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My Daily Kitchen

Jazz up Quinoa!

May 18, 2015
  1. I love, love, love white rice, but bleached, white rice is not the healthiest way to go, especially for those with nsulin resistance, or worse, diabetes.

Quinoa to the rescue!  (pronounced Keen-wah.) Oh, Quinoa … let me count the ways and the whys that I love thee!

Being technically a seed, Quinoa  is free of gluten. Not only that, it’s packed with 5 grams of fiber, which makes it a healthier carbohydrate choice for low-carb. eaters.  It also has a good amount of protein and it’s full of nutrients like manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, B-vitamins, and more. Quinoa is simply a super easy, super-food!

Preparing Basic Quinoa is as easy as… rice!

  1. Fill a pot with 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa (for example, 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rinsed Quinoa.  Most purchased quinoa s already rinsed for you, but if it does not specify rinsed on the packaging, then rinse).
  2. Bring water and quinoa to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
  3. Cover with a good lid, and walk away for 15-20 minutes.  When the seeds “pop,” your quinoa is cooked!
  4. You may leave the lid on. You do not need to refrigerate right away.

Here are a few tricks I like to use for jazzing up my Quinoa side dishes.

  1. Adding a small portion of rice makes a big difference in the “fluff” factor and also make this more expensive food item last a bit longer.  This little tip is also  great for kid,s like mine, who have grown up where rice is a staple at most meals.  They can be used to the texture and resistant to eating the healthier seed.Here is what I do: I sneak in 1 part rice to 3 parts Quinoa. You can use more or less according to your liking & also your pocketbook, but I use about 1/4 cup white rice to 3/4 cup Quinoa. Because the two ingredients are cooked in the same manner, you don’t need to do anything special. Your Quinoa will come out fluffier, and you and your eaters will enjoy all the health benefits of a healthy carb. without the guilt!
    image

    3 parts quinoa to 1 part white rice.

    Note:  If you prefer to mix your Quinoa with whole-grain, brown rice, simply add the Quinoa to your pot 15 minutes before the brown rice is cooked to completion. Par boiled brown rice cooks up in about the same time as white rice, but whole grain, uncooked brown rice can take as long as 40 minutes! Quinoa never takes that long, so be aware of the timing.

  2. For Super Healthy Quinoa, chop a small head, or half of a large head, of cauliflower in a food processor until the cauliflower bits are the size of large bread crumbs.When your Quinoa/Rice is 3 – 5 minutes from completion, just add a cup or a cup and a half of chopped cauliflower right on top, replace the lid, and let the cauliflower steam up with the rice/quinoa mixure!  Once your stove is off, and your quinoa/rice has sat a few minutes, you can mix gently with a spoon to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
    Note: Your children will not notice the cauliflower, as you can see in the photo!

    image

    Quinoa w/1/4 rice & lots of cauliflower!

  3. Jazz up the flavor by cooking  your quinoa or quinoa/rice in stock. Use chicken for meat-
    eaters, or vegetable for the non-meat eaters!
  4. Add 1 or 2 whole teeth of garlic to your liquid, and remove when the dish is cooked.
  5. Go ahead and experiment, adding other, colorful chopped vegetables to your dish. When  using carrots or longer-cooking veggies, just add them 1o minutes into the cooking so they have enough time to steam up to a softer texture.
  6. Store your cooked Quinoa or Rice/Quinoa in the fridge. Then heat up when you need it. I like to warm it for breakfast and serve with a poached egg on top.
  7. Treat it as if it were rice. Below, Quinoa with 1/4 white rice & Cauliflower, Prawns in Ghee with garlic & lemon, on salad.

    image

    Quinoa w/1/4 rice, 1/3 cauliflower; Prawns sauteed in ghee w/garlic & lemon, atop a salad.

