Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kimchee Kale- An elegant way to make a superfood super!

Happy Thursday Fellow Foodies!

If you've been a fan of my old blog: The Enlightened Chef, then you know that I have been on a mission to try the vegetables that I hated as a kid. I have had great success with this experiment. I have found that not only are cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and corn not offensive, but that they are actually delicious!

Today I tackled something I never had as a child, and only once as an adult-KALE...

Kale is one of those greens that is in the cabbage family.  It is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. Kale is a source of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying do not result in significant loss. Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale has been found to contain a group of resins known as bile acid sequestrants, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat. Steaming significantly increases these bile acid binding properties.

It is dark, and fibrous, and a little bitter.

For this reason I think most people in the past (and my mother-in-law in the present) boil the ever-lovin' shit outta this stuff. Thereby making the house stink to high heaven, and the kale taste like a 3 day old gym sock worn by a guy with fungal feet. JUST SAYIN'...

Kale is exceptionally healthful, as you read above, and I've wanted to try it again. So here is how I prepared it. I thought the recipe came out pretty yummy and I might even try it again soon.

Kimchee Kale

1 Tbs. veggie oil of your choosing
2 cloves of garlic-minced
1 bunch (or one bag from Trader Joe's) Tuscan kale-if you can't find Tuscan Kale, don't worry, just use regular Kale-it comes out just as yummy.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup kimchee
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. pure toasted sesame oil
sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

Heat the veggie oil, to medium heat, in a large sauté pan. add the garlic and sauté for about a minute. add the kale, water, and soy sauce. Cover the pan and cook 2-3 minutes until the kale turns a bright, shiny green.

Remove the cover from the pan and allow the water to evaporate. Meanwhile slice your kimchee into thin strips.

Once the water has evaporated from the pan, add the kimchee, lemon juice and soy sauce. Toss everything together and finish with a drizzle of sesame oil. Pile high onto a few plate and garnish with sesame seeds.

* If you want to make the dish a little more exciting, add a few drops of SRIRACHA and toss before finishing with sesame oil.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pimento Cheese Raviolis

Today I made Raviolis. Not just any raviolis though: Yesterday I made, from scratch, Pimento Cheese, thus I made pimento cheese raviolis today.

You can fill your ravis with just about anything you like. You can also "sauce" them with tomato, or Alfredo sauce, or just tossed in some butter (the possibilities are endless) you can even float them in soup. I happen to be very fond of tasso ham and collard raviolis in split pea or potato leek soup.

The filling and sauce combinations for raviolis are only limited by your own imagination and personal tastes. So here is my "Southern" take on the ravioli:

For the Dough

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup Pimento Cheese *RECIPE BELOW

In the bowl of your food processor combine the flour and salt and pulse 2 to 3 times. In a liquid measuring cup whisk the eggs, water and oil. While pulsing the machine pour this mixture in a continuous stream and continue running the machine until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It will look loose and pebbly.

Empty the food processor bowl onto a clean work surface and knead the dough about 4 minutes until it is a stiff shiny ball. It should feel a bit dry and very stiff. Wrap the ball in plastic. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to rest.

If you are lucky enough to have a pasta roller, by all means use it, and roll your pasta to #2 thickness. If you are like me and have to use a rolling pin...then some patience will be required. Lightly flour your work surface, and with a rolling in, roll your dough to a thin 1/32 of an inch. Cut your dough in half as it will be easier for you to handle.

When you have your sheet ready to go, trim it to as even a rectangle as you can make. I fold my dough in half and use a pizza cutter to trim the edges to "match".

Cut the dough in half. Place 1 to 1-1/2 tsp. of pimento cheese about 1-1/2  inches apart on one sheet of dough.

Lightly beat an egg, and brush the egg over the second sheet of dough. Pick it up and stretch it very gently and lay it egg side down on the pasta sheet with the filling.

Starting with the ravis in the center and working outward, press the dough over the filling trying to squeeze out as much air as possible to form little pillows. You can cut them into whatever shape you like-I find using my pizza cutter to make squares or rectangles easiest. A small round or triangular cutter is nice as well if you have them.

Gently press the edges of your ravis to between your thumb and first finger to seal them tightly. Allow them to rest on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper while you proceed.

Bring a large stock pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in your ravis and allow to cook 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile in a sauté pan combine:

2 Tbs. butter (I used browned butter-but plain butter is easier-*see below)
1/2 cup pancetta cut into matchsticks

Cook over high heat until the pancetta starts to crisp, By now your ravis are done. Drain and add to the sauté pan. Toss to coat your pasta, allow the ravis to cook over high heat about a minute-just until they brown a bit (this adds textural interest), and serve garnished with Italian (flat leaf) parsley.

