Herbs

30 Days of Vitamix: Vert du Jour (Green of the day smoothie)

Green smoothie of the day - today's green smoothie has a smooth frothy texture, fiber, a bit of protein and lots of refreshing sweet-tart flavor. Sweetness comes entirely from the citrus and we get an antioxidant boost from the matcha and the mint. With a Vitamix you can blend oats and even seeds into a perfectly smooth drink. Enjoy! Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 Sumo (or other) orange
  • 1 1/2 small Japanese (or English) cucumber
  • Two small frozen kale chunks*
  • two springs fresh mint leaves, stripped off stem
  • 3 TBSP oats soaked in water ten minutes
  • 1 tsp matcha
  • small handful fresh baby spinach
  • juice of one small lime
  • juice of half Meyer lemon
  • 1 TBSP pepitas (raw unsalted pumpkin seeds)

Directions:

Soak oats in cold water while you chop other ingredients.

Chunks of apple, citrus in bottom, then add cucumber. Sprinkle in matcha, seeds, mint. Add a handful of ice and about 1/4C of cold water.

Vert_du_Jour

 

Vert du Jour

With the greens and mint and oats I kept thinking of that very old children's ditty my father once told me about: "Mairzy doats" anyone remember it? ("Mares eat oats and Does eat oats and Little Lambs eat Ivy, a Kidd'll eat Ivy too, wouldn't you? or Mairzy Doats and Dosey Doats and liddle amzy divey a kiddly divey too wooden shoe.")

Pro-Tip

*Blanch and freeze mint, or greens like spinach or kale. Freeze in Mini muffin tin or small ice cube trays then pop into zip top bags. These portioned out ready to go ingredients in your freezer make a quick smoothie a breeze. Once blanched and frozen, greens are easy to add to pastas, soups, stews, as well as your next Vert du Jour.

Spinach_mint_tin

Mint leaves ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Baby Spinach

Thanksgiving 2014 - This Year's Theme: Relax. Recipes, Tips, Ideas to Help you Enjoy GivingThanks

GivingThanks

Many people are in full countdown mode and the onslaught of Thanksgiving  is approaching hurricane force: posts, tweets, recipes, emails, newsletters. I want to encourage you to calm down, take a deep breath and if any of this helps, I’m happy.

This name reversal popped into my head as I was thinking about people worrying about "the whole perfect Thanksgiving thing." If we focus on the Giving Thanks part rather than the frenzy must-be-perfect event part, we can calm the noise. In a nonsecular, gratitude and appreciation mode, let's call it GivingThanks instead of Thanksgiving.

  • Don’t forget Kitchen Confidence can be yours. Like a personal trainer to help you up your game in the gym, I can come show you skills you’ll use for a lifetime, recipes that’ll make your friends and family swoon- in the comfort of your own kitchen. All for the price of a night out on the town.

sage 1

 Did you know sage can be easily preserved by drying in a microwave or regular oven?

Important things to focus on:

  • It’s about gratitude and enjoying our connection to others. Celebrating abundance. Football. Food and maybe overindulging.
  • It’s not about being perfect. If you are a giant sweaty stressball when you guests arrive, they're going to feel uncomfortable. If you're an amped-up boozy dictator “sit here” “do this” “eat that” you're no fun. Many of us choose “friendsgivings” to avoid the traumas of forced family fun.
  • If people at your table care more about the spot on the glass or the dustball in the corner, I'm hereby giving you permission to cross them off the list next year.

So, how to relax in the face of the tidal wave of new recipes to try, new craft projects to find time for, the urgings to create the perfect tablescape?

Plan the work, work the plan

Do three things today that will pay dividends next week. Now is the time to:

1. Make your menu. What are the dishes you must have on the menu? For us, it’s Turkey, Dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, bourbon sweet potatoes (AKA Jack’s Killer Sweets), gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving tends to be a menu that writes itself. Many of us long to try new inventive recipes or twists on classics while many at the table want the meal to be exactly the same as it is every year. Here’s one compromise: Make all the longed for classics, just as you always do. People do crave familiar routines and these create a sense of tradition that reinforces the ritual we love. Allow yourself to add one new dish to try if you’re so inclined and IF you can do so without stressing yourself out. We tried the sage butter sweet & white potato casserole one year and liked it so much, it got adopted. Yes, that means we have three potato dishes but if you have potato lovers at the table and more than a few, not a problem. We’re a small group this year so I may skip this.

Recipes for vegetarians, vegans, and others.

