Healthy Date/Apricot Bars

date/apricot bars

Here is a receipt for a great date/apricot bar, sweetened with a monk fruit sweetener; it is complete with information on this great alternative sweetener.  This makes a healthy breakfast bar.  The recipe is another one of my sister’s notes of grandeur, derived by her ingenious cooking skills, which she originally made with sugar.  Today, however, her cooking is inspired by the keto diet (therefore this bar no longer fits in her diet plan).

Recently I have begun investigating this keto way of eating for myself, which promotes a diet of high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carbohydrates.  I am looking to it for its over-all health benefits, rather than for weight loss.  The more I read, the more convinced I am that the avoidance of sugars, as well as a high intake of the right kind of fat calories, is beneficial for our bodies both to maintain health and loose weight, but it is essential that they be the right kind of fats.

Dr. Don Colbert has an excellent plan, the keto-zone diet, in which you bring your bodies into a state of ketosis, burning fat for energy, rather than glucose (sugar), by using premium fats for 70% of your daily caloric intake.  Presently I am exploring in depth his teachings on the multi-health benefits of his diet.  Not needing to loose weight, I don’t restrict my carbohydrates quite as strictly as his diet requires-until I learn otherwise.  Therefore I partake in this bar, which is made with organic whole wheat pastry flour, oats, butter, and monk fruit sweetener.

Indeed, high quality fats (avocado, olive oil, grass-fed ghee, MCT oil, krill oil) are important also for those of us who aren’t in need of shedding pounds,.  Rather we have a need to take in enough calories to maintain weight and acquire optimum health.  Consuming lots of rich desserts and empty starch calories to keep weight can lead to diabetes among other serious conditions.  1

The use of good alternative sweeteners is equally important, as eating the right kind of fats; these bars are made with butter and Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener, which is available at Costco.  Monk fruit sweeteners are typically a mixture of monk fruit extract and other natural products such as inulin or erythritol;.  This Costco product is a blend of erythritol-the first ingredient-and monk fruit, also known as lo han guo, or Swingle fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii), which is a small round fruit, native to southern China.  2

Costco’s Monkfruit has a sweetness equal to sugar, though other blends may have a sweetness ranging from 100-250 times greater than table sugar.  The intensity of sweetness depends on the amount of mogrosides present.  Mogrosides are the compound-a unique antioxidant-in monk fruit extract, which are separated from the fresh-pressed juice of this Asian monk fruit during processing.  When separated they are free of calories; these sweet-flavored antioxidants-mogrosides-are mainly responsible for the sweetness of this fruit, rather than its other natural sugars, fructose and glucose.  Fructose and glucose are actually totally removed during the processing of this extract.  3

Though more research is needed to verify the health benefits of mogroside extracts from monk fruit, there is some evidence that they may have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, as well as possibly having positive effects on cancer and diabetes.  Current studies, however, use much higher doses of monk fruit extract than that consumed in this sweetening product.  4

We find the satisfying of our need for pleasure is much needed in healthy eating, but how this calls for balance.  Indeed, balance is a key to all that concerns us about food, and it is imperative that we make the effort to discover what works best for us individually.  Our bodies are unique and complex.  Food can work as a medicine, as well as be a rich blessing to our souls, when consumed properly.

Eating with an attitude of reverence is a key to tapping into gastronomic pleasure.  One simple tool in reaching this goal is to focus on that childhood instruction “chew carefully”.  In order to do this, it’s imperative to slow down.

We find the need to slow down and “chew carefully” is present in all of life’s endeavors, in order to reap the maximum goodness promised; as the old adage goes “slow down and smell the roses”.

To achieve this, it is important to give thanks to our Creator for our food, as well as for all the daily blessings and trials that come our way.  Such insures our joy.  We apply this gratitude to the not-so-good, not for the trouble itself, but rather for our resultant growth that develops out of overcoming hardship.  Such a heart bent on thanksgiving pleases our God immensely; it guarantees a prosperous life.  (For more on heightened pleasures of proper eating, see Parmesan Dover Sole, 2017/04/10.)

Enjoy this delightful recipe!

References:

  1. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/
  2. https://foodinsight.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-monk-fruit-sweeteners/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/monk-fruit-sweetener
  4. Ibid.

finished product

Healthy Date/Apricot Bars  Yields: 2 dozen.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  active prep time: 40 min/  baking time: 50 min.

2 c pitted dates, packed down firmly, chopped  (I suggest taking a measuring cup to the store, thus pre-measuring fruit, as you buy in bulk).

2/3 c dried apricots, cut small

1 1/3 c butter, softened  (Plus several additional tbsp, as needed for moistening last of crumbs.)

1 c Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetner, cane sugar, or coconut sugar  (This Monkfruit is available at Costco.)

1 2/3 c old-fashioned oats (Organic is only slightly more expensive in bulk; available at most grocery stores.)

3 c flour (Organic whole wheat pastry flour is best.)

1 1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.99/5 lbs.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is preferable for quality and taste.)

  1. thickened fruit-sauce

    Beat 1 1/3 c butter in a large bowl; blend in Monkfruit sweetner or sugar, beating until light.  Set aside.

