Pink Lime Coconut Cooler - and Vines on the Loose

Our Squash and Tomato plants are growing far beyond the generous 4' x 8' raised bed boundaries we thought they'd settle in quietly. The tomatoes are about 3.5 feet tall...

tomato plants 07272014
tomato plants 07272014

and the squash have spread down the 18" sides and are making their way across the back lawn to who knows where!

I won't even describe the pumpkin vines - and the beanstalks.. well, they would make Jack proud.

We have to get out and water before the heat of the day... before 8:30am these days. It's been in the low 100's for the past handful of days, and boy are we all ready for a break.

This afternoon, after picking my son up from work and driving to a friend's house to relieve her of a silk Ficus tree she no longer could accommodate, we rushed into our cool home yearning for something to quench our insides.

A bunch of organic limes sat on the counter, and I started singing, "She put the lime in the coconut and drank them both up.." and then it struck me!

A Tropical Cooler is Born!

Now, I'm not sure how unique this is.. but I don't believe I've come across a similar medley of ingredients.

I squeezed 3 organic Limes, added some thick Coconut milk (about 1/2 cup), a couple of Tablespoons of Raw Honey, a cup of cold Water, and a jigger of Black'n'Blueberry Juice.

A couple of ice cubes and a straw.. and Wow!  Delicious, refreshing, and good for you.

Adjust honey and water to taste... I liked it on the tart side.

~ Cheers! ♥

The 5 Feline Farm Comes to Life

After missing two weekends, our workers finally showed up last weekend to build raised beds for our organic veggies. J salvaged about 10 - 4" x 12' support beams slated for a seismic retrofit that took a different approach, and saved us hundreds of dollars in wood!

Each one was so heavy that after the guys sawed them into 4' and 6' sections, they laid them on wheelbarrows to get them across the yard.

Melvin joked that they would last 20 years and nothing was going to be move them.

raised beds in process 05 2014

 

Jon building herb box 05 2014

While they worked on the large beds, J built two square beds with Redwood for our organic Herbs.

 

Those two are going under the kitchen window.

raised beds 2

It took eight hours for Melvin and his partner to build the 9 raised beds.

Herb beds 05 2014

 

The Herb boxes were done in an hour and a half.

So J went on to build the patio I wanted just outside the Greenhouse under the shade of the Walnut.

J laying out brick patio 05 2014

Luckily when we bought the property there were many brick pavers lying around, so he used them all to make this lovely space.

brick patio and beds 05 2014

On Mother's Day, my son and J and I planted our seedlings that we started a few weeks ago in the greenhouse.

 

basil sprouting 04 2014

Herbs planted 05 2014

Raised beds plants 05 2014a

Three of my nieces and nephews joined us to Celebrate Mother's Day.  I grilled grass-fed, organic hot dogs and zucchini, and made a large salad, a bowl of Baba Ghannouj and J brought home a whole wheat crust pizza.

I made grain-free, dairy free Raspberry Brownies for dessert.

Afterwards softball and 'orangeball' (poor oranges...) were enjoyed by both participants and observers.

D bats orange 2

Orange baseball 1 052014

Mothers Day 01 052014

My Italian Meat Sauce with Spinach

This sauce can be used to top pasta, baked sweet potatoes, wild rice or polenta.

  • 1 organic red Onion, diced
  • 4 cloves fresh organic Garlic, minced
  • 1 lb grass-fed, organic ground Beef
  • 2 c. thinly sliced organic Spinach (measure after slicing)
  • 1 Tbs. fresh Thyme, chopped or 2 tsp. dried
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp. Black Pepper
  • ¼ tsp. Cayenne
  • 2 Tbs. ev organic Olive Oil
  • 3 c. diced organic Tomatoes, fresh or canned
  • 1/2 c. Water

Heat large pan on medium for 1 minute. Add onions and garlic. Turn heat down to medium-low and stir onions until light brown in color.

Add beef and stir to break up into small pieces, until no longer pink.

Add spinach, herbs and seasoning. Continue to cook, stirring for 4 minutes.

Add oil, tomatoes and water. Bring back to a boil. Cover and turn heat to low.

Simmer for 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Spinach n Tomato Pasta Sauce cu

~ Buon Apetito!

Pink Coconut-Banana Cream Squares with Chocolate Chips

Food coloring lives on a very high shelf of my cupboard, awaiting its once a year service as dye for boiled eggs on Easter. Natural, edible, safe food-based coloring is thankfully available, but I enjoy making my own too.

I had some beet juice left from steaming beets, and decided to experiment with flavors that might soften or mask the beet flavor in a dessert.  I am happy to say, I was successful!  This pretty treat is super simple, actually good for you... in all ways. :)

Pink Coconut Banana Cream Squares1
Pink Coconut Banana Cream Squares1

Pink Coconut-Banana Cream Squares

  • 1 can Coconut Cream (not milk), refrigerated overnight
  • 1 organic Banana, mashed
  • 2 - 3 Tbs. liquid from boiling organic Beets
  • 2 Tbs. Psyllium Husk (don't skip this, if unavailable use freshly ground flax seeds)
  • 1 Tbs. Apple Pectin (or Coconut Palm Sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Orange Blossom Water (in ethnic section of market)
  • 1/2 c. Dark Chocolate Chips (or Carob chips for Vegan)
  • Blueberries or Raspberries for topping

Drain liquid from coconut cream.

Place cream in mixer bowl and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 6 - 7 minutes.

Add mashed banana, and the rest of the ingredients.  Beat for 2 more minutes until well mixed.

Stir in Chocolate chips.

Pour into round glass pie shells, or a rectangular glass dish. (I don't recommend using metal pans for this dessert.)

Top with berries, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Cut into square and serve with more berries if desired.

Cheers! ♥

Hot Cross Buns - Any Day of the Week!

