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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2013 Annual Report in Review and Thanks!

3 Jan Fireworks

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog, FOR YOUR GOOD HEALTH.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thank you to all my loyal followers and those who commented. You helped to make my blog more interesting with your input. Here’s to a great 2014!

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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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The Itsy Bitsy Spider….is not so Itsy Bitsy!

30 Oct Black and Yellow Spider

For about a month now, a black and yellow spider has camped out in my vegetable garden. He gives new meaning to the words, “spider plant.”

I’ve seen it spin it’s web

Spider Web

Spider Web (sxc.hu -Tinneketin)

around prey and I’ve noticed the spider grow in size (much to my dismay). I’ve never seen a spider like this before and I thought about getting rid of it, but it’s just so pretty!

I have no idea if it’s poisonous or not. It seems to stay in the same place, behind my house, in the backyard, in the vegetable garden.

Halloween Night

Halloween Night in my Backyard (sxc.hu -nvadim)

 

Soon I will have to remove all my withered, spent tomato plants (where Mr. Spider is hanging out as you can see from the photo below).

Black and Yellow Spider

Black and Yellow Spider in my Garden!

Does anybody have any idea how to remove a spider?

Maybe I’ll just let him stay and I’ll be the one to move!

Witch on a Broom

Witch in Flight (fleeing a spider perhaps?) (sxc.hu – angood)

Jack O' Lantern

Jack O’ Lantern (sxc.hu -xRaDx)

                                    

HELP!!!  Spiders are not for my good health!
Happy Halloween!

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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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Exercise: I Talk the Talk and I Walk the Walk

8 Oct sxc.hu createsima - Rainbow Image

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a post about exercising. I’m sure you won’t be surprised at what I’m about to tell you. (Although it surprised me!)

I was acknowledged for doing the most workouts at my health club for the month of August.

Marcy at top of the list

Marcy at the Top of the List

See my name at the top of the list?

I wasn’t aiming to claim the most visits and I wasn’t keeping track even though some members at the club don’t believe me. A new doctor I had been seeing recommended I workout AT LEAST 5 times a week! To me, this translated into doing more than 5 times a week so I was at the club everyday it was open: 6 days a week. I did that for 2 1/2 weeks straight and I didn’t take the 7th day off when I was home!

How was it? It was exhausting! Are they serious? What senior citizen can continually exercise at that pace? Maybe if they didn’t put much effort into their workouts but my workouts aren’t like that. I put my all into it. I’m known at my club as the person who works out the hardest. Really, it’s more of a social club for a lot of the members. I hope their social friends visit them when they’re in the hospital recovering from illnesses due to their lack of exercise!

So, there has to be a balance here. It should be taken into account how seriously you exercise! Plus, I don’t exercise for 30 minutes. I figure since I’m there, I’m going to exercise until I’m tired and that is usually 50 minutes and, depending on which gym I’ve been going to and the equipment they have, as long as 1 hr and 15 minutes. I think doctors need to ask their patients about this. Or, maybe I need to volunteer this information the next time at my appointment since I seem to be stereotyped: Senior = Sedentary.

MY GOALS

I’ve been working on increasing my upper body strength in the past few months and the effort shows. My biceps have increased .25% while I’ve slowly continued to lose weight. I’m still using the caloriecount website and I don’t know if I can ever do without it! I am seriously hooked on it because it has been so beneficial to me!

The reason I’ve been working on my upper body strength is that women in general, are known to have poor upper body strength and I’ve always wanted to do a chin up. So far, I can master a chin up half way. This is a new goal for me. I like to challenge myself and I am always seeking new exercise goals to keep things interesting and to have something to achieve.

Since April of this year, I put together a warm-up routine for myself that I do now every time I exercise. It is about 6 minutes long and involves a variety of arm movements but also leg and ab movements too. I am crediting this routine for healing my shoulder issues that had dragged on for over 2 years! I will write up and post the routine in a future post. You may want to try it. If it worked for me, it may work for you.

Recently, I saw a 75-year-old female body builder on TV. She was lean and didn’t look anywhere near 75! She was inspirational! I was telling one of the gals at my club about her and I said that the body builder was my idol to which she replied, “You’re MY idol!” I got a kick out of that. Hey, that’s OK with me. That’s what this blog is all about:  talking the talk AND walking the walk; reaching that goal at the end of the rainbow!

sxc.hu/cempey - Colorful Rainbow Shot

sxc.hu/cempey – Rainbow Gold Goal!

 

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Exercise: What the Research Says

27 Sep

Originally posted on GymLion blog:

The benefits of physical activity were first scientifically noted in 1953 by Dr. Jerry Morris. Dr. Morris discovered that men of similar social status had different rates of cardiovascular disease based on how much physical activity their occupation required (Morris & Glasg 1953). Since then, studies have documented many more health benefits gained from physical activity and have begun to research the volume, duration and intensity need to realize these benefits.

Benefits of Exercise: Physical activity has been shown to have a number of physiological and psychological benefits. Some benefits of physical activity include:

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 35% (Macera & Hootman 2003).
  • Cancer: There is strong evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. There is weaker evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of ovarian, lung, and…

View original 2,332 more words

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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Inner Peace Award

23 Aug Inner Peace Award

I’ve been awarded the Inner Peace Award by Samina and I’m finally getting around to posting it!

