Fiber = Pears + Potato

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Don’t force down prune juice or go on a watermelon diet to ease digestion. Let’s leave those old wives’ tales in mists of time and eat delicious ingredients right from our nearby farms and orchards, incorporating them in a delicious hash to boot.

I’ve turned to hashes as my go-to brunch plate. Whether I’m at a restaurant with friends or using up an assortment of fridge and pantry items for a homemade jumble of chopped up ingredients. I learned from the menu at Founder Farmers to add a little savory meat. By taking a leaf out of their book, my hashes are even more flavorful and savory, with that added protein we need in the morning. I especially like to add fruit. I don’t eat enough fruit, especially in the winter, as I’m craving hot food. Now I can heat up soft fruit and add crunchy things, too, for a plate that looks like an homage to autumn.

I’m nuts for pears and their soothing effect on our tummies. Since pears have a low acid level, we can easily digest this fruit. Keep the skin on the pear and eat one whole fruit to attain about 20% of your recommended daily fiber need.  And another benefit: the pectin, which is water soluble fiber, is diuretic and has a mild laxative effect. Win, win, win! Leaving the skin on potatoes also adds more fiber to our diet. So pears, meet potatoes! Potatoes have both soluble and insoluble fiber, helping your gut feel full as pears do and helping with the passage of food through your digestive system. Besides, a good hash must have potatoes (and pork, in my book)!

Autumn Sausage Hash

  • 1/8 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup homemade stock or store-bought broth
  • 1 cardamom seed (optional)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 lb sausage (preferably home- or store-made), sliced into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 lb potatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 whole pear, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Vietnamese sweet chili sauce (such as from Mae Ploy), plus more if desired
  1. Toast pine nuts: in a small frying pan, add pine nuts and toast over medium-low heat. Shake pan or stir around nuts every minute or so in order to toast nuts evenly. Once brown and you can smell them toasting (about 3-5 minutes), remove from pan and cool in a small bowl.
  2. In a large frying pan, add stock, cardamom seed, cloves, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, then return to medium heat. Add sausage and cook until just cooked through, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and red onion, cooking for 10 minutes. Add green pepper, cooking for another 5 minutes. Add pear and toasted pine nuts, cooking for 5 minutes longer. Stir occasionally throughout cooking. Always season after adding any ingredients, adding salt and pepper (only about 1/8 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt each time, for about a total of about 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon salt total, or per your tastes).
  3. Remove from heat and add sweet chili sauce. Stir to mix well. Serve immediately.

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I used breakfast sausage as that just makes sense for breakfast (duh), and a lamb and meat farm shop nearby makes crazy good links (http://www.foxhollowfarm.org). Feel free to use any type of pear, bell peppers, potatoes, or stock, as well.

Dividing this recipe into four servings gives each serving about 10% of your recommended daily fiber need just from the pears and potatoes. The bell pepper and nuts add even more! It’s a fiber bonanza on your plate, basically. Bon ap, to fiber!

Photo courtesy of Flickr member bmann; “Pears on the water”

Cardio Health = Egg Whites + Greens

Frittata Brand

With leftover eggs whites from making flourless chocolate cake earlier in the week, and CSA produce filling all the drawers and shelves in the fridge, the comforting solution to use these nutritious ingredients came to me: frittata! I had to purchase leeks, but they are usually available at any grocery store year-around. The egg whites last in the fridge for even more than a week, so when the night came for a fast, one-dish meal—or actually a great main plate with a seasonal side soup (Roasted Carrot and Tahini Soup with Spicy Chickpeas) in my case so I could indulge in even more homecooked masterpieces—this frittata was perfect for using my fresh produce and leftovers!

I always receive at least three bundles or bags of leafy greens in my CSA share, from bok choy to Russian kale. I also receive the whole beet and turnip plants, so I experiment cooking with these colorful and soft greens. I eat as much as possible, especially since leafy greens are an especially good source of magnesium. This mineral helps lower our risk of sudden heart failures and helps our heart maintain regular heart rhythm. At sufficient levels, blood vessel muscles relax, reducing risks of blood pressure build up. Magnesium also helps to prevent calcification in your arteries in case your intake of calcium is too high. Egg whites also help your cardio system by having zero cholesterol. So leafy greens, meet egg whites! The egg mixture for this frittata is a healthier alternative, lowering the fat content and cholesterol levels to zero.

