Easy Peasy Healthful Comfort Food with NO Lentils Involved

13 Nov

Okay, I’ve been very busy. In a good way. And a bad way (vis a vis Super Storm Sandy). So I need a hearty but super healthful dish that could incorporate carbs, veggies, and of course cheese, along with some piquancy and crunch. I’m still trying to love lentils but am not… there yet. So here’s how it went down:

Kale (a big fluffy bunch). Chop a LOT of it finely.
Red Bell Peppers – Chop in uniform small pieces
Wholewheat spaghettini or spaghetti or whatever
Fresh garlic – Chop finely
Smoked cheddar (Gouda would be fine but must be high-quality or it’s too chalky) Chop in same size as peppers (pea-size small)
Apples (any kind) Chop – see above
Toasted pine nuts (optional)
Lemon zest and a little juice – to taste
Fage Greek yogurt, plain, 0%  —  a few dollops
Olive oil (just a tad)
Salt and pepper to taste

Note: Proportion of apples/peppers to cheese should be 2:1 unless you have been told that you’re “too skinny.”

Cook pasta, set aside. In same large-ish pan/pot, heat a wee bit of olive oil. Add garlic, let it do its thing. Not too long.  Then throw in the kale, let it settle down. Then everything else. Heat completely through and add in the pasta. Try to make it combine (not easy).

This is one of those one-pot wonders that you can continue to add to the next day, with fresh ingredients, allowing the dish to become less pasta carbs and more veggies. Or cheese, if you prefer, and I do.


12 Sep

buffaloI meant to comment earlier on that Stanford study on the relative value of eating organic foods versus processed, pesticided, hormonally challenged or enhanced, etc.). But the study was POUNCED upon by both mainstream and alternate media sources (especially those pesky bloggers) and the conclusions swirled around the Internet, pretty much confusing everyone.

The study certainly managed to stir the pot, so to speak, and bring the anti-organic whackadoodles out of the woodwork. Just one example, from a fellow who concludes: “The evidence is clear: organic products are neither healthier nor better for the environment.” Um, okay. Clear as organic mud.

For some, it meant “Phew!  I can stop buying those organic goji berries that cost me a week’s salary and go back to my favorite Frankenfoods guilt-free!” For others, it fueled the fire in their… bellies… for not only untainted** locally grown goodness but also balanced reporting with a dose of independent research and common sense.

Me? I just go with what I believe my body is telling me it thinks I might need. (Yes, I’m aware of the prevarication in that sentence.) Sometimes it’s organic seaweed and microgreens over quinoa — and sometimes it’s cheese, Scotch, and MSG. It’s all about balance and moderation and what makes you happy. If you want to live longer and better, it’s also about nutritional intelligence and caring about the planet. I also TRY to not read about food too much.

This article, in particular, echoed my own sentiments about the aforementioned study. Mostly that more interesting than the food brouhaha is the meta-coverage of studies that may or may not be balanced and are possibly somehow Monsanto-funded. He also gives a shout-out to one of my favorite foods: bison burgers.

* I’m not a headline writer (though I think that’d be a cool job). At least I didn’t call it “Food for Thought,” with its attendant 4.6 million Google search results.

** no such thing

Better Living Through Chemistry? That’s Bananas.

24 Aug

moleculesThe banana. The most trusted fruit, perfectly packaged by nature to promise unsullied goodness inside. So what if they don’t last very long? That’s life, and that’s how it should be. Just make banana bread if you have to. However, in breaking news, meddling scientists are on the verge of changing up our bananas with a special coating that may preserve them for up to 12 days, according to the American Chemical Society at their 244th (!) national meeting in Philadelphia this week.

The coating, a “hydrogel” is made out of chitosan, which comes from shrimp and crab shells. Hm. Sounds organic-y, no? We’ll see. At the very end of the report this popped out at me:

“But banana lovers should not go bananas over the hydrogel coating just yet. Li’s team is on the trail of a new ingredient for producing the hydrogel that would replace an existing ingredient that would not be used commercially. This study was supported by a National Natural Science Foundation of China Grant and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation.” [emphasis mine]

Um, yeah. Please go ahead and do NOT use that mystery ingredient on my bananas. In fact, just leave my bananas ALONE.

