * Parve * Paleo *

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I told you we were going to make use of last week’s Beef Bone Broth and here it is…

So,to promote this blog, I have become a Tweeter.  Though I was not interested in Twitter for many years, I now find it’s kind of fun.  One day while perusing the various tweets, I came upon one by Ricki Heller (whose tweets I generally find interesting) that you  can read here:  http://www.rickiheller.com/2014/06/9-common-herbs-spices-that-reduce-inflammation/  As I read the article I kept thinking, these are all fairly compatible flavors and I can probably do something with them.  And so began this soup.

First let me talk a little about what I’ve learned about an anti inflammatory diet (but am not an expert on).  I’m doing this in italics so those of you not too interested can just skip over it.    Many experts in the health field agree that inflammation in the body causes/leads to a vast array of illnesses ranging from heart disease to diabetes to Alzheimer’s to cancer to chronic pain to arthritis, Parkinson’s, aging, and the list goes on and on.  For me, following the Paleo/Perfect Health Diet (both anti inflammatory diets) has resulted in:  much more energy, clearer thought processes, better moods, less aches and pains, smaller tummy, and general sense of well being.  A friend of mine was suffering from such severe neck pain he was on the verge of having surgery.  After switching to an anti inflammatory diet not only did he not need surgery but the neck pain is gone completely.  These are pretty impressive results.

The theories behind diets that call themselves anti inflammatory are all over the place and contradict one another. Some of the better know ones are: 

Paleo, Primal, Caveman, and Wheat Belly and Perfect Health Diet (PHD) tend to agree on the basic theory that all grains, beans, and sugar (and processed foods in general) should be eliminated from the diet.  PHD varies in that it allows white rice and considers it a “safe” starch.  The others vary in how much dairy is or is not allowed and other details.  Most agree that the best oils to use are coconut and olive.

 Dr. Andrew Weil‘s diet is pretty different.  He created an updated food pyramid that also is supposed to be anti inflammatory but does not eliminate grains and soy.

The Mediterranean Diet is another diet with anti inflammatory properties.  In short the basis of the diet is:  Eat like they do in Mediteranean countries.  There is also a food pyramid for this diet.  Here’s an article if you want to learn more http://oldwayspt.org/resources/heritage-pyramids/get-started-go-med

A little more complicated is the place that omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids play in inflammation.  The short and overly simplified version is:  omega 3’s reduce inflammation and too much omega 6’s causes inflammation.  Here’s an article that goes more deeply into it:  http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2013/april/the-omega-balance-getting-smart-about-inflammation/

Back to food…I initially tested this soup using carrots – and it came out delicious, but I was curious how it would work with butternut squash and it was also delicious.  I chose the squash because it is more anti inflammatory than the carrots (had a better omega 3 to omega 6 ratio).

Several people have tasted this soup and all have wanted the recipe – so here it is.  Enjoy it in Good Health!
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Going Gluten Free

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This “article” was put together as a promo piece for my blog which is why it is short and not overly informative.

Living gluten-free is no longer the sacrifice it once was. Gluten-free products are available in almost every store and eating out is easier as many restaurants are catering to these needs. The bigger problem is that many gluten-free foods just don’t taste as good as “the real thing.”

The reason for this discrepancy is the products used to approximate items containing gluten substitute starches (tapioca, potato or rice) for flour. This makes the end product taste starchy (not too surprising). One way to avoid this problem is to find recipes that use gluten-free whole grain flour (like oat flour or teff) instead of starch.  Another strategy is to select foods that are naturally gluten-free (like the salad dressing below).

Look to the internet for a wide variety of delicious, better than “the real thing” recipes. Oat Pancakes, Best Ever Crackers, Fabulous Cornbread, Chocolate Torte, Hungarian Dessert Crepes and Apple Galette are just a few of the possibilities if you are willing to make them yourself.

Here’s an easy recipe to start you off:

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Tahini Dressing and Dip

 3 sprigs parsley

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup water (or more for dressing)

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, put through garlic press

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt to taste

1.  Remove the thick stems from the parsley sprigs

2.  Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor container.Cover and process until smooth.

3.  Pour into serving container or over salad.  Store extra in refrigerator.

Makes: 1 cup

 

 

Toys for Lemons

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The Duane Reid a block from my apartment just closed.  The week before DR closed it put all sorts of stuff on sale – not just a measley 10 or 20% off – I mean 90% off. Cheap.  When I see sales like that I just can’t help myself.  I buy all kinds of stuff I would NEVER think of buying and one of those objects was a citrus spritzer. It was only $.59 – how could I resist (and to tell the truth I bought three – such a bargain -who could resist???)

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I tried it today and I am totally in love and just had to share it with you.  Here’s how it works:  The bottom of the green part is serrated

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and just screws into the lemon.

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Then you just press the pump and it spritzes lemon juice onto whatever you want (I used it on baked turbot).  But I can see it being great on salads, or on cut fruit like apples that brown if unless you put a little lemon juice on them.  When the pump stops spraying, just move the spritzer to another part of the lemon.

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This gadget really works!

