Sunday, July 29, 2007

Just Picked
The soil, clinging to the base of these lovely heads of lettuce, was still damp this morning when I found them at the Orlando Farmers Market. As I headed home with my canvas bag filled with fresh goodies, dozens of possibilities swirled through my mind. The lettuce, briskly washed and rinsed and spun dry would provide the base for several crisp salads over the next day or two.

Freshly harvested lettuce like this, is rich in flavor, abundant in nutrients and can easily stand on its own, very lightly dressed or as an accompaniment to other fruits and vegetables.
The marvel of fresh produce is one doesn't have to spend hours concocting fancy sauces, adding a variety of herbs and spices to camouflage old, tired or stale produce that was picked halfway across the continent, warehoused, shipped across thousands of miles of highways, stored again, then finally transported to the produce section of my local supermarket. Produce involved in that scenario must not only be picked unripe, but must be treated with a variety of synthetic chemicals to allow it to be handled so much and still arrive unbruised and deceptively handsome and appealing. Ah, the marvels of modern technology.

Choosing locally grown, just picked produce not only offers better taste but provides better nutrition. With a fine bunch of Florida onions tucked in my canvas bag along with a head of crunchy celery and a fragrant Georgia pineapple, my list of possibilities kept expanding.

When a recipe calls for green onions, this is what comes to mind. Or as I like to think of them, giant scallions! But these are Florida onions, sweet and mild with just a bit of a bite to let you know that as lovely as they are, they are still onions, a favorite aromatic that adds such depth of flavor to so many dishes.

Without an image to include, let me tell you briefly about a fabulous spinach salad I tossed together. I was too eager to eat it to stop and think about shooting a photo for the blog!


Wash and spin dry some baby spinach, stack, roll and slice (chiffonade). In a large serving bowl, toss spinach with pineapple segments, thinly sliced sweet onion, a generous handful of fresh blueberries and a handful of raw sunflower seeds, a light drizzle of very good extra virgin olive oil, a splash or two of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Slice two or three 1/4 inch thick coins of good French goat cheese, dice and toss over salad. This is especially good if the pineapple is very ripe and juicy.

Remember - To eat well; eat raw!


I raced through a bevy of just released novels by popular authors during July. Some great entertainment!

Joyce Carol Oates . . . . . . The Gravedigger's Daughter

Robert Parker . . . . . . Spare Change

Louise Penny . . . . . . Still Life and A Fatal Grace

Pete Hamill . . . . . . North River

Jeffrey Deaver . . . . . Sleeping Doll

Thomas Perry . . . . . Silence

Ruth Rendell . . . . . The Water's Lovely


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chard Burritos

This isn't a raw meal, but it is organic and vegetarian. And it's absolutely delicious. Rainbow chard is a dynamite veggie oft neglected and not often seen in produce departments of mainstream grocery stores. Farmer's markets, produce stands and chains like Whole Foods often feature this handsome green. I recently brought home a bundle and chose to follow Jack Bishop's suggestion for Chard burritos.

Jack comments that this is an excellent quick meal if one has leftover rice, but even with cooking fresh rice, this is an easy meal to assemble. I used my favorite Lundberg Farms' mahogany rice—that rich, chewy mix of dark brown and black rice. Jack's treatment calls for 2 cups of cooked white rice. I'm all about avoiding the deadly whites, though I do make an exception for Jasmine rice when making Thai curries. Using brown rice, or one of the dark rice combinations from Lundberg farms, offers more nutrition to this dish and a big bump up in flavor over bland white rice.

These burritos are great with fresh salsa but a good bottled one, like Green Mountain or Muir's would work well, too. The following recipe serves 4 as a main course. I used about half the quantities and made 3 generously filled small burritos.

Tomato-Chipotle Salsa
3 - 4 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 small chipotle in adobo sauce, minced (about 1 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves (substitute cilantro or basil if desired)

Chard Burritos
1 lb. chard, preferably rainbow chard, leaves washed, shaken dry to remove excess water.
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
salt to taste
4 large flour tortillas (about 12 inches - warmed one at a time in a large skillet)
2 cups cooked rice (from 2/3 cup raw)
1/4 cup sour cream.

