Clean Cuisine -The Root of the Problem

Today we have access to a huge variety of fresh produce, in or out of season. This wasn’t always the case, however. My grandmother would often tell me of her struggle to feed the family during the Great Depression, when she served beans and cornbread almost daily. Vegetables were only available in season and mostly con­sisted of what could be grown in the backyard garden: tomatoes, peas, green beans, and corn. A summer pot of simmering fresh green beans was relished greatly and consumed quickly. Precious fresh fruit was only in the house when someone was sick.

Yet, despite the current abundance, diversity and availability of fruits and vegetables, children, and many adults, are often wary of any plant food other than the common peas, corn, and green beans. Root vegetables – beets, turnips, parsnips, carrots, and rutabagas, for example – are often the most critically scrutinized aliens on the plate. It seems that there’s nothing new under the sun as the age old battle of coaxing, pleading, and bribing family members to eat healthy foods is repeated throughout history. “If you eat your vegetables, Samson, you will grow up to be big and strong enough to fight those nasty Philistines.”

So, why is there such a mass abhorrence of vegetables in general and root vegetables in particular? Could it be the way in which they are prepared? Could the texture and not necessarily the taste be the root of the problem? I remember vegetables as always be­ing “mushy.” Fresh produce was not as readily available when I was growing up, so most of our veggies came out of a can. But, even when we could get fresh vegetables, they were usually cooked to the mush stage. Grandma would cook her green beans for an hour at least and then, when they were falling apart, she would cook them a little longer just to be sure they were re­ally dead.

My experience is that it’s probably better to under­cook rather than overcook fresh vegetables to retain color and crunch. The addition of herbs and spices enhances their delicate flavors, but sometimes just a few pats of butter or tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper are all that’s needed. I’ve also discov­ered that instead of boiling or steaming, most vegetables (espe­cially root vegetables) are delicious roasted. Just mix them with olive oil, place on a baking sheet, and stick them in the oven at 400-425 degrees for about thirty to forty minutes.

Colorful and hardy root vegetables are absolutely packed to the brim with nutritious vitamins, minerals and fiber absorbed ef­ficiently from the soil. Unfortunately, this capability to take in good things may also include sucking up any toxins present in the soil. Ideally, then, one should buy only root veggies labeled as “organic.” But, due to the high cost and questionable creden­tials of all things labeled “organic,” you may want to grow your own instead. Root vegetables are best grown as fall crops. This means that they must be planted in the middle of the hot sum­mer and watered faithfully to survive until harvest in the cooler temperatures of autumn. The results, however, are worth the labor. The following recipes are easy to prepare and quite tasty.

ROASTED POTATOES AND ONIONS

6-8 white, red or gold potatoes, unpeeled

1 large onion, sliced thinly

½ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons herbs or spices (optional) – rosemary, basil or parsley are my favorites

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingre­dients together until well-coated. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, or until vegetable are tender and lightly browned. Serves 6

ROASTED CARROTS AND PARSNIPS

2 lbs carrots, cut into chunks or sticks

2 lbs. parsnips, cut into chunks or sticks

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

¼ cup butter (1/2 stick)

¼ cup honey

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the carrots, parsnips, olive oil, salt and pepper together. Place on a rimmed bak­ing sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes, tossing halfway through the roasting time. NOTE: if the vegetables were cut into sticks instead of chunks, the roasting time may be less. While vegetables are roasting, melt the butter, and stir in the honey and balsamic vin­egar. When tender and slightly browned, remove the vegetables from the oven and drizzle the butter mixture over. Toss lightly and serve immediately. Serves 6.

CHILLED BEET SALAD

3 or 4 large beets

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup sour cream

1-2 teaspoons snipped fresh dill weed

In a saucepan, cover the beets with water, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through. When done, drain the beets and plunge them into ice water for a few minutes. The skins should then come off easily. When thoroughly cooled, cut beets into slices or chunks and mix with the sugar, balsamic vinegar and salt. When well-coated, add the sour cream and dill weed and stir gently. The sour cream will turn a lovely pink color. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator to keep for several days. Serves 6.

