Posted by karen
karen's picture

Last week I spent Valentine's Day with my sister who lives in Alberta. For the record, we both have husbands who are our "true loves" but infortunately neither of them were there. In reality, her husband was as close as the other side of town, in the hospital (poor guy - the good news, he's since been discharged) - and my husband was at our home on the other side of the country. 

 
Us two girls needed a pick-me-up.
 
True to our personalities, my sister went out and bought us a rose (you can see a bit of it in the photo above) - I got busy in her kitchen. 
 

I was bent on making us a treat which didn't mean tossing aside good nutrition.

 
I found in the basement a dust-covered box containing a Donvier ice cream maker.
 
In the freezer were some frozen strawberries from last summer's pickings.
 
In the cupboard was a Magic Bullet blender, coconut milk, honey and vanilla extract (from Jamaica, no less!).
 
In my memory was a simple recipe I've often made from Whole Food Nutrition.
 
 

The recipe: strawberry-coconut ice "cream" without dairy and refined sugar.

 
I made a small batch as her Bullet wasn't a full-size blender (and really how much treat did the two of us need?!) but doubling the amount would have fit fine into the ice cream maker.
 
-- 1 can full fat coconut milk (check the label to ensure there's no added sugar)
 
-- 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries (other fruits like blueberries are equally as yummy)
 
-- 2-3 Tbsp. honey (could substitute with agave nectar or maple syrup)
 
-- 1-2 tsp. vanilla (I coaxed about 1 1/2 tsp out of the Jamaican bottle)
 
Place ingredients into blender and blend until smooth and creamy. To take good care of my sister's Bullet I stopped and started a couple times, but mixing doesn't take very long - especially if you have a stronger machine like a Vitamix. 
 
 
You can pour this immediately into the Donvier's frozen cannister but I let the blender and contents sit in the fridge and chill for about half an hour before doing so.
 
This type of ice cream maker requires turning the paddle about every minute or so - it was ready in 20-25 minutes.
 
 
Scoop it out of the cannister and into another container: let it sit in the freezer for about an hour before serving. It's okay to chill longer of course, but can get rock solid and has to sit out for quite a while before you can scoop it.
 
 
Honestly, this is the stage I could sit down and spoon up! Creamy, smooth, punched full of strawberry and coconut flavours.
 
Not as good as sharing the day with my life-long Valentine (another story - how I still have the Valentine card my hubbie gave me in elementary school!) but this hit the spot for an occasion when "....all you need is love..." wasn't quite enough :)
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Cleanse, re-junevate, re-energize - these can be the rewards when you want to:

-- allow your body to get back on track after periods of high stress or indulgent eating (been away for a vacation, on a cruise?!)

-- jump start a weight loss effort

-- prepare for a seasonal transition

-- are ready to get back on balance with a healthy life style

This workshop focuses on a food-based cleanse: an informal evening of information in the form of handouts, recipes and tasting.

There's still room - but space is limited so don't delay if you're interested. 

If you live too far away to attend, workshop material is available online.

 

Posted by karen
karen's picture

It's winter - and soup is on the menu.

Reasons why home made soup can be a winner in any season:

 

-- you know what is in it - and what isn't in it (like salt, additives, preservatives, sugar, etc.)
 
-- great way to add more veggies to your diet
 
-- perfect dish for adding chopped greens (kale, spinach, chard) -  which boost your day's intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; fight off the flu and colds; and boost your energy 
 
-- economical – what you find in the fridge can become your “soup of the day” 
 
-- convenient – make a large enough batch to have extra to freeze for later
 
-- the protein you add (eg. beans and lentils) plus the fibre from the veggies is satisfying, can boost weight loss
 
-- increases water intake  - not drinking enough water is a deficiency that lowers metabolism, increases cravings, sends you messages that you're hungry but are most likely just thirsty
 
 
Here's the recipe for my latest favourite - I think you're going to love it too!
 

Carrot Leek  Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
 
2 large leeks – chopped (can substitute with 1 large onion)
 
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
 
12 medium sized carrots cut into small pieces
 
7 cups water
 
lemon peel from 1 lemon – organic is best
 
2 - 3 Tbsp. light miso
 
pinch of cayenne (to taste)
 
1 – 2 tsp. dried dill or 2- 3 Tbsp fresh dill or any of your favourite herbs
 
Saute leeks (or onion) in olive oil until tender. Add water and bring to boil. Add minced garlic, carrots and lemon. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 - 20 minutes. Remove lemon and discard. Add miso, cayenne and puree, using hand blender, blender or food processor. Add herbs and serve.
 
