GABBY COOKS – fresh beets

A dear friend of mine is an exercise freak.  When she’s not cooking a scrumptious omelet or mixing a Greek salad, she is jogging or working out at the gym.  I asked her, ” Why the strenuous activity and attention to a healthy diet?”

“When I die,” she responded, “I am being cremated.  I don’t want to be a grease fire.”

Okay, okay, you’ve heard it before.  I just couldn’t let that little snippet pass without sharing it with you guys.  But, it is a great bit of advice to heed.  Obesity is becoming a leading health concern in the United States.

I’ve been enjoying fresh red beets ever since my boyhood days on the farm.  The sweetness surpasses anything that comes in a can with a beet label.  When I bought a few at the market today, my friend said he loved beets but did not know how to cook them.  I’m sure most of you know what to do with beets, but for the few who don’t, this post is for you.

The beetroot is the taproot of the beet plant known in North America as the table beet, garden beet, red beet, or golden beet.  It is a cultivated variety of Beta vulgaris.  They are a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients including vitamins A, C, E, K, and the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, B6, B12, pantothenic acid and folate.  They are also high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.  Additionally, beets contain important phytonutrients and dietary fiber.

Beets are not recognized as a super food as much as kale or blueberries, but these roots can hold their ground against the best of super foods.  Check the link

your wellness guide

for all the great health benefits available.  And if you are not yet convinced, BEETS ARE CONSIDERED AN APHRODISIAC.  Yeah, I can see those busy little fingers tapping on the keyboard now.  The high content of boron boosts sex hormone production and the nitrates increase blood flow to the organs.  Guys, y’all know what that means.  Hey, I’m just passing along information available on the great link I provided above.

There is a simple method to cooking those great roots.  I learned it from my grandma who pulled bushels of red beets from the garden and canned them.

ingredients

red beets

directions
  • If you are lucky enough to buy beets with the tops, cut the tops off about 1 ” above the root.  DO NOT CUT INTO THE ROOT.  The tops are delicious cooked or in salad.
  • Scrub, scrub, scrub the roots
  • Place in a pot large enough to cover them with cold water
  • Cook for about an hour.  It depends on the size of the beet
  • Refrain from piercing the roots until you think they have cooked long enough
  • Pierce one beet for tenderness
  • Remove from the heat and run cold water over them
  • When cool enough to handle slip the skins off.  You will be amazed how easy they skin
  • The top and the root ends will have a coarse texture.  Slice them off

Now you have fresh, cooked beets ready to prepare according to your favorite recipe.  Honestly, I keep a bowl full in the refrigerator and eat them like snack candy.  They are that sweet.

GABBY COOKS – pickled beef tongue

Hey, if you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it.  This is not the time to be squeamish.  The major problem with this recipe is finding a fresh beef tongue in your neighborhood.  I highly discourage anyone from raiding farmer Brown’s beef herd for that tongue.  My favorite butcher shop which sold beef tongues and hearts went the way of other mom-n-pop stores in my neighborhood when the corporate stores moved in.  But, I have wonderful memories of a pickled beef tongue sandwich slavered with a horseradish sauce and a bag of potato chips.  Gabby says, “It don’t get any better than this.”

here are the ingredients

 

  1. 1 beef tongue scrubbed, rinsed, then scrubbed again
  2. about 4 quarts of cold water
  3. 1 onion sliced
  4. 1 carrot sliced (optional)
  5. 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  6. 1/4 cup sugar
  7. 1 TBS pickling spice
  8. 1 tsp mustard seeds
  9. 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  10. 2 bay leaves
  11. 1 tsp salt
directions
  1. In a large pot cover the beef tongue with 4 quarts water
  2. Add the onion and sliced carrot.  Simmer for 3 hours and reserve 3 cups of the water
  3. When the tongue is cooled, remove the outer skin
  4. In the cooking pot combine the remaining ingredients with 3 cups of the reserved cooking stock
  5. Add the tongue and simmer for about 15 minutes
  6. Place the tongue in a plastic container, cover with the cooking liquid, cover the container and store in refrigerator for 3 or 4 days

When pickled, the tongue can be sliced and stored in mason jars in the brine.

