Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Apple Season - Dehydrate Some Apple Slices
They Make A Healthy Lunch Box Snack!

Dehydrated apple slices are easy to pack and eat.

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It's Apple Season
We picked our entire tree of Fuji apples and wanted to do something this year besides just making applesauce. (Check out my Sugar-Free Applesauce recipe.) So I pulled out my mandolin V-blade slicer (BIG MISTAKE) and started slicing and dehydrating apples.

Please Be Careful!!!
I'm usually very careful when I use sharp tools, like a vegetable slicer, but I was not using the guard for the first slice in order to get the apple to hold. Without realizing it, I sliced the bottom of my thumb - OUCH!!! I won't describe the rest, only to beg you never to use a mandolin without holding the vegetables and fruit with the guard. Better yet, throw out your mandolin and slice the apples with a knife.

If using a mandolin, ALWAYS hold the fruit and veggies
with the plastic guard.
I was scheduled for a manicure the next day
and could only have 9 nails polished.
Thankfully I still have a thumb!

Organic Apples
When making your own applesauce or dehydrated apple slices, always start with organic apples. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), apples top the list for containing the most pesticides. So if you don't have your own organically grown apple tree, make sure you purchase organic apples. 

Making Dehydrated Apple Slices
Wash and core the apples. No need to peel - Hooray!!

Place the apple slices on the non-stick sheets in your dehydrator (you can put them directly on the grating, but the grates get sticky and they are harder to wash than the non-stick sheets.

If you want "RAW" dehydrated apple slices, set the temp to 115 degrees F. Otherwise, set the temp at 135 degrees F. Dehydrate until the are dry and are no longer sticky (at least 12 hours.)

Turn the apple slices over and place directly on the grates. If you start out with the apples on the grates, you don't need to turn them.

I love my Excaliabur 5 tray dehydrator.

Continue to dehydrate the apple slices until they reach the desired texture. We like them crispy and leave them in the dehydrator for a day and a half. But if you like them pliable, you can take them out sooner. The time will vary with the thickness of the apples, the type of apples, the temperature of your dehydrator, and how crispy you want your slices.

When they reach the desired texture and dryness, shut off the dehydrator and let them cool.
Place them in a large freezer bag, seal and place in a dark, cool storage area. You can also refrigerate or freeze for longer storage times but I think out of site is out of mind. I tend to leave some on the counter and watch them disappear! They also make a nice gift for friends and neighbors.

A Great Snack
Did you ever pull out an apple in the middle of a meeting? I didn't think so. But these little jewels are easy and discrete to eat at work. And they make a great snack for the kids lunch boxes too!

But don't go overboard. It's a lot more filling to eat the entire apple than to eat a lot of dried fruit slices so just put "an apple's worth" of slices in the lunch box and enjoy!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies
Almond Paste - Great For Gluten Free Baking

Pignoli cookies bring back flavors from my childhood.

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Cookies from my Childhood
If you were an Italian-American kid growing up in Brooklyn, I would venture to guess that you LOVE pignoli cookies. Every good Italian bakery in Brooklyn sold them. At the end of a big holiday meal, there would be fruit, nuts, and often a box of pignoli cookies that one of the aunts or uncles had picked up at a nearby bakery. I don't remember anyone in the family ever making these treats. Why would they bother when they were so readily available?  But sadly, since I moved from New York, I haven't found a bakery that sells them. Luckily, they are pretty easy to make. Who knew?

Gluten Free Baking
Many Italian cookies, like pignoli and amaretto cookies, are made with almond paste. It's the ingredient that gives these cookies their chewy texture and intense almond flavor. Almond paste is made from blanched almonds that have been mixed with sugar. For those of you avoiding gluten, almond paste is great for making yummy gluten-free desserts. It can be found in the baking section of your local grocery store. And since there is already sugar in the almond paste, there is no need to add much more (although I've seen recipes that call for quite a bit.) Another good reason for making them yourself!

A 7 ounce tube of gluten-free almond paste.

