Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wild Chickpea Salad

One sunny day, Molly and I parked our bikes at Flying Apron hoping to find something to boost our blood sugar levels.  We bought several dishes to share, but there was one recipe that we both seemed to be very conscious of the portion size the other had taken.  Finally, we agreed that it was evenly divided.  

The flavors of this dish were so balanced and satisfying.  As we examined the ingredients, we realized it looked quite simple to prepare, we should give it a shot.  Well, it only took one try to realize that it's pretty darn easy.   Serve it alone or accompanied.  One of my favorite ways is stuffed in a baked acorn squash and topped with parmesan cheese.  I've made this dish several times for guests, potlucks, and dinner parties.   The conversation seems to go something like this: 

Guest: Wow, that's delicious.  How do you make it? 
Me: It's super easy. It's just...
Guest: That's all?
Me: That's it!

Wild Chickpea Salad 

This salad is amazingly easy and delicious for so few ingredients!

Makes 6-8 servings

1 cup short grain brown rice
1 cup wild rice
2 cups water
½ tsp salt

1 cup chickpeas, cooked
2 T rosemary
1 T butter or coconut oil
2 cups chopped mushrooms (chantrelles are best)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 green onions, chopped
½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

1.     Put rice, salt and water in a pot, bring to a boil, cover and simmer.  The rice will form channels that cook the grains evenly (therefore should not be stirred).

2.    Chop mushrooms into bite size pieces.  Finely chop the green onions, and dice the rosemary.

3.    Add a T of oil to a skillet on medium heat, and add mushrooms until tender.  Stir in the rosemary and saute a minute longer.

4.    Lightly toast pumpkin seeds (either on the stovetop or in the oven).

5.    Mix all ingredients in a bowl, toss well and serve.

Mushrooms are incredibly nutritious, stayed tuned for more information on mushroom's protein, vitamin D and mineral content! 

Wild rice is one of the only native grains to the United States, and makes a great compliment to the brown rice.  Together the grains and legume form a complete protein, meaning all amino acids are present to build proteins in our body.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rosemary Beet Soup

Happy Equinox!    Today is shorter than yesterday, and it marks the official first day of "soup season" in the GardenHouse.  There's already a difference in the air,  a sharp coolness that marks the change of  season.  As the winds blow in the cold wetness, the flowers go to seed, and leaves of the plants die back, returning their nutrients to the soil.  In order to have enough nutrients to live through the winter, the plant's vital energy is sent to their roots.   

In Chinese medicine, the most important quality for food-as-medicine is the "thermal nature."   When cooling foods (i.e: raw salads, cucumbers, and apples) are eaten, they support the body's ability to cool by directing the energy and fluids inward towards our core.  When warming foods are eaten, energy and blood are pushed up and out to the surface of the body.  Vegetables that take longer to grow tend to be "warmer" foods (i.e: root vegetables, cabbages, hot peppers).  Root vegetables store heat over the many months they take to mature, making Autumn a perfect time for harvesting roots for warmth, sweetness, and nutrition.

Rosemary Beet Soup
This recipe is made with a combination of legumes, herbs and roots and offers a deep, satisfying taste.  My favorite feature about this soup is its vibrant red color coming in and going out. ;-)

Makes 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 beets, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 cup dried red lentils
2 bay leaves
1 tsp red pepper flakes
6 cups water or stock
2-3 tablespoons light miso

Heat oil in a soup pot; add onion and sauté until soft.  Scrub and chop the carrots and beets. Add carrots and beets; sauté a few minutes more. Wash and drain lentils. If using fresh herbs, finely chop rosemary and oregano leaves.  Add herbs, lentils, bay leaves, pepper flakes and water or stock to onion mix; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 40 minutes.  Remove bay leaves.  Remove 1 cup of soup water and dissolve the miso paste into it, add it back to pot.  It's important not to boil the soup after the miso is put in or it damages the microbes that are oh-so-good for you.  Puree soup (I prefer to use an inversion blender).  Serve warm or cold. 

