By Catharine Kaufman (a.k.a. The Kitchen Shrink)

Cheers to the power of small things! To autumn’s jewel-like cranberries that pack as much super-food punch in their ruby-red spheres as do blueberries and their other Lilliputian relatives that yield their bounty in spring and summer.

Screen shot 2014 11 10 at 12.34.43 PM 300x215 Cranberries—Mighty Little Healing Powerhouse Displays of the tart little berries among the fall produce on supermarket shelves always transport me back to my childhood in Canada, where our family would go cranberry picking in the Muskoka bog* every year. My initiation came when, expecting sweetness the first time I bit into one of the tempting crimson fruit, the mouth-puckering shock made me forget my manners and spat it out.

Since then, of course, I’ve become enamored of cranberries, which are among the few fruits native to North America and one of the signature foods enriching yet another indigenous fall product of the continent: Thanksgiving. Needless to say, I’m delighted that canning, freezing and other preserving technologies now allow us to enjoy this versatile berry year-round—which I take advantage of by preparing relishes, jellied desserts and condiments whenever the spirit inspires me. A big aficionado of dried cranberries, I knead them into the dough of my baked goods, sprinkle them liberally onto salads and use them to kick up the flavor of soups, stews and other dishes.

(*Thanks to their built-in air pockets, cranberries are bouncy on solid surfaces and float when grown and harvested in water—a method now preferred to cultivating them in bogs and marshes. Not only is harvesting water-grown cranberries easier, but the fruit also benefits from being exposed to more sunlight, which deepens its red color and increases its nutrient content.)

The Mighty Cranberry (a.k.a. Bog Berry) Health Protector

Long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Native Americans were familiar with the healing and nutritional qualities of cranberries—which they pulped into an antibacterial poultice for the treatment of arrow wounds and other injuries; or mashed and mixed with deer meat to make pemmican, a staple dish that helped tribes survive the long, cold winters.Screen shot 2014 11 10 at 12.33.53 PM 300x268 Cranberries—Mighty Little Healing Powerhouse

Low in calories but rich in fiber, the cranberry is nature’s protector of the cardiovascular and digestive systems and, thanks to its abundant Vitamin A content, of our eyesight. Its stress-lowering B- vitamins, immune system boosting Vitamin C and its Vitamin K content, which regulates blood viscosity and composition, also distinguish cranberries for their medicinal value. Added to the latter are their considerable store of fortifying minerals, such as manganese, phosphorus and copper; as well as powerful antioxidants—the most popular among them, proanthocyanidins, prevent and, in most cases. help cure urinary tract infections, due to their anti-adhesive properties that keep bacteria from glomming onto urinary tract linings. Most UTIs can be cleared up without antibiotics, by merely drinking a daily shot or two of unsweetened cranberry juice as early as possible from the onset of symptoms, until about 36 hours after they have subsided. Also abundant in cranberries’ arsenal of phytonutrients are anti-inflammatory components, which help protect the mouth and gums, warding off periodontal disease; protect the colon and stomach by preventing ulcers, and the cardiovascular system by lowering blood pressure and keeping “bad” cholesterol in check, while boosting the ratio of ‘good’ cholesterol. Equally important are the results of studies showing that cranberries are effective anti-cancer warriors in the fight against breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers.

Although, unlike pharmaceuticals, cranberries have no known side effects, they do come with a couple of warnings:

  1. People susceptible to kidney stones should limit their intake to small amounts on rare occasions, since the calcium in their body tends to bind with some elements found in the fruit and form the hard (calcified) clusters which cause that painful condition.
  2. Like most acidic fruits, cranberry can also pit tooth enamel—a problem easily avoided by rinsing the mouth as soon as possible after consuming it and by using a straw when drinking its juice.

How to Pick Winners

Screen shot 2014 11 10 at 12.31.49 PM Cranberries—Mighty Little Healing PowerhouseWhen shopping for cranberries, select firm and smooth (not shriveled), bright scarlet globules, without brown spots or other blemishes. Vacuum-packed cranberries can keep in their original package in the fridge for up to two weeks and in the freezer for one year. But if you buy loose cranberries by the pound, just pinch off any leftover stems and wash the fruit—first in a bowl of cold water with a few squirts of liquid Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap (preferably the ‘Eucalyptus’-infused kind), then rinse the berries thoroughly, also in cold water, until they are soap-free squeaky. Let them drip or pat dry, seal them in zip-lock freezer bags and freeze, so they’ll be ready to use when you are, at a later date or, if you prefer, to prepare them then and there, fresh, crushed raw or cooked.