  2. Measure dates in a measuring cup, packing down firmly; with a chef’s knife, chop into small pieces.  Repeat these steps with the apricots.
  3. “sifting” in sealed plastic bag

    Place fruit in a medium saucepan.  Add 2 1/4 c of water, cover, and bring to a boil over med/high heat.

  4. Remove lid, lower temperature and boil softly, uncovered, until a thick sauce is formed.  Be sure to stir about every 5 minutes.  Watch fruit carefully as it thickens, so as not to burn (see photo above).
  5. mealy crust

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  6. In a plastic sealed storage bag, place flour, oats, and salt.  Close the seal and shake vigorously (see above photo).
  7. Blend flour mixture into butter, until mealy; see photo.
  8. Place 3/5 of flour/butter mixture in bottom of a 9” x 13” pan, which has been lightly sprayed with oil.  Pack down evenly with hand, being sure to pat edges and corners really well.
  9. initial baking of crust

    Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes (see photo).

  10. Remove from oven and gently spread thickened fruit-sauce over top of crust.  Then, taking the rest of the flour/butter mixture, firmly pat rounds of dough between your two hands, placing these solid masses on top of date/apricots, until all is covered.  (May add a little additional soft butter to dry crumbs in the bottom of bowl, to moisten them and facilitate the last of the forming.)  See photo below.
  11. forming of top crust

    Return to oven and bake 30 minutes more, or until golden brown; see photo at top of recipe.

  12. Cut into bars, while still warm.  May freeze part of batch to have on hand for a nutritious breakfast bars.

Balsamic Eggs w/ Ghee Recipe

finished ghee

Discover here the health-giving attributes of the right kind of fats, such as grass-fed ghee in this delicious balsamic egg recipe, which is complete with the easy steps for making inexpensive ghee.

Increasingly, our mainstream culture is recognizing that dietary cholesterol is not a cause of heart disease or weight gain.  Mitochondria, the power plants in our bodies, either burn sugar or fat for energy.  A high carbohydrate diet makes the body go into a mode of burning glucose (sugar), while switching to a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet, allows the body to use fat for fuel.  This is why many people are achieving great success with the keto diet, which is high in fats.  Of key importance, however, is that one eats the right kind of fats!  1

Many vegetable oils, such as canola and soy oils (those most frequently used in restaurants and found on grocery shelves) are very unstable, oxidize quickly, and are almost always rancid; thus, they can be extremely detrimental to the nervous system and immune health.  They can be indigestible and lead to inflammation and free radical damage; inflammation is among the root causes of major diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, and arthritis, according to Dr. Don Colbert.  2

In approaching a high fat diet, to either maintain health or loose weight, it is critical that one know the kind of fats that are healthy.  There are seven recommended healthy fats-avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, grass-fed ghee, MCT oil, and krill oil. Among these are three that I frequently use in my recipes: ghee, avocados (and their oil), and the king of oils olive oil, though this latter should not be heated, as it becomes carcinogenic at high temperatures.  3

Ghee made from grass-fed butter is highly health-promoting.  Dr. Axe states that the saturated fat found in butter (and coconut oil) provides the body with much needed fuel, as well as helping with blood sugar stability, when eaten in reasonable amounts.  It has 400 different fatty acids and a good dose of fat-soluble vitamins as well.  It is important that the cream the butter is made from is obtained from grass-fed cows, with their diet rich in beta-carotene (the form of vitamin A found in plants.)  When eaten in moderation, butter is very beneficial.  4

Butter made into ghee takes these health attributes a step higher.  Ghee is produced by gently heating butter to evaporate the water and milk solids from the fat.  Fat makes up about 80% of the content of butter.  The milk solids contain inflammatory proteins and sugar, which are detrimental to health, but when these are removed, pure butter fat (loaded with fat-soluble nutrients) results, providing a food good for healing and detoxification.  5

Following is a simple recipe for the preparation of inexpensive ghee at home, which I have perfected over time.  Note: my saucepan for making ghee was originally not quite heavy enough; thus, I could only produce clarified butter, when I used the high quality, European, grass-fed Kerrygold butter.  My not-so-heavy saucepan, however, was quite adequate for making ghee, with the lesser-quality, Trader Joe’s, hormone-free, regular butter; this ghee, however, is much lighter in color and isn’t as health-promoting.

The premium, grass-fed, European butter is higher in fat, making it impossible, without burning, to go beyond this first stage of clarifying the butter, while using my not-so-heavy pan.  Clarifying requires cooking only until the first foam arises and subsides; then, there is the removal of the skin of dry, milk solids.  Ghee is easily produced, when cooking continues after this initial stage and, following the subsiding of the first foam, a second foam arises.  Then the milk solids that have sunk to the bottom of the pan brown, leaving a nutty-flavored medicinal substance.

After several failures with Kerrygold butter, I bought a great, heavy, All-Clad saucepan at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  (Go to Laban Bil Bayd-2018/03/26-for more information on the differences between clarified butter and ghee.)  These great balsamic eggs, with ghee, are a steadfast part of my diet now!  Enjoy.

References:

  1. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. https://draxe.com/grass-fed-butter-nutrition/
  5. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/

balsamic eggs beginning to fry

Balsamic Eggs  Yields: one serving.  Total prep time: 5 min.  (or 25 minutes total, if making your own ghee.)  Note: though a thermometer may be helpful, it is not required.

