Simple Addition, or What Turmeric and Flax Can Do For You.

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The maintenance of hearth and health is arguably experiencing a domestic boom. Well being has become a fashionable trend evidenced by the kale craze and its ubiquitous yoga pant uniform. The 2010s provide us advances like pressure sensor athletic clothing, jewelry that measure sleep and wake cycles, and fresh pre-made calorie controlled meals. Billions of dollars have been devoted to technology that helps manage nutrition, fitness, and overall well being, and the glut of options expands each year. But not a full generation ago Americans were running from these topics as though nothing was more suffocating to mind and spirit. Matters of the stove were traded for convenience based factory food, and fitness was silenced by the hum of the VCR and electric lawn mower.

It was during the Dawn of Aquarius that the educational pursuit of home economics became more than passé. A burgeoning generation of youth shunned the art of homemaking and ran in droves from the army of electric stoves tucked into florescent lit corners of local high schools. Housewifery be damned. The abandoned academic doyens of stove and sewing machine were forced to reinvent their curriculum, and many found happy homes within burgeoning Nutrition Science departments of regional universities. They traded aprons for lab coats as they turned the art of making dinner into a scientific examination of crust and crumb.

It was in one of these home economic kitchens come science labs that I, as a green college student, first considered the science of food. Through measurements of emulsion, turgor, viscosity, and disbursement I learned to deconstruct a biscuit, fry a perfect egg, and simmer green vegetables (with minimal water soluble vitamin loss). In short, I learned to cook simple food very well.

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I simultaneously loved and hated the food I learned to cook in those labs. Debatably boiled broccoli, white rice, and Crisco biscuits are not man’s most healthy or desirable food choice, but armed with notebook and mass spectrometer these basic foods conversed a new language with me. Practicing a perfectly executed cheese muffin not only increased my grade point average, it also taught me to cook.

As a painter sees a blank canvas so does a cook see ingredients. And a cook with nutrition science training will see those ingredients not only for flavor potential but also health benefits. This is the legacy of home economics: use basic scientific technique to elevate the everydayness of life into something remarkable. No housewife required.

It is in this spirit that whole grain, turmeric, and flax have transformed Professor Harris’ Food Science 101 cheese muffin recipe. Besides the nutty taste and golden hue, turmeric contains a powerful chemical arsenal of curcumin, the biologically active component of this warm weather root. Ingested for centuries as an anti-inflammatory treatment in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric supplements have shown promise in the medical management of arthritis (Arthritis & Rheumatism, 2006). Various researchers have elicited the potential of turmeric as a potent antibacterial and anti-carcinogenic food.

In this muffin recipe the flavor of turmeric perches upright and forward, but the nuttiness of the flax seed mellows the yellow root’s outspoken call. Flax seeds play flavor yin to turmerics brazen yang, and they contain a heaping dose of fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and lignans to boot. In addition to reducing LDL (the bad) cholesterol (Nutr Metab, 2012), flax compounds work in concert to help prevent heart disease, bone disease, and possibly hormone related cancers.

You won’t notice any of that science as you reach for another one of these golden brown gems, but you may be calculating if you have enough ingredients left over to bake a second batch.

 

Cheddar Muffins with Turmeric and Flax

  • whole wheat pastry flour, 1.25 cups
  • golden flax seeds, whole or (preferably) ground, 1 tbsp
  • turmeric, ground, 1/4 tsp
  • salt, 1/2 tsp
  • baking powder, 2 tsp
  • butter, unsalted, 6 tbsp
  • cheddar cheese, shredded, 8 oz
  • milk, cold, 1/3 cup
  • eggs, 3 large
  • honey, 2 tbsp

Special Equipment:

  • Parchment muffin wrappers (optional)
  • (2)12 cup muffin tins
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Place dry ingredients in large mixing bowl and whisk to combine evenly.
  3. Melt butter and combine with cheese, cold milk, and honey.
  4. Beat eggs and add to wet mixture.
  5. Fold wet ingredients into dry and transfer to muffin pans (grease tins with additional butter if not using parchment wrappers.
  6. Bake for 18-22 minutes depending on your oven and size of muffins.

Homemade Maple Granola, or Why Sugar Matters

 

Homemade Granola

 

Arguably everyone needs a small culinary arsenal. Nourishing weaponry to shore up our decisions for when hunger marches in and your will waves a red flag in the direction of the snack machine. Armed with a cache of automated, simple recipes for foods that easily establish themselves on the pantry shelf, anyone can soothe a snack time call in satisfying confidence.

 

Why does it even matter what we choose to sip and nibble between our main meals? Most of the plentiful snack options available on supermarket shelves are saturated with dangerous amounts of sugar, and consistent consumption of sugary foods over time put you at risk for developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cognitive impairment, and/or stroke. In addition to those all being grim options, there is a recent study linking refined carbohydrate intake, like excess white flour and sugar consumption, with triggering food addiction in overweight individuals (Am J Clin Nutr, June 26, 2013, abstract). That’s a shot in the knee for most of the people in this country who are trying to shed pounds with all those “healthy” packaged snacks on the grocery shelves.

