I've been asked before and quite recently as the holidays just passed and upgrades to kitchen necessities were up for grabs - 'What cookware do you recommend?' There isn't one answer, so let's discuss. If you are conscious about what food you put into your body, naturally you'll be conscious of the vessel for said food. This post will focus on stove-top pots and pans and some ovenware too.
By now (2019) you may have heard the bad news about traditional non-stick cookware (Teflon, a brand name), - coated pans which were all the rage for quite some time. Hey, it made food Not stick to the pan and also clean up was easy. Then some rumblings came out about what was in this magical non-stick coating (perfluorinated compounds, PFCs), specifically PFOA and PTFE, and did it/how much leached into food when heated? While research has been done on these chemicals and their effects on the body (PFOA can stay in the body for many years), most studies determined that it was GRAS - generally regarded as safe*. At low amounts. However, more recent research has found that PFOA is a possible human carcinogen (causes cancer) and animal studies led to the conclusion that this chemical is an endocrine disruptor, causing reproductive harm*. The age of your non-stick pan and the matter that if the coating is scratched or damaged (mine were!), play a part. My conclusion on this - throw your old, worn non-stick pans out.
Another concern with non-stick cookware is the fact that many pans had an aluminum base as well. Aluminum toxicity has been linked as a component in the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases*. While this scientific debate is ongoing, aluminum as a general neurotoxin is well-known in the plant, animal, and human world. A study in 2017 established particular concern for the transfer of aluminum through heating vessels that contained acidic foods (tomato sauce and citrus) - the acidity of these foods caused a greater measured transfer into the food than other foods*. Now, do you need to worry about an aluminum pan with an alternate coating (ceramic, chemical-free non-stick)? I would say it depends on the quality and the condition of the pan. Aluminum pans have been a choice option as they are inexpensive, versatile, lightweight, and good heat conductors. My takeaway: ditch the aluminum foil and make sure that you have a quality pan with a solid chemical-free coating. And, make sure you have other cookware options. Such as...
Cast iron cookware is at the top of the list for safety. However, I'll mention that it isn't entirely practical. Cast iron is heavy and you can't just 'give it a wash' and go. You should never wash with dishsoap and water - just rinse with hot water, after scraping the bits of food off with a hardened silicone scraper (everyone has one of these, right?) and 'season' the pan (put a light coating of high quality oil on it) and bake it at 350 for 30 minutes. That's the program with cast iron. You don't have to season and bake after each use; that's more in the beginning (after first 5 uses)*. Beyond that - season the pan when it begins looking dry. This is a good amount of upkeep that I don't always want to do. So I also use...
Stainless steel pots and pans - these make up the most of my kitchen at the moment. However, stainless they are not. Not always, anyway. Also, let's go back to the metal debate as I'd like to share that there are a couple of main types of stainless steel - magnetic and non-magnetic. Non-magnetic stainless steel typically contains other metals including nickel and cadmium. Nickel is a worry because in excessive amounts in the body, it can be allergenic and carcinogenic.* You'll want pans that are magnetic; these will contain more iron and you can test with a refrigerator magnet. Just place the magnet all over the pan; if it sticks firmly, you have a good pan. If not, you'll want to replace the pan with one of a better quality or type.
The next type of vessel that I use is ceramic (pictured above in my Le Creuset that was gifted at my wedding). I also very recently purchased some Bialetti pans that have an aluminum base, but with a titanium-ceramic coating. These pans are totally non-stick and I am happy with the quality. So even though they have the aluminim base, I'm okay with using them at times because of their chemical-free coating. The traditional ceramic options, like the Le Creuset, are great as well. The downside is the pricetag, and also the fact that food sometimes sticks. Cleaning isn't usually much of an issue, however, and there are ways around it. I also have some glass bakeware that I use, which is a solid, safe choice, but sometimes impractical (breakage).
