Thursday, November 5, 2009

top 5 reasons yoga is great for hypoglycemics

I'm back! It has been a long time since my last post, but I have a good excuse. I have been taking an intensive yoga teacher training course, getting a 200-hour certification in Hatha/Kundalini yoga at Karuna Yoga, which is a wonderful studio if you are in the LA area. Between all the lectures and yoga classes and homework (!), (oh, and my regular day job), I haven't had time for much blogging, cooking, or even going to the farmer's market. But, I have lots of new ideas for posts.

I will get cooking again soon and post some new fall recipes, but I thought it would be appropriate if my first post back was about hypoglycemia and yoga. I believe that anyone and everyone can benefit from yoga - not just the fit and flexible. Practicing yoga can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Sequences and practices can always be modified, and should always be done with an awareness of what you need right now. In my personal experience, yoga has really helped me to manage my blood sugar better, and to feel healthier overall.

So, here are my Top 5 Reasons Yoga is Great for Hypoglycemics:

1. Yoga helps improve your energy while other forms of exercise may exhaust you. This is not to say that running, cycling, etc. are bad - in fact, they are great, but sometimes they are not what you need if you are having blood sugar problems.

2. Yoga enhances the functioning of the glandular and nervous systems, especially by decreasing stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline) and increasing relaxation hormones. Being in the "fight or flight" mode triggered by an excess of stress hormones will interfere with the body's ability to use blood sugar efficiently. Here's a short article about yoga and diabetes that touches on this.

3. Yoga fosters greater body-mind awareness. If we can tune into our bodies, we are better able to sense when symptoms of low blood sugar are appearing so that we can do something about it. This awareness also helps us to realize which foods are making us feel good and which foods are making things worse.

4. Yoga postures help increase the circulation of blood, oxygen, fluids, and nutrients to organs throughout the body. When all of our systems are working well, the blood sugar stays balanced.

5. Yoga develops the focus and clear thinking that we need in order to stick to a sugar-free, white bread, white rice, white flour - free diet. It's hard! Some self control and mental discernment helps.

I'm sure I could come up with more to add to this list, but I don't want to be pedantic about it. Yoga is great - enough said! I am working on a practice sequence tailored to the goal of keeping blood sugar stable, and I will post that in the near future. Namaste ;)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

kitchen curator: Mark Bittman's 101 salad ideas

I'm starting a new label, "kitchen curator," in which I'll link to other people's good ideas. I mostly blog about my own invented recipes or modifications of someone else's recipes, but sometimes I run across food inspiration too good not to share.

Mark Bittman, food columnist for the New York Times, and author of a giant cookbook called How to Cook Everything, has a lot of interesting ideas. Recently, he turned in this gem for the NYT - "101 Simple Salads for the Season."

I'm quite intrigued by #2 and #4 and #8, and I even made the preserved lemons for #48 the other night, but have yet to assemble the rest of the salad. Maybe this weekend...

I love the "crouton" idea in #44, where he makes a grilled cheese sandwich and chops it into bite-size salad garnishes. I would use whole-wheat bread, of course. ;)

I would love it if he came up with 101 soup ideas this fall! Wonder if he takes requests...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

can you tell what I'm making?


At about 3:20, I cut some eggplants into small cubes, tossed them in olive oil and some sea salt, and placed them on a baking sheet.

I also wrapped up an ear of corn in aluminum.

It's 3:35 now, and both are going in the oven.

UPDATE 1: (3:50) Now that the eggplants and corn are cooking, I wanted to add that I'm using 3 different kinds of eggplants. I can't resist all those cool and weird-looking varieties at the Farmers Market! This dish will have American eggplant (the familiar purplish-black, "globe" eggplants), a Filipino eggplant (like the one in my hand here), and a Rosa Bianca eggplant.

UPDATE 2: (3:57) I just put a pot of water on the stove, to bring to a boil, and now my oven timer is beeping, so I'd better go check the eggplant and corn.

UPDATE 3: (4:02) The eggplant tastes great! Time to start working with some of the other ingredients: onions, a jar of roasted red peppers, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and capers. I left the corn in the oven, but turned the heat off. I'm also starting to wonder why I thought it would be such a great idea to cook today, when it is super, super hot outside.
UPDATE 4: (4:17) I keep nibbling on the eggplant chunks, and I'm still waiting for the water to boil! I did slice my cherry tomatoes into halves, though. It was about 40 cherry tomatoes - I counted them, just for you. :)

Speaking of nibbling, when we got home from the Farmers Market today, we took a bunch of the black seedless grapes we'd bought, put them in a freezer bag, and stuck them in the freezer. Mike and I just tasted the frozen grapes, and they were so sweet and refreshing. Highly recommended!

UPDATE 5: (4:30) Finally! The water is boiling, so I put in the whole wheat penne pasta. In the meantime, I also sliced up 3/4 of a yellow onion into half rings, and I'm working on caramelizing it (on medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil) now.

UPDATE 6: (4:40) OK, the pasta is done, and it's sitting in the colander in the sink. While it was cooking, I remembered the corn (by some miracle), got it out of the oven, and sliced the kernels off into a bowl. I hold the tip of the stalk with my left hand (using an oven mitt), resting the other end of the cob in the bowl. Then I simply cut the corn off with a knife. I'm going to cut a few canned fire-roasted red peppers into strips next.



UPDATE 7: (4:44) Still caramelizing, so there's time for this comment/hint. This dish traditionally has a kind of sweet-sour flavor, which most recipes achieve by adding sugar. I'm not going to do that, of course. I'm hoping to get there through the sweetness of caramelized onions, corn, and yellow (along with some red) cherry tomatoes.

UPDATE 8: (4:50) That's enough caramelizing! I just turned down the heat and added the tomatoes and roasted red peppers to the onion pan, along with a clove of minced garlic, a teaspoon of salt, and 3 twists of the pepper grinder.

UPDATE 9: (4:58) I have added the eggplant cubes to the pan now, along with about 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes are cooking down nicely. And I had a thought...you know what else is kind of sweet? Tarragon! I don't have any fresh, so I threw in a teaspoon of dried tarragon. And a dash of red chili flakes, because I'm going to use fresh mint leaves later, so this dish will play around with hot-cool and sweet-sour.



UPDATE 10: (5:05) Final additions to the sauce: the corn, 4 teaspoons of capers, and 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts. Funnily enough, it's hard to tell the pine nuts from the corn kernels once they're all mixed in!

UPDATE 11: (5:14) The answer - I'm making eggplant caponata. Sort of! It's going to be a cold pasta salad instead of a spread. The idea occurred to me because A.) it's really hot outside, and B.) eggplant caponata is often served at room temperature or chilled. Now that the caponata sauce is done, I have combined it with the penne noodles in a container, and it's all in the fridge chilling. I'll let you know how it is in a couple of hours!

UPDATE 12: (8:00ish) It was good! The picture below shows the finished dish, garnished with shaved Parmesan and some mint sprigs. It really did have the sweet factor - so much so, that next time, I might skip the tarragon and use some more savory herbs. Still, we liked it because it was so refreshing and summery.


Mucho thanks to Mike for all the pictures he took and uploaded!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

brown rice and mushroom risotto

This recipe was inspired by a delicious brown rice risotto that I recently tried at one of my new favorite restaurants. The place is called Hugo's, and it is a hypoglycemic's paradise. Finally, a place where I can eat out and choose from quinoa, whole grain rolls, brown rice, and wheat ciabatta!! If you live in LA, you should definitely check it out - Hugo's is also great for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free people. They are also very eco-friendly and try to be a "green" restaurant as much as possible. And yet, it's not the kind of place where you feel like "healthy" is being rammed down your throat. You can get carne asada and goat cheese mashed potatoes there. Hugo's seems to be kind of an entertainment industry hangout as well, because every time we go there, we seem to overhear people at neighboring tables talking about casting calls and thier IMDB profiles. (If you don't know what IMDB is, clearly you don't live in LA - it's big here!)

Aaaanyway. Normally, my blood sugar sensitivity won't allow me to eat risotto, so brown rice risotto is a pretty exciting concept. I used short-grain brown rice from the grain bins at Whole Foods, so it's also a cheap meal. It does take at least an hour to make, with all the stirring and adding broth, but it is worth it, and the texture does turn out creamy and dense like a regular risotto. Mushroom broth can be a little bit hard to find, but I picked up Pacific brand broth at Whole Foods. If no one stocks it near you, you can make your own by rehydrating some dried mushrooms and keeping the liquid, as I described here. (Be sure to use enough dried mushrooms to make 2 cups of broth.) I wanted to use chopped up green beans for a perky little crunch, but I didn't have any, so I threw in some sliced zucchini at the last minute. It was good too, but I am eager to try this again with green beans! (Any excuse, really.)

