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Spanish Tortilla with Roasted Grape Tomatoes

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Photo: A basic Spanish tortilla is usually made with eggs, potato and onion. Here is a version of that traditional dish that I made yesterday for my husband’s main meal.  Four eggs, one pan-fried, diced potato; shredded Parmesan cheese, bits of brie and small, whole tomatoes were used to make this individual serving.

Beaten eggs are added to a diced, sautéed potato in a cast-iron pan; cheese and roasted small tomatoes are added, then after cooking for one or two minutes to firm-up the bottom, the whole pan goes under a broiler until the eggs are puffed and lightly browned on top.

Below: Grape-sized tomatoes are roasted in an oiled cast-iron pan, first on the stove and then for a few minutes in the oven under a broiling-flame. This process allows tomatoes to become concentrated in flavour, while making them easier to eat when incorporated into an egg dish. ~ Copyright 2018 ©M-J de MestertonRoasting_Tomatoes_in_Cast_Iron_Pan_Copyright_M-J_de_Mesterton.JPG

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Elegant Basket of Tea Towels

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Christmas Present Idea: a Silver-Plated, Large Basket for the Kitchen Counter or Hanging on a Cook’s Cart~Perfect for Tea Towels, Fruit, or Casual Flower-Arrangements
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Scandinavian Cinnamon Rusks

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Day-old bread is sliced and moistened in milk and/or cream, then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon before being slowly baked in a low-temperature oven. This is the simple formula; every Scandinavian who makes this traditional toast or “cinnamon rusks” has his or her own technique. Cinnamon toast is a popular accompaniment to coffee. Scandinavian coffee is typically brewed “strong” using light-to-medium roasted beans. My Swedish grandparents had this traditional combination of cinnamon toast (kanelskorpor) and coffee every morning, though they did not make it themselves as I do. I sometimes use home-made brioche loaf for this purpose, as it produces a very light cinnamon toast or kanelskorpor.

©M-J de Mesterton

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Elegant Winter Dressing with M-J

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Above: M-J de Mesterton in a Tibbett Duffel Coat of Elysian Wool, Insulated Aigle Boots from France; a Mongolian Cashmere Scarf by Johnstons of Elgin, Scotland; a White Fox Hat Made in Helsinki; a Plaid Tweed Skirt, Black Leather Cashmere-Lined Gloves from Italy, and a Walking Stick Made of Scotch Broom

PUBLISHED in DECEMBER, 2016: Wear warm clothes when it’s cold outside and inside. The days of women showing their bare arms year-round just because an occupant of the White House does it to show off her biceps are coming to a close in about three weeks. The current president has, since 2009, kept the oval office at a balmy 85° year-round, as though he were in Hawai’i, while instructing the citizenry to “tighten your belts”. The rest of us, if we have heat at all, keep our places at 68° or even cooler, thanks to the punitive cost of fuel.

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Above: on Christmas Day, I’m wearing a turtleneck under a round-necked dress, nylon stockings, a silk & cashmere pashmina, and faux-fur-lined tall leather boots. Most winter days, I’d be wearing tweed and sweaters.

Elegant Dressing for Autumn: Classic Tweed Travelling Suit
M-J de Mesterton in Aquascutum Tweed Suit, Her Perennial Favourite

Rugged, traditional, and elegant tweed made from Scottish wool is the best material for fall and winter dressing. Easily covered with a trench-coat or embellished with a pashmina or long wool scarves, tweed will keep you warm and dry. Tweed suits, skirts, trousers and jackets are always fashionable.

My husband and I found it odd, if not historically-incorrect, to see the inhabitants of Downton Abbey wearing sleeveless flapper dresses all over the huge, inevitably cold and difficult-to-heat house, at all hours, without wraps or sweaters. Those dresses were made to be worn at nightclubs while dancing the Charleston, where  hyper-activity and body-heat of the crowd made it possible to stay warm while baring arms.

