Nutrition for Heart, Brain and Sexual Health

"Nutrition for Brain, Heart & Sexual Health" at the Four Seasons (Photo by Four Seasons)

Most people know that nutrition is crucial for heart health, even if the specifics are sometimes a bit confusing. But very few people realize just how important nutrition is for brain and sexual health,  too, and that the three intersect quite nicely.

My clients regularly ask me: Do certain foods affect my brain?  Even my sexual health? My answer: Yes! What you eat profoundly affects the brain, memory, and mental function. And – lucky for us – scientific research confirms brain, heart and sexual health benefit from similar foods, nutrients and behaviors. See by article: Brain Health Do’s & Don’ts and get the full scoop…

At my Four Seasons talk, the Four Seasons Hotel Executive Chef Douglas Anderson prepared three of my recipes beautifully and uniquely: My “Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Vinaigrette” from Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspiration

"Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Vinaigrette" from Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations

my “Cool Cucumber Soup with Yogurt & Cilantro” from Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook in Season”

"Cool Cucumber Soup with Yogurt & Cilantro" from Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook in Season

and my “Melon Chunks with Crumbled Feta and Fresh Mint” (see recipe below) from Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook In Season”

A great time was had by all and everyone chose a plan of action to incorporate a new healthy habit into their lives. Now that’s transforming lives!

"Melon Chunks with Feta and Mint" from Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook in Season

Melon Chunks with Crumbled Feta and Fresh Mint

This is an unusual combination of flavors and textures, and a delight on the palate. Use any kind of melon that happens to be in season.

Serves 8

2 pounds melon chunks (about 1 small cantaloupe or seedless watermelon)
½ pound Feta Cheese or other similar cheese
8 small mint leaves, Chiffonade (Basil will also work)

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and serve!

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Farmers Market Recipe: Fresh Kale & Summer Peach Salad with Toasted Almonds & Balsamic Vinaigrette

Fresh Kale and Summer Peach Salad with Toasted Almonds and Balsamic Vinaigrette

“I don’t normally like kale, but this salad is delicious!” is a comment I hear over and over when I serve this dish. Last year around this time, I was volunteering at an Anacostia Farmers Market. At the time, there was only one produce farmer at the market and all he had the day I was coming was peaches, kale and potatoes! My job at the Farmers Markets is to inspire people to buy the locally grown produce available that day, but what the heck was I going to do with kale, peaches and potatoes? I was stumped! Then I leafed through my own book, Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations, and got inspired by one of Chef Carla Hall’s contributions to my book, her “Hearty Greens Salad with Warm Balsamic Cherry Vinaigrette.” Aha! I can do a variation on the theme, I thought, use peaches, add some crunch with toasted almonds and VOILA! It was a HUGE HIT at the Anacostia Farmers Market. So I’ve included this wonderful recipe in my new book:  Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes (Bookbaby 2013)

Today is the 5th “Katherine’s Market Recipe” of 2013, all of which are designed to be delicious, easy, quick, famiy-friendly, nutritious (heart-healthy & diabetes-friendly), and to highlight produce found at our local farmers markets this week. At your farmers market, you’ll find produce picked at peak ripeness, which means maximum flavor, texture, and nutrition. You’re also helping save the environment when you buy at your farmers market. Here’s how…

 Serves 6

 Vinaigrette:
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

 Salad Ingredients:
6 Handfuls of fresh Kale (or other greens), washed, tough stems removed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 Cups Fresh Sliced Summer Peaches and/or any seasonal Berries
2 Ounces toasted slivered Almonds
½ Sweet Onion, peeled and sliced

In a large bowl, add the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk together. Add the kale, onion, almonds, and peaches and toss together. Serve immediately.

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Swedish Midsummer: Feast the Night Away!

Midsummer: This Weekend! Photo by Embassy of Sweden

For weeks on end, the sun never sets during Sweden’s summertime. It’s daylight round-the-clock. Every year, during one of those “white nights,”  the Friday nearest the 24th of June, all of Scandinavia turns out to feast until morning. After long winter months of what seems like never-ending darkness, sun-starved Swedes join the rest of Scandinavia in celebrating the summer solstice – the year’s longest day.

Swedes call the celebration Midsummer Eve

It is more than just a holiday, however. Midsummer Eve, often lasting through Saturday – and sometimes the whole weekend – is the national excuse for the biggest parties of the year. The revelry is non-stop.

