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basil2by Nicole Perriella

It’s basil season, and I can’t get enough. This fragrant and delicious herb makes any meal feel alive and fresh. This week I made a Spinach and Basil Pesto using produce from my Tiny’s Organic CSA bag. The recipe is so easy and goes with everything. First I put the pesto over quinoa pasta. The next day I put it over mayacoba beans and broiled asparagus. I’m excited to try it on pizza and other grilled veggies. The major hit of nutrients (calcium, fiber, folic acid, magnesium, lutein, vitamins A & C) explains the happy glow after eating. For a fun, fresh dose of summer, just add ingredients and blend.

Spinach and Basil Pesto
2 cups spinach leaves (more…)

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(Excerpted from Urban Farm magazine. I discovered this mag at Radar hair and records. (Sharon is the Best!!) I swear something creative always happens when I get my hair done.) I love eating seasonally but I couldn’t resist this recipe for do it your self Kale chips!! Fun and yum.

Kale chips are much tastier than they sound.They’re a surprisingly delicious and healthy alternative to potato chips. I love the kale chip and making it your self will save you a buck or two for sure.

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale (stems removed, cut into chip sized pieces)

2 T. lemon juice

2 T. soy sauce

1 T nutritional yeast

1 tsp. onion powder

cayenne to taste

Preparation:

Combine dry ingredients and toss with the kale. Lay on drying racks and dehydrate until crispy about 4-6 hours. Don’t have a dehydrator?? Put your oven on the lowest setting or build one yourself with the instructions in April’s Urban Farm Magazine.

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Iron chef pear continues…

Matsutake’s the much loved and famed “pine mushroom” are highly prized in Asian cuisine. Here in the Northwest we are lucky to have them growing in our own backyard. Hunting grounds are well kept, jealously guarded secrets, and issues have been known to happen between amateur and commercial pickers.

This year I had the fortune of being gifted a large bag by a friend. Double happiness!! I love mushrooms and have cooked extensively with Shitake’s which are similar in texture and firmness, and also delicious.

This recipe would be considered a travesty by real aficionados, as these mushrooms’ delicate, cinnamony scent is what all the fuss is about. Traditional recipes are brothy or ricey to fully showcase the aroma of the main act. Google “Matsutake Gohan” and you’ll find loads of recipes with this guy in a fine fish and Kombu broth, served in a teapot to preserve the steam until the moment your nose is ready to receive it.

In addition to their tastiness, these meaty mushrooms are purported to have numerous health benefits including improved cardiac and anti- tumor functions.

This soup was even more than double happiness because I had this leftover turkey, pear and onion gravy that I used for the base. Nice!

**Feel free to substitute other mushrooms and even apples for the pears.

From scratch version

1 organic pear diced

Half an organic onion diced

Vegetable or chicken stock

Rice vinegar to taste (about 4 tablespoons)

2 large matsutake muchrooms diced (about 2 cups)

Salt and pepper to taste (I use plenty of both of these)

1 tsp Chili flakes or garlic chili sauce

OR

Pear gravy version

1 quart (roughly) left over pear gravy from “Pear onion turkey wings in the slow cooker” (Smooth or lumpy, no matter).

Chicken stock to desired thickness (about 3 cups)

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Many of you know that I have a pear tree. Every year it produces abundantly and I have an Iron Chef Pear competition with myself. Joel helps out as well and it’s pretty fun.One of my best “invented” recipes to date is this soup. Feel free to vary the spices according to your taste. ( Less garlic and no chilies for those less inclined toward spice.)

2 large organic onions diced

2-3 medium organic pears cut in to 1/2 in. pieces

2 tablespoons butter

32 fl. oz. organic chicken stock (or veggie stock)

3 cloves garlic minced

1 teaspoon dried chilies

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions and butter over low to medium low heat until translucent ( Do not brown) I like to salt my onions a little too.

Add pears and garlic, and cook for 10 min.

Add chicken stock and dried chilies. Simmer for 1 hour uncovered, stir every 10 or so minutes. If you like a thicker soup use an immersion blender and pulse until desired consistency.

Variations: Add chicken for a rich stew, garnish with fresh fried sage or toasted walnuts.

Commentary:

This soup is perfect for fall not just because pears are in season. Autumn is the metal time of the year. Time to letting go, pulling inward,of pruning off that which is no longer fills us with life. It’s time to store up food and prepare for the coming winter.

In “Healing with Whole Foods”,Paul Pitchford says, “Everything in nature contracts and moves its essence inward and downward. Leaves and fruits fall, seeds dry, and the sap of trees goes into the roots.The earth’s grasses start to lose their deep green color turning lighter and drier.”

In Chinese Medicine the organs associated with the Metal element are the lungs and large intestine. It is a good time strengthen the immune system and regulate digestion for vitality. These organs can be easily damaged by “dryness” and pears are protective and nourishing. Cooling, sweet and slightly sour in nature they eliminate mucus, ease a dry cough and moisten the lungs and throat. They can be slightly cloying for the digestion which is why the onions are the perfect addition.

Onions are powerful immune system boosters. Again according to Pitchford, they are traditionally used to ease coughs and bronchial aliments, lower cholesterol, treat dysentery, induce sweating, inhibit allergic reactions, and as a cure for the common cold.

