In Part 1 of this series, I introduced some recipes that will let you do culinary magic with six of the the 13 power foods TC showcased in his Magic 13 article. Here are some more ideas for enjoying the last seven foods on the list. Try them out and let me know how you like them!
Pumpkin is delicious and nutritious. Its rich flavor always puts me in mind of autumn and Thanksgiving, no matter what time of year I taste it.
The average pumpkin yields only about 4 cups of cooked pumpkin, which is scant reward for all of the messy labor involved. Using canned pumpkin doesn't lose much in terms of flavor and texture, with much less stress and mess. Here's a recipe that's easier than pumpkin pie.
Smashed Pumpkin and Sweet Potato
2 12-ounce cans pureed pumpkin
3 cups diced, peeled sweet potato or yams (1 pound)
1 (10 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bay leaf
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- Combine everything except pumpkin puree into a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and remove bay leaf.
- Add pumpkin and mash together with a potato masher or in a food processor, pulsing lightly to leave chunky if desired.
- If you like, you can stir in 1/2 cup sour cream.
In his article, TC recommends eating a combination of raw and cooked spinach to get the most of the nutrients available.
Here are some tips for buying and cleaning fresh spinach:
Choose spinach leaves that look crisp and have dark green leaves with a nice fresh fragrance. If you are buying baby spinach leaves make sure they're not limp, damaged, or spotted and wet looking. Choose bundled spinach leaves with the stem intact rather than packaged leaves.
1 pound of fresh spinach leaves will cook down to about 1 cup cooked spinach. For a side dish of cooked spinach, figure 8 ounces of raw spinach per serving. When making spinach stuffed dishes, it's easier to use chopped precooked frozen spinach, and remove some of the water that leaches out of the leaves.
Fresh spinach should be washed as soon as you buy it. Loose spinach can be very gritty, so it must be thoroughly rinsed (it can't be overwashed). It grows in sandy soils that seem to cling to the leaves just like most lettuces.
The easiest way to wash spinach leaves is to fill a large container or sink with cold water and then toss in the spinach leaves. Move it around and the dirt and grit will fall to the bottom and the leaves will float. You can remove the leaves and then repeat this process if the leaves are especially sandy or gritty.
Dry the spinach by using a salad spinner or by laying on top of paper towels and letting them dry. Wrap in dry paper towels and seal in a plastic bag to store. Always store washed greens in your refrigerator in a crisper drawer if you have one. It keeps it at a nice even temperature without much change.
Wilted Fresh Spinach with Asparagus
3 cups fresh spinach leaves (baby or regular curly) washed and dried
1 pound asparagus, washed and trimmed
3 Tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- Remove stems and veins from spinach and tear into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
- Blanch the asparagus in lightly salted boiling water for approximately 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; do not overcook. Remove from heat and shock in cold water with ice; drain and dry well; set aside.
- In a large frying pan over medium heat, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat balsamic mixture until hot, stirring occasionally.
- Add cooked asparagus spears to dressing mixture, tossing to coat and reheat.
- Add spinach and toss lightly, and immediately place on plates. Spinach should be slightly wilted but still hold it's shape.
- Sprinkle with chopped eggs and serve immediately.
Here's a recipe for cooked spinach that will serve as a nice main course.
Spinach and Parmesan Stuffed Chicken Breasts
6 large chicken breasts (boneless skinless)
2 pounds frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1/4 cup roasted garlic cloves (or 3 Tbsp. fresh crushed garlic)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 egg whites
Salt and pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
- Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Squeeze out all the water from the frozen spinach after defrosting.
- In a food processor, add all ingredients for stuffing and puree to a smooth consistency.
- Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise but keep connected on one side (like a book).
- Salt and pepper the chicken on all sides. Place the chicken open on a rack that is fitted inside of a sheet pan that's lined with foil for ease of clean up.
- Put a large spoon full of stuffing on one side of all the chicken breasts. Fold the other side over the stuffing pressing down lightly to distribute stuffing to all sides.
