Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles

Ukrainian spinach with noodles

Let’s explore the benefits of alternative pastas, as well as the history of semolina.  This dynamite recipe for Ukrainian Spinach and Noodles often graced my buffet tables in the 1980’s and 90’s, when I was catering historical meals.  Being so health conscious now, I have altered it to included important ghee and gluten-free pasta, both of which are optional.

Here I employ organic red lentil sedanini from Trader Joe’s, in place of wheat semolina pasta.   Based on a serving of 3/4-cup-dry, this alternative pasta is high in both protein-13grams-and fiber-12% of the RDI.  These two factors allow the sedanini’s carbohydrates-11% of the RDI -to be absorbed more slowly than that of semolina pasta; thus, it has a different impact on blood sugar.  In addition, it is believed that fiber and protein may aid in weight loss, and high fiber also improves digestion.  1

Sedanini is a superb source of iron, with its 15% of the daily requirement.  This helps with anemia, especially when eaten with foods rich in vitamin C, to increase the absorption of the non-heme iron found here-this is a plant iron, rather than iron derived from meats.  3

My Ukrainian noodles provide all these health benefits found in red lentil sendanini, plus those of powerful ghee (for information on ghee see balsamic eggs).

There is always the big question: did pasta originate in China or Italy?  The popular story is that Marco Polo found it in China, but Reay Tannahill points out in Food in History that what Polo ‘discovered’ has been taken to be something new, when actually he discovered that the Chinese had pasta ‘which are like ours’.  4

Macaroni was its common name in Italy.  It is claimed that its use goes back to Etruscan times-the time of this pre-Roman country Estruria in west-central Italy.  Therefore, it would pre-date the Chinese noodle by about 500 years.  This, however, is speculative, as it is not known if the knitting-needle-shaped objects found in tombs were indeed meant for rolling dough around.  It is verified, however, that Apicius (the first century Roman gourmet, who provided the exceptional treatise on cookery of antiquity), had recipes using lasagna in it, which allows us to see that boiled flatbread, as opposed to baked flatbread, was being used at this time.  5

From at least around 1200 A.D. , Indians and Arabs were consuming pasta.  Both had names for it meaning ‘thread’: Indians called it sevika, while Arabs used Persian rishta.  Italians made a larger noodle and named it spaghetti, derived from spago, or string.  It is attested that Italians had stuffed shapes such as ravioli and tortellini by the middle of this century, with parallels elsewhere.  Russia had pel’meni, China-won ton, Tibet-momo, and the Jewish kitchen-kreplachs.  These stuffed pasta shapes may well have originated in the Near East and then been transmitted in an arc from there.  6

Despite all these varieties, the most common Italian name for pasta seems to have been macaroni, which was flat, rather than the round shape found today.  In the English Forme of Cury, circa 1390, there is a receipt for ‘macrows’ (an anglicized plural), with butter and cheese, which is believed to not  have been accepted as a very high-class food.  7

As an aside, in its 1859 American receipt for macaroni, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend directs cooks to watch for ever-present insects in the pasta and to hold a shovel full of red-hot coals over the finished product for browning.  8

I tend to make old favorites into new recipes that meet my present needs for health, substituting high quality ingredients for those that were marginal, or even damaging, as found in the original.

It’s quite easy to stock our refrigerators with delicious, power-packed food, when we discover what our particular needs actually are.  It takes some concentrated effort at first to discover our body’s unique requirements, then we need strength to put into practice these new steps.  When we approach this endeavor with courage and perseverance, we rise above hindrances brought on by old detrimental habits, which is true in both eating and life at large.

In this way we can live more freely in every respect, promoting vibrant bodies, minds, and spirits-all of which we purpose to guard with diligence.  Enjoy this delicious dish, which increases vitality and brings immense pleasure.

References:

  1. https://www.today.com/food/best-healthy-pasta-alternative-might-be-made-lentils-t149072 and  https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323529.php
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/semolina
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/pasta
  4. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 234.
  5. Ibid., p. 234.
  6. Ibid.., pp. 235, 236.
  7. Ibid., p. 236, 237.
  8. Facsimile of Mrs. Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend  (Boston: Brown, Taggard and Chase, 1859), p.. 176..

Ukranian Spinach with Noodles  Yields: 8 entee servings.  Total prep time: 30 min (42 min, if making homemade ghee).

