Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Road to Raw Food

Yes folks.  I've entered the twilight zone of raw food.  I never thought my healthy eating would go this far but when you spend most of every day in fear of eating something that will make you sick, you are willing to give anything a try.

I've tried the raw food thing once before but I jumped in without a life vest so to speak and nearly drowned in  dehydrating techniques, juicing without a juicer (do not try this at home-you will never eat celery again) and spending too much time soaking and rinsing things that I had never even heard of before.

Perhaps I should explain what the raw food lifestyle is for those of you who are fortunate enough to have never been lured into this cult like way of preparing and eating food.  Raw foodists believe that in order to receive all the nutrients and enzymes that the body needs food must not be heated over a certain temperature (no more than 120 degrees F although there is not an across the board agreement on this). There are other things involved as well, such as how food is prepared, what food to eat, etc.  For most of us who have a hard enough time trying to cook a tv dinner in the microwave without burning it, living a raw food lifestyle would be a real pain in the ass. And that's an understatement.

But when my health started to get bad again I thought I would take another stab at eating raw. This time though I decided to stick my toes in first before immersing myself.  And boy am I glad I did.  Yesterday was my first day and I couldn't believe how easy it was.  First of all, I simply added some raw foods to my meals.  Last night for dinner we had cooked (yeah, that's right-cooked, at a steamy 375 degrees no less) salmon with cooked rice and my now favorite salad of all time..... zucchini salad with sun dried tomatoes!  It was freaking delicious and ridiculously easy to make.  It took me all of ten minutes.  

I used two small zucchinis, a small handful of baby carrots, same for the sun dried tomatoes (Trader Joe's has them now not soaked in oil-fantastic!), 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and of apple cider vinegar, a dab of crushed garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste.  

I used a vegetable peeler to slice up the zucchinis lengthwise into strips and placed them in a small bowl.  I shredded the carrots with a cheese grater and cut up the sun dried tomatoes into little bits.  I mixed it all together with the oil, vinegar, garlic and herbs and voila!  It was that easy!  Then I let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. It was so good I would've just had that as my dinner and been satisfied.

Not only did I have this wonderful dish but I made a cucumber "soup" too.  I took one large cucumber, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 cup water, a dab or two of minced red onion (this was very strong tasting initially but subsided after sitting in the fridge for a couple hours) salt and pepper to taste and blended it all together in the blender.  Just like that I had soup.  It was very refreshing.  

I should suggest using only organic produce when making these dishes not just for health factors but taste too. I used cucumber and avocado from our local corner store--not organic.  The cucumber tasted like sweaty socks and most of the avocado was rotting inside. It did taste better once blended and since I was just testing things out (and maybe would've been throwing it out too if it didn't come out well) I figured no harm done.  Next time will for sure be organic.

So raw food can be done my friends even for those of us who get turned off at the thought of having to  wield a vegetable peeler. The plus side is I don't feel full and tired.  I feel satiated and less tired.  Maybe going forward I will feel energized.  Only time will tell.

I'm looking forward to lunch! The menu calls for spinach salad with homemade curry dressing.  Mmmm.....

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Blog Coming Soon! It's all about Gratitude

Hi there everyone,
I'm sure you have missed me and my wholefoodee blogs, of which, I am hoping I will pick up again soon.  In the meantime, I will be starting another blog and wanted to inform you all about it. But first, let me explain where this is coming from.

Today I went for a run in China Camp, the place I always go for solitude, soul cleansing, meditation.  It's basically what I would call a "poor man's therapy".  Usually when I go in the late afternoon and especially when it's warm and sunny (although lately the warm factor is amiss) the shoreline trail is quite busy with both novice and semi pro (or at least they are dressed as if) mountain bikers.  The general rule is to communicate to one another and to give pedestrians, then horses, then bikers the right of way.  Well, the laws of nature seem to dictate that if you are on something with two wheels, that is going quite fast then anything and everything else should get out of the way for you, without so much as an, "excuse me, thank you."  Although there are a few who at least acknowledge your existence by saying, "On your left!" as they zoom past, dirt flicking from their back tires.