For the salsa: combine the tomatoes, chile, oregano and salt to taste in a medium bowl and set aside.

For the burritos: With a chef's knife, separate the fleshy stalk from the green portion of each chard leaf. Trim the ends of the stalks and chop fine. Stack the leaves and slice them crosswise into 1/2 inch thick strips. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and chard stalks and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chard leaves and salt to taste. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender about 7 minutes. If the greens are soupy, remove the cover and simmer a minute or two to evaporate liquid. Adjust the seasonings, add more salt if needed.

Lay the warmed tortillas flat on a work surface. Spoon 1/2 cup of the rice over the bottom of each tortilla. Top the rice with some chard and 1 Tbs. sour cream. Roll the tortillas, tucking the sides toward the center, to form neat bundles. Slice each burrito in half and serve, passing the salsa at the table.

These burritos are rolled in whole wheat wraps not flour tortillas. Extra flavor; more fiber.

Till next time . . . keep on cooking, but remember to include a lot of raw fruit and vegetables.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This has been an interesting week, to say the least. With temperatures hovering mid-90's and the heat index close to 104°, I couldn't have picked a better time to choose to eat only raw food. The experience has opened up a whole new range of possibilities for those inevitable power outages that accompany tropical storms and hurricanes. Living in Florida guarantees that sooner or later another big storm will render us near helpless when the power is out for days at a time. While the neighbors may be outside grilling up some dead animal, I'll be well versed in preparing some tasty raw vegetable dishes.

Aside from having a great hankering for a glass of wine one evening, and the dull headache from caffeine withdrawal early in the week, I've had a wonderful time participating in the 7-Day Raw Food Detox program sponsored by The Raw Divas.

I've wiped down the stove a couple of times, but just to keep off the dust! I'm removing the microwave from the kitchen counter. How nice to have more space. It will be a perfect place to grow my sprouts! And, yes, organic produce is more expensive, but my grocery bill this past week was considerably lower, as I purchased fewer items.

Now that the detox program comes to a close, I'm eager to make a new batch of almond milk and turn it into some dreamy, creamy raw ice cream. The almond milk and frozen bananas make a super base for a variety of flavors. Adding fresh fruit: peaches, strawberries or mango for example, provides some fabulous taste treats, eliminating any feeling of deprivation yet avoiding all those synthetic chemicals, fat and sugar in commercially prepared ice cream. And I'm looking forward to both the novelty and challenge of preparing some of Nomi Shannon's extremely appealing suggestions and instructions for eating well while eating raw. Presentation plays a big part in our food satisfaction profile. Instructions with beautiful colored images abound in Nomi's book, The Raw Gourmet. My mouth waters as I pore over it looking, learning and lusting.

There are many books available and plenty of websites on hand, to help with learning to make a transition from eating condensed, cooked foods to increasing the portions of live, raw food in our daily diets. For those interested in becoming a raw foodist there are many programs and coaches available to lend inspiration, education and support. The Raw Divas have just introduced their new 30-day program, The Body Enlightenment System (BES) which promises to be an excellent way to move toward vibrant health with daily coaching and support.

During this adventure, I've discovered a bevy of raw food websites. Raw Food Right Now has been a regular read for me for quite some time. Following along with Justin and Heidi as they continue on their journey as raw foodist, baring their souls, unapologetically, about their happy experiences and real life dilemmas. Their honest, down to earth approach will do much to encourage novices. Karen Knowler's upbeat eZine, Successfully Raw, gives you some in-depth direction from across the pond by an enthusiastic raw foodist with a good deal of experience.

A big advantage to replacing cooked food is the time savings and ease of clean-up. But the ultimate reason to eat live, fresh, clean (chemical free) food is the amount of energy you free up, the boost you give your immune system and the immediate changes you can see in the way you feel, the way your hair and skin look and feel and the changes in inches you quickly notice. In all fairness, I planned to wait until tomorrow morning to get on the scale, but as I sat here writing, my curiosity got the best of me.

The bathroom scale registers 8 lbs lighter than it did a week ago.
What an easy way to shed fat. I ate tasty, easy to prepare foods and exercised. I've been walking between 4 and 5 miles each day, and had super support, wonderful suggestions, and on-going encouragement from Amy and Tera, The Raw Divas, and from many of the other women doing the seven day detox with me.