Pine Nuts - Buy Mediterranean
Four years ago I got a condition known as "Pine Mouth." This is where you get a bitter metallic taste in your mouth 12 to 48 hours after ingesting pine nuts. A lot of people I know have had the same experience. It can last for days or weeks and makes everything you eat taste like metal. Many link this to the flood of Chinese pine nuts that have hit the market. And, in fact, the nuts that caused this problem for me were from China. 

I have banned pine nuts from my diet for the past 4 years but I've decided to give them another chance, especially because I love them so much and simply adore pignoli cookies. This time, however, I will only eat pine nuts that are grown in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy, and Portugal. They cost a lot more but if I can enjoy one of my favorite desserts and not get pine mouth, it's well worth it! (If anyone of you have experienced pine mouth from Mediterranean pine nuts, please let me know. So far I have not had any unpleasant reaction to these.)

Ingredients for pignoli cookies:
Cane sugar, almond paste, and Mediterranean pine nuts.

Silpat Baking Sheets
I love Silpat baking sheets, I won't make cookies without them. No need to grease the cookie sheet - the cookies will easily come right off of them. Look for Silpat baking sheets at your local culinary store or on Amazon. If you don't have these you can bake these cookies on parchment paper.

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Pignoli Cookies
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 14 cookies]
Requires a food processor such as a Cuisinart and a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking sheet

1 t ground flaxseed 
1 tablespoon water
7 ounce tube almond paste
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 cup Mediterranean pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make a flax egg white by mixing the ground flaxseed in 1 tablespoon of water. Beat with a fork until gooey and set aside. 

Slice the tube of almond paste into 1 inch slices and place in a food processor with an S-blade. 

Process until the slices are broken up. Mix the sugar and the baking soda together and add them to the almond paste. Process until the mixture looks like crumbs.

Add the flax egg and process until the mixture clumps together.

Form 14 little balls, about one scant tablespoon each, and shove each one into a bowl containing the pine nuts. You may have to gently wet your hands to get the balls a little sticky. Push the nuts into the top and bottom of each cookie until they stick. Flatten and form each one in the shape of a cookie.

 Gently place the cookies on the parchment or Silpat-lined cookie sheet.

Place the cookies in the preheated oven and bake until they spread out, get a little puffy and slightly browned, about 15 to 17 minutes. They will be very soft but will firm up as they cool.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet until they are firm enough to transfer to a wire rack, about 5 to 7 minutes. Cool on the rack and serve.

These will disappear in a flash so you might need to double the recipe.

Per cookie: 111 calories, 7 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 74 mg omega-3 and 2,411 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 2 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, and 8 mg sodium.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Creamy Garden Cucumber Soup - Serve Chilled
Raw Vegan, And Gluten Free

Raw almonds make this chilled cucumber soup creamy.

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Busy Week
Sorry it's taken me so long to post this month but we've been busy harvesting 3.7 tons of organic Pinot Noir grapes in our vineyard here in Sebastopol, California. Sudden hot weather caused the sugar in the grapes to quickly spike and we had to scramble to get the grapes harvested. The sugar level dictates the percent alcohol in the wine and since we like our Pinot to be around 14% alcohol or under, we pick our grapes when they are around 24% sugar (Brix) or less. 

Friends, family, and workers came to our rescue and we got it all done in three days. My brother and his wife happened to be visiting (thinking that they were here for a relaxing vacation) only to find themselves out in the field picking grapes. They enjoyed the experience and now have a story to tell back in Charleston, South Carolina.

Check out last year's post on how we make Pinot Noir.

My brother Peter, harvesting grapes.
My sister-in-law Dianne busy at work.

Back to Cucumber Soup
Before we roped Peter and Dianne into harvesting, we did some fun things. It was Sonoma Wine Country Weekend and we took them to a fabulous wine event at Fred MacMurry's Estate that featured 200 wineries and 60 local chefs. 