This is such a comforting, nutritious soup: beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, and a long list of minerals.

This past week I made two (huge) pots of soup for my Dad's 90th birthday party - still enjoying the leftovers. 

I omitted the sherry and didn't use spaghetti squash in this roasted squash soup, and left out the potatoes and peas in this one hearty and wholesome vegetable soup . Both delicious.

Do yourself a favour - get out the stock pot, fill the house with the goodness and fragrance of "Soup's on!"

BiBimBap

03 Feb 2012
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Bee-bim-bap(rice).

Please join my fast-track-taste-tour through the Orient.
 
Growing up in a family of seven, eating out in a restaurant was a rare occasion - like maybe four or five times a year we had a Chinese food treat at The Seven Seas. Egg rolls, chicken balls, vegetables covered in a gelatinous sauce, chow mein noodles, dry ribs, stir-fried rice. We ordered the dishes for our "special of the day"!
 
Fast forward. My husband and I made more frequent restaurant visits and we adventured into other Orient options: Beef Noodle Satay Soup from Vietnamese Oriental Noodle House became a favourite. Later, our daughter and son-in-law introduced us to sushi and the fresh cuisine of Japan.
 
Then in 2005 for three months we were privileged to host a Korean house-guest/boarder  - who loved to cook. Shopping with Joon, stocking up for his culinary specialties, was like taking kids to the toy store. Then watching him work his magic for food presentation, and later eating his fare...it was the best of times.
 
Joon taught me how to make BiBimBap. I love this dish because it has a variety of veggies, it's not heavy - and once in a while I love a fried egg. It's a meal in a bowl that's nothing like the one-pot dishes we're used to.
 

Here's how you make it.

 
Cook a pot of rice as you normally would - in a rice cooker or on the stove. (When I was outnumbered by Joon and my husband it was white rice - now I make brown.)
 
While rice is cooking, prepare your choice of the following toppings (about 4 -6, not including the eggs). Some of the prep can be done ahead of time or round up the troops to help - guests come in handy to join in the work, and the fun.
 
-- carrots - sliced into tiny julienned strips, or grated slivers, 2 - 3 inches long
 
-- red or green cabbage - finely sliced
 
-- package of fresh bean sprouts
 
-- green onions - cut on the diagonal
 
-- tofu - cubed or sliced, lightly sauteed in mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil
 
-- fresh, or re-hydrated wild mushrooms - thinly sliced, lightly sauteed or not
 
-- English cucumber - sliced into 1/4" thick slices and lightly sauteed in a little olive oil
 
-- zucchini - cut in half from top to bottom, sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil
 
-- spinach - left in fresh leaves, or lightly wilted with sea salt
 
-- thinly sliced minced beef - lightly fry in hot pan with bit of sea salt until cooked
 
 
-- eggs - cook sunnyside up (or to your preference) at the very last, just before eating.
 
 
-- kimchi - purchased from reputable source or make your own - here's how. 
 
-- soy sauce, sesame oil, hot chili sauce - or gochujang - Korean traditional hot chili paste
 

To Serve:

Scoop up a mugful of hot rice and tip it out in the middle of a wide-mouthed cereal bowl or small serving bowl. Around the perimeter of the rice, using chopsticks or a spoon, serve up  amounts of the toppings, reserving the "peak" of the rice for your egg(s). (Sorry, my photo doesn't show any rice, but it's there under all the toppings.)
 
Sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil and your choice of hot sauce.
 
Using chopsticks (or fork), stir everything together and eat up - adding extra bits of toppings and rice as desired.
 
Look for BiBimBap on the menu of your favourite Oriental restaurant. It will have its own variations -  more ideas for your own healthy BiBimBap experience.
 
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Live Long, Die Short: this pithy phrase is not original - the marketplace and world-wide web have a showcase of books and videos expressing someone's take on this message.

Here is mine.
 
