April 21, 2014

Traditional Recipe Exchange

Spring Equinox, which falls around March 21st, has passed, and most traditional cultures have celebrated a time of rebirth. I honor the many traditions of spring and renewal that usher us into this profound and often abrupt transition between winter and spring.

Many spring traditions world-wide feature certain ingredients.
These are the traditional foods for Norooz, Persian New Year:
Sabzeh: lentil, barley or wheat sprouts growing in a dish, symbolizing renewal;
Samanu: a thick, sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizing affluence;
Senjed: dried fruit of the lotus tree, symbolizing love;
Sir: garlic, symbolizing medicine;
Sib: apples, symbolizing health and beauty;
Somaq: sumac berries, symbolizing sunrise;
Serkeh: vinegar, symbolizing age and patience.

A traditional dinner for Norooz is Sabzi Polo Mahi, a rice dish with whitefish and green herbs like parsley, coriander, chives, dill, and fenugreek. Here is a Huffington Post article about Norooz.

Do you know a spring food tradition from your heritage?
Send me the recipe and its origin and I will send you my Italian traditional spring recipes in return!
Email your submission to lisa[at]harmonizedcookery.com

April 17, 2014

Simplify

Spring is a great time to simplify your diet. Start enjoying seasonal spring food and try to include at least 7 sevings of fruits and vegetables in your daily intake. Focus on meals comprised of 2/3 vegetables, 1/3 protein, and 1/3 whole grains. 

For protein, choose pastured poultry and eggs, white fish, yogurt, hard cheeses and beans.

Enjoy whole grains such as millet, rice, buckwheat, bulghur (wheat), and amaranth.

Depending on where you live, spring vegetables can vary. Look for these foods as they become available locally. They are high in antioxidants and fiber. Many of them help renew the liver, flush out excess toxins, and digest fats more effectively: asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, burdock root, celery, chicory, chives, dandelion leaf and root, endive, fennel, nettles, parsley and spinach.

Incorporate more fruit into your diet! Try some of these delights: apples, dried apricots, blueberries, apples, oranges, and strawberries.

Health Benefits of Foods

Leeks: strengthen lungs; anti-microbial; anti-bacterial; offer rich source of fructo-oligosaccharides, which stimulate growth of healthy bifidobacteria and suppress the growth of potentially harmful bacteria in the colon.

Millet: alkaline enough to balance body’s pH; nutrient dense, hypo-allergenic, complex carbohydrate; offers a balance of B vitamins to support digestion and provide consistent energy.


Nettles: rich in chlorophyll, fiber, flavonoids, tannins, plant acids and histamin, vitamins A, C, and many minerals, including iron, copper, and calcium.
Parsley: depurative, anti-dandruff, digestive, emmenagogue, expectorant, odontalgic, stomachic, and tonic. rich in Vitamin C to decrease inflammation, beta carotene to help prevent infection and strengthen immunity, and folic acid (B vitamin) to support cardiovascular health. The activity of parsley's volatile oils qualifies it as a "chemoprotective" food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens as well as ease the burn of insect bites and stings.

Recipes

Millet squares
Soak ½ cup millet for 2 hours or so. Strain and rinse millet.
You can also cook without soaking. This process removes phytic acid, making millet more digestible.
Pour into a cooking pot with 2 cups water.
Bring to a boil; then reduce to simmer.
Simmer until millet begins to thicken (about 20 minutes). Stir occasionally, as though cooking oatmeal.

Add:
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon salt
Cook on low heat and stir occasionally until millet thickens.
Grease a large glass baking dish (9x13) with vegetable oil. Turn on the broiler.
Pour millet into the baking dish and flatten it evenly. Broil for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and set.

GET CREATIVE! Toppings: fried eggs and spinach; scallions and sardines; artichoke spread and braised chicken; cumin-spiced pinto beans with roasted carrots; goat cheese and pesto

***
Eggs poached in beet greens

Take a bunch of beet greens, rinse them, and place them in a deep skillet with an inch of water at the bottom.
Bring to a boil, covered, and reduce to simmer.
Add salt and black pepper.
Crack four eggs on top of the beet greens. Place lid on skillet and angle it to leave enough of an opening for steam to escape.
Slowly poach the eggs on low heat for 5-6 minutes for soft yolks (8-9 minutes for hard yolks).
Meanwhile, chop a handful of each of these fresh herbs if you have them: mint, basil, parsley, cilantro.
Add fresh herbs on top of poaching eggs and steam briefly.
Remove each egg from the skillet with a slotted spatula and place on plates. 

