Category Archives: immune booster

Sweet Meets Heat: How to Make Chilies Infused Honey


Homemade chili-infused honey DIY © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Contrary to what I used to think about the process of making spice infused honey (special room, special temperature, special honey, number of days), it takes only a few minutes to infuse the honey of your choice with chilies, leaving you with a wonderful jar of gold you can drizzle on pizzas, cakes, cheeses or add to salads, soups and stews or your next mojito for a touch of character.  It is not overly spicy (with the amount of chilies used in the recipe below): the chilies infused honey will still keep all the flavor nuances of the terroir the honey came from (if it wasn’t pasteurized) with just a bit of warming lingering spice finish. It totally satisfies my latest indie-influenced take on all things organic.
Honey: from bumblebee to the toast © http://www.letsheatit.com/
While honey continues ‘hitting its sweet spot’ as a flavor of the year 2015 (according to the Swiss company Firmenich specialized in flavors and fragrances), the interest in it expands beyond the tea-time companionship worldwide. Honey is surely set to add some extra charm and wit to the menus helping chefs to bliss out the clientele with all kinds of innovative dressings, glaze, BBQ sauces and marinade combinations. Honey is being added to the ‘glass with class’ by mixologists (from Mead cocktails to Honey vodka and Honey Bee-jito (mojito drink where honey replaces sugar) to Honey Lemonade and Kombucha Smoothies, etc. The honey producers are coming up with numerous amazing products, such as these incredible creamy strawberry honey and raspberry honey jelly we found at Miel pur delice inc. during our last trip to Coaticook, QC.
Miel pur delice inc. creamy strawberry honey and raspberry honey jelly © http://www.letsheatit.com/
I might be a fickle friend with ice cream and milk chocolate, but when it comes to the real honey (raw, naturally,) I’m Ted 1, Ted 2 and whatever other Teds you can imagine. I eat honey every day, all my life and, practically, I can‘t imagine living without it… which is probably normal since I am of the Ukrainian origin. In short: we are planning to raise honeybees when retired and I hope nothing will change this agenda.
Ukrainian postal stamps © via Wikimedia
See the typical Ukrainian honey layered cake below made by one of my best friends recently (don’t ask for the recipe though – it takes a whole day to make it – no one can do that bravery anymore). 
Nata’s Honey Layered Cake © http://www.letsheatit.com/
In the meantime, here are the three places in Quebec we‘ve visited recently that are not to miss:
1. Miels d’Anicet  Api Culture Hautes-Laurentides inc.111, Rand 2 Gravel, Ferme-Neuve, Quebec
Canada, J0W 1C0 (one of the top-rated and the most popular honey used by Quebec chefs; read more about it here). Tel: (819) 587-4825

2. Miel des Ruisseaux 2 924, Route du Lac Ouest, Alma (Québec)
G8B 5V2 Tel: (418) 668-7734 (famous blueberry honey producer: read more about here and here).

Miel des Ruisseaux Blueberry Honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/

3. Miel pur delice inc. 815 route 141, Coaticook (Québec) J1A 2S5, Tel:(819) 849-9994 (see some of their products featured above)

Many others are on our bucket list and will show up in this space eventually.

