15 May 2013
in children, food, humor, recipes, stories
Tags: baking, carbohydrates, desserts, eggs, Stevia, sugar
Isla inspects our ingredients
I always thought that if a kid can read, he can cook. However, as I get more and more into cooking, I’m learning it ain’t necessarily so. The watchful eye of a parent, or anybody at all who knows what they’re doing, is a wonderful thing.
Now that he’s seven, my pal Will is reading gang-busters. So shouldn’t he be able to cook? Witness this one-act play staged in my kitchen.
The literate mini-chef
A boy with a red apron around his neck, like superman’s cape on backwards, surveys the counter. Amid open drawers, he checks his stash against the instructions in his book. Tins and bags, bowls and spoons. a grinder and hand mixer, eggs, flour, berries, garlic, a Styrofoam package of soggy chicken wings and some cocoa… all this calms him. He checks the book again.
Boy: Hey, Vinny, I’m making a chocolate angel cake for Isla’s birthday!
Vinny: Wow! That takes a bit of effort. Know what you’re doing?
Boy: Sure, Man. How hard can it be? The recipe’s only two pages long. It’s in this book, here. And look at the picture… cool, huh?
He shows off a glossy page, spattered with hardened chocolate and egg yolk. He returns the book to its holder and stirs the contents of the bowl with his hands. Batter coats his knuckles, right up to his wrists.
Boy: Want to taste? Here. Taste, Taste!
Vinny: Maybe I’ll wait till the party. Sure you know what you’re doing?
Boy: Sure, Vinny. I can read, you know. And I’ve checked carefully. Besides, I come from a long line of great cooks. Grannie was famous for her Scottish shortbread, and Grampa made the best haggis in the township. Mom and Dad are no slouches in the batter department, either.
Vinny: Great. That’s great, Pal. So… what’s in this thing? Looks a little too lumpy for a cake batter… don’t you think so, chef?
Boy: Just good healthy food here, Vinny. It says 16 egg whites but I only had 8 eggs… so I tossed in the whole works to make up for it. It’s not so easy to break ‘em open. I smashed them on the counter and scooped them into the bowl. It was hard keeping the shells out. Got most of them, though.
Unlike our boy, I used 14 egg whites to make up the 17 ounces needed
Vinny: Ahh. I see…
Boy: It didn’t really say, but I used chocolate milk instead of water. And whole-grain flour instead of that yucky white processed stuff…
Vinny: Hold on, there. You don’t need that second cup of milk you’re pouring.
Boy: This one’s for the chef. Down the hatch!
Vinny: Yes… I see. Must keep the chef well-oiled. But you still haven’t told me… What are those LUMPS?
Boy: Aha! The secret ingredient! What would an angel cake be without wings? [Pointing at the chicken wings on the counter...] I tossed in two of ‘em, along with a clove of garlic and…
Vinny: WHAT are you thinking? Your cake is completely crazy!
Boy: No, look – right here… Oh! No! On the first page is the recipe for angel cake. But the pages are stuck together! I’ve finished up with a recipe for chicken stew!
What can we learn from this little drama? Reading, as you can see, is only half the battle. You also need some cooking sense. When you’re starting out, advice can be helpful. Nothing beats experience.
Our angel cake is pure heaven when made with a little skill. It’s not hard to crack an egg and separate the whites from the yolks. To learn how, check those links.
An ungreased tube pan is best
Heavenly chocolate angel cake
8 servings (249 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 53 grams carbs and 8 grams protein per serving)
- 1 ounce (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 3/4 cups sugar (12.25 ounces)
- 1 cup (3.5 ounces) sifted whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 16 large egg whites (2 cups or 17 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a medium bowl combine cocoa and boiling water. Whisk until smooth. Add vanilla.
- In another medium bowl combine 3/4 cup sugar, flour and salt and whisk to blend.
- In a large bowl beat the egg white until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 cup of sugar or add the stevia equivalent.* Beat until stiff peaks form.
- Put 1 cup of egg whites in the cocoa mixture.
- Dust the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, over the remaining egg whites and fold in quickly and gently with a slotted spoon.
- Whisk the cocoa and egg white together, then fold into the batter until uniform.
- Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.
- Run a small metal spatula through the batter to prevent air pockets.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean. The centre rises above the pan when baking and sinks slightly when done. The surface has deep cracks.
- Invert the pan, placing the tube opening over the neck of a soda bottle to keep it well above the counter top, and cool for about 1 1/2 hours.
- Loosen the cake with a long metal spatula and invert on a serving plate. Decorate.
Use a slotted spoon
*Tips: This cake is high in protein and antioxidants and low in fat, but high in sugar. Substitute some of the sugar with stevia if you want to reduce empty calories. If you replace too much of the sugar with stevia, the texture will not be as light, though. Use the left-over yolks to make custard or lemon curd.
This recipe is based on one in The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum and Dean G. Bornstein, p. 162.
The cake should be inverted but the hole was too small.
Heavenly! And not a wing in sight…
07 May 2013
in books, family, food, holidays, recipes
Tags: broth, carrots, Mothers Day, nutrition, presentation, shitakes, soup, stock
Thanks, Mom! And just in time for Mother’s Day
A few weeks ago Vinny was all excited about turning leftovers usually meant for the garbage into a nutritious soup stock (see Garbage soup). Once you get into the habit, it’s a magical way to feed yourself, body and soul.
Yesterday, though, I read a post from Things my Belly Likes where we’re told how to turn your Cinderella soup stock into a princess. A few of these tricks were new to me. As they all sound so reasonable and delicious, I pass them on here.
- Add cloves – Toss a few of these into the soup pot along with some black peppercorns and the result is a spicy, flavorful broth with extra kick. Cloves are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and great for the immune system. If you think you’re getting the latest cold/flu bug, then cloves are a must.
- Sprinkle in seaweed – Your thyroid will thank you for that iodine kick you get by adding edible seaweed to the broth. A few strips of dried dulse or kelp to the bones at the start, before it comes to a boil, is all you need. You might not be able to taste it but your thyroid knows it’s there, and it thanks you.
- Vinegar is vital – Vinegar helps leach out all the healthy minerals from the bones. Use about two tablespoons per gallon of broth. Any good vinegar will do so – apple cider, balsamic or even red wine vinegar. Stay away from plain white vinegar, though, because it apparently results in a bitter broth. Lemon and wine, both also acidic, could likely do the job, too.
- Go heavy on the garlic and onions – These veggies are especially important to ward off the cold/flu, because garlic and onion are legendary immune system boosters. Use at least two large white onions and a whole bulb of garlic. Just score the sides of the bulb, smash it a bit and chuck it in.
- Roast the bones – Before making your stock, roast the bones and veggies too in a hot oven for 30 minutes. It heightens the brown color.
There you have it. Wave your wand, throw these tidbits into the cauldron, and simmer up some good health.
As a tasty snack, eat your stock cold out of the fridge while it’s like a jelly. Or use it to make a powerful soup by adding fresh veggies, legumes and other tasties.
Clementine gives up her secrets
But there’s one very special soup I want to share with you here. Remember Clementine in the Kitchen from last week’s post? It was Sharon’s dad’s favorite cookbook ever. She rediscovered it only recently. And hidden among its pages lurked a recipe her mom had clipped from a magazine… a rich soup stock dressed up with shitake mushrooms and chopped spinach. How healthy is that!
But what made this soup Adela’s own was the carrot flowers. Nothing pleased Sharon’s mom more than a pretty presentation. And if the exotic mushrooms didn’t do it, these cutsie flower coins would take this soup out of the ordinary. The crowning touch was a drop of good sherry added at the table. Adela’s dinner parties were always something people looked forward to.