Ever wonder why we seem to feel that traditional Holiday Fare must be served solely on their respective observed Holiday? Wouldn't it be wonderful to both awaken the energy held in said Holidays and enjoy the foods served, during other times of the year?

Why celebrate the Nativity or Thanksgiving, or Adha or Diwali only once a year?  I'm not saying we should go out and do all the associated activities we feel compelled to attach to each Holiday... but to bring the spirit of that day to mind during the year.

It's like not waiting to say a prayer of thanks until you're in a Church or Temple, but freely anywhere, anytime!

So while I did make the Hot Cross Buns for Easter... they were so well received I think they're going to appear on our table a few times a year. :)

Easter eggs

I tweaked a recipe from Udi's to better comply with our good-fats, high-fiber, low glycemic diet, while remaining tasty.

Everyone from adult to teen to 12-year-old loved them (the dark chocolate chunks didn't hurt).  Of course you're welcome to use a few raisins instead.

Chipful Hot Cross Buns, Gluten Free

Dry Ingredients:

  • 3¼ cups gluten-free flour (about 1 lb.). For the best results use a GF flour blend; I used: 1-1/8 c. Sorghum flour 1-1/8 c. Gluten Free Oat Flour (e.g. Bob's Red Mill) 1/2 c. Potato Starch, slightly mounded 1/2 c. Almond Flour/Meal
  • 2 Tbs. Coconut Palm Sugar
  • 2 Tbs. Apple Pectin (for sweetness and fiber)
  • 2½ tsp. Yeast
  • 2½ tsp. Xanthan Gum
  • 1 tsp. Ceylon or True Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • ¼ tsp. each: Ginger, Cardamom, Nutmeg
  • 3/4 c. Dark Chocolate Chips or 1/2 c. Raisins

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1½ c. Almond Milk
  • 3 Hi Omega-3 Eggs
  • 4 Tbs. organic, grass-fed Butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

Next day:

  • 1/4 teaspoon Instant Yeast ( I used regular yeast with 1 Tbs. warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes, and it was fine)
  • 1 Tbs. Warm Water

Egg Wash:

  • Mix 1 large Egg with 1 Tbs. Almond or Coconut Milk

Method

  1. Combine all dry ingredients (except fruit or chocolate chips)
  2. Combine wet ingredients and then add to the mixed dry ingredients. Fold in fruit or chocolate chips.
  3. After mixing dough thoroughly, cover tightly with wax paper, then a clean dish towel and refrigerate in a bowl overnight.
  4. The next day: Dissolve the 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast in the water. Stir this into the dough.
  5. Grease two 8"x8" square or two 9" round pans with coconut oil, and place 8-9 balls of the dough into each pan.

    Hot Cross buns pan

  6. Smooth out the tops of the buns and brush with the egg wash.
  7. With a sharp knife, slice a shallow cross (+) in the top of each roll. Let them rest in a warm room (or 100 degree oven) for about 10-12 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 350º F.

    Hot Cross buns oven

  9. Place baking pan in the center of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating once during baking, until the buns are golden brown and firm to the touch.
  10. Allow buns to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely... if you can wait that long!

No icing necessary, but you must try them warm with a smear of coconut oil and sprinkle of cinnamon!

Hot Cross buns plate

~ Bon Apetit!

Gwen's Story... Don't Let it be Yours

While she got the necessary tubes together for my blood draw, we chatted easily. I have routine blood tests done every 4 – 6 months, and over the last 2 years Gwen and I had become fond of each other. She was complaining again about body pain and her digestion acting up, and how the stress of working at the lab was becoming almost too much to handle.

Gwen is about 45, divorced, is overweight and due to childhood and young adult experiences, doesn’t really believe she deserves good things to happen to her.

This sounded very familiar to me. During my life, I’ve met several people very much like Gwen. Our families aren’t always what we would have wished for, events in our lives leave a stamp that for many of us are difficult to erase or get past.

Gwen has a lovely face and a sweet smile. She has a sense of humor; life necessitated she develop one. I like her very much.

Leap of Faith

I decided to take a leap of faith that she was telling me about her situation as a subtle request for help. She knew I had consulted with several prominent integrative doctors, and was curious about what I had learned since some of the blood tests I request are uncommon and had to be looked up.

I told her to please try to eliminate sugar and as many carby foods from her diet as possible for just 2 weeks. I asked what vegetables she liked, and she laughed knowing I was going to disapprove of her answer.. “Lettuce?” she offered.

“And…?” I wasn’t going to be put off by her attempt at diverting me with humor.

“Well, I don’t know.. carrots?”

“Are you serious?” I teased, “First of all you’re like, asking me.. instead of telling me, so I don’t think you know what a vegetable looks like!”

Gwen laughed again,”Well they don’t all taste great.”

“Some phlebotomist!” I teased.

A Serious Chat

When she was done drawing my blood, I spoke to her about the dangers of chronic inflammation and told her that I would come back in a couple of days with an antioxidant scanner I borrow from a doctor-friend to test her. I also said that if she wanted me to try to help her get better, I would need a promise that she would follow what I suggest… else I’d be sending her out to look for a stick.

She smiled at me with an intense expression in her eyes. The expression told me that no one had cared enough to offer to help her before, and that she was scared about what may be going on with her health.

“Ok. so here’s the deal. I will try to come here after work two days a week, and we’ll go for a 20 minute walk on your break. Can you do that?”

She said it would depend on how many patients they had and how many other staff were around, to call first.

Two days later, I showed up with the scanner. Two of Gwen’s colleagues, whom I also knew, wanted to get scanned as well. Their results were borderline, they could be eating healthier.

Needless to say, Gwen’s results were very bad. Her immune system was overtaxed and weak.

“Did I flunk?” she asked jokingly.

