Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Miraculous Shiitake Mushrooms

frankenstoen from Portland, Oregon

Pungent and smokey in flavor, these mushrooms increase the depth of taste of many dishes. When you cook with re-hydrated Shiitake that have already been de-stemmed, you have the added benefit of being able to use the Shiitake 'soaking water' as a base for soups or sauces, or in which to cook grains. Just one cup of this liquid goes a long way in imparting flavor.

Here are several of my favorite ways to cook Shiitake:

1.  Sliced thin in a 3-egg omelet made with fresh mung bean sprouts and sea salt

2.  Chopped rough in a chicken/broccoli stir-fry with onions, sea salt and a shake of hot pepper flakes

3.  Long simmered in a tomato sauce served over pasta shells

4.  In brown rice made with chopped onions, Shiitake and their 'soaking water'

5.  In "Hot Shiitake Soup" made with chicken, baby bok choy, onions, garlic, fresh ginger, sea salt and hot pepper flakes

6.  And last, but not least, they are wonderful when chopped fine and used in a turkey stuffing!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Pomegranate

Nothing says "the coming of winter" so much to me as the appearance of pomegranates in the market. This luscious fruit is packed with nutritional goodness. The effort you'll expend in extracting its wondrous seeds is a 'workout' in itself but so worth the effort!

Here is an article that speaks to the health benefits of eating pomegranates:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A 'Virtual' Medicine Cabinet

As I've mentioned before, the medicine cabinet in our bathroom is just about empty. However, the items that would 'virtually' constitute its contents are, for the most part, found in my kitchen :D

1)  Honey - Makes a revitalizing 10-minute facial.

2)  Honey & Egg Whites - Can be used as a healing balm on serious burns. Helps to prevent scarring.

3)  Egg Yolks - Two of them mixed with a tsp. of cider vinegar make a great conditioning/shampoo. Apply to dry hair and allow to sit under a plastic cap for 10-20 minutes. Rinse in cool water.

4)  Lemon - Squeezed into a glass of water is an excellent stomach alkalizer.

5)  Baking Soda - Is another good alkalizer. Stops indigestion discomfort almost immediately and counters the effects of over-caffeinization. Also used in cleansing hair and scalp and to remove splinters.

6)  Garlic - Effective antibiotic that will ward off the common cold if taken raw at the first sign of a scratchy throat. Also helps to thin the blood and to lower blood pressure.*

7)  Thyme - Brewed as a tea with a spot of honey or made into a broth with sliced onions will help relieve respiratory congestion and coughing.

8)  Chamomile - A truly relaxing tea. Also makes a soothing eye-wash for tired eyes or any minor infection.

9)  Rosemary - Brewed as a tea, it makes an excellent hair and scalp tonic. Said to stimulate hair growth.

10) Aloe Vera - The best all-around healer/protector both inside and out (just don't mix up the respective potions!)

*CAUTION: These remedies are effective by themselves, when taken by a generally healthy person, but may interact negatively with any prescribed medications.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Fresh Food 'Fast'

If you've been contemplating doing a "raw food diet", you might want to think twice. I found the soaking, draining, and sprouting of seeds, grains, and beans to be an awful lot of work. It was also difficult for me to get adequate protein, as I don't eat cheese or soy.

That said, raw fresh food is highly nutritious and worth making the effort to include in our diets in large measure. One way I do it is to treat myself to "a fresh food fast". I shop ahead for the fruits and vegetables I like best. Then, on a quiet day when I plan to be mostly at home, I limit myself to nothing but those raw fresh foods. I stay far away from the stove, oven, and microwave, as well as all sugar, alcohol, bread, caffeine, and any cooked leftovers that may happen to be in the fridge.

Throughout the day, I'll eat - in small amounts - pieces of fruit, some raw pumpkin seeds and almonds, a tomato/cucumber salad or perhaps some guacamole spread on red pepper 'boats' or the sturdy leaves of a Romaine lettuce. I stick to drinking water with fresh lemon and juiced vegetables mixed with fruits (no bottled juices). The point, however, is to eat only as little as your body actually needs; hence the term 'fast'.

It's a simple way to give the body a rest from some of the more stressing foods we normally consume. The post-Thanksgiving weekend isn't a bad time to try this 'fast' - Sunday, perhaps, ….once most of the leftovers are gone :D

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Soothing, Healing Aloe - Alone On The Shelf

I suppose I'm not the only one who's collected bottles and tubes and jars of exotic and miraculous wonders in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Aloe Vera gel, however, is a staple that's now made our previous collection almost obsolete. 

What other single substance can quell the pain of a burn (sun or otherwise!), the itch of a mosquito bite, the inflammation of a blemish or a small abrasion? Aloe is also an excellent natural sunscreen (when you remember to apply it before the burn…). It calms the frizzies on those "bad hair days". It's a far superior lubricant to shaving cream. And, lo and behold, it works quite well as a deodorant.

Of course, if you like all those bottles and tubes and jars in the medicine chest, the aloe vera gel will fit in nicely among the rest….  But once we discovered this treasure, it was "out with" the calamine lotion, the clearasil, the hair lotion, shaving cream, and even the lovely deodorant stick!  Voila! An almost empty shelf!

If you tend aloe vera plants, their medicine is pure and unadulterated - but I have a difficult time actually pinching a piece of the wondrous creature for anything less than an emergency.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A simple bowl of porridge….

What could be better on a chilly morning! Porridge for one cooks up within 5 minutes or so, a little longer for larger servings.