One of the chefs made a delicious chilled cucumber soup. Since it was creamy I assumed it was made with dairy. (I always have to ask since I'm allergic.) But to my surprise, the cucumbers were blended with almonds (my favorite source of vitamin E). I didn't get the recipe but I have attempted to recreate the dish, especially since my garden is packed with cucumbers right now. My version is a bit thicker and instead of drizzling olive oil over the soup, I use cold-pressed hemp oil since it has more omega-3. 

Cucumbers in my garden

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Creamy Garden Cucumber Soup
Raw Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes about 2 1/4 cups - 4 small servings]
Requires a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix 

3 cups diced, peeled cucumbers with large seeds removed
1/4 cups raw almonds, soaked over night
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill plus some for garnish
1 1/4 teaspoon cold-pressed hemp oil

To prepare the cucumbers, peel and quarter lengthwise. If you have large seeds, remove them. Dice and measure 3 cups and place them in a high-speed blender.

Add the soaked almonds, lemon peel, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and dill and blend until smooth. If it's too thick, add a tablespoon of water or non-dairy milk and blend until mixed. Chill until ready to serve. 

To serve, place the soup in 4 small teacups or bowls and drizzle 1/4 teaspoon of hemp or olive oil over each bowl. Take a demitasse spoon or a toothpick and stir the oil into the soup. Garnish with a small piece of dill and serve.

Per serving: 77 calories, 6 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 170 mg omega-3 and 1,749 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 3 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 293 mg sodium.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tamaki Haiga - White Rice Without The Guilt
Rice Lovers Must Try This!

Tamaki Haiga is polished but still has the germ.

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Tamaki Haiga
Yesterday my girlfriend brought over a cup of white (actually tan), short-grain Tamaki Haiga rice for me to try. The kernels were small and delicate but nothing out of the ordinary. But was I in for a big surprise!

Haiga means "germ" in Japanese. It turns out that Tamaki Haigi is milled in a very special way that removes the heavy outer coating of the rice but maintains the germ where lots of the good stuff resides. Lets face it, many of us eat brown rice out of guilt because we know it's better for us than white rice. Even Andrew Weil admitted in a conference that he doesn't like brown rice. But to be able to eat something as delicious as white rice and know it still has the germ that provides vitamins B1, B2, B6, vitamin E, fiber, and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) - well that's almost too good to be true! 

It's actually better than white rice because it tastes a little nutty and is a little sticky - just the way I love it. And it cooks much faster than brown rice. I used the white rice setting in my rice maker and it came out perfectly. And your kids will love it too - I know it's a little hard sometimes to get them to eat brown rice. 

Where to Buy
You can find this in most Asian grocery stores. If you don't have an Asian grocery store nearby, you can always get it on Amazon. I just ordered a 5 pound bag for less than $20. 

California grown Tamaki Haiga
found on Amazon

I'm still a little gun shy about buying too many food products from Japan given the residual contamination after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. I still drink green tea from Japan every day so I don't want to push it. This brand of Tamaki Haiga is grown in Northern California's Sacramento valley so I feel good about that. 

I just had to share this with you right away - I hope you get a chance to try it. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Zucchini Orange Bread Or Muffins
They Are Great For Breakfast With
300 Grams Of Omega-3 Per Serving

Orange zest is the key ingredient in this zucchini recipe.
Each serving provides over 300 mg of omega-3!

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And the Zucchini Keeps Coming
Believe it or not, I'm still enjoying my zucchini. Especially the kind that I'm growing this year. It's an heirloom Italian zucchini with light green ridges. If I pick them when they are 6 to 8 inches long, they are the best I've ever eaten. Unfortunately the plant has enormous leaves that are good at hiding the zucchini until they get way too big. My grandson loves to hunt for veggies and uncovered this one that was successfully hiding.

Matisse, the veggie hunter!

I was about to make banana bread when Matisse reminded me that he was allergic to bananas which are unfortunately one of his favorite foods. But he suggested that we make zucchini bread instead. Then my daughter gave me the idea of adding some grated orange peel to the recipe. The results were wonderful! (By the way, I didn't use the monster zucchini. I used a much smaller one otherwise the zucchini would have been far too watery.)