Let’s Get Saucy

A traditional holiday table feels naked without cranberry relish, jelly or sauce accompanying the turkey, chicken or even vegan tofu turkey (Tofurky®). So why not expand your cranberry horizons year-round by adding this decorative eye candy, its zip and antioxidant oomph to several courses prepared for any meals? Go crazy. Include fresh or dried cranberries in biscottis, scones, corn breads, cobblers, granola, English Trifle, French Clafoutis, rice pudding and flan. Or use the tart and fruity bits to dial up the flavors of brisket, baked chicken, lamb roasts, stuffings, quinoa and bulgur wheat taboulis, pilafs, green salads, seafood bouillabaisse and grilled or sautéed wild-caught salmon and other fish.

A Cranberry Walks Into a Bar…

Screen shot 2014 11 10 at 12.35.34 PM 200x300 Cranberries—Mighty Little Healing PowerhouseThe cocktail crowd could whet their whistle with a Cranberry Vodka Punch, Cran-Martini, Cosmopolitan and Margarita. Meanwhile, eccentric oenophiles may risk their sensitive palates by tasting wines coaxed from this, as well as from a combination of other berries—which can also be served as chilled punch or, fizzed up with club soda for an ersatz bubbly.

Cranberry Pedigree

Native Americans called it ibimi, their word for bitter berry, until immigrant German and Dutch settlers renamed it cranberry because of its blossom’s resemblance to the crane bird’s neck and head. Obviously, the more appetizing moniker stuck.

Food historians believe that cranberries were served at the first Thanksgiving feast that brought natives and Pilgrims together in Plymouth. But it seems that the real American love affair with cranberry sauce began in earnest much later, in 1912, when the product was first marketed as a companion to meat and fowl dishes. Today the nation consumes more than 400 million pounds of variously sweetened version of the condiment each year—most of the 20 percent of which is gobbled up in jellied form during Thanksgiving week. In fact, cranberries are now a traditional fare, served at 94 percent of Thanksgiving dinner in the U.S. alone.

(I’ll spare you the Canadian statistics, although since 1957, my native country has been celebrating Thanksgiving on a different date from my adopted one—the second Monday of October—giving me a perfect excuse to prolong the fun and improvise new holiday dishes with which to spoil my family.)

Refreshing Raw Relish Recipe

Since cranberries are composed of nearly 90 percent water, I love to riff on the traditional sauce by preparing a raw, crunchy and refreshing relish that requires no cooking and, what’s more, it can be adapted to a second use by blending appropriate portions with mustard or mayonnaise and adding it as a condiment to leftover turkey sandwiches. Guaranteed to elevate them way above the accustomed (boring?) post-holiday treats.

Gobble, gobble…

1-pound fresh cranberries, washed, stems removed

2 oranges or mandarins, peeled and chopped

½ inch piece of fresh ginger, shredded

½ cup amber honey (adjust to taste)

1-teaspoon (or less) raw (dark brown) sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder

Zest of one lemon

In a food processor or blender, coarsely chop cranberries and oranges. Transfer to a glass bowl and blend in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate. It will keep well for 2 weeks.

Portions used as sandwich condiment should be used when prepared.

(For additional cranberry or other recipes, email us at, or to The Kitchen Shrink directly at .)





30 Aug, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Soup

Posted by: Dina Eliash Robinson In: Soups (Hot & Cold)

P1010189 300x225 Heirloom Tomato Soup
(Best when all organic ingredients are used)

NOTE: Since this soup keeps well for at least two weeks in the refrigerator (in fact, its flavor actually improves with time) and lends variety to menus by being equally delicious both hot and cold, the recipe provides for approximately 8 -10 generous portions.
This soup can also be frozen—preferably in a glass container that is oven- and microwave-proof—and defrosted slowly in the refrigerator. It is best reheated in a stainless steel pot on stovetop, rather than in the microwave (where some of the ingredients might tend to curdle).
While this is a sodium-free recipe, salt can be added and quantities of the herbs and spices adjusted to taste.


• 2- ½ lbs heirloom tomatoes of assorted colors, shapes and sizes (more tomatoes make for a denser soup);
• 1 small bunch of dark (‘dino’) kale (yielding 4-5 cups of leaves stripped off their spines);
• ¾ of a medium size red onion;
• 3 cloves of fresh garlic;
• 2 stalks of celery;
• ½ a small to medium fennel bulb with approximately ¼ cup of its thin stalks and dill ‘leaves’ (or ‘hair’) included;
• 1 cup vegetable broth;
• ½ cup fresh parsley (or 1+ tablespoon dry parsley);
• ½ cup fresh basil (or 1+ tablespoon dry basil);
• ½ teaspoon sweet red paprika;
• 1/3 teaspoon powdered Turmeric;
• a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste;
• ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger;
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce;
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil;
• ¼ cup apple cider vinegar;
• 1 tablespoon honey;
• 1 whole egg;
• ½ – ¾ cup plain goat yogurt;
• 8 – 10 cups of bottled spring water—to be added to as needed.


