Glowing, radiant health is the new black. Our Green Table is serving it up, for the whole body! Healthy recipes and tips, the latest on eco-friendly food and "skin food"products and a head's up on ingredient safety are all woven into family-centered stories and discoveries. Bring informed, aware and empowered looks good on everyone!

Abrazos! xox Penny

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Flowers" for Comfort?

There is something to be said for making a recipe three times in two weeks and it is YUM! I found this recipe in a favorite magazine and blissfully cooked myself into a near addiction. This soup delivers a strange, hard-to-peg satisfaction. Is it comfort food, "health" food (what is up with that category?), delightfully veggie or just darn good? I think...all of the above and who knew cauliflower could flower into something so satisfying? Most of us have memories of over-cooked, waterlogged, mushy florets or cauliflower as a less than starring partner in a vegetable "medley". Well, this soup stars only cauliflower, enhanced with a little leek and a few herbs and wow...can it ever stand alone!

The possibilities for playing with this recipe are endless and now you know what I have been up to! You can vary the cheese (think smokey cheeses as an option), add heat with a few chilies, top with all kinds of fresh herbs, caramelized onions, roasted garlic or "croutons" of roasted yams or winter squash, swirl in a few grated beets for a whole new color, use orange or purple cauliflower and on and on. Ha... now you know why I have been so busy!! And, this soup is wonderful with The Queen of Green Salad! Don't skimp on the lemon is like a splash of sunshine.

Cauliflower Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, the white and light green parts thinly sliced
4 cups chopped cauliflower florets (I use a whole head)
2 1/2 cups milk, divided
2 cups water
1-2 bay leaves (and any other herbs of choice)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups extra-sharp, dye-free Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in a Dutch oven and add leeks. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower and saute for a few moments and then add 2 cups milk, bay leaf, water and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until cauliflower is soft, about 8-10 minutes. Whisk remaining 1/2 cup milk with flour and stir into soup. Cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Add cheese, stir until melted and add lemon juice. Garnish with a few chopped green onions or parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 6-8.

* Note: I leave the soup chunky and do not smooth it out in a blender. I like the more rustic look the little chunks of cauliflower give...and also, there is no blender to wash!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Great balls of...

To look around, "round" is the shape of the week. Early in the week, gorgeous, big, fluffy, round snowflakes fell and for several moments, there was a winter wonderland all around us. Then, not-so-gorgeous, big, sloppy, round rain drops fell. For the rest of the week, icy slush has been all around us, its dreary messiness brightened up by delightful round-bellied snowmen in neighbors' yards.

Like I said in an earlier post, I love snow, especially the big flaked kind. So many wonderful memories swirl around snow...of our snowmen (one we kept part of in the freezer for three years), of "real'' snow cones sweetened with maple syrup, of sledding on my stomach, skiing on my back, ice skating on my ankles and making snow angels as soon as there was enough snow to spread into wings. As a kid, whatever I lacked in winter athleticism, I made up for in "free-form" winter enthusiasm. My dad was an avid winter sportsmen and he introduced me to all his favorite sports and tried to pass on his skills. I must admit ( and I am sure he knew) that my favorite part of our ski or skating adventures together was the after...warming icy toes and frozen noses in front of the fire! As a mom, I also love the memories of bundling up our babies with layers and layers of snow clothes until they were fluffy, round, snow-suited cuties and then, trying to pile those human "snow balls" onto sleds and flying saucers. When they were babies, we lived less than a mile from Lake Erie and the "lake effect" had us around snow and rain for many, many months of the year. They were round little bundles a lot! Now, our babies are adults and our round-bellied pups offer their own doggie twist on snowbaby cuteness. Love it...and I could go on and on, but I am going in circles...

