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Comfort Food

No More “Gringo Rice!”

November 1, 2015

I’ll never forget when a an honored dinner guest, an educated hydroponics engineer type whom I was trying to impress — and who is given to social blurting — blurted out his obvious disappointment upon seeing the savory rice dish I was about to serve, exclaiming (a la “Oy Vey”) “Oh… Gringo rice.”

That was it. I had spent seven months in the Philippines and two years in Mexico and I still cooked rice like a Greenwich girl… all sticky and gooey and clumpy.

I had been taught that it was key to use exactly  twice the water to rice and also to never, ever, lift the lid of the pot while it steamed.  I followed this to a T every time, and for years, and still I got goopy “Gringo rice” every time.

Back in the 1970s,  my dad, who had is own ad agency, rejected the marketing of a brand called “Success Rice,” claiming that the concept was a ploy: that people all over the world found making fluffy rice easy breezy and would only  laugh at the little, holey, pre-measured, steam bags made for us WASPY white-bread types who bought into the idea that rice making was a mystery, that rice-making required a special touch.

The morning after my dinner party rice disaster, I marched over to my Panamanian neighbor Leticia’s house, refusing to leave until she showed me exactly how Latinas make their rice all light and fluffy. Since that day, never ever has as my rice been met with disapproval.

It is not a science so you don’t need measuring cups, and it is easy. I was recently back in the United States and a friend, another girl brought up on bread and pasta, cooked up a pot of white rice. It came out as I expected see photo below).   I took the very same rice, the same kind of pot she’d used, but instead I simply made two simple changes and whipped up my Latino style arroz blanco (white rice.)

The photos speak: you can see that the first batch, made by my friend, is sticky, clumped and gooey, while the same rice product, made by me, came out fluffy.

FLUFFY LATINO RICE — There are only two simple tricks!

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Gooey “Gringo Rice”

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Fluffy Rice, Latino Style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Measure out a cup of uncooked, white rice and place in a bowl.
  2. Rinse this rice until the water runs clear. (Some save the first rinse-water for soups. See tip below).
  3. Drain/strain out the water in a colander.
  4. In your favorite pot for rice cooking, heat two tablespoons of oil or butter.
  5. Dump your rinsed and drained rice into the hot oil and start sauteeing.  
  6. Stir until the rice seems dry but does not brown, about a minute.
  7. Now pour water or chicken stock over your rice until the rice is covered and the water level measures about as high as your first knuckle above the rice…about 1/2 an inch.  I use my index/pointer finger knuckle and I do this by eye. It is not an exact science and this does not matter. 
  8. Bring the liquid to a low boil. Then cover and reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes.
  9. Lift the lid and check by picking out a fork full and tasting.   Is it dry? Add 1/4 cup of water, cover and cook on low another 8 minutes or so.  When you feel your rice is done, just turn off the stove and let the rice sit in the pot.

TIPS:

  •  If your rice develops a hard, crusty and golden layer at the bottom, no worries! This is called the “dorado” and many people think it is a treat to get some of the crust.
  • A Filipina friend of mine sets aside her first, cloudiest rinse-water from her rice wash  — the starchiest batch –adding this to broth to an give her soups that, milky-cloudy, Asian look.
  • I have developed a liking for eating rice with breakfast eggs, especially fried or sunny-side up. When using your rice for making Fried Rice dish, or Arroz con Pollo, wait until your rice is cold, cooled or one day old to use for this type of dish.  Freshly cooked, hot rice will not give you the desired result.
  • For extra flavor, when you add your liquid, toss in a whole, peeled clove or two of garlic if you like. You can pick them out when your rice is cooked.
My Daily Kitchen

Decadent Pesto Pâté

September 13, 2015

I could eat Pesto sauce all day long, but I tire of having it on wheaty, fattening pasta. So I am always trying to come up with other ways to give my food the delicious taste of pesto sauce, such as tossing it with vegetables (try cauliflower or zucchini) or using it as a sandwich spread on wraps or break. But as I said, this gets boring.

I am a hedonist; I do not do well with deprivation.  I wanted be able to eat something rich and smooth, something I could enjoy in the same way I used to savor a silky liver pâté, or dig a petite knife into a ripened, warm, gooey, pungent  Brie, but without the meat or dairy.  In other words, I want a low-carb Pesto decadence and I found a way to have it!

I came up with this delicious and satisfying Pesto Pâté, good enough to serve to company.

Here is how I prepare it.

