Monday, January 30, 2012

For the Health of It


I find that Americans are not so good with moderation. I get a number of cooking and family magazines, and found that in December we were instructed to indulge in gobs of sweet treats and rich meals. They also instructed us to make any number of craft products to clutter our homes, not to mention tips on acquiring more "stuff" to give as gifts. Then after filling our bellies and homes with a lot of things we didn't really need in the first place, the January magazine covers shout at us to organize, exercise, and eat right. So in this vein, I will give my 2 cents for eating right, not just in January, but hopefully all year. And in order to not "clutter" your lives I will show you how to do it very conveniently. It is important to show our kids that moderation is the way to go and that healthy doesn't have to be boring or bland.

Start your day right...
My family was already a fan of Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice- Gluten Free Cereal, an essential ingredient in our favorite Chunk-a-Chews recipe, but recently I received some samples of other Erewhon cereals, which we just love! The Erewhon Corn Flakes list organic milled corn and sea salt as the only ingredients. I was quite taken aback when I saw this. How could there be no sugar, corn syrup or a half dozen preservatives like other corn flakes? Well there aren't and they taste great. The kids really liked them, and it was the first time (I think) they had corn flakes, as it is very hard to find national brands without barley malt. You can taste the delicate flavor of the sea salt in the flakes, and they are crisp and crunchy. I really feel good about serving these cereals before I send my kids off to school.

Snack right...
School lunches are always a challenge for me. Each child gets something different due to their own allergies/sensitivities and overall preferences. For example, Rosie will only eat sandwiches if made on rice cakes. The child hates bread. The snacks in the lunchbox seem to make or break it. Of course they want "junk", chips, cookies, etc. But their school frowns on these types of snacks as do I. When I received a bunch of That's It bars to sample, I thought I may have hit pay dirt. They look like a granola or power bar, but they are not loaded with sugar or artificial anything trying to masquerade as healthy, they ARE healthy. Each bar contains the equivalent of two pieces of fruit.. and as the name implies, that's it! Somehow they've managed to chop, dry and form these two pieces of fruit into attractive and convenient little bars. They come in Apples and Cherries, Apples and Apricots, and Apples and Pears flavors. The bars are softer than regular dried fruit, and have a slight tang as they are not sweetened with sugar. They are great for kids who play sports and need a boost, as they can easily fit in a pocket (or my purse).

Cook right...
After a long day of school the kids clamber into the kitchen and want food. Their first thought is for snacks, and my first thought is dinner is soon, I don't want them to snack. When an acquaintance told me she serves her young kids dinner at 4:30 when they first get home from school, I balked. But she explained that this way they can have something nutritious and filling before doing their homework, and since they go to bed around 7:30 or 8 pm, this dinner time is perfectly reasonable. I see that if I have dinner ready by 5 pm, they will fore go the foraging for snacks and eat more substantially. Levana Kirschenbaum, the culinary mastermind behind Manhattan's Levana's restaurant and several great cookbooks, has come out with a new book entitled The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen: Glorious Meals Pure and Simple. Along with Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, they try to show the reader that healthful eating has to be neither boring or laborious. Levana cooks with family in mind, and the book is peppered with pictures of her adorable grandchildren. She includes codes next to the recipes to show which ones are gluten free and notes to indicate how to adapt certain recipes for the gluten free cook. There are eye-catching photos for contemporary recipes like Cold Red and Yellow Pepper Soup, as well as more tradition Moroccan dishes like Chraimi, (fish cooked in a traditional Moroccan style). The book is chock full of recipes that will get your family eating veggies and other nutritious ingredients. My one warning to the gluten free eater/cook is to make sure all your ingredients are gluten-free. For example, there is a recipe for Mock Crab Salad, however I have only seen Surimi (mock crab) which contains gluten as a binder. So that made me wonder if the authors stuck the "gf" tag on recipes they assumed were gluten free without having a true, in-depth knowledge for this way of cooking. And, more an opinion than a warning, Levana indicates she favors chick-pea flour in her gluten free baked goods. Those of us who eat gluten free baked goods all the time know that there are tastier alternatives to the bean flour, which lends a very particular flavor and texture to baked goods. But apart from these issues, I still think this cookbook provides a ton of luscious, healthy recipes, which would be a great addition to your family's repertoire of meals.

