Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to eat

I find it curious that we are still seeking the answer to, what is eating healthy? After all the fade diets and miracle pills have we learned nothing? I have my answer, which is really short and simple: eat a bit of everything and move. Now, here is the caveat to my axiom.

I am a great proponent of learning to say yes to more foods – if I have never seen it before I try it, however, the most important aspect is that all foods created, served and eaten should be recognizable; i.e. understanding its relationship to the earth. There should never be foods that have been overly manipulated and packaged by any industrialized food manufacturer in the kitchen – butter over margarine; oven crisped sweet potatoes in lieu of Tatter Tots.  Any canned item in the pantry must have an extremely brief ingredient list (about four ingredients or less), and definitely, read and understand the label. In the winter months when the selection at the farmer’s markets is slim vegetables are going to be frozen rather than sodium drenched and already overcooked tinned ones. Of course, buying organic and certified humane is of great value, though I am greatly sensitive to the cost unfortunately associated with this choice. But part of eating “healthy” is not consuming the drugs administrated widely to our food supply in order to grow stuff bigger, faster, and fuller.

The ultimate healthy eating is not necessarily going vegan, swearing gluten-free because it is the cure, or cooking a pre-historic meal plan. It is finding the foods and style that are appealing and allowing the plate to be dominated by vegetables that you can live with for the rest of your life. Find the pleasure equally in a slab of baby back ribs or a slab of tofu; indulge in the slice of cake and revel in fruit tossed with some snipped herbs. Healthy eating is meant to keep us healthy both emotionally and physically.

We all must eat consciously and understand the amount of calories we are taking in because no matter how “healthy” one supposedly eats, too much is just that.

Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce – yields 4 servings
½-pound boneless/skinless chicken breast – cut into thin strips
4-ounces vermicelli rice noodles
½-hot house cucumber – sliced in strips
1-celery stalk – slice into 1-inch strips
½-pound jicama – peeled and sliced into strips
2-tablespoons chopped mint leaves
½-pound (about 4 pieces) chopped baby bok choy
3-scallions – sliced

Bring 3-cups of water to the boil, and add the chicken strips. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the chicken through a sieve into a bowl that has the noodles. Allow let the noodles soak in the hot cooking liquid for ten minutes, and then drain.

In a large bowl add all the ingredients, and toss with the peanut sauce. Serve room temperature or cold.

Peanut Sauce
3-tablespoons lemon juice (from a ½-lemon)
3-tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime)
¼-cup all natural peanut butter
1-tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1-garlic clove
2-teaspoons sesame oil
1-tablespoon rice vinegar
3-tablespoons soy sauce
¼-cup water

Place all ingredients in a blend, and process until smooth.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tonight, we roast

Feeding those we Love
Nightly we set the Table
A crisp day is warmed by their Smiles

Braised Pork Loin with Rice Dumplings – serves 4 to 6
3-pound pork loin
2 large onions – roughly chopped
8-10 whole garlic cloves – carefully peeled

2 celery stalks – sliced thinly
6 stems of thyme
1½-cups cooked rice
2-tablespoons fresh mint leaves – chopped
1-tablespoon thyme leaves – chopped
½-cup chickpea flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven 325-degrees.

Heat a 3-quart casserole dish over a high flame, and add the pork loin. Brown the pork on all sides. Remove from the casserole dish, and immediately add in the onions, garlic, celery and thyme. Cook for a few mintues, and return the pork to the dish. Pour over 1-cup of water, and season with salt and pepper. Cover securely, and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours.

In the meantime, to make the dumpling place the rice, mint, thyme and ½-teaspoon salt in a food process along with ¼-cup of water. Process the rice mixture until particularly smooth. Transfer the rice puree into a bowl, and with a spoon thoroughly mix in the chickpea flour. Form the rice mixture into approximately 14 balls (the size of a walnut – it is easiest if you keep your hands dmapened), and hold on a plate mositened with a thin film of water.

After the pork has cooked for two hours, add in the rice dumplings and replace the cover. Retun to the oven and cook an additional 1-hour. Serve.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nightly fun

As I have mentioned before, I am married to a man with a very dominant sweet tooth and I love him dearly so I indulge it. Not that I would ever allow a cake from the frozen aisle of the grocery store or put out a nibble bowl of M&M’s on the coffee table. I have always viewed myself as a savory chef not thinking I had the patience or desire to bake. However, since the passing of my mom, who was a terrific home baker, though was a void. I found myself recreating her much loved carrot, cheese and  I know I could add nuts and spices to any formula without the risk of compromising its success. I started playing with different batters – denser and light cakes depending on what I was fancying. Given my love of white chocolate, I have used it to replace the butter in some concoctions. Then the garden and farmers markets gives me inspiration as I make scented sugars, infused oils and tinctures as well as candied flowers that can end up in a dessert. My husband is the most willing tester I have met, though there are times I am dubious for he is more critical of a sauce than he is of a slice of pie.
sour cream apple cakes to stroke my memories and those of my family members, much to my husband’s delight. I actually enjoyed the act of baking and came to realize I was not bound as tightly to the recipe as I once thought. A pastry chef friend of mine helped release me from the shackles of rigidity when she said, baking is not as precious as one might think.

Guava Coated Cake – one 9-inch cake

5-ounces guava paste – sliced
1-cup husk tomatoes - fresh or frozen
8 ounces unsalted butter
1-cup sugar
½-cup milk
½-teaspoon rose water
½-teaspoon vanilla extract
1½-cups all-purpose flour
1½-teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350-dgrees.

Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

Lay the sliced guava paste on the bottom of the cake pan, and then disperse husk tomatoes the over the guava.

Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy.

Mix to together the eggs, milk, rose water and vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Once the butter is beaten mix in half the flour, and then half the egg mixture. Incorporate the remaining flour and then in the egg mixture -- making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. 

Pour over the cake batter over the husk tomatoes. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove the cake to a cooling rack. Cool the cake slightly and then carefully turn the cake out on to a plate.