The Healthy Cooking Game

In the healthy cooking game, there is no such thing as “running out of ideas for meals.”

When I look at the various ways people eat, one of the first things I notice is that when you include or base your meals on whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, there is an infinity of things you can create. I myself have not eaten the exact same dinner twice in decades except for a few favorites that I intentionally repeat.

Seem like an exaggeration?  It’s not! I Googled “how many edible vegetables are there?” Most sites I found such as Ask.com and wiki.answers just said “thousands” as in—too many to count. One website points out that there are over 4,000 varieties of tomatoes alone.

The point is that you will never run out of interesting and unique combinations of grains, veggies, fruits and beans. (Ask.com says over 400,000 varieties of beans) You’ll never run out of new ways to put foods together!

Just for comparison I checked how many types of animals for eating there are. Couldn’t find a definitive answer or even an estimate. Did find a lot of places where the discussion was mainly cows, pigs and lambs chickens, turkeys, plus dog, horse, guinea pig, rabbit, squirrels, buffalo, elk, deer and I’m sure there are others. But the fact that I can pretty much list them out here should tell you something. There are quite a few more edible fish and sea life and that extends the list of choices much further.

The different preparations and cooking methods also have to be considered as do the use of seasonings, spices and herbs which change the taste and presentation of food. (By the way, when I say “cook,” I’m really saying “food preparation”: and I include raw and fermented foods in “cooking.”)

No matter what kinds of food you are eating—meats, no-meats, vegetarian, vegan, etc.—eating a wide variety of foods made different ways has never been easier.

In the cooking game, the freedoms we have are enormous. One freedom is that we have fast shipping of foods from any part of the world. If it is winter in your hemisphere, you can get summer fruits and veggies from the other hemisphere.  It’s right there in your food store.

SPONGE GOURDAfrican Sponge Gourd

The ability to procure foods from anywhere in the world seems so convenient.  Except that it makes it so easy to ignore an important condition for healthy cooking:

BALANCE

There’s a lot of ways to look at balance. In the healthy cooking game, it means that you are  choosing, preparing and eating food in the best possible way in order to fulfill your goals and purposes for eating.

Say what?

That is a very broad statement, I know. But the concept of “balanced diet” or “balanced cooking” covers every aspect of this part of health and living. Balance is something to achieve no matter what kind of food you choose to eat. I will talk about balance more but for now I’m talking about choosing which of the gazillions of possible foods, combinations, seasonings and cooking methods should you use for “balance?”

Think about how things were less than 100 years ago. We could not easily get foods from other parts of the world. We did not go to SUPER markets to shop. Most people had their own garden, access to locally grown foods only at their market, and what was there to purchase was also in season.

If you lived in Minnesota and it was January, you didn’t see fresh pineapple in the market or growing outside in your garden. And if you did get hold of some tropical foods and eat them in Minnesota during the winter, you would have a harder time staying warm. Because tropical fruits balance the hot climates in which it grows. They make one cooler!

Why would you start eating foods that for the most part are in season and grow in your area or climate and forego the flown-in rambutan from Queensland? Because foods that grow in your area and in season are already naturally balanced for your environment! How much easier could it be to know what foods are generally in good balance with your climate where you are living?

rambutan 2

Rambutan is a tropical fruit is native to Southeast Asia.

 

In the Healthy Cooking Game, we have the freedom of an international selection of foods at our fingertips and we have the challenge of balancing our food choices so we make the most of our ability to create the effect we desire with our meals.

More to follow.

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Another Pretty Thing

Finding pretty things for spring is what I do—in the clothing store, on my outdoor ventures and in my kitchen. I hope you liked my bright red strawberry pancake sauce! Here’s another pretty thing I whipped up for a whole-grain salad. This time I chose a gorgeous ripe mango to make a piquant sauce for quinoa and black bean salad.

