Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Superfoods Month: Superfood smoothie from Holistically Haute

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Today's Superfoods: Kale, wakame seaweed, acai, avocado
Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, iron, potassium, antioxidants

[Erika says: Fittingly, the last post in this Superfoods Month series comes from Rachael Pontillo of Holistically Haute Wellness. Rachael is my health coach and the one who inspired this series through our work to change my diet for the better. I still haven't made green smoothies a daily habit, but I'm trying.]

I love green smoothies for breakfast. I didn’t always love them…I will admit it. But I never disliked them enough to not have them. I started having them about 7 months ago which is when I really actively began to make healthier choices in my life, and I read some great books and articles that all talked about how great greens are for you and how green smoothies really are a great way to get the most out of your greens. So I figured I’d give them a try and I started feeling (and looking) so much better so quickly that I never stopped. Now I really can’t start my day out the right way if I don’t have my green smoothie for breakfast.

Why smoothies?

Smoothies are a great way to get the nutrients from a lot of different fruits and veggies at once. It would take me a very long time to eat each piece of fruit or each leaf of lettuce one by one…I would probably get bored (and possibly full) pretty quickly. I don’t there is any way I could possibly have the time every morning either.

Another benefit of smoothies is that they are raw (all nutrients and enzymes are intact) and easy to digest. Many people cannot tolerate raw fruits and veggies in the morning (some can’t at all) because of the fiber content. Raw fruits and veggies come equipped with everything they need (enzymes) to be properly digested, but those enzymes must be activated first. This can be done by proper chewing of the food, but most people don’t chew enough to begin with, especially during the morning rush. Blending up the fruits and vegetables activates these enzymes for you which actually pre-digests them and makes them much easier on the stomach.

My favorite smoothie benefit is variety. There are tons of great recipes out there (including the one I’m about to share with you) but the best thing is that you can make them with whatever you happen to have on hand at the time. I use whichever fresh lettuces, vegetables, and fruits I happen to get in my weekly organic produce delivery from my local co-op, and add in superfoods that I get at the health food store and keep on hand. So use this recipe as a guide, but feel free to make substitutes with whatever you have on hand or find at the store.

Click here for a list of all the recipes in this Superfoods series

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Superfood smoothie
This smoothie contains more Superfoods in one glass than you'd ever have the patience to eat whole. Make a lot and freeze the extra in single-serving containers. Look for wakame at health food or Japanese grocery stores.
  • 1 cup filtered or distilled water
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
  • 1/2 bunch kale, washed, leaves only (remove stems)
  • 2 Tbsp wakame (a Japanese sea vegetable), reconstituted in hot water
  • 5 stalks celery, washed and chopped
  • 1 cucumber, washed, unpeeled (unless it's waxed, in which case you'll want to remove the skin)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 green apple, unpeeled, cored
  • 1 ounce acai berry puree
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 avocado, flesh only
Put the water in the blender first and then add the ingredients one by one in order. It is important to add the avocado at the very end and only blend it enough to make it creamy…it will stiffen up into a firm, meringue-like consistency if you overblend it and then you won’t be able to drink it.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 12-ounce servings

Monday, January 30, 2012

Superfoods Month: Salmon with fruit salsa by Maura Ammenheuser

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Today's Superfood: Salmon
Protein, omega-3, vitamin D, vitamin B12, tryptophan, selenium, vitamin B3

Erika says: Look at this gorgeous salmon! It's from Maura Ammenheuser, a stay-at-home mom of two, personal trainer and writer/editor. She currently leads the Momarama parenting blog for The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California.

Salmon is fish with benefits.

It’s packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, a scary-sounding term for very healthy fat. Omega-3s offer anti-inflammatory qualities that can help combat joint pain and osteoporosis, improve blood-sugar control and even reduce aspects of depression and bipolar disorder.

A 3-ounce portion has only about 140 calories, but a whopping 23 grams of protein. A hefty 6-ounce portion still contains only about 360 calories and 39 grams of protein. On the taste side, salmon’s a versatile fish that can be cooked many ways. And it boasts a beautiful orange-pink color, always pretty on the plate.

Because I’m a lazy cook, I gravitate toward food that’s easy and fast. Fish in general fits the bill. Salmon’s strong taste is an asset. Its intensity means it stands up to all kinds of seasonings, which means I can throw a salmon dinner together with whatever I have on hand and never worry about obscure ingredients or complicated preparation. I’ve cooked salmon with everything from lemon and dill to curry to bottled barbecue sauce. It all works.