Inner Peace Award

Inner Peace Award

Samina and I have had some interesting conversations about law enforcement. I know, not what you’d expect from me, is it. I had an incident to tell her about a few months ago when I accidentally locked myself out of my car with the keys on the front seat! I was helping a Lowes employee put my brand new lawnmower in my car which is how the keys ended up on the seat.

I went back into Lowes and told the customer service people what happened. They gave me their phone and dialed the Avon, Indiana police department. I really wasn’t exactly sure what was happening here because I was in a tizzy and stressing out about my car keys! I told the woman at the police station what had happened and she dispatched a police car to the store. I waited in the parking lot and within 10 minutes, the car arrived with a nice young police officer who had several gadgets to “break into my car!”

The first didn’t work. My heart sank. The second gadget elicited a “click” from my car door and voila! the door opened. I thanked him so profusely until he practically started laughing. I couldn’t help myself, what can I say. I left him there with all his gadgets, my car keys in my pocket, and ran back into the store because I had more shopping to do! LOL!

Needless to say, I didn’t have any inner peace that day so it’s ironic that I received this Inner Peace Award following my initial conversation with Samina! Once I got home, I had a heck of a time getting the gigantic box with my new lawnmower inside it, out of the back seat of my car! Then I dragged it through my garage and into my house to figure out how to put the thing together.  I bet I burned more than a few calories that day!

Fortunately, most of my days aren’t as exciting as that day. Most days I do have inner peace.  I get inner peace from exercising, writing, gardening, cooking, baking, working on my house, and helping others.

Thank you Samina for this award. My favorite thing about this award is that it has no rules. That’s my kind of award! And again, I find it ironic that this award has no rules – in effect we are breaking the rules (similar to breaking the law!) Maybe it’s just me and the way I look at things!

Peace out!

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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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A Gander at the Inside of My Grander/Vitamin D News

14 Aug Completed Tuna Salad Sandwich

I wanted to post this yesterday but I was too tired. I’ve been working out every day now but that’s a whole other post for when I have more time!

I’ll get right to it: the taste of my Grander (Heirloom) tomato! It was dense, it was juicy, it was mild, it had few seeds, the skin was not tough….I loved it!  I think it would make great tomato sauce and from the looks of the vine and all the tomatoes, I will be able to do just that.

I decided to make my mother’s recipe of tuna, celery, hard-boiled egg, and mayo salad sandwich to showcase my Heirloom tomato. First, chop up a stalk of celery.

Celery Chopped

Celery Chopped

Chop up a hard-boiled egg.

Hard-Boiled Egg Chopped

Egg Chopped

Chop (or mash) a can of Starkist Select Low Sodium Chunk Light in Water tuna.

Low Sodium Tuna Chopped

Low Sodium Tuna Chopped

Why this particular variety of tuna?

Starkist Selects Chunk Light Tuna in Water-Low Sodium

Starkist Selects Chunk Light Tuna in Water-Low Sodium

It contains Vitamin D – 15% of your DV per serving or two ounces. (More about this below.)

Add your favorite mayonnaise. I like Kraft with Olive Oil but I also like the low calorie mayo too. Add two tablespoons and stir well.

I don’t add anything else because the tuna is salty even though it is low sodium and the yolk of the egg contains sodium. I don’t want to push my sodium limits.

Next, get two slices of Brownberry Health Nut bread.

Brownberry Health Nut Bread

Brownberry Health Nut Bread

Why? Each slice of this bread has 10% of your DV of Vitamin D.

Health Nut Bread Nutritional Facts

Health Nut Bread Nutritional Facts

Recently I was told by my doctor that a blood test showed that I was low in Vitamin D. I showed 28 when a normal reading would be 50. My doctor wants me to be at 70! She prescribed a supplement AND a multi-vitamin. If you know anything about me, you know that I don’t like to take pills of any kind unless it’s absolutely necessary. I think what she prescribed was overkill AND I would have preferred if she tried to coach me into making changes to my diet to get the Vitamin D I needed. So, I made the changes myself and did not take the supplements or multi-vitamin pills.

I drink almond milk with Vitamin D, orange juice with Vitamin D, eat Total cereal with Vitamin D, tuna, salmon, sardines, Smart Balance Buttery Spread with Olive Oil, Eggland’s Best Eggs, Brownberry Health Nut bread, Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta, Shiitake mushrooms, Yoplait Greek 100 Fat-free Tropical Fruit yogurt, also Vanilla, Peach, and other flavors, non-fat dry milk….these all contain Vitamin D and I rotate them into my diet so that at the end of each day, I have had my daily requirement of Vitamin D.  *This list of Vitamin D foods will continuously be updated as I learn about foods that contain the vitamin.

Too much Vitamin D can be LETHAL! Not enough Vitamin D can cause rickets and soft bones. Vitamin D is needed to promote bone growth. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer and more maladies. We hear a lot about calcium, but Vitamin D is just as important.

Bread makers asked for permission to add a vitamin D yeast to their breads so that they could list Vitamin D in their ingredients. They were given the OK. I had to look through 20 loaves of bread at Meijer to find this one loaf of bread with Vitamin D! I even asked the bread deliverer and he had never heard of bread with Vitamin D and said he would ask his boss. Too late, I already found one but I’m sure there are more out there! If you find another brand of bread with Vitamin D, please let me and my readers know! Thanks!

