Author Archives for Jacqueline Raposo

About Jacqueline Raposo

I'm an interviewer, food writer, and podcast producer. Chronically ill + feisty.

Sweet Alternatives for a Healthy Valentine

I have a super-sweet tooth, which definitely comes into conflict with my (mostly) sugar-free diet and serious hypoglycemia. So this week I’m highlighting my tricks on foods that satisfy the urge but will leave you feeling energized and full at the same time, without rocking the diet or endangering your health… just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Tip before launching into the list: food combining. I’ll go into details another time, but starches don’t mix well with fruits, causing digestive upset and weight gain (they also don’t mix well with meat… but more on that later). So in satisfying the cravings for sweets, keep this in mind for optimal digestion and weight maintenance. I know I used to love fruit on cereals, or with toast or on cakes, but it’s just so much more worth it to abstain.

From Slimming to Sinful… My Sweet List

  1. ALMOND BUTTER: My favorite sweet-craving alternative is Almond Butter on millet toast or slathered on an apple. Nuts combine well with healthy starches, together making a perfect protein, while giving a boost of protein and filling the belly comfortably. They’re high in monounsaturated fats, so they attack heart disease while being lower in calories than most nuts and super-concentrated with vitamin E. For women, almonds have been known to calm menstrual cramps when consumed daily. And for pregnant women, eating raw almonds is killer when battling nausea.
  2. KOREAN YAM: If you’re an urban-dweller, chances are you’ve seen Korean Yams in your local bodega and had no idea what they were. Also called Chinese Yam and Japanese Mountain Yams, they’re my FAVORITE root vegetable, much like a sweet potato but with a white flesh and a bit drier, sorta resembling boiled chestnuts in taste. From my research I’ve learned they’re great at aiding digestion and fighting fatigue due to the amount of mucin in them, which also aids in relieving constipation and reducing cholesterol! Amazing how the body craves what it needs. My favorite way to eat them is just to wash, poke some holes in and bake them. Or slice and season with a little oil, salt and pepper, and bake until crispy.
  3. SWEET POTATO: One of my little indulgences is Sweet Potato Chips from Terra Chips. Sweet potatoes, canola, sunflower/safflower oil… I’m in heaven. They really satisfy both the sweet and savory cravings. Just be careful – one serving goes down really quickly! To do even better for your body and bake fresh sweet potatoes, try slicing them in chunks or fry shape, and bake with a little oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, cumin, cinnamon… whatever spice combination you want to try… until they’re dark and crispy. A 400 degree oven or hotter usually seals the deal. My mouth is watering…
  4. Cinnamon: So simple, but adding cinnamon to foods tricks the mind, as cinnamon is associated with sweetness. So literally throw it on things you wouldn’t normally think to pair it with: roasted chicken, sauteed greens, on all fruits and plenty of vegetables. It’s great for you, so enjoy!
  5. Beets: Yes, beets are sweet, and great for the liver. To cook to sweetest potential, peel, slice and roast with a little cinnamon and salt still blackened at the edges. Or grab Terra’s Sweets and Beets mix for a ridiculous snack satisfier.
  6. Raw Cacao Nibs: A live super-food, I’ve very recently started adding raw cacao into my diet, and am SO HAPPY to have tried it out. The health benefits are too abundant to repeat here, so just click to be directed to LiveSuperFoods.com, a phenomenal website on all good-things live, with very reasonable prices – I have a feeling I’ll be ordering with them soon. To sum-up: raw cacao has more antioxidants than red wine, blueberries, and 4-times as much as a cup of green tea! Without the additions of processing and sugar, it’s not an indulgence – it’s medicine! The taste is nutty and a bit sharp, and the smell is INCREDIBLE! My boyfriend thought I was baking while sitting next to him, about 2 teaspoons of nibs mixed in my cereal! My favorite way to eat them is on my Uncle Sam’s cereal, or mixed with nuts and goji berries. Speaking of which…
  7. Gogi Berries: Another live super-food that’s been on my list for a while, goji berries are tiny, red and sweet, packing lots of anti-oxidants and strengthening the immune system. You can even get goji-berry juice for a power shot or an addition to smoothies. I add them to apple sauce and power-protein mixes for some sweet satisfaction!
  8. Organic Nectars Raw Agave Gelato: I’m currently exploring agave syrup from Organic Nectars out of Woodstock, NY, a town I’ve never been to but mentally have been stalking for their great products and housing of Phillip Petit.  It’s made from cashews and agave. Way decadent.  And because the agave is raw, it’s not heated and reduced to a syrup that’s worse for you than corn syrup (ew).
  9. COCONUT MILK: Coconut milk is great for you, especially if you have chronic conditions. Blend it with fruit for a smoothie, throw it in an ice-cream maker with crushed fruit for sorbet… have fun!

