Curried Rice Salad


The weather was beautiful today (perfect temperature for a salad), and I am on a grain salad kick so I decided to make a curried brown rice basmati salad with raisins and cashews. It is simple to make and so good for you. With the turmeric and curry, it is perfect brain food for those of us studying for finals. Studies show that turmeric can enhance memory and, by the same mechanisms, helps to prevent against dementia. Turmeric is also known to relieve carpel tunnel syndrome, joint inflammation and pain. It is used around the world as a treatment for fever, mild stomach upset, infection, arthritis, jaundice and other liver problems, to kill infectious microbes and to improve heart health.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups brown basmati rice, rinsed and well-drained
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-1/2 cups water or broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins, soaked for several minutes in hot water until softened slightly and drained
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 small red bell pepper, sliced or diced
  • 1/2 cup soaked and dried cashews or almonds, lightly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
DIRECTIONS

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the rice. Quickly stir the rice until it is well-coated in the oil. Add the curry powder, turmeric, and bay leaves. Stir to mix the ingredients together completely. Add the water or broth and bring to a boil. When the rice reaches a boil, add the salt and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer until done (about 15 minutes), transfer the rice to a large mixing bowl and set aside in the refrigerator to cool.

When the rice has cooled, mix in the currants or raisins, chopped celery, red bell pepper and nuts. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil with the lime juice and pour over the rice. Mix thoroughly and enjoy.

Greek Orzo Pasta Salad

A good friend of mine just found out that she is allergic to cow’s milk and I wanted to provide an easy and favorite recipe. This allergy is different than lactose intolerance, the inability to fully digest lactose (milk sugar) in dairy products, which is caused by a deficiency in lactase. Milk allergies are more serious and can be caused by an allergy to casein (the protein in cow’s milk) or whey. I am using feta, which is made with sheep’s milk and a little bit of goat's milk, (read the ingredients carefully, today it is common to find feta made commercially with pasteurized cow's milk). You should be able to find authentic feta made with sheep's and goat’s milk at the grocery store or a specialty food store. Most people find that they can tolerate goat's or sheep's milk products much better than cow’s milk. You can always substitute goat cheese in this recipe, but it won’t have the same briny tang and will be a sweeter dish.


INGREDIENTS
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese feta
  • 1/2 cup raw pine nuts
  • 15 pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
DIRECTIONS

Place pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Shake the skillet frequently to ensure even browning—the pine nuts are small and full of rich oils and can burn quickly. When the nuts are fragrant and golden, take the pan off the heat. Transfer the pine nuts to a plate to cool.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

In large bowl combine pasta, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, olives, pine nuts, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Toss and chill for 1 hour in refrigerator.

Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract

I recently returned from the most amazing vacation to Mexico. It was beautiful, incredibly relaxing and K proposed! Best week ever. While we were there, we picked up a bunch of little bottles of vanilla extract (careful not to buy any that contains tonka bean extract, which contains coumarin), as pure vanilla extract from Mexico is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, as we were about to board our plane, everyone’s bags were searched again and for some reason the extract was confiscated. We were in too much of a post-engagement stupor to fight it, and when I got home I decided to just make my own vanilla extract.

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is the combining of two ingredients—it’s so easy! I love to make my own because purchased vanilla extract can be full of chemicals (coal tar and anti-freeze!) and other additives. And the good stuff can be expensive. You can make this recipe with vodka instead of bourbon, but even though I am not from the south, I am more of a bourbon girl. It is so easy and inexpensive. I use vanilla beans leftover from recipes, like vanilla bean payesh, by simply rinsing them off and adding them to the bourbon. You can also use a new bean, like I did this time, in order to add the fragrant vanilla seeds. Whenever you get low, just top off the bottle with a little bourbon and add vanilla beans whenever you can.

Take a sharp knife and split in half two whole vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds. Put them in  a sterile jar along with 1/2 cup of bourbon. Shake the jar and store sealed in a dark place (like your pantry). Every few days give it a good shake. After two weeks you will have a mild vanilla extract and the flavor will continue to get stronger the longer it sits. As I mentioned before, continue to add more vanilla beans and bourbon so that you have a never ending supply. Add it to your favorite recipes that call for vanilla extract.