 

 

Breakfast

Healthy Craving Fixer

May 10, 2015

imageAs a little girl, no trip to “the city”, a.k.a, New York City was complete until, at my mother’s pleading, my dad pulled the car over at 86th and 3rd, to fullfil her craving for the then exotic fruit, slightly odd tasting fruit, papaya,  always available at the now historical Papaya King.   She adored this gorgeously colored fruit which, to my young palette tasted a bit, well, off. Still,  I loved anything coconut, and a trip to Papaya King meant a coconut treat for me!

As I grew up and traveled some,  my taste buds came on board. In the Southern Philippines, I learned to stab a slice of fresh papaya with my fork, and then fill the tiny rows of holes with fresh squeezed Calamansi, a kind of citrus, not quite like a lemon or a lime, but these will do.

calamansiIt was here that I also learned  to love crisp, tart, unripe, green papaya, sliced into sticks, then dipped in vinegar and spicy salt. Later, in New York City, I learned you can julienne green papaya to add to salads and savory dishes.

 

Calamansi

green papayaIn Mexico and in Panama, I came to love thick fruit smoothies, either alone or paired with bananas or pineapple or strawberries.  I cut the papaya into cubes and store it in bags in the freezer. This way my smoothies are cold and fruity, undiluted by water or ice cubes.

Today,  I enjoy teaming my papaya up with the taste of coconut, which I still adore.

But when I was first diagnosed as pre-diabetic (I have corrected this with my diet), I steered away from sweets, including fruits in general, since sugar is sugar… isn’t it?

With a Glycemic Index value of 59, Papaya is generally considered a “medium” sugar threat.  And now for the good news: On the Glycemic Load Index, papaya measures at a low 10.

The Glycemic Load refers to the body’s response to sugars by taking into account both the quantity of carbohydrates as well as the type of carbohydrates. For a detailed explanation of glycemic values and how they are calculatedClick Here.  In short, this means that eating papaya occasionally, especially if paired with other foods, doesn’t necessarily cause blood sugars to spike.

When I have a true craving for something sweet, I make this delicious treat using only four healthy ingredients.

1 Cup papaya, diced.
2 Heaping tablespoons coconut milk (I like to spoon it on, chilled)
1 Tablespoon crushed flax seeds (easy to crush up in a coffee grinder!)
1 Slice of Lemon or Lime

TIP:  Keep papaya cubes cold and handy by freezing them. Then, use the same above ingredients to blend into a  fresh smoothie, and, if you are feeling festive, add and ounce and a half of rum! 

Comfort Food

Easy Veggie Comfort

April 22, 2015

I often feel that if I eat vegetarian or vegan, I’m going to be left wanting. I have nothing against the raw food champions, but me? I like my food warm and creamy.

This dish not only fills the comfort-food bill, it fills you up and it does so without dairy or meat. It’s vegetarian healthy (vegan if you use a pesto that does not include Parmesian).

Serve up a large bowl for lunch, or serve it as a side dish to a main course.

Mushroom Comfort

Lace the bottom of a your favorite frying or sauté pan with 1-2 tbsp. coconut oil (or substitute cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil, or half & half, mixing the oils), and heat.

Add to the pan, and  in this order:
2 Teeth garlic, minced
1 Medium onion, thinly sliced
Sautee onion and garlic about a minute, then add in:
2 Cups sliced mushrooms (any kind)
2 Cups sliced zucchini (I cut half-moons to match the mushroom shapes).
Salt & Pepper to taste.

Sauté together until the mushrooms are soft, but not limp,  and the zuchini is softening, but not going clear. You want it to hold a little firmness.

Add 3 tbsp of your favorite home-made or jarred Pesto (vegans, you will want to use a pesto that huses a substitute for the Parmesian cheese or incorporates extra nuts and basil).

Stir together until hot and then… add the juice of 1/2 a lemon.
This is going to really give the dish some zing and bring out the flavors.

Vegetarians and meat-eaters, top with grated Parmesian.
Vegans, opt out of the cheese and top with toasted nuts.

