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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Food Thoughts, Trends and Hopes for 2013

Growing up, I hated when my mother told me "I told you so," for anything she had predicted that would happen due to my conduct, and even after listening, I didn't obey. But now that I'm a wife and a mother, I have to admit, it feels so good to say it to others! So, indulge me as I look back, and forward for what I think happened, is happening and will happen this year in the world of food; healthy eating, in particular.
I know, I know! January is almost over, but I feel I'm still on time (my time, which, as people who see me dropping off my kids in school know, tends to be on the late side)!

First, let's look back so I can toot my own horn and say "I told you so."

  • In 2012 chia seeds became so mainstream, that even Costco carries them now. No better marker than that. So, if you're not eating them yet...what are you waiting for? Here are some posts I wrote about the super seed, in case you missed them: click here, here, here, and here , among others. Just remember: don't eat more than 2 tablespoons chia per day. Your GI won't be so happy if you exceed that amount!

  • It was an amazing year for cookbooks. Especially written by super talented bloggers that often developed and wrote the recipes, styled the food, and photographed it (or happened to be married to the photographer) all by themselves, which is pretty impressing. For a list of my favorite cookbooks, click here (notice that there are 3 pages).

  • Happily, in 2012, produce became cooler than ever and is breaking through as a main component of dishes, not just a thought on the side. We might have to thank in part haute Nordic cuisine for that. I loved this story in Bon Appetit, it's worth reading.

  • Luckily for people suffering from celiac disease and gluten intolerances, gluten free alternatives became more and more abundant and improved in quality. Also, some gluten free ancient grains were rescued from obscurity, such as buckwheat, millet, amaranth and others. Including quinoa, which is now ubiquitous and perhaps causing not that much happiness within the Southamerican population that initially ate it as a staple.

  • In 2012 you were finally able to juice at your heart's content. Juice trucks, juice stores, mailed juice, juice experts, juice delivered...Not that I have anything against fresh produce, but I think we should be smoothing (as in blending all the plants together, without removing any pulp), not juicing, as in the juice, much of the healthy fiber content of the fruit or vegetable is taken off. Also, I think "detoxing" is the worst of this past year's fads. It just emphasizes going to extremes. You fast/juice then go crazy again eating junk. Good-Evil-Good-Evil, it just makes life very unsustainable. Why not just enjoy your juice or smoothie thinking that you're doing something good for your body without bringing up the "toxins"? You cannot live on cayenne-lime-turmeric juice alone. Sooner or later, you'll want to reach for the chocolate, and you'll feel so deprived after all the sacrifice of the juice fast, that you won't eat one piece, which would be fine, but  you'll stuff your face with all the chocolate you can find. Then you'll go back to juicing...

  • 2012 was The Year of Kale, which is awesome! son tried and liked baby bok choy!

  • The Paleo diet became a huge trend. It's successful for some people suffering digestive disorders. However, I find life to be sad without any whole grains, so if people are healthy, I don't really see a reason to eliminate certain food groups completely, but I think the diet will keep gaining strength this year.

  • Coconut has become the "pork" of the vegetarian world. Every single part of it is being used, from the shell to the water, it's quite an efficient product. Just look around and you'll find coconut oil, cream, milk, water, sugar, nectar, flour, butter, aminos. I love them all, but remember: none of those products will magically make us smart, healthy, interesting, fit, courageous nor gorgeous. It's all about the whole lifestyle.

  • Alternative "milks" have become tastier, more diverse and interesting. Great news for lactose intolerants, vegans and just people wanting to try something new. There are many more options beyond soy milk. Nut milks such as cashew, almond, hazelnut and pistachio are great choices, people with allergies can have rice or oat milk, hemp, coconut (I like the canned, organic variety, that doesn't contain so many additives) and sunflower seed milks as good alternatives. Making your own is easy and you can avoid all sorts of artificial additives, but if you want convenience, make sure you read the ingredients first.

  • Farm-to-Table. Is there anyone who hasn't heard the term yet?
Trends: this is what I think will be happening
  • "Plant-Based Diet," is the name for the new wave of diets, prepared foods and dieting services. I LOVE it. It's what I believe in: lots of fruit, veggies, nuts and whole foods in general. Just to quote my idol, Michael Pollan, "Eat Food (as in REAL food), Not Too Much, Mostly Plants." However, it might turn into a cliche and taken to an extreme. We don't have to eat only wheat grass, nor see animal foods as the devil, we should just eat way more plants than we're used to.

