FREAKY FRIDAY: A Break from the Usual, A Taste of the Wild and Wooly
I loved the movie “Freaky Friday”. And I needed a name for posts that didn’t fit under my more typical categories (“Easy Recipes”, “Healthy Eating”, etc.). I decided I could post them on Fridays, under the heading, “Freaky Friday”. Whoo hoo!
Today’s story is about gardening. I’ve been having a problem with yellow sorrel. (Also known as sour grass, of the oxalis family.) It’s a pernicious weed with tiny bulblets; even when you pull up the plant, the bulblets usually remain. And they quickly repopulate your garden. Grrr.
I researched for several years, hoping for an easy solution. (I thought a simple soil supplement that amended the acid/alkaline ratio might help, or perhaps some other organic solution.) Alas, no easy fix. I finally implemented the best solution I could find, which was to cover the weeded surface with cardboard, then top with bark (you can also top with fresh soil).
At least we have an endless supply of New Deli cardboard, and it’s biodegradable, so it will serve as a mulch, but eventually break down. All the while, serving to keep those sorrel plants from repopulating. And I’m encouraged, as the yard is now covered with a few hearty perrenials, topped with wood chips. No sorrel!
I was even able to call my tree guy and get free wood chips- a whole truckload got dumped out front. Awesome!
But I took a look at an older garden picture from a few years back. The Pre-Sorrel Period. Wow- it was beautiful! An abundance of other aggressive ground covers had taken over: Forget-me-nots, and some other daisy-type ground cover.
I might not have fully appreciated that yard at that point. I might have taken those aggressive (but beautiful) volunteer Forget-me-nots for granted. But now that I’ve wrestled with yellow sorrel, I have a new appreciation for this yard!
I’m hoping to learn a few things here:
1.) Treat yellow sorrel as a serious enemy, to be defeated at first sight.
2.) Be really grateful when your garden (or life) is not inundated with weeds (or other pains).
3.) Take nothing for granted. Not even a simple volunteer “weed” like Forget-me-nots.
4.) Sometimes a simple thing (like Forget-me-nots), that is eagerly taking up space, is keeping out something evil (like sorrel).
A friend wondered: Is grape seed oil good? Answer- yes and no, but mostly no. (See Caroline Barringer ‘s article here). It’s been claimed that it can increase HDL-C (good cholesterol), and decrease LDLs (bad stuff), and it has a higher smoke point than many oils, for cooking (grilling stuff in a pan, etc.). But it is not as stable as olive oil; it’s more prone to oxidation, which isn’t good. Polyunsaturates (such as grapeseed oil) tend to oxidize when heated, even at low temperatures. They might not smoke as quickly under heat, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually good for you.
Grape Seed Oil comes from actual grape seeds after wine production, and might get confused with “rapeseed oil”, now also known as Canola Oil. But rapeseed oil is an entirely different animal, of the mustard/cabbage family. It was a somewhat toxic oil, but got genetically modified to make it more “fit” for human consumption. Without modification, it was high in erucic acid (which can damage heart muscle), and glucosinolates (which blocked absorption of nutrients in a study of its effect on animals). Not good! So scientific engineers went to work, creating a product they called “Canola Oil”, as it was developed in Canada. Bottom line: Canola Oil is GMO. Ew! I’ll be trying to avoid it whenever possible…
There are also the standard “PUFA”s (polyunsaturated fatty acids), represented in safflower oil, corn oil, and the like. Although food company marketing has touted such oils as “heart healthy”, you might read this article on Mark’s Daily Apple, for a completely different perspective. He takes about balancing the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio in our bodies, through eating the right foods. I changed my diet after reading that info, and noticed a dramatic change in the inflammatory-based symptoms I had. Those symptoms are gone!
Other oils are making the news these days, and I’ve been doing a lot of research. Thanks to Dr. Oz (who featured shows about them), coconut oil and red palm oil have become popular. But I’ll address those oils at a later date. For now, let’s focus on olive oil, a more common oil.
THE BEAUTY OF OLIVE OIL
1.) Proven Track Record: Olive oil has been used forever- it’s mentioned countless times in the Bible (well, I personally couldn’t count ’em…) Anything that’s been around that long speaks for itself. Newly created products might eventually show their (as yet, unforeseen) long-term health affects upon future generations, but with olive oil, we can rest assured.
2.) Fresh, not Rancid: A really cool thing about olive oil: it doesn’t require excessive heat to extract the oil from it. (Unlike other sources, like safflowers, corn, etc.). So the quality of the oil doesn’t deteriorate or get rancid from its exposure to heat during processing, as readily as other oils.
3.) Anti-inflammatory: Another plus is that olive oil is rich in polyphenols (antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and anticlotting properties). Newly pressed extra-virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal, a compound that can act in a similar way to ibuprofen. Researchers say that a diet rich in olive oil may have pain-relieving and heart-health benefits similar to those of taking a low-dose baby aspirin every day.
