Fresh Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble Healthier Version

 

OK, I have to admit that I have never cooked with rhubarb before.  On my last trip to Whole Foods, the rhubarb looked so gorgeous and bright, I  just had to grab three big stalks.  I had seen  recipes where it was cooked with strawberries  before, so I grabbed a couple baskets of them and challenged myself to making some kind of healthy version of a rhubarb “crumble” dish.

I have never even made an “unhealthy” dish with these ingredients, so this was literally created  “from the hip”, as much it gets.  Most everything I Googled sounded completely calorie, sugar and butter-laden so I tried to use my imagination with what recipes were available. I still used sugar, but reduced it significantly.  Next time I make it, I think I can get away with even less sugar or no sugar at all.  I am also not a sugar fan or have much of a sweet tooth either.  I was excited it turned out so good – the final product was really yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 3 large stalks of rhubarb (aprox 1  lb), trimmed and cut in 1/2
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp all purpose wheat flour or other “healthier” flour

Crumble Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 all  wheat flour or other healthier “flour”
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp of organic butter
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil (or Canola oil, but its less healthy in my opinion)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Make Filling: Toss the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and flour in a bowl.
  3. Transfer over to 6 individual (4 for larger ones) ramekins, or you can make it all in one rectangular baking dish or pie dish.
  4. Press filling into the ramekins/baking dish to form an even layer.
  5. Make Crumble Topping: Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, butter and oil in bowl.  Work ingredients together with a fork until crumbly.  Stir in applesauce until the mixture is moistened.
  6. Distribute the topping mixture evenly over the fruit in the ramekins.
  7. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping crispy and golden.  (Aprox 40 – 45 minutes but watch closely)

Nutrition:

  • Per serving: Approx 250 calories, 5 grams of fat, 57 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 4 mg sodium

 



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“Kick up the Heat” Healthy Crunch Garbanzo Bean Snack

 

This is a spicy crunch healthy snack, made with everyday ingredients, easy to make and great to have on hand.  I love these and actually make them even spicier than the recipe allows.  Also this a recipe, where the added ingredients, can be played around with by your own taste.  Feel free to double or even triple this recipe if your having a large number of guests over for football, appetizers or whenever.  It seems like something I’d have in a bowl at a bar top in a nice restaurant.

  • Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1/8 cup of shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  3. 1 teaspoon onion powder
  4. 1/2 to 1 teaspoon or more of dried Italian herb mixture
  5. Cayenne or dried chili powder to taste
  6. Fresh ground seas salt and black pepper
  7. 1 can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and pat dry
  • Directions

1.  Preheat oven to about 415 , oil a cookie sheet

2.  In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, cheese, chili/cayenne pepper, salt , pepper, Italian herbs.

3.  Add the garbanzo beans to the spice and cheese mixture until evenly coated

4.  Spread bean on the baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes to and hour and 15 minutes, checking and stirring      every 10 or 25 minutes or so.  Remove when the beans are to your “crunchy” likeness.

5.  Serve in appetizer bowl is serving for guests for a snack, or just on your own.

 

Serves 3

Aproximate Calories: 150 per serving, 5 grams of fat

Variations: leave out the cheese for a vegetarian dish

 

 



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Spicy Thai Butternut Squash/Coconut Soup with Shrimp


This is a variation of a soup recipe I found on the Whole Foods recipe site, yet wanted to make it a little different.  This soup came out really nice and velvety, and although I really added extra heat, I will, add even more next time I make it.  I used already cubed butternut squash that is sold at Whole foods and then “light” coconut milk and nonfat organic chicken broth with some red Thai curry paste as the base.  I cooked the prawn separately and added them in at the end, but next time I make this I think I will add cubed chicken breast cooked ahead as well.  This dish can definitely tolerate more protein than the original recipe I was working with.  Also depending on your own personal tastes, play around with the garlic, red chili paste, and chili flakes to your specific likes.

I love Thai food in general, but it tasted especially good during chemo.  The heat and the spices kind of cover up that chemical flavor in your mouth, and soups were, for whatever reason, much easier to eat than whole foods.

Ingredients:

  • aprox 3 to 4 cups of cubed butternut squash
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped and used generously for soup base and shrimp stir fry
  • 3 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
  • 3 teaspoons red curry paste (more to taste if you like… I like super spicy myself)
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 cups non fat chicken broth
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of light coconut milk
  • Red chili flakes (as desired…. I like lots because I love spicy food)
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • optional: 1 chicken breast pre cooked 1 inch cubed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lime wedges

Directions:

1.  Take the butternut squash cubes and mix with a bit of olive oil and salt/pepper, and roast in oven @ 425 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes.  You want it cooked enough to bring out the flavor, but not browned.  Pull from oven set aside.