I felt compelled to be straight with her. “Your score is not ok, but we knew it wasn’t going to be. You’ve got to start eating well, and I think you may want to take heavy duty antioxidants to help your body fight whatever is going on. I’m not joking, Gwen, you are very vulnerable, and the aches and pain you feel all day long are telling you things have to change.”

She looked at me quietly and nodded.

“So when people bring donuts and bagels here, you need to have food you bring from home so you’re not tempted. We’re going to consider food like that to be poison.”

“What would I bring?” she asked me with a blank look.

“Berries, a hard boiled egg, a gluten-free slice of healthy bread with hummus or a salad. Go to my website and browse around. Choose things to make only from there until I can give you some cooking lessons… and let’s see what happens in a couple of weeks.

“Can you afford to buy this antioxidant-mineral supplement for a couple of months?” I showed her the one I recommended. The cost was around $70/month, and she said she couldn’t swing it. I told her to buy three of the critical anti-inflammatory supplements.. for around $35.

The Next Few Weeks

We never did walk, because either my work or hers got in the way. But she told me she was taking occasional walks with a neighbor friend. I dropped by once for fun, and someone had bought donuts! She immediately shouted, “Not me! I didn’t touch them!”

I texted her a couple of times during the next few weeks to see how things were going. She wasn’t very forthcoming with details… but I didn’t want to push her.

I knew that for Gwen, eating was part of her emotional world. I went through that after my sister, and then my brother-in-law passed barely 24 months apart. I gained almost 20 lbs that I wasn’t able to shed until I had to change my lifestyle for my own health reasons.

Food and Emotions

It's not news to anyone that when we feel lonely, and unloved or unlovable, food is a source of solace. And not just any food, but foods that give us the necessary blood sugar high. So we gravitate to baked goods, cookies and sweets or rich foods.

And after we’ve indulged we either feel bad, or act like it’s not a big deal, but in reality knowing that it is.

I used to think to myself, “Well, I’m already 20 lbs too heavy, half a pound more isn’t going to make a difference.” But half a pound more every week or two did make a difference.

chubby me

I had low back pain, I hated that when I sat down I had two rolls of fat around my waist. When I was dating, I would wear tops that hid my mid-section… and yet, I couldn’t control what I figured could be the problem.

Funny thing is that I was aware of proper nutrition and healthy foods. I am a chef after all, and fed my children well-rounded meals and very little junk. So I hardly ever ate fried or creamy foods, or too many sweets.. but bread, cheese and rice were part of every day’s fare. And even though accompanied by many vegetables and salads, they have their effect.

So I lulled myself into believing I was eating right, and it was due to me being in my mid-forties that I couldn’t lose weight. I didn’t exercise, except for dancing now and then, and doing Pilates occasionally.

Gwen had larger emotional scars than mine, so I cut her some slack, but I knew she had to do something soon before her body gave in to whatever was brewing.

Fate Steps In

When I returned for another set of blood tests 6 months later, Valerie greeted me. “Where’s Gwen?” I asked.

“Don’t you know? She’s been out for a week.” she replied.

“No, I didn’t know! What’s up?”

“Oh, my goodness, I thought she would have called you. She fainted while on a walk, and then she had hemorrhaging so they’re doing tests.”

“You’re kidding! Gosh I sure hope she’s ok… thank you for telling me. I’ll call her this afternoon for sure.”

Valerie walked me to the cubby where she was going to draw my blood, “I wish you would. She’s not doing well.”

I felt like I let Gwen down. I had tried, but when you feel someone just can’t go it alone, and the only way they can make a drastic change is to have you there to coach and cheer them on every day, it’s hard to know what to do.

At one point, I was going to offer her our garage conversion to come live in, at least for a few months while she taught herself a new way of thinking, eating and living. But there was no way she was going to leave her home, and I never brought it up. I guess I just hoped she could find the resolve to start making a change.

When she told me about some of the devastating experiences she had as a teenager and young adult, I said that I had been sent into her life for a reason then, because with the right perspective she could let go of all that pain and realize she is not the person she was then, and if it were not for this thing we call ‘memory’, she would be a shooting star!

She hugged me.

Face the Truth and Make a Change

We are all a little like Gwen in some way. We all talk ourselves into accepting situations, or habits that span years as ‘normal’, and harmless. I mean, if you’ve been eating badly for 12 years and other than the weight gain, or occasional aches and pains, or headaches, or skin conditions, you’re ok.. well, what’s the problem?

We keep on trucking in the same groove until one day, like Gwen, like me, BANG! Something unexpected suddenly happens.. a lump, a fainting spell, chest pain, an abnormal blood test.

You know what many of us think in that first moment of realization? … ‘Wait, that can’t be happening to me!’

And the second thought…? ’If only I had paid more attention to blahdeeblah.’

Gwen knew things were bad. Gwen knew her body was breaking down.   Why couldn’t she, why can’t we, stop ourselves from being stuck in same pattern? Why is it necessary for so many to hit the wall before embracing behavior that is good for health and well-being?

I’ve always been curious about that psychological barrier we all struggle with.

When I called Gwen, do you know what the first thing she said to me was?

“I messed up. I didn’t listen to you.”

I hated hearing those words. I told her, “Yes, you did, you stubborn monkey. And I wish I could turn the clock back.”

Gwen was waiting to hear back on a number of tests. She was weak, and in bed most of the day. I asked her to start eating certain foods, and to send her daughter out to get the 3 supplements we talked about. She promised to do so.

I said, “Think positive and watch happy uplifting videos while you’re laying around. And no matter what the results are, remember there are numerous options for treatment out there, and I would be happy to refer you to the right person once we know what’s up.

I will be calling her again this weekend. She didn’t call to tell me about the test results 3 weeks ago, so not sure there is a diagnosis yet.

Don’t be another Gwen. Only YOU can reduce your risk and improve your health.

Being 20+ lbs overweight is the gateway to a host of inflammatory diseases.