OK, I reviewed the Heirloom tomato, it’s time to review the Brownberry Health Nut bread. It was bland. Next time I’ll toast it to see if that helps. The next day I made the same sandwich with the leftover tuna-egg salad and Heirloom tomato on Rye bread. What a world of difference! It tasted better but of course I didn’t get the Vitamin D from the Rye bread.

Here are the results of my bread, tuna-egg salad sandwich:

Heirloom Tomato Slice

Heirloom Tomato Slice

The tomato slice covers the entire slice of bread!

Tuna Salad Open-faced

Tuna Salad Open-faced

There is plenty of tuna-egg salad to pile on thickly.

Completed Tuna Salad Sandwich

Completed Tuna Salad Sandwich

In case you’re wondering what the greenery is in my sandwich, it’s escarole. As I said in another post, I love escarole and use it in sandwiches.

This is a nutritious, high protein lunch that helps you get your Vitamin D. It was good! Try it!

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It’s A Grander!

11 Aug Heirloom Tomato - 14.5 oz

OK, a Grander is a big sailfish and I’m talking about my tomato so I exaggerated a little.

Just a quick post since it’s already past 8:00 pm. Where did the day go? I had visions of writing so many things in this post and/or writing multiple posts and now I’m pushing it to write just this one since I have 4 clean loads of laundry on my bed waiting to be sorted and put away.

Back to my Grander. This summer I decided to plant heirloom tomatoes. I bought just one heirloom plant from Meijer. These things took off like gangbusters! I have never seen a tomato plant be so energetic. I did fertilize it a lot but I fertilized all my other tomato plants too and they haven’t run rampant on me like this one although they look healthy and productive.

Enough talk, here’s a photo. This was the first tomato to fruit from this plant. You should see the main stem! I’m going to have a heck of a time pulling it out of the ground when the season is over.

See, I’m just a frustrated writer who wants to write. Shut up Marcy and show them the tomato already! OK!

Heirloom Tomato - 14.5 oz

Heirloom Tomato – 14.5 oz

This is the biggest tomato I have ever grown! I’m getting a good yield from this plant and it’s barely mid-August. I haven’t tasted it yet. I plucked it because I didn’t want to take the chance that it might fall off and be eaten by bugs. I’ll let you know how it tastes.

Tomorrow tuna and egg salad sandwich with escarole leaves and fat slices of this tomato on rye. I promise to eat a slice on the side, lightly salted so as not to take anything away from the taste. Please heirloom tomato, don’t disappoint!

One of the big differences with heirloom tomatoes is that they are not as disease resistant as other hybrid tomato plants. Hybrid tomatoes generally have an inbred resistance to tobacco mosaic disease, but heirlooms don’t. Heirlooms are plants with seeds that have been handed down from generation to generation, just like heirloom jewelry and furniture! Heirloom tomato plants are known to have a flavor that is complex and rich. My mouth is watering! If it’s as good as it’s cracked up to be, I will be planting it from now on – inbred disease resistance be damned! I favor flavor!

OK, I’m off to watch TV whilst I fold and put away all my laundry. No rest for the weary! Cheerio!

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New Food Friday – Moroccan Preserved Lemons

19 Jul Asparagus and Butternut Squash with Pickled Lemon

My post about Meyer lemons brought about some interesting comments. This sent me to the internet to do research. To make a long story short, this post is about Moroccan preserved lemons also known as pickled lemons.

sxc.hu/craigbcn - Moroccan Architecture

Moroccan Architecture (sxc.hu/craigbcn)

You can use Meyer lemons or any type of lemon for this dish. Moroccan’s typically use these preserved lemons as a garnish or as a main ingredient. They are very simple to make. The hardest part is the waiting because you have to wait 4 or 5 weeks before the lemons are pickled.

sxc.hu susannah - Marrakech Koran School

Marrakech, Morocco Koran School (sxc.hu susannah)

There are many variations to making preserved lemons. You can use lemons only or you can add spices like a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, garlic, chili flakes, coriander, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, the list is limited to your imagination. To be clear, this is not a sweet dish nor is it to be confused with preserves that you spread on bread or scones!

Moroccans use preserved lemons in dishes like Chicken tagine with lemons and olives.

sxc.hu cecilegeng - Tajine

Tajine (sxc.hu cecilegeng)

Moroccan food-Chicken tagine with preserved le...

Moroccan food-Chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Preserved lemons are made from lemons and salt. That’s all! I wanted to make the smallest batch possible because I wasn’t sure if I would like this dish and I didn’t want to waste lemons!

So, I selected one gigantic lemon and used my smallest canning jar. You can see the size of the lemon in relation to the demitasse cup in the photo.

Lemon Espresso

Lemon Espresso

Not only was it a big lemon, it was juicy! This was perfect. The lemons or lemon slices in my case, have to be squashed into the jar as much as possible to release the juices.

How to make the Preserved Lemons

Put about one tablespoon of Kosher salt in the bottom of a meticulously clean canning jar.

Kosher Salt

Kosher Salt

The safest way to do this is to boil the jar and the lid for 5 minutes first, let the jar cool, dry it off, then add the salt to the jar.

