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


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If you’re busy, never cook for one meal; always cook for two or three.  Put it in the freezer, but it doesn’t have to encore in the same form.” Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Kula Black Raspberries

Kula Black Raspberries

Who knew?  Not me.  I had no idea that some nice farmer is growing black raspberries, on Maui, for our eating pleasure {in November!!!}.  My husband purchased these beauties at the Upcountry Farmers Market.  What a pleasant surprise!

Luscious Fresh Berries

Luscious Fresh Berries

Black Raspberries with Cream & Powdered Sugar

Black Raspberries with Cream & Powdered Sugar

We love fresh berries with a dribble of heavy organic cream and a flurry of powdered
sugar. . .pure bliss. 

Unlike other easier to eat berries, cranberries elicit strong opinions from those who either love them or loathe them.  We happen to enjoy cranberries, and have a few favorite ways to use them.  I should say that I am talking about fresh cranberries, not the dried ones.  We do like dried cranberries, but they are not the same healthy powerhouse as the fresh variety.

Fresh Cranberries

Fresh Cranberries

Once the berries are dried, the sugar and calorie content skyrocket.  Fresh berries are only available a few months of the year, so if you want them year round, you will need to buy them now and squirrel them away for another day.  We like to rinse fresh cranberries in a colander, blot them dry and then put them on a parchment-lined sheet pan for a short stint in the freezer; this will prevent them from freezing into a solid block of cranberries, which will not be user friendly.  If you do not have parchment paper, a flexible cutting board works well, but I do not recommend using waxed paper, as it tears easily from being wet and it will be harder to remove the frozen berries.  Once the berries are frozen, pop them into a freezer bag and enjoy them whenever you like, in breads, cookies, hot cereal, smoothies or relish.

Ready for the freezer!

Ready for the freezer!

One of our favorite cranberry recipes is for fresh cranberry orange relish.  We also like cooked cranberry relish, but this is what we make most often.  We have significantly reduced the sugar for our tastes, but you can certainly adjust it for yours.  I enjoy this relish the most on plain yogurt {yum!} with big pieces of walnuts.  It is also good to have a spoonful on a green salad, or with any traditional cranberry-friendly foods.

Cranberry Orange Relish

Cranberry Orange Relish

Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish
adapted from Superfoods Rx.:  Fourteen Foods that will Change Your Life  {Steven Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews}
12 ounces fresh or *frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 unpeeled orange {preferably organic}, washed, cut into eighths and seeded
1/3 cup sugar {the original recipe calls for 3/4 cup}

Put the cranberries, orange slices and sugar into a food processor.  Process until everything is evenly chopped.  Chill until ready to eat.  *If you use frozen cranberries, partially thaw them before processing, or you will end up with a big cranberry orange ice ball.

The relish gets better as it sits and the flavors mingle.

Makes about 3 cups

Kale Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

Kale Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

We enjoyed several kale salads last week, all of them with cranberry vinaigrette.  The tart-sweet of the vinaigrette pairs perfectly with kale’s bitterness and the creaminess of fresh goat cheese.  A few other ingredients make this salad a winner.  Not to mention the fact that the dressing is a gorgeous hue of creamy cranberry pink.  It looks kind of like raspberry gelato.  I apologize for the lack of photo-we ate all the dressing.

Kale Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
I made several versions of this salad recently, this being the most elaborate with the addition of canned tuna.  You can put in whatever you like, but I think the most important additions are the goat cheese {for creaminess} & the toasted walnuts {pair excellently with the goat cheese and cranberries, and for a toasty CRUNCH}.

Kale, enough for 2 salads, washed, dried well & torn into bite-size pieces
Thinly sliced sweet onion {or red}
1 avocado
1 can tuna {we use Wild Planet}; optional
Fuyu persimmon, washed and thinly sliced {I don’t peel them, but you can if you like.}
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
Toasted walnuts
Fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Cranberry Vinaigrette {recipe below}

Put the kale into 2 bowls and dribble with enough dressing to moisten.  Top with onion, avocado, tuna {if using}, tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and walnuts.  Put a ring of persimmon slices around the edge of the bowl.  Add a grind of salt & pepper then top with dressing.

