Tag Archives: meal planning

the Pullet egg…

It may come as a surprise that, for this farmer’s granddaughter, my first adult purchase of pullet eggs was this year.  Despite the common place of chickens in my childhood upbringing, I had not been formally introduced to the joy and benefit of pullet eggs in my adult food and nutrition journey.

“Pullet” refers to some of the first eggs a young hen lays and are noticeably smaller in size.  According to my supplier at the farmer’s market, they are significantly nutrient dense as compared to larger eggs from more mature hens and provide richer flavor.  There are some great blog posts on pullet eggs out there already so I chose to not “re-write the book”, so to speak, but provide a brief highlight for those who may have not been formally introduced to the pullet egg either!

A little more on pullet eggs can be found on The Kitchn; What Are Pullet Eggs?

*Feature photo is of my dad, the late rooster Snowbell, and I.

 

More Purple… Recipe Share: Purple Power Salad

If you have noticed a recurring theme of “purple” in my blog, this is no coincidence.  Both red and purple have presented themselves as signature colors in my life.  When I was a little girl, I had to have the pastel lavender option for various toys and products, such as an 80’s style tape recorder “boom box”.  In college, it just so happened I joined a sorority with national colors purple and white, therefore, continuing the theme of purple in my life.  Aside from fashion and home accessories, I love to find the color in nature.  Turns out food is a great place for it (see my 2015 blog post “Blue-Purple”).

…and so, without further delay, another recipe share.  Again, this is inspired by Sarah Britton.  However, as we begin to pull ourselves out of winter and think about Spring, I love to start thinking about salads again.  This one has become a go-to in my life and will, undoubtedly, become a classic as time goes forward.  In addition, the spice and herb focus to the dressing not only brings about a flavorful punch, it is a savvy way to pack in a little extra nutrition.  I highly recommend to try at least a small amount of cayenne pepper, even if you think you don’t like a hot spice.  The cinnamon combination creates a nice balance.  One adjustment I have done in the past is blend figs into the dressing itself.  At certain times of the year, I can find organic green figs in the frozen section for a reasonable price.  Black figs (or Turkish as I most prefer) can be a little pricey.

Enjoy!

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2013/08/purple-power-salad-for-a-picnic/

Purple Power Picnic Salad

 

Umami

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to attend a Rick Bayless cooking demo in Chicago, IL.  Intertwining story telling while performing a demo is certainly a skill that he has developed.  Beyond the recipe, I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about his perspective on food.

Although his cooking style is different than mine, he shares many of the same ideas in which I embrace including, but not limited to, learning methods from other cultures and seeking understanding of the food itself before taking on any culinary endeavors.  In addition, he spoke of being knowledgeable and considerate for the sensory system.

One of my graduate level nutrition classes, placed great emphasis on this as well.  It was in this course that I was first introduced to the concept of umami, the fifth taste, which also embodies what we have come to know as “savory”. Besides salt, sweet, sour, and bitter, foods that elicit umami are often viewed as superior in some way.  Underlying this perspective is a unique interplay within our human biochemical pathways adding further scientific support as to why humans favor the umami taste.  However, essentially, umami contributes to making a prepared dish palatable.  (It’s also a very fun word to pronounce out loud).

Additional information on umami can be retrieved from the resources at the bottom of this post.

On the day of the demo, Bayless incorporated a dish including autumn squash and pork to illustrate umami.  From my understanding, it is the smoked component of the pork that would elicit the umami response.  Personally, I do not eat pork.  Therefore, upon his suggestion, I tried  a version of the recipe with mushrooms.  I certainly can not take credit for the creative vision and wonderful turn out of this dish.  It is all a credit to Bayless.  However, I love to share innovative food concepts and, therefore, am summarizing my take on the recipe.

First, I started with the salsa like sauce by blending pan-roasted onions, tomatillos, and whole garlic cloves.

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I added a little bit of Co-Op hot sauce to the tomatillo blend which gave it an orange-like hue.

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Then, I sauteed the mushrooms in coconut oil.

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With the squash, I had a little help from my CSA who has been sending us an assortment of frozen, pre-prepared vegetables to fill in the lower production of fresh items during the winter months.  #TomatoMountain.  Therefore, I simply heated this in a pan over low-heat.  Finally, layered the items to be served and topped with pumpkin seeds as my non-dairy substitute/swap to cojita cheese.

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Even though I may have selected a slightly too hot version of Co-Op sauce, I still lived up every bite of the dish.

Without question, it embodies umami!

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Resources for Umami:

Beauchamp, G. (2009). Sensory and Receptor Responses to Umami: An Overview of Pioneering Work. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 723S-727S.

Chaudhari, N. P. (2009). Taste Receptors for Umami: The Case for Multiple Receptors. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 738S-742S.

Curtis, R. (2009). Umami and the Foods of Classical Antiquity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 712S-718S.

De Araujo, I. K. (2003). Representation of Umami Taste in the Human Brain. Journal of Neurophysiology, 90(1), 313-319.