(It’s best to chop and prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook, using separate bowls or other containers for each ingredient. Add ingredients in the order indicated below.)

= Cover bottom of big soup pot with olive oil;
= Chop and add onion and sauté on low heat until onion turns glassy;
= Chop, add and sauté garlic for 6-8 seconds;
= Chop, add and sauté heirloom tomatoes (skin-on to maximize Lycopene content);
= Strip kale leaves off their hard spines, shred by hand about 2-3 cups, add to above, mix well;
= Chop and add fennel ½ bulb, strip dill and chop with the thin stalks and add to above;
= Chop and add parsley if fresh—if not, add 1+ tablespoon dry parsley to spice mixture below;
= Chop and add basil leaves if fresh—if not, add 1+ tablespoon dry basil to spice mixture below;
= Add cup of vegetable broth;
= Add Worcestershire sauce;
= Turn heat down, cover pot & simmer;
= In a saucer, mix the spices (i.e. ½ teaspoon sweet red paprika, 1/3 teaspoon powdered Turmeric, a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste, ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger), and dry parsley and basil if used instead of fresh—add and mix well into ingredients in the pot;
= Keep mixing and simmering for 1 minute;
= Add spring water—less for a thick soup, more if you prefer thinner broth;
= Cover and simmer until hard ingredients have disintegrated (add water to replace whatever has cooked off or evaporated);
= In a cup, mix well the ¼ cup apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon honey until latter is absorbed in the vinegar and add to pot, mixing it in thoroughly;
= When ingredients have become soft, turn off cooktop, keep pot covered with tight-fitting lid until soup stopped simmering and has begun to cool down;
= Whip up the (whole) egg with the ½ – ¾ cup plain goat yogurt and drizzle slowly into soup to avoid curdling;
= Leave pot uncovered.

Soup is ready to eat. Refrigerate what is left—it will keep fresh and increasingly flavorful for 12 – 14 days.

Correspondence with Deborah Szekely regarding this Heirloom Tomato article

 Deborah Székely is the renowned founder of two world-class spas, The Golden Door in S.D. and Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. This remarkable, Pilates- and Yoga-practicing nonagenarian continues to reinvent herself—this time as the publisher and contributing author of the Wellness Warrior (, a content-rich online Newsletter focused on Székely’s lifelong passion for living and creating environments for healthy lifestyles.


Subject: Organic heirloom tomato soup recipe

Dear Deborah,

We are enjoying your Wellness Warrior ( newsletter and wanted to reciprocate by sending you the enclosed recipe, posted on our site, which I hope you will find as delicious and healthy, as our family and friends did when we served it at our latest dinner party.

Bon appetit,

Dina Eliash Robinson

Editor in chief

===========   =======


Dear Dina,

Thank you for the delicious recipe.  I drooled reading it; it sounds great.  I have just returned from almost a month of travel.  Hence, the delay in responding.  The recipe is now in the hands of our cooking school chef.  I am sure she will be as impressed as I am.  I will ask her to make it up on a day that I am at the Ranch so I will be able to taste it.  My regret to my month of absense is that we missed the tomato season.  Have you tried it with canned or frozen tomatoes?  I have put the recipe in a file for Summer 2015.

All good wishes,

Deborah Székely

=============    =========


Dear Deborah,

Many thanks for your kind words about our heirloom tomato soup recipe.

In answer to your questions—and some you did not even ask:

(1) My research and interviews with two bio-chemists knowledgeable about the food and health connection, convinced me to never use canned tomatoes, mostly because of the interaction between the tomato’s acids and the leeching toxins from the metal cans.

(2) In fact, even acid-free canned foods need to be viewed with some suspicion (and eaten as rarely as possible), since the cans contain aluminum, which has been linked repeatedly over the last several years to Altzheimers and dementia by some brain researchers. As a firm believer in prevention (i.e. better safe than sorry), I have discarded all our aluminum pots, pans and cooking utensils years ago and replaced them with good quality stainless steel duplicates. What’s more, ever since I noticed a marked improvement in the flavors and after-taste-free quality of my cooked foods, I’ve been strongly recommending a general avoidance of cooking or eating in or with anything made of aluminum. As a bonus, I have found that stainless steel pots and pans hold up better (do not warp or discolor), are easier to clean and seem to be more pleasingly designed.

