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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Old Habits Die Hard

Last Sunday, after a 3-hour-long drive (that was supposed to last 1, but there was traffic and a grand total of 2 access booths to the parking lot, where a zillion cars wanted in), we arrived into a magical place. It was the gateway to autumn.

With stunning shades of bright yellow, green, brown, deep purple, orange and red, the trees welcomed us into Storm King Sculpture Garden. The beautiful nature and the impressive human-made art pieces all seen through the fall sunlight, gave us an incredible sense of warmth.

The crunchy dry leaves covering the ground got me into thinking about this season being the one in which we shed off everything that has dried out. In the fall, everything lifeless is let go of and slowly, we'll prepare for renewal. It's not an easy process, as the harshness of winter makes it cold and some times even painful, but if the leaves don't fall, the new ones, those green and capable of photosynthesis and survival, won't be able to grow in their place. 

All this to say that if we don't try to get rid of whatever is not helping us live, we should let go of. But it's easier said than done. We are all creatures of habit. The known and routine reassure us pretending to offer predictability in our crazy lives. Old habits die hard, especially if we believe they are the right ones. For our whole lives, we've been told to drink milk to maintain our bones, our mothers would sigh with delight if we finished our chicken or meat, and we do the same with our own children. For some reason, we've learned that organic pretzels are perfect snacks for our toddlers, that protein is the only nutrient we should care about, and that it comes only from animal sources. As experts (and everyone else who's lost weight and/or defeated disease and has written a book about it or gone to Dr. Oz's show) continually discuss defending their theories, we go from eating like cavemen, to avoiding gluten, to fearing carbohydrates, demonizing fat, swapping solid food for juices, to eating chicken nuggets that taste, smell, resemble and even chirp like chicken, but have absolutely no chicken in them. Deep down, the meat/chicken/egg/milk base of the American diet is undeniable despite fads and trends. Being able to eat them on a daily basis in a way, symbolizes the realization of the American Dream. While in other cultures and countries (which, consequentially have less incidence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes), animal derived products are a luxury and people are not able to afford them in large quantities for every day consumption. Here, where immigrants arrived and keep arriving often looking to escape hunger, being able to afford animal products every day and every meal can feel as if they've made it! The animal-derived food eating high status is imbibed in our culture and we've relegated plant foods to an after-thought. We don't think of kale as our main dish (some of us don't even know what kale looks like), nor as lentils and spelt berries as our protein suppliers. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes should actually be our main course, but it freaks us out to think that way! They are rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, phytonutrients, good carbs, fiber. They are good for our bodies, our health, our performance, our skin and everything in between.
Old habits do die hard, but this one is worth to keep in mind. I'm not suggesting BBQ lovers to become vegans, but if we switched the structure of our meals, thinking of the plant-derived ingredients as the center of them, we'd be doing a favor to ourselves, humanity, the planet, and even our pockets.
My husband and I watched this week the documentary Forks Over Knives (Netflix has it, and I recommend adding it to your queue). My meat-fanatic other-half was so shocked with what we saw, that he agreed adopt a plant-based diet. It took an hour and a half to convince him of what my decade-long nagging had failed to do. This is a groundbreaking development in this family!
Officially (because we've actually been on it without him knowing), he's decided to start caring about what he puts into his body. We're not eliminating animal products completely, as despite liking the movie very much, I do think that fish, eggs and some kinds of dairy are beneficial to our health. We're just restructuring our meals eating as many fruits and vegetables as we can. Then pulses and whole grains. The rest will be less prominent. Of course, processed products are a once in a very while for the four of us.

Ideally, we should all pay a visit to the green market and get our produce there. It's the freshest, tastiest, most ecological and nutritious, as the minute fruits and veggies are plugged out of their tree, bush, ground, etc, they start loosing nutrients. The farmer's market offers the shortest route between the soil and our mouths, therefore more nutrients.
However, time is often an issue, and we can't make it to the farmer's market all the time. So we need to resort to convenience. Yes, sacrifying a bit of nutrition, but still, packing in the necessary nutrients in good quantity.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:

- Most grocery stores offer now pre-washed, pre-cut and chopped produce. There's absolutely no shame in purchasing those (although your wallet might resent it, but if time is money and you have no time...). I'm partial to prewashed kale, salad greens, and vacuum packed peeled organic garlic cloves.

