Saturday, February 18, 2017

Low Carb Cactus Salad #GardenCuizine #Nopales @EatRight #diabetes #prediabetes #preventdisease

Low Carb
Cactus (Nopales) Salad
with Cilantro-Lime dressing

Nopales (Nopalitos - chopped, cooked cactus pads) provides dietary fiber along with antioxidants and lots of other healthy nutrients. Prickly Pear Cactus has even been shown to lower blood glucose in people who are diabetic, which I find very interesting since I work with adults and kids with pre-diabetes and diabetes. 

We cooked cactus for the first time on Super Bowl Sunday for use in this simple Mexican salad. The salad tasted so good it didn't last long in our house. Leftover salad was enjoyed wrapped up in warm corn tortillas for lunch the next day.

Have you ever tried it? I wondered what cactus would taste like. After reading posts that cactus tasted similar to green beans, I wasn't sure I'd like it. I'm not a big green bean fan. I was pleasantly surprised how good it was. Nopalitos didn't really have a distinct flavor; the texture was tender-crisp, similar to asparagus. 

This recipe was inspired from a Tender Cactus Salad recipe posted online from McCormick. The recipe does not call for avocado, but some people I've spoken with tell me that they make their cactus salad with avocado in it. 

The Mexican market where we found Nopales was sold out of Mexican oregano, so I made it without oregano; it tasted good. I imagine it would be even better with the traditional herb. I didn't substitute Italian oregano because Mexican oregano is not the same. 

We've grown Italian oregano for years; now, I look forward to growing Mexican oregano

When you try Prickly Pear Cactus, let us know how you liked it and how you prepared it. Here is my recipe:
Serves 6
1 1/2 cups cooked Nopales (2 Prickly Pear Cactus pads)
3/4 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup crumbled Queso Fresco* Mexican cheese
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/8 teaspoon (tsp) salt
pinch fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp Mexican Oregano

Putting it all together
Cook Nopales: refer to below link on how to prepare cactus for cooking: slice prepared cactus pads. Add to soup pot and fill with water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook 25 minutes. Drain, saving cactus (juice) liquid for other recipes.

Combine cooled cooked cactus and remaining ingredients. Let sit room temperature before serving for flavors to blend. Stir a few times before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

* Queso Fresco is an unaged mild cheese that can be found in a Mexican market.  
Excellent Source: Vitamin C* 
Good Source: Protein and Calcium

GardenCuizine Prickly Pear Salad Nutrition Facts: this information is based on the only USDA Nutrient Data for Cactus Pears. *The green cactus paddles may not be as high in vitamin C as the pear buds.
1/6 of recipe (107 g): 84 calories, total fat 5g, saturated fat 3g, trans fat 0, cholesterol 11mg, Sodium 210mg (9% DV), total Carbohydrate 6g, dietary Fiber 2g (8% DV), sugar 1g, Protein 5g, Vitamin C ~12.9mg (~22% DV), Calcium 135mg (13% DV), Magnesium ~36.8mg (~9% DV)

Related Links
Preparing Nopales
Oregano: Mediterranean and Mexican
Photo and blog post Copyright(C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

@Eatingsoulfully Preparing Nopal Cactus for salad #GardenCuizine #MexicanCooking #Diabetic #Nopales

Preparing Nopales
Prickly Pear Cactus
Fresh Prickly Pear Cactus pads

I knew I wanted to cook nutritious Prickly Pear Cactus after reading Constance Brown-Riggs' article about it's health benefits in Today's Dietitian magazine. Our first recipe was a Cactus Salad. This popular Mexican dish tasted better than you may think! But, finding the cactus may be a little tricky.  

First, we went to our local ShopRite. They only had Cactus Pears, which is the fruit of the Prickly Pear Cactus. Then we tried Wegman's, another supermarket. One of their produce guys told us they have not carried Nopales since October. I asked him if it was a seasonal item; he said he didn't think so. I did a quick search for local Mexican markets on my iPhone... we took a short drive and found it at Mi Ranchito in Moorestown, NJ - success!

