Archive | December, 2013

leftovers from anywhere

31 Dec

With a humble and grateful heart, I am returning from time at a beautiful mountain home of friends.  There were 22 of us staying together, and it was a lovely harmonious bunch.  The house was bursting with adults trying to hold down the fort and kids from 8-21 years of age being, as they should, kids.    There were a lot of personalities present, all meshing beautifully.

Meals were certainly an event.  4 tables fit all of us in one room, so we ate together.  The cacophony of spirited meal conversations happily resonated throughout the house.  With such an array of food and folks, there was no avoiding some “foodie” talk.  This is a topic I dearly love!

We talked about food, budgets, meals, food allergies, and, with a busy family, the challenges of putting together a nutritious and cohesive meal.   Varied information and opinions gently led these conversations.  Low and behold, lingering at the table over some hot cider after dinner one evening, talk turned to what to do with the leftovers.  Anyone who know me know that I am a big fan of leftovers.  They are a great “second act” if you will.

Leftover spinach kale artichoke cheese dip!  Yummier the second day!

Leftover spinach kale artichoke cheese dip! Yummier the second day!

Some of the folks had assembled an amazing appetizer.  It was a hot dip including cream cheese, garlic, mozzarella cheese, artichoke hearts, spinach and kale.  It was fantastic to munch on with chips and veggies as we made dinner.  It was a pretty big batch, so there was some left over.  We also had some cauliflower left, albeit not much.  These were the leftovers that got our creative juices flowing.

leftover cauliflower-so inspiring!

leftover cauliflower-so inspiring!

Both would have made a fabulous omelet the next morning.  The minds and culinary talent present would not be wasted with just one option though.  We forged ahead thinking of more creations with dip and cauliflower.  I credit Robin, one of the sisters (sibling, not nun!!) there with a brilliant thought.  Pizza.  It sounded amazing, but executing this wasn’t clear.  So when I got home, I researched.

What I found with my digging is that you can made a pizza crust with cauliflower.  It needs to be put into a food processor or blender and pulsed to powder form.  About a head of cauliflower will make about 3 cups of cauliflower powder, which is enough for one pizza.  The leftover dip would have been dynamite as the topping!  Voila!  A really cool way to use these leftovers!

I have not tried this yet, but am gearing up to give it a whirl.  See?  You can take leftovers from anywhere and move way beyond just heating them up for another meal.  Make something new.  Let the creative spirit take you in a new exciting direction!  I will keep you posted on this latest culinary adventure and you let me know where your leftovers take you!

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Seven Super Spices-Mission Accomplished!

29 Dec

Busymomswellnesss has been on a mission to get more spices in use in our kitchens.  The benefits of spices are undeniable, and hey…who doesn’t need a kick in the wellness pants every now and again?  Spices, all plant based, provide a wonderful flavor punch to food, are loaded with beneficial antioxidants, and they have medicinal healing properties.  Adding spices to our food can have a big impact on overall good health.

Cumin, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, turmeric and sage have been covered in this series of super spices.  Time to move along to the seventh and final spice.  Remember, though, while these spices are fantastic, do not be limited by these seven.  Use them as a springboard to inspire planning, cooking, and discovering new flavors.  Allow these seven fabulous spices to expand the palate and mind.  That said, the seventh super spice to discover, rediscover, and use is…clove!

For quite some time I thought clove was either an “artsy” cigarette that was super cool (what can I say?  I have never been a smoker!) or something poking out of a ham.  Yikes!  Did I really just admit to that level of ignorance?  Ugh!  Good news though.  I have now moved far beyond that in the quest to increase wellness through an in-depth second look at super spices.

Cloves, like all spices, have positive effects on wellbeing.  How so?  Cloves have been used for healing in Indonesian and Chinese medicine for centuries, a tradition that continues today.  Cloves have been attributed with the ability to relieve everything from an earache to toothaches.  They are great for gastrointestinal disorders and upset, such as nausea.  They reduce hypertension.  Cloves can he;p reduce inflammation related to arthritis.

From a nutritional standpoint, cloves are a good source of fiber.  They are also rich in vitamin C, important for tissue repair in the body, and vitamin K.  Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting.  Cloves are a great source of manganese, which is beneficial for bone health, regulating blood sugar, and helps thyroid function.  The list goes on.   There is no downside here folks.

Cloves are buds from an evergreen tree that is indigenous to Indonesia.  They are available to use in three forms:  whole, powder, and oil.   As you can imagine, they have the same benefits but are used differently.  Whole cloves are woody and used in many dishes, but often removed prior to consumption.   Cloves in powder form are often added to sweet dishes, such as muffins, and savory dishes like sweet potato casserole.  Clove oil is a natural remedy for infections and pain.  It is widely used, but since oil is concentrated, it must be used in moderation.

To get started, try this simple stewed fruit recipe. 

Stewed Fruit

  • 2 apples or pears, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 cloves
  • 3-4 cups water

Place the chopped apples or pears, sugar, cloves and water in a medium-sized pot and cook on medium heat till the apples are soft. Drain and remove cloves.   Toss them warm onto oatmeal for a hearty breakfast or allow them to cool and add them to your favorite low fat low sugar yogurt.  Isn’t it time to see what wonderful dishes you can discover with cloves?  Bon appetite!

Here comes the sixth super spice!

22 Dec

Spices have wonderful medicinal healing powers.  The benefits are undeniable.  There is no reason to leave them out of our home cooking.  Don’t like heavy flavors?  No problem. Use them lightly.   Spices, even in small amounts, have healing properties.

So far, we have looked at cumin, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, and turmeric.  Next comes sage.  This is a real brain booster so lets start adding it to our wellness improvement program!

In my past, I associated sage with pork breakfast sausage.  And I heard that some folks added it to their thanksgiving stuffing.  My mom was not a fan of sage, so I wasn’t familiar with it as a child.  And while she may not have liked sage, my mom gave me a creative spirit, a love of cooking, and a deeply ingrained value of family and togetherness, so I discovered sage on my own cooking for my kids.  I gotta say, I am digging it!

We have been discovering sage together as a family.  With the flavors and positive health  properties in mind, I purchased a bottle of dried sage.  We all opened the bottle and smelled it.  I talked about the recipes and flavor profile with my family.  I also reached out to others to get another point of view on sage.  Off we went.  Sage has been a wonderful addition to our culinary palate.  The medicinal properties are an added bonus.

Herbalists will likely recommend sage for an upset stomach or sore throat relief.  Stories abound of monks in the middle ages using sage leaves to make a healing syrup for easing symptoms of bronchitis and coughs.  Rumor has it that opera singers gargle with sage tea to reduce voice strain.  Sage is also credited with boosting memory and increasing attention span.  Hey, I will try anything to decrease my occasional brain fog and reduce my brain farts!

Ready to try sage?  It really is wonderful.  Liking bottled sage, I have graduated to using fresh sage leaves sometimes.  I have a wonderful recipe to kick off your experience with sage.  It is a simple pasta sauce.

Sage Pasta Sauce

  • 8 ounces Pasta, cooked al dente
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 5 fresh sage leaves
  • juice from 1/2 a fresh lemon
  • 1/2 t. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 cup stock (I use chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, added when pasta is done
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Whisk gently to incorporate.  Add sage leaves and lemon juice and zest.  Whisk gently.  Set aside while the pasta is cooking.  Put sauce back on a medium heat after the pasta is done and drained.  Bring to a gentle simmer.  Add the stock and pasta cooking water.  Gently simmer for 5 minutes.   Add the cheese, toss with pasta and serve.

There you have it.  Now start creating!  Be inspired! Get healthier!  Let spices do their thing and start enjoying better health in a simple manner.  Bon appetite!

Seven Super Spices-Going Yellow

8 Dec

Spices pack a surprising punch of positive health benefits.  Simply adding more spices into the daily diet can be an easy way to forge a new pathway to wellness.  So far we are creating new dishes with  cumin, cinnamon, oregano, ginger.

Continuing through the rainbow of spices is fun.  We are excitedly taking a leap to yellow on this culinary adventure.  Bursting onto the scene here is an unusual but not new spice for this country.  Here comes the “Queen of Spices” as it is known.  Time to discover, or rediscover, turmeric.

Turmeric is the main ingredient in curry.  But don’t chalk it off to being limited to Inidan dishes.  Yes, it is in many of our lentil dishes.  But surprise!  Turmeric is also what gives the mustard on our sandwiches its yellow color, so it certainly isn’t just for Indian cooking.

Turmeric has been used for centuries medicinally.  It is effective as an anti-inflammatory, and, like its relative ginger, can aid digestive problems as well.  Current research has indicated that turmeric destroys some types of cancer cells.  It can help improve glucose control in diabetics.  It is also credited with being an immune system booster.  Fantastic news, isn’t it?  Time to start cooking!

I have made chicken salad and tossed in some turmeric and curry.  I am pretty light handed with it because it packs a big flavor punch, and it is absolutely fabulous with chicken.  Unlike ginger, which I usually use fresh, I tend to use turmeric and curry dried.  Take your favorite chicken salad recipe and add 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric.  Or try my chicken salad recipe.  Try it as is or adjust the flavors for you and your crowd.  But at least this provides a jumping off point so give it a go!

Amy’s Curried Chicken Salad

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 to 2 cups light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney
  • 2-3 teaspoons curry powder (the turmeric is there)
  • 1 cup grapes cut in half (green or red)
  • 3/4 cup medium-diced celery, including leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and chill.  Serve on lettuce, put on bread for a sandwich, or grab a few crackers and savor this delicious salad.

Don’t have any chicken breasts on hand?  Go easy then, and make a smoothie using turmeric.  Here is a recipe, but feel free to customize it to your taste!

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 fresh mango, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cooked or canned pumpkin
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon dried turmeric
  • cinnamon to taste
  • Honey to taste for sweetening

Place ingredients in a blender.  Blend on high speed for 30 seconds.  Pour into a glass, pop a straw into it, and enjoy!

It is easy to start enjoying fresh spices.  There is no reason not to start using fresh new spices in a bold and flavorful step toward better wellness!