Category Archives: Food & Recipes

Good News Monday? Eggs-actly!

I have high-ish cholesterol (controlled by medication); as a result, I tend to avoid eating eggs. But a little research has revealed that they’re more good than bad for our health.

While it’s true that chicken eggs are high in cholesterol, their effect on blood cholesterol is minimal when compared with the effect of trans fats and saturated fats; i.e., skip the bacon/ham/sausage/frying in butter part. Instead, opt for poached eggs or make your omelet with one egg white + one whole egg and cook it in olive oil.

According to experts, most healthy people can eat up to seven eggs a week with no increase in their risk of heart disease, and some scientists don’t see a problem with eating as many as three a day. (The main problem would probably be how boring that would be!)

Eggs consistently raise HDL (“healthy”) cholesterol. For 70% of people, there is no increase in total or LDL (“lousy”) cholesterol, though some people may experience a mild increase in a benign subtype of LDL.

As a good source of inexpensive, low-calorie, high quality protein, eggs are hard to beat (pun intended). More than half their protein is found in the egg white, along with vitamin B2 and lower amounts of fat than the yolk.

Along with beneficial fat, they also contain biotin and vitamin B12 (great for skin, hair and nails), plus vitamin A and lutein, which support eye health. Some stats:

  • Vitamin A: 6% of the RDA.
  • Folate: 5% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B5: 7% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B12: 9% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B2: 15% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 9% of the RDA.
  • Selenium: 22% of the RDA.
  • Eggs also contain decent amounts of vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B6, calcium, and minerals such as iron, copper and zinc (which supports a healthy immune system).
  • Virtually all egg yolks contain omega-3 fats. And of course, egg whites contain no cholesterol.

I’m pretty sure there are health benefits associated with an accompanying mimosa, too, aren’t you?!

beverage breakfast drink orange juice

Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

Going Nuts for Mokonuts’ Cookies

My friend T turned me on to this Paris bakery via a New York Times recipe, which Dorie Greenspan adapted from their unusual rye-cranberry-chocolate chunk cookie.

I made these yesterday and agree with the raves. T wrote about them this morning in her entertaining blog and I couldn’t wait to share the recipe with you. My only caveat is that the directions say that the dough makes 15 cookies, which seemed enormous. So I made 18 (roughly 2.5″ diameter) instead, and next time might go even smaller, perhaps 20 cookies, as they are quite hearty and filling. Enjoy, and let me know if you try them!

IMG-0274

Don’t Ask If You Don’t Want Me To Tell You

We recently ate at a pleasant Italian restaurant; a day or so later, having been contacted by OpenTable to post a review, I wrote something short and positive.

At least I thought it was positive: 4/5 stars for food/ambiance/value and 5/5 for service, which was terrific. After all, this wasn’t an undiscovered Michelin gem, just a perfectly nice little restaurant with an undistinguished décor and limited menu. I’ve eaten out enough to know what “outstanding” means – from Tour D’Argent in Paris in its heyday to our local pub, which has consistently excellent grub. And, hey, I’ve got the extra pounds to prove it!

Almost immediately, I received a very defensive reply from the chef-owner, wanting to know why I’d given him a “bad” review. (My comments about the “lovely little restaurant with delicious house-made pasta” apparently hadn’t been sufficient praise.) So this led to a series of back-and-forth e-mails in which I explained that one reason for my rating was that the bread was disappointing. As regular readers will know, I take my carbs seriously: flabby, squishy white bread is not ok – though I expressed this as, “I prefer a firmer crust and texture”, attempting to be diplomatic.

The point is, I wasn’t trying to be mean or snarky – but if you ask for feedback, you should expect feedback, not a gold star for trying. (This being the problem of an entire generation getting trophies merely for showing up.)

Which led me to think about other situations in which it might be unwise to ask questions if you don’t want to hear the answers. A classic is, “Where is our relationship going?” Now, if a woman is asking a man, chances are that if he were about to propose, she would know it. If he’s asking her where they stand, well, sorry dude but she’s not that into you, as they say.

I don’t know if gay etiquette is any different, but humans being humans I’ll go out on a limb here and say that, in any relationship, if you don’t know where you stand you can assume it’s on shaky ground.

It’s the same at work. A good manager will praise what’s going well and offer constructive criticism to make you better. Be honest: If you were 100% perfect you’d probably be the CEO, or have retired by age 40 to your yacht in the South Pacific.

In other words, be careful what you ask for.

mistake-1966448_640

 

Good News Monday: Chocolate Is Good For You

chocolate-183543_640

This might be the best news ever!  Caveat: it needs to be the super-dark stuff, not super-sugary junk.  And we shouldn’t be eating TONS of it. Still…

7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

  • Highly nutritious, containing lots of fiber and minerals
  • Powerful source of antioxidants
  • May improve blood flow and lower blood pressure
  • Cholesterol benefits: raises HDL and protects LDL from oxidation
  • May reduce heart disease
  • May protect your skin from the sun
  • Could improve brain function

Click the link for the full article.

 

 

 

Sourdough Made Simple

Sourdough has a reputation for being a bit tricky, so a lot of people find it intimidating. Thanks to my friend P, a fellow baking geek, I’ve been introduced to the Lahey method, which makes it super-easy to bake bread at home. I love this book!

IMG-0127.jpg

I’ve been experimenting with Lahey’s method for several weeks and my adapted recipe for sourdough is even simpler. It looks like a lot of steps but bear with me.

The genius part: Instead of folding/kneading your dough every few hours, you let your dough ferment overnight (18 hrs), do a second rise for 2 hrs and bake. No more being stuck in your house all day during the rising process!

STEP 1

All sourdough begins with a starter — natural yeast with a brinier flavor than the commercial yeast you find at the supermarket. Plan on 3-4 days before it’s ready to use. All you need is flour, water, air and time.

Mix equal parts water and flour in a wide mouthed container, cover it loosely so air can get to it, leave it out on your counter and wait. THAT’S IT. Really!

Once your starter is bubbly and active, try to make your dough within a few hours, before it loses potency. Thereafter, if you’re not baking regularly, dump out about 50-75% once a week, stir in equal parts water and flour, and start the process over.

IMG-0038.JPG

Starter is ready to use!

I encourage everyone to invest a few bucks in a kitchen scale and measure by weight rather than volume because 1) it’s easier and 2) it will guarantee consistent results. Remember, different flours have different densities so one cup of A may be slightly more or less than one cup of B.

Put your empty container on the scale, and set it to zero. Add 50g-75g whole wheat flour, 50g-75g bread (strong) flour, and 100g-150g cool water, resetting to zero after each addition. Don’t worry if you’re off by a gram or two as long as your ratio of total flour to water is roughly 1:1.

STEP 2

You’ve been patient and you now have over 100g of starter. Let’s get going.

Put a large bowl on the scale, zero it out, and add:

  • 600g flour (I like 475g bread flour +125g whole wheat or another grain)
  • 16g salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast (the kind you get at the grocery store)
  • 450g water
  • 107g active starter*
  • Optional: Add a generous handful of chia seeds and a tablespoon of caraway seeds, as I’ve done here.

*If this amount uses up most of your starter, replenish by adding  50g flour plus 50g water, mix well and set it aside to reactivate for a couple of days.

STEP 3

IMG-0110

Once you have a well mixed dough (it will be sticky; DO NOT be tempted to add more flour), loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it out at room temperature overnight for 18 hours. If you do this at, say, 4 PM, your dough will be ready for the next step at 10 AM the next day.

STEP 4

18 hours later, your dough will be bubbly and will come away from the bowl in long strands – this is the developed gluten. It will be loose and sticky; don’t add more flour!

IMG-0121

IMG-0114

Those strands are the gluten

Dump it onto a lightly floured counter, and form the dough into a ball by tucking the edges under – using either a dough scraper or your (lightly floured) hands.

IMG-0116

The dark bits are the chia and caraway seeds.

STEP 5

The traditional method is to bake your dough in a pre-heated cast iron pot.  This is an easy alternative.

Divide dough into two balls. Shape each ball into a log and put them in a perforated baguette pan. For a free form shape, place your logs (or ovals) onto a baking sheet that’s been generously dusted with cornmeal. Leave plenty of room between them.

IMG-0115.JPG

IMG-0118

Lightly dust the tops with flour. Cover the pan or baking sheet with a linen or cotton dishtowel (avoid terry cloth) or plastic wrap, and let the dough rise again for 2 hours.  After 1.5 hours have elapsed, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.

STEP 6

After another half hour (the full two hours), your dough will have puffed up nicely. Spritz your hot oven with water, put the bread into the oven and lower the heat to 475 degrees F.

You can spritz again after 2-3 minutes to keep the steam going and create a crispier crust. You can also score the dough at this point to let steam escape during baking but it’s not crucial.

Bake for about 25 minutes and check your bread – it should be a rich golden color. Depending on your oven this may take another 5+ minutes.

IMG-0123.JPG

Left: the bottom, showing bumps from the perforated pan.

To ensure your bread is baked through, check it with a kitchen thermometer – the internal temperature of the bread should be 205-210 degrees F.

IMG-0126.jpg

Nice and craggy with an open crumb

Cool. Slice. Eat.

 

Blue Streak

Earlier this week, I took a break from my favorite summer activities of wine tasting, beach walks and bread baking to pick blueberries at nearby Gibson Farms. I can’t say I’m the most efficient at this, as I subscribe to the notion of “pick one, eat two”, but both my friend P and I wound up with a solid haul: 9 pounds for her; 7 for me. (Not unlike giving birth, we joked.)

The first acres on this family farm were planted in the 40’s, with more added in the 80’s. The moist, mild climate of the central coast gives the berries their distinctive sweetness, and draws large crowds during the two-week “U-pick“ season.

Berkeley blueberries are Gibson’s current crop. Considered the most popular home garden variety of blueberry, Berkeleys grow well in mild climates. Their medium to large size fruit has great flavor and firmness, as well as a long shelf life, should you happen to not devour the entire crop in one sitting.

Blueberry Berkeley, Vaccinium corymbosum, High Bush Blueberry

You probably know that blueberries are healthy — at least until they turn into a pie!
A few facts:
  • Blueberries contain a plant compound called anthocyanin. This gives blueberries both their blue color (cyan) and many of their health benefits.
  • Blueberries can improve bone strength, skin health, blood pressure, diabetes management, cancer prevention, and mental health.
  • Their fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and phytonutrient content support heart health. (Fiber helps to reduce the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.)
  • One cup of blueberries provides 24% of a person’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
  • People who use blood thinners, such as warfarin, should speak to their doctor before increasing their intake of blueberries, as the high vitamin K content can affect blood clotting.

blueberries-690072_640

Now, other than merely eating great handfuls, what else can you do? Plenty! — from smoothies to pancakes to salsa to desserts.
Besides the aforementioned pie, I made up a batch of muffins using this King Arthur flour basic muffin recipe and adding 2 cups of blueberries to the dry ingredients before combining with the wet ones. This trick keeps the berries from sinking to the bottom.
IMG-0063.jpg
The muffins would be even tastier with the addition of a streusel topping, but I thought it prudent to skip the additional butter and sugar.
If you are feeling indulgent, though, check out this wonderful Ina Garten recipe from my friend Terry’s blog. Terry will never steer you wrong when it comes to deliciousness!
Enjoy the rest of your week!

 

 

Snark Attack: There’s No Such Thing As a Stupid Question

Wanna bet? Here are some of my favorites:

“Does it hurt?” I’m in the emergency room with blood pouring out of me. What do you think?

“Did you find everything?” If I’m already at the register, what do you suggest if I didn’t? Alternatively, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Such as world peace, thinner thighs, true love, the hair I used to have??

“Would you like fries with that?” Duh.

“Have you eaten here before?” Unless the restaurant is wildly different from any other restaurant, what possible difference could it make?

“Would anyone care for a cocktail?” Do we LOOK like teetotalers?

“Is everything wonderful?” Usually asked when your mouth is full. If you haven’t sent it back, it’s probably fine. Possibly not worthy of superlatives, but edible.

“Does this make me look fat?” There is only one possible answer.

“Do you love me?” Again, only one possible answer.

“Do you have any regrets?” Who, past the age of 8, hasn’t done something they regret?

“Am I your first?” This one’s a trap, folks. Yes means you’re a naïve innocent nobody wanted before; no means you’re a slut.

“Your place or mine?” Yours — because if you’re a dud I can go home. If we’re at my place I might never get rid of you.

“Do you want to know a secret?” With all due respect to The Beatles, who doesn’t? Similarly, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” Why on earth would I tell you that?

“Is it mine?” We’re both white and the baby’s black. What are the odds?

Which leads me to…

Classic Howlers

Check out this link. I particularly like “How am I sure I’m the real mom of my kid?” The writer is asking because the baby doesn’t look like her but looks like her husband; she’s scared he was cheating on her with another woman. You have to read it to believe it.

This one’s funny, too.

What are your favorite dumb questions? (Besides this one.)

question-3385451_640

Images from pixabay.com