Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Ades

Here are some things people think about juicing: it's expensive; it's messy; it's not as good for you as eating the whole vegetable or fruit that you are juicing; and above all else, even if it's "good for you" it tastes gross. 

While I can't say that I have held any of those opinions myself, I do understand why people are more drawn to smoothies than juices. Smoothies are creamy, sweet, filling, and for the most part do not involve things like parsely and kale. They are easier to philosophically stomach. Plus, you only have to clean a blender. But once you buy a juicer, and adapt to scrubbing pulp out of all its parts with a toothbrush, you may find your blender collecting dust in the corner and smoothies falling to the wayside.

Here are some things that I like about making fresh, organic juices at home: it's a great way to use oversized or overabundant produce (like carrots, cucumbers, apples, herbs); it's way cheaper than buying fresh squeezed or pressed juices at grocery stores or juice bars; you get several servings of fruits and vegetables in a single glass; you get to experiment and play with ingredients until you find the perfect combinations of flavors that you love so nothing is ever too sweet, too bitter, or gross. Plus my juicer has never popped its top while running at high speed, covering me and my kitchen in a pulpy mess. It's just not built that way.

Lastly, and perhaps best of all, it is an amazing way of essentially bathing your digestive system from the inside with minerals and vitamins. When you make a fresh pressed juice you remove nearly all of the fiber allowing your body to almost immediately absorb the nutrients and minerals from the ingredients you juiced and put them to use. This removal of fiber is one reason not to replace ALL of your vegetable and fruit intake each day with juices. You need fiber too. But adding a fresh pressed juice to your day will majorly bump up your vitamin and mineral consumption without adding tons of calories overall. 

I am an advocate for a green juice first thing in the morning so that no matter what else happens, you know you got some good stuff into your body. But I also love a quick, hydrating, sweet treat of a juice, especially in the summer months. I like to think of these juices (and spritzer) as gateway juices. They are simple to make, delicious to drink, taste sweet without being high in sugar, and don't even require a juicer. You can make them in the blender and strain them through a fine mesh sieve or drink them as a thick juice/thin smoothie to get the fiber content as well. I particularly love them after a sweaty workout or as an afternoon pick-me-up in place of coffee. Who knows, after a few weeks you may find yourself chucking a handful of kale in there too. 

p.s. check out some cool nutritional info on these ingredients below

*Note: It is always important to choose organic vegetables and fruits whenever possible and I think even more so when juicing. Think of it this way: do you want to bathe your organs from the inside with pesticides? Enough said.

Pineapple, Ginger, Cucumber Juice
about 2-4 cups pineapple, cubed
1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
If using a juicer, start with the pineapple, then the cucumber and finish with the ginger. You always want to start with the softest ingredient and end with the hardest or most fibrous. There shouldn't be much pulp left over but if you really want a thin juice then pour it through a sieve into a glass. 

If using a blender, pour all the ingredients in at once, blend at high speed until liquified and strain (or not).

Watermelon, Lime, Mint Juice
1/2 seedless watermelon, cubed
1 lime, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup fresh mint
If using a juicer, start with the watermelon, follow with the lime and end with the mint. Strain or enjoy as is. This one is also really good over ice.

If using a blender, place watermelon and mint in the blender and instead of peeling the lime just cut it in half and squeeze both halves over the melon and mint. Blend at high speed until liquified. Strain (or not) and enjoy as is or over ice.

Apple Cider Vinegar Spritz
2 T Raw, unfiltered, apple cider vinegar
8-12oz sparkling water
juice of 1/2 a lemon
No blender or juicer needed for this one. Just place ice in a large glass, add the vinegar, squeeze in the lemon juice, and top with sparkling water. 

What These Foods Do

Pineapple: Detoxifier, diuretic, helps cool the body when overheated, helps expel mucous, full of acids which closely mimic human gastric juices and which greatly aid in digestion.

Cucumber: Alkaline, cooling, diuretic, rich in minerals that neutralize acidosis in the blood, help dissolve uric acid accumulations (kidney & bladder stones), contains the digestive enzyme erepsin which helps digest proteins, very high in potassium which helps regulate blood pressure, aids in calcium absorption, high in vitamin A.