This recipe made enough for Mike and I to have a hearty meal, but next time we'll double it so there are leftovers. I was a little sad not to have much left, especially after taking the time to make this batch.

BROWN RICE AND MUSHROOM RISOTTO

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/3 yellow onion, diced
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 cups mushroom broth
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup short grain brown rice
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 cup chopped crimini (or other brown) mushrooms
1 zucchini chopped (or your choice of vegetable)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot. Saute the onions, and add the garlic after a few minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring the broth and tomato paste to a boil in a separate pot, stirring so that the paste disentegrates into the liquid.

3. When the onions are nearly translucent, add the rice to the pot and stir to coat. Then add 1 cup of the boiling broth mixture. Adding it hot will help the rice to begin to simmer. Keep it going at a very low simmer, partly covering the pot with the lid. Stir every few minutes until the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid - this could take 30 minutes. At this point, add half of the remaining broth and repeat the procedure.

4. When the rice has once again soaked up most of the liquid, add the sage and mushrooms to the pot. Then add the rest of the broth mixture, and repeat the stirring/soaking process.

5. For the vegetable, you could steam or saute in a separate pan and add it to the risotto just before serving. This method would give you the most control over its done-ness. Or, for a simpler approach, you could throw the veggies into the rice pot on the last addition of liquid, allowing for the necessary cooking time relative to the veggie you've chosen (a little more for green beans or asparagus, a little less for zucchini).

6. When the rice has absorbed the final portion of broth, stir in the Parmesan cheese and serve. Maybe garnish with a little sage leaf. :)

Mushroom Risotto on Foodista

Saturday, June 13, 2009

in search of mocklate: almond scones with strawberry butter


Remember that episode of Friends when Monica, the chef played by Courtney Cox, was supposed to demo a new (and as it turned out, icky) chocolate substitute? That wonder product was called "mocklate," and that's what comes to mind whenever I set out to create a new version of some dessert that I normally can't have. So, even though the recipe in this post is not a chocolaty one, it fits into this category since pastries are most definitely not filthy sucre friendly.

Strawberries are gloriously in season now, so I wanted to make something in the strawberry shortcake family, and after some thought and some web surfing, I settled on scones. For one thing, scones aren't usually a super sweet pastry, so I thought it would be easier to adapt. They are also a heavier, denser pastry, which I thought would work well with whole wheat flour. But, I needed something to put on the scones - along with the strawberries, of course. Whipped cream is out because of the sugar, so originally I was going to go with creme fraiche, although I would just have to skip the jam. Anything that concentrates the fruit like in jam or preserves is too sugary for me, plus they usually add even more refined sugar on top of the de-fiberized fruit sugars. Fortunately, the perfect solution came when I saw this post from the kitchn about strawberry butter. When I read it, I knew...I HAD to make that. ASAP.

For the scones, I used this recipe as a jumping off point, and made my substitutions - whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose, Splenda instead of sugar. I also added the almond extract because I like its sweet cherry-ish flavor, as well as the sliced almonds. I did find that I had to add more liquid to the batter to get it to hold together, probably because I was using the whole wheat flour. At first, I was adding heavy cream a tablespoon at a time, but after the third one, I still needed more liquid, so I switched to water. In the end, the scones came out just the right texture, flaky and delicious. Mike even said that they didn't taste too wheaty.

The strawberry butter could not have been easier to make, so I made two kinds. First, I followed this recipe (scroll down and ignore the popovers), except for using Splenda instead of butter. This version was ready to use as soon as the scones were cooled enough to serve, but after it's been in the refrigerator, it would need softening again to spread easily unless you thought to form it into a sliceable log or cube before chilling it. Thus the second version of strawberry butter that I made - strawberry canola butter. Using equal parts butter and canola oil, you create a better ratio of healthy and unhealthy fats, and it really tastes the same as the all-butter version. You just pour the blended canola butter into a tupperware container and refrigerate it until it firms up. The beautiful thing is that it remains spreadable in addition to being a little healthier, and I've been eating it for the past two weeks, so it keeps well too!

If you are not hypoglycemic (or diabetic), you might have a hard time appreciating exactly how happy it made me to be able to eat a sweet pastry for breakfast, with a fruity condiment that didn't wreck my blood sugar. Needless to say, I will be making this again!

ALMOND SCONES

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup Splenda (granular, not the kind you find in packets)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons cold butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds

glaze:
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, Splenda, and salt. Stir to blend. Cut in the cold butter with two knives (or use a pastry blender if you have one), until the texture is like coarse crumbs. Here's a tutorial about cutting in the butter, in case you've never done it before. It's the key to getting the flaky scone texture.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk one egg with the almond extract and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture until just combined. Gently stir in the almond slices.

3. Put the dough onto a floured surface, and try to form it into one lump. If it is too dry to hold together, add liquid (cream, milk, or water) one tablespoon at a time until it coheres. (I had to add about 6 tablespoons of cream/water). Be careful not to overwork the dough.

4. Separate the dough into two halves, and spread each half into a sheet about one inch thick. Use a knife to cut the dough into triangular scone shapes. Place the triangles onto a greased cookie sheet.

5. Make the glaze by whisking the remaining egg with two tablespoons of heavy cream. Brush the glaze lightly onto the tops of the scones, then decorate them with a few more almond slices.

6. Bake for 15-18 minutes. When a knife or toothpick comes out clean, they are ready to cool on a wire rack.


STRAWBERRY BUTTER

1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, softened at room temperature
1/3 cup mashed fresh strawberries
2 Tablespoons Spenda (granular)

1. Soften the butter for a few hours.

2. Wash the strawberries and remove the green parts. In a medium sized mixing bowl, smash the strawberries with a fork. Be sure to use ripe, juicy strawberries!

3. Add the Splenda and the butter to the strawberries (keeping the juices), and use an electric mixer to combine. When it's well blended, it will be pink throughout (yay!). Try to resist the urge to lick the spoon.

STRAWBERRY CANOLA BUTTER

1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup plus three big strawberries, mashed
4 Tablespoons Spenda (granular)

The instructions are the same as above, with the addition of the canola oil. Just mix everything together until it is pink throughout. The canola butter will initially have a consistency similar to yogurt (again, resist the temptation to dive into it with a spoon), but it will firm up in the refrigerator. Keep it in an airtight container. It will be spreadable within a few hours.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Warm Wheat Berry Salad with Copious Coriander



Since I gave up eating refined white breads, flours, pastas, or rice a couple of years ago, I have been slowly discovering the wide variety of whole grains that are out there. Lately, wheat berries have become one of my favorites. The wheat berry is simply the entire, unprocessed, uncracked wheat kernel. A bowl of wheat berries with some veggies is a very satisfying meal, or treated oatmeal-style, it would make a hearty breakfast. You can also grind up the wheat berries to make your own whole wheat flour - I'm not that ambitious...

For this recipe, I used Bob's Red Mill Soft White Wheat Berries, because that is what I found at Whole Foods, but hard white or hard red wheat berries would work too. You do have to plan ahead a little, since it takes about an hour to boil the wheat berries - then you are free to put them together with anything you can think of. One cup of dry wheat berries will make two dinner portions, and leave enough extra that you can have for breakfast or throw into a pot of soup later.

My other inspiration for this recipe was cilantro/coriander. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you have probably noticed that coriander is one of my absolute favorite flavors, but did you know that coriander seeds and cilantro come from the same plant? So, why not combine coriander seeds, ground coriander, and fresh cilantro into one dinner? It's like a perfect circle. On that note, I feel I have to mention that there is a blog called F*@# Yeah Cilantro, and if you like tongue-in-cheek, vulgar humor involving herbs, then you should check it out. If you don't like pictures of food accompanied by tons of F-bombs...well, you have been warned.

If you can't find coriander seeds in the spice aisle at the store, check in the aisle where they keep the Mexican specialty food items. Tossing a few of these into a recipe adds a pleasant crunchy, orange-y surprise when you bite into a seed. This recipe should be made with your choice of whatever vegetables are in season. The baby artichokes and purple cauliflower I used were really good, but I could envision this working with squash, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, etc.

