Saturday, January 28, 2012

Spinach-Chard Filled Egg White Omelet

Earlier this week, my good friend, Julie, and I basked in the glorious sunshine and winter beauty of Lake Superior.  The ice capped rocks, the icicles frozen on logs, the silhouette of bare trees against the azure sky inspired and awed us.   After a quick walk along Brighton Beach we drove further up the shore to New Scenic Cafe for lunch.  The few times that I have been there,  New Scenic Cafe has been eager and cheerful to accommodate my dietary needs by pureeing vegetables and reducing fat, without compromising taste and presentation.   And they have done this at no extra charge.  I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for exquisite food with an amazing view of Lake Superior.  The food has always been delightful and this meal was no exception. Julie and I  lingered over our lunch,  thankful for a window view with bright sunshine and thankful for friendship that has endured many years.  

I ordered a sandwich from the menu that contained slabs of sauteed tofu with spinach leaves.  The waiter said that the chef would be able to easily puree the spinach into a spread for the sandwich.  When the sandwich arrived, I peered inside and was intrigued by the "just right consistency" which wasn't too thin nor too chunky. How did the chef do it? What tool did he use?  When I puree vegetables using my immersion blender or regular blender, a small amount of liquid is required, so the consistency of my creations is generally too thin to spread. My friend asked the waiter the questions about what tool the chef used. (I was too busy snarfing down the delicious sandwich.)  The waiter said the chef used a VitaMix to accomplish it.  Wow.  I am only vaguely familiar with a VitaMix, but know it is quite large and quite expensive.  I couldn't imagine how such a large device could be used for such a small quantity.  But I was on a new mission.  

Spinach and chard stems sauteing
One of my nutritional goals is to include vegetables in every meal.  Doing so for breakfast seems the most challenging.  Before I developed the need to puree my vegetables to prevent obstructions, I frequently made egg white omelets filled with sauteed vegetables of many types. But I hadn't figured out how to puree or pulverize vegetables to a consistency that wasn't too thin for omelets.  The meal at New Scenic Cafe inspired me to try new techniques.  So I dug out the Chopper/Grinder attachment to my Cuisinart Smart Stick and used it to process some sauteed spinach with some chard stems.  

Spinach-Chard Filling on Omelet
After using the Chopper/Grinder attachment, I inspected the mixture.  Hmmmm...would it pass the guideline given to me by my gastroenterologist - i.e. vegetables need to easily squeeze through a tube of toothpaste and without any stringiness.  Not quite.  So then I put the mixture in my vintage General Electric Food Processor, on which only one of the buttons now actually work.  Well, even missing the full range of buttons for processing, it did the trick.   The spinach/chard mixture was just right for placing in an omelet for my breakfast this morning.  It might look ugly as a stand-alone food, but tucked inside an omelet, it was tasty, nutritious, filling, and digestible.

1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup chopped chard stems
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 egg whites

Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add finely chopped chard stems and saute until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add chopped spinach and saute until tender.  Remove from pan, cool slightly and then  place in a food processor and process to desired consistency.   Set aside.  Meanwhile, spray the skillet with nonstick cooking spray.  Beat egg whites until fluffy, and add seasoning as desired.  Pour egg whites into the cooking pan and cook gently over low heat, adding a cover to ensure the eggs are done on top.  When nearly finished cooking, spoon the spinach/chard mixture onto half of the omelet and fold the other half over it.  

For variation another time, I think I will add reduced-fat feta cheese and a sprinkle of Greek seasoning and a sprinkle of True Lemon crystals.

Nutrition: (includes egg whites for omelet) 
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: 1 omelet
Calories: 116
Total Fat: 5  g
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium: 204 mg
Total Carbs: 5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 17 g

Quick Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup with Nutmeg

It's important for me to have some quick and easy ways to incorporate pureed vegetables in my meals.  This soup is a favorite one that I created because not only is it extremely quick, the nutmeg seasoning adds just the right amount of punch to give a satisfying taste experience.  I try to keep bags of broccoli and cauliflower in the freezer for times when I simply don't have the energy to make anything more complicated.  The vibrant green color of this soup makes it particularly appealing.  It is similar to the recipe I posted earlier for Quick Cauliflower and Broccoli soup, but this one uses nutmeg.  Compensating for the lack of varied textures with an assortment of spices is one of the most important strategies I have learned on this journey into Pureed Pzazz.  Using this soup as a starter, you can use a variety of seasonings to create your own favorite combinations.  