The first I heard this expression was from a good friend. He had been a guest, staying with people connected with his work. The hostess was complaining about not feeling well, tired of having too much weight and too little energy, etc. etc. From his observations, all of the above were true - my friend who lives what he preaches (no doubt he had his greens and home-ground mix of oats and seeds along for his breakfast :) asked her, "do you want to live short and die long or live long and die short?"
 
She chose to move towards the latter: made healthy changes to her diet, lost weight, and a year later was training for her first marathon. At last report, this continues to be a good news story.
 
The media is telling us it won't be far in the future before there will be more Canadians 65 years and older than those 40 years and under. The condensed version of that story translates to the capability of the population's earning power, which is a hand-off to the financial support for the country's essential services. 
 
Health care being one of the primary pots: and I add, a pot that appears to have holes. Health problems require medical/hospital care - which can include Rx precriptions.
 
Another recent word on the street? Insurance coverage for some prescription drugs is going to decrease. Add that to those insurance plans where you have to pay upfront and wait. Or, like possibly the majority (this is my "statistic"), you don't have insurance beyond the basic health care as above mentioned.
 
We have a problem. I will not say, "prepare yourself, it's only going to get worse" as my viewfinder defaults to the positive angle.
 
But it looks like "the force is against us" - what can we do? 
 
I am not suggesting we can add to "the number of our days" - I believe God alone is privy to that information - however, I do think our nutrition and lifestyle choices contribute to the quality of those days.
 

Here's a "mini-mum" version to "the long and the short" in the right places.

 

Nutrition:

-- eat real, whole food: not the processed stuff - weigh in big-time on vegetables and fruits
-- reduce white: sugar, flour, rice - eliminate hydrogenated oils
 
 

Exercise:

-- elevate our heart rate so we sweat, at least 3-4x/week
-- do some physical activity everyday
 

Lifestyle:

-- do meaningful work (this doesn't always have to be about money)
-- build and nurture relationships with other people
 

Mental health:

-- practice an attitude of thankfulness
-- include soul-care in daily schedule
 
 
Six years ago, January 11th, my Mother died - following six months of being unwell due to an "unknown cause" and a brief period of hospitalization. She was two months away from her 80th birthday. At the time I believed, "Mom would have hated to lay in bed, sickly for endless weeks and months" but yet I struggled with accepting that she had gone so fast.
 
Now I finally get it. Mom is my personal, wonderful, story of "Live Long, Die Short". 
 
 
Preach it: do it. The life you live depends on it.
  
 
 
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Microscopic bacteria and fungi - dish me up another serving, please.

 

Before you stop reading - never to return - I ask you to hang in with me here.
 

The microorganisms I'm referrring to protect us:

-- by competing with - and conquering - potentially dangerous organisms
-- they teach the immune system how to function when it's exposed to the diversity of unsavoury microorganisms, e.g. those found in soil and untreated water 
 
And - those living cultures have transforming power to create flavorful, nutritious fermented foods. 
 
 

Following are some of the myriad health benefits of fermentation:

-- preserves food - history has is that sauerkraut lasted for 27 months on Captain James Cook's second exploration, preventing his crew members from developing the dreaded vitamin-C deficiency disease we know as scurvy
 
-- breaks nutrients down into more easily digestible forms
 
-- increases the nutritional value of certain foods, e.g. sauerkraut has significantly higher vitamin C levels than unfermented cabbage
 
-- provide lactic acid, food for the good bacteria 
 
-- creates new nutrients - e.g. B vitamins like folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and biotin
 
-- can function as antioxidants, those scavengers snatching up free radicals (unstable molecules that can wreak cellulor damage, promoting disease)
 
-- removes toxins from foods, e.g. fermenting grains by soaking them before cooking neutralizes phytic acid, a compound that can block absorption of minerals
 
-- ancient Chinese medicine states that the unique flavour of cultured foods has a balancing effect that helps cancel out cravings for sugar - and neutralizes/helps assimilate sugar if/when it is eaten with a fermented food
 
 

Be watchful of commercially fermented foods:

-- yogurt: pasteurization after the culturing process kills the bacteria so you want to purchase yogurt that states on the label "contains live cultures". Or another way to be certain is to make your own. I have step-by-step-instructions for you.
 