2.  Heat oil in a large soup pot, oer medium high heat.  Add onion, garlic, and ginger.  Cook, stirring frequently, until “fragrant”, and the onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in curry past (more if you want it spicier), sugar, and salt, stir and cook about a minute or two longer.

3.  Stir in the roasted squash, broth and coconut milk and bring to a low boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

4.  Take the soup, and pureed in batches in high speed blender and return to soup pot.

5.  In stir fry pan, heat oil with garlic and some chili flakes to stir fry shrimp in batches until done.

6.  Take shrimp and if using optional cubed chicken, add to the soup base

7.  Ladle into soup bowls, and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and lime wedges

Nutrition per 17 oz serving:  250 calories, 60 from fat, 23 grams of protein, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 175 of cholesterol, 480 of sodium




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White Bean Kale Soup 2 Ways: Vegetarian or with Pancetta/Sausage

 

 

I got the idea for this recipe from the website “A Cozy Kitchen”, that posted some gorgeous succulent photos of this dish on their Facebook page.  They featured it “French Onion Style”, with croutons and melted cheese over it.  Neither my boyfriend nor I are gluten sensitive (yes, we were both tested), but for some reason I’ve never been into bread in my soup.  “A Cozy Kitchen’s” version was a knock off of  a recipe in Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook “My Father’s Daughter”, which I hadn’t really even thought of buying after seeing numerous articles circulating, making fun of some of the really unintentionally funny comments she had made in her book.  The basic premise of the recipe itself was pretty straightforward and simple, but after having made it, and then tooling around with it, there were some definite changes on my part.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 fennel bulbs (I love fennel so I use 2) stems and fronds removed, thinly sliced
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • Generous  shake of red chile flakes (I like spice so I went with lots)
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano (Gwyneth’s recipe calls for this amount, but I say use generous serving of mixed Italian dried seasonings)
  • (2) 15 ounce cans cannellini beans rinsed and drained (use canned to save time)
  • 2 pints of non fat chicken or vegetable stock (I used more because I love lots of broth)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Optional:

  • 1/3 cup pancetta or organic spicy sausage, chopped added in at same time as the garlic
  • 1 cup chopped carrots added in about halfway through the onion/ fennel cooking process

Directions:

  1. Heat Olive Oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat.  Add the fennel and onion and saute for about 15 minutes until the moisture and sugar sweats out and is slightly caramelized.
  2. Optional: Add in chopped carrots at about 7 minutes in if you choose to use them… I like the color they add.
  3. Also Optional: When the fennel and onions are almost done cooking add in the chopped pancetta or sausage and stir until cooked
  4. Add the chile flakes, dried Italian herb mix, and pepper and cook for a minute or two
  5. Add the rinsed beans and stock, bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer, add salt to taste.
  6. My recipe adjustment, after adding the beans and broth and allowing to boil then simmer, I added in the chopped head of kale around 25 minutes and allowed the kale to cook for it seemed like at least 10 minutes, but the desired result is really up to the chef.  More cooking, less crunchy kale.  I suggest tasting the kale’s crunchiness,  while its cooking until its to your desired liking.  Its a tough little plant so don’t be fearful you’ll accidentally over cook it really quickly, that takes a long time.  It also holds up surprisingly well stored as left overs in the fridge overnight or even for a couple days without getting soggy.  Like I said, it’s a tough little plant!
  7. Dish up and serve warm, sprinklingwith shredded Parmesan cheese.  The cheese really rounds out the flavor profile.

 


*Note: Originally, the recipe called for cooking it for an hour, but I was afraid the beans would be too mushy, as that they were already from a can.  Additionally it said to stir in the kale leaves at the end and let cook for 2 -3 minutes, but if you’re like me, I don’t like really crunchy kale in my soup, I prefer it more “al dente”.

*Additional Notes: Another suggestion, if you really want to make this a hearty soup, is to add in some cooked sausage or organic chorizo towards the end.  I had this both ways, vegetarian style (which was delish and super low fat) and with some added animal protein.  I really did prefer it with the chopped pancetta cooked in with the fennel and onion and with some added spicy sausage at the end.  Whichever you like is up to you.  Both are super healthy, and as long as you choose lower fat organic sausage, the meat version is low in fat and healthy as well.

