Thursday, February 18, 2010


I stumbled upon a contest on Foodista. They are looking for recipes and photos from food blogs to be chosen for an upcoming book. So far, I entered my Vegan Pumpkin Bundt Cake and Kayo's Homemade Ketchup (to be fair, it is mostly Ben's ketchup, but we are a team!). You can vote for me by clicking on the Foodista links on the side. There is one link for each recipe entered. Fingers crossed!

Practice Makes Perfect

Just playing around...
Above - Chickpea ragout with couscous
Below - Roasted shallots (pre-roasting, of course)
(I'll post links to both of these recs when they become available.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Good Thing I am Not a Junkie

I have bad veins - terrible, hidden, spindly little things. Unfortunately for me, I have to give blood regularly, which usually means a few hundred feeble attempts to find a vein, sticking me all the while and causing major bruising and discomfort. Blech! While the whole affair is rather miserable, it is typically quick and usually brings good results.

As I have mentioned previously, I have PCOS, a condition which renders my ticker vulnerable to attack and the rest of my poor body highly susceptible to diabetes. So, we have to keep an eye on things. This last series of tests included a check of my Hemoglobin A1C. What this number reveals is an average blood glucose level over the prior 6-8 weeks. Healthy patients should expect this number to be under 7. (Diabetics typically see a level higher than 8.) Mine was 5.4! Yay! It seems that my regular exercise and healthy diet (aided by my intake of the prescription drug Metformin) are keeping my blood sugar levels stable.

On to the fun stuff - cholesterol! Anyone over the age of 45 is probably familiar with the complicated lingo related to blood lipid levels. In my most basic layman's terms, cholesterol levels are measured 3 ways, total, LDL, and HDL. Total cholesterol is a combination of the LDL and HDL.

LDL is bad cholesterol - found in animal fats like red meat, lard, butter, egg yolks, dairy, etc. This is the "killer" cholesterol that clogs arteries and stops your heart. This number should be less than 130; mine was 88. Yay, again!

HDL is good cholesterol. How can it be good? HDLs actually help to rid your arteries of lipids (fats) and lower the LDLs. HDLs are found in vegetable fats like olive oil, avocados, and nuts -- all of which I consume at an ungodly rate. So, it is with no shock and awe that my HDL numbers are good. This result should be greater than 46. Mine was 89. Triple yay!

Total cholesterol should be between 125 and 200. Mine was 195 -- still healthy, but on the high side. What I can only deduce is that I might be going overboard on the daily avocado intake. Perhaps I will slow down, but only a little. I wouldn't want those nasty LDLs to take over the joint!

For more reading, visit the American Heart Assoc. website.

(If there are any medical professionals reading my blog, feel free to give me a head's up if my understanding of such things is at all erroneous! Much appreciated!)

Quinoa and Brown Rice Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers is a dish that I remember loving as a child, but back in the 80s, peppers in our house were filled with fatty beef and white rice. Our updated version is heart-healthy, meatless, and comforting. Quinoa is one of the world's only grains that is actually a complete protein - meaning that nutritionally, you won't miss the omission of meat at all. We use brown basmati rice for its low glycemic index value; it will help keep blood sugar levels stable. If capers, currants, and pine nuts seem foreign, give them a shot in this dish. The combination of sweet, salty, sour, and nutty pack a dynamic punch.

The prep time is long, making this recipe ideal for cold weekends when you aren't interested in venturing outside. The advantage is that it reheats quite nicely. Make it ahead of time, store in the fridge, and reheat on a night when you would otherwise have to resign yourself to a bowl of cereal. Maybe Friday night during Lent (if you're into that sort of thing!)?

If you don't have time to dry out tomatoes, sub tomato paste or sun dried tomatoes. Both should give the required flavor and texture.

Dressed in their jaunty little caps, these peppers promise to fill you up but not stick to your ribs -- or your arteries.

Makes 8 peppers (I could eat 2 each myself!)

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup (about 10 each) chopped, pitted green olives
1/4 cup currants
2 tablespoons capers
2 oven dried tomatoes(8 quarters or 4 halves, depending on how you cut them), chopped
3/4 cup brown basmati rice
1/2 cup quinoa
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 bell peppers
2 oven dried tomatoes (8 quarters or 4 halves, depending on how you cut them)
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup water

1. In a large flameproof casserole, heat oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring, or until tender.
3. Stir in pinenuts. Cook until vegetables and pinenuts begin to brown.
4. Add paprika. Toast for 1 minute. Stir in olives, currants, capers, and tomatoes.
5. Add rice, quinoa, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer, and cook for 40 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper. Stir in parsley.
6. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Remove the tops of the bell peppers. Set aside 5 of the tops (stems in tact). Chop the remaining 3 tops, and discard those stems. Remove and discard the seeds and veins of the peppers.
7. Place all 8 peppers in a large roasting pan. Fill each pepper with the rice and quinoa mixture. Place tops on 5 of the peppers. Leave the other 3 uncovered.
8. In a blender, puree chopped pepper tops, oven dried tomatoes, roma tomatoes, and water. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Pour puree in the bottom of the pan, around the peppers. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, rotating occasionally. Remove the foil, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Stuffed Green Peppers on Foodista

Ranch Dip

Store-bought salad dressings and dips are chock full of corn syrup, other sugars, and nasty stabilizers. Save yourself the guilt by making your own. Sometimes a salad requires only a squirt of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Other times, your stomach cries out for a substantial partner which makes getting your daily dose of green veggies seem like a sinful indulgence.

Ranch dip is a party favorite - smothered on hot wings and coating baby carrots. If you already have homemade mayo on hand, this recipe requires less than 5 minutes to throw it all together - making it the perfect addition to your already lengthy party prep list.

If you wish to dress a salad, thin the dip by whisking in a stream of buttermilk until it reaches the desired consistency.

Makes 1 quart

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups creme fraiche or sour cream (see our upcoming post about how to make your own)
6 scallions, minced
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Pinch paprika
3 tablespoons vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir well.
2. Taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper if you like.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Great Minds...

You know the saying. While spending my "Friday" night sprawled alone on the futon, Olympics droning on in the background, laptop propped fittingly on my lap, and vat of wine in my hand not working the mouse, I came across a blurb on Jan Newberry writes of Absinthe's bar menu, "Taking the Bay Area’s DIY ethos to heart, executive chef Jamie Lauren not only makes the sausages—a blend of Kobe beef, pork shoulder, and her own bacon—but she also bakes the buns (and slathers them with bacon fat), ferments the sauerkraut, blends the ketchup and mustard, and fries the so-good-you-can’t-stop-eating-them yogurt-dill potato chips." Perhaps this is the hot dog that my husband has been craving and denying himself of in 2010. It could be the ideal "unprocessed" cheater meal...almost not even cheating.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jamie Oliver - Helping Feed America

You must watch this talk given by Jamie Oliver, upon receipt of the TED award. Oliver speaks passionately about how obesity is killing America and the rest of the world. He believes - and I agree 100% - that the way to combat this epidemic is to re-teach people how to cook. Fast food, poor school lunches, and the convenience food industry are shortening our lifespan and the lifespans of future generations. But we can fight this - by merely returning to the kitchen. Please watch and take a second to really hear what he has to your diet killing you and your family?