Monday, February 26, 2018

Something different for Breakfast

Eating low carb, it’s sometimes a real challenge to find something to eat for breakfast other than eggs and protein. I don’t mind eating them once in a while, but even every other day is too often for me. I just don’t love them. I was getting pretty bored with my choices, so I started searching the internet for ideas.

I came across something I have never made before: a layered parfait kind of thing that intrigued me and looked pretty. The idea is to layer items in a mason jar at night, and then in the morning you’ve got breakfast. Since I’m a little particular (!) with what I eat, I had to improvise, taking ideas from different recipes to create something I could digest. A lot of recipes called for oatmeal, but I can’t see eating cold oatmeal, this is just too disgusting. Other recipes called for milk, which I don’t drink, or almond or coconut milk, which is fine, provided you can find one that doesn’t contain carrageenan or other thickeners/gums that can be treacherous to the sensitive digestive system. Far better to get some probiotics in to the diet anyway, so I use yogurt, or kefir, which is even better for you than yogurt. Do make sure to get plain, whole milk, cultured dairy. It’s far healthier than the low-fat variety!

So if you Google Mason Jar Parfaits, you’ll come up with thousands of images and recipes. The ideas out there are endless. People add granola, all manner of fruits, nuts, seeds, whatever. Some don’t look very healthy at all! I just had this today, and really liked it.


1/2 cup plain whole milk kefir or yogurt, preferably organic
1 tsp. chia seeds
1 Tbsp sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp raw almonds
1-1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh organic blueberries and / or 1/2 banana
1 Tbsp sliced raw almonds (optional)
1 tsp honey, divided

Add the kefir and chia seeds to your mason jar, add a little honey and stir really well. Fit it with the screw top lid and put it in to the fridge overnight. The chia seeds will soak up the liquid (whey) from the kefir and expand, creating a sort of pudding consistency by morning. The more chia seeds you add the stiffer the pudding. Experiment to see what you like better. I like it a little smoother, so I don’t add too many.

In a separate small bowl, soak the sunflower seeds and almonds in the water and add the salt. Stir. Let sit out on the counter overnight. In the morning, drain the salt water and rinse. This soaking is the right way for people with digestive issues to eat nuts. They are much easier to digest and to absorb their nutrients if they are soaked. Plus, if you’ve never had soaked almonds before, you’re in for a treat: they are really buttery and tasty that way. Better than raw.

Add the seeds/nuts to the mason jar on top of the chia/kefir. The next layer is the fruit. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top if you want a little crunch, drizzle on some honey, screw the lid back on and take it to work.

At your desk, enjoy!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Beef Stroganoff, or Stroganov, is a dish most of us are probably familiar with. It seems to me to have been particularly popular in the 1960s. Although maybe that’s just because my mom loved it and we had it fairly often when I was a kid growing up. In case you’ve never had it, Stroganoff consists of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with sour cream. It originated in mid-19th Century-Russia and has become popular around the world, with variations as numerous as the countries in which it appears.

We know the name derived from the Russian diplomat and minister of the interior, Alexander Stroganov, but how it came about and why is still mystery. The recipe appeared for the first time in a classic Russian cookbook in 1871. Over time, the dish changed from containing floured beef cubes sautéed and sauced with mustard and bouillon and finished with a small amount of sour cream, to include onions and tomato sauce and sometimes mushrooms.

Traditionally in Russian, Beef Stroganoff is served with a side of crisp potato straws. In the UK and Australia the dish is usually served over pasta, and in the U.S. over egg noodles. Definitely my favorite way to eat it!

The “Bible” (Larousse Gastronomique, published in 1938) lists Stroganov as a cream, paprika, veal stock and white wine recipe. And many of the recipes I looked up for Beef Stroganoff contain most of these ingredients or a version therefore. But I make mine a little differently.

In fact, I don’t use beef at all!

Consider this meat-free version containing mushrooms instead. It makes for an excellent vegetarian lunch served with a salad. Or, serve it alongside a steak or some roasted chicken for a heartier dinner. This recipe will serve about 3-4.

Mushroom Stroganoff

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound mushrooms (I like using a combination of a few dried wild mushrooms such as porcini, which I reconstitute in some hot water for about 20-30 minutes, as well as mostly fresh mushrooms, preferably the darker Italian crimini mushrooms and portobellos and a few of the regular white).
1 good sized shallot, minced
2 or more garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp dry sherry or white or red wine (whatever you have open)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 - 1 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
fresh chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the mushrooms gently, stirring occasionally until they are softened and just cooked. If you have a cast iron pan, cook until they are a little browned. This will add some additional flavor to the final product.
Add the shallots, garlic and sherry/wine and cook for a minute more. Season well.
Stir in the sour cream (start with 3/4 cup and see if that’s enough for you) and heat to just below boiling. Stir in the thyme, then scatter the parsley on top. Serve over egg noodles, rice, pasta, or boiled new potatoes.

Wine recommendation: I would open just about any red wine to go with a Stroganoff especially something hearty, like a Zinfandel or Syrah. In fact, I think the pepperiness of a Syrah/Shiraz would be ideal.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

What to Cook this Week - Brussels Sprouts

While I’m all about starting the new year off with healthy food, especially after the excesses of the holiday season, I’m not above reaching for comfort food when I need it. And, to be completely honest, I could use some this week.

Casseroles are the very definition of comfort food, aren’t they? Warm and delicious, they soothe both the soul and our stomach.

On this week’s menu is the following “casserole”, if you will. In French, it would be called a gratin, which basically means “to grate”, such as in grated cheese. But this is not what the word originally referred to. Instead it meant something more like “scrapings”. This referred to the browned crust that would develop either on top or on the bottom of the dish as it baked, which would at some point during the cooking process be stirred back into the dish.

Over time though, we’ve come to call a gratin a dish whereby a crust forms on the top of something we bake, whether this crust forms by itself, through the addition of breadcrumbs or cheese on top, or is accelerated by passing the dish under a broiler. And we don’t stir it back into the dish anymore, because, why would we?  It’s so much better left on top. It makes for a beautiful presentation, when finished cooking.

A “gratin” can also simply refer to the type of cookware in which the dish is cooked. Typically gratin baking dishes are oval (see photo, right), but they can also be round. The dish is typically of a clay-based ceramic, but can also be metal or oven-proof glass. Regardless of what sort of dish it’s in  I suggest you give this recipe a try.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

1 Tbsp butter
2/3 cup heavy cream*
2/3 cup milk*
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (saving 1 Tbsp for the end)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced**
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 300F.

Butter a shallow ovenproof dish.  Blend together the cream, milk, 2 Tbsp. of the cheese and seasoning.

Place a layer of Brussels sprouts in the dish and sprinkle with some of the chopped garlic. Pour over about 1/4 of the cream mixture. Continue adding another layer of sprouts, garlic and cream mix, building layers like a lasagne, ending with cream and milk and then another tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.

Cover loosely with waxed paper and bake 1-1/4 hours. Halfway through the cooking time, remove the paper and press the Brussels sprouts under the liquid in the dish. Return to the oven to brown.

* So here I would simply just use 1-1/3 cups of half and half, preferably organic.
** Sometimes you can find them already sliced, or “shaved”, ready to go, at your market.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

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