Monday, March 24, 2014

Best Way to Cook Okra- not slimy



skillet with cooked okra and tomato sauce

If you think you don't like okra, think again.
This tasty way of making okra is delicious and never slimy.
It is a Middle Eastern recipe that is called Bamia, and it is one of our family favorites. For many Americans, okra is an uncommon vegetable that shows up mostly in soups or stews. We make it as a side dish that we eat over rice.

Okra is naturally gluten free and very nutritious. It's a good choice for those with digestive problems since it cooks up soft and tender.
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Old Family Recipe
The first time I ever tasted Bamia was at my husbands parent's house. I got married when I was 21. It was in the 1970's. Prior to my marriage,  my exposure to vegetables had been very American: creamed corn, string beans, peas and carrots -  most of them from a can. I learned how to make and eat fresh okra from my mother in law who is an excellent Middle Eastern cook accustomed to making fresh vegetables. This is her old family recipe.

My mother in law's recipe is typical of many Middle Eastern Bamia recipes, but she adds a secret ingredient unique to her recipe.  She adds dried apricots to her sauce. It is a variation which makes the sauce little sweet and savory.

Small Pods are Best
My mother in law explained to me that the small okra pods are the tastiest. The large pods get hard and coarse and are not ideal for cooking. I've seen okra growing on the farm at my CSA,  and I've noticed that once the pods get large, they become woody and not suitable for cooking. When you buy frozen, look for baby okra.

I Picked Okra in the Fields at My CSA Farm
After spending many afternoons picking okra at my CSA, and getting scratched by the woody thorny branches all over my arms and legs, I've decided to buy okra in the supermarket fresh or frozen. I like the frozen whole pods the best. The Middle Eastern brands package really small pods, cleaned and ready to cook . The okra is usually just the perfect size.

 Bag of frozen okra on counter top
















So, if you are accustomed to eating okra American style in stews or soups, you may really enjoy this change: Okra cooked in tomato sauce.


Okra Has Excellent Nutritional Benefits 
In addition to the interesting taste, okra has many nutritional benefits. It is very high in Vitamin K,  low in calories,  and provides substantial amounts of fiber and manganese. It also is loaded with antioxidants that are so important to protect against the rays of sun exposure.  It's a great vegetable to work into your menu to boost vitamins and antioxidants while providing some variety to your meals.

If you have never made okra, now is the time to try.
Look for it in the frozen case of your supermarket or in an ethnic food store, especially a Middle Eastern stores.

I bought a small bag of baby okra for 1.99 at an ethnic food store.
It cooked up great and makes a perfect side dish over rice for most meals.

Ingredients:
1 14 ounce bag of whole pods baby okra ( or 1 pound of small pods of fresh okra  )
1/8 cup olive oil ( 3 Tablespoons olive oil)
( 3 large cloves garlic, pressed or chopped)
14 ounces of tomato sauce with garlic and herbs
juice of a half large lemon
4  dried apricots ( whole)
1/4 cup of water in beginning and additional if sauce cooks down


Directions
Pour oil in a large skillet, add okra,  and cook on medium heat for a few minutes until okra begins to turn color. Add garlic and mix through the okra as it cooks. Add tomato sauce, juice of the half lemon, apricots. Stir and allow to slowly cook over very low heat for about 40 minutes covered.  If the sauce looks like it is cooking down add the water and stir. Serve over rice as a side dish.
*** cooking time depends on size of the okra- if very very small like in the pictures , cook for 25 minutes ( but the small ones are hard to find
****if you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, cut up 4 medium tomatoes and whiz in blender with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. Whiz quickly and use as a sauce instead of the tomato sauce.


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frozen baby okra
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okra with the fresh chopped garlic

cooking slowly on a very low flame with the tomato sauce- add 1/4 cup water if needed
 Bamia baby okra recipe

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fasolia - Saucy Greek Green Beans

                             



Greek style green beans or "Fasolia" is no ordinary green bean recipe! 
If you are looking for a recipe to perk up the way you serve green beans than this might be it! 
It has a rich tomato sauce taste. The first time I tasted string beans prepared this way, it was love at first bite.

The beans are sautéed in onions and then cooked down with marinara sauce and broth. The flavor and texture are delicious . The recipe can be made rather quickly and will be enjoyed by all.

My mother- in- law has been making for this recipe for years. She grew up in the Middle East, but her mother was originally from Italy and her dad from Syria. I'm not sure the origin of the recipe, but my mother in law calls it " Fasolia Kadra ".. so I'm assuming it is Middle Eastern ( Egyptian) or Greek.

Fasolia makes a great side with just about any meal. In addition, it meets gluten free and vegan standards. I like exploring old time ethnic recipes for preparing vegetables. It adds a nice variety to the otherwise more common way of steaming or stir frying them.

Of course, I love eating string beans raw as well . I like to add raw string beans to a crudites platter of raw veggies for company with a tasty dip.  They are truly delicious just as nature intended them as well as cooked .  

raw string beans on a paper plate
I bought French Beans which are slimmer ( any string bean will do)
If you are going to cook them, you can't beat making them the Greek or Middle Eastern way!