I made Adela’s soup today to see how it holds up, so many years later. I had to update it here and there. The main difference is that I replaced dry shitakes with fresh ones. The fresh ones wouldn’t have been readily available in the 1950s and 60s. But I’m happy to report: it was DELIcious!
Shitakes and flower carrots make this soup special
Vinny makes Adela’s party soup
Shitake mushroom and spinach broth
serves 2 for lunch
- 1 cup rich, homemade beef broth of the type described above [I used the left-overs from yesterday's Hochepot]
- 1 cup water
- 2 ounces (50 grams) shitake mushrooms, brushed clean and finely sliced
- 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped and packed down
- 1 large carrot, scrubbed and left unpeeled
- Dry sherry [or lemon juice for folks who can't drink alcohol]
For carrot flowers - Use the sharp tip of a clean bottle opener to make five grooves lengthwise down the side of the carrot. Then slice the carrot into thin coins to get pretty flower shapes.
In a large saucepan add carrot flowers to the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. When carrots are tender, about 10 minutes, add the mushrooms and spinach. Cover and cook another 2 minutes. Divide into 2 bowls for lunch or 4 bowls for a dinner appetizer. Add 1 tablespoon dry sherry to each bowl at the table. [I used Madeira, as there was no sherry to be had.]
I was happy with the result. Sharon tasted it and beamed: Thanks, Mom!
Happy Mother’s Day!
01 May 2013
in books, family, food, recipes
Tags: French, meat, oxtail, slow cooking, stew, traditions
Most times we settled for a turkey
I owe my existence to a mining engineer. Without Bill’s passion for food, as well as rare minerals, I wouldn’t be blogging today. It was Bill who took his daughter Sharon, my alter-ego, under his formidable wing and taught her to cook.
Sundays would see Bill in his tiny, lemon-hued 1950s kitchen pouring over one of his many fish-splattered and chocolate-speckled cook books. Sharon was there, too, in her pleated skirt with her blouse hanging out, helping him find the canned pineapple bits, the dented metal flour canister, or the bulbs of golden garlic.
They whipped up savory delicacies like Hawaiian chicken with water chestnuts on a bed of wild rice. Or a hearty, tender slab of beef in a robe of mushrooms, herbs and walnuts, all entombed in flaky pastry.
Clementine in the Kitchen
But their favorite by a long shot was a recipe hidden in a slender, cloth-bound dark turquoise book called Clémentine in the Kitchen. Penned in 1943 by Phineas Beck, the book chronicles the cooking lives of an American family in France in the 1930s, under the loving guidance of their chef Clémentine. When war broke out in Europe in 1939, they upped and returned home, but not without taking Clémentine with them. The chapters read like blog posts… short, homey, and peppered with recipes and drawings. Maybe you can find a copy in the library or on Abe Books? Fun to read and an open window on a dangerous time!
The best of these recipes was Clementine’s Hochepot de Queue de Boeuf. For those of you who don’t speak French, this brings me back to the title of my post. If you’re not so hungry you could eat an ox, I bet you could handle a taste of its tail. Believe me, once you’ve had a few bites, you won’t stop until every last morsel has gone down the red brae (Bill’s expression… throat).
It’s a tail, of course… from a beef cow
Ideally, Bill and Sharon would cook up this ox tail stew over several days. In the 1950s the concept of fast food had yet to arrive! They’d start by soaking the tail joints overnight and would continue in the morning with a slow roast over low heat. The stock was strained, then chilled in the fridge over night. The following day the meat would be dressed, baked again, and served with a flourish.
It was such a treat, that Sharon tried preparing this dish on her own for a party of her friends years later, at university. In a rush, as are most students, she didn’t leave it enough time. Sadly the larger pieces didn’t thank her for it.
If you too would like to try your hand at it, and hopefully arrive at a better result than Sharon did her first time out solo, here’s Clémentine’s recipe. It features simple, fresh ingredients, lovingly prepared.
See the flames? Awesome!
Clémentine’s Hochepot de Queue de Boeuf
[AKA Ox Tail Stew]
Soak an oxtail cut in joints in cool water for at least 2 hours, wipe dry with a clean cloth, and brown in butter with 4 onions and 3 carrots, coarsely chopped. [I’ve been known to dredge them, before browning, in flour seasoned with lots of paprika (¼ cup flour, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon paprika). Clémentine would shudder at the thought. Give it enough time and flour isn't necessary.]
When the meat is browned add 2 cloves crushed garlic. Cover for 2 min. Add 3 tablespoons of brandy. Light it and let it burn. Add half a bottle dry white wine and enough bouillon so that the meat bathes in liquid. Add pepper and a bouquet garni. Cook slowly, lid off, 3 hours. [I make this dish the day before up to this point. I put the meat into a bowl and store it separately from the stock in the fridge overnight.]
The next day, remove the fat from the stock, then reheat and strain the liquid.
In a casserole, saute in butter a half pound tiny mushrooms, a good handful of diced bacon and a dozen tiny onions, peeled.
Add the meat and the strained and defatted stock to the casserole, just enough to cover. Save the rest for a soup dish another day. Cover and cook for one hour more in a slow oven. The meat should be soft and the sauce unctuous.
Note below that Gourmet Magazine was going strong in 1943. Bon Appétit!
From Clémentine in the Kitchen, by Phineas Beck
Hastings House, Publishers, New York, 1943
Published in cooperation with Gourmet Magazine
Above: Our hochepot after the first day. Below: Dinner on day 2.
Dinner was even more delicious than Sharon remembered. Cooking the dish over 2 days made it effortless. You won’t be sorry you tried it!
23 Apr 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: avocado, fats, nutrition, omega 3 fatty acids, pear, protein, sugar, walnut
The Avocado and the Pear
Short and squat, Miss Comice Pear rolled into his office. “I want you to defend me,” she exclaimed, blushing a rosy red.
The lawyer, whose desk plaque proclaimed him to be the Honorable V. H. Avocado, LL.M., sat back and picked up his pen. “What is the charge?” he asked.
“They say I’m harboring a load of sugar. They accuse me of doing great harm. But it’s not true!” Comice was distraught.
“Calm down,” replied Mr. Avocado. He adjusted his dark green jacket over his rather-rounded middle. “Perhaps if you began from the beginning?”
“Dr. Aitkin was the first to accuse me. He got Dr. Dukan to testify, too. They say I hold too much sugar for a weight-loss diet.” Comice sighed. “Yes, I have some sugar. But it’s mine… naturally! And it adds just a few calories to those that come from my healthy fats, fiber and protein.” She smiled. “I do people lots of good.”
“Sounds to me like it’s a case of the good out-shining the bad.” Mr. Avocado nodded. “I’ll take your case. I think we’ll make a good pair!”
The Pretty Comice
Many juicy fruits make excellent choices in a balanced, healthy-eating program. These valuable additions to lean meat and dairy, good fats, and low-starch veggies give your meals variety.
Pears are particularly useful for their whole raft of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients work as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Pears digest easily and most people are not allergic to them. Their fiber fights cancer (especially of the digestive tract), diabetes, and heart disease. Dr. Moreno (who gave us the 17-day diet) allows two watery fruits a day on his healthy-eating program.
And what makes V.H. Avocado so honorable, you might ask? Isn’t he a little, well, too fatty to be good for our health? How wrong you are. The fats in avocado are of the good variety. Its main kind (oleic acid) protects heart health. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. These most desirable inflammation fighters are hard to come by, but they are plentiful in avocados and walnuts. Be sure to include these foods in your balanced diet.