Beets have long been valued as a blood tonic, and are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, carotein, B complex and vitamin C.  Beets also offer us a bonus that not all root vegetables do, the beet greens are edible and offer the many nutritional benefits too.  The bitter greens are also a great compliment to the sweet earthy root.  

Carrots maybe the most popular, versatile, and nutritious vegetables.  They are a rich source of carotenoids, B vitamins, phosphorus, calcium, and iodine.

The lentils in this recipe provide the protein foundation that should be a component of every meal.  The lowly lentil has nourished people across the globe since the beginning of time.  Lentils are high in minerals, calcium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, and iron.  

Using red lentils with red beets and orange carrots will help emphasize the robust color provided by the carotene and betanin antioxidants in the root vegetables. The deep red color that makes this soup so extravagant is responsible for improving circulation and purifying our blood.

An entire post is necessary to justify the seemingly endless benefits of using fermented foods such as the ancient food, miso.  In short, it is high in amino acids (building blocks of protein), vitamin B12 and lactobacillus (which aids in digestion and nutrient assimilation).  Historically, miso is noted to contribute to longevity and overall good health.  

Go ahead, try this soup, do it!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Berry Crisp - the best version

crisp made with blueberries & peaches

Himalayan blackberries seem to cover the city this time of year. While these transplants can cause a lot of grief and disruption to the native habitat, they sure taste delicious. If you are so lucky to have some of these invasives in your yard, be sure to eat them up before you dig them out!

This summer, I've made this berry crisp at least a dozen times, with several different fruit combinations (strawberries & rhubarb, blackberries & blueberries, peaches & strawberries, blackberries & blueberries, and peaches & blueberries, etc). The black pepper in the crisp is inspired by a recipe in one of my favorite food blogs: 101 Cookbooks. The pepper is a great twist and a perfect compliment for for tartness of the berries.

Best Berry Crisp
Oh what a versatile recipe! Feel free to experiment with the amount of sugar based on the sweetness of your fruit.

3/4 cup spelt flour
2/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup unsalted organic butter, melted

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 lb blackberries (or mixed berries)

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a 9x9 square baking dish.

Combine the flour, nuts, oats, sugar, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Cut the butter into 1/4" pieces and add to the mix.

Whisk together the cornstarch and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the berries, and toss until evenly coated. Transfer the filling to the prepared pan, and crumble the dry mix on top, spread evenly.

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.

crisp made with blackberries & strawberries

Carbohydrates (grains, fruit, breads, pasta, & sugar) increase blood glucose levels which in turn triggers an insulin secretion. This response is a part of normal digestion and is necessary for daily functions. Overeating refined and processed carbohydrates can result in dramatic spikes of glucose and insulin in the blood. These spikes are damaging to our cardiovascular and endocrine systems. They result in lots of health problems including: insulin resistance, diabetes, weight gain, metabolic dysfunction, hypoglycemia, and fatigue. Combining carbohydrate intake with quality protein and fat sources, slows glucose uptake and insulin response, thereby resulting in better blood sugar stability and ultimately fewer health complications.

If you are to eat sweets, it's important to do so with moderation and quality ingredients. Literature is showing more and more that the quality of your ingredients plays a major role in the digestibility and biological response to your intake. If you choose to make your desserts and treats at home, you will avoid the dyes, preservatives and flavor enhancers that processed foods promise us. You can also choose to add those important sources of proteins and fat that provide so much benefit to our carbohydrate digestion.

This recipe includes quality sources of carbohydrates (oats and fruit), protein(nuts), and fat(butter). It's a delicious dessert without the crap and won't make your blood sugars go haywire! Enjoy, and tell me what you think!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Zucchini Bread

zucchini blossom and bread

I can handle one squash and one zucchini a day. That's about our yield. Though, I was hoping for so many that we would have to make pickles, stir-fries, pizzas, breads, and to give them to the neighbors, and maybe even get sick of them before the fall sets in.