Our body can’t handle processing all the toxins we’re exposed to in the world, plus the preservatives in processed foods and personal products, plus the pesticides on non-organic produce, plus the effects of smoking or drinking alcohol or eating too many carbs.

Living with environmental pollution alone overtaxes our liver and kidneys, and they’ll try to hum along for as long as they can.. but pile on all that other stuff and we’ve created a recipe for disaster.

It’s a hard journey back to health once it’s lost.

We are victims of the hundreds of food manufacturers that spend billions to create flavors and textures that will hook us to their nutrition-deficient products. I believe you can stand up and find your strength.

If you struggle, find a friend or family member who will actively support your effort to make a change. Limit yourself to eating only foods you cook according to healthy guidelines, or look up recipes on this blog.

You can also contact me, and together we’ll devise a plan that will work for you.

More than anything in the world, I wish for you a long and healthy life.

Crock pot Chicken, Italian Style

Following is one of our family's favorite crock pot meals.

It's simple enough to serve as a casual weeknight dinner, and tasty enough to serve when company is present.  You may either cook this in a crock-pot or a large pot on the stove, depending on availability of equipment and time.

Crock Pot Chicken, Italian Style

This dish is abundant in lycopene, and onions are a major source of a Quercetin, a super-antioxidant. Similar to garlic, onions and shallots seem to be most helpful in cancers of the digestive tract (e.g. esophagus, stomach, and colon).

Bell Peppers offer the antioxidant beta carotene.

Thyme It is an excellent source of iron and manganese and Thymol has been found to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures.

  • 1 large organic Red Onion, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 large organic Yellow or Red Bell Pepper, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 tsp. fresh organic Thyme leaves (1 tsp. dry)
  • 6- 2" long fresh Sage leaves (1 tsp. dry)
  • A handful of baby Bok Choy or Spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp. organic Oregano
  • 4 organic, free-range Chicken Thighs
  • 2 organic, free-range Chicken Breasts, cut in half (to make 4 pieces)
  • 1 shallot, diced (1 Tbs.)
  •  2 cups homemade or jarred organic Marinara Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper (opt)

Place half the onions, peppers and herbs in the bottom of the pot.

chicken cacciatore2.jpg

Add 4 pieces of chicken, then the rest of the onions, peppers, and herbs and the last 4 chicken pieces.  Sprinkle shallot and seasoning on top.

chicken cacciatore

chicken cacciatore

Pour sauce over chicken, nudging pieces with a spoon to allow the sauce to make its way to the bottom.

Crock Pot: Cover and place on High.  Time for 3 1/2 hours.

Stove Top: Add 1/2 c. of water to chicken, and place on medium high until sauce begins to bubble.  Turn to medium low, cover and cook for 1 hour. Check at 30 minutes, gently stirring to make sure chicken is covered with sauce.

Serve with baked sweet potatoes and a fresh mixed green salad for a delightful meal.

~ Sahtein! (double health) ♥

chicken cacciatore 2014.jpg

Quick Mini Veggie Wraps with Peanut Sauce

This recipe has become a favorite as a quick lunch, or salad substitute with dinner. The presentation is colorful.  

brown rice wrap
brown rice wrap

Next time you shop buy two packages of Brown Rice Wrappers and Nori sheets to have on hand.

You can improvise with the filling, and surely you have a jar of organic, no-sugar-added Peanut Butter for the sauce base. :)

Mini Veggie Wraps with Peanut Sauce

Note: You can make the sauce without the pepper flakes, and/or add 1 tsp. Lime Juice for more zip.

Also, adjusting the amount is simple.. for each additional sheet or Nori or Rice wraps, you'll want another 1/2-3/4 c. of shredded or sliced veggies.

  • 4 sheets Brown Rice Wrappers
  • 2 sheets sushi-grade Nori
  • 1 1/2 c. organic Zucchini, shredded
  • 1 c. organic Carrots, shredded
  • 4 organic Scallions, cut into thin strips
  • 3/4 c. fresh organic Cilantro, stems trimmed
  • 1/2 c. organic Mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1/2 c. organic Red Cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 c. organic Yellow or Red Bel Pepper, thinly sliced

Spicy Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 c. organic, no-sugar-added Peanut Butter
  • 3 Tbs. Coconut Aminos or Tamari Sauce
  • 2 Tbs. Rice Vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. organic ev Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs. raw, organic Honey (Maple syrup for vegan)
  • 2 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp. organic Garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. Ginger
  • 1 tsp. crushed Red Pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. Water or Lime juice (opt)

Mix all ingredients, whisking until smooth.  (You may add a few crushed peanuts if you so desire.)  Place in a bowl.

rice wrap ingredts
rice wrap ingredts

 

  • Place on a chopping board or kitchen counter covered with parchment paper.
  • Spread 2 tsp. of sauce along center, and place up to 3/4 cup of filling (1/6 of each veggie), in layers, on wrap. Fold ends in and roll carefully but firmly, so as not to tear sheet.
  • Cut into 1-1/2" slices with very sharp knife, and place on serving platter.
  • Do this with remaining sheets or rice wraps.

To make Nori, go through the same process, but do not dip in water.

  • Serve with additional peanut sauce, or Tamari.

~ In Good Health! ♥

Super Duper Dill 'n' Veggie Omelet

We had a little plumbing crisis last night. J did a couple of loads of laundry, his little girl took a shower and we used bathrooms all within the same hour or so.... Yikes!  Our 35-year-old pipes couldn't handle it. While waiting for the plumber this morning, I had time to make a leisurely breakfast.

One of the classic breakfasts that is served in Lebanon is a Dill Omelet. Mom made an oven baked version that includes some flour, and was rich with dill and onions.

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Kale and Lentil Salad

Here is a salad that I accidentally created today when I was trying to finish off some leftovers... it turned out to be amazingly Delicioso! Yesterday I cooked some sprouted lentils with onions as a quick version of Mjaddara(The Lebanese Lentil Mash dish).  The sprouted version hold their shape much better, so not really as creamy as Mjaddara, but still very tasty.

