Archive for November, 2008

My Kitchen Never Closes

I spend a lot of time in my kitchen for my paid work and of course for my family. I always told myself I could never cook for others if I didn’t cook for my family as well. Just like most of you, we’re recovering from our days of Thanksgiving feasting. At the same time I’m in the middle of a recipe testing job. For the past four days traditional fall foods have collided with barbeque shrimp and codfish cakes.  


 Our Thanksgiving meal was tasty, plentiful and served buffet-style for the very first time. We gathered at my mom’s home and everyone brought a dish or two. Because the number of able-bodied food passers were out numbered by the very young and very old (who are unable to as nimbly pass hot bowls and platters of food) we made the decision to rely on a buffet set up for serving the meal. Early on, Mom accused us of trying to ruin her Thanksgiving. To her a buffet just didn’t seem genteel, proper, traditional. Nonetheless, we parted with tradition and served the food differently. Despite this, our menu was anything but non-traditional. In fact if was stuffed with all the favorite food that makes our Thanksgivings tick:

Mom did most of the heavy lifting. She prepared the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, broccoli salad, mincemeat pie and my personal favorite, sage dressing. Barbara assembled the scalloped oysters with a little help from a friend. Frances made fresh cranberry relish and a green bean saute. Anne always bakes a soft, custardy dish of corn pudding and several pumpkin pies. Eileen brought “goopy” salad (also known as Watergate Salad.) I brought the sweet potato casserole and homemade dinner rolls.


As I write, I smell bacon cooking and hear the best male cook I know whisking together flour and baking soda for pancakes. (I think I just heard him shake the buttermilk too.) Kitchens that feed families never really close, and in fact they never really get clean. In my kitchen there’s always a dab of flour on the floor, a fingerprint on the refrigerator, and a smear of something on the front of the stove. So why and I’m telling you this? If you feel like your kitchen has a revolving door and that the refrigerator door is only truly closed when the house is asleep, don’t despair. An active kitchen means people are being fed, nourished, and cared for. How bad can that be?

I sat down this morning and planned out how and when we’re going to bake our gingerbread house. I planned when I’m going to bake cookies and when I’m going to make my children’s teachers gifts. So you see, my kitchen never closes either, and if for some strange reason it is closed, I’m probably thinking about the next time I’ll be in there and what I’ll be cooking.


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What We Ate Last Week – November 17, 2008

Monday – Baked Ravioli, Bread, Salad with Avocado Miso Dressing

Tuesday – Smoky Black Beans with Yellow Rice, Salad

Wednesday -Roasted Chicken, Olive Oil Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes, Citrus and Arugula Salad

Thursday -Meatloaf, Carrots

Friday -Homemade Pizza Night

Saturday -Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp

Sunday -Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

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My countertops are covered with sweet potatoes, oranges, Yukon Gold potatoes, apples, and there’s a bag of cranberries in the refrigerator. This year we’re going to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving this year. (Read about our Thanksgiving last year on the Joy Kitchen blog.) This year I plan to bake a batch of my grandmother’s soft yeast rolls and a pan of pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole. What are your Thanksgiving specialities?

If you run into trouble in your kitchen this week, some of these phone numbers and websites might help. If I may give you my two cents: Thanksgiving is not a consumer-driven, gift-filled day, it’s about sharing a meal, plain and simple. Fill the day with some good food, good drink, and have a good time.

Butterball Turkey Talk: 1-800-BUTTERBALL (288-8372)

Empire Kosher : Poultry Customer Hotline: 717-436-7055

Fleischmann’s Yeast Baker’s Hotline: 1-800-777-4959

General Mills: 1-800-248-7310

King Arthur Flour Baker’s Hotline: 802-649-3717

Nestle Toll House Baking Information Line: 1-800-637-8537

Ocean Spray Consumer Helpline: 1-800-662-3263

Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline: 1-800-745-4000

U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline: 888-MPHotline (674-6854)

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Serves 8 hungry adults

Since the mid-eighties I have always been faithful to a vegetarian chili recipe from an old Jane Brody cookbook. The list of spices in her recipe initially seemed daunting, but the resulting chili was always full of complex flavor. This chili recipe is my adaptation of her recipe. Don’t let the long list of spices be a deterrent. This chili contains no meat, thus the name non carne. Smoked paprika (even McCormick brand sells this spice) adds a beautiful red color and sweet smoky flavor. This is a “spicy” chili, with a deep, rich flavor, not a “hot” chile pepper-type of chili. I prefer to build the flavor, and then if anyone wants their chili “hot”, all they have to do is shake their favorite red pepper sauce over the top of their serving.