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Dining at Downton: thanks to cocktails, aperitifs and wines, scantily-clad ladies there could abide the evening without shivering. Or maybe not; Ralph Lauren designed wardrobes for the series, and may have just assumed that women dressed like flappers in most situations because it was the Roaring Twenties. I doubt that 1920s women were so silly, but there have always been nonsensical followers of fashion, like the ones who are now wearing peep-toed shoes without stockings all winter long in cold climates. My grandmother, who was born in the Victorian Age, told me that to be beautiful, one must suffer–I know that freezing’s not what she meant. Even body-heat from large groups at table does not take the chill off England’s grand country houses for most months of the year; shoulders are usually covered with something at dinner, such as a little fur garment or shawl that could be removed later in the evening for dancing. And no self-respecting woman would be standing about the house during winter in just a sleeveless gown.

Speaking of winter dressing and silly followers of fashion, here is a post that I made here at Elegant Survival News in December, 2011:

Talking Heads Clad Badly and Barely-Shod

Summer Dress and Peep-Toe Shoes in December?!

From 2011: Why is the anchorwoman wearing a sleeveless summer dress in cold NYC on December 6th? Are biceps something that female talking heads suddenly find a crying need to bare, even in freezing temperatures? Are they using too much energy, in an effort to keep tropically warm indoors? Is it seasonally appropriate to wear bare-toed shoes on wintry days, as the woman in red is doing, or sandals (the first lady wore sandals at a Kennedy Center gala last weekend) in December? I don’t think so. These women are on a national television show, displaying their irresponsible, energy-inefficient lifestyles before the public, as if to say that a size XXX carbon-footprint is desirable. The rest of us are wearing wool and tweed, living in homes with little-or-no  heat most of the time.

In an Alpine Climate, January: Dressing in Furry Boots, a Scottish Hand-Made Fair Isle Sweater, and an Austrian Wool Skirt

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Outsized Fruits & Vegetables; Chicken on Steroids?

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2016: I hadn’t gone shopping in a while, so when I came upon these grapes and jalapeño peppers at Albertson’s a month ago, they seemed normal at first. At home, they looked larger than life all of a sudden, like the Grapes that Took Over the World, and Jalapeños as Big as Texas. They may be genetically-modified (in fact, I’d put money on it). Yeah, them grapes were slightly smaller than golf-balls, and twenty years ago women would have been runnin’ scared at the sight of ’em. Those peppers ain’t just big, they are hotter than Hades. Talk about getting more bang for your buck–for all I know, the whole lot is deadly poison. Sure as shootin’, I am not going back to that store for more. The chicken breasts we bought there were just enormous, probably from a fowl critter named Dolly (in honor of the lamb created in a lab, not the huge-breasted singer, Ms Parton).

After poaching and frying those pieces of chicken, having spent more than an hour in the process, we were stunned at the foam-rubber texture of the alien meat. The animals had to have been pumped full of SOMETHING unnatural to make their breasts as large as those of turkeys and render their flesh absolutely inedible. My husband, who had innocently ordered the stuff at Albertson’s butcher counter, brought all the chicken back for a full refund. Don’t let grocery stores ruin your meals–make sure the chicken you purchase is of normal size. Good thing we did not unwittingly serve this faux fowl to guests. That would have been ruinous!~~M-J

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And now, the eternal question: which came first, the funky chicken enhanced by hormones, or the FREAK EGG?

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Nostalgia: Remember Elegantly-Dressed Men?

In this stylish drawing of a man, you don’t see a skinny jacket that is bursting open to expose sad trousers that hang at the hip instead of at the waist, a bulging shirt and too-long tie. What we see here is a man who wears his trousers at the right length, ones that don’t pile-up like discarded potato sacks on top of his shoes, and which come up to the actual human waist, thereby visually lengthening his legs. And we see the gentleman’s traditional accessories: hat, gloves and walking-stick, all of which serve a purpose, including protection from the elements, enthusiastic pigeons, dirt, germs, roving animals, and whoever may dare to attack him or anyone else in his immediate vicinity; the gentleman is always well-prepared for a stroll down today’s mean streets. Alas, this picture is clipped from an advert by Burberrys that appears in one of my 1930s Sphere magazines. Today’s men, in general, look like short, dumpy cads in clothes that are designed to distort human proportions. (Add the slovenly yet popular three-day growth beard to complete a tragic modern image.) Never in history has so much sartorial splendour been readily accessible, and yet men have seldom looked worse. It doesn’t cost any more to dress correctly than it does to do it badly, especially since some of the ghastliest clothes are going for the highest prices. There are very few contemporary examples of elegant dressing in trendy venues and magazines. Help yourself by not following fashion, but instead by looking toward the best elements of the past for useful examples of tasteful masculine dress.

