Saturday, October 20, 2012

Passionate about Pesto!

If you have been wondering if I have fallen off the blogosphere - here I am!  Though admittedly on the missing list for the time being - it will only be temporary while I help my mother with her move!

HOW I SURVIVE THE TIME-CRUNCH

While sorting and packing, selling and dispersing - my diet has become more or less minimalist and simple.

One of the things I have grown quite passionate about during these busy days is pesto.  I have been making parsley pesto, mint pesto, basil pesto, cilantro pesto and today I am going to make dill pesto.

I make the pesto in large batches with pine nuts, olive oil and all the familiars, freeze it in ice-cube trays, wrap the frozen nuggets in wax paper, and store them in baggies in the freezer.

When I am short on time I pop one out of the freezer knowing that it will defrost in moments and add no end of pizzaz to my meal.

These little shots of flavor really do wonders for a streamlined life-style.  

Since most of us experience the occasional time-crunch it is nice to have a repertoire of meal time solutions to help us through those times.  Some of the things that have helped me through my own time-crunch has been crock pot meals, big batches of soup that last 3 - 5 days and only need re-heating, yams and sweet potatoes baked in a toaster oven, and occasionally even frozen vegetables (probably peas are my favorite as they hold up fairly well to freezing).

When things get really ridiculous I have been known to go to Whole Foods and get a freshly made sushi roll with brown rice and avocado.  I NEVER get tired of sushi.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Yes Please to REAL FOOD!

The Little Chef
Here is a photo of my very most precious nephew Colton.  Colton and I have something important in common.  We both say "Yes Please!" to real food. Food fascination is something that definitely runs in our family.  My brother Paul, Colton's father, in fact, who works as an attorney by day, is actually an exceptionally accomplished and adventuresome chef once he gets home at night.  He often sends me mouth-watering photos, via e-mail, of his latest kitchen creation that he and Colton and Amanda enjoy together.

Here are some of Colton's favorite foods:

Favorite Fruit:            STRAWBERRIES

Favorite Vegetable:   POTATOES

Favorite Cheese:        ROBUSTO From Whole Foods

Favorite Snack:          YOGHURT AND KEFIR

Favorite Meal by Dad: SPAGHETTI with HOMEMADE MARINARA made with finely chopped onions, celery carrots (mirepoux) sauteed in olive oil and garlic with San Marzano crushed tomatoes and a bay leaf.

Favorite thing to make in the kitchen:  Colton likes to husk CORN and bake and decorate COOKIES.

I invite you to leave comments for Colton on my blog and I will make certain that Colton receives them.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Eating For Ageless Beauty

Ever wonder how to keep the body agile and flexible and the skin soft and radiant at all ages?

EATING FOR AGELESS BEAUTY

Friday - September  28th - 9 AM

This class forms the foundation for the rest of the day.  Loaded with information - the purpose and focus of this class will be eating for ageless beauty.  We will take a fascinating look at specific foods, nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants and discover which ones are the most beautifying.  During class we will enjoy the most skin-hydrating smoothie imaginable - aptly called "Cleopatra's Beauty Secret."

Cost:  $25.00

BREAKFAST IN FIVE

Friday - September 28th - 10 AM - 12 Noon

Come and learn to create delicious satisfying breakfasts in less than 5 minutes!  These amazing raw breakfast recipes, ranging from granola to smoothies, will jump start your day as well as load you up with all the skin-protective nutrients and antioxidants that you need.

Cost:  $40.00

RAW JAPANESE BENTO

Friday - September 28th - 2 - 4 PM

This class is truly amazing.  Learn to create the most eye-appealing bento-style lunch imaginable  Replete with a hands-on sushi lesson. You will love this class.

Take all three classes for $100.00

Register now at lisascookingclass@gmail.com

All classes are 100% gluten and dairy-free.

Vegetarian and vegans will want to know that we will serve mock-tuna salad at the Raw Japanese Class.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Refreshing Jicama Salad

Jicama Salad in Baby Romaine Nest
Some of you may be asking - "what is jicama?"

Jicama is a root vegetable, known as the yam bean root, (yes jicama is related to the sweet potato) that looks very much like a large brown turnip.

When you peel and slice jicama it is crispy, juicy and mildly sweet.  I like to eat jicama slices with dips such as hummus or baba ghanouch.

This week I have been experimenting with jicama. Some of the jicama experiments have turned out surprisingly well and others not so well.  One of the jicama experiments that turned out well is jicama salad.  Light and refreshing, and requiring no cooking on a hot summer day, jicama salad was a great compliment to our pan braised salmon last night.  My husband, who is not adventuresome when it comes to food, actually had two helping of jicama salad.  Now that is pretty amazing!

RECIPE FOR JICAMA SALAD

Salad:

2 c. jicama, cut into small 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 c. red bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
1/4 c. red onion, diced
1 avocado, cubed

Toss the jicama, red bell pepper, celery, and red onion together.  Pour the dressing over it and stir well. Top with cubes of avocado.  Serve in a nest of baby romaine lettuce.

Dressing:

2 T. sesame tahini
2 T. water
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
1 T. prepared mustard
1 T. minced parsley
1/4 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. tamari
1/4 t. agave nectar
dash sea salt

Pour all ingredients into a glass jar and shake until well mixed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Health Secrets Of Dragon Fruit

Just when you think you have a few things figured out about food along comes something to really shake things up.  So, here is a new one for me folks, the little known, (at least to me), dragon fruit.

As you can see from the photo I took dragon fruit is a beautifully and brilliantly packaged, (you could give one as a present) fruit.  And, as you can see from the photo, when cut, dragon fruit bleeds all over the cutting board!  There are several varieties of dragon fruit.  The most delicious is said to be the red-skinned and red-fleshed variety.   I LOVE the pizzaz and eye-appeal of the deep red-violet flesh specked with tiny black seeds.  When I cut it open, not knowing what I would find inside, it was quite a pleasant shock to my uninitiated eye!   The pure wildness of the color was just amazing!

Though I think dragon fruit would be spectacular in a smoothie, (imagine the color!), for my very first experience of dragon fruit I chose to eat it as is, simply scooped out with a spoon.  Dragon fruit is said to have a taste and texture similar to kiwi fruit and I tend to agree.  Though initially mesmerized by the vivid and unforgettable color I found the flavor, though tame by comparison, quite mild and agreeable.  Most important, I liked it!   Even the tiny crunchy seeds, which are said to be a good source of essential fatty acids, were not a big deal.

After I ate it, I googled dragon fruit and I found out all sorts of interesting factoids about it.

Dragon fruit is also called pitaya because it has many scales.  The dazzling and fragrant flowers of the pitaya cactus, (yes!, dragon fruit is a vining, flowering and fruiting cactus), bloom only at night.  How exotic!  Dragon fruit is sometimes called "moonflower,""queen of the night" or "lady of the night."