Back to earth...Valentine's Day is right around the corner and I promised a "healthy" treat. This recipe is from my friend Ann and it is quite versatile. You can roll these delicious little balls in sesame seeds or coconut or dip them in melted unsweetened dark chocolate. Although I haven't done this yet, I bet you can substitute almond or cashew butter for the peanut butter, and other dried fruits or dark chocolate bits for the raisins. Snow or no snow, have fun playing around with these. With just a little imagination, you will have a whole "candy" box full.

Valentine "Butter" Balls

1/2 cup natural peanut butter (stir well if there is oil in the jar)
1/3 cup local honey
1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dry milk
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup wheat germ or All Bran cereal

Mix all until well combined and then shape into balls. Keep in 'fridge for snacking.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saintly Gumbo

Now that was a great Super Bowl!!! I am so excited that the Saints won! Wearing that itchy gold sweater for four hours was worth it. To get ready for the game, as well as dragging out the black and gold outfit (the same one I wore last year for the Steelers), I also read through a treasured New Orleans cookbook borrowed from a neighbor who cooks up the most delicious food. Everything from the first recipe to the last sounded so yummy. The cookbook read like a juicy culinary novel; hopefully, I didn't leave any drool marks on the pages.

However, most of the soup recipes had meat or shrimp and I wanted to try out a new approach to gumbo, one that I could actually convert to a veggie gumbo or to one using a sustainable seafood. Lo and behold, Mark Bittman must have been reading my mind and he published a recipe for "lighter gumbo" in last Wednesday's New York Times. I love the Wednesday NYT! Anyway, I made it on Saturday and will share the recipe and the tweaks. I think this would be lovely with tofu as well, as long as the seasonings are hearty enough. I am not crazy about tofu unless the dish is really brightly seasoned. Mark's recipe uses a more sustainable shellfish, scallops, instead of shrimp which are one of the worst seafood choices to make if you are interested in the health of the oceans (see Eating Animals in post "Are you booked?")

Here is Mark's recipe. I did think the flavors were better the next day and this gumbo also made a perfect pre-game lunch.

Saintly Gumbo
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
sea salt and black pepper
2-3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups chopped tomatoes with their juice (Eden Organic's cans are safe and BPA-free)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves
cayenne to taste
Old Bay Seasoning to taste
1 pound scallops or firm tofu, cur in to bite-sized cubes
Chopped fresh parsley or other herb of choice
* Note: although not in Mark's recipe, I would add in okra!
To prepare roux (some friends chimed in here and they measure the "doneness" of roux by the number of beers consumed?!):

Put oil and butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. When butter melts, add flour and cook, stirring almost constantly, until roux darkens and becomes fragrant, about 15-20 minutes. As it cooks, adjust heat so that it doesn't burn. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and raise heat to medium. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and Old Bay Seasoning. Stir frequently until veggies have softened, about 10 minutes.

Stir in stock, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, bay leaves and cayenne. Cover and bring to a boil, Reduce heat to a simmer and cook another 20 minutes. Add scallops and cook until no longer translucent, about 2 minutes. If using tofu, add in here as well. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning, making sure there is a little "kick" to the flavor from the cayenne or even a splash of Tabasco sauce.

Serve over steamed brown basmati rice and garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 6-8. Any leftovers are even better the next day!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who Dat Stuffing Ya Game Face?

Ahh, the Super Bowl....a football game totally in a class by itself. Having grown up in The 'Burgh, I am a Steelers fan and this time last year, was in my element. I was still out with Mom and Dad and we rounded up every Pittsburgh-y treat we could find...kielbasa, pierogis, Heinz catsup, Iron City beer and of course, Klondlike ice cream bars, both smooth and crispy. Dad pulled out his treasured "Terrible Towels", we each donned a Steelers knit cap and we each had armchairs ready to second guess the quarterback before Monday morning. (I don't quite get football and so, what the heck, I shouted mainly "Go get 'em's!") We ate and howled and waved our towels over every move the Steelers made, in between stuffing our faces, of course. It was great fun, a glorious victory and the perfect last Super Bowl for my dad. When he passed away three weeks later, I think he was still "in the moment". The Terrible Towels and Steelers caps were out in full view when I got back up there.

