Thursday, December 24, 2009

daikon salad

This week there was Daikon Radish in the CSA share. Sometimes referred to as Oriental Radish, these tasty roots are very high in vitamin C and are also a good source of folate, potassium and magnesium. In addition to the roots, the leaves are edible and are also high in vitamin C as well as providing some calcium and iron.

Daikon can be eaten raw, stir-fried, steamed, or even added to soups. It has a definitive flavor that mellows with cooking. Many Oriental cultures pickle the root and eat it as a condiment.

One of my favorite ways to eat this delicious root is in an Oriental Salad. The tops of the root, the fatter part, tends to be milder in flavor so I use that when making this salad. The bottom of the root is great for pickling or stir-frying. I make this using the julienne blade on my cuisinart.

Daikon-Carrot Salad

1 C. julienned daikon root
1 C. julienned carrot
1 t. fresh grated ginger
1 T. rice wine vinegar
2 T. vegetable oil
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. tamari sauce
1 T. sesame seeds, toasted
2 t. ground nori (optional)

whisk together the vinegar, tamari sauce, sesame seeds, nori, and ginger.
slowly whisk in the oils
in a separate bowl toss together daikon and carrot
pour dressing over the vegetables and toss gently
marinate 30-45 minutes
can be served cold or at room temperature


photo courtesy of KoS |

Sunday, December 13, 2009

officially disgusted

Today, while out shopping for Christmas items, I finally reached overload. In one of the stores I went to they were pushing the season. I know, you're thinking, 'Okay, everyone is getting ready for Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Whatever-your-winter-celebration is.' But hold on to your hats folks. The holiday on display was Valentine's Day.

It's bad enough that before Halloween has arrived, they're loading the aisles with Christmas merchandise. I know that manufacturers and shop keepers are desperate to make as much money as they can but there has to be a limit. How can you enjoy what the moment you're in if you're worrying about what is to come. I believe this is part of the reason that so many people feel that they are on complete overload.

This continual merchandise-push is an attempt to force you to buy, buy, buy. To overconsume, disregard the meaning of the season, and always focus on what's next. I hear many people complaining about how far behind they feel. How they miss the time spent with family. How rushing around leaves little time to enjoy the moment. But you are in control.

It's time to take back our lives, the season, and any traditions that you may have. You have the ability to stop buying in to the media/merchandising hype; to determine what is "enough." Enjoy the moment. Choose to ignore those messages, to stop paying attention to the "stuff" and instead focus on your family. You'll feel less stressed and so will they.

Happy Holidays.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Thanksgiving is just around the corner and as folks begin to plan their holiday menu out comes a wonderful fruit that only seems to make an appearance once or twice a year, cranberries. These deliciously tart fruits are grown on low shrub in bogs. They're grown commercially in the Northern US and Canada with most of the crop being turned into juice, craisins (dried cranberries) or canned "sauce."

It is believed that Native Americans shared the berries with the starving Pilgrims in Massachusetts and this may explain part of it's appearance on our Thanksgiving table.

Many folks are familiar with the use of cranberries as a treatment for urinary tract infections. A recent study, published this year, 2009, in the Scandinavian Journal of Nephrology and Urology, found that "daily consumption of concentrated cranberry juice can significantly prevent the recurrence of symptomatic UTIs in children." It is important to note that this would be 100% cranberry juice with no added sugar, not cranberry juice cocktails which tend to be more popular.

It is unfortunate that cranberries don't play a larger role in our diet. These luscious red berries are high in fiber, a great source of vitamin C and also provide a lot of manganese and vitamin K. They are high in anthocyanins, anti-inflammatory antioxidants, and they appear to have health benefits ranging from improving cardiovascular health to improving brain function to helping fight H. pylori and E. coli bacteria in the body.

This year for Thanksgiving we're having our traditional cranberry orange sauce which everyone loves. Now that we live in Texas we're going to add a new tradition and make a cranberry salsa. I bought a large bag of cranberries and will keep the extra (they freeze really well) to use throughout the winter in cranberry muffins, cranberry scones, to use in salads, I even put some in oatmeal with maple syrup for a tangy breakfast treat.

If cranberry makes an appearance on your Thanksgiving table, try making your own sauce instead of purchasing the over-processed jellied mass they sell in cans, it's not a lot of effort and it's so much tastier.

Cranberry Orange Sauce
1 C. water
3/4 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
3 C. cranberries
1 orange chopped fine (I use a cuisinart)
generous pinch cinnamon
nutmeg (I use a nutmeg grater and shave several times so I don't have a measure for this)

bring the water and cane juice to a boil, stirring until crystals are dissolved
reduce to a simmer, add cranberries, orange, and spices
cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop
remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before serving

Cranberry Salsa

2 C. fresh cranberries
2 bell peppers
3 spring onions, minced
1/4 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
3/4 C. fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime
generous pinch sea salt
1 t. crushed red pepper

Put cranberries and peppers into a food processor and chop well
put mixture into a bowl and add remaining ingredients
toss well and let sit at least 2 hours before serving for flavors to blend


Sunday, November 15, 2009

refilling your well

Most of us have very busy lives. We frequently find ourselves over-scheduled, constantly feeling like we are behind the eight-ball. The to-do list gets longer and longer and we wind up feeling more and more stressed. In the course of our busy lives many people do not take time for themselves.

