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8 Vegetables You Have Never Eaten (and May Never Want to Try) – New Food Friday Flash

15 Aug Farm in Minnesota

I’ve covered some of the fruits you’ve never tried or even heard of in the last two New Food Friday Flashes and I could do more. Maybe I’ll come back to fruits in the future. Today I’m covering vegetables that you’ve never tried or heard of.  It’s good for your health to eat your vegetables but in some of the vegetables listed below, it might be better for your health if you avoided these vegetables!

Also, I couldn’t find a photo of any of these vegetables but I found a nice photo of what is a “forgotten farm in Minnesota” according to the photographer and selected it for my featured image.

 

Ackee

The alternate name for Ackee is vegetable brains. Is that because if you eat it you will get smarter? Unfortunately not. It’s because it looks like brains. Does it taste like brains? No. How do I know? I’ve eaten a brain sandwich at a country fair once. It was fried pork brains. It had a mild flavor and was served on a bun with either mustard or ketchup. I asked for one side mustard and the other ketchup. But I digress. Vegetable brains, (Ackee) tastes like scrambled eggs according to some. Looking at a photo of Ackee as it is ripening on an evergreen tree, totally creeps me out. It can only be picked when it has turned completely red, has been split open showing it’s “smile” revealing two black seeds that look like eyes. Anything other than the creamy yellow pulp cannot be eaten nor can the unripened fruit because it is fatal! Yipes! You can find this vegetable in the forests of the Ivory Coast and Gold Coast of West Africa. Served with salt cod, it is Jamaica’s national dish! Canned Ackee is available around the world and completely safe. Don’t forget to eat your veggies!

 

Celtuce

You would think that Celtuce is a cross between celery and lettuce but it isn’t. It is sometimes called Chinese lettuce as it originated in China. It is grown mainly for its thick, tender stem, but its leaves can also be eaten. In China, the stems are broiled or boiled, added to soups, and used in stir-fries with meat, poultry, or fish. It is grown mostly in home gardens and is not widely known. When cooked, the stem tastes like a cross between squash and artichoke which means that I would like it a lot!

 

Marsh Samphire

This vegetable is shaped like miniature Arizona cacti but flourishes in the mud of salt marshes around the coastlines of England and France. Collecting and cleaning it is messy and time-consuming. Marsh Samphire is also known as glasswort and was once used in glassmaking! Today, however, it and its relatives are seen as plants of the future because they will grow in salty conditions. To cook, blanch without salt (because it is salty) and add butter. It is served in salads and on trout. Cultivated varieties can be imported from Israel and the Gulf. Its nickname is sea asparagus.

 

Angelica

The healing powers of Angelica, according to the people in France’s marshy Poitou-Charente region where Angelica has grown for centuries, have used it as an antidote to poisons. Hmmm, possibly good to eat after you eat Ackee (above)? Angelica is a member of the parsley family and also grown in Italy, Scotland, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, and parts of North America. It can withstand the temperatures of Iceland and Greenland. The leaves can be shredded in salads and used in omelets and fish dishes. The stems are often stewed with rhubarb or made into preserves and jams. Today, it is most commonly used as a candied confection for cakes, sweet breads, and cheesecakes. The leaves and stems taste like licorice.

 

Golden Needle

One of the least familiar ingredients to the Western world is golden needles also known as tiger buds. That is, unless you’ve heard of the folk song, “Silver threads, golden needles can’t unbend this heart of mine….” Sound familiar? These buds range in color from pale gold or orange to dark amber in its dried version. They are often added to noodles and meats prepared over high heat. Their sweet, musky flavors complement woodears, enokitake, and misos and appear together in recipes across China and Japan.

 

Ratte Potato

Unlike other vegetables or fruits with names that mislead you to believe their taste, shape, or lineage is why they were so named, this particular vegetable actually was named Ratte Potato because it, alas, looks like a rat!  Eeeeks! Leave it to the French to take care of that problem: they called it Quenelles de Lyon. Ratte’s texture is dense, firm, resistant to breaking down, and yet smooth. They have a nutty taste similar to chestnuts.

 

Huitlacoche

Huitlacoche is also known as corn smut. Part of its name is the Aztec word for dung. I’m not making this up folks. Truth is stranger than fiction. It is a naturally occurring fungus that disfigures growing corn. I’m surprised I never heard of it, considering that Indiana is a corn-growing state. We (we?) must call it something else. The corn kernels swell and mutate into distorted silvery blue lumps with black interiors. How divine. It has a mushroom-like flavor with hints of corn and licorice. It is usually sautéed with garlic and onion and used to flavor traditional Mexican dishes. It can be difficult to find fresh huitlacoche outside of Mexico, but specialty food stores in the US and Canada often stock flash-frozen or canned versions in the event you are dying to try this.

