Celeriac, Kohlrabi, Carrot Slaw with Buttermilk Dressing

root slaw

Pull out your food processor, and this is a healthy, crunchy, refreshing fall slaw you can have ready in no time.  Don’t have a food processor, then a good box grater and some youthful help, make this a fun salad to make together.

It features two fall favorites, both of which may prove easier to grow than to find in your typical supermarket.  If your market doesn’t stock them, they are worth requesting. They are: kohlrabi (which comes in a pale green and this brilliant purple color),

purple kohlrabi

and the shy yet robust celeriac (or celery root). Here, looking down on its leaves, and

Celeriac leaveshere, underneath, where the delicious root ball is forming.

Top of celeriac knob

Kohlrabi, whose name means “cabbage turnip” in German can be enjoyed both cooked and raw, for an impressive amount of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium. Although the ball-like portion is easily mistaken for a root vegetable, it is actually a swollen, above-ground part of the stem. The entire plant is edible, so even though this recipe only calls for the bulb, you can use the leaves as you would kale, collards or cabbage.

Celeriac is often cooked and combined with potatoes in a mash, puree, soup or stew.  It goes well in just about anything in which you use root vegetables, and anywhere you want a celery flavor. It can also be eaten raw, when it is surprisingly crunchy and refreshing and offers an even higher dose of vitamin C. Though it has yet to win any popularity contests in the US, it as been featured on dining room tables in Europe as far back as Homer’s time.

The Fall Slaw:

  • 1/2 celeriac, peeled and grated
  • 1-2 kohlrabi, peeled and grated
  • 4 carrots, scrubbed and grated
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup nuts or seeds, such as walnuts, pecans, or pumpkin seeds (optional)

Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 9 tablespoons buttermilk (or substitute 4 tablespoons with mayonnaise)
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • finely chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley or chives)

Method:

  1. Using a food processor (making it very quick and easy) or a box grater, coarsely grate celeriac, kohlrabi, carrots and apple.
  2. Measure dressing ingredients into a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Close lid and shake to combine.
  3. Combine grated vegetables and dressing in a bowl, add dried cranberries and stir. Cover and allow to stand for flavors to combine.  Add nuts and/or seeds.
  4. Serve garnished with fresh herbs.  This keeps nicely for several days and is an easy lunch to pack and take along.  What it features is all fall, but its bright color and refreshing crunch may remind you of summer.

root slaw 2

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Brush, Floss and Pull?

Empty coconut oil jar

Oil pulling, that is.  Since my husband’s last dentist appointment, I’ve noticed my coveted jar of coconut oil is almost empty!  I’ve been using coconut oil for cooking and baking (and sometimes for snacking) for several years.  A pure, unrefined, raw product, coconut oil is a nourishing real food with an impressive array of health benefits from skin care to improved immunity to heart health.

If the fact that coconut is a saturated oil has you avoiding it, know that the world of saturated fats consists of various molecule lengths.  The vast majority of the oils we consume (and with which the saturated fat health concerns are connected) are long-chain fatty acids (LCFA).  Coconut oil, however, contains mostly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA).  MCFA do not contribute to cholesterol concerns and have been shown to protect against heart disease.

Coconut oil consists of 50% lauric acid, the highest concentration of any food. Lauric acid is an important type of fat, not found in many foods, with commonly needed anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal power.  In lesser amounts, it contains capric acid, also with antimicrobial properties, making coconut oil a valuable medicinal food.

Now, in addition to consuming it, my husband is swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in his mouth for 15-20 minutes a day.  The new Ayurvedic dental hygienist suggested this for the antibacterial and detoxification benefits.  He claims his teeth are whiter and cleaner already.

Optimal Oil Pulling:

  1. Pick the same time everyday to work up to 20 minutes of “pulling” or swishing.
  2. Do not swallow the oil, and spit it out in the trash when you are done.
  3. Brush and floss your teeth afterwards to remove the toxins the oil pulled out.
  4. Scrape or brush your tongue to completed rid your mouth of any remaining toxins.
  5. Enjoy a super clean and healthy day!

Toothbrushes

coconut oil brushingI won’t be surprised to find Coconut Colgate and Coconut Crest in the drugstore in the near future, but like most “new” health findings, there is usually a long history of use in traditional cultures.  Throughout the tropics, coconuts have been used successfully for many culinary and medicinal uses for thousands of years. Therefore, I’ve stocked up on organic, unrefined coconut oil and made room for a jar next to the toothbrushes as well as in the kitchen.

