Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quince breakfast parfait

So have you been out buying up quince this week?  If you live in Northern California - just give me a call and you can have some of mine.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I made a quince granola by baking gluten free rolled oats, quinoa flakes and puffed brown rice with quince sauce (puree). I also added some cinnamon and allspice to it. It created a nice crispy, no added oil nor refined sugar, gluten free cereal.  So I decided to use it to make a breakfast parfait this morning, layering the granola with spoonfuls of quince puree.

It looked pretty and instead of my usual throw together breakfast, it felt like I had paid attention and seemed like a treat.  If tasted yummy too with a nice contrast of the smooth puree with the crunchy granola.  I like the color of the quince too.  I know most recipes will say quince turns pink, but that seems to only occur if you add sugar.  Personally, I like it's unsweetened custardy yellow color.

So did your breakfast look this good?
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quince spice balls

With my vast quantity of quince sauce (see yesterday's post!), I thought I'd make some yummy quince balls today, with autumnal spices.

Here's the recipe.  Instead of quince, you can use any pureed fruit, such as apple sauce, or pumpkin puree or pear puree...but when you have a tree full of quince, you use quince puree!

Quince spice balls
Ingredients: - makes 20 balls

8 dates, pitted
3/4 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup unsweetened fruit puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Add the pitted dates to a processor and process for a minute or two.  Add the walnuts and process again.  Add the fruit and spices and mix again.  Finally add the coconut and mix thoroughly. At this stage you could also add one of the following optional extras, stirring in by hand, rather than processing. I didn't - and just used the above ingredients.

Optional extras:
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 goji berries

Use a small cookie scoop to scoop the mixture into approximately 20 balls. If it is too sticky, add some more nuts or coconut. If it's too crumbly, add a little more puree.

The balls can be rolled in additional coconut or crushed walnuts.

Place in the refrigerator until chilled and a little firmer.  They will keep for a week, chilled.

The spicy flavors are what make these balls.  Spices are powerful foods and too often neglected in cooking.  When using spices, a combination tends to work better than an individual spice.

The health benefits of cinnamon include:

  • 1/2 teaspoon a day can lower LDL cholesterol
  • cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels and increases insulin production in the body
  • it has anti-fungal properties
  • it has anti-clotting effects on the blood
  • cinnamon added to food is a natural food preservative
  • just smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory
  • cinnamon is a natural remedy for headaches and migraines

The health benefits of cloves include:

  • cloves contain eugenol which has been seen to be effective in dentistry as a mild anesthetic as well as an anti-bacterial agent
  • eugenol is also anti-inflammatory and a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet
  • cloves are an excellent source of manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, and very high levels of anti-oxidants

The health benefits of nutmeg include:
  • can have a blood pressure lowering effect
  • can soothe an upset stomach and stop diarrhea
  • can be stimulating to the brain and improve mental function
Culinary spices are also important with cancer as they can inhibit the "master switch" for cancer genes. They do this by blocking a signaling molecule called NF-kappa beta. NF-kB makes cancer cells resistant to treatment or prompts them to behave in a more aggressive manner, so using spices to turn off this molecule can be powerful in cancer treatment.  

Pharmaceutical companies are in the process of developing drugs that are effective NFkB inhibitors, but nature has supplied us with spices that do the same thing.  So look in your spice cupboard and spice up your life.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quince time

Our quince tree has grown a lot this year and has many large quince on it.  Quince is not a fruit that you eat raw so I've been wondering what to do with all these fruit.  There must be at least a hundred quince on the tree!

In previous years I've used the few fruits we got in salads, an upside quince cake, making quince jelly etc.  When you search for quince recipes however, they all tend to involve large amounts of added sugar.  I wanted to avoid this. Also, quince are not easy to cut and prepare as they are very hard when raw.

So, I decided I would just peel them and then cook them in the simmering oven of my aga in water.

They came out beautifully. As they are so large, I could only cook 6 at a time, so did three batches today!  I guess that means I have about 6 days of cooking in total!

After cooking them, I then made them into quincesauce - which is really just like applesauce, but made with quince instead of apples!   I don't add any sweetener at all - and it really doesn't need it. Basically it is pureed cooked quince and delicious.  I love the fact that its not too sweet and can see myself using it in a lot of different dishes.

I used some to make a quince fool today and then made a big batch of quince granola - basically gluten free oats, puffed brown rice and quinoa flakes tossed in quince sauce and baked.

I think I will easily have enough quince sauce to last me the year, that is if I get around to cooking the rest of the quince! Wish me luck or maybe it's stamina I need!

Quince have high levels of fiber, are high in antioxidants and contain a lot of pectin.  They also help with digestion and relieve diarrhea and have been seen to have anti-viral effects.

Let me know if you'd like some.....
Sunday, October 28, 2012

Eat, Fast & Live Longer

Skip an hour of television tonight and watch this fascinating BBC Horizon Documentary instead, all about  eating, caloric restriction and fasting and how you can improve your health.

The documentary, by Dr Michael Mosley, looks at different ways of reducing our caloric intake including: someone who follows caloric restriction through optimal nutrition (CRONIE); the benefits of 3 - 4 few days fasting, every couple of months; of alternate day fasting; and then 5:2 fasting - where you fast for two days out of every 5 (on those fasting days you do eat something - 600 calories of food).

I've never fasted before, but heard a fascinating lecture by Dr Alan Goldhammer  this past summer about its benefits....Dr Goldhammer runs True North Health Center in Santa Rosa which is the largest facility in the world specializing in  medically supervised water only fasting facility. As fascinating as it was, I still haven't signed up! What about you? Have you ever tried fasting?

But even if you don't fancy fasting, "Eat, Fast and live longer" is an excellent documentary, well worth watching. You'll learn a lot.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New food of the week - Dragon Fruit

My new food this week is Dragon Fruit. I don't think I've ever tried it before....but may I did when I was in Bali, years ago....I have a very vague recollection..???

When I visited the recent Heirloom food festival in Santa Rosa, there were some stunning dragon fruits on display there. Their color alone was incredible. So it made me think I needed to taste one.

They are this wonderful vivid pink or deep purple and the fruit inside is either white or pink.

This one I bought in Whole Foods and it has a white center with the dark black seeds.

Here's how I prepared it:

Cut it in half

Use a grapefruit spoon (serrated edged spoon) or tablespoon to separate the flesh from the pink skin, by running it around the edge between the flesh and skin. The skin is inedible.

Cut the flesh into chunks

Pile it back into the skin for a beautiful presentation

As for the taste, it doesn't have a strong taste.  It is reminiscent, to me, of a kiwi fruit.....more than it just having lots of black seeds in it - but it's texture too.  It's quite pleasant but not any distinct flavor.  It seems to be asking for something else....maybe a squeeze of lemon... or use it in a  fruit salad with other fruits....or maybe I'll use some of it in a green smoothie. I bet the seeds will look good and it's quite watery.

Have you ever tried one? What did you think?  I'd definitely use it again just for the presentation....or maybe make a sorbet from it and use the skin for the serving bowl.  I'll try freezing one of these and see how it turns out.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ceres gluten free, sugar free, dairy free dessert class

Saturday's "blissful celebrations" class was great! We made 4 different desserts plus a caramel sauce all of which were gluten free, refined sugar free and dairy free.

 We made:
  •  a lemon cheescake - the base was just almonds and dates and the filling was based on cashew nuts
  • profiterole puffs made from choux pastry and filled with a coffee creme patisserie
  • strawberry and pink peppercorn quinoa cookies
  • chestnut roulade filled with coconut milk "cream" and pomegranate.

There was a lot to cook (and eat!), in a limited time span with lots of new techniques, but everyone did a great job.

Hope you enjoy the photos of the class :-D  Thanks to all who came and especially to Kendra and Alysha who volunteered to help me.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tastiest food of the week - strawberry and pink peppercorn

My tastiest food of the week this week was a cookie I made combining freeze dried strawberries with pink peppercorns.  I made two version and my favorite was the shortbread one.  Both versions were gluten free, refined sugar free, and dairy free.

Strawberry and pink peppercorn shortbreads (GF, DF, SF)
My sister had sent me some freeze dried strawberries as she thought I might like them. The plan was, actually, that she'd bring them to Florida with her this summer when we met up on vacation (she lives in the UK) and give them to me there.  Dutifully, we brought the strawberries all the way from the UK to the US, then forgot to give them to me, so took them all the way home again, and then mailed them!

So while the carbon footprint of these dried strawberries wasn't particularly good - their taste was. Unlike most freeze dried fruit, these were still a little chewy and not just dry.   But combining them with pink peppercorns was amazing.

Strawberry and pink peppercorn quinoa cookies (GF, SF, DF)

I used the combination in a recipe for my cooking class this weekend and people were reluctant! Those making the cookies didn't want to add them....others were talking about making them without, but when they tasted them, everyone agreed, it was a great combo!