2 c (8 oz) dried pasta  (I used  the alternative, organic, red lentil sedanini from Trader Joe’s)

8 tbsp ghee or butter  (I prefer ghee-recipe below-made from grass-fed Kerry butter, which is available most reasonably at our local Winco; Costco also carries this inexpensively-often with great sales.)

1 lg onion, chopped small

24 oz fresh spinach leaves  (Packages of organic are available at Trader Joe’s for $2.29/ 6oz.)

1 1/2 c (6 oz) Gruyere cheese, grated  (Also available reasonably at Trader’s.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

  1. first rise of whey solids

    If substituting butter for ghee, go directly to step 6.  To prepare health-giving ghee, which takes about 12 minutes, first prep a coffee-filter-lined strainer, over a heat-proof dish, and set aside.  Using only a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 8 oz unsalted butter-preferably Irish, grass-fed, Kerry butter from Costco-over medium heat, shaking pan to speed up melting.  Note: there is less wastage using only half a pound of butter, compared to doubling recipe with a pound.

  2. first breaking of milk solids

    When melted, cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo above).

  3. second rising of whey proteins

    Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, temperature will be about 190 degrees (a thermometer isn’t required); see photo.  At this stage you have clarified butter.  Note: if foam is starting to brown deeply and quickly, your pan is not heavy enough to make ghee; thus, remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.

  4. ghee finished with golden color showing at edge

    To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until second foam rises-it will begin to build in pan, as is seen in photo.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees.  The foam will rise in pan, and there will be a hint of golden color forming at the edge of foam (see photo).  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.

  5. Immediately, gently strain butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish.  Cool and transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for many weeks, at room temperature, and up to six months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  6. In a covered stock pot, over medium heat, bring to a boil: 4 qt water, 1 tbsp oil, and 2 tsp salt.
  7. Grate cheese and set aside.
  8. Melt 8 tbsp (4 oz) of ghee, or butter, in a large sauté pan over medium heat; add chopped onion and sweat-cook until translucent.
  9. the cooking down of fresh spinach

    When onion is cooked, add part of the spinach to pan and cook, adding more spinach as the first becomes limp (see photo).  Meanwhile, go to next step.

  10. When water is boiling, add pasta to pot and cook for 5-6 minutes, until desired tenderness; stir occasionally.  Remove from heat and drain.
  11. Add cooked pasta to pan of onions/spinach; stir gently until heated through.
  12. Toss with grated cheese; season with salt and pepper to taste.  See photo at top of recipe.
  13. This is an incredible taste treat!

New American Biscuit, made with almond flour

almond flour biscuits

The benefits of almonds and almond flour are given here, along with a recipe for the new American biscuit-made with almond flour-to comply with multiple popular diets, currently present in America (gluten-free, keto, paleo, etc., and plain good eating).  This 20-minute biscuit is exceptionally light and moist, a great alternative treat.

Almond, the seed of a plum-like stone fruit, or drupe, is the world’s largest tree-nut crop.  This nut is a close relative of the plum, peach, and cherry, with its stony shell.  California is now the largest producer of the cultivated almond, Prunus amygdalus, which originally came from western Asia.  There are also several dozen wild or minor species.  1

As an aside, the nutty flavor of both almonds and its flour are not at all like the strong and distinctive flavor of almond extract, which is derived from bitter almonds; strong almond flavor is found only in wild or bitter almonds.  2

Our “pure” almond extract is made with aromatic benzaldehyde-from bitter almonds.  It, however, is without the cyanide that accompanies it in these almonds themselves.  On the other hand, “natural” extract usually contains benzaldehyde produced from cassia bark, while “imitation” almond extract contains benzaldehyde synthesized from pure chemicals.  None of these three extracts resemble, in flavor, the nutty sweet taste of the domesticated almond, or its flour.  3

Almonds are a power-packed food with their high content of antioxidant vitamin E and low levels of polyunsaturated fats, giving them a relatively long shelf life.  Their great, low-carb, sweet-tasting flour has an abundance of health benefits.  4

This nut and its flour are high in protein and fiber, rich in manganese, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus, as well as its above mentioned strength in vitamin E.  This last is a group of fat-soluble compounds that act as antioxidants in our bodies, thus preventing free radicals from doing damage, such as accelerating aging and increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer.  Lower rates of Alzheimer’s are also linked with vitamin E intake, in several studies.  5

One ounce (28 grams) of almond flour provides 35% of required daily intake of vitamin E, while the same amount provides 19% of the RDI of magnesium.  There is some evidence that the addition of magnesium in our diets results in improved blood sugar control, reduced insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure.  6