Well, that was last year. This year, the Steelers were not on their game and hopefully, the Saints are marching (well, passing and kicking) towards victory. Food and fun will flow all day and night on Sunday. Crawfish, gumbo, red beans and rice, cornbread, pralines. Win or lose the Super Bowl, New Orleans food is totally in a class by itself! A friend sent this dip recipe to me and it looks like it has a nice, spicy little kick to it...a perfect way to stuff my game face this Super Bowl! Go Saints!

Who Dat Roasted Pepper and Feta Dip

4 whole roasted red bell peppers (either roast yourself and peel or buy the jarred ones and drain)
2 cups crumbled feta cheese * see note below
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Sea salt (maybe)

Put peeled garlic cloves in a blender and pulse to mince. Add whole peppers (drained well if jarred and peeled if you have roasted them yourself. Put roasted peppers in a brown bag while they are hot, hot, hot and they will peel easier). Pulse until the peppers and garlic are a smooth paste. Add feta cheese, lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. Taste and add either more lemon juice or more cayenne or both. Taste also for saltiness. Feta is a salty cheese and you may not need to add any. Pulse until smooth and place in fridge. Serve with pita chips or lots and lots of beautiful veggies. Makes 3 cups.

* I love French goats milk feta or locally made if you can find it. It is way less salty and because of that, blends flavors rather than dominates them. By all means, use your favorite feta and add sea salt to taste. I also prefer to blanch broccoli rather than serve it raw.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Who knew?

Well, who knew? Today, February 3rd is National Carrot Cake Day!!?? Jeepers, not me and to think I almost missed it! Such a week. In case you did, on. My favorite carrot cake recipe is in the post "Let the elephant in the room eat a peace of cake." Fire up the oven and enjoy!

Monday, February 1, 2010

An Apple a Day...especially for tomorrow!

Tomorrow is a big day...Punxsutawney Phil will let us all know if winter is to continue its march into March or if we will soon see signs of spring. Will he or won't he? Is this good news or bad? I am caught. I dearly love winter's savory root veggies and spring's earthy asparagus and never quite get enough of either one. And that is saying nothing about how I love both winter's snow and spring's first flowers. Anyway you look at it, there could be cause for disappointment and the need for solace as well as the need for celebration. Just in the nick of time, to brace us for whatever verdict comes out of his burrow, my friend, the Divine Ms. M...(you know who you are, girl!) sent this recipe for a comforting treat. She found it in Runner's World magazine and you know, runners are always on the lookout for quick, nutrition and energy dense foods and yippee, this recipe calls for granola, too! The Divine Ms. M is a major fan of Natural State Granola!

To keep things at an energetic pace, the micro is the "baker" of choice in this recipe. In general, I am not a micro fan and so, if you can slow the pace down some, I imagine this could be done in the oven, too...about 350 for 45 minutes. Which apple to use? I love Rome Beauty apples because they bake up just like an individual, sweet and spicy apple pie, but have found them to be scarce this winter, and so use whichever delicious variety you love. Jonagold and Golden Delicious bake well. Red Delicious and MacIntosh don't, although Mac's are my favorite sauce apple. Just remember, if possible, buy organic apples. Non-organic apples are one of the dreaded "Dirty Dozen" and you don't want your treat ruined by chemical residue.

Runner's World "Baked Apples"

Wash one apple per person* well, especially around the stem and blossom areas. Core. Drizzle with honey, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Micro for 4 minutes. Fill core with 1 1/2 tablespoons granola (Natural State Granola preferred, of course!)

* I would do 2 per person and pop the other in the 'fridge. Topped with yogurt, it will make a yummy breakfast. This is a fat-free recipe and feel free to add either a little pat of sweet butter or small bit of coconut oil nestled in the core if you want a "richer" treat.