1 tsp ghee  (May purchase ready-made at Trader Joe’s, or make your own inexpensively, following directions below.)

2 eggs, preferably duck eggs

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  1. first foam

    For homemade ghee, prepare a strainer, lined with a coffee filter, and place it in a heat-proof dish; set aside.

  2. Over medium heat, shaking pan, melt 8-16 oz of high quality, unsalted butter (Kerrygold is ideal).
  3. breaking of first foam

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

  4. Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, temperature will be about 190 degrees (see above 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; remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.
  5. second foam rising

    To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until a second foam rises.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees; see photo.  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.

  6. Immediately gently strain golden-colored butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish (see photo below).  Transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  7. straining ghee

    In an egg pan, melt 1 tsp of ghee, over medium heat.

  8. When pan is hot, add eggs and lower heat to med/low.  Pour vinegar over yolks, just as the white is starting to form on the bottom of pan; see photo at top of recipe.  Cover with a splash shield (available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, see photo below).
  9. splash shield

    When whites are nearly cooked, flip eggs over, cooking briefly, then transfer to a bowl, for easy spooning of these delicious juices.

Sprouted Three Bean Dip

sprouted three bean dip w/ organic Que Pasa chips

Let’s examine the beautiful health benefits of sprouting.  This sprouted three bean dip was inspired, by the life-preserving works of my sister Maureen’s prayer partner Jeanette, in the early 2000’s.

This friend was a cancer victim with four months to live, when she chose non-traditional treatment, a juice fast at a health center.  After healing was complete, Jeanette began to teach powerful juice fasting herself, elaborating on its restorative values with raw, sprouted foods.  Together these produce a perfect ph balance in our systems, in which cancer can’t survive.  This woman is now world renown for treating the terminally ill.

Sprouting magnifies the nutritional qualities of grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts.  For instance, almonds soaked for 24 hours increase in food value eleven times.  Quinoa, a pseudo-cereal, which fits nicely between grains and legumes, is also dramatically changed; this complete protein, which grows quickly in one to two days, is high in manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, fiber, folate, zinc, vitamin E, and antioxidants; my instructions for germinating quinoa can be found in Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad (2016/09/05).  Beans, however, take about three days for the enzymes to come alive; live beans are also a good source of protein, as well as B and C vitamins.

Maureen learned much about nutrition from her friend and subsequently passed it on to me.  My sister creatively applied her sprouting method to cooked three-bean dip (Jeanette, however, never cooks anything).  Note that boiling these beans diminishes their life; thus, they are no longer considered a live food, but germination still holds some benefits here even with the heating.

On the other hand, sprouting can encourage bacteria to grow, while high heat kills these microorganisms; boiling also deactivates irritating substances that may be found in raw sprouts; therefore, people with weak immune systems should be careful about eating sprouted foods.  Indulge as your body dictates, always employing sterile conditions while undertaking this technique.

Koreans have long employed stewing in making their common side dish known as kongnamul; in this popular nourishment, the sprouted soybeans have been cooked thoroughly and seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, green onions, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and hot pepper flakes.  This refreshing accompaniment is almost always present at every meal in this culture; for an authentic recipe, go to http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kongnamul-muchim

My dip will keep for many weeks in the refrigerator-these instructions provide three and a half quarts of product, two of which I freeze.  For me, this receipt’s importance is found not only in its enzymatic quality-though it decreases some with boiling and freezing-but more so in the ease it provides, of having a dynamite hors d’ouvres on hand always.  It’s good!

finished product

Sprouted Three Bean Dip Yields: 3 1/2 qt (ideal for freezing).  Total prep time: 3-4 days-for soaking beans-plus 1 3/4 hr to prepare/  active prep time: 40 min/  cooking time: 1 1/4 hr.

3 c pinto beans

1 c red beans

1 c black beans

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

2/3 c garlic cloves, or 2 med/large bulbs  (This produces a moderately pungent garlic flavor; may adjust amount for a weaker/stronger garlic taste.)

1 c cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil

1 c salsa  (Trader Joe’s makes a good and reasonably priced Salsa Authentica.)

2 tsp cumin, or to taste

4-1-qt empty, yogurt or cottage cheese containers, sterilized

  1. black beans after sprouting for 2 days

    Began soaking beans 3-4 days ahead of time: place the pinto and red beans together in a large stock pot; check for stones; then, cover generously with water.  Next place black beans in a 3-qt saucepan, covering well with water, after checking for stones,  (Black beans cook faster; thus, they need to be prepared separately.)  Note: if beans are old, they will not sprout.

  2. Let soak for 12 hours; then, rinse well and drain.  Cover with wet paper towel and begin the sprouting process, which takes 2-3 days.  Be sure to rinse beans extra well every 8-12 hours, always covering with wet paper towel.
  3. red and pinto beans after sprouting for 2 days

    It is important that the paper towel remains wet; thus, keep a spray bottle of water handy and spray intermittently.  Sprouts will be formed in 2 days, but leaving them for 3 days is even better (be sure to rinse frequently the last day to keep water clear).  See both photos.