 

Stinky Tofu

Known as ch’ou doufu in Mandarin, it has a mild, faintly sour, beany flavor which is far surpassed by its gargantuan aroma. As you might have guessed, it is a fermented concoction made with vegetables, herbs, shrimp and sometimes other seafood items. There are many, many fermented vegetables served around the world but I chose this one because it is often eaten as street food in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong where you might encounter it in your travels. It is deep-fried until crusty then dressed with spicy sauces, and topped with chili oil and garlic in Hunan. How will you know it? Your nose knows.

 

Based on some of the description of these vegetables, is it any wonder kids don’t eat their vegetables? Poison? Used in glassmaking? Rats? Dung, and Stinky? Those are hardly enticing descriptions. Consider yourself lucky. You didn’t have to look at the photos of these vegetables as I did when doing the research! On the other hand, don’t little boys love gross things? The grosser the better? Maybe you can tempt your non-veggie eater with a plate of Ratte Potato or Ackee!

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New Food Friday – Kasha, Groats, Buckwheat

18 Apr Kasha (sxc.hu - yirsh)

I had never tried Kasha until an Internet friend said that she loved it and would eat it for breakfast everyday. So, I bought a box of Wolff’s Kasha at my local Meijer.

Box of Kasha

Box of Kasha

Kasha is buckwheat and it comes in several granulations. I chose medium. This particular box had a small cellophane window so you could see the product inside (which I ignored), and put the box in my cart. When I got home, I placed the box in my pantry. When it was time for me to try the Kasha, I opened the box and began pouring the Kasha into a bowl. Out poured contents that contained Kasha, caraway seeds, and some other type of seeds. I recognized caraway seeds when I saw them and I didn’t think they were supposed to be in this box!

After doing some research, I realized that seeds were not supposed to be part of Kasha! I contacted the company and told them about it. I received a nice letter of thanks for letting them know from the vice president of Birkett Mills. He said they use the most efficient and sophisticated cleaning machinery known in the dry grain processing industry and that rarely even the most advanced technology can be fooled. (Well, we all know how I feel about technology as per my last post, now don’t we!)

In a show of their appreciation, they sent me two more boxes of Kasha (without seeds) and a whole bunch of information about Kasha. I kept one box and gave the other to my son, the other health enthusiast in the family.

Rather than let the box with the seeds go to waste, I used the caraway seeds from the “bad” box of Kasha for my Russian Rye Bread recipe! As you know, the loaves turned out great! To be honest though, I’m not crazy about Kasha for breakfast even though I know how good it is for you and how popular it is in Russia and throughout the Balkan region of Europe.

Map of Europe (sxc.hu - vygnyo)

Map of Europe (sxc.hu – vygnyo)

However, a recipe I found among all the recipes they sent, sounded good and good for your health too, so that I had to chose it for this New Food Friday.

The following information was provided to me from Birkett Mills, established in 1797. (Yes, that date is correct, 1797.) Read the eye-opening information that I have written by clicking this link.

If, after you have clicked the link and read the material you are now convinced that you need buckwheat in your diet, Birkett Mills offers a cookbook with over 50 recipes, many with full color illustrations, for $2.50. Write to: Pocono Buckwheat Cookbook, P.O. Box 440 PC, Penn Yan, NY 14527

Here is one of their recipes that caught my eye.

Grilled Portobello Caps with Kasha Pilaf
1/3 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
2 cups water
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Kasha
salt to taste
6 large Portobello mushroom caps
Olive oil
1 1/4 cup grated hearty cheese (such as aged Gruyere or aged Gouda)

Aged Gouda

Aged Gouda

Prepare the Kasha Mixture First
In a 2-qt saucepan on medium-high heat, combine celery, onion, water and 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning. Cook until liquid is very hot, but not quite boiling. (Or, you can microwave it.)

Old Bay and Kasha Granules

Old Bay and Kasha Granules

While the liquid mixture is heating, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the extra virgin olive oil add remaining 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning and the Kasha. Stir Kasha until it is hot and slightly toasted.

Browning Kasha in a Pan

Browning Kasha in a Pan

Reduce heat to low. Carefully add hot liquid mixture and cover pan tightly. Simmer about 10 minutes until kernels are tender and liquid is absorbed.

Remove from heat and “fluff” with a fork. Season to taste with salt. This may be used immediately to stuff mushrooms or refrigerated for up to two days (or frozen for up to 1 month.) Makes nearly 4 cups.

