Superfoods by Organicat

We've all heard about so-called "Superfoods" and how good they are for us...but if the idea of one more broiled salmon and steamed broccoli dinner drives you batty, come see what I'm cookin'!

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I'm a Foodie, Nutrition/Wellness Consultant and Personal Trainer. Eat well and love it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Fungus Among Us...

Stinky cheese and wild mushrooms are my favorite foods in the world. Unfortunately, over the years, I've developed a nasty allergy to one of the proteins in milk (caesinate)...but there are still plenty of mushrooms to be had!

This time of the year, allergies, seasonal changes and cooler weather can contribute to the possibility of catching "a little something." For me, this year, the rampant SoCal fires coupled with raging Santa Ana winds filled my sinuses with grief and woe. It felt like the worst sinus infection, coupled with the worst flu! I wished I could call in sick! Instead, I raided my fridge to make a delicious soup that left me satisfied and breathing easily!

I took every mushroom I had in the house (crimini, shiitake, chantrelle and dried porcini), about 2.5 cups total, and food-processor-ed them in to a very fine dice along with 3 cloves garlic and one large shallot. In the hot pot, I toasted some dried sage before adding 2 Tbs olive oil and then seasoning and sauteeing the mushroom mixture. When the earthy aroma of those "fun-guys" emerged, I added some rich veggie stock; just enough to cover the contents of the pot. I brought this to a boil, then reduced the heat to a simmer, allowing it to reduce by about a quarter. I then added about 1.5 cups water, a bit more salt and pepper and simmered for another 10 minutes or so. By the time it was done, I had a rich, healing brew; enhanced by the robust flavors donated by the dried mushrooms. Not only could I breathe, but I felt like I could take on the world...then sleep soundly. What happened?

Studies have shown that soup and other foods that are high in water are more filling, but the power in this soup came from the protein! Yes, mushrooms are surprisingly high in the muscle-building stuff! They're actually more like animals than plants! They also boast plenty of anti-inflammitory phytonutrients. The best ones for fighting this season's woes? Maitake, Shiitake, Enoki and Crimini. Bring on the winter. I've got my mushrooms!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Cat Came Back! With Tomatoes!

So, after a long hiatus of cooking, studying and eating my fill of this year's best produce...I'm back!

I am now a certified Nutrition/Wellness Consultant and Personal Trainer! In order to prepare for my new work-life, I will continue to contribute information and deliciousness for your reference.

Unfortunately, I spent my favorite food season studying and not blogging about the Spring's nutritional bounty! Green garlic, ramps, morel mushrooms and all the other beautiful fruits (and veggies!) of Spring played a huge part in my diet...but now it's time for SUMMER.

Welcome to the season of Heirloom Tomatoes, bright stone fruits like Blenhiem Apricots, peaches and plums...yums. For these tomatoes, the best way to take advantage of their betacarotene and vitamin content is simple and raw. A salad of fragrant tomatoes with fresh herbs (I love basil, chervil and chive), a little sea salt (grey celtic sea salt is the best!) and a drizzle of a rich, green olive oil is a sweet, refreshing introduction to the season of heat.

If you prefer to glean the lycopene these voluptuous fruits have to offer, cook them down into a soup, adorned with a bit of olive oil. I have mentioned "My Favorite's Favorite," a spicy red soup of fire roasted tomatoes and red peppers, spiked with chipotle peppers. Well, in the summer, I like to twist it a little. This time, MY favorite tomato soup is Curried Pinapple Soup! What? Yes. Pineapple.

One of my favorite heirloom tomatoes is called "Pineapple" due to it's golden hue. It's got reddish shoulders and "highlights" and a sweetness that lends itself beautifully to the subtleties of curry spices. How do I do it?