WARM WHEAT BERRY SALAD WITH COPIOUS CORIANDER

1 cup uncooked wheat berries
3 1/2 cups water
a pinch of coriander seeds
a pinch of salt
6 tulip artichokes (or other baby artichokes)
2 tsps. olive oil
1 small head of cauliflower (I used purple cauliflower, but white is fine.)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 Tsps. apple cider vinegar
4 scant tsps. Dijon mustard
4 tsps. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
another pinch of coriander seeds
salt and pepper to taste
2 dozen small shrimp
4-5 cubes feta cheese per bowl
4-5 tsps. chopped fresh cilantro

1. Bring the wheat berries and water to a boil, sprinkle in a little salt and a few coriander seeds for added flavor. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about an hour, or until the wheat berries are al dente. You may have to drain off a little excess water before serving.

2. Steam the baby artichokes for three minutes in a microwave steamer bag, or for about 15 minutes on the stove top. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel away and discard the outer leaves until you reach the tender part that doesn't resist cutting with a sharp knife. Cut off and throw away the tough tips, then slice the remaining artichokes lengthwise into halves or quarters. (More about working with baby artichokes here.)

3. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, and heat the olive oil to high heat in a large pan. Sear the cauliflower florets on high heat for about three minutes, stirring frequently. You want to see a little bit of char in spots. Turn the heat down, and add the artichokes and shrimp to the pan.

4. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, coriander, cumin, and coriander seeds, along with a few dashes of salt and pepper. Set this vinaigrette aside for now.

5. While the shrimp are heating, start assembling the bowls. Drain the wheat berries if necessary, then scoop an ample portion into each bowl. Once the veggie/shrimp mixture is finished, spoon it on top of the wheat berries, drizzle on the vinaigrette, and top with the cubes of feta. (Don't use pre-crumbled feta. Get a block of feta and cube it yourself for a creamier texture.) Garnish each bowl with a generous sprinkle of cilantro.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Cinco de Mayo - make salsa verde!

Oh yeah! Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite sort-of holidays. I mean, I would like it better if work was canceled, but I can't really complain about a day that results in copious amounts of Mexican food. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I'm posting a tried-and-true recipe for homemade salsa verde. Mike and I have made this so many times, we haven't referred to printed instructions in years.

First, however, I wanted to offer a few tips for any other hypoglycemics reading this blog. Enjoy Cinco de Mayo, but avoid flour tortillas - the corn tortillas will be kinder to your blood sugar. Watch out for the Mexican rice, too! Beans would be better. And, last but not least, stick with a good Mexican beer (Corona, Tecate, Dos Equis, Negra Modela...yes, I know my beers!), and STEP AWAY from the margaritas! The mix is mostly sugar water, and hard liquor really concentrates the sugar in the alcohol. I have a theory that a hangover comes from low blood sugar plus dehydration - don't help me prove it. :)

OK - back to the salsa. Where I'm from in Alabama, everyone is quite familiar with green tomatoes, but tomatillos...not so much. One of the key differences is that tomatillos are ripe, even though they are green and small. Tomatillos should be easy to find in the produce section of most major grocery store chains. I usually pick through them, peeling back the papery husks just enough to make sure the tomatillo inside is bright green with no soft spots. Mike stands patiently by, holding the produce bag, knowing that the tomatillo selection process will be worth the wait.

TOMATILLO SALSA

1 1/5 lbs. tomatillos
1/2 fresh jalapeno
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbsps. minced garlic
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
additional cumin and coriander to taste

1. Remove and discard the husks from the tomatillos. Wash the tomatillos, dry them, then cut them into halves or quarters (depending on the size of the tomatillo). Place half of the tomatillo pieces in a blender or food processor with the half of a jalapeno pepper (seeds removed). Process until enough room is made in the blender/food processor for the rest of the tomatillos, avocado half, cilantro, and garlic. Blend everything together until is has a salsa consistency, basically smooth and not too chunky. It will be a gorgeous green color, like the epitome of spring.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the cumin and coriander to the oil, and let it heat for 30 seconds. Lean in close and get a whiff! Pour in the salsa, and stir to distribute the spices throughout.

3. Cook the salsa for approximately 15 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Start with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and add more, if desired, as you stir and taste. Add more cumin and coriander, a half teaspoon at a time, until you are satisfied with the flavor. I probably use two more teaspoons of each at this point, but I never measure (sorry!). I just keep shaking the spices in, little by little, until it tastes bright and fresh, but not sour.

Homemade salsa verde is delicious hot on nachos, chilaquiles, or carne asada, and is also great as a dip. This recipe will make enough salsa for a party, and it keeps well in the fridge for at least a week.

Tomatillo on Foodista

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dang! I missed the grilled cheese invitational.

I recently stumbled upon the hilarious website for the LA-based Grilled Cheese Invitational cooking competition. I went back to the site today, only to realize that the contest was yesterday! It looked like fun. Maybe next year I will come up with an awesome whole-wheat grilled cheese "sammich" - nothing too healthy, but I would probably have to enter in what they call the "Kama Sutra" category, which is for cooks who want to go beyond basic bread, butter, and cheese (they call that "Missionary Position").

Go check out the website, it's quite giggle-worthy. And please help me think of something cool to do with the grilled cheese idea!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

lemon basil chicken with white zucchini


Have you ever created a whole dinner around an herb? You know, something you came across by accident at the Farmer's Market or the grocery store? Well, that is how Lemon Basil Chicken with White Zucchini was born. I saw - then smelled - the lemon basil at the market, and HAD to make a dish with it. My goal was to make the recipe as lemony as possible and to find out how much flavor the herb could contribute - I was very happy with the resulting dinner!

If you are looking for lemon basil at the Farmer's Market, head for a stand that sells lots of greens. The stand where we buy salad mix usually has several different herbs, and the place where we found the lemon basil has lots of herbs, plus leeks, green onions, bok choy, cabbage, chard, lettuce, and a zillion different dark leafies. The white zucchini has been a springtime appearance at the Farmer's Market, and I've noticed that the same stand I buy it from also refers to it as "Mexican squash" sometimes. These are pretty small zucchini - one is about the length of my hand.

The mushroom broth I used was the liquid left from when I rehydrated some dried mushrooms. When you soak them in hot water, it not only brings your exotic mushrooms to life, it creates a flavorful broth that you can save in the refrigerator for a few days. You simply keep the liquid after straining out the mushrooms. I had some leftover from another recipe, and found it an ideal complement to the wine in this dish. You could rehydrate some dried mushrooms specifically for using in this dish (along with their broth), or you could go with an easy-to-find veggie or chicken broth.

We had this dish with a side of baked French-fry-style polenta (I should post that recipe sometime), but I think it would also be great with whole wheat Couscous. The wheat flour that coats the chicken sort of stops short of full-blown breading, but provides a nice texture, and it helps to thicken up the sauce a bit. While the white wine you use for this recipe shouldn't be overly sweet (aka, not a dessert wine like Reisling), you'll notice that when you pour the wine in the pan and add the lemon basil, it really smells like candy! I used this inexpensive blend from Pancake Cellars. There was enough leftover of this dish after Mike and I had it for dinner, so I took the rest to work for a delicious lunch.


LEMON BASIL CHICKEN WITH WHITE ZUCCHINI

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped tarragon
1 lb. chicken tenders (with fat trimmed off)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped brown mushrooms
3 small white zucchini, aka Mexican squash
1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup mushroom broth (or a mild-tasting, low sodium veggie or chicken broth)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsps. chopped lemon basil
juice of another 1/2 lemon

1. Put the whole wheat flour, salt, and tarragon into a large plastic, seal-able bag. Squeeze a half of a lemon onto the chicken tenders, then place the chicken in the bag with the flour mixture. Seal and shake well to coat the chicken.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet, then add the floured chicken tenders and the garlic. Brown the chicken, but don't cook it all the way through (yet). Set the chicken aside on a separate plate and cover.

3. Leaving the traces of the chicken and flour, add the mushrooms and zucchini to the pan. Stir in the vinegar to flavor the vegetables and to help prevent the flour from sticking to the pan and burning.

4. Cook the vegetables for 3-4 minutes, then pour in the white wine and mushroom broth. Turn the heat up until the sauce bubbles. Stir frequently while the sauce reduces. During this process, add the lemon basil and enjoy the scent! After another few minutes, squeeze in the lemon juice, and finish reducing.

5. When the sauce has reduced to about 2/3 of its original volume, turn the heat back down to medium-low and add the chicken back to the pan. Cook until there is no more pink in the chicken. It should be nice and tender.

