Tag Archives: healthy eating

Little Things Mean A Lot

Initially, when we went grain-free, we thought it might be a difficult transition.  Being foodies, we were anxious to understand the perimeters of this life-style approach and how we might use our creativity to still make food that excited us.  When looking for inspiration, I often go to my collection of ethnic cookbooks.  I was not disappointed; we love Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean food.  I was soon mixing up a concoction of ground turkey, shredded zucchini, herbs and garlic into small meatballs that were first browned in a pan, then finished in the oven.  Topped with a soothing sauce of homemade yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice and sumac, they are perfect as an appetizer or served on top of a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, feta and sunflower sprouts.

Moral of the story:  change doesn’t have to be difficult, and little things mean a lot.

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Turkey-Zucchini Meatballs With Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ghee

Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup homemade or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sumac (found in Middle-Eastern grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Browning in ghee

Browning in ghee

  1. First make the lemon-sumac sauce by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir well and chill until needed.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the ghee.  Mix with your hands (you will really get a better result) then shape into small meatballs about the size of golf ball.
  3. Melt the ghee in a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat.  Add meatballs, making sure to leave room between them.  Saute on each side until browned, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Place browned meatballs on a cookie-sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.
  5. Place on platter and pass sauce; or place on top of salad.
Delicious and savory

Delicious and savory

“THE SECRET OF
CHANGE lS TO FOCUS
ALL OF YOUR ENERGY
NOT ON FIGHTING THE
OLD BUT ON BUILDING
THE NEW.”

Made For Each Other

Don’t we all know when certain combinations go together?  Like tomato and basil, greens and eggs, steak and mushrooms, bacon and everything!   Each day can be an adventure in eating!  When we eat the magic that each season offers there are combinations that are savory surprises.  This week we needed to use some of the acorn squash we were storing.  We thought a pairing with chicken thighs was a simple, yet delicious combination.  Quick, easy and satisfying, you can put this together in no time and your family will love the results.

ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ACORN SQUASH:

  • 1 lemon, ends trimmed, halved and cut into wedges
  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chick thighs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup local maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 medium acorn squash, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch rings
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
Marinating chicken thighs

Marinating chicken thighs

  1. In a a large bowl, toss chicken thighs with lemon slices, 1 Tbsp of olive oil, sage, coriander, salt and pepper.  Let stand 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine syrup, butter, additional salt and cumin.  Simmer for 3 minutes.  Toss mixture with squash slices.
  4. Spread squash in a 9×13 inch pan. Nestle chicken and lemon on top of squash.  Roast for 30 minutes.  In a small bowl, toss scallions with 1 tsp of olive oil.  Scatter over squash;  keep roasting until chicken is no longer pink, about 30-40 minutes more.
Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Serves 4

“All the statistics in the world, can’t measure the warmth of a smile.”

Savory combination of squash and chicken.

Savory combination of squash and chicken.

Feel The Warmth

I’ve lived most of my life as a Michigander.  I love how the seasons change the landscape in front of my writing area.  Today the stillness of winter has struck just the right cord within me.  I feel the warmth of the wood-burner,and the sounds of Val getting our morning coffee.  I watch the birds at our feeders, their small feathered body’s puffed out against the cold.  In that stillness, resides a sense of gratitude and the accumulative effect is one of peace.  This inner peace is much needed as we head into the next phase of my physical journey.  I have been referred to a hematologist for a bone marrow biopsy and thorough blood workup.  A suspected blood disorder is looming large.  Again, we learn patience and perseverance.

Val built our home on 52 consecutive Sundays; you can feel the love seeping through the structure.  This is our house of God.  It is a home that has seen much history and celebration.  Today our neighbor Lynne, my older brother Bill and his girlfriend Deb are coming for dinner.  There are few things I enjoy more than filling our home with the scents of cooking and the anticipation of sharing that meal with those I love.  Good food is often like that, an invisible bridge connecting us to each other.  An expression of goodwill that transcends the simplicity of the moment into something larger, more intimate and we bask in its warmth.

Today’s meal will be a wonderful Brazilian fish stew called:  Moqueca De Peixe.  With aromatic garlic, onions, cilantro and red bell pepper, it has just the right amount of heat, which is tempered with the addition of coconut milk.  Loaded with tomato, fish and shrimp, it is a big bowl of warmth.  It invites you to eat the shrimp floating in the broth with your fingers.  I smile when I see Bill’s eyes closed with enjoyment.  This is why I cook.

Sauteing aromatics

Sauteing aromatics

BRAZILIAN FISH STEW:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs firm white fish, cut in 1 inch pieces (I use cod)
  • 2 lbs wild caught fresh or flash frozen shrimp (21-24 count)
  • 2 Tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cups red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced thinly
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 14.5 oz cans Muir Glenn Fire-Roasted chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing soup, chopped
  • 2 cups clam juice or fish stock
  • 1 cup home-made chicken stock (or if you’re using a commercial product, make sure it’s stock not broth)
  • 1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 whole lime, cut into wedges

Instructions:

  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  Add the ghee or olive oil to a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add onion and saute until soft, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the red bell pepper, green onion, garlic and bay leaves. Saute for 10 more minutes or until vegetables are softened.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste, combine well and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and fish stock or clam juice, along with the cilantro and simmer until hot but not boiling, about 10-15 more minutes.
  4. Finally, add the coconut milk, fish and shrimp, including their marinade.  Cook until shrimp looses its opaqueness, about 3 minutes.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish liberally with additional cilantro.  Pass the lime wedges.
  6. Kiss the cook.

