Laban Bil Bayd (Lebanese eggs baked in yogurt/garlic/mint sauce)

laban bil bayd and tabbouleh

This last of my Middle Eastern receipts laban bil bayd calls for eggs, baked in a thickened yogurt, which is seasoned with mint and garlic cooked in ghee.  This delightful dish is commonly used as part of the mezze, or the first course of appetizers.

Vegetable oils are almost 100% fat, while butter is an emulsion of 80% fat, 15% water, and 5% milk solids; vegetable fats are most commonly used for sautéing, due to their high smoke points-temperatures at which they burn.  It is misinformation that adding oil to butter raises the latter’s smoke point.  The flavor of butter is important in this recipe; thus, it calls for ghee, with the smoke point of about 400 degrees F (200 C), as compared to 250 degrees F (150 C) for regular butter.

Ghee is a form of clarified butter; these two differ in that the first is heated just a little longer, browning the milk solids, thus producing a subtle nutty flavor and aroma, with great resistance to rancidity.

The most common form of clarifying butter, the one used by most restaurants, varies from the more efficient method suggested here for home use, which is actually the preparation of ghee.  Because such large quantities are clarified in commercial kitchens, it is easiest to gently heat the butter to the boiling point of water; the water then bubbles to the surface, where the foaming milk proteins form also.  The water eventually evaporates, the bubbling stops, and the froth dehydrates, leaving a skin of dry whey protein; this skin of dry milk solids is next skimmed off the top.  Finally, the pure butterfat is ladled out, to remove it from the dry casein particles, which have sunk to the bottom of the pan.  This technique, however, brings much wasted product, when preparing small quantities, because this means of  separating the fat from the top and bottom milk proteins also scoops up the butterfat.

Therefore it is best to follow this quick, traditional method for making ghee, when clarifying little amounts of a pound or less of butter at home.  This takes the above process a step further, by raising the final heat, browning these sunken whey proteins; then, separating them from the pure butterfat by straining.  In this way, the resultant clear fat is completely isolated, by easily pouring it through a coffee filter, or layers of cheesecloth.

The word ghee in Sanskrit means “bright”.  In India, it was traditionally made from butter churned from soured, whole cow or buffalo milk, known as yogurt-like dahi; this preliminary souring improved both the quantity and flavor-quality found in this clarifying process.  Today, industrial manufacturers usually start this procedure with cream; nevertheless, it is said that sweet cream produces flat-tasting butter, which affects the character of the ghee.

Ghee is prevalent both in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.  My first encounters with it were in my early catering and teaching days during the 1980’s, when I was preparing East Indian foods, such as curries and dal (lentils).  Presently I like to make large batches of it, for storing in my refrigerator where it keeps for months; thus, it is readily available for frying eggs, searing meats and vegetables, making sauces-such as hollandaise-and popcorn, as well as using it as dips for lobster, crab, and artichokes.  It greatly enhances the taste of all these foods.  Note: it is helpful to utilize high grade butter-such as a European-especially in using ghee for a hollandaise sauce, as the flavor will be better.  This is due to the higher butterfat content in this European product (82-86%), contrasted with 80-82% in that of its American counterpart.  (But I find the Trader Joe’s brand of unsalted butter is adequate, with its good quality, for most of my needs; all their dairy products are hormone and additive free.)

Join me in the great discovery of cooking with ghee, by first making this simple, seemingly innocuous egg dish that surprises with it powerful pleasure!

References:

Harold McGee, On Food History (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 36, 37.

https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/08/how-to-clarify-butter.html

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/08/clarified-butter-recipe.html

https://altonbrown.com/clarified-butter-and-ghee-recipes/

finished product

Laban Bil Bayd (Lebanese eggs baked in yogurt/garlic/mint sauce)  Yields 6 servings.  Total prep time: 45-60 min (the length of time depends on if you prepare ghee with recipe, make ahead, or buy a ready-made version)/  active prep time: 25-40 min/  baking time: 20 min.  Note: may make third of the recipe to serve two, using a 5-oz carton of plain Greek yogurt.

1/4 c ghee, or clarified butter  (A prepared version is available at Trader’s, or follow step 2, to quickly make your own in 15 minutes.)

2 lg cloves garlic, minced

initial foaming of butter

1/4 c fresh mint, chopped  (May substitute 2 tsp dried mint.)

2 c plain Greek yogurt  (Greek yogurt makes this recipe; it is important that milk products are whole and organic for optimum health.)

1 lg egg white, beaten to froth

2 tsp corn starch

1 1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

White pepper, to taste

6 eggs

  1. foam subsides, just before raising heat

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. May use a prepared version of clarified butter (an 8-oz jar is available for $3.99 at Trader Joe’s), or make a batch-or two-of ghee by melting 1 c of high quality, unsalted butter in a small, heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat.  Raise heat to medium and cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo in list of ingredients).  Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, about 3 minutes, temperature will be 190 degrees (see photo above).  Turn heat up a little, cook until second foam rises (2-3 more minutes, or until it reaches 250 degrees), and butterfat is a golden color, see photo below-this process may be easily done without using a thermometer.  Ghee is finished at this point; watch carefully, as the dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.  Gently strain butterfat, through a coffee filter-or 6-8 layers of cheesecloth-into a heat-proof dish (see photo at very bottom).  Cool and transfer to an air-tight container, keeping out all moisture; store in refrigerator; lasts for months.
  3. ghee finished, as it foams a second time

    Chop garlic and mint, if using fresh.