©M-J de Mesterton 2010

UPDATE: IT’S NOW 2017, and menswear has become steadily worse in the past seven years. Here’s a video that makes me nostalgic for the kooky clothing of 1966, when I was eleven–people then looked better than they do today–but, it also demonstrates that following fashion blindly is utter folly:

Elegant Entertaining

Simple and Elegant Christmas Cookies

Lady M-J de Mesterton's Christmas Cookies or Biscuits

Christmas cookies, adapted from a 1950s recipe by Antoinette Pope (The Antoinette Pope School of Cookery).  I’ve been enjoying these since I was a child. Here are the ingredients:

One half-pound of butter

Two and a half cups of flour

One cup of powdered sugar

One tablespoon of milk (full-fat, of course)

One teaspoon of vanilla

One egg yolk mixed with two tablespoons of cream (to brush on top, as a base for sprinkles–adds nice flavor, believe it or not)
If you are going to use icing and a piping bag to decorate these Christmas cookies, skip this.

Method:

The ingredients, except for the egg yolk and cream, are mixed together and rolled out to a quarter (1/4) inch thickness. Then cookie-cutters are employed; the things are brushed with egg yolk/cream and sprinkled with colored sugar. I prefer Swedish pärlsokker, or white pearl sugar. Transfer the cut-out cookies to an upside-down cookie-sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Elegant Living

Elegant, Re-Purposed Olive Oil Bottles

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Large address labels and felt pens were used by M-J to make the contents of these elegant olive oil bottles easily identifiable. The original labels (as on the new bottle at left) of two empty containers were soaked-off in a sink half-full of very hot water.  This trio of full bottles sits on the counter, ready for use on salads, cooking (a few drops of olive oil may be all you need to fry an egg) , drinking (add a teaspoon of cider vinegar to your water-glass in the morning and/or evening for enhanced health) and spot-cleaning (wipe-down windows, appliances and counters with a few drops of white vinegar). These particular vessels came with optional spouts, which make dispensing small amounts of liquid quick and easy. ©M-J de Mesterton 2018

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Re-Using Commercial Bottles Elegantly

Re-Using_Commercial_Spice_Containers_Elegant_SurvivalA red pepper bottle from which the label has easily been soaked-off is pretty enough to leave on the table with your favourite salt-shaker. To me, the ubiquitous bar-code on labels is an awful thing to see, therefore, in spite of this particular spice bottle label being tasteful and attractive, the entire thing had to go.Made_My_Own_Label_for_Re-Used_Olive-Oil_Bottle_M-J_de_MestertonA large, beautiful green glass olive oil bottle is now living a new life as a cider vinegar dispenser, for which I made a label with white paper tape, coloured art-pens, and clear packaging tape (these high-quality olive oil bottles come with stoppers strapped to their necks that one can install for ease-of-use, instead of the original bottle-caps). This is a great way to have your “oil & vinegar” at hand.