*Browned Butter
Heat a thick-bottomed skillet on medium heat. Add 1 to 2 sticks, sliced butter (sliced so that the butter melts more evenly) whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter. Once melted the butter will foam up a bit, then subside. Watch carefully as lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan. Smell the butter; it should have a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and place on a cool surface to help stop the butter from cooking further and perhaps burning. Use as you wish.

Pimento Cheese
8 oz. Shredded cheddar, 3/4 cup mayo, 4 oz. jar sliced pimentos-drained but not rinsed, 1/2 tsp. each onion powder, garlic powder and kosher salt. Mix Everything in a big bowl. Store in fridge for 24 hours before using. EASY BREEZY LEMON SQUEEZY!!!!

For traditional Ricotta filling combine 1 cup whole milk ricotta one large beaten egg and a pinch each or salt and pepper. Chill for a hour before proceeding.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Easy Sticky Buns

People in the south love sweet things. Hell...I love sweet things! Sticky Buns are one of those "church-lady" staples from time immemorial. I have eaten sticky buns at so many brunches and gatherings here in Charleston, and greater South Carolina, that I am sure my blood sugar is permanently over the moon!

The only trouble with traditional recipes is that while they are wonderful and totally worth the effort, they are labor intense and time-consuming. What to do when you wan them "on the fly"? Take the half-homemade route!

 This morning I made Half-Homemade Sticky Buns. Are they healthy? NO! Are they an amazingly delicious once-in-a-while-treat? YES...yes they are!

Here is the recipe:

Half-Homemade Sticky Buns

1 1/2 tubes Flakey Pillsbury Grands biscuits 
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 C Maple Syrup (please oh please use the REAL stuff!!!!!)
1/2 C Sugar 9you can use brown sugar if you like)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
3/4 C Toasted Chopped Walnuts (or pecans)

Spray a fluted pan liberally (seriously-go to town)with non-stick spray. Combine butter, sugar, and syrup in a small sauce pan.
Bring just to a simmer and remove from the heat.

Place about 3/4 of the syrup mixture in the bottom of the pan. Then sprinkle in the nuts-reserving about 2-3 Tbs. Lay the biscuits on the bottom of the pan, overlapping to form a ring.
Top with remaining syrup and nuts. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. 
Cool for 2 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter, eat warm.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tomatilla Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

I love Salsa Verde! Years and Years ago, before Mexican cuisine was ever popular, I found a recipe for the green, chunky stuff from heaven. This was back in the very early 90's, and tomatillos were hard to come by. I was lucky enough to have a Hispanic Market nearby, which stocked all things central American. I bought my tomatillos and headed home hopeful that what I was about to make did not suck-at the very least...It was LOVE at first bite!

The original recipe called for the tomatillos to be blanched in salted water. I found that method to create a very wet soupy salsa. So, one day I got inspired to fire roast the tomatillos on the grill. Since then I have found that I can blacken them under the broiler in my kitchen. So 90% of the time, being too lazy to fire up the ole grill, I do roast my tomatillos under the broiler.

What is a TOMATILLO YOU ASK??? Great question!

Wikipedia defines the tomatillo thusly:
The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) is a plant of the nightshade family, related to the cape gooseberry, bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillos are a staple in Mexican cuisine. Tomatillos are grown as annuals throughout the Western Hemisphere. Often self-incompatible, tomatillos need a second plant to enhance pollination and guarantee fruit set.
File:Tomatillo 01 cropped.jpg
The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by an inedible, paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be any of a number of colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple. Tomatillos are the key ingredient in fresh and cooked Latin American green sauces. The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green color and tart flavor are the main culinary contributions of the fruit. Purple and red-ripening cultivars often have a slight sweetness, unlike the green- and yellow-ripening cultivars, and are therefore somewhat more suitable for fruit-like uses like jams and preserves. Like their close relatives cape gooseberries, tomatillos have a high pectin content. Another characteristic is they tend to have a varying degree of a sappy sticky coating, mostly when used on the green side out of the husk.
Tomatillo plants are highly self-incompatible (two or more plants are needed for proper pollination; thus isolated tomatillo plants rarely set fruit).
Ripe tomatillos will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator.[1] They may also be frozen whole or sliced.

I love Wikipedia, don't you?

So here is the recipe...

Simple Tomatilla Salsa
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-2 jalapeno peppers chopped
1 bunch of cilantro
1 large clove garlic
juice of one lime
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2Lbs. Tomatillos husks removed
Place the first 7 ingredients into your blender or food processor.

