Friday, March 30, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I heard a story once, which sounds like it could very well be true. Supposedly, during WWII, when the Nazi's invaded Belgium, they comandeered the butter, eggs and cheeses, as well as much of the red meat for their troops. The people were left to eat their meals without such luxuries. According to this story, the heart disease rates for the Belgians went down significantly during this period of hardship. After the war, when they were able to access the high fat diets they were used to, their heart disease rates went back up to where they had been before the war.
Is this story true? I don't know. What I do know is that what you put into your body has something to do with what you get out of it. I don't know anyone who would consider putting 30 octane gas in their car, but I see lots of people putting the equivalent in their grocery carts. And what boggles my mind is that it isn't based on cost.
I know that it's difficult sometimes, to connect our daily habits when we're, say, in our 20s, 30s or 40s, with the chronic ailments which often show up in our 60s and 70s. But just as the genetics of a tree, plus the nutrients in the soil and the water that helps it grow, creates a healthy tree or one that attracts disease and insects - so our genetics and our nutrition help us grow healthy or create disease.
So when I saw that Chris over at Melecotte was doing a Cooking to Combat Cancer event, my knee jerk response was: "I'm in!" I mean, as a healthcare professional, I find myself talking to my patients every day about healthy diet and exercise. But Chris' event is strictly about cancer. So I dug into my memory bank to come up with something that would be specific to cancer, and remembered shiitake mushrooms.
All mushrooms seem to have some cancer-fighting abilities, but shiitakes are the champions. Or should I say champignons? Sorry. Couldn't help myself there. Anyway, shiitakis have a polysaccharide called lentinan, a (1-3) β-D-glucan, (why does science always have to sound complicated?) as the active compound responsible for the anti-tumor effects. Shiitakes have many other health benefits, too, but mostly I cook with them because they're absolutely delicious. I buy the large bag of dried shiitakes from Costsco, and keep them as part of my larder.
I was tiring of chicken and not really drawn to another meat dish. What could I cook with the shiitakes? Fish. Any version of it would do. My mind scoured the fish layed out in our local Whole Foods market, and settled on the shrimp. Yes! That's what I started to crave - shrimp with shiitakes. And then snow peas begged to be let in. And, of course, scallions. OK....That should be easy enough. Since I wasn't in a rice mood, I decided on some Pancet (Pancit?) noodles from a local Vietnamese market.
I like to walk to the market. It's about 9 blocks away, and a brisk walk there and back, carrying groceries, is sometimes what constitutes my exercise for the day. Frankly, I prefer that to a stairmaster or a treadmill. (Exercise - another good disease-fighting technique!)
But I digress.
Arriving home, I began to concoct the following dish. Since I never measure, all measurements are approximate.
Shrimp With Shiitakes, Snow Peas and Pancet Noodles
1/2 pound shrimp - any size that works comfortably with chopsticks
1 large handful snow peas
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 C sliced scallions - I use most of the scallion, including the green part.
1 large handful dried shiitakes
1C boiling water
diced garlic to taste
diced ginger to taste
approx. 2 TBS oil - not olive. Canola or peanut work well. You can also use sesame oil.*
1 pkg. of pancet noodles.**
Rinse the shiitakes, place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them soften while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Slice the onions and the scallions
Peel and dice the garlic and the ginger
If you've bought raw shrimp, you will want to shell and devein it first. If you've bought cooked shrimp with the tail on, you will want to remove the tails first, before cooking. Wash the shrimp and let them soak in cold water till you're ready to use them.
At this point, you will want to remove any tough stems from your shiitakes, squeeze out any excess water and put them in a bowl. Save the soaking water.
Pour the oil into the pan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for about 30 seconds. If you're using raw shrimp, add them now. If you're using cooked shrimp, you will want to wait.