1/2 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced thin

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons mild chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons thyme

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Generous pinch ground cloves

Generous pinch ground allspice

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey

One (6-ounce can) vegetable juice (3/4 cup)

One (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with their juice

One (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed

One (15-ounce) can red beans, drained and rinsed

One (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

3 cups cooked brown rice

Chopped avocado for garnish

Sliced green onions for garnish

In a Dutch oven or shallow soup pot, cook the onion and carrot in the olive oil until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, measure out the spices and mix together the garlic, chili powder, cumin, thyme, smoked paprika, salt, coriander, cloves, and allspice. Add the spice mixture to the onions and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the maple syrup or honey, vegetable juice, tomatoes, chick peas, red beans, black beans, and the broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and for 30 minutes. Serve in a bowl over a portion of cooked brown rice. Garnish with chopped avocado and sliced green onions.

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Monday – Sloppy Joes, Leftover Chicken Noodle Soup

Tuesday – Smoky Chili Non Carne

Wednesday – Cavatelli Carbonara, Fresh Broccoli Spears, Fococcia Bread, Leftover Oven-fried Chicken Thighs

Thursday – Fresh Salmon Filets, Oven Roasted Carrots and Parsnips, Arugula Salad

Friday -Dinner at Indigo

Saturday – Chicago-style Hot Dogs (complete with Super Green Sweet Pickle Relish from Puckered Pickle Company, Celery Salt, Tomato Wedges, Yellow Mustard, and Dill Slices)

Sunday – Barbecued Chicken, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw

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According to the American Dietetic Association ,”superfoods are purported to have more significant health benefits than other types of food because they provide high amounts of one or more beneficial components”.

The concept of “superfoods” has captured much interest in the press. I think we all know we can’t live on one food alone, but a diet filled with wholesome foods serves us best nutritionally and forms the foundation for good health.

For healthy adults and children the goal is to promote health and reduce overall risk for some chronic diseases. Health and prevention is a two part process. First, eat a “super diet”. Include many of the foods below on a regular basis. (There are many, many “superfoods”. This is only a small representation.) Second, get up off your can (rather than reading blogs?) and move. Physical activity is key to healthy muscles, bones, and bodies. Now for a short list of some of my favorite superfoods. Note: phytochemicals are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants and antioxidants are a compound that prevents free radical damage to cells in the body. You’ll see these terms sprinkled liberally throughout the list.

Avocados may have a bad reputation for high calories and fat, but most of the fat in this fruit (yes, fruit) is monounsaturated, and avocados are packed with nutrients. Avocados contain about 60 percent more potassium than bananas and contain more vitamin E (which helps prevent muscle damage and reduces inflammation) than most other commonly eaten fruits. Make guacamole, chop it up and put it on top of a bowl of chili, or slice is and serve on a sandwich.

A medium-sized banana contains a whopping dose of potassium and, in case you haven’t heard, potassium is one of the body’s most significant minerals, critical for proper cellular and electrical functions. As an electrolyte, potassium actually carries a tiny electrical charge with it throughout the body. It regulates the water and acid balance in blood and tissues and is one of the most important nutrients for normal growth and building muscle. Use in a smoothie, slice and put on a bowl of hot oatmeal, or eat out of hand for a quick snack on the go.

Rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins (the blue color pigment), blueberries promote a healthy urinary tract and enhance night vision. Not to mention the phytochemical lutein and the natural sources of dietary fiber that may reduce the risk of diabetes, circulatory problems, and memory loss. Use frozen blueberries during the winter time when fresh aren’t available. Sprinkle fresh blueberries on spinach salad or make a yogurt parfait.

A readily available vegetable, broccoli boasts high amounts of vitamin C . Part of it’s powerhouse protection is derived from phytochemicals that give your immune system a boost. Use fresh in salads, or cooked in soups, pasta dishes, or cut into spears, sprinkled with a pinch of kosher salt and fresh lemon zest.

Dark Chocolate
Now we’re talking. Who knew chocolate was so good for you! Loaded with polyphenols (antioxidants that help the body’s cells resist damage from free radicals), and known for the prevention cardiovascular disease as they minimize the oxidation the “bad cholesterol” also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which is a major factor in the promotion of coronary disease such as heart attack and stroke. Polyphenols may even help fight infections and regulate other immune responses. But not all chocolate is a “superfood”. Just remember that the higher the percentage of cocoa content, the higher the amount of antioxidant. I don’t really need to tell you how to use chocolate in your kitchen do I?