My friend Vicki has a business teaching folks about self-care. I believe it is a sign of the times that there is a need for a business like that because so many of us have lost the skill of taking time for ourselves, for downtime. We need to learn to acknowledge and take joy in those small moments, such as 15 quiet minutes to drink a cup of tea. With Vicki's help I've been working on finding and being more mindful of those small recharging moments. She calls it "refilling your well."

Recently I was able to treat myself to the luxury of an entire day spent with my good friend, Doris. Talk about refilling my well, this was an amazing treat, I felt almost giddy at the end of the day because we had so much fun. Doris and I tend to have very full schedules; between family obligations, household responsibilities, volunteer commitments, and work it's not that easy to find time to get together. To have an entire day together was an amazing treat.

We are both avid foodies. Living in the Houston area there is certainly no lack of places to go and things to do that involve food. We started off with a visit to the Chantal Outlet's once-a-year warehouse sale. I was able to get some really adorable ramekins; I'm working on a new custard recipe that I promise to share as soon as it's ready. I also managed to pick up a few holiday presents while we were there.

Our next stop was Penzey's Spices which is an indulgence. It's fascinating to see and smell all the different spices from around the world, talk to the friendly folks who work there to learn about different uses for everything. I love using good quality herbs and spices in food. These are booster foods that add scent, flavor, and micronutrients. They help make a meal so much more satisfying. It's always hard to resist the lure of their wares, I did, however, manage to restrain myself to only what I really needed to replenish.

After Penzey's we went to Canino's Farmers Market, a great semi-outdoor market with an enormous amount of produce and fruit as well as nuts, including fresh Texas pecans. Walking up and down the aisles trading recipe ideas back and forth we were thrilled by the variety of fresh food available. Finally we finished with a stop at Pizza Fusion a new and amazing pizza place. I definitely plan to go back and sample other wares on their menu.

When you look at it we basically did our food shopping together and then stopped for lunch. While we might have spent a little more time on these errands than if we raced around by ourselves, checking off a list of chores, this no longer felt like a chore. I believe that food shopping, or any activity really, becomes more enjoyable when you are able to do it with someone else, you have time to talk and you share ideas. We both went home at the end of the day feeling like we had accomplished something, reconnected and recharged.

Look for opportunities to recharge your life. They don't need to be big ones, just mindful ones.

Be well.

photo courtesy of

Saturday, November 7, 2009

horrible commercial

The more this commercial comes on the more I don't like it. It's the one with the fish sticks where the little girl is talking negatively to her mother about the minced fish in her fish sticks.

I know that the little girl is cute and that the commercial is, at first glance, intended to be humorous. So what bothers me about it? Several things really. There's the attitude of the child, the shocked expression of the mother and the mother then soothingly capitulating to the child by offering her the brand being advertised. Finally the little girl chortling about how flaky her new fish fillet is.

I've been reading "Born to Buy" by Juliet Schor. In it she talks about the vast majority of food purchases being driven by children. How the manufacturers are deliberately pushing the idea of stupid parents, promoting the idea that the children need to be in charge, and spending enormous amounts of money on psychologically marketing to the children. This commercial embodies everything that the book is talking about.

As a Nutrition Educator I also look at the fact that this is a really unhealthy product. According to information I found online (since I can't bring myself to buy a box just to have the ingredients and nutrition facts) one serving has 250 calories with a fat content of 15 grams and a very high sodium content of 350 mg plus sugar -- who eats sugar with fish? The ingredients list has pollack, enriched flour breading mixed with hydrogenated oils, TBHQ, MSG and other chemical ingredients. If you want to feed your child fish buy fresh cold water fish for them; it's far healthier and will provide more essential fatty acids to help their development. If they insist on breaded fish you can bread it yourself at home without all the chemicals and make a far healthier version.

If they eat over-processed, junky fish they'll have a harder time learning to eat healthful, whole food style fish. Do your kids a favor and buy them the real thing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

quail eggs

For dinner tonight I sauted onion and red peppers with diced baked potato (leftover from baked potato bar the other night) and cilantro, salt and pepper. I topped it with fried eggs for Steve and fried quail eggs for me.

I went to the Asian market a few days ago; while there I saw an absolutely enormous refrigerated case full of very pretty, speckled quail eggs. Having never tasted them before but heard folks say how fabulous they were I decided to get them (Steve did not want to try them). Quite frankly I'm not sure what the hullabaloo is all about. My suspicion is that the attraction to quail eggs is for the novelty value. To be truthful I'm not sure if it's because I don't have a very sophisticated palate or because there really isn't a huge difference, but I did not taste a significant difference in the eggs. The only difference I noticed was that the yolk on the quail eggs had a creamier mouthfeel to me than chicken eggs do. So aside from the novelty value of a bite-sized egg it's certainly not something I think I'll do again.

Nutritionally the protein value is the same (comparing 1 ounce, 28 grams, of raw egg each) except that quail eggs have twice as much cholesterol. However quail eggs also have more riboflavin and a tiny bit more choline, B12, and folate as well as zinc, phosphate and iron.