The fats in avocado also feed our brains = an excellent food for kids
And surprise! Avocados are a source of complete protein. You get all 18 amino acids in avocado, a fact vegetarians pay attention to. That’s because most plants only contain some of the essential amino acids muscles need. So vegetarians usually have to mix and match to make sure they get all of them.
Here is a totally delicious recipe that pairs an avocado pear with comice pears. You’re welcome! You’re also welcome to makes substitutions. The recipe contains the healthiest combination of foods I know. But if you don’t have one of the ingredients, make it with another. As long as it’s similar, you can’t go far wrong. If you prefer, add 1 teaspoon maple syrup instead of the stevia I recommend. It adds 10 calories per serving and 2 more grams of sugar.
Leave the skin on the pear and scrape up and eat all the dark green flesh next to the skin of the avocado. That’s where more than 50% of the nutrients hang out.
Avocado stuffed with creamy pears and walnuts
Great for breakfast, lunch, or mid afternoon snack (serves two)
- 1 ripe avocado, halved
- 8 ounces low-fat cottage cheese
- 2 comice pears with skin, cored and chopped
- 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
- 1 small shake of stevia (equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar), optional
- Cut the avocado in two, lengthwise, and throw away the seed. Leave the flesh in the skin and place each half on its own plate.
- Combine the rest of the ingredients and mound half the cottage cheese mixture into each of the cavities of the two avocado halves. For a creamier version, blend the cottage cheese before mixing.
- Serve with a small spoon to scoop out the avocado’s flesh and enjoy it with the sweet fruity nutty cheese mixture. Be sure to scrape the flesh right down to the skin, to scoop up all the precious nutrients. So good!
Note: For each of two servings: Calories (kcal) 338.2, Fat (g) 20.8 of which 3.3 g is saturated, Sodium (mg) 466.8, Potassium (mg) 715.6<, Carbohydrate (g) 25.5 of which 9.7 g is fiber and 12.1 g is sugar, Protein (g) 17.4, Vitamin A (RAE) 20.4, Vitamin C (mg) 13.6, Calcium (mg) 95.6
On her way out the door, Comice Pear turns and asks,” What does the V. H. on your desk plaque stand for, anyway?”
Her attorney smiles. “Very Healthy, of course!”
17 Apr 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: cabbage, chicken, German, nutrition, probiotics, sauerkraut, traditions, vegetables
Will and Isla carefully chop through mountains of cabbage.
I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.
“Sing along,” says Vinny, waving his arms furiously in time to the music.
“In the old days,” he went on, “people made their own sauerkraut so they would have veggies to eat during the long winters.Your great grandpappy was a sauerkraut-maker extraordinaire. People came from all over to buy his home-made kraut. Now, we just go to the deli. It comes in jars or cans. I like the Polish kind best myself. But it’s good to keep the old ways alive. Keep chopping!”
“Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” sings Will at the top of his lungs. Isla just hums, too busy to get involved in the lyrics.
Today we know that the old ways were healthy ways. Sauerkraut is what you get after cabbage is well salted and allowed to rest for a few weeks in a crock, closed off from air. Salt pulls water from the cabbage to make a brine. The little bugs that thrive in this environment are good bacteria. They make the brine acidic, in a process called fermentation. These healthy bugs go by the name probiotics. They work against the bad bacteria in our stomachs to improve digestion.
Many people think the healthy bacteria protect us in many ways… like keeping inflammation in check, reducing allergies, preventing constipation… But the science is still young. Just to be on the safe side, many doctors and nutritionists recommend two servings of probiotic foods a day.
Probiotics are found in fermented foods… like pickles, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, and, of course, sauerkraut. You can also get probiotics in supplements. But unless you’re taking antibiotics, which wipe out the good bugs along with the bad ones, it’s best to rely on real food for your probiotics.
Sauerkraut is best served raw, because high heat kills all those cute little helpful bacteria. But you still get the nutrients in the cabbage. It’s packed with vitamin C!
Put well-rinsed raw sauerkraut with soft poached eggs in the morning. The meal has a nice tang and makes a satisfying start to the day.
At lunch, sauerkraut makes a tasty addition to salad. But what I like best is putting a big scoop into the bottom of my bowl before pouring hot soup over it. Yummy!
For dinner, Vinny has modified Dr. Mike Morano’s recipe for Bavarian chicken, starring a heap of sauerkraut.
Vinny’s Bavarian chicken, à la 17-day diet
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 large apple, cored and chopped
- 8 ounces sauerkraut, canned, low sodium, and well rinsed
- 12 medium Brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut in half
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon caraway seed
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
How to put it together
I like sautéing the onions, ginger, and garlic in my large soup pot to get started, using a bit of oil. But if you don’t want any oil, just skip this step.
Put all the veggies and spices into the pot over medium heat and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Before you start cooking the veggies, put a small chicken in the oven to roast or prepare three boneless chicken breasts for the barbecue. If the meat is ready first, keep it warm, then serve the chicken on top of the veggies.
Alternatively, poach the chicken breasts in the soup pot, submerged in the liquid. Add the chicken after the liquid has come to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the meat to cook through, about 20-30 minutes. This method is easier, but I like roasted or grilled chicken better .
- 2 teaspoons fresh dill weed, chopped
- 2 teaspoons paprika
Paprika boosts metabolism and fresh dill contains vitamins.
This dish is one of my favorites. The stove-top veggies are good with lots of lean meats… tasty even for folks who don’t like cabbage (or Brussels sprouts).
The veggies (per serving): Calories (kcal)100.1, Fat (g) 3.6, Sodium (mg) 377.0, Potassium (mg) 433.1, Fibre (g) 5.1, Vitamin A (RAE) 27.4, Vitamin C (mg) 48.7, Calcium (mg) 60.9, Folate (DFE) 51.4. The chicken: a 6-oz breast has 252 calories and 46 grams of protein.
A German meal is all I need
To make my day complete.
It’s hard to keep account of all
The cabbage that I eat.
17-day diet – An intro to this balanced way of eating, with a list of all the related links on Vinny’s blog
09 Apr 2013
in children, family, food, health, recipes, stories
Tags: 17-day diet, nutrition, protein, soup, traditions, vegetables
DIY with a different soup every time
On a winter’s night after a long day’s walk, a ragged beggar finds himself in a quiet farming village. He dreams of a warm fire and a hot meal. He knocks on the door of a tidy house. A pair of eyes peer out at him from behind the printed curtain. But no-one opens the door. At the next house a young woman with a crying baby tells him she has nothing to spare. He is even turned away from the Ukrainian church, where a few women are sewing together on a patchwork quilt.
Watching them, he gets an idea. He pulls three buttons carved from the bones of an old ox’s tail off his ratty old coat. At the door of the local grocery Co-op, he waves the buttons in the air. “Watch me make a delicious soup with these magic buttons,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
He invites shoppers to come taste some over at the church, where he had seen a large pot on the kitchen stove in the hall. “Bring something for the pot,” he says. “Anything at all. An old turnip, some potato peels, a few chicken wings… “
Any kid who has read Aubrey Davis’s Bone-Button Borscht knows how the people couldn’t resist a good show. They turn up in droves. Dandelion leaves, turkey necks, withered beets, the last of the sauerkraut, a chunk of bacon fat… it all goes into the pot of slowly simmering water. EE i ee i OHHHH!
The old man, and everyone else who comes out that evening, is well-fed indeed.