  4. When sprouts have grown, rinse beans well again, and cover amply with fresh water.  Cook black beans over medium heat until soft for about 45 minutes.  Bring pinto/red beans to a boil, over med/high heat, covered; then, uncover and cook until beans are soft (this takes a total of about 1 1/4 hour).  Be sure to stir occasionally, and replenish water if needed.  DO NOT ADD SALT WHILE COOKING, THIS INHIBITS BEANS FROM SOFTENING.
  5. measuring chopped garlic

    Peel garlic while beans are cooking; cut cloves in halves or thirds, filling a 2/3 c measuring cup for a moderately spicy dip (1 c for strong garlic flavor or 1/2 c for weak).  Place in a dry food processor; chop fine, stopping and scraping down sides.  Pack down chopped garlic in a 1/2 c measuring cup; split in half with a knife-see photo-using 1/4 c for each of the two batches you are processing.  Set aside.  (Dip will taste strongly of garlic at first, but this flavor mellows greatly after several days.)

  6. Remove the black beans from heat when they are soft, immediately add 1 tsp salt to hot bean broth.  Let beans soak in broth for 15 minutes, drain extra well, set aside.  (This process salts the bean dip evenly.)
  7. Repeat step 4 with the pinto/red beans when finished cooking; add 2 tsp, however, of salt to this mixture.  Drain well.
  8. When beans are thus prepared, process the first of two batches by placing half the pinto/red beans (approximately 4 1/4 c), half the black beans (approximately 1 1/2 c), half the garlic, 1/2 c oil, 1/2 c salsa, and 1 tsp of cumin in the food processor.  Turn on and puree, mixing thoroughly; press the “dough” button on processor briefly, as it agitates the mass with different motions than those of regular processing.  In this way the bean dip is blended well.  See photo of finished product at top of recipe.
  9. Place in sterilized containers and repeat step 7 with the last of the beans.
  10. This keeps in refrigerator for many weeks and freezes well; thus, it is great for long-term use.

Ahi Tuna, Peppered with Lemon Sauce

ahi tuna with lemon sauce

Ahi or yellowfin tuna is of the genus Thunnus and the species albacares; it is not to be confused with albacore or longfin tuna (Thunnus alalunga), even though the French use their word albacore for this yellowfin, while the Portuguese use albacora.  Note: the English albacore or longfin, of the species alalunga, is the basis for the United States tuna-canning industry.

Wikipedia sites the Hawaii Seafood Buyers Guide as stating that the enormous yellowfin tuna (with its Hawaiian name ahi) is popular in raw seafood dishes, especially sashimi, as well as being excellent for grilling, where it is often prepared seared rare.  Its buyers recognize two grades, “sashimi grade” and “other”, with variations of quality in “other”.

In sushi and sashimi, yellowfin or ahi is becoming a replacement for the near commercially extinct southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii); presently the latter is probably the most valuable and prized fish worldwide.

On September 11, 2013, smithsonian.com referred to Japanese chefs as revering this bluefin like the Italians might a white truffle or the French oenophile might a bottle of 1945 Bordeaux.  It goes on to state that its high standing, along with that of the other tuna species such as the yellowfin and bigeye, has not always been recognized in Japan, for in the 19th century it was called neko-malagi, meaning “fish that even a cat would disdain”.  Indeed, this beef-red fish is smelly and strong-tasting.

The wide-spread acceptance, of this once essentially worthless seafood, is actually a product of a marketing scheme of the Japanese airline industry.  The story starts with the tuna sport fishing craze prevalent in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and Canada; these 400-plus-pound bluefins were being caught for fun, weighed, and photographed; then, they were either sent to landfills, sold for pet food, or thrown back into the ocean dead.

With the dawn of the 1970’s, Japanese cargo planes brought electronics to America; these same planes took advantage of the cheap New England tuna carcasses for their return flights.  Not wanting to go back empty, they ingeniously purchased these dirt-cheap bluefins, which in turn produced profits of thousands of dollars each in their homeland.

What made this country welcome this previously detested fish?  (The Smithsonian article qualifies bluefin as being not so good, with a tangy iron flavor and a texture that melts in your mouth, which amateurs love; this is opposed to the crunchier, more subtly flavored muscles tissues of animals like squid, clams, various jacks, flounder, and sea bream, which are highly favored by traditional sushi connoisseurs.)  The reasoning behind today’s widespread acceptance of bluefin can be traced back to the newly acquired taste for beef in Japan’s diet in the 70’s.  Concurrent with the electronic boom, this national appreciation for strong flavored beef brought about their subsequent open-mindedness to the dark, red flesh of tuna as well.

When I moved to Tokyo in 1980, I experienced this red meat wave; hence in 1982, after my return home, I was inspired to seek the approval of Montana governor Ted Schwiden, for my becoming an “ambassador” to this Oriental country; my proposal was to sell the then popular Montana beef, with my historical Montana dinner, entertaining our state’s clients overseas (see “About” for more on this).

This advancing beef rage in the Orient set the stage for the universal acceptance of bluefin, for it prepared Japan’s taste buds for the inundation of this tuna by their airlines; in turn, this rich, dark fish’s popularity then spread back across the ocean to America; and “by the 1990’s, the bluefin tuna was wanted almost desperately world-wide”, according to the Smithsonian.

Now it is facing commercial extinction, with yellowfin or ahi taking its place.  As the magazine states, traditional sushi sophisticates, however, do not always appreciate bluefin; some even consider it junk fish, as it was once known.  Yet the general public perhaps foolishly values this tuna, in a way which is extremely opposite to that of the mid 20th century, when it was sent to landfills along the Atlantic coast.