GET CREATIVE! Serve with toast or quinoa; drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice; use as a topping for millet waffles.

***
Zuppa verde - Italian green vegetable soup
You will need:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely sliced
2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts finely sliced crosswise
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled, split, woody core removed, finely sliced
4 yellow or red potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, sliced (optional)
6 cups water
Salt, thyme, and oregano to taste - about 1 teaspoon each
2 cups fresh green beans, tips snapped, cut crosswise into ½-inch lengths
3 small, firm zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices

Place olive oil in a soup pot and heat gently. Add the onion and sauté for 15 minutes on medium heat.
Add leeks, celery, carrots, potatoes (if using), and zucchini. Sauté for 5 more minutes. Add water and herbs. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, for about ½ hour.

Incorporate green beans and cook another 15 minutes until the beans are done but still a bit crunchy. Add a handful of freshly chopped basil and serve.

Resources:
Kushi, Michio. The Macrobiotic Way. Avery, 2004.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing With Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books, 2002.
Turner, Kristina. The Self-Healing Cookbook. Earthtone Press, 2002.

April 13, 2014

Heirloom Wheat

Can an Heirloom Grain Help Resolve Wheat Allergies?

According to research conducted on the ongoing hybridization of wheat and its effects on human digestion, "we have scientific evidence that indeed, gluten sensitivity not only exists, but is very different from celiac disease." Alessio Fasano, medical director at the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research, explains that wheat sensitivity is on the rise in the United States. One reason may be the continued breeding of wheat to increase production, making it genetically divergent from the wheat consumed two generations ago.

While the gluten-free products industry grows by millions each year, Vermont grain farmers like Ben Gleason continue to cultivate heirloom grains and artisan bakers tirelessly produce crunchy, hearty loaves from them. Cyrus Pringle, named after an Addison County farmer, is a hearty winter wheat strand that has not been hybridized since its initial cultivation in the mid 1800’s.

Could wheat-sensitive people digest Cyrus Pringle bread baked with a traditional French sourdough at Red Hen Baking? Randy George, the bakery’s founder and owner, has high hopes. The Gleasons’ grains are carefully monitored and ground in a stone mill on site to ensure freshness. Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm is so passionate about small-scale heirloom grain production that he wrote a book about it, which was released by Chelsea Green in 2013. in his 33 years of grain growing, Lazor realizes that “true wealth comes from the ability to feed ourselves from the land.”


April 8, 2014

Spinach for spring

A wonderful spring vegetable, spinach is growing in many farmers' greenhouses right now. Enjoy its mineral rich content and know that your digestive tract will thank you for eating green fiber! You can substitute chard if you like, which is another delicious green member of the chenopodium family.

Spinach Rosemary Soup
Rosemary adds a complex flavor to this simple soup while helping to boost brain function and immunity.

You will need:
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons rosemary, fresh
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 cups red potatoes, rinsed and cubed
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
6 cups fresh spinach (or chard)

To prepare:
Add oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. 
Add onion, garlic, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. 
Pour in broth.. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in spinach (or chard) and continue to simmer until the greens are tender, about 10 minutes more.
Puree the soup with an immersion blender or regular blender (in batches), leaving it a little chunky if desired.
Serve the soup garnished with nutmeg, if desired, and topped with a spoonful of yogurt (cow or almond).

***
Mung Bean and Spinach Stew
This fresh spring stew will nourish you and re-vitalize your senses! Breathe in the aromas of ginger and chiles and savor their digestive power.

You will need:
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger

2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce
4 cups mung beans, soaked overnight and cooked
1 cup water
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

To serve:
Freshly squeezed lime juice
Cilantro 

To prepare:
Rinse and drain mung beans. Cook in 8 cups water, skimming any foam that rises to the top. Once tender, drain and rinse once more.
Rinse and cook quinoa in 2 cups water with a pinch of salt.
Place minced garlic and ginger in a skillet with coconut oil. Saute on medium heat for 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Add chile, paprika, and Tamari. 
Reduce heat to low. Add cooked mung beans and stir together.
Add water, cilantro and spinach.
Cook on medium heat until spinaceh is wilted, about 3 minutes.
Turn off the heat, stir in the rest of the ingredients, and serve in bowls garnished with fresh cilantro and lemon juice.