MANGO SAUCE ON QUINOA SALAD

Sweet and Sour Mango Sauce

Find a ripe, un-bruised mango and remove the meat. Throw the mango into a high-speed blender or food processor with juice of half a lemon, a pinch of sea salt and a flavored white balsamic vinegar of your choice. (I used a Hawaiian coconut white balsamic and it was absolutely fabulous!) If you don’t have a flavored vinegar, it is still going to be delish with just a well-aged white balsamic.

The quinoa salad is simply cooked quinoa, black beans, celery, red onion and quite a bit of parsley. I know you’ll improvise here as well!

The outcome? Couldn’t get enough of this! It was nearly gone before I even had a chance to take a picture.

Pretty Things

The forsythia is blooming and the daffies have popped up! What a blessing to see pink and purple flowering trees, patches of floral pastels—even the Queen Anne’s Lace looks beautiful! Why not add some of these pretty colors into your cuisine?

Fresh fruit sauces is one way to go and I have chosen three that can be used to brighten your springtime menu. The first is strawberries!

STRAWBERRY SYRUPStrawberry Syrup on Blueberry Pancakes

I found some gorgeous organic strawberries and sliced four of them. I heated up some brown rice syrup and put just a touch of concentrated organic cherry juice in it to get that bright red color. When the syrup was warmed and loosened up I added the sliced strawberries and let them heat for just about a minute.

* * * * * * * * Please take a moment and participate in this pole: 

How do you make sure you are getting the right nutrition?
(polls)

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN 2

How do you make the upside down come upside right?

Easy!

Though I am not much of a baker, birthdays are the exception and we recently celebrated my Hubbin’s with his favorite—pineapple upside down cake.  I’m not one to indulge in a normal cake what with all the icing and sugar. Not that I am never tempted by sugar desserts but I really don’t like all that cloying sweetness in a cake.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

  • One batch of yellow cake recipe (But we are going to make a few changes for this recipe. Keep reading.)
  • Six pineapple rings. I used organic canned pineapple in water, not syrup.
  • Dark Cherries
  • 1 1/2 cups organic pineapple juice
  • sea salt
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 3-6 tablespoons arrowroot

The cake mix part is pretty easy. Choose whatever recipe you wish. I use this one from Christina Pirello’s website and then I alter it to suit. My alterations included using 1/2 cup of semolina flour with the cup and a half of whole wheat pastry flour to make a lighter batter; using additional flour because I’m in a high altitude; and I used a bit more baking powder also for lightness. An upside down cake is going to be very moist and heavy so these adjustments are needed.  I also added a little tumeric—not enough to affect the flavor but, along with the semolina flour, it made a yellow cake color.

Flavor-wise, I substituted a little pineapple juice in the liquid for flavor and I added zest from a half lemon.

Now for the upside down part. Oil a medium size baking dish or cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (I use unbleached) and arrange pineapple rings on the bottom. In a sauce pan, heat up pineapple juice, sea salt and rice syrup and get it bubbling gently. Mix the arrowroot in cold water and stir it in. Use as much as it takes to make a very thick sauce. Add the lemon juice and zest from the other half of the lemon.

I let this sauce cool a little to make sure it was really thick but not going to turn into a solid gel. I also didn’t want to pour the cake mix over really hot sauce. Once cooled, pour your sauce over the pineapple rings and spread evenly. Then pour your cake mix over that.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. This is a little more baking than the basic cake recipe calls for because you’ve got a lot of moisture in the pan and you do want the cake to be done in the middle. The cake will be slightly brown around the edges and will come out clean if you stick a knife into the middle of it (not down to the pineapple part—that should be gooey)

Let the cake cool, loosen the side with a knife and turn it out. Decorate with the cherries or whatever you want to use and voila—Upside down comes right side up!

 

 

 

Cauliflower Cassoulet

Hello!  Spring is here and I have emerged from hibernation. Over the last three months we have been moving our household and getting the new place set up. I am loving my new kitchen that actually has counter space, cabinet space, pantry space and a lot of other great features.

