Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Date Sugar

First, the bitch session.  I am always talking about sweeteners and begging people to get off the artificial stuff.  I am not a fan of the processed stevia stuff.  For example, did you know that the #1 ingredient in Truvia® is actually erythritol, a chemically-derived plant sugar?  It isn't the same thing as drying stevia leaves and sprinkling them over food!  Plus, I said first ingredient, meaning this "all natural" sweetener actually contains several; the third of which is "natural flavors."  Time to bust out the BS card because I am just not buying that one.  Erthritol is a sugar alcohol that is known to cause digestive upset.  And if you STILL need convincing to question its use: Coca Cola is behind the stuff.  And just to be fair, Pepsico is behind Pure Via™

The best plan to get off the sugar is to do just that: cut out refined sugars in your diet.  If you have a dessert when you go out to dinner with your wife, share it.  Don't settle for factory made sweets!  When you have dessert (which I do, say, once every 2 weeks), EAT HOMEMADE.    Seriously, why waste calories on a cookie made by a robot who doesn't love you or her product.  Heck, she doesn't even care if she stays employed.  The home baker; the serious foodie baker; the local cupcake place that says they make exotic treats using only the finest ingredients--these people do care about the quality of their food.  In between now and that slice or grandma's real apple pie, fill up on fruit.  The less sugar you eat, the more the flavor in real fruit will come to life. 

Have I made my point?  It's probably not the last time I'll visit this so I'll assume not.

In the meantime, even if we are off sugar, there are some things that we will want to make a little bit sweeter, no?    My plain, organic yogurt tastes better w/ a drizzle of raw honey as does my morning bowl of oats.  Sometimes I make a "pumpkin mousse" by blending yogurt with pumpkin and this is better with a hint of added sweet.  So are some smoothies.

The answer?  Dried, ground dates!  They have a warm flavor that  makes me think of caramel and that, my friends, is a good thing.  They also contain a healthful boost of the B vitamins and vitamin A, and are high in dietary fiber and iron. My last push here is to point out they are high in the antioxidants known as carotenoids, which are great for repairing cell damage done by free radicals. No chemically-derived stevia wannabe can claim that!

As with any sugars, you should still use this sparingly as they can cause blood sugar fluctuations.

How to Make Dried Date Sugar

1 - Using only pitted, whole dates (the already chopped ones are dusted in sugar!), chop in smaller pieces and spread out on baking sheet. 

2 - Cook in a 250 degree oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dates have thoroughly dried out.  

3 - Set aside to cool.

4 - Pulse in food processor until you get a course texture resembling large coffee granules.  

5 - In small batches, grind in a spice grinder until powdery.  I use a coffee mill that is only used for grinding spices. 

Use as you would sugar.  It is a little rough in coffee or tea (meaning gritty) but it's a great sugar substitute in baking.   Has a caramel-like taste that is especially great with apples. 


Monday, September 3, 2012

Childhood Snack Makeover Makes for Grown-Up Comfort

When I was a child, my father would make something he called cheese on bread. I know, I know, this is equally inventive to the stuffed cat I carried around that I called Misses Cat. Dad's version was white bread and cheddar, toasted under the broiler.  I have fond memories of washing it down with grape Kool-Aid while sitting on a picnic table out in the yard.

Made with a schmear of an English carmalized onion cheddar, this version was enjoyed as a midafternoon snack; lakeside during a holiday to Maine; topped with fresh basil and washed down with a bit of red wine.

The bread was a fantastic Aroostook Wheat from Borealis Breads out of Portland which boasts the use of only local, Maine grown wheat and "nothing in the bread but bread ingredients: flour, starter, salt and water, and sometimes some spices, cheese or olives." Real food, sourced local and minimally processed. We can all stand to benefit from those sort of practices. It's good food karma. Good for the earth, good four our bodies, good for our souls. You just gotta love that!

Sharing a few other lakeside pics from Maine. It was a great week and I hope to return sooner than later. It's good to get away and it's even better to go to a place where local food practices are embraced.

Some fishing off the dock of our own private "island" Little Sebago, Gray, ME

Lobster first, then watermelon.  Naturally.

Tacos de carne asada: worth getting out of the lake for!

