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Friday, April 24, 2009

Cooking, Growing and Health Benefits of Cilantro . Post Includes some great Food prep Ideas from Chef Mayra




Health Benefits of Cilantro
Cilantro is known to be rich in phytonutrients, flavonoids and active phenolic acid compounds, all of which are good for you. There are no definitive studies on cilantro but many believe that it and the seeds (often called coriander), have been found to help control blood sugar, lower cholesterol and fight inflammation and free radicals. There is further speculations that cilantro may also have antimicrobial properties.

There is also considerable literature speculating that cilantro may be an effective chellation therapy for people who have excess mercury in their systems. Some think that mercury poisoning could be the result of metallic teeth fillings. Every time a person with fillings chews, the fillings release minute amounts of mercury gas that may be breathed into the system (swallowing mercury is actually far less toxic than breathing it). Of course, this is all speculative and disputed. Nevertheless, many people who have suffered from mercury poisoning and the "brain cloud" it causes have reported fairly rapid relief by the consistent consumption of cilantro over a period of just a few weeks.

Cilantro is also reported to deal effectively with other metals in the system. Consumption of about two teaspoons of cilantro pesto daily for three or four weeks may have beneficial effects.

Cooking with Cilantro
Cilantro is found in many dishes, but it is most common in Asian and Mexican preparations. When purchasing cilantro, most people get the leafy herb fresh from the vegetable section of the grocery store. Be careful when purchasing as cilantro will wilt and spoil quickly. Get it as fresh as possible, you can store it in an air filled bag in the crisper of your refrigerator. If you have some left over after a recipe, you might consider dehydrating the leaves for use in soups and baked dishes.

The seeds are also called for in many recipes. The seeds can be found dried in the spice section under the name "coriander". The flavor of the leaves as opposed to the seeds is vastly different. The popular herb has an unusual flavor that leaves a pleasant if unusual aftertaste in the upper palate. While the seeds have a more lemony flavor and a somewhat different texture.

In cookbooks, you will often find cilantro referred to as Chinese Parsley, especially if the recipe happens to be in an Asian style.(It is also labeled this way in some grocery stores.) You may also see it referred to as Mexican Parsley. In Asian cooking, it may be found in salads, dressings, soups, and as a strong addition to Thai dishes. The coriander seeds are not often used in Chinese dishes, but are a frequent ingredient in Indian and Thai dishes.




Chef Mayra' Cream of Cilantro Soup

If your guests do not mind a vaguely green soup, you may find cream of cilantro soup the hit of your dinner party.

Ingredients: Organic if Possible
1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro (stems removed)
3 cups veggie broth
4 tablespoons vegan butter
4 tablespoons unbleached flour
1 eight ounce container of vegan sour cream
4 cloves garlic (minced)
dash sea salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin

Directions:
Place cilantro leaves in blender, pour in the veggie broth. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

In wide sauce pan over medium heat, melt vegan butter. Add flour and mix thoroughly until all the flour is coated in vegan butter. Add the blended mixture and stir constantly until soup thickens. Add in garlic and spices. About 2 minutes before serving add sour cream and heat until soup is sufficiently hot to be served. If you overcook the vegan sour cream, letting it heat and cool, it can curdle. Serve in bowls. May garnish with a cilantro leaf or two.



Chef Mayra's Cilantro Chutney
This is one of those authentic recipes that you must try if you are cilantro lover.

Ingredients:
2 cups is cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup of mint leaves
1 hot pepper
2 large tomatoes
1 onion - chopped

Directions:
"put everything in the food possessor and puree it. Salt to taste. Eat with bread or rice."

This also will go well a dollop at a time on crackers.




Simple Cilantro Salsa ( Pico de Gallo)
Chef Mayra's Cilantro Salsa is a great way to spice up a party. Perfect for chip dipping, an addition to tostadas, buritos, Spanish rice or bean dip.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 Roma tomatoes
1 white onion, diced tiny-like
1 diced jalepeno pepper
juice of one lemon
juice of one lime
salt to taste

Directions:
Make sure everything is thoroughly diced or chopped. Put in a bowl or a quart jar. Refrigerate over night to allow a good blending of flavors.

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How to Grow Cilantro
Cilantro or coriander will grow in a great variety of locations and conditions. However, it does best in sunny locations on rich, well-composted patches that are well drained. An excess of nitrogen will delay the ripening of the coriander seed, but is actually better for those who grow the plant strictly for the cilantro leaves. Nevertheless, try to harvest the leaves earlier rather than later as older leaves tend to have a stronger flavor.

For best results it is best to have relatively even temperatures over a 90 to 100 day period. Heavy rain or wind will take a toll on both the cilantro leaves and the coriander seeds. Plant the seed as soon as the soil is warm enough for germination and there is no danger of frost killing the young plant. Seeds should be planted thinly at a depth of about one inch. The rows should be at least 15 inches apart to avoid crowding.

Weed fairly frequently. Cilantro grows one to three feet high, but it can be overpowered by unwanted plants. Broadcasting seeds to form a cover crop is not recommended for the same reason. Native weeds will tend to dominate. If possible, plant in early May in temperate regions. Some leaves may be harvested in just a few weeks, but the plant will not bloom until July and the coriander seeds will not mature until early August.

The coriander seeds may be harvested when they turn light brown. The small fruit will be about 1/8 inch in diameter. To preserve them, they should be dried and split in half. This is an annual plant, but leaving the seeds go, the gardener may expect a considerable number of volunteers the next year.



Chef Mayra Organic Mixed Green Salad With Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette



Prep: 15 min. Add extra jicama to coleslaw for a crunchier texture, or serve it with other fresh vegetables for dipping in your favorite dressing.


Makes 4 servings
Ingredients

* 1 (5-oz.) mixed salad greens, thoroughly washed ( veggie wash)
* 2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
* 1 avocado, sliced
* 1/4 cup peeled, cubed jicama (about 1/2-inch cubes)
* 6 tablespoons Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette (below)

Preparation

1. Toss together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Serve immediately with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette.


Chef Mayra's Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette


Prep: 10 min. Use extra vinaigrette on salads or as a marinade.

This recipe goes with My Mixed Green Salad With Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette


Makes 3/4 cup (serving size: 1 1/2 tbsp.)
Ingredients Organic if Possible

* 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
* 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
* 2 tablespoons lime juice
* 1 tablespoon agave nectar (dark)
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup olive oil

Preparation

1. Whisk together first 6 ingredients; add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk well before serving.


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