DuBois, G. (2004). Unraveling the Biochemistry of Sweet and Umami Tastes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(39), pp. 13972-13973.

Lindermann, B. (2000). A Taste for Umami. Nature Neuroscience, 3, 99-100.

Lindermann, B. N. (2002). The Discovery of Umami. Chemical Senses, 27(9), 843-844.

Mau, J. (2005). The Umami Taste of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 7(1/2), 119.

Yamaguchi, S. (1998). Basic Properties of Umami and Its Effects of Food Flavor. Food Reviews International, 14(2-3), 139-176.

Yamaguchi, S. N. (1998). What is Umami? Food Reviews International, 14(2-3), 123-138.

Yamaguchi, S. N. (2000, April 1). Umami and Food Palatability.  The Journal of Nutrition, 130(4), 921S-926S.

Other Mentions:

Tomato Mountain Farm, Brooklyn, WI, http://www.tomatomountain.com

Co-Op Sauce, Chicago, IL, http://www.coopsauce.com

 

Balsamic Seared Tuna Steak with Garlic Spinach & Onions

Purposefully, I did not start this blog as a way to develop a recipe site, despite the encouragement by friends to do so.  The reality is that I am very much an at-home cook and, although my life consists of plans and schedules, not a calculated “chef”.

I learned to cook by age 7 (actually probably closer to age 3!) through shadowing my grandmother Rosemary.  My skills were enhanced after moving around a bit as a young adult.  My palate was expanded as the result of greater exposure to different cuisines and at-home, family styles.  At some point, through a collection of observations paired with trial and error, I learned attributes for foods and flavors.

Now, I sort of just do.  I follow some great recipe blogs and have no desire to compete with their awesomeness!  Another reality is that from most of those other blogs, I draw inspiration, but will often do my own variation.

However, as this blog is in its infancy, I have come to realize that despite best of intentions of an organized, clear calendar, it can be hard to keep up with blogging as a side “gig”.  Therefore, I will sprinkle a few of my own “recipes” into my blog.  Of course I will also continue to special mention those other awesome blogs along the way, particularly as they relate to the other content I publish.

Last week I made a new variation of pan-seared tuna steak.  This recipe worked out great and was easy to make.

Balsamic Seared Tuna 2

First, I started with a low-medium heated pan (I have a gas stove) and began to caramelize chopped onions in coconut oil.

Meanwhile, I prepped the raw tuna steak with a little salt and pepper on each side.  Then, I added some granulated garlic to the pan when the onions were partially cooked.

Next, I added the tuna directly to the pan with the onions still in it (cooked halfway) and turned up the heat slightly.  (I would suggest doing this before the onions are at a half-way tenderized point.  Otherwise, you will have burned, charred onion “chips” which is not the desired outcome).

Tuna steak cooks rather quickly.  Basically you watch the flesh color change from bright pink to grey.  Once the bottom looks like this, despite pinkness in the middle and top, flip it.

Once I flipped the steak, I added raw spinach to the sides of the pan where there was space left in the pan (and on top of the onions).  Immediately, I sprinkled a light coat of olive oil over the uncooked spinach.

I try to avoid cooking with oils, except coconut, because they break down from the heat and become less healthful.  However, due to the firmer consistency of coconut oil, sometimes a cook timing aspect makes  me use olive oil.  Since the fish cooks quickly, I used olive oil.

As the fish finished to turn in color (cook), the spinach wilted and onions completed their path towards caramelization.

To plate the dish, I first removed the tuna from the pan, then topped with spinach-onion combo.  For the finale, I drizzled cool balsamic vinegar over the top.

The reason I saved this for last versus adding to the hot pan was to preserve some of the microbial aspects of balsamic vinegar (fermented food).

Balsamic Seared Tuna Steak with Garlic Spinach & Onions

Balsamic Seared Tuna 1

Ingredients

  • 1 tuna steak
  • 1/4-1/3 of a medium-sized white or yellow onion, chopped
  • Up to 1 Tbs of coconut oil (due to the method for onion caramelization, you may need the full tablespoon)
  • 1/2 Tbs of granulated garlic or garlic powder (adjust for preference)
  • 2 dashes each of salt & pepper
  • 1 healthy handful of raw spinach
  • Olive oil (desired, but likely close to 1/2 Tbs)

***A note on Tuna Steak (or fish in general), it will continue to cook inside after removed from the pan.  Therefore, especially with seared tuna, a little pink is o.k.  Restaurants typically serve it quite pink inside and in a sliced presentation.  This is really personal preference.  However, be sure to not leave it on the pan too long.  It will dry out and become tough.

If you aren’t familiar with cooking it, I would recommend cutting into it before removing it from the pan.  If its still really pink for your preference, leave it on a little while longer, then remove.  This doesn’t create a beautiful presentation, but it allows you to learn what the outer sides should look like when it is cooked to preference.  Bottomline, it will cook in a matter of minutes, so don’t walk away from it either.