Roast your tomatoes over an open flame or in the oven. Toast your prefered curry seasonings in the pot before adding onions, garlic and your tomatoes. When the onions are translucent, add enough veggie stock to cover the contents of your pot. After this comes to a boil, blend it together with an immersion blender (fewer dishes to clean!), food processor or counter-top blender. You can keep it chunky (barely blending), make it thick (longer blending) or make it smooth and creamy (pass it through a seive after blending). Serve this with chutney-topped crostini and a sage-infused rose the sunset...mmmm.

Every heirloom tomato has its own character. Green zebras are tart, tangy and make fabulous fried green tomatoes. Black brandywines are sweet and bold with a beautiful, bright green flesh surrounding the seeds. These seeds have been passed down for years. When you cut into these Summer beauties, save the seeds in the refrigerator. When next Spring rolls around, plant them and save some money when Summer arrives!

Have a yummy Summer!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Feel your OATS!

Many may have unfavorable, sticky, slimy memories of oatmeal as a cold-morning-stick-to-your-ribs breakfast. If you're still eating the instant stuff...well, yeah! That's precisely what it is! But, if you really want to get the full benefits that oats can offer, please try steel-cut oats.

Most grocery stores have begun carrying these grainy delights in cans labeled "Irish Oatmeal." I bought a few of these cans, then when they were empty, refilled one with bulk oats from the health-food store, and the others have become cute catch-alls for nails, rubber bands...well, yeah just about little thing...But that has nothing to with cooking the stuff!

This oatmeal isn't quite as convenient as the instant stuff (it takes up to 30 minutes to cook), but if you make a large amount, it stores well in the fridge for a couple days, or you can even freeze it. Lately, my flavorite way to get my fiber in the morning is with Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal!

This treat fills the house with the cozy aroma of pumpkin pie, while filling me with fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron, protein and calcium. Here's how I do it:
I start with 1cup of soymilk and about a 1/2 cup of organic pumpkin puree (thanks Trader Joe's!). I whisk this together and add cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and vanilla as it heats up. When it's come to the boil, I add 1/4cup of steel-cut oats, reduce the heat and stir constantly. When it reaches the desired consistency, I serve it with a dollop of plain soy yogurt. My apartment smells delicious all day, and I'm satisfied for hours! What better way to get your nutrients?!

Nuts and berries are also grand toppings for this dish, especially at other times of the year when pumpkin is unavailable! Try your favorites and enjoy good health!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Salmon, not salmonella!

This time of year, most folks are contemplating their Thanksgiving bird. Will it be usual turkey? Perhaps a goose? Cornish game hens? Not in my belly! Being a Seattle-raised resident of Los Angeles (where the weather would have you believing it was time for Independence Day), I have to bring something I'm thankful for to the Thanksgiving table.

A beautiful, young coho or sockeye; pulled from the icy, wild waters of Alaska is a Superfood that cannot be beat. Salmon is full of Omega-3 fatty acids. This compound has miraculous properties for which we should all be thankful. As an MS patient, I revel in the anti-inflammatory action of this fabulous fat and it's surprising effectiveness against mild to moderate depression! Another benefit of Omega-3 fat is hearth health. It helps keep your arteries flexible, lowers your LDL (or BAD) cholesterol, and yes, fish is also BRAIN FOOD. The list of benefits is a mile long which is why it's recommended we consume at least 2 servings of fatty fish every week.

Many people are afraid of preparing fish. The smell, the scales, the cooking me. It's not that hard. In fact, if you go to a decent fishmonger (I love that word!), you can get most of the dirty work done for you! Speaking of shopping for fish; what should you buy? I'm sure you've been told over and over to avoid farmed salmon. I wholeheartedly agree with this recommendation. Farmed salmon is raised in crowded spaces, increasing the chance of the fish consuming their neighbor's waste, which can fill them with toxic PCB's. Their feed includes dyes to give them that recognizable pink's just not cool with me!

Is the price of wild salmon keeping you from enjoying it? Please know that most canned salmon (unless otherwise labled) is wild Alaskan salmon! Talk about taking out the guesswork! When I can't afford a beautiful steak or filet, I go for a can and create some lovely stuff.