In addition to replacing your mouthwash with coconut oil, if you also like the idea of eating it, here is a very simple recipe to get more coconut in your life.

Coconut Toast: Spread coconut oil or coconut manna (a spread made from the whole coconut) as you would butter on a slice of toast and cover with unsweetened coconut flakes.  Add a sprinkling of cinnamon if this reminds you of cinnamon toast. There’s no need to sweeten, as coconut comes with a naturally sweet flavor.

Coconut Toast

Making Room for Sunchokes

Sunchokes

Often called Jerusalem artichokes, Sunchokes are unusually nutritious tubers which have nothing to do with either Jerusalem or artichokes.  They grow vigorously to over ten feet tall and burst into abundant sunflower-like blooms in the fall. That would be reason enough to grow them, but after the plant has gone, and the first frost has touched the ground, the tubers multiplying under the ground become sweet, delicious and extraordinarily nutritious. Resembling a ginger-potato merger in appearance and a water chestnut-jicama-potato (maybe with a hint of artichoke heart?) blend in flavor, they make a fresh addition to fall and winter cooking.

A North American native plant, these edible tubers were a common food for several Native American tribes. They are still eaten both raw and cooked, and are increasingly appreciated for their high inulin content, a sweet fiber used medicinally to balance blood sugar and support healthy gut bacteria. With a flavor similar to cooked potatoes, they make a good substitute for those wanting to reduce their starch consumption, increase their fiber intake and eat a low glycemic diet. They are also an excellent source of iron and a good one of thiamine, niacin, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

I planted several last fall and did close to nothing to care for them besides eagerly await harvest time.  Last weekend, I dug up one plant. Did I happen to pick the plant sitting on the mother load or are all of these blooming beauties harboring bucket loads of sunchokes?!  I dug up another to find…. more bounty!  I had to stop since I didn’t have the storage space worked out for quantities at this scale.  Fortunately, until the ground freezes, they store well right where they are.

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A few Sunchoke recipe ideas:

Sunchoke Slices on a Salad:  scrub and thinly slice several sunchokes and add them to your favorite green salad.  They offer a nice crunch with an earthy flavor making a fresh salad a more grounding food in fall and winter.  Dress with a light vinaigrette.

Sunchoke & Cheddar Soup (from The Victory Garden Cookbook):

  • 1 pound sunchokes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 celeriac bulb or 2 stalks celery
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • salt & cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Wash, peel (optional) and roughly chop sunchokes and keep in water to which lemon juice has been added until ready to use. Chop celery and onion and cook in 2 tablespoons butter until slightly wilted, approximately 10 minutes. Add sunchokes and 1 1/2 cups of broth, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through. Purée in a blender or food processor.

In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter, add flour, and cook for 2 minutes without browning. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of broth and cook 5 minutes. Add cheese and mustard, and stir until blended. Stir in sunchoke mixture and cream, and cook until soup is heated through. Season with salt, cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

Sunchoke Mash: Cook or roast cubes of root vegetables and tubers, such as potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, celeriac, etc with a couple of cloves of garlic. Add cubed sunchokes and cook until tender. Mash with a bit of butter or olive oil and some milk or cream, depending on desired consistency.

Vegetable Sauté with Sunchokes: Prepare and sauté any vegetables (such as red onion, garlic and celery stalks) in a skillet, and add scrubbed and sliced sunchokes toward the end of the cooking time.  Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley.

Sunchokes Sauteed

 

Looking for more recipes? Thankfully, there is a blog devoted entirely to the sunchoke and its recipes.

When You Think You Can’t Escape the Scapes

It’s time to google “scape recipes”.  Other than making a fascinating looking bouquet, wearing them as bracelets (as my daughters have been known to do) and chopping one up instead of a garlic clove, I was still at a loss for how to use the artistic display of curlicuing shoots fall-planted garlic sends up this time of year.

To encourage the plant to focus its energy in the formation of the garlic bulbs forming under ground (as opposed to the seed pods contained in the scapes) I have been following gardening advice to cut off the scapes.  With a basket full, I found this simple recipe online, and adjusted it like this:

Simple Vegan Garlic Scape Pesto

  • Jar full of freshly cut garlic scapes (if you don’t grow garlic, you can find these at farmers markets in late spring and early summer)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds (good source of magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin E and a great source of omega 3 essential fatty acids)
  • 1 bunch of basil, leaves washed, removed and stems discarded
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chili pepper flakes (optional)

Method:

  1. With seed pods trimmed off, wash the scapes. Cut into match-length pieces.
  2. Place scape pieces, basil leaves, walnuts and hemp seeds in food processor bowl, and run processor until a paste is formed.  Drizzle olive oil into bowl until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper.  Maybe a few chili pepper flakes for a touch of heat?
  4. Use as you would traditional basil pesto and pack up any additional in small air tight containers for the freezer.

