Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Almond Chicken Salad as Good as the Restaurant Kind

There's a Panera restaurant right by my bank so when I have a royalty check from my publisher to deposit I have lunch there.  I love the Napa Chicken Salad sandwich but for the price, I can make that at home and I know I'm not getting any ingredients I'm sensitive to.  So I did. The bread came from a local Italian bakery  Medici on 57th in Chicago, just northeast of the University of Chicago Campus. They use only the highest quality flour and other ingredients in their artisan-crafted bread that is made by hand each day. I love this bread  - it has a sturdy crust and an almost squishily soft interior. If you are a Chicago person, they also have a small but really tasty deli and pizza menu.

Use any regular or gluten free bread you like. 

 As for the chicken salad?

Here's what's in the Panera version

Citrus & pepper chicken, sea salt, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, sugar, dry lemon peel, spices, dehydrated rosemary, dehydrated basil, paprika, vinegar, tomatoes, dressing, rosemary extract, mustard oil], fresh red seedless grapes, lettuce, celery, sliced raw almonds, salt, black pepper.

Not too bad actually. They don't tell you what the "dressing" is so I don't know if it has soy, which I do not tolerate well.

Knock off Panera Chicken Salad Recipe

One skinless chicken breast, cooked and diced or "chicken" veggie protein
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup red grapes, quartered
1/4 cup Just Mayo brand dressing (egg, soy, and gluten free but if you want a really clean mayo - make your own *)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2  and 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar or a few drops of honey
1/4 teaspoon EACH onion and garlic powder
2 pinches of Italian seasoning (I used Tuscon Sunset by Penzy)
dash of salt and pepper
1/4 cup finely slivered almonds

Mix and chill garnished with lettuce or lettuce and tomato. makes 4 small/medium sized sandwiches.  I served on Sesame Semolina bread which is what Panera uses, but mine came from Medici Bakery on 57th in Chicago, a block northeast of the University of Chicago campus.

*Easy Clean Olive Oil Mayo

Note:  Salmonella is always a risk with raw egg yolks however studies have shown that it's very rare in chickens that have been raised on small farms, pastured to eat as nature intended.  I get my eggs from a friend that has chickens on their small hobby farm.  Fresh is also important.  To determine if an egg is fresh, bring it up to room temperature and check for cracks - there should not be any.  Roll the egg on a flat surface, it should wobble.  The yolk and white should be firm and not break easily.  If it doesn't pass these tests, so not eat it.  If I can't get pastured eggs through a farmer I know or co-op, I use the "Just Mayo" brand.

1 egg yolk
1 and 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice (fresh, not bottled)
1 tsp vinegar (I use white or ACV)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon
a dash of sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil.

In food processor blend everything but oil, then SLOWLY drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing.  Chill before serving.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Kung Flu Fighting

My acupuncturist (who is from El Salvador, not China) in addition to having a background as a critical care neonatal nurse and later, a respiratory therapist, is well trained in herbal medicines.

Over the last two years, he's recommended several herbs for stress and sleep support.  But the ones he recommended last fall for my immune system I have to share as this is the FIRST year in many I did NOT get the flu.

They are Andrographis and Holy Basil

What is basil or holy basil? Basil is a very powerful herb used in Ayurvedic medicine and other traditional medical treatments for thousands of years. It is often called holy basil or tulsi, and all the parts of the plant are beneficial in their own way. Basil leaves are used in many preparations, as is the essential oil of the herb. The small bushy basil shrub is native to India and it is an annual plant with lavender-colored flowers.

Is holy basil good for you? Holy basil is incredibly beneficial for human health, primarily due to the unique composition of its essential oil, containing eugenol, camphor, flavonoids, nerol, and various terpenes. This rich blend of organic compounds delivers a number of health benefits and can help relieve acne, asthma, inflammation, respiratory issues, and lower your chances of heart diseases and atherosclerosis.

Andrographis - this is one I had never heard of. Andrographis (andrographis paniculata) has a wide range of benefits, mostly related to immune system enhancing properties. In native India, traditional use has primarily included supporting the immune system. During the twentieth century use of andrographis spread outside India to Europe and beyond.

Andrographis as an immune support ingredient Many benefits of andrographis are related to the herb’s ability to restore normal balance in bacterial flora of the gut.* One important threat to wellness is gradual decline in liver function — andrographis offers significant liver support. It also enhances bile flow, which reduces hepatic (liver) stagnation, improves digestion and enhances detoxification of the body.

Two times a day, before a meal, I take one capsule (Himalaya Brand from Amazon) with 500 mg holy basil (powder) leaf and 160 mg of holy basil extract (leaf) along with one capsule (Solaray Brand from health food store) Andrographis (300 mg).