Place the tomatillos in one layer on a baking sheet. Heat the broiler to the highest setting. Place the tomatillos on the highest rack under the broiler and roast the tomatillos until just blackened on the top. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the tomatillos over. return to the oven and roast until the tomatillos are just blackened on that side as well.

 Using tongs, remove the tomatillos one by one to you food processor or blender. Secure the lid and pulse your machine on and off a few times until you get the chunky/smooth ratio you like best. Allow the salsa to cool and serve with chips.

1. mix 1 to 1 with cream cheese for a party dip
2. mix 1 to 1 with sour cream for a creamy sauce for fish, chicken, or pork
3. use seranna chilies instead of jalapenos for a hotter salsa
4. mix 1 to 1 with chicken stock and simmer boneless chicken or pork in the mixture and fork shred for enchiladas or burritos

Monday, August 4, 2014

Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil: Spaghetti con Agio e Olio D'Oliva

Happy Monday!

If you have a little kid like I do, then you know how much kids love pasta. Come to think of it, everyone I know loves pasta! The other day my daughter asked for her perennial favorite: Pasta with Garlic.

This is a deceptively simple dish, but to make it well you need a few tricks up your sleeve. Here is my version from when I worked in Dublin, Ireland years ago for an Italian Chef. It is, to this day, still my favorite version.

Spaghetti con Agio e Olio D'Oliva
12 ounces dried spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic peeled
Salt and Pepper
2-3 Tbs. minced flat leaf parsley-optional
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Bring 4-6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add a little olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. Add the spaghetti and cook according the package for al denté doneness.

Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a 10 inch sauté pan. Slice one clove of garlic as thinly as possible. Add the garlic slices along with a little salt and pepper to the oil and turn the heat to low.

Fry the garlic until it just turns a golden brown color. with a slotted spoon remove the garlic from the pan and onto a paper towel, leaving behind all the oil.

Mince the remaining garlic and add to the pan. Sauté over medium heat until fragrant.

By now the pasta should be close to done. Remove 1/4 cup of the boiling liquid and set aside. Drain the spaghetti, and add it to the garlic and oil along with the parsley, and reserved pasta water.

Toss to coat the pasta with the oil and allow the water to evaporate. The starch in the water adds a silky texture to the finished dish.

Split the Spaghetti between 3 or 4 bowls, garnish with the sliced garlic, Parmesan cheese, and a little parsley.

Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mac & Cheese: The Church-Lady Way!!!

The other day I made one of my most favorite foods on Earth: Macaroni and Cheese. It is the ultimate comfort food. Pasta, cheese, and not much of anything else. How can you not love that?!?

This mac & cheese recipe is so easy and so yummy, that I thought I'd share it with everyone. So here it is...

Chef Julie's Amazing Mac & Cheese

8 ounces elbow macaroni
6-8 strips of bacon-diced small
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 large egg
16 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a cast iron skillet (or a nonstick pan if you don't own any cast iron) over medium low heat cook the bacon 12-14 minutes until all the fat is rendered out of the bacon and the little bits left are very crisp.

Drain the bacon bits on a paper towel and set aside.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook at medium-low for 10-12 minutes until they are golden brown. Whisk in the flour and whisk vigorously, making sure it's free of lumps.

Stir in the milk, cream, onion, and paprika. Simmer at medium low for about ten minutes-stirring often.

Temper in the egg (see *how to temper below).

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Fold the bacon, and macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

 Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

*To temper an egg, or multiple eggs, you need a large bowl and a whisk. Give the eggs a brief whisk in the bowl. Take your hot liquid mixture and, working with just a quarter cup at a time, pour it into the eggs as you whisk continuously. Adding the liquid slowly prevents the eggs from being cooked instantly-and thus turning into scrambled eggs-from exposure to heat. Keep adding the milk in small increments until half of it has been added. Then add the remaining liquid in a steady stream. Strain the egg mixture with a mesh strainer back into your saucepan, removing any bits of egg that might have gotten cooked, or sheels that strayed into your sauce, and proceed with your recipe as written.

Curry in a Hurry

All Purpose Curry Powder

I love curries of every type. Now that I am trying to eat more healthfully, and still maintain some flavor, curries are a perfect food option! Not only are most curries fairly healthy, but the spices involved have many health benefits!

This was originally a Vindaloo recipe that I altered to make it more friendly for people who can't take the heat of a real Vindaloo.

I love this recipe because it is easy and adaptable for several different meats. You can use chicken, duck, or game fowl, shrimp, oysters, any oily/flaky white fish (cod, flounder, sea bass, Turbot, etc...), or pork, or even wild boar. I don't recommend this one for beef or venison though as they are tasty enough on their own.