Author: Judee Algazi - Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients: 
1/2 pound of fresh string beans, washed and stems snipped off
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup of marinara sauce( or 5 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped)
1/4 cup of vegetable broth or 1/4 cup water.
olive oil spray (or 2 Tablespoons olive oil)
Optional: fresh garlic to taste, minced
** if you use fresh tomatoes, you may need to add salt and pepper

Directions
Saute chopped onion ( and garlic if desired)  in olive oil in a large skillet until translucent.
Add the whole string beans on top of the cooked onions, top with marinara sauce ( or fresh tomatoes)  and then add vegetable broth to the skillet. Cover and cook on medium to low until string beans are tender and sauce cooks down ( about 15-20 minutes)

Serve as a side dish with any meal.

may be shared on a few of the following blog carnival

Vegetarian Tip of the Day: 
I found a website for  called Veggin' Out and About - with vegetarian restaurant reviews for travelers by state . It also had many vegetarian recipes. Among them was an Ethiopian Recipe for Fasolia with string beans, carrots, and spices.. looks good


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  may be shared on a few of the following blog carnivals

large bag full of string beans

Saturday, March 15, 2014

10 Best Quinoa Recipes -vegan and gluten free

                                                      

It's time to start making quinoa!!Despite it's popularity, quinoa ( pronounced keen- wah) is still a foreign to many people.It sounds exotic, but it as simple to make as rice. I think it tastes better than rice, and it is higher in protein and more nutritious. If you've never tried it, now is the time. I've rounded up 10 easy and delicious recipes for you to try.
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 Basic Quinoa plus a tutorial: A Nutritional Superfood- Who, What ...

 
 Quinoa Lover's Salad - 


 Quinoa Chinese Style  

 
 Quinoa Patties

 
 Quinoa Roasted Stuffed Peppers

 

 Quinoa and Chickpea Roasted Stuffed Peppers

 

 Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers
 
 Quinoa Salad with Lemon Dressing

 
 Mexican Quinoa Stuffing   This recipe is a mixture of black beans, avocado, chopped tomatoes , peppers, and of course cooked quinoa. It's really simple to make and is big on flavor, fiber, and nutrition.
 


 Stuffed Portobella Mushroom 

 

  may be shared on a few of the following blog carnivals


  Gluten Free Tip of the Day: Make zoodle pasta from vegetables like zucchini, carrots, beets; It tastes delicious, packed with nutrients but very few calories, fat, or carbs. It's the perfect tool to make gluten free raw pasta!
I use the Joyce Chen - it's very reasonable and I've used it for years! Kids love making the pasta and eating it too. Great way to add more raw veggies to your diet.    Joyce Chen 51-0662, Saladacco Spiral Slicer, White

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Anti-Aging Herbal Tea- Rooibos Tea

    
                
mug filled with rooibos tea with tea bag
Rooibos ( pronounced Roy-boss) Herbal Tea

Rooibos tea is an herbal tea that has many medicinal and anti-aging benefits. Herbs can be very good for our health and herbal tea is relaxing to drink. This mild tasting tea is available in most supermarkets, health food stores, Trader Joe's and Whole Food Markets.  ( I bought Twinning brand in the supermarket). It has a pleasing taste and a  rich red color that can be enjoyed hot or cold any time of the day, since it has no caffeine. It comes from South Africa and is also called Red Bush Tea.


Box of Twinings Herbal Tea 20 count
When you want something hot to relax with think about herbal tea.
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This is my new favorite tea. Who doesn't need help with wrinkles!! 

What are the benefits? 
  •  greater amount of antioxidants than regular tea and less tannins.
  •  contains an ingredient that protects against UV rays from the sun.
  •  anti-aging agent for the skin
  •  helps fight wrinkles  and fine lines
  •  helps fight dry skin
  •  helps rashes, eczema and psoriasis topically or internally
  • has lots of minerals:  magnesium which supports a healthy nervous system, calcium & manganese which is essential for strong bones and teeth, zinc which helps regulate metabolism and iron.
  • Drinking rooibos tea may lower blood pressure and cholesterol.  
    So, if you go in the sun, if you want to protect your skin, drink at least a cup of rooibos tea daily. It will naturally help protect  you against UV rays...

    Puffy under the eyes? try using your wet rooibos tea bag

    Rooibos tea is a natural antioxidant and helps as a natural sunscreen.. Many people don't realize that the antioxidants in many foods actually protect against sun's rays.

    Did you know that many summer fruits and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that can help protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun? In fact, many  people report that they stopped getting sunburns when when they consciously fortified  their diets with these foods.

    Although sunscreen can block harmful UV rays, sunscreen is also questionable because of the toxins it also contains. Smearing it all over your body, or you child's body may not be the perfect solution. After all,  sunscreen contains harmful toxins that absorb into your skin and consequently into your body. Sometimes you just need to wear it to be protected, sometimes you don't really need to wear it.

    I usually use sunscreen on my face,  but I wear long sleeves to cover my arms and upper body when I am exposed to the sun. I also wear a wide brimmed hat to shade my face and neck as much as possible. Once a year , I get a check up with my dermatologist to check my skin.