In America, we love to grill ahi tuna, the frequent substitute for bluefin, as well as serving it raw.  This outstanding receipt, which is prepared in minutes, affords a mouth-watering lemon sauce to compliment this firm fish.

References:

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

https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/fish/discover/species-profiles/thunnus-albacares/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/from-cat-food-to-sushi-counter-the-strange-rise-of-the-bluefin-tuna-5980010/

medium/rare ahi

Ahi Tuna, Peppered with Lemon Sauce  Yields: 3 servings.  Total prep time: 30 min, or less.  Note: for an even quicker 10 min preparation, do step 5 only, omitting the lemon sauce, as well as all the ingredients, except the tuna, seasonings, and 2 tbsp oil.  On the other hand, you may double the sauce, allowing easy leftovers for next week’s Swift Pasta and Fresh Spinach with Lemon Sauce (1/8/18).

2 tsp butter

2 tsp flour

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice  (2 small lemons needed; may add optional zest of half a lemon.)

3 tbsp shallots, chopped small

2 medium garlic cloves, minced  (For easy prep, substitute 1 cube frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s.)

1-1.5 lb ahi tuna steaks  (Economical,  frozen, wild-caught ahi is often available in 1 lb bags at our local Grocery Outlet; may also use 3 fresh steaks, which tend to be 1.5” thick; these take longer to cook, weighing more.)

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Real Salt, Himalayan, or pink salt is so important for optimum health; a Himalayan salt is available very inexpensively, in bulk at our local Winco.)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado is best for health, as olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

1/2 c heavy whipping cream  (Must be heavy cream, or it will curdle.)

  1. Heat serving plates in oven, turned on warm.
  2. cooked roux

    Next prep roux, by melting butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat; mix in flour; while stirring constantly with a wire whisk, cook until moisture is absorbed,  about 1 minute; for this sauce color of roux shouldn’t change much (see photo); set aside.

  3. Juice lemons by first rolling them on counter, pressing down hard with hand; this loosens the meat for easy juicing; set measured juice aside.
  4. Mince garlic; chop shallots in small pieces; place in separate dishes.
  5. Rub tuna with salt, cayenne, and freshly ground pepper, which have been mixed together in a small dish.
  6. Heat oil in heavy-bottom frying pan, over medium/high heat.  Gently place steaks in hot oil and cook to desired doneness; set on warm plates in oven.  (Tuna steaks will vary in thickness; sear tuna until golden brown, turning only once; 5 oz steaks will need about 1 minute per side for medium/rare; fresh tuna, which is about 1.5” thick, takes about 2 minutes on each side for rare, while 2.5 min and 3 min per side respectively for medium/rare and medium.  DO NOT OVER COOK, or it will be extremely dry.)
  7. After putting cooked tuna in warm oven, turn heat down to medium under pan and deglaze it with 2 tbsp water, wine, or chicken or fish stock.  Cook minced shallots in hot juices, just until they turn translucent, about 1 minute; stir in garlic.
  8. lemon sauce

    Finish sauce by adding heavy cream, lemon juice, and optional zest to shallots/garlic.  Blend in roux, stirring continuously with a wire whisk, until sauce is thickened (see photo).

  9. Pour sauce over fish and serve immediately.  (For a quicker version, may omit the sauce and just serve seared ahi, by following step 6 only.)
  10. Enjoy this splendor, which is the fastest gourmet meal I know!

Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies

plate of mor monsen’s kaker (my mother’s cake)

 

I took the winter off from college in 1973, to work at Big Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, Montana.  There in my small studio apartment’s kitchen, I first made these incredible bars, which are known for gracing Norwegian Christmases.

Scandinavian baking is in a class all its own.  These people are known to be masters of pastry as well as open-face sandwiches-often incorporating cardamom, rye, and saffron in their creations.   Presently, their culinary genius has reached new heights: numerous times in this past decade, Noma of Copenhagen has been the title winner of The World’s Best Restaurant; it promotes the popular New Nordic cuisine, which is a style of food that has gone beyond the boundaries of Scandinavia.

New Nordic is best known by the terms local and healthy.  In Norway, with a growing season that might last from June until August, it creatively uses the ocean, wild game, root vegetables, and cold-climate berries, such as the native cloudberry, which is highly valued in this country, as it can only be foraged, not cultivated commercially.

My simple, rich recipe exemplifies the culinary excellence of Norway; these lavish bars only call for currants and almonds, amidst the flour, eggs, sugar, and typical pound of butter.

Currants have an interesting history.  Today, these small dried seedless grapes, known as Zante currants, essentially come from the grape cultivar Black Corinth (Vitis vinifera), which is from the genus Ribes.  Related varieties, such as the White and Red Corinth (and other cultivars from the Black Corinth), are used rarely.

There are a total of about 150 categories in Ribes, including the above, as well as golden currants, gooseberries, and ornamental currants.  These various kinds are native to the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America, and within each individual species there are many cultivars-horticulturally derived plants, as distinguished from natural varieties-which have been developed over time.

Currants, which are most commonly dried, are generally referred to as Champagne grapes, when sold fresh, by U.S. specialty grocers.

