Monday, February 28, 2011

Ayurvedic Anise and Cardamom Tea

Do you enjoy herbal tea?
This herbal tea is not only soothing, but good for your digestion.

This Ayurvedic herbal tea blend is tasty, aids the digestive system, and is relaxing. It is made from anise seeds and green cardamom pods that can be purchased in bulk at a reasonable price in any Indian grocery store. Anise and cardamom pods ( not ground) can also be purchased in some supermarkets in the spice isle, but be prepared to pay a higher price than in an ethnic store.

I live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania directly across the river from where the historical Battle of Trenton was fought against the British during the American Revolutionary War. In 1775, George Washington set up headquarters on many properties throughout Bucks County to plan that very battle. One of his headquarters, known as Headquarter's Farm, is an historic site that was later sold to private investors.
Purchase anise seeds and green cardamom pods at an Indian Grocery Store or supermarket

You may be wondering what George Washington and the Battle of Trenton  have to do with this herbal Tea.

Well, In the 1980's,  the carriage house at  George Washington's Headquarter's Farm was home for a year to my good friend Vicki. It was there at Headquarter's Farm that I was first introduced to this aromatic Ayurvedic tea.

Vicki had an historic rustic kitchen and loved to make things from scratch. This tea was an Ayurvedic herbal blend that she learned in her many travels to India. Until this day, whenever I visit Vicki, we always enjoy good conversation and a cozy cup of her homemade anise and cardamom tea.

Are cardamom and anise seeds healthy? You bet..
Spices  are very rich sources of vital nutrients and antioxidants. Cardamom provides calcium, iron, magnesium , phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Cardamom also has small amounts of Vitamin C, B6, B1, B2, Niacin, and folate. In addition, anise seeds provide vitamins B complex, C, potassium, calcium, iron,  and sulfur. Spices and herbs are powerhouses of immune building antioxidants and nutrients.

The tea is very easy to make. All you need is a small pot and strainer ( or you could use a tea ball- I didn't)


1 Tablespoon anise seeds
6 pods of green cardamom, crushed to expose inner seeds
4 cups water ( some of the water will boil out)


Place the water, anise seeds, and cardamom in a small pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 7 minutes. Shut off the heat and allow to steep for about 5 more minutes. Strain and serve hot.
Add a little organic raw honey or a good quality liquid stevia to your cup if you like a sweet tea.

Enjoy.. this tea is soothing to the stomach, aids digestion, and the taste and aroma surpasses any tea you could brew from a tea bag.

Step by Step with Pictures

  • Fill a mesh tea holder with 1T anise seeds and 6 cardamom pods ( crushed) ; Add to 4 cups water in to a small pot or do what I do : just put the herbs in the water loose, follow the directions, and use a small strainer to strain before drinking.

 Bring to a boil, turn off heat,  and then let it sit for about 7minutes; 
Strain and drink

Add honey if you like it sweet or drink it just the way it is...

You can purchase cardamom pods ( organic) online; Cardamom pods

                                                             This is cute:   Anise Seed Tin

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

1-2-3 Easy Butternut Squash

If peeling and cutting a butternut squash intimidates you, 
try this method that does not require peeling !

a whole baked butternut squash on a plate

Two months ago, I would have said, "I don't cook butternut squash!" But not any more!!  

Free Musk Pumpkins Cucurbita Moschata photo and picture

Even though I like all vegetables, I had many good reasons why I would avoid making and eating butternut squash. 

Reason # 1.   too hard to peel
Reason # 2.   too hard to cut
Reason # 3.   too fattening 

                        Free Note Thumbtack vector and picture
Well, my excuses are over. I now buy and make butternut squash for three very good new reasons.

Reason # 1. I make it without peeling it
Reason # 2. I make it without cutting it
Reason # 3. It is a zero point vegetable on WW

I have always loved the sweet flavor of butternut squash.  
It is delicious in the fall when winter squashes are prolific at local farms. 

Free Pumpkin Butternut Squash photo and picture

Butternut squash is also healthy. It is loaded with fiber, beta carotene which is good for the eyes, and other healthy antioxidants that boost the immune system. It is a great addition to a gluten free healthy diet!

How do I cook it? I have two methods: Oven or Instant Pot

Oven Method: 
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Place a whole unpeeled butternut squash(wash well) on a parchment covered cookie sheet, (no need to pierce)
Bake it until the squash until it becomes tender (about 45-1 hour for a med-large squash). 
Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little, then carefully cut in half (be careful of any steam) and remove seeds with a spoon. 
Your baked squash will be sweet, soft, and delicious.