The beauty of oatmeal is that it lends itself well to so many ingredients, both sweet and savory. In the mornings I like to peel and dice a green apple, put it in a sauce pan with 1 cup of water (or more, depending on the size of the apple), sprinkle in a generous amount of cinnamon, add 1 clove bud, and bring it to a boil. Then I stir in ⅓ cup or so of rolled oats. I keep it boiling on high till the oats start to release their milky stickiness and any excess water has evaporated. Then I turn it off and let the oats 'finish cooking' by pouring the steaming porridge into a bowl and mixing it 'round till it's cool enough to eat! Those who like their porridge sweet will want to add honey, maple syrup or brown sugar. No milk (or dairy) is necessary. Oatmeal creates its own lovely milky liquid which you can learn to enjoy.

Rolled oats also make a great base for a thick savory 'soup'. Again, with very little effort, you can chop up some onions (green peppers, mushrooms, whatever you like…), wilt them in olive oil in a large and deep-enough saucepan, add a 28 oz. can of whole or crushed tomatoes (juice and all), stir in 1+ cups of rolled oats, and finally add enough water so there is enough liquid overall for the oats to triple in bulk. Season with sea salt, dried basil or thyme and a small pinch of oregano. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes or so till most of the liquid is absorbed. The result is a wonderfully hardy porridge 'soup' that will stick to your ribs and give you energy to spare.

Eating oatmeal can be a pleasurable indulgence and it's always good for your heart! ♥

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Olive Oil: The Health and Beauty Tonic

Here in the States we tend to use butter. We put butter on our vegetables, butter in the frying pan, butter on toast, on rice and potato, butter in baked goods, in sauces, even in hot cereal; whereas, in other countries, people use oil. I think we're the ones with something to learn here.

Olive oil, in particular, is a mono-saturated fat that promotes a healthy cholesterol level. Butter, as we know so well, is saturated fat and tends to clog our veins and arteries. By my late 20's I was 'butter-saturated', and spider veins had begun to appear on the back of my legs. That's when I made the switch: I ceased using any butter and prepared my food with olive oil instead. It took some getting used to. Butter and olive oil are admittedly quite different from each other in taste and consistency. And I started out feeling almost repulsed by the sight of oil being poured directly onto food.

But what a difference! The fat in my diet went from being deadly to health-giving. Within less than a year, the blemishes of clogged veins had disappeared completely - never to return! And now I relish the 'glug' of the precious green liquid spilling from a bottle onto a bowl of beans, into the soup, over the meat, or drizzled lightly on a toasted piece of thickly sliced bread.

Vive la différence! La différence, c'est la vie!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Great Way To Make Gluten-Free Gravy

Not all gravy has to be made with flour.  The tastiest I've ever had was made of pureed root vegetables: potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, and garlic.  The vegetables were first roasted in the oven with olive oil, sea salt and poultry seasonings; then they were "whizzed" with a mixing wand. Enough water was added to perfect the consistency, and finally the gravy was seasoned again to taste. 

This method creates a delicious, lump- and gluten-free, nutritious accompaniment to many main dishes.  You can serve this "gravy" on roasts of any kind: pork, beef, chicken, or turkey (with or without the addition of meat drippings). Or serve it on rice, potatoes, or spaghetti squash as a vegetarian option.

Be inventive this Thanksgiving. The most satisfying meals usually exist right at your fingertips.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reprise: Cakey-Oatmeal-Cookies

photo credit: My cyber pal Ann Hendron MediumAnn 

These cookies are a soft, chewey delicacy.   Their very mild sweetness comes mostly from the plumped raisins and a wee bit of honey.  Those of you who prefer your cookies SWEET will definitely want to add brown sugar, more honey, or whatever your favorite sweetener is. Soaking the raisins overnight in water allows them to release some of their sugars and plump up to twice their normal size.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Granny Smith To The Rescue!

As the weather turns colder and the winds begin to chafe us, the delicate skin of our hands, shins or face may need a remedy.  And an all-natural one can be found in a pretty surprising source.  It is the protective power of the natural properties found in the inner peel of a green apple.

A pragmatist, I like to have my (remedy) and eat it too.  So here is what I do:

I peel a Granny Smith apple and core it for breakfast.  Before enjoying the refreshing fruit, I apply the inside of its skin directly to my face, neck, hands, shins – whatever!  Mind you, not just any sort of apple will do.  I’ve tried it with others, and nothing comes close to the seeling coat of pectin (I think) that the Grannies give. The sweeter apple skins oxidize too fast. The Granny skins will actually last unoxidized in the fridge for a few hours.  I think that difference has something to do with their lower sugar content.

There is a Swiss cosmetic company charging more than $120 for an oz. or two of a green apple anti-aging/wrinkle removing gel.  I prefer to treat myself to a healthy snack and receive ALL its nutrients directly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Refreshing Tuna Salad

Here is an alternative to the tuna salad saturated in mayonnaise that most of us in the States have grown up with:

Drain 1 can of solid white tuna for each person. Using a fork, gently break the fish into bite-sized pieces. Dress it with olive oil, oregano, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Accent with capers, kalamata or black olives and cherry tomatoes (cut in half). Really, just add whatever vegetables and herbs you like and may happen to be in the fridge! Spoon the mixture onto a bed of your favorite leafy green lettuce.

Nourishing, refreshing, good food… and so adult… maybe even chic? Well, ok… canned tuna is not exactly chic, but it can taste lovely (especially when you find it for less than $1.00/can).