©M-J de Mesterton, November 2018

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Make a Miniature Salt Shaker

Making Mini Salt Shakers
Re-purposing another commercial container: a tiny jam jar was converted into a casual mini-salt shaker and filled with Himalayan salt. It’s handy for a TV tray, or to keep nearby when eating popcorn, should it be sorely lacking in sodium, and a walk to the kitchen would interrupt your movie-viewing. Here are the tools I used: a sharp-pointed pair of scissors and a meat mallet. I was too lazy to visit the garage for a nail. Instead, I covered the scissors’ nice old handles with a silicone pot-holder so the mallet wouldn’t damage them. This worked fine. There are three small holes–I started small and then tested them for proper flow-rate. ©M-J de Mesterton 2018

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On  the left is a larger home-made salt-shaker, strictly for use in cookery; after this photo it will live in the pantry. ©M-J de Mesterton 2018

 

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Freestyle Eggs with Purple Onion and Serrano Peppers

I’m calling these two  eggs “freestyle” because they were lightly fried to so-called “over-easy” level, but very uncooperative when I attempted to flip them with my spatula. The eggs are accompanied on this plate by purple (“red”) onions sautéed  in butter with serrano chile peppers, and  a bit of labneh (strained yoghurt) which is sprinkled with cayenne pepper. Adding a freestyle shake of Himalayan salt, I consider it a low-carb, highly-nutritious breakfast. ©M-J de Mesterton

Highly Nutritive EGGS
Eggs are Rich in Nutrients

Purple Onions Fight Cancer
Red or Purple Onions are Beneficial to General Health

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Red or Purple Onions and Hot Chile Peppers are Good for the Heart

SERRANO PEPPERS

  • Vitamins: Serrano peppers are a good source of vitamin A. You can get almost 20 percent of your daily recommended vitamin A intake from a 100 g serving. The vitamin A that you get from serrano peppers helps with the synthesis of red blood cells along with helping to support your immune system. Vitamin C is also important for the function of your immune system and 100 g of serranos provides about 74 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement. Vitamin B6 is another important vitamin that helps your body to produce neurotransmitters as well as to ensure that it metabolizes fat and protein properly.
  • Minerals: A 100 g serving of serrano peppers provides 4 percent of your daily iron and 5 percent of your daily magnesium. Iron is important for making the red blood cells in your body that transport oxygen. Magnesium is important for neural function, muscle contraction and for the coagulation of blood among many other processes.
  • Dietary fiber: Serrano peppers contain 3.7 g of dietary fiber per 100 g serving. Dietary fiber has health benefits that include controlling both blood sugar and cholesterol. Fiber binds with low-density lipoprotein thus preventing its absorption by your body; similarly, it slows your body’s absorption of sugar and this helps with the control of blood sugar levels.
Capsaicin
Capsaicin is the compound responsible for the heat in hot peppers. It has numerous health benefits despite having no nutrients. While serranos are far from being the hottest peppers, they still offer an abundance of heat. The Scoville rating for these peppers is in the range between 10,000 and 23,000, which makes them up to 10 times hotter than a jalapeño (comparing the mildest jalapeño to the hottest serrano). The higher the Scoville rating, the hotter the pepper and the greater the concentration of capsaicin.
You can use serrano peppers to treat and prevent health conditions like:
  • Heart disease: Capsaicin’s cholesterol-lowering benefits allow serrano peppers to be beneficial for heart health. Chile peppers also prevent the contraction of arteries, which restricts the flow of blood to the heart.
  • Intestinal issues: Research has shown that capsaicin can help with the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. There is also evidence that it can help to kill the H. pylori bacteria that is a factor in stomach ulcers.
  • Cancer: It’s believed capsaicin has the ability to treat cancer. Studies have shown that it is effective for fighting prostate and breast cancers in that it stops the spread of cancer and induces apoptosis in cancer cells, which means that it causes them to self-destruct.
  • CAYENNE PEPPER IS HIGH IN CAPSAICIN
  • Hot Peppers for Health
    Cayenne and other Dried Chile Peppers Help Prevent Colds and Flu, Build Tissue, and Prevent Heart Attacks

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    Capsaicin-Rich Cayenne Peppers are a Heart-Tonic and Anti-Inflammatory Fruit

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    M-J’s Cayenne Pepper Plant with Red, Ripe Fruit
Elegant Living

Nutritious, Versatile Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds are great freshly-ground and used as a salad-topper. Here is a salad topped with both ground raw pumpkin seeds, Cheddar cheese and walnuts.