And now my recipes for guilt-free yummy desserts!

  1. Superfood Ooey-gooey winter warmth: This combines sweet bananas with protein packed nuts for a warming and indulgent treat. Note: this is practically the only time I ever use a microwave… in general, I truly believe stove-top warming is the way to go to avoid unnecessary rays. And careful if consuming too late at night, as the sugar in the banana and the spunk in the cacao can keep you up thinking. Slice an entire banana and microwave in a small bowl for 50 seconds, so that the bottom of the bowl has really soft banana but the top layer is pretty intact, warmed through. To the bowl add any combination of the following: 1 teaspoon almond butter, 10 or so almonds or walnuts, a sprinkle of goji berries, a tablespoon of raw cacao nibs, a generous dose of cinnamon, some natural applesauce… be creative!
  2. Coconut Custard: I’m just gonna skip the blah-blah introduction and go right into a recipe I got from Lissa De Angelis of NEW LIFE – NY YOGA magazine for a decadent coconut custard, so easy to make! 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2) Puree 2 organic eggs, 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup, raw honer OR agave syrup, 2 squirts vanilla cream or plan stevia, a few grains of sea salt. 3) Pour into 6 individual ramekins or an oven-proof container. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional) 4) Place ramekins or container into a bath of water and place in oven. 5) Bake until the custard has set, about 30-45 minutes. 6) Cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.
  3. Hot Apple Cider: For cold New England winters, nothing beats a hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick. Yes, that’s it… no more too it… just wanna remind you it’s out there for you…
  4. Baked Apples: Again, an oldie but goodie you may have forgotten about – one of the sweetest desserts is the simplest! Take a (preferably) local, organic apple, core it and fill with cinnamon and some sultanas (golden raisins) if you’re not too sugar-sensitive, wrap in foil and bake at 350 until super-soft. To make it a little more filling and add some protein, add some chopped nuts or a drizzle of nut-butter. I find myself often hungrier after I eat an apple, so adding the protein really helps keep me full.

Last Gluten-Free Noodle Standing!

A while back New York Magazine did an article called “Last Noodle Standing“, where three chefs and one really Italian guy compared the city’s best dried pasta and voted on their favorites.  Not being able to indulge in what they said were some stellar noodles, I devised my own challenge: “Last Gluten-Free Noodle Standing”!

I hosted a few friends over to taste-test five pastas that contained no gluten whatsoever.  We followed the same protocol as the NYMag article: each pasta was boiled in salted water according to package directions and then tasted on its own with nothing on it, and then again with some sort of sauce.  Whereas the NYMag guys just used oils and cheese as their sauce, we kicked it up a notch and had some heartier coverings.  We rated each category – flavor, texture and sauce absorption – on a 30 point scale, for a total of 90 points.

To up the fun, my guests were not given the types of grains the pastas were made out of, and only after we totaled everything up did they discover the source of what they liked and didn’t like.  And unlike NYMag we’re admittedly not the city’s top pasta chefs.  But along with yours truly – the can’t-eat-much-normal-food gal – my judges are peeps who know how to eat on a budget, and quality pastas are at the top of anyone’s recession-spending list.