Prepare medium-hot grill fire. Discard mushroom stems, clean gills with soft brush, and wipe caps with damp paper towel. Brush top of caps with olive oil.

Mushrooms (sxc.hu - mzacha)

Mushrooms (sxc.hu – mzacha)

Grill mushrooms gill-side down for a couple minutes. (I didn’t grill mine, I used my skillet.) Use tongs to flip caps top-side up and move them away from the heat while you fill the caps with the Kasha mixture.

Stuffed Portobello Muchroom Caps with Kasha Mixture

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps with Kasha Mixture

Return caps to the heat and continue grilling, with grill lid down for 3-4 minutes. Top each cap with a scant 1/4 cup grated cheese. Lower grill lid and heat until cheese melts.

My mushrooms were not very large so I had left-over Kasha. I used it in another meal and added diced chicken and peas.

This mushroom recipe is good for when you crank up the barbecue. It would go well with my recipe for hot dogs with Chipotle in Adobo Sauce. Add a salad,  corn on the cob, 

Sangria (sxc.hu - matthijs_v)

Sangria (sxc.hu – matthijs_v)

a pitcher of Sangria, and you could invite the neighbors!

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New Food Friday – News Flash!

13 Apr Flash Drive (sxc.hu - mrceviz)

I thought of a way I could keep my New Food Fridays going while reducing the amount of time it takes me to do them. Introducing the New Food Friday Flash. The difference between the regular New Food Friday and the new New Food Friday Flash is that the New Food Friday Flash would be shorter and with less photos. Taking photos and finding good ones on the Internet takes up a lot of time for me when putting together New Food Friday.

I still have one more New Food Friday post ready for April’s post, but then after that, New Food Friday Flash will take its place until further notice. The bones of it will stay the same: 3rd Friday of the month, informative, hopefully entertaining, just shorter and sweeter. A food flash in a pan, in a manner of speaking minus the negative connotation! I think you will enjoy it!

*One more thing; if you’re wondering how things are working out now that I’ve canceled my AT&T Internet service, I don’t miss them one bit! I put my posts and any work I need to do at home on my Flash Drive or what some call a USB Memory Stick. The library computers are fast, much faster than my computer, and accept Flash Drives so I can transfer my work from the Flash Drive to the library computer and into my blog. This is working out great! I wish I had done this sooner! You may want to follow suit!

 

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New Food Friday – Chipotle in Adobo Sauce

21 Mar Grilled Meat 854255

You know how I love to try new foods. I slowly scan the ethnic aisles at my local Meijer or Kroger supermarkets until I find something interesting that I might like to try. I also get ideas from cooking shows, cookbooks, and recipe websites. For this New Food Friday I found Chipotle in Adobo Sauce on the shelf at Meijer and decided to pick up a can.

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

I had no idea what they were used for or how they would taste. Once home, I couldn’t wait to open up the can and try one!

Chipotle Peppers in sauce

Chipotle Peppers in sauce

I grabbed a fork and popped one in my mouth. Duh! Warning: don’t do that! These peppers are full of hot seeds and the peppers and sauce are HOT!

Chipotle with seeds

Chipotle with seeds

Ingredients

Chipotle Peppers, Tomato Puree, Vinegar, Onions, Sunflower Seed Oil, Sugar, Salt, Paprika and Garlic.

2 Tablespoons (serving size) contains:

sodium 200mg

sugar 2g

Vitamin C 6%

Vitamin A 10%

Fiber 1g

A Chipotle is a smoked, dried, jalapeño. These chipotle peppers keep well in the fridge in a jar. Don’t leave them in the can.

My challenge was to find out how I could use these peppers. Yes, they are popular in Mexican dishes, but I wanted to see if there were other ways I could use them.

I cut up a pepper and poured some of the adobo sauce over a jar of garbanzo beans. I let them marinate a couple of days. Then I spread the beans out on a pan lined with parchment paper, poured a little bit of olive oil on them, sprinkled some sea salt over them and put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 400°. (Watch carefully so they don’t burn.) They were good! I like them as a snack. They are low in calories and high in fiber.

The next thing I tried was to scrape off the seeds, dice a pepper, and then put it in a homemade tomato sauce to pour over pasta.

Chipotle chopped in pan

Chipotle chopped in pan

I sprinkled a generous amount of Asiago cheese on top. Tasty!

My favorite though was to add a pepper on top of a hot dog. My choice of hot dog is one made with chicken, turkey, and pork. I don’t eat beef. The chipotle was in place of the usual ketchup or mustard. This was spicy and very good!

