Category Archives: cheese

Almost Dairy-Free Augratin Potatoes

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that we’re pretty much dairy-free EXCEPT for cheese.  So this recipe is essentially dairy free until you add the cheese.  This is a recipe that was born of my Mom’s potatoes augratin recipe, except I’ve eliminated glutens and most all dairy.  And it’s what I call a ‘warm fuzzy’ dish.  My husband loves this kind of thing. Potatoes Augratin Baked

While this isn’t my usual uber-healthy style of dish, it’s more healthy using coconut milk and olive oil instead of cow’s milk and butter.  The good thing about this is that this recipe does indeed give you some fiber.  I’m a huge fan of fiber!   Most people don’t get nearly enough every day.  Women should have 21 grams a day and men should have at least 32 grams a day.  Without fiber, your digestive system (and colon) simply don’t work properly.  Fiber also helps offset any damaging sugars that you might take in, and along with protein, gives you the energy to stay active all day.

This recipe uses my own version of a bechamel sauce, detailed below.   You can use any type of potato you have on hand, but be aware your results might vary depending on the potato you choose. Today I used Russet potatoes simply because they were the only organic potatoes available here in the store today. Potatoes and Onions wholeThey aren’t the most preferred for this type of recipe.  Your potatoes will hold up better in the dish if you use red or white potatoes.

Some of the ingredients and instructions are approximations.   I go by how things are moving along and by how the sauce looks as I’m building it, so some of this will be up to you as to how much you use when it comes to oil (or butter), corn starch and the coconut milk.

Also, I pealed my potatoes, but to be honest, they’d be far healthier if you leave the skin on after scrubbing, to give you yet even more fiber. PLUS for me, the less time with a knife in my hand, the better.  I’m prone to cutting myself when cooking, and also to burning myself.  Recently, I cut my hand, then when removing something from the oven, I burned the exact place where the cut was!  No kidding!

So, here we go:

Almost Dairy-Free Potatoes Augratin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Augratin ingredientsIngredients:

  • 4 or 5 medium to large size organic potatoes, pealed & cut in 1/4″ slices or thinner
  • 1/2 cup organic onions, sliced
  • 5 TBS (+/-) organic olive oil (or you can use butter if you wish)
  • 5 TBS (+/-) organic corn starch
  • 4 cups (or less) unsweetened organic coconut milk
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 5 cups grated organic sharp cheddar cheese.

Place the sliced potatoes and sliced onions in a pan.  Fill pan about 3/4 full of water.  Potatoes and ONionsCook on medium heat approx 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender and onions are transparent.   Drain.

Place the potatoes and onions in an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.   Add about 2 cups grated cheese and very gently stir into the hot potatoes to mix.

For the bechamel sauce, start with approx 5 TBS olive oil (or butter if you choose) in a sauce pan.  Allow to heat but not bubble.   Gradually stir in the corn starch until you have a thick roux.  Cook a minute or two until all is well incorporated.

Add coconut milk slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, allowing the milk to incorporate with the oil / butter and corn starch mix.   Continue to add until you have a good sauce consistency.    You may not need this much coconut milk or you might need more.  I play it by ear.

Add 1 cup grated cheese and stir into the sauce.   Add salt and pepper to taste.

When thickened, pour the sauce over the potatoes in the baking dish, and gently stir or ‘nudge’ it into the potatoes.   PotatoesAugratin Pre-bakeAdd the remaining cheese to the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or more.  If you want it a bit dryer and more browned on top, you can certainly cook longer.

 

ENJOY!

Simple, healthy meals: Lobster

So many healthy, fresh meals are very, very simple to make.   AND then the leftovers are simple as well.

As an example, a few nights ago, we had Florida Lobster as our main course, with sides of fresh steamed green beans and sautéed fresh mushrooms. This is so simple, has a lovely, colorful presentation and very healthy as well.  This is proof that healthy meals don’t have to be complicated.

Then the next day there were lobster omelets for brunch.

There are many ways to prepare lobster – broiling and grilling and baking.  We’ve found that baking is the simplest simply because we can walk away for half an hour and it’s done.  We prepared the below for three persons:

Baked Lobster

  • 4 lobster tails  (one for each person and one for leftovers)
  • Organic butter

BakedLobsterTailSlit the back shells of the lobster tails, and pull the meat out, leaving attached towards the ‘fin’ of the tail.  Slightly butterfly the meat and arrange on top of the shell.   For presentation, spread the tail and place on a baking sheet.  Put small chunks of butter on each and put in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.    At the end of 30 minutes, check to be sure that they are cooked through.