Note: gluten-free pastas tend to overcook easily, becoming very mushy, so I tended to cook all on the lower end of the time-range, checking often.

The Pastas

The Winner: 76.25 pointsTNK912L
Tinkyada Pasta Joy
Brown Rice Spirals
$3.79/16oz
tinkyada.com

Sauce: Variety of olive oils, salt and pepper, fresh Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Boasts that it can stand “over-cooking”.  All-rice company in many varieties of pastas.  Cooks in 15 minutes.  210 calories and 4 grams of protein per serving.

This pasta won in both the FLAVOR and TEXTURE departments.  Made only of brown rice, it was “just what (one) would expect from a well-seasoned pasta” and tasted close to its wheat-counterpart.  Two of us considered it a lovely al-dente, while the other two thought it was slightly softer than a wheat al-dente but not at all grainy, as expected, or unpleasant.  It absorbed the flavors of the sauces rather well.  One of us wondered how it would do with a cream sauce.

fusilli

Second Place: 73.5 points
Andean Dream Quinoa/Rice Fusilli
$3.50/8oz at Whole Foods
andeandream.com

Sauce: Bergamot olive oil from O&Co and Hazelnut olive oil from La Tourangelle.

Uses organic quinoa grown in the Bolivian Andes, and organic brown.  The quinoa is fairly traded and employs 280 families in the Andean Valley.  Cooks in 13-15 minutes.  207 calories and 6 grams of protein per serving.

This was a pasta I had never tried before and was very pleased with.  It was a little bland on its own, but the closest to how a wheat-pasta would taste on its own.  The noodles didn’t clump after cooking, and 3 out of 4 judges thought it had a consistent al-dente texture (though some noodles fell apart – we’re not sure if this was pre- or post-cooking though). "The pasta created a nice blank canvas for the flavors" and "let the flavors shine".  We first used Bergamot oil with salt, pepper and sometimes cheese, and were floored by how well it took in the flavor.  Then the hazelnut oil brought it to another dimension.  This pasta REALLY takes on flavor well, winning in the SAUCE category.

Glutino Spagetti

Third Place: 65.75 points
Glutino Brown Rice Spaghetti
$3.00/10oz at Whole Foods
glutino.com

Sauce: Broccoli Rab cooked with olive oil and lots of garlic.

Company focused on bringing tasty alternatives specifically to those with gluten intolerance.  Cooks in 7-10 minutes.  200 calories and 5 grams of protein per serving.

Alone, we thought this pasta was a bit grainy and bland, though not bad, with a slightly sweet or citrusy aftertaste.  It clumped a LOT from cooking.  3 of us thought it was grainy, being too soft on the outside and harder on the inside, but the 4th thought it was a perfect spaghetti al-dente.  It didn’t capture the delicate flavors of the oils and vegetables at all and needed a lot of moisture.  It would probably do better with being put directly into a tomato-based sauce right after cooking.

Ancient Harvest Rotellea

Fourth Place: 52.75 points
Ancient Harvest Quinoa/Corn Rotelle
$2.69/8oz at my local store
quinoa.net

Sauce: Beef meat and green pepper sauce for the men and fresh tomato and red pepper sauce for the ladies.

First company to bring quinoa to the U.S.  Fairly traded and from sustainable sources. Cooks in 6-9 minutes.  205 calories and 4 grams of protein per serving.

This pasta had a nice flavor on its own, thanks to the corn/quinoa combination.  But the corn made it distinctively grainy and inconsistent in cooking – some noodles were perfectly soft while others were hard inside.  This is the one pasta that was also cooked to its fullest cooking time, and I pointed out that normally when I use this pasta I have to intentionally over-cook it to negate the inconsistency, therefore making it normally on the mushier side.  Though some of us thought it stood up to the heavier sauces well, it didn’t take on the flavors of the sauces or let its own flavor come through, and the texture was a distraction.  While I’m not a fan of this pasta, I do give props to the company for producing phenomenal quinoa on its own – both varieties are delicious.De Boles

Fifth Place: 46.25 points
DeBoles Rice/Quinoa/Amaranth Penne
$2.99/8oz at my local store
deboles.com

Sauce: sauteed summer squash, onions and garlic in olive oil.