Beginning Friday morning, families gather to set the scene. Every spare piece of furniture is moved outdoors, setting up a festival atmosphere. Large wooden crosses are turned into maypoles decorated with flowers, ribbons and leafy branches.

The maypoles are raised, and hours of dancing, singing and community wide camaraderie get under way. By late afternoon the revelry has served its purpose. Gnawing hunger has prepared the celebrants for the main event: the feast, Sweden’s famed smorgasbord.

Smorgasbord is a Swedish invention and is literally a table of open-faced sandwiches. Though its origin was a simple array of hors d’oeuvres, smorgasbords today are exhaustive buffet-style spreads, the Swedish version being the best known.

There are appetizers, salads, main courses and desserts. The dishes signal summer’s first harvests: freshly clipped dill, tender root vegetables, fish and other seafoods, and strawberries grown in the country.

There are cured ingredients, as well. Pink rolls of cured salmon are wrapped around dill sprigs, with yellow mustard sauces and peppercorns alongside. There is marinated herring and coarse salt, as well as dill and other pickles. Dairy products also are important, including eggs, cheese and cream.

The traditional drink is aquavit, Swedish vodka spiced with anise and caraway. It is served in tiny schnapps glasses. The Midsummer toast, which loses something in translation, usually amounts to a unanimous gulp followed by a chant of “rah, rah, rah, rah.”

Actually, preparation of Midsummer food usually begins a couple of days before. Local fishermen stack their just-caught salmon in rickety wheelbarrows, roll them into town and go door to door displaying their wares for inspection by anxious cooks.

The fish are carefully examined in solemn transaction, the cook – usually my Grandmother – signaling the final selection with an abrupt, “This will do!” The fisherman nods, satisfied, and carries the fish to the kitchen where it lands on the table with a thud. The smell of the sea enters the house with the day’s catch. The best knife has been sharpened for this moment: the start of Midsummer Eve cooking.

SWEDISH MIDSUMMER RECIPES

Aquavit and Marcus Samuelsson’s Gravlax Club Sandwich
Gravlax and Mustard Sauce

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Katherine’s Market Recipe: Salad of New Potatoes & Asparagus with Lemony-Garlic-Herb Mayonnaise Topped with Poached Salmon

Salad of New Potatoes & Asparagus in a Lemony Garlic-Herb Mayonnaise topped with Poached Salmon (photo by Alison Eaves)

FREE: Download and print my entire new spring recipe chapter from my upcoming cookbook: “Diet Simple Farm-to-Table Recipes,” try a recipe, post its picture and your impressions on my Facebook page, and I’ll enter you in my contest for free Personalized Nutrition services. This wonderful recipe, along with many others, is included!

 Diet Simple Farm to Table Cover

Today is the 4th “Katherine’s Market Recipe” of 2013, all of which are designed to be delicious, easy, quick, famiy-friendly, nutritious (heart-healthy & diabetes-friendly), and to highlight produce found at our local farmers markets this week. At your farmers market, you’ll find produce picked at peak ripeness, which means maximum flavor, texture, and nutrition. You’re also helping save the environment when you buy at your farmers market. Here’s how…

For my “Salad of ‘New’ Potatoes & Asparagus with Lemony-Garlic-Herb Mayonnaise,” I recommend you buy the asparagus, green onions, tomatoes and tiny potatoes at Wednesday’s Rose Park Farmers Market, Saturday’s Glover Park-Burleith Farmer’s Market, Sunday’s  Dupont Circle’s Fresh Farm Market – OR on Sunday, come visit me demonstrating this incredible recipe at the new Downtown College Park Farmers Market.

Salad of “New” Potatoes and Asparagus with Lemony-Garlic-Herb Mayonnaise Topped with Poached Salmon
by Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D.

This  “salad”features the best of spring-time gifts: asparagus, green onions, thin-skinned tiny new potatoes and salmon. It can be served warm as a great holiday side dish, or enjoyed cold. The mayonnaise dressing brings out the flavor of any vegetable, especially if allowed to soak into still-warm, just cooked asparagus, haricots verts (the tender French green bean), delicate, small, thin-skinned “new” potatoes, or broccoli. The salmon can be poached, grilled, smoked or cured: your choice!