But as long as I’m talking about lemon toys, here are a few more you might want to know about:

Microplanes

when a recipe calls for lemon zest, microplanes are the gadget to use.  They are so much easier to use than trying to zest a lemon on a 4 side box grater and they remove a thinner layer of zest.  You can also use them for fine grating things such as ginger.

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Juicers

I have 2 juice gadgets that I love.  The reamer and the old fashioned juicer.  I use the reamer (the wooden gadget) when I only need to juice one or two lemons.  For bigger jobs, like 1/2 cup lemon juice or when the lemons are just filled with pits and I want to keep them out of the juice I use this juicer that fits over most size cups or bowls.

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Zesters

for making decorations or fancy lemon slices or wedges I use this zester

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You can also make lemon zest with the end that has the smaller holes

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I’m sure there are millions of more lemon gadgets on the market but these are my favs – and, of course, you can use these for all kinds of citrus fruits.

Have Fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beef Bone Broth

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One of the superstar foods in Paleo is beef bone broth.  When perusing the list of grass-fed meats available from my CSA (community supported agriculture – read more about it here:  Tahini Dip) I was delighted to find they sell dog bones for just $3 per bag.  I ordered my first bag for Bella but when they arrived they were really not suitable for the dog (because they were too small) but I was amazed at what a massive amount of bones it was.  Clearly I’m not above making broth for myself out of dog bones so my adventure in beef bone broth began.  Since my first order I’ve gotten them twice more and although the bags have not been as big, the bones have been bigger and are just what I need – knuckles and marrow (I did give one of the marrow bones to Bella

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only to find she did what she frequently does with something she really loves.  She hides it.  Unfortunately her latest hiding place is in the kitty litter box as opposed to hiding them in my bed or behind the pillows of my couch – which she used to to before Rafi moved in).

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This is a great and versatile recipe.  You can use the broth in any recipe calling for broth or just eat some by itself, perhaps garnished with chopped herbs.

Don’t be discouraged by this seemingly unimportant recipe – there will be 2 recipes following this that will use beef bone broth as the base.

Enjoy!
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Why You Need Cream of Tartar in Your Kitchen

Just 3 days ago I announced I wasn’t going to post on Fridays and here it is, Friday, and here I am.  I changed my mind about posting, but not about posting Friday recipes.  Fridays will be be devoted to This and That.  Food talk.  Maybe product evaluations, or cookbook reviews, or equipment suggestions, or cooking techniques, there may even be a recipe or two, but they will only be basics – coconut milk, white sauce and the like.

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So that brings me to Cream of Tartar.  I finally used up my last jar after about 20 years and buying a new one made me wonder just what it is and why bother to replace it.  Cream of tartar (scientifically known as potassium bitartrate) is most often used in cooking to stabilize and increase the volume of beaten egg whites and in candy making to prevent crystallization of sugar.  You may think you’ve never used it, but if you’ve ever used baking powder, you’ve used cream of tartar.  Baking powder is a mixture of cream of tartar and baking soda (and if you want to make your own at home just mix 2 teaspoons cream of tartar with 1 teaspoon baking soda.  If you want to  make a bigger batch and store it, stir in a little cornstarch to prevent clumping).

It’s also a favorite with people who prefer to avoid chemical cleaners as it is reported to be a great stain remover (http://www.mrsjanuary.com/simple-living/cream-of-tartar-uses/  http://www.stain-removal-101.com/cream-of-tartar-uses.html )

I also learned that cream of tartar is that white stuff you sometime find on corks in wine bottles or even sometimes on grape jelly.  Who knew?

But all that is hardly a really good reason to buy a (relatively expensive – about $6/bottle) bottle of cream of tartar.  My number one reason (one I haven’t found on any other blog/website) is:

It’s a rescuer of pots burnt beyond recognition by sometimes distracted cooks.

You know, the time you put up spaghetti to cook then got started on a project and didn’t remember the spaghetti until the smoke alarm went off.  Or more frequently in my home, when the popcorn burnt because I wasn’t sure I had let it pop enough.  Those pots that no matter how hard you scrub with steel wool or Comet, or how much you scrape with a knife, still have these incredible black patches all over the bottom.  Here’s the answer:

1.  Fill the pot/pan with about an inch of water and stir in about 1 tablespoon cream of tartar.

2.  Boil 3 to 5 minutes, then take the pot off the heat.

3.  With the water still in the pot, scrape the bottom with a metal spatula.  Like magic that black substance is now floating and can just be poured out with the liquid – you will still want to use some steel wool just to polish it up.

That bottle of cream of tartar has just saved you the cost of a replacement pot/pan!

Hope you’ll enjoy the interesting tidbits in the Fridays to come.

Tapenade

Paleo * Gluten free * Vegetarian * Vegan * Parve *

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I worry sometimes that I might be a food hoarder.  I buy replacements for things when they are less than half empty and I must have a complete supply of ingredients on hand at all times.  So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I tell you I just threw this together with stuff I had in the refrigerator.