Here is that recipe.

1. Hoda's Sprouted Lentils with Onion

  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 small organic white Onion, chopped
  • 1/4 c. organic brown Rice
  • 1-1/2 c. hot Green Tea (or boiling water)
  • 2 c. sprouted organic Lentils
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

Place medium size pot over med heat for 1 minute.  Add onions and saute for 2 minutes stirring occasionally, until lightly brown on edges.

Turn heat to med-low.  Add olive oil and rice, stirring for another 2 minutes. Add water, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

Add lentils and salt, stirring to mix. Cover and simmer another 10 - 15 minutes, until rice is done and the water absorbed.  You may need to add a little more water after adding lentils if too dry.  There should be enough water at that point to soak but not cover the lentils.

Taste, and adjust salt seasoning.

Sprouted lentils
Sprouted lentils

So this was what I added to my Kale salad which had the following ingredients:

2. Kale, Tomato and Parsley Salad

  • 3 c. organic Kale, chopped
  • 1 organic Tomato, chopped
  • 2 organic Green Onions, chopped
  • 1 c. chopped organic Parsley
  • 1/4 c. chopped organic Mint
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 3 Tbs. extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt

Mix it all together.

Combine the two Salads in any ratio that pleases you.

P.S. I ate the combo before I had a chance to take a Photo!  Will update next time I make this. ♥  :)

Happy July 4th Birthday and Nutty Crackers

Infinite Possibilites

My sweet daughter was born on the 4th of July.  She has lived up to the spirit of that day in her energy and expression of pure unadulterated joy. 

In Kindergarten her teachers noted that she often led the other little girls around the playground, acting like a General! She is, after all, born in the Year of the Tiger.  She is a creative, positive, caring, talented and sunshine-filled woman. What more could a Mom desire for her child? So blessed that both my children are gems, with hearts that extend to others.

One of the things I wanted to make for our Birthday guests, was flour-less crackers. I found a recipe online that I liked, so I and decided to create my own blend based on the ingredients in the recipe.

I'm happy to say the experiment was a success!

Hoda's Nutty Crackers - Gluten Free

This recipe will make about 35 - 50 crackers depending on how large you cut them.  I got about 50 cut into 1-1/2" diamonds.

nutty crackers baked
nutty crackers baked
  • 1/2 c. dry roasted Almonds, salted
  • 1/2 c. Pecans
  • 1/4 c. Walnuts
  • 2 Tbs. Chia Seeds
  • 2 Tbs. golden Flax Seeds
  • 2 Tbs. black or regular Sesame Seeds
  • 2 Tbs. Macadamia nut pieces
  • 2 Tbs. Sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbs. red Quinoa
  • 1 tsp. Anise seeds, crushed (opt.)
  • 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbs. water
  • anise seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds or black pepper for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 360°F (180°C).

nutty cracker batter
nutty cracker batter

Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place all ingredients (except toppings) in a food processor.  Process until mixture has even grains, about 2 minutes.

Divine the dough into two, and place on parchment paper in the pans. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper to prevent rolling-pin from sticking.

nutty cracker batter1
nutty cracker batter1

Roll each ball out into a rectangle, turning the parchment paper in the pan to accommodate the rolling-pin. Roll quite thin (2 - 3 mm).

Use a sharp knife to cut into desired shape. I made a tray with diamond-shaped crackers and sesame seeds topping, and another that I hand pressed into rounds with anise seeds.

nutty cracker batter3
nutty cracker batter3

Mist with a little water to help your topping stick. Push the topping into the crackers lightly.

Bake for about 9-10 minutes, watching carefully after 8 minutes so they don't burn. Store in airtight container.  Will keep for 3-4 days.

~ Sahtein (double health)! ♥

Lentils and Mung Beans - the Whole Story

There are some days when I get an awfully strong craving for Indian spices. I either want to have a curried dish, or a lentil dish... those are the two competitors for my attention. My favorite dish when I was a girl, is called Mjaddara, a 'peasant' type winter dish popular in the villages of Lebanon.  It's basically a lentil/rice/onion mash that is sooo tasty, sooo comforting and sooo healthy!  That's THREE Soooo's!!  :) Mom was an expert Mjaddara maker, like her father.

According to Choosemyplate.gov...

Health Properties

"Aside from their slight differences in calorie, carb and protein values, red and French lentils have very similar health benefits. Both are protein-rich, plant-based foods, which gives them a unique set of positive nutritional properties.

mung bean sprouts 1
mung bean sprouts 1

According to ChooseMyPlate.gov: low-fat proteins such as lentils are essential for growing, building, repairing and maimaintaining tissues in blood, skin, bone and muscle cells.

Protein is also a particularly satiating nutrient and may be able to keep you full for longer than carb- or fat-rich foods, which can be important if you’re watching your weight. Both red and French lentils are high in dietary fiber, which means they can improve digestive health and potentially lower levels of blood cholesterol and blood sugar."

Mung beans are low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Folate, Copper and Manganese.

To find out if a carb food you are about to buy (bread, crackers, pasta, etc..) is a healthy choice do the following:

Add a zero to the total grams of fiber per serving, so 2g becomes 20.  Compare it to the total grams of Carbs per serving.  The fiber number should be MORE than the total Carbohydrates number.  This means if a product has 20g of Carbs and 1g of Fiber (i.e. 10) Then put it back on the shelf!There is not enough fiber to slow down the conversion of the carbs into glucose, and it will spike your blood sugar.  These spikes that occur all day long are what predispose us to Diabetes and other diseases.  Aim for at least 1.5 times the Fiber to Carbs.

1 cup of cookedMung beans has 2 grams of Fiber vs. 6 grams of Carbs.  That's 20 vs 6! A very good ratio.