My favorite way to prepare salmon, however, is topping it with fruit salsa. (The salsa can be made a day or two in advance, making this meal even faster.) I prefer grilling the fish with a generous dollop of fruit salsa, wrapping the whole thing in foil packets and sliding it onto the grill. But if you don’t own a grill, or it’s too unpleasant to cook outdoors in the winter snow or rain, this technique is easily tweaked for baking in the oven.

I follow recipes slavishly, but when I’m whipping up a dinner of my own inspiration I don’t bother measuring portions or taking notes. So this is more guideline than recipe. Alter ingredients and quantities according to taste. The only thing you should obsess about is making sure you don’t overcook the fish.

Click here for all the recipes in this Superfoods series

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Salmon with fruit salsa
A sweet-tart fruit salsa contrasts beautifully with the rich texture of salmon. Save any leftover salsa for tomorrow's chips.
  • 4 4-ounce pieces salmon filet or steak, wild or farmed
  • 2 fresh mangos, peeled and diced small
  • 1/2 to 1 cup canned or fresh pineapple, diced small
  • 1 fresh peach, peeled and diced small
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, juice and some of the pulp (do not substitute bottled lime juice)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • dash of ground coriander (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a shallow baking dish with a thin layer of cooking spray.Place the fish flat in the pan in a single layer. Spray a mist of oil over the fish. Top with a thick dose of fruit salsa.Bake, keeping a close eye on the fish. Baking time varies with the thickness of the fish. My photo shows a very large, thick salmon steak (about two inches) that took 25 minutes to cook. Thinner slices could be done in less than 15 minutes. To judge whether the fish is done, poke its thickest portion with a fork. If the fish still appears dark pink and wet in the middle, it’s not ready. If it falls easily into tender flakes, it’s perfect; get it out of the oven right now. If the fish produces chalky white somewhat tough flakes, you’ve overcooked it. Make a note of how long it was in the oven and check on it sooner next time.If you prefer grilling, make this fish outdoors in a foil packet rather than in the oven. Tear a portion of foil large enough to accommodate a single piece of fish; spray the foil, place one piece of fish on it, spray the top of the fish, then add the salsa. Cover with a separate piece of foil and crimp the foil edges together to form a packet. Carefully place the packets on a preheated grill over medium-low heat, placing them top (salsa-side) down. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, then carefully turn them so the top/salsa side now faces up. Cook another 4 to 5 minutes, then use one packet as your test case.Remove one packet from the grill, partially open the foil packet and test the fish with a fork to see if it’s done. The moment the fish flakes easily, take it off the grill. Serve by placing one packet on each person’s plate. The fish inside will be a bit messy from the fruit juices so it’s easier to just plop the packets on the plates rather than trying to remove the fish from the packets and make them pretty on a serving platter. They’ll likely fall apart under the spatula, anyway.You can use this recipe with almost any type of fish. It’s especially good with halibut fillets. Just adjust the cooking time according to the thickness of the fish. Again, keep testing the fish with a fork and remove from the heat when it flakes easily. The fish-and-fruit-salsa combo pairs nicely with nearly any kind of rice plus blanched or lightly roasted green beans or asparagus.Note: Using mango, pineapple and peach is a best-case scenario. It’s perfectly okay to use only one or two of these fruits rather than all three; adjust the amount to get enough salsa. Tossing a teensy bit of chopped orange or grapefruit in there probably won’t hurt anything, either. The world won’t end if you skip the bell pepper or onion, either. But don’t expect this to taste like salsa if you omit the cilantro and jalapeno.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

Friday, January 27, 2012

Postcard from Oregon: Truffle cooking class with chef Rocky Maselli

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Chef Rocky Maselli's polpettone (Italian meatloaf) with black Oregon truffles. The chef mixed ground veal, ground pork, diced mortadella and diced black Oregon truffles, then wrapped the mixture around soft-boiled eggs. The whole thing was wrapped in parchment paper, baked, then sliced so each piece had egg in the center. Shaved white Oregon truffles finished off each serving.

The cooking class was part of the Oregon Truffle Festival in Eugene.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Superfoods Month: Veggie cilantro mint quinoa pilaf from Yumkid

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Today's Superfood: Quinoa
Protein, iron, manganese, magnesium, folate, phosphorus

Erika says: I can't wait to make this delicious quinoa pilaf from Rashmi Nigam. Rashmi started Yumkid.com to chronicle her experiences feeding her children healthy, flavorful meals.