This recipe was picked by Silvana Nardone as the winner in Attune Foods December recipe contest. It's a great, inexpensive way to make crunchy, gluten free breadcrumbs.

Italian Style Gluten Free Breadcrumbs

1 - 10oz. box Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal, finely crushed
1/2 cup dried parsley flakes
1/3 cup dried basil flakes
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In small batches, finely crush the cereal. I have a coffee bean grinder that I use exclusively for spices and food items. This works great. However, if you do not have a grinder, you can simply place the cereal in a large resealable bag and use a rolling pin to finely crush the cereal.

Place the crumbs into a large bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl and thoroughly mix together.

Place the breadcrumb mixture into a mason-type jar.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Dash of Delicious


I was thumbing through a book catalog recently, and I saw a spate of new kosher cookbooks. Hmmm. SO many new ones are coming out, I thought,"Are any of them going to offer me something new?" Well the Dash cookbook created by Rebecca Naumberg and Sori Klein as a fundraiser for Torah Academy for Girls in Far Rockaway, New York is different. Not only does it raise the bar on school fundraising cookbooks, it presents kosher cooking in a new light.

Although many of the recipes look as if they would be complicated to prepare, none of the recipes (as far as I could tell) extend beyond one page. They force the kosher cook to look outside the box and bring contemporary culinary ideas into their home. There are some old favorites mixed in as well. The recipes bring in flavors from many international cuisines, contain recipes from professional chefs interspersed with home cooks. They also provide "plan ahead" and "simplify" tips that make the recipe easier when you are rushed.

For the gluten free cook (or eater) there are quite a lot of options in Dash, such as Quinoa with Balsamic Roasted Vegetables, a terrific meat section, and even desserts like French Macaroons with 3 fillings, Chocolate Semifreddo and fresh fruit sorbets. The cold soups especially caught my eye, as I'm a big fan. The Chilled Avocado Gazpacho with Spiced Pumpkin Sees has a nice contrast of warm spices with the cooling elements of avocado---they even give non-dairy substitutes for this one!

Visually the book makes an impact. Food styling, although done by the parental body of the school, it seems, looks very professional. My one gripe is that all of the photos are against a black background. I would have liked some variation, as it is a thick book and the black background is sort of a single note. But it was photographed beautifully.

If you are interested in ordering the book send an email to: The cookbook is an entirely non-profit endeavor, and all proceeds go to the school.

Since Rosie can't have eggs, I tend to make a lot of roast potatoes instead of kugels. This recipe caught my eye because of all the garlic---something I absolutely love, especially roasted. The lemon juice gives it a very bright flavor. Gremolata is an olive oil and herb condiment used in the Mediterranean to finish meats and other roasted dishes.

Potatoes Gremolata
from Dash by Rebecca Naumberg and Sori Klein, p. 207

2 pounds baby or fingerling potatoes

1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 2 lemons
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Potatoes: Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Place potatoes in an 8-quart stockpot with enough cold water to cover by at least 2 inches. Bring the water to boil over medium heat and cook until potatoes are tender when pierces with a fork, about 25 minutes. Drain and allow to dry for 5 minutes.

Roast: Place potatoes in a roasting pan. Add oil, whole garlic cloves and minced garlic. Bake for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for gremolata in a small bowl. Sprinkle potatoes with gremolata and toss to evenly coat potatoes. Return to oven and bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.

Serves: 6

This recipe is pictured in the book served in artistically angled shot glasses. This idea is great for cocktail parties and buffets, wherein you would not normally serve soup. This recipe is vegan when made with soy sour cream.

Chilled Avocado Gazpacho with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds (pepitas)
from Dash by Rebecca Naumberg and Sori Klein, p. 44

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, sliced into rings
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, or more as needed
3 medium ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into large chunks
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup sour cream or pareve tofu sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Spice Pumpkin Seeds

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to blender.

Puree sauteed onion together with broth, avocados, cilantro, parsley, lime juice, cumin, coriander and salt. Blend in sour cream and season to taste with more salt and pepper. Refrigerate covered for at least 2 hours. Thin the soup with broth if necessary. Ladle into bowls and garnish with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds.


Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup raw green (hulled) pumpkin seeds
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of kosher or coarse sea salt

Heat oil in a small skillet over moderately high heat. Add pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until seeds begin to pop, 1-2 minutes. Stir in cumin and cayenne pepper, and continue to cook, stirring until fragrant about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and season with a generous pinch of salt.