 

Comfort Food

Pesto Pasta “Fake Out!”

April 13, 2015

This dis has it all: Gluten- and Grain-free, fits Paleo, Vegan & Veggie. But meat-lovers won’t be let down.

I adore Pesto. I could eat it with a spoon  (in my nightie, sneaking a late-night taste by the romantic light of the refrigerator…)

For those of us who are avoid carbohydratess such as  pasta, or all the “white” yummy things that keep the sugar up and those extra pounds clinging to our frames, there is salvation!

I don’t like moderation, so you can imagine how I  handle deprivation.
Ah… but there is a way to have your Pesto  with a pasta feel… sans the guilt and the carbs.  Zoodles! Or zuchini noodles, also known as zuchini spaghetti, or zuchini pasta/noodles.  Serve it up as a main dish, or a yummy side. It’s also a fun way to get some veggies into the kids.  (Kids love Pesto!)

For the Fake-Out Pasta
2 Cups zuchinni, sliced into thin slivers, or julienned (you can purchase a “spiralizer” or noodle maker online. I like the Zen feel of slicing.)
1 Pot of boiling water, enough to take the zuchinni
Have a saucepan ready on the stove. warmed & with a pad of butter or a shake of Olive Oil
Have a strainer handy, near your sink
Blanch your zuchinni for only about 2 minutes in the boiling water, till the strands are limp but still have a tad of firmness.
Drain & strain in the sink. You can store these in the refrigerator for later, or use them right away, as follows:

Simply plunk all those lovely, soft zuchinni “noodles”  straight into your warming saucepan, the butter or oil having already been melted.
Using a fork, gently toss as you stir in in 4 tablespoons of Pesto (recipe below, or use a good jarred brand).

Options:
I topped mine, seen in the photo, with some tarragon & tarragon flowers. I enjoy the licorice-like flavor combined with the basil from the Pesto. You might want to top yours with some toasted Pine Nuts or Walnuts?  Some chopped Tomatoes could be nice, don’t you think? And the cool mixed with the warm would be interesting.  If you are not Vegan or Paleo, you can sprinkle on some grated Parmesian.  Salt & Pepper to taste, and dig in.

Oh, and hey, it’s zuchinni, so have some more!

Pesto, My Way
In a food processor, blender, or using a hand-blender, process:

2 Cups packed, fresh basil leaves
3 Teeth garlic, smashed
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 – 1/3 Cup Olive Oil (or drizzle in a little more if you see you need it when you start blending)
1/3 Cup Walnuts, lightly toasted (or Pine Nuts, which is traditional)
Juice 1/4 Lemon
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Tip: If you find you don’t have quite enough sauce, you can make it “stretch,” do this:  just before serving , add to your Pesto 1/2 cup boiling water and 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (not you, Vegans!).

Tip: Break the rules: don’t be married to using only the traditional Pine Nuts. I have gotten quite used to Walnuts, and I think it would be interesting to experiment with other nuts you have handy, such as Brazil or Pecan.( But not peanuts.)

My Daily Kitchen

Two Bests!

March 23, 2015

I won’t be shy. I make the best Guacamole and the best Pico-de-Gallo, salsas.
Why are they so good? Well, for four reasons:

  1. The flavors are clean and simple.
  2. The sauces look pretty and appetizing.
  3. They’re very versatile.
  4. And they’re healthy!

Versatility: When I co-owned Big Daddy’s Grill in Boquete, my “Pico” recipe was a favorite addition to our Fish Tacos and also delicious over Quesadillas or dumped into a serving of Mr. Big Daddy’s famous Rice & Black Beans.

My son likes to eat either sauce straight from the bowl, with a spoon. No snack healthier than this!

Keep a container full of the Pico de Gallo in your fridge for the week. Add it along side eggs or in rice. Toss some into a soup or onto a burger. Spoon it onto a cracker or mix it right into your green salad. This is a great way to stave off evil cravings that set your good eating habitts off course.