Meanwhile, wash the lemon very well. I use dish washing liquid. Make sure you rinse carefully removing all soap. Then, cut off the ends and slice it into wedges.

Lemon Ends

Lemon Ends

Remove any visible seeds.

Lemon Wedges

Lemon Wedges

Add the first 2 wedges to the bottom of the jar then cover with more salt.

Add a couple more wedges and cover them with salt. Now, because Meyer lemons are usually used for this dish and I was using regular lemons, I decided to add a pinch of sugar.

Lemon and Pinch of Sugar

Lemon and Pinch of Sugar

Just a pinch! It’s optional.

Squash down the lemon wedges and if you can add more wedges, do so. Finish with a topping of salt. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt for each lemon you use. You can see that my lemon wedges are above the rim of the jar.

Screw on the lid. This is akin to closing an overstuffed suitcase, but the idea is to make juice by squeezing the lemon wedges this way. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to give each of the lemon wedges a squeeze as you put them in the jar. It’s funny that none of the recipes I saw online suggested this. If you feel that the lemon is not very juicy, add the juice of another lemon into your jar. Within a few hours, my jar was filled with lemon juice. The salt draws out the juices.

Dry off the jar if any liquid seeps out and store in your pantry or a cool, dark place for about 1 week.

Lemon Preserves Shelved

Lemon Preserves Shelved

Every few days, press the lemons down to release their juices then tightly screw on the lid again turning the jar upside down. Then, refrigerate for 1 month, again turning upside down every so often. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

Once pickled, a small amount can be used in a variety of dishes. I diced some of the rind on top of a piece of sockeye salmon last night for dinner. It was perfect! Tonight I’m sprinkling some on roasted asparagus and butternut squash.

Asparagus and Butternut Squash with Pickled Lemon

Asparagus and Butternut Squash with Pickled Lemon Bits

When you are ready to use the pickled lemons, rinse the salt off the lemon wedge(s) then add a small amount to a quick saute; add a pinch to mashed potatoes; add to a sauteed salmon dish; add to a roasting chicken; chop the rind and add it to a salad, etc. The flavor is intensely lemony but different from using straight lemon juice and/or zest so you only need a little bit. The peel (the zest and the pith), is the most valued part of this dish.

This is worth trying. You might become addicted! There are many variations using a variety of spices and salts. You can also pickle limes or oranges. 

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Update On My Weight Loss Using The CalorieCount Website

29 Jun Fashion Model Silhouette

In a recent post I wrote about the website called caloriecount.about.com. I mentioned that it wasn’t very easy to learn (it wasn’t). However, I stuck with it and so far have lost 4 lbs. I attribute this weight loss to cutting back on fats, sodium, and over-sized portions. I also increased my activity level.

My goal is to lose 10 lbs so that my BMI will be in the healthy range.

The caloriecount website notified me that I had a sedentary lifestyle. Boy, my feathers bristled at that one! If MY lifestyle was sedentary, what was the lifestyle of people who didn’t work out and were couch potatoes?

Other than calorie logging, the website also allows you to enter activities you do each day. They would include: showering, driving, sitting at a computer, weight lifting, gardening, throwing out the trash, preparing meals, grocery shopping, aerobics, stretching, circuit training – the list is almost endless. Yes, this is tedious and time-consuming until you get the hang of it. I now have a clearer picture of my daily activity level and although I still don’t agree with them about having a sedentary lifestyle, I have to admit that losing 4 lbs without starving myself does say something.

I began entering my foods and activities May 29.  Today is June 29.  That’s about a pound per week of weight loss.

The website (and you) calculate what you want your ultimate weight to be and that determines what your calorie count should be each day. Mine is 1600 calories per day.  

I had the hardest time reaching my minimum daily values for potassium (4,700 mg).  Once I began to realize that sweet potatoes and butternut squash (two of my favorite vegetables) were high in potassium, I incorporated them into more meals and now reach my potassium level more often. Other Potassium rich foods: prunes, bananas, spinach.) Potassium may neutralize the heart-damaging effects of too much salt.

I knew that processed foods contained salt but I wasn’t aware that natural foods like white potatoes, spinach (yes, spinach), and fish contained high amounts of sodium! By themselves, you probably won’t go over your daily limit. But when you salt your foods or forget to read food labels as I did when I bought some blueberry bagels, each one having over 700 mg of sodium, you can quickly go over your daily limit of 2300 mg or 1 teaspoon of salt.

I was also heavy handed with olive oil and butter. Now, I measure by tablespoon what I put over my salads or my roasted veggies. Lately, I skip olive oil altogether and sprinkle my own homemade chicken stock when making my roasted veggies. It tastes just as good, maybe better.

I expect to use the caloriecount website until I imprint in my mind what portion sizes I need so that I can eventually forego the use of measuring spoons and cups. Yes, I’ve been weighing my foods like walnuts, golden raisins (another good source of potassium), and edamame (also potassium rich).

About a week ago, I decided that I didn’t need to enter my activities into the website any longer. I have a good idea in my mind how active I have to be each day.  Today I worked out AND I did the laundry. Usually I save laundry day just by itself but my stamina has increased and now to do both in one day doesn’t phase me.

