Saturday, October 27, 2012

2-minute superhealthy avocado soup

The cold came over the city overnight, it felt. One day I stepped outside and it was in the thirties. It's getting harder to peel my eyes open every morning, and prepare to jump on my two-wheeled horse to step into the ear-numbing, face-biting air. Even though I look forward to the snowy outdoors and to Christmas, I find myself terribly nostalgic for summer. Besides, I'm not prepared to switch to my fluffy wardrobe just yet! At least one thing about this transition has me excited though: hot soups. I'm very enthusiastic about attempting lots and lots of soup recipes this coming winter. Something about a steamy bowl of vegetable potion is so comforting, and it always makes me think of home.

As a last homage to summer, here is a soup that's become one of my staples for anti-inflammatory action. This is served at room temperature - it's probably the last recipe of non-hot soup I'm trying this year. I've noticed that many of the foods I eat (and love) cause inflammation in my body. Normally I would just say so what, I'm not going to give up bread and cheese just for the whims of my cells. Except, I have noticed that some foods make my face swollen. Yes, seriously. And I'm not talking about a little "nobody will notice" kind of swollen, I'm talking about froglike, puffy eyes like I'm sick and haven't slept well in weeks. Spicy foods, bread and salt are some of my most uglyfying foods. 

Nobody likes to look Humpty Dumpty-faced, so - enter anti-inflammatory soup. Avocado in particular has many, many nutritional benefits, and one of them is its anti-inflammatory effect. There is an endless list of anti-inflammatory things you can eat for this purpose. But unless you make a habit of targeting those foods specifically, and avoiding the foods that have the opposite effect, you won't see much results because they will cancel each other out. This soup however is definitely a start in the right direction. It's also raw, healthy, quite tasty and of course, beautifying. Make this in a Vitamix or the blender of your choice.

Anti-inflammatory avocado soup
~ serves 2

1 large avocado or 2 small
1 bunch cilantro or parsley (cilantro is better)
2 cups sunflower sprouts, spinach or other wholesome leafy greens
1 cup chopped green onions
2 cups (16 oz) coconut water
juice from 1 lime

Throw everything into the blender and blend away! Serve immediately. Don't store this soup to eat later, because avocado becomes oxidized in time and the soup will not only taste funny, it also will have lost much of its healthy enzymes.

By the way: the site includes the inflammation factor (IF) for most food items. A negative IF is inflammatory, and the higher the number the stronger the effect (just out of curiosity, look up "bagel"). A positive IF means the food has anti-inflammatory effects, and the higher the IF the more anti-inflammatory the food is. Try to eat more of the foods with high positive IFs, such as avocado, papaya, ginger or turmeric.

Recipe adapted from The Facelift Diet.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Beer muffins

Living in Albuquerque is just like living by the ocean, only without the ocean. Each time I'm driving (and it doesn't happen too often), I expect to take a turn and see the great blue at the end of the road. I don't know why this is. Maybe the relentless sun and soothing dry air fool me. I can almost taste the salt in the air. But even though no roads ever lead to the ocean around here, one of my favorite things to do on weekends is to start toward a brewery on two wheels. Only the desert, the open road and the promise of beer at destination.

And since I'm a beer zealot and make no secret of it, I decided to made beer muffins. Truth be told, it wasn't my idea. I came across Kate's recipe for beer biscuits and my interest was totally piqued, especially because the process is so simple. Mix and bake! Kate spiced these up with rosemary and she also had the genius idea to add cheese into the mix. My mouth waters just thinking about it. I on the other hand have become fond of herbes de Provence ever since the herbal crackers, so I was itching to see what else this versatile spice goes well with. I decided to go simple.

I used a porter beer I like from Whole Foods. If you choose this type of darker beer, your muffins will be slightly bitter. I happen to enjoy that, but you might not. If you're wavering, or if you're not that knowledgeable about beer, go for a blonder variety the first time. I personally look forward to making these with a nice stout!

For all you beer fans out there, I recommend this documentary. It's like a giant commercial for beer, but it will tell you many things you didn't know about your beloved drink.

Beer mufins
~ makes 12 muffins

3 cups organic whole wheat flour

1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder

2 Tbsp herbes de Provence
1 12-ounce bottle of blonde (if you prefer a milder taste) or porter (if you prefer a bolder flavor) or even stout (if you're really edgy) beer

Mix flour, salt, sugar, baking power and spices with a fork. Add the beer and blend well. Pour into lightly greased muffin pan and bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

These will work best warmed up, with butter. Don't go crazy on the butter though, it's not good for you and you know it.

Recipe adapted from Cookie and Kate.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Blood orange, roasted beet and fennel salad

Normally, this wouldn't be exactly my type of recipe. A couple oranges, beets and a fennel bulb later, Whole Foods is thirty bucks richer and I am having second thoughts. But wait! If you care about flavors at all, if you are an aspiring cook or have ever had dreams of learning the synergy of spices, you owe it to yourself to make this. 

As I partook of a slice of roasted beet soaked in citrus juices, a glossy sliver of fennel loosely embracing it, the shocking gestalt of flavors made my skin tingle. I started waltzing through the kitchen, with my lips shimmering of olive oil and a piece of cilantro hanging ungracefully at the corner of my mouth, and forgot myself. I left the mixture to marinate for a few hours, until dinner. The flavors decided to socialize inside the bowl, and by the time we sat down to eat properly the salad had become so ridiculously tasty that we couldn't stop making yummy noises throughout the meal, interrupting rather anticlimactically the gangster movie we were watching.

Did you ever think to pair beets with oranges? I didn't. This makes me braver to try even edgier combinations.

This salad is not only delicious, it's also absurdly beautiful. Look at the oranges sitting nonchalantly in the bowl, so effortlessly sexy.

Blood orange, roasted beet and fennel salad
~ serves 4

4 medium red beets, cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
2 blood oranges
2 navel oranges
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a heat-proof dish, toss the beets with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 400° in a toaster-oven or regular oven for about 20 minutes. Halfway through, pull the dish out and mix through.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut the oranges into thin slices, and try to cut them uniformly for extra prettiness. Place them in a bowl, add lemon juice and lime juice.

Let the beets cool, then add to the bowl with the oranges. Add the sliced fennel and onion. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle cilantro on top. Mix gently and let salad stand for at least 20 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.