As always, it comes down to the willingness to be adventurous, to try new things. While I don't think I will buy quail eggs again I'm glad that I had the opportunity to try them.

photo courtesy of K. Suzuki |

Monday, October 26, 2009

no-knead mesquite bread

Those inventive folks over at have come up with a new twist on the, by now, ubiquitous no-knead bread. Laura, one of the Editorial Assistants, found my post about mesquite flour and emailed me to let me know about this really fun article on how to harvest and process mesquite to make the flour. It includes a recipe for No-Knead Mesquite Bread which they said I could share with all of you. Living here in Texas I know we have mesquite, but there isn't any in my area. I'm going to have to learn to identify it though so that if I find any in my travels I can harvest the pods.

No Knead Mesquite Bread Recipe

3 cups white flour
3 tbls mesquite flour
½ tsp yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups of water

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl
Add water and mix
Stir with fork (mix will be sticky)
Cover in a bowl, let sit overnight
Place bread dough on cutting board covered with towel for 2 hours
In metal bowl bake in sun oven @ 350 for 1 hour

photo courtesy of: Wendy Tremayne

Friday, October 23, 2009

almond delights

My friend Cindi, who also grinds her own flour, has been experimenting with different kinds of cookies. Her kids have been in love with my Sunshine Cookies since they were first introduced to them when Cindi took one of my classes a couple of years ago. Looking to expand their cookie repertoire a little she's been playing around with different, healthier, combinations of ingredients. I think this one is a keeper since she writes, "My son who doesn't really like cookies, except for your sunshine cookies, ate about 4 of them in one sitting." She notes that these cookies come out very moist like a marzipan cookie.

This is her first "official" Cindi recipe and I'm just thrilled that she's allowing me to share it with you here. These sound absolutely fabulous and I can't wait to make up a batch of almond flour and try them.

Cindi's Almond Delights
2 cups almond flour
3/4 cups evap. cane juice crystals
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg

blend softened butter for a minute or two
add all the other ingredients and mix well
roll into balls and press with a fork
bake at 300 degrees for about 25-30 minutes; cookies will not brown
to decorate, top with sliced almonds or drizzled or dip in dark chocolate


delicious looking photo - Cindi H.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

strawberry-colada scones

Having leftover fresh ground flour from the ricotta pancakes I decided to make some scones. Scones are great. Not as dense as muffins, the right size for a snack and, like muffins, very pliable to modification. Rummaging around the pantry and fridge revealed some strawberry yogurt and the last little bit of shredded coconut so strawberry-colada became the flavor of the day. Unfortunately I did not have any fresh or dried strawberries which I think would have made these scones even better; the currants worked well but the scones were a little light in the strawberry flavor. In the future I'll make sure to have strawberries available the next time I want to bake these.

In the past when I have made scone recipes using fresh ground flour I find that sometimes they are more dense than I'd like. Wanting to make sure these were light more fluffy I separated the egg. If you are using a whole grain flour you may want to do the same.

Strawberry-Colada Scones

1 C. oat flour
1 C. brown rice flour
1/3 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
generous pinch of sea salt
1 C. strawberry yogurt
1 egg separated
1/4 C. coconut oil melted
1/2 C. currants
1/2 C. shredded coconut

preheat oven to 400
beat egg whites until peak forms, set aside
mix together egg yolk, coconut oil and yogurt until fully blended
in a separate bowl mix together flour, cane juice crystals, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
add dry mixture to yogurt mixture until just moistened
gently fold in currants and shredded coconut
gently fold in egg whites
drop by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet
bake 15 minutes or until golden brown
let cool 2 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to rack


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

ricotta pancakes with honey glazed plums

Cooking and baking is always an adventure. Inspiration is all around you if you are open to it. There's no real explanation for why or how ideas come together but I can honestly say that frequently it's a matter of "oh gosh there's X in the fridge and I better use it up." Then I make something using that ingredient. Most of the time I make tried and true recipes, either my own or those from trusted cookbooks. Sometimes the inspiration is something I ate elsewhere that I really liked and have been given the recipe. Other times the recipes find me but I somehow can't help playing with them a little bit.

Such is the case with today's breakfast. The inspiration was a click-through twitter post that brought me to Almost Bourdain's (AB's) blog, which I just discovered and like a lot. He credits his inspiration for this recipe to Bill Granger, I credit my inspiration to him. It's kind of neat how that works, we're all connected by this idea of ricotta in pancakes but we each put a slightly different twist to it; all of them, I'm sure, very delicious.

My changes came about because I am trying to work more with gluten free recipes lately. These are for a few people I know who are faced with gluten sensitivity. It's also, as always, inspired by what I have on hand. AB's version calls for bananas and honeycomb. I didn't have enough bananas but did have plums. Didn't have any honeycomb either (and I miss my friends from CT who used to supply me with it) but I did have honey. Together with some breakfast sausage this made a great meal and is definitely on the repeat again list. I hope you like it too.