We too always have home-made soup on the go, much the same way as the old man did. In a plastic bag in the freezer, we save up roast bones, left-over veggies from dinner, the ends of the celery and fennel, bits of squash and apple cores etc etc. It all goes into the big soup pot with some water, enough to cover. I throw in some bay leaves, sticks of cinnamon, pepper corns, garlic bulbs and lots of love. It simmers for two or three hours. After the soup has cooled, I move it to the fridge in the summer or the garage in the winter, to cool overnight. Next day I scrape off fat hardened on the surface, throw it out and warm the pot once again to turn the gelatinous stock back into a liquid rich with nutrition and flavor. Then I strain it through a colander. I store 4 cups of the stock in plastic containers marked with the date and put them in the freezer.
I can get eight containers or more from one pot.
Once or twice a week, I use the stock from one of the containers, along with fresh veggies and left-over meat or an egg, to make some soup for lunch. Each small pot serves four. That’s a lot of food from a single bag of food scraps…
Use your garbage soup stock as a base for a meal made from whatever you have on hand. It’s perfect for every-day cooking. No recipe required. Here are three ideas to get you started:
- Borscht – chopped beets, cabbage, onion, carrot and garlic, with leftover ham or sausage
- Mushroom soup – mushrooms, barley, leeks, left-over chicken or turkey
- Cream of squash – butternut squash or pumpkin, sweet potato, apple, lentils and curry. Puree once the veggies are soft to the fork. Serve with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or nondairy substitute.
This is what I used yesterday: leftover smoked pork chop, potatoes and one tablespoon of their cream, and pesto. Plus, fresh spinach, leeks, green onion and asparagus.
Need more directions than my DIY recipe ideas? Check out this fabulous site for wonderful recipes for healthy nutritious soups that don’t break the bank. If you have some favorite soup links, please share them .
Soups can be low in calories but packed with all the goodness of fresh veggies, spices, herbs, meat and slo-carbs (if you want them). They make a perfect lunch or dinner meal on the 17-day diet. Once you try them, you’ll be hooked for life.
Reuse, recycle, and rejuvenate. Tap into your creative juices and make soup today… with bone buttons!
Ready to eat!
02 Apr 2013
in food, humor, recipes
Tags: 17-day diet, barbecue, cancer, fats, fish, heart, inflammation, nutrition, omega 3 fatty acids, protein, salmon
If you hate smelling up your kitchen, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the deliciousness of fresh or fresh-frozen fish. Just cook it on the barbecue, outside! It’s easy for every day and delicious enough for any special occasion.
Fish is full of those hard to come by but oh so important omega-3 fatty acids. Why are they important? First, it’s because we can’t manufacture them in our bodies. We have to get them in food. Second, they help prevent the many chronic diseases that plague us these days.
And why do we have such high rates of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, to name just a few? It’s because our diet provides many more of the other omega fats than it does omega-3. We aim for a ratio of 4:1 or better, for omega-6 versus omega-3 fats. But omega-6 is found in super-high amounts in the cheap vegetable oils the food industry prefers… especially corn oil. If you eat out regularly, for sure you are getting too many omega-6 fats for good health.
Isla makes a herb and oil stuffing for omega-3-rich salmon
The only Westernized society that reaches that goal of 4:1 is the Japanese. They are one of the healthiest populations on the planet despite their incredible love of cigarettes. The population of the United States, and other developed countries where eating out is popular, consume 19 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. This is the most likely reason we rank poorly in every measured health barometer.
What’s so good about omega-3 and so bad about omega-6? It’s simply that omega-3 prevents inflammation and omega-6 promotes it. The more inflammation, the more trouble your heart has pumping blood through your arteries, the easier it is for cancer to take a hold, and the more likely you will suffer allergies and lung problems.
The moral of this little story is eat more fish. Don’t let the smell keep you from enjoying fish regularly. There’s no need to go to extremes like our hero has done in the photo off the top. Cook your fish on your barbecue, outside. We barbecue winter and summer. Or wrap it in foil and bake it in the oven on high heat.
To get you started, here are two wonderful ways to cook salmon. The Wild West style is good for a large party. Just cut the quantities for a more intimate group. Way #2 is my favorite salmon recipe ever. The flavor of the stuffing infuses throughout and keeps the flesh moist during the cooking process. The only drawback is that the delicious flavor could be too strong for the picky eaters in the family. However, you can give the kids parts of the fish that have not got any little green or red specks on it.
Barbecued Salmon, Wild West style
8-10 lbs whole salmon (serves 20)
Mix the following ingredients together and marinate the salmon in it flesh-side down for 2-6 hours. I put it all in a plastic bag in the fridge Don’t marinate for more than 6 hours as the salmon will toughen:
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup rye whiskey
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (I leave this out if I’m cooking the salmon right on the coals. Sugar causes charring. If wrapping the fish in foil, then leave it in)
On a covered barbecue, cook skin-side down until skin separates, or wrap in heavy foil and place over coals for 45 minutes or so.
Barbecued Salmon, California Style
Salmon fillet large enough for 4 people (perhaps 2 pounds)
Puree the following ingredients. You can make this ahead and store in a jar in the fridge overnight:
- 3-5 large garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup fresh dill leaves (about 30 grams)
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes (about 1/3 cup or 15 grams), reconstituted in hot water
- 1/4 – ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Place salmon skin-side down on a large piece of greased foil.
With a sharp knife cut two long slits lengthwise along the fillet, slicing to the skin but not through it, dividing the salmon into three.
Spread the garlic mixture over the fish and into the slits.
Close foil and cook for 15-25 minutes, depending on size (see the 10-minute rule, below). Fish should taste moist, not dry.
1) Use fresh cilantro or parsley leaves instead of dill if you prefer.
2) Some health advocates say don’t use olive oil in cooking, as the fats can be denatured. Macadamia nut oil is expensive but has lots of omega-3 compared with omega-6 and withstands heat. It is a healthful choice.
The 10-minute rule for cooking fish
Measure the fish at its thickest point and cook it for 10 minutes per inch, turning halfway through the cooking time. Add 5 minutes if you’re cooking in foil.
26 Mar 2013
in family, food, health, holidays, humor, recipes, stories
Tags: 17-day diet, breakfast, carbohydrates, eggs, minerals, nutrition, presentation, protein, vegetables, vitamins
Way#1 (Humpty on the half shell)
“What experiments are we doing, today, Vinny?’ asks Will, poking his head into my basket of vegs.
“SO many ways to cook eggs for breakfast,” says Vinny with glee. “We’re going to try three fast ones. Way #1… and just in time for Easter…. is Humpty Dumpty on the half shell.”
Who says Humpty was an egg?” asks Isla.
Spin 3 minutes
“What else could he be?” Vinny scratches his head. “He fell off a wall and got scrambled. Just like our eggs. Once we’re through with these beauties, nobody will be able to put them back together again!”
We select a small beet from the basket, scrub it, cut it into bits and put it into a small pot of water on the stove. Then we drop an egg into the toe of Grammy’s panty hose. We race around the house spinning the egg in front of us until we’re flat out of breath.
We also spin another egg relentlessly in our salad spinner for a couple of minutes. But this isn’t nearly as much fun or as good an exercise. Plus, it didn’t work.
Then we tenderly place the eggs in the beet water and bring it all to a gentle boil. After 8 minutes, move the eggs to a cold-water bath.
To serve, slice the eggs in half and pair them with whole-grain toast. Ta Da! Spreading the scrambly egg on the warm, crunchy toast… it’s an exciting Easter treat indeed! Brighten with a touch of horseradish and some of the chopped red beets if you want more oomph. You need to soak the eggs much longer than we did to get the red to seep into the shell.
Way #2 (Microwaved)
Microwaved eggs in a hummus bed
“I don’t have time to cook eggs in the morning,” claims Will and Isla’s mom, as she rushes around organizing lunch boxes, homework, and snowsuits while the clock ticks persistently toward 8:30am.