For my own experiment, I used the honey coming from the land of blueberries: Saguenay – Lac Saint Jean wild blueberry blossom honey from Miel des ruisseaux (fyi: the blueberries are being harvested there as I write this post), which recently became the proud member of ÉCONOMUSÉE network.
Wild blueberries in Saguenay – Lac Saint Jean © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Infusing the honey with chilis in a hot water bath (bain marie) doesn’t alter the taste of the honey: it just warms up and accentuates the blueberry notes (or any other notes of the honey you choose to make spicy) and the heat is very subtle.
DIY steps to make chili infused honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
The chilies infused honey make an excellent alternative to some expensive commercial chilies infused honeys as well as the welcome condiment in the fridge to help you build some extraordinary flavors.
For some extremely haute cuisine take, lace it over fine brie or blue cheese finish on top of the raspberry almond tea cake – OUCH! Sooo decadent!
Spiced honey drizzled brie on top of the raspberry tea cake © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Or, have on a flaky breakfast pan-fried blistered breakfast bread – simply out of this world!
Flaky pan fried breakfast bread drizzled with spiced honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
I hope you will enjoy this simple alchemy trick.
Chilies infused blueberry honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
All the best dear readers.
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ADOBE CHILIES INFUSED HONEY*
Ingredients:
1 cup honey
Two medium-size dried adobe chili peppers, cut in pieces, OR 1 teaspoon dried crushed chili flakes
1 sterilized jar + lid
1 cheese cloth or fine mesh, to strain
Instructions:
Pour the honey into a ceramic heat proof bowl and stir the chili peppers in. Place the bowl into the hot water bath, bring the water to simmer and heat from 3-5 minutes (for less spicy honey) to 15 minutes (for the spicier version). Remove from heat and cool to the room temperature. Strain the honey through the cheese cloth or the fine mesh into the sterilized jar. Refrigerate overnight and store in the fridge for up to a month. Bring the spiced honey to the room temperature before serving or using in dessings, glaze or sauce.
*Feel free to experiment with any other dried or fresh spicy capsicums, including: jalapeno, scotch bonnet peppers, etc.

Pipin’ Coconut-n-Root Vegetable Curry Recipe


Baby, it’s cold out there! The Alaskan storm hiccup has just reached Eastern Canada with the brrr temperatures, even the first snow. Under these circumstances I’m sure I’m not the only one to resort to comfort eating. This recipe has been on my bucket list for a while and I wanted to share it eventually for all the right reasons. It’s vegetarian, comparatively light, highly dietetic and comforting, and can be easily complemented with multiple omnivore, vegan or pescatarian choices. I opted for the haddock fish to go with it, but you can choose tofu, chicken or any fondue-sliced meat, all of which can be sautéed in a few minutes with the spices of your choice.

A trip to the local farmers’ market…

A bunch of the root veggies and other bounty brought home…
A quick mental scan of what to do with them on a day like today…
IT’S GOTTA BE CURRY! From my personal experience, nothing can pick you up better than a savory-spicy curry during times of chilling humidity and/or a flu season. Just few spoons of it and you’re back to keep calm and carry on…
The versatility of this dish is incredible. Depending on the curry spices you use, it can take an Asian, Indian or Caribbean direction. I used Jamaican curry spice mix for this post, along with a dash of Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce to give it an obviously Jamaican flair . 
You can also easily incorporate any other fall veggies into it: from pumpkin to squash, broccoli, cauliflower or collard greens. Finally, you can swap canned chick peas with canned lentils, or beans if wish be.
Have any leftovers of this curry from Friday supper? Turn them into a fast and delicious take on a British Kedgeree for your week-end brunch by adding some cooked rice, boiled eggs and chopped greens. If you happen to have some smoked haddock in your fridge, team it up: it will make the dish outstanding (otherwise, canned tuna or salmon would be OK).
We all (me in particular – duh) need some kind of an immune booster at this time of the year. The combination of this curry’s ingredients provides it in abundance: from a support to digestion, to anti-inflammatory help, to giving more energy to the brain, to improving cholesterol ratios, to metabolic push and so on. And the coconut milk in this recipe is not just a healthy alternative to milk. It does magic marrying the spices and ingredients, softening the heat of the curry and adding delicate sweetness along with carrots and sweet potatoes.  
Serve the curry piping hot with or without the meat protein addition, garnished with fresh cilantro or parsley and lime wedges on a side. Enjoy!
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COCONUT & ROOT VEGETABLE CURRY
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
For Curry:
1 big sweet potato, cut in small cubes
1 big potato, cut in small cubes
1 big carrot, cut in small cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp curry powder
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can 19 oz chickpeas, drained
1 can 14 oz coconut milk
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced (or 1 tbsp Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce)
1 tsp fresh or dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small bunch of cilantro for garnish
2-3 scallions for garnish
1-2 limes, cut in wedges
Additions:
4 fillet of white, not oily fish (haddock, cod, tilapia, etc.), sautéed in 1 tsp oil and seasoned
OR
4 chicken breasts escalopes, sautéed in 1 tsp oil and seasoned
Instructions:
Cover the potatoes and carrots with water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
In the meantime, add three tablespoons of oil to the Dutch oven or a big saucepan and bring to medium high.  Add chili flakes, onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the curry powder.  Add the red pepper and mix.
Add potatoes and carrots and mix. Add chickpeas and mix. Add coconut milk and bring to boil. Add jalapeno and thyme. Bring to boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with cilantro and minced scallions. Serve hot in bowls with lime wedges on a side, topped with fish or chicken additions.