 “Pepitas”, as they are called in Spanish, are delicious when toasted in a pan with a teaspoon of coconut oil and about a half-teaspoon of salt per cup. Stirred frequently with a wooden spoon, my pumpkin seeds were ready after ten minutes in a medium-hot cast-iron pan. Another method is soaking the seeds overnight in water, lemon juice and salt, draining and toasting them in a moderate oven.
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc, iron, magnesium, omega-3s, are low in carbs, and three tablespoons of them contain eight grams of protein. Pumpkin seeds have properties that are used in an efficacious treatment for parasites. Storing ground pumpkin seeds in the refrigerator in a jar will preserve their freshness.
From George Mateljan’s venerable website, “World’s Healthiest Foods”, here is the first paragraph of, and a link tohis article about Pumpkin Seeds:

Antioxidant Support

While antioxidant nutrients are found in most WHFoods, it’s the diversity of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds that makes them unique in their antioxidant support. Pumpkin seeds contain conventional antioxidant vitamins like vitamin E. However, not only do they contain vitamin E, but they contain it in a wide variety of forms. Alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol and gamma-tocomonoenol are all forms of vitamin E found in pumpkin seeds. These last two forms have only recently been discovered, and they are a topic of special interest in vitamin E research, since their bioavailability might be greater than some of the other vitamin E forms. Pumpkin seeds also contain conventional mineral antioxidants like zinc and manganese. Phenolic antioxidants are found in pumpkin seeds in a wide variety of forms, including the phenolic acids hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, protocatechuic, vanillic, and syringic acid. Antioxidant phytonutrients like lignans are also found in pumpkin seeds, including the lignans pinoresinol, medioresinol, and lariciresinol.
Interestingly, this diverse mixture of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds may provide them with antioxidant-related properties that are not widely found in food. For example, the pro-oxidant enzyme lipoxygenase (LOX) is known to be inhibited by pumpkin seed extracts, but not due to the presence of any single family of antioxidant nutrients (for example, the phenolic acids described earlier). Instead, the unique diversity of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds is most likely responsible for this effect.
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Simple Greek Salad

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Simple_Greek_Salad_M-J_de_MRomaine lettuce, crumbled feta cheese, tiny tomatoes and vinaigrette combine to make a simple Greek salad. Other ingredients, if I had them in the house, would have been sliced cucumbers, chopped fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) and Kalamata olives.

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M-J’s Nutritious Luncheon Pancakes Made with Magical Mung Beans

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M-J’s High-Protein Mung Bean Pancakes, Filled with Strained Yoghurt (“Labneh”)

My husband Jacques likens this dish to blini with caviar and sour cream. To some, that’s quite an endorsement (I’ve resisted caviar all my life, with every fiber of my being).

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I call mung beans “magical” because they are full of life, often sprouting while being boiled.

M-J’s HIGH-PROTEIN MUNG BEAN PANCAKES

To my pot of cooked mung beans (one cup dry beans, three cups water) I add chia seeds (while beans are still hot, to make them soft), yogurt whey*, whole oat flour (I grind my own), ground flax, hemp protein powder, a couple of raw eggs, and a little self-rising flour. I keep the batter pretty thin, adding more liquid whey or water when required. Ingredients are pictured below, but I don’t use measurements. ~M-J

Read Dr. Axe’s information on the Mung Bean Nutritional Powerhouse.

Mung_Bean_Pancake_Ingredients

Save the Whey from Yogurt

I save liquid whey from the yogurt-straining process, and mix a little nonfat dry milk with it in a blender-bottle. I refrigerate the stuff to use in smoothies or pancake batter~M-J

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M-J’s High-Protein Pancakes: You Can See the Mung Beans in the Batter

Make yogurt whey* to use as liquid for pancake batter by straining your yogurt to make it thicker. Pour the liquid (whey) that has been removed from your yogurt into a jar for use in smoothies and pancake batter. Then use the resultant “Greek yogurt” to spread onto the pancakes. After spreading this on my mung bean pancakes, I roll them to create a delicious, health-promoting luncheon dish.