I’ve been inspired, cooking-wise to create some new things! Here is a great dish for transitioning from winter to spring. It has just enough warmth and comfort food quality to satisfy when the air chills at night and just enough lightness and freshness to energize us.

Cauliflower Cassoulet

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 cups chopped fresh parsely
  • 1-2 shallots
  • 2-3 tablespoons sweet white miso
  • 1 umeboshi plum
  • whole wheat bread crumbs (or if you can’t eat wheat, use roughly ground almonds or non-gluten crumbs)
  • herbs of choice–I used oregano, garlic powder, sea salt, pepper, crushed anise seeds, celery seeds
  • olive oil
  • (Optional) vegan shredded mozarella

CAULIFLOWER CASSOULET INGREDIENTS

I started out with a head of cauliflower I wanted to use and looked through my refrigerator and pantry for some likely ingredients. I decided on a tofu cream sauce, shallots and parsley. On the left there are umeboshi plums–a Japanese traditional pickled plum that has both a salty and a sour taste. On the right in the little tub is sweet white miso–another traditional Japanese delight made with fermented soybeans.

TOFU CREAM SAUCE

Combine a package of firm tofu with 2-3 tablespoons of sweet white miso and the meat of an umeboshi plum. If you don’t want to try umeboshi plums, you can substitute a bit of red wine vinegar and a little sea salt. Blend these up until you have a creamy sauce. You can add a little water if the mixture seems too thick.

SWEAT THE SHALLOTS

Slice 1 or 2 shallots and put them into a hot pan with some olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. You just need to sweat them a little. They glisten with the oil but will not be completely limp.

CAULIFLOWER WITH SHALLOT AND PARSLEYBlanch pieces of cauliflower for a minute or two, chop up parsley and add the cooked shallots.  Oil a casserole or baking dish and put the veggies in.

CUSTOM BREAD CRUMB TOPPING

Customize your bread crumb topping. I used whole wheat bread crumbs and seasoned it with salt, pepper and herbs/spices of choice. I prefer seasoning bread crumbs myself so I can control the amount of salt and the taste. Can’t do whole wheat? Try topping with roughly ground almonds or gluten-free bread crumbs.

READY FOR THE OVEN

Pour your tofu cream sauce evenly over the veggies.

Sprinkle the crumb topping over the top of the cassoulet.

You’re ready to bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and everything is all bubbly good.  The last five minutes of baking, I added a sprinkle of vegan shredded mozarella. Vegan cheeses don’t appeal to me a great deal but they look nice as a garnish sometimes and they help when your family is transitioning away from dairy foods. Just know that vegan cheese is basically congealed oil and doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own.

FINISHED

Finished! Very delicious and very satisfying served with a salad.

Fishing

mycookinglifebypatty:

While my place becomes less and less living and more and more boxes, I’m sharing with you the blogs I enjoy reading. Here’s a talented author who provides short fiction just about any day of the week. I liked this post and hope you will too!

Originally posted on The Jittery Goat:

th66KUBDTW

(Talking to an old friend is like looking into a mirror.)

Martin and Casey sat in a small boat in the middle of their favorite pond. It had been an hour with no bites and no words.

“Martin,” Casey said. “If possible for you to master a skill which would it be?”

Casey thought deeply. Nothing came to mind immediately. “I suppose that is something I’ve never considered. I’d like to be a better fisherman.”

“That’s it,” Martin said. “What about art, the crafts, academics, the trades, medicine, science, literature, or music?”

“Those are all filled,” Martin said.

“But what if you could be better than the best in one of those fields?” Casey said.

