Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter (portuguese brown rice pudding)

Happy Easter

For our small and quiet Easter dinner I have decided to make Portuguese rice pudding. Chopper has portuguese on both sides of the family and his nana, his paternal great grandmother, used to make rice pudding for the family. Actually, according to Chopper, if you were a meat eater, "nana could turn the equivalent of an old sneaker into... deliciouso" (this was said while doing a little dance and rubbing his tummy).

This is the kind of soul food that no matter where your dietary standards lie, there are certain times that they may be set aside, and you will be more nourished. Regardless of the amount of eggs, sugar, or butter.

Unfortunately, "Just like your grandmother used to make" is getting harder and harder to adhere to. Look at this butter for example:The butter on the right is organic and comes from the Organic Valley company, the butter on the left is your standard "all natural" butter from any company, this one happens to be Land O Lakes. Butter is supposed to be this yellow color (just like egg yolks are supposed to be a rich yellow, if not a more orangy yellow color). Just because the butter is organic does not necessarily guarantee it is the most nutritious and will have this nice yellow color. What creates this, is the cows graze in a pasture, as nature intended. Cows get sun, cows get grass (not grain or meal) and cows make healthy, yummy butter. Cows stay pent up, cows get depressed, cows get shot with all kinds of antibiotics and hormones, cows make sick and sickly looking butter.

So the butter, eggs and milk aren't nearly the same as they were in our grandmothers or great grandmothers time. Food, in the last 30 years alone, has changed so much, that it is no wonder so many people are sick, we are poisoning ourselves. Something to think about and something to inspire change.

Ok, so enough about the horrors of the dairy industry (this "soul food" meal is supposed to be enjoyed guilt free). On to the rice pudding.... Although I did use brown rice, I wanted to make this somewhat close to what Chopper experienced as a kid, so I used real (Organic) milk, eggs, butter and sugar (sugar in the raw) and lots of love to make up for all the flippin sugar.

1 1/3 Cup Rice
1 1/4 Cup Sugar
4 Cups milk
6 Egg yolks
Zest of 3-4 "unsprayed" lemons (this is a Portuguese recipe, by "unsprayed" they mean Organic)
pinch of salt
ground cinnamon (for top)
pinch of nutmeg
6 Tb butter
splash of vanilla

Boil rice in sauce pan 3 cups of water for 8 minutes.
With rice in saucepan, add milk, butter, vanilla, and sugar.
Bring to low boil. As mixture begins to bubble add in zest and pinches of nutmeg and cinnamon
Cook on low for about 20 minutes (using brown rice, I had to cook for about 45 minutes)
When rice is done, turn off the heat and mix in the yolks and pinch of salt. Pour into a shallow pan and decorate with cinnamon.I started to panic slightly this morning when I realized that I did not have a "zester" than I realized what a zester essentially is, a grater! I also did not have lemons on hand and organic lemons are impossible to find on Block Island so I used organic grapefruit zest instead. I would not suggest doing this necessarily, but if you find yourself in the same predicament, use less. I would like to taste less grapefruit in my rice pudding.This was just fun to look at.

Apparently, in Portuguese culture they tend to sprinkle the cinnamon in a very decorative fashion. Creating ornate patterns like flowers and such. I tried to make an Easter egg design, then ran out of cinnamon. Oh well. I cannot say this could possibly compare to Nana Butterfield's, but Chopper's taste buds have changed since then anyway and he is satisfied with my rendition. In retrospect, I wish I had gone all the way with the white rice, but some habits die hard.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Down Right Raw (collard vegetable wrap)

When I was in school, I attended a Raw foods preparation class (dare you say cooking). This class got me turned on to all the fun ways foods can be prepared without actually raising its temperature, and how delicious and beautiful some of the dishes can be. There are all trains of thought when it comes to eating raw. Some people are more diligent about it than others, some are a big fan of dehydrating while others say keep the water in the food where it belongs, some won't let food cross their mouths or enter a recipe, which has been raised above 110 degrees at any point in its life time (this includes pasteurized foods), while others eat raw till dinner and then have something cooked at suppertime. Whatever the argument is, I agree that incorporating more non-cooked fruits and vegetables into your diet is a great way to increase over all health and well being. Whether that means eating a salad when you otherwise wouldn't, serving some chopped raw veggies as a snack, or creating one of the more elaborate Raw dinners from any of the awesome raw cookbooks (see side panel).

Since we have been on the topic of greens and I showcased collard greens yesterday, I have decided to give you one more variation of the collard green wrap. This is a raw recipe, actually one that I originally learned at that Raw class, although I have changed it and made the recipe fit what vegetables I had on hand. You can do this too, at any time with any of the recipes you find here. Most of them I just make up anyway, so have fun with it and make cooking (or not cooking as the case may be) as easy for yourself and your family as you can.