So give it a try.  They work well with other pink fruits too, like dried cranberries, or raspberries.... Pink peppercorns aren't strong, and the combo just works well.
Friday, October 19, 2012

Gluten free, refined sugar free, dairy free dessert cooking class

Tomorrow is my GF, SF, DF "blissful celebrations" dessert cooking class at Ceres in Sebastopol.

We will be making and tasting:

Lemon (un-)cheesecake

Coffee choux puffs

Pear cake and 
Chestnut roulade.

There is still time to sign up. It's a hands on class with lots to learn.  Come join us!

And as a bonus, if we have enough time, I'll teach you have to make a "march of the penguins", perfect to adorn any winter dessert - but no one will ever eat them!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Healing Trees recipe

The Cancer Journey conference at Ceres on Sunday seemed to go very well. They sold out and I had some great interactions with people in the resource room.

I demo'd making my "healing tree" morsels, and share the recipe with you here:

1 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon Matcha green tea powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1//2 tablespoons date paste *
Zest of 1 lemon
Grated fresh ginger (approx 1 inch)
15 whole raw organic almonds

[*Make the date paste first - you will only use a small portion of this.  Process 10 pitted dates with 2 tablespoons of water. This makes a thick paste that is a great substitute for refined sugar.]

  1. Place all the ingredients except the whole almonds in a food processor and process until smooth.  This matcha mixture should hold together when squeezed but not be too sticky. If it won't hold, process longer, or add 1/2 tablespoon more of date paste.  If too sticky, add a little more almond flour.
  2. Cut the whole almonds in half, width ways.
  3. Take approx 1 teaspoon of match mixture and shape it into your hands to form a cone shape
  4. Stand up half an almond on it's cut side and gently push the matcha cone onto the almond, so that it looks like a tree.
  5. Repeat with the rest of the matcha mixture and almond halves to create your own forest of healing trees.
  6. Can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, or else the matcha mixture can frozen before shaping.

The healing qualities of these trees come from:
the green tea has excellent anti-cancer properties and is high in anti-oxidants;
the ginger and dates settle the stomach and help with digestion;
the lemon is a great source of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals;
the almonds are a good source of easily digestible fiber, vitamins and minerals;
and finally the cute shape of the trees lifts your spirits!

These are lovely to make for yourself, but make a great gift for someone who needs some healing.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New food of the week - Jujube dates

When I work with clients, one goal that I frequently give them when they are trying to make adjustments to their diet, is to try at least one new food a week.  There are so many foods available nowadays, so it's quite easy to try something new, whether that be a spice, or a fruit or vegetable at the farmers market or try a new non-dairy milk...It's a great goal to have and opens up your horizons, looking for new things rather than focusing on things you may be missing. It's OK to also choose something that you've only ever tried once too, and give it another go.

Generally each week, I practice what I preach! So I have decided that a regular blog post will be sharing with you the new foods that I try.

This week when I was in Whole Foods, I saw fresh Jujube dates on sale.  These are also known as Chinese dates. They were organic and grown from a farm a little further south than where I am.  I had heard of Jujubes before, but never seen one or eaten one, so I bought them.

There is a potent chemical in jujubes - Jujuboside A that affects the hippocampus in the brain and is often used as a natural sleep aid.  Jujubes are therefore used to treat both insomnia and anxiety.

Hmmm. I don't have insomnia nor anxiety....and having tried them,  I don't particularly like the probably won't be buying them again!  They have a single small stone in the middle and taste a teeny little bit like an apple, but softer in texture than an apple.  I hesitate to suggest you try it, as it really doesn't do much for me.

One interesting fact however is that the smell of the flowers is believed to make teenagers fall in love!  Boys in the Himalayan regions take a stem of sweet smelling jujube flowers and put them on their hats to attract girls!  In China, the Jujube is often placed in the newlywed's bedroom as a good luck charm for fertility.  I think both of these are a better use than eating them! They don't taste bad, just not that nice either!

Have you ever had one? Maybe I should dry some and see if they improve??? Let's hope next week's new food works out better!
Monday, October 15, 2012

Marmalade Granola

You may recall that I made a gluten free granola a few months ago, that had no refined sugar or add oil in it.  It was plain in flavor, which is nice when you want to change your additions each morning for breakfast.

With 3 fig trees all full of ripe fruit, you can bet I add figs to my marmalade granola breakfast!
However, this week I made a flavored granola that I am just loving.  It's marmalade flavor, made with "no sugar added" marmalade.  There are a variety of marmalades and jams available nowadays that don't use refined sugar but instead utilize just the sweetness of fruit as their sweetener.  Be careful however, some utilize artificial sweeteners instead, which aren't good for you.