*See my jar of whey in the following picture:

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I use Karoun Plain Yogurt from California to make “Greek yogurt”, or labneh, and yogurt cheese. It is truly all-natural and makes all other American yogurt brands look weak. ©M-J de Mesterton 2018

Frozen High-Protein Pancakes
M-J’s Original Recipe High-Protein Pancakes are Cooked in Bulk, Cooled, Stacked and Separated with Pieces of Waxed Paper, then Frozen for Easy Meal Preparation

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M-J’s Original Recipe High-Protein Mung Bean Pancakes are Easy to Reheat, Fill and Roll

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Strained Yoghurt

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Straining your own yoghurt makes a delightful Mediterranean or Middle Eastern spread for bread or pita. Put a round coffee-filter into a bowl-sized strainer or sieve, empty a container of plain whole-milk or full-fat yoghurt into it, cover with another round coffee-filter, and place over a bowl that allows some space between the bottom of the strainer and the base of the bowl, so that when your yoghurt is draining, it will not soak itself. Keep the assembly covered with plastic or Saran-type wrap, because fruit-flies love this stuff. I initiate this process before going to bed at night; in the morning I have wonderful, thick spread for my preferred bread or pita, and this yogurt-cheese is also excellent with a fried egg. 
©M-J de Mesterton
See The Elegant Cook Bread Page for M-J’s Pita Recipe

Save the Whey in a Jar for Making Smoothies
M-J’s Yoghurt-Straining System: a White Plastic Bucket with Tight-Fitting Lid, a Sieve from an Oxo Salad-Spinner, Two Zip-Ties, and a Paper Towel

Straining_Yoghurt_Labneh_by_M-J_de_Mesterton
After You Have Strained Your Plain Yogurt, Save the Whey in a Jar for Adding to Health-Promoting Smoothies
Greek Yogurt, Yoghurt Cheese
Straining the Whey out of Yogurt for about 24 Hours Produces a Spreadable Yogurt-Cheese~~LEFT: Labneh or Strained Greek Yogurt RIGHT: Yogurt-Cheese
Pita_Strained_Yogurt_Labneh_Olive_Oil_and_Zaatar
Straining your own yoghurt (labneh) makes a delightful Mediterranean or Middle Eastern spread for bread or pita. Laden with labneh, sprinkled with zaatar Middle Eastern spice mixture and drizzled with olive oil, this pita bread is about to be reassembled for a magnificent taste-treat.

©Copyright M-J de Mesterton, August 25 2018

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High-Protein and Vitamin C: Low-Cost Tofu with Shishito Peppers

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Fifteen ounces (15 oz., just short of one pound) of tofu contain 350 calories, 40 grams of protein, and 10 grams of carbohydrates. Vitamin-C-rich mild peppers also contain Vitamin A and fiber.

Tasty Tofu with Mild Green Shishito Peppers

As a nutritious austerity dish, there are scads of ways to prepare tofu. Three ounces of firm tofu, with only seventy calories, contain eight grams of protein and two grams of carbohydrate. This morning, I sautéed in coconut oil some cubed tofu that I had marinated in soy sauce, cider vinegar and miso, then added some roasted Japanese shishito peppers. I then sprinkled the dish with black-and-white sesame seeds.

NUTRITION FACTS on Shishito Peppers, from Trader Joe’s:  Serving size about 7 peppers (45g) | Amount per serving: Calories 15
Total Fat 0g (0% DV), Saturated Fat 0g (0% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg (0% DV), Sodium 0mg (0% DV), Total Carbohydrate 3g (1% DV), Dietary Fiber 2g (8% DV), Total Sugars 2g, Protein 1g, Vitamin A (8% DV), Calcium 0mg (% DV), Iron (2% DV), Vitamin C (35% DV).
The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

NUTRITIONAL FACTS about TOFU, at World’s Healthiest Foods

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Sautéed Tofu with Shishito Peppers and Sesame Seeds