“Manly eating” meat-eater guys even love this!  My boyfriend scarfed down a huge bowl of it day 2 in the fridge and said “This still tastes awesome”



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Poached Pears in Saffron Broth

Yes!  Another healthy yet yummy recipe I learned from Rebecca Katz, author of “The Cancer Fighting Kitchen”, during a class she taught last February at Draeger’s Marketplace in the SF Bay Area. Don’t let the title of her

cookbook or class fool you into thinking she cooks boring healthy “granola head” type food.   Rebecca finished her training from the highly acclaimed “Natural Gourmet Institute” in New York City, and then went on to get her M.S in Nutrition because she realized there was a definite vacuum in conduits teaching medical professionals that good health and great food, can in fact, be one in the same. She was chef staff at the Deepak Chopra Center down in San Diego, and teaches medical professionals and students all around the country.

Honestly, my only prior interaction with poached pears was watching a contestant on BRAVO’s TV show “Top Chef” be sent home for making it for a “Tailgate Party” during the Chicago season.  It was not an “appropriate tailgate dish” was the explanation.  But it’s HEALTHY and appropriate for almost all other occasions. It is fairly easy to make, delicious and a beautiful looking dish that is great when entertaining guests.   Thanks to Rebecca for introducing me to this!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups pear nectar click here for store bought example
  • Zest of one lemon in long pieces
  • 4 inches of peeled fresh ginger, cut into 1.4 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons Grade B Maple Syrup
  • Generous Pinch of Saffron ( 12 to 15 threads
  • 2 ripe but firm pears (preferably Bosc or Comice, peeled, cut in half, seeded and stemmed

Directions:

  1. To make the broth, stir the pear nectar, lemon zest, ginger, maple syrup, and saffron together in a large saucepan or 3 qt saute pan over medium-high heat; Bring to a boil.
  2. Place the pear halves in the saucepan, flat side down.
  3. Place a piece of parchment paper over the pears and cover with a small plate to weight the pears down as they simmer.
  4. Lower the heat and simmer until the pears are tender and a knife pierces them all the way through without resistance.
  5. Remove the pears from the saucepan.
  6. Return the liquid to the heat, bring to a lively simmer, and cook until syrupy, about 10 minutes.
  7. Taste the liquid for a quick Fat/Acid/Salt/Sweet check.  It may need a pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon juice to balance the flavors.
  8. Serve the pears drizzled with the poaching liquid and topped with a dollop of nut cream or creme fraiche (just a little)

Variations:

  • For Vanilla broth – omit the lemon zest, ginger, maple syrup, and saffron and instead stir 2 teaspoons of  organic agave nectar into the pear nectar.  Cut a vanilla pod in half lengthwise, scrape the seeds into the saucepan, then throw in the pod.  Proceed with the recipe as above.
  • For a star anise broth – omit the lemon zest, ginger, maple syrup, and saffron, and instead stir in 4 pods of star anise, 4 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons of organic agave nectar, and 2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Proceed with the recipe as above.

Notes:

  • Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 40 minutes
  • Can be stored in an airtight container n the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days
  • Calories per serving:  225  Total Fat 0.2, Carbs 59 gms,  Protein 1 gm,: Fiber 4 gm Sodium 15 mg


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Learning to not to blame myself. aka: Not all disease is “lifestyle created”

True, a lot are. I learned this first hand working as a phlebotomist and then in registered nursing school. Lots of times, it was pretty easy to see the correlation between eating habits, vices in one’s life, or lack of exercise being a key contributor to the diseased body I was helping care for. A few years after my college graduation, I went to work for a plastic surgeon and most of the time, the complaints by patients about things in their physical appearance they wanted to change, could easily be minimized by lifestyle change. I could spot a smoker, drinker or poor eating habits a mile away. As a trained professional, I could see the years of poor self care in your physical appearance, mainly skin and athletic health. So imagine my surprise when after decades of daily exercising, eating almost obsessively healthy, routine check ups, and the illusion of “being in control of my physical and health destiny” I discovered a cancerous tumor the size of two tennis balls in my chest by accident.  This tumor was found during an xray for broken ribs, following a high speed ski accident.

Initially this advanced cancer diagnosis seemed impossible, I had a thorough check up only 6 months before and everything came back fine. I guessed they missed something, because I was told by my new oncologist that I had probably had this cancer for at least 2 to 3 years by the time we found it.

Initially I blamed myself for getting cancer… “I must have done something wrong”. Then came the worst… Friends and family asking me “do they know how you got it?”, ” What did you do around the time you got sick?”, “Do you think it stress?”, “Did you live by power lines growing up?”,  “Cancer must run in your family, right?”.  Newly starting treatment, I was  meeting lots of “new” health care providers like phelebotomy, infusion, xray, scan techs, ect, who would meet me initially, eye my still athletic body,  and say “You smoke, right?”