***Another bonus of making your own yogurt is your opportunity to make your own yogurt cheese, a healthier version of sour cream. It's a simple process of lining a small strainer or colander with a couple layers of cheesecloth and carefully scooping yogurt into it. Let it drain: the liquid left is whey, which can be substituted for water in baking or cooking. My sources tell me this whey can be used as a starter for kick-starting other foods to ferment - some day I'll try it but as yet have no experience to report.
 
-- store bought sauerkraut is often heat-processed and canned for longer shelf life.  This too I recommend that you make your own. Here's how.
 
 
Another favourite fermented food in our house is kimchi. I have tried several recipes: the following is my present go-to. I love this condiment as a a spicy topping on my rice,  spooned over salad, snuggled next to poached eggs, hidden in a veggie wrap......
 

Kimchi (Korean Sauerkraut)

 
1 large head napa cabbage – (this type of cabbage will give the traditional look and taste of kimchi)
1 large bunch of green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
5 or 6 cloves minced garlic (for my taste, more is better, but this is a personal choice)
2 – 3 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 – 1 tsp. dried chili flakes
2 Tbsp. sea salt – to taste
 
(other vegetable options to add: finely sliced daikon or other radishes, turnips)
 
Cut each napa cabbage leaf if half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch (bite-sized) pieces.
 
Chop the green onions using both white and green parts. 
 
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
 
Massage the veggies with your hands until juices are released.
 
Pack the kimchi into quart jars, making sure that there is some liquid above the vegetables, and leave a 1-inch of air space on top. Put lids on the jars, without turning them too tight.
 
Let the jars sit out on the counter at room temp for 3 – 10 days. I let mine sit out for about a week. When the veggies rise to the top in the jar be sure to push down with a spoon to keep them covered by the brine.
 
Put into the fridge for storage.
 
(Note: It's the benefit of the fermentation that makes this such a healthy condiment. Amounts of garlic, ginger and chili flakes is totally dependent on how spicy you like your food. This recipe is a variation of one from the Domestic Diva:  whose enthusiasm for all things fermented is contagious.)
 
 
Ideas for fermented foods is a list limited only by your imagination and taste. If you're interested at all in this kind of experimenting and eating, I recommend you read Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz: it's a valuable resource - one I give credit to: for much of the information, and certainly the inspiration, for the writing of this post.  
 
Olives are on my fementation to-do list. Or were. Yesterday I checked out the idea at the Mid East Food Center in Halifax. The only way that's going to happen is if I go to the Middle East/Northern Africa and buy the olives freshly harvested and smuggle them home in a hurry before their condition deteriorates. Thankfully Mid East has a variety of delicious olives besides many other Mediterranean foods. 
 
Any time is an ideal time for a second serving of an FFF: a fantastic fermented food.

 

Eye on Iodine

09 Jan 2012
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Have you ever been told you're high maintenance? Nutritionally, we all are - to sustain and maintain health, our body's daily requirements cuts a lengthy list - water, carboyhdrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals. But unlike the image of "more is better", only small amounts of some things are needed: more accurately, sometimes just a trace.

The mineral, iodine, is one such example. My alert to its significance came after reading a friend's blog with her iodine story, and more recently, a chat with my niece about her  markedly reduced pain from (benign) breast cysts - since using iodine supplementation. 

Check out the FAQs.
 

What does iodine do?

-- helps metabolize excess fat
-- necessary for physical and mental development (why it's so important for women of childbearing age and children)
-- produces thyroid hormones that regulate the body's metabolic energy

What's the scoop on how much, too much?

-- no significant danger of iodine toxicity from a natural diet
-- small risk of chronic iodine excess, but care should be taken with supplements - excessive amounts can reduce thyroid function, possible effects are a metallic taste or sores in the mouth, diarrhea, vomiting 
-- worst case deficiency - goiter disease: the thyroid gland doesn't have enough iodine to manufacture hormones and as the cells are trying to trap more iodine they swell, eventually causing the whole gland to enlarge
 

What contributes to iodine deficiency?

-- increased exposure to toxic substances that displace iodine, e.g. radiation, fluoride
-- iodine-deficicent soil
-- replacing iodized sea salt with white sea salt -a product processed to make it 'free flowing' and is not abundant in minerals
--inadequate dietary intake
-- thyroid function may slow down with aging
 

Possible symptoms of iodine deficiency.

