Saturday, July 26, 2014

Breakfast Cookies

Full of energy...but not too filling!

Let's face it...what kid is not going to be happy if handed a cookie for breakfast? With these, you can get the points for being a cool mom, but also be confident that your kids are eating for health.

As far as adults go, why not enjoy a cookie for breakfast?  I like to have a nutritious and delicious green smoothie for breakfast and most days it lasts me until noon.  However, some days, I find that I have an empty feeling mid-morning and I want a little something that will put a feeling of fullness into my belly.  These breakfast "cookies" are the perfect thing.  They are nutritious and help push me through the morning without spoiling my appetite for lunch.

The "cookies" are grain-free and sugar-free.  I used butter in mine, but you could just as easily substitute coconut oil for the butter and then they would be dairy-free too.  I've added pecans, dried cherries and chocolate chips to these, but feel free to substitute in your favorite fruits and nuts or to leave out the chocolate, if you wish.

Breakfast Cookies

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl:
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup flaxmeal
1/2 cup fine coconut flour (I used Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Flour)
2 T stevia
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t xanthan gum
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t cinnamon
fresh grated orange zest from 1 orange or 1/2 t dried grated orange rind

In a mixer with a paddle blade combine together:
1 stick of organic butter or 1/2 cup of coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut nectar
1/2 cup coconut milk yogurt or regular yogurt if preferred
1 egg

Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in the mixer bowl and combine.  Then add in the following:
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup Enjoy Life mini chips
1/4 cup coconut shreds

Scoop the mixture using a medium sized spring release scoop and drop onto a cookie sheet that has been topped with a Silpat.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes.  Makes a dozen cookies.

Spring Release Scoop

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not Your Church Potluck Potato Salad

Potatoes for Sale at my Local Farmer's Market

Potatoes are plentiful in my local farmer's market this time of summer.  I love to boil up the tiny new ones and use them in various potato salads.  Serve them with some simple sliced summer tomatoes, corn on the cob and something from the BBQ and you have the quintessential summer menu.

Fresh Organic Potatoes

Not Your Church Potluck Potato Salad

8 or so fingerling and small purple potatoes cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 shallot minced
1 cup celery chopped
3 T homemade mayonnaise
1 1/2 t Dijon
1 t raw apple cider vinegar
1 T fresh chopped thyme
fresh ground sea salt and black pepper
organic bacon fried and crumbled into bits

Combine all ingredients except bacon in a bowl and stir gently.  Top with bacon bits.

It's the Perfect Time of Year for Homemade Mayonnaise

It's the perfect time of year for homemade mayonnaise.  The markets are filled with glorious summer vegetables and the salad fixings are at their peak.  Not only that, but our home gardens and window boxes are spilling forth with fresh herbs.  Quickly tossing some of those fresh herbs and a little homemade mayonnaise together is the quickest way to a killer summer sauce.  A great big luscious dollop of green herbed mayonnaise tastes fabulous on top of fresh summer tomatoes, or on BBQ chicken and meats or just about any summer vegetable.

Homemade Grain-free Cashew Bread with Olive Tapenade and Basil Mayonnaise
Unfortunately, many store-bought mayonnaises are now made with soy oil.  Soy is a higher ratio omega-6 oil which means that it contributes to inflammation.  (We want more omega-3s in our diets and fewer omega-6s, see here for more information on this.)  Inflammation is a contributing factor in heart disease as well as all the auto-immune diseases and arthritis.  Another reason to avoid soy is that most soy oils are GMO.  If you can find a store-bought mayonnaise that is made with olive oil or canola oil, go ahead and use it, just check the label first to make sure they are not adding soy oil to the recipe.

Like the rest of us, I believe in purchasing already prepared foods when they are delicious and healthful.  Unfortunately, in the case of mayonnaise (and salad dressings, too) it is harder and harder to find healthy versions.  Luckily, homemade mayonnaise is actually much better tasting and it makes up pretty quickly, too, once you get the hang of it.

Here are a few things you need to know about it before you get started.

Chemistry   Often you can throw a bunch of stuff that you think goes together in a pot or a bowl and get lucky.  It will taste good.  However, there are times in cooking where hunches, chance and luck just won't work.  Sometimes cooking requires chemistry.  And chemistry is exactly what is required when it comes to mayonnaise.

Emulsion   The important word when you're making mayonnaise is emulsion.  An emulsion is "a fine dispersion of droplets of one liquid in another".  You know what happens if you pour oil and any water-based liquid into a bowl.  They float separately. Well, when you make mayonnaise, the goal is to combine water-based liquids, in this case eggs, lemon and dijon mustard, with oil.  Your goal is to create a beautiful thick creamy emulsion, not an ugly oily mess of separated ingredients.

Well, often with mayonnaise, you get an ugly oily mess of separated ingredients.  In fact, for years as a young cook, I tried one mayonnaise recipe after another, without success.