Very Veggie Frittata

modified from: Carroll, John Phillip. “Summer savory spinach frittata.” The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma CookbookMenlo Park: Oxmoor House, 2002.

  • 7 egg whites and 2 eggs from large organic eggs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, summer savory, or chives
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 ounces fresh greens, such as beet greens, turnip greens, collards, or spinach
  • 2 leeks, white parts thinly sliced (see picture below)
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 grated cheese, such as Swiss, Gruyère, or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper, any color
  1. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, fresh herbs, and water.
  2. In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the greens, leeks, peas, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Pat down vegetables into an even layer. Pour in the egg mixture. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally to keep the frittata from sticking. Running a rubber scrapper around the edges of the pan will help release the frittata from the pan as well. Cook for about one minutes, then cover. Turn down heat to low and cook for about another two minutes, or until the eggs are set around the edges but soft and runny in the center.
  4. Uncover and sprinkle with the cheese and bell pepper. Cover and cook until the eggs are completely set and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes longer.
  5. To serve, cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Leeks Bowls Stirfry

Wine advice for a recipe is always a bonus, right? For this frittata, as it’s quite light and savory, I recommend Spanish Verdejo or White Bourdeaux for whites, or  Chilean Carmenere or Italian Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. So go to the wine shelf and uncork (or twist off) a bottle, to make a whole cardio package. Whole-wheat pita is another good heart healthy companion (and if you’re like me, bread is a non-negotiable with dinner). If you can’t finish the frittata during the first sitting, heat it up from breakfast the next day for a great start! Bon ap, to cardio health!

Immune Function = Sourdough + Spelt Flour

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The cooler weather is arriving on the East Coast. This change is seasons brings about beautiful scenery and refreshing winds—both of which please the senses. This change also brings about more responsibility, though; I’ve been bringing inside my container plants from the balcony, closing the windows, and making use of my new wool coat with knit trimmings. I take care of the household first, but I still must make my own health a daily priority. It’s not difficult, and there are no excuses for making the necessary adjustments. I mean, if trees can drop their leaves and the regrow them all over again, not to mention more than the previous year, then I think I can merely maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid any threats from old man winter. We all must take precautions, and be proactive.

Enter: comfort foods! These sourdough buns will take the stage, taking the spotlight for your healthy meals. Half of the flour is all-purpose flour, and the other half of the flour is organic spelt flour. Spelt has been used for centuries and provides a lot of health benefits. I’m keen on it’s high zinc content. Two ounces of spelt flour (or just about 1/2 cup of spelt flour) already contains about 16 percent of your recommended daily value. Sourdough helps us to absorb all this zinc. So spelt four, meet sourdough. Sourdough naturally has lactic acid, which makes conditions ideal for the appropriate pH levels that allow the enzyme phytase to excel. Phytase dissolves phytates, thus freeing up more minerals for our bodies to take up, such as zinc. We must have zinc to help our immunce system fight off infections. So let’s try to stave off the winter blues, and use our baking skills to help us stay rosey cheeked and bushy tailed!

Thick Sourdough Buns

modified from “Sourdough Buns;”

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough-buns-recipe

  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup water, approximately
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup dried whole milk or Baker’s Special Dry Milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups organic spelt flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • cornmeal (for dusting)