Multi-grain powerhouse combo of quinoa and amaranth. Cooks in 5-minutes.  200 calories and 5 grams of protein per serving.

I was most excited to try this brand and we were all extremely disappointed.  On its own it was “bland, but also tasted more like trees.  The type of taste people fear when they hear ‘healthy’”, and had a “crunchy, almost woodsy taste, but not in a bad way”.  The noodles so fell apart while cooking, it was hard to find whole pieces of penne.  They shredded on our forks, and it was impossible to pick up with any sauce or vegetables.  The only “saving grace” was adding the squash and sauce, when the pasta “got out of the way” and lost the “natural food aura”.

Waffle FAILED! Suggestions?

So this morning I planned to make a scrumptious gluten-free pumpkin waffle that tasted like pie but was SO healthy.  I was going to use the mighty Teff flour for the first time, as well as flax and very little butter.  My arm was sore from mixing and my heart sank as the waffles toasted perfectly on the outside and corners… and were barely cooked in the middle.

What went wrong?  I thought I had a healthy amount of things to make it rise, things to make it stick together, things to give it substance and lift.  Hmm.  Any suggestions are welcome!  One thing I love about the cooking / baking / eating / blogging community is our shared knowledge.  Should I have just added ALL the wet ingredients together and folded into the dry?  Added an second egg?  Taken out some of the pumpkin and replaced with a lighter liquid?  Used simpler grains – no ground flax?

I must include my roommate liked them – but she admits to liking pancakes more than waffles.  And if these were pancakes, they’d still have very little lift to them.  And not as much flavor as I’d like.

Cheers – Jacqueline

Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 1/2 cup sweet white sorghum flour
  • 1/4 cup teff flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch (tapioca flour)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds (flour)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp xantham gum
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (I used one each of Chinese and Indonesian)
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I highly suggest having nutmegs on hand and using a mircoplane grater to do this fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

(Failed) Technique

  • I blended the flours, starches and spices in a small bowl
  • In a large bowl went the melted butter, egg, vanilla, pumpkin.
  • I then deployed the “start and end with dry” method I’ve used for cakes:  Into the pumpkin mixture I started folding in the dry ingredients, then the almond milk, than the dry ingredients, until all were incorporated.
  • Proceeded to heat my waffle maker and cook as I usually do with success.

Tempeh Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Tempeh Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

I’ve been so enamored by meat the past few years that I had forgotten how much I loved cooking vegetarian food.  I still cook tempeh rather often, but usually utilize it in the same way repeatedly without branching out.  I also never cook with mushrooms, having had a phobia of them since being diagnosed with Lyme Disease as a child, where you’re taught to avoid foods grown underground or with high contents of mold.  Mushrooms being a mold, these were off-limits.

But in my attempt to add some variety in moderation to my diet, and to appease my once-vegetarian boyfriend, AND because I saw a great stuffed mushroom recipe on Saveur that I played with for a New Years gathering, I grabbed some portabellas and got to cooking.

Quick notes: I made breadcrumbs by toasting 2 slices of gluten-free bread, letting them sit while I prepped, and then ran them through the food processor.  Tempeh is easily found at most health food stores and some major grocers.  Marsala wine is a salty cooking wine that can be found in the vinegar section of most stores. Make sure to rub your mushrooms clean and not rinse them, as they easily absorb unwanted moisture.

