Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Redux: Herbed Butternut Squash + Cranberry Jam

Once I was in a hairdresser's in North London off the Seven Sisters high road, at a shop recommended by a friend. It was November, and as I sat quietly in the African salon I listened to the customers around me. The man next to me remarked that the following day was what 'the Americans' refer to as Thanksgiving. He mentioned that he had been once, and that for Yanks the holiday is bigger than Christmas. I suppressed a giggle.

However, having spent both holidays at home in 2009 I am now thinking he wasn't so far off the mark. A completely secular holiday, Thanksgiving is celebrated by my Muslim and Jewish friends, the small and large families, recent immigrants. It's the only day a year the Chinese restaurants close! This year I spent the entire night (literally) helping my mom with the turkey and stuffing (gluten free!), plus a couple of dishes of my own. The delicious butternut squash recipe was inspired by the cooking class I took in Züri, and the sugar-free cranberry jam is friendly for any kind of food allergy.

Roasted Butternut Squash w/ Toasted Walnuts
pictured above
1 butternut squash, cut into cubes
1 cup haricots verts/french beans
1/2 cup walnuts
2 t walnut oil
2 - 3 T ghee or butter
1 t herbes de provence
1/2 t cinnamon (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F/190 C. In a bowl toss the walnuts (I shelled fresh nuts) in the walnut oil and add a sprinkle of salt.

  • Spread coated nuts onto a baking sheet or foil and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove to cool.

  • Warm oven to 425 F. Melt the ghee or butter in a small frying pan and add to a medium bowl.

  • Add the herbes de provence and then toss the cubed butternut squash and haricots verts to coat. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and a dash of cinnamon to taste.

  • Spread the squash and beans evenly onto a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

  • Serve the herbed, golden squash topped with the roasted walnuts!
My family loved this dish, and it reheated well the next couple of days.

Sugar-Free Cranberry Jam
1 cup cranberries
1.5 T arrowroot
3 T apple cider vinegar
Stevia to taste (I used a blend of liquid and powder)
1/4 t cinnamon

  • Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce to a simmer and simmer for roughly 12 - 15 minutes as sauce thickens to a jam.
  • Remove from heat and once cool, remove to a jar to spread on breads/crackers or mix into yogurt!!
I made endless use of this jam for breakfast - spread on my version of almond flax bread from Elana's Pantry with homemade almond butter (a not-so-classic PB&J), or in greek yogurt with an extra drop or two of liquid Stevia (I use Whole Foods brand). Dig the pics :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Enjoying the Holiday Grain-Free, feat. Zimtsterne!

Shortly before I left Switzerland to come home for the holidays, I began to see the Swiss & German Christmas foods (Weihnachtsguetzli) everywhere: Basler Leckerli (honey almond cookies from Basel) , Kastanien Vermicelli (sweet chestnut 'vermicelli'), and the ubiquitous Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars). I had more than my share of Zimtsterne in all flavors, and the best part is that they are gluten free! The traditional cookie, actually from Germany, is made from ground almonds and egg whites. I was determined to make these - sugar-free - and other healthy dishes for my family this Christmas (see recipe below). My theory, more than ever this year, was to ensure we begin 2010 on a healthy note. All my gifts are also meant to improve quality of our lives in some way - but more on this later.

For Christmas dinner, I wanted to remind them that health doesn't mean sacrificing delicious. So I made a 'pasta' dish with squash, and a pesto with tofu and veggies. For the sauce I was inspired by Susan O'Brien's more classic basil pesto.
Spaghetti Squash w/ Spinach Tofu Pesto

1 small to medium spaghetti squash
1/2 t sea salt

4 oz. firm tofu
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic
4 T olive oil
2-3 T parmesan cheese
2 T ground almonds
1 T lemon juice
2 T water
dash of onion powder
dash of herbes of de provence
lemon pepper & sea salt to taste

  • Cut spaghetti squash in half. Wrap in plastic and microwave for 10 minutes OR cover with foil and roast in oven for approximately 1 hour.

  • Meanwhile, mix all pesto in a blender and process until smooth and creamy. Remove to a medium to large bowl.

  • Remove squash and let cool slightly before discarding seeds. Sprinkle with the sea salt.

  • Use a fork to scrape fibers or 'noodles' of spaghetti squash into bowl with pesto and fold together. Garnish with more pesto...and devour.
Sugar-Free Zimtsterne (German Cinnamon Star Cookies)

3 cups of blanched almond flour*
1.5 full t cinnamon

Equivalent of 1/2 cup sugar (I used 12 packets of Whole Foods Stevia)
dash of salt

3 large egg whites
Equivalent of 1.75 cups sugar (I used 12 packets of powder Stevia and 15 drops liquid Stevia)
1.5 t vanilla (preferably alcohol free)
1 t lemon juice

  • Preheat the oven to 250 F.

  • In a large bowl, mix almond flour, cinnamon, sweetener, and salt.

  • Beat egg whites to soft peaks. To this, add sweetener, vanilla, and lemon and whip to semi-stiff peaks.

  • Fold all but 2/3 of meringue into the almond mixture to form dough.

  • Roll dough on greased wax paper to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out star shapes, reforming and rolling out the 'scraps' (I came out with nearly 30 cookies with a 3" cutter).

  • Carefully spoon and spread remaining meringue on cookies, sprinkling with cinnamon.

  • Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes, depending on thickness, until the star edges turn a golden brown.. Allow to sit in open oven to cool for another five minutes, then remove and let cool completely.
These were nothing short of amazing, and despite the seeming complexity they were in fact very simple to make. The dough is very easy to work with. I made two versions, one with the meringue-cinnamon topping and one without. Needless to say, both were DELICIOUS!!
*I used Honeyville blanched almond flour which is very finely ground. Elana of Elana's Pantry uses this flour as well as other grain free varieties I love (flax, coconut) on her blog.
Merry Christmas, all.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

NY State of Mind: Grain-Free Bagels

Though I've been yearning to post recently, I have been esconced in a whirl of friends, family, colleagues - it's been incredibly busy, but above all incredible. I've honestly had a love-hate relationship with my hometown for as long as I can remember. In high school, my (still) best friends and I swore after college we couldn't see ourselves living anywhere else. College in Pittsburgh compounded that wish (no disrespect, PPGers and Steelers fans)...and then came a wonderful year of freedom and self-discovery in London. Coming home was as Monica Ali describes in her latest, 'In The Kitchen', living in a state of suspended animation, in constant oscillation between unbearable tension and annihilating lethargy. It was the agony of familiarity, the awful inevitability of home.