Dedadent Pesto Pâté

In a food processor (mine is only a tine $10 food chopper) add:

  • 2 Cups fresh basil, tightly packed (or 3 cups loose leaves)
  • 1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil, best quality
  • 3 Garlic teeth/cloves (or 3, 1/2 tsp crushed garlic from the jar)
  • 1  Tsp freshly squeezed lemon or citrus
  • 1/4 Tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 Tsp salt

Process the above by pulsing until reduced … but not puréed!
Fancy food processors might mince too finely, so go bit by bit.  You do not want this to be soupy, but rather you want it chunky while still spreadable. Think about cutting hair; once cut, you can’t put it back,  but you can always cut more. So take your time and before you think your are there…
… This is when you want to add:

1 Cup whole, salted cashew nuts (if using unsalted, you’ll need to add more sale to the mix)
1 Cup grated Parmesan cheese (Vegan? Use a cheese substitute).

  • Process until the mixture is chunky but still spreadable. 
  • Taste it. If you want a tad more lemon, or cheese, or salt, just adjust until your taste buds are dancing.
  • Now, pack your mixture into any container and either freeze this…  or chill.

SERVING:
If frozen, just set the container on the counter for a few hours counter until you can tip it, intact, onto your platter.

If refrigerated, tip & scoop onto your serving platter. Don’t worry if the shape comes out goofy because this mix is malleable and easily sculpted after it is on the plate.
Keep refrigerated on the platter until you are ready to serve. Then place your crackers at the last minute.

TIPS:

  • If you are Vegan, omit the Parmesan and replace with a vegan option.
  • Gluten Free? Just find a good rice cracker in place of wheat.
  • Slice large pieces of tomato or zucchini and use these in place of crackers for spreading.

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Breakfast

Sneaky Pinks… A Healthy Treat!

August 29, 2015

A dangerous thing has happened to me. And it’s personal.

Directly across from my bedroom & kitchen windows, making a visual & olfactory bee line for my eyes and nose,  is a Donut Factory.

Their kitchen is soin such close to mine that we busy cooks can wave to each other, the warm smells from our respective work spaces wafting out to blend & mix in the middle airspace between my apartment and  the Donut Factory.

What’s a grain-free, gluten-free, low-sugar gal to do?

Here’s what. Try the recipe below. It provides a sneaky way to give yourself & your family a donut-like treat that is full of nutrition, very low on sugar, and zero of gluten & bad fats!

SNEAKY PINKS

Into a mixing bowl, add

  • 2 Free-roaming eggs
  • 2 Tsp Fresh lemon juice
  • 5 Drops liquid Stevia (or 4 packets if you don’t have liquid)
  • 1/3 Cup good quality sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups Pureed Cooked (fresh or from a can) Beets
  • 1-1/2 cups Gluten-Free Pancake mix (See my photo)
  • 1/2 Tsp. Baking power
  • Pinch of salt

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Blend on high with a hand mixer or hand blender until completely incorporated.

Coat your favorite frying pan with Cocout Oil or Butter or Good Earth Butter sub.

(I used a tiny pan, the kind one would use to make an individual egg for a McMuffin type sandwich. But… you can use a larger pan and just made small rounds, dropping in each PINK  ROUNDwith a spoon.)

When your pan is nice and hot, drop in your pink batter, any size you like.

Immediately lower the head to medium-low. Allow to cook on one side until you see the top batter bubbling and the cake is firm enough to flip without spilling.  Then cook another minute  and remove from pan.

Arrange on a plate any way you like, and dust with powdered sugar. They are surprisingly moist and sweetly satisfying.

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My Daily Kitchen

So Easy… Dill Goat Cheese!

August 29, 2015

I purchased a quart of fresh goat’s milk at the market and decided to make my own flavored  cheese. It was astonishingly simple to do…a nearly effortless process, and the result was delicious, subtle flavored with dill and pepper. Plus, the process gave me control over the amount of salt I wanted to use.

DO NOT BE DAUNTED by the list below. I have outlined each step I took. It is easy, easy, easy. The entire process took me maybe 15 minutes.

Goat’s milk is generally considered to be beneficial in ways that cow’s milk is not. For a list of benefits CLICK.