“But you have to eat something before you go to work,” says Vinny. “And the kids will do better at school with a little protein behind them. My eggs take no more than 2 minutes to cook.” Vinny grins. “I use the micro!”
Vinny finds a deep bowl and puts 1/4 cup hummus in the bottom. He zaps it for 30 seconds on high. Then he digs a small hole and breaks an egg into the hummus. He covers the dish with a plate and sets the power at 7 and the timer for 1 minute. Some 60 seconds later, we’re ready to dig into a creamy egg poached in hummus. Time varies depending on the oven and how you like your egg. I like my hummus spicy. I also like to serve this dish topped with some Greek yogurt and ground black pepper.
For variation, fill the bottom of the bowl with salsa or sauerkraut or with any other left-over cooked veggies you have in the fridge. Roasted broccoli or cauliflower is nice. It’s the technique I’m pushing here… easy and full of possibilities for a protein- and vitamin-packed start to your day.
Way#3 (Pan poached with spinach and mushrooms)
Use a cast iron fry pan or a nonstick fryer to whip up another easy eggs-and-veggie dish. Vinny’s weekend breakfast treat uses a cup or two of rinsed baby spinach and three or four mushrooms, cleaned and sliced.
Lightly coat the fry pan with canola oil. Stir fry mushrooms until they start to brown. Add a half teaspoon of chili paste and stir. Add the washed spinach and cover.
When the leaves wilt, arrange veggies in a circle and make a hole in the centre. Add another small amount of oil. Break an egg into the hole and cover the pan. After a minute or so add a splash of water to the hot pan and cover again. Check once the steam has subsided. Add more water if the egg needs more cooking. Let it all evaporate. Take the whole works out with a spatula and place on a pretty plate. Enjoy.
For a change, try sauteing leeks and mushrooms. Or steam up some broccoli slaw for your egg nest. Top the egg with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sauerkraut.
Pan-poached eggs with leeks
Breakfast Health Benefits
These egg dishes are perfect if you are looking for high-protein low-carb breakfasts. Perhaps, like me, you’re following Dr. Morano’s 17-day diet? I’ve been eating eggs done ways 2 and 3 for 2 months. I now boast a healthy BMI and resolve to keep it there!
Eggs contain a lot of cholesterol, but dietary cholesterol is not as bad for your heart as originally thought. You can safely eat an egg a day. In return you get a large dose of protein and selenium and a goodly amount of riboflavin, vitamin B12 and phosphorus. Egg’s choline helps protect your memory. The veggies provide balance and a host of vitamins and minerals. And the yogurt and sauerkraut provide probiotics for better digestion. The hot sauce gives your metabolism a boost first thing in the morning, a good thing for weight control. These breakfasts kick butt!
If you need more than one egg to take you through the morning, boost the number of egg whites.
Egg microwaved on a bed of roasted veg
It’s a riddle, by the way. You’re supposed to guess what Humpty is. It’s Alice (of Through the Looking Glass fame) who tells us the answer… an egg. Humpty’s VERY provoked.
The 17-day diet, starring Dr. Mike Morano – An introduction to this balanced and effective eating plan. Follow the many related links here to recipes, theory and nutrition.
19 Mar 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: 17-day diet, curd, custard, eggs, icing, lemons, Lemony Snicket, scones, topping
Lemon water – Miracle Worker?
Dr. Mike of 17-day diet fame advises us to have a glass of warm water with half a lemon squeezed into it every morning… the minute we get up! I admit at first this sounded dire… like voodoo… a magic potion sort of thing.
I don’t like sour. But in the interests of scientific experimentation, I gave it a shot.
The first morning out, I could barely bring this bothersome brew to my lips. But I managed. Grudgingly, I had to admit… it tasted fine!
But WHY was it such a key part of the doctor’s meal plan? Skeptical, I dug deeper for info and came to understand. Lemon water does seven important things:
- Boosts your immune system.
- Helps your blood stay alkaline for optimum functioning. How that happens and why it’s important is explained here.
- Helps with weight loss if you’re overweight AND with weight gain if you’re under weight. Why? Check out above link.
- Aids digestion, nudging your intestines to move toxins out of your body.
- Increases urination. Washes bacteria from urinary tract.
- Decreases wrinkles and acne. Purges toxins from blood for clearer skin.
- Regulates adrenals to help keep you hydrated and unstressed.
So there it is. I’ve been drinking lemon water in the morning for 2 months now and it seems to be working. Walking’s no longer a trial – just fun! I can slug through snow for an hour every morning without breaking a sweat. I’m continuing to lose weight, getting closer to my healthy goal nearly every morning. Unfortunately, I still have wrinkles…
Beth, another writer on WordPress, agrees with me about the usefulness of lemon water. She says just one dose and her blood sugars are down all day! How good is that as a measure of lemon’s effectiveness.
Make your lemon curd with stevia and enjoy it guilt free
I can’t blog about lemons, without telling you about lemon curd. My daughter and British son-in-law, happily, introduced me to this delicacy. It’s served with scones for tea in England or with your morning toast. I spoon a little on fresh berries for added tang. Sometimes I use it as icing on a low-sugar cake or muffin. Best yet, mix it half and half with low-fat Greek yogurt and eat it like a pudding or mix it with fruit for a fabulous dessert.
If you can find Meyer lemons, snap them up. They’re tiny, perfect, juicy fruits… a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. Crazy weather in California lately makes them scarce this year. So you may have to settle for whatever you can get.
I make my lemon curd with whole eggs, sweetened with stevia to reduce my sugar intake. I’ve given quantities for sugar and stevia so you can take your pick.
Makes about 2 cups
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar or 1 and 1/4 teaspoon stevia powder
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 and a half large lemons)
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup cold butter (half a stick, preferably unsalted)
How to make it:
Whisk over simmering water until it thickens
- Simmer 1-inch of water in a medium pan over low heat. In a medium metal bowl whisk eggs and sugar (if using) for about 2 minutes until smooth. Whisk in lemon juice, stevia (if using in place of sugar), and zest.
- Put the bowl on top of the pan (it should fit snugly, but shouldn’t touch the water). Whisk the mixture constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as you stir, until it begins to thicken. It foams and froths for about 5-10 minutes. Then it turns creamy thick in an instant. Remove from heat immediately. DON’T let it boil.
- Whisk in the butter, one slice at a time. Wait until each piece almost disappears before adding the next. Spoon into a clean glass container and allow to cool with a piece of plastic wrap laid on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
- Refrigerate until needed. This lemon curd keeps for 2 to 3 weeks.
Use this on cycle 3 of the 17-day diet. For a serving of 1/4 cup: 84 calories, Fat 8.0 grams, Sodium 67.5 mg, Potassium 36.7 mg, Protein 2.4 g, Vitamin A 88.4 RAE, Vitamin C 4.6 mg, Calcium 11.3 mg, Folate 15.8 DFE
And if you’re in need of a little light entertainment? Kids of all ages turn to Lemony Snicket for dire diversions. You may have to read a few of his books, though, to get the most out Lemony’s unfortunate series of events.
Happy Reading! Happy Eating! Have fun on the road to good health
Lemon curd and Greek yogurt parfait
The 17-day diet, starring Dr. Mike Morano – An introduction to this balanced and effective eating plan. Follow the many related links to recipes, theory and nutrition.
The secrets of lemons – An overview of the many ways to tap into the healing powers of lemons
17 Mar 2013
in children, family, food, holidays, recipes, stories
Tags: bananas, cabbage, carbohydrates, fruit, nutrition, potatoes, tea, vegetables
I've never tried reblogging before, but thought I'd give it a try this 17th of March. It's St. Paddy's day! Vinny's Irish tea party from last year has lots of great links to recipes, songs and stories to help you celebrate the day with your family. Erin go bragh!