The caloriecount website allows you to have snacks and I juggle my food entries to allow me snacking pleasure in the evening when I watch tv. Usually I have edamame, or frozen tart cherries, or grapes for a snack. Sometimes 1/2 slice of rye bread spread with blue cheese if I’ve gone light on the sodium intake earlier in the day.

I only had one evening when I was still hungry and went over my daily 1600 calorie limit by about 300 calories. I still ate smart though: 1/2 can of tuna, 1 cup brown rice, 1/2 tablespoon peach preserves, 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard (My own concoction that tastes Asian to me). When this wasn’t enough, I cooked a cup of mixed vegetables. Finally, I was satisfied. I must have been very active that day to still be that hungry!

Some days I felt stuffed and I didn’t want to eat my evening snacks…..but I had to in order to meet my daily requirements.  For example, sometimes I saved my almond milk (calcium) for my evening snack along with 1/2 oz of walnuts and maybe some fruit. Well, a couple of times I had to force myself to eat the snack because I am determined to meet my calcium requirements everyday! One particular night this week, I was so stuffed that I couldn’t stand the thought of a snack and skipped it altogether, to heck with not meeting my DV! (It wasn’t a calcium snack though. I eventually decided to get my calcium for breakfast every morning – OJ and almond milk.) I don’t intend to skip my snacks often.

Once I lose the rest of the weight, I won’t be limited to 1600 calories a day. I don’t know that I will continue to use the caloriecount website because I should have a good idea in my mind what I need to watch: sodium, fats, sugars and portion size. On the other hand, I do like seeing their graph showing that I met my iron, calcium, fiber, sodium, fats, saturated fats, potassium, carbohydrates, protein, Vitamin A, and cholesterol limits. (I think I named them all.) The graph shows if you’ve gone over or are under or are good.

If you need to lose weight, I highly recommend this weight loss website. Also, I should mention that I previously checked out other weight loss websites and none of them compared to caloriecount. It’s more thorough and contains more helpful information. It is worth the time you have to spend learning it. And, who knows, you may find it easier to navigate than I did!

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New Food Friday – Ataulfo Mango Curd

21 Jun Mango Curd2

I’m a fan of chef Rachel Allen and recently she prepared a dish called Lemon Curd on her PBS show.  It looked delicious and as I tried to google the recipe, I came across someone else’s recipe for Mango curd. Since I already had a couple of mangoes in the house, I decided to make the mango curd instead. And that’s what led me to this Friday’s New Food Friday.

Mango Trees

Mango Trees (sxc.hu/asifthebes)

I think the more popular mangos are the pretty red and green ones but my local Meijer also stocks the smaller, yellow Ataulfo mangoes. Don’t overlook these because they are small. In actuality, there is more meat to pit ratio. In my experience there is no taste difference and they ripen better.

Mango Branch sxc.hu sonnyleon 482816

Mango Branch (sxc.hu sonnyleon )

This is what the finished curd looks like. It’s a pretty yellow color and creamy. To me, the curd tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a lemon cream.

Mango Curd3

Mango Curd

It keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks, maybe more.

Mango Curd Closeup

Mango Curd Closeup

I like mango curd on blueberry bagels for breakfast but you can spread it on toast, English muffins, scones, the possibilities are endless.

Mango Curd on Blueberry Bagel

Mango Curd on Blueberry Bagel

Store bought lemon or mango curd is expensive and they don’t always have the best ingredients in them. I’ve seen some jars go for over $7.00.  Some jar ingredients don’t even contain egg yolks, a key ingredient in mango curd or most curds. The egg yolk is what helps to make the curd a good, nutritious breakfast food.

As with most recipes, the ingredients can vary. Some people add lime juice. I made mine with lemon juice.

2 ripe Ataulfo mangoes

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

4 large egg yolks

4 tablespoons butter cut into pieces

pinch salt (if you are using salted butter, omit salt)

Wash then peel the mangoes  cut into pieces and scrape all the fruit off the pit using every last drop. Add the lemon juice, the sugar, the salt if you are using it, and blend in a food processor. I used my immersion blender and the carafe it came with. Puree. 

Now add the egg yolks and purée 15 seconds longer. The recipe I used (from Epicurious) said to strain the ingredients through a sieve. I didn’t see any need for this but it’s up to you.

Pour pureed ingredients into a bowl and place the bowl on top of a pan of simmering water. DON’T LET THE WATER TOUCH THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL. Wisk or stir (I stirred) until thickened, about 10 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 170 F degrees. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir in butter, one piece at a time.

You can cover the curd with plastic wrap so a “skin” doesn’t form on top. I let mine cool and then poured it into a jar, let it cool some more, then screwed a lid on and put in the fridge. When it cooled, some water had formed on the lid and I wiped the water off. 

I saved my egg whites in canning jars and froze them. I will use them for baking breads to give them a nice shine. If you do this, allow the egg whites to defrost completely in the fridge. You could also make a white omelet with the egg whites.

I hope you try this.  You use fresh fruit, fresh egg yolks, and fresh butter. It’s delicious, nutritious, and avoids all the preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients in store-bought curd. 

Once you try this, you will want to make other curds. I know I do!

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My Nutrition College Course and a Follow-up Website

4 Jun sxc.hu michtur

When I was in college, I took the course Nutrition 304. This was no light course. I was the only non-nursing student in the class at the University of Evansville in Indiana.