So now let's go through what is left in the wide selection of cookware. Copper: No. Still touted as a chef's top choice, copper pans are expensive, high-maintenance, and lined with other metals that have to be kept up, or replaced after time. Why? Because copper will form toxic materials when it contacts acids (as in acidic-foods)* For me, this is not an efficient option. Some copper in the body is good; Too much is bad. Greenpan is a manufacturer that uses a ceramic non-stick coating called Thermolon, made from a sand-derivative not using chemicals such as PFOA. I have one of these pans (a grillpan that was gifted to me) and I use it on occasion on the stovetop. I'm pretty sure the base is aluminim as it's very lightweight. I wouldn't advocate buying an entire set of these but occasional use is probably okay. Solid Teknics is an Australian company that makes their AUS-ION line from wrought iron. It is supposed to be half the weight of cast iron, which is appealing. The pricetag is moderate to high, but I would be willing to try one of these guys. You can find them online here in the states; note that its cleaning and seasoning is the equivalent for cast iron. Stoneline is a maker of pans out of Germany that are comprised of an aluminium base with a ceramic coating. They also offer chemical-free non-stick products. At first glance, I thought these might be a good alternative, but for their expense, I have read too much about quality concerns to chance the investment.
So the final takeaway? Well, for starters and as with food, variety is key! My kitchen is currently comprised of stainless steel, ceramic, enameled and traditional cast iron, and the new titanium-ceramic coated aluminum non-stick pans that I mentioned above. I would ditch the older non-stick pans pronto; if you have stainless steel, do the magnet test; if you have a copper pot, is it in good shape and of good quality?; treat your cast iron-ware right; rotate your vessels so that you aren't always using the same piece over and over; replace aluminum foil with another option, and use non-abrasive cleaners and sponges on all of your pots and pans!
Begley, T.H., et al, "Perfluorochemicals: Potential Sources of and Migration from Food Packaging", Food Additives and Contaminants (February 2005): 1023-1031.
American Cancer Society, Teflon and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/teflon-and-perfluorooctanoic-acid-pfoa.html (January 5 2016).
Sandrine Perez for Nourishing Ourselves, Cookware Recommendations, https://nourishingourselves.com/2013/02/21/cookware-recommendations/ (February 21 2013).
Dr. Deanna Minich, Toxins from Cookware: What is the Best Option to Avoid Adding to your Burden?", https://www.deannaminich.com/toxins-from-cookware-what-is-the-best-option-to-avoid-adding-to-your-burden/ (January 25 2019).
Stahl, Thorsten, et al, "Migration of Aluminum from Food Contact Materials to Food - A Health Risk for Consumers? Part III of III: Migration of Aluminum to Food from Camping Dishes and Utensils Made of Aluminum", Environmental Sciences Europe (April 2017): 17.
I made this soup the other night for some dinner guests. It's adapted from the gorgeous Complete Book of Turkish Cooking by Ghillie Basan that I received from my sister-in-law as she was downsizing her recipe book collection (gasp!). We had the soup at the start of the meal and I'm pretty sure it was the favored dish of the night. It is a very comforting soup for a chilly evening. While I often substitute cow dairy with non-dairy, I didn't this time. I suppose you could try with coconut milk, but you might not get the intended flavor (too much sweetness). Other non-dairy milks may work too, but you may not get the body. If you do try it, let me know in the comments! Recipe follows and made plenty for four as a first course.
1 TB olive oil
3 leeks, trimmed, washed, & roughly chopped
1 TB yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped reserving a few fronds for garnish
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cup whole milk
4 ounces good quality sheep's milk feta cheese, crumbled
Plenty of black pepper and some paprika to garnish
Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot and stir in the chopped leeks and onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft.
Add the sugar and the chopped dill, and pour in the water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Leave the liquid to cool a bit, then process everything in a blender until you've got a smooth puree.
Return the pureed soup to the pan, pour in the milk and stir over a gentle heat until it's hot (careful NOT to let it boil). Season with a little salt (very little as the feta should be plenty salty), and lots of black pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls and top with crumbled feta and a sprinkle of paprika and dill fronds and serve.
This recipe was built around the fact that I found a Berbere Spice blend that I'd been hunting down for a while. I went to Spice and Tea Merchants in S. Asheville for their berbere; Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mix of chilies, cardamom, ginger, paprika, fenugreek, and cumin. Some can be quite hot, so choose wisely in accordance to your taste. I would rate this spice blend as a 6 on the heat scale (from 1-10). Following is a recipe with an Ethiopian flare. I have adapted it from Naturally Ella.