The leaves are hurting though, and not producing as much as they should. Oh, powdery mildew, please go away! Nonetheless, we have zucchini, great big and small beautiful zucchini.

One reason I love zucchini is that you can hide it in just about anything for finicky eaters. I've been known to put shredded zucchini in spaghetti, bread, brownies, salads, tacos, pancakes, smoothies, lasagna, and even hamburgers. While it's not known to be a super food, it has a good amount of fiber and Vitamin A & C, micronutrients and minerals, and can certainly help increase someone's vegetable intake even without them knowing!

Zucchini Bread
This recipe is one that I adapted from the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook. It's a solid, basic and delicious recipe.

Makes 1 loaf of 12 muffins

1 ½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 pound zucchini
¾ cup raw sugar
½ cup pecans
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
¼ cup yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 T juice from 1 lemon
6 T butter, melted and cooled

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.Oil the bottom and sides of a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan; dust with flour tapping out the excess.
2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the shredding metal blade, process the zucchini and 1 T of sugar until the zucchini is coarsely shredded (you could use a cheese grater too). Transfer the mixture to a mesh strainer over a bowl and allow to drain for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a cooling rack and cool completely.
4. Mix together flour, soda, powder, salt and nuts. Set aside.
5. Whisk together the remaining sugar, the yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and melted butter until combined.
6. After zucchini has drained. Stir the zucchini and the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
7. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool before serving.

*for making muffins, bake for 20 minutes at 375.

For you gluten and dairy free folks out there. Sorry to not accommodate, but there is a great zucchini bread recipe posted on the Whole Life Nutrition blog for you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Last Summer Meal

Okra & tomatoes, rainbow chard, steamed broccoli, cheese grits, speckled trout, and black beans

Seattle is good at providing gray skies and cold weather crops, but trying to grow tomatoes and corn can make a gardener crazy! Trying to grow okra in the Northwest is simply unheard! Do you even know what okra is?

Luckily, I am from Louisiana, and most of my family still lives there. Each and every time my parents come for a visit they bring 50 pounds (airline weight limit) of food that is unavailable in the Emerald city. On a recent trip to Seattle, my mother came with her usual ice chest full to the brim of delicious southern ingredients. I opened the red igloo, and along side the venison and pre-oil Gulf Redfish, I found a 2 gallon bag full of fresh picked okra. Okra is notorious for being a slimy green vegetable, but let me tell you, when it's prepared well, nothing says "perfect summer day" better. Okra can be a crunchy un-slippery vegetable if it is sautéed quickly, on high heat; you get all the crunch and flavor without the slurp. The pairing of okra and tomatoes is a classic combination and a great introduction to this heat loving vegetable.

As I look at the window to the spitting rain and 50 degree temperature, I'm grateful to have ended the season on such a perfect meal.
I was also delighted to discover that Alvarez Farms at the Columbia City or Ballard Farmers Market often sells okra that they grow on the east side of the Cascades. Hurry to the Farmer's Market in Columbia City and try it for yourself!

Okra and Tomatoes

The classic way to eat okra. With each chop the green hairy pods will turn into green and white seedy stars and you too will begin your affinity for the odd slippery vegetable.

Serves 4

2 T olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 jalepeno, diced

1 pound okra, chopped into 1/2" slices

1 ½ cups fresh tomatoes, chopped (or canned stewed tomatoes)

½ cup basil, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add a pinch of salt and saute a few seconds more. Add pepper and stir about 1 minute. Add the okra and sauté on high until the okra is tender and bright, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer until the tomatoes are slightly broken down and heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

While okra's best value is the ability to feed the soul and stir up nostalgia of hot summer days and the smell fresh cut fields, it's actually quite good for you. It
is rich in vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, zinc, iron and fiber. Since iron is better absorbed with the help of vitamin C, tomatoes makes a great nutritional compliment. It is also full of amino acids, including tryptophan, which help to ensure a great night sleep.