by: Debbie Reed

unleavenedbread

Clean Cuisine – Unleavened Bread

“Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses…” Exodus 12:15

The long winter sojourn inside has taken its toll.  Everywhere I look, there is work waiting: drawers, closets and shelves to be rearranged, floors to be mopped, shined or vacuumed,  windows to be washed, bathrooms to be disinfected, bedcoverings and rugs to be aired outside, furniture and knick-knacks to be dusted – DUSTED?  How I hate dusting!  I would rather clean out the chicken coop or scrape gum off the soles of shoes than dust.  Dusting seems like such a worthless endeavor because I know, despite my best efforts, the results will only last as long as it takes for someone to open a window, brush the cat, or just breathe.  My husband  offers to help with the dusting sometimes, as he cheerfully grabs a feather duster and passes it over a few things here and there.  When I gently, or not so gently (depending upon my level of desperation), remind him that he is only fluffing dust from point A to point B, the offensive observation leaves me to face the ever-growing flaky stuff alone.

Thank goodness for the Feast of Unleavened Bread!  At this time of year I have a REAL reason to clean.  It’s very hard to get rid of all the leavened crumbs without a thorough “spring cleaning.”  Then, with everything gleaming and shiny, it’s time to dig out the old favorite unleavened recipes while looking for new ones to try.  The following were submitted by women readers and affiliate members of YRM and perhaps they will become regular items on your menu.

Veggie Pizza with Unleavened Crust – submitted by Melodie Illgen

Crust:

1 cup whole wheat flour (or white, or mixture of both)

2 teaspoons salt

4 Tablespoons safflower or sunflower oil

1/3 cup milk

1 Tablespoon cornmeal (optional)

Toppings:

2  8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 packet powdered Ranch dressing mix

Dash each celery seed and dill weed

Mix dry ingredients together; add milk and oil and stir to combine.  Knead for 1-2 minutes and then roll or press onto a cookie sheet.  Press some cornmeal into crust edge, if desired.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10-14 minutes.  Cool.  Mix cream cheese, mayonnaise and Ranch dressing mix together and spread over cooled crust.  Top with choice of raw vegetables.

 Unleavened Almond Honey Shortbread – submitted by Melodie Illgen

½ cup butter

2 Tablespoons honey

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 cup flour

¼ teaspoon almond extract

1/8 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Cream together butter, sugar, honey and almond extract.  Add flour, 1/3 cup at a time, mixing after the first two additions.  When adding the last 1/3 cup of flour, mix with the almonds and knead until it is a soft and workable dough.  Pat into an 8-inch round cake pan.  Press fork tines all over the dough and around the edges.  Semi-cut into 8 wedges and then bake for about 20 minutes.  Turn off the oven and let rest in the hot oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cut through the wedges while still warm.

Orange Passover Sponge Cake with Raspberry Sauce – submitted by Rosrita Fisher

Cake:

¾ cup matzo cake meal

¼ cup potato starch

12 large eggs, separated

1 ½ cups sugar

Topping:

¼ cup fresh orange juice (or zest and juice of 1 large orange)

2 teaspoons orange zest, finely chopped

1/3 cup preserves, raspberry-variety

1 cup unsweetened frozen raspberries, or fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift matzo cake meal with the potato starch over a large bowl;  sift again and set aside.  In a large bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer on high power, whip egg whites until stiff and glossy; set aside.  In another large bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer on high power, whip egg yolks with sugar until light and satiny; add orange juice and zest and blend well.  Fold egg whites into yolk mixture until just blended.  Sift in matzo meal mixture; fold delicately to combine.  Carefully pour batter into a 10-inch, 2-piece ungreased angel food cake pan with feet or a sponge cake pan.  Bake until center of cake springs back to the touch, about 1 hour.  Remove from oven and immediately invert pan onto a wire rack; cool cake completely in pan (If you do not have a pan with feet, invert pan over a wine or beer bottle.)   Meanwhile, to make topping, heat raspberry preserves in a small saucepan over low heat and toss in raspberries; mix well.  When cake is completely cool, run a sharp knife around the outside and inside rings of the tube pan to loosen cake; transfer to a serving plate.  Slice into 16 pieces and drizzle each slice with sauce just before serving.

**This cake can be made in a variety of flavors.  You can substitute lemon or lime zest and juice for the orange zest and juice.  Or, forget the citrus juice and zest altogether and use 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon of almond extract instead. (You can use 1 cup of flour instead of the matzo cake meal and potato starch, if desired.)

By: Debbie Reed

homemadeyogurt

Clean Cuisine – Greek Yogurt

What is the meaning of the term, “clean foods”?  In Leviticus, Yahweh has given us specific instructions as to what we should and should not eat.  All of the recipes published in this column adhere to these laws.  For further information please refer to the booklet, “Clean Foods — What the Bible Teaches” at the yrm.org website.