Chipotle on a hot dog

Chipotle on a hot dog

While I don’t recommend you eat hot dogs often, once in a while won’t hurt you. They’re better if you don’t douse them in ketchup which is full of sugar, or mustard which is full of sodium. You can always buy low sodium hot dogs if you’re watching your sodium intake. I put my dog on a whole grain bun. It was darn good!

Since the weather is warming up (I was wondering if it ever would again) you could put your hot dogs on the grill! These chipotle peppers would go well with grilled chicken, steak, and burgers too.  You can put them in a chili or how about on a hero sandwich? The possibilities are limited to your imagination.

Don’t forget to serve some vanilla ice cream for dessert to cool your mouth!

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New Food Friday – Russian Black Bread

17 Jan sxc.hu-uccrow Basil's Cathedral

I have a childhood friend who is originally from Estonia. A little bit of a history lesson is worth mentioning here. Estonia was part of the Russian empire until 1918 when it proclaimed its independence. 

The Russian Basilica-Tallinn, Estonia

The Russian Basilica-Tallinn, Estonia (sxc.hu sx937)

It was  incorporated into the USSR in 1940 by force but regained its freedom in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The last Russian troops left in 1994.

sxc.hu Tallinn Capital of Estonia

Tallinn, Capital of Estonia (sxc.hu  gundolf)

Today, the Estonian economy has one of the higher GDP (gross domestic product) growth rates in Europe.

So, back to my childhood friend. One day my friend gave me a loaf of black bread. I don’t remember if she said it was Estonian black bread or Russian black bread. Maybe they’re one in the same. Anyway, it was delicious! Now, many years later, I have found a recipe in one of my cookbooks for Russian Black Bread. I will share it with you for this New Food Friday.

This recipe makes two round loaves. The bread is delicious, reminiscent of the loaf my Estonian friend gave me and I will definitely make it again. It is made with chocolate, coffee, and molasses. It is a dark color (hence the name black bread) and looks chocolatey! You can almost taste the chocolate and almost taste the coffee. However, it is not a sweet bread. It has a slight sour taste similar to a sour dough bread because of the rye flour and maybe the vinegar but this taste seemed to dissipate after the first day and the chocolate flavor became more pronounced instead.

I’ve already finished off one loaf. I stored the other in the freezer and then let it defrost in the refrigerator when I wanted more. It is just as delicious as the first loaf. In fact, I believe I noticed that the bread tasted even better the day after I baked it and it kept well in the refrigerator. I usually sliced off 3 ounces for my meal, buttered it, and let it warm to room temperature.

This bread can vary somewhat in flavor depending on the type of chocolate you use or the type of coffee you use. The recipe also calls for bran cereal so depending on the type of cereal you use, that can also alter the taste. However, I doubt that the varieties you use would make that much difference. Just use the best ingredients that you can afford. There are a lot of ingredients!

4 cups unsifted rye flour

3 cups unsifted white flour

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups whole bran cereal

2 tablespoons caraway seed, crushed

2 teaspoons Instant Coffee

2 teaspoons onion powder

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed

2 packages active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 square (1-ounce) unsweetened chocolate

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine or butter

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup cold water

Combine rye and white flours. Mix 2  1/3 cups of the combined flour mixture with the sugar, salt, cereal, caraway seed, coffee, onion powder, fennel seed, and undissolved yeast.

Combine 2 1/2 cups water, vinegar, molasses, chocolate, and margarine or butter in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm (120 – 130 degrees). Margarine and chocolate do not need to melt. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of an electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1/2 cup flour mixture. Beat at high speed 2 minutes.

Russian Black Bread Batter

Russian Black Bread Batter

Stir in enough additional flour mixture to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Cover; let rest 15 minutes. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 to 15 minutes. Dough may be sticky. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk. about 1 hour.

Punch dough down; turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide in half. shape each half into a ball about 5 inches in diameter. Place each ball in the center of a greased 8-inch round cake pan. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. I like to let my bread rise in the microwave with a cup of very hot water. This is a draft-free environment and the cup of hot water makes the small area warm enough for the dough to rise. Important, don’t turn on the microwave!

Russian Black Bread Rising in Microwave

Russian Black Bread Rising in Microwave with Hot Water

Bake at 350 degrees 45 to 50 minutes until done. Meanwhile, combine cornstarch and cold water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil; continue to cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. As soon as bread is baked, brush cornstarch mixture over top of loaves. Return bread to oven and bake 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until glaze is set. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Russian Black Bread Cooling

Russian Black Bread Cooling

This recipe comes from my Fleischmann’s Bake-it-easy Yeast Book. I hope you bake this. It’s very good and has a lot of nutritional value! Das vadanya!