"How are you doing on rice? How often are you eating it now?” are questions my doctor always asks. After hearing my response she always says, “You know you need to cut rice down or the ‘insulin storage bins’ along with belly fat will never go away. ” My response has always been “It is my comfort food! Asking me to give up rice is like asking an Italian to give up pasta!”

Over the years I have cut down my consumption of white rice both in terms of frequency and quantity. I now eat it once every other day instead of at every meal. That’s been a big adjustment for me. I struggled because I love my Indian lentils and curries and they taste PERFECT with white rice. There’s something soulful about eating ‘dal-chawal’ (lentils and rice) as the Indian folks say it.

This struggle became easier a few months ago when I started adding quinoa to my diet. Quinoa is high in protein, calcium, and iron, and is a great source of omega acids. The first time I made quinoa, it was a disaster. I didn’t wash it properly and it tasted so soapy. Yes, definitely wash your quinoa properly to remove the saponin, a resin-like substance that is extremely bitter. After several attempts, I have come to embrace quinoa in our home.

This recipe is one of my favorite ways to eat quinoa. I love the green color of this healthy dish! It is perfect for any meal, and a great addition to your school lunch repertoire. It is mildly fragrant but full of flavor. Both the quinoa and the vegetables are crunchy. It is my family’s favorite way to eat quinoa!

Click here to see all the recipes in this Superfoods Month series

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Veggie cilantro mint quinoa pilaf
A tasty, healthy mix of vegetables and quinoa with Indian spices. Cilantro and mint add bright, fresh notes.
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves (stems included)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 3 clove
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 Tbsp grapeseed or canola oil, divided
  • 2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 green chili, whole (jalapeno, serrano, etc.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 black peppercorns
  • 2 cups mixed frozen vegetables (e.g. edamame, carrots, peas, corn, carrots)
  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked according to package directions (about 1/2 cup dry)
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Make the green paste by combining the cilantro, mint, garlic, ginger, 1 clove, 2 cardamom pods and cinnamon stick in the food processor. Grind the ingredients to a paste.Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 3/4 of the sliced onions and saute until they are browned. Set aside.In a large skillet or wok, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp oil. Add the remaining onions, chile, bay leaves, peppercorns, remaining 2 cloves and remaining 1 cardamom pod and saute about 2 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the green paste and saute another 2 minutes.Add the frozen vegetables to the pan and cook 2-3 minutes until they are warmed through. Add the cooked quinoa and the salt, stirring to make sure the grains are coated with the green paste. Taste and add more salt if needed.Remove the bay leaves and, if you wish, the cloves, peppercorns and cardamom pods. Turn the pilaf into a serving dish and garnish with the caramelized onions. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Superfoods Month: Smoky roasted kale chip-tomato quinoa salad from Cooking on the Weekends

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Today's Superfood: Kale
Vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, fiber

Erika says: Say hi to a lovely guest post and recipe from certified chef and food writer Valentina Kenney Wein. Valentina spends her weekends in her "kitchen retreat," creating delicious, hearty, comforting food to nourish her family and share with her readers. Her blog is named, appropriately enough, Cooking on the Weekends. P.S. Funny how everyone wanted to write about kale, right?

When I am craving a snack - not just something to tide me over until my next meal, but a true snack - I want something that is full of flavor and at least a little bit salty.

As a teenager, that salty snack might have been a bag of potato chips or - yes, I can admit it - a bunch of Doritos. The downside to these indulgences, other than the obvious lack of nutritional value, were feelings of guilt along with unnaturally colored fingertips (bright orange).

Luckily, with age comes wisdom. Nowadays when I need a snack, I eat foods that feature actual nutritional value and way better, more fulfilling flavors!

There - have I done it? Have I made aging sound acceptable and almost desirable? Regardless, the kale chips here are an incredibly delicious and satisfying snack. 

And when they star in this dish, kale chips make for a unique and memorable entree salad. You can serve it as a main course or a side dish, for lunch, dinner, or even brunch!  

Make this delicious salad this weekend and invite some friends! Your guests will leave feeling quite contented and super impressed. And what's more, they will not leave with bright orange fingertips!