4.) It’s Part of the Mediterranean Diet: Following the traditional dietary patterns of southern Italy, Greece, and Spain, has been shown to lower heart disease risk, lengthen lifespan, reduce cancer and diabetes, and help with weight loss. Sign me up!
5.) Reasonable smoke point: This means that olive oil has a smoke point of about 385-420 degrees. Granted, you don’t want to get a pan so hot that the oil you add starts smoking; that can create undesirable by-products. But to use olive oil to cook foods at mid-range heat presents no problems.
HOW TO BUY IT
Cold-Pressed (Like this one, from Bariani): Cold-pressed means no heat was used during the processing. If that’s too pricey, opt for a more inexpensive extra-virgin olive oil for cooking, then splurge on a high-quality, unfiltered one for drizzling and dipping (when you’ll most appreciate its amazing flavor).
Dark Bottles: Dark-colored bottles will keep better, as light and heat can turn oil rancid. A dark cupboard works well for storing it in, or store it in an opague ceramic decanter. It can be refrigerated, but it will firm up (remedied by leaving it out for a half hour or so). Olive oil is best used within six months but can last longer if stored properly.
Organic: We can’t always afford it, but the world would probably be a better place if we spent more money supporting sustainable practices, and spent less money on excessive quantities of inferior products. We’d probably solve the obesity epidemic too!
Wondering how to use millet? It’s a wonderfully crunchy little grain, when added to breads and cookies (Oatmeal Millet Cookie recipe here); for a softer version, it can also be cooked like brown rice. It’s a lot like couscous that way, only whole-grain and full of extra minerals and nutrition.
I like to soak millet for a day, then rinse and let sit in a strainer in the cupboard for one more day. This process helps remove phytates, and makes the millet more digestible. Even if you plan to boil it or add it to baked goods, this pre-treatment is a helpful step.
Soaking might seem like it’ll take too much thought, time, and/or effort. And it can be inconvenient! But I started soaking a full 2 cups’ worth, which is a lot for just my husband and me. But then, after the one or two day soaking process, I have a few options for storing it.
#1) Package up portions for the freezer. Strong little zip-lock bags work for this, but it lumps together some due to the remaining moisture. (Thawing resolves this though!)
#2) Spread soaked grains on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Let dry in a warm oven (preheated to about 140 degrees works). Stir grains occasionally; leave in all day to let them slowly dry, heating oven again if necessary. This dehydrated millet won’t stick to itself, so you can freeze a big jar of it. But I’ve found I can keep it in the refrigerator for a couple weeks, since it keeps better in a dried state.
#3) Dry in a dehydrator and store in a jar in the fridge.
My husband and I eat sourdough breads (or breakfast bars) made with millet; it can also be made into a porridge. For those short on time in the morning, some boiling water can be added to the soaked millet the night before. Then in the morning, it should take just a few minutes more for it to finish cooking. It does make a super-healthy, non-extruded “cereal”. (See Sally Fallon’s article on extruded cereals, here, if you want to be inspired to replace your cereal with whole grains…)
For a nice change of pace, millet can be substituted for rice or pasta as a side dish. It will take about as long as brown rice- 45 minutes of simmering once it’s come to a boil. But it’s worth the wait! It can be a vehicle for flavored oils (even butter), or extra herbs or garlic. It can be topped with toasted nuts too; hazelnuts were a recent favorite in my book.
You might want to brown the millet in a dry pan first, to bring out the flavor. Or you can just add boiling water. Use double the water; a 2-to-1 ratio of water to millet (like with brown rice). Cook until the millet has kind of expanded into a light, fluffy grain. It is a bit like cous cous, but more nutritious. For folks looking for gluten-free, millet is perfect! Oh, plus, it’s delicious.
PS I shared this on the blog, “Delicious Obsessions”, on the “Traditional Tuesdays” post. (Featuring real food, no weird refined stuff…)
Lemon Caper sauce is quite popular; the original recipe (from Martha Stewart) was designed to season rare beef. At The New Deli, the beef is sliced very thin; with added sauce and some horseradish butter, it makes a great sandwich. For appetizers, it can be served on baguette slices. The sauce is also good with fish, and some people like it as a salad dressing.
So just what are capers? They are a little bud off of a bush that grows in the Mediterranean. They get pickled, and lend a unique flavor to recipes. The other unusual ingredient in the Lemon Caper Sauce is the cornichons; a fancy French name for tiny, gherkin-sized pickles. But they’re sour, not sweet. And being so tiny, they mince well and retain a good texture; larger pickles might get rubbery. They add just a bit of crunch and tang; perfect in this sauce. Serves 7-8.