The study of the origin of the word currant helps identify the history of our tiny fruit.  Written records of it initially date back to Pliny the Elder in 75 A.D.  A millennium later, we see the Middle English term raysons of couraunte, also known as raisins of Corinth (a region in ancient Greece which produced and exported these Ribes).

The word couraunte stands for (raisins of) Corinth, taken from the name Courauntz, which is of the Norman French dialect-a variety of speech used in Normandy and England in the Middle Ages-for this Greek region; this in turn comes from the medieval Old French Corinthe; thus, the dialectal name reysons de corauntz was first used for these grapes, when they were brought to the English market in the 14th century, from which the word currants eventually evolved.

In the 1600’s trade patterns shifted from Corinth to the Ionian Islands, particularly Zakynthos (Zante); thus, this small grape became known as Zante currant.

In 1854, the Zante currant the Black Corinth cultivar came via a trade ship to the United States, which eventually resulted in its commercial production in California; the related varieties the White and Red Corinth were established there in 1861.  (Presently, this state is one of the four major world producers of currants, with Greece covering about 80% of this total generation.)

Actually, trade ships were bringing varieties of Ribes to our soil as early as the 16th and 17th century; natural Corinth raisins, however, were indigenous here as well; the Native Americans had been harvesting them from the wild, long before any Europeans arrived, using them for medicines and dyes.

These Zante currants,  which were initially reported at the time of Christ, are presently hard to find.  In earlier days, I could find boxes of dried currants in many local supermarkets, but recently I can only find them in bulk at such upscale grocers as the national chain New Seasons, which also carries the seasonal, fresh Champagne grapes.

Try adding this dried delight to your next Waldorf salad, a batch of scones (see Scottish Oat Scones, 2016/06/20), or these superb Norwegian Christmas cookies.  Expect wonders!

References:

https://ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/fact-sheets/pdf/currants.pdf

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

https://1historyofgreekfood.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/raisins-currants-sultanas/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/best-scandinavian-cookbooks_us_5756c7e2e4b07823f951302c

http://www.cookingbythebook.com/cookbook-reviews/cookbook-review-scandinavian-baking-by-trine-hahnemann/

cutting bars in triangles

Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies  Yields: 4 dozen bars.  Total prep time: 60 min/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 30 min.   Note: these freeze extra well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.

1 lb plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

2 c sugar  (Organic is best; available at Costco and Trader Joe’s.)

4 lg eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal; may also grind 1-1/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make 2 c fresh-ground flour.)

distributing currants on dough

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

3/4 c almonds, chopped small (May purchase almond slivers for easy chopping.)

1 c dried currants

A large 11” x 16” cake pan*, or a 12” x 16” jelly roll pan  (May use a 9” x 11” pan, in addition to a 9” x 9” square pan.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease pan-see optional sizes listed above-with 2 tbsp butter; set aside.
  3. Cream pound of butter with sugar, until light and fluffy, using an electric mixer.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition; mix in vanilla.
  4. distributing almonds on top of currants

    Blend flour and salt easily, by shaking vigorously in a sealed gallon-size storage bag; then, add this to butter mixture, beating only until all is incorporated, to keep cookies from toughening; set aside.

  5. Chop almonds fine with a sharp knife, or use a food processor, by repeatedly pressing down on the pulse button, cutting any big chunks in half with a sharp knife.  Set aside.
  6. Spread batter evenly on greased pan; sprinkle surface FIRST with currants; see photo in list of ingredients; then, distribute almond pieces over the top of these; see photo above.  Press nuts and currants down into batter slightly with fingers, so they are embedded; see photo below.  (This keeps them from falling off the baked bars in crumbles.)
  7. Bake for 20-35 minutes, or until golden brown, time varies with pan-size.
  8. While bars are still hot-using an 11” x 16” pan-cut 4 rows across the width and 6 rows across the length; then, cut these squares in half; see photo of cutting technique at top of recipe.  (Amount of rows may vary with differing pan

    pressing almonds and currants into dough, to embed them before baking

    sizes.)

  9. These freeze really well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.  They are a treat!

Turkey with Shallots, Cauliflower, and Bell Pepper

turkey with shallots, cauliflower, and bell pepper

It’s that time of year again for turkey.  I have created a recipe using either leftover roasted fowl or its ground version, which comes in one pound packages, at any food market; the latter makes this dish accessible year-round.

Turkey is in the genus Meleagris, which is native to the Americas; the Mexicans domesticated it by 800 BC.  It was either introduced to Southwest U.S., or tamed here independently, by 200 BC; these indigenous people used its feathers for ceremonies, as well as in making robes and blankets; they didn’t, however, consume it as a meat until around 1100 AD.

This bird arrived in Europe in 1523-24, when the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes brought certain foods back from Mexico; in Spain, it was known as gallopavo (peacock).  There is some confusion concerning the exact derivation of its subsequent name turkey; most likely this was taken from our American bird’s mistaken resemblance to the African guinea fowl, which the Europeans knew as turkey fowl, as these were imported from Turkey.

Many believe that English navigator William Strickland introduced this food to England; indeed a tribute was made to him in 1550, in that he was granted a family coat of arms, including a “turkey-crop in his pride proper”; this coat of arms, with its turkey crest, is still in use today.