It seemed like everyone around me, needed for their own mental health, some evidence, that I had somehow caused my illness.  I suspect this was simply a normal reaction because no one wants to believe a  healthy 34 yr young nurse could have just randomly gotten some advanced cancer that was immediately life threatening. If it could happen to me, it could happen to them. In one particularly foolish instance, I was actually accused by a close friend’s sister of making “up my cancer story”, for whatever reason, I’ll never know.  I didn’t look sick enough?  I’ve detailed more of my illness and recovery with photos on my “About Peggy” page.

Here I am now, over 5 years out from being cancer free, still battling with immune system issues despite my best efforts.  Weekend seminars on advanced integrative medical nutrition, day classes on holistic culinary pharmacology, classes on  integrative medicine and university classes on immunology.  For exercise doing  yoga classes, boot camp workouts,  hiking , swimming and weight training. For nutrition, being very mindful and cooking healthy organic food, juicing, and  taking numerous healthy cooking classes.  For mind and spirit,  seeing a well known energy healer in the Stanford area, spirituality classes, meditation, ect.    Basically treating my body better than the majority of the population.  Yet I still have these unexplained, unusual problems with my immune system rather frequently, where I get quite ill.  To me, its seems like some days my immune system is working like a new sports car, and then without warning, it just starts acting like a beat up old Pinto.

This past Monday my blood pressure dropped extremly low, which  I realized when I was too dizzy to get up for boot camp.  I wound up in the urgent care with some IV fluids, only to additionally find out  my white blood cells and red blood cells were very abnormally low for the 3rd time this year.  No warning at all.   No explanation. It just is what it is. If my bloods don’t improve  in the next few weeks I am looking at another potential barbaric bone marrow biopsy to find out what the heck is going on, and having to suddenly once again, question my immediate future health.  Its really scary.  I feel very alone.

Again I am asking myself “What did I do?”,  “Did I do something wrong?”. “What should I have done”, “Am I not doing something right?”  I am once again blaming myself, which is common I’ve heard.  But is this right?

The answer to all my self doubting questions is likely “no”. The only different thing I’ve done in the past few months was I got out the old juicer and began making my own vegetable juices.  I’ve been weight training just a little bit more than usual.  I’ve been going to the gym  more frequently than usual.  I’ve been  doing more gym classes and had started going to boot camps a few times a week  to increase my cardiovascular endurance (I only have one fully working lung).  I had knocked my body fat down 3 pts  and had put on 3.5 lbs of muscle.    At home I was doing isometric exercises, up to several hundred crunches a day and doubled the number of “boy” push ups I could complete.   I did a fit test at my gym, and was rated as being in “outstanding” to “excellent” shape in almost all classifications for someone 10 to 15 years younger than myself.  My stress over the past few months had actually decreased exponentially, and the unexpected stresses I did encounter, I was able to deal with quickly and with a much greater resilience and recovery. So “no”, I don’t rationally think any of this weirdness going on in my blood and with immune system right now is my fault. I’ve had to conclude I just was born with a challenge, which I have proven time and time again, I am capable of taking on. But even if this is the start of some new problem I can’t ultimately win, I don’t think I caused it, rather I think I postponed it through my healthy behaviors.

As much as we would love to think we can control our health destiny, or   as I’ve witnessed, many individuals developing an “invincibility complex” in regards to their health.  This invincibility based on the false belief  that our own actions are  somehow absolute predictors of our future  health.   That our health can be controlled entirely by if we eat perfectly, avoid all “bad” foods, take all our supplements and vitamins, “manifest good energy or happiness “, meditate, exercise daily, and avoid vices.   That somehow we can completely control the environment around us, and in the process we can completely control our health or our bodies.  While we can do quite a bit to keep ourselves healthy, we are not as  complete control as we would like to think we are.  Some illness or challenges that occur with our bodies and our health can ultimately be chance, not within our control, and happen without explanation.

In my case if  being young, athletic and healthy, with a clean bill of health during my physicals, and promised me a future healthy life, that’s exactly what I would be living right now.  Certainly I would devoid of a story, platform or motivation to have ever started “The Truffled Pig”  in the first place.



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Organic Grass Fed Filet with Bourbon Cherry Sauce

Who  would have guessed that this “decadent” sounding “Steak House” or even “Spa Cuisine” dish could actually be “somewhat” low cal,  fairly low fat and easily fit into a dieter’s weight loss program?  Still don’t believe me?  Well, it’s true!  I made this dish for my friend who had a stroke and had to go on a weight loss diet , and who was insistent about not losing any flavor in her dishes. I wanted to show her that good taste and good health can go hand in hand.