Serves 6 to 8

Mayonnaise Dressing:

1/4 Cup Mayonnaise, preferably made with Canola or Olive Oil
Grated Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Garlic cloves (or more, to taste), mashed
1 Tbsp (or more, to taste) Tarragon or other fresh herb such as Dill
Salt and Pepper, if desired (none needed)

Vegetables:

1 quart Asparagus, tough end removed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 pint small New Potatoes with skin, cleaned but not peeled (optional)
2 Red Bell Peppers, roasted (if desired) and chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 Bunch (about 4 – 5) Green Onions, chopped

Salmon:

2 pounds of salmon fillet
1 Bunch Fresh Dill
1 teaspoon Salt

Place the salmon in a frying pan large enough to hold it laid out flat. Pour cold water over salmon until it is covered.  Add salt and dill to the pan. Place lid on the pan. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let sit about ten minutes in the hot water. Remove the fish from the water when the flesh is opaque when checked with a fork. Let cool, if desired.

Prepare the dressing in a bowl large enough to fit the salad ingredients by mixing the mayonnaise, the lemon, garlic and fresh herb of your choice. Place in refrigerator to keep chilled.

In a frying pan large enough to fit the asparagus end to end, steam or boil the asparagus slightly (in a small amount of water) for about 3 minutes, until they are al dente (firm, but not hard, with resistance to the bite). Drain and immediately toss in ice water to stop the cooking process. Place in the bowl of cold mayonnaise dressing. Toss to coat with mayonnaise dressing. Put the bowl back into the refrigerator to halt the cooking process.

Slice the small potatoes in half or quarters, depending on their size. Boil the potatoes for about 5 or 10  minutes, until tender when pierced by a fork. Drain and place in the bowl with the mayonnaise and asparagus. Toss to coat with the mayonnaise dressing. Place in the refrigerator.

Roast the red bell peppers if desired, chop, and add to the mix. Chop the white part of the green onions, cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and place in bowl with the other vegetables; toss.

Serve the salad with about 4 ounces of salmon on top of each serving.

For more of my fantastic spring recipes…

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FREE: Diet Simple Farm-to-Table Spring Cookbook

Enjoying Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries at the Farmers Market

Celebrate Your Transformation to a Healthier Lifestyle

I’m enthusiastically and gratefully giving you my most cherished spring recipes from my new upcoming Farm-to-Table cookbook FREE, because I appreciate you – my clients and friends – so much. I feel privileged to be part of your life – as your personal guide in your life and health transformation.

Creating a “Diet Simple” Support Community on Facebook

I really enjoy hearing from you, getting regular updates about your health, your family, and your life. So, I’m going to take it to the next level and form an online “Diet Simple” community on Facebook. It will be our online space to support each other, share our cooking adventures, and celebrate our ongoing transitions to a healthier lifestyle and body weight. To encourage you to get in the habit of Facebooking with me, I’m running a contest with prizes I think you’ll love! Follow the instructions below…

Cover design by Eagle Publishing and Viggy Parr

Click my book (above), and you’ll find my book to download…

Diet Simple Contest

1. Download and/or print my new Diet Simple Farm-to-Table Spring recipes,
2.  Try one of the recipes – or more – and share a picture and your impressions on my “Diet Simple by Katherine Tallmadge” Facebook page,
3. Everyone who posts a comment or picture will be entered into the contest,
4. Refer a friend to do the same, they’ll be entered, and you’ll be entered into the drawing twice.

The Winner: Chooses From the Following Prizes

1. A guided, personal shopping trip to the Farmers Market,
2. Private chef-for-a-night (I cook dinner at your home while you provide the ingredients),
3.  A 5-session nutrition counseling program,
4. A talk at your (local Washington, DC) workplace or conference, or
5.  Come up with your own idea, and I’ll consider it!

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Katherine’s Market Recipe: Strawberry & Rhubarb Soup

Soupe aux Fraises et Rhubarbe (photo by Alison Eaves)

FREE: Download and print my entire new spring recipe chapter from my upcoming cookbook: “Diet Simple Farm-to-Table Recipes,” try a recipe, post its picture and join the discussion on my Facebook page, then I’ll enter you in my contest to win free Personalized Nutrition services. This wonderful recipe, along with many others, is included!