Here is the recipe with a few variations at the end:

All Purpose Curry Powder
1 Tbs. Turmeric
1 Tbs. Coriander
1 Tbs. Black mustard seeds-finely ground (you can use yeloow but the curry will be a little different)
1 Tsp. Chipotle powder (use Cayenne if prefer a very hot curry)
2 Tbs. Smoked Paprika (use hot paprika if you cannot find smoked, use sweet if you prefer it mild)
1 Tbs. Sea or Kosher salt
3 Garlic cloves-mashed to a pulp (use more garlic if you like a stronger flavor)
2 Tbs. Red wine or Malt vinegar (white wine or rice vinegar work in a pinch)
1 1/2 Lbs. of you meat of choice-I used chicken below(I have used extra firm tofu with great success too!)

1 Large onion peeled and sliced
1/2 cup water (or cream if you like a creamier curry)
 about 1 cup of leftover cooked peas (I didn't have them so you do not see them below, but they are great in this curry)

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a glass or nonreactive bowl until you have a dry clumpy paste. Cut your meat into 1 inch cubes-Add your meat (or tofu) and toss with your very clean hands until the spice mix coats your meat. Cover and set the bowl in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 48.

When you are ready to proceed: Heat a couple Tbs. of oil (your choice) in a very large sauté pan. Add your onions and sauté over medium heat until nicely browned (about 10 minutes). Remove the onions fro the pan and add a little more oil. Add your meat and turn the heat as high as it will go.

Allow the spice paste to brown, tossing occasionally to ensure even browning. Add the water (or cream), and onions, and cover the pan. Allow the curry to cook 5-7 minutes until your meat of fully cooked. Uncover the pan and let most of the water evaporate before serving.

Serve with yellow rice (recipe to follow) or Naan bread. And veggies/chutney of your choosing (I like apricot and garlic pickles for this recipe).

Health Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the bright yellow of the spice rainbow, is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic.

A Potent, Yet Safe Anti-Inflammatory

The volatile oil fraction of turmeric has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in a variety of experimental models. Even more potent than its volatile oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, which is called curcumin. Curcumin is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. In numerous studies, curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity.

An Effective Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Curcumin may provide an inexpensive, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, recent research suggests. In this study, mice given an inflammatory agent that normally induces colitis were protected when curcumin was added to their diet five days beforehand. The mice receiving curcumin not only lost much less weight than the control animals, but when researchers checked their intestinal cell function, all the signs typical of colitis (mucosal ulceration, thickening of the intestinal wall, and the infiltration of inflammatory cells)were all much reduced. While the researchers are not yet sure exactly how curcumin achieves its protective effects, they think its benefits are the result of not only antioxidant activity, but also inhibition of a major cellular inflammatory agent called NF kappa-B. Plus, an important part of the good news reported in this study is the fact that although curcumin has been found to be safe at very large doses, this component of turmeric was effective at a concentration as low as 0.25 per cent—an amount easily supplied by simply enjoying turmeric in flavorful curries.

Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Clinical studies have substantiated that curcumin also exerts very powerful antioxidant effects. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals, chemicals that can travel through the body and cause great amounts of damage to healthy cells and cell membranes. This is important in many diseases, such as arthritis, where free radicals are responsible for the painful joint inflammation and eventual damage to the joints. Turmeric's combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects explains why many people with joint disease find relief when they use the spice regularly. In a recent study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was compared to phenylbutazone and produced comparable improvements in shortened duration of morning stiffness, lengthened walking time, and reduced joint swelling.

Help for Cystic Fibrosis Sufferers

Curcumin, the major constituent of turmeric that gives the spice its yellow color, can correct the most common expression of the genetic defect that is responsible for cystic fibrosis, suggests an animal study published in the Science (April 2004). Cystic fibrosis, a fatal disease that attacks the lungs with a thick mucus, causing life-threatening infections, afflicts about 30,000 American children and young adults, who rarely survive beyond 30 years of age. The mucus also damages the pancreas, thus interfering with the body's ability to digest and absorb nutrients.
Researchers now know that cystic fibrosis is caused by mutations in the gene that encodes for a protein (the transmembrane conductance regulator or CFTR). The CTFR protein is responsible for traveling to the cell's surface and creating channels through which chloride ions can leave the cell. When the protein is abnormally shaped because of a faulty gene, this cannot happen, so chloride builds up in the cells, which in turn, leads to mucus production.
The most common mutation, which is called DeltaF508, results in the production of a misfolded protein. When mice with this DeltaF508 defect were given curcumin in doses that, on a weight-per-weight basis, would be well-tolerated by humans, curcumin corrected this defect, resulting in a DeltaF508 protein with normal appearance and function. In addition, the Yale scientists studying curcumin have shown that it can inhibit the release of calcium, thus allowing mutated CTFR to exit cells via the calcium channels, which also helps stop the chloride-driven build up of mucus. Specialists in the treatment of cystic fibrosis caution, however, that patients should not self-medicate with dietary supplements containing curcumin, until the correct doses are known and any adverse interactions identified with the numerous prescription drugs taken by cystic fibrosis sufferers.