Ricotta Pancakes with Honey Glazed Plums

For pancakes:

1 1/3 C. ricotta cheese
3/4 C. buttermilk (for a little tang to offset the honey glazed plums)
4 eggs separated
1/2 C. fresh ground oat flour
1/2 C. fresh ground brown rice flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
pinch salt

beat egg whites until peaks form, set aside
mix ricotta, egg yolks, vanilla, and buttermilk together until well blended
mix together flours, baking powder and salt
gently add flours into ricotta mixture
gently fold egg whites into mixture until just blended
drop by 1/4 C. measure into medium hot, greased pan
after 2 minutes flip to cook other side

For honey-glazed plums:

2 plums
2 T. honey
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 t. butter

cut plums into bite sized pieces
toss with honey and cinnamon
in a medium-hot pan melt butter
add plum mixture and stir until plums begin to soften just a little (about 7 minutes)

serve pancakes with plums on top

Honestly these were fabulous. I would even consider serving them as a dessert by making the pancakes smaller and putting a dollop of creme fraiche on top with a dusting of cinnamon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

green goddess dressing

I recently posted on Facebook about a meal that included homemade Green Goddess Salad Dressing. When I was a kid we always had Green Goddess in the house, I think it was my father's favorite dressing. Creamy and a little tangy it was great.

Somehow when I got older I never had it in the house. Then I had kids and, like most kids I know, they had an instant love affair with creamy ranch. That and vinaigrette became the house standards. Oh sure, every now and then we'd get wild and throw in French Catalina or a Thousand Island, but most of the time we stuck with our good old standby dressings.

I recently had an excess of parsley; not wanting to freeze it, since frozen tiny packets of herbs tend to get lost in my freezer, I was casting around for an idea when I remembered this dressing. Paging through my favorite cook book of all times, the 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking, I found a recipe on page 364. I made a few changes based on ingredient availability and personal taste (I do not like anchovies). This is my modified version:

Green Goddess Dressing
1 C. mayonnaise
1 minced clove garlic
1/4 C. minced green onions
1/2 C. minced parsley (the original recipe calls for 1/4 C. but I like it with more parsley)
1 T. lime juice (it's supposed to be lemon but I was out)
1 T. tarragon vinegar
1/2 t. salt
ground black pepper
1/2 C. yogurt (this is supposed to be sour cream but I was also out of that)

Blend it all together and put in the fridge until ready to use. This makes almost a pint however ,in addition to a salad dressing it also makes a delicious dressing for wrap sandwiches.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

pumpkin oat breakfast bars

My friend Erin recently shared this fabulous recipe for a great on-the-go-snack bar. With pumpkins in season it's easy enough to make your own puree. If you don't have the time or inclination to make your own, the canned stuff works just fine. One word of caution, when choosing canned pumpkin I highly recommend that you read the label and make sure that you are getting only 100% pumpkin. You don't need all those other ingredients.

Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Bars (make ahead for quick breakfast or breakfast that must travel with you)

3/4 cup pumpkin purée (can be canned)
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter or ghee at room temperature
1 large or 2 small ripe bananas
1/4 cup honey
2 cups rolled oats (not the quick cook variety)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (can use walnuts or sunflower seeds)
2 Tbsp shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/4 cup oat bran (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
pinch of Celtic sea salt
1 Tbsp grated orange rind from an organic orange (optional)
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup dried blueberries, wild

Measure out the 2 cups of oats and pour just enough warm water over them to cover them.
Soak for about 5 minutes while you’re mixing up the wet ingredients.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin, eggs, butter or ghee, honey and banana.
You may want to mash the banana before adding to the bowl if it’s not really soft.
Before adding the oats, drain them well; add the oats, nuts, coconut, oat bran, cinnamon, salt, orange rind, currants and blueberries, and stir until ingredients are well combined.
Spread mixture into a lightly greased (butter, ghee or coconut oil) pan so the batter is no more than an inch or two deep. An 8” x 10” baking dish works well.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until it’s beginning to brown.
If they fall apart when you cut them into bars, you might try baking for about 10 minutes longer.
For very crisp bars, remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
Cut the bars when cool.

If you want to learn more about Erin you can visit her website.

photo courtesy of Waldo

Sunday, October 4, 2009

banana bonanza

Bananas are a comfort food for almost everyone. Creamy, tasty, and sweet, they are easy to eat. Everyone knows they are good for you (and unlike most other "good for you" foods this does not seem to bother anyone). Everyone also knows that bananas are a very good source of potassium, however most people don't realize that there are a number of other healthy reasons to eat bananas.

They are high in fiber, in the form of pectin, which is excellent for helping to ease constipation (because of the high potassium content bananas are also a good choice when it comes to replenishing the electrolytes lost due to diarrhea). Bananas also provide a high percentage of our daily amount of vitamin B6, which, according to Phyllis Balch, author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, "is involved in more bodily functions than any almost any other single nutrient." B6 is important for the immune, nervous and cardiac systems and is also important for circulatory health. Another helpful component of bananas is something called protease inhibitors; these can be helpful in stopping the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.

Although we are used to seeing only two to three different varieties in the supermarket, there are believed to be around 500 varieties, including plantains. They come in all different colors and sizes. Bananas can be eaten when they are green, providing something called resistant starch which has a fiber like effect on your system and also helps to promote "good" bacteria. The riper the bananas are when you consume them, the more antioxidants they provide, making them a great all-around fruit.