Magnesium is known to possibly help control blood sugar and improve insulin function.  Being low in carbs, yet high in healthy fats and fiber, baked goods made with almond flour also have a low glycemic index; thus, they release sugar into your blood slowly to provide a sustained source of energy.  For these two reasons, almond-flour-treats may be an answer to people struggling with type 2 diabetes and weight conditions.  7

There is some evidence that almond flour may help reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure (studies along this line are inconsistent).  In this way, almonds may lower risks of heart disease.  8

Finally, this nut may promote good sleep, because of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin present in them, as well as their high magnesium content, which also may improve sleep quality.  The magnesium purportedly reduces inflammation and the hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep.  Studies, however, are inconclusive; but some find almonds, on an empty stomach, before bed, are beneficial.  I like to eat one of these biscuits, several tablespoons of raw almond butter, and a glass of cold almond milk, before I retire.  9

It seems that most Americans are concerned about their weight and diet for one reason or another.  When I go into the market place, it seems most of the people I encounter are obese.  My heart breaks for them, as I once was caught in 226-pound body, as well.  Everything I did to lose weight-over several decades-failed.

I constantly resolved anew, to exercise for twenty minutes a day, three times a week; walking, however, brought so much pain to my heavy body that I couldn’t stick with my regime.  Today, my challenges have been reversed.  Now, I choose to lay down my beloved aerobic walking, in order to first prioritize my responsibilities, in any given day.  I walk as time allows, which takes great discipline for me, with my passion for this exercise.  Wow!  How things have changed.

Likewise, my 226-pound-body effortlessly and naturally melted away to a perfect 130-pound-frame, wearing a size four and six.  For me, this all came about when I finally let go and let God-as the saying goes.

It all started on October 2, 2002, when I suddenly had to stop a medication; its replacement came with the promise of a side effect of decreased appetite.  With great anticipation, I started what I thought was to be my miracle drug; three months later, however, during a doctor’s appointment, I discovered that I was six pounds heavier.

At that moment, I admitted total defeat, for there was no hope for me in the natural realm.  Crying out to God for help, I truly let go; I was inspired to tell the nurse that in the future I was going to close my eyes when she weighed me, and for her not to tell me what the numbers were.  We did this for several years, and my clothes-size slowly, but surely diminished.  Indeed it wasn’t me, but our Father who performed this miracle.

Today, the scales of life have changed.  Now with my active, vibrant life, I need to count my calories to insure I am eating enough to maintain my weight.  How pleasant is this problem.

We know that life can bring change, sometimes big, when we surrender our will; thus, we need to always be on our toes, expecting the best, which actually opens the door for the Omnipotent One to manifest good in our lives.

This biscuit promotes both health and pleasure; it is indeed good.  Enjoy its simple preparation, as given below.

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984. 2004), pp. 505.
  2. Ibid., 506.
  3. Ibid., 506.
  4. Ibid., 505.
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/almond-flour#section3
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-to-help-you-sleep#section1

biscuits baked to a golden brown

Almond Flour Biscuits  Yields: 8 biscuits.  Total prep time: 20 min/  active prep time: 7 min/  baking time: 13 min.

1/4 c heavy whipping cream, soured with 8 drops of lemon juice from squeeze ball  (Organic cream is important for health; Trader Joe’s carries this for $3.29/pt.  Regular sour cream will also work, though not as healthy.)

1 lg egg, lightly beaten

1 c almond flour  (Costco has the best price on this-$12.99 for 3 lbs.  It is also available in bulk at our local New Season’s.)

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

1 tsp konjac root powder, or similar ingredient  (Konjac root powder is available on-line; it promotes softness in baked goods.)

  1. curdled heavy whipping cream

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Place cream in a medium (cereal) bowl and squirt about 8 short squirts of lemon juice from lemon ball over surface.  Let sit for 4-5 minutes; you will be able to see the curdled cream when you tip the bowl to the side (see above photo).
  3. In a med/lg bowl, beat egg lightly.
  4. wet dough

    Shake all the dry ingredients in a quart-size, sealed storage bag; may also stir with a fork in a bowl.  Add dry ingredients and soured cream to egg.  Stir until flour is incorporated; mixture will be quite wet.  See photo.

  5. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Spoon dough for 8 biscuits on paper.  Bake for 13-14 minutes, or until light golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).  Remove from oven and cool on pan.  These will store well in the refrigerator for a number of days.