Click here for all the recipes in this Superfoods Month series

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Smoky roasted kale chip-tomato quinoa salad
A healthy salad with the crunch of roasted kale. Smoked sea salt is available at gourmet grocery stores and Whole Foods.
  • 2 medium-sized vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp smoked sea salt
  • 2 large leaves black kale, washed and dried
  • olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 4 Tbsp oil from sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.Cut each tomato into 1/4-inch slices. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet and put the tomato slices on top. Sprinkle them with the smoked sea salt. Place the kale leaves on another baking sheet, drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with the sea salt.Put both baking sheets in the preheated oven. Roast the kale until the leaves become crisp, about 10 to 12 minutes. The edges will be a bit darker than the center. Remove them from the oven as soon as you see this, otherwise the chips will become too dark and a bit bitter. Set the kale leaves aside to cool. The tomatoes should roast until they are sizzling and their bottoms become slightly brown, about 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and set them aside with the kale chips.While the kale and tomatoes are cooling, add the sun-dried tomatoes with their oil and the balsamic vinegar to the quinoa. Stir to blend and season to taste with salt and pepper. Break the kale leaves into bite-sized chips and compose them on each serving plate, stacking the quinoa, kale chips and tomatoes in a pretty arrangement. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Superfoods Month: Paula Deen and creamy kale soup

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Today's Superfood: Kale
Vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, fiber

There's been a lot of talk about Paula Deen's announcement that she's had type II diabetes for three years.

Three years during which she's peddled butter, cream, cheese, sugar, fried foods and other health-conscious no-no's to the American public in shocking amounts and with remarkable consistency.

Why did she do it? For the ratings. People like that kind of food. Even if they know it's not good for them, they like hearing about it, they salivate over it, and most important, they'll watch her make it on TV week after week.

Paula Deen is getting a lot of criticism. She's being accused of feeding poison to the American people even as she knew it had caused grave health issues for her and had radically changed her own eating habits.

I'm not going to be too hard on Paula Deen. She's got a living to make, just like the rest of us. People make their own choices about what goes into their mouths. Paula Deen made her own choices about what kind of food she wanted to showcase on TV in order to maintain her personal brand and her ratings (or the Food Network made them for her, or they made the decisions together).

But it's caused me to take a long, hard look at the food I've been writing about for the past three years. And I realized something:

Unlike Paula Deen, I write about the food I eat, and my family eats, day in and day out. And most food bloggers I know do the same.

Mine is not an "always" or "never" family when it comes to food. We eat vegetables and we eat pasta. We eat salad and we eat dessert.

When I compiled my recipe index, there were more recipes in the "Vegetables" category than in the "Desserts" category. That surprised me, actually. But I realized that's truly a reflection of the way we eat.

We have "often" foods and "sometimes" foods. If this blog is truly a reflection of the way we eat as a family, then meat is a "sometimes" food and vegetables are an "often" food. That's a good thing for our health, and it's the way I want to be seen by you, my readers.

This Superfoods Month series started as a way to keep me on track with my New Year's resolution to eat healthier foods. But it hasn't been a stretch. This, today, is the way my family eats.

I hope you like this kale soup. It's easy to prepare and turned out the color of pine trees. And yes, this is what my family ate yesterday.

P.S. I brought this soup to a food blogger gathering celebrating Idaho potatoes - see the bottom of this post for more Idaho potato recipes.

Click here for all the recipes in this Superfoods Month series

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Creamy kale soup
A simple soup packed with vitamins and fiber. If you find kale too bitter, substitute chard, spinach or another milder green, or use a mixture.
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large bunch Tuscan or curly kale, leaves stripped from stems and roughly chopped
  • 1 small potato, unpeeled, diced
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute about 4 minutes, until the onion is softened and turning translucent. Add the garlic and stir another 30 seconds - don't let the garlic burn.Now add the kale, potato and stock. The liquid will not be enough to cover the kale; that's okay. Bring the pot to a boil, turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the soup about 20 minutes, until the kale is soft and the potatoes are cooked through. Transfer the soup to the blender and puree, or use a hand-held immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6 servings

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Superfoods Month: Spinach fried rice with furikake by Emery

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Today's Superfood: Spinach
Vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium

Erika says: Today's guest post comes from a wonderful cook whom I adore - my 13-year-old son Emery. Furikake is a dry Asian condiment containing seaweed, sugar, salt and sesame seeds, meant to be sprinkled on rice.

So it all started one day when I was reading The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook by Jaden Hair. I saw a recipe called Furikake French Fries. I thought, Hm - this furikake stuff sounds good. I mean, it's just a seasoning blend. What could be so bad about that?

Now, fast forward about two years. Mom had come home from a date with Dad with an array of weird Asian groceries. [Yes, this is what we do on our dates - go grocery shopping.] I was looking through them, as I always do, and I found...furikake! I wanted to use it right away, but alas, there was nothing on which to put it.

Now, fast forward another week. I told Mom I was hungry - we were out after our weekly farmers' market run. She said, "Have a salad." I said, "If I'm going to have a salad, I want spinach." Naturally, she said we didn't have any. I managed to wangle a trip to the 99 Cents Only store to get some bagged baby spinach, and on the way home we constructed this recipe using leftover rice from takeout Chinese, the spinach and the furikake. We added a few more things we happened to have around the house: garlic, red chili flakes, ponzu sauce. It turned into a masterpiece. I've made it a half-dozen times since then, at all hours of the day and night.

Erika again: This photo shows white rice, but Emery usually makes it with precooked brown rice. I like the brown; Emery will take white rice when he can get it.

Click here for a list of all the recipes in this Superfoods Month series

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Spinach fried rice with furikake
An incredibly healthy snack created by my 13-year-old son Emery. Use more spinach than you think you need - it shrinks a lot as it cooks.
  • 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup cooked brown or white rice
  • 1/8 tsp red chili pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 5-ounce package baby spinach
  • 1 Tbsp furikake seasoning, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp ponzu sauce
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, rice and chili flakes. Stir-fry until the rice is starting to crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spinach and continue to stir-fry until the spinach is wilted. Remove the pan from the heat, turn the spinach mixture onto a plate, garnish with the furikake, and sprinkle over the ponzu sauce. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 servings

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Superfoods Month: Raw cabbage salad with lemon

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Today's Superfood: Cabbage
Vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, fiber

When I want a salad, more often than not this cabbage salad with lemon is the one I'm craving. You need three ingredients (okay, five including salt and pepper), a sharp knife, and a half-hour. That's it.

I use plain green cabbage for this salad, but Napa or Savoy cabbage would work too. I tried it once with red cabbage and was disappointed - it doesn't wilt the same way - but give it a whirl if you prefer purple to green.

My favorite way to eat this salad is topped generously with smoked salmon. Low carb, low calorie, high protein, high fiber. The lemony dressing coats the smoked salmon just perfectly. Okay, my mouth is watering. If you'd told me a few years ago that the thought of cabbage could make my mouth water I would have laughed out loud...but there it is.

Click here to see all the Superfoods Month recipes

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Raw cabbage salad with lemon
This is one of the simplest salads in my repertoire, and one of the most satisfying. It's equally good after sitting for a day or two - it wilts but never loses all its crunch.
  • 1 head green cabbage, quartered and cored
  • 1 large lemon (regular or Meyer)
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
With a sharp knife, slice the cabbage into very thin shreds. You can use a mandoline for this step, but it's hard to keep the cabbage quarters together, and I always end up making a huge mess. I've gone back to the knife.Put the shredded cabbage into a large bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze all the juice over the cabbage. Add the olive oil and a good dose of salt and pepper. Mix well. Let the cabbage salad sit at room temperature about 30 minutes, just long enough for the acid and salt to start wilting the cabbage. Toss again before serving.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What do Oregon truffles smell like?

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Olive oil, a pinch of salt and grated Oregon black truffles: Your bread will never be happier
We interrupt Superfoods Month to bring you some exciting news: It's Oregon truffle season again.

As you can imagine, this truffle-obsessed blogger is quite happy when she rides her bike to the Santa Monica farmers market and spots the telltale picnic coolers on the wild mushroom guy's table. Inside each cooler is an ice pack on top of a tea towel; inside the towel are a few hundred fragrant, marble-sized black or white Oregon truffles.

At $20 per ounce, Oregon truffles are an affordable luxury. The white truffles (called white, actually brown) sell out first, so I go early. I like both white and black and pick up a few nuggets of each. Pasta, risotto, scrambled eggs, salad, or just bread and butter - truffles add a new dimension to the simplest foods.