Now you can make your own flavored cheese. I chose Dill because I had some, and it’s light and versatile.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN GOAT CHEESE

  • Pour  1 quart or liter of fresh Goat Milk into a saucepan. Add to this:
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of finely chopped, fresh Dill
  • 1 Teaspoon of good quality salt (or less, just to your taste).
  • Shake in about 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • Stirring, bring the mixture to near boiling. The surface will develop small, foamy bubbles and the pan will emit sweet smelling steam. Avoid a rolling boil.
  • Turn off the fire.
  • Now for the magic!  Right into your hot milk & herb mixture, add 1 Tablespoon of White Vinegar, or fresh citrus.
  • Stir a few times and walk away for a few minutes. (Your milk will curdle and the whey will separate.)
  • Find a nice bowl over which you can securely set a strainer.
  • Line your strainer with a large coffee filter
  • Spoon or pour all your mixture, liquid and all, over the filter.
  • Let sit & drain until all the liquid is gone and only the firm white cheese remains.
  • Scoop this dryer into a new, clean coffee filter & gently squeeze into a small ball.
  • Set the wrapped ball on a little dish, like the one below. Now set another dish on top, for weight.
  • Leave this in the refrigerator overnight or until chilled & firm
  • Voila! You have an easy, nice, tasty and firm cheese.

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TIPS:  Eat it sliced on crackers, or sprinkle it atop an omelette. Add it to sandwishes or garnish soups with it. Sprinkle it or arrange nice slices on your next healthy salad.

This is a super fun project to do with kids!

My Daily Kitchen

Delicious Power Salad…Hold the Dressing!

August 20, 2015

There are no rules to my salads except one: I never use store-bought dressing. In fact, I hardly use any oils at all, even the healthy ones.

You can throw anything you want into your salad, but the more super foods you can add, the more your salad becomes an energy-sustaining meal, instead of a light side dish or starter.

Denser food items will keep you feeling full longer and smooth out blood sugar levels longer. By the way, there is very little oil in this salad, making it heart-healthy.

2 STEPS TO PUTTING IT TOGETHER

  • First, I grab a  couple of handfuls of already washed, very dark, leafy lettuces.
    Generally speaking, the darker the green,  the higher the nutrient content.
    I added arugula, which I try to keep on hand. Also, you can sneak in your beet tops. See BEET NOTES, below.
  • Next, I tossed in just few shakes of my favorite seasoned salt (here, I used Lemon Pepper, but sometimes I use Cajun Seasoning, or Cavender’s, or Lawry’s.  Whether you have Dollar Store spices, or fancy mixes from boutique or organic vendors, surely you have some favorite seasonings. Use them. Sprinkle in a little at a time.)
  • Next, I squeezed in about a teaspoon of lemon juice, since I used only a few handfuls of lettuce.
  • Then, and here is the surprise, I added only two or three shakes of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil.

With these ingredients in my large bowl, I use my favorite Dollar Store scissors to cut (right hand) and spin the bowl (left hand) which chops and incorporates the lettuces, lemon, oil and seasoning.

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Now,  cover a dinner plate with this tossed, seasoned and chopped lettuce mix.

Separately, chop and set aside these ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of loosely chopped, Roasted Walnuts
  • 1/4 cup ripe Avocado
  • 1/4 cup sliced, sweet Plantain
  • 1/4 cubed, ripe Tomato
  • 1/4 cup sliced, then cubed Artichoke hearts, from a can.
  • 1/4 cut fresh (boiled earlier) beets. *See note below on beets!
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced Onion, white or red.

Arrange these remaining ingredients around your lettuce in a way that appeals. Start with the darker items, like the beets, which will serve as a nice backdrop to offset the lighter items, such as plantain, avacado, tomato.
Onions and walnuts go on last.

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TIPS:  If you really can’t wrap your head around beets, or think you can trick your family into them,  think about adding steamed carrots or heart of palm.

If you need more protein, go ahead and add a boiled egg or some lovely turkey breast. Grapes, raisens, apples, olives … and a little flax seed could also add some tang and substance.

DRESSING TIPS: Rather than douse your greens with oils, in addition to lemon and seasonings, toss in a bit of your artichoke, olive, or pickle juice. Squeeze in a spritz of orange or mandarin juice. Or pineapple. All these liquids can add zing to a dressing without adding oils!

