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My Ross Family Mashed Potato Salad

mashed-potato-salad

 

Since Thanksgiving is coming up, I thought I would share with you my favorite Thanksgiving recipe.

This is my #1 favorite childhood family recipe. It’s mashed potatoes with ingredients you would add to potato salad: hard-boiled eggs, raw onions, fresh parsley, and vinegar. So it eats like mashed potatoes, but tastes like potato salad. I just looked this up online for the first time and I see there are other recipes for mashed potato salad that use mayonnaise and mustard and pickles, but my recipe is simpler. And it’s authentic to my family.

We only ate mashed potato salad twice a year: at Thanksgiving and Christmas. So as I share this with you, it is with fond memories and with love from my holiday table to yours.

I have made this so many times. This actually is my personal version. The version that was handed down to me was made with white onions and white vinegar, served at my great-aunt Ollie’s house in Saratoga, California. She lived in a beautiful house in a forest that she and her husband had built. It was all glass around the exterior so you could see the trees and deer, and had a big round fireplace in the middle with a big copper hood. And these potatoes were always on the table.

After my great-aunt died, holiday dinners were at my father’s house, but we still had mashed potato salad. His new wife wanted to use green onions and she and I would argue about how much vinegar to use. I, of course, thought it should be MY way because the potatoes were from MY family.

And even though i only make mashed potato salad twice a year, it connects me to my roots.

 

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Easy Plant-Based Fat-Free Mushroom Gravy

mushroom-gravy

 
Most gravies are made using meat or poultry stock and rely on the classic flour-and-fat method to thicken.

But lately I’ve been adding more plants to my diet and wanted to have the option of a plant-based gravy that still had the full flavor of a meal-based gravy.

So I played around with mushrooms last night and came up with something wonderful.

The combination of mushrooms, tamari and coconut aminos is delicious and the arrowroot thickens this gravy nicely without any fat at all.

It’s one of my new favorites.

 

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Twice Baked Pumpkin

twice-baked-pumpkin
 

A few weeks ago a woman wrote to me saying that years ago she had gotton a recipe from me for “twice backed pumpkin.” She had loved it and wanted to make it again. But she couldn’t find the recipe. Did I still have it?

Indeed I did and was delighted she remembered it and asked for it. I made it again and Larry and I enjoyed it just as much. Here it is in i’t original state…

After making the traditional and fabulous pumpkin desserts, I wanted to do something simple that really showcased the pumpkin itself.

I bought a small “pie pumpkin” and left it sitting on the counter for about a week. I knew that I wanted to roast it in wedges, but didn’t know what I wanted to do with it next. So on a Sunday morning, I put the wedges of pumpkin in the oven to bake, and as they filled the house with their aroma, I thought, “Twice Baked Pumpkins!”

You probably know twice baked potatoes, where you bake a potato in it’s jacket and then scoop out the insides, mix them with other ingredients, then put the mixture back inside the skin and bake it again to heat through and melt the cheese.

I fluffed up the roasted pumpkin with a fork in its shell, added butter and molasses, and some toppings, and baked it again. The result was “awesome”, according to my taste testers. Both preferred this to pumpkin pie and so did I. You get to see the pumpkin in its natural shell and natural state, not pureed, but as nature made it. A wonderful celebration!

You can use any sweetener or combination of sweeteners for this. I used maple syrup in the pumpkin for flavor and a sprinkle of powdered unrefined cane juice on top for crunch during the second bake.

 

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Lasagna Al Fresco

lasagna-al-fresco

I am a big fan of lasagna, but usually don’t eat grains, so am always happy to come up with a way to eat something that takes like lasagna but doesn’t have the noodles. And this one is a winner.

Larry was visiting from California to take care of me during my second eye surgery and we were considering what to make from the various foods we had collected when we went grocery shopping.

We started by cooking the whole box of organic baby spinach with onions, then topped it with a layer of ricotta cheese and a layer of pasta sauce and a layer of provolone and finished it off with sliced mushrooms. We baked it in the oven and it satisfied every craving for Italian/pizza/lasagna.

But it was even better the second night when we paired it with a huge salad with garlic dressing (that’s the “al fresco” part—fresco being Italian for dining outdoors. I am using the word loosely to mean “fresh” as in “from the fresh air outdoors.”)

Anyway we agreed that the lasagna paired perfectly with the green salad and can’t wait to make it again.

And if you love lasagna, try my Skillet Lasagna as well.