Berbere Black Lentil Stew - serves 4
1 TB olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 TB minced fresh ginger
3-4 TB of Berbere spice
1 cup dry black lentils
2 cups vegetable broth or bone broth
1-2 cups water
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Yogurt for serving/topping
Cilantro, chopped for serving/topping
Procedure: In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I like Le Creusets), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion. Cook until the onion is translucent - about 6 minutes. Add in the ginger and saute for another minute.
Measure in 3 TB of the Berbere spice blend and stir to coat the onions and ginger. Add in the black lentils, then the vegetable broth and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then quickly reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook about 25 minutes. Check and stir on occasion, adding water if needed (I didn't need to).
When the lentils are mostly tender, stir in the tomato sauce and lemon juice. Cook for another 10 minutes until the lentils are the right consistency (should be soft, not mushy). Taste and add anymore seasoning that's needed (squeeze of lemon, more berbere, or sea salt).
Serve immediately, topped with chopped cilantro and a bit of yogurt.
I often get asked where I find inspiration for cooking and fresh recipes. The answer is any and everywhere! Yes, I follow other food blogs; Instagram and Pinterest are both fun and photo-filled; inspiration comes from my travels - often a big part of any adventure for me is discovering the food. And this can be anything, not necessarily exotic. Some of the best places are complete hole-in-the-wall dives. Do you have a favorite crab shack at the coast? A fave BBQ joint? Often times I'll experience a food at a place like that and come home to try and replicate it a little bit 'healthier'. Sometimes it doesn't work (I'm not much for deep frying), but more often times, it does.
It's been a little while - life getting in the way and such. What comes with absence, is experience of a different kind. This time in the form of worldly travel, which included my personal favorite - trying new foods! Now, I'm no stranger to smoked paprika and the Spanish certainly aren't. During our week in southern Spain, we tasted many dishes with its subtle, yet evident flavor including paella and grilled pulpo (octopus tentacle). I happened upon a spice store in Seville and picked up a few grams of pimenton ahumado (a generic but still very tasty, smoked paprika). Upon further investigation, apparently the best paprika comes from the La Vera region in Spain near the Tietar River valley. If you are looking to add this spice to your collection, might I suggest investing in pimenton de la Vera - the most legit of the legit smoked paprikas.
Adding a deep, woodsy flavor to any dish, consider using in meat rubs, on scrambled eggs, or baste a turkey with it! In my case, I've altered a shrimp dish that's in the current rotation. Recipe below:
(Smoked) Paprika Spiced Shrimp with Citrus Quinoa Salad, serves 3:
1/2 cup white quinoa
1 cup filtered water
3/4 lb. wild shrimp, peeled/deveined
1 TB olive oil
1/2 TB smoked paprika
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 1/2 TB fresh orange juice
1/2 TB raw honey
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tangerines, peeled and sectioned
1 TB chopped cilantro
1/8-1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds
Dry toast the quinoa in your small saucepan for 5 minutes until a nutty aroma is noticed. Add the water to the pan and bring the quinoa/water to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover pan, and simmer about 13-15 minutes, or until liquid is well absorbed. Set aside.
Thread shrimp onto skewers. Brush lightly with 1/2 TB of olive oil. Then mix smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp of sea salt, and the ground red pepper in a small bowl. Coat the shrimp evenly with the seasoning. Grill shrimp on skewers for 2-4 minutes per side, or until shrimp turn pink. *Alternatively, you can saute the shrimp in a pan in the olive oil if it isn't grilling season (hint, it currently isn't).
Mix the OJ, remaining oil, honey, remaining sea salt, and black pepper in a large bowl. Add cooked quinoa, shrimp off the skewers, tangerine slices, and cilantro and toss to mix. Sprinkle with toasted almond slices and serve.