Looking forward to tomorrow already: scrambled eggs with scape pesto for breakfast; scape pesto, fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwich for lunch, and pesto pasta, salad with pesto dressing or salmon with pesto for dinner…. a perfect destination for all those scapes!

The Healing Powers of Chocolate

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, when around 48 million pounds of chocolate will again be purchased in the week, days and minutes leading up to Valentine’s Day (apparently 75% of which by men, whereas 75% percent of chocolate purchases the other 51 weeks of the year are made by women) draining over $1 billion dollars from our pockets (this seemed like an enormous amount, until I read that both Easter and Halloween purchases dwarf it), I found myself the lucky winner of a Foodie Blogroll contest and the recipient of The Healing Powers of Chocolate book by Cal Orey.

Not only does Cal clear up any lingering doubts that chocolate is indeed a healthy food: “Medical researchers around the world continue to find new health-promoting nutrients – there are believed to be at least 300 to 400 – in chocolate,” she provides information on the history, many varieties and grades, the medicinal uses and offers numerous great looking recipes.  From the familiar chocolate biscotti, chocolate fondue, and brownies, to several I am looking forward to trying, such as a chocolate hazelnut torta with chocolate-chestnut frosting, ciabatta bread with dark chocolate and olive oil and two mole (a spicy savory sauce often served over chicken) recipes, to exciting new chocolate interpretations I can hardly wait to taste: cocao pasta, spaghetti with ricotta and chocolate and Hawaiian cocoa bean curry shrimp!  My apologies if I have caused you to drool on your computer.

I was interested in the nutritious uses of chocolate before I started devouring this book, and can offer the following links to several recipes if you too are interested in trying something other than chocolate cake (for which the internet already offers many excellent recipes).

When I was a kid, being raised by a health food mom, carob was considered the more nutritious chocolate look-alike.  Few of us were fooled, and I couldn’t be more thankful that researchers have now deemed real chocolate a health food, so that I (and you) may indulge in its many “healing powers.”  Many thanks Cal for a great gift!

Our Favorite “Stinking Rose”

Yes, GARLIC!  It can do a number on your breath, but compared to what it does for your health, that’s a small price to pay.

As winter approaches and we brace ourselves for cold and flu season, today is not a day too early to add this easy, and flavorful food to your meals.  Particularly when eaten raw, garlic has antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral properties.  A new study shows it to be 100 times more effective than two common antibiotic drugs!  According to Dr. Andrew Weil, garlic works well for the common cold, sore throat, ear infections, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fungal, yeast and bacterial infections.  Garlic also gets credit for cancer prevention and treatment and for the removal of heavy metals.

When you feel something coming on, make yourself some nice garlic toast: a couple of slices of whole wheat bread, butter or olive oil and then crush a good-sized clove of raw garlic on to it with a bit of salt to taste.

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A simple all-purpose wellness measure is to add garlic at the end of the cooking time of recipes that call for it.  I used to start by sautéing onions and garlic, until I realized that the heat and cooking time greatly reduces the health benefits of garlic.  Now, I toss it in at the very end, keeping the garlic as raw as possible.

Salad dressings, sauces, spreads (such as pesto) and dips (such a hummus) present easy opportunities to consume additional raw garlic.  Using a garlic press or a sharp knife (chopping very fine), you can add garlic to just about any sauce or dressing.

If the fear of bad breath is keeping you from eating as much garlic as you would like, you can give this method a try.  Put a whole clove of garlic in a spoonful of applesauce and swallow whole.  As long as you don’t cut or chew raw garlic, you won’t have the smelly situation afterwards.

Garlic keeps well so you can stock up the next time you are at the market, but what is really fun and easy is to grow it yourself! Fall is the time to plant it, so don’t wait!  If you don’t already have a garden, you can start with a small patch of garlic this year.  This weekend, turn over a small piece of earth, and plant several cloves of garlic. They will settle in underground until spring, when they will greet warmer and longer days with fresh new shoots.  By early summer you will have interesting looking plants with a curlicue on the top. This is the garlic scape and should be cut off and used as you would garlic. Consider it your first harvest.  Later in the summer, the single cloves you planted in the fall, will have transformed into full bulbs of garlic.  Your second harvest.  A phenomenal rate of return!

