Friday, February 22, 2008

Green Comfort Food

Raw Broccoli Salad

Blanched Green Beans with Sautéed Pearl Onions

Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)

Not everyone is into drinking just green smoothies or eating every meal raw. For those of you who would like to add more greens to your daily diet, here are some vibrant green, tasty treats that make a fine meal by themselves or provide healthy sides.

Melissa Clark's article and recipe for broccoli salad, in the current NY Times, was my inspiration for trying a different take on the broccoli salad I've made in the past.

Quick and easy with a hint of Asian flavors (garlic, cumin seeds and sesame oil) this is a much lighter and healthier version than the familiar broccoli salad made with pancetta or prosciutto and mayonnaise.

Crisp, young green beans, blanched, then tossed and quickly sautéed with tiny pearl onions that have been well-browned in olive oil, provide a wonderful light lunch or supper accompanied by sliced tomatoes and warm whole wheat pita. A glass of fruity Cabernet will add considerably to the culinary satisfaction.

Rapini or broccoli rabe, by whichever name you know it, is a new favorite for me. This was not a vegetable that ever found its way onto the table as I grew up (most of those vegetables came from cans). But once I found it, I fell in love with it. I thought it was some form of young broccoli, but found it's a member of the mustard family. Parts of it do resemble broccoli florets. It has leaves and occasionally you find it with little yellow flowers. This is another lovely green, that does well with a quick blanching and then a quick sauté in olive oil with slivered garlic.

Blanching may seem a pain in the neck, but once you master the technique, which is to bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the clean vegetables, allow the water to return to a full boil, then let the vegetables swirl around, fully submerged, for 3 - 4 minutes, bringing out their bright green color. Drain and cool down immediately under running water, then toss them into an ice bath to completely stop the cooking process. This method will become second nature when preparing most green vegetables to preserve the vibrant green colors and fresh-from-the-garden flavors.

I often blanch vegetables prior to meal preparation. After draining well from the ice bath, slip them into a plastic storage bag and refrigerate until ready to use. This makes meal time prep simple and fast.

Rapini takes on a Mediterranean demeanor if served with slow cooked cannellini beans and a glass of Chianti. It's wonderful accompanying wild or Burmese red rice or some other interesting grain, such as quinoa.

I made a simple boiled, garlic infused mashed potato with smoked paprika to accompany the luscious greens, then used leftovers the next day to fill a quesadilla, adding cheese and a dash of hot sauce.

The quesadilla was made with a split whole wheat pita instead of the conventional tortilla, as that's what was on hand.

Improvising was once again inspirational . This was a mouth-watering meal that could easily become addictive.

I used thinly sliced Monterrey/Jack cheese layered over the mashed potatoes, then added a layer of rapini with a bit more cheese and drops of hot sauce before adding the top layer of pita and warming through over medium heat in a dry skillet.

There you have it, a few ideas for ways to add more greens. Don't miss out on the nutritional boost of fresh greens daily. While you're at it, you'll find some marvelous taste treats in the bargain.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's an Old Tune

But a refreshing taste treat that's lovely to play again and again!

Papaya and Spinach

The smooth, rich, mild taste of fresh-from-the-tree papaya (one of the advantages of living in Florida) with organic, baby spinach is a green smoothie that anyone will like. My friend, Helen, appeared at my door on her way to work this morning with the two pictured papayas.
Peel and remove the seeds from the papaya and purée it, thin it down with a bit of water and add a banana, either fresh or frozen, to boost the nutrition while adding the barest hint of sweet banana flavoring. Then add half a bag of well washed spinach, preferably organic, approximately 5 oz. Blend until smooth.

It's easy to have breakfast on the go when you make up a big batch of green smoothie and store it in a convenient nalgene bottle. The lovely container above is available from The Raw Divas. Check it out. A plain thermos or nalgene jug will do nicely to carry your food supply to work or play. No excuse for not staying green on any day but particularly during the three day challenge.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Time For Another Green Smoothie Challenge

Seen one, seen them all, right? How green is my smoothie?

This one is chock full of spinach and parsley blended with two whole navel oranges without peel or pith, and two bananas, one of which was frozen.