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New Food Friday – Chicory and Pomegranate

20 Dec Pomegranate

Right around this time of year, I make a special salad with chicory, pomegranate, grapefruit and orange slices. It’s very pretty, festive, and good for you! It’s called a Sicilian Salad and it’s perfect for this New Food Friday.

A Sicilian salad is very simple to make. Just tear up washed chicory leaves and put in a pretty bowl. Then, section one pink grapefruit and place the slices around the top of the chicory.

sxc.hu-Grapefruit-86484

Grapefruit (sxc.hu-Jason Merrill)

Do the same with an orange.

oranges (sxc.hu-Neil Gould)

Oranges (sxc.hu-Neil Gould)

The hardest part of making this salad is separating the pomegranate seeds from their nesting pockets! Either wear old clothing or an apron that covers you well. Pomegranate seeds squirt!

sxc.hu-Pomegranate-430625

Pomegranate Seeds (sxc.hu-Rick Hawkins)

The health benefits of Pomegranate

According to the Harvard Medical School Health publication, two recent studies suggest that pomegranate juice may help fight prostate cancer. Pomegranates may also have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease. Results from two small clinical studies show that carotid artery thickness decreased and cardiac blood flow improved in pomegranate juice drinkers. However, preliminary research also suggests that pomegranate juice may interact with certain medications, much like grapefruit juice does. For further information click here.

A word about chicory.

Chicory tastes just like escarole. It’s a somewhat mildly bitter green. The difference between the two is that chicory has very curly leaves.

Chicory

Curly Chicory leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

Escarole has wavy leaves.

Escarole

Wavy Escarole leaves before being torn into bite-sized pieces

The Citrus

When you section the citrus, you have the option of slicing the sections so that there is no membrane on them. I wanted to keep them in their “skin” so that the dish would have the most fiber. I also didn’t want to lose any of the juices. But it’s up to you. It may be prettier if you section off the slices.

Sicilian Salad before Pomegranate Seeds

Sicilian Salad before Pomegranate Seeds

This is the finished dish before pouring on the dressing. 

Sicilian Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Sicilian Salad with Pomegranate Seeds before salad dressing

You can add as much or as little pomegranate seeds as you like. I used about 1/3 of the pomegranate. You can prepare this the day before. It keeps very well as long as you don’t pour the dressing on.

The Salad Dressing

The dressing is made of freshly squeezed orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.Very simple! Use proportions that you like. I don’t measure, I just squeeze the juice on and then drizzle on the olive oil. I like it that way. In fact, that’s how I make all my salads. I like the separate taste of the oil on some bites and the separate taste of vinegar, or in this case, orange juice. It’s up to you.

Sicilian Salad is delicious! It’s good for you! It’s pretty! It’s Christmas-y! Try it on your guests this Christmas. And have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!

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New Food Friday – Native American Pumpkin, Corn, & Bean Soup

15 Nov Pumpkin

It seems that every ethnic group has their threesome when it comes to food. The Italians have their holy trinity of onions, celery, and carrots. The French call the same threesome mirepoix. Native American Indians have their threesome too and they are squash, corn, and beans which they call the three sisters.

Indian Guide - Navahoe

Navajo Guide (sxc.hu fredbIII)

November is Native American Heritage Month. Is there anyone who isn’t making a pumpkin pie or carving a pumpkin for their doorstep in November? In the following recipe, I focus on Native American pumpkin soup.

Anasazi Village, CO

Anasazi Village, CO – Native American Dwelling (sxc.hu -pocheco)

Native Americans still revere pumpkins to this day and use them in breads, stews, and many other recipes.

Indian Sculpture - Blackfoot

Native American Sculpture – Blackfoot (sxc.hu – webscribe)

I’ve used pumpkins in pies and in breads. Today is a first for me because I am using it in a creamed pumpkin soup for this New Food Friday.

I was fortunate in that I was able to find what is called a “pie pumpkin”.

Pumpkin and Yellow Onion

Adorable Little Pumpkin and Yellow Onion

This is a small pumpkin, perfect for making a pumpkin pie from scratch or for using it as a soup dish! However, I will be using the pumpkin IN the soup dish rather than the other way around!

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons corn oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 1/2 pounds peeled and seeded pumpkin

cut into cubes (4 cups)

1 cup sweet corn, (frozen is fine)

4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt or more to taste

pepper to taste

Garnish

1 Tablespoon toasted, chopped hazelnuts per person

1/4 cup black beans per person

Directions

The Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts and Nutcracker

Crack, then toast the hazelnuts in an oven or in a cast-iron skillet. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. If they burn, you’ll have to throw them out because they’ll become bitter! When they’ve cooled, chop and set aside.