6. Serve with a whole grain side dish and some more of that white wine!

Zucchini on Foodista

Thursday, April 16, 2009

lemon basil is made of awesome

We recently discovered lemon basil at the Farmer's Market. It looks much like any other green herb, but it smells almost exactly like the lemon-flavored suckers that bank tellers used to hand out when I was a kid. You really have to try it to understand how cool an ingredient this is to play with. I invented a chicken dish featuring lemon basil, which I will post this weekend, but for now, here's a dessert that we had tonight. It takes literally 2 minutes to make, and proves without a doubt that dessert does not require sugar...not if you have a stash of the super sweet strawberries that are in season right now! Don't worry about the acidity of the vinegar; the dish will still be sweet.

LEMON BASIL STRAWBERRY DESSERT

5-6 strawberries per person
1 Tablespoon lemon basil per person, chopped
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
drizzle of heavy cream

1. Wash the strawberries and remove the green tops. Slice them lengthwise into halves or quarters - whatever suits you.

2. Place a serving of sliced strawberries in each person's bowl. Add the lemon basil and toss. Drizzle each serving with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, followed by a tablespoon of heavy cream.

3. Let the bowls sit in the refrigerator while you eat dinner, then enjoy!

Strawberry on Foodista

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

are these people for real?!?!?

I got an email today about how the Mid America CropLife Association (or, NAMBLA) is starting a PR blitz about Michelle Obama's organic garden at the White House. You see, they represent companies that manufacture agricultural pesticides, and they are mad that she's not using them. That's right, First Lady, you can't have an organic garden - the poison-free veggies you are serving to your daughters and important world leaders are simply un-American. Oh, and I hate to nitpick, but shouldn't you be dipping your bread in petroleum rather than olive oil?

I remember during the election when members of a certain party made fun of a certain other candidate for liking arugula...but maybe they would have enjoyed their leafy greens more if they were served with a tasty dusting of Methyl Bromide? Never mind that the National Cancer Institute has linked this chemical with increased risk of prostate cancer - which is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

The main reason I find this so infuriating is that is none of the Mid America CropLife Association's freakin' business how the First Lady wants to approach her project of promoting healthy eating. Thier kind of "conventionally grown" food is more than available to consumers, and in truth, it's not very sustainable. Pesticide farming is an invention of the 20th century, created to make the mass production of food possible - but it has nothing to do with "convention," as humans successfully farmed without this stuff for thousands of years. Pesticides make our food less nutritious, and they contaminate the soil, run off into our water supply, and basically make a big, disgusting mess. With all of the Obama administration's green initiatives, Mrs. Obama would be inviting accusations of hypocrisy were she to promote chemically-assisted farming. Yet, the pesticide people seem to feel they are entitled to pressure her to use chemicals - like spraying her crops is some kind of duty!

I signed this petition to support the White House organic garden, and I encourage you to do so as well if you think these pesticide people should back off. You can read the full text of the Mid America CropLife Association's letter to Mrs. Obama here, including the heartwarming tidbit about thier educational outreach to elementary schools "covering the science behind crop protection products." Wow. What an ironic euphemism: these products may indeed protect crops from pests (by poisoning the bugs), but really, the problem is that they don't seem concerned about whether people should be protected from their product.

Monday, April 6, 2009

soba noodles with veggies & scallops in ginger mushroom broth

Of all the things I want to do with this blog, one of the most important is to point out the variety of whole grains out there. If you follow a hypoglycemic diet, you give up white pasta, white rice, flour tortillas, white bread, etc. - which can be a drag sometimes, especially at restaurants, or when you find yourself peering wistfully at all the goodies behind the glass at the coffee shop. Fortunately, there are some really good, overlooked whole grains that everyone ought to try, whether you are watching your blood sugar or your waistline, or perhaps if you are bored with the usual stuff.

So, today's featured whole grain is...(drumroll, please)...soba noodles! Soba is a Japanese pasta, made from a blend of buckwheat and wheat flour. I love that there exists an Asian noodle I can eat, since Pad Thai and Pho and all those fresh-looking Asian noodle bowls are usually off limits unless I want to feel woozy and get a pounding headache. With soba, I can learn to make my own versions of these dishes, as well as a plethora of hey-what-do-we-have-in-the-fridge stir fries, such as the one I'm posting here. You should be able to find soba in the "ethnic foods" aisle of most nicer grocery stores. You'll notice that they are brown, somewhat like whole wheat pasta, but they cook a little more quickly.

I used frozen jumbo scallops in this stir fry, which, I admit were from New England, thus not as eco-friendly as I usually try to be. While I think eating locally-produced food is one of the most important ways to help reduce your carbon footprint, I don't advocate being rigid about it when (for instance) you want some interesting seafood in your stir fry. To quickly defrost the scallops, just put them in a plastic ziploc-type bag and immerse in a bowl of lukewarm water. You may have to change the water a few times (because the scallops will make it icy), but they will defrost in 20 minutes or so while you are getting your other ingredients ready. Most of the other ingredients in the recipe are in season - veggies you'll find at the farmer's market in early spring.

I had never cooked with baby bok choy before putting it in this recipe, but it is super easy to work with, and quite yummy. Although it is known as Chinese cabbage, the flavor is milder than the cabbage most of us familiar with - but, strips of regular cabbage would make a decent substitution if you can't find baby bok choy. Swiss chard would also work. I highly recommend branching out and trying some of those mysterious greens the markets are so full of right now.

SOBA NOODLES WITH VEGGIES & SCALLOPS IN GINGER MUSHROOM BROTH

2 tsps. toasted sesame oil
1 medium onion, sliced into half circles
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 oz. dried wild mushrooms (shitake, crimini, oyster, etc.)
1 carrot, peeled into strips
4-6 jumbo scallops, cut into halves or quarters
1 cup snow peas
2 heaping Tbsps. freshly grated ginger root
1/4 cup mushroom broth (created from rehydrating your mushrooms)
2 Tbsps. low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
soba noodles
2 baby bok choy
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 avocado

1. Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet. Add the onions. Cook for a few minutes before adding the garlic.

2. Meanwhile, rehydrate the dried wild mushrooms in a medium-sized bowl. Cover the mushrooms in hot water for 15-20 minutes. When you take the mushrooms out of the bowl, save the water to use as mushroom broth later in the recipe. (You can also keep the extra broth in the fridge for a while - I'll be posting another recipe soon in which I used it again.)

3. Use a vegetable peeler to make carrot strips. I used a yellow carrot, but any kind will do. Toss the carrot strips into the skillet with the onions. Next, add the scallop pieces and stir so that the scallops have contact with the skillet bottom. After 3 minutes, add the snow peas, and turn the scallops. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.

4. While things are cooking away in the skillet, use a knife to remove the brown skin from the ginger root. Then use the smallest part of a grater, catching the ginger and ginger juice in a bowl. You might have to scrape the grated ginger off the back of the grater with your fingers. Once you have enough, stir it into the skillet. Pour in the mushroom broth, and add the soy sauce and rice vinegar. Turn the scallops over again.

5. Boil the soba noodles according to package directions. This recipe made enough for two of us, plus enough leftovers for me to eat for lunch one day. So, shoot for three bowls' worth of noodles.

6. Slice the bok choy into long strips, and add them to the skillet. Squeeze in the lemon juice, and cook for 3 more minutes. Once the scallops look done, you're ready to go.

7. Serve the veggies and broth in a bowl on top of the noodles. Garnish with avocado slices.

Note: We are trying to remember to start taking (and posting) pictures of these dishes...but it's a work in progress. Enjoy!

Soba on Foodista

Saturday, March 28, 2009

guest blogger Mike talks about living near hypoglycemia

Introducing Filthy Sucre's second-ever guest blogger...my husband, Mike! He's been mentioned on the blog many times as guinea-pig-in-chief, so today he's going to weigh in on what it's like dealing with someone else's high-maintenance blood sugar!

Living Near Hypoglycemia

Mike here, the Filthy Sucre husband and photographer, with my take on living near hypoglycemia.

I don't have to eat 5 times a day. I could eat a white bread, gummy bear, and chocolate fudge sandwich if I wanted to, and it wouldn't bother me - except for the taste, the stomach ache, and he eventual berating from my dentist. I can eat any and all Thanksgiving food without a thought, including all the cookies, brownies and snowball cherries.

I am not a hypoglycemic.

