All Posts for June 2006

VERY BERRY NICE

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

(Berry Nice Juicy-Fruit Salad topped with whipped ricotta cheese and slivered almonds. See recipe below.)

Did you ever notice how few foods in the fruit and vegetable kingdom are blue? In looking through the World’s Healthiest Food list, taken from the George Mateljan Foundation (whfoods.org), I could find only blueberries. Not on the list is blue corn, although it is made into a popular natural foods snack, blue corn chips.)

Blackberries are another fruit whose color is very dark, almost like a deep purple. There are more purple foods than blue, but both colors are scarcer than red foods. These are more predominant in nature, starting with apples and cranberries and continuing with red peppers and tomatoes. But my favorite red fruit this time of year is raspberries. Actually, the color of raspberries is also unique, not really pink and not really red. Maybe the unique colors of these berries are what makes them so interesting to try.

Maybe my love of blueberries comes from my childhood memory of picking wild blueberries (also called huckleberries) with my Great Aunt Molly, who made delicious huckleberry jam. While I disliked walking up and down the hot mountain path looking for the berries, I loved the jam! And when I worked as a bed & breakfast cook in Maine a few years ago, I used to pick fresh blackberries from a bush in the yard next to the house. For everyone five berries I picked, I must have eaten one. My breakfast really was al fresco! As for red raspberries, I simply love them for no other reason than they seem to melt in my mouth.

In general, berries are good foods to incorporate into your daily diet. They are considered nutraceuticals, which are foods or parts of foods that have above average health benefits. (Source: Oregon Blackberry and Raspberry Commission) According to the commission, the healthful properties apply to all of their Oregon berries: red raspberries, black raspberries, Evergreen blackberries, Marionberries, and Boysenberries. (I don’t know what some of these different berries taste like, but I thought I would include them in case you see them in the market.)

According to the World’s Healthiest Foods Site, blueberries are packed with antioxidant phytonutrients, which are nutrients from the plant kingdom. Antioxidants neutralize damage to cells, and in the case of blueberries, they support the cells that, if damaged, can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, heart disease and cancer. Anthocyanins, the blue-red pigment in blueberries, improve the integrity of support structures in the vascular system, enhance the effects of Vitamin C, and improve capillary integrity by preventing free-radical damage.

Free radicals do damage because they are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, “stealing” its electron. When the “attacked” molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, finally resulting in the disruption of a living cell. (Source: www.healthchecksystems.com)

Concerning blackberries, the berries and juice build the blood, which means they could be used to treat anemia. But in Healing with the Herbs of Life, the authors caution not to overdo blackberries, as they can cause loose bowels. Blueberries, red raspberries, and blackberries are good sources of vitamin A and potassium. Also, blackberries and raspberries are on the list of high fiber foods. However, since berries cannot be peeled or scrubbed, I urge you to purchase them organically grown.

Have I convinced you of the importance of including organic berries in your diet? I hope so, because they are good for you and they taste delicious when ripe. In fact, they fall under my heading of The Good Taste of Health Recipes. Below are some very berry nice GToH recipes to whet your summer appetite.


VERY BERRY SMOOTHIE (VEGAN if using non-dairy liquid)

INGREDIENTS
One cup cold liquid (milk or milk substitute or juice)
One to two scoops of protein powder
1/2-1 cup of organic berries, washed
vanilla or almond extract (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Place all the ingredients in a blender and buzz until smooth. Enjoy immediately.
Feel free to use any of your favorite berries in season. If fresh berries are not available organically grown, consider frozen ones without sugar, such as the berry mix from Cascadia Farms.


BERRY NICE JUICY-FRUIT SALAD (Gluten-Free & can be Vegan)

INGREDIENTS
2 cups of organic mixed berries in season, washed and drained
two organic peaches, washed, cut, and pitted
two organic kiwis, peeled and sliced
yogurt, ricotta cheese, or whipped cream for topping (Or vegan sub.)
dried, toasted coconut or slivered almonds
juice as needed

DIRECTIONS
1. Make sure all the fruit has been washed, pitted when necessary, and cut into bite-sized pieces, if needed. (Ex. peaches)
2. Place in an attractive bowl and add a very little of your favorite juice, such as cranberry or pomegranate.
3. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or ricotta cheese or a spritz of whipped cream (my choice!)
4. Top with slivered almonds or unsweetened coconut.


BLUEBERRY MUFFINS* (Vegan if liquid is not milk)

INGREDIENTS
One cup Organic Yellow Corn Meal (I used Arrowhead Mills)
One cup whole wheat, unbleached white, or gluten-free flour
1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt (optional)
one cup liquid (whey, milk, milk substitute, or juice such as orange or apple)
2 eggs or 1/2 cup liquid egg sub. (I used egg whites)
2 Tbl. maple syrup
3 Tbl. vegetable oil and extra oil for muffin tins (I used Macadamia oil)
one cup organic blueberries+, washed with any stems removed.

DIRECTIONS (Preheat oven at 350 degrees)
1. Mix dry ingredients together in one large bowl.
2. Mix wet ingredients in a smaller bowl.
3. Add wet items to dry ingredients and combine well.
4. Pour into mini-muffin tins or regular size muffin tins that have been oiled.
5. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of your muffin openings in the tin. Use a toothpick or kabob stick to check for doneness.

Yield: About 20 mini-muffins or 9-10 regular-sized muffins. Serve with organic wild berry jam. I purchased an organic fruit spread from Bionaturae, which contains organic wild berries and no extra sugar. REMEMBER, these are muffins, not cupcakes, so they won’t be sweet.