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, ME

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Creamy Curried Lentils

Don't you just love it when you toss together some unexpected ingredients--merely because it's all you have on hand--and it works out to be an instant classic?   That's exactly what this cool and creamy lentil salad is.  And when you look at the nutrition stats at the bottom, you'll see that it's also a really delicious dish that just happens to love you back!


1 ½  cups green lentils
1- teaspoons kosher salt
1 large tomato
1 large red bell pepper
1 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon regular, cultured soure cream (not low fat)
1/4 cup pistachios, roasted (I used salted)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
ground black pepper to taste
20 leaves fresh basil

1 - In 2 qt saucepan, combine lentils, salt and 4 cups of water.  Bring water to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes or until soft.  Drain any excess water and set lentils aside to cool

2 -  Place bell pepper under broiler until skin has blackened, rotating several times.  Pull out and place on cutting board and cover with a dutch oven lid or some plastic wrap for 2-3 minutes to allow steam to loosen skin.  Remove lid and rince under cool water to peel off skin; discard. Remove seeds, chop pepper and add to lentils.

3 - Finely chop tomato and add to lentils.  Combine remainin ingredients (except for basil) and stir well. 

4 - Stack basil leaves on top of each other and roll, lenthwise, like a cigar,  Using kitchen shears, cut
¼ off of the end of roll.  Continue to do this until all basil is cut into long, thin strips known as chiffonade.  Stir into salad, reserving some for to sprinkle on top. 

5 - Cool in fridge for at least one hour.  Serve alone or on a bed of bright, crisp leafy greens such as an arugula mix.  It tastes even better by day two so plan on packing some for lunch!

Recipe makes 6, ¾ servings.  Per serving:   

nutrition facts

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Torta di Ciliege e Noci

Cherry Walnut Farmhouse Cake

3 eggs
1 ½ cup sugar
2  tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cup spelt flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 ½ cups pitted fresh or frozen cherries

1 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 - Butter 10" round springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper

3 - Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in Walnuts. Set aside.

4 - Combine eggs, sugar and vanilla in bowl of mixer and whip until light and airy.

5 - Gently fold flour mixture into egg mixture, then fold in cherries.

6 - Pour into prepared pan and bake approximately 30 - 35 minutes or until top is crisp and golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

7 - Remove to wire rack to cool.

Recipe makes 15 servings. Per serving:

nutrition facts

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Courgettes et Tomates

Tomatoes and Zucchini--what says Summer more than these?   They marry together nicely in a variety of dishes, including my new favorite ready-in-minutes lunch that I've been tossing together several days a week lately.

I confess, this is a microwave dish; if you want to be fancy and proper, you can surely cook this in a casserole dish in the oven.  For me, the season is far to short and there's so much I'd rather be doing outdoors.  Nutrient-dense and super easy (not to mention tasty) make this a winning warm weather meal. 


5 ounces freshly grated zucchini (approx 1 cup)
5 ounces fresh tomato, chopped (1 med tomato)
¼ cup quinoa flakes
1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon water
pinch crushed red pepper
pinch kosher or sea salt (I used Hawaiian red)

1 - In microwave safe dish combine all ingredients except cheese. 

2 - Sprinkle cheese on top.

3 - Microwave on High for 2 ½ - 3  minutes or until heated through and bubbly. 

Makes one serving.  Per serving:

nutrition facts

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cereal: Buyer Be Aware!

Great Way to Start the Day or Junk Food in Disguise?

I've long had a tumultous relationship with cereal.  I remember wrestling matches with my sister over who would get the precious piece of plastic advertised on the box as a special prize.  I have so much empathy for my poor mother now. 

As I grew older I recall a conversation with my physician where she told me to eat corn flakes and Special K type cereals to lose weight.  This actual medical recommendation came before I put on 90+ pounds and certainly didn't help my already distorted view of how one should nourish their body.

As a first-time pregnant mom, I remember thinking that Cocoa Puffs were the way to go when I wanted dessert; afterall they were low in fat and calories and at this point I was still a slave to the dieting industry so nutrient-lacking, empty calorie foods were "safe" so long as they were low in fat and calories.

When I at last found balance, it was disapointing and eye-opening to discover that so many cereals were either full of sugar, chemically-contrived food stuff and the better of them often seemed good by the nutrtiton panel but the ingredients list show all kinds of fortified additives and nutrients from fiber to absurd amounts of iron.

The video above is one of many floating around the internet.  Personally, having the desire to get my nutrients met through food as much as possible [go to NutriMirror.com and you can do the same; free of charge], I strive to not eat metal filings, or other absurd tricks of food manufacturers to inflate and enhance food labels to appear better than they actually are.

I could always make my own cereal but I really don't feel like the hassle.    I get tired of reading labels and honestly, the more and more I read, the more I skip the internal aisles of the store almost entirely.  If I do look for cereal, it has to be Non-GMO because byproducts thanks to the many talents of the corn and soy production industries are also not on my list of happy foods.

I grew up on cereal.  I've miss cereal.  I enjoy a bowl in the morning and an occasional bowl for a lazy dinner.  A couple of months ago a big box of goodies arrived from Attune Foods.  In it I was delighted to find NO sugar added to the Original Flavor. 

A good sign of a well-loved cereal is one where the box is immediatey mauled and mangled by the Tiny Tarts.    After we determined that Maya preferred plain and Annabel liked the strawberry flavor, we headed back to the store for more.  We were excited to find Attune's Crispy Brown Rice cereal--served with a spash of non-homogenized, pasture-fed milk and a few banana slices...this is the their current go-to morning dish.

I, on the other hand, have found a great way to fit cereal back into my morning rotation with this parfait.  Today's parfait features defrosted blueberries w/ some fresh grated ginger root, slices of mango, yogurt sweetened with a touch of raw honey, hemp seeds and Uncle Sam's unsweetened, rolled whole wheat berry flakes.  I love it when a box says "whole" and it doesn't mean something that was once whole but now isn't.  And the stats are pretty darn good too!  See for yourself:

nutrition facts

Replace the mango with some strawberries and this sucker would be darn-near patriotic.  Have a great day!

aka: The Country Tart

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sunchokes Saltados

I have long heard about this amazingly delicous food known as the sunchoke or Jerusalem artichoke, which is not either from Jerusalem or an artichoke at all, that is the edible root tuber of a variety of the sunflower.   I have seen recipes calling for these since my college food coop days and, since I am always on the lookout for new foods to try, for years I have searched high and low for these little guys to no avail.

Each week on Tuesdays I hit the Camden Avenue Provident Farm Market and purchase our non-homogenized, milk, free range eggs and the bulk of our veggies for the week.  It's a favorite activity of mine as I see the same faces each week; local, like-minded individuals who are interested in good food karma which is to say that what's good for the earth is also good for the local economy AND their bodies (as well as those of their family members).  About a month ago, I was so lucky as to finally, and at long last, stumble onto a table of beautiful sunchokes provided by the student garden club at Salisbury University.  I think I scared the poor, aspiring horticulturists beyond belief when I shrieked at the sight of them. 

Drawing some inspiration from Alejandra Schrader (her camarones saltados is what helped win her a spot on Season 2 of MasterChef!), I decided to use the flavorings of a shrimp stock as a base and go from there.  The result I am calling sunchokes saltados though it's Peruvian authenticity ends with the inspiration and the name as sunchokes are idigenous to North America.   They were delicious, nonetheless, and one of the main courses served at a Women's Wellness Dinner held at Yum! Fresh, Local Cafe in the end of March.

Sunchokes Saltados


1 pound sunchokes, well scrubbed and rinsed to remove grit and debris
1 large white onion, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
shrimp stock, approx 1/3 cup or water
½ cup crushed tomatoes (rec: Fire Roasted by Muir Glen)
2 teaspoons cumin
zest of 1 lime + juice of ½ lime
1/2 cup roasted red pepper
pinch of saffron threads
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed

1 - Peel the sunchokes, leaving some of the peel on and chop into 3/4" - 1" cubes/strips

2 - Add to heavy saute pan with onion and olive oil and cook over medium to medium-high heat for for 5 minutes or until beginning to soften and become fragrant. 

3 - Add tomatoes and shrimp stock (or water; but shrimp stock will have far more flavor); cover with tight fitting lid and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until sunchokes are almost completely fork-tender.

4 - Add cumin, lime juice + zest, roasted pepper and saffron threads.  Continue to simmer, lid off, for just a couple minutes more until sauce thickens up. 

5 - Stir in fresh cilantro and serve with quinoa also cooked in shrimp stock.  

Excellent fresh, reheated for leftovers or even as a cold salad.

Recipe makes 4 servings.  Per serving:

nutrition facts

Above, sunchokes saltados, with quinoa, shrimp
with kale pesto and a perfectly poached egg. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What's Cool and Green and a Little Bit Bubbly?

Head on over to NutriMirror.com for today's SERVING up a SMILE. We have savory smoothies going on and they are great!

Yes, my blender really is a Osterizer Galaxie from deep in the 70s. I've owned plenty of new pieces of junk but since stuff just isn't made like it used to be... Until I can report to you that I've been blessed with the good fortune of a Vitamix, this old girl works better than anything I've purchased in recent year--and was a steal for $3 at a yard sale!

For recipe, to make your own nutrition labels, lose weight and to take control of your health, go to Nutrimirror.com:

nutrition facts

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sweet Potato Falafel

This recipe was inspired by Mollie Katzen's Chicpea and Sweet Potato Koftas from Vegetable Heaven.

Many years ago, long before balanced eating found its way to our home, my husband introduced me to falafel. These days, we don't need an excuse to eat meat-free; in fact, my once meat and potatoes man now naturally leans more toward vegetarian eating than most.

This recipe combines sweet potatoes with chic peas and this adds depth and creaminess and is delicious. Great repurposing for leftover sweet potatoes!

1 medium-large yam (3/4 - 1 lb)
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 large clove garlic, skin on
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup spelt flour

approx 3 tbsp olive oil for sautéing

1 - After pricking several times with fork, bake yam in oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so until soft (or bake in microwave). Set aside to cool.

2 - Place cumin in skillet over medium heat and stir for two minutes or until fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside.

3 - Place garlic, skin on, in skillet, and turn every so ofton until the skin is spotted brown. This roasts the garlic and mellows the flavor. Set aside to cool. Once cool, peel away and discard browned skin.

4 - In bowl of food processor, combine sweet potatoes, chic peas, cumin, garlic, salt, black pepper and lime juice. Process until smooth.

5 - Add flour and pulse to combine thoroughly. Add chopped cilantro and pulse a few times more.

6 -.Place a skillet over medium heat and add a little bit of oil. When the oil is really hot, add by dropping tablespoons into pan and sauté for about 8 to 10 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned and heated through.

Serve with Yogurt sauce (below) and baby spinach. We ate these tonight in sprouted grain tortillas but they'd be great in pitas or just as a salad.

Per each piece (3-4 pieces make a nice sized serving):

nutrition facts

Yogurt Sauce for Falafel

Combine 1/2 cup strained or Greek yogurt with 1 teaspoon of lime juice and 2 teaspoons of tahini or sesame paste. Salt and pepper to taste. When in season, this is great with pieces of cucumber chopped and stirred in. Garnish with chives or chopped green onion.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vitamin C Salsa to Brighten up the Wintertime Blues

I am all for eating some junk food on Super Bowl Sunday but even though I may gnosh on some chips, I'd still like to think that I am getting some calories that aren't completely empty (cough beer).

This salsa is little more than dumping ingredients together but comes with fiber, iron, calcium AND a good dose of vitamin C. When all seems bleak in the winter, here comes citrus to the rescue! Toss in a little red pepper for some additional immune-boosting punch.


1½ cups black beans, cooked and cooled (sub 1 can of beans, well rinsed & drained)
1 jar salsa (I used Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Tomato for the nutritional info)
1 large red pepper, chopped
3 small or 2 large oranges, peeled, chopped and seeds removed
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Zest of 1 lime
Fresh lime juice, from approx 1/2 lime or to taste

1 - Combine black beans and salsa

2 - Add in orange, red pepper lime juice, zest and cilantro; lightly toss to combine without making murky.

That's it! Serve with good quality chips or even with belgian endive or raddicchio if you prefer to keep it light!

Per 2 Tablespoon serving:

nutrition facts