S0 I've de-stemed the collards (see previous post) and actually decided to lightly steam them. I heated about a 1/2 inch of water in a shallow pan and layed them in the water one by one for less than a minute each. You can actually see the color brighten and feel them soften to know they are done (takes about 20 seconds).To keep with the "raw preparation" I've sliced some crimini mushrooms (baby bella's as they are sometimes called) and I am marinating them in a little Braggs liquid amino acids (this is a soy based non fermented liquid sauce containing 16 essential amino acids. It is gluten free and a great replacment for tamari or soy sauce, and it's raw.)If you have a food processor with a grate attachment, grate a carrot, beet, turnip or any other similar root vegetable that you'd enjoy not cooked. I used a carrot and a golden beet, although did not have my grate attachment so did it by hand (just what you can do, sans food processor). After grating in the FP you can then make the Guacamole (less cleaning if you do it in this order). For the Guacamole I food processed 2 cloves of garlic till diced, added in 2 avocados, a little lime juice, salt, pepper and a little plain yogurt. I would have added tomato, onion or cilantro if I'd had it, but hey this is make-shift. I'm lying about the cilantro, by the way, can't stand the stuff. Here is the layered soon to be wrap. I have to admit I used a little too much spread, see the far side of the collard, you can probably do without all that. I spread some hummus, then the guac, layered on the mushrooms, grated veggies, and then added some escarole (not seen here). Simpler alternative could be: hummus spread and sliced avocado save the guacamole step, although it is delicious.
Role it up and enjoy while making a goofy face.

Since we are still on the collard tip, I wanted to give you one last "collard tip". This works with any green. To cut easily, roll it up like a cigar and slice. Saves lots of time in wrestling with the big huge leaves and cutting yourself in the process.

Collard Wraps (collard wrap with eggs)

Collard greens are best known for their showcase in southern cooking. Go to New Orleans and you'll get collards like I've never made, they are creamy and salty with just enough bacon added to make you smile. There is a reason for that bacon too, Collards being one of the strongest of the greens, gets a little help from the fats in breaking down and digesting. Since I don't use bacon in my own cooking, I try to always drizzle a little olive oil over them right before they done. If you are a bacon lover I'd say make your collards with a reasonable amount (meaning not too too much) of bacon and enjoy the best of both worlds.

One of my top ways to use collards is as a wrap. The leaves are so strong and it is a great way to get them raw (meaning all the enzymes and nutrients are intact). Of course I would say, make sure to chew well! Not having the aid of fats and cooking you'll have to use your mouth to break them down sufficiently.The leaves are really big so I cut the really thick part of the stalk out and any greenery that is on the stalk, I dice and throw into whatever I'm making. This leaves the top part of the leaf to use as the wrap. See all 3 parts above...the stalk can go in the compost.This is going to be a breakfast wrap. Scrambled eggs with sauteed mushrooms and goat cheese. The eggs are from the Lumber Yard on the island (isn't that just perfect?). They have chickens and sell the eggs out of a cooler with all the lumber. The yolks are so bright yellow, like the sun that the chickens get to bask in all day as they eat grubs and roam the property.

Voila, breakfast! The eggs are nice and hot so they tend to steam the collard a little and soften it. Chew well and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Baby greens (ultrasound picture)

I've spent the last 3 days on the mainland and so my "green" intake was left up to Wholefoods market and restaurants to upkeep. I don't cook when I am over there, primarily because my kitchen is not set up and because there are so many great options. Garden Grill, Julians, and Local 121 to name a few for the Rhode Islanders.

Chopper and I went for our first appointment with our new midwife and turns out my belly was measuring a whole month ahead of where it was supposed to be! She said this could mean, either I was due in August (ahhhh!) or carrying twins (double ahhh!!), so we went and had an ultrasound to find out just what was going on. Turns out I am right on time and the baby is measuring normal for 4 months, so....aaaaaaaaaah (sigh). So the belly size had more to due with my anatomy than anything else, I'm just showing big.

Here is the little bean. Look at that strong spinal cord! She is kind of lounging, her leg is kind of bent and out in front of her. I say "her" but don't be fooled we aren't actually finding out the sex, but I think it looks like a girl, kind of, sort of.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunshine and Asparagus (aspargus-escarole pizza)

Asparagus, Escarole Pizza-The whole wheat thin crust is from Olga's bakery in Providence (they sell to Wholefoods) you can also find their baked goods at the Winter Farmer's Market.

I am excited for sunshine and asparagus. The sun is shining today and I've felt my shoulders relax a little. While the asparagus starts to grow, in a little while I suppose. I can get my hands on asparagus now, and I have, but I feel like a cheat. California asparagus has to travel 3000 miles to make it to my plate, and believe it or not, I feel less of a connection to it. Something has happened (to me and my brain) as I've grown to understand and appreciate where my food is grown. A lot of it has to do with taste, plain and simple. To be so fortunate to have eaten greens right from the farm, or as most of us have, a tomato out of the garden, we understand there is a difference. It is just not always easy to explain the difference, you have to experience it.

I encourage anyone out there who, during a New England summer, relies on the grocery store for their produce, to try out a farmer's market at least once and, buy lots of stuff. In the beginning of my FM experiences I would go and look but rarely buy. I'll admit I was a little intimidated to step up to the farmer, it was so personal! Someone would ask if I'd like to try something and I'd quickly shake my head "no" afraid that they'd (god forbid) talk to me again. How long I kept myself from enjoying and experiencing the connection between food, my mood, and the connection it gifts us with other people. So I encourage you to, go, try, taste, feel, smell, connect, and bring home the goodness!