Monday, April 24, 2006

Eating Seasonally

I have fresh strawberries in the refrigerator waiting to be devoured with some shortcake and fresh vanilla ice cream. As soon as strawberries are in season, I buy them up and make all those treats that taste best with fresh berries.

There is much talk these days about eating seasonally with fresh ingredients. It may seem simplistic, you wouldn't eat pumpkin pie in the spring, and everyone likes strawberries at peak season, right? But eating seasonally means more to your diet than what will fill your pie.
It's an important focus in light of the popularity of convenience foods. Looking for those fresh, seasonal ingredients provokes us from the inside aisles of our grocery stores and to the perimeter-where the fresh, preservative free foods live. Right now, I'm on the lookout for vegetables you can't find year round like snap peas, fava beans, and green garlic. I had heard so much about green garlic, when I saw some at the farmer's market a few weeks ago, I grabbed it up. It is young garlic, before the cloves form. It is to a head of garlic what a green onion is to an onion. It has a mild, fresh, "green" taste and I've been using it ever since in soup, salads, pilafs, eggs, anything that would benefit from a light essence of garlic. I don't know how long it'll be available, but I do know that I'll be looking for green garlic again next spring.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

An update on Coconut Macaroons

I've failed so far to find a comparison to Victoria Pastry's coconut macaroons and Passover starts tonight. I am sorry to have failed you, but I do have one last trick up my sleeve. Last weekend, I tasted Victoria's version side by side with mine. Victoria's seemed much richer, was well browned, chewy, rich. Not quite like my egg-white only version. Hmm. Every recipe I've come across uses only the whites of the eggs, I hadn't even considered using the yolks. Could this be the key to their richness? They do seem more like sponge cake, while my version was more like angel food. Sweet but not too rich.

Later on Sunday, I was at our friends' house eating some amazing leg of lamb and Lou mentioned the macaroon failure of that day. One friend thought we were talking about madeleine's, not macaroons. And then I realized that Madeleine's have a sponge cakey richness that actually seemed similar to the macaroon I had been trying so hard to achieve. Madeleine's have yolks in them and butter! Could Victoria Pastry use yolks and maybe even butter in their macaroons? I'll give it a try and if nothing else, I'll have coconut madeleines! It may not be in time for the start of Passover, but perhaps I'll have it done for Easter...stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Quinoa for a Varied Diet

Eat a variety of foods. So often I hear people say they can't eat this, or they can't eat that. Sure, I'm guilty of the same, I don't drink soda and I eat as little packaged food as possible. And of course, I don't eat fast food. My choices to not eat or to avoid certain things is an active life long choice, not a temporary "can't" as if I were depriving myself of certain things for the short term to drop a few pounds. My goal is to be healthy, not to lose weight. Day in and day out, I don't think about what I choose not to eat, I put much more effort and thought into what I DO eat. I try to eat leafy greens daily to get my vitamin K. A few pieces of whole fruit. Some lean protein and some whole grains. And that brings me to Quinoa. Pronounced "Keen wa", it is a whole grain that I always keep in the cupboard. It has a mild taste and is scrumptous as part of a salad, or in a pilaf. It's a side dish that is high in protein-1/4 cup has 5 grams of protein.

I love potatoes and nothing goes with Thai food like jasmine rice, but most of all, I like variety. Adding quinoa or if you're really adventurous, bulgar wheat to your menu adds variety while adding some whole grains to your diet. The best part of adding good things to your diet instead of taking away things you perceive as bad is it's a positive approach to food that makes life and eating that more pleasurable.

To make a basic quinoa side dish, use 2 part chicken broth to 1 part quinoa. You can flavor with onion, garlic, shallots if you like. If your looking for a substitue to a pasta or potato salad that tastes even better after sitting in the fridge and is an easy and quick high protein snack, try this Quinoa and Black Bean Salad! I recommend experimenting-quinoa is a versatile and tasty grain. Just make sure you rinse it before you cook it! It may be bitter if you don't.