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So, you ate your beans just like me and then thought to yourself, “I wonder what the health benefits of these lovely beans are?” Lucky for you, I too had this thought, and then thought I’d pass some info along to you.

Beans help lower cholesterol (lots of bile binding fiber), in turn fighting heart disease, and lowering the risk of heart attack. A study conducted at the University of Kentucky has shown that only three weeks of increased bean intake (3/4 cup of navy and pinto beans) lowered the men’s cholesterol by an average of 19%. This reduces the risk of heart attack by almost 40%. Studies have also shown that there is a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breast and colon cancers.

Beans are high in protein and fiber but low in fat and surprisingly high in antioxidants. Black and pinto beans beat out powerhouses like blueberries! Here’s a comprehensive post on the health benefits of beans. http://heart-healthy-recipes.fitsugar.com/Health-Benefits-Common-Beans-1090505 (Why reinvent the wheel I say!)

Here’s a excerpt…

“In one analysis of dietary data collected by validated food frequency questionnaires in 1991 and 1995 from 90,630 women in the Nurses Health Study II researchers found a significant reduced frequency of breast cancer in those women who consumed a higher intake of common beans or lentils. That was not surprising, what was surprising was that only beans and lentils seemed to offer protection. Intake of tea, onions, apples, string beans, broccoli, green pepper, or blueberries had not protective effect. Eating beans or lentils two or more times per week was associated with a 24% reduced risk of breast cancer.”

And… check this out

USDA Ranking of Foods by Antioxidant Capacity

1 Small Red Bean (dried) Half cup: 13727
2 Wild blueberry 1 cup: 13427
3 Red kidney bean (dried) Half cup: 13259
4 Pinto bean Half cup: 11864
5 Blueberry (cultivated) 1 cup: 9019
6 Cranberry 1 cup (whole): 8983
7 Artichoke (cooked) 1 cup (hearts): 7904
8 Blackberry 1 cup: 7701
9 Prune Half cup: 7291
10 Raspberry 1 cup: 6058
11 Strawberry 1 cup: 5938
12 Red Delicious apple One: 5900
13 Granny Smith apple One: 5381
14 Pecan 1 ounce: 5095
15 Sweet cherry 1 cup: 4873
16 Black plum One: 4844
17 Russet potato (cooked) One: 4649
18 Black bean (dried) Half cup: 4181
19 Plum One: 4118
20 Gala apple One: 3903

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Today I’m making some heirloom beans and lamb burgers for dinner. Heirloom beans (and other friuts and vegetables)are varietes that for whatever reason have fallen out of cultivation. This is usually due to lower yeilds, or a less than  perfect supermarket product in comparion to say, a conventional kidney bean. The payoff for trying these less common varieties is in the remarkably diverse flavor and texture. Who knew a bean could be so good? Even with all this beautiful spring weather it’s still cool enough to snuggle into a tasty bean.

Don’t know how to cook a dried bean? Here’s a link to a great 3 minute video that shows just how easy it is! http://ranchogordo.com/html/rg_cook_index.htm Scoll down the page to the video that says ” When the vegetables are soft add the beans and cover with water by about 1 inch.” Added bonus is the kitchy mexican fiesta music in the background. Happy cooking!

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I have my weekend menu planned and will do some shopping this evening.

Saturday Breakfast: Mediclear smoothie with rice milk and mixed frozen berries (Trader Joe’s has the best price on these) AND one nitrite-free Turkey sausage (again, Trader Joe’s)

Mid-morning Snack: 1 banana

Lunch: mixed vegetable and romaine salad with olive oil/ balsamic vinagrette topped with grilled chicken breast.  (Make vinagrette by mixing 3:1 oil : balsamic vinegar, add finely minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste.)

Mid-afternoon snack: 1 handful soaked and dried almonds (see previous post for soaking and drying, and Trader Joe’s is a great place to get raw nuts)

Dinner: Mediclear in organic apple juice diluted by half with water.  AND oven roasted lamb chop w/ cashew gravy (listed on handout) AND roasted carrots, onions, parsnips AND sauteed kale

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the carrots, onion, and parsnips up into approximately one-inch cubes/slices. Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a sheet pan in 1 layer and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until browned and tender.  Toss the vegetables with minced dill or parsley, season to taste, and serve.

Remove roasted vegetables, turn oven up to 500.  Lightly rub some herbs on the lamb chops and season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over high heat add the olive oil and sear the lamb chops on one side. Turn it over and roast it in the oven at 500 degrees for a few minutes until medium rare. Remove to warm plates.

Late night snack: 2 rice cakes with nut butter AND herbal tea

Sunday Breakfast: Mediclear smoothie AND Rice and Shine cereal cooked with walnuts and frozen berries.

Mid-morning snack: 2 apricots

Lunch: Beet salad AND Quinoa pilaf AND Lamb chop (from last night’s dinner)

MId-afternoon snack: Mediclear smoothie

Dinner: Black bean soup AND Brown rice AND Salad (mixed greens, cucumbers, carrots, onion) with balsamic vinagrette.

I’m off to do some shopping now and will get some almonds into some salt water to soak overnight so I can heat them tomorrow morning for a snack throughout the day.

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