We lucked out, the moist, green paddles were already prepared and ready-to-go in plastic baggies with 4 paddles per baggie. The cactus was in the stores refrigerated section next to a batch of fresh cilantro. 

To prepare Prickly Pear Cactus pads, carefully trim the thorns off and slice off the nubs too. To do it, run your chefs knife along each side; then trim around the outer edge (see above photo).

Cactus can be cooked several ways. One way is to brush each side with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill. We cut ours into bite sized pieces and boiled it for use in Cactus Salad. The cooking liquid reminded me of Aloe Vera juice so I saved it to add to smoothies. Even Mom loves this high fiber nutritious food. 

GardenCuizine Cactus recipes coming soon....

Related Links
Dynamics of Diabetes: Prickly Pear Cactus 
Cactus Pears

Blog post and photo Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Quick and easy to prep Lentil Soup #GardenCuizine #nutritious #recipe

Lentil Soup
low sodium, high fiber 
low carb, low fat
Yields 3 quarts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 celery sticks
3 carrots
1 medium onion
1 Tablespoon Bryani Paste*
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 small tomatoes (or one small can diced tomatoes with liquid)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
10 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cup whole lentils, rinsed 

1 teaspoon mild hot sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Putting it all together
Wash and chop celery, carrots, onion and tomatoes. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a soup stock pot. Add chopped celery, carrots and onion; stir. Simmer the aromatics letting them cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally for at least 10 minutes. Stir in the Bryani Paste and thyme. Stir in chopped tomatoes and garlic powder. Stir in water. Add lentils and bay leaves. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are soft. 

When the soup is finished cooking: remove the bay leaves. Stir in cheese and hot sauce. Puree some, not all, of the soup. Serve or store in quart containers - label, refrigerate or freeze.
  • Serve with extra hot sauce and grated cheese (rather than salt) and a 1/2 sandwich, whole grain crackers or crusty bread
  • Experiment with soup variations adding: mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, Asofoetida, ginger, coriander or fresh garlic minced vs powder
*Bryani is a paste blend of curry, ginger and tasty spices. Ask for it at your supermarket.

Excellent Source: Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A and Folate
Good Source: Vitamin C and Thiamin
If you're counting carbohydrates: Only 9g net carbs

GardenCuizine Nutrition Data Homemade Lentil Soup: 1 cup (281g): 122 calories; total fat 4g; saturated fat 1g; trans fat 0; cholesterol 2mg (1% DV); Sodium 137mg (6% DV); total carbohydrate 16g; dietary Fiber 7g (29% DV); protein 6.5g; Vitamin A 2806 IU (~56% DV); Vitamin C 6mg (~10% DV); Thiamin 0.2mg (~13% DV); Folate 108mcg (27% DV) plus other nutrients...

Related Links
Cooking Up Legumes Guide  
Recipe and photo Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Healthy Dinner: Baked Flounder with butter, lemon and capers #GardenCuizine #recipe

Baked Flounder 
with butter, Lemon and Capers

I'll never forget the good 'ole days of family fishing outings in "Spirit the Boat" here in Jersey. Dad loved to fish, like my cousin Bob. I especially remember fishing for flounder. One time we were reeling in flounder so fast, Dad could not keep up with baiting our hooks! Locally caught flounder was often seen on menus back then. 

Now, decades later, commercial fishing and polluted waters has lead to Seafood Watch (a program that helps consumers make healthy, sustainable choices) recommending that we do not buy or eat Flounder from the US East Coast. If Dad were still alive, he may have been shocked to learn that our wild-caught Flounder for dinner tonight came all the way from Iceland.

Flounder is a flat fish similar to sole and fluke. Seafood Watch recommends getting Flounder from Alaska, the U.S. West Coast or British Columbia for the best choices. They don't recommend buying Flounder caught anywhere on the US East Coast unless it is from a "Good Alternative" source. The Seafood Watch uses science-based criteria before making their recommendations to the public.