The Black Beans

Black Beans in a Jar

Black Beans in a Jar

I buy most of my beans by the bag. Canned beans have too much sodium. If you want to see weight loss,  reduce your sodium. There is a minimal amount of sodium in packaged beans. Sodium makes your body hold on to water.  Reducing sodium in your diet is an easy way to quickly lose a few pounds, not to mention lower your blood pressure. All you have to do is soak the beans overnight OR, cook them in water for 1 hour. Just follow package directions. I usually soak them then put the beans in jars and freeze them for when I need them so that I always have them on hand.

The Chicken Broth

Chicken Broth

Chicken Broth – 4 Cups

I had roasted two Cornish game hens in celebration of my birthday last week. I saved the carcasses and the thigh meat and made a broth with it. I added celery, carrots, onions, thyme from my garden, ground sage, 2 bay leaves, parsley, salt, pepper, and about eight cups of water or enough to cover everything. I used only the broth liquid for the pumpkin soup recipe.

The Pumpkin

Pumpkin

Pumpkin

I wash all my fruits and vegetables in warm soapy water and then rinse well. You don’t know where they’ve been or who touched them last, the mom with a sinus infection, (very contagious) or the little kid who scratched an itch you don’t want to know where. Better to be safe than sorry, especially knowing all the recalls like salmonella, e. coli, and other food alerts.  I receive multiple email alerts daily that I signed up for from the government so it is best to take precautions and avoid getting sick.

One cup of pumpkin has 394mg of Potassium. Potassium reduces the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, digestive disorders, and infertility.

Pumpkin falls into the squash family and it has a medium hard outer skin, not to mention the stem on top where the vine was sending nutrients to the pumpkin. If you can’t knock the stem off by banging it on the counter, then cut the top part of the pumpkin off carefully. I usually do this with a paring knife but use whatever is easiest for you. (I’ve practiced a lot on butternut squash which has a very hard skin.) Stab the pumpkin with the knife (don’t worry, it doesn’t feel anything) and press down on the knife. Once you split the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds.

Pumpkin Slices, Chopped Onions, Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Slices, Chopped Onions, Pumpkin Seeds

If you’re feeling ambitious, save the seeds. You can toast them and eat them as a nutritious snack!  Cut up and cube the pumpkin so that you have 4 cups.

Pumpkin Cubed

Pumpkin Cubed

Coat the pumpkin, the chopped onion, and the corn kernels with the oil and add them to a pan to roast. I use my toaster oven for this and I line my pan with parchment paper. Roast at 400 degrees until the pumpkin is slightly browned, about 15 minutes but it depends on your oven so watch so it doesn’t burn.  Once it’s cooked, add all the vegetables except for the corn and pumpkin seeds to a large pot scraping up the all the browned bits. If a few corn kernels get in the pot, don’t worry about it. I like to pour some of the chicken stock into the emptied vegetable pan as it acts like wine, de-glazing all the browned bits which have a lot of flavor. Add the rest of the chicken broth to the pot. Puree with an immersion blender which is great for making creamed soups or use whatever kitchen appliance you have for the same purpose. When you’ve pureed it enough, then add the roasted corn. You want the corn kernels to be whole in your soup.

To serve, reheat and pour into soup bowls. Garnish with a tablespoon of the chopped hazelnuts. Sprinkle with a ¼ cup of the black beans and/or a few toasted pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin Bowl of Soup

Pumpkin Soup with Hazelnuts, Beans, & Pumpkin Seeds

This is a delicious light soup, perfect for a cold, damp day (like today). My chicken broth was already spiced and herbed to my liking so I didn’t need to add anything else to the soup except salt and pepper. However, if you would like, you can add oregano or mint. Some recipes I’ve seen added maple syrup to this soup, but you know me, I always go for the lowest in calories and the most healthful as possible and I did not want a soup that was too sweet. I thought this was perfect and I would definitely make it again. Let me know if you try it!

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New Food Friday – Za’atar Focaccia Bread

18 Oct Slice of Za'atar Focaccia Bread

As much as I love physical exercise, sometimes I want an easy to make bread recipe that requires NO KNEADING! I don’t remember how I stumbled across the original recipe but if you want some background on Za’atar Focaccia Bread (it’s a different recipe but similar), click here.

I’ve made Za’atar Focaccia twice now and probably by the time you read this, three times. I absolutely love it!