1 cup of Lentils have 16 grams of Fiber vs. 40 grams of Carb...160 to 40!  An Excellent ratio.

And of course we know that a diet high in fiber can help prevent colon and breast cancer. So eat your beans!

I adapted this recipe to include both lentils and mung beans.

Sprouted Lentils and Mung Beans, Indian Style

  • 2 c. sprouted organic brown Lentils
  • 1/2 c. organic Mung Beans (soaked overnight)
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 3/4 c. organic Onion, chopped
  • 1 green organic Chili Pepper (I use Serrano)
  • A 1-inch piece of organic Ginger
  • 1 Tbs. organic Cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Coriander powder
  • 3/4 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. Black Pepper
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • 1-1-1/2 c. hot Water

Heat a medium stainless steel pot over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add oil and wait another 1 minute.

Add onion and chili pepper and saute for 2 minutes. Add ginger and cilantro, stirring for 1 minute.

Add beans and spices and 1 cup hot water, stir, cover and simmer over medium-low for 15 minutes.

Press one of the beans between your fingers to make sure they are done, and add the last 1/2 c. of hot water if too dry.

Adjust seasoning, and serve hot or at room temperature.

lentils_Indian style
lentils_Indian style

~ Cheers! ♥

Teacups and Dark Chocolate Black Bean Bars

Mom, Dad and my older siblings lived in Washington DC for about 5 years when Dad was Ambassador to the U.S.  He was reassigned when I was born, so at 2 months old I made the trip back home. While in DC Mom and Dad had a portrait done by Stefan Norbin, a Polish artist.  While he made Mom look much younger than Dad they were actually only 6 years apart in age.

Mom and Dad 1940's
Mom and Dad 1940's

Recently, I looked up info on the artist and this is what I found:

"Stefan Norblin, a polish painter and graphic artist, had an exciting, and tragic life. He was a successful and popular portrait painter, poster and book and costume designer in Warsaw in the 1920's and 1930's, married to the movie star Lena Zelichowska.

When World War 2 broke out, the couple fled in the last-minute, first to Romania, then Istanbul, Iraq and finally arrived in India. Norblin quickly caught the attention of the Maharaja of Jodpur who had just built a huge palace that needed to be decorated, and Norblin was given a free hand to design the interior and the furniture.

In 1946, he left for the United States, and although he had a few commissions for portraits, he was not happy, his eyesight was failing and he finally took his own life in 1952. Most of his work in the United States was lost or destroyed, and except for his polish tourist posters, he was forgotten. "

A few years ago, I started my a collection of teacups like my mother did in her 40's. 

Cups
Cups

I inherited my love of cooking from Mom, who spent 6 years writing the first anthology of Middle Eastern and North African Cuisine, published in 1970. Thanks to her all 7 of her children, and numerous grandchildren have that same passion.

Yesterday I stumbled on a recipe for brownies made with Black Beans that sounded twice as good as the recipe I adapted a few weeks ago.

Here is my version...

Dark Chocolate Black Bean Bars

  • 3/4 c. cold-pressed Coconut Oil
  • 5 oz. 85% organic Dark Chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 2 c. cooked organic Black Beans, drained
  • 3 Tbs. organic raw Cocoa Powder
  • 3 Tbs. Coconut Flakes (more to taste)
  • 1 c. organic Walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 pinch of Sea Salt
  • 2 high-Omega3 Eggs
  • 3 Tbs. freshly ground golden Flax Seeds
  • 2/3 c. Chicory Root or Xylitol

Preheat the oven to 325°F and line an 11-inch square or 8 x 11 baking pan with parchment paper.

Melt the coconut oil on low heat in a medium size pan, add dark chocolate pieces. Stir around until the chocolate is completely melted.

Chocolate Black Bean Bars2
Chocolate Black Bean Bars2

Put beans, cacao powder, coconut flakes and 1/2 cup of the walnuts in a blender or a food processor. Blend for one minute or until well chopped, then add the chocolate mixture and blend for one more minute, scraping down sides once.

Chocolate Black Bean Bars1
Chocolate Black Bean Bars1
Chocolate Black Bean Bars6
Chocolate Black Bean Bars6

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes, add the flax seeds and xylitol and beat for one more minute.

Chocolate Black Bean Bars4
Chocolate Black Bean Bars4
Chocolate Black Bean Bars5
Chocolate Black Bean Bars5

Save four spoonful’s of the egg mixture in a separate cup and pour the rest into the chocolate and bean mixture and process just to incorporate.

Add the remaining walnuts and dark chocolate and stir gently with a spatula until blended.

Chocolate Black Bean Bars7
Chocolate Black Bean Bars7

Pour into the baking pan.

Drip the remaining egg mixture on top of the chocolate mixture and use a toothpick or a knife to create a marble effect.

Chocolate Black Bean Bars final
Chocolate Black Bean Bars final

Bake for 30 minutes. They might still feel a little soft in the middle when you take them out, but they will harden when they cool. These are decadently chocolaty!

You can spread a little Xylitol-sweetened raspberry jam on top for variation.

~ Enjoy!  ♥

Haight Street and Roasted Vegetables with Tea Leaves

I had an appointment with my anthroposophic Doc in San Francisco yesterday.  I've been having vertigo that lasts for a few seconds when I lay down, and inner ear congestion, so I sought her help.  She is an amazing woman with more accomplishments than I can ever remember. 

haight street SF
haight street SF

J and I drove in 4 hours early since he had a meeting on Haight Street with contractors bidding for a remodel on a new building his boss purchased to turn into another Music store.  I hadn't been to Haight in a number of years.  My niece and I used to go to a Middle Eastern restaurant across from the building where J has his appointment, to enjoy the food and belly dance to live music.

