An Easy Healthy Dinner


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I wanted to try something slightly different but easy for dinner:

Several garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes

I large poblano pepper, seeded and chopped

7-8 dried mission figs, cut in half

Saute the garlic, sweet potato, and figs in olive oil.  When garlic is slightly carmelized and sweet potatoes are soft, add the broccoli and poblano peppers. Saute until tender but still bright green.  Add your choice of spices.  Tonight I added garam masala and berbere.  Just before serving add 1 cup garbanzo beans (I added them after I took the photo above).  Cook just until beans are warm.  Do not over cook.

This can be served over rice or farro.  This evening I cooked farro.  I do not follow directions on the package.  To add flavor, saute the farro for a minute in avocado oil, add the water — 1 cup farro to 4 cups water.  When it starts to boil, add bouillon of your choice, stir thoroughly, and continue cooking per package directions.

For more recipes like this, see my new memoir/cookbook:  You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends, at  www.dreamcatcherbooks.com. Angel Editions.

 

 

 

You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends


This is my new book, published last month.  It is filled with stories, poems, and recipes–healthy food for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, and meat eaters with photos and detailed instructions. Currently, it can be purchased at Burrowing Owl bookstores in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas, and online at http://www.dreamcatcherbooks.com, Angel editions.

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What’s For Dinner


Thinking up new, healthy, creative dinners sometimes poses a challenge.  Last night I stood in the pantry door, looked around, went to the refrigerator to see what I already had available.  Although the vegetable combination is not unusual for me, I decided to use farro instead of pasta or rice.  Farro, a staple in ancient Rome,  has been called “the mother of all wheat”. I buy pearled, organic farro. It is chewy, a good source of fiber, and high in protein.  I do not follow the directions on the bag. Here is how I cook farro for two servings:

1 cup farro

3 cups water

1 Tsp. Better Than Bouillon

Avocado oil

Cover the bottom of a sauce pan with the oil, pour in the farro.  Turn heat on high, constantly stirring, saute the farro in the oil for a couple of minutes, then pour in the water.  Add the bouillon and stir thoroughly.  Turn the heat down but keep the farro boiling.  Do not cover.  Stir at regular intervals.  Do not let it go dry.  It should take about 1/2 hour for the farro to become tender.  Test and if needed, add more water.  Cook until the water is absorbed and farro is tender.

 

Last night’s vegetable sauce:

Cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil.  Add five cloves garlic, coarsely chopped and one medium sized beet, cut into medium sized pieces.  Saute until tender.  Add five to six sliced Brussels sprouts.  When Brussels sprouts are partially cooked, add one large poblano pepper, coarsely chopped, seeds removed.  Saute until pepper is tender but still bright green. Last night I used berbere, an Ethiopian spice, to jazz up the sauce.  Sometimes I use basil or other Italian spices.  I vary the vegetables, sometimes using sliced carrots, broccoli, kale.  Be creative.  Use vegetables you like.  If you want something non vegetarian, add chopped chicken or cod loins.

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Above is a photo of the cooked vegetables ready to serve.

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The vegetables served over the farro.  If you are not vegan, you can grate asiago or parmesan cheese over the top.

 

More Creative Cooking


Experimentation and creativity while cooking become really important when you are home and going out and about does not seem a very safe option.  Here are some photos of two recent dishes I created for dinner.

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Many people do not like certain vegetables, two of which are my favorites, beets and Brussels spouts.  I remain convinced that people do not like them because no one has ever cooked them in a way they find palatable. These two vegetables keep well in the refrigerator so they are good for buying in this time when many do not want to go to the grocery often.

To create the above dish, I sautéed several chopped garlic cloves in olive oil with the chopped beets.  Cook these until nearly done, then add the sliced Brussels sprouts.  It takes longer to cook the beets and garlic than the Brussels sprouts.  You want the Brussels spouts to be tender but do not over cook.  This particular day I added basil essential oil to taste and served the dish over pasta from Italy.  When I want something more spicy, I sprinkle berbere (Ethiopian spice) over the vegetables instead of using basil or other Italian spices.  Sometimes I serve this over rice instead of pasta, e.g. when I use berbere.  This provides a delicious vegan meal and is easy to prepare.