Fool Proof Recipe   At some point, however, in my early frustrated attempts to make homemade mayonnaise, I stumbled onto the perfect recipe.  The chemistry always works, if you follow it accurately.  The recipe can be found in the original Silver Palate cookbook, and again, it always works.  But you must follow it accurately. Make sure that you use the exact ingredients and the exact quantities and procedure called for.  The chemistry must be correct or the recipe won't work.

Cuisinart   This recipe requires a Cuisinart or some other form of food processor. A good cook needs good tools (and if you are going to be making homemade mayonnaise then you certainly have the right to call yourself a "good cook".)  I feel that there are two essential tools for any good home cook and they are the Cuisinart and the Kitchenaid Mixer.  I keep both of mine out on the counter where I can use them frequently.  And I do use them almost every day.  Yes, these can be expensive tools, but if you are cooking seriously, you really must have them.  Find them on ebay, at a garage sale, or ask everyone you know to chip in for your next birthday present.  Do whatever you have to do to get them if you love to cook.

Oil Options   I have used this recipe with olive oil as well as corn, safflower and canola oils.  It tastes much better with the lighter oils, but since we are all about healing with food, canola is the best choice of the three.  However, if you are avoiding all vegetable oils, you can use olive oil. The olive oil makes an earthier, more pungent, heavier tasting mayonnaise.  I have not used corn oil in years because of the GMO's and I only use canola oil occasionally for my mayonnaise and salad dressings. My cooking is done with olive and coconut oils.  If you would like to up the Omega-3 content of your mayonnaise, instructions for using part flax oil are included below.

Safety  Mayonnaise uses raw eggs in the preparation.  Because they are combined with an acid they become "cooked".  However, you still end up with a product that requires special care.  It will have a short life.  Throw away any mayonnaise you have not used after about 5 days.  This is always hard for me to do because I find I usually have a bit of this delicious substance still in the fridge on the fifth day.  However, no arguments, no second thoughts, just do it.    It is also extremely important that the mayonnaise be refrigerated during those five days.  Do not accidentally forget and leave it out on the counter for a few hours on a hot summer day and then put it back in the refrigerator.  If it gets left out, you must toss it.  Food safety is always a top priority...real cooks avoid giving their guests and family salmonella for their summer vacation!

I have made this recipe so many times that when I went to get it in my Silver Palate book just now I actually remembered the page number, page 339!

Homemade Mayonnaise 

2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 T Dijon mustard
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 cups canola or best-quality olive oil  (to make this mayonnaise high in omega 3s, use anywhere from 1/2-1 1/2 cups flax oil out of the total 2 cups of oil needed)

1.  Combine egg yolks, whole egg, mustard and salt and pepper and half the lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process for one minute.

2.  With the motor running, dribble in the canola or olive oil in a slow steady stream (for Omega 3 mayonnaise, dribble in 1/2 cup or more of canola or olive oil and then add in the flax oil).  When all the oil is in, shut motor off and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula.

3.  Taste the mayonnaise.  Correct seasoning if necessary; if you are using canola oil, you will probably need the remaining lemon juice.  Scrape mayonnaise into a storage container, cover and refrigerate.  Mayonnaise will keep safely for at least 5 days.  Let it return to room temperature before stirring.

Makes 3 cups

Suggestions for flavoring mayonnaise:

Fresh herbs   Add any fresh herb such as basil, mint, thyme, tarragon or oregano.  Just fine chop a handful of fresh herbs to taste and gently stir into the mayonaise.  You can also add garlic to this if you like.

Nuts and seeds  Try walnuts or sesame seeds in the processor.  Or use pine nuts and a little basil to make a pesto mayonnaise.

Fruits  You can add chutney or jams to mayonnaise or try adding apples, horseradish, fresh dill, lemon juice and a little onion as suggested in The Silver Palate.

Aioli  For classic French Provencal aioli just add a little garlic.

Potato Salad with Homemade Mayonnaise

Tuna Salad  with Tarragon and Capers and Homemade Mayonnaise

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tuna Salad with Tarragon and Capers

This salad is good enough for company and if you're eating grain-free or gluten-free, it makes a delicious and filling lunch.

Tuna Salad with Tarragon and Capers

1  5 oz. can pole caught or sustainable tuna fish
2-4 T mayonnaise to taste (Use olive oil or canola mayonnaise or use homemade mayonnaise)
1 t dijon mustard
1/2 t raw apple cider vinegar
fresh ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
2-3 t tarragon to taste
1/2 c chopped celery
2 T celery fine-chopped
l shallot fine-chopped

mixed greens
avocado slices
salad dressing (optional)

Save some of the moisture in the tuna can but drain off extra liquid.  Put tuna in a mixing bowl and break up with a fork.  Add all ingredients from tuna though shallot and stir together making sure to add just enough mayonnaise to moisten tuna adequately.  If preferred, dress salad greens with a vinaigrette, or leave greens dry.  Place greens on a dinner sized plate, top with tuna salad and garnish with olives and avocados.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What in the world is Mizuna?