  4. Measure ghee (samneh) into a small saucepan, heat on med/low, add mint and garlic, and cook until garlic is golden brown.  Stir this frequently, watching carefully so as not to burn.  Meanwhile proceed to next step.
  5. Beat egg white until frothy (see photo below); an electric mixer hastens this process.
  6. Place yogurt in a heavy saucepan, adding salt, cornstarch, and foamy egg white, to which a final beat is given (if making a smaller recipe, be sure to use correct proportion of whites).  CAREFULLY STIR IN THE SAME DIRECTION, until thoroughly combined.
  7. egg whites beaten to froth

    Continuing to stir in the same direction, cook over medium heat until it starts to boil.  Lower heat and simmer gently until thick, about 3 minutes.  Greek yogurt thickens more quickly than regular yogurt; if making a smaller portion, this will thicken very fast!

  8. Pour hot yogurt in an oven-proof dish (or evenly divide into

    separating milk solids from ghee through a coffee filter

    individual oven-proof bowls); spread out to completely cover the bottom; break eggs on top of this mixture, spacing them evenly in a larger dish; pour flavored ghee over eggs.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until eggs are hard; see photo of finished product at top of recipe.  Serve immediately for an incredible palate-pleasing experience!

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread

It is an understatement to say that my mother Pat, who now resides in heaven, loved her Irish heritage while sojourning on earth: I grew up, during every March, with a month’s worth of corned beef and cabbage; on St. Patrick’s Day itself, sometimes there were scrambled eggs colored with green food dye, or toilet bowl water tinted likewise, and always a mandatory wearing-of-the-green.  (She would have to dash in the bathroom to revive the toilet water following each use.)  Mom will always be remembered by all, for her passion for green; year-round she favored this color in her clothing, home decorations, and above all God’s splendid paintings in nature.

I am honoring her during her month, by sharing our family’s recipes for Irish Soda Bread and of course, corn beef and cabbage, which will be next week’s entry.  Irish soda bread is a quick bread, traditionally made without fat; it calls for soft flour-made from soft winter wheat berries-which is marketed as whole wheat pastry flour.

There are two varieties of wheat flour: soft and hard.  This recipe uses the soft whole wheat pastry flour, with low-gluten content; cake flour, which is the other soft flour, is even lower in this mixture of plant proteins.  Hard, all-purpose, or bread flour is the other variety, which is high in gluten.

All wheat flour contains two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, which combined form the gluten.  When dough is initially mixed, these proteins are mangled and knotted together in a relatively unorderly fashion.  Kneading lines these up; bonds are developed between neighbors; thus, gluten chains form, creating the surrounding substance within which the dough can develop.  In this way strength and structure are established, which trap gases and allow the dough to rise; this process is critical in producing a good loaf of yeast bread.

Unlike yeast bread, such manipulative action is minimal in its soda counterpart, providing for little  gluten development; its soft flour, being comparatively low in these proteins, produces a quick bread with its own appeal, which is a fine, tender crumb.  Being fast to prepare, it must be eaten with haste as well, as it becomes stale swiftly.

Irish soda bread has simplicity and a basic composition; it is leavened with the rapid-acting chemical baking soda, and as it has been said, brief mixing minimizes its gluten development.  This luscious loaf may be enhanced by adding either raisins or currants (see Mor Monsen’s Kaker, 2017/11/27, for the history of currants).

References:

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 521-523, 537-538, 549-550.

https://www.thespruce.com/the-science-of-kneading-dough-1328690

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_flour

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kneading

http://www.sodabread.info/history/

bread with Kerrygold butter from Ireland

Irish Soda Bread  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 45 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 20-30 min.

3/4 cup milk  (Alternative milks will do, or may purchase buttermilk.)

4 squirts from plastic lemon ball, for souring milk

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is ideal; may grind 1 1/3 cup organic soft winter wheat berries, to make 2 cups fresh flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s, or more inexpensively, in a 10-lb package at Costco.)

4 tbsp butter, softened

1/2 cup raisins or currants  (Currants available in bulk at upscale grocers, such as the national chain New Season’s.)