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One of my favorite dishes includes cod loins.  I create many different versions by changing the vegetables used and the spices. For this one, I first sautéed garlic in olive oil until golden, added chopped beets and sautéed until they were tender.  Then I added the cod loin and chopped red bell pepper and chopped poblano pepper.  At the last minute I added a handful of frozen green peas and sautéed only until they were hot.  Once again I used basil and added lemon essential oil.  The pasta is bucatini from Italy.  If you like cheese, grate fresh parmesan or asiago over the dish.

Stuffed Acorn Squash


Winter squash, butternut and acorn, are two vegetables I like and think are under used.  Because I became tired of peeling butternut, I decided to invent something for acorn squash.  Much to my surprise, it is now one of Martina’s favorite foods.  She has even sent photos to her mother in Italy to see if the squash is sold there so her family can try it.  The following recipe is for two. Obviously, just buy more squash and fill if you want to make it for more people.  This is a perfect recipe for vegetarians because no meat or fish is used.

 

1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds removed

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

Olive oil

1/2 to 1 teaspoon honey for each half

Pepitas or any chopped nut of your choice

Saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil until translucent.  Stir in approximately one handful of seeds or nuts.  Rub olive oil in the bottom of a small baking dish or pan and cover the flesh of the squash with a thin layer of olive oil.  Place squash in the pan, fill deseeded center with the onion mixture.  Place honey on top of this mixture.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash halves.

For a totally vegetarian meal, serve with salad.

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If you want to add more protein to the meal, add black or garbanzo beans to the salad.  Sometimes we also add chopped hard boiled eggs and feta cheese.

 

 

 

Cod Loin with Fennel and Lemon


This recipe, one of my favorites, will appear in my soon to be released cookbook full of family and life stories about food, family, and friends.  I made this tonight around eight.  As usual, I made enough for leftovers for another meal. Makes it easier if you work or are really busy.

Two small cod loins or one large cut in half

3 gloves garlic, chopped

1 poblano pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

Fennel essential oil

Lemon essential oil

Vegetables of your choosing cut into bite sized pieces

1 small handful of pepitas

Olive oil

I vary this by using different vegetables, e.g. spinach, Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, beets, carrots.  Tonight I used Brussel sprouts.

Saute garlic in olive oil until golden.  If you use beets or carrots, sauce them with the garlic until nearly tender.  If you use spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, add them last.

Add the cod loins to garlic mixture and sprinkle each one with several drops of lemon and fennel essential oil.  If you do not use essential oil, sprinkle with ground fennel and add deseeded lemons.  If using Brussel sprouts, cut them in slices and add at the same time as the cod.  When the cod is half cooked, add the poblano peppers and cook only until cod is done and the peppers are cooked but still bright green.  If using spinach, etc., add them just before cod and peppers are done and stir until wilted.  Sprinkle pepitas over the rice and vegetables.  Serve over pasta or rice.

Note:  I have also used fresh fennel for this recipe.  If you decide to do this, saute it along with the garlic.

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Almost done.

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Served over Basmati rice.  Salad is red bell peppers, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, radishes, and scallions with roasted sesame seed oil for dressing.

Overweight and Poorer


Today I planned to post a lovely poem.  However, I was so engrossed by an article on the Internet that I decided to discuss that topic instead.  Why are so many people in this country overweight?  Why do people complain about being poorer?

The article in question, which I could not download and post here, claims that the biggest item on which people in the United States overspend is eating out at restaurants.  It is also a major cause of obesity.  On average when a person eats in a restaurant they eat 200 calories more than if he or she ate at home.  If that person eats out three times a week, that adds up to more than 30,000 extra calories a year.  Even if he or she eats fast food, which probably adds even more calories, the extra expenditure at even a low 8.00 per meal, would  add to nearly 1300 dollars per year.  If it is a family, multiply that by the  number of people in the family.  For 8 dollars, they could go to the grocery here in Texas and buy a delicious already roasted chicken that would feed at least four.

Personally, I find few restaurants that can actually create a meal better than one I can cook myself.  Others say who wants to cook for oneself.  I live alone and I cook for myself all but a couple of times a month.  Being a bit of a health nut and not much of a meat eater (I eat quite a lot of fish, usually cod or salmon), that 8 dollars would turn into much bigger amounts.  Plus I do not want to waste the time eating out.  I can create a much healthier meal, cheaper, quicker at home.  Restaurant food tends to be much saltier with fewer herbs and spices than I prefer as well.

I am curious to find out why others eat out all the time.  It mystifies me.