1 cup frozen or fresh broccoli florets
1 cup frozen or fresh cauliflower florets
Approximately 1 cup water
Nutmeg, to desired taste
Sea salt to desired taste

Put the broccoli and cauliflower with water into a microwave safe 4-cup container.  (I like to use my 4-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup for most soups that I make in the microwave because I can then simply put the immersion blender into this container to puree the contents. Then I have only one dish to wash.) Microwave on high for about 5 - 6 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Cool slightly, then puree with an immersion blender.  Add nutmeg to desired taste.  A small amount of sea salt can also be added to desired taste.  

Nutrition: (doesn't include salt)
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: Approx. 1 1/2 cup
Calories: 53
Total Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0  mg
Sodium: 49 mg
Total Carbs: 9 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 3 g

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spinach and Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger

What I make for soup during the winter is often dependent on what I still have in my freezer from the garden last year, or what is on sale at the market.   The special this week was two 10 oz. bags of fresh spinach for $1.49.  This would yield a lot of soup.  So I made a variation of Anna Thomas' recipe for Green Soup with Ginger, using all spinach rather than a combination of chard and spinach.  I also reduced the amount of vegetable broth to one cup rather than two cups and reduced the amount of salt from 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1/2 teaspoon.  

I checked out a copy of Anna Thomas' cookbook, Love Soup (2009), from the library and have been devouring it nightly like a great mystery novel.    (So my secret is out.  I can read a cookbook with as much delight as other people read novels.  I read novels and find them captivating, too. But a cookbook....oh, I relish it!)  Her approach to creating soup is similar to mine and she is apparently mesmerized by green soups in the same way that I am, though she is not dependent on them as I am.   While some people may think green soups are somehow repulsive, I see them as nourishing, wholesome, and appealing.   To prevent digestive tract obstructions,  I cannot eat raw vegetables and even when cooked, I need to have them pureed or finely pulverized.  So green soups using leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards, turnip greens, chard, and mustard greens become my primary source of healthy, green vegetables.  Such nutrient dense soups are an important element in my overall food plan to boost my immune system and hopefully minimize growth of the tumor.   

I am fortunate to still have about 5 leeks of the 100 that Tom harvested from our vegetable garden last year.  I stored them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag and they are nearing the point of becoming too soft to use, so using two small ones in this soup seemed logical.   Leeks add a distinctly exquisite flavor to any soup, which is why Tom planted so many of them last year for me.  If you aren't familiar with leeks, they are like a mild, mellow tasting onion.  People who generally don't like onions often find they like the taste of leeks.   

But, if you don't have access to leeks like I did,  and aren't willing to pay the current high price for them in the market, I think you could probably omit the leeks.  Though you will miss the mellow flavor of the leeks. 

I frequently add ginger to my soups for a variety of reasons. First, I love the taste.  Second, ginger is often noted to be an aid for digestion and assimilation of food and I need all the help I can get in that category!

1 large yellow onion, chopped                            
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
(or 2 Tablespoons olive oil)
1/2  teaspoon sea salt
1 large sweet potato  (about 14 oz)
1 large leek, white and light green part only
10 oz. fresh spinach
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh ginger, or more if desired
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Freshly ground pepper
Reduced-fat feta cheese for garnish

Slowly cook the onion with a sprinkle of salt in the oil, stirring occasionally, until it is soft, about 20 - 30 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, peel and dice the sweet potato and put it in a large soup pot with 4 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt.  Thoroughly wash the leek and spinach, chop them coarsely, and add them to the pot, along with the chopped ginger.

Bring the sweet potato/leeks/spinach to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely tender.  Add the onions.  When the vegetables are soft, add the vegetable broth and puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender.    Add a splash of  lemon juice and a few grinds of black pepper to taste.  Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with reduced-fat feta cheese, if desired.