Melt butter or ghee and put in small cups to be served with the lobster.   Arrange on serving plate with beans and mushrooms.

Wrap remaining tail in plastic wrap and store in fridge.

 

Mushrooms

  • 1 package fresh white mushrooms, organic
  • 1/2 cup of thinly sliced organic onion
  • 3 tbs organic butter or organic olive oil
  • fresh organic herbs – I like adding thyme

Slice mushrooms thinly. Melt butter in sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onions and stir, until transparent.   Add mushrooms and sauté until slightly browned, still over medium heat. Add herbs and allow to cook another 5 minutes or so.

And now for the leftovers:

Lobster, Mushroom and Onion Omelet

  • 1 lobster tail from previous night
  • 4 large mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbs finely shopped onions
  • Organic butter
  • 2 Organic eggs
  • 1/2 cup Shredded organic cheddar

OmeletChop lobster into 1/2″ chunks.

Melt butter in large sauté pan.  Add onions and mushrooms and cook until soft.

Whip eggs with a TBS of water, and pour into pan over vegetables.  Add shredded cheese.   Once eggs are set, add the lobster and fold in half.  Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

 

Delicious veggie pancakes

A healthy veggie breakfast!  You didn’t think it was possible?  It is.  We did it this morning! It’s all organic and has a healthy helping of fiber, vitamins and protein.

I found the recipe on a site that I enjoy, TheHeartySoul.com, except I made a few alterations so those are included in this version.

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Veggie Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic sweet potato with skin on, grated
  • 1 cup organic zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup organic yellow squash, grated
  • 1/8 cup grated organic onion
  • 3 eggs, thoroughly beaten until frothy
  • 4 heaping tablespoons organic gluten-free oat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Organic olive oil, for cooking
  • freshly grated organic Parmesan Cheese
  • Organic sour cream
    Directions:
  1. 1. In a large bowl, mix together the grated veggies, eggs, flour, and salt until thoroughly combined.
  2. Heat a thin layer of olive oil on a griddle at 300 degrees (or if you use a saute’ pan, be sure it’s medium heat.) You want the pancakes to cook all the way through the middle by the time they’re brown on the outside. When the oil is hot, drop pancake-size dollops of the veggie mixture into the pan, without overcrowding. Flatten a bit. Cook until the bottom starts to brown.
  3. Flip and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese
  4. Cook until browned on the second side, then repeat until the batter is gone.
  5. Transfer cooked pancakes to a paper towels.  Serve immediately. If you need to keep warm, you can tent with foil or place in the oven on the lowest setting on a plate.
  6. Serve warm with a topping of sour cream.

Serve with a side of fresh organic cantaloupe or for an extra helping of nutrients,  avocado chunks.

Notes:  The yellow squash and the zucchini once grated, tend to be a bit watery so I added extra flour.  These didn’t turn out fluffy and were a bit flat but were still delicious.  The sweet potato was difficult to grate so watch the knuckles.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grated my knuckle over the years! Grating the onion was simple, but it turned out very watery.  However, I think that it added to the dish.

We had three extra and I wrapped in paper towel, put in a zip lock and will warm and have them perhaps tomorrow AM.

 

 

Another trip to the market and discovering hidden ‘bad stuff’.

It was time for yet another trip to the market. A family’s gotta eat!  Today I’m looking at some pantry items.  These are stand-bys we can keep on hand for quick meals when time becomes an issue.  So, where to start?

Nicoise saladWho doesn’t love a beautiful Nicoise Salad or a spicy black bean salsa?  These are easy dishes made easier using pantry items.

First let’s look at a couple of real disappointments – items that have ingredients that are less than ideal and in one case, BAD.  Just because it says organic, it doesn’t mean that there cannot be problems.  ALWAYS read the labels!