Today wasn't much different except for one man who, after speeding down a switchback right above me with his female com padre, stopped about twenty feet in front of me and pulled off the side of the trail so that I could run past, sans dirt flick. Not only did he do this but after I graciously thanked him he replied, "Enjoy." And I immediately thought to myself, "I certainly will."  His comment stayed with me for the rest of my run and  made me realize how powerful words and actions can be.  This complete stranger made me feel good. How great would it be if everyone behaved like this one man all the time? To do and say something so simple yet change how a person feels from something maybe ho hum or even sad to kind and happy.

So, because of this man's kindness to me I wanted to be able to pay it forward in some way.  I came up with the idea of starting a blog about gratitude. This is what my next blog will be about and maybe it will allow us to all focus more on what we have rather than what we don't. So for this blog I am thankful for all of you who are reading this and hopefully gaining something from this or at least, giving me some sort of validation just for reading it.

There is one person in particular who I am especially grateful for and who I spoke to earlier today about my life's dreams. I had said I wanted to write but in that statement created this vision of how my life had to be a certain way in order for me to do that.  I also set certain parameters of how and what I would write and when and where. He made me realize that the only thing stopping me from writing was me. Thank you Bryan and just for the record what you say does make a difference in how people go about their lives.

Thanks again,

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pizza Heaven!

It's been so long since I've blogged but I have been recently inspired by a pizza crust that I concocted this evening so had to write about it.

Now that I am a new mom free time is something of the past, but because of all my food issues I still have to make my own meals.  Being gluten, dairy and now sugar and yeast intolerant it has been getting more and more difficult to find things to eat other than meat and vegetables.  Oh how I've missed sinking my teeth into a nice chewy and crispy pizza crust topped with oozing cheese and sauce.  But how does one go about making a pizza "sans" some essential ingredients like flour and yeast?  You find replacements.  I found a pizza mix recipe in my favorite bread book called "The Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Bread".  It's a must have for anyone who can't eat gluten but still longs for the "gluteny" texture of a good loaf of bread.  Of course I changed the recipe a bit to make it less starchy and more wholesome (better on the ol' glycemic index). Below is the mix then use that in my crust recipe:

Nancy's Pizza/Bread Mix:
2 1/2 cups Garbanzo Bean Flour
1 cup Brown Rice Flour
2 1/2 cups Tapioca Flour
2 Tblspns Xanthan Gum
2 packets Plain Gelatin

This should be mixed well. It makes a total of 6 cups so you will only need a portion of it for my pizza crust recipe.

Nancy's Gluten and Yeast Free Pizza Crust:
1 1/4 cups of the Pizza/Bread Mix
3 Tblspns Almond Meal
1/2 Teaspn Salt
1/2 Teaspn Baking Powder
1 Tblspn Psyllium Husk (for fiber)
1/2 Tblspn Flax Meal
1 Tblspn sesame seeds (optional)
1-2 Tblspns hulled sunflower seeds (optional)
2 Eggs
1/2 Teaspn Vinegar
1 1/2 Tblspns Vegetable Oil
2/3 Cup Warm Water

Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl mixing well.  Combine all the wet ingredients in another bowl and mix well.  Then combine the wet to the dry ingredients and mix well until you have a mushy glop.

Grease a cookie sheet and dust with sweet rice flour or corn flour.  Then pour the dough onto the cookie sheet and spread it with a rubber spatula (you may have to dip the spatula in water so it isn't too sticky) so that the dough is about 1/4 of an inch thick or slightly thinner depending on how you like your crust.  Don't worry if the dough doesn't fill the entire cookie sheet.

Set the cookie sheet aside and cover while you preheat the oven to 425.  Once the oven is ready place the cookie sheet on the middle rack and bake for 10 minutes or until you see the edges of the dough start to turn slightly brown.  Once it's done you can now add your pizza fixings.  Here's what I like to put on my pizza:

Nancy's Pizza Toppings:
2-3 cups Baby Spinach
4-6 cloves of Garlic, minced
Chopped Basil
Olive Oil
Tomato Sauce
Fake Cheese (Daiya is my favorite brand)

Add the spinach, garlic, basil and about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl and mix together. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce onto the dough.  Then add the spinach mixture on top.  Sprinkle your fake cheese and add the pepperoni and voila, you've got yourself a pizza.  Put it back in the oven at 425 for another 10 minutes and soon you will be in pizza heaven!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Long Awaited Lasagna

Sooooooo sorry for not getting this recipe out last year!  Especially to poor Lynn who asked me oh so long ago for the recipe and I wrote it all out on a recipe card to give to her and then never did.