HEALTH BENEFITS OF DRAGON FRUIT

  • Antioxidants in dragon fruit helps protect the body from free radicals.

  • The fruit helps to neutralize toxic substances, such as heavy metals, in the body.

  • Regular consumption of dragon fruit is said to help asthma.

  • High amounts of vitamin C enhance wound healing and immunity.

  • The vitamin B2 present in dragon fruit helps one recover from loss of appetite.

  • The vitamin B1 enhances energy production and the metabolism of carbohydrates.

  • The presence of vitamin B3 helps lower bad cholesterol.

  • Dragon fruit moistens and improves the appearance of the skin.

  • Dragon fruit helps prevent hypertension.

  • It is such a good source of phosphorus and calcium that it strengthens bones and teeth.

  • Dragon fruit is reputed to help reduce blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes.

Though all of the reasons to eat dragon fruit are appealing and compelling, most of all I enjoyed the levity of eating, for the first time, this completely wild, wacky, and fun-filled fruit!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Raw Food Lunch - Mexican Fajitas


Vegetables Fajitas
Today we started the third raw food adventure off with a light and refreshing bowl of tomato basil soup, reminiscent of gazpacho, which was actually made with a coconut water base.

Perfectly seasoned vegetable fajitas, simply warmed in the dehydrator for one hour, were served in paper-thin slices of jicama, along side fresh corn salad.

For dessert we tried to decide which dairy-free mousse, (the mousse also featured coconut water as one of the secret ingredients), we liked best - chocolate or carob?

 Fresh Corn Salad With Cherry Tomatoes

RECIPE FOR CORN SALAD

4 ears of organic corn, cut off the kernals (2 cups)
1 c. organic cherry tomato, sliced in quarters
1/4 c. chopped fresh organic cilantro
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t. celtic salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Serve at room temperature.  Delicious served in baby romaine lettuce leaf cups.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Raw Food Adventures

Making A Raw Asian Style Salad


RAW FOOD ADVENTURE - PART I

Just enjoyed two fabulous high energy raw food classes with an awesome group of ladies today.  I am including photos of SOME of the delicious food that we sampled.  In the Wrap, Stack, and Roll class we made a variety of easy to make meals, collard green wraps, onion bread stacks, and baby romaine lettuce rolls, with a variety of pates, and farmer's market condiments.  Trina, our college student told us she was getting tired of packing the ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.  She said she is going to try these easy to make wraps, stacks and rolls for a change.  We topped the meal off with a raw chocolate dessert - a chocolate cinnamon roll sprinkled with chocolate nibs.  I am sorry that I don't have a photo of the raw chocolate dessert.  It vanished too quickly.


Getting Creative - Wrap, Stack, or Roll

Sunflower Seed Pate in Collard Leaf and all the Fixings


RAW FOOD ADVENTURE - PART II

Some of us took a hike while others went shopping to work up an appetite for Part II of our raw food adventure.  This afternoon we enjoyed a refreshing Thai Coconut Soup made with Thai green coconut water, Raw Asian Salad (pictured below), and Fresh Raw Spring Rolls with Orange Dipping Sauce.  We finished the meal with Banana Chocolate Ice-Cream sprinkled with chocolate nibs, chopped walnuts, and, thanks to Pam, mint leaf.  Sorry there are no photos of the dessert.  It was melting so quickly that we ate it up pronto!


Raw Asian Salad Marinated For One Hour

Fresh Spring Rolls With Dipping Sauce

Thursday, August 23, 2012

TCM - Health In Late Summer

Round Vegetables Such As Cabbage Harmonize The Digestion
As promised in two previous posts on Traditional Chinese Medicine, Health In The Spring and Tips for Summer Health, I am re-visiting the subject of Traditional Chinese Medicine in each of the five seasons of the year.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  In TCM there are five seasons of the year.  Right now we are in a relatively little known season, which begins August 1st and ends September 19th, and is called Late Summer.

I love Paul Pitchford's description of this little known season in his magnificent tome "Healing With Whole Foods - Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition."

"Late Summer, a short and relatively unrecognized "season," is approximately the last month of summer and the middle of the Chinese year.  It is the point of transition from yang to yin, between the expansive growth phases of spring and summer and the inward, cooler, more mysterious fall and winter seasons.  A pleasant, tranquil, and flourishing season, it is as if time stops here and activity becomes effortless, dreamlike.  Unity, harmony, and the middle way are summoned between the extremes."

The season of Late Summer is governed by the earth element and the related organs are the spleen-pancreas and stomach.  These are the organs that in TCM are most responsible for digestion and the distribution of nutrients throughout the body.  In order to attune to this seasons it is important to choose foods that strengthen and promote digestion and that represent the center.  Mild, golden, round, and sweet foods most harmonize with Late Summer. These are foods such as millet, corn, onions, carrots, cabbage, garbanzo beans, squash, string beans, yams, sweet potatoes, sweet rice, rice and peas.  A small amount of the pungent flavor, such as onion, leek, ginger, cinnamon, and fennel help strengthen digestion and are beneficial at this time of year.  Beneficial animal foods are small amounts of tuna, halibut, anchovy, humanely-raised beef, chicken, turkey, lamb and grass-fed butter. 

If one's digestion is weak it is important to chew food very well and to take food in small and easily digestible portions.  In fact, even though I am a huge fan of whole, raw foods, this is the time of year when one may want to begin to add more moderately well-cooked foods into the diet. 

According to TCM it is particularly important to restrict the amount of raw and cooling food one eats, such as raw vegetables and fruit, (especially citrus), sprouts, cereal grasses, tomato, spinach Swiss chard, millet, amaranth, sea vegetables, blue-green algae, very sweet food, dairy products, and vinegar, if one has weak digestion.  When the digestion is weak it is important to "stoke the digestive fire" by eating mild, golden, round foods such as those mentioned above and to eat those foods with a little bit of the spicy pungent flavor, such as onion, leek, ginger, cinnamon, and fennel, to aid digestion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Skin Hydration And Green Thai Coconuts

The aging process is essentially the process of becoming thinner and drier over time.  We begin to notice the first sign of aging in our skin as it begins to thin and dry out.  Eventually we begin to experience tissue dryness, in general, such as dry nose, lips, eyes, throat, and for women, vaginal dryness and itching.  At all times in life, but especially as we age, it is important to pay close attention to fluid metabolism and to do all that we can to preserve our bodies precious moisture.

In a previous post I discuss the importance of raw vegetables and fruits in our diet and their role in helping our bodies maintain optimum hydration.  In yesterday's post I recommend the inclusion of raw and freshly made juice, smoothies, and salad as an important part of internal skin care.

If you are ALREADY noticing that your skin is becoming dry and thin then you may want to take a more aggressive approach and avoid eating dry foods such as dry cereals, crackers, dry toast, breads in general, for that matter, pretzels, and chips.  Try eliminating dry foods and see if you don't notice a difference in your skin right away.  If you do eat a dry food ALWAYS make sure you have a cup of herbal tea to go with it.