I will say that it was fun to visit the American Chemical Society’s (“the world’s largest scientific society”) website. Besides learning cool things like the fact that copolymers that contain 2-(diethylamino)ethyl methacrylate form stable emulsions when carbon dioxide is present but destabilize in its absence (and who doesn’t love a good copolymer story?), they have a MOLECULE OF THE DAY! Now that rocks. So today, on behalf of myself and the ACS, we bring you … wait for it….

Dimethyl carbonate!

I know you’ll want to learn more

Sources: American Chemical Society, Science Daily

Break Out the Chocolate-Covered Blueberries!

20 Aug

This just in:

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 19, 2012 — New evidence reveals the possibility of mood-enhancing effects associated with some flavors, stemming at least in part from natural ingredients bearing a striking chemical similarity to valproic acid, a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing drug, scientists reported here today. This effect joins those previously reported for chocolate, teas and some other known comfort foods. more

Okay. And yay! In other news, lobster mushrooms taste like lobster (but are harder to find). The odd-looking orange root vegetable is a baby yam. All from Eataly, where I’m praying they don’t believe in genetic modification.

assorted food oddities

Masquaroons! A What-Not-To-Do With Apologies to Proust

2 Jul

macaronIf there’s one maxim I consistently try — and fail — to adhere to, it’s “Know your limits.” After yesterday, there’s every hope that I will remember it going forward. So… French macarons. AKA “macaroons,” not to be confused with the stickily delicious American coconut confections. I figured what the hell (never a good way to start a project).

As usual, there are 7,000 recipes on the Web, and each is different. My usual course of action is to intuit and combine — which in this case didn’t quite work. Like one recipe (thank you, Martha) calls for two eggs. A similar one for the same yield, doubles that! Four eggs! What?! Huh?! So, I used three. Here’s MY recipe. Go ahead, enjoy. The very best part is whipping the egg whites. You feel powerful and confident as they work themselves into a “soft peak” tizzy and then obligingly morph into little snowy mountains of “hard peaks.” It’s all down hill from there, unfortunately.

Eggs (that’s the easy part)
Sugar (confectioners’ AND superfine). The superfine is super easy to work with. The confectioners’ clings to the sifter with a death grip due to 87 percent humidity.
Almond flour (comes pre-clumped in July humidity)
Cream of Tartar (good luck with that, especially in the fancy stores that DO carry almond flour). I think only folks over 80 still buy it.
Food coloring (choose Yellow #17 if you want your cookies to look like snow a dog peed on)

YIELD: 4 cookies

3-5 Business Days

10 measly but harrowing minutes (recipes call for turning the temperature up and then down and then up again. Um, okay)

my macaronCLEAN UP TIME
2-4 days, longer if you care that there’s cookie dough behind the stove

* Prep time includes:

  • Trek to Broadway Panhandler to buy piping bag, piping bag tip, some other piece that would supposedly make it easy; metal spatula (didn’t need it, in the end); sifter; cookie sheet (since mine had gold paint on it from an art project)
  • 3 heartbreaking trips to three different stores for ingredients
  • A full day to read the 7,000 recipes;
  • A trip to the wine store (trust me, it was necessary)
  • Locating, dusting and washing a blender
  • Locating, dusting and washing the egg beater (I didn’t even know I had one!)
  • Sifting the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar (a cosmic joke, really) for about an hour before giving up

I’m just gonna skip to the good part (and let you find your own way vis a vis the outside cookies) since my method included having all the gooey dough come out the TOP of the piping bag and run down my arm.) The filling! Which I think I invented! Well, sort of, in a round-about way that involved a quasi-Proustian Jamaican guava cracker (see earlier post). Here’s the easy recipe:

Goya or other brand guava paste (don’t bother looking for it at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods; can be found at Shop Rite, which we don’t have here in Manhattan. Mine came from Boston.)
Lite cream cheese
Lemon zest

Blend. Enjoy. It’s truly amazingly delicious. Next up? Madeleines! What the hell, right?