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Ripe Plantain Cake/Torta De Platano Maduro

Breakfast. I love breakfast foods and, like most people, love it at any time of day. A picture of my perfect breakfast is shown above. There it is in all its yummy glory. An egg from a pastured hen fried perfectly in ghee, sliced avocado, black beans with a dollop of yogurt and a slice of warm plantain cake. Yum.

I love anything with plantains (plantain chips!) and I have been on a quest to find a great plantain cake recipe that is not made with flour. This is a Venezuelan recipe from the Latin American cookbook in the Time Life Cookbook series. Traditionally it accompanies meat dishes, but I love it as a side with my favorite breakfast. I substitute rapurda for sugar in this recipe as it is a dried, unrefined and naturally evaporated sugar cane juice. The processing method to obtain it retains the original natural vitamins and minerals in the sugar.

INGREDIENTS
  • 7 tablespoons organic butter or ghee
  • 2 plantains, very ripe, peeled and cut in half crosswise and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 cups queso blanco, grated 
  • 3 tablespoons rapadura
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 organic eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon flour or dried breadcrumbs (I use almond flour but you can use whatever you prefer)
DIRECTIONS
In a heavy 8 to 10 inch skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter/ghee over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, drop in the sliced plantains and cook, turning frequently, until the slices are golden brown on both sides. Transfer the plantains to a double thickness of paper towels to drain.

In a small bowl, mix the grated cheese, rapadura and cinnamon and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk or a rotary or electric beater until they are stiff enough to form unwavering peaks on the beater.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are thick and lemon colored, then with a spatula fold the whites into the yolks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease the bottom and sides of a deep 1 quart baking dish or mold, then sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of flour or bread crumbs, tipping the dish to spread the flour or crumbs as evenly as possible.

Turn the dish over and rap it sharply to remove any excess. Ladle about a quarter of the egg mixture into the dish, and spread it with the back of a spoon. Cover with a layer of plantains--using about one third of the slices. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup of the cheese mixture and dot with 1 tablespoon of butter.

Repeat the layers two more times, ending with the egg mixture. Dot with the last tablespoon of butter and place in the middle of the oven.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Serve hot directly from the baking dish, or let the cake cool for 5 minutes or so.

Enjoy! I am off for a very much needed vacation and will be back in a few weeks!




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Almond Shortbread Cookies


I received a very important question on my facebook page the other day:


Do you have any gluten free bakery recipes? Using real food? I am sick of all the gluten free desserts that are loaded up with other junk.


I completely agree! Cutting out or eliminating gluten can be an important, and sometimes lifesaving, step towards better health. However, many gluten free foods have incredibly long ingredient lists comprised of foreign items. In my quest for a gluten free cookie that was made with real whole food, I came up with this tasty tea cookie. Warning, you may just want to eat the dough, and I won't fault you for that. However, if you end up baking these you will be surprised by their lovely flavor. These can be made as indicated below, or rolled out and cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters. It would also make a great whole food pie crust.


One of the ingredients that makes this cookie so yummy and satisfying is ghee. Ghee is a form of clarified butter that is essential in most Indian cooking. It is not hard to make but lately more and more stores are selling it. Ghee has a high smoking point (which means it can withstand higher heat without oxidizing), is a natural preservative and has great buttery flavor. It is lactose free so it is safe for those with lactose intolerance. Ghee is believed to stimulate the secretion of stomach acids to help with digestion and is rich with antioxidants. It aids in the absorption of vitamins and minerals, strengthens the immune system and has anti-viral properties.


Print Recipe

INGREDIENTS
DIRECTIONS


Blend almonds in a mixer until they become the consistency of sand. Add baking soda and cinnamon and blend. Melt ghee and maple syrup together and add to the mix. Add your splash of vanilla extract. Blend


This is what it looks like at first.


And here, after continued blending, it is starting to come together as a loose dough.


Place dough in the center of a large piece of parchment paper and form into a log (I usually form a narrow log because I like them bite size). Make the log the size that you want your cookies to be.


Roll up the log tightly in the parchment paper and place in the freezer for an hour.


Preheat oven to 350°. Remove dough from the freezer and cut into slices.