After discovering that gluten (wheat) does a number on my body (flu-like symptoms and digestion problems to name a few) I thought my days of gorging on pasta were over.  Well, thank my lucky stars that did not happen.  I found this pasta recipe at my local library from, I think, one of the very first gluten free recipe books.  I, of course, added my personal touch to it and made a few changes which consists of adding some fiber and modifying the amount of the starches and flours.

Here you go:

Pasta Ingredients
1/3 cup tapioca flour
2 tbsp. potato starch
1/3 cup corn starch (possibly more)
1 tspn.  xanthan gum
1/4 cup psyllium husk for fiber (optional)
1/2 tspn. salt
2 large eggs
1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Lasagna Ingredients
12 strips of Nancy's homemade lasagna noodles
9x13 lasagna pan
1 24 oz. jar pre-made tomato sauce (or homemade)
2-3 tbsp. pesto (can use fresh chopped basil instead)
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 cup chopped spinach
16 oz. ricotta (can use tofu for a dairy free option)
one medium sized sweet potato, shredded (skin and all)
 6- 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced (can leave out if can't do dairy)
other veggies like zuchinni, diced (optional)

Pasta Insructions
In a dry mixing bowl combine the tapioca flour, potato starch, cornstarch and xanthan gum.  I use a crank sifter by putting all the dry ingredients into it first and sift it all through.  this helps to mix it.  Then once in the bowl I mix the dry ingredients again with a fork.

In another bowl mix the eggs, salt and vegetable oil.  Before combining the wet ingredients with the dry make sure you are set up to roll out the dough because once all the ingredients are combined you have very little time to work with the dough before the corn starch takes over and makes things hard.

To roll the dough I use a wooden roller on top of a freshly corn starched wooden cutting board.  You want to have a dry clean surface that is lightly coated with corn starch so the dough doesn't stick to the surface.  Also, make sure to coat the roller with corn starch too.

So now, that you are ready to roll your dough combine the wet with the dry and mix until you form a slightly sticky dough.  If the dough is too sticky (you can't get it off your hands and it is not forming into a ball) add a little bit more corn starch.  You can also coat your hands with corn starch too in order to form a ball and then place it on your rolling surface. Corn starch can be your friend or your enemy so start with a little and you can always add more.  Too much and you get one big hard glump of nothin, too little and the dough sticks to everything.  Once the dough is on the surface start your rolling.  You can get it pretty thin depending on how you like it.  I roll it until it looks as though I can make about 12-15 lasagna noodles.  Usually I get about 12 which is fine but it's nice to have extras in case some break or stick together after boiling.

Once the dough is rolled out you are ready to cut your noodles.  I use a plain ol' butter knife. They don't have to all be the same size and length--who's gonna notice once they're covered with sauce and stuff?  After they are cut I move each lasagna noodle to a dry, clean plate then put on a pot of water with a bit of salt and wait for it to come to a boil.  Once the water is boiling rapidly, add the noodles.  They don't need to long to cook, about 6 minutes or so.  *If you notice your noodles are still a bit sticky in some sections make sure to coat the sticky areas with corn starch, otherwise the noodles will stick together when boiling.

After the 6 minutes (or so) are up pour the pasta into a large colander and cool the noodles with cold water. Check to make sure none are stuck to each other.  If so, attempt to gently peel them apart.

Lasagna Instructions
While the pasta noodles are boiling start to prep for the lasagna.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of the lasagna pan with a thin layer of tomato sauce.