(3) Since San Diego is so close to Mexico and thus we have easy (“low carbon footprint” due to short distance transportation) access to various kinds of good quality, fresh, certified organic tomatoes year round at certain farmers’ markets, Jimbo’s supermarkets etc., I never had to freeze tomatoes.

(4) You did not ask this question, but since lots of other people bring it up, here is some useful information: It is important NOT to peel tomatoes because it is the skin that contains lots of its most nutritional component: Lycopene. It is sad to see so many fancy recipes in cookbooks requiring that tomatoes be peeled, and often even much of them wasted by discarding their (delicious, edible and nutritious) seeds.

Please feel free to include all or any of this information in your wonderful Newsletter—though we would appreciate your crediting for it.

I’ve been forwarding entire issues of, or the links to individual articles from your Newsletter to family, friends and acquaintances and hope that some of the positive responses will turn into subscriptions to Wellness Warrior.

Be well and prosper,




29 May, 2014

On The Road

Posted by: Dina Eliash Robinson In: Healthy Eating|Short Takes

Tasty, Portable Foods that Keep Travelers Alert and Energized  

By Dina Eliash Robinson

Short Takes1 150x150 On The Road
If you have ever wondered why we need rest and recovery after even the least active vacation, consider how mentally and emotionally disorienting  and physically disruptive it is to spend any time longer than a workday or weekend outing away from home and life’s routines.

Now multiply these by the stress levels endured by frequent travelers whose jobs demand that they hit the ground running at every stop and plunge  back into home-based work routines without a moment for R & R.

While most of us know the basic remedies to high-stress lives—such as establishing regular sleep-, eating and exercise schedules—few if any of us  follow them. At leas not consistently—especially when traveling across time zones or preparing for the next stop while in transit, which might not  always make such beneficial scheduling possible.

Good News: The following health-protective arsenal has been proven effective for even the most peripatetic globetrotters as boosters of stamina, mental alertness and physical wellbeing. We recommend:

  • Travel with portable, easy to snack-on and digest foods packed with toxin-free, high-octane nutrition. (***See recipe links below.)
  • Carry enough good quality water (in the appropriate size rubber-sheathed glass bottle depicted here) to last through the voyage or until youP1000669 150x150 On The Road      reach a source for buying more).
  • Set an example for those around you—even at the cost of making a fool of yourself—by using any available space on planes, trains, buses, etc. to stretch and exercise for 5-10 minutes, at least every half hour or longer. On road trips, stop the car at parks or other appropriate spots, whenever possible, get out and stretch, run in place and do other exercises that help blood circulation and prevent bloating.

Travel Food Recipes***: 

(Stick to organics to avoid toxic effects of GMO and pesticides when traveling. Pack slices of fresh or toasted bread, crackers, etc.)

k5144122 On The Road

•Fresh, raw vegetable salad with light vinaigrette dressing and crumpled goat Feta cheese in a separate container.

•Mixed Nuts (almonds, walnuts and other assorted nuts with dry currants—“trail mix”)

•Tabouli Quinoa Salad

•Ground Turkey (or Chicken) Breast Loaf,/a> (sliced cold for sandwich).

•Avocado—with mashed hardboiled egg, lemon and garlic powder; or your favorite guacamole.

•Salmon and Sardines Salad (i.e. Mock Tuna Salad).

•Sweet Potato and/or Yam Super-Snacks.

•Herbed and Spiced Oven-Baked Salmon

•Couscous For the Heart and Palate

•Egg Salad (crushed hardboiled eggs, chopped fresh or dry onion and garlic to taste, olive-oil-based mayonnaise, red paprika, dash of cayenne, chopped fresh or dry parsley and basil, lemon juice to taste.

•Super-Dark Chocolate Love Brownies.

•Mystery Chocolate Pudding.

•Vegan Apple and “Cheese” Strudel (low calorie dessert).

Happy Trails!


22 May, 2014

Apple Strudel With Benefits

Posted by: Dina Eliash Robinson In: Guilt-Free Desserts-Satisfying Snacks

“Ideal for the weight-conscious and lacto-uovo (dairy and egg consuming) vegetarian.”
This recipe was originally—and incorrectly—posted as “Vegan,” but thanks to an eagle-eyed and knowledgeable reader’s comments (see below recipe), we mended our ways and fixed the glitch.