-- fatigue
-- brain fog
-- extra weight that just won't "get lost"
-- hair loss
 

Natural food sources for iodine.

-- seafood (carefully check your sources for possible mercury toxicity)
-- sea vegetables - seaweed like nori, wakame, dulce. Kelp is the most common for high iodine and is also rich in other minerals and low in sodium. 
-- vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil (higher probability in areas closer to the sea as compared to inland) - garlic, onions, mushrooms, spinach, lettuce
-- iodized salt or unprocessed sea salt - be aware not to overdo these, although sea salt does have less of an effect on blood pressure than processed table salt
 
 
 
Kelp as a supplement.
-- is most often sold as a powder or in a liquid form to add to drinking water
-- it is rich in iodine, the B vitamins and also a source of other minerals and trace elements
-- reported to be beneficial to brain tissue, sensory nerves, blood vessels
-- used in treatment of thyroid problems and may protect against the effects of radiation
 
 
Seafood and sea vegetables are staples in Japanese cooking - a good way to eat healthy, usually lighter meals, and a food source for iodine. My daughter and her family, who got us hooked on sushi (which is easier to order in a restaurant than to make at home), came up with the simplified version below.
 

Roll-Your-Own (Maki) Sushi

Sushi works best with white rice. Not a food I normally recommend but for this recipe I'm compromising for the upside of getting more sea vegetables in your family's diet. You can make a pot of rice as you normally would, or if you want to - and have time for - making "proper" sushi rice, you can use the following method. To be honest, I've only gone as far as mixing in the vinegar mixture - hats off to you if you get to the cooling part!
 
2 cups sushi or short grain rice
2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1 Tbsp sea salt
 
Place rice into a bowl and cover with water. Rinse at least 3 times or until the water is clear. Put the rice and 2 cups water into a pan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to bowl, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 15 mins, remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
 
Combine the rice vinegar, agave and salt in small bowl and mix until dissolved. Transfer the rice to large bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold gently but thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Transfer to a large flat baking pan. Fan the rice with a piece of cardboard while turning gently with a fork until it has all cooled. It's easier with 2 people! This will make it shiny and slightly sticky - which is the trick you're trying to achieve.
 
So that's it for the rice.
 
The other ingredients:
nori sheets
tamari sauce and wasabi for dipping
 
And your choice of the following:
finely julienned slices of carrots and cucumber
sliced fresh mushrooms and/or your choice of rehydrated "wild" mushrooms
chopped green onions
avocado slices
small slices of tofu
finely sliced pepper
pickled ginger
black sesame seeds
smoked salmon or canned tuna (non-vegetarian option)
 
Now for the eating...
 
Cut the nori sheets along the perforated markings, than again in half, so you have pieces about 1 1/4" x 3 1/2". These pieces will be your individual sushi rolls. Fill your plate with a spoonful of rice and whatever other fillings you want. Use the nori pieces either as a scoop or base for the rice, then put your other selected fillings on top and roll as much as you're able - dip in a bit of tamari sauce and wasabi and enjoy! With everyone building and rolling, dipping and eating, it's not a tidy affair - but delicious. Take your time - share an eating experience and good conversation around your table.
 
If you're not quite ready to go with the sushi, start your Japanese cooking with this simple condiment. Gomasio fills your kitchen with a wonderful nutty, toasty aroma when you make it. I dare you to try resisting eating it directly out of the spice jar! Thanks to Kira from Food Works Nutrition for this recipe, and one for sushi rice.

Gomasio

1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt (or other unprocessed sea salt)
1 Tbsp. dulse flakes (readily available where I live on the Atlantic coast - yeah!) 
 
Roast the sesame seeds in a pan at a low heat until they are just starting to pop. Take them off and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the salt and grind in a clean coffee or spice grinder. Don't grind them so much that it turns into flour - which I found out happens very quickly, mine almost got to that point. You want it to have texture. Add the dulse flakes, put in a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate. (My husband took a deep whiff of this - he loved the smell and the answer to his question what we'd sprinkle it on? "Anything and everything.") 
 
(Note: the material on Real Food Matters is not meant for medical diagnosis or treatment. For health concerns, I recommend you see your physician or health practitioner.)

 

Posted by karen
karen's picture

We're in that window between holiday weekends.