“I would just be a part of some intellectual exchange on whose the best,” Martin said. “And now that you have given me time to think about it, I’d just like to be a better person…

View original 49 more words

Morocco: Human Rights Violations Under Article 475

mycookinglifebypatty:

While I am busily packing and moving, I’ve decided to share a few admired blogs from my reader. Human Rights is one of my passions and my first “reblog” is this sobering post from the Human Rights Warrior. What can one person do to help? One can directly assist in any area of the world where human rights violations abound such as this brave lady does. But also—in our own homes, schools, places of work and neighborhoods—we can know and help others to know and stand up for the 30 human rights as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Information here: http://www.humanrights.com

Originally posted on The Human Rights Warrior:

Zohra Filali shows a picture of her daughter, Amina Filali, at their family house near Larache, northern Morocco. Amina Filali committed suicide after being forced to marry the man who raped her. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Zohra Filali shows a picture of her daughter, Amina Filali. Amina Filali committed suicide after being forced to marry the man who raped her.
(AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Originally published on The Advocates Post

In Morocco, a 15 year old girl experienced constant harassment and threats from a 35 year old man in her town.  He waited for her each day outside of her school and on several occasions told her, “I will force you to marry me.”  One day, he abducted and raped her at knifepoint.  The victim made a complaint to the gendarmes, who arrested the man.  In his statement to the police, the rapist admitted his crime, declaring that he did it “because it was the only way I would be able to marry her.”  In order to avoid scandal, the victim dropped out of school and married him.  “I am raped now every day,” she told members…

View original 2,303 more words

Under De-Construction

Nothing like moving your household to disrupt things thoroughly! Not that I’m complaining. This is a move I’ve been waiting for a long, long time! My husband and I have finally decided to put apartment life in the past and we are buying a home of our own. (WAIT
’til I show you my new kitchen!!!)

Christmas packages have been replaced with boxes. Cupboards and drawers are starting to be emptied. Blogging time is mostly replaced with dekludging time. And more dekludging time, and still more . . . Nothing better than moving to take the opportunity to get rid of some of the burden!

With my schedule, there is only less than a day each week to get everything done. Cooking has become fast and minimal. Nothing fancy, just something to eat. Not exactly your gourmet, unique, photo-worthy delicacies. Not the kind of thing you blog about.

Or is it? Last fall I started to write a post that I called, “What you don’t see.” It was going to be about our day to day fare that isn’t special or unusual—just all the things that are made and eaten in between the masterpieces.

Now seems like the perfect time to share these with you while I pack and tape and label my material life. Cookbooks are in a box and shortly so will be most of the utensils and dishes. Life and menus are literally under deconstruction. But we still have to eat, don’t we?

BASIC MISO SOUP PAINT

Miso soup—the breakfast of healthy champions! This is absolutely one of the rock solid foundations of our daily fare. Alkalizing, loaded with beneficial bacteria from naturally fermented miso (as long as you don’t boil this soup), and a great way to use up bits of veggies you have in your refrigerator. This one has some red radishes that needed using. Takes just a few minutes and I usually make enough for the next few mornings. I’ve given the recipe for Miso Soup before, so I’ll just post the link here.

This New Year is All Ours

I live one of those crowded, impromptu lives. It has many more things jammed into it than one imagines would fit into the small space of twenty-four hours a day. Lucky for me, time is only a consideration—not a steadfast rule.

Last year, in late 2013, I was entertaining the idea that I probably had too many pursuits, too many “hobbies,” too many unfinished projects.  But like the flu that descends upon us in an unkind surprise visit, that idea quickly wore out its welcome with me.

This was the oddest holiday season I can remember. Usually before Thanksgiving has even arrived I’m onto decorations, gifts, seasonal holiday dishes, special blog posts, and striving to make the most of one of my favorite times of the year. Not this time. One advent calendar went up in November and we fed on salted caramels for twenty-five days in December. Snow began falling on my blog (Love that!). A few gifts eventually got wrapped and exchanged. I wore my Christmas scarf at the Christmas party at work. It is bright red and says, “But Santa . . . I can explain!”

No Christmas recipes got posted. No December Chocolate Mousse. (It was going to be a Black Forest Cherry Chocolate Mousse Cake. I might resurrect this idea for Valentine’s Day.)

My Christmas dinner consisted of Lentil Soup, Roasted Vegetables and Salad. It was absolutely delicious but not fodder for a Christmas Eve cooking blog post. No.

