Monday, September 17, 2012

SHH - Broccoli

This chapter on broccoli is going to be short and bitter. I promised myself I'd eat each of the fourteen SuperFoods in the SuperFoods Rx book, and this was the one that gave me the most grief. If you like broccoli, consider yourself very lucky. I wish I just liked it. Anyway, I have found a way I can eat it, so  if you think you don't like broccoli, there's hope for you too.

I know I'm not alone. According to the SuperFoods Rx book: "About 25 percent of the population inherit an aversion to the bitter taste of cruciferous vegetables. If this describes you, add salt, since that makes them taste sweeter. Use them in a stir-fry with low-sodium soy sauce or add them to casseroles and lasagnes."

Nope. That doesn't work. But, I tried. I also tried deep frying broccoli. I'd seen an episode of Top Chef where Michael Voltaggio made "Broccoli Popcorn" because he had hated broccoli as a kid. I think this might have worked if I'd found his process sooner. He first blanched the broccoli, then dehydrated it, then fried it at 400 degrees. I tried it, but only deep fried it. It was a horrible fiasco and my husband, who does like broccoli, didn't like it. The problem was that if you fry it long enough to get crisp, it takes on a burnt flavor. Anyway, I still had to find a way to be able to eat broccoli.

Or, one of the sidekicks: Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, turnips, cauliflower, collards, bok choy, mustard greens, Swiss chard

Why is Broccoli a SuperFood (to my chagrin)? Well, it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods known and is an excellent source of vegetarian iron. And, Broccoli contains:

Vitamin C
Vitamin K

I think it's the sulfur that makes it so unpalatable to me. The smell of it cooking ruins it. From the book:
"The sulfur compounds in cruciferous vegetables are a major reason these foods are such powerful cancer preventive foods. The strong smell that broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables share comes from the sulfur compounds that protect the plant as well as you. The strong sometimes bitter taste and smell of these vegetables protect them from insects and animals." Hmmm, even the animals are turned off by it, so how can a picky eater like me be tempted.

Did you know? Sprouts = "Super Broccoli. This is especially good news for those few people - particularly children - who refuse to eat broccoli." (By the way, the book said those "few" people, but I don't feel like 25% of the population is so "few")

Here are a few random tips from the book:

If buying fresh, look for younger broccoli. Older broccoli can be tough and have a strong odor.

The carotenoids as well as other nutrients are concentrated in the florets, as opposed to the stalk. Broccoli leaves have even more carotenoids than the florets.

Shred brussel sprouts and stir-fry them with minced garlic, olive oil, some coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or pin nuts, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Toss with pasta.

Coat cut-up broccoli or cauliflower with a little olive oil and salt. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. The vegetables become sweet and intense.

And this is something I have done. I have actually successfully "hidden" cabbage in a meat loaf. Yes, I really did. Shred the cabbage really finely, or use a food processor. Use about a cup for a regular sized meat loaf (this also works with meat balls). It will help keep the meatloaf moist, and you will never tasted it. I swear. I wouldn't lie about something like this.

Now, for the big reveal. Remember how I said I found a way to eat broccoli? Well, one day I was at my mom's house and we were watching an episode of The Pioneer Woman and she made Broccoli Cheese Soup. It's very pureed and very cheesy, and I said "I might actually be able to eat that". Well, not only did I eat it, I loved it!

I followed her recipe pretty closely, but I did make a few changes. I didn't use a whole onion. I thought that might be too overpowering for me. I happened to have some fresh thyme and rosemary, so I threw some of that in. I think the rosemary in particular helped to mask any bitterness from the broccoli. I used part frozen broccoli florets and part Green Giant Fresh Sweet Baby Broccoli (the label says it's a cross between broccoli and Chinese Kale). In doing so, I didn't know how to equate this to the four heads of broccoli her recipe called for. I weighed what I used, and it was just under 3 oz, so I may have been a bit timid, but it turned out good. And next time I'll know I could go further with it. Finally, the cheese. Her recipe calls for 3 Cups. I used an entire 8 oz block of Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheddar. I like to use sharp cheddars in soups and things where the cheese is completely melty. I think you get more cheese flavor that way. Once melted, the cheese gets milder. Oh, and since that didn't actually come to three cups when I grated it, I threw in a big spoonful (ok, more than that) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Oh, and I found that I didn't need the optional chicken broth for thinning. It was the perfect creaminess without it.

Onion, butter, flour, whole milk, half and half, nutmeg, thyme, rosemary, pepper, salt, cheese, cream cheese. Oh yeah, and broccoli. 

It almost looks pretty. 

Store-bought bread for a bread bowl. Cut a little bit off the end so it will stand up. 

Then cut your bowl sized piece. 

Carve out a bowl from the middle. Feel free to eat the stuff you remove. Butter it and bake it for about five minutes at 375. 

Spoon in your soup and garnish with more cheese. 

And that, my friends, is how I managed to actually eat broccoli. I went back for seconds after this. It was too good!

SHH - Oranges Part 1

I feel a little bit guilty doing the Halfway Healthy twist on oranges. I mean, they are pretty good right out of their skin. Anything I would do would just make them unhealthy. But, let's say you don't feel like peeling and eating a burst of sunshine every day, or you have a picky kid (or adult) that doesn't want to eat bare fruit. I have some sweet ideas to make the orange only halfway healthy, but full-on delicious!

