Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year with Buddhist Delight!

Me, Li, and our friend Linda

My girlfriend Li, who happens to be a fantastic cook, invited me over last weekend to show me how to make Buddhist Delight. And since the Chinese New Year was coming, I thought it would be fun to have her show you how to make it as well!

I met Li about 12 years ago when I was a graduate student. She was always bringing in delicious food to share with her lab mates and she frequently invited me over to try some of her authentic Chinese cuisine. This is where I learned about lots of different vegetables used in Chinese dishes and has been my inspiration for much of my own cooking.

In the video above, Li explains the origins of Buddhist Delight and goes into the main ingredients that are essential to making it right. These include shitake mushrooms, which give the dish an underlying dose of flavor, and tofu prepared in a variety of ways, including fried and smoked.

To add some crunch and texture, vegetables like bok choy, squash, carrots, and cabbage are added. The result is the delicious dish above that can be eaten as is or over rice. And if being served for Chinese New Year, Li explains why she would serve this dish in a bowl with a fish pattern. It’s all good. I hope you watch and enjoy!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Anytime Bars

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I’m loving The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz. Every recipe I’ve tried has turned out great and I’ve even shared some muffins from the cookbook at one of my seminars.

The recipe below makes a granola-like bar with oats, nuts, and fruit. What I like about them is that they are low in added sugar aside from the fruit (the recipe below actually calls for less than the original recipe) and they turned out delicious even when I made substitutions such as using all whole-grain spelt flour instead of some of the white flour the recipe called for. This time, I also substituted dried plums (prunes) for the dried apricots and added shredded coconut as was suggested and they were equally as good.

These would make a great after-school snack for kids or a great addition to their lunch box. I enjoy these with a cup of tea and will have one before or after my yoga class.

Anytime Bars

1 c raw pecans or walnuts

1 c raw whole almonds

¼ c whole grain spelt flour

2 T ground flax seeds

¼ t sea salt

1/8 t baking powder

1/8 t baking soda

¼ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 c pitted Medjool dates, chopped

1 c unsulfured, dried apriots or dried plums (prunes), chopped

2 T shredded coconut

1 egg

3 – 4 T real maple syrup

1 t vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly toast the pecans on a pan lined with parchment paper for ~7 – 10 minutes. Toast the almonds in a similar manner. Turn the oven down to 325°F.

Combine the flour, flax seeds, sea salt, baking powder, baking soda and rolled oats in a food processor and pulse a few times until mixed. Add the nuts and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Add the dates, plums or apricots, and coconut and pulse until a coarse, well-chopped mixture is formed.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Add the nut and fruit mixture and combine thoroughly. Spread the batter evenly in an oiled 9-inch, or equivalent baking dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, then let cool before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jicama, Cucumber, and Citrus Salad

With all the warm, cooked foods I’ve been eating lately, I was in the mood for something crunchy and refreshing. A couple of weeks ago, some friends brought back a couple of nice star fruit for me from their trip to Florida and I decided that a refreshing fruit salad was in order.

Technically, this salad isn’t completely fruit since it includes jicama, a root vegetable often used in Mexican cooking. It has a very mild flavor and a texture that resembles a firm pear. Jicama is low in calories and high in fiber and vitamin C. The star fruit are slightly sweet and a little bit tart and have citrusy notes to them, which makes them incredibly refreshing.

I combined the jicama with chopped cucumber, the star fruit, some diced, dried apricots and chopped basil. The final touch was a citrusy dressing that added a little bit of a zing to the mostly mild flavor of this salad. Since I don’t often buy star fruit, this time of year I would also try oranges as a substitution.

Jicama, Cucumber, and Citrus Salad

1 medium jicama, peeled and chopped into bite-sized cubes

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 star fruit, orange or other citrus fruit

¼ c dried apricots, chopped into very small pieces

¼ cup mild vinegar, I used an orange, Muscat, champagne vinegar

1 T honey, agave, or maple syrup

2 – 3 T water

a squeeze of fresh lime juice

pinch of sea salt

2 T finely chopped, fresh basil

Combine the jicama, cucumber, citrus fruit, and dried apricots in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sweetener, water, lime juice and sea salt. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Stir in the chopped basil. Let sit in the refrigerator an hour or so for the salad to soak up the dressing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Candy

After making a delicious root vegetable soup the other day, I found myself with lots of leftover vegetables. This time of year, root veggies offer a wealth of nutrients and fiber and will stop a sweet tooth in its tracks.

When roasted, roasted root vegetables are colorful, crisp on the outside, warm and creamy on the inside and loaded with flavor. They’re perfect as a side (I had them with a fritatta) or even piled on top of a bed of salad greens. And no worries about what you have on hand. This time around, I didn’t have sweet potatoes, which are my favorite, so I used parsnips, rutabegas, beets, and fennel. The result was still sweet like candy and I didn’t even miss the sweet potatoes!

Roasted Root Vegetables

Any combination of the following:

Onions, Shallots, Leeks






Sweet Potatoes, yams, or white potatoes



Garlic, minced

1 – 2 T olive or grapeseed oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash, peel, and chop the vegetables into uniform, bite-sized pieces. Place them in a large bowl and add the garlic, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine well then spread the mixture onto a pan or in a baking dish. Roast at ~400°F for 30 minutes, turn the veggies over and roast an additional 15 minutes, or until tender.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Creamy Root Vegetable Soup

I’m a soup fanatic over the Winter months and came across a recipe called Sweet and Savory Vegetable Stew in Clean Food, a cookbook by Terry Walters who graduated from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and who resides in Connecticut with her family.

Her collection of recipes sounds fabulous and I would love to try them all. Since I don’t have the book on hand at the moment and had written down the ingredients (and had made some substitutions), this may have turned out different than she had proposed. However, it turned out delicious!

Her original recipe called for fennel bulb, celeriac, and Ume plum vinegar, all of which I didn’t have. Instead, I used fennel seeds, celery, and an Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar from Trader Joe’s. I love the vinegar and even added it to make the Apricot Pear Chutney that I used to garnish the soup! It’s like having dinner and desert all in one meal! I hope you enjoy it!

Root Vegetable Soup

1 T grapeseed oil

6 shallots, chopped

2 T fennel seeds

1 – 2 celery stalks

2 T grated ginger

2 parsnips,

2 rutabagas,

2 turnips,

2 sweet potatoes

1 cinnamon stick

Vegetable stock, warmed

Flavored vinegar, such as Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar from Trader Joe’s

Peel and chop into small pieces the parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, and sweet potatoes. On medium heat in a large pot, add the fennel seeds and roast until fragrant. Add the oil and shallots and saut̩ until soft, about 2 Р3 minutes. Add the celery and saut̩ everything well for another minute or two. Add the root vegetables, enough stock to cover the vegetables, and the cinnamon stick and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Remove the cinnamon stick, then using an immersion or stand blender, blend the soup until smooth. Return it to the pot, then add 2 tablespoons (or to taste) of the flavored vinegar. Serve with Apricot Pear Chutney.

Apricot Pear Chutney

I’ve fallen in love. With a cookbook, that is. I just discovered Rebecca Katz’s The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen and can’t put it down. This is another wonderful cookbook that challenges the notion that eating healthy is boring. It’s chock full of healthy, flavorful recipes, many of them accompanied by mouth-watering photos. There’s so much here I didn’t know where to begin!
The first recipe I tried was an Apricot Pear Chutney. I wanted something to use as a sweet garnish to go with the Root Vegetable Soup I made and I thought this would work nicely. I used the last two pears from a box of Royal Riviera Pears from Harry and David’s and it came out fantastic–good enough to eat it with a spoon.
As she suggests in her book, this chutney would work well with chicken, a nice goat cheese and crackers, and I’m thinking with quinoa, couscous, or even with a simple spinach salad. I made one substitution: I used an Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar that I just discovered at Trader Joe’s instead of brown rice vinegar and I loved the result. I also omitted the red pepper flakes. Also, my measurements are a little different; based on the original rations, some of mine may be slightly more or less. And if you’re fighting a sweet tooth, know that most of the sweetness in this compote comes from the fruit.

Apricot Pear Chutney 

2 large pears
¾ c chopped, dried unsulfured apricots
½ t lemon zest
2 T lemon juice
2 T vinegar, such as brown rice or Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar
2 T maple syrup
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ t fresh grated ginger
½ t sea salt
½ t ground cinnamon
½ t ground allspice
½ t ground cardamom
1 pod star anise

Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the fruit is soft and the liquid thickens enough to coat the fruit. If the pears are very ripe to begin with (which mine were), leave the cover off and cook for ~25 – 30 minutes. If they are not so ripe, partially cover the pan and lengthen the cook time to ~45 – 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.