Omega 3
Because this is a vegan recipe which substitutes flax eggs for chicken eggs, it supplies a nice shot of omega-3 fatty acid. And did you know that zucchini have a higher omega-3 content than omega-6 providing 58 mg of omega-3 and 35 mg of omega-6 in each chopped cup. 

Great for Breakfast
This zucchini bread or muffin recipe is great for breakfast, dessert, or for a nice snack. 

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Zucchini Orange Bread or Muffins
[makes 12 servings]
Requires loaf pan or 12 muffin tins
Best with an electric hand beater

Earth Balance to grease pan
2 tablespoons finely ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons water
2 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon powdered stevia extract 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan or muffin tins.

Prepare the flax eggs by mixing the flaxseed with 6 tablespoons of water. Beat well until gooey and set aside. 

In a large bowl, mix the flour, powdered stevia, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

Squeeze the water out of the grated zucchini and place in the bowl. Using an electric hand beater, mix the zucchini into the flour mixture.

After grating the zucchini, squeeze the water out of it.

In a smaller bowl, blend the olive oil, sugar, applesauce, vanilla, and orange zest. Add the flax egg and blend until smooth.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and blend with the beater until combined. 

Place in the loaf pan or muffin tins. Bake until golden and when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes for the bread and 20 to 25 minutes for the muffins. 

Zucchini Orange Bread
Zucchini Orange Muffins

Cool the bread for 15 minutes (the muffins for 10) and remove from the pan. Serve the muffins warm but let the bread cool a bit so that it is easier to slice. Serve and enjoy!

Per serving: 143 calories, 5.5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 316 mg omega-3 and 661 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g protein, 19.5 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 188 mg sodium.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Don't Be Fooled By Martha Stewart's
"Bake It Better" Recipes!

Healthy baking tips in Martha Stewart's
September issue fall way short!

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Forgive my Rant, but....
I ordered a facial product a few months ago and it came with a free 12 month subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine. I love perusing through magazines to get new ideas on cooking and decorating. But this month's issue just made me mad.

The article starts on the right foot by saying that bake sales, though "often planned with a noble cause in mind- funding a school library, helping fellow congregates who've fallen on hard times.... don't often translate to great nutrition." Well I don't think that anyone would disagree with that. Martha then attempts to take delicious, unhealthy recipes and make them equally delicious and much healthier.

Great concept!!! There are so many things you can do to make baked goods healthier. I write about that all the time in this blog and in my book. It bothers me to no end when someone as famous and loved as Martha Stewart convinces people that a recipe is healthy when it is not.

Let me give you several examples that are in the September Issue of Martha Stewart Living titled "Better (for you) Bake Sale.

Martha's Half-Moon Cookies
These cookies claim to be healthier because they use some whole wheat flour and berry puree to color the icing instead of harmful food coloring. But these cookies still have 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, 2 whole cups of confectioner's sugar and 4 teaspoons of honey. I don't think a little berry puree is going to make this a recipe you'd feel good about serving your children.

Martha's Muesli Coffee Cake
In this recipe she introduces her readers to white whole-wheat flour. I commend her for this as I've been touting the benefits of white whole-wheat flour for years. In fact, it's the only wheat flour I use for baking or cooking. But her recipe still uses 1 1/2 sticks of butter, 1 3/4 cups of sugar, 4 large eggs, 1 cup of full fat buttermilk and another few tablespoons of honey. The goodness of the whole grain flour pretty much gets cancelled out with the rest of the recipe.

Martha's Lemon-Yogurt Cupcakes
These cupcakes also benefit from the white whole-wheat flour and once again she avoids food coloring by using fresh raspberries but she weighs the recipe down with 3/4 cups of granulated sugar, 2 whole cups of confectioner's sugar and a CUP of butter. This recipe is starting to rival one of Paula Deen's!

