Monday, January 30, 2012

Middle Eastern-style Kale Soup

Generally speaking, I like to have soup for lunch every day.  My rules are this: 1. It must always start with a rich broth made from the bones of an animal (NO exceptions!)  2.  It must have a whole grain and a legume, and 3. It must have some kind of green thrown in at the last minute.  The most important rule, though, is that it must be creative and invented on the spot. 

Because of my rules, I like to have pre-cut veggies on hand, and soaked beans and grains available to me at any time.  Also because of my rules, I end up with some pretty interesting soups that I never could have planned out.

For example, today's soup came from the simple addition of Tahini as a thickener.  I decided on this thickener because I heard it can be anti-fungal, and I am on a quest to get rid of this particular hand fungus.  I believe I got it while working in a laboratory over a year ago and have been on a low/no-sugar diet ever since the beginning of the year.  It's been improving, though I am always looking for some way to bolster my anti-fungus regimen. 

But, as with my soup cooking, I digress.  I will leave more details of that story for later.  So I was on an anti-fungal quest with my tahini, and once I put it in, I realized where in the world I was going with this.  The smell of sesame seeds and beans begged for some cumin and turmeric.  I finished it off with some ginger and, of course, the obligatory greens.  The result was spicy and peppery; a dense soup that offered tartness and earthiness.  A resounding success!

Here is my soup for today:

2 cups broth (I used turkey)
2 T dry rice
2 T dried split peas
1 T tahini
1 cup kale
2 T Juicer pulp from this recipe (or 1 T grated ginger)
3 shakes cumin
2 shakes turmeric
1 shake paprika
salt and pepper to taste

1 T whey (or buttermilk)
a few sprigs pickled kale
a sprinkling of pepitas and sunflower seeds

In a 2-qt saucepan, heat the broth with the rice and peas.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer until they are tender.
Add tahini and stir until thickened. 
Add juicer pulp or ginger and stir.
Shake in spices and add kale.  Remove from heat, stir, and cover a few minutes until kale is soft and buttery.
Pour in bowl and drizzle whey or buttermilk in.  Garnish with pickled kale and seeds.

Serves one very happy person.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Delicious Cornbread

Today I made cornbread.  Paula Deen inspired me via an old episode that played on an obscure country music channel.  About a year and a half ago, I made the most delectable cornbread that anyone of my friends and family had ever tasted.  I brought it to the Fourth of July party we were going to.  I just practiced over three days and perfected it.  It was salty and sweet; moist yet light.  Just the right amount of cheese and some delightful corn niblets.  And it was gluten-free!  I made two batches of it, and because there was bacon fat in the batter, my friend's dog ate both of them at the party.  Then, like an idiot, I did not write it down.  I thought to myself, "I will definitely have no trouble remembering what I did.  I'm that good."  Pride comes before destruction, indeed.  I have not been able to reproduce that bread quite as well since.  Every time it's either too dry or under-seasoned, or not enough batter or who the heck knows what.

Until today.  And today I made the closest version yet--though not quite perfect.  It had moisture, texture, sweetness, and saltiness. It was light but not crumbly.  Maybe soon I will get it to Forth of July deliciousness...

2 cups cornmeal
1.5 cups whole wheat flour (or oat flour for gluten-free)
1 cup plum jam (or some other type of jam)
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup creme fraiche (you can use sour cream)
1/2 cup lassi  or yogurt
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 Tablespoons bacon fat or butter, divided
1 cup milk (roughly... depends on your weather)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Soak cornmeal in creme fraiche, lassi, and cream for 10 minutes.  Mixture should resemble play-doh
Heat 2 tablespoons of fat or butter in a cast iron pan.  Heat oven to 350.
mix salt, flour, cheese, and baking soda in a separate bowl.  Add to cornmeal mixture
Add remaining fat, cheese, jam, and sugar and mix.
Add enough milk to allow mix to be wet but not runny.  It should resemble thick pancake batter.
Pour into heated greased cast iron pan and bake 25-35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breastmilk Cures Everything

Breastmilk is full of antibodies and active, live immune cells.  This makes it extremely useful for things other than just feeding babies.  Just this week I used it to heal cuts and treat diaper rash.  In the past, I have used it for other skin problems and even got rid of a sty with it. What can you think of to use it for?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Summer Peach Chicken with spicy mixed grains

My mom always says I could cook a meal with roadkill and a few things from the pantry.  While I have never actually cooked roadkill (or any other strange protein for that matter), I do enjoy the journey of making a dish as I am creating it.  Hopefully I will be better at remembering them now.

Summer Peach Chicken
This is a light chicken dish I came up with after being inspired by an episode of Rachael Ray.  Luckily, I had everything I needed on hand.  I like to pre-portion my meats into freezer bags for easy marinading and freezing.  I love mixing the sweet with the spicy, and this is a great way to kick off the summer!

3 chicken breasts
1/2 peach, sliced
1 TBSP coconut oil
1/2 c white wine
For the marinade:
2 tsp cumin
2 shakes turmeric
2-3 shakes cayenne pepper
1 TBSP parsley
2 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp pepper
1 TBSP molasses
1/4 c sugar

Pound chicken breasts until thin and tender.  Mix all marinade ingredients and chicken.  Set aside 30 mins.
Heat oil on medium-high in a pan and place breasts in.  Sear one side 2-3 minutes and then turn.  Add diced onion and peach slices and brown them while the second side cooks. Add wine and reduce heat to medium and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 5-10 minutes.

 Spicy Mixed Grains
This dish is about exploring new grains.  I am not a carb-lover.  I generally tend to find them to be bland and mushy.  I love the varied textures of this dish that come from the mixed grains and fruit and vegetables.  A few words on nutrition: quinoa is a delicious seed that is the only vegetable source of complete, high-quality protein.  It provides a nice crunch even when it is fully cooked.

Coconut oil, though higher in saturated fats than olive oil, still has a ton of unsaturated fat, and the saturated fat in coconut oil is an improvement from animal saturated fats.  I won't get into the details, but they are also alleged to be anti-microbial in nature. Just make sure you buy extra-virgin, and from a reputable source.  If it still makes you uncomfortable, then go ahead and use your extra-virgin olive oil.

 3 c chicken broth
1 c white wine
1 TBSP molasses
1 cinnamon stick
3-4 shakes cayenne pepper
1/2 peach, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 TBSP coconut oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/4 c Farro
1/4 c Wheat Berries
1/4 c Quinoa
1/2 c rice
1/2 c lentils

In a 2-quart saucepan, put chicken broth, cinnamon stick, molasses, peach and cayenne pepper.  Simmer 10-15 minutes.
In a dry, hot pan, toast the Farro, wheat berries, quinoa, and rice until it looks a little dark and smells nutty (about 5 minutes).  The quinoa will pop sporadically.  Keep turning the grains so they cook evenly.  push the grains to one side and add the oil with the onion and celery.  Mix together and add the wine.  Reduce heat and cook until wine is nearly gone.
Remove cinnamon stick from the pot and pour contents of the pan (grains and veggies) into the chicken stock.  Add the lentils.
Cook until water is mostly absorbed and each type of grain is tender.  Remove from heat and mix in tomato.  Serve.

I had this with a mixed salad with a few peaches and balsamic vinegar on top.  It was so good we were fighting over the leftovers for lunch!

Perspective... or not?

We all have cycles of up and down.  People always say that we need the down cycles of bad times to keep the good times in perspective.  I have been learning that the bad or dark times are not about perspective.  Those times I learn where my weaknesses are, and when I fix them the good times come in and are are severalfold better than the last good times were.  Doesn't that sound so much better than perspective?