Nutrition: (does not include feta cheese as garnish)
Servings per recipe: 5
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 108
Total Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 316 mg
Total Carbs: 18 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 3

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Curried Coconut Sweet Potato Puree

Lake Superior Shoreline at Larsmont Cottages
Tom and I took advantage of mid-winter and mid-week rates and spent a lovely night at Larsmont Cottages on the shore of Lake Superior earlier this week. It was our late anniversary/late Christmas/early Valentine's Day getaway.  Listening to the waves lightly crashing on the rocky shoreline brought calm to my soul. We walked on a short trail next to the shoreline, mesmerized by the bleak beauty of winter.   

Then we ventured into the Ledge Rock Grille for dinner.   I don't go out to eat very often, due to my many dietary restrictions.  It's generally just too frustrating to make it worth spending the money on it.  But when I find a chef who is not only willing, but delighted, to make food that meets my needs without compromising taste and presentation, that chef will get recommendations from me.   This chef actually came to my table to talk to me about my needs when I asked the waiter about what accommodations would be possible.  (I had a sandwich and some yogurt packed in a cooler as a backup if I needed it.)  After explaining my needs, the chef suggested a curried coconut sweet potato puree as a base for Jamaican seasoned chicken, complimented by pulverized and seasoned zucchini squash.   Not only was it out of this world delicious, the presentation was stunning!   Couldn't he please cook for me everyday????  Wow.  

The Ledge Rock Grille is open to the general public, not only those staying at Larsmont Cottages. 

I attempted to replicate the sweet potato puree today as an accompaniment for baked walleye, and while it wasn't as spectacular as I had at the Ledge Rock Grille, it was certainly delicious.   So I scribbled down the ingredients as I made it and then did the nutritional analysis as presented below.  As you eat this, imagine viewing the glorious Lake Superior shoreline in all of its raw beauty.  

Curried Coconut Sweet Potato Puree with Baked Walleye

2 cups cubed, peeled sweet potato (about 2 medium sweet potatoes)
3 Tablespoons light coconut milk
1 tsp curry powder (or more if you like curry)
sprinkle of white pepper
1 teaspoon unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Boil the sweet potato cubes in salted water until tender.  Drain.  Mash or puree the sweet potato with the remaining ingredients.

Nutrition: (Analysis by Calorie Count)
Servings per recipe: 2
Serving Size: 2/3 cup
Calories: 242
Total Fat: 7 g
Cholesterol: 0  mg
Sodium: 19 mg
Total Carbs: 44 g
Dietary Fiber: 7 g
Protein: 3 g

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rooty Fruity Soup

Roots and fruit together make Rooty Fruity Soup!  That's what Tom called this Turnip and Pear Soup when he tried it and had a look of surprised joy on his face.  The truth-in-tasting for my soups is when Tom tries them and likes them enough to want more, even if he doesn't depend on pureed soup like I do. This soup definitely passed and surpassed the truth-in-tasting test.   It has a sweet undertone from the pears, which is complimented by the earthiness of the turnips and highlighted by the fresh lemon thyme.  This soup has a distinctly different taste than any other soup I have in my repertoire, and variety becomes paramount when much of my diet is comprised of pureed soups.

The original recipe is from The Soup Bible.  I made only minor changes to it, by using coconut oil rather than olive oil and reducing the amount of vegetable broth to make it a bit thicker. 

If you haven't read my Food Challenges tab on my home page, you are likely wondering why I use coconut oil rather than olive oil in my recipes.  Coconut oil is a more readily digestible oil for people with pancreatic insufficiency because it is a medium-chain triglyceride unlike other oils. I learned this from an oncologist when I was hospitalized a couple of years ago. This particular oncologist  possesses an extraordinary knowledge of nutrition and  the effect on health.  I will make a separate post to describe the benefits of coconut oil more in-depth for those of you who are interested, and maybe even skeptical, as I was initially.

Ingredients for Rooty Fruity Soup
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 white turnips, peeled and finely chopped
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and finely chopped       
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

Lemon Thyme
In a saucepan, heat oil and add onion, turnips and pears.  Cook over gentle heat for 3 - 4 minutes.  Pour in the broth, add lemon thyme and bring to a boil.  Simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat and cool a little.  Blend until smooth using an immersion blender.  Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chopped mint.


Nutrition: (Analysis by Calorie Count)
Servings per recipe: 5
Serving Size: Generous 1 cup                              
Calories: 136
Total Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg                                          
Sodium: 151 mg
Total Carbs: 27 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 3

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Soup

Garden Swiss Chard and kale

My culinary confidence got a real boost last week as I listened to Anna Thomas being interviewed on The Splendid Table on Minnesota Public Radio.   She was describing her love of "healthy, green soups" and went on to describe her Kale and Sweet Potato Soup.  Wow!  I love green soups, too, and had devised my own Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Soup a couple of years ago.  I thought I had posted it here, but as I was looking through my posts, I realized that I hadn't.  It is one of my favorite soups and my friend Tracy made a large batch of it for me last fall when I had an abundance of Swiss Chard in the garden and not much energy to do anything with it.  She froze several servings of it for me to use as needed.   

I digress.  As I started saying at the beginning of this post, greens and sweet potatoes are an unusual but incredibly tasty pairing.  And I have also substituted kale for Swiss Chard in my soup.  My soup creation is much less complex than the Kale and Sweet Potato Soup by Anna Thomas, but I was headed in the right direction.  Here is a link to her recipe on The Splendid Table website:

In 2009, Anna Thomas published a cookbook, Love Soup.   I wish I had thought of that name for my recipes!  It says so much about the wholesome ingredients, the final product that nurtures the soul as much as the body, and my never-ending desire for soup.  She is also the author of The Vegetarian Epicure, and she has another cookbook coming soon.    

Sweet Potato-Swiss Chard Soup cooking
I couldn't resist making a small batch of her Kale and Sweet Potato soup yesterday and it was delicious with her addition of leeks, cumin, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. I didn't have any green onions or cilantro that were listed as ingredients, but it was still tasty.  

The recipe I have listed below is for my original Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Soup.  Easy, nutritious and apparently a culinary trend.   

2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
4 cups chopped Swiss Chard or other greens such as kale or turnip greens
Reduced-fat feta cheese for garnish (not included in nutritional analysis)

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft.  Add the broth and sweet potato, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until sweet potato cubes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the chopped Swiss Chard and cook until tender and wilted, about 10 minutes.  Puree with an immersion blender.
Garnish with feta cheese if desired.  

Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Soup

Nutrition : (Per Calorie Count analysis)                
Servings per recipe: 5                                                    
Serving Size: About 1 cup                                 
Calories: 79                                                                             
Total Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg                                      
Sodium: 106 mg
Total Carbs: 5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 3 g

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Part of Tom's 2011 Vegetable Garden

New seed catalogs are arriving each day. Tom and I longingly look at each one, dreaming of what new vegetables we want to try this year.  But one of the catalogs stopped us in our tracks as we fanned the pages.  Oh glory be!  The photography alone was worth more than a quick glance.  The full page photos of vegetables are worthy of framing because of the artistry.  I turned to the cover:   Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( ). 

The huge variety of each type of vegetable is impressive:   84 different types of squash and pumpkins; 28 varieties of summer squash; 34 varieties of sweet peppers and 33 of hot peppers; 20 varieties of oriental greens; orange tomatoes, pink tomatoes, purple tomatoes, red tomatoes, striped tomatoes, white tomatoes, yellow tomatoes; 73 varieties of herbs, and so much more!  The gorgeous photographs of so many vegetables entice us to try more than we could possibly fit into our existing garden space.  Whittling down the list will be an exercise in "waste not, want not".

I am fortunate that Tom (aka "my garden servant") is a soil scientist who loves gardening and willingly plants whatever I ask of him. He even starts most of his plants from seed in a greenhouse, then lovingly nurtures them to planting time, then tends the garden with persistence and tenacity all season.   He has also started saving his own seed during the past several years, thus reducing the number of seeds we need to buy.  (Our bedroom has become the repository for the stored seeds.  Hmmmm....the fertility in that room has changed through the years.) 

Why are heirloom seeds so prized?  According to Tom (my primary source of all things gardening), heirloom seeds have superior quality, taste and even nutritional content.  Many modern agricultural practices place mechanical harvesting, uniformity, and rough handling and shipping needs above taste and nutrition when breeding vegetable crops. 

(See my previous post about tomatoes. ) 

So, by taking care to choose varieties of heirloom seeds that have performed well in our region of gardening, it is more likely that the plants will be very vigorous and productive in our garden. 

Other seed catalogs that we have ordered from in the past and liked include:
Pinetree Garden Seeds
Territorial Seed Company
R.H. Shumway's
Horizon Herbs

Sweet and savory garden dreams to all of you!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mango Puree with Scallops

Tom and I savor our memories of walking across Burntside Lake under the moonlight with our three boys at mid-night on New Years Eve.  When the boys were little, we pulled them in a sled across the lake, awed by the thunderous cracking of the ice below us, the twinkling stars above us, and the wondrous wilderness surrounding us.  After our walk, we nestled into our sleeping cabin, complete with a wood stove, sleeping cots, and lots of love.  It is one of my most treasured memories. Slowly, those traditions changed because of my health challenges. (The sleeping cabin has no indoor plumbing or electricity.)   Yet, I will always carry those early memories close in my heart, grateful that I built a memory bank of outdoor adventures to draw upon now.  So on New Years Eve this year, as I sat nestled in my home, close to my indoor plumbing and bathroom, I lovingly recalled our family times on Burntside Lake. 

Tom and I made a dinner together for our celebration of the tribulations and triumphs of the past year, and with anticipation of many joyful and soulful adventures for 2012.   Scallops are a rare treat in our home, and I impulsively bought them, not thinking about how I would prepare them.  So when I arrived home with them and realized I hadn't thought about their preparation, I was determined to use what I had.  The mango on the fruit platter sparked my imagination for the following.  

6 large wild-caught sea scallops
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 mango, peeled, and cubed
juice of 1 lime
2 dried chili peppers
dash of sea salt
1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Heat coconut oil in saute pan.  Sear scallops in oil and slowly simmer till done, adding a bit of water if necessary to steam.  Put mango, lime juice, crushed dried chili peppers, sea salt, and onion powder in blender.  Blend till smooth.  Pour contents into a microwave proof bowl and warm slightly, being careful not to boil.  Pour onto a serving platter and place scallops on top of it.  Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Servings per recipe: 2
Serving Size: 3 scallops plus approximately 1/2 cup of puree
Calories: 176
Total Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 15 mg
Sodium: 153 mg
Total Carbs: 24 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 9 g

Roasted Pears

My friend, Kris, made a salad of mixed greens with roasted pears and walnuts with bleu cheese for a December gathering with friends.  While I couldn't eat the salad, I peeled, mashed, and devoured the roasted pear and then understood why everyone was exclaiming about the salad.  So I made the pears again for myself at Christmas and it was just the festive treat I craved.  What a merry good time!   In fact, it was such a merry time, that I didn't get a photo of the roasted pears, so I simply added a photo of pears today.  Pears seem to be at their best this time of year.  One day I  sauteed them in a saucepan rather than roasting them and again, they were delectable. 

1 medium pear, peeled and cut into wedges or cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoon bottled pomegranate juice
3/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

Peel and core the pear and slice it into wedges or cubes.  Place it in an ovenproof baking dish.  Mix the remaining ingredients and pour it over the pear cubes; stir to coat all the pieces of the pear very well.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 10 - 15 minutes.  It will be soft enough that it doesn't even need to be pureed.

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: About 1/2 - 3/4 cup, depending on size of pear
Calories: 180 calories
Total Fat: 7 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium:  3 mg
Total Carbs: 31 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 1 g

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Spicey Parsnip Soup

I don't remember what prompted me to try adapting a parsnip soup recipe that I had seen in the Soup Bible - maybe it was my intrigue and unfamiliarity with parsnips - but I am so glad I did!  Wow!   I was surprised by the natural sweetness of the parsnips which was highlighted by the ginger and leeks.  I am on the hunt for more parsnip recipes.

The original soup recipe included a potato and some pistachios, but I omitted both of these ingredients and also swapped coconut oil for the olive oil, and increased the amount of chicken broth. 

Parsnips are not only the sweeter cousin of carrots, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch, too.  Parsnips contains high amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber, folic acid, calcium, and potassium. 

1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 pound parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper
drizzle of low-fat plain yogurt or finely ground hazelnuts for garnish (not included in nutritional analysis)

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan and add onion, leek, sugar, ginger, turmeric and nutmeg.  Cook until onion and leek are soft.  Add parsnips and cook, covered, for an additional 5 minutes over low heat.  Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Blend contents of saucepan until smooth.  Season to taste. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with a swirl  of yogurt or finely ground hazelnuts.   

Servings per recipe: 6
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 101
Total Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium:  58 mg
Total Carbs: 18 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 3 g