Cancer Prevention

Curcumin's antioxidant actions enable it to protect the colon cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA—a significant benefit particularly in the colon where cell turnover is quite rapid, occuring approximately every three days. Because of their frequent replication, mutations in the DNA of colon cells can result in the formation of cancerous cells much more quickly. Curcumin also helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells, so they cannot spread through the body and cause more harm. A primary way in which curcumin does so is by enhancing liver function. Additionally, other suggested mechanisms by which it may protect against cancer development include inhibiting the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation and preventing the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth.

Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth and Metastases

Epidemiological studies have linked the frequent use of turmeric to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer; laboratory experiments have shown curcumin can prevent tumors from forming; and research conducted at the University of Texas suggests that even when breast cancer is already present, curcumin can help slow the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs in mice.
In this study, published in Biochemical Pharmacology (September 2005), human breast cancer cells were injected into mice, and the resulting tumors removed to simulate a mastectomy.
The mice were then divided into four groups. One group received no further treatment and served as a control. A second group was given the cancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol); the third got curcumin, and the fourth was given both Taxol and curcumin.
After five weeks, only half the mice in the curcumin-only group and just 22% of those in the curcumin plus Taxol group had evidence of breast cancer that had spread to the lungs.
But 75% of the mice that got Taxol alone and 95% of the control group developed lung tumours.
How did curcumin help? "Curcumin acts against transcription factors, which are like a master switch," said lead researcher, Bharat Aggarwal. "Transcription factors regulate all the genes needed for tumors to form. When we turn them off, we shut down some genes that are involved in the growth and invasion of cancer cells."
In another laboratory study of human non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cells published in Biochemical Pharmacology (September 2005), University of Texas researchers showed that curcumin inhibits the activation of NF-kappaB, a regulatory molecule that signals genes to produce a slew of inflammatory molecules (including TNF, COX-2 and IL-6) that promote cancer cell growth. In addition, curcumin was found to suppress cancer cell proliferation and to induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (cell suicide) in the lung cancer cells. Early phase I clinical trials at the University of Texas are now also looking into curcumin's chemopreventive and therapeutic properties against multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer, and other research groups are investigating curcumin's ability to prevent oral cancer.

Turmeric and Onions May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

Curcumin, a phytonutrient found in the curry spice turmeric, and quercitin, an antioxidant in onions, reduce both the size and number of precancerous lesions in the human intestinal tract, shows research published in the August 2006 issue of Clinical Gasteroenterology and Hepatology.
Five patients with an inherited form of precancerous polyps in the lower bowel known as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) were treated with regular doses of curcumin and quercetin over an average of six months. The average number of polyps dropped 60.4%, and the average size of the polyps that did develop dropped by 50.9%.
FAP runs in families and is characterized by the development of hundreds of polyps (colorectal adenomas) and, eventually, colon cancer. Recently, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen) have been used to treat some patients with this condition, but these drugs often produce significant side effects, including gastrointestinal ulcerations and bleeding, according to lead researcher Francis M. Giardiello, M.D., at the Division of Gastroenterology, Johns Hopkins University.
Previous observational studies in populations that consume large amounts of curry, as well as animal research, have strongly suggested that curcumin, one of the main ingredients in Asian curries, might be effective in preventing and/or treating cancer in the lower intestine. Similarly, quercetin, an anti-oxidant flavonoid found in a variety of foods including onions, green tea and red wine, has been shown to inhibit growth of colon cancer cell lines in humans and abnormal colorectal cells in animals.
In this study, a decrease in polyp number was observed in four of five patients at three months and four of four patients at six months.
Each patient received curcumin (480 mg) and quercetin (20 mg) orally 3 times a day for 6 months. Although the amount of quercetin was similar to what many people consume daily, the curcumin consumed was more than would be provided in a typical diet because turmeric only contains on average 3-5 % curcumin by weight.
While simply consuming curry and onions may not have as dramatic an effect as was produced in this study, this research clearly demonstrates that liberal use of turmeric and onions can play a protective role against the development of colorectal cancer. And turmeric doesn't have to only be used in curries. This spice is delicious on healthy sautéed apples, and healthy steamed cauliflower and/or green beans and onions. Or, for a flavor-rich, low-calorie dip, try adding some turmeric and dried onion to creamy yogurt.