I’ve been a fan of Annie’s brand for years, but lately, I’ve come across some disappointing items.  Last week, it was a so-called ‘healthy’ boxed macaroni and cheese, but to be honest, anything that is boxed can’t be that good.  Annies CaesarToday, in reading the label of Annie’s Organic Caesar dressing, I was disappointed to find that they list a generic ‘expeller pressed vegetable oil’ Canola and/or sunflower).  Canola is generally, BAD.  It is a genetically engineered oil from the rapeseed.   Rather than going into a detail on this, I am referring to a great article from Natural News.  It starts ” Corn oil comes from corn: sunflower oil from sunflowers, sesame oil from sesame seeds, peanut oil from peanuts, olive oil from olives, Canola oil from…Canolas? What is a Canola?”  The uptake?  Canola is bad.  There are many more good oils to choose from.  It is made from a high-heat process using toxic chemicals in the process.  It is touted by the food industry as being healthy, yet many animal studies point to serious and deleterious effects on rats and pigs.  Why take the chance?   I should add that we generally make our own Caesar salad from scratch.  Hmmm…I’ll post that recipe soon.  It’s to die for!

Another disappointing item?  Justin’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups.  Justins Peanut Butter CupsThese are a real taste sensation.  You’ll never want the standard old junk-food peanut butter cups again.  BUT there’s one nasty item on the ingredient list:  SOY.  Even if it’s organic, it’s still soy and soy is a hormone disruptor.  I can’t understand why companies that appear to be health-oriented continue to use soy lecithin when there’s a far healthier choice out there in the form of non-GMO sunflower lecithin.  As much as I like this item, I’ve stopped eating it now because of the soy.  Hormone disruption is the basis of many health problems.  Weight issues are the first that come to mind, but anything to do with your body’s endocrine system can be disrupted with soy.  The World Health Organization reports problems from hormone disruption including non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system, attention deficit /hyperactivity in children and thyroid cancer.  Come on, Justins!  Get with the program and stop using that stuff!

Now for the good things.  While I always encourage using fresh and healthy items, there are times that you just need a bit of help in the kitchen.  That’s when we go to the pantry for our jarred or canned items.    The packaging is important.  If possible, buy these items in jars where you will have little or no BPA exposure.  If in cans, be sure they’re marked as BPA-free.

Who wants to make sauerkraut from scratch?  Not me! I occasionally find some organic Sauerkrautchicken sausages for a quick dinner, brown them and cook with sauerkraut.  I’ve been really happy with the Eden Organic product.  The ingredients?  Organic cabbage, water and sea salt.  That’s all you need!  This is a good pantry item to have on hand.

If you don’t have nut allergies, a great snack always includes peanut butter.  It’s high in energy, protein and fiber.  And the best peanut butter contains absolutely NOTHING but organic peanuts.   You can spread on apple wedges for a quick snack or on organic bread (ours is gluten free) with sliced bananas PeanutButterfor an old fashioned peanut butter and banana sandwich.  Oh, my Mama loved those!

Kalamata Olives are a great addition to salads and for appetizers. Divinia Organic Olives These organic olives are particularly good and I use them in a Nicoise salad (as shown above) and for any Greek style dish.  What’s in them?  Organic Kalamata olives, water, organic red wine vinegar and sea salt.  You can make a divine main-dish salad from leftovers such as chilled green beans, hard boiled eggs, sliced seared fresh tuna, fresh herbs and olives with a light mustard-based dressing. Add Feta cheese for a Greek accent or some hard Italian or French cheese shreds for a more northern Mediterranean accent.

Living in South Florida, one comes to rely on black beans in many dishes.  Black bean chili is a healthy one-dish meal.  Black beans are wonderful in salads, salsa and of course, over rice.  Black Bean salsaThe ideal manner of preparing is using dried black beans that have been soaked overnight and slow-cooked.  However, since there isn’t always time for that, canned black beans are a great pantry item to add protein, fiber, vitamins and iron to your diet.  (Note:  If using corn in your black bean salsa as shown to the right, be sure you have organic, non-GMO corn!)

At the risk of being downright boring, I can’t remind you enough:  READ THE LABELS!

BlackBeans

Healthy eating at a restaurant? Rare!

Weekends are a time for relaxation and our weekends are Sundays and Mondays every week.  It’s Sunday and sometimes, we’d like nothing more than to have a relaxing lunch or dinner. Sounds easy enough, right?   Hardly!