Za'atar Focaccia Bread Ready to be Sliced

Za’atar Focaccia Bread

The only down side to this recipe is that you have to let the dough rise/ferment for 18 – 24 hours. This delicious, healthful bread recipe is in the spotlight for this New Food Friday.

As is typical of me, I altered the recipe. It calls for black sesame seeds. I used black poppy seeds which are more readily available in my grocery store. It also calls for Sumac and I couldn’t find that but one of my favorite chefs, Kary Osmond from the LiveWell Network, says you can use Turmeric in place of Sumac. I love Turmeric so that was no problem for me. Also, in order to make the bread more nutritious, I added 1/2 cup of White Whole Wheat flour.

Special Note: When I followed one of the recipes, the dough was way too soupy so I added an additional cup of flour.  You should be able to press your fingers into the dough after letting it rise the 18-24 hours and the imprint of your fingers should remain.  I added more flour after it had risen and the results were still excellent. So, don’t be afraid to play around with this dough as it is very forgiving.

DOUGH

1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 ounces dry yeast
3 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup water
Za’atar Spice Mix (see below)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Whisk together flour, salt, and yeast.

    Flour Mix

    Flour Mix

  2. Add the water and olive oil, and mix everything together until you have a uniform dough. 
  3. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place for 18-24 hours to rise.

    Dough Mixture

    Dough Mixture Covered in Plastic Wrap

  4. Once the dough has risen, you can either make one giant focaccia with all the dough, or split it up and bake smaller focaccia.  If you keep some of the dough for later, just cover it back up and put it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
  5. To use the dough, turn it out onto a pan and press the dough out  towards the edges with your fingers making dimples in the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in height.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2 tablespoons olive oil, in a small bowl
2 teaspoons ground toasted black sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon Maldon (or other coarse) sea salt
The Za’atar in this focaccia bread recipe is the combination of spices that you sprinkle on top of the bread. It gives it a nice color and great flavor. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern blend of spices that can be sprinkled on bread, meats, fish, or vegetables as a seasoning. It can even be used as a dip. I didn’t have coarse sea salt, I only had fine sea salt on hand so I decided to use coarse kosher salt instead.
Poppy Seeds

Poppy Seeds or Use Black Sesame Seeds

Add Turmeric

Add Turmeric

Oregano

Add Oregano

Add Thyme

Add Thyme (I freeze mine from my garden)

Add Coarse Salt

Add Coarse Salt (Sea Salt if you have it)

Spread the Za’atar Spice Mix on the focaccia after it has risen. Then bake at 400 for 20 – 30 minutes. I didn’t mix the olive oil with the spice mix. I spread the olive oil on the dough first, then distributed the spice mix over all.

Za’atar focaccia bread is great as a snack, as a substitute for your usual bread that you eat with a meal, and is great for dunking in soups and stews.

Bowl of Harira

Bowl of Harira with Za’atar Focaccia Bread

You can reheat the focaccia the next day and it still tastes wonderful. It is also great for mopping up salad vinaigrette after you’ve eaten the salad! Let me know if you come up with other ways to use it!

If you’re not in the mood to bake bread, you can sprinkle the Za’atar Spice Mix on meats and/or vegetables. Buon appetito!

Za'atar Spice Mix on Chicken and Vegetables

Za’atar Spice Mix on Chicken and Vegetables

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New Food Friday – Harira

20 Sep sxc.hu - lamb - iubitzoaia- 1030219

Harira. It sounds like something you would say to your dentist when he has his hands in your mouth.

There are many versions of Harira. In fact, I created my own version when I departed from the recipe I was following. Harira is a soup – stew. It is a Moroccan dish that is eaten often, but particularly at the end of Ramadan, a religious holiday. I was attracted to the recipe because it calls for Turmeric which is a spice I have grown to love. Now you know why I have selected this recipe for New Food Friday.

A lot of attention has been given to Turmeric lately. More research is needed, but some studies show that it has anti-inflammatory properties. It may help fight cancer and it may protect against certain diseases. Read more here.

I like to add Turmeric to a chicken dish that I make. I shake it on the potatoes, carrots, and/or onions that I add to my baking dish. It is also great on a Focaccia bread recipe I love. More about that in next month’s New Food Friday.

Another reason I was looking forward to making Harira is that it also calls for cilantro. I grew my own cilantro this year and within the last few days it started to bolt. I grew it from seed. It grew in a hanging planter

Cilantro

Cilantro growing in a planter. See my rose bush in the background?

and it also grew in my vegetable garden. It would have continued to grow in my vegetable garden if a rabbit didn’t also like it a lot and chewed it to the quick! (Which is why I ended up growing it in a hanging pot.) But really, it is so easy to grow! And the fragrance! It smells wonderful! You have to try it!