Ingredients:

  • 3 portabella mushrooms, stems and insides removed
  • 12 white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 package of tempeh, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced thin
  • 2 slices of bread, toasted and processed into coarse crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. Marsala cooking wine
  • 3 tbsp. tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • olive oil – virgin or extra virgin
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Place mushrooms, cap down, on tray.
  • Heat a large stainless steel skillet on medium heat, add about 3 rounds of olive oil (about 4 tbsp), and bring up to heat.
  • Add mushrooms and slices onion, turn heat to medium/low, and cook until softened, stirring occasionally and setting heat to low if necessary (depending on your range, you’ll want them to sweat and soften, not brown).
  • When soft, add Marsala wine and mix in thoroughly.  Cook until the wine is absorbed.  Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.
  • Return pan to heat and add another 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Add tempeh and turn heat to medium.  Cook tempeh, turning constantly, until brown on all sides.
  • Add tamari and cook until absorbed, turning constantly.
  • Add tamari to bowl and mix with mushroom mixture.
  • Add breadcrumbs and vinegar and mix thoroughly, add salt and pepper as desired (the wine and tamari make this somewhat salty, so taste and add sparingly)
  • Fill into mushroom caps, bake for 15 minutes or until portabellas are soft.

I served this with shaved Brussels sprouts cooked with a little vinegar and sesame seeds, and quinoa.  They’d also be great with a big salad or a side of mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower.

Kitchen-Sink Soup – Kale and Carrot with White Beans

Kale and Carrot Soup with White Beans

I can always feel February coming because my green Le Creuset pot calls my name, asking me to fill it with, well, anything, really.  The holidays are a distant memory, and desperate yearnings for Spring aren’t making it come any faster.  Especially this winter, when we’ve been hit with storm after storm after storm, my kitchen and body and soul crave… soup.

Kitchen-Sink Soup is just that – anything that I have on hand or have miraculously thought to buy preemptively goes into my pot with broth and seasonings, then gets hand-blended into creamy perfection.  Soup is one of the easiest things to make well without a recipe.  All it takes are the tastiest and most natural of ingredients – vegetables, chicken or veggie stock, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and a protein such as beans, lentils or meat.  The simpler, in a way, the better.

But if you want a delectable recipe, follow this one, for Kale and Carrot Soup with White Beans.  For this soup I had picked up a few things: a bunch of carrots with the greens, as carrot greens are good for you and provide a rich carrot smell more than the carrots themselves, 2 cans of Cannelli beans, and a big bunch of green kale.  The rest I had around, and peeled and threw in for fun.

The result?  A blend of sweet (from the parsnips, sweet potato and carrots) and bitter (from the kale), made hearty from the white beans.  Easy to prepare, and it’s provided me with about 6 healthy servings to get through a week of working from home.

Ingredients

  • 1 small bunch of carrots (about 8 small carrots), scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of carrot greens, thoroughly washed, and chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 pint of clear vegetable or chicken stock
  • 4 cups of water
  • I bunch of Kale, chopped
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cans of white Canelli beans
  • olive oil to taste

Directions

  • Place the carrots, greens, parsnips, onion, sweet potato, broth and water in a medium pot (preferably cast iron), and bring up to a boil.
  • Lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 1/2 hour or until vegetables are almost cooked through.
  • Add kale and season with salt and pepper, cook for another 15 minutes until kale is soft.
  • With a hand blender or standing blender, blend soup until smooth.
  • Add Cannelli beans and cook until warmed through.
  • Add olive oil to taste when serving.

The Worst Cookie EVER?!?!?

What is the WORST COOKIE IDEA EVER?

PLEASE drop your ideas in the comment box!

So, I’m a performer.  That’s primarily what I focus my attentions on.  Well, it’s often split between food and theatre.

I need your help / advice with a new piece I’m working on.

I’ll just say that it’s a performance piece I’m working on in a few different stages, and want to do a sketch about an enthusiastic baker presenting the WORST COOKIE EVER.

So, PLEASE, drop your ideas in the comment box!

This morning a friend and I came up with “Snickerdoodles with bologna and black pepper”.  To be played as “well, bacon is so in right now and this blends the savory and sweet”.  Something that might work in a perfect world but is repulsive in reality.