2. Finalize your guest list.

Tips for being a good guest/good host. Now is the time to figure out what food allergies, intolerances you may be dealing with. If a guest has some issue you are not sure you can safely address, have the discussion now and ask them to bring something they can eat and share.

A word about being a good guest:

  • do not show up with food you need to prep. The host will be busy in the kitchen and every square inch of the kitchen, every burner is likely to be occupied.
  • do not bring additional guests unless you are invited to do so first by the host
  • do offer to bring extra serving bowls, glasses, chairs or ask if there’s something they could use help with the day before.LINK: http://blog.jacquelinechurch.com/handle-sticky-situations-prickly-guests-holiday-table/

Tips for handling prickly situations at the holiday table.

3. Delegate tasks.

You need to divest yourself of the notion that you must do it all. Let go of that now. I mean it. You will have your hands full and a stressed host makes a stressful party. You deserve to enjoy the day and your guests deserve to enjoy your company too.

Things that are easily delegated:

  • Cleaning - hire a service to clean a day or two before; or enlist family members to chip in a little extra
  • Flowers or centerpiece (if you feel you need one) I like edible centerpieces. No room on the table anyway. How about a big bowl of fall fruits, apples pears, pomegranates, persimmons. Add drama by plopping them in a tall vase.
  • Wine/booze - everyone who sells beverages wants to tell you must have the perfectly stocked bar now. I’m seldom one to stand between friends and drinks, but in the spirit of simplifying: forget it. Select one good wine that people can drink before or with the meal. Choose one cocktail that’s easy to make (many can be mixed ahead in a pitcher) and offer guests a glass of wine or this year’s cocktail. Boom. If you’d really love to have that new amaro you tried last week but don’t have it int he budget, ask a guest to bring a bottle. After dinner drinks, done.a word about punch: it’s a great idea for serving a large crowd but unless you have a punchbowl and the room in the fridge/freezer to store ingredients and make ice molds, this can be an added stress in the guise of a helpful hint. I have no punchbowl, nor do I have room in the freezer or fridge.
  • PIE - I’m going to tell you that a delicious pie IS within your reach. I will teach you how in a Kitchen Confidence class. BUT, if you feel stressed about it and cannot fathom how or when: there are options: Community Servings; Bread and Salt. Dessert: done! Good deed: done! JJ Gonson's Cuisine en Locale team has a slew of sides, or the whole shebang if you want to have someone else do the cooking for you.

Today's to do items:

1. purchase extra zip top bags and large containers for food prep and leftovers

2. sniff and toss old spices

3. finalize guest list, menu

 

Tomorrow: Dishes to make ahead

  • Cranberry relish - recipe
  • Thanksgiving spice
  • Pie doughs
  • Gingersnaps and other cookie dough to slice and bake - recipe
  • Stock
  • Simple chocolate truffles
  • Rolls
  • Marinated mushrooms
  • Chex mix

roast turkey

Tuscan Garlic & Herb Salt

Herbs and Spices can enliven your cooking with out added fat. Simple herb salts like this one can play well with lamb, beef, chicken and pork. It's also terrific on roasted potatoes. Mix it into softened butter or olive oil to roast a chicken or sprinkle over barley. You're getting the picture, right? True utility player. photo 3

One of the best ways to perk up your cooking is with fresh herbs and spices. But what about dried? We always worry they’ve been kicking around the spice cabinet too long. Often, we are correct.

Here’s a post with tips on various spice blends as well as links to some great resources. One of my new favorites, is inspired by Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s Splendid Table.

I call it Tuscan Garlic & Herb Salt. I use quite a bit less salt than her recipe calls for and it’s heavenly on a roast chicken (place a little with butter under the skin), with pork, or potatoes. It’s so simple to make, and your hands and house will smell divine in the process. Try it with these proportions and adjust to your own tastes.

The technique could not be simpler:

  • Take one bunch of fresh rosemary, one of fresh sage, about 4-5 good sized cloves of garlic and about 1/4 C of Kosher salt.
  • Peel the garlic cloves, removing any green sprouts (they indicate the garlic is a bit old and they’ll add bitterness.)
  • Pick the sage leaves from their stems, zip the rosemary leaves off their woody stems by pinching and dragging in the opposite direction from how the grow (tip backwards).
  • Give your garlic a few rough chops and begin adding herbs and salt. Chop, chop, chop with a good sharp knife, holding the tip down with one hand and bringing the handle of the knife up and down — much like one of those old school paper cutters.
  • Dry out on the counter on a cookie sheet for a couple of days or overnight in the oven with the light on/or if you have a dehydrating function set to low.