If there is a good risk of getting a cold/flu due to exposure or being run down, I add Echinacea, following the manufacturer's recommended daily dose based on the brand I have on hand.
Echinacea is a very popular herb, and people commonly take it to help combat flu and colds. It is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family - Asteraceae. It is also known as the American coneflower. We actually grow it in our garden and my husband makes a strong tincture with it and vodka to use if there is ever a natural disaster where we can't get our online orders of the product but need assistance in fighting illness or infection.

Echinacea is available over the counter (OTC) at pharmacies, health shops, and supermarkets as teas, liquid extracts, a dried herb, and as capsules or pills.

Promoters of echinacea say that the herb encourages the immune system and reduces many of the symptoms of colds, and some other illnesses, infections, and conditions.  Do note:  there is a caution to avoid it if you have a known allergy to ragweed.

I add Echnicacea only if I'm feeling like I'm coming down with a cold/flu or I'm taking care of someone with it and take it for just two weeks.  I may also add it for two weeks at the height of flu season.  (Echnicanis is more effective if you don't take long-term with some doctors stating long-term use can hinder not help your immune system by overstimulating it and suggest taking it just two week increments.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bread ANYONE can make - Beer Bread

I know a number of folks who have never made a loaf of bread - preferring to pay 3 to 4 times the cost to buy a loaf in the store rather than mix, knead, wait, knead some more, wait some more homemade bread.  Now, frankly, we don't always have time, especially if you have jobs and/r young children. Certainly, in my house, the occasional Aldi loaf shows up to make sandwiches. Baking yeast bread takes time and a little practice.  THIS bread does not.  You only need six ingredients. There's no kneading, and it's pretty hard to screw it up.  Plus - it involves buying beer and you have to figure out WHAT to do with the 5 cans you DON'T use. (such a hardship :-)

Beer Bread- crusty and buttery on the outside and tender and slightly sweet on the inside, it's perfect with soups, stews, or just a light supper of grilled chicken salad.

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.)

Mix in large bowl:

3 cups flour (sift it or gently spoon into the cup or you will have a doorstop.  Even better weigh your flour - 3 cups flour is 12 and 3/4 ounces or 360 grams)
1 Tablespoon Baking POWDER
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar  (50 grams)
1 can beer (I used Miller Genuine Draft - as that is what my husband likes for an inexpensive beer but any beer or ale will work).  One can of American beer is 12 ounces.  If using a foreign beer measure out 12 ounces or 1 and 1/2 cups of beer.

Spoon into a bread pan sprayed with non-stick spray.  Melt 1/4 cup butter (57 grams) and pour over batter and place in preheated 375 F. (190 C.) degree oven.

Bake for about 50 minutes
Want to take your beer bread up a savory notch - try Sharp Cheddar Beer Bread -  it reduces the sugar and adds freshly grated sharp cheddar (no this is NOT low fat but it's high in taste).

 Sharp Cheddar Beer Bread.

3 cups all-purpose flour (360 grams)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar (40 grams)
1/8 teaspoon (rough estimate) cracked pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese - 113 grams (and seriously, use fresh, it's a big difference in taste over the packaged stuff)
1 bottle room temperature Sam Adams beer or other light ale (12 ounces)

Just before baking, you will top with:

1/3 cup butter (NOT margarine) melted (75 grams)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. (190 C.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Add the beer all at once, (use a big bowl as it WILL foam up for a moment)mixing until blended (the batter will be slightly lumpy).

How do you get that wonderful buttery, crunchy edge to it?
After pouring the batter into a 9″x5″ loaf pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray, (you know, to save calories :-) microwave the 1/3 cup (75 grams) butter and pour that melted gold over the top of the loaf, swirling it around in the pan so the whole top is covered.

Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until top is dark golden and a thin knife or skewer poked into the middle comes out clean (mine took 45 minutes). Cool a bit on a wire rack.
One final version that is GREAT with beef stew in the winter or bangers and mash with caramelized onion and Guinness Veal reduction with some stout mustard. (For the mustard mix: 2 Tablespoons Guinness, 1/4 cup each whole-grain and dijon mustard, 1/2 minced small shallot and 2 teaspoons brown sugar).

NOTE: If you are vegetarian, Field Roast Brand makes a delicious meat and soy-free apple sage sausage that will work with a veggie gravy for this dish (it does have gluten though).
(Use a Wilton 1M or 1B cake decorating tip for the fancy schmancy potatoes)

Guinness Beer Bread

Using my first basic beer bread at the start of this post replace the beer with 1 and 1/2 cups  (12 ounces) Guinness Stout and add 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary to the batter. Combine and bake as directed above.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Poached Salmon - Easy and Tasty

I don't do salmon at home very often.  I grew up near a river where the Salmon ran wild and I ate only what Dad caught that day so I'm a bit spoiled on quality.