[Created by Dina Eliash Robinson with all organic ingredients—and tested both warmed and cold, plain as well as a la mode with various flavors of frozen, dairy-free rice-milk (icecream substitutes), served to 14 people with widely different taste- and texture preferences. All assorted samples met with enthusiastic approval by everyone.]

P10006591 300x225 Apple Strudel With Benefits

The low calorie count and negligible sugar content of this nutritious, dairy-free dessert tends to surprise palates with its rich and delicious flavor and
satisfying texture.

It is highly recommend that only Pyrex glass or stainless steel baking dish be used to prevent spoiling the taste and healthy nature of the dish with undesirable chemical reaction from containers made with other metals or substances.

Having discovered that this strudel keeps its flavor and freshness for more than two weeks in the refrigerator, I’ve been baking ever-larger batches to
last us for more frequent (guilt-free) snacking, as well as to have a ready treat for both drop-in and invited guests.P1000667 150x150 Apple Strudel With Benefits

This recipe fills my 15” long by 9” wide Pyrex baking dish and yields from 12 to 20 servings—depending on their sizes. For smaller batch, cut quantities of the ingredients in half—although still using one whole egg.

Ingredients (preferably all organic):

2/3 of a 16 oz. box of frozen, organic, whole wheat 13” x 18” Filo dough pastry sheets (mine is a product of The Filo Factory)

1 whole egg

2/3 cup of egg whites

1 vacuum-sealed, (approx. 14 oz.) package of tofu in water

1 large banana

1/3 cup of rinsed currants or raisins

2/3 stick salt-free butter

5 large—or 6 medium-sized—apples

2 tablespoons honey

2/3 cup sweet chocolate or carob chips

½ teaspoon lemon zest

½   teaspoon liquid vanilla extract

½ cup applesauce

½ cup juice (blueberry, apple or grape—NO citrus or pineapple)

2/3-teaspoon (powdered) cinnamon

Dash of powdered ginger

Dash of Turmeric

1 cup crumbs from crushed cinnamon crackers

Baking Directions:

Coat the baking dish by rubbing 1/3 of a stick of butter all over the bottom and sides.

After following the directions on the Filo dough box, carefully cover the bottom of the baking dish with 3-4 Filo sheets.

Preheat oven at 400 degrees.

Drain the water off the tofu, cut it in half and in a blender, combine it with the banana, currants (or raisins), honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract, lemon zest, apple sauce, ginger, turmeric, whole egg and egg whites and blend until it is a smooth, easy to pour purée. (If you really want to party and don’t mind increasing the calorie count a bit, add 2 tablespoons of Cognac, rum or a sweet liquor.)

Add the chocolate or carob chips to the blended purée, mix well and refrigerate as is, in blender container while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Core and cut the apples into thin slices.

Layer half the apples on the Filo sheets in the baking dish.

Take the tofu blend out of the fridge and pour HALF of it onto the apples, covering them by smoothing it evenly throughout the dish—then return the blend to fridge.

Layer the rest of the apples onto the tofu blend as evenly as possible, then take the puréed blend from the fridge and pour the rest of it over the apples, smoothing and evening it out again.

Cover the whole dish with several layers of Filo dough—from 5 to 7 sheets, or as preferred.

Cut the rest of the butter stick into thin slices and spread it as evenly as possible over the Filo sheets.

Sprinkle the crushed cinnamon cracker crumbs all over the strudel, as evenly as possible.

Pour the ½ cup of juice carefully to moisten the crumbs and Filo topping.

Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes—but since ovens vary, keep checking to make sure the top of the strudel does not burn—as soon as it begins to brown, lower the heat to 380 degrees and bake until the top is crunchy, the apples are fully baked and the tofu purée is firm. (Cut into the thickest part of the strudel to check for consistency.)

Remove from oven; serve at room temperature; refrigerate only when it is completely cool. Serve with organic icecream substitute made from rice- or soy milk for a dairy-free, vegan dessert.  Dairy-consuming vegetarians could use regular icecream

Bon Apetit!

By Catharine L. Kaufman (a.k.a. The Kitchen Shrink)

& Dina Eliash Robinson

By any name—caviar, fish-eggs or roe—this once abundant but now increasingly rare superfood is valued mostly by connoisseurs for its rich, delicately briny flavor and by health-conscious consumers for its energy-boosting, brain-nourishing and heart-protective qualities.imgres 2 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budget


Roe Power resides in its treasure-trove of nutrients, which include:

• vitamins A, B-6, B-12 and D;

• minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium;

• cell-building protein;

• Omega-3 fatty acids—which promote cardiovascular health, as well as acting as an anti-depressant;

• arginine—a vascular dilator that helps increase blood circulation and is used as both a powerful aphrodisiac and effective hangover remedy;

• acetylcholine—a natural chemical with neurotransmitter characteristics that help to enhance and protect memory;

• low levels of various fats—some essential to health, others not so much; and

• a small percentage of carbohydrates and calories (i.e. an ounce of red caviar has only 55 calories, while even the richer black roe clocks in at a low 70 calories per ounce).