Tip: The Guacamole dish won’t last as long because of the brown tinge it gets from oxidation. However, if you store it in a plastic baggie and suck the air out, it will keep longer!

for the Pico de Gallo:image

Chop the following ingredients:
2 Cups of ripe tomatoes, keeping in the seeds
1/3 Cup sweet, white onion
1/3 Cup red onion
1/3 Cup Cilantro (or Culantro)
1 Cup ripe mango

Now squeeze in the juice of 1 Lime or 1 Lemon. Any tart citrus will do.
Sprinkle in just a dash of Cayenne (Omit if serving to children.)
Salt to taste. I sometimes use a seasoned salt, but plain old salt will do.
Remember: there is no pepper and no garlic in this recipe. Keep it simple.

imagefor the Guacamole:

Chop the following ingredients:
3 Ripe Avacadoes
3/4 Cup Ripe mango
1/2 Cup of ripe tomatoes, seeds removed
1/4 Cup sweet, white onion
1/4 Cup Cilantro (or Culantro)

Squeeze in the juice of 1 Lime or Lemon.
If you have a 1/2 ounce of fresh Mandarin or Orange Juice around, add a dash!
Salt to taste. I like to toss in a bit of seasoned salt but it is not necessary.
If not serving to children, add a dash of Cayenne.

Tip: Store Avacado mixes in a plastic baggie, removing as much air as possible to avoid browing.

 

Comfort Food

Guilt-Free, on-the-side

March 19, 2015

imageHere is a side dish so easy, all you need to know how to do is boil water! And it will suit almost anyone at your table without ruining their diet.

It’s also vegetarian, grain-and gluten-free, and vegan, so it’s obviously super healthy but … it’s yummy enough to be a comfort food!
To prepare, gently place in a  medium pot:

3 Medium sized potatoes, cut into thirds, skin on
1 Small head cauliflower, cut into fourths. Include any leaves
1 Small onion, quartered
1 Sprig fresh rosemary
Salt & Pepper to taste, or add 1/2 any flavored cube of your choice.
1 – 1/2 cups water or just enough to cover. You will not be removing the water, so you don’t want the pot to boil dry, but you don’t want your dish to end up watery.

Boil all the vegetables together for about 18-20 minutes, or  until soft enough to purée.
Toss the boiled sprig of Rosemary.
Now sprinkle in a teaspoon of finely chopped Rosemary,
Purée the entire mixture until just slightly chunky.
Add a pad of butter (or Earth Balance substitute)
Serve hot.
Tip: Why tell your kids about the cauliflower? Also, for big and little kids who want some added comfort,mix in a small handfull of grated cheese (or cheese substitute for vegans) of your choosing. (Cheddar or Manchego would belovely, don’t you think?)

My Daily Kitchen

Surprise Soup Thickener

March 8, 2015

One way to thicken soups and stews, and avoid using wheat flour or roux (butter & flour), is simply to add a sliced, unripe Plantain to the pot.

imageDid you know that Plantains are edible at every stage of maturity? And they are healthy.

Plantains can be powdered (my neighbor turns hers into a fine powder that I can mix in with smoothies or milk for my son and his friends). They can be sautéed, deep fried, and baked.

To get a truly sweet, ripened plantain, you have to wait until the skin is soft and is very black, almost as if rotting! Look at the black plantain in the photo. This is thoroughly ripened and, hard to believe, you won’t find bruising when you peel it.

Because I like to avoid wheat flour if I can, and because I like my comfort food creamy, I can use green plantains to thicken my soups and stews, and avoid flour.  (Gluten from the my olden days was not as chock full of the added “vital gluten” that permeates the prepared food market today.  I am not an obsessive about this, or about anything. (Of course, if you have Celiac Disease you have to be strict!).