Combine the garlic, pesto, sweet potato, spinach and ricotta in a large mixing bowl. Add the first layer of noodles to the bottom of the lasagna pan then put the ricotta mixture on top. If you are a sauce person you can add tomato sauce too.  Add the next layer of noodles and either add your choice of mozzarella, veggies (if using) and sauce or you can continue with the ricotta mixture.  Once all your layers are done top it off with sauce and mozzarella.

Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and place in the center rack of the oven.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until you can see the lasagna is boiling and the cheese is fully melted.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes with the aluminum removed.  Enjoy!
*For full flavor I like to prepare it early in the day and cook it for 30 minutes, take it out and let it cool. Then I bake it again for 30-45 minutes right before serving.  This helps to evaporate some of the liquid and allows the flavors to combine.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quick and Easy Chicken Stock and Soup Recipes

This recipe goes out to my gal Regina.  Here you go!

To make chicken stock, here's what you do:
Take the carcass and pick off any of the edible meat that is left.  Store that in the fridge til you are ready to make soup.

Put the carcass in a large pot and fill the pot with water until the chicken is nearly covered in the water (it can poke above the water a little).  Add 1-2 celery stalks, 1/2-1 onion chopped, some carrots.  You don't need to worry about cutting the veggies up in little bits because you will be discarding most of it at the end anyway.

Boil the chicken with the veggies for 2-4 hours on med-low heat covered.  Whatever you prefer.  Then strain everything keeping only the liquid.  Add salt to taste and you're done!

To make a soup out of it add whatever you like.  Chopped carrots, celery, onion, rice, etc.

Here's how I make it:
1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup basmati rice (white or brown)
leftover chicken pieces, chopped
1 cup kale or spinach, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2-1 cup onion, diced
thyme to taste
pepper and salt to taste

I usually use all my stock for this recipe which is probably 1/2 gallon of water, maybe more.  I put the wild rice in the stock first and boil it for 20 minutes (my wild rice usually takes 40 minutes to cook).  Then I add the other rice and boil for another 10 minutes.  Then add all the other ingredients, except the chicken pieces and boil another 10 minutes until the rice is cooked.  Add the chicken and more thyme, salt and pepper if necessary.  You've got yourself a hearty chicken soup.  One thing to note is the rice will absorb ALOT of the liquid and especially if you don't eat it all in one day the rice gets all puffed up.  But it still tastes good!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Have You Seen Chef Academy On The Bravo Channel Yet?

I still have some pie recipes coming your way from my Thanksgiving meal (the pumpkin pie was to DIE FOR!), but first I have to tell you about "Chef Academy" on Bravo.  It's similar to "Top Chef" but it's more like a reality cooking school of talented, but not necessarily professional chefs.   And, you can actually get some of the recipes off the website, which I did and made Grandma Louise's Homemade Tomato Sauce.  Chef Novelli is the main attraction of the show and is quite entertaining in his own French-Italian kinda way.

Anyway, so I made the tomato sauce today and it was....different.  I have never made sauce completely from scratch.  I always cheat a little using one large can of diced tomatoes(if you can find a medium can use that but I never seem to be able to), one medium can of pure, organic tomato sauce and 1-2 tablespoons of pesto (the refrigerated kind not the jarred kind).  I also use several cloves of garlic-pressed, occasionally fresh chopped basil if I have it in the house, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and about 1/2 cup spinach or kale (whichever I have) chopped. I combine all the ingredients into a large pot and bring it to a slow boil on the stove.  It's best to let it simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes before using, but if you want true flavor, let it simmer on low heat for up to an hour and then let it sit on the stove for a couple of hours (or you can refrigerate it overnight), heat it up and serve.  This gives the sauce time to embrace all the flavors and evaporate some excess moisture.

Chef Novelli's recipe is quite different than mine.  He uses whole tomatoes (6lbs! I did half that and made enough sauce for two healthy servings), star anise (I had no clue what this even was!), vanilla bean--yep, not vanilla extract or vanilla flavoring, the actual bean.  These things cost an arm and a leg too so just get one,-- thyme (although if you go and watch his video he doesn't say anything about it but it's on the ingredient list),  garlic, olive oil, bay leaf, salt and pepper and sugar.

First, you take the tomatoes and cut them in half, cutting out the core/top--I was lucky and got some really nice tomatoes from the farmer's market at half price.  Even got a big heirloom.  Then put them all face down in a large heavy pan that has been preheated.  Add some salt and pepper as well as a bit  of sugar although I'm not a fan of sugar, but to each one's own.  Let them boil for a few minutes and then reduce heat, mash with a masher, and add the star anise (I used two of the stars and it was quite a powerful flavor).  Add the vanilla bean as well but first cut it down the center and scrape out the inside and put in the pan along with the shell of the bean.  Trust me, at almost $5 a bean you don't want to waste it!  I only used half of one since I was doing half the recipe and it was very strong. Throw in a bay leaf for good measure and a pinch or two of Thyme.  I added a pinch early and then another pinch toward the end (the thyme should be finely chopped).

Now let it simmer uncovered for about an hour or two until it's not so watery from the tomato juices.  For the finale, add 2-3 sprigs of the basil whole--just throw it all in!  Chef Novelli taught a cool way to prepare garlic cloves.  You put the cloves of garlic on a cutting board, take your kitchen knife (the big wide one) and rest it on it's side on top of an unsuspecting clove.  Then mash it hard!  It splits the garlic and makes it easier to peel the skin off.  Then you just throw 'em in as is!  Here's where you add the olive oil too, but make sure to do it slowly while stirring so it will blend well.  Let cook until the basil is softened and voila! I think I cooked it another 20 minutes and mashed the garlic a bit more with a wooden spoon while it was cooking.  Cook up a bit of pasta with some baked chicken breast, a side of sautéed Swiss chard with lemon, garlic and sesame oil and a fine glass of chianti and you've got yourself a nice dish!

There are more recipes on Bravo too.  I'm going to try the risotto next.  But I still have to tell you about my pies...mmmm...wish I had some right now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to Court a Turkey

I realized after our Thanksgiving feast I don't think I've ever cooked a turkey before. They are so....big.  And...leggy.  They're definitely not like chickens. The setting is much more intimate with a turkey, it's large body all naked and splayed out in the roasting pan looking vulnerable. And you spend alot of time getting to know it throughout the day.  First, you unwrap it from its case and remove the neck and any innards that are lurking inside. Then you clean it with cold water. After that the relationship ensues with the brining.  For a 14lb turkey like, um...let's call her Janice, you need 1 gallon of vegetable broth, 1 cup kosher salt or sea salt (the crystal kind), 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 gallon of water.  Put the water, sugar and salt into a large pot and bring to a boil on the stove.  This will dissolve the salt and sugar. Once cool, add the mix with the vegetable broth and put it in a large container or brining bag with the turkey, er, I mean, Janice inside. Brine her for 6-8 hours in the refrigerator or a large cooler.  The reason for brining is it makes the turkey moist when cooking.  It doesn't taste salty either.

While Janice is brining prepare the stuffing and sweet potatoes (see my previous post on Rosemary Chicken with Stuffing--double the stuffing recipe though). Once the brining is done take her out of the container or bag and rinse her inside and out.  Then place her on your roasting pan.   Now here's where you get to know Janice quite intimately. Fill her deep cavernous insides with stuffing and slather her pimply skin with butter and rosemary (cut slits in the skin and slide the rosemary sprigs inside). To keep her nice and cozy make sure to tie her legs together (we did not have any string, although our guests told us that we could've used dental floss, but we used kabob skewers.  It was a little tricky on the removal but we were able to avoid any splinters.).  Add about 1/4 inch water to the bottom of the pan and gently prop her sides up with plenty of sweet potatoes and oranges.

Before Janice goes into the oven make sure it has been preheated at 500 degrees.  Yeah, that's right.  Janice likes it hot!  To keep her skin from burning give her a little protection with some aluminum foil covering only two sides, leaving room for her to breathe a bit.  Once she's been in the oven for about 30 minutes you can reduce the heat to 325 and take the aluminum foil off after 30 minutes.  But you can't just leave her in there for the next 3 hours by herself!  You've got to check on her every half hour or so and baste her skin so it stays moist. With all this one on one attention you're sure to have a beautiful bird!