Until recent times, this bird was considered an extravagance in Europe, where native grouse and pheasant were cheaper alternatives.  In the 19th century, the English working class aspired to partake of goose for their holiday celebrations; Christmas “goose clubs” were established in England in the 1800’s, so these impoverished people could insure the necessary savings for their festive meal.

One of the first mentions in literature, of turkey becoming this celebratory roast, is Charles Dickens’ vivid portrayal in A Chistmas Carol: a resultant, decadent Christmas dinner occurred, when the reformed Ebenezer Scrooge replaced Bob Crachit’s meager goose with a massive turkey.  Nevertheless, only since World War II, as growing conditions for turkey became less expensive, has this developed into the holiday fowl of choice in England.

In U.S. history, Benjamin Franklin was disappointed when turkey was not selected for our national bird; he argued that it is a true original native, whereas the eagle can be found in all countries.

With our present heightened fascination in high cuisine, “heritage” birds are gaining in popularity.  These are traditional breeds, much like Strickland and Dickens encountered, which can trace their ancestry to the earliest domesticated animals.  They have a ratio of dark to white meat of about 50/50.

Broad Breasted Whites have been sold predominantly in grocery stores for decades; these were bred to have a ratio of 65% white meat to 35% dark, while weighing up to 50 pounds; the maximum weight of a wild turkey is 25 pounds, which is also the upper weight of the traditional heritage birds.  These latter come with such colorful names as Bourbon Red, Royal Palm, and Midget White; even with their gamy taste, people are willing to pay $9, or more, per pound to partake of this delicacy, while Broad Breasted Whites are often given away free, as promotional deals, at local supermarkets nowadays.

You may call me penurious, but I made this dish with all-natural Foster Farms ground turkey, which is close to $3 a pound; my recipe, however, is great for Thanksgiving leftovers, whether they be of a Broad Breasted White or a heritage breed.

References:

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 86, 87, 180.
  2. http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/turkey-talk-the-story-behind-your-thanksgiving-bird
  3. http://www.historyextra.com/article/premium/turkeys
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_(bird)

flavorful onions caramelized with vinegar

Turkey with Shallots, Cauliflower and Green Pepper  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 50-60 min.

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

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

4 oz shallots, chopped in 1” pieces

1 tbsp butter

1 lb natural ground turkey  (May use leftover roasted turkey, broken in bite-size pieces.)

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

Fresh ground pepper to taste

2 lb cauliflower  (Yellow or orange cauliflower is sometimes available, in the organic section, at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores.)

1 lg bell pepper  (In particular, it is important that peppers be organic, as they readily absorb pesticides.)

3-4 tbsp flavored vinegar  (I used elderberry vinegar, which I purchased in Montana.)

  1. For caramelizing, peel and cut onion in even 1/8” slices.  Heat 1 tsp oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; when a small piece sizzles in oil, reduce heat to medium/low; add rest of onions and slowly cook, stirring every 2 minutes, until color begins to form.  (It is important to not crowd pan, or add too much oil, as

    cutting shallots in 1″ pieces

    this will slow down the cooking process.)  When a light golden color is beginning to form, start stirring every minute, until dark brown.  Deglaze pan of onions-scrape fond, browned, cooked-on-juices, off bottom of pan with a spatula-by adding 1-2 tbsp of the vinegar (see above photo of caramelized onions with vinegar).  Go to the next steps, while onions are cooking.

  2. Spray cauliflower and pepper with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.
  3. Peel shallots, cut large ones in 1” pieces, and set aside (see photo above).
  4. In another frying pan, melt butter; add shallots; and cook over medium heat, until they are translucent.  Add raw turkey, salt and pepper generously, cook until pink is gone-see photo below.  (If your turkey was previously frozen, there will be lots of juices, but if cooking fresh-ground, you may need to deglaze hot pan with 1-2 tbsp of vinegar; if using roasted turkey pieces, just stir these into shallots-do not cook.)  Set turkey/shallots aside in a large bowl.
  5. cooked turkey and shallots

    Cut peppers into 1” x 3” strips, set aside.

  6. For ease in dividing the cauliflower into bite-size florettes, first break chunks of cauliflower off the head; next, cut off all excess stalk from these bigger sections; then, make small knife-cuts in the stems of these pieces, gently pulling apart small florettes with fingers; set aside separately in a bowl.
  7. Heat 1 tsp of oil over medium heat in the above, empty meat pan; when a  piece sizzles in hot oil, add the remaining peppers; cook until somewhat soft, but still crisp.  Deglaze hot pan, with a tbsp of vinegar-may have to deglaze with water instead, for only a total of 3-4 tbsp of vinegar should be used for all deglazing, in entire recipe; vinegar adds delightful flavor, but too much is overpowering.  Put peppers in with bowl of meat.
  8. When onions are done, mix together thoroughly with meat/shallots/peppers.  Heat last tbsp of oil in this pan, over medium heat; after a small piece sizzles in hot oil, add rest of cauliflower; salt and pepper florettes, distributing oil evenly among them.  Add 1/4 c water, cover pan, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.
  9. finished product

    Blend turkey and vegetables into soft cauliflower, adjust seasonings, and heat thoroughly (see photo).  Serve with anticipation!

