Cholesterol-Lowering = Buttermilk + Flaxseed Oil

With all of the tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, bell peppers, and fresh herbs on the farmers’ markets tables this season, how can we not crave salads, right? Tomatoes are flourishing with all the rain we’ve seen (sorry carrots!); we find ourselves impulsively snacking on the grape tomatoes, spread out like red carpets attracting all the passersby to walk on up and enter the fresh food fortress. If you grab up these tomatoes, be sure to make my energizing Tomato and Walnut snack!

If you fill up with salad ingredients, too, then the following recipe for Buttermilk Basil Salad Dressing can serve as the perfect addition to deliver even more beneficial nutritional properties to your dish. The consistency of this dressing is slightly creamy, which is definitely desirable to balance out all the light vegetables. First, keep flaxseed oil on hand for this recipe and to add to your oatmeal, smoothies, other dressings, and baked goods. This oil stays refrigerated, so make sure you store it inside the door so it’s easily accessible. Flaxseed oil is loaded with omegas and polyunsaturated fatty acids to help prevent inflammation, arthritis, and several health-related diseases. This amazing oil also is a good choice to use when trying to lower your cholesterol. Buttermilk is another good alternative to most dairy options as this product has a lower fat content and retains a high calcium makeup. So flaxseed oil, meet buttermilk. To build onto this strong commonality, basil also has oils that contribute lowering cholesterol, among other desirable abilities. So the threesome of all these ingredients is truly great for your body! Basil is flowering now, too, so you can use up those green leaves right now!

To make your scrumptious dressing, put all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/8 sour cream (low-fat or regular)
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup basil (more or less)
  • sea salt
  • pepper

Dressing Ingredients

Please make sure you taste and adjust to fit what your taste buds tell you is best, and make sure the dressing is salted well. I use leftover buttermilk from making butter at home, which you can do yourself as well (just read this!). And the sour cream can be substituted with the whey leftover from making mascarpone. I hope that this recipe lets the locavore in you get their kicks on, the health-conscious voice in you feel satisfied, and the thrifty side of you feel valued as you use up ingredients that otherwise would have been discarded. Bon ap, to good cholesterol!

BFB in Bottle

Memory = Sage + Turmeric

Sage is like mistletoe, right? We see it during the holidays, but keep our distance, unsure of what will happen next if we get too close to it. Who put that there? Is it anywhere else? Gulp.

Sage

Well, I can say with certainty, do NOT eat the mistletoe. Do not let the dog or your little sibs near the stuff. It’s in fact poisonous! My research shows that the plant used to relate to male vitality and romance (odd transition there), which then entered Christian tradition, who continued to kiss under the mistletoe like their ancestors. I’d like to think that mistletoe—as long as you don’t eat it—brings about happiness and warm feelings in my days, just like other items in the holiday scene. Sage especially is a healing element that is indispensable late in the year, although it is available fresh during most seasons.

So let’s talk about… sage. It’s name comes from the Latin salvia, which means “to heal.” Sage was used in teas to heal the throat or gums, used as an oil for skin treatment, and also eaten for the purpose of memory. Rosmarinic acid derives from sage; this part of the herb contributes to memory strength,  working inside the brain cells, breaking up amyloid-beta conglomerates. Turmeric acts in the same way outside of the brain cells. So sage, meet turmeric. Together, our memories will get better and we are eating to prevent Alzheimer’s! What a wonderful gift. We can remember who to call at work the next day, and who gave us those last holiday gifts. For more information, check out this site: http://rosmarinicacid.com

Where can sage and turmeric go? They need a set up. Both complement gamey meats and/or poultry, so combining the herb and spice in butter would be a great vehicle for incorporating them into your cooking! Time to make homemade butter, yes!

Recipes are easy to find for butter, but I’d like to share mine from Standing Stone Farms:

  1. Put heavy whipped cream into a blender, food processor, or mixer and whip on high speed. It will soon become whipped cream. Then the whipped cream will get progressively thicker, like whipped butter.
  2. After 2-10 minutes, depending on the speed strength of your machine, there will be a sudden and dramatic change. The milk fat and solids will separate out, leaving a milky liquid behind. This is buttermilk! Keep this process in mind when using an open stand mixer, and be sure to put the guards up to prevent it from flying all over your kitchen!
  3. After this, to prevent your butter from becoming rancid, it’s very important to drain away all of the buttermilk. Squeeze the butter as tightly as possible under ice col running water until all traces of milk have drained away and the water runs clear.

That’s it! Only three steps! My boyfriend made the butter all by himself while I prepared meat the other day, so it’s a great dinner date activity. Thanks babe!

Now grab your dried or fresh sage, and mix it in with your butter. Sprinkle in turmeric now or later. You can use the butter to cook how, or form into golf balls and cover in plastic wrap to leave in the freezer for another occasion. If you have a butter mold, you can show off a cool design and really make that butter look fawncy! Bon ap, to memory!

Butter Mold

PS… there will be more recipes on figswithbenefits for buttermilk!

Melatonin = Tomatoes + Walnuts

Tomatoes

I’m a night owl… at least I am now. I didn’t used to be. In college I woke up at 3:30am for ice hockey practice and other days at dawn to go take on the track or gym. My roommates were fast asleep, but I was up to get my day started right away. Not anymore! My “me time” is now at night when I can relax or check off some items on my Wunderlist. Hockey and working out comes now at night, and getting out of bed is, well, it takes time these days! Staying up late, though, because I can’t get to sleep shortens my beauty rest routinely. Shouldn’t I be able to stop thinking about my to-do’s and just hold off things until the next morning? I need to change this habit, so my choice is to turn to a natural remedy. And since food is bliss for me, I’ll make my nightly snack or dessert help me out on this challenge (and keep me away from my computer, who distracts me from my oh-so-lovely bed).

As it’s August, I’m turning to some summer bounty to befriend my efforts. Tomatoes, meet walnuts. Both of these ingredients are high on the scale in melatonin compared to all the other fish in the pond. Snatch up those orange and red and pink tomatoes, looking so ripe and full of good care and growth! So, the tomato-walnut combo can be thrown together in many different ways, but my tummy tells me that something creamy would create the perfect cloud with which to pile on slices of fresh tomato and crunchy walnuts. Ah, I made Mascarpone cheese the other day for Chicken Marsala… perfect!

You can make this thick and smooth cheese, too! All you need is heavy whipping cream and citric acid, which you can purchase online, such as at King Arthur Flour, or baking supplies stores. If you bake with sourdough, in fact, such as Sourdough Pumpernickel bread, then adding citric acid can help make your bread have a more acidic taste and smell. I purchased a cheese making kit and recipe book from Standing Stone Farms. The other ingredients in the kit are used for other recipes, including mozzarella and queso fresco. Here’s their recipe for Mascarpone:

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Very slowly, heat cream to 190°F. You will begin to see the cream get (slightly) frothy and foamy.
  2. Remove from heat and add citric acid and salt. Stir gently 3-4 times in an up and down motion. The milk will begin to split into curd and whey.
  3. Place drain bag into colander over a pot large enough to allow whey to drain. Pour in curds.
  4. Let curds rest until room temperature, about 1 hour.
  5. Cover curds in bag and colander with plastic wrap and let drip in refrigerator for 12 hours. Remove from bag and enjoy.

Now, you may not think that your cream is turning into cheese, but keep going! Trust me, it doesn’t look like what you’re used to until it’s refrigerated and complete. A candy thermometer and cheesecloth will make this recipe super-duper easy, so I suggest having those by your side to assist you in your tasks. And make room in the refrigerator for the big bowl that you’ll be setting inside. This recipe makes at least a pound of Mascarpone, so you’ll certainly have some to share and use with dried fruits, honey, etc.!

Mascarpone

Slice up some sourdough or hearty bread, slather on the Mascarpone, and top with your walnuts and then tomato slices. I stop here and then indulge, but feel free to add anything else you have around the kitchen that you think would be another great addition. Maybe that mint growing in the container on my balcony would be great, as mint is another source of melatonin. It’s a sleeping-aid party on your late night snack! Bon ap to good sleep!

Photo courtesy of Flickr member eVo photo; “Tomatoes”

Fiber = Rainbow Chard + Chickpeas

Rainbow Chard

If you belong to a CSA—or you have a friend who belongs to one and they can’t seem to use up all the greens they keep receiving—then you’re bound to find bundles of these colorful greens: rainbow chard. These greens have a taste that is milder and gentler than other greens, so they work as an easy canvas with which to practice your creative culinary talents! They cook quicker than other greens, too, such as kale. Personally, it’s their leaves that attract me. The leaves are so dark and rich in color, and the texture so smooth, you could tear them off, mold them around your head, and you’d have a homemade swim cap to coordinate with your Perrier bottle by the pool. But if that doesn’t float your boat…

Use these beauties in my dish to give you a fiber kick. Rainbow chard is a great source for insoluble fiber, which helps move food through your digestive system. So if you’re feeling like your body needs some help processing the food you’re feeding it, allow this recipe to assist in your battle plan. First, rainbow chard meet chickpeas. Both of these ingredients have the common makeup of having a substantial amount of insoluble fiber. If you are looking for a quick side dish that packs a punch, or you’re vegetarian/vegan, then my Raging Rainbow Chard can also become a favorite, especially when the rainbow chard is coming right off the farm!

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs rainbow chard
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 jalapeno
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 cup chickpeas (drained and rinsed if canned)
  1. In a large frying pan, pour in oil.
  2. Separate stems from leaves of the rainbow chard. Divide stems in half. Use one half for another use (making stock, compost, animal feed, etc.) and then slice the other half. the slices should be about the width of your pinky finger. Set aside (look at the color!).
  3. Slide leaves about the same width. Wash in your salad spinner or colander.
  4. Start getting your pan hot over medium heat.
  5. Chop onion, then mince garlic and jalapeno.
  6. Add sliced stems, onion, garlic, jalapeno, and 1/4 tsp salt. Stir for about 7 minutes. If the garlic starts to burn, turn down the heat or stir more often.
  7. Meanwhile, in another small frying pan, add pine nuts of low-medium heat. Shake the pan from time to time to roll the nuts so they don’t burn. Heat until you start to smell them toasting, before they turn black on any of their sides. Remove from heat and put pine nuts on your cutting board or in a bowl.
  8. Once the onions are translucent, start adding the rainbow chard strips, in two batches, about two minutes apart, stirring continuously. Add 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp salt.
  9. Add chickpeas. Stir for another minute. Add toasted pine nuts. Stir for another minute or until rainbow chard is wilted. Season to taste (very important!)

Chard in Pan

Finished Chard

Bon ap to fiber and a healthy digestive system! You’ll feel great!