Most people do not like to eat very ripe bananas. When the fruit starts to get spotted on the outside they are frequently considered to be "over-ripe" although this is usually not the case. Very ripe bananas are usually either thrown out or baked into some sort of treat. If they are too ripe for your palate and you are not in the mood to bake you can freeze them. I frequently freeze bananas in the peel if they are going to be used in baking, and peeled, in baggies, if I am planning on adding them to smoothies. In the peel is fabulous because when you are ready to use them you simply let them thaw on the counter, snip the end, and let it "goosh" into your mixing bowl where it will incorporate itself very nicely into the batter.

Today I happened to have 5 very ripe bananas and decided that it was a good day to bake. The following recipe is modified from one originally given to me by my friend Theresa. She got it from her grandmother, the family name for it was 1940's Banana Bread. The basic recipe is the same, I've merely changed the flour to whole wheat, the sugar to evaporated cane juice, and added pecans, chocolate chips and a little vanilla to make a wonderfully tasty banana bread. Theresa bakes hers in loaf pans but I love making this in a bundt for that little extra touch.

Banana Pecan Chocolate Bundt Bread

4-5 ripe bananas
2 eggs
2 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1/2 C. chocolate chips

preheat oven to 325 degrees F
grease a bundt pan and set aside
in a large mixing bowl mix bananas together
beat in eggs one at a time
add in flour, sugar and baking soda until well incorporated
add in vanilla, pecans and chocolate chips until well incorporated
pour batter into bundt pan
bake 1 hour or until cake pick inserted into batter comes out clean
remove cake from oven and let sit 10 minutes on cake rack
invert to release cake from bundt pan and let cool completely

photo courtesy of

Thursday, October 1, 2009

evolution of a recipe

I previously talked about this pear torte as part of a post about modifying recipes. As I mentioned in the post, the torte came out a little denser and heavier than I would have liked.

As part of explaining how I modify recipes until I come up with what I want for the final version I thought I would give you the next step in the creation of this torte. I will start by pointing out, as you will see below, that it is not always a straightforward process. Inspiration takes over, mistakes cause you to go in a different direction, taste testers make suggestions that help you refine what you are doing. It's more than just a matter of measuring out ingredients.

First a huge thank you goes to my friend Teresa who gave me another bag of these most delicious pears. They may not look like much but they are fabulous in both flavor and texture. Unfortunately I am using a picture of the pears again because I forgot to take a picture of the torte before it was devoured by the folks at home and other taste testers.

I had originally thought to change the recipe by adding some applesauce to moisten it, or soaking the flour, or adding some fat; instead I made the following changes:

Whole Wheat Ginger Pear Torte
2 eggs
1/2 C. milk (the original recipe was 1/4 C.)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 C. crystalized ginger chopped (this was a new addition)
1 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 C. all purpose flour (this was a tip borrowed from my King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book)
1 t. vanilla

The original recipe had cinnamon, this version has none because of the addition of the ginger

Preheat oven to 350 deg F
Peel, core, and slice pears
Mix together eggs, milk, salt, vanilla, evaporated cane juice crystals, and chopped ginger
Add flour and mix well
Grease a 9" cake pan
Coat the pan with evaporated cane juice crystals
Layer the pears into the bottom of the pan (the original recipe called for the pears to be folded into the batter)
Pour torte mixture over pears
Bake 40-45 minutes or until done

The torte was delicious, The balance of flavors was just right. The outer 1/2 of the cake was perfect, the middle of the cake had a more pudding-y consistency. I think the problem with the middle was either because of the way I arranged the pears (too many in the center made it more damp, checking the torte too early caused it to fall slightly, possibly not having the right amount of baking soda leavening*, or perhaps the pan was too big and I need to consider making this in my 8" pan and adjusting the amount of batter.

Comments from the taste testers were, "I would leave out the pears", "it needs more vanilla" and the rest all agreed that they liked it just the way it was.

So now I'm hoping that Teresa will once again generously offer some more of those fabulous pears and I can try again. I'll keep you posted.

*Shirley Corriher's book BakeWise says if there is too much leavening it can create too many bubbles in the batter which then rise to the top and cause the cake to be too heavy in the middle. The formula is supposed to be 1 t. of baking powder or 1/4 t. of baking soda for every cup of flour. Because I used both I did "fuzzy-math" to come up with 1/2 t. and 1/2 t. that may have been part of the problem. I really need to stop borrowing this book from the library and just break down and buy it, it's a great resource for bakers.

diving in

to the twitter fray

you can now follow me @grainsnmore

hawthorne for health

Karen asks, "What do you think about using hawthorne berries to help prevent the flu?"

I am not an herbalist so I had to do a little digging to come up with some information but here is my opinion on this:

Hawthorne (Crataegus monogyna) is a small tree or shrub that grows mostly in Europe, Asia and Africa. It is usually grown as a hedge, the leaves are edible in salad and the fruits, or berries (called haws), are frequently made into jams, jellies, syrup, or used to flavor brandy for liqueur. It's herbal properties are cardiac, astringent, and diuretic; the parts used are the blossoms and berries. It seems to primarily be useful for lowering high blood pressure, as aid to help with diarrhea and for cardiac health.

I was not able to find any specific information relating to using the berries or their powder as a flu preventative.