I know someone who is...and she lives with me and writes this delicious blog. Though she has her hypoglycemia largely under control now, she was much like Dr. Jekell/Mr. Hyde, only it was more like "Ms. I've Eaten/Ms. FEED ME NOW!" And very occasionally, she's still that way. Seriously...sometimes we have to drop everything so she can eat. There's the cranky impatience, the irritated mumbling, and the vicious grumbling. Sometimes I get exasperated about the situation, but I know that Addie can't help it and I try to be supportive by cooking dinner immediately. After all, low blood sugar - really, really low blood sugar - can cause migraine level headaches and nausea that can take a couple of days to work through. I don't want that for her.

I've never experienced hypoglycemia on that level, but I have had episodes.

The first time that I experiened a hypoglycemic reaction and knew what to call it was in college. I grew up on Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew, but gave up soda when I got to college - the carbonation made it hard to play French horn comfortably at all those rehearsals. One night I didn't have a rehearsal and somehow found myself with a Dr. Pepper in hand once more. Wow, did I notice the sugar! My heart was pounding, and I felt vaguely nauseous. And it was soooo sweet - unnaturally sweet. The kind of sickly sweet that only high fructose corn syrup can deliver. I had no idea what I'd been drinking all those years. It was a revelation. I've had nothing but diet cola since then.

Not all of us are hypoglycemics, but I'd imagine that nearly all of us have had the odd hypoglycemic moment even if you didn't realize it. If I have to, I can make it until 3 pm before eating lunch and be nothing but really hungry. Almost all the time. I can start a meal with dessert. Almost all the time. I can drink wine at a cocktail party on an empty stomach to be polite. Almost all the time.

But now I find that I don't really want to. Addie's diet-of-necessity has clearly affected my sensitivity to sugar. Not that I can't handle it in a larger sense, but I notice the effect it has on my body. And there are a lot of other good side effects to following a hypoglycemic diet: less sugar means fewer calories and the ability to keep weight down pretty easily; avoiding processed flour means more whole grains; fewer gummy animals and more real fruit means more vitamins and more fiber...the list goes on. I'm just plain healthier than I would be if my wife didn't have hypoglycemia.

When Addie decided to change her diet in earnest, it wasn't easy for me at first. She had to cut everything out and add things back in slowly to see what affected her and how. I grumbled and complained about losing my sourdough bread and potatoes and...well, the list goes on a second time. There was another option for me: I could get my own stash of food, but I decided that I wasn't going to pay for two loaves of bread and try to cook two different meals. I'm a lazy cheapskate that way. So I lived and learned...and now I like it.

I think the lesson here is that there is a sugary subset of food that no human - whatever the level of thier health - should consume: high fructose corn syrup, white flour that has all the nutrients stripped out, too many starcy foods, Thanksgiving and Christmas food...for the final time, the list goes on.

I feel better. And for that I have to thank Addie - the hypoglycemia monster that I love.

Monday, March 23, 2009

spaghetti in rosemary cream sauce with Indian eggplants, snap peas & prosciutto


Now that it is officially spring, it's time to look for ways to add all the new ingredients appearing at the Farmer's Market into our cooking plans! Sugar snap peas (a kind of "sugar" I can have) add a fresh crispiness and delightful green brightness to this adaptation of the basic cream sauce used in an earlier, more wintry post, "Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Ricotta and Meyer Lemon Zest."

I was also eager to do something with the cute little baby eggplants that I've been seeing at the Encino Farmer's Market. Can you tell that I'm in love with miniature vegetables lately? I know eggplants are generally in season in the summer, but sometimes veggies have a longer growing season in California, and sometimes the baby veggies appear sooner than the full-sized ones. I'm not sure if that's the case with these eggplants, so if anyone out there knows, please share!

In fact, according to the sign at the market, what I bought were Indian eggplants. There are lots of different kinds of eggplants, and crazily enough, they are technically considered a berry - kind of in the same way that tomatoes are considered a fruit. Whatever they are, these little eggplants were yummy to use in this dish because the spongy texture of the eggplant allows it to soak up the flavor of the cream sauce.

SPAGHETTI IN ROSEMARY CREAM SAUCE WITH INDIAN EGGPLANT, SNAP PEAS & PROSCIUTTO

3-4 baby eggplants (or Indian eggplants)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
2 cups sugar snap peas, cut into bite sized pieces
1 clove minced garlic
2 Tbsps. white balsamic vinegar
3 slices prosciutto
2 stalks green onion, chopped
2 Tbsps. butter
1 long stalk fresh rosemary, leaves separated from stem and chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
salt & pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
whole wheat spaghetti noodles (enough for 2 people)

1. Slice the eggplant into long, thin strips, leaving the skin on. Heat the oil in a large skillet, then add the eggplant strips. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes or so. Add the snap pea pieces and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the white balsamic vinegar.

2. Roll up each slice of prosciutto and slice the rolls so that you make bite-sized strips. Mix the prosciutto into the veggies and cook for a few more minutes. Add the green onions and cook briefly so that the green doesn't darken too much.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another pan, then add the rosemary - the herbal oil will infuse the butter. After heating the rosemary for a few minutes, pour in the heavy cream. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for 3 minutes before adding the ricotta. Stir over low heat to melt and blend the cheese into the cream, then remove from heat.

4. While the noodles are boiling, stir the Parmesan into the cream sauce mixture until it melts and disappears. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Serve the noodles in a bowl with the cream sauce and veggies spooned on top.

Eggplant on Foodista

Saturday, March 14, 2009

baby artichoke & fried egg tartine

OK - this is basically an egg sandwich. I have no problem admitting that. I like egg sandwiches. My sister, Anna, and I used to make them for lunch all the time when we were kids and our Mom was at work. Anna makes a mean fried egg over medium, too. For whatever reason, this is what I came up with when trying to figure out what to do with a basket of cute baby artichokes from the Farmers Market.

"Tartine" is what we left coast elites (and possibly the French?) call a fancy open-faced sandwich. I happened to look this up on Wikipedia to confirm, and I found this sweet quote, "Legally in the United States, the ruling in the case of Panera Bread Co. v. Qdoba Mexican Grill established that a true sandwich (from a legal perspective) must include at least two slices of bread. An open-faced sandwich does not satisfy this condition." So there. (I can't help put picture a sourdough loaf battling a tortilla when I read this.) Be sure to get a high quality loaf of whole grain bread that you can cut big (1+ inch) slices from. You will need a substantial foundation for everything that goes on top of the bread in this recipe. Also, you will probably need to eat this with a fork and knife.

Technically, the artichokes I bought at the market were tulip artichokes, also known as baby Eurochokes or Fiesoles - deep purple little things. Apparently, people use them in flower arrangements, too. I had to do some research to learn how to work with them. Fortunately, the California Artichoke Advisory Board has a very detailed website with pictures and instructions for cooking artichokes. This veggie is in season twice a year, in the spring and the fall, so it's worth getting to know. Soon I will try something with full-sized artichokes. In fact, the babies are just artichokes that grow lower down on the plant than the big guys, but the babies are a good training-wheels artichoke because they are easier to use and require less prep. They smelled amazingly buttery when I steamed them, which I did very quickly in the microwave in a Ziploc Zip 'n Steam bag. This was the first time I'd used the Ziploc steamer bags, and it worked well - shortcuts that make dinner happen faster are good because I'm always so hungry by the time I'm cooking. (Stupid hypoglycemia!) You can also steam them on the stovetop for about 15 minutes.

I had still had some asparagus in the fridge after making the last recipe I posted here, so I used that to add a nice crunch to this dish. With the spongy bread, creamy avocado and tangy vinegar...I'm getting hungry all over again just typing this up. Mike likes his eggs well done, which was no problem, but I intended my egg to be fried over-medium so the yolk could run into the bread...but, alas, I overcooked it just slightly. Next time it will be heavenly!

BABY ARTICHOKE & FRIED EGG TARTINE

8-10 baby artichokes (tulip or other variety)
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
5-6 asparagus spears, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. tarragon (I didn't have fresh, so I used dried.)
1 1/2 Tbsps. fresh chives, chopped
1 tsp. butter (for the frying pan)
1-2 eggs per person
salt & pepper
1 thick slice whole grain bread per person
olive oil & balsamic vinegar for drizzling
1/2 avocado, sliced

1. Steam the whole artichokes, either in a microwave bag for 3 minutes or on the stove top for 15 minutes. Set the steamed artichokes on a cutting board and allow them to cool enough for handling.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the sliced mushrooms for a few minutes, then add the garlic.