Caviar Caveat
— Cost, however, is just one of the downsides that discourages overindulging in caviar, while its relatively high cholesterol and salt images 6 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budgetcontents attach even stricter limits to how much and how often is safe to indulge—
especially for people with high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems. It is also worth remembering that arginine, an otherwise harmless substance found in caviar, has the lesser known tendency to coat the stomach lining and, thereby, increase the body’s tolerance to alcohol—which might explain why caviar is often served with high octane vodka.

Roe vs. Grade — Caviar is rated from Grade 1, the lightly salted, unfertilized sturgeon eggs—mostly harvested by Iranian and Russian fishermen who avidly chase that increasingly elusive fish in the Caspian Sea—to the more common varieties of Grades 2 and 3.

Among the top-rated caviars are those found in Osetra, Sevruga and Beluga sturgeons, with the latter considered to be the undisputable queen of
roe—mostly by virtue of its painstaking handling, delicate flavor, uniformly large pearl-sized grain (or globules), firmness to the bite, smooth texture and pure colors, from glossy jet black to pale gray. These are the qualities that justify the Beluga caviar’s jaw-dropping $7,000 to $10,000 price per kilogram (2.2. lbs.) or $200 to $300 or more per ounce.

Clusters of half-broken or soft fish-eggs are ranked Grade 2, while batches with mostly broken eggs, inferior flavor, consistency and color are sold asimages 11 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budget
Grade 3—although even the latter is delicious nourishment when mixed into spreads or dips with cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream, puréed avocado and even milk-thinned mashed potatoes.

From Bar Snack to Posh Tables — Hard to believe that just a few decades ago, when oceans were teeming with sturgeon an roe was plentiful, plates of salt-cured caviar were set out on bar counters as a free, thirst-inducing snack to encourage drinking. Roe was also liberally used as garnish on appetizer plates.

But as supplies dwindled and prices climbed, caviar disappeared from free saloon snacks and dinner condiments, to be eventually replaced by equally thirst inducing salted nuts and pretzels. In fact, serving portions keep shrinking even in upscale restaurants. Affluent consumers pay more when purchasing retail caviar for home consumption, while the less moneyed but addicted gourmets find themselves saving up longer and sacrificing more of their hard-earned savings for their rare caviar splurges, or are forced to give up their passion altogether.

Fortunately, those of us with less refined palates can still enjoy fairly decent caviar harvested from the somewhat more abundant fish species still populating the oceans.

images 4 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring BudgetAlthough some people gag at the mere mention of fish eggs and reject caviar (often along with oysters, mussels, sea urchins and squid) as “slimy,” aficionados appreciate its heady and complex flavors, nutritionists tout its health benefits and snobs go gaga for the social climbing calling card it represents as they try to fit in among the “one percent”.

Caviar Care and Serving Tips — Fragile fish-eggs should be handled gingerly to prevent breaking and stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator—preferably on the bottom shelf or in the meat drawer—at around 32 degrees Fahrenheit. When stored in its original sealed container, it can keep for about four weeks. Once opened, however, caviar should be consumed within two to three days.

Before tabling it, let the caviar sit in its glass, crystal or porcelain (not pottery) serving dish at room temperature for five to 10 minutes, then nestle
the dish in a bowl of shaved ice to keep it chilled and fresh while on display.

It is very important to use a non-metallic serving spoon—preferably one made from bone, horn or mother-of-pearl—since metal creates a images Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budget
chemical reaction with the roe and lends it a most unpleasant flavor. While using a small plastic spoon might also be safe, it is considered to be unworthy of this luxury product and bad form in restaurants or at catered affairs.

Rewards of the Adventurous Palate — Recovering caviar snobs are often surprised to discover less expensive but still delicious alternatives to Caspian sturgeon roe—varieties that not only provide similar briny saltiness, interesting colors and piquant flavors to their treats, but at affordable prices that don’t require taking out a bank loan.            Among them are the American caviar from sturgeon indigenous to the Missouri and Mississippi river systems—a small roe, dark brown to nearly black like Beluga with a nutty flavor reminiscent of Caspian Osetra—as well as paddlefish caviar distinguished by its translucent grey colored beads and buttery melt-in-your-mouth quality; trout caviar with large golden colored pearls and a images 7 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budgetsubtle essence; and the tiny, golden orange pellets of flying fish roe, used as colorful accents on sushi in some Japanese restaurants.