- Child labor: ask your kids to help out shelling pods (mine love working with cranberry beans), cleaning corn, tearing kale or fresh herbs, peeling sweet potatoes, squeezing and zesting citrus, seeding pomegranates, etc; and if they are old enough, start teaching them how to use the knife, or allow them to use kitchen shears. This won't only help you in the cooking, but they'll end up more excited about tasting what they cooked (or handled).

- A slow cooker is the best way of having whole grains and/or legumes ready for you every evening. Pre-soak beans (and grains if you want, too) overnight. Change the water and cook on low if you'll be away for the whole day, and on high if you want them to be ready in a couple of hours. Use a slow cooker liner if you are as lazy as me, they do wonders for clean up! Besides the fresh water (covering beans for about 2 inches), I usually add half a leaf of KOMBU sea weed (Eden's is kosher certified) to the water to add umami flavor and tenderize the legumes. I remove the kombu before serving and salt beans preferably once they are almost ready. Freeze whatever you are not eating.

- Get to know your whole grains and seeds. Experiment with spelt, wheat and barley berries, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, teff, all varieties of whole grain rice. They are all cooked in liquid and a tiny bit of salt. You can't go wrong!

- If in doubt, make a salsa: Mix fruits (any work from tomatoes, to mangoes, avocado, apple, pears, citrus, pineapple, name it), fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, basil, and mint are awesome) chile (optional), chopped shallots, fresh lime juice (and zest if you want), a bit of salt and a little unfiltered cider vinegar and top off anything. It will be amazingly flavorful!

- Lentils are the legumes (pulses) that cook the fastest and don't need pre-soaking. Red lentils are very quick to make. Throw them into soups, salads or as a main dish. If you only have 5 minutes, go for Truroots sprouted green lentils. They are amazing!

- Yes, you can! Canned products are not ideal, but are way better alternatives than other processed items. Canned beans are OK to keep around. I like Eden organics brand, as they are the only BPA-free brand and are not pre-salted.

-Turn it into soup. New vegetables, grains or anything and you don't know what to do? Add them to a pot with water, carrots, onions, celery, and kombu (optional). Season with salt and cook along. Puree (I love my immersion blender), if you want or leave chunky. Season with spices like cumin, chiles, smoked paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, or a squeeze of lemon juice. Tip: produce that grows in the same season tends to go well together. For example: squash, apples and sweet potatoes; cucumber, tomatoes and mint; pumpkins and quince; asparagus and peas, etc...

- If you've followed this blog for a while, you might have realized that I love roasted vegetables. Very hot oven, baking sheet, parchment paper, good extra virgin olive oil, The Veggie, salt and pepper. A couple of minutes, and golden brown pockets of sweetness and flavor are served.

- Dare to buy new fruits, roots, tubers, greens, or any other kind of produce. Don't be afraid. Even if you have no idea what to do with them, google always has the answer and you might find the new love of your life. This works great with kids also. Together you can make new discoveries.

- Flavor makes everything satisfying. Insipid food is dull. Keeping sweet, sour, salty, umami, bitter and spicy in balance makes everything delicious. Don't buy pre-made dressings or sauces. Make your own thinking of different cuisines as inspiration, here are some ingredients to keep in mind. Mix and match them:
     Japanese: white miso + tahini (I know this is Middle Eastern, but try it and you'll see!) + brown rice vinegar + raw honey + chile flakes (optional) + wasabi + ginger
     Latin: limes + fresh chiles + onions + garlic + cumin + cilantro + tomatoes
     Italian via French: Balsamic vinegar + extra virgin olive oil + garlic + Dijon mustard + rosemary, basil, oregano, lavender or thyme + raw honey
     Middle Eastern: olive oil + cumin + sumac (or zaatar) + garlic + pomegranate molasses + lemon + sesame (and tahini)
     Thai: coconut + peanuts + lemongrass + chiles + coconut nectar + basil + mint + cilantro
     Indian: turmeric, chiles, pepper, coriander, cardamom, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, ginger + coconut + mango + vinegar (in chutneys) + coconut sugar + onion
     Spanish: smoked paprika + saffron + extra virgin olive oil + olives + bell peppers


All in one pot, this Asian-flavored dish is tasty and comforting. It has umami all over it, so don't be surprised if you can't stop eating it. Bok choy, which belongs to the cabbage family, is one of the most densely nutritious foods on Earth, and the remaining ingredients don't fall that far behind.

  • Vegan
  • Free of: dairy, nuts, eggs, wheat and gluten

8 cups water1 leaf kombu
1/3 cup white miso paste, or more to taste
1 (1 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/3 cup white miso paste
1/2 package (4 ounces) buckwheat noodles (make sure they are gluten free if that's a concern)
1 package organic frozen shelled edamame
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, caps removed and caps sliced
3 baby bok choy, washed and trimmed, leaves separated
tamari or shoyu soy sauce
brown rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tahini, optional
Sliced scallions, optional


Bring water, miso and ginger to a boil in a soup pot. Cook for 5 minutes and remove the kombu with tongs and discard it.

Add miso to the broth and mix until completely dissolved.

Add in noodles and cook for 6 minutes. Then add in shiitakes and bok choy. Cover and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Serve immediately in bowls or keep warm to let flavors infusse a bit more.

Add more miso if desired and season with soy sauce and brown rice vinegar, to taste.

If using, serve with a bit of tahini and scallions

Serves 4-6

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sugar, oh Honey, Honey

In the 80's eggs became the #1 public enemy. As the years passed, it was all fat's fault, including whole milk. Later on, carbs (which by then had taken fat's place in many products in our grocery store) became evil. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease kept rising. The new culprits? high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and trans-fats (aka hydrogenated fatty acids or oils). Adding on, glycemic index. And now, sugar has taken center stage. Specifically, according to Robert Lustig, M.D., it's fructose (one of the two molecules that make up table sugar, the other being glucose), what's doing all the damage. His 90-minute conference gone viral, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" explains the rational behind his theory.

He claims that the excessive amount of sugar (and therefore fructose) that we consume is overwhelming our metabolism and resulting in what's known as metabolic syndrome-- a combination of high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, high cholesterol, and abdominal fat; which could lead to diabetes and/or heart disease.

Our bodies use glucose as their preferred source of energy, and our organism knows pretty well how to use it, or store it (in case of excess). The fructose part of sugar is, according to Lustig, a more delicate issue, as in order to be utilized, it needs to be metabolized by the liver, generating by-products that in excess, can make us sick (leading to metabolic syndrome).

Pasta sauce, sliced bread, breakfast cereals, fruit-flavored yogurt, health bars, canned soups, snacks, salad dressings, and of course, soft and sports drinks, are all loaded with added sugars, and we're used to everything tasting extra sweet. So much so, that we don't even feel it's that sweet anymore (and I'm not even mentioning candy, cookies or the other usual suspects). Our nature is to like sweet flavors, and by adding sugar, HFCS in particular--which is extremely cheap--to all those processed products, the manufacturers are offering us something we love (and keep loving even more) while they get to make hefty profits. It sounds like a win-win situation, however, in the long term (and often, not even that long), our body pays for it in the most expensive way: it's well being.

Doctor Lustig advices us to drink only water or milk (NOT chocolate milk, as the problem isn't the chocolate, but the added sugar), exercise, eat our carbs with fiber (as fruit's fiber slows the absorption of fructose, so it doesn't become overwhelming to the liver, and for the same reason, he's against fruit juice, because he states the fiber has been removed from the fruit), and to wait 20 minutes before getting a second portion.

Here's another SHORT interview with Dr. Lustig with advice I find helpful.

My take:
Doctor Lustig as been accused of being too drastic by some of his peers. However, there are studies supporting his theory (and others that don't). I think he has some very valid points, but to me, sugar isn't the problem (c'mon, I'm a pastry chef!!!), nor are eggs, whole milk, nor white flour. Excess is. And really knowing if what we're eating has excess of unhealthy ingredients is hard to find out if we weren't at the kitchen they were prepared. Experts advice us to read nutrition labels, but in my experience, even label values can be manipulated or misinterpreted. For example, total sugar in a label doesn't differentiate between naturally occurring sugars (like in fruits or milk) and added ones. It's also advised to avoid products that list sugar, or any of its incarnations (barely malt, dextrose, invert sugar, fructose, corn sweetener, xylose, molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, evaporated cane juice, sucrose, agave nectar, cane crystals, beet sugar, etc, etc.) among the first ingredients, as by law, the ingredients used in the largest amounts should be listed first. However, I have to say, that I've developed recipes that list the sweetener as the first ingredient, but the sugar content is a small percentage of the total recipe, as I used many, many other ingredients in smaller amounts, for example a combination of nuts, grains, fruits, etc.

-Purchasing unprocessed foods (often not even labeled) may help deal with excess. Plus they are richer in fiber, which again, slows down the fructose absorption.