3. Peel the outer leaves off of the artichokes until you get to the tender part of the vegetable. With the tulip artichokes, I found that the leaves with some yellow coloring were softer and more edible than the purplest ones. Discard the leaves you've peeled off. Slice the artichokes in half length-wise and cut off the tough purple tips.

4. Add the artichokes and chopped asparagus to the pan to saute with the mushrooms. Add the balsamic vinegar, some salt and pepper and the tarragon. Add the chives after a few minutes.

5. Melt the butter in a small frying pan. Crack the eggs into the pan. Be careful not to break the yolks if you want your eggs over medium! Shake some salt and pepper onto the eggs. Once the white part of the egg is set and is looking about 80% cooked, flip the eggs. For medium, count to 20 and remove the egg from the pan. For well done eggs, leave them in a little bit longer or break the yolk before flipping.

6. While the eggs are cooking, toast the bread. Place a slice on each plate, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When the eggs are ready, place them on the bread, then spoon the veggies on top and maybe place a few around the plate to make it pretty. Garnish with avocado slices and more chives.

Artichoke on Foodista

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

quick polenta bowl with tomato sauce and seasonal veggies

Here's a quick dinner I whipped up one night last week when I didn't have the energy to cook, or much in the fridge. I try to keep a can of tomatoes in the cabinet, and I almost always have a tube of Trader Joe's heat-and-serve polenta available...so, that and some asparagus I had from the Farmer's Market = dinner in 20 minutes flat!

Asparagus is just starting to appear at the Farmer's Markets here in LA, since it's early spring. There are also hot house tomatoes, but they're not that great (and I didn't have any), so I went for canned. In the summer, it's not that hard to make a sauce from fresh tomatoes, and I might use green beans instead of the asparagus. I also just used the fresh herbs I happened to have, plus some of the Italian seasonings in my cabinet. What I'm getting at here is that you should feel free to use: a) whatever is in season and sounds good, b) whatever you've got. This is a pretty hearty meal for two, and maybe more, depending on your appetite - especially if you add a green salad.

QUICK POLENTA BOWL WITH TOMATO SAUCE AND SEASONAL VEGGIES

2 tsps. butter or olive oil (for the polenta)
1 18 oz. tube of polenta
1 tsp. olive oil (for the sauce)
1 cup chopped mushrooms (I used crimini, but whatever you have is fine.)
1 or 2 cloves minced garlic
7 or 8 asparagus stalks, cut into 1 inch bite-sized pieces
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
app. 3/4 of a large (28 oz.) can of tomatoes
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp. basil
1 tsp. thyme
salt & pepper
goat cheese (optional)

1. Slice the polenta log into circles about 1/2 inch thick. Melt the butter or heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the polenta slices. Once they start warming, they are easier to mash up and stir together - at first, just be sure to stir so that the same ones aren't always on the bottom hogging all the butter or oil. While you cook your tomato sauce, check on the polenta periodically, and mash/stir it until it's a thick, uniform texture. Remove from heat if this consistency is acheived before the sauce is ready. (Note: I believe Whole Foods and other stores have thier own ready-made polenta tubes, not just TJ's. And it is, of course, possible to make it yourself, but the point of this recipe is quickness and ease!)

2. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large pan, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, and add the asparagus once the mushrooms are starting to brown. Cook until the asparagus turns bright green and retains some of its crispiness. (Soggy, overcooked asparagus is gross.) Add a tablespoon (or just a generous splash) of balsamic vinegar and cook for a minute.

3. Add the canned tomatoes to the veggie mixture. I didn't use the whole can, but just eyeball it according to your desired ratio of veggies:tomatoes. Add the herbs and simmer for several minutes, adjusting the seasonings (a little more of this, a lot more of that...) and salt & pepper to taste.

4. After you've perfected your tomato sauce, spoon the polenta into individual bowls, smashing it up against the sides to make a polenta bowl-inside-a-bowl. Spoon the tomato sauce into the polenta-lined bowls, and serve with some crumbled or grated cheese on top, if you like. We happened to have goat cheese, which melted just a little, resulting in extreme creamy goodness.

Polenta on Foodista

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

whole-grain Mexican(ish) casserole



I am so proud to post this recipe, because Mike and I created it ourselves this past weekend. True, it is based on the principles and quantities of this yummy recipe for mushroom casserole from 101 Cookbooks, which we have also made twice in the past three weeks - you should try it. But, the Mexican(ish) twist is all ours, and it turned out brag-to-your-friends delicious on the first draft. Both recipes are filthy sucre friendly because of their innate whole-grain goodness.

The reason I am referring to it as "Mexican(ish)" is because we used quinoa in our version in place of the brown rice. Quinoa was the staple grain of the Incas, arguably the key to their empire's success. (No really: read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and I promise you'll have a new appreciation for the role of natural food resources in the course of human history. It's kind of mind blowing.) Anyway, the Incas and their descendants hail from the Andes, not Mexico, and I strive to be accurate in my recipe designations. Quinoa was great for the empire, and is great for hypoglycemics because it is the highest source of protien of any grain. It's easy to find at the grocery store, so you should give it a try if you haven't already. The other ingredients are pretty much inspired by our love for Mexican food.

MEXICAN(ISH) CASSEROLE

3 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
3 stalks green onions, chopped
1 1/2 roasted red peppers, diced (The kind that comes in a jar is fine - or you can roast your own. This would be about 3/4 of a jar.)
1/2 cup corn (I used frozen, but would love to use fresh in the summer.)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cloves minced garlic
2 large eggs
16 oz. fat free cottage cheese
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon epazote (a green herb used in Mexico, omit if you can't obtain it)
1/2 cup grated pepper jack cheese
salsa verde and guacamole to serve as toppings

1. Prepare the quinoa per the instructions on the box. The recipe calls for 3 cups of the grain - I had some left over when I made 1 1/2 cups of dry quinoa and 3 cups of water. Set the quinoa aside.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 and oil a 13x9 inch pan.

3. Saute the mushrooms and green onions in a large skillet. Add the roasted red peppers and corn after a few minutes. Add the cumin, chili powder and garlic. Let the mixture cook for a few more minutes so the flavors start to blend, while you begin the next step.

4. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the cottage cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, cilantro and epazote. Set aside.

5. Add the quinoa to the skillet with the veggies and stir to combine.

6. Thickly shred the cheese if you haven't already.

7. Add the quinoa/veggie mixture to the egg/cheese/sour cream bowl, and stir well. Pour the mixture evenly into the casserole dish. Sprinkle about 2/3 of the pepper jack cheese on top, cover in aluminum foil, and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

8. Remove foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until golden edges are acheived. Garnish with the remaining cheese and some more fresh cilantro, then serve with salsa (preferably green) and guacamole.

Quinoa on Foodista

Saturday, February 28, 2009

guest blogger Cybele talks diabetes and dessert recipes

Today's post is courtesy of a special guest blogger, my friend Cybele Garcia Kohel. After I started Filthy Sucre, we discovered that we had something in common: avoiding sugar and refined white stuff. Though I'm hypoglycemic, and she is diabetic, we've found that we keep to a similar diet. In fact, a few months ago, we were both at a Saturday morning workshop that ended with lunch. Unfortunately, the lunch consisted of nothing but sandwiches on huge slices of white bread, and Cybele and I were both reduced to peeling the condiment-laden slices of lunch meat off and tossing the bread aside...without the help of a fork. It was not an elegant meal, nor was it filling, so I was glad I had brought a cheese stick and two clementines in my purse. I believe Cybele supplemented with nuts.

I hope you'll enjoy hearing about her experiences going sugar free. Take it away, Cybele!

So sugar got you down? Tell me about it! I'm diabetic. Before you get the impression that I'm a 300 pound sedentary chronic over eater, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I'm 38 years old. I'm a little over 5 feet tall and I weigh 115 pounds. I go to yoga weekly, run local errands on my bike several times a week and walk my dog twice daily. Truly, I am borderline diabetic. The diagnosis came last year, and it was devastating to me. I believe that in my case, the diabetes was stress-induced. At the time I was commuting (to my fairly stressful place of employment) on my bicycle, usually about 16 miles round trip, at least once a week. Since then I've discovered that my grandmother's sister apparently had diabetes, but other than that no one else in my family has it. So, needless to say, the diagnosis came as a shock to me, and most of my friends and family. It started a wave of dieting and gym membership among my coworkers.