Ginger: Virtues extolled here

Watermelon: Some info here

Apple Cider Vinegar: When unfiltered and unpasteurized, contains up to 50 different nutrients, amino acids and trace elements. Helps counteract lactic acid buildup in the blood, is rich in potassium, helps alleviate joint pain, fluid retention, and sodium retention. Contains malic acid (from apples) which is a digestive stimulant. So basically, drink it daily. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Gluten Free Nut Butter and Jam Sandwich Cookies

Rarely do I feel the urge to bake, and much to my annoyance, when the mood strikes it is usually late at night, or in the middle of a blizzard, or when I am just downright too lazy to go back into town to the store. What this means is that I often find myself ill-equipped for following a recipe as it's written. I'll have baking powder but no baking soda, brown sugar but no powdered sugar. A 1/4 bag of chocolate chips will be wallowing in the cupboard along with 2 tablespoons of oatmeal and more shredded coconut than I can ever remember buying but I won't have enough of any one thing to make even a half batch of a single recipe. So I improvise. Often the substitutions and tweaks end up being delicious but there have been some real train wrecks too. I remember one particularly abysmal carrot cake cooked in a tiny cottage at the end of a dead end road during a snow storm in Maine with my best friend after too many bottles of wine. I confess, we ate half of it anyway. Maine in winter can call for desperate measures.

On an unusually peaceful Sunday afternoon last week I suddenly wanted nothing more than to make cookies. I knew I had the basics for something as simple as a sugar cookie, and then I remembered all the half eaten jars of jam in the fridge. With no toaster in the house and bread only making a rare appearance in the kitchen, we suddenly have a glut of jam and no vehicle. I started searching the web for simple, gluten free, thumb print cookies. Instead, I stumbled upon a recipe for peanut butter and jam sandwich cookies. Of course! What goes better with jam than good, old PB?

True to form I had barely a quarter of the peanut butter I needed and it was of the chunky variety, not the called-for smooth type. But when has something as silly as having the necessary ingredients stopped me from trying a new recipe? I mixed the chunky stuff with smooth almond butter and followed the rest of the recipe to the letter (though I did add twice as much salt as suggested and cut out a little of the sugar).
These were by far, the easiest, fastest, yummiest peanut butter cookies I have ever made and they are definitely going to be a staple now. I slathered a few with raspberry jam, a few with Lingonberry jam, and the last with fig preserves. The cookie is light and airy and not to sweet and it actually gets softer a day later making it even more like the best PB&J sandwich--chewy, and with the perfect ratio of PB to J. You can easily swap the peanut butter for another kind of nut butter, though if you use cashew or walnut butter I would add even more salt to the recipe. This would also be a great cookie for making ice cream sandwiches. Just saying.

Nut Butter & Jam Sandwich Cookies
adapted from Haut Appetit
makes about 10 sandwiches

1 cup natural peanut or other nut butter (smooth or chunky or mix of the two)
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 T almond or other dairy free milk
1 T brown rice or other gluten free flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt (or more if using a sweeter nut butter)
favorite jam or jams

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper

In a large mixing bowl beat the egg and sugar together until creamy and frothy. Stir in the almond milk. Add the nut butter and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Mix in the flour, baking soda and salt until well combined. Taste a little bit and adjust salt as needed.

Using a tablespoon, scoop the batter onto the cookie sheets. Dampen a fork in water and use the back of it to flatten each ball of dough, leaving a criss-cross mark on each one.

Bake 15 minutes or a little longer. You want the edges to be just slightly golden.

Let the cookies cool slightly. Spread a generous layer of your favorite jam onto the flat side of one cookie and place the flat side of another cookie on top of it, pressing gently to seal the sandwich. Repeat until you run out of cookies.

These cookies will keep really well in an airtight container for several days, if you can keep your hands off them.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Heritage Food: Smoked Salmon Sandwiches with Dill Butter and Marinated Turnips

I think you might be way more into salmon than I am. So my sweetheart told me as I suggested for the third time that week that perhaps we should have salmon for dinner. I admit, I love the fish. I chalk it up to my Norwegian roots, and I like it in almost any form. Salmon sashimi is one of my all time favorite foods. The fatty fish at its best when raw is rich and silky and practically needs no chewing. I like salmon out of the can in place of tuna salad or added last minute to pasta with peas and herbs. It is equally delicious seared, poached or grilled, and perhaps best of all, smoked.