Diet Simple - Spring Recipes

Today is the 3rd “Katherine’s Market Recipe” of 2013, all of which are designed to be delicious, easy, quick, famiy-friendly, nutritious (heart-healthy & diabetes-friendly), and to highlight produce found at our local farmers markets this week. At your farmers market, you’ll find produce picked at peak ripeness, which means maximum flavor, texture, and nutrition. You’re also helping save the environment when you buy at your farmers market. Here’s how…

For my “Soupe aux Fraises et Rhubarbe,” I recommend you buy the strawberries and rhubarb at Rose Park Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons, the Glover Park-Burleith Farmers Market Saturday, or the  Dupont Circle’s Fresh Farm Market on Sunday.

Soupe aux Fraises et Rhubarbe
(Strawberry and Rhubarb Soup)
by Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 Tablespoons Canola Oil
3 stalks Rhubarb, pealed and cut into 1.4 inch chunks
2 cups hulled and sliced fresh Strawberries
4 ounces fresh Orange Juice
1/4 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Nonfat or Low Fat Vanilla Yogurt
4 fresh Mint Leaves

Procedure:

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Use a pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add the rhubarb and saute about a minute. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for about 7 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the heat and let cool. Add the strawberries, orange juice, sugar and 1/2 cup of the yogurt and blend with an immersible hand blender (I like the Cuisinart Smart Stick). Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until it is well chilled.

Presentation:

Pour the soup into four small chilled bowls. Place a 1 Tablespoon dollop of yogurt and a fresh mint leaf on each bowl.

Did you know that there are 200 seeds on each strawberry?

Strawberries are members of the Rose family and there are over 600 different varieties. Choose freshly picked, ripe berries, as they will be the tastiest and will have the most nutrients. “Look for berries fully formed, bright red, without bruising or soft spots and with fresh-looking green caps,” says Janie Hibler in “The Berry Bible.”

Strawberries are considered a “superfood.” They have one of the highest antioxidant and nutrient contents of all foods, yet they are low in calories, so you can eat them in unlimited quantities. In fact, for your health, the more the better! “A serving of eight strawberries contains more vitamin C than an orange. Strawberries are also rich in folate, potassium, and fiber. They’re especially high in cancer- and heart-disease-fighting phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) called flavonoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechin, and kaempferol.

Soupe aux Fraises et Rhubarbeis adapted from “The French Culinary Institute’s Salute to Healthy Cooking” (Rodale Press, 1998), one of my favorite cookbooks, which I highly recommend!

For more of my fantastic spring recipes…

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Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries – Katherine Demonstrates at Farmer’s Market Sunday

Join me this Sunday 11 am to 2 pm at the new College Park Farmers Market! I’ll be demonstrating dark-chocolate-dipped strawberries using the season’s first strawberries. I just bought several quarts at my local Rose Park Farmers Market, and they are sweet and tender – just as they should be when they’re picked locally at peak ripeness.

Today is the 2nd “Katherine’s Market Recipe” of 2013, all of which are designed to be delicious, easy, quick, famiy-friendly, nutritious (heart-healthy & diabetes-friendly), and to highlight produce found at our local farmers markets this week. At your farmers market, you’ll find produce picked at peak ripeness, which means maximum flavor, texture, and nutrition. You’re also helping save the environment when you buy at your farmers market. Here’s how…

For my “Dark-Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries,” I recommend you buy the strawberries at Rose Park Farmers Market,  Dupont Circle’s Fresh Farm Market on Sunday or come visit me demonstrating this incredible recipe on Sunday at the new College Park Farmers Market.

Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
by Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D.

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients:

For the Fondue:
½ cup Skim Milk
8 ounces Semisweet Chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

To Serve:
2 quarts Whole Strawberries (or other seasonal fruit)
Long toothpicks or Kebab Sticks
Finely Chopped Nuts (optional)
Course Ground Coffee (optional)
Granola (optional)

Heat the milk in a double boiler. When the milk begins to bubble around the edges, turn off the heat, and whisk in the dark chocolate chips. When melted, mix in the vanilla. Be careful not to burn the chocolate! Keep it on very low heat or in a double boiler. Pour into a fondue pot, keep on low, stirring occasionally. Spear each strawberry or piece of fruit with a long toothpick or kebab stick, and dip into the chocolate. If desired, roll in a bowl of chopped nuts, granola – or for the adults: course ground coffee for “mocha” dipped strawberries. To harden the chocolate, place each chocolate-dipped strawberry separately on parchment paper and let cool.

About 160 calories per serving, which is 1/8 of the recipe. Tthe strawberries are only 2 to 6 calories each, depending on their size.

Did you know that there are 200 seeds on each strawberry?