Add the shiitakes, snow peas and scallions and stir for about 1 minute. Add the pancet noodles after you've cut the noodles in half. (Easier to eat that way.) Reduce heat just a bit, and continue stirring for another couple of minutes. Add shrimp if you're using cooked shrimp, the water from the mushrooms, and a good slosh of oyster sauce. Stir so that everything is coated, reduce heat, cover pan while you set the table. Remove cover and serve.
*I've read recipes that say you should add sesame oil by the drops - as in "Add a few drops of sesame oil for taste." This makes it sound like sesame oil might be a little overwhelming if you added more than a few drops. I have never found this to be true. In fact, quite the opposite. Unless I use at least 50% sesame oil, I don't really taste it.
**Pancet noodles can be found in Asian grocery stores. They look like hefty spaghetti. Not flat, like linguini, but round like spaghetti. If you cannot access this kind of noodle, I'm sure you can use any kind you might have on hand. Or substitute rice for noodles and just serve it on the side.
For more health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture
For a place to share what you've learned about vitamins, herbs, or any natural medicine, visit my other blog Second Opinion.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Meema was originally from Roumania, and came here at the end of the 19th century. This was way before health food, and the recipes she carried with her had the earthiness of fresh ingredients cooked over a slow fire. She died when I was 4 or 5 years old, so I know her more as a family legend, rather than as a grandmother. From what I can gather, she was a force of nature. I try to reconcile this image of her as a strong-willed immigrant, with the black and white photo of her that always sat on my mom's desk. There stood a woman in a dark dress with small, light colored flowers all over it, wearing a stylish hat with a small black veil that came down over her face.
The stories of meema didn't involve the kitchen, they involved the living room, where she would entertain guests. Her home would always have a piano, and her children were quite accomplished at playing it. Someone was always singing. Music seemed to be her centerpoint, more than food. She loved opera and Broadway, and probably jazz, though I don't know that for sure.
So it's surprising to me that her daughters and their daughters took to the kitchen so readily. And it's also surprising that the one thing which every one of us carries with us as her legacy should be this rather simple dish. Simple, yes. But in my family, this dish carries the family's DNA. This is the dish that unites us - the one none of us can resist, no matter what our cholesterol levels might be. Unfortunately, I have no digital images of my grandmother. Or my mom, for that matter. Meema lived well before the digital age. My mom thought computers were dangerous. So while my 3 siblings and I all have photos, they all reside in frames.
When I read about Ellie's Nostalgia event over at Kitchen Wench, there was no doubt that I would be making noodles and cabbage. In my family, we usually reserve this dish for Thanksgiving. But hey! I'm ready to give thanks today. And tomorrow. The advent of the food processor makes this dish much easier.
1 stick of butter
1 package of wide egg noodles - the widest ones you can find.
Melt the butter in a large pot.
Using a food processor, cut the cabbage into small pieces.
Add the cabbage and stir.
You may keep the heat on medium while you're cleaning up the kitchen, but then turn it down to low.
Find something to do. Anything. This cabbage will be cooking for the next 2-4 hours on low. You will need to remember to stir it from time to time so that the cabbage doesn't burn, but other than that, you're free to do what you wish. When it's ready, it will be a lovely, toasty brown color and soft.
When the cabbage is almost done, cook the noodles according to the directions.
Drain the noodles, add the cabbage.
In my family, we add more butter at this point. And salt. See what I mean? This is not health food!
For health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture
Monday, March 19, 2007
The smell of hot pine needles during the day, and the night so still you could practically hear the stars crackling overhead, created an instant sense of peace. Only one night away from home, and I come back relaxed...less worried about "gotta", "shouldda", and all the rest of the self-inflicted pressures.
I did not make any of the meals. I just enjoyed what everyone else created or brought. And we spent most of our time, it seemed, eating. And drinking wine. And eating some more. And going for a small hike in order to eat some more.
One friend made a wonderful lunch of chicken, snow peas, scallions, onions and garlic with oyster sauce with a kind of Phillipine noodle, (which, after a few glasses of wine, I forgot to photograph). But I somehow managed to take this shot of the dessert.