University of Evansville Rick Lewallen 2005

University of Evansville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The year was 1985 and I was 5’8″ tall and 148 lbs. Sigh! I’m still 5’8″ but I’m not 148 lbs.!

I know my exact weight at that time because in this class we had to do a dietary project which consisted of logging information on data sheets recording our mood when we ate, the place where we ate, with whom, the times, the food and amount, and our observation.

Fruit basket (sxc.hu michaelaw)

Fruit basket (sxc.hu michaelaw)

If that wasn’t enough, there were also calculations that we had to do such as percentage of calories from fiber, fat, carbs, etc.  This was an 8-page project of instructions and forms which included an evaluation form where I had to make recommendations to myself for improving my eating habits and diet. It was thorough and tedious!

In case you’re wondering, I don’t remember all of this from memory, I stumbled upon the dietary project today tucked into my Nutrition Concepts and Controversies 3rd Edition soft cover text book (133 pages) that I’ve kept on my bookshelf all these years because it is excellent. I paid $27.95 for it. You can now purchase the 13th paperback edition (864 pages) on Amazon for $177.49! YIKES!

My project required that I record my food intake over the course of five days. My findings were that I rushed when I ate and needed to try to relax more before and during a meal. I was low on calcium, iron, and too high on fats. I improved my fiber intake and my carb intake during the project. 

Bell Peppers (sxc.hu ivanmarn )

Bell Peppers (sxc.hu ivanmarn )

It’s interesting that I notated that I felt bloated when I drank milk. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t pursue that because even though I was low in calcium, I’m sure the bloating feeling influenced the amount of calcium I consumed. If I didn’t work out so much and lift weights, I wonder if I would have had a broken bone or two by now because throughout the years, I really didn’t improve my calcium intake enough.

asparagus-and-tomatoes-sxc-hu-muffet1

Asparagus and Tomatoes (sxc-hu-muffet1)

In those days, I drank soda. My poison of choice was Dr. Pepper. It was shortly after this course that I gave up all soda. I also gave up beef. Many years later, I gave up ketchup (too much sugar). 

I received an “A” for the project and ultimately a “B” for the course. I was SO close to getting an “A” –  missed it by that much! 

Part of the reason that I bring all this  up is because I stumbled upon a website where you can log your food choices and activity level. It is an outstanding website: caloriecount.about.com

I had been logging my foods and activity previously on WebMD but it isn’t as detailed as caloriecount.about.com. There are over 250,000 foods listed in their database! There are over 5 million members. You can chose to keep all your records private, or you can share with the other members. 

One of the things I love about this website is that it is very detailed, and you know me, I love details! I can click a button and find out how many carbs I ate in a day and which foods had the carbs and the percentage of carbs in each of those foods! The same is true for sugar and other nutrients/vitamins. I learned I have been eating too much sugar without even realizing it! I don’t even add sugar to my coffee or my tea, yet I was getting too much sugar from the foods I ate. 

You get a nutrition report at the end of the day that shows whether you are too low, good, or too high for each nutrient/vitamin. This is very helpful because you can check how you are doing any time of the day and if you notice that you are too low in, let’s say calcium, you have the opportunity to correct that by drinking some milk, or eating some yogurt or consuming any food that contains calcium. I love this feature!

One of the great things about this website is that I have finally been able to get my needed amount of calcium each day. I am ecstatic over that!

One of the down sides to the site is that it takes a while to learn. I’ve been using it for two weeks now and I still don’t know everything about the site.  So, if you plan to use it, expect it to take some time until you get the hang of it. Keeping track of the foods you eat is the best way to lose weight. It’s been proven. 

Not only can you keep track of your foods and activity levels but when you mouse over words like sodium or potassium, you can click the link and it will take you to a page that explains all about it, listing the foods that are high in these nutrients. This website is like a continuation of my college nutrition course and it’s free!

There are two other levels to joining caloriecount.about.com. One is a Premium level for $3.33 per month. (One day free trial). The other includes a Dietitian service for $24.99 per month (Seven day free trial). I’m not pushing either, I’m just explaining what is available.

For the free service, you also have access to over 400,000 recipes, nutrition articles, a goal-setting page, and much more. I haven’t even scratched the surface myself.

So far I haven’t been able to lose any weight. I’ve been too busy trying to squeeze in all the vitamins and minerals that I need. Calcium, fiber, and potassium take a great deal of effort and planning for me.  I also made the mistake of buying bagels without reading the label. They contain over 700mg of sodium per bagel! They’re blueberry bagels so I don’t want to throw them out. Every day that I eat one, I’m over my limit for sodium.  They are also high in sugar. This is why I preach reading the labels. I don’t know why I forgot to do it for these bagels. Maybe because they looked so good!

It takes perseverance to meet your daily requirements but it’s worth it. I hope you will take a look at the caloriecount website. It might save you a broken bone!

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Signs of Spring: Wet Rains, Weeds, and Wandering Plants

25 May Columbine Flower

My garden is looking pretty and I’ve pulled a lot of weeds to get it to look that way!

Irises

Irises

We’ve had a lot of rain – like every other day. We’ve also had a roller coaster ride of temperatures, from low 40’s to mid-80’s.  It keeps going up and down!