I think the best ways to avoid the flu are the obvious ones of washing your hands frequently with soap; it's very important to monitor small kids who may skip the soap part, check out this article for proper hand hygiene including a video on how to wash your hands the right way. it's also important to avoid contact with anyone who has the flu and to make sure that you are consuming immune boosting foods such as garlic, ginger, cayenne, and vitamin C.

As an interesting side note I learned that the oldest known Hawthorne, called the Hethel Old Thorn, is reputed to be over 700 years old and is found in Norfolk East Anglia, United Kingdom

Photo courtesy of
The Complete Medicinal Herbal

Monday, September 28, 2009

what to eat when you're a girl

A while ago I had mentioned that I would stop cross-posting articles. And for the most part I have. But I feel that this article is important enough that I want to share it across the widest possible network so I'm listing it here as well.

Women's Health and Fitness Day is coming on September 30. The purpose is to raise awareness of health and health issues for women. It is part of an event that is planned to eventually become Women's Health and Fitness Week. As part of the day I've written an article about nutrition for adolescent girls. It's important to provide adolescent girls with the nutritional support that they need to be healthy now, during the second fastest growth phase of their lives, and when they are adults. I hope you'll take a moment to read the article and to share it with friends.

Be well.

Monday, September 21, 2009

environmentally and form friendly

I just ran across this beautiful rainbarrel and had to share. Sadly it's not available in the US although I hope that one day soon it will be.

Rainwater is a great resource, no chlorine or fluoride to go into your plants.

Apparently 1" of rain on a 1,000 s.f. roof can produce 6,000 gallons of rainwater. That's a lot of water! Why not use some of it to water plants instead of tap water? Until this one comes to the US look for local options for rainbarrels. The hardware is easy to find at your local hardware store, the barrel might be a little more difficult to obtain.

photo courtesy of:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

cherries are drugs!

The above statement seems startling. But if you think the same way the FDA does, cherries are drugs and therefore will need to be regulated by the government.

If you think this sounds like a joke. It's not.

The whole issue started with cherry makers sharing research that showed the healthful, antioxidant effects of cherries and cherry juice. This research, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, makes statements such as "supports the reputed anti-gout efficacy of cherries" and "compounds in cherries may inhibit inflammatory pathways." Another study, also by the UDSA stated, "[Results] suggest a selective modulatory effect of sweet cherries on CRP (C-Reactive Protein), NO (Nitrous Oxide), and RANTES (T-Cell indicators). Such anti-inflammatory effects may be beneficial for the management and prevention of inflammatory diseases." There is more research indicating other health benefits of cherries and cherry juice.

Strangely when cherry growers began to promote this information in marketing their product it caught the attention of the FDA. Mind you this is the same agency that is
failing at food safety. Responsible for under-inspecting food production facilities and imported food, unreliable in Pharmacolocial oversight, the FDA has nonetheless opted to go after whole food. While I'm not sure how the government would intend to regulate the sale of cherries if it were somehow indeed cast into the category of a drug, it seems bizarre and completely the wrong direction. The FDA should be keeping BPA out of our plastics, melamine out of our food supply, inspecting plant safety according to their mandate, and making sure that the drug manufacturers are responsible for their products (so that drugs are not released early before all symptoms are known, such as Vioxx or Accutane).

As part of the public record you can see that this letter was sent to these companies telling them that they are no longer allowed to share government research showing the health benefits of consuming a natural, fresh fruit. Shouldn't we be encouraging people to eat more fresh foods? Another thought that occurs to me is that if the FDA already can't meet it's mandate for public safety what the heck is it doing attempting to regulate a whole food?

My suggestion? Eat cherries, they're a tasty, whole food that is good for you. Drink cherry juice, it's also tasty and good for you.

Be well.

photo courtesy of clayoquot :$=pmtitlesearch4

Thursday, September 17, 2009

changing a recipe

Missy had a few questions about changing the flour in recipes, away from using wheat flour, for a ginger snap cookie she wanted to make. You can certainly substitute flours but it is important to remember that if you are using whole grain flours the density of your baked goods may vary a little bit. Also, it's important to let the batter sit for a few minutes to allow the extra fiber to absorb some of the liquid in the recipe. If you are using gluten free flours you may need to add stabilizers or thickeners to replace the missing gluten.

I have a few tips about whole grain baking and some yummy recipes on the blog, you can find the baking section

Missy also wrote that she was going to replace the butter in her cookie recipe with crisco. I don't actually recommend the use of crisco; it is a hydrogenated vegetable oil and hydrogenated foods are not a healthy choice. Instead a better substitute would be coconut oil. While I am not sure exactly why she is choosing to substitute for the butter, since it is a healthy fat, coconut oil is a healthy choice and provides lauric, caprylic and capric acids, all very beneficial. [ed note: I misunderstood, Missy substituted butter for crisco which is a much better choice. If you wanted to go dairy free you could still substitute the coconut oil for the butter.]

If you are looking to reduc fat, depending on how much butter the recipe calls for (and most ginger cookies call for a lot), you can substitute up to 1/2 of the amount with applesauce. This gives a great flavor and adds moisture if needed. With ginger snaps, if you are looking for a true "snap" you won't get it with the applesauce, but if you are just looking for a soft gingery cookie you could start by substituting 1/4 the amount of fat called for with applesauce. The applesauce gives no discernable flavor. Other substitutes for fat include pumpkin butter and prune puree both of which have a flavor but it is one that can be successfully paired with the other flavors of your baked goods to enhance them.

