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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Garlic Green Beans


While fresh beans are still in season, make this simple side. It only takes a few ingredients and minutes to throw together.

1 pound fresh string beans
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Ground peppercorn
1 to 2 cloves fresh garlic

Wash the beans and trim their stem ends. Leave them whole or cut them in half.

Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the beans with a pinch of sea salt and ground peppercorn. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Grate the garlic over the beans, then toss them to distribute it evenly. Cover for 1 minute. Toss again and taste for seasoning. Adjust if necessary. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cajun Roasted Cod

This fish dish is fast and easy to prepare if you have Cajun Seasoning already on hand. (If you don't, you can mix up your own in minutes). Because it contains sea salt, it's the only seasoning you'll need.

You can use this seasoning with any protein, so if you don't have cod, substitute shrimp, Alaskan halibut, chicken or triangles of tofu.

Balance the heat by serving this spicy dish with something cool.  I used my favorite fresh tomato: green zebras.

Their cool, clean, and slightly sweet flavor pairs well with the spicy Cajun seasoning. If you don't have fresh, ripe tomatoes (of any color) serve a green salad instead.

1 lb Alaskan cod, whole fillet or individual portions, at room temperature 
Cajun Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 375F. 

Lightly coat a baking dish with butter or extra virgin olive oil. 

Sprinkle the Cajun seasoning over the fish and place it inside the baking dish. 

Transfer it to the oven and roast until flaky and just cooked through, 
7 to 10 minutes for individual portions, 15 minutes or more for whole fillets.

Serve the fish on a bed of diced tomatoes or salad greens.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cajun Seasoning


Use this versatile spice blend to season beans, fish and poultry.
Stir it into a pot of lentils, use it as the flavor base for chili, rub it on chicken before you grill it, or sprinkle it over fish before baking.

Don't make more than you'll use in a month or so, unless you plan to share. Once herbs and spices are ground, they quickly lose their flavor. If you prefer to add salt separately, omit it from this recipe.

1 chipotle pepper, stemmed and torn into pieces
2 tsp mixed peppercorns, or substitute black peppercorns
2 tsp smoked sea salt
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp corriander seeds
2 tsp smoked paprika

Add all the ingredients to a spice grinder. Pulse and grind until you achieve a fine texture.

Transfer any excess seasoning to an air-tight container and store for future use.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Healthy Halloween Treats: Chocolate Nut Clusters


These Chocolate Nut Clusters taste so good, people may not even notice they're good for you too.

A simple combination of dark chocolate and nuts, they are quick and easy to assemble. And they're free of added sugar, emulsifiers, stabilizers and preservatives.

Look for a good quality chocolate with a high cocoa content, 70% or more. It’s the cocoa powder that contains healthy compounds shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and cancer.

I used cashews, walnuts and coconut. Other nuts would be good too, like pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts or almonds. Or make mixed nut clusters.

If you're avoiding nuts (nuts are among the top ten most common food allergies), you can substitute unsweetened dried fruit, like tart cherries, blueberries, apricots, or chunks of fig.

I made these clusters in a silicone mini-muffin pan. Silicone molds of other shapes and sizes would work well too.

This recipe makes about 20 clusters: 8 coconut, 6 cashew and 6 walnut.

8 oz 70% dark chocolate
18 raw cashews
1/4 cup walnut pieces
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Warm the chocolate in a glass or stainless steel bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, covered, until just melted.

While the chocolate melts, divide the nuts into the mini-muffin cups, 3 whole cashews or a few walnut pieces per cup.

Once the chocolate is just melted, remove it from the heat and stir it until smooth. Drop a spoonful of the melted chocolate into each cup, over the nuts.

Transfer the cups to the fridge to set, about 10 minutes.

Stir the unsweetened coconut flakes into the remaining chocolate. The coconut should be generously coated with chocolate. Set the bowl aside to allow the coconut to soften while the nut clusters set.

Once the chocolate nut clusters have set, transfer them to a serving platter or an air-tight storage container.

Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate-coconut mixture into the cups.

 Transfer them to the fridge to set. Once set, transfer to a serving dish or an air-tight storage container.

