Thursday, January 10, 2013

Prevent Sickness with Immune-boosting Foods

Everyone is getting sick.  Friends, co-workers, the city of Boston.  I don't know about you, but I am seriously freaked out.

Last year, I came down with a terrible flu the same evening a friend and I were scheduled to drive five hours from New York City to Syracuse for Christmas.  Needless to say, I was a mess, and I don't EVER want to get the flu again.  Even though I have a pretty healthy diet, I'm making an extra effort this time of year to consume more of these immune-boosting foods.

If you're also looking to prevent the maelstrom of pain that is the influenza virus (which I'm assuming you are, because only crazy people think getting that sick sounds like happy-fun time), check out these foods and get your body into prime disease-fighting shape!

Red bell peppers contain twice the vitamin C of oranges, though citrus is still high in vitamin C and a healthy winter snack.  Consume with blueberries to help boost your body's ability to absorb vitamin C.

Kale contains immune boosting C, A, and glucosinolates which form isothiocyanates that help the cells with their detoxifying processes.

Oysters contain zinc and helps the immune system make t-cells.  Other fish also contain selenium which helps white blood cells produce proteins that actually remove the flu virus from the body.

Pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc, while brazil nuts are high in selenium.

White tea contains the highest amount of antioxidants, but green and black teas are effective as well. Avoid adding dairy to your tea as the protein in dairy, casein, bonds to the beneficial phytochemicals before your body can absorb all of them.

Mushrooms contain beta-glucan which improves the function of the immune defense cells.  Wheat germ, barley, and oats also contain beta-glucan.

The probiotics found in yogurt keep your body full of good bacteria which helps fight off illness-causing bacteria.

Garlic contains allicin, which is released when its chopped or chewed and has anti-microbial properties.

Chicken soup, besides being delicious contains cystein, an amino acid released when the chicken is cooked.  It actually chemically resembles the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine and helps to thin mucus.

Here are some ideas to help you consume all of these beneficial foods:


  • Try finely chopping one clove of garlic and putting it on a spoonful of raw honey.  One swallow, and you're set!



  • Oatmeal with blueberries and toasted pumpkin seeds or yogurt with homemade oat, blueberry, and pumpkin seed granola.



  • Raw kale salad with thinly sliced red bell peppers, white mushrooms, and lemon-garlic dressing.






  • Personally, I love to just snack on canned smoked oysters, but I'm dying to try this smoked oyster and mushroom soup recipe, possibly replacing the cream with a non-dairy option and thickening with a kudzu slurry.  (I'll keep you posted on the results!)


And finally, if you haven't already checked out my Greek lemon-chicken soup recipe, now would be the perfect time to whip up a batch to keep on hand.

Did I miss any of your favorites?

Stay healthy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Avgolemono (Greek lemon-chicken soup)


Avgolemono (Greek lemon-chicken soup) with Vegetables and Parsley

Makes 6-8 servings

This is one of my favorite soups in the world.  I am a huge fan of lemon, and soup is the only thing I want to eat when I feel under the weather.  I keep homemade chicken stock in my freezer, but it has a more robust flavor than what this soup requires.  I recommend using a lighter stock for this particular recipe.

Ingredients:
2 medium-large carrots, small quarter moons
4 stalks celery, small-medium dice
yellow onion, small-medium dice
1 cup long grain brown rice, rinsed
10 cups homemade chicken stock
sea salt, 1-2 teaspoons or to taste
cooked shredded chicken from small roasted chicken, about  3 cups (feel free to use other leftover poultry, poached chicken breasts, or even Thanksgiving turkey)
small bunch of parsley, chopped
4 eggs
juice of 3-4 lemons
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Procedure:
Combine the vegetables, rice, and stock in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, about 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs and juice of three lemons, and parsley together.
Season with sea salt to taste, about 1 ½ teaspoons.
Reserve 2 cups of soup, then add the cooked chicken.  In a thin stream, slowly pour the reserved soup into the egg-lemon-parsley mixture, while constantly whisking to prevent the eggs from curdling (scrambling).
Add the tempered mixture back into the large pot and whisk to combine.  Taste and season with freshly ground pepper and additional lemon juice or sea salt if desired.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Basque-Inspired Chicken Provencal

It has been a BUSY summer!  I've done a lot of weekend travel, my day job has kept me on my toes, and my social calendar feels packed.  All good things, but it doesn't leave a lot of time for blogging.

