Saturday, January 30, 2010


Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea) is a large rainforest herb. It is also the word used to describe the white, odorless powder made from the starchy root. It contains a very modest amount of calcium and folate.

Arrowroot powder, also referred to as arrowroot starch or arrowroot flour, is frequently used as a thickener for puddings and sauces. It can also be used in baked goods, especially baby biscuits. I like to use it because it is gluten free, therefore easier for those who have digestive issues, and is not corn based, making it a good allergenic free thickening agent. It is considered to be less nutritious than wheat flour, however the superior thickening ability, lack of gluten, and flavorlessness of it make it a preferred choice for me.

According to information found at arrowroot is valuable as an aid for digestive ailments such as diarrhea. Add up to one tablespoon to a pint of juice or milk. As with any thickener make a paste first with some cool fluid and then add the hot fluids stirring until thickened.

Using it does take a little getting used to, if you overheat it the thickening action breaks down. I have heard that if you make homemade ice cream you can mix some in with the base and it will prevent crystals from forming in the freezer.

When using arrowroot the substitution is two teaspoons to replace one tablespoon of cornstarch or one teaspoon to replace one tablespoon of flour. Arrowroot flour can be hard to find, my best source of high quality arrowroot flour is Penzey's Spices. If you don't have a one near you, they do have an online store.

photo courtesy of Denis Conrado | Wikimedia Commons

Friday, January 29, 2010

revisiting tuscan stew

The Tuscan Stew appears to have been well received. First Carol wrote in with her notes about it; now Claire has written in and provided this beautiful picture as well (thank you so much for that, I really am not good at photographs and need to work on that).

Claire writes, "Tonight I invited my girl friend over for dinner and used your recipe to cook the lentil dish . I added a lot of Italian seasoning and ground basil and the aroma when the stew was simmering was just fantastic. Both my friend and I enjoyed the flavor as well. She needed to add some salt to it as I didn't put salt. But for me this dish is so flavorful, even without salt I didn't feel like it was missing anything (plus the chicken stock already contains sodium). I like the combination of the colors, textures and flavors of the Italian seasoning, tomatoes, onions and lentils, which really works! We served it over brown rice and it was great!

Thanks for your creativity & recipe. I have always enjoyed reading your posting about nutrition and yummy recipes. Keep up the great work!

I'm really glad that people are enjoying this recipe so much. It's become a new favorite in our house and if you haven't tried it I hope you will.

Thanks also for the comments, I love hearing back from folks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

tuscan stew update

Carol wrote in via email about the Tuscan Stew recipe that I shared recently" "Hi Mira, I'm about to begin preparing the stew and wonder that the lentils take only a half hour's cooking without any prior soaking--or was that first step left out of the recipe. Also, I don't have any "Italian spice" mix but assume that it would include basil, oregano, parsley and perhaps a bay leaf and or some rosemary the latter of which is growing on buses outside my building. I'm really looking forward to trying, tasting then relishing this dish this evening."

She pointed out that in the polenta recipe it's not clear about adding the cornmeal. I stir while slowly adding and then occasionally stir while it is cooking on low. She shares her method: "I put the mixture into the top of a double boiler and then don't need to keep stirring or even to check it, until it is about ready and it does not scorch if I don't check right on time." This sounds much easier than my method and I plan to try it the next time I make polenta. One of the things that I like most about it is that it removes the possibility of scorching which can be a problem.

Later she wrote back: "I'm eating the stew right now; it is delicious. The lentils (which are a small dark variety) cooked up fine in the half hour with just a prior rinsing, no soaking needed. I cubed a ball of buffalo mozzarella into the polenta after it cooled for 10 minutes, before transferring it to a round pan to firm up. Now, with the hot stew on top, the cheese melted into the wedge and the topping of freshly grated Parmesan on top give it all an extra, rich fillip. I used 3/4 tsp dried basil, 3/4 tsp dried oregano, one bay leaf, and a small amount of chopped fresh parsley for the seasonings in the cooking stew. Thank you for sharing this recipe."