I encourage you to look into the amazing health benefits of including more raw food in your daily diet, it's the surest way to get on the road to being healthy and staying healthy. Synthetic drugs, whether prescription or over the counter, are not going to prevent nor cure any ailment. They only mask the symptoms and add side effects with dangers of their own. Taking care of our bodies is our responsibility. Why wait to get sick? Take a few easy steps to prevent the most common ailments so prevalent in our society: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and cancer.

Put a little green in your life daily!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I've been busy, reading up and gearing up for a seven day raw food detox program, courtesy of The Raw Divas. I believe there are about 700 women from throughout the world taking part in this week's program. We started last Saturday evening with a 24 hour fast, just water. Each day we've limited ourselves to organic fruit and veggies with no adornments. Smoothies, lettuce wraps, veggie nibbles, fruit and lots and lots of water. Exercise and ample rest are part of the program. This is a wonderful way to give our bodies a much needed rest. Help the digestive system cleanse itself and as a by-product, lose a few pounds.

I recently realized that I've been eating an awful lot of cooked food. It may be vegetarian and it may be organic, but I know better. In the mid-80's, when it became my turn for the inevitable change of life, skinny old me, started putting on some serious weight. At first, it was fine. It was nice to have something between my skin and bones. Before I knew it, there was an awful lot between my skin and bones and it was FAT.
Between Food For Life by Neal Barnard, M.D. and Fit For Life, Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, I not only lost weight but had super energy and was the picture of health. I added walking to my day, ate nothing but fruit before noon, ate nothing after 8 p.m. at night and for lunch and dinner I paid close attention to proper food combining. 60% -70% of what I ate was raw fruit and vegetables.

I'm back to it this week, with a vengeance. I feel great. Meal preparation is quick, simple, delicious and clean-up is pretty minimal. I haven't turned on a stove burner since last Saturday. No deadly rays emanating from the microwave, just a blender, salad spinner and my handy chef's knife. No walking up and down the aisles at the grocery store either—a straight shot to the produce department or better yet, just a stop at a produce market or farm stand.

I'm not going to proselytize. We each have to make decisions about our lifestyle and health on our own. But I will encourage everyone to become more aware of the tremendous role our food plays in our health and overall well-being. Most of us take better care of our cars than our bodies. I strongly recommend reading Randall Fitzgerald's The One Hundred Year Lie to get a better picture of how the deadly diseases running rampant today have a direct correlation to the marvelous technological advances of using synthetic chemicals to manufacture our food and drugs. Millions of sick and dying people are proof of how our bodies are reacting to these toxins and carcinogens.

Check out Mike Adams website and newsletter. Up-to-date information on food and drug related issues along with excellent articles to keep us informed in layman's terms. And if you would like to experience the support of a couple of great ladies who've put together a no-nonsense, no mumble-jumble, FREE, seven day raw food detox program, check out The Raw Divas. They've put together a super support program, with simple instructions and a fabulous forum.

Guess I'll have to amend my sign-off from "Keep on Cooking" to:



Monday, July 09, 2007

Alfredo Who?

Back in the day, before just looking at rich foods put on pounds, I would often whip up a mean Alfredo sauce for a group of friends on a Sunday night after we'd spent a day in the pool, and were settled in for the evening with a tall Scotch and soda and a classic movie spinning off the VCR. It was the quick and easy comfort food that appealed to all of us, with the sharp bite of a good freshly grated Parmesan and the rich, mouth feel of butter and cream, all lavishly laced over pasta cooked to al dente perfection.

What a delightful surprise to run across this quick, easy, fresh dish of pasta with ricotta, Parmesan and fresh spinach. The feel is much like Alfredo but the overall calorie count is much reduced. I love the little nest of freshly grated Regianno perched atop the pasta, don't you? It looks like a lot of cheese, but the marvelous rasp produces a virtual mound with just a couple of scrapes across the cheese. Hardly worth counting those calories, right?

This along with some 69 other summer recipes are featured in fresh - The Best of fine Cooking from the folks at Taunton Press. Check it out.