 

GABBY COOKS – porcupines & mushroom sauce

There are no quills in this dish about which to be concerned.  It’s just simple, down-home cooking that combines pork, rice, and mushrooms in a one pot, stove top meal.  For many years pork was the bad boy in the health-conscious diet.  Those ribs, chops, sausages, and bacon were attributed with ailments from cardio-vascular disease to bad skin.  Baby, times have changed.

We don’t eat pork 5 nights a week nor do we have BLTs  at every lunch.  But, in moderation, chops, ribs, cutlets, sausages are a wonderful alternative to beef and chicken.  Remember – pork is the other white meat.

Here are some pork facts:

  • pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus)
  • it is the most commonly consumed meat worldwide
  • pig husbandry dates back to 5000 B.C.
  • pork is the most popular meat in Eastern and Southeastern Asia
  • Asia cuisines prize it for its fat content and texture
  • it is forbidden by Jewish, Muslim, and Rastafarian dietary law for religious reasons

A three and one-half ounce serving of lean pork contains the following nutritional value:

  • 13.92 grams fat
  • 27.32 grams protein
  • 36% DV of Vitamin B-6
  • 29% DV of Vitamin B-12
  • 35% DV phosphorous
  • 25% DV zinc

Add this meat to the wholesome goodness of mushrooms and rice – voila – heaven in a Dutch cooker.

here are the ingredients

 

 

  1. 1 cup cooked white rice
  2. 1 LB ground pork
  3. 2 cloves chopped garlic
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1 tsp dried basil or 1 TBS chopped fresh basil
  6. 1 tsp dried parsley or 1 TBS chopped fresh parsley
  7. salt and pepper
  8. 2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
  9. 1 cup chicken broth
  10. 2 TBS flour
  11. 2 TBS butter
  12. 2 TBS oil, olive or canola

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook the rice according to directions
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the pork, garlic, herbs, salt & pepper, egg and mix well
  3. Reserve a small portion of the herbs to add to the mushroom sauce
  4. Add the cooked rice which has cooled and mix well
  5. Shape in balls just like meatballs, place on plate and chill for an hour
  6. After an hour’s chill, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid
  7. Brown the porcupines in the oil
  8. Remove them from the pot
  9. Add the butter to the pot and another TBS oil
  10. Add the mushrooms and stir to coat evenly with melted butter and oil
  11. After about 3 minutes sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms
  12. Cook the flour to a light brown, don’t burn it, stirring as it cooks
  13. Add the chicken broth and stir to mix with the mushrooms
  14. Stir constantly until the broth thickens into a creamy sauce
  15. Add the reserved pinch of basil and parsley
  16. Return the porcupines, cover and simmer about 1/2 hour

This dish is complete in itself, but sometimes I like to serve it in a bowl over hot noodles.

CABBAGE, anyone?

bright-cabbage-color-134877

OK, I don’t want to hear any bellyaching about cabbage, “Ohhhh, it gives me gas,” or “I just don’t like cabbage or anything that smells like cabbage,” or “it stinks up my house when I cook it.”  Get over it!  Cabbage is wonderful.

My heritage is Pennsylvania Dutch.  Born and raised in Dutch country with traditional Dutch cooking, our New Year’s Day supper was always pork and sauerkraut.  Loved it!  But, I’ll cover that in another post sharing with you memories of cabbage fermenting in 5 gallon crocks in the cellar.  Mmmmm.

There are hundreds of ways to eat this vegetable, but one of our favorites happens to be a cole slaw recipe which I will gladly share with you after I trumpet the benefits of including this wonderfully nutritious vegetable in your diet – daily is not too often.  Sautéed and mixed with your morning scrambled eggs, simmered in a light lunch soup with garlic and tomatoes, or a robust stew with pasta for suppertime are just a few of the amazing ways to pack your diet with this delicious member of the brassica family.

First, let’s talk about the cousins of cabbage.  Yes, I’m sure you are familiar with most of them.  Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy (a friend begs my shrimp/bok choy/noodle bowl when constipation is a problem), broccoli, and last but not least, the famous sweetheart of super foods, kale.  So many ways to enjoy this treasure of the vegetable world that nobody should go through life lacking its benefits.

And those benefits are numerous indeed.  I’ll cover the highlights here for you, but check out the website nutrition-and-you.com for greater detail. These are percentages of RDA per gram of cabbage.  A small, one pound head of cabbage is 454 grams, so a person would consume several grams in one helping.

  • folates                                 13%
  • niacin                                  1.5 %
  • pantothenic acid               4%
  • pyridoxine                          10%
  • riboflavin                            3%
  • thiamin                                5%
  • vitamin A                             3%
  • vitamin C                              61%
  • vitamin K                              63% 
  • a host of minerals including potassium (helps control heart rate and blood pressure), manganese (used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase), iron, and magnesium.

Cabbage also packs phytochemicals, potent antioxidants known to protect against breast, colon, and prostate cancers.  Additionally they help reduce LDL, the “bad cholesterol” in the blood.

(Medical disclaimer)  Cabbage family members contain “goitrogens”, a compound that can cause swelling of the thyroid gland in people with thyroid dysfunction.

Now, that you are absolutely sold on the greatness of cabbage, here’s my favorite cole slaw recipe.

HERE ARE THE INGREDIENTS

  • about 1 pound of shredded cabbage (a small head)
  • up to 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (adjust this to your taste)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

DIRECTIONS 

Nothing fancy here – place the cabbage in a large bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients in a smaller bowl, taste it and adjust the dressing to your liking, mix well with the shredded cabbage, chill before serving.

 

GABBY COOKS – bean cakes on kale

Clean & serene living means learning healthy habits and good eating.  And I love recipes that are quick and simple.  Here’s one of my new favorites.  It serves 2.

Gabby created this recipe especially for his friend, Suze, a devoted lover of kale.  For anyone wishing to eat healthfully on a budget, beans are a must.  They are loaded with fiber and nutrients plus they are a great source of low fat protein.  Even more economical are the variety of dried beans available at the local grocery store.  With planning, dried beans are almost as easy as opening a can.

I discussed the absolute magic of kale in our diets in a previous post chili kale and beans.  Refer to that post to understand why kale should be a part of one’s everyday meal planning.  The bean cakes are a great idea because the flavor can be easily changed with different herbs and spices or different vegetables.  Whatever vegetable you have in the fridge that needs to be used is fair game.  Cumin is always good with beans, but chili powder would add an additional layer of flavor.  Be playful, experiment.  It’s not like you are going to ruin a $22 filet of fresh grouper or a $15 steak.  Mmmmmm, remember the days when fresh fish and steaks were affordable?

here are the ingredients

For the bean cakes

  1. a 14 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed or 1 cup dried black beans prepared according to directions for dry beans
  2. 1/2 cup chopped celery
  3. 1/2 cup chopped onion
  4. 1 clove garlic minced
  5. 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  6. 1 egg stirred
  7. 1/2 tsp cumin
  8. 6 TBS cooking oil
  9. salt & pepper to taste

For the kale salad

  1. 3 to 4 cups fresh kale leaves stripped from the center rib and cut into bite-size pieces
  2. a 14 oz can of yellow corn
  3. 1/2 cup chopped onion
  4. 1 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  5. salt & pepper
Directions
  1. If using dried beans that have been soaked, add the beans to 2 quarts of water in a cookpot, bring to a slow boil and cook for 1 hour checking several times to add water if necessary
  2. Meanwhile, in a non-stick fry pan heat 2 TBS cooking oil over a medium heat
  3. Add the chopped onion, celery and garlic and saute to a golden tenderness being careful not to scorch the garlic
  4. Set aside and prepare the kale-corn salad
  5. Place the 1/2 cup chopped onion in a large bowl
  6. Add the kale and toss with the onion
  7. Sprinkle liberally with salt and add the lemon juice or cider vinegar
  8. And this is the secret to enjoying a fresh kale salad that is not fibrous and chewy.  In the bowl crumble with your fingers the kale mixture.  Massage it gently as if you are in love with it.  This will immediately cause a tenderizing reaction with the kale making it tender and flavorful.
  9. Add the corn, cover and chill
  10. Back to the beans which are cooked and tender
  11. Drain them and reheat the onion, celery, garlic mix in the pan
  12. Toss the beans with the mixture, mash with a potato masher to a pasty consistency
  13. Place in a bowl and allow to cool
  14.  Add 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, the egg and cumin
  15. Salt and pepper to taste, mix well
  16. Wipe out the pan and heat 4 TBS oil over medium-high heat
  17. Form the bean mixture into patties and roll in the remaining 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  18. Fry in the oil until golden brown flipping once
  19. Serve over the kale salad