We sampled the Oregon white truffles both on their own and mixed with olive oil
Biologically, Oregon truffles (Tuber oregonense and Tuber gibbosum) are kissing cousins to the European truffles. They're similar but not the same. I tried to describe the smell and taste of Oregon truffles for you, but I found myself at a loss for words.

Which is why I invited Arianna Armstrong, wine writer extraordinaire and owner of a true "super palate," to come over this weekend and experience Oregon truffles with me. I'm neither a super smeller nor a super taster. She's both. We sniffed and sniffed, then sampled both kinds of truffles on their own and grated into olive oil.
Wine writer and "super smeller" Arianna Armstrong with an Oregon white truffle

I got some excellent video of our smelling and tasting session. As soon as I figure out how to edit video, you'll see it here. Meantime, here are a few tasting notes:
  • alcohol
  • pine
  • wet leaves
  • river water
  • manure
  • pears
We also discussed the possibility that given their pheromonal effect, truffles smell like "the essence of a woman." Possibly a woman who doesn't bathe very often.

I just realized the tasting notes above don't do these truffles justice. You'll just have to trust me. They're magical.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Superfoods Month: Spanakorizo (spinach rice) from Life in Greek

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Today's Superfood: Spinach
Vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium, potassium

[Erika says: This guest post comes from Dimitra Kessenides, who writes Life in Greek (not strictly a food blog, by the way). Dimitra and I worked together 20 years ago in New York on the editorial staff of a legal magazine. That was long before the world got a glimpse of Greek life in America through My Big Fat Greek Wedding and I was fascinated by Dimitra's stories about her tight-knit family and her mother's cooking.]

Forget super foods - think Mediterranean diet. That's how I see these foods, dishes, and ingredients. They've been in the cupboard, the refrigerator, and on the table my whole life given my family's ethnic roots in Greece. So the spanakorizo (spinach rice) detailed here epitomizes what I think when I hear "super foods." And it's the one dish I've experienced a complete turnaround with.

Mom's version was on the dinner table once every two weeks or so for as long as I can remember (the only exception - summertime, since this really is a cold weather dish). I had zero interest in and appreciation for spinach until after college. The color was off-putting, and the consistency of the cooked vegetable made me squirm - I would try to separate the rice from the spinach and just take a few forkfuls of that. The meal took what seemed liked hours to finish. Flavor factored into my judgment not one bit. Nor did the comfort of the warmth of the dish, and the perfection achieved when accompanied by a hearty piece of whole grain bread (preferably warmed) and a bit of feta cheese (hey, I'm Greek!).

Yes, that all changed. I can't say when - it just happened. It was always there, it wasn't going anywhere, it grew on me - the flavor did, and the perfection with the accompaniments. And its persistent presence made its way into my brain - I realized I felt good when I ate spanakorizo, I was satisfied. I've done my share of not treating my body well, but this dish continues to counter the effects of that. And it does so without a whole lot of fuss and too much time.

While the recipe has evolved over the years - it's crossed generations and continents -  the foundation remains the same. A modern day superfood with very traditional roots. Enjoy!

Click here for a list of all the recipes from Superfoods Month

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Spanakorizo (spinach rice) from Life in Greek
A flavorful side dish with Greek roots and lots of spinach.
  • 1 5-ounce package baby spinach
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup long-grain white rice (I think Uncle Ben's works best, but basmati works too)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the spinach and dry it gently. Set aside.Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped and pureed tomato and saute another 5 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup rice, salt, pepper, stir; let cook for 10 minutes. (Add some of the boiled water, as needed, if it seems to dry for the rice - just a bit, maybe 1/4 cup.)Add in the spinach; mix everything to evenly distribute. Cook for another 20 to 25 minutes. Taste to be sure rice has cooked fully.Serve as main meal with a piece of a nice whole grain bread; or use as a side dish for a main dish (goes great as a side with most any fish).
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6 servings

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Superfoods Month: Smoothie with beets

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Today's Superfood: Beets
Betalains (a phytonutrient), folate, manganese, fiber, potassium, vitamin C

At the urging of my enthusiastic health coach Rachael Pontillo of Holistically Haute Wellness, I'm continuing to bond with my ultra-powerful Vitamix and explore the world of colorful smoothies. I haven't found a combination I like as much as french fries or mint chocolate chip ice cream, but I'm trying to keep an open mind.

I learned something about beets when I made this smoothie: A little goes a long way. I didn't expect it to be such a glorious ruby red!

Click here for a list of all the recipes from Superfoods Month

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Smoothie with beets
A tasty way to get your reds and greens in one healthy drink. If you like your smoothies sweet (I don't), add some honey or agave nectar.
  • 1 raw beet, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into chunks
  • 2 avocadoes, flesh only
  • 2 bananas, peeled
  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce, washed and torn into pieces (or 1 romaine heart)
  • 1 lime (cut away skin and use flesh, not just juice)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cored, unpeeled
  • 1 cup curly or flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stems
  • 2 cups water or ice cubes
Put all ingredients into a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately, freezing extra portions in single-serving containers.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: approximately 4 servings, depending how big your glass is

Monday, January 9, 2012

Superfoods Month: Napa cabbage slaw by Adventures with Nancy Rose

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This guest post comes from Nancy Eisman. We call Nancy "the produce fairy" because at every meeting of Food Bloggers Los Angeles she shows up with exotic fruits and vegetables from her employer Melissa's Produce. A 25-year vegetarian, Nancy started her blog Adventures with Nancy Rose to spread the message about plant-based diets.

Today's Superfood: Napa cabbage
Antioxidants, fiber, folates, vitamin C, vitamin K

According to the Eat Right America ANDI score of the Top 30 Super Foods, Napa cabbage (also known as Chinese cabbage) ranks a very respectable #7, with a nutrient score of 704 out of a possible 1000.  Even if it weren’t such a nutritional superstar, Napa cabbage would be very high in my own ranking of green and leafy veggies. 

Napa cabbage is delicious cold or hot. It's got all the fiber of conventional cabbage without the funky aroma and with a much more pleasant, slightly sweet flavor.  Oblong, with a white core and crinkly, pale green leaves, one cup of shredded Napa cabbage has only 15 calories plus a bit of protein, keeping you full and satisfied without sacrificing much of your daily calorie budget.

I especially like Napa cabbage because it’s so easy to add to a quick, healthy dish for lunch or dinner.

It's tender when cooked but crunchy when raw in a salad or slaw (hey, that rhymes). This spicy Napa cabbage slaw is in my regular rotation and always gets high marks. It can easily be adapted to your personal tastes and what may be in your fridge or pantry.

Click here for a list of all Superfoods Month recipes in this series

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Napa cabbage slaw
Napa cabbage has all the fiber and nutritional benefits of green cabbage without the funky aroma. This recipe is easily adapted to whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand.
  • 3 cups Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Szechuan peppers or jalapenos, minced
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup beer nuts or roasted peanuts
In a large bowl, gently toss together the shredded cabbage, carrots, red bell pepper, green onions and hot peppers. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the oil, vinegar, ginger and garlic. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then sprinkle the nuts on top. Mix gently and serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6 servings

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Superfoods Month: Simple kale salad

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Today's Superfood: Kale
Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, potassium

It took me a while to get used to raw kale. I like greens just fine, but I've always preferred them cooked. I thought raw kale would be bitter and tough.

Then I tasted Sippity Sup's kale "Caesar" salad at a Food Bloggers Los Angeles potluck. Tuscan "dinosaur" kale finely shredded, bright and lemony, dressed with salty anchovies and showered with grated cheese - this kale salad won me over.

Now that I'm trying to eat more greens (thanks to sage advice from my health coach, Rachael Pontillo of Holistically Haute Wellness), I'm turning to kale salad at least a few times a week. I'm too lazy to open a tin of anchovies, so I keep it really simple: kale, lemon, olive oil, grated cheese, salt and pepper. I actually prefer this salad made a few hours ahead - the acid and salt wilt the kale and smooth the bitter edges slightly.

Click here for a list of all the Superfoods Month recipes in this series

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Simple kale salad for Superfoods Month
A bright lemony salad using raw kale. Use whichever variety you prefer - Tuscan kale will wilt a little more than curly kale.
  • 1 bunch Tuscan or curly kale
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, Romano or Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Wash the kale well by submerging it in cold water, swishing it around, then lifting it out of the water so the dirt remains in the bottom of the bowl. Dry in a salad spinner or a clean towel. Strip the leaves away from the center stem and cut the leaves crosswise into thin strips. You want to get the strips as thin as possible.Put the kale into a large bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Toss well. Serve immediately if you like your kale very stiff, or let the salad sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or in the refrigerator for at least an hour if you prefer it a bit wilted.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 servings