Compared to other fish, the market price of flounder is among the highest. Even so, the protein in our meal only cost us $4.99 per person. Our veggie and grain side dishes added minimal cost. You can feed a family of three with less than one pound of flounder. We purchased ours at Wegman's supermarket for $14.99 lb. ShopRite was selling it for about the same price, $15.99 lb.

Even cooking one of the most expensive fish, a home cooked meal still costs less and far outweighs the nutrition of a fast-food meal. For example, Filet-O-Fish at McDonald's, has 560 mg of sodium, 38 g total carbohydrates (from the bun), 390 calories and 4 g of saturated fat, and that is just for the fish sandwich without adding in the added salt, fat and carbs coming from fries and soda. The Filet-O-Fish meal costs about $5.79

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish a couple times per week for good health. This is one of my "freestyle recipes", meaning that you can use a slightly different amount of the ingredients as desired and you won't ruin it.


Serves 3 
3 Fillets of Flounder
Olive oil (to coat bottom of baking dish)
1 Tablespoon butter

lemon juice (fresh squeezed, about 1 Tablespoon)
capers (as desired)

pinch dried thyme (or other herb(s) of choice)
pinch salt and fresh ground black pepper 
preheat oven to 350 degrees
Putting it all together
Add olive oil and butter to baking dish. Melt butter - we put the baking dish briefly in the microwave to melt the butter. Add fish and toss to coat in the oil blend. Season and add capers as desired. Cover and bake in preheated oven until fish is fully cooked and no longer translucent - about 25 minutes.

To complete your meal, serve with a portion controlled grain and a generous side of a vegetable. We served our flounder dinner with leftover quinoa and a side of asparagus
Blog post and photos Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March soared spirits as high as American Eagles today #USA #environment @NWF #DownJersey @CUMaurice

Eagles in NJ soared high today
as Women's Marches in Washington and around the World made history

While people were traveling to Washington and to destinations for the Women's Marches, American Eagles were soaring high in South Jersey today.

Did you participate in the Women's March? People came out in masses from all across America and the world. I tried to get on a bus from NJ to Washington DC but all the buses were full! At first I was disappointed. But, then I realized how positive it was that so many people wanted to attend. 

The Women's March showed a true outpouring of Americans committed to supporting our democracy. Women (and Men) were able to peacefully express their opinions on how they feel about Trump's behavior and what they hope for in the future of America.   

After watching the news so intensely before and after Trumps inauguration, it felt great to get outside and go for a walk and enjoy nature today. Maybe it was no coincidence that our walk was to see Bald Eagles - symbolic of the United States of America.
American Sweetgum Seed Pods : Winter food source for Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, Sparrows, Squirrels and other wildlife
Bald Eagles faced possible extinction after habitat loss and from the use of DDT, a harsh chemical that is now banned. There was only one American Eagle pair left in NJ in 1970. As of 2015, there were 150 American Eagle pairs! Wow, what a significant come back here in South Jersey thanks to recovery efforts.

Today, we marched with the Citizens United (CU) Maurice River group in South Jersey on Bald Eagle Trail at Glades Wildlife Refuge in Cumberland County, NJ. A woman in our group wore a sign echoing some of the many concerns being felt across America.
We were lucky to see around 21 Eagles! The birds of prey were perched in trees while some soared over the pristine Jersey salt marsh and wetland. Some Eagles were looking for love. Believe it or not, now through March is Eagle nesting season. Baby Eaglets fledge in late June to early July.

Birds and wildlife are important reminders to us of the ongoing need to be diligent in preserving and protecting the environment.
All day, the sky was gray and overcast. It was misty with the threat of rain. Luckily, we didn't get any rain. Along the walk, group naturalists and birders pointed out different birds and native plants as well as invasive species.
CU Maurice River group is dedicated to protecting the watershed of the Maurice River and the region known as Down Jersey.
Related Event
2017 Cumberland County Winter Eagle Festival
Presentations and Trail Walks
Over 40 Exhibitors and Merchants
Saturday, February 4, 2017
8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
(856) 453-2175

Related Links
Bald Eagle Fact Sheet and Eagle Cam link
Support National Audubon Society
Blog post and photos Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Just Peachy Hoppin John with Kale #GardenCuizine #HappyNewYear #GoodLuck #cowpeas @foodbankSJ @EatRight_NJ

Just Peachy
Hoppin' John with Kale

This high fiber, low sodium recipe was made similar to my GardenCuizine New Year's recipe post last year. This year I changed the greens from spinach to kale and added one jar of flavorful Just Peachy Salsa - a local salsa blend from The Food Bank of South Jersey.