Digesting a huge meal can be taxing on your body. Consuming back-to-back a few of these indulgent meals (that often include food choices and combinations that you don't usually eat), can make you feel right out of balance - bloated, craving certain foods, a sense of being "fuzzy" and out of control, short on energy.
 
Crammed social calendars and the excitement - and exhaustion - of hosting guests can add to a feeling of overwhelmed.
 
If this is you.... 
 

Here are a few tips - nutrition-wise and otherwise - to help you on the rebound.

 
Get out in the sunshine - let some of that glow shine on your face and in your eyes.
 
Give your body a chance to recuperate by fasting for a day.
 
If you can, squeeze in a day of consuming only juices or blended smoothies to help your body recover and get back on track.
 
Give yourself a day of just fresh fruits and vegetables
 
Exercise - just 20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Even better, no matter what the weather, get outside to play and exercise.
 
 
Read a good book, light a candle, soak in a hot bath, brew a cup of tea, play a board game or enjoy conversation with a friend: go off-line, turn off the television.  
 
Make a comforting curry dish. The healing, warming spices - ginger, cinnamon, cloves, chilies, cayenne and turmeric - are a yummy alternative to other feast flavours.
 
Get good quality sleep, give yourself permission to take a nap during the day.
 
Drink plenty of water - flush out the excesses and rehydrate after eating food saltier than normal. 
 
 
If your hospitality door is still revolving, your guests are probably as ready as you for more simple fare.
 
Serve the following nut roast with a large leafy salad, and a curry lentil soup. Everybody wins.
 
 

"Crank's" Nut Roast

1 medium sized onion
1 oz butter
8 oz. mixed nuts: peanuts, walnuts, cashews, etc.
4 oz. whole wheat bread (gluten-free bread can be substituted)
2 c. veg stock
2 tsp. yeast extract (Marmite)
1 tsp. mixed herbs
 
Chop onions and saute in butter until transparent. Grind nuts and bread together in a food processor or coffee grinder (bread crumbs stop the nuts from getting gummed together in a ball), until quite fine. Heat the stock and Marmite to boiling point, then combine all the ingredients together and mix well - the mixture should be fairly slack. Turn into a greased shallow baking dish, level the surface, sprinkle w/few breadcrumbs, and bake in the oven at 350F for 30 minutes or until golden.
 
(This makes quite a small loaf - amounts can be easily increased. Thanks to my good Scottish neighbour, Fiona, for sharing this old recipe from the UK.) 
 
 
Talk to you soon - Happy New Year! 
Posted by karen
karen's picture

This last post before Christmas is all about the sweet finish. If your house is like ours, desserts are a special treat - saved for occasions that are also special. 

It's been several years since I stopped buying - and drinking - egg nog. Nutnog is the alternative I've been waiting for. 

Cashew Nutnog for four (or more)

Cover 1 cup* cashew nuts with water and soak overnight.
 
In the morning, drain the cashews, rinse well and put in blender.
 
Add:
3 cups fresh water
1/3 cup maple syrup (or substitute with honey, agave syrup or 4-5 Medjool dates)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
couple dashes of sea salt
 
Blend for at least 1 minute, until thoroughly blended.
 
Chill (will thicken up when it gets cold). Shake well before serving. 
 
Serve in pretty goblets and sprinkle liberally with more grated nutmeg.
*If you like your nog thick and creamy, use another 1/2 - 1 cup nuts.
 
 
(Nutrition notes: among other things, cashews boast magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. And - they have a lower fat and higher carbohydrate level than most other nuts!)
 
This nutnog can also be made with raw almonds or Brazil nuts: but the "milk" will have to be strained in a fine mesh bag to remove the pulp before adding the other ingredients. (The pulp can be saved to use for baking or adding to hot cereal breakfasts.) The how-to can be viewed here.
 
A perfect partner with the nutnog is the following banana cake: gluten free, moist and delicious. This recipe came from my daughter-in-law; it's a standby treat in her GF house.
 

Banana Cake - gluten free 

3 cups almond flour
3 eggs. beaten
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. gluten-free baking soda
2 ripe bananas, mashed (enough to make 1 cup)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
 
Spread in lightly greased 9-inch square pan. (Use liner paper if wanting to remove the whole cake.) Bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes.
Test for doneness, cake will be moist but you don't want it soggy.
 