The great thing about this dish, is although it sounds complicated, its really easy, even for the novice chef.  This dish serves 2 to 4 depending on number of servings.  I always ONLY use Marin Organic Stemple Creek Farms for my grass fed steaks.  I do not feel this is a healthy dish unless made with 100 % grass fed steaks, which are grass “finished”.  Not “corn finished” like a lot of the “grass fed” cows are in the last week before slaughter.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried bing cherries or any other variety found usually in the bulk section (I got these from Draeger’s in San Mateo)
  • 1/2 cup of Jim Bean or any other kind of bourbon
  • (4) 6 ounce fillets
  • Olive oil or I prefer grape seed (higher smoking point) oil to grease the pan
  • 2 to 3 cups (depending on the number of steaks) of low sodium beef broth (like in the box at Whole Foods or your your local grocery)

Directions:

  1. Bring filets out of fridge and let come close to room temperature
  2. Soak the Berries in the Jim Bean for about 10 to 20 minutes
  3. Season the steaks with salt and pepper
  4. Heat grill pan over medium high heat ( pre heatoven to 400 just in case extra cooking needs to be done)
  5. When grill is hot, put the oil on, and saute the fillet for 3 minutes on each side until nice grill marks use thermometer to check for internal temp, I prefer medium rare which is about 135 to 140 max.
  6. If necessary, transfer oven proof tray and cook in oven until final doneness
  7. De-glaze the grill pan with the soaked cherries, use wooden or heat proof rubber spoon, and move cherries around quickly over heat, until all the liquid is absorbed.
  8. De-glaze again with the Beef stock and reduce by at least 1/2 to 3/4’s.
  9. Divide cherries and sauce over the steaks

Approximate nutrition information for each 6 ounce steak: 500 calories, 35 carbs, 18 grams of fat 150 cholesterol



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Fresh Heirloom Tomato “Carpaccio”

I love Heirloom tomatoes.  Whenever I see them coming back into the Farmer’s markets, I get really excited.  Today I’ll introduce a really easy “Tomato Carpaccio”.

This is  a fun, simple little snack that also has an air of sophistication to it.  It can be whipped up in just minutes. It tastes great, is low in calories, and packs a big punch in nutrition.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 yellow to yellow orange fresh Heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/4 chopped finely red onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Optional  1/4 organic goat cheese or feta
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Organic  Olive Oil oil for drizzling
  • Optional reduced  balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Cut the tomatoes thin with a sharp knife or mandolin and lay out on serving plate
  2. Begin by evenly distributing the red onions over the tops of the tomatoes, followed by the fresh chopped basil.
  3. Sprinkle on the goat or feta cheese crumbles and toasted pine nuts, then drizzle with just a small amount of olive oil.  You can serve like this, or serve with the balsamic reduction.
  4. For the optional balsamic reduction, which I really do recommend. Take 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, and heat it over the stove in a small saucepan and let it cook down to about 1/2 of that, or aprox 1/4 cup.  Then drizzle the reduced balsamic over the entire plate and then serve.



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Springtime Fresh Berry Hazelnut Gorgonzola Salad

This is one of my absolute favorite salads!  I just started seeing strawberries popping up around here in California so I thought I would post this.  The photo above is a “fancy” way I serve this to guests by putting all the ingredients in a round cookie cutter “mold”, but you can just let it “all hang out” on a big old plate as well.  I’ve made this for dinner parties and catering events and the salad was gone in about 5 minutes so I know other people besides me like it.

This is how I prepare it if serving in a “molded form for a “fancier look”

This recipe is a snap to make, and I highly suggest using really fresh arugula, not the pre washed pre packaged stuff.  If you can’t find real fresh arugula the other will work, you just get a higher intensity of flavor play between the ingredients with the real stuff.

 

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon or mustard of your choice
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot minced
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

Whisk together and let rest while you assemble the salad.

  • 1 pint (or more if you like of cleaned organic fresh strawberries, sliced
  • Optional: 1/2 cup of organic fresh raspberries whole
  • 12 to 16 ounces of fresh arugula (preferred… so much better!) or the pre washed pre packaged kind
  • 1/4 red onion chopped
  • 4 to 6 ounces of Pt Reyes blue cheese crumbled (or your favorite kind) or Gorgonzola crumbled cheese
  • 1/2 cup of toasted hazelnuts (chopped or broken)

Directions:

  • Toss the greens and red onions  with the dressing (only use enough to barely coat the greens and store leftover dressing for later.)
  • Use a slotted spoon and spread the strawberries and if using raspberries, all over the salad
  • Sprinkle the blue or Gorgonzola cheese around on top
  • Top with the toasted hazelnuts

Enjoy!  This is one of my favorite salads


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