Sunday, 28 December 2008

HotM 22: Heart Healthy Decadence (Round-up)

This month's theme for Heart of the Matter focused on decadent treats that were heart healthy. Unfortunately, we didn't get very many entries this month, and so I waited a few extra days, hoping that we might get a late entry or two because December is such a busy month anyhow - and it seems to have worked, because we did! Thanks to the wonderful bloggers who participated this month, even in the midst of all the holiday hustle and bustle!

Our first entry comes from Ricki, who authors the blog Diet, Desserts and Dogs. She reminds us in her post that real women bake cookies too (I love this!) and offered her recipe for Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies. Since we're already after Christmas now, these pretty little treats would still make lovely hostess gifts or anytime cookies.

Labelga, a regular participant of HotM and the author of Leafy Cooking went with some premium ingredients and made a Bisque d'homard (or, Lobster Bisque) - she served it fresh and hot and it didn't even need the cream the recipe called for, making it really healthy but still full of flavor. This truly shows that heart-heathy treats can be delicious and decadent!

Ilva, my co-host at Lucullian Delights, has posted a beautiful Apricot Almond Cake with Oats and Coconut for her decadent treat. This would make a very lovely holiday breakfast or a delicious treat any time of the year!

Lastly, my own entry was for Caramel Macadamia Nut Sticky Buns - these little treats were an early holiday breakfast for us and are perfect if you're having guests this holiday season.

Thanks again to the participants this month and I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday!

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Sunday, 7 December 2008

A December Full of Heart-Healthy Decadence (HotM 22)

December is a month full of festivities: holiday parties to attend and coordinate, visitors to entertain, baked goods to create, presents to make or buy, occasions to celebrate with friends and family, cards to write and good cheer to spread. For many of us, it's the busiest time of the year, but also a time of year when we get to let our kitchen prowess shine - or at least get in there and try a few new things!

For me, December means breaking out the Alabama Christmas CD for a few renditions of "Thistlehair the Christmas Bear," scouring books and magazines for new cookie recipes to share with friends, family and cookie swaps; finding new side dishes to accompany the dusty and required recipes for artichoke dip, prime rib and chicken noodle soup that make up Christmas eve and Christmas day fare; and choosing to attempt one of those "traditional" holiday treats that simply are aren't around the other 11 months of the year: yule logs with chocolate bark and marzipan mushrooms, soft and sweet panettone, fruitcake studded with jewel-like candied fruits, elaborate gingerbread houses, rum-spiked know the stuff. Every year, I dream of making such decadent treats, but December comes and goes too quickly, and I find myself left with only the vision of sugarplums dancing in my head and no yule log to speak of.
This year, I'm determined to make those sugarplums materialize and sink my teeth in to them.

For over a year, participants of the monthly Heart of the Matter (HotM) event been helping Ilva, Joanna and I show that food that's good for you doesn't have to be boring or bland. We've already done baked goods and holiday food as themes before, so now we're stepping it up a notch. The holiday season is a time of celebration, abundance, and culinary wanderlust - so for HotM this month, we're asking you to share your recipes for the most decadent, delicious treats you can think of - with a heart-healthy twist. What sort of mouth-watering, scrumptious recipes do you dust off from your kitchen repertoire this time of year? Do you have a something you've always wanted to try, that always seemed too over-the-top to make any other time of the year? Will you take the challenge to make those indulgent foods saved for once-a-year into heart-healthy holiday treats?

The usual rules: If you’ve participated before, you already know the basics. If you haven’t, check here, here and here for ideas on what “heart-healthy” means, and we hope that you’ll join us! Again, we ask that this please be a single event entry(please don’t use your post for other events – that way we can keep things centred on healthy heart awareness). Just send your entry to phillipslayden AT gmail DOT com (please use the title HotM, so they don't get lost) by midnight on Thursday, December 25, linking to my site, The Accidental Scientist (and to the HotM blog if you’d like). Please note that this is only a few short weeks away! Since it's so soon, and I want people to be able to gain inspiration and be able to enjoy the recipes all month long but have them before the holiday actually arrives, I'll be doing the round-up differently this month and posting the recipes that have come in at the end of each week. If you've never participated before, please join us! We'd love to have some new "faces" and recipes to share!
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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

HotM 19: grains

Grains were the subject of this month's Heart of the Matter ... and here you'll find a small number of very good ideas from some of the best bloggers around. Cooking wholegrains always seems tricky to me: there's that whiff of 70s sandal-wearing earnest hippie-dom which is hard to shake off - boring brown food that tastes like horsefeed.

Not these days. The 21st century way with wholegrains is altogether tastier, somehow less earnest. I've been experimenting with the help of a highly recommended book, A Cook's Guide to Grains by Jenni Muir. Now I'm planning to add these dishes to my staple repertoire - these are all easily achievable, mostly quite quick, all of them the kind of recipes you can fiddle with to add your own stamp.

Labelga's quinoa flakes with spinach and red chilli is ready in 10 minutes, so there are no excuses for not giving this a go. It's one of Labelga's AAP dishes - another alternative to pizza! As you can see from the picture, the flakes are spread onto the plate, then topped with this fabulous spiced mixture. Find it at Leafy Cooking.

Christine at Kits Chow made vegetarian multigrain rice with vegetables, inspired by a Japanese rice dish, matsutake gohan (rice with mushrooms). This is something to get you experimenting - there are five grains: brown rice, black glutinous rice, buckwheat groats, oat groats and millet.

Bee and Jai have been doing some hard thinking about what they buy, cook and eat. Their post for Heart of the Matter is interesting and inspirational - they share their personal "rules", and finish with a versatile recipe for roti: this one is sourdough Swiss chard and cornmeal. You'll find it at Jugalbandi, always a good read.

I often think of cooking wholegrains as time-consuming, but here's another recipe that shows that wholegrains can be quick and easy. Michelle The Accidental Scientist, one of my co-hosts for HotM, makes this Mexican style rice when she's short of time, as an accompaniment to fish, tacos, beans - lots of links to these and other recipes.

Co-host Ilva at Lucullian Delights has stuffed courgettes with kamut grains which she found when out shopping a little while ago. As always with Ilva's food, it's beautiful and packed with flavours: she calls her dish oven baked zucchini filled with kamut, olives, thyme and parsley.

Olive Oyl is a blogger without a blog, and she's sent me this variation on the traditional Greek dish spanakorizo (Spinach rice), another happy & easy meal:

Plenty for 2 hungry people, also good cold the next day

Chop an onion and gently fry in a biggish saucepan, in a good glug of olive oil. Rough chop around four heads of spinach, I often also add sorrel, baby nettles and cleavers, depending on what's growing, and add to the pan, cover and let sweat for five minutes. Next add 250gms of brown rice, 600ml of water and juice of a lemon. Bring to the boil, season,cover and turn the heat down. Check after about 20 minutes, stir, add water as needed and so on until cooked (usually around 50 minutes)you might also want to add at this point a good few fistfuls of herbs such as mint, parsley, celery leaves, dill. When cooked it has the consistency of risotto and is a beautiful emerald green. Be more or less heart healthy with a grating of cheese on top.

Nearly forgot: I blogged two grain dishes at Joanna's Food - Skirlie, a cheap and cheerful Scots dish made with oats, and these great six-seeded rolls.

Thanks to everyone for taking part, and watch out for the announcement for December's Heart of the Matter

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