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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Broccoli Salad


Broccoli and other vegetables in the Brassicaceae family help the liver eliminate carcinogens and other toxins we're exposed to every day. They are also a rich source of antioxidants with anti-cancer activity.

Because these special compounds are destroyed by boiling, eat these vegetables steamed until crisp-tender or raw, like in this salad. A surprising combination of tender broccoli, crunchy pecans, soft blueberries, sharp red onion and a creamy yogurt dressing make it an unusual but delicious dish.

This salad also calls for bacon. Many people think of bacon as an unhealthy and artery-clogging food, but saturated fats don't cause cardiovascular disease (sugar and oxidized fats do). And when meat comes from animals raised on pasture, it can be part of a healthy diet for those who choose to eat it.

Unlike grain-fed meat, grass-fed meat is a good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Meat that comes from animals raised on grains, like corn and soybeans, is high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

Consuming too many omega-6 fats from grains, grain-fed meat, and processed foods made with soybean oil or corn oil, is certainly a significant factor in the current crisis of inflammatory illness. Chronic and deadly diseases linked to both diet and inflammation include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Together, these three conditions currently kill two out of every three people in the United States.

To protect your health, seek out meat, milk and eggs from animals raised on pasture. These products are often more expensive than their grain-fed counterparts, but remember that quality is more important than quantity. It's better to eat smaller amounts of grass-fed meat than larger amounts of grain-fed meat. A little meat can go along way, so think of it as a healthy condiment for a plant-based diet.

This broccoli salad is a great example, and it's my version of a family favorite. I dressed it up with dried blueberries, but you can substitute any other unsweetened, dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries. If you can't find grass-fed pork, or if you don't eat pork, skip the bacon and make a vegetarian version of this salad.

It's a great dish to make ahead of time. I often prepare it on the weekend and eat it throughout the week. But be sure to keep the dressing separate from the other ingredients until you're ready to eat it.

For a crunchy salad, toss it with the dressing just before you serve it. For a softer salad, toss it 15 to 30 minutes prior.

4 slices heritage bacon from pasture-raised pigs
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw walnuts, pecans or pistachios
2 tbsp whole milk plain yogurt from grass-fed cows
2 tbsp real mayonnaise, or substitute more yogurt
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp raw local honey
Sea salt to taste
Ground peppercorn to taste
1 bunch broccoli, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup red onion or scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried unsweetened blueberries,  cherries or cranberries (no oil or sugar added)
1/4 cup dried unsweetened golden raisins (no oil or sugar added)

Sauté the bacon until most of the fat has rendered. Cool to room temperature, chop or crumble and set aside.

If desired, toast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned. Repeat with the pecans. Set aside to cool.

In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, maple syrup, sea salt and peppercorn until smooth. Add the broccoli, blueberries, raisins, sunflower seeds and pecans to the bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped bacon. Serve immediately or within one hour.

If making farther in advance, make the dressing in a small bowl and combine the other ingredients in a separate large bowl.  Toss everything together when ready to serve.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Home-Made Apple Sauce

Home-made apple sauce is so much better than the store-bought version, and it's surprisingly simple to make.

I like to use a variety of apples to give my sauce a complex flavor. If you're not sure which varieties make the best sauce, ask around at your local farmer's market. The friendly folks from Locust Grove Farms helped me pick out the Opalescent, Stayman Winesap and Granny Smith apples I used in this recipe.

Eat this apple sauce by itself, hot or cold, stir it into organic whole milk plain yogurt, or add it to cooked oatmeal. You can also serve it as a compote to accompany savory dishes, like slow-roasted heritage pork.

If your orange isn't organic, do not use the zest.

Use organic or unsprayed apples and leave the peel intact to take advantage of all the antioxidants and fiber found there.

I chopped the apples in my food processor while they were still raw, to avoid having large chunks of peel in the finished sauce and to give it a lovely texture. If you chop your apples by hand, you will most likely get a chunkier sauce. For a smooth sauce, purée it at the end.

4 to 5 large organic apples
Pinch sea salt
Cinnamon to taste
Allspice to taste

Zest and juice the orange.

Core and roughly chop the apples. In two batches, transfer them to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer them to a large sauce pan with the freshly-squeezed orange juice. Cook the apples over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they break down into a sauce, about 30 minutes.

Remove the apple sauce from the heat and stir in the orange zest, sea salt, cinnamon and allspice. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired.

Serve immediately or cool completely and transfer to an airtight container in the fridge.

Yield: 5 to 6 cups sauce

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ginger Pineapple Sauce

Fruit sauces are a winter staple. Whether you use apples, pears or pineapple, the strategy is the same: cook chopped ripe fruit with a little bit of liquid, a pinch of sea salt, and any spices you like, until soft.

Here I added orange, ginger, and a hint of cayenne.

This is a very versatile sauce. I served it with a slow-cooked ham, but it would also be great with duck, chicken, fish or tamari-marinated tempeh. You can also add it to a smoothie, stir it into yogurt, or eat it with oatmeal.

1 fresh pineapple
1 organic orange, zest and juice
1 tsp fresh grated ginger, or to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Pinch sea salt

Slice off the top and bottom of the pineapple. Stand it up on end and cut down the sides to remove strips of the outer layer. Chop the fruit into 1-inch chunks (core included) and add it to a food processor. Pulse until very finely chopped, then transfer the pineapple to a saucepan.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients and turn on the burner. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a slow simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened to a pleasing flavor and consistency.

Serve immediately or cool to room temperature and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Easy Baked Eggs


Looking for a New Year's resolution?

What about eating more non-starchy vegetables?

Breakfast is a good place to start. For most people, this is a meal made mostly of flour and sugar: processed breakfast cereal, cereal bars, toast, Pop-tarts, pastries, croissants, jelly, doughnuts, French toast, waffles, pancakes and syrup.

Instead, eat protein and veggies for breakfast. If they are healthy choices for lunch and dinner, why wouldn't they be healthy choices for breakfast?

This recipe is a simple way to add more vegetables to your diet. It makes a quick, nutritious breakfast on busy mornings, but it can also be served for brunch, lunch or dinner. Two eggs are ideal for a main course and a single baked egg makes a nice appetizer. If you're feeding a crowd, bake the eggs in an oven-proof dish instead of individual ramekins.

I used leftover crushed tomatoes, mixed with some garlic and herbs, but you could use other vegetables (this is a great way to use up leftovers). Try sautéed vegetables, steamed spinach, ratatouille, lentils, or anything else you can nestle an egg into.

Because it melts so beautifully, I topped my eggs with a few pieces of Munster cheese. You could use another cheese, or skip it if you prefer. A sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs would be ideal.

Crushed tomatoes or other cooked vegetables, 1 cup per serving
Pasture-raised eggs, 2 per serving
Sea salt
Ground peppercorn
Slices of Munster cheese or other cheese
Fresh chopped herbs to garnish (optional)

Preheat the over to 400F.

Fill individuals ramekins or a large baking dish with the tomatoes. Make indentations, enough to accommodate all of your eggs, then crack one egg into each indentation. Sprinkle with sea salt and peppercorn. Top with cheese.

Transfer the eggs to the oven and cook for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how thoroughly you like your yolks cooked. Serve hot.