Restaurants are notorious for menus that tell you NOTHING.  GMO’s?  No information.  Organic?  Hardly.  And anytime you ask the wait staff, they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear.  When we work hard all week to eat properly, eat healthy meals with no chemicals, no GMO’s, and in our case, no glutens nor dairy, why would we un-do all our good work with a meal of unhealthy, poisonous food?  Let’s face it, GMO’s are everywhere and  GMO’s are poison.

In the past, one felt they could take a chance on non-organics because one could always attempt to scrub the pesticides and other poisons off the food.  However, with GMO’s, the poison is embedded.  It’s in the genetic structure.  So no amount of scrubbing will get rid of it.

We live in a town where there were (at last count) around 250 restaurant and bar licenses.  Eating establishments come and go so it’s difficult to keep up with them all.  The published health department ratings might tell you about poor food storage habits and vermin, but they don’t tell you what is in the food.

Thus we have very few reliable choices, but at least there is one that we know of that is reliable.   This restaurant serves beautiful organic food, as well as gluten free.  It’s the ONLY place on the island where I can get an organic burger on gluten free buns.  OrganicBaconBurgerTheir vegetables are very fresh.  The restaurant is ‘Le Petit Paris’ in Key West.  They have a very nice staff and they’re very knowledgeable.  They have filtered water available for the table.  They make wonderful omelets, Panini and crepes.  And now?  They have fondue!  We highly recommend Le Petit Paris if you’re visiting Key West.  It’s the one place you can visit where you will have an excellent, healthy meal with great service.

Now, I have to go from the best to some tales of the worst.  I am continuously alarmed at how many restaurants are NOT upgrading to healthy choices, but instead are downgrading their food quality and menus.  One restaurant stopped using a nice local bread about 5 years ago.  Now, they don’t even buy local seafood any longer.  They buy frozen from places that are far, far away from a town that has excellent access to the freshest fish and seafood.

And one of the most disgusting things I see on menus locally? Tilapia!  Seriously!  Tilapia! I’ve seen it in far too many seafood restaurants and markets.  I’m shocked to hear patrons in restaurants and in seafood markets actually ORDERING it!  This is yet another example of Americans making bad choices because they have chosen NOT to educate themselves!

Rather than go into too many details on this subject, you can read a great expose’ on this farmed nightmare here:  http://www.eatthis.com/tilapia-is-worse-than-bacon   They have almost no heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids.  Farmed fish end up with parasites because of a filthy pond system.  As farmed fish, they live on corn and soy, ALL GMO and poisonous.  If your food eats poison (as you find with non-organic meats and poultry), YOU eat poison. Tilapia go through a sex change because of hormones being fed to them to fatten them up.  If they eat hormones, YOU eat hormones.

So again, please research your food!  And when going dining out, research the restaurants in advance.  You can call and ask questions as well, about their foods.

I ask that everyone who reads this, please have a discussion with your friends and families to teach them the RIGHT way to eat and to stay well.   And you are all invited to comment, ask questions and engage in conversations here on our site.

 

Cheese, glorious cheese!

I generally do not eat dairy.  Think about it.  Humans are the only species that drinks the milk of other species.  And humans are the only species that drinks that milk of other species, after weaning.  Our systems aren’t made to process it well.  Those of us who have fine-tuned our diet have an even greater problem with dairy.  I don’t crave it and don’t want it – except for CHEESE!!!!

CHEESEActually, cheese has some excellent nutritional benefits, as long as you don’t overdo it and overload on the fat content.  And, cheese doesn’t give me a problem!  While I don’t think we’re technically ‘lactose intolerant’, those who are lactose intolerant have no problem with cheese.  Why?  When milk turns to cheese, it goes through a process called acidification, which is a souring process.  The lactose in the milk converts to lactic acid.  It becomes a different entity altogether.   By the time a cheese is aged, most if not all of the lactose is gone.  The more aged or the firmer the cheese, the safer it is to eat if you’re lactose intolerant.

WHEW!  I’m really glad to know all of that.   Both Mark and I are cheese lovers, but we do limit ourselves, AND as always, I read every label when buying cheese.

There are organic cheeses that are really good and easily available in the States. Organic Cheese Horizon and Organic Valley make some good basic  cheeses and they’re reasonably priced.  But if you want something really special, you should be looking at cheeses that are not made in the US.   Knowing the contamination factor of GMO’s in this country, as always, you should go organic.