12 Mar 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: 17-day diet, antioxidants, bones, eyes, heart, magnesium, nutrition, omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, squash
Squash-o-copia: butternut, acorn, and ambercup
Simple! Vinny says. Roasted squash is such a delicious, low-fat side dish. Enjoy it during cycles 2 and 3 of the 17-day diet.
The roasted butternut was so good my significant other ate the skin! I suppose that’s one way to boost your fiber – but not one I’d really recommend . Squash tastes wonderful with lean poultry or pork.
Tip: to make the squash easier to cut, pierce it with a fork and bake it in the microwave for 60 seconds before slicing it.
Why eat squash? Besides the satisfying taste, squash comes packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Its vitamin A protects your eyes, bones, and reproduction. The antioxidants protect against cancer. And minerals, like potassium and magnesium, protect your heart and kidneys. Besides this its fiber aids digestion and the omega 3 fatty acids, especially high in spaghetti squash, have just been shown to be vital to heart health. Here are two simple ways to take in all this goodness!
Simple recipe #1: Roasted butternut squash
- oil to grease the baking dish (e.g. Pam)
- 1 small butternut squash, about 2 lbs (the pale ones in the photo)
- ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
What to do:
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- With a heavy knife, cut off the top of the squash near the stem, then slice it crosswise, into circles about 3/4-inch thick. Scoop out seeds and membranes.
- Place circles in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Combine orange juice and maple syrup and drizzle over squash wedges.
- Roast for 30 minutes or until they’re soft when poked with a fork. Spoon syrup over wedges before serving.
Calories 134.1m Carbohydrate 32.0 grams (fibre 3.7 g, sugar 9.1 g), Protein (g) 2.4, Vitamin A 1207.0 (RAE), Vitamin C 52.9 (mg), Folate 64.2 (DFE), Calcium 119.7 (mg), Sodium 10.0 (mg), Potassium 838.8 (mg)
Simple recipe #2: Baked acorn squash
- half an acorn squash (the dark green one in the photo)
- 1.5 tsp(s) coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 0.25 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
What to do:
- Bake at 375F for 40 min cut side down in a little water until tender.
- Add coconut oil to center, melt, and add syrup.
- Finish with the cinnamon a dash of salt and pepper.
- Bake another 10 min until liquid is absorbed.
Calories (kcal) 99.2, Fat (g) 3.5 (no trans fat or cholesterol), Sodium (mg) 4.4, Potassium (mg) 395.7, Carbohydrate (g) 17.9 (Fibre 2.1 grams, Sugar 5.6 grams), Vitamin A (RAE) 19.4, Vitamin C (mg) 11.9, Calcium (mg) 45.4, Folate (DFE) 18.3
Squash stuffed with ground meat and beans
The 17-day diet
04 Mar 2013
Bad Boy Turkey nesting on roasted broccoli
Here’s a tasty recipe you can use in cycle 2 of the 17-day diet. This is the part of Dr. Mike Morano’s meal plan where you add legumes and complex carbs like barley, oats and buckwheat to your diet. Still no bread or pasta, but these new carbs make a satisfying change from cycle one eating. Plus, they add interest.
Turkey’s given a little attitude in this dish with lots of chili powder, garlic, onions and peppers. The dish offers lots of protein coupled with just a little fat.
Beans are introduced in cycle 2
If you want to use this recipe in cycle 1, go ahead… just leave out the beans. If you’re interested, everything you may want to know about beans (and probably a heck of a lot more) can be found Behind Mr. Bean’s Back Door.
For sauteing, use an oil that is not degraded by heat. I use canola oil.
I included some okra because this veggie gives the sauce heartiness, without having to resort to flour. But if you don’t have any, don’t fret. The dish tastes fine without it, just a little thinner. It’s a texture thing.
What to use
|1 lb turkey, ground, sauteed in a teaspoon of canola
|1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
|3 clove(s) garlic, raw
|2 cups beans… I use canned black turtle beans, rinsed & drained
|2 tablespoons chili powder. Use more if you like your food to blow your socks off.
|1 teaspoon salt. I use sea salt for its extra minerals
|0.5 cup(s) okra (gumbo), raw and sliced horizontally
|2 cups tomato sauce. I use one with tomato tidbits, canned
|3 small sweet red and yellow peppers, seeded and cut in half
|4 cups broccoli, coarsely chopped
|2 teaspoons canola oil
|1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
|a little sea salt and lots of pepper to taste
This recipe is fast and easy. First you fry up the ground meat in just enough oil to coat the bottom of a cast iron frying pan (or a nonstick pan if you like). Stir with a spatula to keep the meat from sticking. Once the meat browns, take it from the pan with a slotted spoon and put it on a plate.
Add another teaspoon of oil to the frying pan and stir-fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes, until they soften and brown.
Then add all the ingredients but the red peppers, including the cooked meat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and add more chili and black pepper if you like.
Add the raw peppers and simmer another 10 minutes, until the peppers soften.
Click pic for broccoli nutrition
For the broccoli nest, roast 4 cups of chopped stalks and florets in a little oil at 375F for 25 minutes or steam them in a colander for 5 minutes or until they are fork tender. Flavor them once they’re cooked with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a little sea salt (if you can spare any) and lots of pepper. Divide the broccoli into four portions and ladle the chili evenly among the four plates.
I garnished my plates with almonds, but it’s not necessary. It was just to dress up the dish for the picture. The plate is decorated with drops of balsamic vinegar, because I like things to look nice.
You can also use turkey chili to fill a roasted squash and kill two birds with one stone! My own recipes for cooking up winter squash two ways will be published soon. Stay tuned!
Makes four servings
Each serving contains: Calories (kcal) 426.8; Fat (g) 12.7 (3.6 g saturated fat and 144 mg cholesterol); Sodium (mg) 1046.9, potassium (mg) 1475 mg, calcium (mg) 183.3, iron (mg) 5.3; Carbohydrate (g) 37.9 (13.3 g fiber and 3.9 g sugar); Protein (g) 41.8; Vitamin A (RAE) 193.9, C (mg) 108.0, E (mg) 6.4, niacin (NE) 18.0, folate (DFE) 137.1
26 Feb 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: 17-day diet, buckwheat, carbohydrates, gluten free, groats, kasha, mushrooms, nutrition, Prairies, Russia, Ukrain
Never let it fade away… ♪♪♭♪
Put Vinny’s recipe for mushroom and kasha soup in your pocket, too, and try it out on a rainy day. It’s great on cycle 2 of the 17-day diet… or on any other day!
At the same time, if you aren’t of Ukrainian or Russian descent, try out an ancient grain that might be new to you. That would be kasha.
Actually, I misspoke. Kasha, otherwise known as toasted buckwheat groats, is NOT a grain. It’s a flower bud. How lovely is that!
We eat it on Christmas Eve, when we prepare 12 traditional Ukrainian delicacies to usher in the season. But once buckwheat is in the cupboard, we use it as a side dish with stews and in cabbage rolls and other hardy foods through the winter.
Kasha (or buckwheat groats)
Kasha is perfect for people on gluten-free diets, as well as for folks on the 17-day diet, looking for good protein content in a slo-carb complex food.
Substituting kasha for refined grains adds nutrients, flavor and texture to your meals. Ready in 15 minutes, kasha is quick-cooking and versatile.