My favorite is an Italian organic citrus fruit "spread".  It's by Alce Nero and contains only orange peel and pulp,  apple puree and lemons.

Here is the recipe to make gluten free, no oil added, no refined sugar marmalade granola:

1 cup GF old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened puffed brown rice
1/4 cup Alce nero Citrus fruit spread

Mix the ingredients together and spread on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Place in the oven at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Stir and replace in the oven for an additional 5 - 10 minutes, but check frequently as it can quickly go from golden brown to over done.

Enjoy every morning with your non-dairy milk.

PS I make double the quantity listed here, and of course you can vary the ratio and types of grains as you please.
Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tastiest food of the week - Frozen grapes

I'm starting a new weekly blog post - "tastiest food of the week", where I'll share with you the yummiest food I've eaten each week.  Maybe it'll encourage you to give it a try.

I can see that some weeks  - like this first one - are going to be difficult to pare it down to only one item....but this week's winner is FROZEN GRAPES.

Frozen Godello grapes
From the last few weeks of blog posts, you've probably already gathered that we have a vineyard and grow grapes for wine making.  We sell the grapes, but of course, at this time of year, don't ever really have a shortage for ourselves.

We grow some eating grapes/table grapes on our arbor which for the past few years, I've dehydrated most of to make raisins/sultanas.  But after last week's harvest, we had a big bucket of Godello grapes and some bunches of Merlot grapes. You can't eat them all fresh, so I froze them.  Have you ever had frozen grapes? If not - freeze some now!  Nothing to do - just wash them, let them dry and then pop them in the freezer. You can take them off the stalk if you want, but it's not necessary. They'll freeze in a couple of hours.

Frozen wine grapes
Then pop them in your mouth and you will do a happy dance! The outer layer - the skin, breaks away in your mouth first and then the cool flavors of the grape dissolve and excite your taste buds.  You get all the flavors of the grapes/wine coming through.  Using wine grapes is amazing as you really get all the complexity of wine in a frozen little bubble of fruit.

Our wine grapes have pips in them, but I still like them frozen and don't notice the pips, probably because you just swallow the melting delight before the pips have separated from the flesh.

Frozen Merlot grapes

And because it takes some time to eat them, allowing them to melt in your mouth and fully enjoy the flavors, I find a don't eat too many.

Try them one night when you are watching a movie - a great alternative to chocolate or ice cream or popcorn.  Or take them to party or picnic or..... But watch when it comes to sharing them, as you want to keep plenty for yourself for the rest of the year until next grape harvest!!!
Friday, October 12, 2012

Merlot Harvest 2012

A week ago today, we were busy harvesting 22 tons of Merlot grapes! Phew.

The vineyard management crew began at 4am - in the dark with little lights on their heads to find the grapes!  I don't have a light, so that was my excuse to wait until the sun was up!

Harvest day is always one of the best days of the year. It's such a grounding, connect to nature experience to be in the vines all day, reaping the fruit, surrounded by the noises and chatter....and there were ducks on the pond, a great blue heron and deer all watching on.

As well as the vineyard crew - 12 pickers plus two others driving the tractors and loading the fruit etc, we had four friends join us to help with pulling the leaves out of the bins. The 2 ton capacity bins are pulled through the vineyard as the guys throw the grapes in, and we stand on little planks of wood at the side, diving in to get out the leaves.  As a result of having 4 friends with us, I think our fruit is probably the cleanest in terms of no leaves of any harvested in California! We did such a great job.

The "4" also picked some of the left over Godello from the previous week, to sharpen their picking skills.

The harvest was nearly 3 weeks early for us this year.  And the fruit looked and tasted perfect. The right sugar levels, the right acidity - it just all came together.

And we had some lively conversations over the grape bins - and some interesting times, for example when Mike leaned in to the bottom of the bin to get some leaves, but his feet came off and he teeter-tottered on the edge, not being able to get back up! Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera at this stage!

At 10.30am we stopped for a brief break and then were all finished at 1pm, when it was time for a harvest lunch outside, followed by some grape stomping.  Only Jeremy and I were up for stomping - the others had pathetic excuses, I can tell you!!!!  But J and I had fun and I'm sure they were then all envious that they didn't have sticky legs!!!!

First time stomper nerves from Jeremy..."do I really want to do this????"

It has been suggested that we need to use a larger bucket!

Hopefully from the photos you can see what a fun time it was.  Are you ready to sign up to join in next year????

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