Spicy Pepper-Jack Cheese
Makes about 2 cups
Fermenting vegan cheese creates a more authentic flavor and texture, adds healthy probiotics. Let the cheese stand in a warm location for the full 36 hours to develop a stronger flavor, or use right away before fermenting for a mild, simple spread.
2 cups raw cashews
1 1/2 cups water
1 small jalapeno pepper, very finely minced
1 small fresno pepper, very finely minced
2 probiotics capsules
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoons salt
1. Soak nuts in filtered water to cover; soak for 3 to 6 hours. Drain, rinse and transfer to a food processor. Add water and puree until creamy and smooth.
2. Add jalapeno and fresno peppers, and pulse to blend. Open probiotic capsules and empty contents into nut mixture. Discard capsules. Pulse until mixed well.
3. Transfer mixture to a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Place strainer in a shallow bowl and let stand for 24 to 36 hours. Discard liquid, or use it as you would whey. Add coconut oil, nutritional yeast and salt to strained cheese mixture and puree until smooth. Pack into a ramekin and refrigerate for 2 hours to make a firm cheese, or use immediately as cheese spread.
Garlic, Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Flax Crackers
1. Combine sun-dried tomatoes with warm water to cover in a small bowl. Combine flax seeds with cool water to cover in a separate bowl. Let both stand for 2 hours. Strain tomatoes, reserving soaking liquid. Drain flax; discard soaking liquid.
2. Combine tomatoes with bell pepper, zucchini, scallions, garlic, basil, salt and pepper; puree until smooth, adding tomato soaking liquid as needed to process; mixture should be like a thick batter.
3. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in flax seeds. Drop mixture by tablespoons on dehydrator sheets, pressing with the back of a spoon to make them into thin rounds (about the thickness of a cracker). Dehydrate at 105 for 16 to 24 hours until dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks (or longer if refrigerated).
Sunday was a lovely day; we had a house full of my favorite friends and a table full of my favorite foods. The brunch menu: Wild Mushroom and Spinach Strata served with Raspberry-Balsamic Beets, Buttered Carrots with Parsley, Asparagus Bundles, and Spinach-Strawberry Salad with Peppered Cashews. For dessert, a Clementine Cake made with almond flour. Indulgent but fresh and light, and very spring-y!
Wild Mushroom and Spinach Strata
Serves 8 to 10
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small shallots, chopped
3 cups chopped mushrooms (use a variety of fresh or dried and reconstituted wild mushrooms)
8 cups packed baby spinach, chopped
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups day-old gluten-free or regular bread cubes (leave on the counter to dry out overnight)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add shallots and mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until shallots are golden. Add spinach and stir for 2 minutes, until spinach is wilted. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon, and set aside (drain as much liquid as possible).
2. Whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper.
3. Spread half of the bread cubes in a 9×12 casserole. Top with half of the msuhrooms/spinach mixture. Sprinkle with half of each cheese. Repeat layering. Pour egg mixture over strata, cover and chill for 2 to 6 hours, or overnight.
4. Remove strata from refrigerator and let stand to return to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Preheat oven to 350. Bake strata, uncovered, until puffy and lightly browned, about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and serve hot.
You’ve perfected low-fat holiday cookies. You hit the outlets in early October for pre-season shopping. You’ve decked the halls, hung the mistletoe, lit the menorah and trimmed the tree. But what have you done to celebrate the true spirit of the holidays?
Remember the reason for the season with simple ways to create a deeper connection.
1. Be of service. It’s better to give than to receive — and that applies to more than material goods. Some ways to spread cheer to those in need: Help your kids deliver homemade holiday cookies to a retirement home, schedule a visit to the children’s cancer ward at a local hospital to deliver baskets of toys, help serve a holiday meal at a homeless shelter. To find more volunteer opportunities in your area, visit the Red Cross website, call local churches, or check with assisted living centers and hospitals.
2. Make food count. How much money does your family spend on “meaningless” food — soft drinks, chips, cookies and the like? Reexamine your food choices and buying patterns, and pass the savings on: Calculate how much you spend on junk food and gift that money to a charity, or donate 2 percent of your food purchases to a food bank.
3. Create a ritual. Rituals anchor holidays, and give kids a sense of continuity and a tradition they can pass on for years to come. It can be as simple as lighting candles, singing songs, or saying a special prayer. Other ideas: Take a holiday hike in the woods, throw a latke party, host an annual holiday dessert potluck.
4. Share your toys. It’s never too early to teach kids to share. Explain to your children that not all boys and girls have gifts to open on the holidays, and ask if they’d like to share some of theirs. Most kids are eager to pick out and wrap old favorites, especially if they’re involved in delivering them to the recipients. Sharing toys goes for grown-ups as well: old computers, golf clubs, CD players or cell phones are meaningful holiday donations.
5. Tune out. You can’t stop holiday commercialism, but you can refuse to partake. Kill your television, and engage kids and family in more festive activities. Give kids disposable cameras and have an afternoon of photo-taking; make cookies for an assisted living center; head to the local ice rink, museum or aquarium; drag out the markers and paints and make homemade New Year’s cards; stage a neighborhood snow sculpture contest.
6. Simplify. It’s hard to focus on the true meaning of the holidays when you’re rushing from one shopping mall to the next. Try this: Six to ten weeks before the holiday season, sketch out a weekly calendar with all your holiday obligations—then start eliminating. Weed out and delegate as much as you can (it’s easier if you start early); you’ll free up more time for real connecting.
7. Let your purchases reflect your values. Instead of supporting plastics, box stores and rampant consumerism, make gifts more meaningful. Shop on websites that help artisans in developing countries (find lists at Fair Trade websites); buy at small, local stores; make your own holiday cards and donate the savings to charity. Or ask family and friends to skip your gift and make a donation instead to their favorite charity.
8. Feed your soul. As much as you want to connect with your family and friends, it’s essential to carve out time for yourself, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. Take time for meditation, introspection, yoga, a solitary hike, gazing at the evening stars. When days get busy and stressful, schedule an afternoon siesta during which everyone goes to his or her room for 45 minutes to read, nap and play quietly. If time alone is at a premium, get creative: Lock yourself in the bathroom with a hot bath, or drive to a park as a detour on the way home from the grocery store. And don’t wait until New Year’s Day to rethink your personal priorities; list them now and let the magic of the holidays inspire you.
Image credit: windu / 123RF Stock Photo
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
2 large fennel bulbs, core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Dough for basic pie crust or gluten-free pie crust*
1 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
Whole rosemary sprigs for garnish
Whole black olives for garnish
- In a large, heavy sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high. Add onions and stir to coat with oil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes. (Be careful not to crowd or cover pan, which will interfere with caramelizing.)
- While onions are cooking, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9-inch tart or quiche pan with removable sides. Alternatively, lightly oil a 9-inch glass pie plate.
- Add fennel and rosemary to onions, and cook until fennel is tender, about 7 minutes longer. Stir in nutmeg and white pepper.
- While onions and fennel are cooking, roll out the pie dough to fit the pan without stretching dough, and place the crust in the pan. Pierce the bottom of the crust several times with a fork, and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool.
- Sprinkle half the cheese over the crust. Spread the onion mixture evenly over crust, top with remaining cheese, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until crust is golden.
- Remove from oven and let stand for 3 minutes. Cut into wedges, transfer to individual serving plates, garnish with rosemary and black olives, and serve warm or cold.
* For an easy shortcut, use store-bought pie crust dough or mix. Or make this simple, basic pie crust recipe:
Basic Pie Crust
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unrefined sugar
8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces (or substitute dairy-free butter alternative)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and sugar.
2. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture; you can also use your fingers, working very quickly. Combine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (Alternatively, combine flour, sugar and salt in a small food processor, then add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs).
3. Add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring with fork after each addition until a soft dough is formed.
4. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly and quickly to combine. Pat dough into a smooth round disc. Wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Image credit: swhite / 123RF Stock Photo
2 large eggs
1/4 cup gluten-free or whole-wheat flour
3 medium parsnips, scrubbed and coarsely grated
1 medium carrot, scrubbed and coarsely grated
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium russet potato
1 to 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
Sour cream or crème fraiche for garnish
Apple sauce for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Beat eggs and flour together in a large bowl. Add parsnips, carrots, sage, salt and pepper. Grate potato and, using your hands, squeeze out as much water as possible. Add to bowl and mix well.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop four scoops of batter, about 3 tablespoons each, into pan. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until golden and crispy, pressing down gently with a spatula to 1/4-inch thick. Turn and cook on remaining side for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer latkes to a large baking sheet and repeat with remaining batter, adding additional 1 tablespoon oil if pan gets too dry.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once during cooking, until latkes are cooked through and crispy on the outside. Remove from baking sheet and drain on paper towels.
- To serve, arrange latkes on a large serving platter. Garnish with additional sage, if desired. Serve hot with sour cream and applesauce.
Image credit: photooasis / 123RF Stock Photo
- Combine dates, wine, whole rosemary sprigs, garlic, onion and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 2o minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove lid and cook for 5 more minutes, until mixture is thick and sticky.
- Remove and discard rosemary sprig. Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse two or three times until finely chopped, but not quite a paste. Stir in lemon zest to taste.