Now I sometimes justify my immense pantry and overstocked refrigerator with the fact that I am, and have been for the last 30 or so years, a food writer.  There’s nothing more annoying than tasting a recipe you’ve just written and finding that it needs “just a little something” to make it perfect; figuring out that “the little something” should be pomegranate molasses or fresh rosemary (or ketchup or vinegar or garlic powder or fresh lemon juice, etc.), and then finding the bottle empty or the herb very sadly wilted.  So I keep everything imaginable in my refrigerator and pantries (notice there is/are? more than one not-to-neat, over stocked pantry in my New York City apartment – where space is at a premium).

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Tapenade is one of those items I like to have on hand.  It’s fairly salty and slightly acidic so it’s a good perker-upper for dishes that may seem a little bland.  Here’s a sampling of things I might do with it:  Add some to plain spaghetti sauce to make instant Putenesca sauce, stir it into cream cheese or tofutti to make a very zippy cream cheese and olive sandwich (that was when I was eating dairy and wheat), stir it into mayonnaise (or yogurt or some combination of the two) for a dipping sauce for crudities or shrimp or artichokes (microwaved, of course) or for a salad dressing; combine it with diced tomatoes or roasted red peppers as a topping for bruschetta or sauce for fish or chicken; add to vinaigrette to add zip or to use as a marinade; toss a little into scrambled eggs or the filling for omelets; stir some into tuna or egg salad; you get the point.  It’s nice to have something versatile in the fridge when you just need a little something.  Oh, and of course I’ve forgotten the most common use for tapenade which is to serve it as an hors d’ouvre with bread (if you eat it) or (gluten free) crackers.
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Microwaved Artichokes

Paleo * Gluten free * Vegetarian * Vegan * Parve *

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Sorry I’m so late posting today but there have been some big things going on.  First and foremost:  Congratulation Julie and Sean on the arrival of Spenser Bernard today!

But since Spenser was born in California, and I am in New York – his arrival did not really take up too much of my time.  What has been looming largely and taking up my time is my new lifestyle.  Early in July – on July 1st to be exact – I switched to a Paleo diet (that’s the diet where you eat like a caveman).  The very short version is no grains at all (making it automatically gluten free) no dairy, no beans, and no sugar.  WOW!  Who would have thought I could ever live with such restrictions?

In fact, it’s not at all hard when I factor in all the big benefits that have occurred.  Most importantly I have so much more energy and so many less aches and pains.  I can honestly say I feel 20 years younger!  In truth, however, being a sugar-aholic (this is the first time in my life that giving up sugar was no big deal – a miracle in itself) and starch-aholic I did miss some dense carbs.  While reading up on the Paleo (Nerd Fitness, Robb Wolf, Paleo Leap), diet I found a small reference to something called the Perfect Health Diet (PHD).  Which to my intrepretation is Paleo + white rice.  That was enough to keep me totally satisfied.  The Jaminets reason that white rice is what they call a safe starch because natural toxins produced by plants for their protection is contained in the outer bran – which is removed when producing white rice.  PHD also allows white potatoes – a subject hotly debated amongst Paleos.

The reality of this diet is I find it easier (not necessarily more satisfying) to cook simply.  My meals mostly consist of a protein + a salad + a vegetable + a piece of fruit.  Boring, right?  Well, no.  Not when you vary the proteins and the veggies and the salads.  However, it does affect this blog in that I’m just not creating interesting recipes on a daily or maybe even weekly basis.  So starting next week, I will be cutting my posts down from twice a week to once a week – Tuedays only.  Hope you are okay with that.

Now to today’s “recipe” which is really not much of a recipe – Steamed Artichokes.  They were always a special treat growing up.  I think that because they required a fair bit of prep – removing the sharp thorns from each leaf, and boiling them for a fair amount of time.  But that was before microwaves – now they take very little time – and – thanks to some genetic engineering, don’t seem to have the same dangerous thorns they used to.  Enjoy this easy way to prepare artichokes.
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Gluten-free Dairy-free Palacsinta – Hungarian Dessert Crepes (not Paleo)

Wheat free * Dairy free * Gluten free * Vegetarian * Parve

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My friend Natalie had a birthday this week and when we were on the phone I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and her reply was “crepes or croissants.”  Croissants are way too complicated but I’d be glad to make a crepe recipe for her – and for YOU.  So Happy Birthday Natalie – I hope you love these.

Now about Palacsinta (we pronounce then palachinkin), as you may have figured out from previous posts, my background is Hungarian.  On weekends when my grandmother would come to visit, Sunday mornings she would make Palacsinta.  She would stand at the stove using 3 small skillets at a time turning out palachinkin as fast as a machine – but never could she keep up with our almost super human ability to pack them away.  After a while she would give up and add a little flour to the remaining batter, than add cut up apples or bananas and make what she called fritters but in reality was more of a German apple (or banana) pancake.  I don’t think Grandma actually ever got to eat any of it – unless she snuck (is that a word?) one or two while she was at the stove – cause she surely never sat down at the table.  She was a great lady (and fabulous cook), my Grandma.

As you can see from the photos there are 2 ways of making crepes – logs or chevrons.  The logs are the Hungarian presentation, the chevrons which  are French (though they do logs as well) are easier to handle.

You can use this recipe to make savory crepes as well – just omit the sweetener.
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