Let cool, cut and enjoy.
 

The following offering is a simple, elegant, light dessert my son-in-law prepared for a feast many Christmas's ago. Its presentation is as impressive as your flair.

Wine Baked Pears

4 ripe pears, preferably Bosc, with stems, washed and dried
2 cups fruity white wine - I like to use a  local pear wine - or a Reisling is very tasty too
1/4 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves
4 strips orange zest
 
optional: roasted walnuts or pecans garnish
                ricotta cheese or thick plain yogurt
 
Preheat oven to 400F.
 
Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pear so they will stand upright. Arrange the pears in a large pie pan. Whisk wine and honey in small bowl until well blended; pour over the pears. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange rind to the wine mixture around the pears.
 
Put the pears in the oven, basting every 15 minutes until they are wrinkled and tender - 45 minutes to 1 hour - depending on the type of pear used. If planning to use the nut garnish, toast them in a separate dish in the oven for about 10-12 minutes. Don't forget them!
 
When baked, remove pears from oven to cool. (By now your house will exude a spicy, heady fragrance.)
 
To serve: use slotted spoon to transfer the pears to shallow dessert bowls. Drizzle the wine mixture over the pears and garnish with the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange zest. If using, sprinkle with toasted nuts and serve with ricotta cheese or yogurt.
 
Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
 
 
For many of us, Christmas is about families, traditions - and memories. I miss my Mom. In January it will be 6 years ago since she died and, except for her last Christmas, Mom was always a vital part of preparing for the feast(s). When my generation encouraged her to let us do more of the work, she was happy to allow that - but she set the hospitality standard for me. I'll always be grateful for her expression of giving from her kitchen and I'd like to chat with her about that - and other foodie things - once in a while. This is one of those "whiles." 
 
Mom's Scottish background ensured shortbread was included in her holiday baking. She wasn't a total purist, using only one recipe that came from her great-grandmother :) She'd often try new recipes with different proportions of butter (always used butter), flour, sugar and flavourings. Now that I'm the Nana, wishing to share and continue our heritage traditions, I too am trying new shortbread recipes.
 
Except I'm looking for recipes using gluten free flour, and sweeteners other than refined sugar. I've also included the optional coffee flavour. This summer my 8-year-old grand daughter liked this variety from a coffee place/bakery/restaurant in Lunenburg. (I think it was her "legal" opportunity to enjoy the flavour of coffee :) Since I'm experiementing I thought, "why not"? I'll do coffee shortbread this year to honour my Swedish Dad who still enjoys a good cup of coffee.
 
I dared not mess with a butter substitute. Not yet, not this year.  And maybe never. I think there are some things that are best left alone, left in the recipe and enjoyed once or twice a year. The one ingredient I forgot when I made this, but included in the recipe, is the almond or vanilla extract.
 
If you're familiar with baking with gluten free flours, you don't expect most baked goods to have the same texture as when you use wheat or spelt or another "conventional" flour. And that holds true for this shortbread too. The texture isn't the same but they are still melt--in-your-mouth shortbread:  a very acceptable substitute if you or your holiday guests are not able to eat gluten.
 

Shortbread - gluten free, does have butter and coconut sugar

 
1 1/4 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
optional: 1-2 Tbsp. instant coffee powder -according to how strong a flavour you want
 
Put in food processor the dry ingredients,  the cold butter cut into rough chunks, the extract and the optional coffee. Process until ingredients cling together.
 
Press mixture evenly into a lightly greased, paper-lined 9 x 9 pan. Mark into squares or rectangles, prick with fork and bake at 325F for 35-40 minutes. When baked, remove from oven, cut again (it's important to cut while warm,  they'll crumble if cut later), let stand 10 minutes. Lift to a wire rack and let cool. 
 
I've tested this recipe only once so I am hoping to hear feedback and suggestions from any of you who make these. I'm sure you've got some good tweaking ideas.
 
Enjoy your Christmas, friends. God bless your feasting, your fellowship with family and friends - and give you safe travels.
Posted by karen
karen's picture

 

This is it. The weekend that launches my season of Christmas hospitality. It's fast and furious, with a dinner for four Friday night and hosting a neighbourhood potluck brunch on Sunday. 
 