1/2 c. cornichons
1 c. olive oil
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. capers
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 green onions (about 1/4 c.), chopped
1. Ahead of time, make the “Lemon Caper Concentrate”. To do that, process the cornichons, or mince finely by hand: > 1/2 c. cornichons
2. Add the minced cornichons to a quart jar. Also add: > 1 c. olive oil > 1/4 c. Dijon mustard > 1/4 c. capers
3. Store the concentrate in refrigerator up to three months.
4. On serving day, add a half cup or so of the concentrate to a serving bowl. To serve, stir in last: > 1 tsp. fresh garlic, chopped > 1/4 c. lemon juice > 2 green onions (about 1/4 c.), chopped
The use of whole grain “oat flour” in this recipe means: gluten-free, and no processed white flour! Regular oatmeal flakes are processed in a food processor or blender; toasting some of the other ingredients before-hand results in a perfectly crunchy cookie. Some refer to these as “Bird-seed Cookies”, though one should get their “birdseed” millet from a good, old-fashioned health food store.
Any extra of these cookies store well in the freezer, for a month or so. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.
• 1 2/3 c. plus 3 c. oatmeal
• 1 c. millet
• 1/2 c. sunflower seeds
• 2 c. chopped walnuts
• 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
• 1 c. butter
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 c. raisins
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. salt
• Optional: 1 c. chocolate chips
1. Toast 7-10 minutes at 350 degrees, until golden: > 1 2/3 c. Oatmeal > 1 c. Millet > 1/2 c. sunflower seeds > 2 c. chopped walnuts
2. Beat in a mixer until light: > 1 1/2 c. brown sugar > 1 c. butter > 1 tsp. vanilla > 2 eggs
3/ Add the following dry ingredients to a big bowl and mix: > 3 c. oatmeal, processed into flour in processor or blender > 1/2 c. raisins > 1/2 tsp. baking soda > 1 tsp. salt
4. Add remaining ingredients to the big bowl also, mixing again: > Toasted ingredients, cooled off > Creamed ingredients > Optional: 1 c. chocolate chips
5. Scoop 1oz.-size scoops onto parchment sheets (or lightly-oiled cookie sheets), 12 per sheet, flattening before baking at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Loosen from sheet while still warm, as they tend to stick otherwise.
Chili can be a fun dish for a crowd, as guests can add their own favorite toppings (cheese, chopped jalapenos, cilantro and such). This recipe includes directions for making chili powder, as many store-bought mixes contain MSG and other questionable additives.
One might even leave the meat and cheese out of this recipe, to make it vegan. It’s still full of flavor! Serves 10-12.
1 lb. dry kidney beans
2 lb. lean ground beef
Olive oil for grilling veggies
Approx. 4 c. chopped onion (2 lg.)
3 chopped green peppers (sub Anaheim or Poblano for variety)
2 (26 oz.) cans tomato pieces
2 TBS. Worchestershire Sauce
2 tsp. salt
3 TBS. chili powder
2 c. of water (more as needed)
Optional: 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese
Optional: Sour cream, cilantro, chopped jalapenos or raw onion, etc.
1. In a medium-large pot, bring to boil: > Half-pot of water
2. Add, and then simmer until tender, 1 hour or more: > 1 lb. dry kidney beans
3. When beans are done, drain off cooking water. Put beans back in pot.
4. Saute’ in iron pan: > 2 lb. lean ground beef
5. Drain fat off if necessary; add to cooked beans in pot. In same pan, sauté: > Approx. 4 c. chopped onion > 4 or so chopped green peppers > 1/4 c. olive oil
6. Into the pot of beans and meat, add the grilled veggies, plus the following: > 2 (26 oz.) cans tomato pieces > 2 tsp. salt > 3 TBS. chili powder* > 2 TBS. Worchestershire Sauce > more water as needed (to right consistency)
7. Simmer all ingredients 1 hour or so. Serve with grated cheddar cheese and condiments, as desired.
*For homemade chili powder: Mix in a bowl and store in small jar: > 1/4 c. paprika > 1/4 c. garlic granules > 1/4 c. cumin powder > 1 TBS. cayenne
Rich with raw cacao nibs, this nourishing snack satisfies the chocoholic seeking health. The coconut oil (or cream) used in this is also rich in MCTs (medium-chain-triglycerides), which are a great fuel for the brain.
Use virgin coconut oil or other fine products from specialty and health food stores: “coconut cream concentrate”, “coconut spread” or “coconut manna” are great products which contain much of the “meat” of the coconut, pureed into a smooth paste that is incredibly flavorful. (Canned coconut cream will not be firm enough.)
Refrigerate this confection, and personalize as desired, adding more or less of the ingredients, according to personal tastes. The lack of eggs or dairy makes this snack perfect for vegans too! Makes one loaf (20 or so thin slices).