For Kedgeree:
Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cups coconut and vegetable curry leftovers
1/3 cup of water
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 cups cooked rice of your choice, cold
1 cup smoked haddock (or canned tuna, or salmon), minced
2 boiled eggs, chopped
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp coriander, ground
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tsp fresh cilantro or parsley, minced
Instructions:
Heat the big skillet or wok to medium-high and add olive oil and butter. Add coconut vegetable curry and mix. Add water and fish sauce. Bring the heat to high, add rice and keep mixing vigorously for 1 minute. Add fish, eggs, cilantro and spices. Keep mixing for one minute. Add lime zest, drizzle with lime juice and mix. Remove for the heat and serve hot garnished with cilantro or parsley. Serve hot.

Healthy Break: Watercress Cucumber Lettuce Chopped Salad


I realized recently that I rarely showcase chopped salads, yet we eat them regularly in various combinations and dozens of interesting dressings. I used to think they were just plain boring side dish to help digest the main, lacking substance, and too common to talk about. Not surprisingly, they faded into the oblivion on this blog often just making a background dish in photos. I think it’s time now to rescue this dish category, given that I’m currently going through another course on nutrition, thus the importance of fresh veggies in our daily diet can no longer be ignored.  This salad tastes fab and features a super-potent watercress greens and healthy-delicious apple cider vinegar/honey/olive oil dressing.
The recipe was initially inspired by Cucumber Watercress Salad recipe by Rachel Ray’s from her 30 Minute Passport to England Food Network episode (dressing with white vinegar, honey and dill). Then there was Mark Bittman’s watercress salad with delicate rice vinegar dressing and sesame seeds. Then I tried Martha Stewart’s take with Dijon mustard adding the robust tang to the dressing. Finally, I came up with my version of this chopped salad adding lettuce to the ingredients and using home-made apple cider vinegar mixed with honey, lime juice and some olive oil for an extra health benefit. Sometimes I scatter a bit of roasted salted nuts, like cashews or pistachios for an extra crunch and substance. I already know that this version is my favorite, but feel free to experiment with the above additions and you will find yours.  
Peppery bittersweet watercress is one of the oldest greens consumed by humans through the centuries. It is an amazing digestive and powerful antioxidant loaded with vitamin C, A, chlorophyll, calcium and potassium. It maintains the body’s water balance, promotes clear skin and acts as natural antibiotic to boost immunity. Early Romans considered it a valuable brain food strengthening the nervous system. Today, due to the unique phytochemical it contains, it is known primarily for breast, liver, colon and prostate cancer-fighting benefits, which sounds like a rarely powerful food ingredient.   
Watercress goes perfectly well into variety of fresh salads with greens and most of the popular salad veg, including, of course, the radishes.  In fact, I find the trio of arugula, watercress and radishes, full of pungent slightly bitter tang nuances, to be one of the most interesting salad combinations with watercress. When dressed with equally strong home-made blue or feta cheese dressing, it makes a perfect juxtaposition to a heavier main dish.
Naturally, you can get the best from watercress eating it fresh (preferably organic) in salads or juices. I personally love to have a glass of blended watercress, celery, green apple, parsley and pineapple cocktail in the afternoon (whenever I can (which is on Sundays at best, but, I’d like it to be more often)) to boost my energy level. 
In this salad the watercress bitterness is tamed by cucumber, lettuce and cider-lime-honey dressing, which makes it an excellent companion for spicy grilled mains, such as this mystery BBQ dish, which will follow with the next post shortly. Stay tuned.
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WATERCRESS CUCUMBER LETTUCE CHOPPED SALAD
Ingredients:
2 cups watercress leaves, chopped
1 small head Romano lettuce, chopped
1 English seedless cucumber, chopped
3 tbsp honey
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 lime, juiced
3 tbsp orange juice or water
4-5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh dill for garnish, minced (optional) 
3 tbsp crashed roasted salted cashews or pistachios
Sea salt to taste
Instructions:
Combine lettuce, cucumbers and watercress in a large bowl. Whisk the honey with apple cider vinegar, lime juice and orange juice or water. Add olive oil. Pour over salad and toss to combine. Season with salt and dill (if using) and toss salad again. Garnish with dill and roasted nuts it you wish. Serve immediately.