Besides avoiding foods that dry out the skin it is equally important to include plenty of fresh organic vegetables and fruits in your diet.  Fresh organic vegetables and fruits contain "structured water" that helps keep the skin moist and hydrated while counteracting the aging process!  Another anti-aging food that I cannot say enough about is the green Thai coconut.  Green Thai coconut water and meat, which is called "spoon meat" or "pudding," are what I recommend to counteract skin and tissue dryness of all sorts.

I know what you are thinking.  Coconuts are NOT LOCAL foods and, yes, they do have to travel long distances in order to reach us here in the U.S.  But coconuts are so special that I am willing to make an exception to my local food rule.  Besides being delicious and one of my favorite summer foods, coconuts are super hydrating, contain all five electrolytes - potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium and calcium, and help our skin stay young and moist!

Monday, August 20, 2012

How To Stay Young and Juicy



As we age we begin to dry out.  Our cells literally do not hydrate as readily or as easily as they once did.  Instead, our cells, which were once plump and moist, begin to loose moisture and accumulate extracellular fluid or fluid that is outside the cell wall.  Women, especially, as they begin to enter the menopause years will notice subtle changes in the quality and texture of their skin.  One of the most important things that a woman can do in order to retain her youthful looks and to age "gracefully," as the saying goes, is to find ways to retain, protect, and preserve her precious moisture.

My advise to women of all ages is to begin to eat REAL FOOD.  Real foods are whole, unprocessed foods that are preferably local and organically raised.  I also advise women of all ages to begin to introduce raw juices, smoothies, and salads into their REAL FOOD diet.

INTERNAL SKIN CARE

Our bodies are over seventy percent water!  That is amazing!  Most of us have heard that we should drink eight, 8-oz. glasses of water a day in order to maintain optimal hydration.  I suggest that, in addition to the water we consume, that we will benefit when we eat foods that are hydrating too.

In fact, I believe that if we replace at least one glass of water a day with a serving of raw vegetables or fruit that we will optimize hydration and stay hydrated longer than if we drink water alone.

I am not suggesting that it is not important to drink water.  Water is, in fact, essential for hydration and health.  What I suggest is that we strategically hydrate the body so that water is more readily assimilated and made available to the cells of our body throughout the day.  By eating raw vegetables and fruits that are rich in "structured water," a fascinating topic for a future blog post, we help our body hold onto water longer, as well as add a good boost of antioxidants, fiber and other important nutrients.

As women we want to look our very best.  When it comes to hydration and the youthful appearance of our skin it looks like a diet rich in raw vegetables and fruits is the best internal skin care.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Raw Food For Health And Beauty


Making whole, unprocessed food or what I like to call REAL FOOD the center of our daily diet is an important step in maintaining and creating health and beauty.  When the REAL FOOD that we eat is raw food such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, live fermented foods such as sauerkraut, raw milk, raw milk cheese, and pickled salmon or sushi-grade sashimi so much the better.  When you include an abundance of raw foods in your daily diet you immediately begin to look and feel better.  In fact, you begin to glow.  Try it and see for yourself!

WHAT IS THE RAW FOOD ADVANTAGE?

Raw food is so delicious and satisfying that when we include an abundance of fresh raw food in our daily diet it becomes easier and easier to make healthy food choices!  The vibrant flavor, and color I might add, of deliciously prepared raw food is inherent in the food itself, especially if you buy local organic vegetables and fruits, in favor of foods that have traveled long distances to reach you, and vegetables and fruits that are in season and at the peak of their ripeness and perfection.  Raw food tastes so vibrant, in fact, that raw food requires the use of less salt, spices, oils, and sweeteners.

Most of you know that I am a big advocate of local seasonal food and though I digress - humor me for a moment.  Remember the pale styrofoam flavor of what is passed off as a tomato in winter?  Who could possibly be tempted?

Raw food has more nutrients than cooked and packaged food.  No processed or pre-packaged food will ever compare to the vitality and life-force of fresh, raw, organic food.

Raw food is rich in enzymes that are ordinarily destroyed by the application of heat.  These raw enzymes actually aid in the digestion of the food making the nutrients in raw food more bio-available, as well as easier to digest and assimilate.

Finally, raw foods are so juicy that they help us stay hydrated.  Think of a slice of watermelon as opposed to a piece of dry toast and you get the picture.  Look for more information on the importance of eating juicy, hydrating foods in my next post.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Is A Vegetarian Diet Really Healthy?

As those of you who have attended my cooking and raw food classes over the years will attest I take the greatest pleasure and delight in the sheer amazing deliciousness and wonderful complexity and variety of plant-based meals.  I have literally spend a life-time promoting and celebrating plant-based meals - both in my own home and in my personal chef business, which is aptly called "Serene Cuisine" and whose genesis and specialty has been largely based on those very celebrated plant-based meals. The sheer extravagance of the plant kingdom with its plethora of flavor, color and complexity still awes me.  Life would, indeed, be dull and my appetite truly diminished were it not for my friends in the plant kingdom.

However, all of that being said, today's blog post ultimately becomes a cautionary tale, as it explores how my allegiance to a strictly plant-based diet may have affected my health over a period of time.  Even though I appeared to tolerate a plant-based diet over the course of many years, I wonder if the diet did, in fact, create subtle stressors and nutritional deficiencies, that went largely unnoticed, but that ultimately undermined the fullest expression of my health potential?  Was the expression of my life force less than what it would have otherwise been?  I will never know for certain as all of this falls under the category of conjecture and speculation.

What I do know is that, though I appeared to tolerate a vegetarian diet, I did, in fact, reach a point when, no matter how well I complied with all the positive aspects of plant-based eating, my health unexpectedly began to unravel in a dramatic and alarming way and that no matter what I did I could not get well again until I began to include some animal products in my diet.

So, what does my diet currently look like?

Some of you would say that my diet does not appear to have changed all that much.  I still eat an inordinate amount of plant-based dishes.  I love them.  In fact, I thrive on them.  But, I find that I thrive even better when I include a nice dash of animal protein on the side.  And you can be certain that the animal products that I choose to eat are always the highest quality, humanely raised animal products that I can possibly procure.

My own personal experience with a vegetarian diet has led me to wonder if animal products are actually essential to health?

There are a few folks out there that would say they are.

I consider the Weston A. Price Foundation among the most compelling.  The WAPF, despite the popularity of the high carb, low fat diet that is characterized by the current U.S government dietary guidelines, continues to promote the importance of humanely and traditionally raised foods and, in particular, animal products in human diet.  You can find a selection of articles on their website.  The information that I obtained through the foundation certainly helped shepherd me through some of the struggles I experienced during the process of my own dietary change.  In fact, I refer you to what I consider a thorough treatment by Chris Masterjohn on the subject of the vegetarian diet and its more typical nutritional deficiencies.  Chris raises an excellent point, by the way, about the inclusion of shellfish in a largely vegetarian diet as shellfish consumption helps mitigate much of the need for animal products in the diet.  So, any vegans out there might want to consider the option of becoming a bivalvevegan, as shellfish, naturally devoid of a central nervous system, might be considered a less sentient life form.

Ultimately, life is about personal choice and for those of you who would like to continue to eat a vegan diet, the most extreme plant-based approach, I refer you to another article by Denise Minger, in which she lists some guidelines that she believes may optimize the vegan diet.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Raw Food Classes



Come and discover what the raw food trend is all about.  Raw restaurants are popping up all over the place and celebrities, models, and other fans are raving about the benefits of eating raw.  But, what if you are just curious about raw foods and don't want to go 100%?  The good news is you don't have to be a devotee to reap the benefits!

Join Raw Food Chef Lisa Valantine August 24th and 25th for more fun-filled classes.  Come prepared to fall in love with raw food creations that you can easily make at home.

Sign up for one, two, or sign up for all three classes and receive a discount.

Summer, with its colorful and abundant array of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs is the perfect time to experiment with beautiful new food preparations and styles.

Learn to use brightly colored vegetables, fruits, berries, and edible flowers to create dazzling, eye-appealing meals.

Friday Aug. 24th 10 AM to 12 noon
Wrap, Stack, and Roll

In this hands-on class you will learn to make a variety of eye-appealing presentations that you won't believe.  You will finish class with a very special raw chocolate dessert!

Cost - $40.00

Friday Aug. 24th 2 PM to 4 PM
Raw Asian

Don't miss this one!  Learn to make the MOST delicious, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese food imaginable!  We will top off the meal with a beautiful raw dessert!

Saturday Aug. 25th 10 AM - 12 noon
Raw Fajitas

Learn to make the most amazing Mexican raw fajitas.  They are a meal in themselves.  You will finish this memorable class with a delicious raw chocolate dessert!

Cost - $40.00

Sign up for the Pure-Indulgence Package and receive all three classes for $100.00.

Space is limited.  Reserve you place by contacting Lisa at lisascookingclass@gmail.com.

All meals are 100% gluten-free and made with love.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Organic Mediterranean Summer Salad

Mediterranean Salad

Summer, with its beautiful and abundant array of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs, is premier salad season.  Summer is the best time, when fresh fruits and vegetables are at the peak of perfection, to experiment and create new food preparations and styles.  Use brightly colored summer fruits, berries, vegetables and edible flowers to prepare beautiful, dazzling, eye-appealing meals.  Be an artist in the kitchen.  When the temperature rises and you are not particularly in the mood to cook nothing perks and pleases the palate like a freshly prepared salad.  Mediterranean Salad, a longstanding favorite of mine, features a unique and refreshing medley of summer produce and fresh seasonal herbs.  A basic olive oil dressing, like the one I have included, is all the salad really needs.   For those that are cheese enthusiasts knock yourself out and throw in some feta.

Mediterranean Summer Salad can be eaten just as it is or dressed up with meats and cheeses.  It can be served as an excellent accompaniment to grilled fish, grilled meat, pasta, baked red potatoes, or quinoa.  For those of you who are fans of salad, as I am, make sure to give Mediterranean Salad a try. 

Mediterranean Summer Salad

1 head of crisp organic romaine lettuce, washed and torn or cut into bite-size pieces
1 organic red bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
2 organic Persian cucumbers, washed and sliced into bite-size pieces
2 stalks organic celery, chopped
1 small organic red onion, sliced
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 t. fresh mint, chopped
sprinkling of fresh oregano, chopped
Greek olives

In a large salad bowl assemble the salad.   Drizzle with olive oil dressing and garnish with Greek olives.

Variation:  If you tolerate dairy products - feta cheese is a lovely addition.

Mediterranean Summer Salad With Olive Oil Dressing
  
Olive Oil Dressing

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. honey

Place all ingredients in an amber glass jar (dark jars help prevent oxidation of oils) and shake.  Store in fridge.

Organic, Fresh and Raw

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fun Raw Food Class

Here are a few food photos from the Raw Middle Eastern Food Class that I held Friday July 27th here in Thousand Oaks California.  For all you foodies out there it was great fun.  I have to say I LOVED the simplicity and elegance of the preparation. Most importantly, I LOVED not having a pile of pots and pans to clean up afterward.  I highly recommend adding a few delish raw food dishes to your summer repertoire.

A Great Class!

Raw No-Bean Hummus With Flax Crackers

Fresh Organic Crudites

Raw Eggplant Salad

Raw Hummus and Eggplant Salad

Raw Chocolate Truffles

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Raw Grain-Free Breakfast Porridge


Raw Coconut Breakfast Porridge

During the warm summer months I have found that I enjoy nothing better than raw coconut porridge for breakfast in the morning.  Raw coconut breakfast porridge is not only delicious it is also simple to prepare because it does not require cooking.  One of the things that I have noticed is that my blood sugar remain more stable for longer periods of time when I have raw coconut porridge for breakfast.  I recommend slicing some of your favorite fruit on top.  I like to serve my porridge with a variety of berries, whatever I might have on hand at the time, such as raspberries, strawberries, marion berries or blueberries.

THE RECIPE

Raw Coconut Breakfast Porridge - Serves 1


spoon meat of one Thai coconut
2/3 c. pecans
1/3 c. coconut water
1/4 t. sea salt
1/2 inch vanilla bean
1/4 t. green stevia powder
1/3 c. fresh berries

Process pecans and coconut spoon meat until coarsely mixed.  Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth and creamy.  Serve with berries or other sliced fruit on top.

ALL ABOUT COCONUTS

Coconut palms are prehistoric plants distantly related to grasses.  Interestingly, in Sanskrit the coconut palm is called "kalpa vriksha" which translates to "the tree that supplies all that is needed to live."

Thai coconuts in their young stage of growth contain a soft "spoon meat."  This meat, which is healthy and delicious, is high in healthy saturated fat, has a decent amount of protein and is low on the glycemic index.

COCONUT WATER

The coconut is a natural water filter.  It takes about 9 months to filter each quart of coconut water in the shell.  The water must travel through many fibers which purify it until it ends up in the sterile nut. This clear coconut water, which is purely delicious, is one of the best sources of electrolytes found in nature.  Think nature's Gatorade.  It really is the perfect, albeit expensive, sports drink.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weston A. Price Foundation Diet and Weight Loss

I first began implementing the principles of the Weston A. Price Foundation dietary guidelines in January 2010 after following a mostly vegetarian and sometimes vegan lifestyle for many decades.  I never had a weight problem with my former high carbohydrate lifestyle and so I believed that I was swimmingly maintaining my health until my heath suddenly and mysteriously broke down in September 2008.  I found Sally Fallon's cookbook "Nourishing Traditions," oddly enough, one month into the health breakdown, October 2008, while I was living with my brother trying to recover and still clinging to the belief that I must not be following a vegetarian diet completely enough.

