Devils Workshop

has been moved to new address

Sorry for inconvenience...

Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Squash Those Winter Blues

Root Vegetables and squashes keep us going through the winter, offering good sources of complex carbohydrates and necessary minerals and vitamins. Since these are true winter vegetables, they taste best when they’ve been exposed to colder weather.

For Thanksgiving dinner, my mom (also a professional chef) and I made baby sweet pumpkins and acorn squash served right out of the shell. We dolloped a pat of butter and a generous drizzle of maple syrup into each squash "bowl" and covered it loosely with its cut-out top. They made quite a presentation. For dessert, I made a cheesecake out of turban squash (those big orange squashes that look like UFOs) with a layer of cranberry puree on the top. It was dynamite. The cheesecake recipe will be featured in my December eLetter, Natural Cooking. Sign up here for my monthly eLetter, featuring articles on health, whole foods and healthy cooking techniques, lots of recipes and culinary inspiration!

Winter Squash—The deep orange flesh of winter squash means that they are loaded with beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Delicata (long, narrow yellowish) and kabocha (deep orange, elliptical-shaped) are my favorites. Delicata is named for its delicate skin, which can be eaten along with the flesh after its been cooked.

Celeriac—Sometimes called celery root, celeriac is the root of a celery-like plant, but not celery itself. It is a knobby, ugly root that often gets passed up on the produce stand. Celeriac tastes like celery with a rich flavor. It can be roasted with other roots and squashes, as well as added to soups or root purée, and is also a wonderful addition to salads when shredded or diced. Just peel off the outer skin and it’s ready to use.

Fennel Bulb—Fennel is also related to the celery family, but looks more like dill and tastes more like licorice. The bulb is much rounder and larger than celery and is used in the winter months added raw to salads, braised with other vegetables, and is often a component in soups and broths. It is high in vitamins A and C and the seeds have been known throughout history to aid the stomach and digestive tract.

Parsnips—These are in the same botanical family as carrots and look very similar, except that parsnips have a tannish, off-white hue. They have a distinctive sweet taste, but are not usually eaten raw due to their fairly tough texture. Parsnips are delicious added to mashed potatoes, soups or any roasted vegetable dish. Try them roasted with maple syrup. They have lots of minerals and are known to aid colon disorders and constipation.

Turnips—This is a root vegetable with lots of complex carbohydrate for energy. In the same family are rutabagas and kohlrabi. All have a slightly spicy and peppery flavor and are added to stir-fries and salads and make a great side dish braised with herbs. I also like them roasted and pureed in soups.

Squash, Fennel and Apple Soup
Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts

This is one of my favorite seasonal soup recipes from the culinary school in which I graduated and now teach. Like many soups, it tastes that much better after the flavors have melded and developed... make it a day in advance and gently heat it over medium-low to serve.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium fennel bulb, diced
1 tart apple, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large winter squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne

Warm the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the ground fennel; let toast about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the onions and fennel bulb and sauté for 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the apple and garlic; saute another minute. Add the squash, stock, salt and cayenne; turn up the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes until squash is tender. Purée the soup in batches in a blender until silky. Add more salt and cayenne to bring up flavors, if needed. Garnish with fennel fronds.

Technorati tags:

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stay Healthy with Cranberries

Named after the whooping crane, which apparently makes these nostalgic berries a part of its winter feasting ritual, cranberries are a native crop to the northern regions North America. They grow in moist woodlands and bogs and are a close relative to the blueberry.

Cranberries are known to inhibit bacteria from adhering to the bladder and urinary tract, which prevents urinary and bladder infections. They are also extremely high in antioxidants, the "good guys" that help fight disease and boost immune function. Like blueberries (their cousins) these berries are of the top sources for antioxidants when measured against 100 kinds of fruits, vegetables and grains.

Commercial cranberries are produced in bogs in Massachusetts and other East Coast states, as well as Washington and Oregon. Although cranberries are not generally sprayed with insecticides, most commercial non-organic varieties are treated with growth hormones to plump them up and take the edge off of their notoriously sour notes. Thus, buy organic if you can.

Since fresh cranberries are most abundant over the holidays, stock up on them while supplies last. Buy them fresh from the produce stand and store them in the freezer for 6-12 months. Use them throughout the winter months to help immune function and ward off colds and flu.

An excellent way to get your daily dose of cranberries is by drinking the juice. Unfortunately, most commercial cranberry juice is sweetened with white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. To make your own cranberry juice concentrate at home, use this simple formula: Place 1 bag of fresh, organic cranberries and water to cover in a saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes. Blend the cranberries in a food processor and add a bit of sweetener (organic sugar, brown rice syrup, agave nectar...) to taste. Add 12 ounces of water to 1-2 tablespoons of the concentrate. The concentrate can be frozen for up to 1 year.