And knowing that Europe is very anti-GMO gives me a better feeling about their cheeses.  There are some excellent Canadian cheeses as well. I could spend hours in the cheese section of Whole Foods or any other store that has an excellent cheese section. Trader Joes?  Just read the labels.  Trader Joe’s has inexpensive food, but it’s often NOT organic and NOT non-GMO.

When it comes to labeling, like anything imported into the US, the country of origin should be displayed on the product.  In my case, I’m not looking to eliminate the product from viable choices.  I’m looking for something that is a better choice than most cheeses in the US.

Until fairly recently, you could count on the type and name of a cheese to know where it was produced based on the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) , PGI (Protected Geographical Indication and TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed).  The European Union protects the name of regional foods and it is enforced within the EU and internationally via bilateral agreements with non-EU countries.  This protects the reputation of regional foods and insures a consistent quality for those items.  Wines, cheeses, hams, sausage, olives and beer are governed by this.  Some examples of cheeses that fall into this category are Gorgonzola, Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago and Roquefort. But cheesemakers nationwide have begun to infringe on these protections. If you ask me, it makes them look really bad.   Yes, they make some tasty (and some organic) cheese in Wisconsin but can’t they create their own styles? Why do they feel they have the right to take something that is not theirs?

The US hasn’t been particularly helpful in this legal process, protecting these lovely foods, and thus, you see more and more US-made ‘imitations’ of European cheeses.  Without the particulars of the location that they are traditionally made in, you aren’t getting anything remotely close to the original.  For example, to be named Roquefort,  Cheese.Wikia.com says, ”  cheese must be made from the milk of a certain breed of sheep, and matured in the natural caves near the town of Roquefort in the Aveyron region of France, where it is infected with the spores of a particular fungus (Penicillium roqueforti) that grows in these caves. “

Interestingly enough, what’s good for the goose doesn’t seem to be good for the gander.  Cheese producers in Wisconsin infringe on EU PDO products constantly.  You really have to read the labels to know what you’re getting, because the people in Wisconsin have adopted Italian, Dutch and French names for their companies.  Here is a prime example and if you ask me, it should be illegal. Those who know no better could be easily duped into buying a product that is in fact NOT Gorgonzola and NOT Italian.  WisconsinItalianCheeseNOYET, many regions in the US feel they deserve the protections that the US denies European producers.  Some examples:  Georgia feels that to be labeled a Vidalia Onion, it must be produced in the area of Vidalia, Georgia.   Idaho feels the same way about their potatoes and Florida is very protective of their Florida Orange Juice moniker.

So again, we’re back to reading labels.  On my trip to the market yesterday, I took some pictures of cheese labels to illustrate what we’re talking about.

Note how BelGioioso uses an Italian Name, claims to be an Italian Blue Cheese, yet it’s made in Wisconsin.

 

Also, this Feta, WisconsinGreekCheeseNOwhich is traditionally a Greek cheese, uses a more Mediterranean company name and yet it is made in the US.

And finally, I found this interesting little gem (Castello) in the cheese section at the local supermarket.  I’ve turned it inside out and found no country of origin.  So I bought it, since I love this type of cheese, thinking perhaps that once it was opened, the magical country of origin would be revealed.  Nope!

Now, I suspected it was from Denmark since I saw a small stamp on it that said DK.  But again, it didn’t meet the requirements for labeling in the US.

 

As it happens this is a delicious cheese and I’m sure it’s from Denmark, CheeseNotProperlyLabeledbut still, this proves that you must read every label, every day to know what you’re putting in your body.

And shame on Publix for not adhering to the law that requires that anything they sell is properly labeled as to country of origin.   I might have passed this by, assuming it was another deception by a Wisconsin cheesemaker, if I’d not seen the DK in the small circle on the back.  And most Americans don’t know the symbols for European countries.

Finally, the entire time I’ve been writing this, a commercial jingle from the 80’s kept rolling around in my head so I am including it below.  Now it will probably embed itself in YOUR head for the rest of the day.  Enjoy!

(Edit:  Now after posting, I realized that this ad was for the American Dairy Council and our dairy products in 1987 were already soaked in pesticides.  Oh well.  All we can do is demand better for ourselves and our family. )