* This recipe is an adaptation from the recipe on the bag of Arrowhead Mills Organic Yellow Corn Meal

+NOTE: I suggest washing the blueberries and then freezing them for a couple of hours, so your muffins don’t turn that eerie blue that blueberry bagels have. Of course, if you love really blue blueberry muffins, you can choose not to freeze the berries and also use blue corn meal, available in health food stores and supermarkets that carry specialty grains in their natural foods section. (Wegman’s has a special gluten-free section where these grains are available.)

Next posting maybe delayed because of July 4th weekend activities. If so, I will “blog” you in two weeks.

Will the Real Bagel Please Roll Over?

Thursday, June 15th, 2006


Smells evoke strong memories. The aroma of bagels wafting from Kramer’s Bagel Factory is still strong in my nostrils whenever I devour a warm bagel. Growing up in the 40s and 50s, Jewish bakeries were the only bagel game in town. Fresh and frozen bagels in supermarkets or coffee shops were still “round years” away.

One of my fondest childhood memories is going down to Kramer’s Bakery after Shabbos, when Kramer baked its only product: BAGELS. They were either plain water bagels or egg bagels. They created these wonderfully round, crusty delights only once each week, for Sunday morning Jewish breakfasts, served “shmeared” with cream cheese, and topped with lox and a slice of onion. My mind can recall that taste even when I am not eating a bagel.

Actually, Kramer’s was just a factory with a retail counter—no storefront, no cookies, or cakes—nada! Just bagels! No blueberries, no jalapeno peppers, or other “designer” bagels found today. Eating my warm bagel from Kramer’s, that yeasty taste, the crunchy outside and the soft inside was a real treat. That first bite, when heat literally escaped from the bagel as my teeth made its first mark on this crusty circle of bread, was sheer delight. I would eat that one plain, straight from the warm paper bag that held two dozen bagels my father would buy for Sunday breakfast.

By the time we arrived home, my four siblings and I might have eaten at least half the bag before Sunday breakfast, the next big bagel bonanza. My mother would make a dairy meal: scrambled eggs, cream cheese or butter for the bagels, lox, onions, tomato, lettuce, and smoked white fish. This meal transformed my plain bagel into a gourmet delight! (As a natural food vegetarian, I no longer eat lox and also recognize that white flour bagels are less nutritious than whole grain; they are also high in carbs, so bagels are an occasional treat.)

The question for me is: Is a bagel still a bagel if it is stuffed with blueberries and has an eerie blue color? Is it still a bagel when spinach and feta cheese have been kneaded into the delicate dough center? How can I smear cream cheese on a salsa bagel? Should I maybe spread it with guacamole instead? “Oy! Gevalt! A shonda on you,” my grandmother would shriek!

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but give me a plain, rye or pumpernickel bagel over a blueberry, feta, or jalapeno bagel any day. Back then a bagel was a bagel….not a cinnamon-raisin babka knock-off, not a blueberry muffin wannabe, not a mock Mexican mish-mosh. And when the local bakery starts putting tofu and bean sprouts on my bagel, even I, the vegetarian, will post a sign on my chest that says, “Will the real bagel please roll over?”

Finally, when I did my own informal survey of bagel places, I was told that plain bagels were still their best sellers. Then I looked up bagel in the dictionary and this was the definition: A bagel is defined as a “doughnut-shaped, yeast-leavened roll that is characterized by a crisp, shiny crust and a dense interior. Long regarded as a Jewish food item, the bagel is commonly eaten as a breakfast food or snack, often with toppings such as cream cheese and lox (sliced, smoked salmon.)” Did you see any mention of blueberries or hot peppers or raisins? NO! I rest my case!

Recipe for the Week: YOGURT CREAM CHEESE with CHIVES. (I still enjoy regular cream cheese on my occasional bagel, but for those who are concerned about the high caloric content, why not try this low-fat yogurt cream cheese made at home, made from store-bought yogurt?)

YOGURT CREAM CHEESE with CHIVES*

INGREDIENTS
One 32 oz. Container of (low-fat) yogurt
Cheesecloth, a bowl, & a rubber band
Chives, preferably fresh

DIRECTIONS
1. Unwrap cheesecloth and place about 3 thicknesses into a bowl. Spoon yogurt into cheesecloth. Tie and secure with a rubber band, wrapping the rubber band around the end of the faucet. Place bowl beneath the yogurt to catch the whey and allow to it drip overnight.
2. Remove cheesecloth and save the whey from the bowl in the refrigerator to use in baking. (I transfer the whey to a jar and use within one week.)
3. Take 2 or 3 stalks of chives and snip with scissors into tiny pieces. With a spatula or the back of a spoon, incorporate the chives into the yogurt cream cheese. (The yogurt will be spreadable, more like whipped cream cheese.) Use as much chives as you like, and feel free to add other herbs such as dill or veggies such as minced peppers.
4. Serve chilled with bagels or bread or in celery stalks. Yield: About one cup.


(This picture of chives is from my patio garden.)
*CHIVES (allium schoenoprasum) This slender stalk of tangy flavor is part of the scallion and garlic family. Medically chives are considered helpful with stomach distress, protect against heart disease, help fight colds and clear a stuffy nose. They are high in the B vitamin folic acid, and also a good source of vitamins A and C. When combined with a low-salt diet, chives help lower blood pressure and also act as a mild diuretic. Finally, for extra flavor, try adding a few petals of the flowers that form when the chives mature. Really tangy edible flowers!! (Source: The Complete Guide to Natural Healing, Group 6, Card 9.)

See you next week……

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