A post title got written:  “Keeping Christmas.” But only the title. I’ll save it for next year.

I traveled to see family Christmas week but the main celebration was meeting my new daughter-in-law to be and celebrating my son’s engagement to her. That was wonderful and personal and better than any Christmas celebration.

I do like the idea of a “New Year!”  2014 promises to be the absolute best ever for me, my family and my friends. I’m certain of that! And I am happily carrying on the theme of this recent holiday season – take it as it comes, create it as I go. No resolutions, no pressure.

Thank you for reading my posts and for all your comments and acknowledgements! I am itching to return to my kitchen and pull out my camera and share my cooking life with you.

All the warmth and pleasure of loving friends and family to you in this New Year. And may you dream the best dreams and realize them in life. Whether your days fly by in a blur or meander along at an endless stretch, they are all yours to enjoy as you wish if you make it so.

When I Was Supermom

I don’t know why I never thought to tell you this story before. It certainly is a “My Cooking Life” story. Probably because whenever I think about it, it kind of freaks me out. But then I also wonder at how I managed to get myself and my three little boys out of that scary situation.

Daily Prompt asks todayDaily Prompt: Daring Do. Tell us about the time you rescued someone else (person or animal) from a dangerous situation. What happened? How did you prevail?

I had just gone to the local co-op in Atlanta, Georgia and the Buick Skylark was loaded with a ton of groceries, one boy in the front seat of the car with me and two more younger boys in car seats in the back.

We all piled in and worked our way through the side streets to the highway to go home. It was a hot and sultry afternoon and I wanted to get my food home quickly and get it into the refrigerator. I remember the organic strawberries had been on sale and I had bought a lot of them.

As I merged onto the highway I sped up. I’m not a timid driver, but I never usually went over the speed limit either especially with my precious babies in the car with me. I guess I was trying to get home awfully fast, I thought, as I looked at the rising dial on the speedometer.

I slowed just a little—or at least I thought I would. That ol’ Buick had a mind of its own! It continued to accelerate. Another pump of the brakes. Still speeding faster and faster. A serious push on the brakes. The car was only barely kept in check, yet the brakes did seem to be working.

The boys in the back were nodding off in their seats. The boy in the front was chattering away. The Mom driving was starting to panic as she realized the car was accelerating on its own and not stopping.

As we zoomed down the highway, which was not very busy, I continued trying to slow down and maneuvered the car down the road realizing that soon it was time to get off the highway and back onto regular streets. Streets that had slow-moving cars and stop lights.

I picked my exit—one that went sort of flat for a short distance before there was a stop light and then, if you go right, there’s a big hill. There was nothing to do but take the exit and try it. I could see that there was no traffic, no cars.

“Ramp speed 30 miles per hour” the sign said. Not us! We would exit at over 70 miles per hour.

I glanced back at the two sleeping babies in my back seat and over to my boy in the front. Not sure if he realized something was wrong but he was about to.

I unbuckled my seat belt as we traveled the exit ramp and stood up the best I could in my car while driving down the road. I was putting all my weight onto my brakes which were now only slowing us down because of my physical pressure.

The light was green and I made a right onto a very steep hill still standing on my smoking brakes. I don’t know how I did it so fast without thinking, but I chose a spot to get off the road and stop the car. It was a small group of stores and they were on another pretty steep hill and there was a very long driveway going from the lot to behind the buildings.

I took it. The car slowed enough and I pulled on the emergency brake and brought us to a stop.

Drenched I sat there and looked at my beautiful family. We were all awake and we were all okay. I called my neighbor and she came and got us and our groceries and took us home.

We feasted on strawberries that very day.

I have long since stopped wondering at how fast the whole fiasco went, how much danger we had been in, how badly it could have turned out and how—for the love of God—did I come up with that maneuver on the spot and keep us out of a wreck?

There’s no figuring it out. There was no time to think. I just acted and I clearly recall the feeling of knowing what I was doing and knowing I could make that instant plan work.

English: Strawberries at a market.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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