Nourish Your Body
With Fabulous Homemade Food
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.
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.
For 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
Now that it’s autumn (and since the Autumn Equinox was yesterday, today is the first day when nights are longer than days), I thought it was time to have a warm and cozy recipe.
But this is more than a recipe. It’s a way to cook low and slow on the weekend, and then warm up the same stew every night during the week and have the same food taste different every night. Well, actually, I’m not eating it every night. I put some of it in the freezer in my favorite food storage containers. But whenever I do choose to eat it, I have my choice of different flavors.
According to one of my favorite food books Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, cooking meat low and slow is the way to go. It takes time for nutrition to be released from meat, and for me, there’s nothing more delicious than a good cut of beef cooked until it flakes apart with lots of gravy.
And another important point about eating beef is it must be grass-fed beef. Nowadays most natural food stores sell grass-fed beef, but you can also order it online.
Recently I found a great source of delicious grass-fed beef (and organic chicken and heritage-breed pork) online. This is truly the most delicious and best quality meat I’ve ever eaten (I love every bite!), and it costs only about $6 per serving. ButcherBox offers subscriptions for a box of meat to be delivered to your door every month (or two or three). Their meat comes from small family farms where cows graze on a unique blend of ButcherBox grasses. The flavor is phenomenal. ButcherBox grass-fed beef simply tastes better and costs less than grass fed beef sold at natural food stores. I’m going to continue to order from them. [Full disclosure: that’s not ButcherBox beed in the photo. I ate it all up and then realized I hadn’t taken the photo! So I made it again with grass-fed beef from the natural food store, which was delicious but not amazing.]
“Beef stew” exists in one form or another in every cuisine around the world. Here are some ways to vary the flavor of my basic recipe, but you may find more. If you do, please leave a comment so I can taste it too.
American Beef Stew – add cooked carrots, onions, potatoes, and peas.
Russian Stroganoff– add a dollop of grass-fed organic sour cream on top and a sprinkle of paprika and fresh chopped parsley. Mix it together in the bowl.
West African Peanut Stew – OK I have to say after I made this variation, I didn’t even want to try the others, I just wanted to eat this every night. To my 3-ounce portion I added 2 tablespoon of chunky organic peanut butter, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Traditionally this stew includes sweet potatoes and greens, so you could add those too if you want.
Indian Curry – The exotic flavors of Indian food is an art to master, but adding a few key spices can turn your beef stew into s fragrant delight. The most basic Indian spices are curry powder, garam masala, ginger, cumin, and turmeric, or look for an Indian spice blend.
Italian Ragu – A famous Italian sauce is “ragu,” which is beef and other meats cooked for hours in tomato sauce, until they all break apart. So to my beef stew, the quick version would be to add your favorite organic pasta sauce (in a glass jar), plus extra garlic, basil, or other favorite Italian seasonings. Top with parmesan, ricotta, or mozzarella cheese. Serve over gluten-free pasta or vegetables of your choice.
Hungarian Goulash – As I was working on this recipe this week, I received an email from Saveur magazine for “best beef stew,” which turned out to be goulash, so I had to include it on this list. Just add a lot of sweet paprika to my beef stew recipe and a dollop of sour cream on top.
If you want to thicken the stock that forms during cooking, here are three ways to make gluten-free gravy. The arrowroot option is quick and easy. The others are more delicious.
This recipe combines mushrooms with the beef to give more food without more meat, and to add the richness of the mushroom flavor to the broth.
I’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.
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.
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!
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.
If it looks like bread and tastes like bread, is it wheat?
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.
We’re in the high heat of summer and at this time of year we need to hydrate our bodies
well to replace liquids lost through perspiration.
But you can also hydrate your body with foods that are high in water content. Make sure to choose organic produce.
|FOOD WITH MORE THAN 90% WATER|
These are also low in calories.
A great way to make a summer “fruit” salad is to mix pieces of sweet fruits with pieces of cucumber and celery. This greatly reduces the carbs as a whole and you still get the sweetness of the fruits. I usually use 3 parts vegetables to 1 part fruit.
I make a point to eat as much cucumber as I can in a variety of ways. Here are two recipes with cucumbers from this blog.
|Cucumber Noodles with Asian Peanut Sauce||Fennel Salad with Cucumbers, Celery and Olives|
And here is a salad with lots of celery.
I call this granola amazing because it has all the satisfaction of granola without grains or sugar. Yet is is crunchy and sweet.
I am a big granola fan. It’s something I miss in my grain-free, sugar-free life.
So I was thrilled when Sarah Britton sent her My New Roots newsletter with her recipe for Grain-Free Granola. It inspired me to make my own version, based on her basic recipe. Though I don’t eat the same list of foods that Sarah does, her recipes inspire me for their creativity and beauty.
My version leaves out the sunflower seeds (which I personally don’t care for) and adds bits of dates (only 3 chopped, sprinkled throughout 6 cups of granola). Dates are the best sweet for my body—very low glycemic—yet are nice and sweet. When I sprinkle a few throughout, occasionally I will get a bit in a bite, which gives a different flavor experience. I learned to vary flavors bite-to-bite when I ate in a sandwich shop in Amsterdam many years ago. They took a baguette and laid out various vegetables along the layer of meat, so each bite was a surprise instead of every bite being the same. I love that.
You could use any chopped dried fruit instead of dates or leave the dried fruit out entirely,
I also use yacon syrup instead of maple syrup or honey, but you could use any liquid sweetener you prefer.
Yacon syrup is a nutritive sweetener, extracted from the tuberous roots of the yack plant, which is indigenous to the Andes mountains. It is so low-glycemic it raises my blood sugar not at all, yet gives the taste and sweetness of molasses. Here’s a brand I just purchased on amazon.com. This brand is bottled in glass and less expensive than if I buy individual bottles at the natural food store. In addition to adding sweetness to any recipe, yacon syrup also boots metabolism and helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
This granola is so good just as it is, or in a bowl with cream or over yogurt, or served any way you like to eat yogurt.
NOTE: If you wish to soak your nuts first, follow the instructions to make Crispy Almonds. Chop the nuts after crisping them, then make the granola.