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  1. Feed sourdough starter and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 3 hours.
  2. Measure out the needed amount for sourdough, then place “mother” sourdough back in fridge (I store mine there and use/feed at least every two weeks). Mix all of the ingredients together—by hand, mixer, or in a bread machine or food processor—just until the dough comes together (it will remain slightly sticky and soft). Knead for about 3 minutes, then turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll the dough approximately 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick. Cut it into 6-8 circles, 2 1/2-3 1/2 inches in diameter. Remember to dust your cutter with flour so it doesn’t stick to the dough.
  4. Dust a baking sheet or burger bun pan with cornmeal. Place each piece of dough on your sheet, spreading them out evenly; sprinkle the tops with cornmeal. Cover the buns and let them rise for 40 minutes.
  5. Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 25 minutes, or until they’re lightly browned top and bottom. Remove them from the oven. After cooling for 10 minutes, place buns in a cooling rack.

photo 2 (1)Feel free to experiment with the flour measurements. There is a risk, however, with adding more spelt flour and taking away all-purpose flour: your buns may not rise as much since spelt flour is a whole wheat flour.

I like to serve these buns for assembling sloppy joes, especially since lamb and beef are also good sources of zinc (over-achiever alert!). Use for breakfasts, too, by topping with poached eggs or spreading on butter and homemade jam. Open-faced sandwiches would be delicious, too!  Bon ap, to healthy immune function!

PS – Wine note: these buns are thick. Have a heavy wine partner that just as full and round, such as a White Rhone, California red Zinfandel, or Australian Syrah.

Indigestion Relief = Plums + Nutmeg

Plum Brand

There comes a time in September when you can buy bulk fruit on the cheap in large baskets, crates, or whatever massive bin imaginable (yes, I’ve even seen fruit measured by the wagon-ful and then tugged away). In my mid-Atlantic region, the market stands usually then have mounds of peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, apricots, and other fruits of so many different varieties and colors. This year, I decided to bet on the plums. As others fought and negotiated over the Galas and Granny Smith’s, I thought that the dark plums deserved some wooing, so I paid about $1 a pound for a large basket full of the plushy stone fruits.

Once back in my kitchen, and simmering on my stovetop, the sight of rising steam and sensations of stewed fruit smells reminded me of being back on the farm in France. Once the black currants ripened and harvest continued throughout one week in July, continuous pots of jam were made to sell throughout the year. As laborious as the process was, the pleasant aromas and filling jars was an overly rewarding to experience, preserving ripe fruit with lots of nutrients and flavor, to be spooned onto bread, ice cream, roasted meats, and other food companions.

Plums are perfect to use to make compote as you can easily remove the skins and seeds, and the volume of juice from the fruit makes the final product an easily spreadable and versatile mixture. Plums are scarcely found in recipes or restaurant menus, so make this compote for a healthy, homemade fruit delicacy—a indigestion relief delicacy! There are many properties of plums that aid your digestive system, such as the compound sorbitol and fiber. Spices can enhance the compotes flavor and laxative benefits. So plums, meet nutmeg.  Nutmeg is the seed of a type of evergreen tree, and pairs so well with the fleshy fruits. Sprinkling grated nutmeg onto your food will help relieve you from stomach aches as well as other digestive discomforts. Seems like these two musky tree branch sprouts need to make an amazing compote together!

Plum Compote with Nutmeg

modified from Gourmet Magazine’s “Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Plum Pluot Compote” (September 2009)

  • 6 pounds plums
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice, separated
  • 1 tablespoon grated nutmeg

Peeled plums

  1. Place plums in a large bowl, or two medium sized bowls. Boil water in a kettle or a saucepan, and then pour over the plums. Allow to sit for at least 3 minutes.
  2. One by one, take plums out and peel off their skins. Remove their seeds and cut into quarters. Place fruit segments in a large saucepan.
  3. Add the sugar, zest, and lemon juice to the fruit. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer until fruit begins to fall apart and liquid is slightly syrupy, about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Do not refrigerate until the compote reaches room temperature.
    Simmering Plums

Plum Final

As skinning and pitting the fruit takes time, I suggest making this recipe on the weekend or during an open evening when you want to spend time at home. This recipe is also great to make with a friend or the family, and then the compote can be shared among the helpers. I suggest serving warm on cake or ice cream, or room temperature on Pumpernickel Sourdough bread, baguette with butter, or on yogurt with granola. Bon ap, to digestive health!