For me, a substitutes has to be easy, which means accessible and affordable, otherwise, I give up the quest. I sometimes use a few teaspoons of “Quinoa” flour  to lightly thicken stews and soups. Quinoa isn’t cheap where I live, but since I need to sprinkle only a few teaspoons over my dish to thicken, it doesn’t break my purse. And since Quinoa is really a seed, it doesn’t have the same properties as a grain.

But my favorite easy-thickener is green plantains! I live in Central America where plantains are common and  super cheap! They either grow for free in your back yard, or can be purchased for literally pennies at the market. Plus, I need only one for an entire pot of soup.

I simply cut it up and add to my stock, along with my garlic and onion and spices, and whatever else I am using to flavor the broth. Then I blend it all up before continuing with my soup.

image

Chopped Green Plantains, ready for stock.

Many people use corn flour and corn starch as a substitute for wheat flour. But this is still a grain and there are benefits to eating grain-free.

Years ago I  read “Going Against the Grain by Melissa Diane Smith” and followed a strict gluten- and grain-free diet for about 6 weeks. The first two or three days were challenging, but then it became an easy ride! After four years of trying to shed the first extra 17 pounds I had ever carried as extra weight, those pounds literally fell away with stunning rapidity. And they never came back.  Today, I do not follow a strict grain-free diet (hey…my favorite adult beverages are distilled from grains!), but I know I can if I need to. So when I can find an inexpensive alternative to using flour or anything made from grains,  I go for it.

Patacones

Patacones

Green plantains can be sliced into rounds, deep- fried once, smashed by hand, or in a small press, and fried again to make “Patacones,”  or “Tostones,” an alternative to French Fries.

Sweeter Plantains can be sliced lengthwise,then  pan-fried until caramelized, to make Tajadas, and served as a side dish. They can also be baked in butter and brown sugar, and stuffed with farmer cheese, or Ricotta. Delicious!

Tajadas

Tajadas

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Daily Kitchen

Arugula Soup-One soup fits all!

February 27, 2015

Trying to find a dish that will meet the dietary restrictions of all your guests can be a challenge. So here is something I created in My Daily Kitchen that will suit all. And I mean all. Diebetic or Low-Carb; Gluten- or Grain-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian and even Vegans will be happy. And for the meat eaters… read on.

Personally, I think of Arugula as the “steak of lettuces.” It’s peppery, like Nasturtium, but the flavor is broader and hearty, like meat. When I am eating vegetarian or vegan, I sometimes miss the substance of — horrors — a great steak, something pungent and powerful and, well, “meaty.”  For me, Arugula seems to fit the bill and fill the void.

I lack for nothing after a beautiful salad of fresh Arugula covered with lovely, shaved Parmesian cheese. So I wondered, “What would happen if I made it into a soup?”  Well, what happened, for me, was magic.  Let’s go!

Arugula Soup

In a medium to large saucepan, place:
6 medium (not large)  potatoes, diced and unpeeled
1 medium onion, loosely chopped
1/2 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 sprig parsley
1 tooth garlic
2 cups water
1 flavor cube vegetable stock, any type of your choice (non-vegans can use chicken stock)

Simmer in the pot until all the vegetables are soft to a prodding fork, about 20 minutes, because you are going to puree this in a bit.

Into the saucepan, add:

4 large handfuls (about 6 cups) of fresh, uncut, Arugula
2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground pepper
Salt to taste

Using a hand blender, (or transferring all the mixture to a traditional blender), puree the entire mixture until Arugula is still discernable, but mostly integrated.

Garnish with an Arugula leaf, or parsley.

For an added element of comfort, I personally love dipping cold, buttered bread into hot soup. (I use Good Earth oil spread, which comes close to my idea of creamy butter.) I love the combination of the cool, creamy buttery spread melting into the bread now warmed and moistened from the dipping. However, if you are grain- or gluten-free, skip this part!