These nut clusters are best served at room temperature. If you're making them ahead, plan to take them out of the fridge half an hour before you serve them.

You can package the dark chocolate nut clusters for trick-or-treaters, offer them as a hostess gift, or serve them as a healthy dessert.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pumpkin Soup


I serve this soup as a simple starter when I'm short on time. It's easy to throw together and doesn't take long to cook, if you have pumpkin purée already on hand and a well-stocked spice cabinet.

Pumpkin is full of fiber and disease-fighting nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron,  calcium and magnesium. It also contains B vitamins and trace minerals like copper and manganese that are essential for healthy bones. My recipe contains turmeric, a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

This soup is stand-alone good, but feel free to finish it with a dollop of whole milk plain yogurt or more coconut milk.

Fresh chopped cilantro, toasted pumpkin seeds and/or coconut flakes make great garnishes too.

For a dairy-free, vegan version, omit the yogurt and use olive oil instead of butter. 

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or butter 
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
Pinch cayenne
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
Ground nutmeg to taste
Ground peppercorn to taste
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup vegetable broth
14 oz canned pumpkin
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

To garnish:

More coconut milk
Organic whole milk plain yogurt
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Oven-toasted pumpkin seeds
Unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes

In a medium pot with a heavy bottom, warm the butter or olive oil and sauté the onion until soft and starting to brown.

Grate in the garlic and ginger. Stir to combine. Add the rest of the spices: cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg, pepper and salt. Stir to coat the onion evenly with the spices. Continue to cook until they spices warm and start to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Add the vegetable broth and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until nearly ready to serve, 10 minutes or more.

To finish the soup, add the coconut milk and purée with an immersion blender until smooth. Continue cooking to bring the soup back up to temperature, then remove it from the heat.

Garnish the soup with yogurt or coconut milk and pumpkin seeds, shredded coconut, and/or fresh chopped cilantro.

Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cajun Lentil Soup


Soup is one of my favorite things about fall. As temperatures cool, I crave warm and satisfying foods, like this simple lentil soup.

Lentils are a good source of vegetarian protein. I used two kinds here, the regular brown variety that hold their shape and also some red lentils that dissolve to thicken the broth. The red lentils are so tender and small that they don't need to be pre-soaked. Ideally, the brown lentils should be soaked. In a pinch, you could get away without soaking them, but this extra step makes them easier to digest and their nutrients more bioavailable.

This recipe calls for pasture-raised bacon. You can skip it if you prefer a vegetarian version, but it does give this soup a savory, smokey richness. And it's a good example of how a little meat can go a long way. Use it as a condiment in a plant-based diet, rather than the main course.

My mandolin makes quick work of chopping the onion and carrot
(I used the thin julienne blade) but a knife works just fine.

The Cajun seasoning is an aromatic mixture of cumin, coriander, paprika, rosemary, peppercorn and chipotle pepper (a smoked jalapeno). If that's enough spice for you, omit the fresh chili pepper.
I like the extra heat and the fresh chili flavor, so I use both.

3 slices pasture-raised bacon, chopped
2 cups finely chopped carrots
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 fresh chili pepper, minced (optional)
3 or 4 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2 cups chopped fresh tomato or crushed tomatoes
2 tsp Cajun seasoning (recipe follows)
2 cups dry lentils, soaked 8 hours or more, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cups concentrated home-made bone broth (chicken or turkey)
Whole milk plain yogurt to garnish (optional)
Fresh oregano or other fresh herbs to garnish (optional)

Warm the chopped bacon in a heavy soup pot over low heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon has browned. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more, until the garlic becomes aromatic. Stir in the onion and carrot and continue cooking until they start to brown.

Add the tomatoes and Cajun seasoning. Stir to combine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the tomatoes have broken down and formed a sauce, add the brown lentils, red lentils, broth and enough water to cover all of the ingredients generously.

Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer until the broth has thickened and the lentils and vegetables are tender. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Serve immediately, garnished with yogurt and fresh herbs if you like, or cover and set it aside if you're making it in advance. Once it cools to room temperature, transfer it to the fridge if you're not planning to eat it within 2 hours of turning off the heat.