 

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My Easy Sugar-Free Chocolate Superfood Drink

super-food-chocolate 
The idea for this recipe I think must have started one day—maybe ten years ago—when I was in a natural food store and saw a chocolate bar that contained greens. I thought this was odd because I didn’t want people to eat a chocolate bar with sugar in order to get the benefits of greens, and to me, adding greens to chocolate was just unthinkable.

But for some time I’ve been considering how to get the health benefits of chocolate without adding sweetener. And today I suddenly figured it out.

My Easy Sugar-free Chocolate Superfood DrinkFor several months I’ve been drinking an organic wholefood nutrition product from Touchstone Essentials called Super Green Juice. It contains 44 organic superfoods to alkalize, detox, energize and strengthen immunity, with no added sugar. Organic raspberry and apple flavors make it take sweet instead of like greens, which makes it a lot easier to drink.

I was wanting some chocolate and it was time to make my Super Greens Juice for the day. So I decided to just add the cocoa powder to the drink and see how it would taste.

Delicious! Tasted like a chocolate shake! I could drink this every day and probably will now.

I’m giving you two versions. One you can just mix in a glass with water and the other to make in a blender like a smoothie.

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Cinnamon Pecan Muffins

Cinnamon Pecan Muffins  

Today I did my first baking of the season with autumn flavors.

This muffin—made with the perfect mix of almond and coconut flour and sweetened with date paste—has a very cake-like texture that is very much like a wheat muffin. Topped with more date paste mixed with cinnamon and sprinkled with chopped pecans that toast a bit while baking, it’s just a bite of autumn in your mouth. So good I had to eat two.

This recipe makes 12 muffins, so i was wondering what to do with the rest. I would love to eat all of them, but not all in one day.

So I’m going to freeze them and take a few out next week when Larry comes from California to visit and help get the house ready for his move here to live with me. He loves apples, so I’m going to make apple crisp by crumbling these muffins on top and adding more pecans and a sprinkle of date sugar. I’ll serve it nice and warm from the oven and he will love it.

If you like bread pudding, it would be great made with these muffins as well. If you don’t eat the all first.

 

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Date Sugar, Date Water, and Date Paste

Date Sugar, Date Water, and Date Paste

From left to right, date water, date paste, date sugar. Fresh dried dates in foreground.

Beyond being delicious to eat, dates are an excellent sweetener for many dishes.

Dates have a long history. They have been a staple food in the Middle East since at least 6000 BC. Ancient Egyptians used them to make date wine. So dates are a whole, natural source of sweetness that is deeply rooted in human culture.

And they are also low glycemic. Nutrition Journal has a study in which date consumption was tested on diabetics. The study shows that while dates contain high amounts of natural sugars, they are actually a low-glycemic index food and did not significantly raise blood sugar levels after they were eaten. If you are diabetic, you should test for yourself to see how dates affect your blood sugar, but dates are a good sweetener to try if you are looking for an alternative to the recommended artificial sweeteners.

Here are some other benefits of eating dates.

There are many ways to use dates in cooking. Today I want to show you how you can use dates as a sweetener.

DATE SUGAR, DATE WATER, AND DATE PASTEThe easiest way to use dates as a sweetener is to purchase date sugar. This is simply dehydrated dates ground into a powder. It functions very much like brown sugar in taste, but does not dissolve like sugar. So it’s good to sprinkle on top or use in granola or cookies, but it won’t dissolve in your tea very well. I began using date sugar years ago, when it wasn’t widely available, but now you can buy it in most natural food stores and online. The disadvantage of date sugar is that while it starts as a whole food, once the water is removed, it makes a concentrated sugar.

But I actually prefer a different form of dates that I learned from reading raw food cookbooks: date paste. This is simply the whole date soaked in water and pureed into a paste. You can easily make it yourself at home (see recipe below) and it costs much less than date sugar.

I’m just starting to use date paste, so I don’t know the exact replacement for sugar in recipes, but what I’ve learned from using natural sweeteners over the years is to simply find out what is does and how to use it to create new recipes rather than try to make them behave like white sugar.

I made muffins with date paste and they were wonderful. I think date paste would be great in cookies, cakes, smoothies, puddings, sauces and any food where the paste can be incorporated into a dough or batter. You could also just spread it on gluten-free toast instead of jam. I’m sure I’ll be writing about this more.

I’ve also seen recipes for making date syrup, which is basically making date paste and adding more water.

A side benefit of making date paste is that you also get date water. This is simply the water leftover from soaking the dates. It has the wonderful flavor of dates and is pretty sweet. It reminds me of “simple syrup,” which is sugar dissolved in water. Once I was having lunch at a wonderful little French restaurant in San Francisco and they brought simple syrup to sweeten my ice tea. So the first use I thought of for date water was to sweeten ice tea, smoothies, or any other beverages.