- Lightly coat with a spray of olive oil.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until inside temperature reaches 150 degrees.
- Let them rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Tomatoes made the Magic 13 list because of lycopene, the pigment that gives them their red color, and one of nature's most powerful antioxidants. Lycopene is fat soluble, so it's best to eat tomatoes with a bit of fat. Cooked tomato products are more available dietary sources of lycopene than fresh tomatoes.
Here is a recipe I like that uses fresh ripe tomatoes. I was inspired to make it by the big red ones in my vegetable garden. Tomato season doesn't last long where I live, so I make big batches of this soup and freeze it, letting me enjoy the taste of fresh tomatoes all year long. If you live in an area where you can get great fresh tomatoes year round, lucky you.
Roasted Tomato Soup
2 pounds tomatoes
1 large sweet yellow onion
Dried Italian herbs (or fresh mixture of basil, oregano, and thyme)
Fresh ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Core all the tomatoes and cut them in half, width-wise. Slice the onions.
- Place them all on a sheet pan, cut side up. (You can cover your sheet pan with foil for easy clean-up) .
- Rub or spray them with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and dried or fresh herbs.
- Place in pre-heated oven. Roast for approximately 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
- Take them out and let them cool. Then place them all into a large pot and puree well with a hand blender or in a food processor a little at a time.
- Heat to serve and garnish with fresh basil and grated parmesan.
Here's another super easy recipe that incorporates canned tomatoes in juice. Packers generally save the ripest, most attractively-colored tomatoes for use as whole, crushed, and diced tomatoes. Lesser tomatoes are reserved for use in paste, puree or sauce. Many crushed and diced canned tomatoes are thickened with tomato puree, not juice, which changes the flavor of the sauce. Read the label.
4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs
2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones
1/2 tsp salt, plus 1 tsp
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 tsp
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes packed in juice
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
- In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and cook about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan while adding the wine and cook until almost dry. Add the tomatoes with the juice. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a light boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve.
- If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.
This is one of my favorite foods to cook whole. When I'm asked my best tips for cooking whole turkey breast, the first thing I tell people is to get a digital thermometer like this one:
Everyone and their grandma has their own way of roasting turkey that they claim is "the best." I'm not claiming my way is even close to "the best," that's for sure. However, I will tell you that it's darn tasty. It takes moments to prep and get it in the oven. If you have one of these thermometers you can just set the alarm for a certain temperature and forget about it while it roasts away all tucked up in your oven. So here it is, step by step.
Simply Citrus Roasted Turkey Breast
2-4 oranges, lemons, or limes cut in quarters
1 large yellow onion
1 bunch fresh sage
Fresh cracked peppercorns
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 turkey breast, whole
1 roasting pan fitted with a wire rack thermometer Sharp carving knife or electric knife
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and dry turkey breast. Remove any neck or liver parts still on the inside of the cavity.
- Rub the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper, and stuff generously with the citrus fruit of choice, onions, and fresh sage.
- Place the stuffed breast on the wire rack fitted inside the roasting pan. (I like to line my roasting pan with foil for ease of clean up).
- Rub the outside of the breast with olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. This will help to create a crispy skin, if you like that.
- Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and set the alarm to go off at 100 degrees. (This will be about 2/3 done and will signal you to turn down the oven.)
- Place turkey in oven and when the alarm sounds at 100 degrees, turn the oven down to 300 degrees and re-set the alarm for 155 degrees. Remove turkey from the oven and place in a warm spot to rest for approximately 20 minutes. At this time the temperature will rise approximately 10-15 degrees depending on the size of the breast.
- Note: All poultry should be heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. (or to 145 degrees for at least 14 minutes) to be considered safe from the risk of salmonella. Some people go overboard on this, heating the bird to 180 to kill off any and all food borne bacteria. But the temperatures above are sufficient, says the Serve Safe Certification handbook. Sure, 180 degrees will make any bacteria really most sincerely dead, but you'll end up with one tough old bird.