I love this method of baking butternut squash (or acorn squash). It produces a sweet tender delicious squash.

butternut squash in the Instant Pot

Instant Pot Method: 
I also like to cook a butternut squash in the Instant Pot. For this method you need to cut the squash in half in the middle at its softest area if the squash is long. Otherwise put it in the IP whole. 
Place in the IP and set to pressure cook. click here for full directions.

overly baked whole butternut squash

roasted piece of butternut squash

Try my anti-inflammatory salad (link to recipe) with butternut squash 

anti-inflammatory salad

Disclaimer : I am an affiliate for Amazon and receive a small compensation if you click on a link and make a qualified purchase at no cost to you . Thanks for your support to defray the cost of publishing a blog.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Soft and Creamy Crock Pot Beans

Baby, its cold outside!

 Snow Again!  
Last week I thought spring was in the air, and then I woke up this morning to this!! The Snow is back!

There are two things that I don't like about winter in Pennsylvania : the snow ( and ice), and how early  it gets dark.  By the time I get home from work, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking because I am cold, tired, and prefer to find refuge hiding under one of my warm fluffy down quilts than starting dinner.
I do enjoy a good dinner, so for me, there is nothing better than using my crockpot .

Imagine walking into the house hungry for dinner, and finding that dinner is ready for you.
After a days work, I love opening the front door, walking into the kitchen, and marveling at how smart I was to think of using my crock pot.

To make this easy healthy bean's recipe in a crock pot, I have to start thinking about soaking the dry  beans by 6:30 -8:30  the night before because the beans have to soak overnight. I have to empty and rinse a bag of mixed dry beans, place them in a large bowl, cover them with water, and then ignore them until about 6:30 the next morning.

In the morning, before I leave for the day,  I rinse the beans, place them in my crock pot with 3 large carrots ( cut in half),  2 T of dry ground ginger ( fresh doesn't work) , a few shakes of Trader Joe's 21( no salt) Salute,  and enough water to cover the beans( about 6 cups),  put the temperature setting on low ,and leave for work.

When I return at about 4:00 pm.. the delightful aroma smells like I have been at home cooking all day. The beans form their own little sauce in the crock and are delightfully soft, tasty and filling. With a large salad, and a slice of gluten free bread, we call it a meal.

For a faster version:  Cover beans with water in a pot, bring beans to a boil, turn off heat and cover. Allow to sit in the water covered for about 2 hours to soften them After 2 hours, drain water and place the beans in a crock pot and follow recipe. Put the crock pot on high and check to see when they look done ( about 3-4 hours).

This particular bean recipe is very simple, ( yet very tasty),  but you can also use recipes that include more vegetables and potatoes. Some people say that cooking the beans with a quartered potato cuts down on the gas. Others say that the more you eat beans, the more you increase the amount of good bacteria and intestinal flora in your gut, which helps digest beans. Of course, there is always "Beano," a digestive enzyme to help digest beans that is available in most health food stores.

My favorite bean mix is a mix called "cholent beans". ( For those on the East coast, I buy it in the Kosher Experience Section of Shoprite) It is a combination of navy beans, small kidney beans, and pinto beans. ( you can make your own by combing the beans)It is the basis of an old Eastern European " Cholent" recipe which orthodox Jews baked overnight to eat for the Sabbath meal on Saturday. Traditionally, barley, potatoes, and flanken bones are added to the cholent beans.

My gluten free vegetarian version just uses the combination of beans, ground powdered ginger ( a must),  a piece of fresh garlic, a little Trader Joe's 21 Salute spice mix.  and 3 cut up carrots. After a slow slimmer for 7 hours in the crock pot, the flavor is amazing.

Are beans healthy? You bet!
Very high in fiber , good source of protein,( when eaten with a grain like rice, quinoa, bread ( GF) ) and provides  magnesium, iron, potassium, and is a slow burning complex carbohydrate to help regulate blood sugar.
To boot, beans are very inexpensive, easy to make, and are a very healthy addition to your weekly menu. Think some version of  rock pot beans at least once a week in the winter..

If you have a good vegetarian bean crock pot recipe, add your recipe or link to your blog in the comments ( scroll to bottom, look for the green box and the word comments. Click comments and add yours..)

May be shared on a few of the following blog carnivals
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pea and Corn Polenta Mold

You may have seen this adorable little dome before. This recipe is a re-run. I posted it last summer when sweet Jersey corn was at its height. It's a good winter recipe too and makes a great side dish. 

If you add cheese or cooked beans, it could be a meal in itself or eat it with a nice salad and bowl of steaming hearty black bean soup.

The recipe for this black bean soup is in my new soups cookbook available here: How to order my New Soups Cookbook 

Corn meal is popular in Northern Italy, Latin American countries, and in the American south. Corn meal can be found in any food market. Personally, I like to buy an organic brand of corn meal like Bob's Red Mill Organic Corn Grits which is a little pricey, but there are many inexpensive brands of regular corn meal available in the supermarket or Latin American grocery stores. (There is a charming Mexican grocery in New Hope, Pa.)