Blue-Purple

It amazes me how, collectively across facets, people can spend so much time focused on what goes on their body in order to look vibrant, colorful and full of life, yet may only devote a fraction of that time for what goes inside it.  There is a classic line I learned while working in production planning, “garbage in, garbage out”.  The phrase can definitely be applied to meal planning as well.

Living in a large city brings no shortage for the opportunity to watch people.  All too often, I observe the pinball activity within in the average workday, aka the daily grind.  It is not uncommon to see anxious people knocked back-forth, up-down, and sometimes down the shoot, figuratively of course.  Between scarfing down Starbucks at breakfast, another cup of joe or two at the office, grab’n go at lunch, and then, finishing off with take out for dinner, it is hard to imagine how much, if any, thought went into it at all.

As practitioners, we have latched on to health promotional advice suggestive of “eating a rainbow” and I am not talking through the consumption of iconic multi-colored candies.  Across epidemiologic studies, the approach is consistently favored and most likely achieved through consumption of a diet rich in plant-based foods.  For my science lovers out there, I will include the citations for two reviews of the study data in the references section; Boeing, et al completed in 2012 and Wang, et al completed in 2014.

Despite this commonly accepted recommendation, it can be easy to get off balance.  In fact, some colors are more commonly deficient than others.  According to Dr. Deanna Minich[1], one of my favorite nationally recognized nutrition professionals, blue-purple is the most common deficit in human diets (2015).  Although she didn’t explicitly say it, I interpret this statement to be meant for the standard American diet.  Minich adds that blue-purple colored foods have certain phytonutrients critical for the brain, such as in the support of learning and memory, (2015).

Last week I hit the blue-purple lottery. Summer has seemed to take added time to arrive in the upper Midwest this year.  However, our luck has finally started to change.  The most recent farmers markets were filled with blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, and purple cauliflower and I noticed the super market offering US grown, organic blueberries at an in-store price.  Plenty of opportunity to absorb this beautiful color category!

The blackberries, from Ellis Family Farm, more or less melted in the mouth.  I paired half of them with kale and chives dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  In particular, I spoiled myself by using chocolate olive oil that I picked up from the Olive Tap in Manitou Springs, Colorado while traveling.

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I receive a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery from Tomato Mountain Farm in Brooklyn, Wisconsin.  Despite receiving broccoli the past two weeks, I couldn’t resist at least a small cut of the purple cauliflower from Nichols Farm and Orchard that caught my eye as I dashed through Daley Plaza farmers’ market on my lunch break walk.  I used it in a curry recipe.

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On Saturdays, I often walk with some people in the neighborhood and we have started passing through Green City Market in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.  There, I picked up a small eggplant from Iron Creek Farm which I sliced and pan fried in coconut oil eating half, then saving the remainder to dice up for eggplant-cabbage-mushroom dumplings.

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With the exception of the preparation that goes into the dumplings, none of these cooking/preparation methods are challenging, nor take a lot of time, and should fit into a busy lifestyle.  The salad was a quick toss.  I didn’t even chop the kale, just stripped the leaves from the stems and proceeded to tear apart any pieces that would be too large.

After working out a few great spice combinations, curry has become an easy go to.  Simply simmer the coconut cream with the spice combo then serve over steamed vegetables.  If desired, pair this with a meat option and/or layer over rice or quinoa.  In this case, chopping vegetables becomes the biggest challenge and I can assure you, if that becomes your biggest challenge of the day, you have had a great day!

The sautéed eggplant may take a little finagling to figure out the proportion of oil most preferred (I used a pretty modest amount), but again, the hardest part is likely the time it takes to slice.  I would guess it to take under 5 minutes.

Eggplant Pan-fried Coconut oil

In order to best wrap this blog post up in a pleasant conclusion, my take away of the week is to remember how vital color is for your inside.  I have used blue-purple as an example, but each color category contributes its own set of unique attributes and internal benefit.  The next time you stare down your closet, accessories, make-up, perfume/cologne selection, etc. figuring out how to best highlight your assets and look attractive for the day; please do remember your inner eco-system loves color too.  Make your inside radiate just as much as your fashionable outer self.

[1] For more information on Dr. Minich’s approach to food and nutrition, be sure to check out http://www.foodandspirit.com and if you are stumbling over “phytonutrient”, WebMD has a consumer friendly write up at http://www.webmd.com/diet/phytonutrients-faq (Metcalf, 2014).

References:

Boeing, H., et al (2012, Sep).  Critical Review:  Vegetables and Fruit in the Prevention of Chronic Diseases.  European Journal of Nutrition, 51, 637-663.  Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419346/.

Metcalf, E. (2014, Oct 29).  Diet & Weight Management:  Phytonutrients.  Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/phytonutrients-faq.

Minich, D. (2015, Jan 19-26).  Whole-Self Nourishment for Pain and Inflammation:  A Seven Step Approach to Breakthrough Vitality [Digital slides and audio].  Retrieved from painreliefproject.com.

Wang, X., et al (2014, Jul 29).  Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer:  Systematic Review and Dose Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies.  BMJ.  Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g4490.

Other Mentions: