Monday, September 24, 2012

Refreshing mint and lemon verbena tea

It's still really hot and though I should have posted this recipe a while ago, in the middle of summer, I think this is the perfect time to use your little herb garden if you have one and make this thirst quencher drink.

My mom used to make it in this big stock pot when we were kids and it is ridiculously delicious. I don't make it enough, but when we came back from our trip, it was so hot here in SoCal, and our herb garden had grown out of control, so I plucked a few sprigs of mint and lemon verbena,  boiled some water, threw the sprigs in there with a couple lemons, turned the stove off and waited for it to cool off before placing it in the fridge, and voila!
Here is what you will need:

1-2 gallons of water
6 sprigs of mint
6 sprigs of lemon verbena or lemon balm
3-4 fresh stevia sprigs, or stevia powder, or raw honey to sweeten
2 lemons, cut in wedges

Bring water to a boil in a big stock pot or any big pot you have, then throw the herbs and the lemon wedges in it and turn off the stove. Let it sit for several hours, until your tea has cooled down. You can squeeze the lemons into the tea before removing lemon peals and herbs. Sweeten to your taste and transfer into a pitcher, then place in the fridge for several hours. Drink cold.

You will love the lemony taste of the verbena mixed with the mint. This is much healthier than any powder iced tea and has no caffeine, so it is totally kid friendly :)

You can also just boil water, pour in a cup, and throw a sprig of lemon verbena or lemon balm, add mint leaves (or not) and drink it hot, with or without lemon. Delicious!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

summery gluten-free "couscous" salad

Summer is almost over, although it certainly doesn't feel like it in this part of the world. There is still time for barbecues and summer salads. When I don't know what to make for dinner, I often resort to quinoa. Many people have told me they don't like the taste of it, yet it is such a super food and it can be so versatile! You just have to dress it up :)

Quinoa is gluten-free, rich in fiber, and not only is it rich in protein, but it is a complete protein. This means you don't have to combine it with beans, like you would with rice, to obtain and consume all the amino-acids of a full protein. It has them all!
For a more complete article about quinoa, with a bonus breakfast recipe, click here

Here is one example of a "couscous" salad, which is dressed with plenty of crunch and zest and spice:

3 cups cooked quinoa (if you have time, soak your quinoa in water for 12 hours before cooking it. Then add 1 cup water for 2 cups quinoa. It will cook super quickly and will be much more digestible)
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup shredded celeri
2 cups sliced cucumber
1 cup sliced green olives
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped herbs, such as basil, parsley, mint, lemon thyme

Mix all the ingredients and toss with your favorite salad dressing. My favorite with this salad is something citrusy, like lemon juice, mustard, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

turkey-veggie burgers and why meat could still be important in your diet

I realize I have been posting mostly vegetarian/vegan recipes, so this post might surprise you a little. Like I have said in my first post, I do not consider myself rigid about food, and I am constantly searching to find out what is the best diet for our family. Lately, I have been hearing more and more about the Weston Price Foundation and about the benefits of animal protein and animal fat, providing it comes from an organic, pasture raised, grass fed animal. I am also learning that different health issues require different diets. I definitely believe that for someone suffering from cancer or at high risk of cancer, meat and dairy should be avoided or kept to a minimum. If the body and the immune system are weak, they are not able to process things the same way, and these two foods can increase inflammation if the immune system is not strong enough, or so I was told at the Real Food Symposium.

However, meat is rich not only in protein but also in minerals and essential fatty acids.
Red meats in particular, are rich in minerals, especially iron, zinc and magnesium, and are a great source of Vitamin B12. The fat from the meat of grazing animals contains both omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, in small but balanced amounts. And it contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is an anti-carcinogenic fatty acid. Two good reasons to go for grass-fed meats.

Now there are so many studies out there, saying so many contradictory things, it is really confusing. The vegans say that meat and dairy will cause cancer, the meat and dairy eaters say that  veganism depletes your body of too many things and that you end up with food allergies, joint problems, gut issues, asthma, etc, etc... Since despite all my research, I can't quite find one approach that clicks with me and they all make a little bit of sense, I am trying to eat a balanced diet and notice what causes irritation. Our consumption of meat has definitely been reduced significantly over the past two years and we all feel much better since then. But my boys jump for joy when I cook beef or chicken, and could by-pass all the veggies if it was up to them. So I have developed little tricks to get them to still eat vegetables, and it ends up making my burger taste better. 

This recipe works with any kind of ground meat, and you can vary the quantities of vegetables you mix in, as well as what kind of vegetables and herbs you put in. Use your imagination, this is just an example :)

For a great source of grass fed beef and organic chicken, visit your local farmer's market and look for Dey Dey's truck. I know he is at the Pasadena Saturday farmer's market, and other LA markets. To find out his schedule and/or how to order from him, visit his website here.

1 pound of ground turkey or beef
1 cup of  shredded carrots or zucchini or both
1 cup of shredded onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup of chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl, form into patties, heat a little bit of olive oil in a pan on medium to low heat and throw the patties in, flipping sides after 3-4 minutes, and continuing to do so until fully cooked.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My mom's zucchini and tomato gratin

It's tomatoes and zucchinis harvest time in So Cal gardens, and whether you grow them in your own backyard or get them in your CSA box or at the Farmer's Market, you might end up with so many of them you don't know what to do with them anymore.

Last week, I went to the Farmer's market and bought a bunch or heirloom tomatoes that were very very ripe, for a discounted price. That night, I made my favorite zucchini/tomato gratin, which my mom used to make (and still makes) when I was a kid. I made it again for friends this weekend and it was a success!
It is so simple, yet so delicious. If you are not a cook, don't shy away from this very simple recipe. You could suddenly become very popular in the kitchen ;)

5-6 medium zucchinis, sliced
1 onion, cut in two, then sliced
3 large tomatoes, sliced
salt and pepper
3-4 tbsp of grated parmesan or gruyere (leave out if you are doing the 28toGreatBarre3 Challenge)
olive oil, drizzled.

grease the bottom of a baking dish (9x15) with olive oil, then spread a layer of zucchini slices at the bottom. Cover with a layer of tomatoes, sprinkle some salt and pepper on it, then add a layer of onion slices. Repeat until you have used all of the vegetables. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil in the middle or on top, then sprinkle the parmesan on top and place in the oven at 380 for 40-50 minutes, or until the zucchinis are tender and translucent.  Serve with quinoa, rice or potatoes, and/or a fish or meat dish.