April 4, 2014

Maple Delights for Spring

Call me crazy. I live in northern Vermont, despite the fact that I grew up in Mediterranean Italy. Go figure. Truly, though, this state is the best-kept secret ever because of our harsh winters that lead to glorious mud - I mean - spring, then abundant summer and radiant fall. 

Right now, maple sap is running, the birds are singing, and I saw the first signs of the garden beds emerging from under the mountains of snow this morning! It's time to celebrate with maple-inspired spring breakfasts and snacks.

Maple syrup is an incredibly nutritious and mineral-rich food. It is also minimally processed, which helps our bodies metabolize it more slowly than refined sugars without robbing minerals from our blood and bones to digest it. When I drink maple sap from our trees or savor maple syrup in the spring, I truly feel aligned with the seasons.

Steel Cut Oatcakes
This is my favorite thing to do with leftover oatmeal.

You will need:

1 cup rice or spelt flour
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon each: baking powder and baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup cooked steel-cut oats*
1 large egg, lightly beaten 
OR 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal soaked briefly in just as much warm water
1/2 cup full fat unsweetened yogurt (cow, goat, or almond)
1/2 cup milk (cow, oat, or almond)
3 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

*To cook the oats:

Soak overnight in cold water. In the morning, rinse, drain, and cook with twice as much water, stirring often, for 20 minutes. Add vanilla, butter, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and top with almonds and berries if you like. Save leftovers for oatcakes.


To prepare the oatcakes:
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, syrup, nutmeg baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Make a well in the center. Into it, stir together the oats, egg, yogurt, milk, oil, vanilla and lemon juice. 
Stir these wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until incorporated but not completely smooth.

To cook the oatcakes:
Preheat a non-stick or cast iron griddle over medium high heat. Lightly brush with butter or coconut oil. Ladle about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the pan.
Cook until the edges become dry and the center bubbles, about 3 minutes.
Flip and cook on the other side until golden and puffed, about another 2 minutes. Remove to a platter and keep warm in a low oven if needed. Continue until all batter is used.
Serve the oatcakes with fresh or frozen berries heated in a small pot of maple syrup.

***
Coconut Maple Bread
This makes a wonderful breakfast with nut butter and jam or a delightful afternoon snack with a cup of dandelion root tea.

You will need:
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal soaked briefly in 1/4 cup warm water

1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 1/2 cups flour - rice or spelt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon each: cinnamon and ginger

1/2 teaspoon each: cardamom and cloves
pinch salt
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.
Soak flaxseed in a large bowl. 
After 5 minutes or so, add coconut milk, vanilla, maple and vinegar.
Add flours, baking powder, spices and salt. Stir in the coconut. 
Fold in the melted coconut oil.

Grease a loaf pan. I like to melt coconut oil in the loaf pan in the preheating oven, then pour melted oil into the batter and save a bit for greasing. 
Once the loaf pan is greased, pour in the batter and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in its tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a cutting board. Slice thickly and serve as is or with almond butter and maple syrup.

***
Maple Almond Orange Cake
This is a fabulous hiking snack and makes an elegant dessert when covered in coconut maple frosting.
You will need:
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 sticks butter OR 1/2 cup coconut oil
zest and juice of 1 orange

2 large eggs, lightly beaten OR 2 tablespoon flaxseed meal soaked briefly in just as much warm water
3/4 cup yogurt (cow, goat, or almond)
2 1/2 cups flour - rice or spelt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon and nutmeg
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Toast almonds over very low heat in a dry saute pan until they are golden. 
Save a few almonds to top the cake.
In a large bowl, whisk together the syrup, butter or oil, juice and zest, eggs, and yogurt.
When the mixture is quite smooth, add the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
Fold in the almonds.
Grease a loaf pan or round cake pan and fill with the batter. Smooth and flatten the top and sprinkle with the reserved almonds.
Bake for about 45 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before turning out onto a plate or cutting board and serving. YUM.

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