2 servings

Cranberry Vinaigrette
2/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (or tangerine juice)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine cranberries, sugar, and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook about 5-10 minutes, or until the cranberries pop.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Pour cooled cranberry mixture into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the mustard and orange juice and blend.  With the motor running, stream in the olive oil.  Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Makes about 2 cups dressing

Did you know that. . .
Fresh cranberries:
* are low in calories {44/cup}
* are high in fiber
* are low in sugar
* aid in the prevention of urinary tract infections {UTIs} by preventing bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract lining
* are high in phenols which are plant chemicals known to be highly protective against many health problems {i.e. toxic to cancer tumor cells}
* helps to prevent bacterial adhesion to teeth and the stomach lining, preventing dental plaque and ulcers, respectively

Information from:  The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth {Jonny Bowden, Ph. D., C.N.S.}

Happy Thanksgiving & Bon Appetit!

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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“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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“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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Salad with Purslane & Ribbons of Parmesan

“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it.  If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”  Author Unknown

I do not know if purslane comes out of the ground easily or not, but I have seen it defined both as a weed and a valuable plant.  Purslane is purported to be a healthy plant that we should be enjoying.  It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Check out the articles at the end of this post if you would like to read more about purslane’s health benefits.  My husband bought our first bunch of purslane 2 weeks ago, at the Upcountry Farmers Market.  It’s great!  What I like most about purslane is its chew, due to the fact that it is a succulent.  I think it has a subtle flavor, not at all assertive, but just tasty. . .green.  Apparently it grows everywhere, but I can’t say I’ve encountered any on my walks around Pukalani, where we live.  You will most likely not find purslane at your local grocery store, but look for it at your farmers market.  Or grow it yourself; from what I’ve read, it is easy to grow.

When I cleaned the first bunch of purslane, I meticulously removed the leaves from the stems.  I discovered on the second bunch that “de-leafing” {is that a word??} the stems is not necessary, and that the stems also add a bit of chew to a salad.  The leaves are in clusters on the stems, so that makes them pretty in a salad.

Salad with Purslane & Ribbons of Parmesan

This is not a tossed salad, but more of a composed salad, which I think is prettiest served on a plate. The ingredients are few and the salad is delicious.  When you start with excellent ingredients, you do not need much to create great food.

Place a layer of tender lettuce on a plate.  Some good choices are Bibb, Manoa or red leaf.  A crunchy lettuce like romaine doesn’t work in this salad.  Texture is important in this recipe; there is a pleasant “chew” but it isn’t a crunchy salad.

Top the lettuce with some onion that you have sliced paper thin.  Use whatever type of onion you prefer, although I wouldn’t choose green onions for this.  Slicing the onion super thin makes it seem less pungent, making it easier to eat for the “non-onion types.”

Now add a scattering of paper thin purple cabbage.

Top with purslane, preferably in clusters of leaves, as opposed to individual leaves; this adds to the salad’s texture.

Sprinkle the salad with some pumpkin seeds that you have pan roasted, preferably in coconut oil.

Season the salad with freshly ground salt and pepper, then sprinkle with fresh lemon juice {about 1/4 of a juicy lemon per salad} and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.  Use a light hand with the dressing, as you don’t want your salad to be swimming in dressing.

Finally, take a vegetable peeler and shave some nice ribbons of fresh parmesan cheese over the salad.

Salad with Purslane and Ribbons of Parmesan

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Bon appetit!


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The Bee’s Knees & Catnip

“We lived for honey.  We swallowed a spoonful in the morning to wake us up and one at night to put us to sleep.  We took it with every meal to calm the mind, give us stamina, and prevent fatal disease.  We swabbed ourselves in it to disinfect cuts or heal chapped lips.  It went in our baths, our skin cream, our raspberry tea and biscuits.  Nothing was safe from honey…honey was the ambrosia of the gods and the shampoo of the goddesses.”    Sue Monk Kidd  The Secret Life of Bees 

People eat honey for a variety of reasons-as a sweetener, because it tastes good, it has health benefits {if you eat the correct honey}.

Honey Bear  Before we go any further, let’s talk about The Bear.  If you eat honey from The Bear,  I am suggesting right here and now that you give up the plastic honey bear.  Sure, he’s convenient and cute, but how tasty is plastic squeeze bottle honey?  And, how many nutrients are in plastic squeeze bottle honey?  The “bear honey” bears no resemblance whatsoever to raw unfiltered honey; they are completely different foods.  If you want some health benefits from your honey, look for local honey that hasn’t been filtered or heated.  This kind of honey contains plant polyphenols called flavonoids; these flavonoids have antioxidant activity and are important to human health.  In general, the darker the honey, the better it is in terms of its antibacterial and antioxidant qualities.  Also, the harder the honey, the better it is for you.  We do not eat a lot of any kind of sugar, but we love this Maui Wildflower Honey that we find at the Upcountry Farmers Market .  Without a doubt, it is the best tasting honey we have ever eaten, it is dark and delicious with complex flavors.  It’s the bee’s  knees!