Most of what is available in stores are "farm raised" which mean synthetic colors are added to the flesh as a salmon who doesn't get their native diet is NOT going to have the bright pink flesh expected by the consumer.

A good portion of the seafood available is imported from other countries such as China.

The FDA inspects less than three percent of imports and tests only 0.1 percent for chemical residue according to a 2011 by the General Accounting Office, an independent government agency.  Further, some seafood like certain squid and Alaskan salmon, are CAUGHT in the US but then sent to China for inspective processing in questions conditions before import back to the States. 

Yes, some restaurants fly in fresh Salmon but in the Midwest, outside of the nicer restaurants the "catch of the day" is usually a Chicago hot dog or something farm raised in unknown conditions or fresh caught and frozen.

So when my local high-end butcher where I buy things for special dinners had Candian Atlantic Salmon FRESH I lept (or at least jumped like a salmon up a fish ladder) for some.

But given the price I didn't want to botch the cooking.
I've done Salmon in the oven, OK, but it's easy to overcook and dry out.

Steaming -really moist but all the seasoning is sweated off

Grill - it's winter, enough said.

So tonight I decided to poach the salmon.  In a pan went a mixture of white wine and water (1 parts wine to 2 parts water) just enough to be up to the top of the salmon filet without covering it.

The fish was added skin side down and topped with lemon slices, onion slices (optional), some parsley and a dash of garlic powder (can replace with dill if you prefer).  The liquid was then brought to a very gentle boil, and the fish was gently poached for 5 minutes.  The heat was turned off and the dish partially covered and the fish was left to rest 10 minutes.  The smaller sized fillet was perfectly done.  For all but large cuts this should be enough to perfectly cook your salmon, leaving it seasoned and moist.

Served with brown Basmati rice and steamed green beans (and the rest of that little box of wine).

Monday, January 15, 2018

Low Fat/No Added Salt Navy Bean and Ham Soup

With it starting to snow, Sunday seemed like a great to make soup to go with

 especially as I had some slices of ham leftover, not enough for a meal but enough to add to a soup. If you're a vegetarian with no soy issues Yves makes a good veggie "ham" substitute you could use.

This is one of those "you really don't need to measure" dishes.  Plus it turned out deliciously thick and creamy without ANY flour or other gluten-containing thickener and there is no added salt (just what was in the ham)  I'll tell you my secret soon.

Since it was just two of us and my husband was going to be gone for two weeks on business. I made enough for 5-6 bowls.  If you want more, this easily doubles.

Gluten and Soy Free Ham and Bean Soup (lower sodium)

1/2  of a 16-ounce bag of dry navy beans, sorted for any stones or debris then soak in water overnight.

1/3 sweet onion chopped (if you don't like onion, add extra celery)
a handful of chopped celery and carrots (optional, I just had some in the fridge).
large handful of chopped cooked ham, all visible fat removed. (I like Pederson's all natural ham, ethically raised with quality feed, no additives, nitrates, MSG, lactose, sugar, or soy added and you don't have to buy a WHOLE ham as they sell them in halves (leftovers freeze well and I'll tell you  right now if you try and blueberry maple breakfast sausages you will be addicted).

Available in several health food chains and online through a food delivery service at:

Mrs. Dash Original seasoning (I use about 6 shakes)
black pepper (about 3 shakes)
crushed red pepper (2 shakes)
pinch of Sage

After beans have soaked overnight, drain water.  Put beans in a deep saucepan (if they aren't already in one) and cover with FRESH water - enough so there are 2 inches of water over the beans. Make sure the pan is big enough so that as the beans cook and expand there is room.

Bring to a boil on high, reduce heat to medium.kiw, cover and simmer for an hour.

Add veggies and seasoning, stir and simmer another 30-60 minutes (check at 30 minutes, beans are nearing done when they are soft and will "squish" if pressed in a spoon with another spoon).

Carefully remove (as its hot!) with a large ladle about 1 and 1/2 cup of beans and liquid plucking out any larger veggie bits to go back into the pot.  Warm your blender jar with warm water so the heat from the soup doesn't shock the glass, then add beans and liquid to the jar and blend on high until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Stir this mixture back into the soup, adding ham.  Taste and season more if you wish.

Heat uncovered until ham is heated through and beans are fairly soft. (on my old gas stove it was 2 and 1/2 hours total cook time from stove to finish, but will vary by stove and water amount).