Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Last Day of Hunger

Well friends, it's the last day of 2009 and the end of a decade.  As the year ends, I am thinking about my goals for next year.  I decided that New Years resolutions are not enough!  I am making pledges for the new decade- 2010 to 2020!  My optimistic soul wants this to be the last day of hunger.  Since I am blessed with life that is abundant in love and things, I pledge to do my best to help those who are hungry.  I hope you join me in this ambitious goal.  Below are some links to help you get started.  Just click on the pictures and start making this the last day of hunger.  Peace, Laura

Mercy Corps -- Be the Change

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mom's Mash: Chickpea, Eggplant and Tomato Over Rice

Mom made this awesome dish last night.   It's from one of her favorite books- Vegetarian Pleasures.  I went back for thirds, so I know it was a hit.  She made it look ridiculously easy to make.  I'm definitely keeping this recipe in my back pocket for quick get togethers.  It's nice served over rice, but you could also load up a pita or serve over couscous.

Saute in a large pan:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
1 large onion
2 minced large garlic cloves
1 can large diced tomatoes (or 3 fresh tomatoes)
1 can drained chickpeas
Salt and pepper to taste

Lower heat and simmer until everything is melded and soft.  Garnish with fresh parsley and plain yogurt.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The 7 Foods Experts Won't Eat

Thanks to the several people who sent me this link.  This article discusses foods that food safety experts won't eat.  Truthfully, there are many things I shouldn't have eaten over the past week (holiday gut bombs), but this information is interesting.

The 7 foods experts won't eat

 How healthy (or not) certain foods are—for us, for the environment—is a hotly debated topic among experts and consumers alike, and there are no easy answers. But when Prevention talked to the people at the forefront of food safety and asked them one simple question—“What foods do you avoid?”—we got some pretty interesting answers. Although these foods don’t necessarily make up a "banned” list, as you head into the holidays—and all the grocery shopping that comes with it—their answers are, well, food for thought:
20 ways to feed your family for $100 a week.
1. Canned Tomatoes
The expert: Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A
The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."
The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe's and Pomi.
14 worst health mistakes even smart women make.
2. Corn-Fed Beef
The expert: Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming
The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. More money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. "We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure," says Salatin.
The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers' markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It's usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don't see it, ask your butcher.
25 ridiculously healthy foods you should be eating now.
3. Microwave Popcorn
The expert: Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group,
The problem: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize—and migrate into your popcorn. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there," says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.
The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.
Your nutritional guide to grocery shopping.
4. Nonorganic Potatoes
The expert: Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board
The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes—the nation's most popular vegetable—they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. "Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won't," says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). "I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."
The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn't good enough if you're trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.
14 ways to make veggies less boring.
5. Farmed Salmon
The expert: David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and publisher of a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.
The problem: Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. "You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer," says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. "It's that bad." Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.
The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it's farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones
The expert: Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society
The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. "When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract," says North. As it turns out, the casein in milk protects most of it, according to several independent studies. "There's not 100% proof that this is increasing cancer in humans," admits North. "However, it's banned in most industrialized countries."
The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.
Don’t be fooled by these 11 health food imposters. 
7. Conventional Apples
The expert: Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods
The problem: If fall fruits held a "most doused in pesticides contest," apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don't develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it's just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. "Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers," he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson's disease.
The solution: Buy organic apples. If you can't afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them first.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Gorgeous Gingersnaps

Ginger Snaps!  They are so simple and so tasty!  This is a staple recipe from The Joy of Cooking.  Enjoy these sweet and spicy treats.

Preheat oven to 325F.  Cream in a bowl:

3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Then add:

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 teaspoons ground dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves

Drop by the spoonful onto grease cookie sheets.  Bake 12 minutes.  They are delicious warm, but the joy of this recipe is that they are nice and soft when they have cooled.  Dip in tea, coffee or eggnog and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Brumous Brussel Sprouts

These little beauties are delicious and great for your health!  My friend swears that most people don't like brussel sprouts for genetic reasons.  She say that brussel sprout lovers have a genetic mutation that makes them taste okay (not bitter).  I consider myself fortunate to have the right DNA to enjoy brussel sprouts.  Here's a nice take on these green gems!

Steam brussel sprouts in a large saucepan with 1/2 inch water until soft.

Stir fry brussel sprouts with a handful of the following:

pumpkin seeds
chopped walnuts

Put into a serving dish and drizzle with walnut olive.  Savor!

Twinkling Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

I love stuffed baked potatoes, but I love sweet potatoes even more.  So, I decided to try something new- twice baked sweet potatoes.  It's a little time consuming, but if you plan ahead, it's a doable feat and well worth it.

Scrub large sweet potatoes and poke holes in them.  Bake sweet potatoes at 400F until guts are soft.

Allow to cool and scrape out the guts into a bowl.
Save the skins.
Mash potatoes with milk, salt, pepper, and fresh chives.
Add 4 ounces of soft goat cheese and mix until combined.
Stuff the skins with the mashed potatoes.  Crumble goat cheese onto mashed potatoes.

Broil the potatoes for 5 minutes or until cheese and guts are lightly toasted.  Enjoy this delectable treat!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Comforting Curried Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Sundays are good for soup!  We had some butternut squash, so I adapted my mother's delicious coconut curried lentil soup to feature butternut squash as the main ingredient.  The secret to this recipe is to pre-cook the squash.

Cut a large butternut squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds.  Microwave in a glass pan with 1/2 inch of water until guts are soft.  Scoop out guts and save.

Saute in a large pot:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
2 large tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


butternut squash
1 cup shredded coconut
3 cups of water

Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer 15 minutes.  Add 1 cup of coconut milk and juice from 1/2 lemon.  Puree in blender.  Serve topped with cilantro.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Gas We Pass

Good news!  We all pass gas.  Not just you!  It's okay and I thought I would share this article about diet and gas.  Being the Chunky Chef, I am well aware that eating whole and healthy can provoke some flatulence.  This article discusses ways to minimize the gas you pass.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Darling Dal

Ever heard of dal?  Dal is the Indian name for any member of the legume family- chickpeas, split peas, beans and lentils.  When you order dal at an Indian restaurant, what you're asking for is spiced or seasoned legumes.  I've made dal about a dozen different ways- depending on the legume available and the ingredients in the house.  Here's Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant's recipe made with mung beans (nice little green legumes).

Soak 1 cup dried legumes overnight.

Saute in a large pot until soft:

1 cup chopped onions

2 dried chiles
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger


2 cups water (4 cups if you did not overnight soak)

Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium.  Simmer until legumes are soft and split and excess water has steamed of.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.  Serve and Savor!

You can mix it up by adding more vegetables, additional legumes, tomatoes, etc.  I served the dal with rice and eggplant, pepper and greens curry.  Pic in the entry below.

Extraordinary Eggplant, Red Pepper and Greens Curry

 Another hit from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant.  Here it is:

Saute in a large pot until soft:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 medium eggplant
2 red bell peppers
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 15 minutes.  Add 16 ounces of greens (spinach, kale, mustard or collards).  Cover and steam until greens are limp.  Stir in 3/4 cup of coconut milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.  Serve over rice.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Transylvanian Eggplant Casserole

So, I was cruising the cookbook section at Half Price Books and found a copy of Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant.  Moosewood Restaurant is in Ithaca, NY and is a well known vegetarian restaurant.  Sunday night is "ethnic night" and this cookbook offers some of the favorite ethnic recipes from the restaurant.

Last night, we made this tasty Eggplant Mushroom Casserole and it was amazing!

Cook 2 cups of brown rice.  Combine rice with the following:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped pine nuts (we substituted almonds)

Cut 2 eggplants into rounds, salt them lightly and bake at 400F tender, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.  Take them out and lower the oven to 350F.

Saute in a large pan until soft:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
4 cups sliced mushrooms
4 fresh tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons marjoram
3/4 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Assemble casserole in the follow manner:

rice layer
eggplant layer
vegetable layer

Pour 4 beaten eggs over the casserole.  Top the casserole with the following mixture:

1/2 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup chopped pinenuts (or almonds)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Bake the casserole covered at 350F for 3 minutes.  Serve garnished with bell peppers, parsley or Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hello Little Lemons

Yeah!  I grew lemons.  This is our first little harvest.  I planted this lemon tree back in May 2009.  At the time, it had some blossoms on it.  I've been nurturing her carefully and now I have lemons.  What am I going to do with these beautiful babies?  I'll think of something and post this weekend.

Have you grown anything this year?  It's not too hard- just find out what grows well in your area and plant.  It's fun to watch your plants grow and produce fruit.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dashing Dhosas!

Today was an exciting day at our house!  I made Dhosas for the first time.  Dhosas are Indian crepes from the southern part of Indian.  They are made from beans, rice, or chickpeas.  They are delicious when made fresh at restaurants, but I cheated and used the mix from the Indian store.  I mixed the powder with water, added salt and fresh garlic and blended to a watery consistency.

Here's the stuffing recipe:

Saute in a large pan until vegetables are soft:

2 large carrots
1/2 large onion
2 mashed garlic cloves
1 large or 2 small hot peppers
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon tumeric powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Add and cook until soft:

2 russet potatoes (pre-baked in the microwave)
1 cup peas
1 large tomato
1/4 cup water
handful fresh cilantro

Serve warm mixture wrapped in dhosa.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Silly Spaghetti Squash

 I love the intrigue of spaghetti squash!  It's a vegetable, but when scooped out, it looks like noodles.  You can do a lot of things with it, but I like it nice and simple.  I serve it up like plain noodles, pair it with some veggies and enjoy it.

Cut squash in half.  Cook in a glass pan with 1/2 inch water until guts are soft.  Scoop out guts.  Mix with fresh Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Savor!