Luckily I was diagnosed early, so I am able to manage the diabetes with a good diet and exercise. That means I don't have to take insulin - and I want to keep it that way. When Addie started the Filthy Sucre Blog, I was very excited to read that other people out there are avoiding simple sugars as well. While being a diabetic is really more about avoiding large quantities of simple carbs, eating balanced meals and exercising to achieve a normal blood sugar, I find that avoiding outright or hidden sugar is extremely helpful. So, like most concerned consumers, I read nutrition labels if I eat processed foods. Whenever possible, I avoid sugar, corn syrup, even honey which is basically a naturally-processed sugar (my condolences to the bees of the world). But I don't think I will ever give up eating or wanting dessert. It is a comfort that is too engrained in my lifestyle, my family culture. Not a person who enjoys chemically-produced sugar subsitutes either, I searched for a decent substitute. So far, agave nectar is my favorite. Agave is relatively cheap, and Trader Joe's carries it. Yes, it is still a sweetener of course, but much lower on the glycemic index, which is very important for anyone who is watching blood sugar levels. Use agave nectar, coupled with non-refined flours, and you've got yourself a more than just decent, low carb dessert. Take a look at all the alternative flours available at Bob's Red Mill. It really blows my mind the alternitives we have out there. Now if we could just get the rest of America to use them on occasion...

As a creative type, I'm always experimenting - this means in the kitchen I'm tweaking the sugar and refined flours out of the recipes in my books. So here are two of my no-sugar desserts for you to try at home. Enjoy!

BANANA DELIGHT

2 bananas, ripe
1/2 cup coconut shavings (unsweetened!)
1/3 cup lime or lemon juice
agave nectar for drizzling

1. Slice the bananas thickly.
2. Squeeze juice into a bowl.
3. Spread the coconut shavings on a plate.
4. Dip each banana slice first into the juice, then into the coconut, covering them well. Set them on a plate.
5. Serve first, then drip agave to taste on them.

I initially ignored this recipe, because neither my husband or I like coconut. But I realized that what I didn't like about the coconut was the added sugar. The unsweetened coconut has a good flavor, without the sugar headache afterward. Sometime I'd like to make it with toasted coconut. It might be even better that way. Or with a peanut sauce...the experimentation continues!


APPLE CRISP

8 medium apples, or 5 large (use Gala or Fuji)
1/2 cup of agave nectar
3/4 cup of uncooked rolled oats (not instant)
1/3 cup of rice flour
1/3 cup of butter, very soft
3 Tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of dried ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of walnuts (optional)

1. You may remove the apple peels if you like. Clean, core and slice the apples. Lay them in a lightly greased 9x13 pan.

2. Mix oats, flour, walnuts, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon well, in a large bowl.
3. Add agave, lemon juice and butter. Mix everything well.
4. Pour mixture over the apples.
5. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, or until a poked toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool before cutting or serving.

I omitted fruit juice from this recipe, because the nectar is a liquid instead of a powdered sugar. If you need to, add a few tablespoons of water when mixing, but not too much as it will make for a mushy result.

Some articles of interest:

"America's Diet: Too Sweet By the Spoonful" The New York Times
"Is America Too Sweet on Sugar" CBS News

- Cybele Garcia Kohel

Monday, February 23, 2009

don't eat cardboard peaches

Lately, every time I go to Trader Joe's I get annoyed. It's not the insane crowd of people blocking the aisles, it's not the teeny tiny parking lot...it's the #*@! peaches from Chile. Earth to Trader Joe's: It is February. Not that it's just Trader Joe's, but why should they use their tiny (and incomplete) produce section for out-of-season fruit that isn't up to thier thrify gourmet standards of quality?

Who needs rock-hard, flavorless peaches that you have to cut with a knife and that crunch when you eat them? Is the need so great for cardboard-tasting supposed fruit that bounces like a tennis ball because it logged more than 5,587.57 miles in its weeks-long trip from the farm to the store?

It's like opening Christmas presents in April. Biking across the ocean. Shaving with your toothbrush. Cheering for Texas. You get the picture - it's just wrong.

The thing is, during the summer, we can get delicious, juicy peaches from right here in California. Peaches are such a quintessential summer thing for me that it just bothers me to see these fake ones around in the winter. It siphons off the fun and anticipation of those first peaches arriving in June or July, kind of in the same way that the holiday spirit is dampened when all the retail halls are decked right after Labor Day.

I doubt there would be any demand for these things if the stores weren't taking it upon themselves to provide all produce year 'round. I mean, I know not everyone lives in California, and we are lucky to have such a variety of fruits and veggies growing here all year. But still, think of the ridiculous carbon footprint left by a peach from Chile - its journey to the grocery store in LA is roughly equivalent to the mileage I put on my car in five months. It makes life bland if everything is available all the time, and we've got plenty to enjoy right now with a zillion varieties of citrus finishing up their season in the spotlight. OK, enough ranting...

In other news, Mike and I had the chance to go to the Farmers Market yesterday for the first time since we moved to the Valley. We decided to check out the market in Encino, and it was really good. There were hints of spring appearing: asparagus, artichokes, cute baby eggplants, snow peas...yay spring!! More recipes soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

in search of mocklate, chapter 1: brownies

Introducing...a new thread all about sweets! I'm calling it "In Search of Mocklate," and I will be periodically posting ideas for ways to get around that whole not-eating-sugar thing, because it's not as if I don't like dessert. For my first foray in search of mocklate, I chose to experiment with brownies. The adventure culminated at a party we attended Sunday evening, where friends unwittingly taste-tested a whole bunch of sugar-free, flour-free treats. Before I get too far, I would also like to mention that certain tasters (Lacey!) had some great ideas for the title of this post: "Brownies You Could Eat for Breakfast," or "Brownies with a Secret Ingredient (no, not that)."

I started this experiment innocently enough with an internet search for suitable brownie recipes. I Googled "diabetic brownies," "sugar free brownies," "hypoglycemia brownies," (that one didn't come up with much) and "low carb brownies." I am somewhat dismayed to report that the first recipe that came up in my search for diabetic-friendly brownies was this one with regular ol' white flour - yikes! Then there was this one, which was in the same vein, but has the remarkable distinction of requiring 60 packets of Sweet & Low. Ewww. And, I wish someone could explain to me how this one, entitlted "Not So Guilty Brownies" by Diabetic Gourmet is supposed to be eaten without causing a huge blood sugar swing. (Let's just pause for a sec to remember that the issue here is not guilt, but illness.) Needless to say, I kept looking.

Eventually, I settled upon two recipes to test in a weekend baking frenzy. The first, found on About.com is low-carb, and uses lots of cream cheese, almond meal instead of flour, and Splenda instead of sugar. (I didn't modify it at all, so I won't re-type the recipe since you can just follow the link.) The recipe was easy, and the brownies were delicious! The texture was slightly less cakey than regular brownies would be, but good in thier own way with the almond meal making it surprisingly fluffy and (not surprisingly) nutty. You can get almond meal at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and in the specialty/organic aisle of most grocery stores. Definitely give this one a try - our fellow party-goers were clueless about the lack of sugar and flour.

The second recipe is the one with the more counter-intuitive set of ingredients, and the one I had the most fun watching people try. The secret? Black beans! And, no, this is not some kind of weird "savory brownie" thing served with salsa on top - it tastes like honest-to-god brownies, and I swear you would never know there are beans in it. Mike HATES beans, but he totally dug these brownies.

I found the black bean brownie recipe on 101 Cookbooks, and did not adapt it, so click the link to check it out. They passed the party test with flying colors, even though they came out pretty soft and were hard to cut into squares. I highly recommend trying this, because they taste decadent, are excitingly unlike anything else you've probably tried, and are a hilarious way to mess with your friends while feeding them a sweet and healthy treat. Just wait until they've had a few bites to reveal your secret.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

another reason not to click on those male enhancement drug offers in your spam box

I couldn't resist posting this. Apparently, some counterfeit Cialis and other male (ahem) enhancement drugs have been circulating in Singapore - but that's the only funny part of this story. You see, these fake remedies were tainted with a diabetes drug that caused a hospital trip for over 150 people due to severe low blood sugar. Four died, seven are still in a coma. Death from hypoglycemia is rare, but it is possible.

One thing that helped the doctors figure out what was causing this: of the 150 people in the hospital, all but one were male. Remember, guys - low blood sugar isn't very macho, so maybe we shouldn't be taking drugs we don't need.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a nutcase tip for hypoglycemic types

We hypoglycemics always have to carry snacks. Cheese sticks can only be kept in your purse for so long before they lose their allure, which is why nuts are the go-to protein source in a pinch. My personal innovation: save the case from your Altoids gum (sugar free, of course), and keep almonds in it. They are more protected from the other contents of your bag when kept in a little metal case than they would be in a ziploc, and you get to make jokes about carrying around a "nutcase." Win win.