Strawberries are members of the Rose family and there are over 600 different varieties. Choose freshly picked, ripe berries, as they will be the tastiest and will have the most nutrients. “Look for berries fully formed, bright red, without bruising or soft spots and with fresh-looking green caps,” says Janie Hibler in “The Berry Bible.”

Strawberries are considered a “superfood.” They have one of the highest antioxidant and nutrient contents of all foods, yet they are low in calories, so you can eat them in unlimited quantities. In fact, for your health, the more the better! “A serving of eight strawberries contains more vitamin C than an orange. Strawberries are also rich in folate, potassium, and fiber. They’re especially high in cancer- and heart-disease-fighting phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) called flavonoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechin, and kaempferol.

Is it true that a chocolate a day will keep the doctor away?

The cacao bean, grown mainly in Latin America, Africa and Asia, is loaded with beneficial compounds. In fact, its early uses, dating back 3,000 years were mainly medicinal. It has been highly prized for centuries, which is reflected in its scientific name, Theobroma cacao, meaning “Food of the Gods.”

Cocoa, if high in flavanols, the beneficial plant compounds scientists believe impart most of cocoa’s benefits, may help maintain a healthy vascular system, relax blood vessels, reduce blood clotting – an aspirin-like affect –reduce oxidative damage, inflammation, and improve blood flow. All of which reduces heart disease risk.

If you’re eating chocolate for health benefits, you’ll need to be very discriminating in your selections. You’ll get more flavanols, and therefore health benefits, with less processing. The first choice is cocoa, which isn’t Dutch processed – as when cocoa is “Dutch processed with alkali” the flavanols are reduced. Look for chocolate which has the highest percentage of cocoa as possible and to save calories, look for chocolate with lower fat and sugar levels. In general, cocoa is your best first choice. Second choice is a semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. Some chocolates go as high as 85% cocoa, but legally can be as low as 35%. I recommend no more than an ounce a day, which may be about 110 – 150 calories, depending on the chocolate. Any more than that and you’re probably going to take in too many calories for weight control.

The numbers:

Type of Chocolate                                                                                     Mg Flavonols                        Calories
1.3 oz Dark Chocolate Bars, Average*:                     82 mg                                        187

1.3 oz Milk Chocolate Bars, Average*:                      42 mg                                        198

1 TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, Average*:                 75 mg                                        12

  • *USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory

 

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The “Puree of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon” Diet

Mark Indre lost 40 pounds with Katherine's Diet Simple soup recipes. His favorite: "Puree of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon"

Why Soup???  The science…

I love soups… Filling… Comforting… Psychologically Satisfying. Here’s why soups cause weight loss: Classic studies have found that as long as the volume of a food is high – even though the volume is created by just water or air and adding zero calories, people can feel full with fewer calories. In one study, researchers varied the water content in three different first courses to see how it would affect peoples’ intake at the main course. The study subjects were fed either 1) chicken rice casserole, 2) chicken rice casserole served with a glass of water, or 3) chicken rice soup – basically the casserole with water/broth added. The researchers found the subjects who ate the soup consumed 26 percent less, about 100 calories fewer, at the main course, compared to the other conditions.

Researchers surmise that a large food volume caused by water, even without added calories, helps us feel more satisfied for several reasons. It causes stomach stretching and slows stomach emptying, stimulating the nerves and hormones that signal feelings of fullness. Also, visually seeing a large volume of food can increase your ability to feel satisfied by it, even though the calories are relatively low. Finally, the larger a meal and the longer a meal goes on, studies show, your satisfaction declines and you lose interest in completing it. Water is the component in food which has the largest influence on how much you eat. This study, and many others like it, find eating a high-water-content, low-calorie first course, such as soup, enhances satisfaction and reduces overall calorie intake.

Bottom Line: Lose 20 pounds: Start lunch or dinner with a bowl of broth-based vegetable soup OR turn main courses into soups by adding water or broth. Save 200 calories a day! Do this every day and lose twenty pounds in one year… Wasn’t that SIMPLE? And oh…. so painless!