Leslie Beck, RD, Canada’s leading nutritionist, says, “Kasha is closer to being a complete protein than other plant sources, including soybeans, since it contains all eight essential amino acids in good proportion. In particular, kasha contains significant amounts of the amino acid lysine, which makes it unique as a grain substitute, since this amino acid is typically lacking in most true grains.”
One cup of kasha gives you 20% of your daily fiber. It is also full of B vitamins and important minerals, like magnesium, which helps lower blood pressure.
Another special benefit is that kasha is high in rutin, a flavonoid that strengthens blood vessels and prevents blood clotting. Kasha is truly good for your heart!
As it’s gluten-free, it’s also suitable for people with celiac disease.
Buckwheat lasts up to 3 months in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.
Use kasha wherever you would use rice. It’s also great as a cereal, as a filler in ground meat, as a replacement for pasta, and as an alternate for oats in cookies and muffins. But the recipe I’m sharing here is for soup. M-M Good.
Mushroom and kasha soup
(adapted from The Shiksa In the Kitchen)
While you’re cooking up this delicious soup, perhaps you’ll want to sing. Listen to “Catch a falling star” here - tralala!
- 1/3 cup dried mushrooms, soaked in 3 cups boiling water
- about 2 tablespoons canola oil, separated
- 1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cups chicken stock (the soup thickens if you keep it in the fridge a day or two)
- 1 cup kasha
- 6 okra, washed and sliced (optional)
- enough salt and lots of pepper to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add 2 teaspoons oil and saute the sliced mushrooms. Let the slices brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set the sauteed mushrooms aside.
- In the same pot, add 2 more teaspoons of oil and sauté your onions and garlic for 5 minutes until they start to brown.
- Add the last 2 teaspoons of oil and then the carrots & celery.
- While the vegetables are cooking, drain the dried mushrooms but keep the soaking liquid. Dice the mushrooms and toss them into the pot. Once the vegetables are cooked nicely, stir in the soaking liquid. Keep the gritty stuff at the bottom from getting into your soup.
- Once the mushroom stock is bubbly, add the sautéed mushrooms, stock, kasha, okra, and bay leaves. Bring everything to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until the kasha is cooked through and the soup is thick. Season to taste. Garnish with grated cheese or roasted pine nuts if you like.
Makes 6 servings. Each serving contains: Calories (kcal) 286.6, fat (g) 8.6, sodium (mg) 582.1, potassium (mg) 909.3, carbohydrate (g) 43.2 (fiber (g) 6.1, sugar (g) 7.3), protein (g) 13.2, vitamin A (RAE) 245.7, vitamin C (mg) 7.6, calcium (mg) 45.3, iron (mg) 2.1, folate (DFE) 73.7.
Mushroom and kasha soup
But how does it taste? Fabulous. It may take a few times out of the gate before you get to LOVE the essence that is kasha. It tastes nothing much like rice or even oats. To me, it has a meatiness, in keeping with all the protein it packs. The unusual flavor of kasha marries well with the earthiness of mushrooms. Kasha definitely perks up with a little salt. But don’t overdo it for your heart’s sake. The Worcestershire sauce gives the soup a real kick, almost like sweet and sour soup. Keep tasting until you like the result.
To your health/Na zdorov’ya!
Kick up your heels for kasha!
19 Feb 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: 17-day diet, antioxidants, carbohydrates, chick peas, Cinderella, cumin, fiber, hummus recipes, minerals
Awhile back, we roasted us up some tasty garbanzo beans to zap our good health with fiber and minerals. That bland little bean, which is part of the legume family… comes into its own, though, in the near Eastern dish known as hummus.
Let me introduce you here to the Cinderella of the hummus crowd, a beet and garbanzo duo that knocks your slippers off!
All hummus recipes, like all princesses, are royal treats. But the one I’ve posted here fits beautifully into my glass salver.
This recipes calls for only 2 tablespoons of oil, replacing the tahini and oil in other recipes. But the beauty of this dish comes from the pickled beet. How something sour could deliver such a good taste sensation is beyond me.
Be sure to add the cumin, too, as this spice bumps this simple recipe up another notch. Although we usually only use a little, spices can pack in a lot of nutrition. Cumin provides many health benefits thanks to its fiber, thiamine, and a whole whack of minerals – Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, and Manganese! See what I mean?
Once you’ve dressed your hummus for the bowl, dig in and have a great time! Here are a few ideas for showing off this dainty.
Let it shine on a lunch-time salad plate
- Use it as a dip with your raw veggies at lunch.
- Spread it thick and creamy on a slice of whole grain toast, instead of jam.
- Use it instead of mayonnaise when building a sandwich.
- Mix a little with the yolks of hard-boiled eggs and serve up some sassy deviled eggs.
- Toss a spoonful into your scrambled eggs or omelets.
- Use it as a coating for oven-baked fish fillets.
- Mix it up with tuna or salmon instead of bread crumbs to make fish cakes.
Ruby Pink Hummus
1 pickled beet (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup pickled beet juice
2 cloves of garlic
1 19-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
Juice of 1 smallish lemon (up to 1/4 cup)
Sea salt to taste
1/2 tsp or more of cumin
toasted pine nuts and chopped green onion to garnish
Process beet, garlic, chickpeas, beet juice, and oil in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste. With processor running, add lemon juice. Check consistency. If it is too thick, stream in more pickled beet juice. Season with a little salt and a lot of cumin, to taste.
Serving of 1/4 cup: Calories (kcal) 130.0, Fat (g) 4.9, Saturated Fat (g) 0.6,
Sodium (mg) 284.8, Potassium (mg) 168.7, Carbohydrate (g) 18.1 Fibre (g) 3.2, Protein (g) 3.8, vitamin C 3.2, Calcium (mg) 28.1, Folate (DFE) 54.0
I was prompted to try this after seeing a similar idea on Simply Young and Thrifty. Thanks so much!
Theory: This dish is ideal for cycle 2 of the 17-day diet. That’s when you start adding legumes back into your meal planning, along with starchier veggies like sweet potatoes and squash. You can also include more lean meats and seafood options. Still no grains, though. They come in cycle 3.
The idea is to confuse your metabolism by giving it a higher number of calories one day, followed by a day of low calories from foods in cycle 1. Going back and forth between higher calories, then a lower amount, keeps you from plateauing. You should continue to lose weight, Dr. Mike says.
It’s February 19th already and I’ve just finished up cycle 2. I enjoyed the extras and the variety. But going back and forth between high- and low-calorie days confused not only my body, but also my poor little mind! Is this an on or off day? I keep asking myself.
Weight loss in cycle 2 slowed considerably. I lost only 2 additional pounds. That makes it a pound a week, which isn’t all that bad. I’m satisfied that the trend is still downwards. And I now have just 10 pounds more to go, to reach my goal! On to cycle 3!!!
This princess is pretty in pink as she rides off to find the glass salver brimming with delicious ruby hummus
12 Feb 2013
in family, food, health, holidays
Tags: 17-day diet, antioxidants, drinks, green tea, heart, mood, tea, trivia, Valentine's day
My 100th post! A toast to Valentine’s day
Happy Valentine’s day!
Forget red. Paint your Valentine’s Day green this year! Host a green tea party and do your heart a favor. A beautiful smile, fresh breath and glowing skin are only some of the ways the green brew can improve your love life. Even better is the boost it gives your memory, as well as your metabolic rate.
A better memory can only mean better grades at school, better performance at work, and a better chance you’ll remember to do something special for your sweetie on the 14th February. And if you don’t already know, a faster metabolic rate means a sleeker look. You’ll be hotter… burning more fat all the time – even while you’re in couch-potato mode. All that should earn you some brownie points with your heart’s desire!