And please remember the actor opposite me has to eat this cookie.  And possibly some unsuspecting audience members, after they’ve eaten several amazing other cookies I’ve brought in.

And to spark a little more… there were those who giggled and/or shuddered at my suggestion of an apple pie with bourbon, bacon and molasses.  And it’s heavenly.

Thanks!

Jacqueline – Your little Dusty Baker.

Super Bowl Chili

Full disclosure – I have no idea who is in the Super Bowl this year.  I rarely ever know who’s playing. I don’t quite understand football.  I mean, I get it, I understand the rules and all.  But huge men running at each other, the purpose to either knock another down, not get knocked down, or catch a ball without getting piled upon?  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m 5′ 2″.  I can hardly see on top of my fridge.  When I’m around big men I suddenly feel like my neck is really thin.  Just saying.

But, I LOVE the Super Bowl!  Why?  Because it’s the one day a year I make Super Bowl Chili.  Literally, I don’t let myself make it any other time.  It’s a recipe I’ve adapted from a friend, and it’s delicious.  Warm, filling, gluten-free and vegetarian-optional.

I don’t have a picture of it, but you know what chili looks like, right?

Go team.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs. sirloin steak, cubed (to make vegetarian, cube 4 packages of tempeh and follow directions as if cooking steak)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 green zucchini, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large can Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 1 lb plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp each cumin, basil, paprika, chili powder and oregano
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can dark kidney beans
  • 1 can dried chickpeas
  • 1 can white beans
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Chopped scallions, greens and whites
  • hard bread of choice
  • shredded Manchego cheese

Directions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large (preferably cast iron) pot, add onions and garlic, cook for 4 minutes
  • Add steak and saute till browned on all sides
  • Add zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, all fresh and dried seasonings.  Cook for at least 30 minutes.
  • Add beans and lemon juice.  Cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Keep on low until ready to serve.
  • Serve with chopped scallions, shredded cheese, hard bread or sour cream if desired.

Buck Up with Buckwheat!

It’s cold in New York City.  I sit at the computer, writing away at articles for my job, gobbling hot tea constantly.  And as I puttered around the kitchen this morning, I realized my normal breakfast of eggs and veggies wasn’t gonna cut it. I need something warm, filling and slightly sweet.

Enter BUCKWHEAT.

buckwheat kernals

This gluten-free grain is often overlooked when compared with its massively produced cousin, Oatmeal, but it’s now readily available in health food stores large and small.  It’s not actually a grain, but a seed somewhat related to rhubarb.  It cooks very similarly to oatmeal, though, is as deliciously versatile and is wonderfully filling on mornings when there’s a lot of day to face.  It’s completely gluten-free and a very healthy-happy food.

Healthy-Happy Buckwheat!

  • Completely gluten-free as it’s a seed, so it’s digestible for those with celiac and gluten sensitivities
  • Contains a very high level of magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels and therefore contributes to healthy blood flow and is good for the heart
  • Lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol (that’s a good thing…)
  • Helps lower and regulate blood-sugar levels by containing chiro-inositol.  Researchers are not sure why this does what it does quite yet, but in humans and animals alike, whole grains containing this compound lowered blood-sugar levels by 12-19% when compared with those given a placebo (check it out at WHFoods)
  • Generally high in antioxidants, so is generally an on-your-side superfood

Let’s Cook It!

Some cook buckwheat as an alternative to rice.  I prefer it as a porridge, all gooey and slightly sweet.  Below is my recipe for a coconut-buckwheat cereal.  Alternatives would be to cook with water or an animal milk, then add any variety of vanilla extract, cinnamon, dried or fresh fruits, carob powder, fresh nutmeg, chai… the list goes on.  I prefer coconut milk on some mornings because it makes the porridge thicker and naturally sweet and creamy.  I pressure cook my morning grains normally, as it adds to the digestion ease and also makes the grains that much more moist and fluffy.  Toasting them for a few minutes on dry heat before adding the liquid increases their digestibility.  Directions for pressure-cooking and stove top cooking are below.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of buckwheat
  • 2 cups of liquid – I used a can of light coconut milk and then topped off the rest with water
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (per serving)
  • dried cranberries, golden raisins or blueberries (preferably sugar and nitrate-free)
  • raw or toasted nuts (I used pecans, but hazelnuts or almonds would also be delightful)