*BEET TIPS: People routinely make the comment: “I hate beets.”
Maybe they do. Or maybe the think they do.
Beets are very nutritious and I think, misunderstood. If served right, they are a surprisingly beautiful addition to dishes. And sometimes easy to disguise!  Here are my beet tips:

  • Boil your own beetroot but not until squishy. When you use them in a salad, they will still have a firm feel, even a crunch. And they really tend to take on the flavor of your dressing.
  • Keep them cold, in their boiling juice, until ready to use
  • Chop them small and mix them into dark lettuce. People hardly notice.
  • SAVE the beet tops. The leaves are even more nutritious than the root and, you can chop these into your lettuces! Who will know?
  • Beets can be processed raw and are lovely when combined with onion, mandarin, even a little citrus rind.  Try them in a bowl with onion and Blue Cheese! Dreamy….
  • You can save and use the beautiful magenta juice in dressings, or even drink it.
My Daily Kitchen

Crave This? I Have Something Better!

August 19, 2015

Real Advice & Help from a Bona Fide Sugar Addict

Before you reach for that chocolate bar, the bag of caramels, a piece of cake or whatever you have handy to satisfy a desperate and uncontrollable desire for something sugary,  take just a few minutes to prepare this. Then, it up in a pretty dish, and eat it lovingly, savoring every satisfying spoonful. It will fullfil your sweet tooth comletely, and you won’t find yourself making false promises about doing better with your diet…tomorrow.

I crave all things super sweet. Not only that, they have to be satisfyingly sweet. A yogurt doesn’t quite cut it for me. Not enough substance. I’d prefer two chocolate puddings, preferably with  tapioca. When I eat ice cream, I crumble cookies or candy into my scoop for added sweet and texture.  I love f licorice, and white and mild chocolate. I learned at an early age how to boil up a can of condensed, Evaporated milk to make “cajeta” or caramel, which I could then eat by the spoonful, or, still warm, pour over Angel food cake.  I like anything sweet but especially sweets that are really and truly bad, the kind of bad that will make my blood sugar shoot to the moon.
And oh the cravings. I crave sugar every single day, and when I want it, I have to have it. No white knuckling it for this gal. I’ve been know to say I’d step over my own baby to get to a bag of candied orange slices. I especially want a sweet treat after a good meal, or when hours have slipped without eating. I want sugar any time of day that I happen to feel bored, sad, or happy. If I’m watching the Food Channel on television, I muster up continual cravings for any sweet dish that comes up on my screen.

I hope from this you can trust that I would not recommend a recipe to satisfy a genuine sweet tooth unless I meant business. While the recipe below is sweet, for sure, it is also nutrient rich and… there is no added sugar!

TIP: Try a healthy sweet treat like this around 2pm or 3pm to steady your appetite until dinner. Better yet, have it for dessert instead of cookies and ice cream! You won’t be disappoinged.

SWEET TOOTH SMOOTHIE

imagePut these ingredients in a blender, lightly chopped to ease the processing:

1/2 cup Sweet Plantain
1/2 cup Ripe Avacodo
2 slices  of Fresh or Canned (no sugar added) Pineapple
1/2 cup light or regular Coconut milk
2 tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice (or lime)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 packet of good quality Stevia
Blend-to-puree well, then pour into your favorite glass.  Now,  lace the top with a layer of Coconut Milk and eat slowly … with a spoon…savoring every sweet drop.

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HOT TIPS for a COLDER TREAT:

  1. Better than serving on ice, or adding ice cubes to the mix, which will only result in a watered down version, freeze lemon juice or coconut milk in a ice cube tray and use these for your smoothie.
  2. Freeze portions nearly all the way for an icy treat;
  3. Freeze in paper cup w/stick for home-made ice pops.

 

Comfort Food

Sweet Tooth, Vegan Style!

August 18, 2015

I’m addicted to sugar. And I mean just that — addicted.

I can pass up a glass of wine or a a tall, cold martini, but if I were in the throes of a serious sugar craving, I’d probably step over my first born child to get to the candy corn.

So anytime I can find a healthy way to satisfy my craving for sweet, I share it.
The trick is to be prepared.
Always, always have Stevia on hand. (You can grow it, but it is not as easy to process as some say. And you can purchase it in handy droplets.)
And something citrus, like lemon, lime, calamandron, mandarin or orange.
Finally, keep handy a good flavor essence, such as vanilla or lemon or coconut extract on hand.

DREAMY PLANTAIN & AVACADO TREAT

Into a large bowl, toss:

  • One large, sweet Plantain, or two medium Bananas, finely chopped
  • Add finely cubed, ripe Avacado, about 1/3 of the amount of your Plantains
  • Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Add drops or packets of Stevia, to taste
  • Squeeze in 1/4 of a lemon, checking to see that it isn’t making your dish too tart
  • Mix all the above ingredients up, tossing well to fully coat with sweet, sour and vanilla
  • Spoon into a dish and douse with Coconut Milk
  • Garnish (not shown) with some fresh mint

FUN ALTERNATIVES:

Exchange Lemon for Lime, or Mandarin or any citrus of your choice.
Exchange Vanilla Extract for Lemon Extract for a really lemony taste… plus add some pretty zest!