First Rose of Spring

First Rose of Spring

When it’s cool, I make sure I get out in the backyard and get to work!

Flowering Thyme2

Flowering Thyme

I’ve had to mow the lawn weekly, unlike last spring/summer when we had the drought and I didn’t have to mow at all!

Boxwood

Boxwood

My neighbor’s lawn service shaved my Columbine flowers to the quick last summer but fortunately they came back full bloom. A resilient flower that mimics a resilient town in Colorado. When they spread out some more, I will transplant some to the front yard.

Columbine Flower

Columbine Flower

Half of the seeds I sowed in my vegetable garden died due to frost. FROST! In MAY! So, I went out yesterday and planted more seeds. My Cilantro survived though and it’s the first time I planted Cilantro.  Let’s hope there are no more frosts!

I have plants growing in my front yard also. Two of them,  I don’t know where they came from. One looks like a fir tree and it’s about 4 inches tall.  When it gets a little bigger, I’ll transplant it to my backyard. The other plant is a common spider plant. I transplanted it indoors last summer and the plant died. So, I was shocked to see another spider plant out front in the same spot where I removed the first one! The more I think I know about plants, the more they surprise me.

If you’re not growing a garden, you’re missing a lot of fun, good exercise, and Vitamin D.  It’s never too late to get started.

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New Food Friday – Kimchi or Kimchee or gimchi

17 May sxc.hu hobbesyeo Korean Dishes

As it sometimes happens, I was looking for something at my local Meijer and found something else instead. That is how I came upon Kimchi. At one point, it seemed I was hearing so much about Kimchi that I wanted to try it. So now you know why this Friday’s post is all about Kimchi. Kimchi is a food product popular in Korea.

sxc.hu winchild Kwang Reung National Park Korea

Kwang Reung National Park Korea (sxc.hu/ winchild)

I first heard about Kimchi on the PBS cooking show, The Kimchi Chronicles. Hugh Jackman starred in the first two episodes along with Marja (Allen) Vongerichten and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a world-renowned chef. 

Don’t let Marja’s last name fool you. She is Korean. She was born of a Korean mother and a GI. At the age of three, she was put up for adoption and raised by an American mother in Virginia.  When she was 19, she reunited with her birth mother. In this reunion, she took many trips with her Korean family to Korea.

sxc.hu fliku Gwanghwamun Palace

Gwanghwamun Palace Seoul, Korea   (sxc.hu/fliku)

Those first episodes with Hugh Jackman were confusing to me. I couldn’t figure out whose show it was. I thought it was Jackman’s show. After the first few episodes, Jackman wasn’t there anymore so I assumed it was Marja’s show. But I wasn’t sure if she had any culinary background yet she seemed to be dominating the show.

sxc.hu vancanjay Korean Dancers

Korean Dancers   (sxc.hu/vancanjay)

In any event, I muddled through the confusion to find a new food: Kimchi.

When I spotted the jars of Kimchi at my local Meijer, there were two varieties: mild and hot. With the little knowledge I had of Kimchi from the show, I knew that the mild was going to be hot enough, so I opted for the mild Kimchi.

Mild Kimchee

Mild Kimchee

As it turned out, the further down I got in the jar, the hotter the Kimchi seemed to be. The spices had settled.

So what is Kimchi? Kimchi is fermented cabbage. It is very similar to sauerkraut and has a similar “crunch” factor. It’s made with Napa Cabbage and there is a distinct red broth surrounding the very packed-down cabbage made from red chili peppers.

Kimchee Ingredients

Kimchee Ingredients

I’d like to show you what was in the jar but I ate it all, sorry.

Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea

Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was eager to taste this Kimchi although looking at it in the jar was not an appetizing sight. I wondered what I had gotten myself into! I stabbed some with my fork and tasted a bite. I didn’t care for it at first. I thought it was going to give me terrible indigestion, but that never happened.

Every day I would take a forkful and surprisingly, I began to like it. However, I won’t be running back to Meijer to buy another jar anytime soon but if someone served it to me, I would eat it without hesitation. But some people can’t turn off their desire for Kimchi.

Koreans for example, are obsessed with Kimchi. They even have a Kimchi museum.

Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul, Korea

Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul, Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Korean families own special refrigerators designed to maintain the “optimal temperature for the stinky vegetables’ fermentation and preservation” and South Korean scientists spent years developing a recipe for a bacteria-free “space kimchi” to accompany their first citizen’s visit to the international space station.

When Koreans have their pictures taken, they don’t say “cheese” they say, “Kimchee!”

Claims about the nutritional benefits of Kimchi vary. Below are the Nutritional Facts from the Sun Yum jar.

Kimchee Nutrition Facts

Kimchee Nutrition Facts Click to Enlarge

I would think it would have some benefits because it is fermented but I found conflicting evidence about its health benefits, particularly when it comes to cancer.

According to health.com, Kimchee contains vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit may be in its “healthy bacteria” called lactobacilli, found in fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt. It is served at every meal in Korea and, as it is high in fiber and low in fat, it helps to keep Koreans out of the obesity statistics. Some studies show that there are compounds in Kimchee that may prevent cancer.