Rosemary Quinoa Collard Confection

26 Jun

A food-related breakthrough today, following a wonderful weekend in Boston. Forget the South — and you know I never venture below the Mason-Dixon line, not wholly because of politics, humidity, and a healthy fear of Civil War reenactors, but mostly because of the fried food fanaticism. Boston knows how to do comfort food to the nth degree. We’re talking steak tips (which don’t seem to exist in New York City) and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, and, sorry to say, fried seafood (why? why?). I WILL, however, mention that oysters in Beantown totally rock.

That said, I desperately needed a HUGE helping of super-food hyper-antioxidants. But without losing the comfort factor. So, I give you… Rosemary Quinoa Collard Confection! (patent pending). Easy peasy and kind of addictive. I’d eat it for breakfast. PS. If you’ve eschewed buying quinoa because you couldn’t pronounce it, it’s KEEN-Wah.

Collard greens
Fresh rosemary

Cook the quinoa in water with a stem of fresh rosemary (remove later).  I can’t tell you exactly how to do this because in a fit of pique I threw out my idiotic set of separate but nesting plastic measuring cups, meaning to buy a more non-idiotic glass SINGLE measuring cup. Also, some recipes make cooking quinoa sound like preparing the most arcane risotto (rinse the precious imported Arborio twice using a gold mesh filter, pick out any loser deformed grain pellets, double rinse again, gently simmer for seven million years whilst adding water or chicken stock a droplet at a time and stir until your hand falls off).

I just put in maybe half a cup of the grain and then a cup of water and, truth be told, ended up cooking it kind of like risotto, adding water when it started complaining. It’s a forgiving super-food grain, and done in about fifteen minutes of simmering. When it seemed al dente, or semi-chewy-crunchy, I threw in a large chiffonade of collard greens (a good, meaty green is needed to complement the fluffy texture of the quinoa, though mine wasn’t as fluffy as it could have been.)

I then added a wee bit of crumbled gorgonzola and finely chopped Medjool dates and let it sit for a while so all the ingredients could get to know each other while I test-tasted what white wine would work best as a complementary salubriant (not sure that’s a word). Feeling indulgent and sorry for myself that I couldn’t share with my beloved, I topped it off with a handful of imported Spanish Marcona almonds.

NOTE: In retrospect, I would FREEZE the dates beforehand in order to cut them more precisely and separate them; I’d also cool the Gorgonzola or get a drier variety so it doesn’t clump). Then again, if I get a big ‘ole clump of Gorgonzola, I’m a very happy girl.

NOTE #2: Feel free to substitute ANY of the ingredients above. If you’re dieting, eat raw collard greens and a glass of water. Just kidding. Lose the cheese and you’re good to go.

Cracker Crisis

19 Jun

tin of guava pasteA little while back, I visited Jamaica and fell in love. With a cracker. A guava cracker, found at a roadside shack in the most deplorable section of the long and pot-holed road from Kingston to somewhere north over the mountains.

These crackers were a revelation: I’m not usually a cracker person unless they come with wine, cheese and sparkling conversation. But the guava creme filling imbued them with a magical flavor and a perfectly sensuous texture; the actual cracker part is similar to a Ritz. I devoured three of the six, shared the rest and reminded myself to find them again when I returned to New York.

Now, I haven’t exactly visited all the Jamaican or Caribbean markets in NYC (or any; I’m too lazy) but I did go online in hopes of ordering a case of the scrumptious wonders. To my dismay, I found but a single source, in Trinidad. I promptly ordered a relatively small amount (10) and cringed at the postage (more than the crackers themselves). All would have been well and good — they arrived promptly via USPS and I opened the box with great excitement — only to find that I had somehow ordered the CHEESE version (which you can find ANYWHERE). I shot off a somewhat hysterical email to the company, My Trini Grocery, and was pleasantly shocked to get a PHONE CALL. Unfortunately, I had indeed ordered cheese by accident. Oops. I promptly re-ordered and await now, salivating.

In the meantime, my friend located both an online recipe for homemade guava crackers (thank you, Clay County Unified School District 379 of Kansas — go figure) AND a tin of precious guava PASTE. [to be continued]

guava crackers recipe


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