Turmeric Teams Up with Cauliflower to Halt Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer—the second leading cause of cancer death in American men with 500,000 new cases appearing each year—is a rare occurrence among men in India, whose low risk is attributed to a diet rich in brassica family vegetables and the curry spice, turmeric.
Scientists tested turmeric, a concentrated source of the phytonutrient curcumin, along with phenethyl isothiocyanates, a phytochemical abundant in cruciferous vegetables including cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi and turnips.
When tested singly, both phenethyl isothiocyanate and curcumin greatly retarded the growth of human prostate cancer cells implanted in immune-deficient mice. In mice with well-established prostate cancer tumors, neither phenethyl isothiocyanate nor curcumin by itself had a protective effect, but when combined, they significantly reduced both tumor growth and the ability of the prostate cancer cells to spread (metastasize) in the test animals.
The researchers believe the combination of cruciferous vegetables and curcumin could be an effective therapy not only to prevent prostate cancer, but to inhibit the spread of established prostate cancers. Best of all, this combination—cauliflower spiced with turmeric—is absolutely delicious! For protection against prostate cancer, cut cauliflower florets in quarters and let sit for 5-10 minutes; this allows time for the production of phenethyl isothiocyanates, which form when cruciferous vegetables are cut, but stops when they are heated. Then sprinkle with turmeric, and healthy sauté on medium heat in a few tablespoons of vegetable or chicken broth for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and top with olive oil, sea salt and pepper to taste.

Reduce Risk of Childhood Leukemia

Research presented at a recent conference on childhood leukemia, held in London, provides evidence that eating foods spiced with turmeric could reduce the risk of developing childhood leukemia. The incidence of this cancer has risen dramatically during the 20th century, mainly in children under age five, among whom the risk has increased by more than 50% cent since 1950 alone. Modern environmental and lifestyle factors are thought to play a major role in this increase.
Childhood leukemia is much lower in Asia than Western countries, which may be due to differences in diet, one of which, the frequent use of turmeric, has been investigated in a series of studies over the last 20 years by Prof. Moolky Nagabhushan from the Loyola University Medical Centre, Chicago, IL.
"Some of the known risk factors that contribute to the high incidence of childhood leukemia are the interaction of many lifestyle and environmental factors. These include prenatal or postnatal exposure to radiation, benzene, environmental pollutants and alkylating chemotherapeutic drugs. Our studies show that turmeric—and its colouring principle, curcumin—in the diet mitigate the effects of some of these risk factors."
Nagabhushan has shown that the curcumin in turmeric can:
  • inhibit the mutagenicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (carcinogenic chemicals created by the burning of carbon based fuels including cigarette smoke)
  • inhibit radiation-induced chromosome damage
  • prevent the formation of harmful heterocyclic amines and nitroso compounds, which may result in the body when certain processed foods, such as processed meat products that contain nitrosamines, are eaten
  • irreversibly inhibit the multiplication of leukemia cells in a cell culture

Improved Liver Function

In a recent rat study conducted to evaluate the effects of turmeric on the liver's ability to detoxify xenobiotic (toxic) chemicals, levels of two very important liver detoxification enzymes (UDP glucuronyl transferase and glutathione-S-transferase) were significantly elevated in rats fed turmeric as compared to controls. The researchers commented, "The results suggest that turmeric may increase detoxification systems in addition to its anti-oxidant properties...Turmeric used widely as a spice would probably mitigate the effects of several dietary carcinogens."
Curcumin has been shown to prevent colon cancer in rodent studies. When researchers set up a study to analyze how curcumin works, they found that it inhibits free radical damage of fats (such as those found in cell membranes and cholesterol), prevents the formation of the inflammatory chemical cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and induces the formation of a primary liver detoxification enzyme, glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzymes. When the rats were given curcumin for 14 days, their livers' production of GST increased by 16%, and a marker of free radical damage called malondialdehyde decreased by 36% when compared with controls. During this two week period, the researchers gave the rats a cancer-causing chemical called carbon tetrachloride. In the rats not fed curcumin, markers of free radical damage to colon cells went up, but in the rats given turmeric, this increase was prevented by dietary curcumin. Lastly, the researchers compared giving turmeric in the diet versus injecting curcumin into the rats' colons. They found injecting curcumin resulted in more curcumin in the blood, but much less in the colon mucosa. They concluded, "The results show that curcumin mixed with the diet achieves drug levels in the colon and liver sufficient to explain the pharmacological activities observed and suggest that this mode of administration may be preferable for the chemoprevention of colon cancer."