If you get tired of almonds (I do), maybe try some of the more exotic nuts from this link, which has nuts I've never heard of, and some very entertaining synonyms for common nuts. Quiz: which nut is also known as a monkey nut or a goober? Try that one at your next party. Seriously, with this information, you could contend with Harlan Pepper from Best in Show in an epic naming-nuts-face-off.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

rain or shine red lentil soup

I am a soup person. I eat it no matter how hot it is outside, because I just find a warm bowl of soup so much more satisfying to eat than a sandwich or something cold. I think it makes me feel fuller, which is nice since I'm always hungry. This red lentil soup has become one of my all-time favorites since I first got addicted to it at Arda's, a little lunch spot in downtown LA. Now that I don't work close by, I have to make my own. This recipe is kind of a composite of several that I found in my online quest to duplicate this soup, and it's almost as good as the original. And this way, I get a whole big pot of it!

I thought of this recipe today because it's been cloudy and drizzly here in Los Angeles for the past few days, and when we have to carry umbrellas and wear long sleeves, we know it is the dead of winter. Time to cozy up with some soup and a blanket. This recipe is like a natural sunshine substitute with its copious amounts of lemon juice and the bright orange color of the lentils. You must squeeze the juice out of fresh lemons - don't be tempted to use anything out of a plastic, yellow lemon-shaped container.

Also, one note about red lentils. You may not have had them before, because they are not as ubiquitous as the brown and green ones, but they are hands down my favorite lentils because they break down more like a bean when you cook them. The other lentils retain their individual pebbly shapes, but the red ones make a spectacular soup because they get smooth and creamy and blend with your other ingredients. And, I just learned from Wikipedia that lentils, one of mankind's oldest cultivated foods, are the third highest plant source of protein after soybeans and hemp (really, hemp?). So, this high protein soup is especially good for hypoglycemics - no wonder I like it so much. If you have trouble finding red lentils, check the dry foods bins at Whole Foods.

RED LENTIL SOUP

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, very finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 1/2 carrots, very finely chopped
1 3/4 cups dry red lentils (don't pre-soak)
1 1/2 cartons veggie broth (Each carton is 32 oz.)
1 cup of water
1/4 cup lemon juice
lemon wedges for each bowl

1. Make sure you chop the onion and carrots really finely, because you don't want a chunky texture in this soup. The lentils get so smooth from the cooking, that I used to think that Arda's must be running it through a food processor. In fact, that isn't necessary.

2. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onions become translucent. Add the cumin and coriander to the pan, letting the spices heat briefly. Enjoy the aroma! After a minute or so, add the carrots, the lentils and the broth.

3. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Continue to let it cook for 45 minutes or more, until the lentils have softened.

4. Stir in the cup of water to smooth the soup, then remove from heat and stir in the fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and add a little salt and pepper, as well as more cumin and (especially) coriander at this point.

5. Serve with additional lemon wedges for squeezing into your individual bowls. Yummmm.

Lentils on Foodista

Friday, February 6, 2009

find this at the farmer's market this weekend: jerusalem artichokes


Hey, I'm back! We are moved in, if not unpacked, up here in (like, totally) the Valley. That means all new farmers markets to know and love...

If you are looking for something new to try this weekend, and you're baffled by all those mysterious rooty-looking winter items at the market, pick up some Jerusalem Artichokes (aka "sunchokes"). They are not really artichokes at all, but are kind of like a cross between a potato and a water chestnut in texture, crunchy on the outside and creamy in the middle. We roasted some recently, along with chopped carrots and bite-sized potatoes and some red wine, herbs and beef. You don't need to work hard to peel them - the farmer who sold them to us suggested scrubbing them with a brillo pad or coarse sponge to remove some of the skin. The rest, as he said, is good for you, so don't worry about getting it totally naked.

You could get creative with these and try them steamed, or au gratin, or in some soup...

Friday, January 30, 2009

if you don't hear from me this week..

Don't panic! Mike and I are doing a cross-town move this weekend, so I'm not going to be wired to the Internet for a few days. That means no blogs for a while - please continue eating as normal.

Actually, my blood sugar is part of the reason we are moving now. Since I've been working on the Westside, I've been having to get up early to traverse the 405 at a snail's pace each day. Just being awake that much longer in the day has increased my chances of getting all hypoglycemic to a notable degree. So, the exhaustion and sad quality of life have prompted us to live closer to work. Finally!

I can't wait to try out my new kitchen (now with dishwasher!!) and blog about the recipes. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

oatmeal...while there's still time!

OK, the title might seem a little dramatic, but there are only a few days left in National Oatmeal Month! In honor of the official breakfast food of January, I thought I'd offer my top two oatmeal treatments.

Oatmeal is something that most people eat with a heapin' helpin' of sugar. You either ladle the filthy sucre on directly, or if you eat flavored instant oatmeal, you're usually getting 12 grams or so of sugar per bowl. Just for the sake of comparison, a Milky Way bar contains 14 grams of sugar. I really read the labels for breakfast items because I find that if I start my day with something sugary, I'll be in trouble before lunch. I stay away from any cereal with more than 4 grams of any kind of sugar, which, by the way, severely limits my choices. As a slight digression, I just noticed online that Quaker has a reduced sugar flavored oatmeal now (with 4-6 grams) and McCann's has a sugar free maple-flavored oatmeal. Good for them. I wonder if any grocery stores are actually stocking those...

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I remember how my sister and I used to eat oatmeal whenever we stayed at our Grandma's house. Southerners like things pretty sweet (as in they tend to assume you are diabetic if you don't order sweet tea). We ate our oatmeal with lots of sugar, plus pools of sweetened condensed milk, which is normally only used if you are, say, making a pie. It was tasty, but did I mention that these are the same grandparents with all that family history of diabetes? Still, I have to give Papa credit for always drinking unsweetened iced tea.

Anyway, I'm not an oatmeal purist. I know some people look down upon instant, but I just don't have the energy before breakfast to be a snob about it (just ask Mike how many times I hit snooze in the mornings). So my recipes here are ones I use with plain non-flavored instant oatmeal, but you could certainly use made-from-scratch stuff. Trader Joe's has a really healthy instant oatmeal with high Omega-3 content from flax, plus protein powder and a bunch of calcium and other vitamins. On to my two oatmeal variations:

BIONIC PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL

1 packet plain instant oatmeal
1/2-2/3 cups milk or water, depending on how thick you like it
1 heaping teaspoon peanut butter (crunchy is good)
generous sprinkles of cinnamon
optional - apple slices

This is a power breakfast. It's what I ate at 4:30 in the morning before that one sprint-distance triathlon I did a couple of years ago. I use milk instead of water in my oatmeal, because it makes it a little bit richer and boosts the protein, which is always good for hypoglycemics. Add the peanut butter before you microwave your oatmeal (according to the directions on the box). Don't worry about stirring the peanut butter in until after it's heated. Once the oatmeal reaches its optimal consistency, sprinkle on your cinnamon. By the way, cinnamon is an overlooked superfood that is good for you in many ways, including blood sugar control. I use it a lot as a semi-sweet flavor, especially at breakfast. If you are really hungry, you can slice up an apple and add it to your bowl of oatmeal. This is also a great small meal for rebalancing your blood sugar if you are feeling low or borderline.


PINK OATMEAL

1 packet plain instant oatmeal
1/2-2/3 cups milk or water
a big handful of fresh raspberries
optional: a little Splenda for extra sweetness

I think this one might go over well with little kids...who knows how I came up with it, since I'm not all that functional before I eat breakfast. Just put the raspberries in the bowl with the oatmeal packet and milk or water, and heat it all up together. Once it's hot, smoosh the raspberries and stir them in. Your oatmeal will be nice and pink, and fairly sweet just from the fruit. If you really want more sweetness, you could add a little Splenda. I try not to go too crazy with artificial sweetners, but Splenda seems better than the ones with aspartame. And for hypoglycemics, it's definitely better than anything with real sugar.

P.S. If you want to keep eating these in February, I won't tell.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

filthy sucre so far: cool word cloud


Mike made me this amazingly cool word cloud of the Filthy Sucre blog so far. (If you click on it, you can make it bigger.) To make your own, go to www.wordle.net.

One thing is clear: I need to calm down about beets.