This trip, however, has been something amazingly different. A year a way can do a lot...My old life, all of the people I left, have re-embraced me so fully I feel gratitude and warmth. Christmas lights in Columbus Circle, New Yawk accents on the subway, are for once slightly unfamiliar and thus fascinating.

I am also struggling to continue eating the foods that keep me healthy. Thanksgiving predictably did not help (I was sick for 3 days after), but I did make some new discoveries in the American health market. My LOCAL grocery store now has a large gluten free section, even with gluten free oats! I've also warmed up to cultured veggies that are kosher and unsweetened for their rich probiotics, kefir, and almond cheese :) And though I'm laying off grains this month, I am continuing on my flax kick. A couple of weeks ago I baked my version of a full loaf of Laura Dolson's flax bread (recipe at the bottom). Above all, my proudest creation is a healthy gluten free grain free version of what I see in the carts as I stroll to my old Wall St. office everyday: the New York breakfast bagel.

3 heaping tablespoons of golden flax meal
4 T parmesan cheese (or vegan imitation)
1/2 t baking powder
3/4 cup egg whites
2-3 t water
3/4 T olive oil
dash of salt/onion powder/pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

  • In a medium-small bowl mix the dry ingredients - the golden flax meal, parmesan, baking powder, and spices.

  • Whisk in the egg whites, water, and oil. Allow the dough to sit for 5 minutes to firm up.

  • Spoon half of the dough onto parchment or a greased baking sheet in a dome shape. Spoon the remaining half in a similar manner.

  • Scoop out the center to create a bagel shape - the dough will be firm enough to hold.

  • Bake for twenty minutes until the flax turns a darker golden shade.

  • Allow to cool completely before eating (they will fall slightly).

  • Put the two halves together, add your favorite bagel filling (lox? cream cheese? butter?!) and enjoy!!
I ate mine with earth balance spread and a fried egg. Deja vu in the BEST way, believe me....
After thinking of swearing of one of my favorites, turkey sandwiches, I used Laura Dolson's simple focaccia flax recipe with some modifications (i.e. less oil) to make a delicious and filling lunch.

Flax Sandwich Bread

2 cups flaxseed meal
1 T GF baking powder
1 t sea salt
1 T sweetener (I used 3 packs of Stevia powder)
1 1/4 cup liquid egg whites (eq. 5 beaten eggs)
1 cup water
1 T canola oil
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 190 C and oil a rectangular baking pan.
  • Use a whisk to mix the flax, baking powder, salt, and sweetener.
  • Add the eggs, water, and oil (and liquid sweetener if using) dry ingredients.
  • Let the batter sit and thicken for 3 minutes before spreading in about 1.5 inches thick in the pan. It won't reach the sides but no worries, the batter will hold.
  • Put pan in oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until bread goes a deeper brown around the corners.
  • Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes or better yet several hours, then slice into 12 - 14 pieces (cut into 6 or 7 large slices and then cut in half ) for delicious sandwich bread!
  • Slather on your favorite dressing and toppings for both regular and open-faced sandwiches.

This bread, despite being grain free, is remarkably like classic wheat bread. Except that each slice has 40% of your daily fiber and 18% protein. Though flax is high in fat, it's all the good stuff and a high does of omega-3s. Nutrition per slice: 170 calories, 10.8g carbs, 10.6 g fiber, .2 g net carbs, 12.5 g fat. 10% daily iron, phosphorus, and calcium.

I had an amazing turkey sandwich for lunch with the bread, a kosher dill relish, turkey breast and homemade garlic mayo. Simple, satiating, and soo delish.....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brunch with Mom: Grain-Free Waffles

I got back to the States yesterday to spend the holidays with my family, and a very special 24 hours it's been. My nephew is taller, my building is being renovated, and my old skin feels familiar and foreign at the same interesting state nonetheless! This morning was rare and terrific, a lovely brunch of waffles with my mom. Even though 10 years ago such a tradition would not have been grain or sugar free, it still provided the same feeling that some things never should change.

Grain Free Flax Waffles w/ Apple Compote

1 cup of ground flax meal
4 eggs
1/2 stick butter or margarine
1/2 cup of almond milk
3 T cream cheese
1/2 t baking powder
6 packets of powdered Stevia (or 1/4 cup sweetener equivalent)
1 t cinnamon
1/4 cup water

  • In a large bowl mix the flax meal and baking powder.

  • In a small pan, melt butter and cream cheese over a low flame. In a small bowl, pour in mixter and whisk in eggs, and milk.

  • Add the cinnamon and Stevia, whisking well.

  • Add wet to dry, and add water to thin the batter (I added roughly a quarter cup).

  • Using a soup ladle, scoop about 2-3 T of the mixture into your waffle iron.

  • Serve with sugar free syrup or a fruit compote. I made a quick apple compote by chopping half an apple and reducing it in some water, cider vinegar, Stevia, and arrowroot.
Yum! Happy Thanksgiving/Frohe Festtage! ~c*x

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Discovering Italian Vegetables...

When I moved to Switzerland I tried to find a German translation for kale, my favorite leafy green. Googling did not help. When shopping I spotted a prickly green that looked a lot like dinosaur kale, called Wirz. I took it home, cooked it up happily, but noted the texture seemed a little tougher almost like collards....because it's not kale. It's actually savoy cabbage, popular in Italy and one of several new veggies that have become a staple for me.

The second was even more eye-catching - the beautiful geometric wonder of Romanesco broccoli. Also from Italy, it is in the broccoli/cauliflower family and in fact also referred to as Roman cauliflower. Sort of broccoli and cauliflowers gorgeous love child :) and so tender it's perfectly crunchy raw or lightly blanched.

Savoy Salad w/ Fried Shiitake Mushrooms and Toasted Seeds

1.5 cups of savoy cabbage or kale
3-4 large fresh heads of shiitake mushrooms
1 small red onion
1 - 2 T seeds and/or nuts (I used walnuts and pumpkin seeds)
2 T + 1 t olive oil
1 t apple cider vinegar
1 drop Stevia liquid (optional)
dry mustard powder
sea salt

  • Wash the cabbage (or kale if using), squeeze, and cut into strips. Then whisk together about 1.5 T of the olive oil with the vinegar, Stevia, mustard and salt. Set aside.

  • Slice the mushrooms medium/thin and dice the red onions.

  • Heat a medium pan and add seeds, toasting for a few minutes. Remove from heat.

  • In the same pan, warm remaining oil (or a pat of butter if you like!) and add the onions and mushrooms. Sautée for roughly 5 minutes before removing from heat.

  • Toss together the cabbage, onions, mushrooms, seeds and vinegraitte. The warm/cool contrast is what makes this great.
Romanesco Broccoli & Savoy Slaw

1.5 cups of savoy cabbage
1 head of Romanesco broccoli
1 small red onion
1 small clove of garlic, minced (optional)
2 T plain yogurt
1 T homemade mayonnaise
1 t apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 t dry mustard powder
1/4 t garlic salt (or plain sea salt if using fresh garlic)

  • Blanch the cabbage for 1-2 minutes in boiling water. Remove to ice water to cool, and blanch the Romanesco for 3 minutes. Remove to ice water.
  • While the vegetables blanch, mix together the yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard powder, lemon juice or vinegar, and salt. Chill.
  • Dice the red onion, and wring excess water from cooled cabbage.
  • Toss it all together and enjoy!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Bit Primal

As in, Primal eating that is. People tell me I'm an old soul, but that may true more tangibly than I know. I find when I eat the foods that have been around for a while - meat, fish, eggs, fresh vegetables - I feel alert, serene, and energetic. When I eat anything with added sugar or that is refined, I become lethargic and impulsive. Try it for yourselves. On days when you have a breakfast of protein/fat, you rarely get the 3pm munchies. I've decided to lay off of grains (even the non-gluten variety) for a few days after a veritable feast and the cravings that followed last weekend.

I realized that what seems to work for me is to eat more like our ancestors. They weren't processing grains into flours or reducing fruit sugars to high fructose corn syrup :) And though saturated fat in excess is unhealthy, the nutrients in lean meats and even beef and lamb can be tremendous compared to that of a grain. Now I'm not a strict proponent of Paleo diets, as I think in small amounts dairy, brown rice and lentils can be beneficial. It's also tricky for vegetarians. Yet I just find that in general we have lost balance to the point where in many shops one can't find anything natural, wheat, or sugar free. Availability is often the second hurdle to staying fit, behind of course awareness of what's good for your body. It is absolutely worth the effort to give your body everything it needs, which I believe the Primal diet does. Another thing I love is that there's no measurement - you learn to listen to your senses. With the satiety from meat or fish proteins, you will then find you don't really need to snack much between meals. And a little fat is fine! After all, the countries that consume the most fat have the lowest incidences of heart disease (grüezi Switzerland, France, even Spain!).

Below is my meal plan for today based (almost) entirely on primal/paleo ingredients. First, breakfast.

Deviled Eggs w/ Spinach Mayo & Chicken Liver Pâté

1 medium boiled egg

1-2 t spinach mayo (recipe below)

2 t chicken liver pâté (recipe below)

Spinach mayonnaise:
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup olive oil
dried mustard powder
apple cider vinegar
sea salt
lemon juice (optional)
spinach, finely chopped

Chicken liver pâté
200 g chicken livers
sea salt
black pepper
olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 - 2 t butter
1 t heavy cream (optional)
1/2 t herbes de provence
  • While you boil the egg(s), make the mayo by whipping one egg yolk. Add a dash of mustard powder, salt, and apple cider vinegar. Then add olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture emulsifies.

  • Continue adding the oil until desired thickness (I had about 1/2 cup), and then mix in finely chopped spinach, salt, and if you like lemon juice to taste. Refrigerate.

  • For the chicken liver pate, salt and pepper chicken livers and then sautée them in a little olive oil on each side. Once they turn color, add roughly 1/4 cup of water and and braise until most of the liquid has evaporated.

  • Let the livers cool slightly before adding to a food processor with a couple of teaspoons of butter, 1/2 teaspoon of herbes de provence and a little cream (optional). Process into a thick paste and refrigerate to cool.

  • Peel and halve the egg. Scoop out the yolks from each side and mash with the chilled mayonnaise and chicken liver paté. Voilá.
On the side I had a couple of seed crackers. For a mid-morning snack, I had a simple protein shake with ice, Stevia and 2 T of cream. At lunch I made a burger (no bun!) topped with caramelized onions and more spinach mayo, with a side of cukes and kohlrabi fries. I snacked on nuts, seeds and (sod it!) some cheese. I try to eat goat's cheese when the urge strikes :)...Then it was time for dinner, when I ate a huge savoy cabbage salad with some fried mushrooms,toasted nuts and seeds. See the recipe above.

All in all, I am pleased with the primal style of natural eating. It's basically the crux of recommended eating plans for those with candidiasis, fibromyalgia, autism, diabetes and a host of other chronic illnesses. I am forced to find creative ways to eat vegetables 60% of the time (rather than grains or dairy). I also feel amazingly focused and energized after a meal for hours, believe me a first for a chronic snacker. I'll definitely stick to this through next month and update with how I'm feeling.

Stay healthy ~c*x

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gluten-Yeast-(Casein) Free Sandwich Bread

Fed up with limited options at the shops for an old fashioned sandwich, I finally made a terrific GFCF sandwich bread of my own. It does not contain yeast and is all the better for it: dense, nutty, and versatile. No strange puffy processed stuff, promise.

Gluten & Yeast Free (Easily Vegan) Sandwich Bread

    2 cups of brown rice flour
    3 t baking powder
    1 t xanthan gum
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 packet of Stevia (or equivalent of 2 teaspoons sweetener)
    1- 1.5 T butter (substitute with olive oil for vegan recipe)
    1.5 cups of soy milk
    dash of lemon juice
    egg white (optional, omit for vegan recipe)
    2 T flax seeds (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C/392 F.
  • In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.
  • Cut in butter or oil until mixture has a grainy texture.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and lemon juice.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. The dough will be very dense!
  • Transfer dough to a loaf pan and pat flat. Because this recipe makes slightly more than a half loaf, I molded the dough to about 1/2 the pan as the bread will not rise much.
  • Brush some egg white over the top of the dough so it doesn't brown too much. Also be sure to cut a criss cross into the top to ease slicing.
  • Cover lightly with foil and bake for 50 minutes.
  • Allow the bread to cool for at least two hours before slicing - the longer the better. Do use a sharp knife as the crust is quite thick.

I can't tell you how happy I was to make a pleasant tasting sandwich bread that was gluten free and yet not crumbly!! (A great recipe with whole wheat can be found here.) The bread freezes well, and I would refrigerate it and bring to room temperature for a cold sandwich or toast it in the oven. Tonight I had a couple of slices with chilled cucumber & avocado soup and it was a helpful liquid sopper (if I can invent words here). I am eager to have some almond butter toast tomorrow morning...and a proper turkey 'wich with homemade mayo for lunch ;)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Superfoods: Avocado & Black Bean Salsa

I've began to notice my foodie habits are on the increase. As delighted as I was to find that bookshop in Bern with a large English section, 2/3 of my purchases were cookbooks. I've also managed to find an English language cooking class in Zürich (only a couple of times a year!) which I'll be attending on Tuesday. I generally cook in the privacy of my flat so I'll update on how it goes ;)

In fact, I've decided to shift a majority of my eating/snacking from complex carbs to monosaturated fats (almonds and other nuts, olive oil, and the humble avocado). One of the books I purchased, entitled Best Salads Ever, has some helpful recipes to do so despite the hyperbolic name :) I took my own spin on a salsa using the superfood that is avocado.

Avocado & Black Bean Salsa w/ Green Salad
(click to enlarge)

1 small cucumber/gherkin
1/4 cup of leeks, chopped
1/2 small garlic clove
1/2 avocado
1/2 can of black beans (or ~1/3 cup dry beans, soaked overnight and cooked)
squeeze of lemon or lime juice

1 cup of mixed greens (I used spinach, arugula and red lettuce mix)
1 T olive oil
1 t apple cider vinegar
1 - 2 drops of Liquid Stevia (or a ~1/4 teaspoon of Stevia powder)
salt and pepper
grated cheese (optional but delicious, I used Vacherin/Gruyére)

  • Julienne the cucumber, halve the chop leeks, and finely mince the garlic.
  • Mix the vegetables with the black beans and about 1 T of the cooking liquid. Mix in the lemon/lime juice.
  • Carefully cube the avocado and fold it in with the salsa. Allow to sit in th refrigerator so the garlic and flavors marinate.
  • Meanwhile, mix the dressing for the green salad by whisking the olive oil with the vinegar and adding Stevia, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Toss the dressing with the greens, and sprinkle with the cheese if using (it adds a robust flavor with the bean salsa, just go light on the salt).
  • Serve chilled salsa on top of salad, as they go great together, or enjoy on the side.
This recipe makes one serving so you'll want to multiply to serve more. The avocado and the beans both provide satiety and are terrific for heart health. And the green salad and apple cider vinegraitte is a nice side with any dish. Stay healthy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Early Winter, Cookies & Cocoa

I can't say the weather has been anything less than cooperative through last month, and yet I still feel every bit entitled to complain as the thermometer dips, the rain and clouds remain omnipresent, and snow - yes snow!- is visible on the mountain peaks. It's actually quite surreal this weekend to see blue sky down below and fully dusted peaks up above. My Swiss and German friends are giddy with anticipation for the ski season, but first we must brave what only seems will be a swampy November.

My solution? Hot drinks and a snack to match. And what could be better then warm homemade cookies? Not the steroid-injected confections from Starbucks, but comfort food nonetheless. I have two recipes below that are SO good I urge you to try them. You'll never detect they are low in sugar and gluten free.

A friend of mine just bought me my first bottle of agave nectar in France (available in health food stores here as well), which I've incorporated into these recipes. Though it does contain sugar, it is a natural sweetener with a low glycemic index so that when used in moderation does not create that terrible sugar spike. Other helpful ingredients are chickpea flour and flax to add fiber and reduce simple carbs, and gluten free oats. Both recipes can easily be made vegan/casein free. But enough explanation, the pictures will do (remember, click to enlarge)!

Almond Butter & Quinoa Cookies

2 T butter (use vegan margarine to make recipe vegan)
4 T agave nectar
4.5 T organic almond butter
4.5 T unsweetened apple sauce
dash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1.5 t GF baking powder
1/2 t xanthan gum
dash of sea salt
1/4 cup macadamia nuts

  • Melt butter and add agave, beating together.
  • Mix in the almond butter, then the apple sauce and vanilla extract.
  • Meanwhile sift quinoa and chickpea flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.
  • Chop or quickly pulse macadamia nuts in a food processor. Fold into batter.
  • Measure out a generous teaspoon of the batter on parchment paper. Use a fork to press down (rinse with cold water if it becomes to sticky). You should get 18 - 20 cookies.
  • Bake at 225 C/400 F for 15 minutes. Try to let them cool for at least half an hour before eating (well, try....).
  • This second cookie is adapted from Ricki's fantastic recipe. I used agave instead of maple, and made the recipe gluten free by using GF oats. Important --> Can I say this is the best cookie I have ever tasted?! I am not kidding.

    Vanilla 'Honey' Flax-Oat Cookies

    1/2 cup of GF rolled oats
    1 T butter (replace with vegan margarine/coconut oil to make vegan
    4 T agave nectar
    1/2 t vanilla
    4 T shredded flax seeds, soaked in water
    1 t baking powder
    pinch of salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon

  • Preheat the over to 180 C/350 F.
  • Pulse the oats a few times in the food processor - you don't want a meal, but a nice varied texture.

  • Remove from your processor and set in a separate bowl. Sift in the baking powder, salt, and spices.

  • Melt the butter, and add to food processor with the agave and vanilla. Stir in the flax seeds.

  • Add the dry ingredients to the processor and pulse until a very maleable, quite wet dough is formed.

  • Drop a generous spoonful of the cookies onto parchment paper (8-12). Note that these cookies will spread during baking.

  • Bake for 10 minutes or so. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before storing (yeah...right!).

  • Be sure to enjoy the cookies with a nice cup of cocoa. I heat lactose free milk and add unsweetened cocoa powder mixed with stevia, or I'll simply add a little carob powder to steamed milk. Stay warm :) ~c*x

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Setting the Tone (aka Breakfast)

    I wake up in the morning looking forward to breakfast. This wasn't always the case; in college I ate so late (and it was generally pizza or Subway) that I often wasn't hungry until later in the day. Still, I never really fell prey to the belief that eating less in the morning was some kind of tolerance for low calorie eating. I fully realize it's quite the opposite, and skimping on breakfast means an extra slice of something at night. Now that I'm a responsible adult (or something) I definitely wake up earlier, and eat dinner earlier. But I've also learned that even if you're not hungry, you're doing yourself a favor by eating within one hour of getting up. I'll typically have a couple of crackers or a piece of whole grain bread before hopping in the shower on those days.

    Of course the next question is what makes a good breakfast. Last week I was in Madrid, and breakfast was analogous to sugary croissants and rolls. I'm talking full on dessert style, pretty in presentation, and the kind of thing to burn through you and put you on a sugar high only to crash in an hour. With some espresso to boot. One morning we had a breakfast meeting, and given the decidedly non-Swiss approach to timing we were finally seated at 10:30am. Then came the shiny croissants and what could have only been some sort of cannoli au chocolate. To be fair, by lunch I was ravenous and there is nothing quite like Spanish tapas (mm, boqueroñes y queso manchego).

    To the original question, a good breakfast should always have one thing: protein! Eggs, cottage cheese, plain yogurt, meat, fish or veggie proteins. It's not just to jump start your metabolism; protein is brain food and keeps you sharper mentally. Another great element to add to your breakfast is a complex carb with fiber, which will keep you full and your energy stable. Oatmeal (with gluten-free oats) is amazing, as are quinoa flakes or buckwheat groats which pack in the protein as well. Of course I'm no nutritionist, but for a more comprehensive take on what to eat I share the wise words of my chiropractor, Dr. Rob D'Aquila.

    This week I've gotten creative with my brekkie. Saturday before a four hour trip up to a party in Frankfurt, I made a potato salad using sweet potato, quark (similar to ricotta cheese), mustard and garlic powder, apple cider vinegar, dried herbs - heck I even threw in boiled egg. I've also been using veggies to make one classic and extremely versatile dish...

    Eggs Cocotte (note: photo is pre-baked)

    1 t olive oil
    1/2 clove garlic
    1/4 cup leeks
    1/2 zucchini, shredded*
    1/2 cup thinly sliced spinach
    1 egg
    1-2 t cream
    garlic salt

    • Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, leeks, zucchini and spinach. Sautée for a couple of minutes until the greens are just slightly wilted.

    • Butter a ramekin and add sautéed vegetables.

    • Crack an egg over the vegetables.

    • Spoon cream over the egg, as well as pepper and a little salt.

    • Put the ramekin in an oven safe dish and fill it halfway with water. Bake at 200 C for approx. 15 minutes until the egg is set.

    • Allow to cool and serve immediately with a slice of whole grain toast or cornbread :)

    *I typically shred the zucchini and salt it with the garlic salt for a little while and then press it to drain the excess water. Clear out that last bit of fennel in your fridge to add different vegetables, and try additional herbs. I guarantee this breakfast will become a staple.

    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    To Serve with Love :)

    This past week, the two most important people in my life made the trip to see me in Switzerland. Having had the privilege of good friends come to wish me well, see my life, and explore the country this summer was something for which I was grateful beyond words. It also helped me become a better host, because I realized a) I can't control everything according to my own predetermined plan and b) that's completely OK. Some of the best time spent with people you love occurs effortlessly. With this in mind I planned little (OK, well less...) except for one detail: their welcome dinner.

    Part of the challenge is just hoping guests coming in on a red eye hold up until dinner time! I have to say everyone of them has done well so far, including this time around with my family arriving before 8am (ouch). After a trip to my flat to drop suitcases, a ride back into Zürich to see the sites, and a couple of waves of exhaustion I was finally in the kitchen. The appetizer: grated cucumber and sun-dried tomato salad with a soy-sesame dressing, surrounded by goat cheese on pumpernickel (thanks to one Parisian lunch June).

    For dinner I started with a bag of gluten-free rice noodles and went with a Thai classic - with my own spin! (Though we were too busy enjoying the dish to take a good shot, scroll to the bottom for another pic.)
    Coconut Chicken Pad Thai
    Pad Thai:
    Chicken breast
    1 pack of rice noodles
    1 cup beansprouts
    2 shallots
    1/2 garlic clove
    Shiitake mushrooms (I used dried)
    2- 3 eggs
    Walnuts, crumbled
    Green onions
    Fish sauce + tamari (wheat free soy) sauce
    Sesame oil

    1/2 cup coconut milk
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    Sesame oil
    Tamari sauce
    Tamarind (paste)
    Stevia (I use SweetLeaf packets; see comments for a note on Stevia)

    • Cut the chicken breast in small pieces and marinate in a couple of tablespoons of the fish and tamari sauce, and set aside.

    • Soak the rice noodles in warm water until somewhat harder than al dente. I left mine about 20 minutes, and recommend you do the next couple of steps while you wait :)

    • Chop the shallots and garlic finely. Cut the mushrooms into strips, or if working from dried mushrooms as I did soak in salted water and then press dry.

    • Prepare the sauce by heating some coconut milk over a medium-low flame for a little while. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and add the tamari sauce. I then seperately mixed the tamarind, fish sauce, and Stevia (you can use any sweetener) and added a couple of tablespoons to the sauce mixture.

    • When the noodles are softened a bit and your sauce is mixed, time to cook! Heat a pan or wok to very high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Add chicken and stir fry for a few minutes until nearly cooked.

    • Add shallots, garlic, and mushrooms and stir fry for a couple of minutes (you may need to add a little more oil as you go).

    • Add the rice noodles and about 1/4 cup of the sauce (continue to add sauce as it sizzles and cooks).

    • Push cooked noodles to one side and crack eggs, one at a time. Let them set before scrambling with the rest of the mix.

    • For the final minute, add the walnuts and beansprouts. Mix and cook well, and then remove from heat.

    • Give a nice stir, add any unused sauce, and then serve! Top with some green onions and more crumbled nuts.

    Interestingly, originally I made a classic sauce of fish sauce, tamarind and sweetener. It wasn't working at all, but I'm happy with the modifications. Garnish with some fresh coriander if you'd like (which I didn't have time to do with my hungry guests, and self). This was in my opinion the tastiest dish I've pulled off to date, and I think my fam appreciated it - and the effort - as well. With all they've done for me, they only deserve the most ausgezeichnet (excellent) of food...I wish I could say my kitchen was as synchronized afterward :) Please do let me know how you like this one.

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Zucchini and Spinach Pancakes

    Continuing on the eternal theme of reinventing classic food with a healthier bent, I was interested by the idea of melding vegetables and pancakes after seeing a recipe in one of my cookbooks. Originally I had planned on making zucchini fritters, which are quite popular and similar to crab or salmon cakes. However when I saw how much oil was involved, I thought - what a way to kill the benefits of the veg! I ended up melding spinach and zucchini to procure something entirely different, and equally delicious IMO. By using chickpea flour it's not only gluten-free, the entire batch (2 generous servings) uses less than 1/4 cup of olive oil.

    To serve, I made a balsamic salsa the first day. The second day I spread these savoury pancakes with Philadelphia cream cheese..yumm.

    Zucchini and Spinach Pancakes
    1 medium zucchini
    3/4 cup fresh spinach
    1 egg + 1 egg yolk
    1/2 cup chickpea flour
    garlic powder
    salt and pepper
    2 T olive oil

    Salsa dressing:
    1 medium tomato
    1/2 onion
    2 - 3 t olive oil
    2 t apple cider vinegar
    1 t herbes de provence

    • Grate the zucchini into a colander and sprinkle with a little salt. Using a spatula, press to squeeze out excess water and allow to drain for a little while. Meanwhile, chop the spinach into thin strands. Add grated zucchini and chopped spinach to a medium bowl.

    • In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs (FYI I had the yolk left over from a prior recipe and am useless at making my own mayo) with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add to the vegetables.

    • Slowly whisk in the 1/2 of chickpea flour - thoroughly! Chickpea flour requires extra whisking. Allow the batter to sit for roughly 20 minutes.

    • Meanwhile, prepare the salsa by chopping the tomato and onions. Mix with the remaining ingredients (olive oil, apple cider vinegar, herbes de provence) and chill.

    • When ready for the first batch, heat a teaspoon of oil and drop a tablespoon of the batter into the pan for each pancake. I did a couple at a time. Allow to cook for a few minutes on one side (less time as your pan heats up), and then flip for about one more minute.

    • Remove onto a paper towel and keep warm. Continue until you run out (I made 8 largish veggie pancakes.

    • Top with salsa and serve.

    I look forward to adding more vegetables, such as onion, red bell peppers or perhaps a handful grated carrots. The salsa was delicious touch, and as they were not greasy at all I topped the the pancakes with a dollop of plain yogurt.

    As a plus, all the protein was terrific brain food when I got to work :)

    Kids and Health Food

    I have the most adorable nephew in the world. No, really. Really :) In fact, one of his doctors described his appearance as such, literally "an adorable little boy with glasses and big, brown eyes." OK, I suppose I'm somewhat biased having not met all the planet's 6-year-olds (and I'm the strict aunt!) but this kid is quite a charmer. He was diagnosed with ADHD and shortly thereafter Asperger's syndrome a couple of years ago. While some of his behaviors are virtually indetectable from other young children (an enduring fascination with trains!), his repetitive behaviors and speech, physical patterns, and limited social ability are sadly more pronounced now that he's in first grade. It's quite heartbreaking, though above all he is such an intelligent and good natured little one....

    It's highly recommended that kids with these conditions eliminate sugars and refined foods from their diet. I couldn't imagine eating plain Quakers oatmeal at 12, let alone giving up the sweet, instant stuff altogether. Still, I'm determined to reinvent healthy foods in ways that he is familiar. My first try was a simple recipe of zucchini fries with flax. Fine for me, but kid friendly it was NOT. So I tried something both he - and I - could enjoy.

    Chickpea Fries with Romesco

    Lunch included some eggplant meatballs, romesco sauce, and of course the chickpea fries. Click here for a basic recipe for the fries - Sara cooks it without adding breading or cheese that mask their simple, delicious flavor. I recommend you leave the panisse ovenight for best results. For the sauce, see my earlier post. Take or leave the chili. In my nephew's case, I'd leave it - he knows what he likes :)

    Sunday, September 13, 2009

    The Ideal Complement

    I've still been dining out a lot lately as I had some good friends come visit last weekend. A double treat, great conversation over some great meals. I took them to a Thai restaurant here in Rapperswil that I'd been eyeing as it purportedly has a Michelin. Plus I was charmed that the waiter decidedly gave me a German menu and yet was sensitive to bring English menus to my friends (I'll excuse the fact that in mine rice was 1 franc more...isn't that the reverse of how it's usually done ??).

    Of course it's always challenging to avoid sugar, gluten, and refined food when dining out. Although less so in Switzerland than back home, there are still bowls of white rice and bread rolled out even if it has little to do with the meal. At the meal above, my coconut milk soup still came with a possibly larger plate of rice. Moreover, we are so used to this that we're often convinced that these complement the dish. The other day I had to insist three times that I didn't want Kartoffeln (potatoes) with my 15 franc salmon filet :) In fact for our digestion, it's best not to combine heavy proteins (steak, pork, etc.) with starches (cereals, breads, pasta). Read here to find out why.

    Still, as planes flew off and I went back to my full time cooking :) I realized it is important to eat a diverse range of foods. Also concentrated foods may realistically leave the plate a bit..well..empty looking. One way to circumvent this as you make the transition is to focus on taste, savour your food - and add another complementary element, namely, the sauce.

    Almond-Avocado Pesto
    I made a great avocado dressing with my bean salad. This thicker version is a true pesto, and went well with a lunch of seared scallops and roasted green beans.

    1 ripe avocado
    2 T olive oil
    2 T plain yogurt
    2 bunches fresh basil
    1 T gran padano (or parmesan, pecorino)
    1 T ground almonds
    1/2 t salt
    1 t lemon juice

    • Cut the avocado lengthwise, discard skin and pit, and add to food processor.

    • Add all other ingredients and pulse until smooth and creamy.

    • Serve accompanying poultry, seafood (as pictured above) or combine with plain yogurt to create a pesto sauce for rice or buckwheat noodle pasta.

    Balsamic Mustard Dressing
    I made some almond and flax crusted turkey breast recently, paired with a fresh cole slaw salad. I decided it needed something more, and used an organic mustard as a base for this dressing. Try the different tastes and textures to come up with something you like.

    • 1.5 T yellow mustard seed

    • 1 T dry ground mustard

    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

    • 2-3 T water

    • salt and black pepper

    • ground coriander

    • ground cumin

    • cinnamon

    • stevia

    • 2- 3 T blanc battu (or greek yogurt)

    • Simmer all ingredients (except the yogurt/blanc battu) for roughly 15 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, salt, pepper, coriander and cumin as you go.

    • Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Add the blanc battu/yogurt to desired consistency. Also add more pepper if you'd like, and a teaspoon of parsley.

    • Refrigerate or eat at room temperature, drizzled over lean meats or as a dressing for vegetables.

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    Black Quinoa with Toasted Chickpeas

    The past two weeks I was graced with wonderful visitors and an amazing wedding, per my previous post. The downside was, I thrashed any form of balanced eating hardcore...two words: German bakery. Predictably, the less I cooked or prepared my own meals the worse I felt. Attempting to restore the damage, I did what always works - threw away the instant stuff, bought fresh products, and started again. OK, in some cases I just finished the instant stuff :) Anyway, in the end it worked.

    In a random local shop that wasn't sure what it wanted to be - part trinkets, parth clothes, food?! - I happened upon some black quinoa (as if this grain weren't protein and fiber-ful enough). In order to substitute without missing any of the junk, I also wanted to make some tasty snacks á la toasted chickpeas. Lastly I was craving a satisfying spread akin to mayo but without sugar or vinegar. Luckily in all the shades of healthier dairy and cheese available here in Switzerland (quark, yogurt, creme fraiche, fromage frais, ricotta, cottage cheese), I found a couple of recipes for 'mayonnaise' with my new favorite, fromage blanc or blanc battu. Playing with a combination of these led to a super dish.

    Black Quinoa with Toasted Chickpeas

    Quinoa & chickpea salad (2 servings ):
    1/3 cup of black quinoa
    2/3 cup of water
    1/2 head of cauliflower
    1/2 cup of chickpeas, soaked overnight
    2 T olive oil
    1 t sea salt

    Blanc battu dressing:
    1/2 cup of blanc battu* (or fromage blanc or greek yogurt)
    1-2 T olive oil (or canola)
    1 T apple cider vinegar
    garlic powder
    1 t herbs de provence
    salt & pepper to taste

    • Preheat the oven to a high temperature (I had mine at 250 C) and mix the chickpeas and with 1 T of the oil and just under 1/2 t of salt. Simultaneously mix the cauliflower with the remaining oil and salt. Roast them in separate baking dishes until the cauliflower begins to brown and the chickpeas are toasted, but not quite crunchy. Set aside.

    • Meanwhile prepare the quinoa by simmering it in the water until soft (when all the water is absorbed and it 'pops'), about 20 minutes. Stir frequently while cooking, and fluff with a fork when done.

    • While the vegetables roast and the quinoa simmers, combine all of the ingredients to make the blanc battu dressing. Add the spices and herbs to your tastes. It would also go wonderfully with fresh dill or basil.

    • Allow the roasted vegetables to cool, and then combine with the black quinoa and dressing. Bon app!

    I'm really looking forward to making this again, and will double the recipe and share :) I'd also like to continue experimenting with variations to the dressing (FYI the mayo substitute also included half an egg yolk and more oil, but I found the texture of this mix was just right). Lastly, I'll be keeping a stash of herbed, toasted chickpeas on hand whenever possible! They are unbelievably good.

    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    A Few of My Favorite Things

    So my quiet this month has been due to tons of visitors to Zürich these past few weeks, with two more sets to go. I got to do a lot of travelling (and eating), but little cooking. Furthermore I just got back from a schööön wedding of two good friends in southern Germany a few hours ago.

    In keeping with my hobby, however, I did find some great local regional food in Strasbourg when I visited with my father and stepmother last week. I had no idea that Alsace was so full of culture, from the interesting traditional regional dress, legends about the storks that herald spring, and the history of being both German and French at any given part of the last century. It's also the home of the European Parliament. Hubert Keller, one of my favorite chefs (I couldn't stop watching Top Chef Masters as hard as it is to do so outside of the US), is from this region. And of course the best sweet white wines, Gewurztraminer and Riesling, are produced locally.

    While the parents dined on steak and coq au vin, I had andouillette with haricots verts (photo below). Those from Louisana may recognize this type of pork sausage made from the intestines :D The beans had plenty of butter, garlic and herbs and my Dad and I remarked on how it felt as if we could have been eating the same meal centuries ago. On our way back from the old town on the ile in the center of the city, I stopped at a shop where I bought some tasty (and inexpensive!!) foie gras and a fig mustard that I devoured within about 72 hours.

    I did have a chance to cook dinner early in my Dad's trip. The first course was the pleasing yogurt-feta dip with farinata, topped with the olive oil I bought in Catalonia. The second was red rice salad in a roasted pepper, along with this really great wakame and zucchini salad from the latest cookbook from Hiltl - the oldest and best vegetarian restaurant in Zurich. For the salad's dressing, I added Byodo's great apple cider vinegar to the sesame/soy recipe. I use the stuff religiously for cole slaws, tuna or egg salads, marinades. Apple cider vinegar is the only type that's actually alkaline, balancing your body's pH like almonds and veggies do. I recommend trying condiments that use this vinegar over others...

    The third course wasn't my proudest, as I attempted a goji berry carrot cake with homemade vanilla frosting. Though I used plenty of cream quark for lightness, the gluten free dough was quite heavy :( I think it was because I subbed in a portion of quinoa flour, which doesn't work so great for sweet baking as it's nutty and dense - such as with my scones. Also my parents were not at all used to the fact that - and I LOVE this - the whipped cream here is natural and unsweetened!!! And 100% creamy.

    I'll conclude with a flashback to the flavourful Alsatian meal that was gone too soon :)

    Wednesday, August 5, 2009

    A New Kind of Stir-Fry

    I'm not sure what the inspiration, but last month I was really in the mood for some Chinese takeaway. I haven't had any since the last time I was in New York, particularly as I try to avoid the fermented, wheat based sauces and the fried rice, doughs and noodles. That said, Chinese cooking can be the healthiest around when vegetables are steamed or lightly stir-fried rather than overcooked. Proteins like chicken and shrimp are also frequently incorporated, which are marinated in flavorful fish. nut and sesame oils. Terrific vegetables and legumes like bok choy, mung beans, and green onions are frequently thrown in, and a little egg for good measure.

    But if you're avoiding empty carbs...what about the rice? Surely not necessary, but a classic pairing. My searching for a solution, and a creative use of one of the world's healthiest foods: cauliflower.

    Turkey-Broccoli Stir Fry + Cauliflower Fried 'Rice'

    1/4 lb turkey breast
    3 T sesame oil
    2 T soy sauce (GF if you find it)
    1 teaspoon of arrowroot
    1 egg, beaten
    1/2 head of cauliflower
    1 stalk of green onions
    1/2 cup shredded carrots
    1 cup of broccoli, blanched* (I blanch raw broccoli in boiling water for 3 minutes)
    2 T pine nuts

    • Chop the turkey breast into chunks and marinate in the arrowroot, 1 T of the sesame oil and 1 T of soy sauce while you make the rice and prep the vegetables.

    • Put the cauliflower in a food processor and process very quickly until it resembles the consistency of rice (some then microwave the cauliflower, but I keep it raw). Chop the green onions, and cut the broccoli into florets.

    • Heat a second T of sesame oil in a wok or deep frying pan and add the beaten egg, scrambling. Remove from pan when done and set aside.

    • Now add the final T of oil. Stir-fry the cauliflower until it just begins to brown. This takes a little while, perhaps 10 minutes, but really adds to the dish! At this time, stir in the onions, broccoli, carrots (not pictured) and the remaining T of soy sauce and sautée for 3 minutes. Remove from the pan, mixing with the scrambled egg.

    • Finally, add the meat and cook for a few minutes until done. Add the marinade and heat until it gets thicker. Remove from heat and mix with the veggies and scrambled egg.

    • Serve the turkey and broccoli stir-fry over the cauliflower fried 'rice', and top with peanuts (I prefer pine nuts). Bon app!

    This recipe should serve 2 with a generous amount of rice, though I've not measured out the amounts perfectly. I'll definitely be practicing this more, it's yummy. I've also been experimenting with the seasonings, and added ground ginger for a nice kick the second time around. Let me know what you come up with ~c* x

    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    Scones vs. Biscuits...