I've loved salmon since childhood, and though it wasn't exactly a staple food in our house it was something we ate each year at certain times--smoked salmon on Christmas Eve and Day at my grandparents' house, and poached salmon in the summer after my parents had fished them from the Upsalquitch River on their annual visit to a friend's cabin in Canada. They would come home with the beautiful fish stacked in a cooler, their scales still luminous, bellies sliced to show the clean flesh inside of a pink hue so deep it bordered on red. As my Norwegian grandmother wrote in her memoir/cookbook, "Until you have eaten a fine, firm, freshly-caught salmon like this, poached and served with a little melted butter poured over it, and plenty of chopped parsley or dill (that ubiquitous herb so appreciated in Scandinavia), you have missed one of the great gastronomical treats of the world: top quality, fresh-as-possible food, simply but perfectly prepared."

Salmon is pretty easy to find these days making it an option to eat in any season, but not all fish are created equal. Farmed salmon (one response to overfishing of the wild variety) has become ubiquitous but doesn't appeal to me at all. It lacks flavor, has more fat, is colored an odd orange-ish with dyes, and is often full of hormones and antibiotics. Even sustainably farmed salmon doesn't seem right. It is somehow too removed from that beautiful beast of a fish I used to see each summer, a seasonal meal we looked forward too each July, a meal eaten with relish and satisfaction because some primal desire to seek a source of food in the wild, kill it, clean it and feed it to your family had been met. They were healthy fish and we were healthier for eating them. That wan hunk of flesh sitting on ornamental kale behind a glass counter just doesn't seem the same, energetically speaking.

Still, at times, the Scandinavian blood in me starts calling for salmon and I have to heed its cry. I had such a craving in the middle of our recent heat wave. With each day soaring into triple digit temperatures I had little desire to turn on even one burner of the stove. I bought a few slices of wild smoked salmon from the fish counter, some dark rye bread and a big bunch of dill. I chopped the dill into good salted butter and slathered a thick layer of it onto the bread.
The fish was wild caught, never frozen, smoked in Santa Barbara, and of that same dark hue as the fish from my childhood. I topped it all with thinly sliced baby turnips from the garden, marinated lightly in rice wine vinegar and olive oil, and a big squeeze of lemon. I dined on the cool tile floor with my back pressed against the sliding glass door to the garden. A while later, sated, I looked at my empty plate and without thinking said aloud Takk for maten, which in Norwegian means Thanks for dinner. Sometimes there is just no fighting your roots.

Smoked Salmon Sandwiches with Dill Butter and Turnips
serves 2
2 pieces of dense rye bread, ideally sprouted
4oz wild caught smoked salmon
2-4 T good salted butter, at room temperature
2-4 T dill, finely chopped 
2 small turnips or one large one
2 T rice wine or champagne vinegar
2 T high quality olive oil
1/2 a lemon cut in two wedges
flaky sea salt

In a small bowl stir together the butter and dill until well combined. Set aside. (You could use an entire stick of butter and as much dill as you like and save any unused in the fridge for later use in vegetable dishes or melted on top of fish or a steak or anything else you like to eat with butter and herbs.)

Using a mandoline or a very sharp paring knife, slice the turnip into paper thin petals. In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and olive oil. Add the turnips and stir until well combined. Let sit at least 15 minutes. The turnips can sit in the liquid for up to 2 hours before use.

Slather each piece of bread with a thick layer of dill butter. Be sure to go edge to edge. Leave no centimeter of bread uncovered. Trust me.

Place a couple of pieces of salmon over the butter on each piece of bread, again try to cover the bread from head to toe, edge to edge. Cover the salmon with a single layer of turnip slices. Squeeze lemon over each sandwich and sprinkle with flakey sea salt. 

I ate mine with an iteration of Maggie's Salad. For a heartier meal, add some steamed or roasted new potatoes with more dill butter melted over them.