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray oil is ideal; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

  1. cutting butter into flour until mealy

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. If grinding fresh flour, begin to do so now with 1 1/3 c soft winter white wheat berries; wait to preheat oven with this option.
  3. Sour milk by placing it in a medium bowl, squeezing about 4 squirts from lemon ball over surface; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl blend flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar, with a fork.
  5. Cut 3 tbsp softened butter into flour mixture, until mixture is mealy and butter is well incorporated (see above photo).
  6. dough after kneading for 1 minute

    Stir in soured milk and raisins or currants.  Knead dough gently for 1 minute; if necessary flour counter and hands to keep dough from sticking.  (Note: if grinding flour fresh, be sure to let dough sit in bowl, covered, for 45 minutes before kneading, to absorb excess moisture present in the coarser fresh-grind.)  See photo.

  7. Form into a round loaf and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil.  With a sharp knife, cut an X on top of loaf about 1/2-inch deep.  Dot with softened butter (see photo below).
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes (a fresh-ground loaf takes about 30 minutes to bake), or until golden brown and there is a hollow sound when tapped on bottom; see top photo.  Cool on rack.
  9. loaf ready to be baked

    This is best served with imported Irish Kerrygold butter-this treat is available many places, but the best buy is at Costco, when in stock.

Quinoa Dishes

salad topped with cooked quinoa

Our bodies are the temples of God; only through his grace, do we have the capacity to care for these holy houses, with good diet and healthy exercise.  For years, such attendance was beyond my natural ability, but now I highly esteem the enabling gift from God, which provides me with the means to execute both these disciplines effectively.

Clearly I recall the days, when weighing 226 pounds, walking caused painful rubbing together of my fleshy thighs.  Brokenhearted, after repeated failures and fresh firm resolve, I would yet again reach toward the “easy” goal of a 20-minute walk, 3 times a week.  I could never achieve this, try as I might.

Lo and behold, my challenge has been reversed: now I have to be careful not to obsess about exercise, as I so love walking aerobically, for this invigorates me, stimulating a marvelous sense of wellbeing in my soul.

My trustworthy instruction book, the Bible, warns that there are advantages in physical exercise, but these are limited, as they pale in sight next to the gains acquired by putting spiritual development first.  Thus, we must approach workouts with great wisdom, so they neither own us, nor escape us.

My days are jam-packed, for I am gratefully fulfilling my ordained acheivements, with my food history writings and other ministry.  The result is a thrilling existence, in which I can run out of time at the end of a day, leaving me with critical choices, in which I have to prioritize.

Our gracious Father has granted me a tool to do such: there is a winter wonderland scene at the Tualatin Commons, the man-made lake near my home.  All the trees surrounding this body of water are dressed in bright, white lights (the floating Christmas tree was taken down after the New Year).  This has become my piece de resistance, which early in my day I start anticipating: will this pleasure be mine at twilight?  Only supernatural help allows me to accomplish the needed organization to allow this longed-for walk.

Discipline in ordering my day is critical; by necessity, exercise has become secondary to my fulfilling the higher purpose of my calling.  Often I recall how this valued ambulation used to be such a burden, causing sores on my overweight thighs, but now I crave walking.  I didn’t bring this miracle about; my great Healer affected it in me over time.  I am literally his walking miracle!

Not only has my exercise been refined, but healthy eating has come to me supernaturally, as well.  Slowly I have attained excellent eating disciplines.  Incorporating quinoa (KEEN-wah) in my diet is one such development.  This is a cereal grain, sometimes referred to as a seed; all grains, legumes, and nuts are seeds.

Quinoa is a power-food that is native of northern South America; it was domesticated originally as food for livestock around 5000 B.C., near the Lake Titicaca basin of Peru and Bolivia-I spent a night on this remote lake, the largest inland body of water in the southern hemisphere.

Quinoa was a staple with the Incas, second only to the potato in importance, and is still in the forefront among their indigenous descendants the Quechua and Aymara people.  It is a grain from a plant called Chenopodium quinoa, which is a member of the same family as beets and spinach.

Like many ancient grains, this seed was almost lost: in 1532, the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro destroyed quinoa fields, in his attempt to annihilate the Incan culture; this crop, however, survived in the high Andean mountains.  Quinoa was reintroduced to the modern world in the 1970’s and 80’s.

This high-fiber, complete-protein food, rich in numerous vitamins and minerals, produces a starch gel, similar to that of risotto, giving it a kind of silky texture, according to Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page in Culinary Artistry; they further state that its earth tones highly compliment the mineral and earthy components of lobster-try experimenting with this combination.

Here, however, I quickly prepare it in two savory dishes.  This pseudocereal, which is not a member of the grass family, therefore it is not a true cereal, can also be cooked as a breakfast food; serve it with dried fruit, honey, and an alternative milk, such as almond or hazelnut.

My discovery of quinoa has blessed me immensely; may it benefit you  likewise.

References:

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 451-483.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa

http://www.ancientgrains.com/quinoa-history-and-origin/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/quinoa-the-mother-of-grains-1-57670322/

Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), pp. 142, 143.

toasted yellow quinoa

Simple Cooked Quinoa  Yields: 3-5 servings, as a main course or side dish respectively.  Total prep time: 30 min/  active prep time: 15 min/  cooking time: 15 min.  Note: double this for healthy leftovers; this is especially good added to green salads (see photo above).