For more exotic fare, try sea urchin roe, lumpfish caviar from Nordic seas—preferred by many for its crunchy, delicate sized beads and strong briny bite—and the pea-sized crimson-orange pearls of salmon caviar, each of which pops open in the mouth with an intense flavor. The latter is considered kosher by observant Jews, since it’s the product of a fish with scales—as opposed to the scale-less sturgeon’s roe, which is taboo under Biblical dietary laws.

Last but not least, while caviar is on the approved menu of fish-eating vegetarians, vegans haveimages 9 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budget devised an imaginative ‘cheat’ by substituting a mostly kelp-derived seaweed caviar.

Live Large on Small BudgetServing caviar as an appetizer or garnish is one way of pampering your taste buds on the cheap. Here are some ideas…

• Spread goat cheese or avocado on crackers, toast points or thinly sliced baguette rounds and top them with dollops of caviar. Garnish with lemon wedges  and raw onion rings.

• Add color and saltiness by sprinkling caviar on devilled eggs.

• Scoop some room in half a baked potato and fill it with a mix of sour cream and caviar.

• Spoon some roe on grilled diver scallops and serve with a tablespoon of mashed potatoes mixed with spinach.

• Whip up a seafood pizza with toppings of wild caught shrimp, calamari rings and a circle of caviar in the center.

•Top a bowl of chilled Vichyssoise soup with red or black roe.

Nothing Like A Blini —  Patrons of Manhattan’s splendiferous Russian Tea Room (RTR to habitués) have been feasting on caviar since its images 3 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budgetfounding in 1927 by (so the legend goes) the Russian Imperial Ballet Company. In keeping with the atmosphere, caviar is served with an entourage of condiments once reserved for Czars. Starting at the deluxe end of the menu, tiny buckwheat pancakes called blini(s) are slathered with sweet (or if preferred, sour) cream, then piled with generous gobs of Sevruga, Ostera or Beluga caviar—the tab: $250 or more an ounce. This centerpiece is then surrounded with finely chopped onions, hardboiled eggs, smoked salmon, dill springs and finely chopped parsley.

Lower on the price list is the RTR’s Caviar Tasting buffet, which, at the time of this writing, also features the more affordable trout, salmon and white fish roe, as well as red caviar omelets. Accompanying libations include Vodka of assorted flavors and voltage and, of course, champagne.imgres 1 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budget

To prepare your own home banquet, start by making blinis from scratch—remembering to enjoy the process, which gives you 45 minutes for
preparation and 25 minutes cooking time to salivate as you look forward to the completed feast.

Blini Ingredients (organic preferred when possible):

• 1 packet ‘quick’-type active dry yeast

• ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons warm (105 to 115 degrees F.) water

• 1-tablespoon honey

• ¾ cup buckwheat flour

• ¼ cup all-purpose white flour—preferably unbleached

• ¼ cup instant non-fat dry milk powder

• 2 tablespoons commercial sour cream or plain yogurt

• 1 and ½ tablespoons butter—melted and cooled

• 2 large eggs—separated

• Pinch of salt

• Butter—just enough pads to spread over griddle or cast iron or stainless steel skillet for non-stick, low heat cooking of blinisimages 1 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budget


In a medium-sized bowl, combine the yeast, water and honey. Let the mixture rest for about 5 minutes or until it is foamy. Stir in the flours, milk powder sour cream or yogurt, melted butter and egg yolks. Cover the bowl with a wet and wrung out kitchen towel and let the batter rest for 30 minutes. It will not rise very much but will form bubbles on the surface.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt just until they form stiff peaks—but do not overbeat them, or they may be difficult to fold. Gently, but thoroughly, fold the beaten whites into the batter.

Preheat a griddle or large skillet over medium- or low-heat and grease lightly with the butter. Spoon 1 and ½ to 2-tablespoon measures of the batter onto the preheated griddle or skillet. When bubbles have formed on the surface of these mini-pancakes and the bottoms are browned, turn them once and cook just until lightly browned on the other side.

Yield: About 30 blinis of two to two-and-a-half inch sizes.