Cardiovascular Protection

Curcumin may be able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body. Since oxidized cholesterol is what damages blood vessels and builds up in the plaques that can lead to heart attack or stroke, preventing the oxidation of new cholesterol may help to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. In addition, turmeric is a good source of vitamin B6, which is needed to keep homocysteine levels from getting too high. Homocysteine, an intermediate product of an important cellular process called methylation, is directly damaging to blood vessel walls. High levels of homocysteine are considered a significant risk factor for blood vessel damage, atherosclerotic plaque build-up, and heart disease; while a high intake of vitamin B6 is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
In research published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, when 10 healthy volunteers consumed 500 mg of curcumin per day for 7 days, not only did their blood levels of oxidized cholesterol drop by 33%, but their total cholesterol droped 11.63% , and their HDL (good cholesterol) increased by 29%! (Soni KB, Kuttan R).

How Turmeric Lowers Cholesterol

Tumeric's cholesterol-lowering effects are the result of the curry spice's active constituent, curcumin, which research reveals is a messaging molecule that communicates with genes in liver cells, directing them to increase the production of mRNA (messenger proteins) that direct the creation of receptors for LDL (bad) cholesterol. With more LDL-receptors, liver cells are able to clear more LDL-cholesterol from the body.
LDL-receptor mRNA increased sevenfold in liver cells treated with curcumin at a concentration of 10 microM, compared to untreated cells. (Liver cells were found to tolerate curcumin at levels of up to 12. microM for 24 hours). (Peschel D, Koerting R, et al. J Nutr Biochem)
Practical Tips:
Help increase your liver's ability to clear LDL-cholesterol by relying on turmeric, not just for delicious fish, meat or lentil curries, but to spice up healthy sautéed onions, potatoes and/or cauliflower; or as the key flavoring for a creamy vegetable dip. Just mix plain yogurt with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise and turmeric, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets. Be sure to choose turmeric rather than prepared curry blends. Recent research indicates the amount of turmeric (and therefore curcumin) in curry blends is often minimal.(Tayyem RF et al.,Nutr Cancer)
For the most curcumin, be sure to use turmeric rather curry powder—a study analyzing curcumin content in 28 spice products described as turmeric or curry powders found that pure turmeric powder had the highest concentration of curcumin, averaging 3.14% by weight. The curry powder samples, with one exception, contained very small amounts of curcumin. (Tayyem RF, Heath DD, et al. Nutr Cancer)

Protection against Alzheimer's Disease

Growing evidence suggests that turmeric may afford protection against neurodegenerative diseases. Epidemiological studies show that in elderly Indian populations, among whose diet turmeric is a common spice, levels of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's are very low. Concurrently, experimental research conducted recently found that curcumin does appear to slow the progression of Alzheimer's in mice. Preliminary studies in mice also suggest that curcumin may block the progression of multiple sclerosis. While it is still unclear how it may afford protection against this degenerative condition, one theory is that it may interrupt the production of IL-2, a protein that can play a key role in the destruction of myelin, the sheath that serves to protect most nerves in the body.
A number of studies have suggested that curcumin, the biologically active constituent in turmeric, protects against Alzheimer's disease by turning on a gene that codes for the production of antioxidant proteins. A study published in the Italian Journal of Biochemistry (December 2003) discussed curcumin's role in the induction of the the heme oxygenase pathway, a protective system that, when triggered in brain tissue, causes the production of the potent antioxidant bilirubin, which protects the brain against oxidative (free radical) injury. Such oxidation is thought to be a major factor in aging and to be responsible for neurodegenerative disorders including dementias like Alzheimer's disease. Another study conducted jointly by an Italian and U.S. team and presented at the American Physiological Society's 2004 annual conference in Washington, DC, confirmed that curcumin strongly induces expression of the gene, called hemeoxygenase-1 (HO-1) in astrocytes from the hippocampal region of the brain.