I will share from personal experience that if you try to change everything at once you may find that you get an unpleasant result and that you're not sure why it happened. I usually change the flour first, then the fat, then the sugar. I've made some great doorstops/hockey pucks in my time by switching everything in the recipe and not understanding where I need to make further changes. Keeping notes along the way helps me to understand the evolution of the recipe.

Missy was also thinking of replacing the sugar with sucanat. This is an excellent choice, especially for a ginger cookie. Sucanat stands for SUgar CAne NATural, a very low process sugar that still retains a lot of the molasses. This gives it a very dark flavor that compliments the ginger a lot. I have written more about sweeteners here.

If you're looking for a good gingersnap type recipe here is one that I was given by my friend Barb. It's a fabulous, tasty recipe, perfect for the fall season.

Barb's Gingerthins

Melt 3 sticks of butter
Mix together with 2 C. Sucanat
Add 2 eggs
Add 2 t. baking powder, 2 t. cinnamon, 1 t. ginger, 1 t. cloves
Add 5 cups. soft white flour (if you don't mill your own you can use King Arthur White Whole Wheat)
Mix well

Let dough sit in fridge for 20 minutes while preheating the oven to 350 F

Make small balls, roll in Sucanat/cinnamon mixture or white sugar and bake on un-greased cookie sheet 8-10 minutes

Let cookies sit 1-2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cookie rack

photo courtesy of

Friday, September 11, 2009

the turnips are coming, the turnips are coming

With the fall season fast approaching root crops are coming into season. Turnips are a great root vegetable and can be very versatile in the kitchen.

Turnips are a member of the brassica family which means they are related to cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and others. Although there is an old fashioned tradition of cutting turnips into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, I think they are far to tasty to be put to this use; far better to eat them. One of the wonderful things about turnips is that you not only eat the root, but also the greens.

The root is a great source of fiber, calcium, potassium and is an excellent source of vitamin C. Turnip greens are high in fiber, folate, iron, vitamin C, and calcium. They are also an excellent source of manganese (an antioxidant which is important for bone health and digestion), vitamin K (important for bone health and coagulation of the blood), and Vitamin A (an antioxidant which contributes to eyesight, tissue and skin health and may help lower your risk for cancer). So all around they are an excellent choice to have in your Fall/Winter pantry. To take advantage of all of that nutritional goodness, turnips can be cooked in a variety of ways: sauteed, mashed, baked, boiled, the list goes on.

My very favorite cookbook for greens is “Greene on Greens” by the late Bert Greene who was a Food Columnist for The New York Daily News. In it he writes about the tonic power of turnip greens,” It must have had some therapeutic effect, for turnip foliage was brewed into potions, restoratives, and pick-me-ps from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century with vary report of it's good pharmacy. Even today in the deep South, a cup of turnip green “pot likker” is still reputed to be the best cure for hangover ever invented.” While I've never tried pot likker as a cure for hangover I do know that when I get turnips I like to use the greens to add extra flavor, texture and nutrition to whatever I am making.

As the weather gets cooler, soup becomes a weekly item on our family menu. Warm and comforting, it's an easy meal and a great way to use turnips and their greens together. This recipe is based on Bert Greene's Mixed Turnip Chowder. I simply substituted a leek for the onion, added turnip greens and a couple of cloves of garlic. If you can't get rutabagas you can increase the turnips and potatoes to make up for them.

Mixed Turnip Chowder

2 T. unsalted buttermilk
1 leek rinsed and finely chopped
1 large rib celery finely chopped
1 pound turnips peeled and diced
1 ½ pounds rutabagas peeled and diced
2 medium potatoes peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 quart vegetable broth
salt and pepper
1/8 t. mace (note: I don't use this)

Melt the butter, add the leek and garlic and cook a couple of minutes
Add the celery and cook a few minutes longer
Add the root vegetables and broth
bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer
Simmer about 20 minutes
Remove half of the vegetables and 1 C. broth
Add greens to the remaining soup in the pot
Blend the removed vegetables and broth until smooth
Return to the pot and add salt and pepper
Simmer another 5 minutes and then serve


photo courtesy of
staying healthy with nutrition, Elson Haas – pp 95, 108-109
Greene on Greens, pp 185, 387

Thursday, September 3, 2009

no artificial colors in kraft foods overseas, why here?

My newest column as the Houston Holistic Health Examiner deals with the buzz and rising dismay over Kraft Food Inc. using artificial colors in their products in the United States but not in places such as Europe and Australia.

Consumers there were upset about studies showing the negative health effects of artificial colors. This is not new news. In a paper that I wrote previously on artificial colors I pointed out that in 1968 Dr. Benjamin Feingold published a paper detailing how food additives were a source of allergic response in children. Unfortunately Dr. Feingold's work did not convince food manufacturers and 40 years later Kraft has finally decided to remove these chemicals from their products. But not in America. Probably not in many other countries either, especially developing nations. One can only assume that this is motivated by profit and an enormous lack of concern for the health of the very consumers of their products. is an organization that works to help promote a healthy, family-friend America. They are currently working on a campaign to convince Kraft that the American public does not want these chemicals in their pantry. You can help by signing the petition or writing a letter of your own.

Below is my letter to Ms. Rosenfeld:

"As a Nutrition Educator and the mother of two children who are sensitive to food coloring I am pleased to see that you have removed the artificial colorants and aspartame from your products sold in other countries. I feel that this was a responsible decision made in reaction to the demands of your consumers which highlights that KraftFoods has the ability to effect change in partnership with the requests of it's consumers. I am stunned, however, by your decision to continue to use these very chemical additives in the U.S. version of the same products.

There are a number of studies which underscore the health risks posed by synthetic additives, especially when it comes to the developing bodies of young children, a prime market for many of your products. Given the overwhelming reach of your company into the pantries across this country and around the world I would think that a response to such consumer requests should have prompted a revision in your manufacturing processes across the global market instead of merely in a few countries.

There is no need whatsoever for these ingredients, and indeed they are harmful to your consumers. I urge you and your company to be a responsible member of the global community, to care about the health of those who buy your products and make the same change that you did in Europe, Australia and other countries by removing artificial colorants, aspartame and other unhealthful chemical additives to the foodstuffs that you sell, not only in the United States, but around the world.

Mira Dessy, NE"

photo by BrokenSphere courtesy of

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

whole wheat pear torte

In light of the previous post I decided to share this one to highlight that inventing or even modifying recipes is not always a straightforward process.

My friend Teresa generously gave me a bag of home grown pears the other day. They looked delicious. "Eat them right away" she said, "you want to eat them while they are still firm."

Pears are a great fruit. They are very high in fiber, a good source of vitamin C, they also provide dietary copper. Copper is an antioxidant that is required by the body for good health and it helps the body to process iron. Fairly low in calories, a medium sized pear has around 70 calories making them a great snack choice.

I had initially thought that I would can them because firm pears hold up the best to the heat of canning. Or perhaps pear butter. But in the end I wound up making a torte for dessert. It was delicious with a nice balance of flavor and sweetness; the pears turned out just right, firm and not too mushy. But the torte was too dense and a little dry. It definitely could have used a sauce of some kind to help out. My husband's response was "it needs some ice cream."

I may try to make this again with regular pears; if I do I would make a few changes. Possibly adding some applesauce to moisten it up a bit, perhaps soaking the flour in a small measure of apple juice to help soften the fiber, maybe adding a little more fat. I'm not sure but I do know that, as I said before, it's not easy to always get it just the way you want it on the first go. But keep playing with it and enjoy the process and the results.

Whole Wheat Pear Torte

2 eggs
1/4 C. milk
1/2 t. salt
1 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 1/2 C. whole wheat flour
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 deg F
Peel, core, and slice pears
Mix together eggs, milk, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and evaporated cane juice crystals
Add flour and mix well
gently mix in pears

Grease a 9" cake pan
Coat the pan with sucanat
Pour torte mixture into pan
Bake 30-35 minutes or until done


cake questions

My friend Claire recently learned about using carob as a substitute for chocolate and decided that she wanted to try it. She felt that it was best to start with a recipe that already used carob and try to change the sugar/fat ratios so she picked this recipe.

Here are her notes, "Instead of using 2/3 cup I substituted with 1/2 cup brown sugar plus 4 tbsp's milk. It turned out looking & tasting just like a chocolate cake; just not as sweet as the ones you normally get from the store, because I didn't use as much sweetener. I shared it with a friend and she liked it and thought it was a chocolate cake. The texture of the cake is dense and more like that of a banana bread. I think if I use 100% all purpose flour or cake flour it will make a difference. I baked for 30 minutes and it turned out a little dry, so I would probably bake less than 30 minutes next time. Also adding icing might help with the dryness but I didn't use it."

My reply: "This certainly looks great and your picture looks wonderful!! I would make one small change. Instead of brown sugar (which these days is nothing more than white sugar stained with molasses) I would try demerara sugar which is a lower process than white sugar and has a fairly good moisture content mimicking the effect of brown sugar.

In case you are wondering why manufacturers pull the molasses out of sugar to make white sugar and then add it back to make brown, it's so that they can get a consistent color palette in the product. Silly but that's why they do it.

As to the moisture...the cake probably came out a little drier because you used less sweetener. You can try to modify that by either adding a little more fat (oil or butter) or by adding something like sour cream (just a little) to help which would also give a subtle richness to the cake or applesauce which would help add moisture. The applesauce typically doesn't add anything to the flavor profile, just moisture.

Since I personally encourage people to eat more whole grains I would leave the whole wheat the way it is is the recipe, switching back to 100% enriched flour is nutritionally less desirable and will also significantly change the properties of the cake."

As a general note, when you are modifying recipes it's sometimes difficult to remember all the different pieces that make up the whole. Changing one ingredient can have a major effect on the overall result. When working with baked goods the most important things to think about are if your change will impact the loft (whole grains are more dense requiring possibly more moisture or more leavening), the moisture, or the flavor. But most importantly, like Claire, have fun and experiment with your food.

Photo: Courtesy of Claire Wang