This recipe for polenta is not only soft and creamy, but it is also easy and quick to make.

In addition, it is versatile. You can add just about anything you like to the basic recipe: fresh corn, fresh or  frozen peas, cooked black beans or fava beans, sauteed mushrooms, red pepper, chili peppers, cheddar cheese etc. Your only limit is your imagination or your palate..

The appealing dome presentation makes this recipe perfect for your family or company as well. Just slice and eat. It's delicious. Either way, it is sure to be enjoyed by all..

Prep time for basic polenta : 1 minute
Cook time: 5 minutes

Creamy Polenta with Corn and Peas
This recipe uses a basic polenta recipe; however, just before the polenta is finished cooking,  add fresh ( frozen thawed) peas and fresh ( or frozen thawed) raw corn.

Basic recipe:
3 cups water or vegetable broth
1 cup of corn meal,
1/2- 1 tsp salt
1 cup of frozen peas slightly thawed or fresh peas
1 cup of raw corn cut off the cob ( or frozen thawed)
1 cup black beans, drained well ( optional)

1. Bring water (or broth) and salt to a boil in a sauce pan. Add corn meal slowly, stirring until blended. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to stir until mixture becomes thicker and shut off the heat. Mix in corn and peas (black beans if desired) and
spoon the mixture into a small bowl (spray with oil spray to prevent sticking) and allow to set for about 10 minutes.

Spoon cooked polenta into a small bowl and allow to sit until molded ( about 10  minutes)

Unmold by inverting bowl onto a plate and serve. Makes about 5 thick slices

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Want to make your family a relatively healthy dessert that looks special yet is really easy to make?
Chocolate dipped strawberries make a wonderful gluten free and vegan dessert

They look spectacular, taste delicious, and can be made in just minutes. ( follow my tutorial below)

All you need are some good looking strawberries and a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips ( Dairy Free) In fact, this can be a fun project to make with your kids or grandkids. I made these with my grandkids. These special treats delight both young and old.

I always feel that there is something very festive about chocolate covered strawberries. They are a perfect dessert that don't pack on the pounds.

So, why not make them for your next special occasion or the next time you are asked to bring a dessert to someone's house.

Dark Chocolate chips ( Dairy Free)

Wash a container of strawberries and dry really well ( that is the secret)
Place half a bag of chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for 1 minute.
Open microwave and stir.
Holding on to the stems, dip the dry strawberries in the melted chocolate.
Place on waxed paper.
When all strawberries have been dipped, place in refrigerator for about an hour.

strawberries on a plate
Dry them very well

Place 1/2-3/4 of a bag of dark chocolate chips in small a microwave proof bowl

Microwave for about a minute. check and stir or use a double boiler to melt the chocolate chips
Refrigerate for at least an hour until the chocolate is hard... enjoy...Place on parchment paper to avoid sticking

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fruit- Friend or Foe?

Be Careful How You Eat Fruit

fruit strawberries Fruit helps detoxify your body, provides immune building antioxidants, and gives you wonderful uplifting energy- But only if you eat it correctly.

Yes, there is a correct way to eat fruit. If you eat it with other foods,  you may be doing yourself more harm than good.You may think that eating and getting the amazing health benefits from fruit is as simple as popping a piece of delicious fruit  into your mouth. Not so, says many health experts, including Dr Oz.

  Fruit should be eaten on an empty stomach and should not be combined with any other foods.


Fruit digests differently than other foods. Eating fruit with other foods can promote gas and bloating.

Because the sugar in fruit digests very quickly and then moves on to the intestines, if you combine it with your meal, it actually has to hang around the in the stomach until it actually turns acid and interferes with the digestion of your other food. Eating fruit with food on a regular basis may lead to irritable bowl syndrome, diarrhea, constipation etc. When fruit turns acid waiting to pass through the stomach, you can enjoy the detoxifying benefit of fruit. Instead, you may be doing your body harm.
So, enjoy fruit- its good for you when you eat it correctly
Eat it before your meal ! Don't mix it with other food.

Remember: eat fruit alone or leave it alone!!

Excellent Fruits:

Kiwi: Not only does it have twice the vitamin C content of an orange, it is also a good source of potassium, magnesium, Vitamin E and fiber.
Strawberry: Very high in antioxidants which helps protect the body from disease causing free radicals. Buy organic strawberries for best results.

Watermelon: High in lycopene, Vitamin C, potassium, and glutathione.



Cold water turns oil ( from your food) into a solid. This slows digestion, which can produce a sludge like condition in the stomach which can create disease.
Instead drink hot tea after a meal instead to help digestion and clean the digestive tract.

This recipe has been posted on the following fabulous blogs:
Tuesday Twister, Simple Lives Thursday, It's a blog party,  Gluten Free Wednesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday,  Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays, My Meatless MondaysSeasonal Saturday, Dr. Laura's Tasty Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop