Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti

Cultured Foods {aka Bugs, Who Needs ‘Em?}

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“Fermented foods help people stay healthy,” Sandor Katz author of New York Times best-selling book “The Art of Fermentation.”

Before we get to the heart of the matter of cultured foods, here is a photo of yesterday’s sky.  I was at the pool and the sky was so beautiful I had to take a picture.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea.

October sky

My husband and I do a good job of learning about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle in terms of eating and exercise, and then we implement what we have learned to the best of our abilities. Our latest foray into healthy eating is fermented {cultured} foods. Please understand that in no way do I consider myself an expert on cultured foods; I am far from an expert, and know just enough to be dangerous. We have been eating cultured foods for years, because we enjoy them, but have intentionally added more into our diet because of the health benefits. Here are some of our favorite cultured foods, all of which we buy at Mana Foods, for those of you on Maui:
~ YogurtNancy’s Yogurt {contains 11 different culture strains} has been a staple for more than a decade.
~ Sauerkraut and Fermented Pickles- We have recently started purchasing sauerkraut that is raw and unpasteurized, so that the beneficial microbes are available to us. One of our favorite brands is Sonoma Brinery. Farmhouse Culture makes fantastic sauerkraut as well. I LOVE their Smoked Jalapeno Kraut; I don’t find it at all smoky, but perfectly spicy! My husband prefers the Ginger Beet flavor, which I also like, but not as much as the Smoked Jalapeno. Both of these companies offer excellent products that are reasonably priced.  If you want sauerkraut, these are a must try!
~ Kombucha We drink a little kombucha most days. Our kombucha comes from Maui Kombucha.
~ GoodBelly Probiotic Drink This is a delicious nondairy nectar-like drink. My favorite flavor is Mango.  If you sign up for their Goodbelly Challenge, they will email you some coupons!
~ Sour Cream- We often spoon a bit of cultured sour cream on our quesadillas. Sour cream is always a yummy addition to a spicy dish.
~ Tempeh Tempeh is a fermented soy product from Indonesia. Our current favorite way to eat tempeh is seasoned with freshly ground salt and pepper and sautéed in a bit of coconut oil until golden brown.   Eat with ketchup and you have something that resembles French fries. A heavy drizzle of Sriracha Sauce is a great addition, if you like a little mouth burn, like I do.  We also make a delicious sandwich that we call a “TLT” meaning Tomato, Lettuce and Tempeh.  It is fantastic on toasted ciabatta bread.  Our tempeh is in the freezer until we are ready to eat it, and then it thaws very quickly.
~ Miso- I like kale salad with Outstanding Miso Sesame Dressing. There is also miso soup, which is delicious!

Here are a few of the cultured foods we’ve enjoyed in the last few days:

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Tempeh Sautéed in Organic Coconut Oil

Slice tempeh into approximately 1/2 inch slices.  Spray skillet {we use cast iron} with pan spray, then melt about 1 tbsp. of coconut oil.  When the oil is hot, add the tempeh slices.  Season with freshly ground salt and pepper to taste. Sauté, turning occasionally, until golden brown.  Serve hot with ketchup and Sriracha Sauce, or whatever you like.

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Yogurt with Pineapple, Peach and Cranberry Preserves

Put some yogurt in a bowl, and top with homemade preserves, and your choice of any or all of the following toppings:  unsweetened coconut, maple syrup {the real stuff please, preferably Grade B}, good quality honey, cinnamon, cacao nibs, nuts, hemp seeds, ground flax seeds, Buckwheat Chia Crunch  or anything else you’d like.

Pineapple, Peach and Cranberry Preserves

**This is really more of a guideline than a specific recipe.  You can adjust everything to your taste, including changing the fruits to what you have available.

1 Maui Gold pineapple
1 quart chunked fresh or frozen peaches
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
approximately 1 tbsp. good quality honey
Juice of 1/2 a juicy lemon
Grind of salt

Get a Maui Gold pineapple if you can {we buy ours at Costco, maybe Mainland Costco sells them also-I think they do}, otherwise a “regular” fresh pineapple will do.  Cut up the pineapple into chunks {see previous pineapple blog post}.  Put all of the pineapple chunks into a wide-mouthed saucepan {for better evaporation of the liquid}.  Add 1 quart of peach chunks {we used the peaches we froze in August} and 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries.  You can certainly use a different berry if you are not a cranberry fan, but you can’t really identify them as cranberries as far as taste goes .  Squeeze half a lemon and add the juice, and then throw in a cinnamon stick and a grind of salt.  Spoon in some good quality honey to taste.  We used about 1 tbsp.  Bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer on low until thickened.  The timing will depend on how juicy your fruit is.  The  preserves will thicken as they cool.

These preserves are meant to be made and eaten within a week or so; they are not preserved, so will not keep.

These preserves also taste great with one of our new favorite breads, from 101 Cookbooks.  I have made several of her bread recipes, and we have loved them all.

easy_little_bread_recipe 1000Photo from 101 Cookbooks

Easy Little Bread
from 101 Cookbooks
1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 cup / 4.5 oz / 125 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g whole wheat flour
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit – 5 – 10 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.

Brush an 8-cup loaf pan {9″x5″} generously with some of the melted butter. Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C, with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. I finish things up by leaving the bread under the broiler for just a heartbeat – to give the top a bit deeper color. Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn’t steam in the pan. Serve warm, slathered with butter.

Makes 1 loaf.

Adapted from Gran’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Notebooks of Dulcie May Booker.

Prep time: 10 min –    Cook time: 35 min

My Variations of Easy Little Bread {follow the same mixing instructions as the original recipe}

Variation #1:  Oat Rye Bread with Sunflower Seeds

1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
140 grams whole wheat flour
100 grams oats {not instant}
65 grams dark rye flour
60 grams unbleached white flour
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt {I used kosher salt}
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing

Variation #2:  Cinnamon Date Bread with Walnuts

1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
140 grams whole wheat flour
100 grams oats
125 grams unbleached white flour
3 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt {I used kosher salt}
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing
5 dates, snipped into small pieces

Have you added any delicious cultured foods to your meals?  If so, which ones?

If you are in Maui, you may want to visit the Upcountry Farmer’s Market.  They sell many different kinds of cultured foods there.

Additional Reading:
http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/some-of-my-best-friends-are-germs/

Cultures for Health

The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz

Video of Sandor Katz talking about fermented foods

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

Bon appetit!


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“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thoughts on enjoying the perfect pear may be true for raw pears, although I think his window is a little narrow.  My new favorite way to enjoy pears is roasting them, which I will tell you about in a moment. 

I try to walk most days, and enjoy listening to podcasts on my iPhone while I walk.  I subscribe to a number of podcasts, several which have to do with my favorite subject-food.  Here are some I highly recommend:

These podcasts are all hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who is an American food writer and radio journalist out of Minnesota.

The Splendid Table– hour long program which is “public radio’s culinary, culture and lifestyle program which celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.”
Key 3– a series of discussions with great cooks about the 3 techniques or recipes that they think everyone should know
How to Eat Supper/How to Eat Weekends– short shows {around 10 minutes or less} based upon the 2 books

After I baked a couple batches of Mocha Truffle Cookies Saturday, I turned off the oven and popped in some fruit.  “What’s that?,” you say.  Putting the fruit in after the oven is turned off?  Yes indeed!  I popped some pears into the oven for about 50 minutes, and what emerged was tender, juicy fruit ready to eat in a variety of ways.  Look at the gorgeous browning that occurred in that short period of time. 

roasted pears

close up of roasted pears

Roasted pears in bowl

The first time I tried this, I roasted Bosc pears and Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced.  My husband thought they needed a little something extra, so he drizzled just a bit of local honey over the fruit, and a touch of freshly ground salt.  As most of us know, a little salt complements the sweetness of fruit.  I sprinkled the fruit with sliced almonds after it came out of the oven, and we enjoyed it with some dark chocolate.  Delicious!  I have also just put the fruit in with no extras, and that’s good too.  Plain yogurt is excellent topped with roasted fruit, nuts, cinnamon and a sprinkle of cacao nibs. 

yogurt with roasted pears

yogurt with roasted pears close up

I got the idea for roasting with the oven off from the podcast How to Eat Weekends {episode from 6 October 2011}.  If you listen to the podcast, you will hear about many other foods that you can roast, but I haven’t tried anything other than apples and pears {yet!}.  The beauty of this method is that it is energy efficient, it is tasty and you can use fruits or vegetables that may not have stellar flavor if eaten raw {think tomatoes, apple or pears that may be a little mushy, etc.}. I hope you will listen to this podcast and then try roasting some of your own fruits and vegetables.  It is quick, easy and delicious! 

Roasted Pears

 Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and fill with thinly {about 1/4 inch} sliced pears.  Slide into the oven after you’ve turned off the heat and let the fruit “roast” for about 50 minutes.  You can drizzle the fruit with honey and sprinkle with a little salt and nuts if you like.  I didn’t put the nuts on before roasting, but think I will start doing this.  Enjoy plain {warm or cold}, with dark chocolate or over ice cream.   

Just for fun-perhaps you will find your city in this list of culinary winners from Saveur Magazine

Bon appetit!


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“The kitchen, reasonably enough, was the scene of my first gastronomic adventure. I was on all fours. I crawled into the vegetable bin, settled on a giant onion and ate it, skin and all. It must have marked me for life, for I have never ceased to love the hearty flavor of raw onions.”  James Beard (1903-1985)

First of all, I have to tell you that I am super excited about the class that I signed up for, which starts this Tuesday!  It’s called Science & Cooking:  from Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.  It is offered through Harvard {yes, that Harvard!} and it’s free.  Scientists and chefs will be getting together to teach this course about the science of cooking.  Check it out!

This week’s farmers market find- freshly dug sweet Maui onions!  Yum!  We have been waiting for these & now they are here.

Group of Maui onions 1 Just about everyone has an opinion about onions.  We go through a lot of onions at our house, which is a good thing, because onions are a healthy food to eat, and they add great flavor to food. Group of Maui onions 3 We love all kinds of onions- green onions {aka scallions}, shallots, leeks, white onions, pearl onions, yellow onions and sweet onions {Maui, Walla Walla, Texas Sweets, Vidalia, etc.}.  They can be enjoyed raw, cooked or caramelized so that they are brown, sweet and jammy. Closeup of peeled  new Maui onion This onion was delicious in a salad with arugula, steamed beets and thinnings from the basil seeds I planted a few weeks ago {apologies to those who will not be growing basil outside for awhile!}.

Young Basil Seedlings 1

I hadn’t thought to pair basil with arugula, but it was a good match.  I consulted the Flavor Bible, which is one of my favorite books, and that is where I saw that basil and arugula go well together. Arugula salad with basil thinnings I dressed this salad with my usual arugula salad dressing of fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper. Closeup of arugula salad with basil trimmings I have not always been an onion lover.  Like many kids, I ate my spaghetti with butter {I still love noodles with butter!}, salt and pepper.  I don’t remember if I had cheese on it, but if so, I’m sure it was that awful stuff in the green cylindrical can; you know the one to which I’m referring.  I think it was the onions in the spaghetti sauce to which my immature palate was objecting, but I’m not really sure why I didn’t want to eat spaghetti sauce.  I had no problem eating chili or beef stew, which definitely contained onions.  My mom’s {and now my recipe} delicious potato salad was eaten {by me} before the celery and onions went in.  It must have been the crunch, in addition to the onions, that I did not care for.  Crunch did not belong in creamy soft potato salad, in my opinion.  Mind you, I was not really a picky eater.  I ate just about everything, except celery, onions and this dressing that my grandmother made to dress dandelion greens.  It was some kind of cooked dressing, and I really did not like it.  In fact, I amazed my relatives with the quantities of food I consumed.  “Does she have a hollow leg?” they wondered.  “Where does she put it?” they inquired. Raw onions became a part of my diet in my early 20’s, when my husband returned from a business trip to Atlanta, GA with a sack of Vidalia onions.  He bought them at the airport, like tourists buy Maui pineapples at the Kahului Airport.  Boy, were those onions ever good; nice and sweet and perfect mingling in a bowl with sliced cucumbers, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  My mom makes great cucumbers and onions with apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper; I’m sure I just ate the cucumbers way back when.  Now, I can’t get enough onions.  Thankfully, most kids grow up and expand their food horizons to include foods they wouldn’t touch in their youth, but now find delicious. Several techniques can be employed to make onions more palatable, as well as make them more suitable for a particular dish.  The way an onion is cut makes a huge difference on how it tastes in any given recipe.  Click here to view a Fine Cooking video on a few different onion cutting techniques. I usually cut onions 4 different ways: Large Dice– Large dice is great for onions that will be cooked in spaghetti sauce, stew, vegetable soups, this quesadilla filling and that type of thing.  The large dice holds its shape during cooking, but at the end will be soft and pleasant to eat. large dice onion Minced- Minced onions belong in guacamole, potato salad, coleslaw, some bean salads and places where you don’t want to bite into a big piece of raw onion, especially when that onion isn’t a sweet variety. Minced onions Lyonnaise– Lyonnaise is also called “pole to pole” because you are cutting the onion in crescent shapes from the root end to the blossom end.  It is my favorite way to cut onions!  I love this cut for green salads, cucumbers and onions, pickled beets and recipes where I want to see the onion, and taste it, but not have big chunks.  When I cut this way, I always thinly slice the onions if they are to be served raw.  Even a strong onion {i.e. not a sweet variety} is palatable when thinly cut pole to pole. Lyonnaise cut onions 3 Sliced- Sliced onions are cut across the equator, and are great served raw or caramelized on a burger, sub {hoagie, grinder, etc.} or other sandwich.  I think onions for sandwiches should always be sliced paper thin; pile them on, but they must be thin or they will slide right off {Tomatoes too should be thinly sliced, but my mom will disagree with me here.} Sliced red onions If you are tired of your green onion slices rolling off the cutting board, try slitting the white part of the onion lengthwise, so you have half-moon slices-no more mischievous onion slices rolling around!

Not just a tasty vegetable and seasoning for many foods, onions have numerous health benefits.  Click on this link to the National Onion Association for nutritional information, tips and recipes.

This is  how one amongst us spent his day. . . not an ounce of friskiness in this pussycat! Jack napping

How do you enjoy onions?

Bon appetit!


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A Favorite Lunch

Did you know. . .
. . . that sardines packed in their own oil or extra virgin olive oil are full of good for you omega-3 fats?  It is thought that just 1/2 gram of these fats can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Avoid sardines packed in vegetable oils, as they are not healthy fats.

Anyone for anchovies?  How about sardines?  I know, I know, these are a couple fish that cause many people to turn up their noses.  Not me though; I love them both.  My intention was to write only about sardines, but I figured as long as we are on the subject of unpopular fishes, I may as well tell you how we like to eat anchovies.  Perhaps our way of eating anchovies will work for you as well, that is, if you want to give them a try.

Once upon a time, I too was among the myriad of folks who did not care for anchovies, as was my husband.  One rainy evening, we were eating pizza at Tony’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant, a favorite Italian restaurant of ours in Bremerton, WA.  That is the night we learned how to eat anchovies.  The secret to liking/loving anchovies on your pizza, according to our waitress, is to order them on the side.  Wow, that really makes a difference!  The salty, fishy flavor permeates the pizza if you bake the anchovies on the pizza, but if you have a little plate of anchovies on the side, it tastes pretty good.  You get an occasional salty punch from the little bits of anchovy.  We have happily eaten anchovies on our pizza ever since!

I have been eating sardines for as long as I can remember.  We had tins of sardines in our pantry when I was growing up, and I admit that even though I ate them, I thought they looked kind of gross.  My recollection is that they were not like the nice sardine filets that we eat now, which are every bit as nice looking as a beautiful piece of fresh salmon {except they aren’t pretty pink}.

Wild Planet Sardines

One of my favorite quick lunches is a “fish cracker” and a salad.  And no, by “fish cracker,” I am not referring to those fishy-shaped crackers that you are probably familiar with. . .the ones with no redeeming nutritional value.  My idea of a “fish cracker” is a Ryvita cracker with a plump, meaty and delicious sardine on top.  Of course, there are additional toppings to make it extra tasty.  This is a favorite lunch of mine because it is quick, tasty and super healthy.

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I understand if you don’t like anchovies, and don’t want to give them a second {first} chance.  But if you like fish, and haven’t gotten into sardines, I highly recommend them.  The health benefits of sardines {& anchovies} are many:

  • They are low on the marine food chain, so toxins like mercury do not accumulate in them.
  • Anchovies and sardines are chock full of healthy omega-3 fats, which impact mood, circulation, glucose, insulin metabolism, blood pressure and heart health.
  • In particular, sardines are high in protein, B vitamins, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.  Talk about a powerhouse of nutrition in one little can!  They are my idea of a great “fast food!”

Sources:

The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.

The Perricone Promise, Nicholas Perricone, M.D.

A simple salad of arugula {aka “rocket”} and thinly sliced onions, dressed with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper, goes well with fish crackers.  It’s one of our favorite salads.

Arugula Salad with Onion and Lemon Vinaigrette

Arugula Salad with Onion and Lemon Juice & Extra Virgin Olive Oil


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“The old Romans having expelled physicians out of their commonwealth, did for many years maintain their health by the use of cabbages, taking them for every disease.”  16th century historian

Welcome to my 3  5 9 day post.  Yep, it took 9 days for me to get this written and posted.  Why??  I have no idea!!  No good reason though, that’s for sure.

I worked late last night {Monday}, so took the opportunity to sleep in a little later than usual, which was nice.  It was a breezy “2 blanket night,” the first one for quite a while.  This morning has been one of those putz around the house mornings where I suddenly realized that my walk would have been significantly cooler had I left earlier.  Podcast selected, I popped in my ear buds, put on my hat, sunglasses and shoes, ready to go.  Open door. . .it’s raining!  You might wonder how I could not have known that.  Weather-wise, we live in a very interesting place.  Dark gray clouds may gloomily loom out one window, with a gleaming blue sky out another window, just 20 feet away.  So often, the gray clouds that hang around our house do not drop rain; I would certainly like a bit more rain, as would our plants.  Funny thing to say, from someone who lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years!  The clouds are splashing rain this morning, and I am enjoying every minute of it.

I’ve had half a cup of green tea, and now it looks like a good time to walk.  Be back soon.

I’m back!  More sprinkles soon after I returned, so I guess my timing was pretty good.  Actually, my walk was timed perfectly, as was my choice of routes.  I found a fallen Meyer lemon {I LOVE Meyer lemons!}, which is a cross between a regular lemon and a Mandarin orange.  Meyer lemons have not been available in the United States until fairly recently, and may not be found everywhere.  If you are a lemon lover, and you see Meyer lemons, buy some; they are so delicious.  I come from a long line of lemon eaters, and I can tell you that my mouth is watering right now.  I love lemons sprinkled with salt-so good {not great for the enamel on your teeth, but so tasty}.  Meyer lemons have a floral quality to them, in their flavor and their aroma.  They are thin-skinned, so you can eat the entire lemon.

Meyer lemon wedgeClick here to read a short article/hear a short interview about Meyer Lemons.  I also found a pommelo.  The owner of the pommelo tree told me a few weeks ago that I could pick what I could reach; score!.  I was thrilled to find one that had blown off in the wind, to my good fortune.  Pommelos are similar to grapefruit, but their fruit is not as soft as a grapefruit, and the flavor is a little different.

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To be continued, tomorrow!

Wednesday- No fallen fruit today, nor rain, just a beautiful blue sky & gentle breeze to keep us nice and cool.

Let’s talk about cabbage.  I love cabbage!  By all accounts, my mom makes fantastic coleslaw.  Even though I like all of the ingredients in her coleslaw, I never cared for it as a kid.  She always gave me a bowl of cabbage with nothing on it, before she mixed in the dressing.  My dad loved her coleslaw because it doesn’t have a sweet dressing.  Here is her recipe.

Mom’s Coleslaw

4 cups finely shredded cabbage
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp grated onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Celery seed to taste {my mom says that it is important to use celery seed for best flavor}

My mom always grates her cabbage in a blender, with water, which makes a very fine shred; she said that her mom liked it that way.  After processing in the blender she drains the cabbage well, so the dressing will not be watery.  You can shred your cabbage however you prefer.  Mix the remaining ingredients and mix with the cabbage.  Chill until ready to serve.

My preferred way of eating cabbage has always been cooked, as in corned beef and cabbage, minestrone soup, borscht, etc.  And then I discovered roasted cabbage.  OMG!  Roasting cabbage gives it a depth of flavor that raw cabbage cannot ever hope to achieve.  It is quite delicious, and I have to restrain myself from eating the entire head of cabbage after it emerges from the oven, roasty-toasty brown with soft centers and crispy edges.  Sprinkled with fresh lemon juice, roasted cabbage is delectable and just waiting to be eaten, leaf by leaf, standing up by the stove, where you have put it to cool.  If you manage to have any leftovers, I also find it delicious cold or at room temperature.

Roasted Cabbage with Olive Oil & Lemon
recipe adapted ever so slightly from eat.repeat

1 head of green cabbage
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pull off the large outer cabbage leaves.   Wash the head of cabbage and dry well.  Cut the cabbage in half, and then cut the halves into fourths, leaving you with 8 wedges.  Try to keep a bit of the core on each wedge, so that the wedges have a better chance of staying together.  Put your cabbage wedges on a sheet pan lined with foil.  I like to line my sheet pan with foil to make clean up a little easier.  Brush the cabbage with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground salt and pepper.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, flipping the wedges about halfway through.  Roast until the cabbage is browned, even to the point of the edges being crispy brown {much tastier this way!}.   Sprinkle cabbage with lemon juice & eat hot, warm, room temperature or cold.  Yum!

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Bon appetit!


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“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living.  For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.”    Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’ (1949)

Have you noticed a change in the weather in your area?  Maybe the mornings are a bit dewier than they were last month, and a sweater hits the spot in the evening.  We have noticed that the mornings and evenings are a little cooler here on Maui, even though the days feel about the same, nice and warm.  The first day of autumn is just around the corner {9/22}, which means it’s time to get out the soup pot.  Our soup pot is never far from the stove.  Even though we live on Maui, we eat a lot of soup, and surprisingly most of it hot soup, not cold.  We live at about 1200 feet altitude, on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, so it is often cool enough to enjoy soup, especially when the trade winds are blowing, as they are now.  While it may feel warm outside in the sun, the breeze can feel cool in the house.  We eat soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The soups we enjoy are all healthy; they are full of vegetables, high in vitamins and minerals and nutrient dense.   I realize that people who live in places with 3 or 4 seasons probably don’t eat much hot soup in the summer, but like I said earlier, ready or not, autumn is on its way.

If you haven’t made home made soup, I encourage you to try out a few recipes; you will be rewarded with several delicious meals that don’t have to be complicated to prepare.  There are some elaborate soup recipes out there, but the ones I make are pretty straightforward.  I assure you that the soup you create from top notch fresh ingredients will be far superior to any soup you get from a can.

This minestrone is one of our new favorite soups, and I highly recommend it.  This is the link to the original; what follows is my adaptation.

Lentil, Celery and Tomato Minestrone

adapted from the recipe by Martha Rose Shulman, who is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”

1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 onion, halved
A bouquet garni made with 2 sprigs each thyme and parsley, a bay leaf, and a Parmesan rind
1 1/2 quarts water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced {mince & let sit for 10 minutes for health benefits}
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
About 1/2 small head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Very thinly sliced celery, from the inner heart, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Combine the lentils, 1/2 onion and the bouquet garni with 1 quart water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add salt to taste, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Chop the remaining onion. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute, and add the canned tomatoes with their liquid and the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant.

3. Add the lentils with their broth, the tomato paste, salt to taste, an additional 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, add the cabbage.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper, stir in the parsley and serve, garnishing each bowl with thinly sliced celery heart if you want some crunch, and passing the Parmesan at the table.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6Celery Minestrone Ready to Eat

Like most soup, this is even better the next day.

Nutritional information per serving (4 servings): 276 calories; 4 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 49 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams dietary fiber; 392 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 17 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (6 servings): 184 calories; 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 32 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 261 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 11 grams protein

Notes:

* You may use any lentils that you like.  I usually use brown lentils, but if you like your lentils to hold their shape, you may want to use the French green lentils {lentils du puy}.

* I highly recommend the celery & Parmesan garnish.  Generally speaking, I find that if a recipe has a garnish, it’s best to put in the extra effort to put it on your soup.  A garnish can take your soup to a higher level!

*Please, please, please do not use what they call “Parmesan cheese” that comes in the green can!  Use the real thing; if you don’t use the real thing, you won’t have the Parmesan rind which adds a huge amount of flavor to your soup.  It really does make a difference!  Get more ideas on using Parmesan rinds to elevate your dishes to a whole other level here.

* If you do not have any kitchen twine, put it on your shopping list, and then you can tie your bouquet garni with a green onion top or chive {don’t tie too tight or they will break!}.

Bon appetit!


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“Cheese – milk’s leap toward immortality.”  Clifton Fadiman

Before we get to tonight’s dinner, these quesadillas, I have some lovely flower pictures from today’s walk to share with you.


And now for the quesadillas!

quesadilla on plate

There are quesadillas, and then there are quesadillas worth eating.  If you would like a quesadilla that is more than a white flour tortilla filled with melted cheese, then keep reading.

Our quesadillas are filled with cooked spinach or Swiss chard {a lot of it}, roasted peppers & cheese.

We love quesadillas and have been tweaking our current recipe for over 5 years, and think they are now just about perfect.  There have been several versions of this recipe, each change making an improvement on an already good thing.  It is our favorite meal to cook, and one we make weekly.  This is truly a “team meal” for us.  I prep everything and my husband does the cooking.  While he is cooking, I clean everything up so that we only have 2 plates to wash when we’re finished eating.  We are a well-oiled machine when it comes to making quesadillas!

Before I get into the details of how to make these scrumptious quesadillas, I should tell you about the tortillas we use.  We eat food that is good for us {at least 95% of the time}, so it was important to find tortillas that are healthy and taste good.  Often times, breads that are healthy taste like cardboard, or if you’re lucky, hay.

Perhaps you have had the unfortunate experience of buying tortillas for a recipe, and then having them go moldy in the refrigerator.  These are the tortillas that we like & here is how we take care of them so they are ready when we want a quesadilla or a wrap.

Fresh Tortillas in Bag  These are tasty tortillas that we can feel good about eating!

blog freezing tortillas  Stagger your tortillas on a cookie sheet & freeze.  They will curl a little, but you can easily put them bag into the bag you bought them in.  They won’t stick together like they would if you just put the whole bag in the freezer.  I used to separate them with a piece of wax paper; totally unnecessary!  When you are ready to use them, put them on a plate, and flip them a few times while they thaw, so that they aren’t as curled.

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Quesadillas with Spinach {or Swiss chard} & Roasted Peppers

This is more of a guideline than a specific recipe, as far as amounts are concerned.  Feel free to adjust quantities & ingredients to your liking!

2 large whole grain tortillas

2 quarts raw spinach or Swiss chard, washed carefully and thoroughly dried, then cut into strips {I mince the stems & sauté them with onions, jalapenos & garlic}

Peppers, cut so that they are in relatively flat pieces {bell peppers, poblanos or Anaheims are all great here}; we use 1 bell pepper, or about 3 smaller size peppers

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced {add more or less depending on how much heat you like}; or you can use dried red pepper flakes, Serrano peppers, etc.

3 cloves garlic, minced & allowed to sit for 10 minutes {to achieve the health benefits}

Approximately 4 ounces of cheese, thinly sliced {we like Gruyere because it is a delicious low fat cheese that melts well}

The most time consuming part of this recipe is the prep; once everything is sliced and diced you are ready to put your quesadillas together.

Spray a large pan with pan spray, and then add a film of olive oil.  Sauté the peppers over medium heat, until they have a bit of color and are beginning to get tender.  They do not have to be completely tender.  Remove peppers to a plate lined with a paper towel, and blot to absorb any extra oil.

In the same pan, sauté the onion, jalapeno, garlic and stems over medium heat until almost tender. Add the leaves and toss everything together for about a minute, or until leaves are just wilted.  Remove from the heat.  The leaves should be glossy, dark green and gorgeous.

You are now ready to put your quesadillas together!

Place tortilla on a dinner plate.  On half the tortilla, place the cheese, top with peppers and then the greens. Spray a skillet {we use cast iron} with pan spray and then film with olive oil.  Fold the tortilla in half and put in the skillet preheated to medium to medium-low.  The objective is to crisp the tortilla, heat everything through, melding the cheese with the greens and peppers, without burning the tortilla.  Flip the quesadillas several times;  if you flip one, flip the other.  My husband, the quesadilla cook, said he flips them at least 3 or 4 times.  Adjust the heat so that they do not brown too quickly on one side.  Serve them with the cheese on top, so gravity can draw it down through the greens and peppers.

Cut into thirds or fourths & eat immediately.  I cut the quesadillas with my kitchen shears, cutting through the top tortilla first, and then cut the bottom tortilla with the filling; this ensures the filling not squishing out when you cut them.  We eat ours with Tapatio Hot Sauce {a lot of it!}, and sometimes with a little sour cream or plain yogurt {ok, I sometimes put plain yogurt on mine}.

Notes:
My husband says that a nice glass of red wine is really nice while you are cooking these, and I concur!
* We tried soft goat cheese in these, but weren’t crazy with the results.  We love goat cheese, but not here.
* Go easy on the oil-you don’t want your quesadillas to be greasy.
* Be sure your greens are thoroughly dry, so that they aren’t too wet {soggy quesadillas not great}
* Use a sturdy tortilla.  We tried brown rice tortillas, and while they were super tasty, they cracked right down the middle when we folded them.
* The first time you make these, you may want to make a thinner quesadilla, for ease in turning.  They can be a bit tricky to turn over.
* Jarred roasted peppers are fine!  Before we moved to Maui, we used the jarred piquillo peppers from Trader Joe’s.
* I LOVE a good mouth burn, and usually get one with these quesadillas.  But if you don’t, leave out the hot peppers, simple as that.
* If your quesadilla is a little spicier than you like, sour cream or plain yogurt cools it off very nicely.

Bon appetit!