I've also been struggling to make use of my CSA bounty.  Its a LOT of vegetables for one person to cook and eat in a week, and I vowed to put last week's to good use.  I was inspired by the classic French dish, Chicken Provencal.  (I followed Food & Wine's recipe as a blueprint.)   I think mine has more of a Basque feel to it.

Basque-Inspired Chicken Provencal

Ingredients:


1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 package of boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts (Mine came out to about 1.25 lbs.)
sea salt and pepper
red onion, chopped
1 bulb of fennel, cored and thinly sliced
4 leaves of rainbow chard, stems chopped and leaves roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 white wine (I used mirin instead because that's what I had on hand)
1 14 oz. can of fire-roasted diced organic tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or use 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary)
1/3 c pitted kalamata olives
1 anchovy filet, chopped

Procedure:
In a large, deep frying pan, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and put it in the pan. Brown the chicken on both sides, about 8 minutes total.  Remove the chicken from the pan into a shallow dish. 
Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the onion, fennel, chard stems, and the garlic with a small pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and simmer until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olives, anchovy filet, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Put the chicken back to the pan and nestle into the tomato mixture.  Pour any accumulated juices in the pan.  Reduce the heat to low and add the breasts and chard leaves.  Cook until the chicken is just done, about 10 minutes more. 
I served mine with steamed green beans and smoked-paprika roasted Japanese eggplant (also both from my CSA.)


I was feeling sort of productive, so I also made some of Chocolate Covered Katie's Fudge Babies (with almonds instead of walnuts).  YUM.  (She's got a great blog and her recipes are uncomplicated and fun.  Check it out!)

(P.S. I haven't forgotten about my brownie odyssey!)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Another wonderful Good Commons Weekend

I believe that when the universe gives you a sign, you should listen, so when I met Elyse Sparkes at the Jazz-Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, I knew I was in for something special.

I've been heading up to Good Commons in Plymouth, Vermont a lot lately, and most recently cooked for a vegetarian meditation and yoga retreat over Memorial Day weekend.  I became acquainted with Good Commons at a yoga retreat with Erica Mather and Pravassa a few years ago, and knew I wanted to return.

slanted rocks in Quechee Gorge
When I was attending the Jazz-Age Lawn Party with a friend, we were sharing our picnic with some of her friends.  I was getting some compliments on my dishes and I brought up my experience as a private chef, and most recently as a guest chef at a house in Vermont.  When Elyse mentioned that she was going to be teaching yoga classes with a focus on digestive health the following weekend in Vermont, I got that tingly feeling that the world is a much smaller place that we realize.  She was headed to Good Commons, and I really needed some revitalization, so I made a quick call that night and arranged a spot for myself on the Gluten-Free Gourmet Weekend.  I've been exploring a more gluten-free lifestyle lately, and I feel so healthy after eating without it all weekend.

chocolate sandwich cookies
The food was amazing, the yoga was invigorating, the massage was both intense and relaxing, and the new friends I made were inspiring.  As always, Good Commons gave me just what I needed.  I also got a chance to explore Queeche Gorge and swim at Echo Lake, which was only recently reopened after the Hurricane Irene clean-up.  It was a nice change to get out and experience some Vermont nature that I haven't yet, despite having visited multiple times.

For more Gluten-Free recipes, articles, and resources check out these websites:

Chef Olivia Dupin:  www.livglutenfree.com
Chef Matthew Wexler: http://www.roodeloo.com/
Erin Smith: http://glutenfreefun.blogspot.com/
Holistic Health Coach and Massage Therapist:  http://jessicaruthshepard.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/

GF pasta night

Monday, May 21, 2012

Brownies!

So, I've been baking lots of brownies.  I was so gung-ho about my brownie challenge, but the weekend I'd planned to bake cakey brownies turned into something other than a bake-fest.  I hadn't been feeling so great, so I decided to cut out wheat, sugar, and cow's dairy for a bit.  (Its hard to recipe test when you can't try anything!)  So, I postponed the cakey brownies until I was feeling better.  I assisted the chef at a food and wine event retreat at Good Commons in Vermont over the last weekend in April, and I used that as a starting point for learning to eat without.  I've never been a huge sugar or wheat person, but lately I've found them creeping increasingly into my life.  One of the difficulties of working around a constant supply of snacks is paying attention to when I'm really hungry and feeding myself with nourishing foods instead of what is already in front of me. 