First, a bit about oranges, from the SuperFoods book... its "sidekicks" are: Lemons, white and pink grapefruit, kumquats, tangerines (you may have seen my blog about Nigella's Clementine Cake), and limes. All yummy.

Why are oranges a SuperFood? Well, they do prevent scurvy. Oh, and Oranges contain the following:

Vitamin C

Did you know... Humans (and guinea pigs) can't manufacture Vitamin C in their bodies. It's water soluble and not retained in the body, so we need constant replenishment from dietary sources to maintain adequate cellular and blood levels.

The book says our levels of Vitamin C are on the decline, possibly in part to the ready-to-drink juices we now consume. They are easier and more convenient, but the frozen concentrate form of orange juice is considerably higher in Vitamin C than ready-to-drink orange juice. Also, the concentration of vitamin C in orange pulp is twice that found in the peel and ten times that found in the juice. Eat the pulp and buy high-pulp juice.

Did you know... A low intake of vitamin C can double the risk of hip fracture.

Okay, so I've already stated that oranges and pulpy orange juice is the best way to get your oranges in. But, here's a sugary recipe that reminds me of my childhood. Back in the days before the internet and FoodNetwork and before Todd Wilbur was cloning all kinds of restaurant recipes... back in the '70s when I was a kid... my mom happened upon an Orange Julius clone recipe. I don't know where she got it. You could only get recipes from friends, magazines and cookbooks in those days. Anyway, we went a whole summer making these almost every night. I may have only actually bought an Orange Julius drink at the mall a few times, but I've had this wonderful treat more times than I can count. If you want to make it even healthier, try soy milk or almond milk instead of the cow's milk. And you can probably cut the sugar pretty significantly and it would still be yummy.

Orange Julius
1/2 of 6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate (1/3 C)
1/2 C Milk
1/2 C Water
1/4 C Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla
5-6 Ice Cubes

Put everything in a blender and whir till frothy. Enjoy!

One last little tip. There is another chapter in SuperFoods on the wonders of tea. Not herbal teas, but the black, green and white teas we drink all the time as iced teas. We make tea almost every day, and whenever I've just peeled a tangerine or orange, I throw the peel into the iced tea pitcher and brew the tea over it. It lends a subtle citrus flavor and you get some of the anti-oxidants that are plentiful in the peel. You can add even more if you zest it a little first.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hark's BBQ & Wing Run Cafe

If you'd told me I'd get excited about a chicken place before I found Wing Run, I'd have scoffed. Literally scoffed. I like chicken. I like it fried. I like it tossed in a flavorful sauce. But, it's still just chicken and most of the places that do the wing thing are pretty ho hum and all alike. Oh, but not Wing Run. They are doing something special, it's just hard to put your finger on what it is that's so special about them. They have the chicken je ne sais quois. Basically, they just do everything right, and don't mess with a good thing. The first time we found this place, we ate there twice in the same week. We never do that.

I'm going to start with the least expected and least obvious thing, but possibly what I love the most... the dressing. They offer bleu cheese or ranch with your order. I don't use these for the chicken... I use them to dunk my fries into... very liberally. I can't even tell which one I love most, so I make my husband order the opposite, so we can alternate. Both are made in house. You'll know this because they don't have that chemical taste from the dressing bottles. Both dressings are rich and creamy and thick enough to be clingy. They give you plenty. It's just decadent.

While we're on the subject of fries (I'm kind of always on the subject of fries)... these are one of the top three fries in Tulsa. They are real potatoes, fresh cut, served super hot and freshly fried and very heavily seasoned. They are packed with flavor.

Kamikaze sauce on boneless wings. Prepare to sweat! 
How did I go three paragraphs and not yet even addressed how they do chicken? They offer some good combo deals and different ways to order. You can get the wings with bones in or boneless. I go for the boneless. There are numerous sauce choices. Hubby gets Kamikaze. I usually get Sweet BBQ. There are plenty more I'm going to try someday... lemon pepper, garlic parmesan, teriyaki, and more. They are fried up fresh and come well-sauced and piping hot.

So for weeks after finding this, we only ordered chicken. There are actually two businesses being run out of this awesome little place, always tempted to try the BBQ offerings, but really addicted to the chicken. Finally, I made the Sophie's Choice of food and tore myself away from the chicken to get a BBQ sandwich. You can order dinners or sandwiches with one, two, or three meats. I went with a two meat sandwich... pulled pork and hot links. Wow! This was also delicious. Grrrr... now I'll always have to make a tough choice. They have a regular sweet BBQ sauce and a hot sauce (not too hot). They'll bring both to your table when they deliver the order. I alternated the sauces. Can you tell I'd rather have EVERYTHING than to make a choice? Yeah, I'll work on that.

Hark's BBQ & Wing Run does have a few tables and we always eat there, but because this style of food travels so well, there are always a lot of people picking up To Go orders. There seem to be regulars that knew about this place before we found it. We're working up to that status quickly. They already act like they might recognize us, but maybe they greet everyone that friendly. No matter how busy they get, they seem happy to be there. I'm hippie enough to find myself marveling at the positive energy the place always has. I can't believe I just said that out loud, but it's true.

Pulled Pork and Hot Link sandwich (the hot links are sliced into thin rounds and are hiding under all that sweet pork)

Wing Run Cafe & Hark's BBQ on Urbanspoon