I love a good soup this time of year. Seriously, nothing is more satisfying; soups feel so nourishing to the body and the soul. Cooler temps mean our bodies crave warmth and heaviness. Soups are a great way to deliver this, with the added bonus of being easy on our digestive system. This recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook, an all vegetarian recipe book many of you may be familiar with. This soup combines cooler-weather vegetable cauliflower with a (gasp) white potato, and (double gasp) cheese! For this recipe I used shredded raw milk cheddar cheese from Organic Pastures.
1 medium-largeish potato, peeled and diced
1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets (reserve 1 1/2 cups of the florets to the side).
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
4 cups water
2 cups (packed) grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup full fat milk
1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
Fresh black pepper to taste
1. Place the potato, cauliflower florets (except for 1 1/2 c. reserved), carrot, garlic, onion, sea salt, and water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and simmer until veggies are tender (approximately 20 minutes). Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor, and transfer back to the soup pot.
2. Steam the reserved cauliflower pieces until just tender. Add these to the puree along with the remaining ingredients. Heat gently and serve!
A common question from my clients is: 'Should I be taking a probiotic pill?' Let's start with what even is a probiotic and where do I get it from?
It's that time of year - you know when the weather warms, people congregate to be outside and enjoy the company and the food that defines summers. I've got a busy few days ahead, complete with a barbecue, a themed book club event, and countdown to fireworks. I love contributing to these events, looking and finding just the right dish to make. It doesn't always turn out, but half the fun is the process. Today's menu is includes Fiesta Brown Rice. Tomorrow's I'm looking at a medieval pottage stew (veggies and grains - we're eating like peasants). And the firework finale will include my favorite summer salad. Recipe accompanies.
Avocado, Tomato, Corn Salad
2 c. cooked corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1-2 avocados (depending on size), cut into 1/2" cubes
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. finely diced onion
4 TB olive oil
1 tsp. grated lime zest
2 TB fresh lime juice
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Combine corn, avocado, tomatoes, and onion in a large bowl. Mix together the dressing ingredients in another bowl, pour over the salad, and gently toss to mix.
Our household is doing a Spring and Summer CSA share again this year (thank you, Way of Life Farm!) and we get so many lovely offerings. In the bag last week were Japanese (or Hakurei) turnips - smallish variety, white in color. What should I do with these?! Roasting them with miso came out great. See below for a quick and painless side dish that serves 4 easily.
2 lbs. Harukei turnips
3 TB white miso paste, divided
3 TB olive oil
Water for mixing
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Cut the turnips in uniform pieces. If the turnips are small, just cut them in half. If larger, quarter them. Cut the green parts off, but reserve them. Place turnips in a large mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 TB of miso and 2 TB of olive oil and a little water to make a smooth consistency. Pour this mixture over the turnips and toss to coat well.
Place the turnips in the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating them half way through the baking time. Let cool out of the oven when done. Sprinkle with a big pinch of black pepper and add sea salt if necessary.
Meanwhile, rinse the green parts and roughly chop them. Heat a TB of olive oil in a large pan. Saute the chopped greens until they are lightly wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the rest of the miso paste and make sure the leaves become coated. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the warm greens to a large salad bowl and spread the roasted turnips on top. Serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from Foolproofliving.com
A friend of mine shared these treats with me around Valentine's Day this year. I'd been dying for a chance to make and share them as well! I brought them to a family gathering on Friday and today there's only a couple left. I'll be making these again soon!
2 cups walnuts
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 cups soft Medjool (or Noor) dates, pitted
1 1/2 TB coconut oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkle of cinnamon
In a large food processor fitted with an 'S' blade, pulse walnuts and coconut until crumbly. Add in the dates, coconut oil, vanilla, and sea salt and process again until a sticky, uniform mixture is formed. This will take a few tries and spins and you will need to scrape sides down with a slim rubber spatula.
Scoop the mixture by heaping tablespoons, then roll to form balls. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then place in the freezer to set for at least an hour.
*You can roll lightly in coconut before freezing for fancier-looking treats.
Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for longer.
Makes roughly 25 date treats.
Insights and Inspirations on nutrition, food, wellness, recipes, and more! All posts by Jaime Frinak.