On the other hand, some scientists have identified some potential carcinogens in the food and that there is evidence that Kimchee might increase the risk of stomach cancer.  Some doctors suggest that kimchi is fine when eaten in moderation, along with a regular diet of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Koreans eat 40 pounds per year per person. That sounds like a lot to me. If you check the cancer statistics for Korea, you will find that stomach cancer is among the 5 leading causes of cancer death for both men and women.

sxc.hu ychi Escalators in Electronics Department Store in Seoul

Escalators in Electronics Department Store in Seoul, Korea   (sxc.hu/ychi)

If you are willing to try Kimchee, look for it in the refrigerated section of your grocer’s supermarket. I found mine where they keep the tofu, bean sprouts, and ready-made egg roll wrappers.

As far as the Korean photos in this post, I selected photos that showed the traditional Korea and the more modern Korea. I hope you enjoyed them.

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The Liebster Award

5 May Liebster Award

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award by EarthMermaid. Thank you for nominating me. I love the message your blog sends!

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

This award is for blogs with less than 200 followers. It’s a great way for bloggers to give a shout out to blogs they like and expand their network, while helping other bloggers gain a broader audience too.  It’s also a fun way for bloggers to get to know more about their followers and share some fun facts about themselves!

The Rules for Accepting the Award:

1. Post 11 facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions posed by your nominator.
2. Pass the award on to 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers and post 11 questions for them to answer.
3. Display the Liebster Blog Award in your post.

4. These rules are not written in stone.  If you break the rules, I will not call the  Liebster law.

My 11 Facts about Myself:

1. I love artichokes. I’m cooking 4 stuffed artichokes as we speak. You have to get good ones. All artichokes are not created equal and it is not easy to know good ones from tough ones.

2. I love broccoli rabe or some call it Rapini. I like to make a sandwich out of it on crusty bread or a sesame seeded Kaiser roll! I’m trying my hand at growing it in my garden this year and the seeds have already sprouted! Yipee!

3. Lamb chops are my favorite meat. Thank God they are too expensive for me to buy often!

4. My favorite type of movie is a psychological thriller.

5. I can’t have chocolate hazelnut spread in the house because I will eat half the jar (or more).

6. I like to fix things: toilets, jewelry, thread-bare gloves, broken shovels, wheels on lawn mowers, you name it. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and I like to study the thing, whatever it is, and figure out how to fix it!

7. I save odds and ends parts so that I might have them for when I need to fix something (see #6).

8. I love chewy foods. Have I told you lately how much I love bulgur?

9. I love art and I love to visit art museums. I get lost in the paintings of some artists.

10. I have a crush on Jeremy Sisto. (But I also still love Charles Bronson.)

11. I vacuum spiders.

My answers to Earthmermaid’s questions:
1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Italy. I’ve got cousins there and I’ve visited them. I love the food and the artistic beauty there.

2. What do you like for breakfast?

Good question! I don’t like breakfast and I have trouble coming up with ideas for a breakfast that can get me excited! I usually force myself to eat breakfast I’m sorry to say. (However, I’m crazy about dinner!)

3. What about yourself do you like most?

My sense of humor. I crack myself up.

4. Which is more meaningful to you – strong mind or strong body?

Tough one! I am very into exercise so I’ll say exercise knowing that a good, strong mind automatically follows a healthy, well-exercised body!

5. What is your most efficient way of handling stress?

Exercise!

6. Are you a morning or night person?

I love the morning air so I’ll say morning but you’d never know it by the hours I keep.

7. What is your favorite form of exercise?

Kickboxing and boxing. I’ve got dvd’s for both. You don’t know how much fun it is (even if you do it alone) until you try it!

8. If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?

I’d make every person, especially those in countries that are always at war like Syria, or provoking war, like North Korea,  spend several years in therapy.

9. What books have you read that inspired you?

Seize the Day, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Swan Thieves, all my psych text books and all my Italian language books.

10. Guilty pleasure?

I’ve known a few pleasures but I don’t have the guilt!

11. Why did you start your blog?

I started my blog as a way to attract people to my freelance writing articles. My blog has taken on a life of its own and so I’m in the process of re-grouping so that I can go back to writing articles but also keep up with my blog. However, at this moment, house and health check-ups are interfering with those plans. I am encouraged because I am getting a lot done around here! Maybe I should take pictures and do a post about these accomplishments. Although it’s unfortunate that the trash men have picked up all my evidence this morning of all the bushes/trees/vines I hacked down/pruned/sawed! 

My Blog Nominations:

1. Gerard Villanueva

2. http://tylerbballen.wordpress.com/

3. griggwk

4. BlondeHealth

5. The Good Villager

6. Laura Dickey

7. http://mittsandmeasures.com/

Here are my questions for the winners:
1. What is your favorite book and why?
2. Who is your most admired person and why would you like to spend a day with him/her?
3. What is your favorite dish?
4. What is your favorite form of exercise?
5. What is your best skill at work?
6. What is your favorite or most used expression?
7. What makes you madder than a wet hen?
8. What was the nicest thing you’ve ever done for a stranger?
9. If you  could be a famous artist, who would you be?
10. What is your best dance step? (e.g. Cha-cha, tango, funky chicken, etc.)
11. What was the longest hike/walk you’ve ever taken and how long did it take you to recover?
Congratulations to the winners!
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