Garlic scape bouquet

Click here for Step-by-step directions for growing your own garlic.  If your ground is already frozen or you do not have garden space, you can grow garlic in containers.

As you watch fall take a few more degrees from the air and few more minutes of light from the day, enjoy one last round of spring-like planting.  You’ll be giving yourself the tasty and very healthy gift of fresh garlic next summer.  Enjoy!

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Elder-Blue SuperJam

Four Simple, Nutrient-Dense Ingredients:

Elderberries, beautiful little bunches of dark, luscious berries, they have long been used medicinally, particularly in Europe for ailments including arthritis, colds, constipation and asthma.  So revered for their healthful benefits, elderberries were often referred to as the “medicine chest.”

Modern studies have shown that these berries do indeed contain significant antioxidants, blood-cleansing, immune-boosting and virus-fighting qualities, and components which may also assist in stress reduction. In 1995, elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama.

Elderberries contain amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamins A, B and an impressive amount of vitamin C. It is the flavonoids in particular, which are believed to account for the therapeutic qualities of elderberries.

Blueberries are packed with vitamin C (good for the formation of collagen, for healthy gums and capillaries, for iron absorption and a healthy immune system). They also contain vitamins A, E and a small amount of the B complex.

Blueberries are also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, and have gained star status when it comes to antioxidants.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rates antioxidant activity per serving with ORAC values (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). Blueberries (particularly wild ones) sit near the top of the list, and so have become known as a “superfood.”  Antioxidants are credited with neutralizing free radicals – unstable molecules linked to premature aging and degenerative illness. Additionally, blueberries have been recognized for effective blood sugar regulation, making them a good choice for weight management, diabetes treatment and prevention.

Chia seeds are the edible seeds from a desert plant, appreciated for their medicinal and energy-giving properties since pre-Columbian times. They were a main component of the Aztec and Mayan diets and used for endurance, to relieve sore joints and protect the skin.

Chia seeds are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids (even more than flax seeds). They are also a good source of fiber, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, niacin, zinc and antioxidants and do not need to be ground (as flax seeds should be). They are so deeply appreciated for their nutritional value, they, too, are referred to as a “superfood“.

Maple syrup is enjoyed for its flavor, mineral content and its local availability here in Vermont. Nutritionally, it received additional recognition in a recent Canadian study. Maple syrup and local raw honey are my favorite sweeteners.

Several years ago I planted two small elderberry bushes.  They’re apparently happy, leaving me looking for good destinations for all these berries.  I wanted to make them easy to consume regularly in a quick recipe with a simple ingredient list.

Inspired by a jam recipe I saw in Peggy Kotsopoulos’s Must Have Been Something I Ate, I combined these four ingredients to make Elder-Blue SuperJam.

Peggy’s “Guilt-Free Blueberry Jam” recipe calls for:

She recommends serving this on sprouted grain toast or as a topping on her Lemon Berry Tart (recipes available in her book).

Elder-Blue Superjam

  • 2 cups raw blueberries (preferably wild, otherwise organically cultivated)
  • 1/2 cup raw elderberries (freshly picked or frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ground chia seeds
  1. Grind chia seeds in a designated nuts & seeds coffee grinder.
  2.  In a food processor, combine blueberries (minus a small handful), elderberries, maple syrup and the ground chia seeds until it is a gorgeous deep bluish purple mixture. Stir in the whole blueberries by hand.
  3. Spoon into jelly jars and store in the refrigerator.
Because this jam is made in a food processor (and not cooked), the raw berries’ nutrients are preserved (the heat from cooking berries to make conventional jam and jelly destroys important enzymes, and reduces the vitamin content). The chia seeds add a host of nutrients, and fill the role of pectin, since it helps the mixture thicken while it sits in the refrigerator.  It’s very easy to make and astonishingly healthy to eat.

Blueberries: Sal’s Way.

Blueberries. I am basking in this little beauty’s all-around goodness: taste, appearance, picking comfort, versatility, preservability, and remarkably high nutritional value. Blueberries have been characterized as a “superfood”, which is a food that provides well above-average health benefits. They are an excellent source of phytonutrients (including the antioxidant pigment giving them their distinctive color) which fight both free radical damage and inflammation. They also offer plentiful vitamins (vitamin C in particular), minerals and fiber, which supports healthy digestion, regular elimination and balanced blood sugar levels.