- Using a rubber spatula to scrape food processor, transfer to a bowl. Serve warm, or refrigerate and serve chilled, as an accompaniment to grilled fish, chicken or other savory dishes. Store, refrigerated, in a glass jar for up to two weeks.
* Chop dates into small (1/4-inch) pieces for best results. To make chopping easier, use a large knife with a sharp blade, and lightly coat the blade with grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil to prevent sticking.
Image credit: serezniy / 123RF Stock Photo
1 to 2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small pear, sliced and seeded
1 tablespoon unrefined cane sugar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium pomegranate
1 small head radicchio, torn into bite-sized pieces
6 cups baby arugula leaves or coarsely chopped arugula
1 large fennel bulb, thinly shaved crosswise
1 small red onion, sliced into thin half moons
- Heat coconut oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add pears and sprinkle with sugar, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring very gently, until pears are tender and lightly caramelized. Transfer to a plate.
- Add shallots to pan and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for 1 minute, scraping up bits from bottom of pan. Transfer to a small bowl, whisk in rosemary and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- To seed pomegranate: halve pomegranate crosswise and hold over a large bowl, cut side down. Using a heavy rolling pin, whack the back (skin side) of the fruit, until seeds fall from the fruit and into the bowl. Repeat with remaining half.
- Combine radicchio, arugula, fennel, onion and all but 4 tablespoons of the pomegranate seeds in a large bowl. Add just enough dressing to lightly coat ingredients, and toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, divide between four individual plates; scatter additional pomegranate seeds on top, and serve immediately.
Image credit: vanillaechoes / 123RF Stock Photo
Several million years ago, it is hypothesized, the first Stone Age human caught the first cold. Ever since then, doctors, nurses, herbalists, shaman and healers of every sort have been confounded by colds and flu. Over the years, these devilish pathogens have been treated with cold baths, wet feet, chili peppers, tobacco, and the application of blood-sucking leeches.
Now we understand that colds and flu are caused by viruses – but we’re still no closer to a cure. The only defense is a good offense. But who says it has to be a drag?
Besides eating right, washing your hands regularly and getting enough sleep, you can maximize your pathogen-fighting potential, with a handful of entertaining activities.
1. Steam a pan of oysters. They’re the richest source of zinc, essential for immune cell function (1), and many studies have shown that even mild deficiency depresses immunity (2). If you’re not a fan of bivalves, grab a (grass-fed) burger: beef and buffalo are other good sources of zinc.
2. Rent a Woody Allen movie. Or whatever tickles your funny bone. A good belly laugh can boost immunity and increase natural endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. In one recent study, laughter appeared to specifically impact the activity of natural killer cells (3).
3. Go skiing. In one study, people who were physically active had 33 percent fewer sick days, and when they did get sick, their symptoms were less severe (4).Walking, running, dancing, or anything that gets your blood moving will have the same effect. But if you’re coming down with something, skip the lift lines and stay in bed; exercising when you’re already sick can weaken immune function.
4. Throw a party. Forget about isolating; people with stronger social networks and friendships are less likely to get sick. Many studies have consistently linked a strong support system with better immune function, as well as lower blood pressure and reduced mortality (5).
5. Discover martial arts. Tai chi, a slow-moving type of Chinese martial art, improves the immune response (6); qigong, a similar practice, has the same benefits (7). In one study, a moderate tai chi and qigong practice improved immune response of older adults, after only five months of practice (8).
6. Snack on Brazil nuts. They’re the best food source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant that’s been shown to significantly improve immune response. Other sources: tuna, turkey, egg yolks, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds (9).
7. Get your ohm on. In a recent study, people who practiced mindfulness meditation reduced the incidence, duration and severity of respiratory infections by as much as 50 percent (10).The study’s authors noted that the results were nearly as effective as flu shots, which have only a 50 to 60 percent chance of preventing infection.
8. Go out for sushi. You’ll find lots of foods on the menu that protect against infection. Order the salmon roll for immune-boosting omega-3 fats (11), and have pickled ginger on the side for its anti-viral activities (12). Start with miso soup; it contains probiotics that boosts the body’s resistance to pathogens (13). And order immune-boosting green tea—not sake (14).
9. Schedule a massage to reduce stress, one of the most important factors in improving immune function (15). Massage also increases the activity and number of the body’s natural “killer cells” that fight off pathogens (16).
10. Have sex. As long as your partner’s well, it’s a great way to fight colds and flu. An older (1999) study showed that people who had sex one or twice a week had higher levels of immunoglobulin (IGA), a cold-fighting antibody, than those who had sex less often, or not at all. And even if it doesn’t work, you’ll have fun trying.