Yogurt — An Ancient Food

“Yogurt” is a Turkish word related to yogurmak, meaning, “to knead,” and yogun, meaning, “dense” or “thick.”  For an estimated 4,000 years mankind has been eating this milk by-product.  While its origins are not certain, it is thought that it was discovered by nomadic tribes of Central Asia transporting bags of goats’ milk.  Certain types of bacteria soured or curdled the milk and, voila, a wonderful food was created.

While yogurt is a relatively new food to us here in the U.S., for centuries it has been a staple food for much of the world.  In Turkey and many other countries, yogurt is eaten almost every day, and sometimes at every meal.  It is used in sauces and desserts, as a side dish or topping to meats, vegetables, soups, rice or pasta, and as a delicious drink called Ayran (pronounced as “eye-ron”).

Yogurt has numerous health benefits.  In addition to providing valuable nutrients, such as calcium, protein, and vitamin B2, the active cultures in yogurt help fight “bad” bacteria in the body.  Research has shown that yogurt is helpful in treating digestive ailments such as yeast and urinary tract infections and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Even those who are moderately lactose intolerant may eat yogurt since the process of changing milk into yogurt also changes the lactose into the more digestible lactic acid.

Much of the highly sweetened, fruity stuff that comes in little containers and passes for yogurt at the stores may contain gelatin of unknown origins, so check the ingredients carefully before purchasing.  I prefer the plain, thick Greek style yogurt, which contains few ingredients and tastes similar to sour cream.  I am particularly fond of eating yogurt topped with honey and nuts for lunch or a snack, and it is yummy!

An economical and easy way to get more yogurt into the diet is to make your own.  The ingredients are few, the utensils are simple, and the process is relatively easy.  This homemade yogurt tastes better than any I’ve ever bought at the store, I guarantee it.

HOMEMADE GREEK-STYLE YOGURT

1 gallon whole milk

2 cups cream

1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

1/4 cup sugar (optional)

Large double boiler or two stainless steel or enamel kettles that fit inside each other

Cooking thermometer

Heating pad

An old bath towel

Place the milk, cream and optional sugar into the top pot of a double boiler, and stir until well blended.  The small amount of sugar takes away much of the tartness.  However, some, like my husband, prefer a tart flavor, so whether or not to use sugar is up to the cook.  A double-boiler works well, as milk has a tendency to scorch on the bottom of the pot.  Since we don’t have a double boiler that’s large enough, we instead use two stainless steel stock pots of different sizes so that one fits inside of the other.  Add several inches of water to the bottom pot.

On a high stove setting, heat the milk/cream mixture to 185˚ and remove from heat.  Next, cool the milk to 110˚.  The “cool-down” time may be shortened by setting the heated mixture on ice, either in the sink or inside the other pot, now filled with ice cubes instead of hot water.  After cooling, add the cup of yogurt and whisk or blend it well so that it is smooth.  Cover the pot containing the yogurt mixture with a lid, place it on a heating pad set for medium heat and place a towel on top.  Let is process for seven hours.

At the end of seven hours, put aside enough yogurt (1 cup) to use as a starter in your next batch, and pour the processed yogurt (watery at this stage) into a muslin-lined sieve with a deep bowl underneath.  Do not refrigerate it yet, but set it on the kitchen counter and let the unrefrigerated yogurt drain for approximately 2 hours, or until the desired consistency is reached.  Ideally, when you have drained off 6 to 8 cups of liquid (called “whey”) the yogurt will be ready.  With a wire whisk, mix the now drained yogurt again to dissolve any remaining lumps.  If the yogurt seems too thick, whisk back in some of the whey.  Transfer the now thicker yogurt to a container with a lid and refrigerate for several hours before eating.

            Yogurt-Garlic sauce — To each cup of Greek-style yogurt, add 1 to 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced or pressed, and stir well.  Stir in herbs or spices too, if desired.  Use to top meat, vegetables, or pasta and rice dishes.  It’s especially good on baked potatoes in place of butter or sour cream.

            Yogurt cheese — Place yogurt into a cheesecloth- or muslin-lined sieve, set into a deep bowl to drain and refrigerate for 24 hours or longer, if desired.  At the end of that time, you will have a yogurt that resembles cream cheese.

by: Debbie Reed