    Some sun is good for you. I try to get at least 20 minutes of early morning sun to absorb vitamin D.. which is needed for strong bones, teeth, and skin.

    Don't be totally afraid of the sun.. we some sun to get sufficient Vitamin D. Most of the population is deficient in this essential body building vitamin.. so let yourself and your kids get some sun.. The sun is natural . Sunscreen is not.

    There are many foods, including watermelon that provide essential antioxidants to help protect the skin from the sun's rays. search the web for natural sunscreen rich foods that help protect against UV rays.This is a great article that informs you about foods that protect against sunburn and the sun's rays
     Foods that Protect Against Sunburn
    Mason jar of orange colored tea with tea bag
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    Cup of tea on a colorful potholderDisclaimer: Always check with your doctor before making any changes in your diet. The information in this post is for educational purposes only.


      may be shared on a few of the following blog carnivals



    Thursday, March 6, 2014

    I lost Weight Eating lots of Cheese and Butter

    butter and cheese on gluten free A-Z Blog

    It's hard to believe , but I actually lost weight eating a diet full of cheeses and butter. I love butter, and on a low carb diet I can eat cheese and butter freely without gaining weight. In fact, I actually lose weight quickly and lose my cravings!!!!!
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    Sometimes, I can't get a hold of my cravings! I feel out of control.. It's at those desperate times that I turn to low carbs!

    Over the last 5 days, I've eaten a considerable amount of creamy organic butter and sliced hard cheese and I've lost 5 pounds. Of course, I've totally restricted eating carbs including not eating fruit at all. I did eat salad and vegetables. Low carb diets really can help you drop weight quickly

    What did I eat on my 5 day low carb diet? In addition to butter, sour cream, eggs, cheese, and nuts , I ate lots of  green and white veggies ( as opposed to red or yellow- which contain lots of sugar)

    The Vegetables I ate
    Cucumbers
    Mushrooms
    Romaine lettuce
    Celery
    Cauliflower
    broccoli
    spinach
    artichokes 
    Kale
    Fresh dill
    Fresh basil
    Lemon
    fresh parsley
    small amounts of tomato  ( 1/4 cup chopped)
    very small amounts of grated carrot for color only
    seaweed ( nori roasted)

    I'm a vegetarian so I  ate vegetarian protein
    The Protein
    Eggs
    Hard cheese
    fresh Mozzarella balls
    Mozzarella sticks
    Goat Cheese
    Blue Cheese


    I ate lots of fat:
    The Fats
    Cream cheese
    Organic Sour Cream
    Blue cheese dressing
    Almond milk
    Mayo
    Haas avocado
    Organic Butter
    olives
    nuts ( in limitation about 20 day)

    Also mustard


    My Meals. What did I make?

    Egg salad with fresh dill, chopped parsley, celery and mayo
    Omelets with mushrooms and melted cheese cooked in butter
    Roasted kale chips and roasted mushrooms in olive oil
    Celery sticks and romaine lettuce leaves and blue cheese dressing.
    Cut up cucumber, celery , and romaine leaves with cream cheese dip
    cauliflower sauteed in butter and sprinkled with cheddar cheese
    Fresh Mozzarella balls and fresh basil and olive oil and a few cherry tomatoes
    Mashed avocado with chopped celery and fresh squeezed lemon eaten with romaine lettuce leaves
    Riced cooked cauliflower with melted butter
    Fresh Spinach and garlic soup
    Mushroom, Cilantro ( and feta) Omelet
    creamy broccoli soup 
    cauliflower cheese fritters 
    Marvelous Mini Quiches for breakfast or lunch ( mushroom, spinach, or broccoli)
    Steamed Artichokes and Lemon ( couldn't be more simple and yet very tasty)
    gluten free quiches
    steamed artichokes


    I felt extremely gluttonous eating all that rich food. , but I also felt satisfied and happy and never once craved sugar or had any other cravings. I ate as much as I wanted of all the low carb vegetarian foods and l I lost 5 pounds effortlessly, got off sugar, and feel great.

    I feel that I ate too many eggs and way too much cheese to make this a daily diet..
    I'll try to keep the next week lower in carbs than normal, but I love fruit and don't think hard cheese is that healthy. But it was a quick fix that stopped my cravings , and it worked easily ....

    What is a low carb diet? It's a diet that contains a very low carbohydrate count. In my case, I ate about 35 ish carbohydrates/day.. I really didn't count ; I estimated
    If you struggle with weight. You'll understand.
    creamy broccoli soup

    vegan cream of broccoli on Gluten Free A-Z Blog
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    egg salad and tomatoes on gluten free A-Z Blog
    Egg salad and olives... I ate only one tomato slice
    cauliflower riced
    Riced raw cauliflower then cooked with butter

    Riced Cauliflower


    Salad with avocado



    guacomole recipe

    mixed nuts

    vegan stuffed mushrooms

    Vegan Stuffed Raw Mushrooms with pesto


    may be shared on a few of the following weekly  blog carnivals



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