Over the years I’ve been cleaning up my act with what I eat and what I cook.
I even thought of writing a cookbook with a clean concept in mind, using “clean” in the title. Then, I discovered several websites already using my favorite cooking word and a wonderful cookbook, Clean Food by Terry Walters. Since Terry lives and cooks in my home state of Connecticut, I invited her as a guest on Bloom Talk and we dished out several delicious recipes from Clean Food and her new cookbook, Clean Start.
What does “clean” cooking, food and eating mean anyway? I think it means different things to different people as we try to learn more about our food, where it comes from, how to cook and prepare it and what’s healthy. For me, it’s about cooking with natural, fresh and unprocessed ingredients. I’ve been letting go of bleached flours opting for less processed grains such as spelt, teff and fava bean flours, and using more maple syrup and honey to sweeten things up instead of refined sugars. I also seek out grass fed meats, free range poultry and organic produce whenever I can because how our livestock eats and how we fertilize our crops is an important part of clean food.
So here’s my dilemma. How to bake and cook old traditional recipes with a “clean” spin? Take one of my favorites - pecan pie. The oohy-gooey yummy-ness comes from lots of sugars and syrups like molasses, brown sugar and corn syrup. I’m not a trained chef so I started to experiment with a step by step approach. Since unsulphured blackstrap molasses is the most natural variety found at many grocery stores, I didn’t go for change there. Even brown sugar comes organic (try Hain’s brand), so I decided to keep it in the recipe ~ for now. But corn syrup had to go and I felt butter should be reduced or altered a bit. Keeping my fingers crossed, I decided to substitute organic maple syrup for corn syrup and ghee - clarified butter rid of the mild solids and casein - in place of traditional butter. The filling tasted even better!
The crust was another hurdle as a butter and white flour Pate Brisee was my traditional crust although my grandma ~ the best pie baker in the world ~ used shortening. Then I remembered Terry’s nut crust when her Blueberry Tart was debuted on Bloom Talk in the summer. The crust is made from almond meal and coconut oil instead of butter or shortening and is pressed into a tart pan (rather than rolling out dough). Can almond and pecan go together? Why not? But, drats! I didn’t have enough almond meal in the pantry (or almonds to grind up) so I used half almond meal and half spelt flour. It worked! It made a great nutty crust that held together well with the slightest hint of coconut.
So my sinfully delicious pean pie was changed a bit this season into a pecan tart trying to use more natural and organic sweeteners and a shortening (ghee) that many claim to be healthier. It made a hit at several holiday gatherings and was the main event at my dessert buffet on Christmas day. Although it’s not totally cleaned up, hey it’s a start! I’ll keep experimenting and let you know if I can clean it up even more.
Now what am I going to do about my old scallop potatoe recipe my daughter requested for a holiday dinner? It’s loaded with buttter, cheese and gruyere cheese! Oh well, I guess eating clean is for most of the time but a once-a-year dish that I can’t figure out how to begin to clean up will just have to be that - a once-a-year dish.
Happy clean holiday cooking!
A summer tart with an easy almond meal crust.
Good-bye wheat, refined sugar and butter and welcome in summer’s berry bounty with this great recipe from Terry Walter’s upcoming cookbook.
2 cups almond meal
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup apple juice
1⁄2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon almond extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups blueberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil 9-inch tart pan.
Place almond meal in large mixing bowl. In small skillet over medium-low heat, whisk together maple syrup, coconut oil and salt until oil melts. Whisk in almond extract and remove from heat. Pour this mixture over the almond meal and fold to incorporate all ingredients. Transfer dough to tart pan and press to form crust. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and, using the back of a wooden spoon, gently press down any puffed areas of crust. Set crust on wire rack to cool.
In small bowl, whisk together 1⁄2 cup apple juice with arrowroot and set aside. In medium Dutch oven over medium heat, combine remaining 1⁄2 cup apple juice with maple syrup, lemon juice, almond extract, lemon zest and salt and bring to simmer. Add 1 cup blueberries and stir until berries start to pop and liquid turns red/blue. Reduce heat to low and whisking continuously, pour arrowroot-juice mixture into berry mixture. When liquid is thick, remove from heat and fold in remaining blueberries. Pour into crust, spread evenly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set.
Great summer recipe loaded with veggies from Clean Food author Terry Walters
2 sweet onions, cut into wedges (Walla Walla or Vidalia)
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and chopped
5 carrots, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
3 cups cooked great northern or navy beans
6 cups arugula leaves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In glass baking dish, combine garlic, onions, fennel and carrots. Drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat vegetables evenly. Toss with sea salt and plenty of pepper. Roast uncovered 20 minutes or until just tender. Remove from oven, fold in tomatoes and beans and return to oven to roast an additional 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.
Remove from oven, cover individual plates or large platter with fresh arugula, top with bean and vegetable mixture and serve.
Can yum and healthy go together? You bet!
Guests: Dr. Kurt Strecker of the Center for Better Health, co-founder of Pursuit Athletic Performance and triathelete and Terry Walters author of Clean Food and her new cookbook Clean Start
LISTEN on Bloom Talk
Podcast: Recorded July 15, 2010 (46 min)
Empower yourself to make smarter food choices by knowing more about the foods you eat. What are good fats to include and bad fats to keep out? Can healthy and sweet go together? How can we fuel ourselves and stay energized and nourished without forgoing great taste?
Dr. Kurt Strecker stirs up the pot and give us a new outlook on healthy foods. He declares “Fat is not the enemy!” and talks about ways to get started in changing up your food routine. Dr. Kurt also claims that by denying yourself and feeling deprived you can actually eat more.
Then we sizzle with Terry Walters in the kitchen with her delicious and “cleaner” recipes. Terry debuts her yummy new Blueberry Tart and talks about other tasty recipes which are more sustainable.
“We do ourselves the biggest service by going closer to the source and recognizing how food grows…. and foods that are nutritionally void fall by the wayside. This supports our good health and the health of our environment. “
Can we nourish our bodies with delicious food that’s good for you and closer to the source?
Guest: Terry Walters author of Clean Food
LISTEN on Bloom Talk Radio
Aired: March 4, 2010
Join me and my guest, Terry Walters who is all about good health - body, mind, and soul.
For the past ten years, Terry has been teaching people to make delicious, healthy foods to nourish themselves and their families and compiled her recipes into Clean Food based on whole, minimally processed foods that can improve your health and your future in a sustainable way.
We’ll talk about eating clean and living well as Terry believes in nourishing yourself with nutrient-rich foods in a rainbow of colors and a full spectrum of tastes. “It’s about making healthy choices that nourish our bodies, our families, our communities and our environment. One choice at a time, with intention and compassion for our selves and our planet, we can eat clean and live well.”