This is a "world-away" contrast to a former chapter of my life.  When December was a flurry of celebrations: from the get-go birthday party on the 2nd for my daughter - to a host of Christmas parties connected to all the life-circles of my husband and I and our two children- to our son's birthday on the 23rd. And this event was the starting gun for the marathon of Christmas celebrations that revolved around a community of family - going from house to house - which would wrap up sometime around the New Year. Just recording this makes me breathless. But it was wonderful: a time of sharing, laughter and fun, and of course, eating.
 
Coming from a heritage of accomplished cooks, the food was plentiful and delicious. Taste memories range from the traditional Swedish lutefish and lefse, to the stuffed turkey, a myriad of salads and vegetable dishes - and a "stretch buffet" of sweets and desserts.
 
But just like the jam-packed holiday schedule has changed, so have many of the food choices that are now on our feast menus. 
 
Generally, we now have: more fresh vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, less animal fats, more natural sweets, less refined sugar.   
 
The following recipes I've made this weekend are some healthy holiday eating suggestions you may want to serve at your holiday feasts.
 

Begin with "A Starter" 

Curry Pumpkin Hummus 

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp.allspice
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or Herbamare)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
garnish: chopped pistachios or toasted pumpkin seeds
 
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne, and maple syrup. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
Stir in tahini and chick peas; remove from heat.
Stir in the pumpkin, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.
Spoon into a shallow serving bowl and sprinkle with garnish.
 
(Nutrition notes: these flavorful curry seasonings improve circulation - good "flu-fighters". Tahini and chick peas are protein sources - pumpkin supplies vitamin A.)
 
Recipe adapted from "Quick-Fix Vegan: Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less" by Robin Robertson

Home-Made Pita Chips - one version GF, one not

Cut whole-wheat pitas (or for gluten free use corn tortillas) into wedges and arrange on large baking pan. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a wee bit of sea salt. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until crisp: flipping them over half-way through. Not gluten free, but a healthy alternative to nachos cooked in oil. 
 

Quinoa and Roasted Squash Salad - delicious make-ahead salad

1.5 cup quinoa
2 3/4 cups water
pinch sea salt
 
2.5 pound squash - acorn, buttercup or Kabocha - enough for 8-10 cups cut into cubes
3 Tbsp.extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. Herbamare
1/2 tsp.cinnamon
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups red onion, cut into slivers
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup chopped parsley
 
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar (I used balsamic fig from this great source in Halifax)
1 tsp. orange zest
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
 
optional: crumbled feta cheese
 
Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and place in 2-quart pot with the water and sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool completely. (Can be made ahead 1-2 days before you need it and kept in the fridge.)
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash into quarters, scoop out seeds and cut into equal bite-sized chunks, about 1-inch squares. Place into baking dish, toss with the olive oil, Herbamare and cinnamon. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Stir once halfway through - let cool on the pan.
Place the pecans in a separate small baking dish and slide them in the oven along with the squash. Roast for 10-12 minutes - don't forget them in there!
 
Saute the slivered red onions in a wee bit of olive oil - for about 5 minutes, just until soft and beginning to change colour. Remove from heat.
 
Place cooled quinoa into a large bowl, add the roasted squash, roasted and chopped pecans, sautéed onions, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
 
Put dressing ingredients into small jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake well and pour over salad. If desired, sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top before  refrigerating until serving.
 
Recipe adapted from www.nourishingmeals.com
 
 

One favorite has not changed - that's our holiday fruitcake. Gloriously good and gluten free.

 
 
Many years ago my Mom found a recipe for this fruit cake which has become an annual Christmas standby - and sometimes shows up during other times of the year too!
 
Over the years I've tweaked it to suit my family; it has evolved into a delicious gluten free version.
 
This is not the traditional candied fruit, butter-rich kind of fruitcake. It's made with dried fruits, nuts, eggs, flour (I use a GF mix, as mentioned), baking powder, bit of honey or maple syrup and vanilla. You know it's good when even the grandkids say, "it won't be Christmas without Nana's fruitcake."
 
Click here for the recipe for the Healthy Nut and Dried Fruit Christmas Cake.
 
This cake doesn't have to be aged - it'll be a hit (and so will you!) if you squeeze it into your schedule this week.
 
Happy healthy holiday eating!!

Pages