Serves 4-6

Just the right amount of heat

Just the right amount of heat

 

 “Worries go down better with soup.”  –Jewish proverb

Opposites Attract

“I just don’t have the time!”  The lament of so many busy people.  Yet, what are we spending our time on?  The average American spends 4-6 hours per day in front of the television; not to mention, computers, games and phones.  Ok, I do like my techno gadgets, but I love good, wholesome food more.

Cooking has become a spectator sport.  We love to watch, but don’t participate.  But I’m here to tell you, cooking can be fun, entertaining and therapeutic.  Get everyone into the act.  I call my family and friends who want to help in the kitchen: “my sous.”  We laugh, we joke and above all we eat well.  We manage to find time for the things that are important to us.  There are so many meals that simply don’t take a lot of time.  Soups, stews, salads can all be eaten for multiple days, or frozen for future use.  In the time it takes to have a pizza delivered you can have a healthy meal on the table.

In the winter there is sometimes an absence of the type of salads that I enjoyed during the growing season.  I found that if you eat seasonally and try putting some unexpected ingredients together, you are often pleasantly surprised.  In my last post, I used roasted pears as a garnish on my butternut squash soup.  A few days later, I tried the same pairing in a different way in a salad and the results were yumbo-yummy!  Although the dressing is not strictly Paleo, I took creative license for the flavor I was looking for; see what you think…

  • FullSizeRender (1)

Roasted Winter Salad with Lime/Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 4 cups butternut squash, cubed in 3/4 inch dice
  • 3 Bosch pears, cored, seeded and sliced in 6ths
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh kale, torn in bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, torn in bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh local feta, crumbled
  • 1 recipe Lime/Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.  Position rack in center of oven.  In a large bowl, combine squash and pear slices with olive oil.  Toss well and transfer in a single layer to a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with a little Kosher salt.  Roast, flipping with a spatula halfway through and rotating the pan until they are soft and caramelized; approximately 20-25 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Toss the greens with 2 Tbsp of the warm vinaigrette, salt and place on a platter or individual plates. Scatter the squash cubes and pear slices on top, then sprinkle with almonds, tart cherries and feta.  Pass extra dressing.

Lime/Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (non-Paleo)
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and a little salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned.  Remove from heat.  Let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small heatproof bowl, whisk the vinegar, maple syrup, lime juice and zest, mustard, and a few grinds of fresh pepper.  Whisk the warm oil into the vinegar mixture until emulsified.  Season to taste with more juice, salt or pepper.

Serve 2 as a main, 4 as a side

Proof that salads can be fresh and roasted.  Opposites attract!

Proof that salads can be fresh and roasted. Opposites attract!

“Remember….even small changes can make a difference!”

Not The Same Old……..

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

It’s always a little disconcerting, but change is hard.  I did things a certain way for so long that when the need arose to upend my culinary avenues, I experienced a certain sense of loss.  When this feeling would raise its ugly little head, I would repeat the following mantra, “Don’t cling to the past, embrace the new!”   I needed to set my “Curious George” free.  So I did.  Similar to learning a new instrument, a new sport, a new hobby; cooking within certain parameters didn’t have to be boring.

I also recognized that my personality and sensibilities also needed to be acknowledged.  For example, my addiction to snacking (particularly crunchy, salty) would have to be addressed.  I found that the “out of sight, out of mind” approach worked well after I got through the first 2 weeks.  I also had healthy choices on hand, like apples with almond butter, when I needed a snack.  I have always chaffed under restrictions, so I didn’t want to follow some plan like a religion.  This requires that I honestly evaluate how I feel after each meal.  Even the new can lead to healthy habits over time.  I would need to befriend: patience and persistence.

The past week here in southwest Michigan, has been bitter cold.  With wind chills as low as -25 degrees, our wood-burner has been working overtime. Soups and stews were definitely on the docket. We stocked up on winter squash in late fall at the farmer’s market: butternut, spaghetti and acorn.  I’m particularly fond of butternut.  Its so versatile.  When it comes to soup, butternut is my go to squash.  Typically made with Granny Smith apple to accentuate its inherent sweetness; I always lean toward the savory.  I also prefer to roast the butternut, rather than boil it.  It takes a little longer, but the depth it creates is worth it.  I nestle in some Bosch pear slices while I’m at it as an unexpected garnish; and the oven helps keep our kitchen warm.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock (or gluten-free in a carton)
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp Maldon salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Braggs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 lb bacon, chopped, fried until crisp, drained on paper towels
  • 1 Bosch pear, cored and cut into sixths,
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh chives
Roasted Bosch pears

Roasted Bosch pears

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1.  Cut two butternut squash in half from top to bottom, remove seeds, rub cut sides with olive oil and place cut side down on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until soft when pierce with fork.  Let cool.  Scoop out flesh from each half and puree in blender or food processor in batches with chicken broth. Set aside.
  2. Roast Bosch pear on parchment paper for 20-25 minutes until soft and caramelized.  Set aside.
  3. Heat small dry skillet on medium-high.  Add cumin seeds and toast until fragrant and slightly browned, about 1-2 minutes.  Grind in mortar and pestle.  Set aside.  If mortar and pestle is not available, use ground cumin.
  4. In large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil on medium heat.  Add shallots and saute until soft about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, ginger, salt, cinnamon and Aleppo pepper and saute an additional 2 minutes, being careful not to brown.
  5. Add pureed squash, chicken broth and apple cider vinegar to pot.  Simmer on medium-low until heated through.
  6. Serve in individual bowls.  Garnish each bowl with a slice of roasted pear, sprinkle with bacon and chives.

Serves 4-6

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”     —–Albert Einstein