Here is the recipe for the Harira. I substituted ground turkey for the lamb. (You can also use beef or chicken.) I also substituted the vermicelli noodles for brown rice. Many recipes say to add flour to thicken the soup. I didn’t want to use flour which is why I added raw rice. It helped thicken the soup. The longer you cook it, the more it thickens. Also, I used a no sodium tomato sauce.

Ingredients

6 – 8 oz lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
2 celery stalks chopped
1 large yellow onion chopped
1 16-ounce can of low sodium garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 fresh tomato chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
6 cups water, divided
1/4 cup dry lentils, picked over and washed (I forgot to wash mine! I guess that means you won’t be dining over at my house anytime soon?)
3 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed into 1 cup of water
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes again since I have so many of them this year.)
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown rice

Optional Thickener:
1 cup flour
2 cups water

Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the meat and any meat bones if you have them and cook for a few minutes, stirring to brown the meat.
  2. Add the chopped cilantro, parsley, celery, onion, chickpeas, fresh tomatoes, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, and turmeric.
  3. Stir in 3 cups of water. Heat over high heat bringing mixture to a light boil.
  4. Add the lentils, rice, tomato paste mixture, canned (or fresh) tomatoes, and tomato sauce and 3 cups of water.
  5. Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat to bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, simmering for 45 minutes with the lid ajar to help condense the soup. Stir occasionally.
  6. Taste soup for seasoning. Add salt or pepper if needed.
  7. If you prefer a thicker soup, you can add the flour water mixture after cooking 45 minutes. But I think adding it will dull the flavor and add empty calories.

Serves 6

Harira

Chopping Cilantro for my Harira

I wanted to use my Heirloom tomatoes for this dish but they weren’t ripe enough. Since I had plenty of cherry tomatoes, I used them instead.

Let the Harira come to a light boil.

Boiling Harira

Boiling Harira after all ingredients are added

After 45 minutes of cooking, the Harira thickens.

Thickened Harira

Thickened Harira after cooking 45 minutes

I enjoyed two bowls full of the Harira with my Focaccia bread.

Bowl of Harira

Bowl of Harira with Focaccia Bread

They went well together! This was good and I expect that tomorrow it will be even better. Next time I will use lamb for this dish. Harira is high in protein and fiber. With all the tomatoes, fresh and canned, it contains a lot of lycopene which contains antioxidant and antiproliferative properties. Read more about it  here.

To your good health!

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New Food Friday – Gnudi

16 Aug sxc.hu 536766 stylesr1

In order to make this dish, you have to remove all your clothes. Just kidding! The dish being discussed today is called gnudi. They are a form of dumpling and it’s pronounced just like a sunbather who basks in the nude: a nudi! (Or a nudist?) I watched with interest as Martha Stewart made these on her cooking show. See here. She says they are a naked ravioli; a filling without the pasta casing. I am a big fan of ravioli but these were new to me and when I saw her boiling then basting them in browned butter with sage leaves, I knew I had to post them for a New Food Friday.

sxc.hu Gnu Barbara Schneider

This is a Gnu (sxc.hu Barbara Schneider)

First, go to your butcher shop and ask for a fillet of Gnu. Just kidding! There is no meat in this recipe!

Assemble your ingredients as it shows in the Martha Stewart video. I like to use paper plates when I want to roll foods in flour.

Knudi rolled in flour

Knudi rolled in flour

Using paper plates makes cleanup a breeze. I just throw the paper plate in the trash when I’m done.

I filled another paper plate with semolina flour and let the gnudi rest until I finished making all of them.

Knudi sitting on semolina

Knudi sitting on semolina

Then they went into the fridge for 1 hour.

Variations:

I had some leftover crab meat so I included it in my recipe. In my second batch, I added some boiled russet potato.

These gnudi were fun to make and easy! Your children might like to get involved. Since these are boiled, it’s a lot like boiling pasta and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to making pasta.

Knudi ready to be boiled

Knudi ready to be boiled

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve never made pasta but I know one of these days I will because it’s on my mental to do list! Here are the sage leaves straight from my garden.

Sage drying on a paper towel

Sage drying on a paper towel

Here are the chiffonaded sage leaves in browned butter.

Browned butter with chiffonade sage

Browned butter with chiffonade sage

These were delicious! I will definitely be making them again. I hope you try them!

Knudi ready to be devoured!

Knudi ready to be devoured!

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