Eggs are nature’s perfect protein in a low-calorie package. Rich in many vitamins (including vitamin E), minerals and micronutrients, like lecithin and lutein, that may protect against eye disease and certain cancers. The uses of eggs are endless – make a fritatta, hard boil for a quick snack, create some egg drop soup or if you’re up for nostalgia – eggs in a basket for breakfast.

Fatty Fish
Salmon and other cold-water fish, such as tuna, sardines, mackerel, and halibut contain oils that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This “good fat” will protect your arteries against plaque build up and is effective in lowering the “bad” cholesterol. There is a note of caution with fish. Farmed salmon has higher levels of chemical contaminate than wild, but wild salmon is seasonal and far more costly. Large fish, such as tuna and swordfish, should also be consumed in limited quantities because they may contain higher levels of mercury than smaller fish.

Nuts contain healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, selenium and magnesium. Every nut has its own particular nutritional strengths. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, while almonds are high in linoleic acid (Omega-6 fatty acids). Sprinkle toasted nuts on some sauteed green beans, use nuts to make pesto, or crumble over a dish of vanilla yogurt.

A major source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene (decreases risk of heart disease, cataracts, and some cancers, boosts immunity and slows the aging process). Ultra rich in iron, and loaded with significant amounts of riboflavin, vitamin K (to strengthen bones), dietary fiber and folate (can reduce risk of heart disease). Frozen spinach has just as much of these nutrients and is often less expensive and easier to cook with. To retain more of the nutrients, saute fresh spinach in a large skillet with olive oil and garlic. It’s no wonder Popeye was so strong.

Rich in lycopene (reduces risk of prostate cancer) and contains coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid that block the effect of nitrosamines (which also cause some cancers). Rich in vitamin A (fights eye disease), vitamin C (aids the immune system) and potassium which lowers blood pressure. Use diced in chili, sliced on a veggie sandwich, or crushed in homemade tomato sauce.

Whole Grains
The seeds of various plants and grasses, whole grains are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin B, folate and fiber. The powerhouse vitamins and minerals, and the hundreds of phytochemicals in whole grains, may help prevent cancer, heart disease and birth defects. And fiber helps lower cholesterol, may protect against certain cancers, aids bowel function and decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Ancient grains such as quinoa, barley, amaranth, and teff add interesting flavors and texture to any meal.

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Cold and flu season is just around the corner. I tend to think positive. I’m not going to get sick this year. Children are the primary carriers of cold and flu viruses and because I spent a lot of time with my three crumb-snatchers I plan to be proactive in prevention. Here are some helpful food, nutrition and cooking ideas to help you stay healthy:

Eat Healthy

For this to happen planning is the key. Pick a day (I like Thursdays) to go grocery shopping. Visit a farmers market if you can sometime during the week or weekend. Plan meals in advance and make extra to take for lunch, or for your kids to take for lunch. I always think it’s just as easy to make soups, stews, and chilis in a double portion and freeze or eat the leftovers. Stick to a menu created around vegetables, fish, grains, poultry, fruit, and smaller quantities of meat – and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. I find this even hard to do, but I try to use as many ingredients in my cooking as I can, not just heat and serve foods.

Eat Immune-boosting Foods

Garlic is antibacterial and antiviral. Turmeric has curcumin, a polyphenol with strong cold and flu-fighting properties. Oregano’s antioxidant activity is due to its high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. Ginger is spicy and sweats out colds and flu, among many other healing properties. This is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak about the health benefits of food. When used in cooking garlic, turmeric, oregano, and ginger are delicious, not to mention the health benefits from the good foods cooked with these ingredients.


A reasonable amount of sleep every night is a must and if at all possible go to bed at about the same time and wake up at the same time. I personally prefer the 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. routine.


A very important key to keep your body strong. Strong people are fit and energetic. Make a plan to put on your walking shoes and get outside everyday. When I do that I am successful at walking at least 5 times a week.

Drink Tea

Green, white, or black. So soothing during the chilly days of fall and full of plant-based phytochemicals that enhance health and maybe are even protective against heart disease, bad breath, and osteoporosis.

Take Care of Yourself

Eat well and be well. You deserve to be in peak condition when the cold and flu season hits. The kitchen, and all the wondrous ingredients we have access to, used for creating a delicious meal is the best place to start.

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