    As many wonderful, splendidly natural foods as there are across this giving planet, sometimes you (or at least I) really do crave the comfort of something warm and baked from the oven. There's no denying it, nor any combination of flax or almond that can substitute! For the sugar sensitive and those who can't do wheat or gluten, it can be an elusive task coming up with something tasty, moist to bite into - the food of your childhood - and yet healthy. I'm not saying I've done it, but I was pretty pleased to have come close enough ;) Inspired by a muffin recipe using veggies, I decided to make a gluten-free scone with carrots, plenty of seeds, and toasted apples.

    Apple-Carrot Quinoa Scones

    1 cup quinoa flour
    1/4 cup chickpea flour
    1/4 cup coconut flour
    2 T baking powder (I use Hain's GF)
    2 t xanthan gum
    1/4 t salt
    6 packets of Stevia (eq. 1/4 cup of sugar)
    1 t cinnamon, nutmeg, & ground cloves
    1/2 cup dried apples
    1/2 cup grated carrots
    1/2 cup seeds/nuts (I used sunflower +pumpkin)
    few sprigs of fresh basil (optional)

    3 eggs, 1 egg white
    1 t vanilla
    3/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup sunflower oil
    1-3 t of flaxseeds
    Water as needed (about 1/4 cup)

    • Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit/160 Celsius.

    • Combine oil (feel free to use more sunflower oil for lighter texture), eggs, vanilla, and sweetener in medium bowl. Set aside.

    • In a large bowl mix quinoa, chickpea, and coconut flours with the baking powder and spices.

    • Add wet ingredients to dry and mix very well!

    • Add apples, carrots, seeds and basil and continue to mix as the dough firms.

    • If the dough gets too tough, add flaxseeds and water in proportion to 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of water (a common egg substitute, this will help achieve the right consistency). I used 3 total because I used coconut flour, which absorbs a lot of moisture.

    • With a tablespoon or simply your hands, scoop the dough into balls and drop them on a pan as you would a drop biscuit, or pack into a muffin tin.

    • Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until nicely browned on the outside.
    I was able to make 17 nice-sized scones from this recipe, and each is only 198 calories and 9.5 g net carbs. They lasted ages, I froze about half and enjoyed them through the following week. Because they are savoury, I had them with butter or soft cheese as a complement to soup or salad.

    As I thought about what to call them, the texture reminded me at once of both a biscuit... and a scone. What's the difference, if any? I decided they were more of a scone because they are denser (less buttery) than biscuits, but still have that nice crispy firmness you can bite into. Can't wait to make these again and experiment with other fruit and vegetable combinations! I look forward to trying spinach (all I had was basil at the time), and fresh apples....mmm, OK now I've made myself hungry and wish I still had some left for breakfast!! ~cheers, c*x

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Too Good to be Salad?

    OK, so some of you may say salad can always be good, and I agree! It's just that I often still associate salads with iceberg lettuce and a couple of limp tomatoes. Possibly because the typical U.S. (and of course many other) restaurants will offer something green in the form of a) a thin sheath of lettuce under a bun, bread and a 1/2 lb. of meat or b) as a small accompaniment to some other protein and potatoes. In any case, I recall that I used to eat the latter covered with something called French dressing (read: mayo).

    Of course I've caught up with hopefully the rest of the universe in understanding that anything can be incorporated into a great salad! It doesn't even have to be cold; my favorite whole grain dish to make, passed to me by two good friends, is the Red Rice Salad from Heather's 101 Cookbooks. Since I've been in Switzerland, I've really been using vegetables that were fairly obscure to me half a year ago such as fennel and different species of cabbage :) Tonight I made a really f-in awesome borlotti bean salad and had to share that as well!

    Zucchini Bean Salad with Basil-Avocado Dressing

    1/2 cup dried white beans (I used borlotti)
    1 small shallot
    1 T olive oil
    1/4 t sugar
    1/4 t salt
    1/2 zucchini/cucumber, julienned
    1/2 cup of shredded carrots

    1/2 avocado
    1-2 T fresh basil
    1 small garlic clove
    1 T lemon juice
    1 T tahini
    1 t apple cider vinegar
    salt to taste
    1/4 - 1/2 cup of water

    • Soak the beans in water at least 4 hours or overnight. Rinse and then place in a saucepan with the olive oil, shallot (chopped), sugar, salt and enough water to cover and cook until water is nearly evaporated, about 45 minutes to an hour. Don't overcook as you want the beans to remain firm! Chill in the refrigerator.

    • Chop the zucchini/cucumber (I julienned mine but whatever you prefer) and shred carrots - or use pre-shredded - and chill with the beans.

    • Peel the avocado and cut into slices (if not ripe) before adding to a food processor or blender.

    • Add remaining ingredients - the basil, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, apple cider vinegar, salt and water and blend until you have the consistency of dressing. Add more water if needed.

    • In a large bowl combine the beans, zucchini, and carrots with the basil-avocado dressing and toss to coat. Add more veggies if you end up with more dressing.

    • Try to stop eating from this bowl. I seriously had to put half of it away immediately, it was SO good.

    Voilá! This salad as proportioned makes 2 generous side portions. The beans are yum and filling, and the dressing is creamy while maintaining the integrity of the avocado. Also no mayo or oil. The next day I had some with a slice of socca (chickpea crepe)....Enjoy!!! ~c*x

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    And now for some spice...

    I grew up on a mild American diet and never really enjoyed spicy food. For some reason, however, I've been fascinated by how to use red chilies in my cooking, particularly my vegetable dishes. I bought a pack of baby chilies (I have no idea if my English terms are accurate!) and was determined to use the whole thing. Nearly. After a few experiments I made something good...real good. And versatile...

    Chili Romesco Paste

    This sauce is actually a hybrid between chili paste, pesto, and romesco. It has no cheese (hence no pesto), but I've opted to add pine nuts for an amazing texture. Measurements below are estimates only, as I just threw it together to get the right balance.

    3 T organic tomato paste
    1 small red chili
    1 garlic clove
    1 T pine nuts
    1 T olive oil
    salt to taste (no more than 1/2 teaspoon)
    pinch of cumin
    fresh parsely
    • Remove stem and seeds from chili with a knife and chop into quarters

    • Chop garlic and roughly chop parsely
    • Add all ingredients to your food processor
    • To get the right texture, and add more water to thin

    • Adjust seasonings to taste - careful it's hot!

    I was able to use this, with a little extra water to cook, to create this amazing sautée of eggplant and cauliflower. My five a day should be fine as long as I keep it interesting.