Long story short, I made those cakey brownies from a basic Food Network recipe when I was feeling better.  I hated them!  The recipe called for so many eggs.  I felt like the method was all wrong too...I almost made scrambled chocolate eggs.  They were definitely moist and cakey, but they also lacked a rich chocolate flavor.  They're not even picture worthy, so instead I'm sharing this:

Since I've changed my diet a bit, I've decided that my next and final brownie post will be about finding the perfect brownie recipe for the way I'm eating now, which is mostly gluten-free and using sweeteners like maple syrup instead of evaporated cane juice.

Next weekend I'll be heading back up to Good Commons to be the guest chef for a meditation retreat.  On the menu is Peter Berley's vegan chocolate chip brownie (from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen) served with homemade vegan mint ice cream, which is in the running for the winning recipe, but I need to test it again to know for sure.  (You can never recipe test too many brownies, right?)

Until then, happy baking!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Brownies: Part 1

As a child, I loved brownies (especially when flavored with mint chocolate chips), and while I've continued to indulge my devotion to chocolate, I usually only treat myself to a few squares of organic dark per day.  So when the craving for chocolate combined with the urge to purge, spring cleaning style, this past weekend, I took a peek in my cupboards and saw that I had just the right amount of ingredients to make some cocoa powder brownies, along with using up some space-consuming pantry items. 


Because of their high fat content, cocoa powder brownies are usually very dense and fudgy instead of cakey.  I substituted whole grain spelt flour for the all purpose, mostly because it was the only grain flour I had, but also because I'm not a huge fan of AP flour.  This recipe only calls for a small amount of flour, and I don't think it made any difference in the texture or taste of the final product.  One of the best parts of this recipe is that it only requires one bowl to mix everything together.  After throwing these together on the fly and sharing them with my Burlesque classmates the next day, I began to wonder if there were any cakey brownie recipes that would be as delicious and satisfying as these were, and then if I could come up with an original recipe that combined the qualities of the two.  Below you'll find my favorite fudgy cocoa powder brownies and next weekend I'll post my results with a caky brownie.  After testing very different recipes, I'll post my own recipe for the best of both worlds.


Best Cocoa Brownies



Epicurious  | November 2003
Alice Medrich


Ingredients:



  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)


  • Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan

Procedure:




Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
Chocolate note: (from the original recipe)
Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it's more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.




Monday, April 2, 2012

Baked Eggs

Someone recently asked me if I had a good basic recipe for an omelet, and I told him I would do a blog post on it, but then I realized that I don't really make omelets in the traditional sense.  There are a few methods for omelet making, the American, the French, and the Italian.  With the French, the pan is shaken constantly until the eggs are set, and then folded three times around any filling (meats, cheeses, vegetables).  The American method utilizes a rubber spatula to manipulate and stir the egg mixture, which is finished by folding the omelet in half.  Of course, there are more nuances than I'm taking the time to describe here, but if you're interested in the details check out this lesson.

My personal favorite is the Italian method, often called a frittata.  I usually saute an onion, add in some steamed veggies (spinach, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, zucchini...the options are endless) and top with whatever cheese I've got laying around (usually fresh goat cheese, raw sharp cheddar, or parmigiano reggiano), finished by pouring two eggs into the pan and baking until set and lightly browned on top.  This is such an easy meal to throw together and a really simple, fast, and healthy way to get some protein and vegetables in.  Don't relegate eggs to breakfast, try them for dinner too!

Below is my recipe for baked eggs.  Feel free to be creative and make substitutions; Let me know your favorite combinations!

Baked Eggs with Red Onion, Asparagus, and Parmigiano Reggiano

serves 1-2


Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly slices asparagus
2 organic eggs, whisked with up to two tablespoons of water or milk to make a fluffier omelet
butter (optional)
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano (I use a vegetable peeler to create just a few curls of cheese)
sea salt to taste

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F).
Heat a 8-inch pan over medium heat.  Add about one tablespoon of oil and heat until shimmering.  Saute the onion with a large pinch of salt until translucent, 2-4 minutes.  Add the asparagus and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the color has brightened and they are slightly tender.  If the pan looks very dry, add a bit more oil or small pat of butter.  Toss the ingredients in the pan to distribute the added oil.  Pour the egg mixture into the pan and turn off the heat.  Top the mixture with the grated cheese and bake in the preheated oven until the center of the omelet is firm.  If desired, finish under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.

To serve, slide the omelet onto a plate or platter.

I served mine with a few potato pancakes and a sliced avocado.  It was a delicious dinner ready in under 20 minutes.