The Divas, Amy and Tera, are hosting another Green Smoothie Queen Challenge. This little three-day exercise is a great way to become familiar with green smoothies while giving the old digestive system a little rest from all the hard work we put it through as we indulge plate by plate; meal by meal.

On the whole, folks I speak with and the majority of my blog readers are whole food eaters, many vegetarians, some vegans, but very few have dipped into the raw food lifestyle. Adding a green smoothie or two into the daily meal plan is an easy and pleasant way to incorporate living foods into our diet.

I switched to a fruit smoothie for breakfast about a year ago, eliminating all those popular, standard American diet breakfast foods: bacon and eggs, pancakes, waffles, cold cereal with fruit and milk, etc.

I started adding hands full of fresh greens to my smoothies last July after I participated in The Raw Divas 7-Day Raw Food Detox. And I've never looked back. Starting the day with a tall glass of living foods is not only delicious, but gives me a big jump start each day, filled with energy ready to take on the world.

Go wild and drink a big green smoothie three times a day for the next three days! Or be a little more conservative in your trial, add one for breakfast and one for lunch with a big salad for dinner.

At least try one as a standard breakfast replacement. All you need is a blender and some fresh produce. The combinations are endless. Start with a simple combo of juice, banana, frozen fruit and a big handful of greens. Spinach, kale, chard, romaine, all work well and are yummy.
Take the challenge!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pumpkin-Chia Seed Muffin

Adapted from Mom-A-Licious by Domenica Catelli
From Dr. Oz Reveals the Ultimate Checklist for Great Aging

The other day, my friend, Helen, called to tell me she watched the Oprah Winfrey Show and one of the guests was the popular Dr. Mehmet Oz. As Helen was telling me about the anti-aging, anti-inflammatory episode, it triggered memories of Dr. Perricone's anti-aging suggestions, as well as bringing to mind the list of fourteen SuperFoods Rx that may be very beneficial to health, well-being and longevity.

For anyone just starting out on the road to taking charge of his own health through diet and exercise, the multitude of programs, suggestions, books, and websites with their attendant gurus, can be very confusing. So many different plans, so many different points of view, so many authorities.

On my daily walk the other day, I listened to a podcast of an interview with noted author, Michael Pollan. I encourage everyone to read his books, The Omnivore's Dilemma and certainly his brief and clearly to the point, newest volume, In Defense of Food, An Eater's Manifesto. In seven clear, concise words, the author gives us simple, common sense direction for how to eat. Not only to survive, but to be slim, trim and well.

"Eat food, not too much, mainly plants."

Good advice that sounds so simple. I would add two more words so it reads: mainly plants, mostly raw. That certainly sounds a simple formula, doesn't it?
If you aren't ready for a 100% raw lifestyle, if you like a bit of meat and dairy in your menu planning, if juice feasting isn't calling your name, yet, but you are concerned about doing something good for yourself, then eating whole, organic foods, avoiding all processed foodstuffs, exercising portion control and limiting the number of servings of meat and dairy, will go a long way toward achieving good health and in doing so, contribute mightily to the anti-aging process.

Making a few small dietary changes is the first step toward gaining control. Drastic lifestyle changes are hard to maintain and can be demoralizing. Take small first steps. The Raw Divas seven day detox is a great example of 'trying out' a system to rid your body of accumulated toxic build-up, it gives the whole digestive system a much needed rest, and it may even result in a few pounds of quick weight-loss.
If seven days seems a daunting block of time, try a weekend. Pamper yourself with a good book, a few old movies on DVD's, long naps, plenty of filtered drinking water, and some mono fruit meals for a couple of days. In this hectic world we live in, a couple of quiet days is a wonderful gift to give ourselves.

Digesting food is the biggest energy drain we impose on our systems. If you want more energy, eat foods that provide their own enzymes for digestion, leaving your energy stores available for other tasks. Learn more about how your body operates. In general, most people know more about how their cars operate than how their bodies operate. The car gets traded in at regular intervals, the body has to keep on running over a lifetime. How long that lifetime is and the quality of the service, depends on the care and upkeep — much like the car.

Dr Norman Walker made this astute observation, "If it is too much trouble to learn how to attain and maintain health, and to put such knowledge into practice, then the easier way out is to follow the line of least resistance, and hope fervently that the grave is not too far away."

Take an easy step toward health,