What I read in Sally Fallon's cookbook went SO against the grain of everything I had been taught to believe about food and nourishment that I bought it on the spot and took it back to my brother's home to read.  It was, however, too difficult, too threatening for me to believe that I many have, unwittingly, harmed my health and especially the health of my children because of my allegiance to popular dietary teachings.  I literally lost sleep from my chagrin and worry over what I many have done to my children.  I had always been considered a "health nut" in my family and so it wasn't as if I had not "tried."  I had made all our food from scratch and I baked our bread and grew a garden and spent a significant amount of time and energy trying to give my children a good start in life.  Because I wanted so much to believe that I had given my children the best it was very hard to come to terms with the idea that I might have been mislead or wrong.

It took me an additional 14 months of suffering before I decided to give the WAPF guidelines, as described in Sally Fallon's cookbook, a try.  Since I was already an avid cook and had built a personal chef business called "Serene Cuisine" in California, based on the current vegetarian dietary ideal this new found and rather revolutionary information not only called into question my dietary choices at a personal level, but, also cut to the very heart of how I made my living.

I had become so adrenally depleted and fatigued that I could no longer tolerate the environment that I had lived in with my husband without wheezing.  I had tolerated that environment for four years and suddenly I could not.  This was particularly disturbing because I had no prior history of allergies or asthma.  Every time I tried to return I would experience bronchial constriction.  I visited various friends and members of my family until I settled in an apartment not far from where my husband lived.

In January 2010 I began to follow the WAPF diet.  My daughter, Carrisa, who was attending college out of state and who had a significant weight problem phoned me one day and asked if she could come and spend the summer with me and "re-learn" how to prepare healthy foods.

I was thrilled.  Delighted.  She joined me in May and stayed until August when she returned to school.  She did not know what she was getting herself for when she asked to come visit.  I think she thought we would most likely re-visit the macrobiotic diet that I had taught her when she was young.  That is probably what she thought I had to offer.

I shared the WAPF dietary guidelines with her instead.  I decided to put them to the test.  She really took to the diet.  Never complained once.  Never craved her former junk foods.  Never lapsed or "cheated."  We had a wonderful time cooking, gardening, and visiting all the local markets together.  She ate and ate and ate and so did I.  Our summer together was all about celebrating REAL local food and nothing about deprivation.  When she returned to school she continued to cook for herself and seek out real food, raw milk, and grass-fed meats.  Within 8 months she looked like a different person.

Please check out her before and after shots.

Carrisa has changed her life.  Two years later she looks terrific, has more energy and has resolved myriad health complaints.

Even though I continue to work with  my own personal health - Carrisa's life altering dietary changes are the accomplishment I am most proud of.  When I see how radiant and healthy and happy Carrisa is - and how she thrives - it does my heart good!  And Carrisa is influencing my daughter-in-law an my son to make positive changes in their health, as well, and that makes me very happy.

Emphasizing nutrient-dense foods, which include plenty of protein, saturated fat, the fat-soluble vitamins A, D E, and K has been an important step in reclaiming my health.  Though changing my diet has brought improvements diet alone has not been enough to resolve all of my heath concerns.  I think my healing will take patience and time.

Incidentally, I work with Theresa Vernon, L.Ac., who will be speaking at the Wise Traditions Conference in Santa Clara California November 2012 on the treatment of mineral imbalances.

I am very grateful to the Weston A. Price Foundation.  I promptly joined and became a member and I got a  membership for Carrisa too.

Thank you Sally Fallon from the bottom of my heart for all the good work that you do.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How To Make Pickled Daikon Radish


Pickled Daikon Radish

Most of you who follow this blog are already aware that I have a weakness for all things fermented.  I have been known to pickle just about anything I can get my hands and I consider it a worthwhile challenge to keep one shelf in my fridge well-stocked with a variety of tasty pickled delicacies.  I am especially fond of pickled radish with iceberg radish being a particular favorite.  I have pickled french breakfast radish (though some of the lovely pink color is lost in translation or transformation), watermelon radish (oh darn - another color disappointment), and iceberg radish (can't go wrong with basic white).  

On rare occasion my latest pickled food adventure will fall into the category of mostly inedible to downright scary, but, for the most part the pickled food adventures turn out be a pleasant experience which often produce intriguing and unique flavor combinations heretofore unheard of.  I think that is part of the special appeal of fermentation.  I like the idea that there is always an element of magic and surprise involved in the process.  Even if I strictly follow a recipe, which I seldom do, the result will always vary from batch to batch.  In true artisanal fashion, each jar of pickle is completely unique and special in its own right.  

Sometimes, in the mad pursuit of more and more novel pickled alchemical magic, I unwittingly hit upon something that is simply brilliant.  Today I would like to introduce a tasty newcomer to my pickled food repertoire - simply brilliant pickled daikon. 

There is something about radish, and turnip for that matter, that is perfectly suited to fermentation. The sharp pungency of the radish or turnip, which is my main objection to them in the first place, is significantly tamed and even neutralized.  In fact the flavor of both vegetables is tremendously improved by the fermentation process.  The texture is improved as well.

I highly recommend that you give pickled daikon radish a try.  

Pickled Daikon Radish

3 large organic daikon radish
1 c. filtered water
1 T. sea salt
1/12 t. probiotic powder

Wash and peel daikon radish.  Cut into spears that will fit nicely into a wide-mouth quart-size Mason jar.  Pack and wedge the daikon spears into the jar as tightly as you possibly can as they do loosen and contract a little during fermentation.  

Prepare a brine by dissolving sea salt and probiotic starter in 1 cup of filtered water.

Pour enough brine into the jar to cover the daikon spears with 1-inch of liquid.  Place plastic wrap or wax paper over the jar and then screw the lid on tightly and place on the kitchen counter for about three days.  The pickle is ready to eat in three days and can be placed in the fridge.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tips for Summer Health - Traditional Chinese Medicine

Fresh Vegetables - The Hallmark of Summer

Today, as promised in my previous blog post on Traditional Chinese Medicine, we will revisit the subject of TCM and the maintenance of seasonal health and will continue to do so, periodically, as we move through each of the five seasons.  Yes, you read correctly.  In TCM there are five seasons of the year.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine summer is the warm, sun and fun drenched season in which we are most drawn outward into nature and into the activity of living.  It is the most yang time of the year and according to the five element theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine summer is governed, not surprisingly, by the fire element which element is said to rule and influence the heart, mind and spirit.  By turning our attention to our heart, mind, and spirit and giving them top priority we will be able to maintain optimum health and energy during the summer months.

TIPS FOR SUMMER HEALTH

According to TCM it is important to maintain a sense of emotional poise in the summer - to avoid anger and to remain calm and even-tempered.

Ideally, in the summer we should have the energy to retire later, rise earlier, and rest at midday.

It is important to stay hydrated and to drink plenty of fluids in the summer.

Summer is a time to focus on eating a tempting array of freshly prepared fruits and vegetables which help us to remain cool and balanced during hot weather.  The summer season is a time to enjoy lighter fare with less emphasis on heavy animal proteins, and fried food preparations.  Incidentally, fish and seafood have a lighter and more cooling energy than red meats and poultry.  Though iced drinks and frozen desserts such as ice cream and sherbets are often tempting on hot summer days, ideally, the consumption of these cold foods should be limited, or if our digestion is weak eliminated altogether, as the cold nature of these foods will further imbalance our digestion and weaken or damage the digestive fire.

FOOD TO EMPHASIZE IN THE SUMMER

Melon
Lemon
Radish
Peach
Sprouts
Apricots
Broccoli
Bok Choy
Corn
Cucumber
Cabbage
Summer Squash
Watercress
Sea Vegetables
Mung Beans
Cilantro
Mint
Dill

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Raw Milk Pasture-Fed Cheese

5 Spoke Creamery Cheese

When I found a selection of four artisanal small batch cheeses by 5 Spoke Creamery at Whole Foods Market the other day I could not wait to try them.  What really got my attention is that the 5 Spoke Creamery Cheese meets both of my cheese criteria. 5 Spoke cheese is both RAW and PASTURE-FED!

Because raw milk cheese is not made from milk that has been heated and pasteurized it is a rich source of probiotic bacteria which help colonize the digestive tract and keep us healthy.  Raw milk and raw milk cheese, unlike pasteurized milk products, also contain important enzymes which help us to digest the fat, protein, and sugar in the milk.

Pasture-fed cheese is superior to conventional cheese because the cows have eaten a natural diet, in fact, the diet nature intends them to eat, and they are treated humanely.  Grass-fed dairy products contains a good ratio of essential fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, vitamin A and vitamin E.

TUMBLEWEED cave-aged eight to nine months is a salty semi-hard cheddar with a nice crumble. 

REDMOND CHEDDAR aged six months is a buttery well-balanced cheddar.  Redmond Cheddar is my personal favorite.

WELSH CHEDDAR is a mild, sweet, creamy cheese without any hint of sharpness.

HERBAL JACK flavored with herbs, chives and garlic (the garlic really comes through) begs to be melted on quesadillas.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lemon Curd Parfait With Strawberries

Lemon Curd Parfait With Strawberries
Brett and Charlotte introduced me to a delicious new flavor sensation, an absolute favorite summer indulgence, that we have been enjoying with a variety of summer berries, such as fresh sliced strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.  We haven't tried raspberries yet!

I am admittedly a huge fan of lemon curd.  While some may nostalgically remember a first kiss, I, on the other hand, nostalgically remember the exact time and location that I had that first luscious puckery spoonful of lemon curd.  Lemon curd, a traditional British food, is usually spread on the likes of scones and crumpets or used as a filling for tarts, pies and cakes.  Homemade lemon curd, by-the-way, tastes infinitely better than ordinary lemon pie filling because, unlike your standard commercial pie filling, lemon curd is made with REAL BUTTER and is thickened with EGG YOLK and PECTIN (which is naturally present in the lemon) rather than ubiquitous cornstarch.  And though I won't deny that lemon curd is delicious in its own right I am especially partial to lemon curd parfait.

If you are a fan of lemon desserts, as I am, and have not tried lemon curd parfait what are you waiting for?

LEMON CURD PARFAIT

5 pastured eggs
3 pastured egg yolks
1 c. organic sugar
3/4 c. fresh lemon juice
pinch of sea salt
1/2 c. cold grass-fed cultured butter, cut into cubes
1 c. organic heavy cream - raw cream is best
1 T. organic cane sugar or sugar substitute
1 t. vanilla extract

Berries

4 - 5 c. mixed fresh berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries
3 T. sugar (optional)

Whisk eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in the top of a double boiler until well mixed.  Set over a saucepan filled with simmering water at medium heat.  Add the lemon juice and sea salt.  Cook and whisk constantly until thickened, about 0 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in butter cubes until smooth.

Cool slightly and then refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

Combine cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat on high speed until soft peaks form.  Fold half of the whipped cream into the chilled lemon curd.

Gently toss the berries with sugar if desired.

To assemble spoon lemon curd into the bottom of 6 parfait glasses, top with berries and alternate layers of lemon curd and berries.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

SUGAR SUBSTITUTE

For those of you that are sensitive to sugar, as I am, you may substitute birch sugar for cane sugar in the recipe. I have made it both ways and with magnificent results. The birch sugar version was truly unmistakable from the cane sugar version.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Moveable Feast

Edible Adventures On The Road

We took Edible Adventures on the road this week and visited Yellowstone National Park.  The car literally bulged with five fully loaded ice-chests (one per adult in the party) along with two big boxes of food.  You would think we planned on being snowed-in in July, and despite picture perfect weather, that hovered in the low seventies, we still managed to make quite a dint in our cache of provender.

One of the most memorable eatables of the week, we have Carrisa to thank for.  She brought a beautiful Le Crueset pie pan full of that iconic Scottish dish rumbledethumps.  It was quite the hit, cut into thick delicious wedges, and served as an accompaniment to our crock pot chicken dinner.

Carrisa's Rumbledethumps

2 1/2 lbs. organic russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 head organic green cabbage, thinly sliced - about 8 cups
1/2 c. unsalted pastured butter
1/2 c. organic sour cream
1/4 c. chopped chives
1 c. grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (4 oz.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter an 8-cup baking dish.

Cook cabbage in a large pot with boiling water until tender- about 2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer cabbage to a bowl.

Return water to a boil and add potatoes.  Cook until tender.   Drain and return potatoes to the pot.  Add butter and sour cream and mash the potatoes.

Mix in chives and cabbage.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake about 35 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Local Loquat Conclusion

Loquat Muffins

The suspense surrounding the local loquat food adventure is finally drawing to its conclusion, and those of you who like happy endings will be particularly satisfied to learn that all three sister condiments, loquat-rose butter, loquat chutney, and loquat ketchup, have found their perfect food compliment.

The loquat-rose butter has been transformed into delicious little gluten-free muffins, the loquat chutney into a brilliant dish of moroccan rice, and the loquat ketchup, which we have been eating with gusto and tastes good with everything so far, as we continue to discover new ways to enjoy it, is particularly yummy with chicken, salmon burgers, and sweet potato fries.

The highlight of my day was baking these extra tasty loquat muffins and sharing the loquat muffin debut with Brett and Charlotte.  My baking adept, Carrisa, was conspicuously missing from the mix today as she packs for a much needed holiday.

Gluten-Free Loquat Muffins


1 c. loquat butter
1/2 c. honey
2 organic eggs
1/3 c. organic butter
1 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cardamom
1 1/2 t. baking soda  - see recipe below
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Mix the wet ingredients - loquat butter, honey, eggs, and butter until thoroughly blended.
Stir the dry ingredients together - flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and pecans.
Create an indention in the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring to incorporate.
Pour into silicon lined muffin tins and bake at 325 for 25 minutes.

Homemade Baking Powder


2 t. cream of tartar
2 t. baking soda
Mix together.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Local Loquat Chutney


Local Loquat Chutney

Those of you who have been following some of my recent loquat food adventures and misadventures will be interested to learn of my most recent loquat food triumph.

The effort to "marry up" loquat chutney, one of the three sister condiments I prepared this month, with her perfect food compliment, has been fraught with frustration and disappointment, at best.

Yesterday, still wondering what to do with the local loquat chutney, and growing a bit discouraged, I might add, I decided to give it another try.

Last night I roasted a panful of organic chicken thighs, (what could be simpler?), in the oven for dinner.  I made a pot of brown basmati rice in Brett and Charlotte's buttercup-colored Le Cruiset cook pot.  (I wish they still made that particularly food-compatible color of cookware by-the-way)  When the rice was cooked and fully tender I added the zest of one whole organic lemon, a squirt of two of lemon juice along with a generous handful of fresh minced parsley.  In addition, I prepared a side of cooked greens with crumbled feta.

As I plated up dinner last night I cautiously placed a spoonful of loquat chutney, seasoned with lemon, lemon rind, raisins, cumin, thyme, fennel seeds, coriander and red pepper flakes, beside each serving of basmati rice.  After a first hesitant nibble I decided to throw caution to the wind and stir the loquat chutney right into the rice to see what happened.

Voila!  Perfection!  Yes!  Food perfection!  I was SO excited.

Local loquat chutney is a fantastic accompaniment to rice!  It is a marriage made in heaven.

Initially, the true character and flavor of loquat chutney, obviously not readily apparent to me, remained undiscovered and unappreciated, until I combined it with its perfect food compliment, rice, and viola! an unmistakable distinctive Moroccan character came clearly through.

What would, otherwise, have been quite an ordinary meal suddenly became extraordinary.

The chutney fully lived up to expectation, in fact, exceeded expectation.  Not only did the loquat chutney make the rice taste better,(certainly the primary requirement of a condiment!), but, as an added bonus, the loquat chutney, with delicate flecks of orange fruit, bits of raisin and spice made the rice look better too!  To fully appreciate that particular food fact please consider what globs of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, or any other food condiment for that matter, do for the esthetics of a dish.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Much Ado About Loquats

Three Sisters

Well, here I am 700 miles away from home and about to conduct the first taste test.  Drum Roll. The three well-traveled sister condiments, also about 700 miles away from home, loquat butter, loquat chutney and loquat ketchup, are assembled and ready for their debut.

We did the preliminary preview tasting yesterday evening.  Carrisa said that the loquat-rose butter tasted like she had a rose pompadour in her mouth. It was a bit too flowery for her taste.  Brett and Charlotte, who are recovering from colds, which might be a factor in how well they taste, did not find the flowery rose flavor over-powering or objectionable.

What we ultimately have in mind for the loquat-rose butter is to make it the base for gluten-free loquat-rose muffins.  I am sourcing ingredients as we speak.

I did try the loquat chutney with toasted baguette and a couple of different cheeses and I can't say I am over the top about it.  Charlotte said that the chutney reminds her of salsa and she would like to try it on a taco.  Charlotte also suggested that we roast a chicken and serve it with parsley-lime rice and loquat chutney.  Brett could not decide what kind of meat would be most compatible with the chutney.

We all feel that we are trying a bit too hard to "marry up" the loquat chutney.  Brett, put it well, when he said we have been trying to find food to make the loquat chutney taste better.  Since the whole idea of a condiment is to enhance the flavor of food and give it some "wow" and "pizazz" I have to admit I am disappointed.

Everybody agreed that the loquat ketchup was very tasty.  It was definitely everybody's favorite.  Brett and Carrisa said that it reminded them of barbecue sauce and would like to try it with french fries or sweet potato fries.  Charlotte suggested that it be used to marinate chicken.

Overall it was a good first effort at condiment making and I want to especially thank my intrepid and willing taste testers.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What Happened To the Local Loquats - Part 3


No Ordinary Ketchup
The highly perishable loquat fruit has a short season and shelf life that lends itself to traditional methods of food preservation such as preserves, chutney, and condiment preparations.  I hear the inventive Japanese make loquat wine.

In an effort to preserve this most time sensitive fruit I experimented with several different condiment preparations.  My most recent posts, (have you noticed how often things appear in clusters of three?), Tuesday's loquat butter, Wednesday's loquat chutney, and today's loquat ketchup, are sister posts that take their parentage from the same prolific loquat tree.

Without the notoriety that her attention-getting sisters have received in recent posts, the ill-flavored loquat rose butter (that Carrisa will be working on), or the spicy and assertive loquat chutney that I hope to marry up with goat cheese, loquat ketchup, the rich color of umeboshi plum, on the other hand, has a complex flavor that I find surprisingly pleasing.

I honestly don't know how I came up with the idea of making loquat ketchup.

I found a recipe for traditional tomato ketchup in Sally Fallon's cookbook "Nourishing Traditions" and randomly wondered what loquat ketchup would be like.

Here is the recipe that I made based on her ketchup recipe:

Loquat Ketchup


4 c. loquats, washed and pitted
1 T. sea salt
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. fish sauce
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. whey or 1 t. probiotic powder


Cook the loquats in a little bit of water in a covered pan until they are tender.  Cool slightly and blend in blender or food processor until they are smooth and creamy.


When the loquats are room temperature mix all of the ingredients together until well blended.  Place in two pint-sized wide-mouth Mason jars.  The top of the ketchup should be a least 1-inch below the top of the jar. Leave at room temperature for about 2 days before transferring to fridge.

As a food aside, I did a little internet research on the history of ketchup making and found that if you go back to the 17th-century, when ketchup was still a regional artisanal food preparation and not the ubiquitous product, synonymous only with the tomato, that it is today, you will find that ketchup, first brought from China by British sailors, could actually be made from any number of ingredients. Pontac ketchup, popular in the 19th-century, for instance, was made from elderberry juice, shallots, anchovies and spices.  I am not a huge tomato lover myself, tomatoes are way too acidic for me even on the best of days, unless absolutely dead-ripe and fresh from the vine. This loquat version of traditional ketchup, which features garlic, fish sauce, maple syrup and a little fermentation, is just the tasty ticket.  Most importantly, though there are sure to be a few refinements, I LIKE IT!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What Happened To The Local Loquats? Part 2


Loquat Adventures

Before I leave town, loquat butter in tow, I have another little confession, another little loquat adventure to report.