Directions:

  1. Pressure Cook Grains: Add grains and liquid into a pressure cooker, bring up to full heat (you’ll know because it’ll be sizzling away, making lots of noise and releasing some steam), cook for 12 minutes, then turn off the heat and let pressure release naturally.
  2. Stove-top Cooking Grains:  Toast the grains in a dry pot on medium heat, stirring continually, until they become nutty and fragrant.  Add the liquid, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.   Cook about 15-20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Serve with 1 tsp of maple syrup per serving, and a small handful of raw nuts and dried fruit.

Note: Adding a non-animal protein such as nut-butter or eggs is a great way to make this breakfast a perfect protein and aid digestion.  I actually rarely do such heavy grains first thing in the morning as I can’t digest nuts well in the early day, but as a sweet-treat and with some extra digestive boosting supplements, it’s a great way to face the rain.

How to make this a dessert? Simmer about 2 1/2 cups coconut milk on the stove, adding 4 tablespoons maple syrup, 2+ teaspoons each of vanilla extract and cinnamon and, if you want to live dangerously, a little dark rum.  Add grains and cook on low until thick and sweet.  Whip a whole egg and add in just before the grains are fully cooked, stirring thoroughly.  Taste and add seasonings to your preference.  Remove to a wide pan and refrigerate until cold.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, raisins and (if desired) a little more agave.

Thai Shrimp Coconut Soup

Thai Shrimp-Coconut Soup

So last year I lived in Cincinnati, and the freezing cold temperatures of the city and my high-ceiling-ed apartment made me want to make soup everyday.  And a few resolutions for making my life better contributed to my making up a recipe for Thai Shrimp-Coconut soup: 1) Use more items from my pantry instead of jetting to the market when I’m inspired to cook.   2) Don’t buy EVERY ingredient a recipe requires.  Use my solid knowledge of food to make do (thank you Julia Child for the dose of confidence).  3) COOK MORE IN LESS TIME!  I usually plan elaborate meals when a half an hour can result in something warm and simple.  So, yes, this recipe only took about a half an hour!

Now, let me preface.  I’ve never cooked any Thai food before… never a curry.  But I love cooking with coconut milk and was craving a soup at a Thai restaurant I love in NYC.  So I literally guessed at this process and added things progressively as I went along.  The result was DELICIOUS! And it made a LOT of soup!

Ingredients – Soup

  • 1 lb bag frozen shrimp, peeled and tails removed… the rise in demand in the U.S. for shrimp has produced some dangerous sources across the globe.  Please buy responsibly.  Chances are the cheap bag from the local grocer has bad energy about it.
  • 2 cans coconut milk – I used one regular and one Lite.
  • Fish sauce – purchased in the Asian section of most grocers.
  • crushed red pepper
  • tumeric
  • Olive oil
  • a hot curry paste
  • 1 8oz bag bean sprouts
  • 1 small bunch of chives
  • 1 lemon, plus more lemon juice as desired

Substitution note: I used olive oil because it’s what I had, but sesame oil would be more authentic.  And I used bean sprouts because they’re inexpensive and I don’t use them enough.  But bell peppers, carrots or a green vegetable sliced really thinly would also be great.  And you can never go wrong with a little fresh ginger zested in.

Directions:

  • Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive or sesame oil in a large soup pot on medium/high heat.  When hot, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of curry paste and mash to dissolve.  Add the thawed shrimp and saute for about 4 minutes.  Strain the shrimp out in a colander set over a bowl, and return liquid to pot.
  • Add another 2 tablespoons of curry paste, about 1 teaspoon of tumeric, the bean sprouts and 3 tablespoons of fish sauce.  Blend and bring up to heat, stirring constantly.
  • Add the 2 cans of coconut milk and 3 cans of water.  Bring up to a soft boil.  Add the juice of one lemon, taste, and add more as desired.
  • When hot, add back in the shrimp.  Cut the chives into pieces about 2 inches long, and toss in.
  • Add about a teaspoon of freshly crushed red pepper.
  • Enjoy!

What I learned: Fish sauce is STRONG! It’s literally sardines, salt and a little sugar.  It gives food a delicious richness but should be used wisely.  I added 3 tablespoons and, when everything was put together, got brave and added a 4th.  It was WAY too strong and salty.  So I added some organic lemon juice I had in the fridge, which balanced it out. 3 would have been perfect… the more you know!

Side Dishing It:

Now I used Jasmine rice as a side dish and mixed it into the final result.  My favorite way to cook rice is in a pressure cooker.  This speeds up the cooking time, makes the rice more digestible and gives it a soft texture unmatched in any other method.

Pressure Cooker Jasmine Rice Directions:

  1. Put 2 cups of water, a few dashes of sea salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pressure cooker and bring it up to a soft boil.
  2. Add the rice and cover.
  3. Once the pressure cooker comes up to full pressure (hissing and singing away beautifully), set a timer for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally. Uncover when fully de-pressured.

Spanish Butter Bean Salad

Butter Bean Tapas and Green Salad

Butter Bean Tapas and Green Salad

There’s a market in Astoria, Queens that has a delightful variety of imported Spanish goods, and butter beans are one of my favorites.  So one night I had a friend over for a Spanish gastronomical excursion, and figured I’d highlight these delicious beans.  This recipe is super-simple and SO tasty. And very good for diabetics and hypoglycemics (read below).

Health Benefits:

Butter Beans (also called Lima Beans) are rich in dietary fiber and, when paired with a grain, are a perfect protein that’s very low in fat.  I could retype in my own words, but this information from World’s Healthiest Foods just says it so well.  Lima beans, like other beans, are rich in dietary fiber. For this reason, lima beans and other beans are useful foods for people with irregular glucose metabolism, such as diabetics and those with hypoglycemia, because beans have a low glycemic index rating. This means that blood glucose (blood sugar) does not rise as high after eating beans as it does when compared to many other foods. This beneficial effect is probably due to two factors: the presence of higher amounts of absorption-slowing protein in the beans, and their high soluble fiber content. Soluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach forming a gel that slows down the metabolism of the bean’s carbohydrates. The presence of fiber is also the primary factor in the cholesterol-lowering power of beans. Fiber binds with the bile acids that are used to make cholesterol. Fiber isn’t absorbed, so when it exits the body in the feces, it takes the bile acids with it. As a result, the body may end up with less cholesterol. Lima beans also contain insoluble fiber, which research studies have shown not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. Just one cup of lima beans will give you 65.8% of the daily value for fiber.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dried Spanish Butter Beans or large lima beans, dry
  • 2 Tablespoons of particularly delicious and organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 of a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons of fresh cilantro
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  • Soak the butter beans for AT LEAST 24 hours.  The longer you soak them, the more tender they’ll be.  I only soaked mine for about 18 hours and had to cook them longer.
  • Cook the beans in about 3 cups of water in a nice boil for about an hour.  Start checking them around 40 minutes – the longer you soak them the softer they’ll get.  When I made them into soup, I wanted them to be so soft they’d puree well.  This time I wanted them to have some firmness to them.  You want some ‘al dente’.
  • Strain the beans and place in a small bowl.  Add the olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, and season with salt to taste.
  • Stir in the cilantro and squeeze the juice of the half lemon over everything.
  • Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy!  My buddy Jonathan and I decided that was one of our favorite parts of our meal.  The recipe feeds two people comfortably as a side dish.  And tastes just as good the next day.

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