1 c. virgin coconut oil or alternative (mentioned above)
1 c. dates, pitted (Medjool if available)
1 c. macadamia (or substitute pecans or walnuts)
1 c. cacao nibs
1 c. raisins (or substitute dried cranberries or other favorite dried fruit)
Optional: 1 c. pumpkin seeds
1. Melt the coconut oil (or other), setting the jar in a pot of simmering water (with a rag at the bottom of the pot to keep the jar from breaking). An alternate method: Set in oven with just the pilot light on, for several hours. Use: > 1 c. virgin coconut oil
2. In a loaf pan, add the following, mixing somewhat: > Dates > Nuts > Cacao nibs > Dried Fruits, etc.
3. Pour the melted coconut oil over the loaf of ingredients, mixing well. Press the mixture down and chill until firm.
4. Run hot water over the loaf pan (held upside-down) to get the coconut bark back out, and slice it up. Individual slices can be wrapped in plastic wrap; handy to grab in a hurry! A perfect between-meal snack.
The perfect meal for staying healthy on-the-go: A Hawaiian style smoothie with no processed juice. Add extra protein if preferred, for a “protein shake”, but this already has protein from the cashews. With the nuts and the coconut cream (or virgin coconut oil), this can be a “meal replacement drink” full of healthy oils and “good fat”. (Yes, there are good fats!)
Freeze bananas ahead of time, and this smoothie comes together quickly. Note that room temperature banana can develop a different texture from blending, but frozen bananas whirl up with a texture like ice cream. Delicious!
For a smoother texture, soak the dates and cashews a day ahead, covered with cold water and stored in the refrigerator. Contains no dairy, but it’s still nice and creamy- a vegan delight!
1-2 c. frozen banana pieces
1/3 c. “cashew milk”, or one handful raw cashews (soaked a day ahead, or not)
small handful dates, pitted (soaked a day ahead, or not)
1-2 TBS. or so of coconut cream (more if using coconut milk)*
cold water as needed, for blending
1. Ahead of time, prepare a bunch of bananas. Peel the bananas, slice through them, and lay them out on a tray that’s covered with an inside-out zip-loc bag (or other thick plastic bag). (Note: Plastic wrap is thin and might break apart and stick to the frozen bananas.)
2. Let the bananas freeze solid. Store them for weeks in the zip-loc bag, using as needed.
3. This step is not necessary, but for smoothest smoothie, soak raw cashews and dates in water; refrigerate overnight.
4. Blend all of the above until smooth in a blender.
* If using virgin olive oil, perhaps mix it with some boiling water first. It’s very solid, which can make it challenging to work with.
What am I bringing to the 4th of July potluck? I suppose I better bring this- I know its the hostess’s favorite! Oh yay- it will even provide “resistant starch”, a prebiotic that helps us to have a healthy gut. (Healthy gut, happy life, isn’t that how the saying goes?!) (For the scientist in you, cooking and cooling starches like potatoes and rice reduces the carb load, reduces glucose response, and improves insulin sensitivity, all with a healthy dose of prebiotics. Mark’s Daily Apple goes into more detail.)
This Hawaiian recipe is a tropical combination of flavors and textures. Rice salads and pilafs are great for large gatherings; and for the vegans in the crowd. This dish can be served at room temperature– convenient! Serve 8 or so.
3 c. water
2 c. white rice*
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/3 c. sweetened dried mango (or substitute sweetened dried pineapple)
1/4 c. Macadamia nuts, raw
1/4 c. Italian Parsley
1/4 c. cilantro
2 TBS. frozen pineapple juice concentrate
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. sweetened coconut (optional)
1. A day ahead (or earlier in the day), cook the rice, so it has time to cool. Bring to boil: > 3 c. water
2. Add to boiling water, stirring once, then let simmer, unstirred, for 20 minutes or so: > 2 c. white rice*
3. Remove rice from heat. Stir into rice: > 1/4 c. coconut oil
4. Leave lid on; refrigerate rice until chilled.
5. Prep the following ingredients, so the whole dish can be tossed together at serving time. Chop the following: > 1/3 c. sweetened dried mango (or substitute sweetened dried pineapple) > 1/4 c. Macadamia nuts, raw > 1/4 c. Italian Parsley > 1/4 c. cilantro
6. Close to serving time, add: > All the chopped ingredients (nuts, fruit, herbs) > 2 TBS. frozen pineapple juice concentrate > 1/2 tsp. salt
7. Turn the mixed ingredients out into a serving bowl. Garnish with: > 1/3 c. sweetened coconut, toasted (broil for 2-3 minutes, or bake 10 minutes or so, watching carefully)
8. Serve dish at room temperature.
*Substitute brown rice for white rice if desired; just use 4 c. water to the 2 c. rice, and increase cooking time to 40 minutes