  • Happily, I think that the newest "in" cuisine is Israeli. Why? Not because I'm Jewish, but because with the huge success of Yotam Ottolegi and Sami Tamimi's  Jerusalem  cookbook, the great reviews and published stories about restaurants like Zahav (Philadelphia) and Zizi Limona (Brooklyn), that have strong Israeli influences, and the fact that food publications of high caliber, such as Saveur magazine (which had a write up about Tel Aviv's Levinsky Market in their famous Saveur 100 this year) are excitedly writing about the cuisine of Israel, and are even starting to recognize Israeli wines. Also, the food in Israel, by being based in the typical Middle Eastern cuisine, but being spiked with all the flavors of the international melting pot of the country, where most people have a grandmother born in Italy, France, Iran, Germany, Argentina or Panama, has become a unique mixture of flavors, colors, and cultures. Plus, did I mention is heavily based in produce? Look out for lots of recipes with dates, za'atar, mint, pomegranates (fresh and molasses), sumac and freekeh (see below). And...have you seen the huge amount of falafel and/or hummus joints opening everywhere?

  • Move over coconut oil, the new "miracle" fat will now be rice bran oil.

  • Move over quinoa (unless you can't eat gluten), the new "it" grain is freekeh (ancient Middle Eastern cereal made of green wheat that that's dried and then roasted). Buckwheat is also taking a place in the spotlight, so kasha lovers (and celiacs): rejoice!

  • Move over kale chips, cauliflower couscous/rice is the "it" veggie dish that everyone will be making.

  • Since we're at a "sugar is evil" stage, everyone is looking for alternatives beyond sweeteners. Non-calorie sweeteners are (thank G-d) pasee, so now we're in the quest for natural sweetness. My take: vanilla (real), cinnamon, dates (of course), figs and other dried fruits will become "saviors."

  • Keep your eyes open for fermentation fever: fermented food products, DIY kits, fermentation technology and equipment, etc. Traditional fermented products such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, soy sauce, kombucha, sauerkraut, are still on the rise, which is definitely a good thing as they are loaded with probiotics and health benefits.

  • I wrote about umami here, the word will be super popular this year. Heat and spice are also here to stay!

  • Be ready to see more seaweed everywhere. Its health benefits are huge. I'll write about them soon. Also, since kale proved so successful, expect more dark leafy greens all around. I love chard wraps, I'll write about them too!

  • Popcorn was big last year, expect it to be huge in 2013.

  • We'll see turmeric praised a lot, and with good reason, as the spice has a really high amount of antioxidants. Start sprinkling a bit of it into everything!

  • Fancy chocolates keep getting more beautiful and interesting, but isn't there too much?

  • Get used to the SPE®,  squiggly logo: you'll start seeing it in food service. It stands for Sanitas Per Escam (Health Through Food), brainchild of Rouge Tomate Restaurant's founder, who's trying to turn it into a seal-of-approval that recognizes dishes as nutritionally dense ans sustainable.

  • More individually portioned foods (cake pops), push-up desserts, macarons, mini cupcakes whoopee pies, sliders, spoonfuls. I'm all for that: you get the taste and the satisfaction, while you can still keep track of what you're eating.

  • Without a doubt everyone is become more aware of "healthy eating." We've seen even Coca Cola giving it a shot!

  • In baking, meringues are in, more than ever!

I hope that this year brings:

  • No more Fro Yo please!!! The market is over saturated and there are all doing the same thing! Can someone come up with a new concept?
  • More regulation regarding GMOs and clearer food labeling without health claims, nor vague promises.
  • Understanding on how to eat more mindfully, without feeling that food is a sin or a toxin while trying to increase the amount and variety of produce we consume in a positive way, being excited about it. I hope we can learn that healthy and tasty can go together, and that it can be fascinating!
  • Moderation: and that should include treating ourselves (just for the pleasure of it, not for emotional reasons) once in a while to something that might not be made with whole grains, or that has saturated fat or refined sugar, without feeling that we fell off the wagon and need to purge with juices, exercise or relay on more severe methods (I'm all for exercise, but for health, not for guilt). An 80% wholesome foods to a 20% "enjoy yourself" (treats that don't fall into the healthy food category) ratio is what I try to do. I loved this article that I found while Pinteresting (or pinning?), that I think articulates my thoughts really well.
  • I hope the law recently approved in California about artisanal food production at home for sale elsewhere, is soon approved in the rest of the country.
After lots of writing and many links (that I hope someone reads!), I hope you like this recipe that I originally developed for as part of a savory oat story. We all love it in this family! It's easy, comforting and very likable.