Maui Wildflower Honey

How do we eat honey?  Here are a few of our favorite ways to eat this sweet treat:
* drizzled on yogurt
* a wee bit in salad dressing {i.e. French dressing, mustard vinaigrette} smooths out the dressing’s acidity
* on freshly baked biscuits, cornbread or muffins
* in yeast bread
* licked off the spoon!
* great in hot tea or hot lemon water in the unfortunate event of a sore throat-this really works!

How do you like to eat honey?  What kind do you like?

Honey is still sugar, so I’m not saying that you can eat it with abandon.  Moderation is the key here, as it is with many things.  Please do not feed honey to children under one year old, as there is a risk of botulism.

Just a spoonful of honey

Sources of information:
* Super Foods Health Style: Proven Strategies for Lifelong Health {Steven Pratt, M.D.}
* The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth {Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.}

The Actual Cat Mint

Catnip

Occasionally, Gerald and Sharon like to enjoy a glass of Cabernet while they are cooking dinner.  Gerald bought me a pot of catnip {highfalutin cats may call it catmint, but I’m told that the end result is the same} at the farmers market, and I sometimes enjoy some before dinner; in fact, I find that when I have a bit of “nip” I don’t tend to eat as much, and I feel fantastic!  it’s a win-win situation, because Gerald and Sharon are watching my figure.  Sharon snapped a few photos of me after I noshed on some catnip this afternoon.  I highly recommend regular nibbling on catnip for felines everywhere!
~ Jack

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“Reach as high as you can, and then reach a little higher.  There you will find magic and possibility.  And maybe even cookies.”  Marc Johns

If you have ever landed at an airport in Hawaii, one of the first things you probably noticed while walking through the naturally air conditioned part of the airport, is the balmy air and the sweet scent of tropical blossoms.  I love that!

large jasmine treeI am fairly certain that this tree is responsible for the sweet scents of jasmine flowers wafting into our house.  Sometimes the fragrance floats in on gentle trade winds, and other times on blustery winds that are commonly felt {and heard} in Pukalani.  A little jasmine aromatherapy while you are washing dishes or on a walk is a pleasant reminder that you live in paradise!

Jasmine

Sauteed Green BeansI made these green beans last night. . .they are. . .in a word. . .amazing.  There is a high probability that I will never, ever steam green beans again.  Unless the planets line up just so, I will probably never, ever blanch and then sauté green beans again.  I sautéed my beans in a smidgen of Organic Valley Pasture Butter {1 tbsp to be precise}, in my trusty cast iron skillet, over medium high heat.  I stirred them around until they started to sizzle and develop a tasty char, and then covered them for about 5 minutes, until they were perfectly cooked.  Into the pan went a minced clove of garlic and some crunchy fleur de sel.  The result was a mélange of delicious flavors from the butter, the perfectly cooked beans, crispy garlic bits and crunchy salt.  These beans were polished off quickly, and will be made again and again.

Last week, I made these delicious cookies to take to work.  I had a whole plateful of them. . .apricot bars topped with sliced almonds and sprinkled ever so lightly with gold pearl dust powder. . .on a coral plate. . .they looked gorgeous.  And guess who forgot to photograph them for her blog?  Didn’t even occur to me until I was washing my empty plate.  So 3 days later, I made them again, and took them to work {the people who were there both days were happy!}.   I decided to carry them in the 8″x8″ dish I made them in, for easier transport; not as pretty as a coral plate for sure.  So I took a few out and put them on a coral plate to photograph.  This picture does not do them justice, and for that I apologize, but I assure you they are quite spectacular to eat.  Next time I make them, I will repost this recipe with a beautiful picture of these cookies in all their splendor.  Hmmm, when should I make them again?

apricot bars

Apricot Bars

About 18 graham crackers
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs from about 8 full sheets
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes {shreds will work, but I like flakes better}
3/4 cup chopped apricots

Line the bottom of 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with graham crackers. You can put 3 full sheets in one direction, and then fill the remaining space with however many crackers will fit.