Ideally, berries would ripen all year round, but because they are a short season specialty, enjoying them now and making time to put some by have become long-standing summertime traditions. Remember the children’s book Blueberries for Sal? Mother is picking blueberries to can for next winter, and little Sal is eating them along the way.  For the biggest nutritional punch, you should eat them Sal’s way: fresh, raw and wild (or organically-grown). If you have access to plentiful berries now, you can capture a bit of summer and have those flavors, colors and nutrients available throughout the year.

Preserving Blueberries: I recommend freezing, although you can can them too.  Most canning recipes include sweetening them with either sugar or corn syrup, two ingredients I’d rather avoid. The heat from the cooking step in canning, jam and syrup recipes destroys some of the nutrients in the berries.  And, it involves the time-honored process of canning, which I (unlike Sal’s Mother) was born too late to know how to do instinctively. I have every intention of mastering the art and passing it on to my children, but for now, and for blueberries, I stick to freezing.

Freezing Blueberries

  1. Do not wash the berries, just give them a quick rinse to release any dirt, and let them dry.
  2. Lay them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and place in the freezer until berries are fully frozen.
  3. Once they resemble little purple marbles, you can roll them into plastic bags or air-tight containers and store in the freezer.
  4. When you are ready to use them for muffins, pancakes, compotes, pies, yogurt, smoothies, etc… you do not have to defrost them first.  They work best incorporated into recipes while still frozen.  Enjoy!!

Raw Elder-Blue SuperJam

To preserve the berries’ nutrients, this jam recipe keeps all ingredients raw and uses chia seeds instead of pectin.  All you need is a food processor and a refrigerator. Homemade super healthy jam. Done.

If blueberries make you think of pancakes and muffins, here’s a hardier-than-most recipe which is fitting now with fresh berries, or any time of the year with frozen ones.

Blueberry-Corn Muffins

A perfect blueberry muffin (not the cake-like puffs masquerading as something healthier I see in far too many cafes).  Great for breakfast, snacks, with lunch or as an accompaniment to a hearty soup or fresh salad for dinner.   For a sturdier version, try them with cheddar cheese.  Absolutely wonderful served with homemade butter (which is easy to make while the muffins are baking).

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour (all or a good portion as whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or raw honey
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup hempseeds or ground flaxseeds* (for added fiber and omega-3 fatty acids)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Method:

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat egg, and mix in yogurt and other wet ingredients.
  3. Mix contents of two bowls together, add hemp or flaxseeds, half the cheese (if using) and the blueberries.  Be careful to just fold in the berries so as not to damage them.
  4. Fill a muffin tin or paper muffin cups 3/4 of the way, divide the remaining cheese over the tops (if using) and bake in a 350˚ oven for 20-25 minutes.

* For more information on why and how to grind flaxseeds, click here.

 

Must Have Been Something I Ate (book review, recipes and how to win a copy)

You mysteriously don’t feel well. Since you don’t know what’s causing it, it “must have been something you ate”.  We’ve grown accustomed to blaming food for these short-term undesired states.

But, what if you focused on nutrient-dense real foods and you started to feel really good, then you could confidently declare, “well, it must have been something I ate!” In her new book, holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos takes this proactive approach. Must Have Been Something I Ate: The Simple Connection Between What You Eat and How You Look and Feel is a zippy, fact-filled yet easy-to-read explanation of the cause and effect relationship between eating well and feeling good, physically, mentally and emotionally. With chapters covering best foods for a good mood, radiant looks, comfortable digestion, strong immunity, nonexistent PMS, a healthy weight and much more, she covers a wide range of topics directly impacted by our food choices.

I enjoyed the nutrition information most, followed closely by the recipe section, where I discovered some great new ideas.  A possible drawback is that many of the foods, both those covered in the discussion section, as well as used in the recipes are not standard grocery store items (including plant-based supplements from the Vega Company) and might be difficult to find. I’m all for trying new things, and appreciate the resource lists in the back of the book for those more esoteric items, at the same time, I like to make it as easy as possible to eat well.  The recipes I picked to try contain more common ingredients (and I provided links to Amazon grocery, if you need them).

On this beautiful summer day, I served a late afternoon tea trying three recipes from Peggy’s book. It’s a bit of a stretch to say I cooked them, since nothing required actual cooking (involving heat, that is) to prepare. This is exactly what I was looking for on a steamy day: blender and food processor assembly, and raw foods nutrition.