Puree of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon (Photo by Mark Indre)

Katherine’s Puree of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon
This sublime, pale green soup may be served warm or cold.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:
2 pounds Asparagus, cleaned, tough ends removed, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 Leak, cleaned and sliced, white and light green parts only
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 clove of Garlic, mashed
Pinch of Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Vegetable Broth (see recipe) or Chicken Broth
2 Medium Potatoes, diced
1 Bay Leaf
A few sprigs of Fresh Thyme and Parsley
1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
Garnish: 1 Small Bunch Fresh Tarragon, chopped

Vegetable Broth:
Use the cleaned tough ends and scraps of the asparagus and leek. Add 1 onion, 1 garlic clove (or more), and 2 quarts of water. Other vegetables you happen to have could also be thrown in, such as a carrot and/or a celery stalk. Let simmer about 30 minutes and strain.

Soup Preparation:
Clean the asparagus, break off tough ends. If you wish, peel the stalks for a more tender vegetable. Slice the asparagus stalks into approximately 1.5 inch pieces.

Heat oil in heavy-bottomed pan. Add the leak, onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, the potatoes, and herbs and simmer about 30 minutes. Add half of the asparagus and simmer another ten minutes. Remove the herbs.

Using an immersible hand blender (ie, Cuisinart’s Smart Stick), puree the soup, add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, steam or broil the remaining asparagus for 5 minutes, until barely tender.  Strain and cover in ice water to stop the cooking process and prevent limp, over-done asparagus.

Serve the soup, garnishing each bowl with the sliced asparagus and a pinch of chopped fresh tarragon.

Asparagus is packed with nutrients. Low in calories, it’s an excellent source of folic acid, Vitamin C, Thiamin, and Vitamin B6. Asparagus, like other fruits and vegetables, is sodium-free, and contains no fat or cholesterol. It is an important source of potassium and many nutrients for boosting your immune system, preventing heart disease, lowering blood pressure and even preventing cancer. Asparagus has the highest levels of Glutathione, a potent cancer fighter , according to the National Cancer Institute. Asparagus is also high in Rutin, valuable in strengthening the blood vessels.

Puree of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon is adapted from “The Vegetarian Feast” by Martha Rose Shulman, a cookbook I highly recommend.

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My Favorite Holiday Recipe: Winter Salad of Orange and Pomegranate

Winter Salad of Orange and Pomegranate

The simple pleasures in life always bring me the most joy. I especially love the holidays because it’s a time of year I get to spend precious moments with my family and friends. One of my favorite traditions is an annual “girls get-together” with 3 of my favorite girlfriends. We feast on the most fabulous “girl” food, share stories about our lives, and exchange thoughtfully chosen gifts. I’m always asked to bring the “salad,” which is really so  much more. This “salad” is a feast for the senses: salty, sweet, tart, crunchy – every texture, flavor and color imaginable. Developed by Persian Chef, Najmieh Batmanglij, it is a holiday home-run.

Winter Salad of Orange and Pomegranate
By Najmieh Batmanglij in “Cooking With Les Dames d’Escoffier

 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 Cup (about 1 large pomegranate) pomegranate seeds
6 Large Oranges, peeled and cut into section, membrane removed
¼ Cup Finely Chopped Candied Orange Peel (store-bought or home-made)
½ Cup freshly squeezed Orange Juice
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed Lime Juice
1 tsp Orange Blossom Water
8 ounces Sheep’s milk cheese, such as Pecorino Romano OR aged Goat Cheese, cut into shavings with a potato peeler (I  use only 2 ounces)
1/3 Cup Chopped pistachios
Pistachio Oil or light-bodied Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions:

In a bowl, combine the pomegranate seeds, orange segments, candied orange peel, orange juice, lime juice and orange blossom water. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. To serve, distribute the fruit mixture among 4 plates. Alongside the fruit, place a portion of cheese and top with the chopped pistachios and a light drizzle of oil. Serve immediately

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Katherine’s Weekly Market Recipe: Light Sweet Potato Flan with Vanilla Bean

Renee Comet Photography

My very luscious version of a “flan,” a custard dessert, is lighter and simpler than most, and highlights one of the most nutritious seasonal foods – the sweet potato, and a favorite flavor: Vanilla. The vanilla’s quality is essential to the flavor, so I buy special plump, juicy California vanilla beans – the kind top chefs use – from Cook’s.** Sprinkle the flan with toasted pecans for a bit of crunch. Make in six or eight “personal” soufflé dishes, or in one large dish. Perfect as a holiday dessert!