 

PS.  Curious as to what sorts of foods I create, what spices I use?  I have posted lots of recipes here on my blog.  Take a look.

 

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Don’t eat This or Else…


This title showed up as an article in my latest “Yoga Journal”.  We hear warnings all the time about various foods so much so that sometimes I wonder just what I should eat.  The article details research on three foods which may be dangerous to ingest.

The first one is rice which really frightened me at first because I really, really like rice and eat it multiple times a week.  The problem with rice is arsenic, yes, arsenic.  Everyone knows that arsenic is not good.  Due to arsenic containing herbicides and pesticides, harmful levels have been found in rice.  Why?  Rice grows in water and therefore absorbs ten times more arsenic than other grains.  This not only means humans need to be careful about eating rice but also other products such as brown rice syrup found in infant food and energy bars.  Is organic safer?  No.  And forget eating brown rice because it contains 80 per cent more arsenic than white rice.  These rice warnings also apply to products made from rice including crackers, pasta, cereal, even rice milk.

Does this mean eliminate all rice?  Not necessarily.  Some rice has much less arsenic than others.  The safest rice from the arsenic standpoint is white basmati from India, Pakistan, and California.  Lundberg is one company that tests for arsenic so their rice should be safe as well.  Rinsing rice thoroughly helps.  You can also cook it in extra water and drain like you would pasta.  Boiling leaches out the arsenic.

The verdict is still out regarding GMOs.  Some countries have banned GMO foods totally.  According to the article in “Yoga Journal”, the only GMO crops commercially grown here currently are soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and some summer squash.  The FDA has approved an apple that does not turn brown and a potato that produces less carcinogenic compounds when cooked at high temperatures.  If you want to avoid GMO, look at the list above.  Some farmers are growing non-GMO soybeans.  However, they usually go to foreign markets which do not want GMO products, e.g. China.

For me, the worst on the list, carrageenan, remains the most hidden because most people do not even know they are eating it.  Where is it?  In ice cream, yogurt, nut milk, canned whipped cream, cottage cheese, salad dressing.  Why care?  New evidence indicates it may cause all sorts of health problems from gastro-intestinal inflammation to cancer and diabetes.  The only way you will know if this is in a food product is to carefully read the label.  Some zero fat yogurt contain it and some do not.  Silk brand nut milk does not contain it whereas several other popular brands do, e.g the ones that are not in the refrigerated section at the grocery. Some companies are fazing it out of all their products; this includes Horizon and Silk.

The only way to eat for good health and be safe it seems is to keep up on the latest research and read the labels.  Know what you are eating.  Bon appetit.

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Note:  the rice used here is basmati from Pakistan.

Long Life


If you believe in averages and want to live long, don’t live in the United States of America, a country that failed to make it to the top ten for either men or women.  Some countries appear to be better for one gender than another.  A few countries remain in the top ten for both genders:  Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Italy, and Luxembourg.  Iceland’s the place to be if you are a man, Spain for women.  Worldwide the mean for men is 68.1 and for women 72.7. Sadly, the discrepancy from country to country is immense.  Nine countries still show a life expectancy less than 55 years, all in sub-Sahara Africa.  War and AIDS take their toll.

Blue Zones remain the place to grow up and live if you desire a long healthy life.  Where are they?  Okinawa, a peninsula in Costa Rica–I’ve been close, Sardinia, Loma Linda in California–Seventh Day Adventists, to name a few.  Genetics, according to some experts, predicts only twenty per cent of longevity.  Then why do people in these places live long and healthy?  What do they have in common:

-healthy diets with lots of vegetables and fruit

-activity–the people there get a lot of exercise, e.g. climbing up and down the mountains of Sardinia

-a sense of community–people get together often

Some communities in the US plan to become Blue Zones.  Fort Worth, Texas, even has a Blue Zone project which includes encouraging restaurants to provide healthier options, a bike share program, and an initiative to combat childhood obesity.  My guess is that the United States will lag further and further behind unless the obesity epidemic can be controlled.  So far, I don’t see that happening.

What can you do to prolong your own life:

-don’t smoke

-eats lots of fruit and vegetables

-avoid sugar

-eat less meat and more fish

-eat less–Okinawans quit eating when they are 80 per cent full; they even have a saying for this

-spend time with friends and family

-find ways to increase your exercise even if it is as simple as throwing away your TV remote control

If I live the average of my parents and grandparents, I have a long way to go so I must take care of myself to stay healthy.