Serve as a Platform for the Caviar, with such optional additions to taste as…

• Sour cream or plain, low-fat yogurt

• Thinly sliced red or sweet onion

• Chopped hardboiled eggs

• Fresh dill sprigs

• Small, attractively arranged slices of smoked salmon

• Lemon wedges


Elegant Caviar Appetizer — Easy to prepare, this tantalizing prelude to lunch or dinner sparks appetites and elicits compliments whether itimages 5 Caviar Dreams — Still Possible on Shoestring Budget graces a holiday table for many or an intimate meal for two.

Caviar Bruschetta–Ingredients:

• 1 French baguette (sliced into ½-inch rounds—as many as the portions you intend to serve)

• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 4 ounces spreadable goat cheese

• 1 small red onion—diced

• 1 teaspoon fresh Italian parsley—finely chopped

• ½ teaspoon each of rosemary and thyme

• 4 hardboiled eggs—chopped

• 2 ounces of caviar (salmon, lumpfish or other roe of your

choice) per 4-6 servings


Brush the baguette slices (also known as crostini) with oil and toast in the oven, a pan or on the grill until golden.

Blend goat cheese with herbs and spread on the crostini. Top with a sprinkling of red onions, eggs and a dollop of caviar.



Catharine’s Book

Jolene loves junk food. She loves it so much she wears red licorice in her hair—and pink taffy underwear! The Munch Bunch calls her "The Junk Food Queen." Then, one night in her dreams, she meets a bunch of cool characters who take her on an incredible, edible journey into a world of juicy fruits, super salads and yummy smoothies.
Book acclaimed by The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation - which uses it in its fundraising drives.

Organics Controversy

FreeRangeClub Editor Corrects “Is It Organic?” Author’s Perception of Flaws in Organic Food Industry

Our Catharine “The Kitchen Shrink” Kaufman recently received the following comment from Mischa Popoff in Osoyoos BC Canada , under the heading of “The inside story of the organic industry.”

Mr. Popoff’s e-mail was forwarded to me for reply—mostly because researching all things pertaining to organic foods, from production to consumption, has been my task since FRC first hit the Web. Far from claiming expertise—the topic is too vast and changeable—I merely admit to passionate interest in factual information that leads to safe foods and healthy nutrition.

We decided to share this exchange to answer some questions and perhaps come up with new ones. Hope you won’t hesitate to chime—opinions, conclusions, different information are all welcome. Post your comments, corrections, critiques, messages and contributions to this discussion directly on this site or e-mail them to me at FreeRangeClub.

E-mail from Mr. Mischa Popoff to The Kitchen Shrink:

Dear Catharine,

To listen to some media outlets you’d think the multi-billion-dollar organic industry was infallible. I’m trusting you’ll be a bit more objective.

As you may already know, I worked for five years in the United States and Canada as an organic inspector. I believe fervently in the principles of organic farming but maintain that we have to prove those principles instead of operating on the politicized, bureaucratic honor system that’s been the organic industry’s mainstay for the last decade.

See remainder of Mr. Popoff's Email & Dina's Reply

Our International Friends

Bridging Two Continents
The Movable Festa Of Aroma Cucina

by Dina Eliash Robinson

Ciao Dina, Thanks so much for your interest in Aroma Cucina!. My wife, Jude, and I are honored to be part of the Jeff

My discovery of the bi-continental Aroma Cucina while surfing the Internet for food sites and recipe ideas, turned out to be a case of mistaken identity—specifically, my mistake in thinking it was a restaurant. Not.



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Video Section

Mother’s Day Cooking Class By the Kitchen Shrink

Seeds at San Diego City College Wins Awards For It’s Urban Agriculture

Healthy Cookin with the Kitchen Shrink – Veggie Fried Rice


Catharine Kaufman, the Kitchen Shrink, appears in a series of five videos. In the first video she is seen interviewing Dr. Lisa Loegering, MD, a pediatrician, concerning children's eating habits. The other four videos take place in Catharine's kitchen, as she instructs her two daughters, and two of their friends, in the preparation of various dishes.

Children’s Eating Habits-Interview w/Pediatrician

Catharine and her Pizza Chefs

Making Baked Stuffed Apple

Fruit Sparklers and Feast

Make Your Own Salad

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

English chef Jamie Oliver has come to the U.S. to start a revolution, to help save America's children from obesity and other food-related Illnesses. His successful efforts in the U.K. has resulted in improved school lunches in many communities there, as well as a total overhaul of the school dinner (lunch in the US) programs in that country. Following is a video of Jamie Oliver speaking before an audience at a TED conference.

A Video of Zoie (11) teaching us to make healthy sushi!

        Zoie (11 years old) is teaching us to make healthy sushi, with organic brown rice and organic avocado. Please click on healthy sushi to view the video.

Tender Greens Restaurant