1 c quinoa  (Tri-color or red organic quinoa is preferable-color is important in diet.)

1-15 oz can of chicken, vegetable, or beef broth

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is essential for optimum health; a Himalayan salt is available very cheaply in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. Toast the grain in a hot, dry frying pan, over medium heat, for 6-10 minutes; yellow quinoa will turn light brown in color (see above photo), while red quinoa  turns deep red; stir the above occasionally.  This enhances the flavor of the dish remarkably!  Meanwhile go to next step.
  2. While quinoa is toasting, pour broth in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan (or 3-quart pan, if doubling recipe).  Stir in salt and bring to a boil over medium heat; when liquid boils, add toasted seed and bring to a second boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes; red quinoa takes longer to cook.  When done, water will be absorbed and quinoa will be somewhat translucent.
  3. Serve immediately.  Refrigerate any leftovers to reheat for an entrée, or to add to a green salad (see first photo).

carrots and quinoa

Carrots and Quinoa  Yields: 4-6 servings, as a main course or side dish respectively.  Total prep time: 45 minutes.

1 med yellow onion, cut in even 1/8 inch slices

5 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

8 med carrots, or other vegetable  (Organic multi-colored carrots are available at Trader Joe’s; color is important in diet.)

1 c quinoa  (Red or tri-color adds health benefits.)

1-15-oz can chicken, vegetable, or beef broth

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is important for premium health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. toasted red quinoa

    To caramelize onions, cook slowly over medium heat in 1 tsp of oil, stirring every several minutes, until a light color starts to form; then, stir every minute, until dark brown.  Be sure to use a small amount of oil; too much oil will require a much longer cooking time, as will crowding the pan.

  2. Spray carrots with a safe inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse well.
  3. Bring broth to a boil in a covered 1 1/2–quart saucepan, over med/high heat; add salt.
  4. Toast quinoa in a hot dry frying pan, over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  This takes about 6-10 minutes-yellow quinoa will turn light brown, while red quinoa will become deep red (see photo above).
  5. To preserve vitamins just under skin, scrape carrots with a sharp knife, instead of peeling; slice thinly.  (Meanwhile keep checking the onions.)
  6. finished product

    Add toasted quinoa to boiling broth, cover, and reduce heat to med/low.  Allow to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed (this takes about 15 minutes for yellow quinoa, while red quinoa takes longer).

  7. Heat remaining 4 tsp oil in an empty frying pan.  Add sliced carrots, cover, and steam until soft, stirring occasionally.
  8. Blend onions into carrots; mix cooked quinoa into vegetables.  Serve hot (see above photo).

Norwegian Oven Pancakes

Norwegian oven pancake

The exceptional baking of Norway has been on my mind lately, with recipes I have been making since the 1970’s: I published the Yuletide bars Mor Monsen’s Kaker on 2017/11/27; and now I offer Norwegian Oven Pancakes.  This effortless baked pancake blesses at anytime, but truly it triumphs at a holiday breakfast-may it grace your Christmas morning, either before or after gifts.

Not always has the making of a pancake been so simple; in Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson details the time-consuming directions, published in the advice book Le Menagier de Paris, in 1393: take eggs, the fairest wheaten flour, and warm white wine-in place of milk-beating all together “long enough to weary one person or two” (this was done in a household of servants).

Almost every nation boosts of their own particular version of pancakes, some sweet and others savory; there isn’t room to define these multiple, provincial modifications; I will review, however, those of several countries that capture my interest in particular.

The Nordic pancake is typically like a French crepe, but their oven variation ugnspannkaka resembles a German pancake-also known as a Dutch Baby-which is baked, thick, and unleavened; today’s entry is the ugnspannkaka.

On the other hand, American hotcakes and griddlecakes are always made with a raising agent, such as baking powder, along with flour, eggs, and milk; thus, they swell and bubble in the hot frying pan.  In the 19th century, prospectors and pioneers employed sourdough starter for the rising of this light, airy flapjack; such is still the popular Alaskan mode.

Johnnycake and bannock are pancake types of old.  In world history, bannock dates back as early as 1000 A.D.; hence both the Native Americans and settlers were making this in early North America.  The Natives used corn, nut meal, and plant bulb meal in this creation; the immigrant’s technique was Scottish in origin, in which oatmeal was the key component.

Johnnycake was first recorded here by Amelia Simmons in American Cookery, 1796, with the ingredients of Indian meal, flour, milk, molasses, and shortening (for the history of shortening, see my Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, 2017/10/30).  These flat corn cakes were a staple in young U.S.A.

In England, pancakes are without a rising agent, using primarily flour, eggs, and milk, which results in their being close to French crepes.  Served for a sweet dessert or as a savory main course, these British cakes date back centuries, for Gervase Markam wrote their instructions in The English Hus-wife (1615); she, however, substituted water for milk and added sweet spices.  That nation’s Yorkshire pudding, a similar receipt to their pancakes, rises only slightly, by the well-beaten air in this batter without leaven.

These English unleavened varieties of flannel cake differ from their risen form found in Scotland, which includes baking soda and cream of tartar;  there are also numerous variables in Wales-among which some incorporate yeast, others oatmeal.

African pancakes, such as those in Kenya and South Africa, most often resemble the English crepe.  In Afrikaans, these unleavened English crepes are known as pannekoeke, while plaatkoekies refer to American-style “silver dollar” risen pancakes.  In Uganda, the pancake is united with their staple banana, usually being served at breakfast or as a snack.

Of all the vast productions, present-yet differing-in almost every nationality, the Ethiopian one enchants me the most; there they have injera, a very large spongy affair, which acts as a huge platter for their stews and salads to be served on at their feasts.  With the right hand, one tears the edges off this yeast-risen flatbread, to scoop up the meal, finally eating the underlying “tablecloth”, in which all the foods’ juices have been absorbed.  In 1984, I had the great pleasure of spending a whole day with an Ethiopian family in Billings, Montana, while they taught me how to cook and eat this authentic repast-I was fascinated with its injera, which simultaneously acted as a plate, an eating utensil, and finally the food itself.

Of all these above mentioned recipes, our Norwegian oven pancake is the most simple.  Enjoy this festive delight, which only takes minutes to assemble.  It is indeed glorious!

References:

Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012, 2013), p. 147.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancake

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 52.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 548.

Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, reprinted), p. 57.

pancake right out of oven

Norwegian Oven Pancake  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: about 45 min/  active prep time: 15 min/  baking time: 30-40 min.  Note: leftovers are delicious either cold or at room temperature.

6 lg eggs

1/2 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal; for its health benefits, see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

3/4 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic, unbleached white flour is high quality, or substitute whole wheat pastry flour.)

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt, pink salt, is important for premium health; available at nutrition center in local supermarket.)

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 c milk  (May use an alternative milk, such as hazelnut or almond.)

piece of butter the size of an egg, about 5 tbsp

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat eggs in a large bowl; blend in sugar, salt and vanilla; gently, quickly mix in flour.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 9” x 13” pan in hot oven; watch carefully.
  4. batter before baking

    Very slowly add milk to above egg mixture, beating continuously.

  5. When butter is melted, roll it around baking dish, coating entire pan.
  6. Pour batter in greased baking dish.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until batter is set.
  7. Serve hot.  (Cold leftovers are also great!)

1970’s Atomic Muffins

atomic muffins

My heart has always longed for ideal eating habits, though I haven’t always possessed the capacity for their required discipline.  Natural foods first came into my life in the early seventies, in my eccentric college town of Missoula, Montana.  It was there a friend taught me this powerful atomic muffin recipe.

Then I was attempting to nurture my body with the best; I looked great on the outside-118 compact pounds clothed in the best of vestures-but my insides were another story, for I had the hidden disease of bulimia, which was with me for a total of 3 years; half way through this, I briefly became anorexic and was admitted to Calgary, Alberta’s Foothills hospital, weighing 88 pounds on my mother’s scale.  There a rising physician, who was just breaking into this then unknown field, cared for me.

Eating disorders were rare at that time, though now they are commonplace.  My heart breaks for those that suffer thus, for I know firsthand their devastating grip.

During the years that followed this hospitalization, I went from an extreme 88 to a gross 226 pounds, before I surrendered and God brought complete healing to me: I now have a beautiful, healthy physique, and I eat sanely, with an ability to make balanced choices, having an innate strength to neither over- or under-consume.

This privilege grew progressively.  As a direct answer to an earnest cry for help, it initiated with my courageous act to turn from the bulimic darkness, on a crisp November day in 1978.

Back then, my jaws would hurt from daily, nonstop eating and purging; it was during this fiery torment that I sought the help of a Catholic priest, whom by chance I had heard was successfully recovering from alcoholism; thus, I trusted the hope, visible in his mastery of obsession, to spill over into my life.

My plans were to purge one last time before my 1 PM appointment, but I awoke to late to do so; hence, the first ominous hurdle presented itself, with my intense temptation to skip the meeting.  Something bigger than I, however, got me there.

With this glimmer of determination, I arrived at this parish, unknown to me, in a small neighboring town, only to suffer the second attempt to stop my breakthrough: the priest answering my knock informed me that his superior, the recovering alcoholic, was unavailable.  My instinct was to flee, but I blindly accepted his proffered services instead.

This man, whether knowingly or unknowingly, told me my bulimia wasn’t sin, but rather something beyond my control; he suggested that I stop doing it; at the same time he administered grace, saying that IF upon occasion I failed, I was to ask the Father for forgiveness, and immediately return to my new eating.  All this miraculously seemed doable, for the seed of faith had been established.

I will never forget leaving this sanctuary and walking out into the parking lot, where the asphalt seemed to dance with the reflection of God’s light, from Montana’s perpetual Big Sky.  Indeed my soul was dancing along with this lively, beautiful pavement; my new birth had begun!