On the menu: Iced Chai Tea Lattes with Chocolate Mousse and Key Lime Pie.  These recipes are all vegan (meat, dairy, and egg-free), grain-free (and therefore gluten-free), minimally sweetened and predominantly raw.  We won’t tell our guests just yet that they are really having a serving of pumpkin, another of avocado and bountiful amounts of healthy fats and protein from nuts and seeds, in addition to plentiful vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants from the other whole food ingredients.

Chai Tea Lattes

Steep tea in boiling water for about five minutes and remove bag.  Add tea to blender with almond butter, cinnamon and vanilla.  Blend into a creamy latte. Garnish latte with a pinch of cardamom and /or nutmeg. Serves one.

Note: I steeped a pot of tea for four, allowed it to cool, made the lattes and then served them over ice with some freshly ground nutmeg and a mint sprig. Deliciously refreshing.

Chocolate Mousse

All all ingredients to a bowl and mix well with a fork.  Serves four.

I “Heart” Key Lime Pie

Chocolate Macaroon Crust

Add all ingredients into food processor and mix until all ingredients are finely processed and start to stick together.  Press mixture firmly into tart molds to form crust.  Place in fridge while making the filling.

Key Lime Filling

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until creamy and smooth.  Pour into chocolate macaroon pie crust and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Note: I was unclear about the size of pie this recipe was for.  It calls for “tart molds”, which I don’t have and I wanted to make a family-sized pie.  The crust recipe worked well in a standard pie plate, but I had a hard time believing a single avocado would provide enough filling, so I doubled the filling recipe.

I didn’t have coconut nectar.  To sweeten, and not affect the color of the filling (as I thought maple syrup might), I used a combination of raw honey and stevia (a natural sweetener, many times sweeter than sugar, but with zero calories and a negligible effect on blood sugar, making it an excellent choice for weight loss, diabetes prevention and control, and low carbohydrate diets).

A COPY OF MUST HAVE BEEN SOMETHING I ATE OF YOUR OWN:   Thanks to the book’s publishers, I have an extra copy of this new book to pass on to a lucky reader!  I’ll throw in a package of Vega’s Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer supplement so that you can try those recipes. Simply leave a comment about this post or a “must have been something I ate” experience you’ve had, and on July 21 I will select a winner.  Good luck!

Strawberry Season: Opening Day

Welcome June, hello strawberries!  While I’m in a tough competition with the local chipmunk community for the strawberries in my garden (last year they won, hands/paws down), I got to spend the morning at a professional strawberry operation for what felt like a proper kick-off to strawberry season. The Charlotte Berry Farm held a Crop Squad this morning to rid the strawberry fields of prickly lettuce. They asked, we came, we weeded and we feasted. Look at these gorgeous berries:

Full of nutrition, these beauties are also full of exceptional flavor.  The one thing they lack, is a long harvesting season.  These ephemeral gems come and go so quickly, you have to thoroughly enjoy them while they’re here.  Because, if you’re like me, once you’ve had fresh, local strawberries, it’s not much fun eating those tasteless 3,000-mile ones from the supermarket anymore.

Strawberries contain impressive amounts of fiber, folate, manganese, iodine and potassium and sky-high levels of vitamin C. In order to collect on all the nutrition strawberries have to offer, it is recommended that you enjoy them fresh (they begin to lose some of their vitamin C and antioxidants when stored for more than two days), raw (as is true with most fruits and vegetables, the heat from cooking destroys many important enzymes and nutrients) and organic (conventionally-grown, they rank #3 on the “dirty dozen” list). Researchers have also credited strawberries with supporting a healthy blood glucose response, boosting cardiovascular health and fighting inflammation. To gain the medicinal value from strawberries, it is important to eat them regularly: at least a cup 3-4 times a week. That means stocking up now while they’re fresh and plentiful.

Eating Strawberries Fresh: For opening night, we had some just as they are:

in strawberry ricotta cones (for the recipe, click here):

as strawberry creamsicles:

on toast and in a strawberry salad:

Preserving Strawberries.  I like freezing them, because they maintain most of their nutrients, do not need to be cooked, do not require adding sugar, and it’s very easy.  Start with firm and fully ripe berries, remove the stems, gently wash, let dry, then freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet for about twenty-four hours.

Once completely frozen, move them to sturdy plastic bags or containers and keep them in the freezer ready to use anytime between now and next year’s strawberry season.  Lastly, compost the sink full of stems.