I have a great volunteer job picking up unsold produce at the end of the day from the Tahoe City Farmer's Market.  The produce is all donated to Project Mana, our local foodbank and Meals on Wheels resource.

Because I'm there week after week, year after year, I get to know the local farmers who donate their produce each week.  However, last week at the market a new vendor showed up.  She was selling a new green called mizuna.  Or at least new to me.  It turns out that mizuna is an Asian mustard green, popular during the winter months in Japan.

Mizuna has a slightly peppery taste, sort of like arugula, but much milder.  My sister is absolutely crazy about arugula and would gladly eat it everyday.  As for me, I'm not quite as fond of arugula as she is.  I enjoy it occasionally, perhaps once a week or so, but it seems rather strong tasting to me.  I'm not always in the mood for it.  On the other hand, the mizuna I got at the market was much more appealing.  It was fresh and crisp tasting, and just a little bit bitter, but not too much.

Interestingly, the farm lady that brought the mizuna to our market did not return this week.  She'd had a lot of mizuna left over to donate to Project Mana last week and perhaps did not feel it was worth the long drive up to Lake Tahoe.  I chatted a bit with our local organic Sierra Valley Farms growers about mizuna (they mostly focus on greens.)  They told me that they often grow mizuna during the winter but that it gets riddled with beetle holes in the summer time.  At least that is their experience here in the Sierras.

Anyway, I liked the mizuna quite a bit and will look forward to purchasing more whenever it is available.

I thought I'd try it with watermelon and, of course, the combination together was very nice.  The summer sweetness of the watermelon overrides the piquant flavor of the mizuna.

Mizuna and Watermelon Salad

For the salad:

3 cups of mizuna
1 cup of bite-sized watermelon pieces
1/4 cup of thin sliced cucumbers
2 T roasted pine nuts
crumbles of fresh organic goat cheese

Put the mizuna in the bottom of a serving bowl and layer the remaining ingredients on top.  Pour on the dressing and take to the table to toss and serve.

For the dressing

3 T olive oil
2 T Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar or any fruit infused balsamic vinegar
1/2 t Dijon mustard
1 t Coconut Nectar (my favorite sweetener--available at Whole Foods and many health food stores)
1 T finely chopped fresh shallots
1 whole clove of garlic peeled
1/4 t dried thyme or 1 t fresh chopped
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients.  (As an alternative, I love the bottle and lid that come with Good Seasons Italian dressing.  You can just add all the ingredients and shake. It is also great for storing extra dressing in the refrigerator.)  Do not serve the garlic clove with the salad.  However, if you have leftover dressing, the clove can remain in the shaker jar in the fridge to infuse the dressing with additional taste for the next use.

Same salad with Arugula.  It's Delicious either way!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Living a normal food life. The "Healing with Foods" challenge.

Yesterday I was with two 8-year olds and one is on a gluten-free diet.  Since I rarely eat grains, I know that watching the way the rest of the world eats when one is on a restricted diet can sometimes lead to a "poor me" Eeyore mentality.

We stopped in at a local bakery that carries some great gluten free items to grab a quick snack on our way to a hiking adventure.  My thinking was, "Let's go to Tahoe House because they have gluten-free choices."  What I naively hadn't taken into account was how bad Brody would feel having to settle for a gluten-free option, while Luna had the choice of an entire store full of delicious home-made bakery goods.
It's true that healing with foods can sometimes involve feeling deprived.  However, I believe that with a little planning ahead, a little extra effort in the kitchen  (but not too much), some honed shopping skills and a little know-how, it is possible to live a "healing with foods" lifestyle and eat like a king.  

Yes, young Brody was unable to have free reign in the bakery.  However, he did end up with a delicious gluten-free treat that anyone would have enjoyed eating.  Sometimes it's a matter of keeping your mental focus on what you CAN have, instead of what you can't.  We bend our attitude to fit the world around us.

However, one of the challenges I've created for myself in the last few years is to see how much I can bend the world to fit around me.  At least the food world.  As a former gourmet cook and foodie, I want it all.  I want to thrive and feel healthy and yet I want to eat delicious fabulous foods.

If I can't have the pancakes, what can I have that looks, smells and tastes most like a pancake?  Is there a pancake out there that is healing for me but is still satisfying and delicious?   I can enthusiastically say the answer is absolutely yes.

In fact, it's become a goal of mine to see how many tasty but healing foods I can buy in stores, eat in restaurants or recreate at home.  And when I simply can't adapt a recipe to be more healing, the next question I have is, "What else can I eat that is simply scrumptious and exciting, but that contributes to my overall health?"

That's what this blog is all about...balancing the goal of eating amazing great tasting foods with an effort to become as healthy as possible.  Can it be done?  You bet your cupcakes, honey!

I am you.  There are millions of us Americans eating to heal.  Here's to celebrating food in all it's amazing glory, it's beauty, it's deliciousness and it's healing properties.