 

Feeding yourself well needs not be taxing, expensive, or out of reach. While keeping your home and office stocked with nourishing foods must be considered with the same importance as other regularly scheduled commitments, it need not consume too much time. With forethought and a dedicated hour or two each week you can organize an arsenal of easily prepared foods that can feed your body what it needs for a week or more.

 

How should we choose to appropriately tame unannounced hunger when those sugar drowned options are everywhere from the office supply store to the gas station? Begin by asking yourself, “What will feed me?”. The answer to that should have a ratio higher in minerals and fiber than sugar and salt, and you will not find as much of that in boxed prepackaged cellophane as you will from Mother Nature’s pantry.

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I like to keep homemade granola around for this very trick. Its the crunch and nuttiness I’m going for, and thankfully it prefers to be served alongside two of my other nourishing favorites- unsweetened yogurt and fruit. Homemade granola is always preferred to manufactured since you can downshift the sugar rush with milder flavored sweeteners like maple and honey. More of a suggestion than a demand, the following recipe allows for additions and deletions as you see fit. Don’t be intimidated by the making of the granola because you pretty much can’t fail. And then you’ll be armed with a perfect snack weapon for weeks.

 

Maple Granola 

You can reduce this recipe by half if you want, but I wouldn’t if I were you.

 

  • oats, (preferably not rolled/quick cooking), 8 cups
  • seeds (such as white sesame, sunflower, pepita), 2.5 cups
  • nuts (such as almond, cashew, pecan), 2 cups
  • canola oil, 1.5 cups
  • maple syrup, 1 cup
  • vanilla, 2 tsp
  1. Heat oven to 325F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place oats, seeds, and nuts in large bowl.
  3. In separate bowl whisk together maple syrup, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Pour syrup mixture over oat mixture and coat evenly.
  5. Spread mixture divided evenly on baking sheets and place in oven.
  6. After 11 minutes use a spatula to rotate the mixture on each pan. Bake for another 9-11 minutes until crisp and lightly browned.
  7. Allow to fully cool before storing in a tight container in your pantry or cupboard. You will eat it all before it goes off, so don’t worry about the shelf life.

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A Bit Rogue

 

Tomato and Celeriac Soup with Fried Black Eyed Peas

Tomato and Celeriac Soup with Fried Black Eyed Peas

I find we don’t always agree around here. Occasionally my household, which usually operates under a relatively consistent hum of communal integration, finds derision. And more often than not, like most family households involving more than a couple of folks, the house is divided by food.

I don’t want to feign ambivalence to the cause. I mean, most days do involve three meals, and I can’t say I always tuck into a home run every time I am served another cook’s inspiration. But as Chief Kitchen Officer in charge of meals and nourishment around here, I can say that efficiency, and economy, often requires a one sheriff town.

From the moment our table welcomed little mouths we instinctually turned down the heat, lessened the spice, and lengthened the sauté time. As the years have marched forward those trends started to reverse, and a wider variety of vegetables and recipes have begun to be passed around the dinner table again. The list of polarizing foods has lessened with time and consistent offering. Mushrooms and cauliflower have been dismissed from the penalty box, and curries have gone from bad to good to favored. But I still hold in my recipe reserve a favorite diamond in the rough- celeriac. This aromatic root of distinguished flavor has a permanent home on my ingredient rotation, but around here suffers the same wrap as the honeydew melon- nobody at the dinner table likes it but me.

Most weeks, on at least one day, the resident chef de la cuisine goes a bit rogue. Somewhat selfishly, I cook for my own desires, and it is often a food so offensive as celeriac. Not to worry. I can handle it; the death stares, the gagging sounds, the faces hung morosely over their plates. If it’s celeriac soup I want, then it’s celeriac soup I’ll have. I can cook them curry tomorrow night.

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Celeriac and Tomato Soup with Fried Black Eyed Peas

 

  • yellow onion, chopped, 1/2 large
  • garlic clove, minced, 1 large
  • ghee (or unsalted butter), 3 tbsp + 1 tbsp
  • celeriac root, peeled and cubed, 1 large (approximately 1 1/2 cups)
  • thyme, dried, 1/4 tsp
  • sherry, dry, 1/4 cup
  • tomato paste, 2 tbsp
  • stock or water, 3 cups
  • black eyed peas, soaked and boiled, 1 cup

garnish with fresh chopped herbs, goat cheese, radishes, cracked black pepper

 

  1. Place an 8 quart stock pot on the stove over medium heat.
  2. Melt 3 tbsp ghee and add onion.
  3. When onion is translucent add celeriac and onion, sautéing until browned and softened.
  4. Add thyme, and cook 1 minute.
  5. Add sherry and bring to boil.
  6. Lower temperature and add tomato paste and stock.
  7. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
  8. Transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth.
  9. Place soup back in stock pot and cook, covered, over a low temperature for another 15 minutes.
  10. Place 10 inch sauté pan on stove over medium heat.
  11. Melt ghee and gently fry peas until lightly crisped.
  12. Season peas with salt and set aside.
  13. If necessary, adjust consistency of celeriac and tomato soup by adding a small amount of water so it is not too thick.
  14. Ladle soup into bowls, and add desired about of fried peas.
  15. Garnish with fresh minced herbs, goat cheese, thin slices of radish, and fresh cracked pepper.

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