Are you still eating that American classic, tuna salad? Try using a can of salmon instead! I like to combine 2 tablespoons of spicy tartar sauce (instead of mayo) with a diced shallot, one pressed clove of garlic and a couple teaspoons of capers with a can of red salmon. Slather this on toast, scoop with celery, endive or your favorite corn chip...heaven.

Can't afford enough lump crabmeat for crabcakes? Canned salmon to the rescue! Take the salmon salad mixture from above, and add one egg white. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or more (to help the mix get firm). Preheat your oven to 300 degrees (to hold the cooked cakes until you're ready to plate them). Then, using an ice cream scoop for consistently-sized cakes, cook your cakes on medium-high in a sprayed or non-stick pan. I like to place these tasty morsels atop a green salad, dressed with a simple vinegrette of lemon juice, olive oil, shallots, salt and pepper.

If you're able to invest in a filet of wild Alaskan salmon, treat it well. Try not to cover it up with breading or too much sauce. Salt, pepper, olive oil and one of your favorite dried herbs is all you'll need. Rub it in well, slash the skin to reduce shrinkage, then sear the salmon for 2 minutes per side on medium-high heat. If you want crispy skin (like I do), give the skin side an extra minute. If you prefer your fish cooked through (but not dried out!), finish it in a 300-degree oven. If your pan has a plastic handle, just wrap it with aluminum foil for oven-proof-ness.

There's nothing to fear about salmon. Okay, perhaps not getting enough! Along with salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and bluefish are also packed with Omega-3's. Please don't miss this healthy protein-source. In places where fish is eaten regularly, people tend to live longer and have less chronic disease! Now, that's something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

It's Pumpkin Time!!!

The leaves are changing, the candy's been handed out and the aroma of slightly singed pumpkins lingers over the neighborhood. Not to pooh-pooh the creepily haunting faces carved into the squash on every doorstep, but there are much more beneficial things that can be done with the seasonal gourd!

The vibrant, orange flesh of the pumpkin is packed with beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and is very low in calories! In fact, one cup of pumpkin puree contains only 80 calories! Pumpkins are 90 percent water and the seeds have been recommended for reducing prostate cancer risk! This is one satisfying health food!

Now, I'm no superwoman. I have never cooked anything from a Halloween-style pumpkin...big, round and tough to slice through...However, I love to crack open a can of organically grown pumpkin (available during the season from Trader Joe's) and start playing!

The first pumpkin dish I create every year is a smooth soup. This soup appears in my kitchen many times throughout the season in many different incarnations.

First, I like to make something filling to reduce my risk of catching the cold or virus of the moment. That means lots of garlic and ginger! This year, I started by cutting some corn off the cob, chopping some fresh sage, rosemary and thyme (sorry parsely), finely diceing some aromatics (onions, (lots of) garlic, ginger, and shallots), then pulling out my big soup pot. Over medium heat, I sauteed the aromatics in a tiny bit of olive oil. Once they began to toast, I plopped a can of pumkin in the pot. I then followed with the light vegetable stock I keep around for this sort of occasion, adding enough to cover the contents of the pot. Once the pumpkin became smooth, I turned the fire down low and moved to another pan. Over medium-high heat, I toasted the kernels of corn until they began to char slightly. At this point, I lowered the heat to medium-low and added half of each of my fresh herbs (and a little more garlic!), allowing them to release their fragrance.

Returning to the soup pot, and seeing the thick orange deliciousness before me, I added the corn and herb mixture and enough stock to achieve my prefered consistency. I let this return to a low boil before serving myself one of my favorite dinners.

The versatility of this soup is astounding. I've done versions where the "stock" is nothing more than the soaking water from some dried porcini mushrooms! YUM! I've also added the meaty fungi in their fresh state for a very sensually textured brew. Try using your favorite milk to create a creamy consistency.

Speaking of milk: my roommate and I have a new favorite morning smoothie! Open a can of this great puree, blend it with traditional pumpkin pie spices and enough soymilk to make it drinkable. I occasionally like to add a banana for's like pie in a glass...for breakfast!

This is an ingredient that can go in infinite directions. Don't be afraid to try it! It's not only versatile, it's also highly forgiving!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Simple Vinegrette
This is the way I like to make a vinegrette. Make plenty and use it all week!

In a jar, place salt and pepper (to taste) and whatever herbs or spices you love. Atop this, add between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon dijon mustard (depending on how much vinegrette you're making).
Pour in enough of your favorite vinegar to cover the mustard and disolve the salt. Then, add your oil. Traditional recipes call for 3 times the oil as vinegar, but I like to add the same amount.
Cover the jar, tightly and shake until emulsified.

You can always add other items like diced shallots or capers. Play with it! Make it your own!_________________________________________________

Roasted Garlic

Cut the top quarter off your head of garlic. Place it on enough aluminum foil to encase it loosely. Drizzle some olive oil over the exposed head, wrap it up and place in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cloves are soft. Squeeze out the cloves and enjoy spread on toast, blended into your favorite soup or sliced over sauteed greens. This is an extremely versatile item. Have fun!

Roasted Veggies

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Chop your veggies into bite-size pieces, put them in a bowl and pour your favorite marinade over them (try the vinegrette!). Toss until coated. With a slotted spoon (or your hands), spread the veggies onto a baking sheet, not letting them get piled on top of each other. This will ensure more carmelization for each individual item. Roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes, then turn them. Let them get another 10 minutes of carmelization before serving. Yum.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Brussels Sprouts, Garlic and other scary things...

A discussion with some fellow foodies, in a bar Saturday night, has prompted me to address the concepts of marinating and roasting.

I recently had a housewarming party and, in order to offer a variety of foods that everyone could eat, I decided to offer my favorite roasted veggies. I included crimini mushrooms, onions, butternut squash, artichoke hearts, brussels sprouts?! Yes, and everybody raved about how delicious "those vegetables" were. Some, not having had the little cabbages (voluntarily) for quite some time, had to try to figure out what those little yummy morsels actually were!

If you ever have to feed vegetables to children or picky eaters, try marinating and roasting them! Roasting brings out a natural sweetness as the veggies carmelize and a smart marinade (like a simple vinegrette) unifies the flavors so while each item's individuality remains intact, nothing stands out like a sore thumb.

I'd really hoped to have some leftovers for lunch the next day...well, that didn't happen.

When I say garlic, my boyfriend says "Ew!" I've always loved the stuff. I'll always love him, but I cannot go three days without that stinky rose! While he's eating, my honey will rave about how delicious a dish is, even when garlic is included; but when the inevitable post-meal burp comes around..."EW! Garlic!" How do I get around this conundrum? ROASTED GARLIC!!! Now, I know it doesn't completely erase any sort of...ahem...after-effects, but roasting garlic mellows the flavor and the aroma, leaving you with a nutty, butteriness that just cannot be beat!

My favorite way to sneak roasted garlic into my boyfriend's meals is to blend it into soup. Creamy asparagus, roasted eggplant/cauliflower; all my blended soups get the garlic treatment. I just don't use as much as I would for myself. The soup I call "My Favorite's Favorite" is a fire roasted tomato/bell pepper brew, blended with chipotle pepper and roasted garlic. It's a vibrant, red, firey meal he enjoys with plenty of cilantro, extra white pepper and a few crusty slices of toast on the side. Until I told him, he had no clue that I blend half of a head of roasted garlic into this soup! And he still loves it!

With Halloween coming, I even considered inflicting a garlic soup on him...maybe not!

The key is: don't run from these healthy items. If you find the flavors too harsh, try roasting them into a sweeter version. You'll be able to fill up on nutrition, without making the "yucky face!"