This second loquat adventure comes by stages.

From the original loquats, harvested from my mother's tree, I made the, so far, ill-fated subject of yesterday's post, loquat butter, the little food orphan that is about to be packed up and sent straight off to Carrisa, (there will be more to report, no doubt), AND I made from the same harvest, a batch of loquat chutney, seasoned with lemon, lemon rind, raisins, cumin, coriander, green peppercorns, thyme, and fennel seed, which I set out on the counter to ferment (yes!) for two days.

THE INEXACT ART/SCIENCE OF CHUTNEY MAKING

First Taste:  The first day, the day I make it, the chutney tastes a bit raw to me and not too exciting.  I add the probiotic culture and let it set for a day or so on the kitchen counter.

Next Taste:  The taste has improved.  It is a bit better, in fact, but I don't like the texture.  I unpack it and chop it up good in the food processor with an S-blade.  That helps a lot.  I repack it into the jar and let it set out on the counter.


Next Taste:  There is still something missing.  I take chopsticks and stir red pepper flakes, that I was already dubious about adding, into the mixture, and since the chutney has already spent quite a lot of time out on the kitchen counter, and the weather has been quite warm which speeds up the process, I decide to put the jar into the fridge.

Next Taste:  After about 5 days in the fridge the flavor of the chutney is mellowing and settling in. Interestingly, it is the addition of the red pepper flakes that seems to have turned on the flavor.

Sorry I did not take more photos, but, I was never convinced that this would become the subject of a blog post!

So now that the loquat chutney is sufficiently interesting to get my attention - what am I going to do with it?

You will probably think that my next confession, goes beyond mere food fascination, and borders on downright food mania, (it does), but I already have my favorite Grindstone Bakery gluten free baguette, baked Monday, in fact, on the way, shipped to the same destination that I will be arriving at in a day or two and where I intend to marry it up, the toasted baguette, that is, with a slice of tart and slightly warm goat cheese, topped with, you guessed it, spicy loquat chutney, of coarse, for a totally non-tomato, totally non-garlicky, totally non-traditional bruschetta!  Sounds like a date!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What Happened To The Local Loquats?

Loquat-Rose Butter

This will be Part One Of - What Happened To The Local Loquats?

I have been in a particularly experimental mood lately.  Dangerous?  Well, yes, actually, though, I do realize that not all of my food adventures are going to become future blog posts or even be edible for that matter.

I am thinking of a particular batch of loquat butter I made recently.  You are probably wondering what could go wrong with a batch of loquat butter?  Especially since I have made loquat butter before with Carrisa, summer 2010, when we were both very pleased with the result.

Well things went off for me this time when I reached for the jar of wildflower honey and grabbed double-delight rose honey instead, and a rather assertive double-delight rose honey at that.

I did not even realize what I had done until I tasted the loquat butter.  And even then, it took me a moment or two to figure out what the flavor configurations were that were happening on my tongue.  The unlikely rose/loquat combination, oddly enough the loquat tree and rose bush that the petals are harvested from actually live in close proximity to one another in my mother's backyard and have unfortunately managed to get into even closer proximity, falls into the category of flavor confusion to downright flavor weirdness.  Don't bet me wrong.  I have nothing against double-delight rose honey, in fact, I think it is delicious, but it has no business with loquats.  Big sigh.

So I did what I almost always do when faced with a food crisis.  I fermented it!  Of coarse, what else!

So, I added some salt and some probiotic powder, for beneficial bacteria, and left the offending jar on the counter for a couple of days. 

It did not help.

My next plan is to take the little food orphans to Carrisa and see what she can make of them.  She is much more of a baker than I am.  Perhaps she can reinvent them and bake them into luscious loquat quick bread or spicy loquat muffins?  I AM STILL hopeful.

I am heading out of town tomorrow, and you guessed it, I am taking the loquat butter with me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sweet Potatoes - The Taste Test

Sweet Potato

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite foods, the large starchy sweet-tasting tuberous root vegetable known as the sweet potato.  Always fond of a good sweet, I decided to conduct a taste test.  I baked four different varieties of sweet potato, if anybody knows of other varieties I will gladly taste test them too, pictured above, which I got from one of my favorite local growers at the farmer's market.

Sweet Potato - Four Varieties

The sweet potato, believed to have originated somewhere in South or Central America, is a member of the same plant family as the morning glory flower.  The orange fleshed variety, often mislabeled as a yam, is actually a sweet potato and not a true yam at all.

The garnet or jewel variety of sweet potato, pictured above in the right hand corner, a good source of complex carbohydrate, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and Vitamin B-6, has beautiful coppery-red skin and brilliant orange flesh.  The flesh of the orange sweet potato is moist, almost sticky, and deliciously sweet.

The yellow sweet potato, pictured on the top left corner, has light brown skin and yellow flesh.  The flavor is delicate, mild, and pleasantly sweet.

The dazzling purple sweet potato, or Okinawan sweet potato, pictured above, is amazingly rich and sweet tasting.  The skin of the Okinawan is a light buff color and the flesh is truly a magnificent velvety, over-the-top purple.  The Okinawan is a great source of the antioxidant anthocyanine, don't try to say that one too fast, which is only present in red, blue, and purple food.

Other foods that are rich in anthocyanine are blueberry (my favorite berry!), elderberry (I am always on the look-out for them!), cranberry, billberry, raspberry, blackberry, blackcurrant (makes suburb jam!), cherry (another favorite!), chokecherry (my mother's favorite childhood jelly), eggplant peel, black rice (my favorite rice!), concord grapes (my favorite grapes!), muscadine grapes, purple cabbage, and violet petals (my favorite edible flower!).  Oh!  And red-fleshed peaches contain anthocyanine.  I just discovered that I am rather enthusiastic about anthocyanine containing foods!

Kindly, nature and agriculture have provided us with some additional and uncommon sources of anthocyanine containing foods such as the blue fleshed potato, purple broccoli, purple cauliflower, purple carrots, blue corn, and blood orange.  Love that color!

And finally, getting back to to our subject of the day, the Japanese sweet potato, pictured above on the bottom right, sometimes called Satsuma-imo, is a beautiful tuber, (does that sound oxymoronic?) with rose-violet skin and white flesh that deepens to a marbled translucence when baked.  It has a lovely sweet flavor that is especially appealing.

My current sweet potato preference, though subject to change when I get a random sweet potato that is so unexpectedly near perfection that it becomes the sweet potato of the moment, is Satsuma-imo, with Okinawan being a close second, followed by the vivid orange fleshed sweet potato, and finally, last but not least, the yellow fleshed sweet potato.

Though there are many, often elaborate, ways to prepare sweet potato I like mine simply prepared, either baked or roasted with butter.