Bake for about 7 minutes, maybe longer depending on your oven. Let them cool until they are crispy. Enjoy!


Note: You can use almond flour, or skinless almonds, to create a lighter dough. You can also add chopped pecans or hazelnuts to the dough to change the flavor. Cinnamon can be substituted with your favorite spice.

Also, this recipe is essentially enough to satisfy the snacking needs of two people. If you need more, double or triple the recipe. 

 

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The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg and Egg Salad


The perfect hard boiled egg. So easy in theory,  yet it can easily (and so often does) end up undercooked, or overcooked with that unappetizing green ring around it. The beauty of a perfectly cooked egg gets my stomach rumbling, so let’s begin!

Place the eggs*, organic please, in a pot with cold water. Make sure that there is enough water in the pot to cover the eggs. Bring to a gentle boil. Then, remove the pot from the heat and cover with a tight fitting lid. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Let the eggs sit for 8-12 minutes. 8 minutes leads to a more moist yolk that is a deeper orange color. 12 minutes, as shown in the pictures, leads to a pale yellow yolk. Both are perfect, it is just a matter of preference. After the time is up, place the eggs in the ice water for about 5 minutes. Done!

Perfect Egg Salad

Eggs are incredibly nutritious and a very inexpensive way to make a hearty and satisfying meal. Unless you are allergic to eggs, or vegan, eggs are awesome and your friend. One large egg contains about 6.5 grams of protein, as well as vitamin D, selenium, iodine, vitamin B2, phosphorus, vitamin B5 and vitamin B12. Eggs contain a nutrient called choline which helps to enhance brain function and reduce inflammation. Contrary to past belief, studies are currently showing that eating eggs helps to reduce weight, improve cholesterol profiles and increase cardiovascular health. It is important to underscore the vitamin D found in the yolk, as the majority of individuals do not obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D enhances the immune system and promotes calcium absorption, resulting in stronger bones, a calmer nervous system and overall enhanced wellness.


The addition of pickles, when properly made, adds a probiotic boost to this salad that assists with numerous health issues. Please read the post on pickles for more information. If you use purchased pickles, try a brand like Bubbies that is found in the refrigerator aisle. If you want this to be a complete real food meal, check out this post for instructions on how to make your own mayonnaise.

Print Recipe
INGREDIENTS
  • 6 large organic eggs, cracked and peeled
  • 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon mustard, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickles or pickle relish
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions, or to taste
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS

Mash all ingredients together with a fork or potato masher to desired consistency.

*This is not a recipe for your freshest eggs, as they are harder to peel after boiling.



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Strawberry Balsamic Sorbet

After my post on Five Spice Banana Cream, I received many emails asking for more satisfying and nourishing desserts, that are quick and easy to make. I love making sorbet with frozen fruit; it is so tasty and easy. The weather has started to been getting warm up here in the Bay Area, which reminded me how nice it is to have a frozen treat on a hot day. Sorbet can be made with a variety of flavor combinations, but my all time favorite is Strawberry Balsamic Sorbet. You already know that I love Strawberry Balsamic Jam and here is a great way to save those summer strawberries that don’t make it into jam—freeze them! Best of all about this recipe, it is only three ingredients!
Make sure to use good quality, pure Balsamic vinegar (read the label!), as most commercial Balsamic is made with red wine vinegar or concentrated grape juice mixed with strong vinegar, and then laced with caramel and sugar--not what nature intended! Balsamic vinegar has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and contains the powerful antioxidant polyphenols. Polyphenols fights free radicals, boosts the immune system and protects the body against heart disease. Balsamic vinegar also contains a metabolism-boosting enzyme called pepsin and is chock full of minerals. Taste-wise, it really boosts the fabulous strawberry flavor making this an incredibly satisfying sorbet. I use maple syrup in this sorbet as a sweetener, due to its numerous health benefits and its ability to blend smoothly.
INGREDIENTS 
  • 3 cups loosely packed whole organic frozen strawberries
  • ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (grade B if possible)
DIRECTIONS

Let strawberries sit for 10-15 minutes, so that they are still cold but not hard. Blend with vinegar and maple syrup until smooth. Put back in the freezer for a few hours and then scoop out and enjoy! It can’t get any easier than that! :)


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