Everyone knows that one aspect of San Francisco's charm is the wonderful Victorian architecture.  The intricate designs and eye-catching colors never cease to please me.

red victorian SF haight
red victorian SF haight

Haight Street is best known as the principal street in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. The Haight-Ashbury district is famous for its role as a center of the 1960s hippie movement. College and high-school students began streaming into the Haight during the spring break of 1967.

Hunter S. Thompson labeled the district "Hashbury" in The New York Times Magazine, and the activities in the area were reported almost daily.  I'm sure we all remember the Summer of Love, the social phenomenon in the summer of 1967, when about 100,000 people converged on the Haight-Ashbury triggering a major cultural and political shift.

The 'Peace Cafe' located in the Red Victorian, is neighbor to a Vintage Costume and Rental store.  We got ourselves something to drink from a cafe across the street, decorated with huge paintings on canvas based on "The Wind in the Willows".

Back at home, I decided to roast some veggies, bake some Cod filet with ginger and green onions, and steam Butternut squash with a hint of coconut oil, salt and pepper. For a salad a Slaw with Red and Napa Cabbage.

Roasted Rainbow Vegetables

8 Servings

~I only use veggies that are Organic.

  • 1 cup chopped Red Cabbage
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped Onion
  • 3 Zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 3/4" thick
  • 3 Carrots, sliced 3/4" thick
  • 1/2 large Eggplant, cut in chunks
  • 2 cups Butternut Squash, cut in bite size chunks
  • 2 Sweet Potatoes, cut in bite size chunks
  • 7 -10 cloves Garlic, halved if large
  • 2 Tbs. Green Tea leaves (reserved from making tea, or soaked)
  • 2 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Caraway Seeds
  • 1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425ºF ; 220ºC.

Combine veggies in a large bowl with tea leaves. Add Olive oil and toss to coat thoroughly.

Sprinkle with Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Caraway and Cayenne. Toss again until evenly coated with the spices.

Spoon Veggies into a large ceramic or glass baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with Coconut or Olive oil.

Roast veggies for 30 minutes, toss them with spatula and continue to roast for another 10-15 minutes or until carrots are tender.

veggies roasted
veggies roasted

Adjust seasoning, and serve hot.

~ Bon Apetit! ♥

Coconut Cilantro Chutney

One of my sweet 30-something nephews came over for lunch today.  We hadn't really visited for some time since he lives an hour away. We caught each other up on news over chicken tacos, chicken Thai curry, whole wheat couscous, kale salad and spinach flat bread (I like eclectic meals).

I realized that I didn't have a chutney to serve, since most are so full of sugar I rarely buy them.  I came across this recipe... It goes very well with fish too, and takes just minutes to whip up.

Coconut Cilantro Chutney Recipe

GreenCoriander chutney
GreenCoriander chutney
  • 3/4 c. shredded unsweetened Coconut
  • 3/4 c. fresh organic Cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small seeded organic Serrano chili,  quartered
  • 1/2 c. light coconut milk (or green tea)
  • Juice of 1/2 organic Lime
  • dash of Sea Salt

Place all but Lime juice in blender, or food processor, and pulse until consistency is almost smooth.

Pour into a bowl and mix in lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.

As a variation you may add 1 clove of garlic to veggies, or a 1/2 inch slice of ginger.

Makes about 1 cup of chutney.

~ āp kā khānā svādiṣṭa ho! ♥

Blood Sugar and Weight Loss Support in a Bean?

A friend of mine told me about green coffee bean extract a few weeks ago, and I have finally found a minute to do a little research. My sister who lives in London, and my older brother both have Type II Diabetes.  I am always looking for natural ways one can keep blood sugar levels in line, because sometimes we all cheat on our diets!

I posted the list of Foods that Help Lower Blood Sugar, so add this to them.

I don't subscribe to TV, but I understand Dr. Oz had a show on the benefits of Green Coffee Bean extract. After doing a little digging here's what  found:

Green coffee bean extract is a powerful anti-oxidant

Friday, May 18, 2012 by: Dr. David Jockers

There are two major types of coffee plants; Arabica and Robusta. The highest quality green coffee bean extract comes from the Arabica plant which is higher in the polyphenol anti-oxidants chlorogenic and caffeic acids. The majority of coffee drinkers are missing out on much of the benefits that coffee contains. The deep roasting process significantly reduces the anti-oxidant content.

Additionally, coffee is one of the most widely pesticide/herbicide sprayed crops in the world. Studies have shown over 1000 toxic chemicals in roasted coffee. It is essential to use organic coffee that is free of these dangerous chemicals that mimic hormones, congest our liver, kidneys and bowels and promote cancer growth.

Another powerful carcinogen is produced when high temperature cooking (baking, frying & roasting) damages sugars which then interact with the amino acid asparagine. This chemical reaction creates the potent carcinogen acrylamide. Instant and deeply roasted coffee has been shown to have significantly more acrylamide than brewed coffee.

There are many great health benefits associated with coffee consumption. A recent 2011 study indicated that individuals who consumed the most coffee had the lowest risk of type II diabetes. The researchers found that the chlorogenic acid reduces the release and creation of excess glucose in the body.

Blood sugar balance

Blood sugar balance is an absolutely critical measure of healthy aging in the body. Too much sugar and grains in the diet will lead to blood sugar imbalances. The body then goes through spirals of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. These blood sugar imbalances cause inflammation in the body that damage hormonal control systems, organs, and immune function.

Glucose overload is another major cause of blood sugar imbalances.  The common sign of this is elevated fasting blood sugar levels. At night, the individual has elevated glucose-6-phosphatase (G6P) enzyme activity that causes an elevated release of blood sugar from the muscle and liver. The body is basically eating these tissues.

The latest evidence shows that healthy fasting blood sugar ranges are between 65-85 mg/DL. Meanwhile, post meal ranges (2 hrs after) should never go above 120 mg/dL. When levels test higher it is a clear indication of oxidative stress damaging cells and tissues of the body.