I love the idea of cubing some mozzarella into the recipe and can see how that would add a tasty texture to the polenta. Carol, thank you for sharing your ideas and I'm so glad that you like the recipe.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tuscan Stew

I love lentils. They are tasty little legumes that pack a powerful nutrition punch. High in fiber, protein, folate, iron, potassium, folate, and manganese they are quick cooking and easy to use in a wide variety of dishes and cuisines. Lentils, referred to in Indian cuisine as daal, come in a number of different colors/types. There are the traditional brown lentils that most of us see at the grocery store however you can also purchase red lentils, which have less fiber, the dark French green, yellow and a type called Masoor which are brown on the outside but red on the inside. When combined with a grain, such as rice, you get a complete protein as all of the essential amino acids are present.

This recipe is one that I created as sort of an Italian style ratatouille, a French peasant stew. I substituted the lentils for the eggplant to give a protein boost and it's a great variation. Served over polenta with a side of spinach sauteed with garlic, lemon and italian spices it makes a fabulous meal. The leftovers, if there are any, are even better than the original because the flavors continue to mellow and combine even after cooking.

Tuscan Stew

1 C. lentils rinsed and picked over
1 onion chopped small
3 cloves garlic minced
3 zucchini cut into 1/2" slices
1 bell pepper diced
3 tomatoes diced
1 1/2 t. Italian herbs
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 T. olive oil
2 1/2 C. vegetable stock

In a stock pot heat olive oil and saute onion and garlic until onion is starting to soften
add the herbs and bell pepper and saute one more minute
add remaining ingredients and simmer on med-low until lentils are done, about 30 minutes
you may need another 1/2 C. of stock
salt to taste
serve over polenta and top with fresh grated parmesan cheese


1 C. cornmeal (I prefer fresh ground but you can use storebought)
1 t. salt
3 C. water

bring water and salt to a boil
reduce water to a simmer
very slowly add cornmeal (this is important to avoid lumps)
cook approximately 20 minutes until mixture thickens
remove from heat and pour into a pie plate (for triangles) or a cake pan (for squares)
let polenta set for 10-15 minutes
cut and serve

Edit: Carol wrote in and shared her method for making polenta "I put the mixture into the top of a double boiler and then don't need to keep stirring or even to check it, until it is about ready and it does not scorch if I don't check right on time."

I plan to try this the next time I make polenta


photo courtesy of Justin Cormack : wikimedia commons

Saturday, January 16, 2010

banana french toast

Banana french toast makes a delicious breakfast. It's a great way to use up that last banana or two that is close to the edge if you don't have any more room in your freezer.

I freeze bananas two different ways. Peeled and stored in a ziplock they are great for throwing in to smoothies. The frozen consistency gives a little "slush" to the smoothie. If I'm going to use them for baking I leave them in their peels. That way when they are thawed you can snip the ends and they "goosh" right out.

But we've had our fill of smoothies and banana-baked goods lately. Not wanting to store the last banana I decided to use it up a different way. When they were little my girls used to make banana milk by blending together a banana, a cup of milk, and a splash of vanilla. I did made some and soaked the bread in it (leaving out the egg) to make banana French toast. It was delicious. A nice delicate banana-y flavor and we didn't even miss the egg at all. You could even make this vegan by using almond or rice milk instead of cow's milk. I topped mine with some orange marmalade and it was fabulous.

So if you need another way to use up some bananas give this a try, I think you'll enjoy it.

photo courtesy of

waffled cookies

Experimentation is a wonderful thing. Getting inspired by other recipes and other folks leads to new ideas and new ways of thinking. One of new finds is Waffleizer. By a guy named Dan it was created to answer the all important question, "Will it waffle?" So far the answer seems to be absolutely.

The most recent post was about making s'moreffles - waffled s'mores. What a great concept. Even more amazing was the recipe he shared from Lauren Pett of Rich Chocolates for making waffled graham cracker type cookies. I immediately fell in love with this idea. Aside from my husband's grandmother's Gaufres Liegois, which I make in my Belgian-style waffle maker, I had never really considered waffling cookies before. These call for a standard waffle iron (I confess I own both).

I made a batch of cookies and it has turned out to be a big hit! They're crisp, tasty, and definitely one for the repetoire. I made a couple of changes and my recipe is listed below, I do plan to make a couple more changes. I switched the flour for fresh ground hard white flour and used sucanat instead of brown sugar. I plan to try turbinado sugar the next time because it has more moisture. Because of the sucanat they came out much darker, I may have the same issue with turbinado sugar but won't know until I try it. The whole grain flour has so much more fiber that I'm sure it is making the cookies denser than the original recipe. While it's still delicious I am considering borrowing a concept from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking baking book and use a modest amount of all-purpose flour.

The cookies are very soft when they come out of the waffle iron which makes them perfect for molding into shapes and my family is eagerly awaiting the next batch which we want to turn into bowls for ice cream. I did learn that getting them to the correct thickness is key. Too thick and they do not have the correct crunch to them. Too thin and they are very dark.

The original recipe can be found here.

Whole Grain Waffled Grahams

2 C. fresh ground hard white flour
1 C. sucanat
1 t. baking soda
3/4 t. sea salt
7 T. organic butter, cut into pieces, chilled
1/3 C. honey
5 T. organic whole milk
2 T. vanilla extract
pinch cinnamon

mix the dry ingredients
in a separate bowl, whisk the milk, honey and vanilla
add the butter to the dry ingredients pulse in food processor until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal
add the milk mixture to the flour mixture until a dough forms
wrap in plastic and chill for at least two hours, or overnight

on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough so that it's just over a quarter of an inch thick
I rolled the dough to the size of my waffle maker however you can also punch out or cut out the dough into squares, about 4 inches on each side

waffle the dough, waffle iron heat varies; check the dough after about three minutes
using a fork, pull out of waffle iron and either shape immediately or let rest on a rack (will firm up as it cools)


PS Sorry, no photos. My not-so-great camera finally gave up the ghost. I went out and bought a new camera which is charging. However I do not think the cookies will last long enough to be photographed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

local grain source

As many of you know I love to bake. Specifically I love to bake with whole grains. This way my family gets all of the benefit of the grain, the fiber to help slow down the digestion of the starchy endosperm and help stabilize blood sugar, and the germ with all of it's nutrient goodness.

When we moved here I felt fortunate that our local grocery store carried whole grains in the health food section. Unfortunately they recently decided to stop carrying them which left me without a local source. But all of that has changed now thanks to my friend Jinks. Her new website
Yummy Bread Kneads is a new local source for whole grains and she'll be sharing some great recipes.

Be sure to check it out.

photo courtesy of Rainer_Zenz | Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I just checked in to my gmail account. I was dismayed to find that somehow when folks emailed me instead of going to my correct email,, it went to my mostly defunct google email. I think it had something to do with the merger between google and blogger. I have three months worth of email questions to catch up on. If you haven't gotten a response from me and were wondering why I was so worthless at answering questions....there's your answer.

Going through the emails as fast as I can. I'll look into the settings and see how to fix this but in the meantime I'll be more diligent about checking gmail.

As a side note, if you leave a comment on the blog it does go to the correct email, that's really the best way to get in touch. But I'll fix the other.

Be well

Thursday, January 7, 2010

breakfast pudding

It's another cold, wet, grey day here in Texas. A perfect day for breakfast pudding. It's my newest recipe created because I was looking for a different way to make oatmeal. While I love a hearty bowl of oatmeal or an oatmeal smoothie or homemade granola sometimes you want something a little different.

I decided that I would make something along the lines of a baked rice pudding but use oatmeal as the base grain instead of cooked rice. It came out delicious and is our new winter favorite. Although it takes 45 minutes to bake the leftovers are delicious (I actually preferred this on the second day). It makes 6 generous servings so it's perfect for a brunch or weekend breakfast with leftovers for during the week.

Baked Oatmeal Pudding

4 C. milk
1/4 C. turbinado sugar
2 T. butter
1/2 t. sea salt
1 egg
1/2 t. apple pie spice
2 C. rolled oats
1 cored, peeled apple, chopped
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
1/2 C. raisins (or cranberries if you prefer)
1/2 C. ground flax seed
2 T. sesame seeds

preheat oven to 350
in a large sauce pan combine milk, sugar, butter and salt
bring to just under a boil until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted
in a cup beat the egg
slowly add milk 1 T. at a time until egg is warmed (this will prevent curdling)
add egg and remaining ingredients to milk mixture, stirring together
pour into greased 2 quart baking dish
cover dish and place in oven for 45 minutes
remove from oven, uncover and let set for 10 minutes
cut and serve drizzled with maple syrup