Curcumin Crosses Blood-Brain Barrier, May Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Research conducted at UCLA and published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (December 2004), which has been confirmed by further research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (April 2006), provides insight into the mechanisms behind curcumin's protective effects against Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease results when a protein fragment called amyloid-B accumulates in brain cells, producing oxidative stress and inflammation, and forming plaques between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain that disrupt brain function.
Amyloid is a general term for protein fragments that the body produces normally. Amyloid-B is a protein fragment snipped from another protein called amyloid precursor protein (APP). In a healthy brain, these protein fragments are broken down and eliminated. In Alzheimer's disease, the fragments accumulate, forming hard, insoluble plaques between brain cells.
The UCLA researchers first conducted test tube studies in which curcumin was shown to inhibit amyloid-B aggregation and to dissolve amyloid fibrils more effectively than the anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen. Then, using live mice, the researchers found that curcumin crosses the blood brain barrier and binds to small amyloid-B species. Once bound to curcumin, the amyloid-B protein fragments can no longer clump together to form plaques. Curcumin not only binds to amyloid-B, but also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, supplying additional protection to brain cells.

Turmeric Boosts Amyloid Plaque Clearance in Human Alzheimer's Patients

The most active ingredient in turmeric root, bisdemethoxycurcumin, boosts the activity of the immune system in Alzheimer's patients, helping them to clear the amyloid beta plaques characteristic of the disease.
In healthy patients, immune cells called macrophages, which engulf and destroy abnormal cells and suspected pathogens, efficiently clear amyloid beta, but macrophage activity is suppressed in Alzheimer's patients.
Using blood samples from Alzheimer's patients, Drs. Milan Fiala and John Cashman have shown that bisdemethoxycurcumin boosts macrophage activity to normal levels, helping to clear amyloid beta. Fiala and Cashman also observed that bisdemethoxycurcumin was more effective in promoting the clearance of amyloid beta in some patients' blood than others, hinting at a genetic element. Further study revealed the genes involved are MGAT III and Toll-like receptors, which are also responsible for a number of other key immune functions. Bisdemethoxycurcumin enhances the transcription of these genes, correcting the immune defects seen in Alzheimer's patients. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jul 31;104(31):12849-54.


Turmeric was traditionally called Indian saffron since its deep yellow-orange color is similar to that of the prized saffron. It has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye.
Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. This herb has a very interesting taste and aroma. Its flavor is peppery, warm and bitter while its fragrance is mild yet slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger, to which it is related.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wontons-the southern girl way!

Chinese Style Chicken and Mushroom Wontons

Today I had some leftover chicken to use up, so I made wontons with it for soup. Normally wontons are made with ground raw meat of some kind; such as chicken, pork, shrimp, crab, etc... The raw protein acts as a binder holding all the ingredients together, but since I used leftover, already cooked, chicken-I had to find another binder ingredient...enter leftover, cooked brown rice!

If you'd like to try this recipe with raw meat instead of cooked, just follow the recipe as written omitting the rice, and substituting in ground raw meat for the cooked chicken. Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy!

As well, this recipe makes 5 dozen wontons. I usually use between 10-12 in a batch of soup, and simply freeze the rest for later. They keep about 12 weeks once frozen.

Chinese Style Wontons for Soup

8 oz. cooked chicken
1 cup cooked brown rice (white rice will do)
12 oz. shiitake or crimini mushrooms-quartered
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/2 cup onion-diced
4 cloves garlic-minced
1 tsp. minced ginger
60 wonton wrappers
1 egg beaten with 2 Tbs. cold water

In a food processor, with the blade attachment in place, add the mushrooms and pulse until they are finely chopped up and looks like fine beach pebbles.
Remove from the food processor and do the same to the chicken
(if you are using raw meat, process until you have a fine pastes), remove the chicken from the processor and add the rice. Run the food processor until you have a thick pasty rice mash (if you know what MOCHI is, then you want a coarse looking mochi). Pour your sesame oil- please don't substitute a different oil here-into a hot sauté pan and cook the onions over medium low heat until they are translucent and golden brown-stirring often. Add the garlic and the chopped mushrooms, turn the heat up to medium high and cook stirring occasionally for 4-7 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated from the mixture.
Add the ginger and chicken, toss to combine everything. Remove the chicken  and mushroom mixture to a bowl and allow it to cool to a workable temperature. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add the rice paste and gently mix with your very clean hands until you have a smooth uniform consistency that hold a ball shape when you squish a little in your hand.
Lay out 5-10 wonton skins on your clean work surface, brush with the egg wash and place about 1-1.5 tsp. of chicken mix in the center of each skin.
Fold into a triangle and then fold the points of the long side together to make a wonton. I have put a brief (and very, very rare Video) together for you to watch below.

Now, simply bring your favorite soup recipe to a simmer, drop in as many wontons as you like, and cook for 4-6 minutes.
serve, and feel the love!

You can store the Wontons you don't use in the freezer for up to 12 weeks. Simply lay in one layer on a cookie sheet to freeze the for about an hours. Then transfer to an airtight container for long-term storage.