The major anti-oxidant in green coffee bean extract, chlorogenic acid, has been shown to profoundly inhibit the release of the G6P enzyme which significantly stabilizes blood sugar levels. In one clinical study a dose of 400mg of green coffee bean extract showed a 32% reduction in the post meal blood glucose spike. This translates into someone who would have an extremely dangerous 160mg/dL blood sugar level down to a safe post-meal level of 109mg/dL

Stable blood sugar allows for better energy, mental clarity, hormone function, detoxification capabilities and weight loss. Raw green coffee bean extract along with other superfoods such as cacao and cinnamon all show great results in stabilizing blood sugar and improving overall bodily functions. The combination of these three also synergizes to create even greater effects in the body.

Due to the diuretic effects of caffeine in the coffee it is necessary to consume extra water. The water should ideally be from a natural spring or have gone through a deep filtration process to remove environmental toxins.

Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20171062 http://greencoffeebeanbenefits.com/

And a second reference that states:

There are many reasons you may not be losing weight. If you started lifting weights, then chances are you are building muscle, which would negate any fat loss. This is good because muscle burns more calories than fat, so chances are you’ll see nice weight loss results down the road.

Second, if you do not sleep enough or aren’t eating enough, your body’s metabolism will slow down, negating the powerful weight loss properties of green coffee extract. Women should eat at least 1,200 calories per day and men should eat at least 1,500 calories per day.

Third and finally, the most likely culprit is that you’re still eating too much. Studies have shown that humans tend to under-estimate their caloric intakes by 25-40% on a normal basis. Therefore, you could be eating 300-600 calories more per day then you think you are.

Another likely culprit for overeating is due to emotional eating. Dr. Oz recently tackled this problem that affects a large percentage of the population. You see, when we are sad our dopamine levels are significantly lower. To increase these pleasure chemicals in our body, we eat junk foods, which have chemicals designed to increase these dopamine levels.

To combat this, Dr. Oz recommends taking saffron extract,  a natural extract from a flower grown in tropical regions. Saffron extract replaces the dopamine levels you are lacking, which prevents you from snacking on unhealthy foods.

Source:
WebMD article: Green Coffee Beans May Aid Weight Loss (click on Title).

CAUTION: If you have hypertension, or a medical condition that cautions against the consumption of Caffeine, do not take this product.  Always check with your doctor before starting any Supplement.

~ Be Well!

The King of Vegetables and My Eggplant Caponata

As a child, eggplants were my least favorite vegetable, much to my mother's disappointment.  The only exception was Baba Ghannouj, a must at every Lebanese appetizer table.
You see, in the Middle East, the Eggplant is referred to as the King of Stuffed Vegetables due to its versatility and the large number recipes that feature this violet beauty.
When I was in my preteen years, I decided that every couple of weeks or so I would force my self to eat one food item that I did not like. When the eggplant's turn came around, it took a while, but slowly I grew to love that little bit of creamy bitterness it offers.  Soon my favorite recipes included 4 eggplant dishes... 1) Eggplant rounds pan-fried in olive oil and topped with a Spicy Tomato-Onion medley; 2) Eggplant stuffed with Rice, Lamb, Onions, Tomatoes and Spices; 3) Eggplant-Beef boats with Pine Nuts; and 4) Baba Ghannouj.
The recipe below calls for the Caponata to be served cold as an appetizer.  Since it is versatile, I have heated it up and spooned it over hot whole wheat couscous that has been cooked in chicken or vegetable broth, for a wonderful meal!

Recipe

Serves @ 10 as an appetizer
  • 2 lbs. organic Eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 c. organic White Onion, small diced
  • ½ c. organic Bell Pepper, small diced
  • 2 Tbs. Garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 c. organic Tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and small diced)
  • ¼ c. organic Basil, fresh chopped
  • 2 Tbs. Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. organic Lemon, squeezed
  • 1 packet Stevia
  • 1 small Green Chili, minced (opt.)
  • ¼ c. Green Olives, chopped
  • 2 tsp. Black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 1 Head of Green leaf Lettuce
Sauté diced eggplant in olive oil until lightly browned; removed from pan. In the same pan, sauté onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and garlic for 2 minutes (vegetables should still have some texture, and garlic should not brown). Mix everything else together in a large bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Refrigerate overnight.
Serve a large scoop of pate over a bed of lettuce and surround with toasted whole wheat pita bread triangles, or scoop onto whole wheat Tuscan bread that has a light smear of Vegenaise.

~ Buon Apetito!

Apples and Butternut Squash

I inherited my current Crock Pot from a dear friend who moved to Atlanta.  

It had been a number of years since I owned a Crock Pot, maybe. I remember I have one when I walk by the rack it sits on, so it has yet to rent a permanent space in the cooking corner of my mind!

Crock Pots are wonderful for plan ahead, everything in one pot meals. Some of them are quite tasty, although scoffed at

by gourmets, but I've learned to relax and enjoy a wide array of cooking styles and approaches.

I love recipes that combine fruit and vegetables.  So many of them seem to be made for each other, like Butternut and Apples.

Pumkins and Squash

Recipe

This recipe makes a lovely side dish to curries, grilled chicken or fish.

  • 1 Tbs. organic grass-fed, Butter
  • 1/2 ts ground Ceylon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground Nutmeg
  • 1 lb organic Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
  • 2 large tart organic Apples, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (4 cups)
  • 1/2 organic White Onions, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. real Maple syrup
  • 1 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar

Combine spices in a small bowl, and set aside.

-butternut-squash
-butternut-squash

Put squash in Crock-pot. Add apples and onion.

Sprinkle with spices and add maple syrup.  Stir to combine well.

Cover and cook on LOW for 6 - 7 hours, or until vegetables are tender.  Stir in butter and adjust seasoning just before serving.

~ En Guete! ♥