Cream of Leeks, Potatoes & Foraged Greens

Easy, fast and to the point, this soup is a take on the classic cream of leeks and potatoes. Sorrel adds a touch of tartness; nettle brings a touch of delicate tanginess and both make an extra nutritious boost to the meal. Creamy and hearty (without a cream), this light starter is an excellent spring tonic. And if you have no foraged greens, no biggie: use spinach or parsley or both instead for equally delicious and nutritious result. The cream of leeks, potatoes and foraged greens goes very well with more flavor-complex crunchy quesadillas, like the ones with a smoked salmon, or goat cheese, olive oil dried tomatoes, both of which add remarkable rich-salty-savory and texture contrast to the soup.  This soup also pairs fantastically with crisp salted cod croquettes such as these wonderful accras de morue bites. OR, bacon, for that matter…

For the first time my monumental yearly battle with weeds in our backyard is turning into something beautiful. Learning to enjoy some of the wild nature’s gifts, I’m totally in Redzepi’s state of mind wandering in the garden of weeds and collecting dandelions, violets, burdock, clover, and other lush green edibles.  Up until recently, the foraging knowledge and skills have all but disappeared from our lives, but now that the foraging trend got back on a horse, it helps to reinstate the nutritional and medicinal importance of the wild plants in our daily regimen. I’m happy about it and so I’m picking the nettles and sorrel like its nobody’s business for my soup of the day.

IMPORTANT: Always wear gloves (to not be stung) and use cutter (not to spoil the tender leaves) when foraging stinging nettle and select the youngest species that have no flowers yet.

Although sorrel has been used in European cuisine for centuries and has been admired by many, from Monet to Julia Child, it is somewhat of an acquired taste because of its lemon sourness, so if you are the beginner, you might wish to start with a smaller sorrel batch in the soup not to overpower the nice and creamy leek-potato background taste. The same with the nettle: although it incorporates very well into an array of soups, its hardening taste is quite particular, so, again, begin with a moderate amount and let the leeks shine through.

Garnish the soup with a little quail egg (eggs work very well with sorrel sourness) and/or chopped chives, parsley or other greens of your choice. Optionally, you can add a dollop of sour cream or cream, or lace your soup with some olive oil. Serve with above suggested quesadillas (see the smoked fish post), home-made crackers, toasted baguette, and/or maybe some crispy bacon on a side or freshly crumbled (my favorite). Enjoy!

What is next on my foraging agenda?  How about dandelion wine? I recently tasted it at the party and got very curious about it. There are so many recipes on the Internet, but my principal question is: is it regular active dry yeast like in Chef Ricardo’s recipe or special wine yeast like in many othersthat we should use?  If any of you, dear readers have some successful experience with dandelion wine making, please let me know. 

That’s about it for my most recent foraging practice and interests. I hope you will find some of use. Cheers!

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CREAM OF LEEKS AND FORAGED GREENS
Ingredients:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 cups or 3 medium-sized leeks (white and light green parts only), washed and sliced
3 cups potatoes (baking kind), peeled and cubed
½ cup or 1 celery stalk, chopped (optional)
8 cups chicken, or vegetable broth, or water
1 bouquet garni (1 thyme spring, 1 bay leaf and few parsley springs tied with kitchen spring) (optional)
1 cup (2 big handfuls) fresh sorrel leaves, stems and tough ribs removed
1 cup (8 oz) fresh nettles or spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup chives or parsley for garnish, minced
½ cup crème fraiche or plain Greek yogurt for garnish
Instructions:
Melt the butter in a large pot, add leeks and cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes, celery and chicken stock (or water), bouquet garni, bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add sorrel, nettles or spinach leaves and cook just until wilted for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Puree the soup in batches in blender. Reheat if necessary or serve cool garnished with chives or minced parsley and a dollop of crème fraiche or plain yogurt.   