Traditional Cranberry Orange Sauce
Yield: 6-8 side servings

You'll never consider buying canned cranberry sauce again after trying this easy recipe for a sweet and punchy topping for potatoes, poultry or tempeh. For a nice garnish, grate a little of the orange peel and sprinkle it over the sauce just before ready to serve. The orange can also be replaced by a small handful of seasonal kumquats - thinly slice them, peel and all, and toss them into the pot.

1 orange, peeled and chopped (keep the peel)
3 whole cloves
8-12 ounce bag fresh, organic cranberries
1/2-3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder mixed with 2 teaspoons water

Poke the whole cloves into a 2-inch piece of the orange peel. Place the peel, along with the cranberries, maple syrup, apple juice, cinnamon stick and nutmeg in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir the berries occasionally and mash them with the back of a wooden spoon until they pop.

Whisk the arrowroot with the water and slowly drizzle it into the cranberries, whisking briskly to prevent clumping. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly and has a glazed look to it. Remove the orange peel and cinnamon stick. Taste, adding more maple syrup for sweetness, as desired. Serve warm.

Technoraiti Tags:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Perfect Roasted Chicken in the Clay Pot

See recipe below

Roasting a chicken is probably one of the easiest things to do. Put it in a clay pot and it's that much easier... it cooks itself perfectly without the fuss.

Cooked in clay, meats stay succulent and juicy, and cook beautifully. Chicken in the clay pot is delectably moist (even the breast meat) and the flavors are heightened as they mix and mingle with aromatics, vegetables and spices.

Many of the clay pots used for cooking are unglazed. The pot is soaked in water before going into the oven so that the clay will absorb the liquid and release it into the food as it cooks. This ensures that the food will be deliciously tender all the way through. Clay pots can be used for meats, vegetables, soups and even breads and desserts.

Clay pots go back thousands of years, and through the ages, different cultures have adapted these pots into various shapes and sizes. The most common being the tagine (a North African pot with a cone-shaped top) the Boston bean pot (a deep brown, narrow-mouthed bulbous pot) the red clay pot (the one pictured above that I use for chicken and vegetables) the fish baker (shallow oval dish shaped like a fish) and the garlic roaster (a small clay dish shaped like a garlic clove). All have various uses and are quite versatile.

Rules for Cooking in Clay (from the Best of Clay Pot Cooking):

1. Always soak unglazed clay pots before cooking. Otherwise, they will dry up and possibly crack in the high heat.

2. Never subject a clay pot to quick or extreme changes in temperature. I always place my pot in a cold oven and increase the cooking time by 10-15 minutes.

3. Do not store cooked food in the clay pot as the flavors will seep into the clay and be hard to remove. I serve my clay pot dishes in the pot because it makes such a lovely presentation, then transfer any remains to another dish to store.

Recommended Books:
The Best of Clay Pot Cooking, Dana Jacobi
Cooking in Clay, Erika Casparek-Turkkan

Article References:
The Best of Clay Pot Cooking, Dana Jacobi
Cooking with Dorothy McNett,

Perfect Roast Chicken and Vegetables in the Clay Pot
Yield: 4-6 servings

The name of this title doesn't lie - it comes out perfect every time, no matter what. The veggies can be thrown in the pot with the chicken from the get-go, but I usually sprinkle them around the chicken 30 minutes into the cooking process as I prefer my vegetables slightly less cooked. Use an oval red clay pot; brand names include Romertopf or Schlemmertopf.

1 whole organic chicken, rinsed and patted dry
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon mild paprika

2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 yellow onion
1 starchy vegetable (potato, yam, turnip, celery root...)
1 fennel bulb (optional)
1 medium apple (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, or 2 teaspoons dried (thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram), plus a little more for garnish
Salt and pepper

Soak the lid of the clay pot in water for 10 minutes. Mix the spices together in a small dish and rub them onto the chicken, inside and out.

Place the whole chicken, breast-side up, into the pot. Close the lid and place the pot in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 425 degrees and cook for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, slice the vegetables in a decorative fashion (see photos).

Remove the hot pot from the oven and open the lid away from you so not to scald yourself with the steam. Throw the veggies around the chicken and sprinkle them with the herbs, salt and pepper.

Cover the pot and place back into the oven for another 45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through - the juices in the thigh should run relatively clear and a meat thermometer placed in the "knee" joint of the thigh should read 175 degrees.

Let the chicken sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with some fresh herbs and serve right out of the pot.

Technorati Tags:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Arepas de Maize - Corn Pancakes

Corn griddle cakes have been a staple for South Americans for thousands of years. Today, arepas have morphed from a simple water and corn batter into a delightful pancake with many variations.

Of course, Americans have taken it a step further. Just as we did with the dense, gritty cornbread of the Southern states, Northerners have added wheat flour, eggs, butter, sugar and baking powder to give arepas more fluff.

But even in South America, the arepa comes in many forms. The most common being arepa de queso (cheese pancake) or arepa de choclo (sweet pancake). They are served alongside meat dishes, chilies and stews and are commonly found on breakfasts plates with eggs, cheese and salsa.