The chocolate cups were purchased. I cut up the strawberries. She mixed cream cheese, whipping cream, sour cream and sugar together, added some Baileys Irish and spooned the mixture over the top. The proportions? I'm still waiting for them.
That's what I mean about "shouldda". After a weekend in the country, it doesn't really matter. I would still make this, even without knowing the proportions. After all, my taste buds have never failed to discern the so-so from the divine.
For health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture
For a place to share what you've learned about vitamins, herbs, or any other natural remedy, visit my other blog Second Opinion
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
So sit down and join me, won't you? We're having a fritata with onions, tomatoes and roasted asparagus. I think I read 2 blogs last week about roasted asparagus. ThenI found some on sale. Need I say more?
1 onion, diced
1 tomato, sliced
5-6 roasted asparagus
6 eggs, beaten, using only 3 yolks. (My reduced fat version).
1 TBS Earth Balance (Or butter, if you wish).
Since I prefer my onions well cooked, I heated the pan, put the Earth Balance in and added the onions, cooking them until toasty.
Cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces.
Add asparagus and tomatoes to the eggs.
When the onions have cooked, pour the egg mixture into the pan.
Allow to cook over medium heat until the bottom has set and there's only a little bit of runny egg on top.
Place in the oven under the broiler until the top has cooked and the eggs are set.
Serve slices with crusty bread.
Friday, March 9, 2007
From there, I branched out into Earl Grey. The Earl was a huge step for me, as the basis here is black tea. But it is flavored with bergamot oil, which lends a distinct citrus flavor and aroma. With citrus as it's leading edge, I managed to sail past that black tea flavor without my stomach noticing it. I was making progress. The Earl and I are friends now, but we don't see each other too often.
Then I discovered Spiced Chai, or Spiced Chai Tea, as Trader Joe's calls it. Funny name, that. Since chai is another name for tea, it means that this tea's name is Spiced Tea Tea. Be that as it may, I used to take a teabag and pour boiling water over it, letting it steep for a while until it reached the right color. Then I'd add milk.
But back in 2000, a friend of mine who is a photojournalist went to India to photograph the first Kumba Mela of the new millenium. The Mela is an enormous Hindu festival, and that year it was held in Alahabad. There were about 75,000,000 people from all over the world who converged on Alahabad for the celebration, and my friend was swept up by the colors and sounds and smells of it all. He told me about drinking tea from a street vendor, who would have a pot of water with milk boiling over a fire. When someone ordered some tea, he'd throw a handful of tea and sugar into the pot, then ladel some into a small, low-fired ceramic cup. The cup was "disposable", meaning people would throw them away when they were done.
I was intrigued by the idea of boiling the milk in with the water, and wondered if it would make a difference. I don't eat much sugar, but I figured a teaspoon of it wouldn't make all that much difference.
She was right. I do. And intend to continue to do so, enjoying every sip!
Thursday, March 1, 2007
So I had this leftover cauliflower dish from my last post a few days ago. You know how that goes.....you make something with enthusiasm. You are drawn to that recipe because it speaks to you with just the right combination of flavors - a little sweet talk, a subtle hint of sauciness, and just a dash of spice to get your attention. So why make just enough for 2 meals? I bring my lunch to work, and if I've had a success in the kitchen the night before, well, why not go back for more?
I had gone to Whole Foods for those avocados, you see. While I was there I saw these beautiful young coconuts, brown part of the husks removed, tops taken off, wrapped in plastic and the liquid still in them. They reminded me of my last trip, which was to Vietnam. While there, we drank the coconut juice right out of the coconut, and then scrapped the insides with our spoons to eat the sweet flesh. I decided to relive that experience with one of these wrapped-in-plastic versions of the coconut. Ahhhhhh.....The juice was delicious! Just as I had remembered it. I carefully wrapped the coconut back up and put it in the fridge. Note to self: look up a recipe that calls for fresh coconut.
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pound Granny Smith apples
3 cups white rice, cooked