Healthy (Re)solutions: Pick-Me-Up Lassi

One might not feel like running a mile in this Martian cold weather or going to the gym during the flu outbreak, but…  A glass of a nurturing shake and a bit of morning sun meditation make a great way to start a day on a positive note from my experience. 
I am not talking about classic frozen fruit +ice smoothies–they are quite predictable and, therefore, boring.  They also lack satiety. I am not a breakfast person, for example, so I like to add some extra dimension to my morning drink to wake up and boogie.  As a result, I switched my smoothie (fruit+ ice) to more of a lassi (fruit + yogurt+) style putting everything I wanted to be in there to catch me when I am falling from a sleep/other morning deprivation and help me tune into a productive mood, specifically during the times of the polar vortex. 
I’ve developed a few favorites and even gave my cocktails names depending on their color and taste, i.e. Go-Nuts; Lacoste; Tropical Sunshine, etc. Each of them has a certain nourishing purpose. This one is a particularly good-for-winter drink.  I called it Royal Velvet for its purple color, velvet-like feel, and the elegant taste.  
It’s packed with super-foods, including organic frozen berries (perfect antioxidant), yogurt, almond milk, nuts, seeds, even a slice of fresh ginger and a pinch of clove (both anti-inflammatory) to make sure there is enough of everything in it to make a winning substitute for an over-the-counter supplements I wouldn’t want to reach for.  For the berries, I used frozen blackcurrant grown and picked in our garden (which I was happy to try for the first time this year in a smoothie and was shocked about how good they tasted – otherwise their destiny used to be a garbage can by spring for years – can you believe it?) If you can’t get a hold of blackcurrants, use any best quality frozen purple or red berries of your choice.
I used plain Greek yogurt, almond milk, almonds, hemp and flax seeds for my choice of the balance of caloric and nutritional values,  which you can of course swap for yogurt, milk, nuts and seeds of your choice as long as they tickle your fancy.

The combination of the ingredients is designed to work as a winter guard: support the immune system and combat colds and flu. For an additional strength, I included some brewed Echinacea and rose petal tea (both also collected from our garden last summer) tea in it. It is totally optional, but if you still wish to include it, you can find Echinacea tea or syrup at any organic food store these days. 

For the sweetness, I used an exotic raspberry honey jelly (which I bought at the nearest bee farm last fall  ), but just a pure honey (natural antibiotic) or a maple syrup (antioxidants + zinc) would also make a perfect option. Dates are also a great sweetener addition to this mix if you like. For the final touch, I added a bit of the rose water for a surprising fragrant twist.  Again, I used the one I made last summer, but you can buy rose water in most of the groceries (baking section) today.
Our bodies are xx-something-pounds live chemical labs in need of constant re-fueling, energy and vitality. If we think about them this way, I’m sure many of our New Year’s resolutions would be very much connected with what kind of fuel we charge ourselves with daily. So why not selecting the best ones today in the form of one of the feel-good drinks? The body will thank you immediately for this little gesture of thoughtfulness with a bit more energy. The mind will follow shaking off that frigid twister melancholia. Name it smoothie, lassi, or shake, my point is – give it a try. The payoff will be sweet: one glass and… suddenly…  tout va bien, or, ‘Everything is Fineaccording to this talented Scottish artist… The winter will pass, and then there will be spring and then summer, and fall, and another winter… And that one will go too.
Cheers to the healthy 2014 start and the eternal healing!
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ROYAL VELVET LASSI:
Yields: four standard or two generous servings.
Ingredients:
1+ cup frozen purple (and/or red) berries (blackcurrant, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.)
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
½ cup almond milk
2 small ripe bananas (or equal quantity of papaya)
1/3 cup almonds
1 tbsp hemp seeds  
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 thin slice of ginger 
1 pinch of ground cloves
2 tbsp raspberry honey jelly (or honey, or maple syrup)
1/3 cup brewed and cooled Echinacea /Rose Hip tea (or 1 tbsp. Echinacea Elderberry herbal syrup)
1 tsp. rosewater
Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend on a high speed until smooth. Taste and adjust thickness and flavors. Dilute with some extra almond milk if necessary. Enjoy!