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.

Anti-Inflammatory = Red Bell Peppers + Spinach

Torte Brand

I respect and appreciate French cuisine—that’s a fact. It may be because French was the second language that I learned, or that I first watched Julie & Julia with my mom and we have even since shared a special love for Julia Child’s whimsical flare. Actually, maybe this factuation grew as I volunteered more and more at a culinary school founded by a Frenchman and based on French culinary techniques, or just simply because I enjoy French wine with French cheese and baguette. Who knows! Whatever the reason(s), exploring healthy baking recipes based on classic French creations and ingredients is always an extreme delight.

I had a pack of puff pastry in the freezer, so I found a recipe, originally by Michel Richard, that called for using this pack as well as wholesome vegetables, fresh herbs, and some of my CSA bounty. Feel free to make your own puff pastry for this recipe, but I’ve learned from other trained chefs that using frozen puff pastry is nothing to be ashamed of if short on time, energy, or the interest to make it from scratch. I modified the recipe to clarify the directions and reduce some ingredients that have high saturated fat contents.

The vegetables used for this tourte are the perfect match to help promote an anti-inflammatory diet. Red bell peppers are rich in Vitamin C, making these peppers one of the best sources for this essential nutrient. The antioxidant properties and flavonoids in such foods help protect the body from free radicals, a result that has anti-inflammatory benefits. A plant showing dark green colors are also packed with Vitamin C. So red bell peppers, meet spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of Vitamin C as well, and has several flavonoids to battle inflammation. Furthermore, research shows that spinach leaves contain glycoglycerolipids, which helps protect the digestive tract from unwanted inflammation. In the tourte, we are also minimizing omega-6 oils and saturated fats while adding herbs to assist the vegetable couple in providing anti-inflammatory benefits!

Tourte Milanese

modified from

  • 1 pound puff pastry, chilled

For the Eggs

  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh tarragon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Filling

  • 6 large red bell peppers
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 8 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces smoked ham, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt

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Preparing the Pastry:

Generously butter an 8 1/2-inch springform pan. Cut off one quarter of the pastry, cover, and set in the fridge. Roll out remaining puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick round. Carefully fit the pastry into the pan, pressing to get a smooth fit, nearly reaching the top of the pan around the edges. Place pan in fridge and take out the small piece of pastry that was already placed inside the fridge.

Roll out the smaller piece of pastry until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut out an 8-inch circle of dough for the top of the tourte and lift it onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover both the lid with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Save the scraps and put them in the freezer! Take out for another use by thawing in the fridge, sprinkling with grated, sharp cheese for a savory pastry or cinnamon and sugar for a sweet pastry, shape into a twist or other shape, and bake. An easy way to quickly make a crispy, simple treat!

Making the Eggs:

Whisk eggs, herbs, salt and pepper together. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and pour in the eggs. Gently but constantly stir the eggs around in the pan, pulling the eggs that set into the center of the pan. Slide the eggs onto a plate, without mounding them, and cover immediately with plastic wrap.

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The Filling:

Peppers: place whole and untrimmed, directly over the flame of a gas burner. As soon as one portion of a peppers skin is charred, turn the pepper. When black and blistered all over, place in a plastic bag and seal. After about 15 minutes, once cool, use your fingers to rub off skin. Cut each pepper once from top to bottom, cut away the stem, open the peppers, and lay them flat. Trim away the inside veins and discard the seeds; season peppers with salt and pepper. Cut flat peppers into thirds, and set aside, covered, until needed.

Spinach: cook in a large quantity of boiling salted water for 1 minute to blanch it. Drain spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water, and press it to extract all of the excess moisture (you may need to allow it to cool for a few minutes if still to hot for your hands). Heat the oil, butter, and garlic in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add blanched spinach and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and add a little whipping cream. Bring quickly to the boil and stir so it mixes with the spinach. Remove the spinach from the skillet with a slotted and set aside.

Assembling the Tourte:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the pastry-lined springform pan from the fridge and layer the filling ingredients in the following order: half the eggs, half the spinach, half the cheese, half the ham, and all the roasted peppers, laid flat. Continue layering in reverse order—ham, cheese, spinach, and eggs. With each layer, make certain that the ingredients are spread to the edge of the pan. Fold the excess crust in over the filling, and brush the rim of crust you’ve created with the egg wash. Center the rolled-out top crust over the tourte and gently push the edge of the top crust down into the pan, pressing and sealing the top and bottom crusts along the sides. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut a vent in the center of the crust. Use the point of the knife to etch a design in the top crust, taking care to cut only halfway into the dough. Chill the fully loaded tourte for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

Baking the Tourte:

Place the tourte on a rimmed baking pan, give it another coat of egg wash, and bake it for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until puffed and deeply golden. Remove from the oven and let rest on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan and release the sides.

spinach leaves

Notice how we’re using salt and pepper at each step in the dish. In order to properly season your food, practice seasoning as you cook for best results. You usually end up using less salt all together, as cooking with salt distributes its effects better than sprinkling on top of your food later. Taste as you cook, too, adjusting according to your tastes. Once finished, the first cut into this pie will make your elbows flap and toes wiggle, seeing the vibrantly colored layers that pay homage to Italy’s flag (shhh, don’t tell France). Bon ap, to anti-inflammation!

Photos courtesy of Flickr member faria!; “spinach leaves”