An interesting thing about date paste and date water is they both are sweet. Soaking dates obviously pulls some sweetness from the date but not all, so there must be some reduction of carbohydrates, but I don’t know what it is.

Anyway, I’m intrigued now with dates as a sweetener. This very ancient source of sweetness may be the best sweetener yet.

 

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Organic Deli Meat- Why You Need To Read The Label

Organic Deli Meat Turkey BreastI’ve been seeing commercials on TV for Dietz & Watson organic deli meats, so I went to their website to check it out.

Their turkey breast is USDA Certified Organic, no added hormones.

But it contains water, salt, and carrageenan.

That doesn’t sound bad, but we don’t know anything about the water and it’s pollutants, it’s probably refined salt, and…carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a soluble fiber extracted from seaweed. It is a stabilizers, offering benefits in texture, structure and physical appearance to processed foods. The FDA says it’s safe, but new studies show links to inflammation, cancer, and diabetes.

Just because the turkey is organic, doesn’t mean the other ingredients don’t have health effects.

If you want to eat organic turkey, buy organic turkey. Not deli meat.

 

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Stuffed Chard Leaves (Armenian Sarma aka Dolmas)

Stuffed Chard Leaves

 

A few weeks ago a friend and I were talking about food, and she happened to mention an Armenian restaurant in Los Angeles that was one of her favorites.

I hadn’t thought about Armenian food in a long time. But, in fact, I am half Armenian, so I know something about Armenian food.

When I was very small, like under 5 years old, I used to spend my summers in Fresno, California with my Armenian grandparents. They lived on a big wide avenue where everyone was Armenian. Everyone spoke Armenian to each other. Everyone cooked and ate Armenian food. My grandfather would put on records of Armenian music and pick me up and dance around the living room.

And so I began to eat—and prepare—Armenian food at a very early age.

My grandmother had a high stool in the corner of the kitchen. She would bring it close to the counter while she was cooking and put me in the chair. And she would give me little bits of food to prepare.

And that is where I learned to roll grape leaves. It’s so a part of me, I still remember, 55 years later.

Stuffed Chard Leaves

My grandparents had grape vines, so making stuffed grape leaves (which we called “sarma,” the proper Armenian name) began by going out to the garden and picking the leaves off the vines. Then my grandmother let them sit in hot water for a few minutes until they were soft, and then we started rolling the leaves around the filling. She had a big aluminum pot with a steamer insert in the bottom and we would pile the sarma up to fill the pot.

Now, I hadn’t made sarma in about 50 years, so I looked in the Armenian cookbook my grandmother gave me called Treasured Armenian Recipes, got the general idea, and mixed it with my memories. These are my 21 century sarma, made with ingredients I have on hand, so we’re using swiss chard leaves instead.

If you have ever eaten stuffed grape leaves in a restaurant or delicatessen, forget them. These are MUCH better and very easy to make. And fun!

 Stuffed Chard Leaves

NOTE ABOUT CHOOSING SWISS CHARD LEAVES :  

A Swiss chard leaf has a stem running up the middle that gets narrower and narrower as it gets toward the top of the leaf. To make sarma, we are going to use the top of the leaf only, where the stem is narrow.

 

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Magic Cloud Bread

magical-cloud-bread

If it looks like bread and tastes like bread, is it wheat?

Not necessarily.

I came across this recipe as one of those random ads that appear on pages and had to click through.

It does look like bread and taste like bread but it’s made from eggs! Entirely gluten-free and low-carb.

And you can make sandwiches with it (use two pieces, they are too thin to cut in half.

It’s all protein instead of being all carbs. Amazing. And easy to make.

It’s just eggs, cream of tartar (to help the egg whites hold their fluff), cream cheese, and a bit of sweetener.

You can use any sweetener, even stevia. I used a teaspoon of coconut sugar. So each piece has only 1/6 teaspoon of sweetener.

They are a bit crisp right out of the oven but soften as they sit. I just keep mine wrapped in a cotton towel and they are perfect.

I am so happy to be able to make sandwiches again.

Now I haven’t tried this yet, but it seems to me that you could sprinkle any flavorings you like on top before baking and they would bake in and be delivious. LIke cinnamon and coconut sugar, or garlic granules with parmesan and parsley/ Any seasoning mix. Chia seeds. You can make them any flavor you want.

magical cloud bread

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