- Carve turkey breast in slices and store the bones in your freezer for roasting later for a nice homemade turkey stock. Serve with roasted pumpkin and sweet potato mash and some simple sautéed spinach leaves. Save your leftover turkey for making turkey salad for the next few days.
You're probably thinking, "What do I need a yogurt recipe for? I can just eat it right out of the container." That's true, you can, but it's much better to make your own yogurt. I won't get into yogurt-making in this article, but if you're interested there are plenty of websites selling yogurt cultures, and fermenting your own is easy and delicious. Try it once and you'll never want to buy another carton of yogurt, I guarantee.
Of course, if you don't have time to turn your kitchen into a yogurt factory, you can still buy some incredibly high-quality yogurts from farm markets, health food stores and even grocery stores. One of my favorite ways to get a healthy dose of this power food is to add it to my Banana Metabolic Drive shake. It makes it so creamy and adds that tiny bit of acid that just rounds out the flavor and texture just perfectly.
For those of you looking for something else to do with yogurt, here's a recipe for a great dip or dressing you can make with this super beneficial bacterium.
Yogurt Dill Dip or Dressing
16 ounces of thick strained yogurt or low fat yogurt
(If you can't get Greek thickened strained yogurt, you can strain your own through a cheesecloth or coffee filter overnight. If you don't mind your dressing a little thin, you can just use the yogurt as it is.)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
2 Tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 small handful of fresh dill, chopped (or 3 Tbsp. dried dill)
- Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and store in your refrigerator for 7-12 days.
- Mix in with diced turkey or chicken to make a salad.
- Add fresh cucumbers for a salad reminiscent of the specialty Middle Eastern chilled cucumber yogurt soup.
- Pour a few tablespoons over grilled salmon.
I also love this dressing on a grilled chicken sandwich served on a freshly baked pita bread with lots of chopped red onions, as a chicken gyro or souvlaki in place of tzatziki sauce.
The shiitake is Japan's most popular mushroom. It has a strong, earthy flavor and is used fresh or dried in cooking. Shiitake contains large amounts of glutamate (the "G" of MSG, without the toxic side effects). Glutamate contributes to the fifth dimension of flavor, which the Japanese call umami, which translates roughly as "indescribable deliciousness." When mushrooms are dried, their glutamate content increases, which in turn increases their umami factor.
The Japanese make a hearty, highly prized stock called dashi from dried shiitake, which adds a wonderful meaty and savory deliciousness to soups, noodle dishes and other foods. Fresh or dried, the inherent umami of shiitake mushrooms must be experienced. And once experienced it is sure to be craved often.
I love to combine shiitake mushrooms with other wild mushrooms to make a tasty topping for grilled steak. One "trick" I learned from one of my teachers in culinary school was how to "caramelize" mushrooms. When most people think of caramelization they think of onions or other sugary vegetables. But mushrooms can also get a beautiful caramelized crust if you have patience and a good eye. Fresh mushrooms shrink considerably when cooked, so you have to keep a close eye on them and remove them from the heat as soon as they're done.
Sautéed Wild Mushrooms with Fresh Thyme
2 pounds wild mushrooms
Fresh ground pepper
Olive oil for sauté
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, packed and lightly chopped
Grilled steaks or chicken breast
- Preheat a cast iron or very heavy bottom sauté pan on high.
- Add a touch of olive oil and heat until it shimmers.
- Add mushrooms in a thin layer working in small batches. The goal is to brown the mushrooms, not steam them. Salt and pepper them lightly as they are browning.
- Do not touch them for a few minutes, so they can brown. As soon as the mushrooms begin to lose their liquid into the pan, remove them to a separate bowl and toss with the fresh thyme.
You can add heavy cream at this point also to make a beautiful and subtle sauce for your steak or chicken.
I hope you have enjoyed this mini series on cooking the Magic 13 Power Foods. There is never any excuse for a boring diet. Variety in all things, food included, is the spice of life.