It’s done when it’s no longer moist. This time will vary depending on the method you use and where you live.

Store in a pretty little jar, or any old jar, but just try it. I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

photo 2

Now, get chopping! Need to brush up those knife skills? We’ve got you covered with Kitchen Confidence!

 

My Days of Naan and Rices

It's a supreme compliment when a meat-loving husband says "you know, Indian may be the one cuisine that when you're eating it, you don't miss the meat." It happened to us as it has for so many. We met, we fell in love and food was a integral part of our story. Still is. We are the stereotypical couple that plans the next meal while consuming the current one. We get very excited by new food finds, whether it's Patel Brothers Indian market on Route 9 in Shrewsbury (forgive the iPhone pics, this one from moving car)

 

patel_brothers

I had a blast going aisle by aisle looking at ingredients, wondering what the English name for this or that vegetable might be, and of course the Wall o' Dal was too hard to resist! wall_o_dal

 

With amazing self-restraint we came home with Curry leaves, green papaya, Indian cucumbers, fresh mint leaves, tamarind concentrate, masoor dal (the beautiful salmon colored lentils in the photo), Kabuli chana dal (chick peas) and toor (pigeon peas). I'm positively addicted to curry leaves - they're essential in my opinion for a fragrant, nutty nuance in curries that cannot be achieved without them. papaya_left_close green papaya, cucumbers (I think they're what we sometimes see as "Armenian" or "Persian" cukes in other stores),  mint in background and my beloved curry leaves in foreground)

I have written about my growing love for and confidence with Indian cuisine, thanks in large part to Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries (see, Cooking with Ghee and Gratitude). This book has helped us write a new chapter in our food history. We've added a few new dishes including this wonderful naan to our rotations. As our cholesterol and triglycerides begin to tick upward and our waistlines, outward, I am trying to find satisfying ways to incorporate less meat-centric meals. I'm sure to be relying on Raghavan's guidance through this book.

Another book which is due out soon is available on pre-order now at Amazon the indefatigable Kim O'Donnel has written the newly re-titled: The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook (Da Capo Press). Having met Kim a year ago at IACP and followed her progress from WaPo to True/Slant and now soon-to-be published book author - I've been very grateful to have her guidance and support in my own quest to be published. I can tell you, we have lots to look forward to in this book.

Here's my green papaya salad which is more Thai or Vietnamese than it is Indian, but it pairs well with Indian dishes. green_papaya_salad

 

Another chapter opens with me trying to introduce other grains into our diet. White rice is something we both love and we have our comfort-food associations with "our" rice. We've had mixed success. Some really fine brown basmati rice worked well with curry. Pedal-powered, coarse ground polenta (technically not a grain, I know but used as one). Barley was a big hit. Millet, enh. Researching for a post on the Spoonful of Ginger benefit for the Asian American Diabetes Initiative of the Joslin Diabetes Center, I found even more reason to improve our diet.

  • Asian Americans are nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes as the general population—approximately 10 percent of all Asian Americans have diabetes and even more remain undiagnosed.
  • The rate of diabetes in Chinese Americans is notably higher than the rate in the Chinese population living in rural China.
  • Likewise, studies show that rates of diabetes are higher in Japanese Americans living in the U.S. compared to Japanese living in Japan, pointing to environment and lifestyle as an important contributing factor.
  • On the other hand, second and third generation Japanese Americans, who are well acculturated in the mainstream American lifestyle, still have higher diabetes rates compared with Caucasians, suggesting a strong role of genetics in the development of diabetes.

Read more about the Asian American Diabetes Initiative An Ounce of Prevention and a Spoonful of Ginger.

One of the fun discoveries of late is how wonderful and easy homemade naan is. See how, at Naan the Wiser - Master Indian Flatbread at Home. In this recipe, I subbed in about a half cup of wheat flour for white. It's a small step but lots of small steps add up. Plus, our Indian meals are full of good soluble fiber and much less if any, saturated animal fats. naan_in_bowl

 

More soon on the Spoonful of Ginger, bop over to Suite101 and see how the Naan thing goes. Check out Patel Brothers for Indian groceries and produce and start adding a few delicious, saucy curries, some naan, and maybe some brown rice into the mix. Remember, in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. Improving our diet, joyfully and deliciously, I'm shooting for both!