Fusilli is suggested, but I had multi-grain, tiny penne on hand, which worked just as well. Using a ridged pasta helps to catch the sauce, assuring each bite is equally flavorful. The following set of instructions makes enough to serve six. I cut everything in half and had three generous servings.

Ingredients: 3/4 - 1lb fresh spinach, stemmed, washed and cut into chiffonade; 2 TBS olive oil, 4 small scallions, thinly sliced (I used two shallots). Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt; 1 cup ricotta cheese, preferably fresh; 1 cup half and half; pinch of nutmeg; 1 TBS unsalted butter; 1 lb fusilli or penne pasta; 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Directions: Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add about 1 Tbs. salt.
Prepare spinach in chiffonade. Stack several leaves at a time, roll up and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the scallions or shallots and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pan. For a bit of a kick, add some dried red pepper flakes.(optional). Cover and steam until leaves are wilted but still bright green, stirring up from the bottom of the pan as needed.

In a small bowl, stir the ricotta, half and half and a few gratings of nutmeg. Stir the ricotta mixture and the butter into the skillet with the spinach and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente, about 12 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain well and return the pasta to its pot over low heat. Add the spinach mixture and enough of the reserved cooking water to make a sauce that lightly coats the pasta. Toss thoroughly. Transfer the pasta to a warm serving bowl or individual bowls and top with grated cheese and a few fresh grinds of pepper.

Till next time . . . keep on cooking!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sin-Free Chocolate Chews

The good folks at King Arthur Flour, who fill the Baker's Catalogue® with so many good things to bake, call these lusciously decadent, deep dark chocolate cookies, 'sin-free'. In actuality they are low fat, but anything this good can't possibly be free of sin.

These are very easy to make, the only caution I would proffer, is plan ahead as the batter requires chilling before it is ready to handle for baking. Directions call for 3 hours or up to overnight in the fridge. I went with a hair less than 3 hours as I hadn't read those words of instruction when perusing the recipe. I'll just have to make them again (wonderful to have a legitimate excuse for more) to see if chilling longer produces more cookies. The recipe says the yield is fourteen big (3 1/2") cookies. My yield was 9. An ample amount, to be sure, as I was serving them for dessert with freshly churned strawberry frozen yogurt (thank you, Heidi Swanson and David Lebovitz). One cookie apiece was fine and I've enough left over to satisfy my chocolate urge for a few days.

Chocolate Chews
2 1/4 cups (9 oz) confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder ( I didn't use any)
1 cup cocoa powder (Dutch-process or natural)
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk together the sugar, salt, espresso powder, and cocoa. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the egg whites and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the egg whites and mix at low speed of an electric mixer for 2 minutes. The batter will seem dry at first, but will become shiny and smooth as it mixes. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the batter for 3 hours or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Thoroughly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets. (I only needed one for my 9 cookie yield). Drop the dough in ping pong sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets; a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
©2006 the King Arthur Flour Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

While on the subject of King Arthur, check out their European-Style Artisan Flour. A wonderful blend of wheats for producing crusty hearth loaves. Check out the recipes at the King Arthur website. I ordered a couple of bags of the Artisan Flour recently to use for some everyday bread but found a wonderful recipe for a Tuscan-Style Coffeecake on the back of the bag. The rich dough with a tight, yet tender crumb, is sweetened with a filling of dates and raisins and for an added crunch treat, toasted walnuts and I just had to go over the top with the addition of some dried citrus. This is a fine bread to serve at tea time or with morning coffee. It toasts nicely, too.

Tuscan Style Coffee Cake

Till next time . . . keep on cooking.

Book Nook
June was a good reading month. Lots of favorite authors, as well as new ones, kept me glued to the printed page.
Nora Roberts . . . . . . . . . . Irish Born Trilogy
Born in Fire; Born in Ice; Born in Shame
Khaled Hasseini . . . . . . . . A Thousand Splendid Suns
Michael Ondaatje. . . . . . . Divisadero
Michael Connelly. . . . . . . The Overlook
Ariana Franklin. . . . . . . . .Mistress of the Art of Death
Elizabeth Berg . . . . . . . . . Dream When You're Feeling Blue
Mohsin Hamid. . . . . . . . . .The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Nicole Mones . . . . . . . . . . .The Last Chinese Chef