Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let's Get Composed
Long before our taste buds get involved, our eyes play a big part in meal satisfaction. If something looks appealing, chances are we'll enjoy the food much more. Variety helps, too. Instead of always serving a tossed salad, occasionally it's fun to plate up the ingredients in an attractive fashion. Producing a composed salad.

My friend, Helen, and I have been hooked on roasted beets, avocado and sprout sandwiches. I've mastered whole wheat pita bread this summer, too. A fresh pocket has been the perfect spot to nestle sliced beets, ripe creamy avocado, juicy tomatoes and zesty crisp mixed sprouts — topped off with a drizzle of the very best extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.

With this in mind, last evening I used the sandwich components along with a portion of mixed wild greens that I'd lightly spritzed with olive oil and drizzled with a bit of Balsamic vinegar.
The result was a lovely plate of colorful food. A treat for the eye as well as the palate.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Taste of Thai
I'd probably be stretching the point to call this raw Pad Thai. The sauce isn't quite the same, but it's reminiscent of Thai dishes with a lovely peanut sauce, a bit spicy, rich and satisfying.

Using my handy dandy Oxo julienne peeler, I made quick work of converting two medium sized zucchini and a long, slim carrot into lovely fettuccine shaped strands. This little peeler is a handy gadget for slivering up broccoli stalks or shaping any hard vegetable into manageable pieces for salads or other dishes.

It makes a lovely pasta or noodle substitute out of daikons, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, etc. Long, hard veggies are perfect for this type of preparation.

I try to plan a bit ahead to allow time for the strands to soak for 30 - 60 minutes in a bath of lightly salted filtered water with a generous squeeze of lemon juice. The lightly acidic water bath helps to soften the strands and also removes a lot of the starch.

After draining the noodles, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess water. The strands are fine to use as is, or they can be drizzled with a little extra virgin oil oil, a pinch of sea salt and sprinkled with sea vegetables or other herbs before adding to a salad or using as a pasta substitute.

I tossed the noodles with a bit of peanut sauce (see recipe below) then scattered sliced almonds and snipped cilantro over the top. It was so tasty, I had seconds!

Peanut Sauce
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated into mixing bowl
1/2 cup creamy, almond butter
5 TBS mirin
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
2 TBS tamari
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (or to taste)

Grate the ginger into a medium sized bowl. Then add the remainder of the ingredients. Use a whisk or fork to combine well. Store covered in the refrigerator. Great for salads or dipping veggie nori or rice paper wrapped treats.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Hibiscus Tea, Cayenne and Hawthorn Berry
a Heart Healthy Happy Hour

Intrigued by an article I recently read at Natural News, I've been having a mid-afternoon cocktail. A shot of cayenne followed by a cold refreshing glass of Hibiscus tea with lime. Believe me, after the cayenne shot, one needs something cold and refreshing!

Paul Fassa has offered some natural suggestions to support heart health inexpensively.

I had a package of dried hibiscus flowers, also known as Jamaica (pronounced ha-my-ka), waiting to be made into a refreshing iced tea after reading about that at Heidi Swanson's
website, some time ago.

The hibiscus tea alone has some interesting health results. Not only is it an ideal thirst quencher, Dr. Andrew Weil is quoted as saying, "Studies have found that people who drank two cups of Hibiscus daily for four weeks lowered their diastolic blood pressure by 12% - results similar to those for common blood pressure medication."

Better tea than drugs any day!

According to Fassa's article, Hawthorn Berry has been used as a tonic for the heart and cardiovascular system for quite some time. It's a natural source rich in flavonoids that has been used successfully for various cardiovascular disorders, including angina (constricted blood vessels), tachycardia (rapid heart beat), and arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). I've ordered the Hawthorn Berry as a tincture, intending to add it to my daily glasses of Hibiscus tea. It also comes in capsule form or a powder that can be made into a tea. Read the full article at Natural News. Or visit the author's blog at http://healthmaven.blogspot.com.

Cayenne had long been known to have a great reputation for its medicinal properties, particularly as a digestive aid. But I was surprised to read that using cayenne in large doses, Dr. John R. Christopher, nicknamed, Dr. Cayenne, said he had stopped heart attacks in progress.

He recommends one teaspoon of cayenne powder in warm water taken 3 times a day. I'm managing 1/2 tsp mixed with about 2 TBS of warm water, once a day! I believe that doing things gradually is a good way to accustom the mind and body to change. I'll gradually up the quantity. Meanwhile, I'm also a firm believer that "something's better than nothing."

That's my afternoon cocktail. Gone are the days when I celebrated the end of the work day with a Cosmopolitan! 'Twas a lovely lift at the end of a stressful day, so I thought. But alcohol doesn't really provide a lift, on the contrary, it's a depressant! And all those empty calories, not to mention the abuse to my hardworking liver.

Try the Jamaica tea, it's light fruity taste is so refreshing with a splash of lime over ice! Even if you skip the cayenne and hawthorn - it still provides health benefits - something no alcoholic cocktail can offer. You can order organic hibiscus flowers and hawthorn berry from Mountain Rose Herbs, if you can't find them locally.