Follow the recipe here 
with the following substitutions:
  • Use black-eyed cowpeas (Fagiolo dell'occhio) from your own garden; or, if you only were able to harvest a small baggie full like us - use store-bought, plus whatever you can spare of your own. I added 1/4 cup extra cowpeas from our garden for good luck!
  • Use Kale greens instead of spinach: rinse kale, pick off stems, break leaves into bite size pieces. Follow recipe.
  • Stir in one, 16-ounce jar Just Peachy Salsa (or 1-2 cups chopped tomatoes)
Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Simmer on low heat partially covered until ready to serve. 

Happy and Healthy New Year 2017!
Related Links

Cowpeas Recipes
Just Peachy Salsa Provides Funds to Help Food-Insecure Families
Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Christmas Lasagna #Sicilian #Dinnerisready #GardenCuizine #holidayrecipe

 Christmas Lasagna
Mom didn't cook much, but she always made us lasagna at Christmas. Last year we made lasagna for Christmas and enjoyed it. This year we made it again and declared lasagna our official Christmas dinner entree! 
Here is my version of Mom's Christmas Lasagna recipe. I may adjust this the next time I make it, so do check back. 

Note: if you are vegetarian, you can sub Boca burger crumbles for the ground beef. And, if you are vegan, simply swap the ricotta with firm tofu, omit the eggs and use soy cheeses.
1 lb. Ground beef (or half beef, half Italian sausage; or for Vegetarian use Boca burgers crumbled)
1 med Onion, chopped
Garlic, 2 cloves chopped

pot of boiling water
9 lasagna noodles 

Homemade pasta sauce (make in advance and freeze in quarts for convenience)

1, 32 oz container ricotta cheese (lately we've been using whole milk ricotta)
2 large eggs, whisked
1 1/2 cups (plus another cup for topping) shredded mozzarella
1/4-cup (plus another 1/8 cup for topping) Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (about 3 twists)
pinch ground nutmeg (5 swipes fresh on rasp)
1 1/2 Tablespoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Putting it all together
Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

Set aside a 13 x 9 x 2-inch Pyrex baking dish
  • Saute onion and garlic; stir in the ground beef and cook. (*Mom would include ground Italian sausage too) Drain fat and set aside.
  • Warm up pasta sauce in a sauce pan; cover and set aside.
  • In a bowl, using a rubber spatula, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1 T parsley and eggs 
  • Cook lasagna noodles al'dente; rinse under cold water and set aside.
  • Spoon a layer of sauce on the bottom of baking dish
  • Place 3 noodles, side by side, over the sauce
  • Add a layer of blended cheese (I used a small scoop to portion it out and then pressed it down)
  • Add a layer of cooked ground beef
  • Top with a layer of sauce and repeat with another layer. Note: any leftover ricotta cheese can be saved for other recipes.
  • Top the final layer with sauce and sprinkle with additional shredded mozzarella and Parmesan and dried herbs: oregano and remaining parsley.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove cover and cook another 10-15 minutes or until top layer of cheese is golden
  • Leftovers can be frozen and reheated.
      Serve with a tossed garden salad and/or a generous side of veggies like kale or broccoli rabe
      Our Christmas desserts this year included pumpkin pie and holiday cookies made with spices, pumpkin seeds and dried fruit. Hope your holiday was just as wonderful!
      Buon Natale!  
      Blog post and photos Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved. 
      Merry Christmas! Blessings for a Happy and Healthy 2017