Combine milk, water and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture comes to a full boil; remove from heat, stir in butter.  When the butter is almost melted, stir in graham cracker crumbs, sliced almonds, unsweetened flaked coconut and apricots {read a short bit about the difference between California dried apricots and Turkish dried apricots-we prefer California apricots}.  Spread hot mixture over graham crackers. Top with 9 more graham crackers. Press down until even and firm.  Top with icing, then sprinkle with sliced almonds.  I happen to have pearl dust, so sometimes I like to sprinkle a little golden shimmer over the top-very pretty.

Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp soft butter
½ tsp almond extract {don’t be temped to use vanilla; the almond extract makes these cookies}
About 1 tbsp milk

Beat together adding milk as needed. Sprinkle with sliced nuts if desired. Chill until firm.  These cookies improve with age, so don’t gobble them up too early.  Cut into small squares.

Reading: 
Vegetable Literacy {Deborah Madison}
Eating on the Wild Side {Jo Robinson}
Yes, Chef! {Marcus Samuelsson}

Musically Speaking-On the Playlist:
Alt-J

Matthew Dear
Underworld
Jaguar Ma


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“Lettuce is like conversation; it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.”  Charles Dudley Warner

Red Leaf  LettuceRed Loose-leaf Lettuce

Did you know. . .

. . . . . .that all lettuces are not created equally?  More on that in a second.

We are quickly approaching Saturday, and that means getting creative to eat all the fruits and vegetables from last week’s farmers market.  We have half of this glorious head of red leaf lettuce left.  It is happy lettuce.  Why is my lettuce happy?  We’ll get to that in a moment.  But first, a little background.  I am reading an interesting book called Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.  You may think that it sounds like a book that Euell Gibbons might have penned; Gibbons was an authority on noshing on wild foods, but Robinson puts a different spin on eating “wild.”  Robinson discusses how many nutrients have been bred out of the foods we eat to make them more palatable {i.e. sweeter, less bitter}.  She also talks about which varieties are the most nutritious and how to prep, store and eat them.  It isn’t the kind of book that requires you to sit down and read it cover to cover, although you could do that.  To me, this is a great reference book that should be on the bookshelf of everyone who wants to eat food that is as healthy as possible.  And now, back to those happy leaves of lettuce.  According to Robinson, there are 2 rules of thumb for selecting lettuce with the highest phytonutrient content.  The first is color.  You may think that the deep, dark green romaine that you have been eating is the best, but indeed it is not.  Lettuces that are red, purple or reddish-brown are the richest in phytonutrients.  The second factor is even more surprising.  Would you have ever guessed that lettuces whose leaves are loosely arranged on the head would be more nutritious than those that are tightly compacted?  Not me for sure.  Well, it turns out that the leaves that are exposed to the sun’s damaging UV rays produce antioxidants, which are a kind of “sunscreen” for the plant.  Because a loose-leaf head of lettuce has many leaves exposed to the sun, more of the leaves produce the phytonutrients that are so good for us, and we benefit when we eat them.

Now that you know what to look for in a head of lettuce, I’ll tell you why my lettuce is happy.  It has been properly prepared so that it will retain and even increase its nutritional value.  Robinson states that when you get your lettuce home, you should pull the leaves off and soak them for 10 minutes in very cold water.  The leaves’ temperature will drop, which slows down the aging process.  Soaking them will help to maintain crispness.  After soaking, spin or towel dry them thoroughly {I could not live without my salad spinner}; moisture on the outside of the leaves invites decay-you want the water inside the leaves.

Red Leaf Lettuce Cleaned and Bagged

Label the pin-pricked bag and you can reuse it for the next head of lettuce.

Tear up the leaves before bagging them.  What’s that you say?  Tear up the leaves now, not when I make a salad?  Apparently, another way a plant defends itself {against gnawing animals, for instance} is by producing phytonutrients to “fend off the intruder.”  The antioxidant value of the lettuce is doubled by tearing up the leaves prior to storage {the tearing being like the animal gnawing the leaves}.  Place the greens in a Ziploc bag and prick it 10 {quart size bag}-20 {gallon size bag} times with a needle or pin.  The reason for the pinpricks is for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide; the lettuce does not stop respiring {breathing} on harvest.  If you seal it up in a bag, then it uses up all of the oxygen and the carbon dioxide level rises, and it will die from lack of oxygen.  If you leave the lettuce in the open, then it respires too quickly, and uses up its stored sugar and antioxidants, making them unavailable for you. Prepare your lettuce correctly and eat within a few days for best quality.   And enjoy that salad knowing that you have done everything you can to make it more nourishing!

Champagne vinaigrette. . .it sounds so elegant.   As a kid, I loved Girard’s Champagne Dressing; not so much now, because I don’t buy prepared salad dressings.  They are full of ingredients that aren’t necessary for good dressing and they are expensive.  Homemade salad dressings are so much better than prepared dressings, and I always have the ingredients to make some kind of dressing, even if it is just extra virgin olive oil and vinegar {or other acid}.

Salad with Grapefruit and Blue Cheese

We had this salad for dinner tonight.  The salad was composed of the red leaf lettuce, grapefruit sections {supremes to be exact}, red onion, toasted walnuts and blue cheese.  I didn’t actually whisk together a vinaigrette, but simply showered the salad with freshly ground salt and pepper, then drizzled it with Champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Yum!  It was not only beautiful but delicious as well.


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“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”  James Beard

Hummus

If you think you don’t like hummus, perhaps you have only had store bought varieties, too stiff and poorly seasoned.  I must admit, I haven’t tasted much packaged hummus; there probably are some good ones, however, I  prefer to make my own hummus from freshly cooked garbanzo beans.  Of course, you can use canned beans, but I have found them to be a little more al dente than I like.  They are best when they are nice and soft, ready for a whirl in the food processor with garlic, olive oil, lemon, tahini and seasonings. The beans take awhile to cook, but it isn’t hands-on time, so you can be doing whatever you like while they simmer away on the stove. For me, cooking a pot of beans is kind of therapeutic, like making risotto, kneading bread or watering plants.  Homemade hummus isn’t difficult to prepare and the results are worth any effort required. People are favorably impressed if you show up at a potluck with a gorgeous platter of hummus with tasty garnishes {especially if you make homemade pita bread!}.  As promised in my last post, here is my hummus recipe.

Hummus 

1 ½ c cooked garbanzo beans {I always cook my own, because they are much better, but you can use canned.}
3 cloves garlic, minced
Scant ¼ c tahini
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil {I use quite a bit more, for a smooth & silky texture.}
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp kosher salt

 Puree all ingredients in the blender or food processor until really smooth.  I like to spread it out on a platter and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over it.  Sprinkle with chopped tomatoes, kalamata olives and cilantro {any or all are good}.  Eat with pita bread, or whole wheat flour tortillas that you brush with olive oil, cut into eights and then bake at 350 until semi-crisp.  Also good with fresh fennel Fennel Bulb or sliced cucumbers.


Freshly Cooked Garbanzo Beans

1 cup garbanzo beans, cleaned & soaked {you don’t have to soak them, but they will take longer to cook}
Aromatics: 1 onion, quartered, 2 parsley sprigs, 4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6” piece of kombu, or a few pinches asafetida, optional {I love to eat the cooked kombu}
1 ½ tsp salt

Cover garbanzo beans with 2 quarts fresh water & add remaining ingredients.  Simmer until completely tender, but not mushy.  I start checking at around 45”.  Let the beans cool in the broth.

Wilted Dandelion & Arugula with Walnuts & Beets

We enjoyed the plate of hummus with homemade pita bread and this salad of Wilted Dandelion Greens & Arugula with Walnuts & Beets.  Dandelion greens and arugula are supposed to very good for you, so we are eating them regularly.  They are kind of bitter, which is what makes them good for you.  When you eat them with something sweet like beets, it somewhat neutralizes the bitterness, and they are quite tasty prepared this way.  This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison’s excellent cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone {I love this book!}

Wilted Dandelion Greens & Arugula with Walnuts & Beets

Dandelion greens and/or arugula, about 1/2 pound
1 large garlic clove, mashed into a paste with 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 large shallot, minced
4 tsp sherry vinegar or aged red wine vinegar
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the garlic paste, shallot, vinegar & olive oil.  Heat the vinaigrette in a small skillet until it sizzles.  Pour over the greens & toss with plenty of freshly ground pepper.  Top with toasted walnuts, cooked beets & a grating of Gruyere or Jarlsberg cheese.  It’s delicious with just the cheese, but the walnuts & beets add a bit of crunch & sweetness.

The first time I made this, we were too full to eat it all at dinner.  I put the leftovers in the refrigerator, not knowing how delicious they would be cold the next day.  I think I probably like them leftover as much, if not more, than freshly made.  Who would have thought?

Aloha & Happy Cooking!