Power-Packed Cream of Broccoli Soup

cream of broccoli soup

A beloved one from my church was just pronounced cancer-free; it has been my heart to minister to her during this trial; in doing so, I have made this broccoli soup several times, hoping to please her palate.

It is our joy to touch each others lives, with the bounty with which we are supplied.  For some this means material blessings, for others it is the labor of their hands.  My number one gift, which is always at my disposal, is feeding my friends with food; I also love to exercise my limbs, which are actually the Lord’s hands and feet, with cleaning.  These two offerings thrill me.  I have used both in helping this friend.

Sometime ago, Toni’s husband mentioned her preference for cream of broccoli soup.  Though the vicious enemy cancer tried to steal this chemo patient’s taste buds, I and many others at our church have encouraged resurrected life in her tongue, with the recalling of her soft memories for fond foods.

Soups have gone down the easiest for her, but they often don’t have enough required protein.  The inspiration for this particular broccoli soup resulted from Toni’s needs for this compound, as this recipe is fortified with added protein, utilizing bone broth and eggs; I also find it beneficial for my diet, with my preference for meatless dishes.

Personally, my approach to food is summed up with the word balance, for this best fits my individual health requirements.  Today there are many diets available to meet people’s varying needs.  With our diverse health challenges, we must seek that which is suitable to our unique bodies.

As an example of the often stark opposition in these approaches, two such recommendations for nutrition stand out.  Recently I ran across a low-carb diet that promotes using real food; among its standard suggestions are high quantities of meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, as well as high-fat dairy, calling for whole milk yogurt and heavy whipping cream.  I too utilize these high caloric dairy foods, accepting the proposal of some experts that low-fat foods and artificial sweeteners can actually cause weight gain, rather than loss; also such whole foods satisfy the body, with a need to eat less of them.

Directly opposed to this proclaimed low-carb diet is one limiting protein, due to the special requirements of those dealing with kidney disease and kidney stones; it holds that too much of high protein foods may interfere with the body’s ability to eliminate, through one’s urine, the resultant large quantities of the waste products urea and uric acid.  These two by-products are produced by the breakdown of proteins and nucleic acids respectively; when their levels are too high, urea and uric acid cause significant stress on one’s kidneys; thus, those facing kidney problems must eat meal plans exactly opposite to those of the low-carb dieters.

May I encourage us to patiently listen to our bodies, by seeking trusted expert medical help, in discerning our individual physical make-ups; in this way, we each may discover our ideal plan for nourishment.

With my proclivity toward vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, seeds, and nuts , like my recovering sister, who can only tolerate soups right now, I must watch my protein intake carefully, neither getting too little, nor too much of it.  Indeed, this broccoli soup fits the prescription for both of our needs.

Our church body and the McFaddens have stood unified as one in her fight against cancer; as a miraculous result, Toni has overcome it; this is what belonging to the Christ’s glorious Church is all about.  May we all humble ourselves, by accepting each others proffered blessings; thus, we receive our Father’s abundant grace.

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/low-carb-diet-meal-plan-and-menu

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/02/15/foods-for-kidney-health.aspx

ingredients for soup

Power-Packed Cream of Broccoli Soup  Yields: 2 1/2 quarts.  Total prep time: 1 hr/  active prep time: 20 min/  cooking time: 40 min.  Note: it is best to thaw the frozen broccoli for at least 4 hr at room temperature, for quicker cooking.

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oils are best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, cut in small 1/4 inch dice

24 ounces frozen broccoli florettes  (Best thawed ahead of time for faster preparation; SAVE JUICES.)

5 tbsp parsley, minced  (Organic parsley is only slightly more expensive; so much healthier.)

2 cups chicken broth  (Bone broth is best; see recipe under Tortellini Soup-2016/10/10.)

1 quart whole milk

sweating onions and celery

5 large chicken eggs, beaten  (May substitute 3 duck eggs, which are bigger; for facts about eggs, go to Rosemary Eggs-2012/08/21.)

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

1 tbsp Chicken Flavored Better than Bouillon, or to taste

1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is so important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

1 tsp white pepper, or to taste

  1. Spray celery and parsley with a safe, effective, inexpensive produce spray: combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle.  Let sit for 3 minutes, rinse well.
  2. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat; sweat chopped onions and celery, or cook until translucent, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (see above photo).
  3. cooking roux

    Mince parsley, set aside

  4. Add broth and milk to onions/celery; stir in thawed broccoli, its juices, and parsley.  Cover pot and bring to a soft boil, over medium heat, watching closely; then, uncover, reduce heat, and simmer softly for 20-25 minutes; check to be sure soup is simmering gently.
  5. Meantime make roux by melting butter in a small sauté pan; blend in flour; cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly (see photo above).  Set aside.
  6. After soup has cooked for nearly 25 minutes, beat eggs in a large bowl; mix 1 cup of hot broth into bowl of eggs; stir in a second cup of broth; blend this egg mixture into soup, using a wooden spatula or spoon.
  7. Season with Better than Bouillon, salt, and pepper; continue to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. finished product

    Finally thicken soup, by beating in the prepared roux with a wooden spoon; cook until desired consistency.  Adjust seasonings.

  9. Serve immediately, or let sit for a day to meld flavors; if reheating soup, be careful not to boil vigorously, as this will cause it to separate.  This dynamite soup is packed with protein!