Today is the 12th “Katherine’s Market Recipe,” all of which are designed to be delicious, easy, quick, family-friendly, nutritious (heart-healthy & diabetes-friendly), and to highlight produce found at our local Farmers Markets this week. At your Farmers Market, you’ll find produce picked at peak ripeness, which means maximum flavor, texture and nutrition. You’re also helping save the environment when you buy at your Farmers Market. Here’s how…

For my “Light Sweet Potato Flan with Vanilla Bean,” I recommend you buy your sweet potato at the Glover Park – Burleith Farmers Market on Saturday, or Dupont Circle’s Fresh Farm Market (open year-round) on Sunday.

**Cook’s Vanilla

And don’t forget the Cook’s Vanilla for your Flan and other holiday baking. I first discovered this special vanilla in Georgetown’s Griffin Market (now closed). It peaked my interest because former Washington Post food reporter (and longtime Georgetown resident), Walter Nicholls, endorsed it and provided it to Griffin. Apparently, Walter has teamed up with Paso Robles, California’s Cook Flavoring Company, a family-owned business. “They personally monitor the cultivation and harvest of its vanilla beans in a way that few can match and no one can exceed, extracting the flavor by the same slow, cold extraction method the family has been using for almost a century,” said Walter.  The best pastry chefs in town seem to use it: Baked & Wired, Dolcezza, Black Salt, CoCo Sala, CityZen, the Hay Adams hotel and all of Jose Andres restaurants, to name a few. Beans and extract are available locally at Rodman’s on Wisconsin Avenue.

Photo by Carolyn Lochhead

Katherine’s Light Sweet Potato Flan with Vanilla Bean

Serves 6 – 8

Unsalted butter or butter spray for the ramekins**
2 Cups 1% Lowfat Milk
2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
½ Vanilla Bean, halved lengthwise
¾ pound Sweet Potato (1 large)
2 Eggs
1 Egg Yolk
1Tablespoon Warm Molasses (Optional)
1 ounce (1/4 cup) Chopped, Toasted Pecans or any favorite Nut (Optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place sweet potato on the oven rack and let cook for about 45 to 60 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Use long tongs to pull out of the oven. When warm to the touch, remove the peel. Mash the potato flesh and measure out ¾ cup.

Turn oven temperature down to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter or spray the insides of 6 or 8 ½-cup ramekins* or a 6-cup glass Pyrex bowl or soufflé dish.

In a medium saucepan, bring milk, sugar, and vanilla bean slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat. Pull out the vanilla bean and scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk mixture. Return the pod to the pot and let sit for 15 minutes to let flavors blend.

Meanwhile, puree the 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk with the mashed sweet potato (I use a Cuisinart Smart Stick immersion hand blender). Add the sweet potato mixture to the warm milk mixture and puree until well blended – most easily done (and less messy) with an immersion hand blender. For a smooth custard, try not to create too many bubbles.

Pour the liquid into six or eight ramekins, or into the 6-cup soufflé dish. Set the soufflé dish(es) into a large baking pan and add boiling water until it is halfway up the sides of the soufflé dish(es). Place in the center of the oven and bake until slightly wobbly in the middle – about 40 to 45 minutes for the individual ramekins or 1 hour if you’re using the larger soufflé dish.

To serve: Leave the custards in the water bath until they are not too hot to handle or until ready to serve. Slide a knife around the inside edge of the individual dishes and turn them onto serving plates. Or scoop out 6 or 8 servings from the large soufflé dish. Over each serving, drizzle the warm molasses and sprinkle chopped, toasted pecans.

**A “ramekin” is an oven-proof ceramic or glass serving dish, usually round, but sometimes in novelty shapes, ie, hearts or ovals.

The entire recipe = 1,000 calories (1,242 calories with molasses and pecans). Divided into 6 servings = 167 calories per serving (207 with molasses and pecans). Eight servings = 125 calories per serving (155 with molasses and pecans).

Katherine’s “Light Sweet Potato Flan with Vanilla Bean” was adapted from award-winning cookbook author, Deborah Madison’s “Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers’ Markets.”

 Sweet Potatoes, considered one of the “Super Foods,” are loaded with Beta-Carotene, the orange pigment which is a potent anti-oxidant. It is important for your immune system, your skin, your vision, bones, reproduction, and may reduce cancer risk. But sweet potatoes provide so much more; they’re also high in fiber, vitamins C, E, the B vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium and iron. Sweet potatoes’ origins date back thousands of years in Peru, became a favorite of Christopher Columbus once he landed in America, and grow particularly well in the American South, where they have become a staple.

 

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