A true South American arepa is made with de-germed corn grit, a little butter and some salt. Additions such as cheese, green chilis or sugar can be added. Arepas are often cut in half lengthwise and stuffed with cheese, meats and other fillings.

Making the maize batter for arepas by hand is extremely laborious. Traditionally, dried corn kernals were soaked in water and simmered until soft. The kernels were then passed through a meat grinder. Butter and salt were added and then formed into patties to be slow grilled. Nowadays, this preparation method is used primarily by gauchos on ranches and farms. The most popular method today is to purchase pre-made corn flour that is made specially for arepas. But in the West, a fine corn flour will work fine.

I made arepas today and served them with a big pot of chili. I added fresh cilantro and diced red pepper for color - a warming and comforting lunch on a cold, windy autumn day.

If you want keep in the tradition of the gauchos alive and do it by hand, try this traditional recipe from the Secrets of Colombian Cooking by Patricia McCausland-Gallo - Arepas de Maiz

Corn Arepas
Yield: 14 small pancakes

Corn flour, as well as all gluten-free flours, take much longer to cook than wheat flour. If you have a small griddle or are using a skillet, this can mean a long wait for each batch of cakes. In this recipe, I brown them 6-8 minutes on each side, then transfer them to a hot oven to finish the cooking.

2 1/2 cups fine corn flour (or a blend of corn and wheat flours)
2 cups milk
1 egg (optional)
2-4 tablespoons honey or unrefined sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked fresh, frozen or canned corn
1 tablespoon melted ghee or butter

Optional additions for savory cakes:
Use chicken or veggie stock instead of milk
Shredded cheese
Diced red or green bell pepper
Green chilies or jalapenos
Fresh chopped cilantro
Ground cumin

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Heat the griddle or a large skillet over medium heat. Form the batter into balls and flatten each into a rough disc. Grease the skillet with a little ghee or butter and drop the cakes onto the griddle, slow-cooking them 6-8 minutes each side, until browned and crispy.

While the first batch of cakes are cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a medium sheet pan. Remove the cakes to the sheet pan and bake another 10-15 minutes, until cooked all the way through.

corn arepas, corn pancakes, natural cooking, healthy recipes, gluten-free, maize, arepa de queso, arepa de choclo

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Wide World of Grains

Per capita, Americans consume over 150 pounds of wheat per year. Is this too much? Probably.

In general, many health practitioners agree that over-consuming the same foods everyday, year after year, can be hard on the system — possibly creating allergic reactions, digestive problems, intolerances and other ill-effects.

In our culture, we eat wheat, rice and oats and that’s about it. Most people don’t know of the plethora of grains that are available to us, so we go for what we know. Fortunatley, though, alternative grains are becoming easier and easier to find; even some conventional stores carry a variety of alternative grains these days.

These alternatives to wheat and rice are rich in dietary fiber, iron, B-vitamins and proteins. They're easy to prepare too. Most of them cook up just as you would rice... over the stove, in a rice cooker or baked in a casserole or paella.

Trying new grains doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite wheat and rice dishes, but just remember that there’s a wide world of grains out there just waiting to be enjoyed.

QUINOA (keen-wa) — My favorite! This native “super-grain” provides all the essential proteins, and comes packed with iron and B-vitamins. It does not contain gluten, so is easy on digestion. It’s also quick and easy to prepare.

MILLET — This is a staple food in many other countries, but in America it is used mostly as birdseed! It’s a shame because it is one of the most complete proteins out there. Its crunchy texture goes well cooked in cereals, pilafs and breads. Gluten-free.

AMARANTH — This tiny seed comes packed with nutrition. As with quinoa and millet, it is high in protein, minerals, B-vitamins and fiber. It has a distinct taste, so start with adding it into other grains, like breads, pilafs, and cereals. Gluten-free.

BUCKWHEAT — Not really a part of the wheat family, buckwheat is from the seeds of a plant that is related to rhubarb. It is an excellent source of complete protein, fiber, B vitamins, potassium, calcium and iron. It is a heavier and distinctively tasting flour, and therefore is usually blended with other milder-tasting flours.

CORNMEAL — The graininess and sweet flavor of cornmeal adds a nice dimension in texture and taste to breads and muffins, or anything that can handle a slightly heavier and course flour. You can also use white corn flour in desserts and pastries if you want to maintain a lightness of color in the final product.

TEFF — These are little, dark brown seeds that are ground fine to make flour. The flour is strong flavored, rich and earthy. Due to its rich flavor and darker color, it makes a wonderful replacement for wheat bran or wheat germ. Teff is rarely, if ever, used alone in baked goods.

Yield: 4 side servings

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cups chicken stock, veggie stock or water
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
dash black pepper

Dry-toast the pine nuts gently over medium-low heat in a small skillet until lightly browned and fragrant. Watch them carefully, they burn fast. Throw the quinoa, pine nuts, stock, garlic, salt and pepper into a rice cooker or sauce pan. Cook as you would rice—Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve alongside poultry, tofu, red meat or vegetables.