Healthy doesn't always mean Healthy
So be careful when some big name chef or celebrity says the word "healthy." Everyone wants to believe that making a tiny change to a recipe that is full of saturated fat and sugar makes it OK. 

But these are good tips. White whole-wheat flour is much better than all-purpose processed white flour. And berries are better than food coloring. But why stop there? You can do other things to improve your baked goods.
Things like:
* Using flax eggs instead of eggs
* Substituting a good bit of the sugar with stevia
* Substituting half or more of the oil with applesauce

For recipes and tips on healthy baking, download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen. I think I'll send a copy to Martha.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Baked Falafels With Lemon Tahini Sauce
On A Salad Or In A Pita
An Excellent Source Of Protein

Falafel sandwiches in pita bread make a great lunch!

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is available on Amazon and iTunes.

Garbanzo Beans as a Protein Source
I love garbanzos. Besides being a versatile bean that can be used in many different dishes, they contain an excellent source of complete protein which means they provide all the essential amino acids in the proper proportions. They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, folate, and manganese.

Baked Falafel
I love a good falafel but most of them served in restaurants are fried. This recipe uses a small amount of oil and bakes them in the oven. Stuff a few of them in pita bread with chopped lettuce, cucumber, avocado and tomato. Top with some lemon-tahini sauce and you have a great lunch. Or for a lighter gluten-free meal, serve baked falafels on top of salad tossed with lemon-tahini sauce.

For a gluten-free meal, skip the pita and serve on top of salad.

Start with Dried Garbanzo Beans
Did you know that you can make falafels from dried garbanzo beans? Most cooked beans are packed in cans that are lined with BSP (bisphenol) so using dried beans, especially when they are organic, is a healthier way to go. And since you only have to soak and not cook the beans in this recipe, it's not much of a bother.

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Baked Falafels with Lemon Tahini Sauce
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 20 (2 inch x 1/2 inch) falafels and 1/2 cup tahini sauce, about 4 to 6 servings]
Requires a food processor, such as a Cusinart

Start soaking the beans the night before.

For the falafels
1 cup dried garbanzo beans
Water to soak beans
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup chopped onion
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the tahini sauce
1/4 cup tahini (I use raw tahini)
1 clove pressed garlic
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pick through the garbanzo beans and discard any clumps of dirt or rocks. Rinse under cold water. Place in a 1 or 2 quart bowl and cover with several inches of water. Soak overnight.

With the food processor running (I really like the 11-cup Cuisinart), place the garlic through the shoot and process until all the garlic is chopped. 

Rinse the garbanzo beans and place in the food processor along with the cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, black pepper, baking powder and parsley. Pulse until the garbanzos are coarsely chopped. Add the onions and pulse until everything is minced. Scrape down the sides when necessary. Do not over process. The resulting mixture should look like this:

Pulse until the mixture is minced, NOT pureed. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly grease a cooking sheet or shallow baking pan. I like to use Silpat non-stick baking mats. These allow me to bake the falafels with the least amount of oil.

Form small balls of the mixture and pat them into 2 inch by 1/2 inch patties. Place on the prepared baking pan. Take a tablespoon of olive oil and using your finger or a brush, rub a little oil over each falafel. 

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes on each side. Remove from the oven.

Make the tahini sauce. Place the tahini in a small bowl with the pressed garlic and lemon juice. Stir until it is a smooth paste. Stir in the water until it reaches the desired consistency. Add the salt to taste and set aside.

Serve the falafels in pita bread with small diced cucumbers, avocado, lettuce, and tomatoes drizzled with the tahini sauce. 

Or place a few falafels over a salad that has been tossed in a thinner tahini sauce (add some more water) with a bit more tahini sauce drizzled over the falafels. 

Per falafel: 48 calories, 1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 16 mg omega-3 and 335 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, and 101 mg sodium.

Per serving of tahini sauce (about 1 1/3 teaspoons): 18 calories, 1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 11 mg omega-3 and 620 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 0 g dietary fiber, and 60 mg sodium.