For kids, blend everything together and spoon into individual dishes.
Chill, and then sprinkle with Coconut Flakes.
Voila! Banana/Avacado Pudding!

 

 

 

Main Dishes

Sweet ‘n Hot Coconut Plantain Chicken

August 17, 2015

It’s neither too sweet, nor too hot, but just right.
Need I say more?

Preparation:

Heat 2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil in a large frying pan.

  • Sear 4 pieces of your favorite chicken cuts,  skin side down, until brown
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground or chopped ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped medium-sweet plantain (skins are yellow, not black)
  • 1/cup light coconut milk or regular
  • 1/4 cup any favorite liquid Adobo sauce (see photo of mine, but use any brand you like.)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add water if sauce gets too thick.
    Serve on a platter with Quinoa/Rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

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TIP: If I had thought of it in time, I would have added some pan roasted cashews, or peanuts.

 

Breakfast

Low-carb potato substitute!

July 20, 2015

Two foods I love to eat with scrambled eggs are sliced, cold tomatoes and, of course, potatoes. Any style will do, but sliced thin and fried in bacon greese is tasty.

Ah, but I’m eating low carb these days. So instead of potatoes, I sliced up some Chayote from my garden.

Chayote, eaten cooked or raw, has about 1/4 the carbohydrates of potatoes, but offers up the same amount of fibre.

For the Chayote:

Peel 1 medium or 2 very small Chayotes under running water.

  1. Slice the entire piece into sticks, seed included, or in any shape you desire.

Now toss into a very hot pan laced with your choice of oil: olive oil, healthy butter, coconut oil, bacon grease.

  1. Toss in 1/2  thinly sliced  Onion. (set aside rest for later)
  2. Sprinkle with salt & pepper

Cook on medium heat until they begin to bown a bit.
Now flip then and leave to brown all over stirring occasionally.

NOTE: Chayote do not take long to soften.

For some Flavorful ScrambledEggs: (2 Servings)

While the Chayote is cooking, get your eggs ready to scramble. Into a favorite bowl, crack 4-5 large,  free-range eggs and to these add:

  • 1 Teaspoon water per whole egg
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 8 Drops Sriracha hot sauce (or fewer, but you will hardly notice the heat.)
  • Whisk this mixture up well
  • Chop 1 a cup of Broccoli into very small pieces.
  • Finely chop the other half of the onion
  • Toss broccoli & onion into a hot frying pan laced with hot oil or bacon grease or butter of choice and sautee for 1 minute.
  • Add your entire egg mixture right on top of you broccoli & onion, stir to incorporate, and wait until the layer begins to bubble. Then slowly draw the edges in toward the center to make a fluffy scramble. I like mine on the soft side, but plate up when they’re done your way.

Plate your eggs.
Garnish with Fresh Cilantro or Fresh Parsley or Chive.
Scoop on a healthy spoonful of your browned & seasoned Chayote sticks.
Crown your place with soe beautiful, sliced tomatoes & sprinkle with some seasoned salt.
Now dig in! You won’t miss the potatoes and your carb count will be low!

To you with Love & Butter, Elizabeth

 

 

 

Main Dishes

A new way to serve Veggie sides

June 4, 2015

Instead of serving the usual side of steamed cauliflower, why not serve your main vegetable side as a pancake!
Cauliflower
Cakes:

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You can toss all your ingredients, all at once, into a bowl, as in the photo.

  • 1 Cup of Cauliflower, processed into rice-size morsels
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Gluten-Free Baking Mix
  • 1/2 Cup of Pesto Sauce
  • 1/3 Cup milk, or enough to blend into pancake consistency
  • Salt & Pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients together in the bowl until completely blended.
If your mix is too dry, add milk. If too wet, add some more Baking Mix.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of Clarified Butter OR Coconut Oil OR Olive Oil and then spoon into a hot frying pan.  Cover pan and immediately reduce heat to low.  When pancakes are solid enough to flip, turn them and cook the other side for about 1 minute, or until done.

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Tip: For a little zing, add about 5 drops of Sirracha or favorite hot sauce.