Other suggestions:                     

-Cut sugar when baking between 1/3 and 1/2 of what the recipe calls for. Believe it or not, it'll still be sweet and tasty.

-Gradually decrease how much sugar you add to your drinks (such as coffee, tea, etc) and eventually, you'll be able to let go completely.

-Buy "plain" not flavored or sweetened products and add a bit of sweetener yourself, so you know how much you're adding. I love raw honey in my morning yogurt!

-Bake with date paste (yes....broken record) as a sweetener. It has a nice amount of fiber. Whole grain flours, whole grains, veggies, fruits and legumes also have plenty of fiber, so include them in your recipes!

-I've personally ditched refined sugar from my kitchen, as besides Lustig's theories, it's only made of empty calories. Don't stick to only one kind of unrefined sweetener. Alternate them, keeping their characteristics in mind (see below). They are more flavorful, many have lower glycemic indexes and preserve some nutrients from their sources.

-Be willing to pay more for higher quality foods made with ingredients rich in flavor and texture, and not filled with abundant cheap sugar and little more than that.

-Cook and bake yourself when you want a treat. That's the only way of knowing what you're putting in your food.

-Adding sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and ginger enhance the sweetness of the recipe without adding sugar. Some spices, like cinnamon, are extremely high in fiber and all are rich in antioxidants.

-The most valuable piece of knowledge I acquired in university was that: "it all depends in the concentration of the substance, as even too much water can kill." I'm sure that soon, a food company will launch a fructose free sugar or sweetener, and many foods will proudly sport the no fructose label... I say don't bother. Ten years later (depending on the lobbying) it will be proven to be terrible and the source of all our maladies. Did you know that when Crisco (trans-fats) first came into the market, it was promoted as a health food?

-Hurray for Mayor Bloomberg and his ban on the sale of large soda!

- Always keep Food Rules: An Eater's Manual at hand.

My Favorite Sweeteners

It's taken me years to learn how to work with alternative sweeteners. Lots of trial and error, and that's one of the reasons why I hope you can use this blog as a source for tried and tested recipes that use them. In general, if you want to convert a recipe substituting sugar for a liquid sweetener, add 1/4 less of the liquid sweetener (3/4 cup versus 1 cup of sugar) and decrease total liquids in the recipe by 2 tablespoons per cup of sugar replaced. Please note, that these are rules of thumb, you might have to experiment a bit as each recipe is different.

- Coconut (palm) sugar and coconut nectar. I love the sugar form for baking. I use it instead of regular sugar and it adds a deep caramel flavor. The nectar is also delicious with fruit desserts. They contain B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Low glycemic index and here's more...

- Mesquite flour- The powder made of grinding the mesquite tree pods besides being delicious, it helps regulate blood sugar levels. It's expensive and hard to find, but completely worth it!! It's full of fiber, so there you go...Its cinnamon-caramel-chocolate flavor is incredible, and adds amazing depth and sweetness to baked goods!

- Raw honey- My go-to sweetener for dressings, yogurt, or anything that I won't cook further after sweetening (to preserve the healthy benefits of the raw honey). 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, so add 1/4 less of it if you're substituting for sugar. Contains healthy enzymes, vitamins and nutrients. See more...

- Pure maple syrup. Its complex and satisfying flavor is perfect for fall desserts, a great match to whole grains, spices, and sauces. It contains immunity-friendly manganese and zinc. Pricey, though, but get the real thing!

- Molasses, although they can't really be substituted for sugar, as they tend to have a slightly bitter taste, they are really rich in iron and add a complex flavor.

- Brown rice syrup. It's less sweet than sugar, so you need to add more of it to reach the equivalent sweetness. It's low glycemic and very sticky so use it when you need ingredients to keep a mix together (like in rice cereal bars or caramel popcorn). It's good for adding texture to salad dressings and sauces. Small concentrations of arsenic were found in it, so again, don't use it as your only sweetener. Concentration, remember?

- Barley malt. Watch out celiacs! It contains gluten. I don't particularly like its flavor, but it's another unrefined option, with a robust flavor and texture.

- Date syrup (Silan)-Only second to honey, dates are the oldest sweeteners in history. For silan,  dates and water and often lemon are combined and strained. The mixture is cooked and concentrated into a syrup. Common in Middle Eastern cuisines, it adds a nice sweet caramelized taste straight from the dates (no sugar added), although since there's no pulp in it, it contains no fiber. It can be found commercially (try to get the one with only natural ingredients), or you can make it at home, here's a recipe.

- Date paste or puree. Full of fiber and here's what I've said before

- Stevia: the only sweetener that doesn't have an real impact in blood sugar, this plant extract is many, many times sweeter than sugar, so a tiny bit goes a long way. However, baking with it is tricky, as you need to find a substitute for the bulk of sugar you are removing in the recipe when using stevia. I recommend to go for the liquid all natural stevia extract, as it's less processed than the commercial, mass produced brands. I personally, don't like its taste, so I don't use it, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it in your coffee.

-Sucanat (evaporated cane juice): This is the least processed form of cane sugar (the juice is extracted, concentrated and dried until the grains are formed), so some trace elements of the plant are still present in this sugar, such as iron, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium and chromium. It has a strong molasses flavor that goes well with chocolate and spices.


Icings and frostings tend to be some of the least healthy concoctions on the planet. Loads of sugar and saturated (if not hydrogenated) fats and artificial coloring. That's pretty much it. But who can say no to icing?
This is one of my most favorite recipes, and I'm really proud of it. Yes, it does use agave nectar, but it's based on high-fiber chickpeas, it's creamy and spreadable thanks to the coconut oil and delicately flavored with vanilla. I love it in between cookies.
  • Vegan
  • Nut, dairy, egg, seed, soy free. Contains coconut and chickpeas
1 (15 oz) can organic chickpeas, drained (equals 9.5 oz or 2 cups cooked chickpeas)
3 oz. virgin (or expeller-pressed, if you don't like coconut flavor) coconut oil
3 oz. (¼ cup minus 1 teaspoon) raw agave nectar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, sliced and scraped
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
Mix all the ingredients in food processor or with an immersion blender until completely smooth and creamy. It takes a long time, don’t despair!!

Let set in refrigerator overnight. Use as a cookie sandwich filling or with cake. Freeze it and it can be eaten as ice cream.
If icing is a bit dry or too stiff, add a bit of water (1/2 teaspoon at a time), until desired consistency.

-If using canned chickpeas, I like EDEN brand, with is BPA free and unsalted
-Spectrum virgin coconut oil is the best tasting one I’ve found so far

Friday, October 5, 2012

Old and Childish

5773 years have passed in the Jewish calendar, and I do feel the weight of time on my shoulders, head, neck and back, literally. My body aged this past year. For the first time in my life, I ended up with a stiff neck, lots of aches, pains, and a body that makes more cracking noises than Fred, my popcorn machine, after preparing for the Holidays. I feel now like a one-woman percussion orchestra that automatically plays every time I venture into standing, walking or sitting.

I'm trying to face it with as much composure as I can. I'm aiming to increase my yoga practice to an extra day every week and taking care of my body a bit more at every opportunity. More omega-3s, green tea, vitamin D, kombucha, antioxidants, yogurt, and raw honey masks (maybe I should apply them to my neck?) in the weekly routine...

I'm willing to accept I'm approaching senility. But can someone please explain me how come even as I'm turning into an old lady, I still find myself in the cashier line in the supermarket not only reading with zen focus all the very interesting and for sure true information on Star, US and National Enquirer; but most importantly, zooming on the newest issue of InStyle from where Gwyneth makes eye contact with me all the way from the cover and I sheepishly obey?

I might be feeling 200 years old, but I find myself paying for the magazine in less than a fraction of a second. Help! I'm all the way back in middle school trying to emulate what the coolest (yes people, Gwyneth Paltrow is The Coolest) girl in the class does! I still fantasize about meeting Mrs. Martin and becoming her BBF (I would ditch all past and adored friendships and devote myself completely to hers).

If she writes I should wear a molcajete* on my head for its health, fashion, artistic, flavor, and/or creative benefits I just do it! No thinking for myself, no questioning. I just do it. So, if I'm so immature (and old, but evidently not wise), how am I supposed to explain to my 7-year-old daughter that Katy Perry won't come to her birthday party, even if she invites her? (and for free, as I did mention that she would only come if we paid her lots of money. "How much, like a hundred?" she asked...well..."more," I said, and then she assigned me the mission of finding Miss Perry's phone number on google, so she could call her and ask her to sleep over...). How do I dare laugh when my daughter doesn't even know the words she's saying when singing California Girls nor (thank G-d) understand the meaning of the lyrics? I'm doing the same, and I'm more than five times my girl's age (and apparently, my body is way older than that)...

However, if Katy comes, do you think I could ask her to convince Gwyneth to join us too? I hope she does and then Gwyn shows up hopefully with her adorable $500.00 GOOP cashmere sweaters--that I would have bought faster than it took me to purchase the magazine, only if my finances were the same as hers--in a gift bag with lots of beautiful colored tissue paper just for me!

While we patiently find out about the 8th birthday slumber party, here's what I would serve Gwyneth for dinner if she came tonight (I know she likes spicy, healthy, wholesome food, she's got multiple sensitivities (gluten, dairy, etc) and isn't so much into dessert...that's the only difference between her and me).

*FYI a molcajete is a traditional Mexican mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock, looks like this (and it's really heavy, but I would wear it if she suggested me to):

This is simply genius. Pure, bright genius. Sadly, I have to admit I didn't come up with it, but read it here and it's so fabulous, that my five-year-old, who's not willing to try ANYTHING, thought it was traditional semolina couscous and finished all his portion without a chirp. I grated the cauliflower spears (tops only) on the large holes of a traditional grater. You may be thinking "what a waste" to use only the tops of the florets, and that's why, I also made the soup below. One ingredient, two dishes!

1 cauliflower head, washed
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Cut the cauliflower into medium pieces, removing and discarding the center. You need the pieces to be large enough so you can hold the stems comfortably while grating the tops.
2. Grate spears against the largest holes of a box grater. Stop and switch to the next floret once you reach the rib parts and save the ribs to make a soup (recipe below).

3. Add1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil to a saute pan and place over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the cauliflower "couscous" and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes mixing with a wooden spoon once or twice. Add more oil if you want to and either let brown a bit or remove from heat.

4. Serve as it is or top with toasted pine nuts, sliced almonds, fresh herbs or any other way you would serve couscous.

Makes 4 potions

I often mention (to you, my kids, and whoever says "hi" to me) how important it is to eat a rainbow of plant-derived foods every single day. As my Katy Perry-loving daughter would explain, the rainbow has red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. However, the plant world rainbow also includes white, and this soup is made with four very nutritious members of this group, resulting in a creamy, flavorful and pleasant fall soup full of potassium, cancer-fighting and health-promoting phytonutrients, many vitamins and fiber.

  • Vegan, free of: dairy, eggs, gluten, nuts and soy
  • Super ingredients: all!
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 small cloves of garlic
Florets of 1 small cauliflower head (OK to use the left-over pieces of the "cauliflower couscous"), cut into pieces
1 pear, peeled, cored and cubed
2 medium or 1 large Yukon potato, peeled and cubed
6-8 thyme sprigs
4 cups water, more if needed
pinch nutmeg, ideally, freshly grated
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and when hot, add in garlic. Turn heat to low and cook garlic for a couple of minutes, but do not let burn.

2. Add cauliflower, pear, potato, 2 thyme sprigs and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, mixing gently. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour 4 cups water into the saucepan and cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are soft when a knife is inserted into them.

4. Turn heat off and remove thyme sprigs (branches). Puree soup with an immersion blender. Adjust seasoning.

5. Serve soup into bowls and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, a little pinch of nutmeg and sprinkle thyme leaves on top.


Serves 4: Gwyneth, me, Apple and Moses, but if my family decides to join, I could double it!

A result of my Rosh Hashanah experiments, this sauce is good for both, salmon or chicken, but since I need the omega-3s of the salmon to stop my bones and articulations from popping and cracking, I'm making the fish version.
The sauce is kind of everything "to taste," as we all like different degrees of saltiness, sweetness, acidity and spiciness, so adjust as you please (taste the sauce before marinating the salmon or chicken to make any changes).

3 pounds center cut salmon (ideally wild caught Atlantic) fillet, boned
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder, or more to taste
splash of apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1/4 cup parsley, washed, dried and chopped, optional
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking pan, large enough to fit the salmon fillet, with parchment. Wash and pat dry the fish.
2. Place salmon on the pan and season with salt and pepper.
3. In a container with a lid, place pomegranate molasses, oil, tamari, honey, vinegar and chipotle powder. Cover and shake until it's all incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning. Open the container and add in the chia. Cover and shake again until well mixed.
4. Pour half of the sauce on salmon and roast for 12 to 15 minutes. Reserve the rest of the sauce for serving.
5. Cover and allow to rest for 10 more minutes.
6. Pour the remaining sauce all over the salmon.
7. Serve with a bit of parsley on top.

Makes 6-8 servings