This recipe is my family’s newest favorite dish! Since they are my captive Guinea pigs, they tend to be suspicious when I serve them a new food. I stare at them in suspense until I get their verdict. This one was a pleaser with the highest of praises: empty bowls!
I was delighted to be able to feed them such a nutritious meal (when you combine a legume –cannellini beans—and a cereal—oats—you get complete protein. And along with fiber, vitamins and minerals, this is a keeper!). Did I mention it’s prepared in the slow cooker? Unbelievable but true!
I serve it with a “toppings buffet.” The children love the freedom to choose and to be part of the process, and the adults can season theirs as boldly as they want.
1 pound dried cannellini beans (any white bean works)
1 cup oat groats
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 celery stalk
3 shallots, peeled
2 rosemary sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
Water, as needed

Extra virgin olive oil
Chili flakes
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Fresh thyme, chopped
Chives, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Flaky sea salt
Nutritional yeast

1.     Soak bean overnight. Rinse and drain.
2.     Place beans in a slow cooker insert. Add oat groats, olive oil, celery and shallots. Tie rosemary, thyme and bay leaf with kitchen twine and add into the slow cooker. Add salt and cover all with water until it’s covered by2 inches.
3.     Cover, and cook on medium (for about 6-7 hours) or on high for 3 hours.
4.     Serve in bowls and offer toppings.

Variations: If you can’t find oat groats (which are the oat kernels and are available in health food stores, you could use steel cut ones, and decrease cooking time for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Or use pearled barley. It’s also delicious. Sun dried tomatoes, roasted mushrooms, nut oils and/or grated Parmesan cheese are also great topping alternatives.
Serves 6


Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Big Apple

As 99% percent of native Spanish speakers, I have a hard time with English vowels. In Spanish, the a sounds like a, the e like e, i like i, o like o and u like...yes, u. To pronounce those letters in Shakespeare's language, is a whole art and a big challenge, as each vowel is a combination of sounds that are pretty obvious for the trained ear, but not to the ones raised speaking Latin tongues. Piece and peace, aunt and ant, teen and tin, hair and heir, sheet and (you get it...) to us, there's no difference!!! My husband just showed me this clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live, and I can understand Guillermo clearly. I could have totally won the contest!
So, when my daughter asked me to help her with a list of words with "short a" for her homework, I went clueless. Not because I couldn't think of the examples, but because I had no idea what she was talking about! What in the world is a "short a"? Then she explained me as I looked at the words she already had filling the gaps. I understood what she needed to do, and a bit more...
"Apple," "app," and "iPad," headed her list. Yes, apple is a wholesome, natural, ancient, phytonutrient-rich fruit from the rose family, and its name starts with a short a sound, but what my daughter was referring to was the company that sells apps for the iPad and owns the ultra cool Apple stores around the Big Apple (and many other towns), where 12-year-old hipsters show you how to use the slick contraptions [designed in California and made in China that are brainchildren of genius Steve Jobs] to do anything you can think of, and that your newborn can use with confidence right as he/she is coming out of the womb.
A couple of days after my daughter turned in her homework,  we went to the Apple Store. My husband and I decided it was time to update our 4-year-old smart phones (that by now were kind of dumb phones), and it wasn't until then that I realized how much cyberspace had widened, and why I needed more bytes (or mega bytes?), and more stuff with my new gadget. With my old phone I couldn't have access to most newer apps nor social media (which by the way, if you ask me, made my life simpler), icons, photos, nor free international communication tools.  A few days passed, and I became addicted to Pintrest and a big fan of Instagram. I have a flashlight, if I feel lonely I can talk to Siri and boss her around, I order groceries and... where is this all going?????
I have no idea, but I do give it to Mr. Jobs, who could see way beyond what we, regular humans, can see, and wasn't afraid to pursue it, imagine it and reimagine it over and over, always keeping in mind aesthetics, marketability and innovation. We just saw a 1995 interview of him, and it's amazing how even then, he saw it all coming. The facebook guys weren't even born yet (OK...they were babies).
I'm not even sure if it's all good that we have almost lost direct human contact with each other, or that we have developed an addiction to tapping our phones, tablets, mini tablets, super pads, etc everywhere and always while forgetting all the civilized rules of politeness. We only look straight into each other's eyes through Skype, but the Apple legacy is--whether we like it or not--as ubiquitous as apples in the farmer's markets and produce stores at this time of the year. So, I'm just going to enjoy them all and feel inspired!