At about three weeks into this profound freedom, a stark overwhelming urge to purge an excessive meal assailed me, in which there was actual physical weakness, as I staggered going back and forth toward a public bathroom.  This moment became a crucial step in proving my liberty, for it was then I decisively turned from death to life: clarity came with the vivid memories, both of the sweet peace experienced during this abstinence, as well as the subsequent pleasures derived from foods that I was now able to actually taste; there was vital victory as I successfully turned, moving to the place where  life and my friends were waiting.

It got much easier after that.  Only once in all these 50 years did I give into this lie, for I slipped into this old habit for a week, when I was desperately trying to loose a few pounds, before leaving for Paris in 1985; a greater than I brought me back to my senses, and I stopped as suddenly as I had started.  While in Dijon, France, after an exceptionally large meal, I was tested, however, to see if I really meant business.  Only by grace did I stand, not purging my grotesque meal.  Never again have I returned to this inferno; honestly, I am no longer even faintly tempted.

In this same way, though with much less drama, all my food consumption has been refined: first I receive inspiration for better habits, whether it be the exclusion of a given matter, or the addition of something new; next, I weigh and balance the suggestion, getting clear in my heart what is best for me; then, I initiate the change, which often comes with challenges at first.

I find that we are generally tested, when establishing all new behavior; such testing, however, provides proof of the pudding, for it fixes newly-won-rights indelibly.  Now I thank God, not for the attacks themselves (which aren’t of him), but for the rich strength provided in overcoming them, through our partnering with his grace.

Bless our food, bodies, and hearts always!

grinding flour with an attachment for a Kitchen Aid mixer

Atomic Muffins  Yields: 2 dozen.  Total prep time: 3/4 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 15 min (if you have 2 muffin pans).

1 c raisins, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes

1/2 c oil  (Grape seed or avocado oils are best for heating to high temperatures, without producing carcinogens.)

3/4 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal-see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24, for information on this sugar.)

2 tbsp molasses

2 lg eggs  (Organic free-range eggs are healthiest.)

1 c whole wheat pastry flour  (May grind 2/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make a cup of fresh-ground flour.)

1/4 c barley or spelt flour

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt, pink salt, is so important for premium health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

1/2 c powdered milk

1/2 c nutritional yeast  (Available in bulk at many stores, such as our local Winco.)

3/4 c wheat germ

1/2 c old fashioned rolled oats  (Organic in bulk is only slightly more expensive and much more nutritious.)

1/2 c sesame seeds

1/2 c sunflower seeds

3/4 c pumpkin seeds

1/2 c nuts, chopped

1 1/2 c milk  (May use an alternative milk, such as almond or hazelnut.)

Coconut Spray Oil  (Pam is available at most supermarkets; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

  1. easy mixing of dry ingredients in a sealed storage bag

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. If grinding fresh flour, do so now (see photo at top of recipe).
  3. Cover raisins with boiling water; set aside for 15 minutes, for them to plump up.
  4. In a large bowl, blend oil, sugar, and molasses; add eggs; beat well.
  5. In a gallon-size sealed storage bag, shake together all dry ingredients, including seeds and nuts, until well mixed (see photo above).
  6. Alternately blend dry ingredients and milk into oil mixture, using just half of each at a time, until all is incorporated.  (Note: if using fresh-ground flour, preferably let batter rest in bowl for 20 minutes before baking, as it is a coarser grind and doesn’t absorb the moisture as quickly as store-bought flour; see photo below.)
  7. bowl of batter

    Spray muffin pans with oil; spoon batter into cups; bake for 14 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (It is best to lean on the side of under baking, so muffins remain moist.)

  8. Remove from pan and cool on waxed paper.
  9. Keep muffins in refrigerator; the freezer, however, provides even better storage, if using them over an extended period.
  10. These are indeed atomic in nutrition!

Ropa Vieja (Omelette)

ropa vieja (omelette)

Our typical American cuisine was inspired by the familiar recipes brought over by English, French, Spanish, and Dutch settlers, as well as those of Scotch-Irish and German colonists, who followed these early immigrants; all of this European influence merged with the available Native American foods.

African slaves played a broad part in fashioning our distinctive Southern cookery; the mistresses of these slaves initially taught these, our people, receipts recalled from their individual heritages; then, with the Africans’ natural appreciation of and aptitude for cooking, prized dishes were developed, which were used in the strong social competition among the plantations.  These delicacies, which in large part formed this region’s cuisine, were not initially compiled in books for the public, but rather closely safeguarded within each family, due to the rivalry among these established settlements; thus, there were no Southern cook books until the first quarter of the 19th century.  A few recipes from this geographic area were preserved, however, in some American cook books, mostly those published in and around Philadelphia.

Mrs. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, printed in 1824, in Washington D.C., is an early example of a receipt book specializing in foods from the South.  It also includes some Northern recipes, as well as a few Spanish dishes, of which our Ropa Vieja omelette is one; this promising recipe boasts of only five ingredients-one of which is our garden tomato-and just a few succinct instructions; its simplicity makes it exceptional.

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains why this sweet-tart fruit tomato, which is used as a vegetable, has such great appeal.  (Note: any produce with seeds is considered a fruit!)  He attributes this attractiveness to the unique flavor brought about by its low sugar content (3%), as well as the large amount of savory glutamic acid (as much as 0.3% of its weight), and ample quantities of aromatic sulfur compounds.  These two latter ingredients, present in ripe tomatoes, predispose them to complement the flavor of meats; this is because these two substances exist more commonly in animal flesh than fruits; thus, their rich presence in tomatoes allows for added taste to meat dishes.  Savory glutamic acid and sulfur aromas likewise bring out great depth and complexity in sauces and other food combinations; therefore, this particular produce can even replace meat in flavoring vegan dishes.

Tomatoes originated in the west coast desserts of South America.  Extensive varieties existed in Mexico, by the time Hernando Cortez and his 400 Spaniards discovered this land in 1519.  The tomato was incorporated in American (and later European) cookery in various ways.  At the time of Cortez’ arrival, Mexicans used thin shavings of this green, unripe fruit in many dishes; they also mixed ripe tomatoes with chillis in a sauce to top cooked beans.  Subsequently, the Spaniards in Europe readily adopted them in their cuisine.

When Francisco Pizarro began his bloody attacks in Peru in 1532, this South American land, with all its royal Incan wealth, was eating mostly a vegetarian diet of maize, potatoes (including sweet and manioc potatoes), squash, beans, peanuts, avocados, chillis, and our beloved tomato.

Some time later, the Italians were adding it to broths and soups, as noted by the Quaker merchant Peter Collinson, in 1742.  Tomato sauce for pasta followed several decades hence.

Britain lagged behind Italy, in accepting this item, due to their long-held mistaken viewpoint, which had originated on the Continent, connecting it with a deadly nightingshade, being it was of this same family.   Not until the 20th century did the English acquired a taste for tomatoes, particularly canned tomato soup.

North America was almost equally slow in receiving this fruit, probably due in part to these same European misconceptions; they considered it to be lacking in nourishment and substance, as well as a cause for gout.  During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the U.S began what was to become a wide acceptance of tomatoes, primarily due to the strong influence from the great Italian immigration then.  Nevertheless, their first appearance here was when Thomas President Thomas Jefferson brought back seedlings from a diplomatic trip to Paris; there the Parisians had just accepted this “love apple”, believed to be an aphrodisiac; their acceptance directly resulted from the affect Italian cooking had on French troops during the French Revolution, at the end of the 18th century (see Spicy Sausages with Tomatoes & Turnips, 2017/09/25).

It is interesting to note that our third president had an extensive garden of 170 varieties of fruits and 330 varieties of vegetables and herbs; his grand kitchen utilized most of this produce, even producing ketchup for our epicurean leader, who primarily chose a vegetarian diet.  Ketchup at this time, however, was a vinegar-based condiment made from such ingredients as walnuts and mushrooms, not tomatoes.

Be sure to access my other tomato recipes: Parmesan Dover Sole (2017/03/27), Rosemary Eggs (2017/08/21), and Spicy Sausage with Tomatoes and Turnips (2017/09/25).

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 181-193.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 329, 330.
  3. On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: The Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 30, 206, 207, 214.
  4. Laura Kumin, The Hamilton Cookbook (New York, Nashville: Post Hill Press, 2017), p. 41.
  5. www.nellositaly.com/the-history-of-the-tomato-in-italy.html
  6. www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/historic-gardens

ingredients for ropa vieja

Ropa Vieja (Omelette)  Adapted from an 1824 Southern recipe in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964).  Yields 2 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.

2 large firm ripe tomatoes  (Cut these in eighths, removing seeds and juice.)

2/3 cup shredded leftover chicken, ham, or beef

4 large eggs, beaten lightly  (May use 3 duck eggs, which are bigger than chicken eggs; for egg history, see 2017/08/21.)

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp chopped parsley, optional

Salt, to taste  (Real Salt is important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooked tomatoes

    Spay the optional parsley with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray-mix 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle; let sit while proceeding to the next step.

  2. Prep the above ingredients.  Cut the tomatoes in eighths, gently scoop out liquid and seeds with a spoon (it not necessary to peel the tomatoes), place in a bowl.  Shred and measure the leftover meat, set aside.  Beat the eggs, only until whites and yolks are lightly blended.  Rinse optional parsley well and chop fine.
  3. Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a non-stick skillet.  Mix in meat, heating for 1 minute; add tomatoes; cook for 6 minutes, or until mixture is hot and tomatoes are somewhat softened, stirring occasionally (see above photo).
  4. Reduce heat to medium/low; sprinkle parsley over cooked tomatoes and meat; pour beaten eggs over this mixture, quickly distributing the meat and tomatoes evenly in eggs, using a spatula.
  5. finished product

    Salt and pepper generously before covering; cover and cook slowly, until eggs are set on top (see photo).

  6. When done, you may remove loose pieces of skin off tomato pieces, showing on top of omelette; fold it over; cut in half to serve two people.

The Best Zucchini Bread

zucchini loaves

It’s that time of year again for our proliferate zucchini.  Cucurbita pepo, a member of the cucumber/melon family, originated in Mexico; this was not only grown by Central and South Americans, but also by our own  Native Americans, long before the Europeans arrived.  Nonetheless, the version we know in the U.S. today is a variety of summer squash developed in Italy.

In actuality this is a fruit, not a vegetable, as it contains seeds.  While usually the male and female counterparts are present  in one plant, these components in this fruit exist in separate plants.  In the biological world, the female produces ovules, the equivalent of eggs, while the male produces pollen, which is like sperm in the animal kingdom.  Birds and especially bees transfer this pollen from the individual male to the female zucchini plants, producing abundant fruit, providing both these individual organisms reside together in any given garden.

I have a proven recipe to make use of this fertile squash, in which I suggest utilizing the health-promoting ingredients grapeseed oil and coconut sugar.

Grapeseed, along with coconut and avocado oils, can be heated to high temperatures without producing carcinogens; it is mild in flavor; thus, it is ideal for baking.

Comparing refined with coconut sugar, we see very little difference in their nutritional profiles on the surface; their caloric and carbohydrate content is very similar.  Such figures, however, don’t tell the hidden benefits of this healthier coconut sweetener which is barely processed; it is obtained by heating the sap of the coconut flower until most of the liquid is evaporated.  This alternative has a little more nutrition, as it contains small amounts of zinc, iron, calcium, and potassium, where the refined version holds empty calories.  More importantly, coconut sugar possesses a much lower glycemic index; this greatly reduces any tendency to spike the blood sugar, making it a possible substitute for those dealing with milder forms of blood sugar problems.  Always be sure to check with your healthcare specialist concerning your own personal diet!

I use this “healthy” substitute in both my zucchini and banana breads; see Banana Bread (2017/05/29).

My larder perpetually boast of one or the other of these, both of which I make with fresh ground, organic, hard red spring wheat berries.  These specific berries contain a variety of nutrients including vitamin E, calcium, B vitamins, folate, and potassium; one serving also provides 20% of the daily value of dietary fiber, 8% of needed iron, and the same amount of protein as found in an egg, or 6 grams. Breads last for lengthy periods of time, when made with this fresh ground flour.

To easily bake these perfect loaves in the off-season months, I encourage you to freeze plenty of this grated “fruit/vegetable” in 1-cup packages, while the abundance lasts.

References:

https://www.thespruce.com/history-of-zucchini-1807689

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/all-about-zucchini-zbcz1405

biologicalthinking.blogspot.com/2011/07/birds-do-it-bees-do-iteven-zucchinis-do-it.html

grinding flour with attachment for Kitchen Aid mixer

Zucchini Bread  Yields: 2 loaves.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 1 hr.

3 cups flour  (Fresh-ground provides the highest quality; use 2 cups organic, hard red spring wheat berries to make 3 cups fresh ground flour; see photo.)

3 eggs

2 1/4 cups sugar  (Coconut sugar is best; always available at Trader’s and at times Costco.)

1 cup oil  (Grapeseed  or avocado oil is important here; these may be heated to high temperatures without damage.)

3 tsp vanilla extract  (Ask vacationers to bring a liter bottle back from Mexico; this is the highest quality and dirt cheap.)

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in health section at local supermarket.)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

4 tsp cinnamon  (Our local Fred Meyer’s has an excellent, organic Korintje cinnamon in bulk inexpensively.)

thawing individual frozen zucchini packages

2 cups of zucchini  (If using frozen zucchini, remove 1 tbsp of liquid from each thawed 1-cup package; be sure to thaw in a dish to catch juices; it is best to freeze these ahead, while zucchini is available; see photo.)

1 cup nuts, optional

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best; Pam is available in most supermarkets; our local Winco-brand, however, is far less expensive.)

Flour for dusting pans

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If grinding fresh flour, do so now; see above photo.
  3. Beat eggs in a large bowl, add sugar, blend until creamy.  Beat in oil and vanilla well.
  4. Place flour in a large bowl; stir in salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon with a fork vigorously, or shake all well in a sealed gallon-size storage bag.
  5. Mix flour mixture into egg/sugar/oil; when adding flour, do not over-beat, as this toughens the bread.
  6. Fold in zucchini and optional nuts.
  7. Spray and lightly flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans (coconut spray oil is important for flavor); pour batter into prepared pans.
  8. cooling zucchini loaves in pans

    Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the loaf responds when pressed with finger; may also test with a toothpick, which will come out clean when done.  Do not over-bake, as this will continue to cook some, while cooling for 15 minutes in the pan set on a rack; see photo.

  9. This is magnificent, health-giving bread!