Here's a bit about how good apples are: 

Apples contain a very unique balance of phytonutrient polyphenols, especially in their skin (so don't peel them!), which can protect us against heart disease, cancer, asthma, and can help regulate blood sugar levels, and are suggested to be beneficial in the prevention of age-related problems such as Alzheimer's disease and macular degeneration of the eye.

Tip: try to always keep apple peels in a recipe, even if the instructions ask you to take them off. It makes life easier and it boosts the apples' nutritional value by A LOT!
Add apple slices for crunch and a touch of sweetness to salads, soups, savory tarts, curries, and sweet pies. I especially love them in crisps, and I never peel them!
  • Apples partner fabulously with cheese (Gruyere, goat's milk, aged Parmesan, ricotta, blue, etc...)
  • Worth it to buy ORGANIC apples when possible, as they are amongst the most pesticized fruits.
  • They are great in slaws
  • Apples are BFFs with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, and let's not even mention all kinds of nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, almonds)
  • Toss them with any kind of leafy green and/or roasted root vegetables
  • Try a salad of leafy greens of your choice, apple slices, toasted hazelnuts, goat (or blue) cheese bits and a dressing of nut oil (or just use evoo), a drizzle of raw honey, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and fresh black pepper, and you've got a great lunch!
Here are two more recipes to get you started:

Roasted Cauliflower “Couscous” with Celery Root and Green Apples
  • vegan
  • free of: eggs, dairy, nuts, soy, seeds, wheat and gluten
I only came to the realization of the incredible effect of roasted Granny Smith apples after trying to make Plenty's Ultimate Winter Couscous recipe, that calls for more than 20 ingredients. I had all of them but one: dried apricots. However, I had gone to Costco that week and found organic apples, of different kinds, so I thought I'd make the substitution. People: you're in for a treat!
By shaving off the tips of the cauliflower florets

with a knife or a box grater, you get couscous out

of cauliflower.
Celery root, also known as celeriac is easy to find and has a mild and aromatic taste resembling the one of its green (and let’s face it: better looking) stems we all know as celery. It’s definitely not an attractive ingredient, so we can’t blame anyone who feels intimidated to cook with it. However, beneath its bumpy, gray surface, hides a vegetable worth of knowing. Just use your sharpest knife to cut around removing all the peel. Then, a white, crunchy, mellow surprise will await and gratify!

  • 1 cauliflower head, leaves removed, florets trimmed
  • 1 celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (don't peel!)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 thyme spirgs
  • Coarse sea salt (like Maldon) and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet

with parchment paper.
Break cauliflower into florets and shave the tops in

the largest hole of a box grater (or use a sharp

knife). Stop shaving once the stems don’t have any

more of the flower-looking part . Set shavings

(couscous) aside and place the cauliflower stems on

the prepared baking sheet.
Add the cut celery root and apple to the baking

sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Mix using your

clean hands to ensure all are evenly coated with the

Place thyme sprigs directly on top of vegetables,

and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.
Roast for 15-20 minutes, until cauliflower is golden

brown in parts and apple looks melted.

Take out of the oven and add the reserved

cauliflower couscous. Mix with a heat-proof

spatula and return to the oven for 1 more minute.

Remove from oven and serve.
Serves 4-6
These babies are dense, not of the airy, pillowy fried kind, but they are delicious and very easy to make. Make sure you use apple butter that lists ONLY apples and apple cider as ingredients, as you don't need any extra sugar.
They are a great gluten-free snack for a cold day!

  •  vegan
  • free of: gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, soy
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted, and at room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pans
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/4 teaspoon for sprinkling
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons apple butter (see note on header of recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons chia seeds, ground (in spice grinder)
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot flour
  • 1/2 cup milk (your choice: rice, almond, cashew, dairy, coconut)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Oil one mini doughnut pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together oils, coconut sugar, salt, and spices. 

Add in the apple butter, then the ground chia and water. Whisk until well incorporated.

In another bowl, whisk together (with a clean whisk) the baking powder, baking soda, and flours.

Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour. 
Place batter in a large zip top bag, getting air out as much as possible. Zip it closed and cut off a small corner of the bottom of the bag (about 1/2-inch long).

Pipe batter through the hole in the bag 3/4 full on each doughnut shape in the pan.
Bake the doughnuts for 10 to 12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean. 

Remove them from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes and unmold to complete cooling.

While doughnuts cool, grind 1 tablespoon coconut sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a spice grinder until very fine. Place on a strainer and dust on top of doughnuts.

Makes about 12 mini doughnuts