You’ll also hit a home run with Dr. Mike Morano. My favorite diet guru recognizes just how good green tea is for you as you work to keep your weight in check. He advises drinking green tea three times a day on his 17-day diet. Make it a habit, he says. It’s good for you, even once you’ve reached your goal. Anything that keeps your metabolism revving in high gear is great for maintaining a healthy weight.
All kinds of tea are good for you, though. For instance, if you want to pig out on some greasy chips and hamburgers one night, drink oolong tea and double the amount of fat that passes right through you, unabsorbed.
Speaking of what passes through, consider the strange Panda dung tea. At over $200 a cup, it’s the world’s most expensive tea.
An entrepreneur in China grows the tea using panda poo from nearby breeding centres. Pandas eat only wild bamboo. According to Sky News, more than 70% of the nutrients are passed in their excrement. What a great way to recycle!
And how about the weirdest tea in the world… a tea made from caterpillar poo. Known as Pu-erh Tuocha (Camel Breath), ounce-for-ounce it costs about the same as gold. Master Gao-Que, a third generation Taiwanese tea master, says it’s one of the most labor-intensive teas in the world. To prepare it people have to go through a pile of tea leaves with a magnifying glass and pick out the little poo pellets with tweezers.
As tea leaves are the only thing the caterpillars ever eat, tea is the only thing that passes through their digestive tracts. No meats, no pesticides, nothing dirty at all, the master says. And the taste? According to several personal accounts on the Internet, it’s thickly mellow, elemental, earthy, gamey or meaty — smooth.
Matcha (powdered green tea): herbal, grassy
After reading about these exotic tea drinks, I bet you’re just in the mood now to settle for green tea. And you won’t go far wrong. Green tea offers great taste while delivering many valuable health benefits, says a Harvard health study.
But from personal experience, be sure to follow the directions on the label. If it says “Steep for 3 minutes,” for heaven’s sake take out the tea leaves after 3 minutes. Otherwise, ARGGGG! My overly long steeped senchu green tea hit the back of my throat with a pitchfork… soooooo bitter. The only way I got it down was by drowning it in milk.
Brewed properly… only one meager teaspoonful per cup of water heated to 74F and steeped for three minutes and not a second more…. green tea tastes LOVERLY.
Everybody loves tea
Tea is one adult drink kids can enjoy too. For the shorter set, I suggest a caffeine-free herbal sort, like mint or roibus (African red bush tea). Notch up the taste into the kid-o-sphere with honey or maple syrup.
While you are all enjoying your tea party, why not sing along to the Tea Tea Tea Tea Tea Tea Song! It’s especially happy!
Make Valentine’s Day extra lovin’ this year with green tea for two!
05 Feb 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: 17-day diet, antioxidants, carrots, chicken, oranges, protein
She was afraid someone would caesar!
But take heart, boys and girls. Although this post describes the first meal in my 17-day-diet series, it’s not about a salad. It’s about that sissy Miss Chicken.
We want to make her a little bolder. A little braver. We’ll also give her the power to keep you healthy and sleek. To do all that we’ll partner her with the color orange! (Not to be confused with Agent Orange.)
Orange in this recipe comes from a juicy cara-cara orange and carrots, firm dark red ones known as Asians.
Cara Cara oranges, from California’s San Joaquin Valley, are in the stores now, January through April. Outside, they look like the common-rabble navel orange. But cut it open and you’re greeted with brilliant pinkish red fruit, like the flesh of a pink grapefruit. The taste, though, is exceptionally sweet, with a tangy cranberry-like zing at the back of your throat.
Naturally sweet, carrots are healthy additions to your diet, low in calories and fat. Indeed, these crunchy roots deliver tons of goodies like β-carotenes, vitamin A, minerals and antioxidants. Cara Caras also give you vitamin A, plus a lot of C, fiber and lycopene. Lycopene is one of those characters from Auntie Oxidant’s family. Oranges and carrots fight cancers, arthritis, obesity, and heart disease.
Chicken is a healthy, filling food. For one thing, chicken meat without the skin is a lean source of protein. One 6-ounce serving contains 48 grams of the stuff. Chicken is also rich in potassium and calcium and has no carbohydrates. Dark meat has a few more calories than the white but has the added benefit of lots of iron. Grill it or bake it for the best nutrition. Avoid deep frying. If you stir fry chicken, use a light spray of oil on the pan and add a few spoonsful of water once the pan is very hot to finish the cooking with steam. If you’d like to marinate the chicken first, stay away from fatty or sugary dressings and instead try just a little bit of lemon juice… or yogurt and seasonings. Below is one delicious way to cook up your chicken and eat it too!
Ready for the oven
Roasted orange and thyme chicken
(Two servings, suitable for Cycle 1 of Dr. Mike’s 17-day diet)
- 2 chicken breasts (10-12 ounces)
- 1 orange, sliced and quartered. Save two thin slices for garnish (I used a blood orange)
- 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into sticks, and boiled for 10 minutes
- 2 onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons red chili paste
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- dill to garnish
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Toss the precooked carrots, orange slices and onions in olive oil. Place in a baking pan and preheat the oven to 375°F. Add olive oil to the chicken and put them on top of the veggies. Decorate with an orange slice or two. Add the orange juice and thyme to the baking pan.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the veggies are soft and the chicken browns. Stir the veggies halfway through.
Many thanks to Of Pots and Pens for inspiring me to try pairing oranges and chicken – spectasty!
I posted my introduction to Dr. Mike Moreno‘s 17-day diet last week. Stay tuned for more on this topic in the next weeks.
As an aside, kids need a healthy meal plan, NOT a diet. But because Dr. Mike bases his guidelines on real foods, no pills, no purchased foods in cans, bottles or bars, no injections… the whole family can safely follow his advice. Supplement the plates of family members who have no weight issues with foods from cycles 2 and 3 while you hunker down with cycle 1. Remember, it’s only for 17 days! Bonus: you’ll all learn the basics of healthy eating, together. This is the most flexible and balanced approach to weigh control I’ve ever tried. And I’ve tried a lot of them.
Whether or not you want to control your weight, I think you’ll enjoy these recipes using foods on Dr.Mike’s shopping list.
29 Jan 2013
in books, family, health, reviews, science
Tags: 17-day diet, avoiding sugar, calories, diet, Dr. Mike, nutrition, weight control
A doctor’s plan for rapid results
Vinny moves over to let Sharon talk about her adventures with the 17-day diet
Ok. Right off the bat my radar goes up. Anybody knows you can’t expect to lose weight fast… and keep it off. But Mike says, yes you can! He promises results that last. It’s right there on the front cover.
I crack the book open. His first words to me are, “Just give me 17 days.”
This diet gets results, Dr. Mike says, because it balances food and exercise to adjust your body’s metabolism to burn fat, “day in and day out.”
The first 17 days offers fast weight loss.
The second 17-day cycle ups your calories to confuse your metabolism. This feast-famine thing prevents your body from adapting. No plateauing. It keeps you interested. It also works to help you lose weight, as long as you are feasting on a fairly low-fat diet. I had confirmation recently in the journal Metabolism that this approach is scientifically sound. This bodes well for Dr. Mike’s diet!
The third cycle helps you move closer to your goal by establishing healthy eating habits, like proper portion size, with the foods you really like. Think pasta and alcohol!
And the last cycle is maintenance. This phase is actually the hardest for most dieters and where many fall down. Including me. Three years ago I was at my goal weight. Then I broke my shoulder, and all the weight I lost crept back.
Mike doesn’t promise you a rose garden. You have to stop eating unhealthy junk. You’ve got to eat veggies, fruit and lean meat. You learn to keep your portions down, cut down on fatty, sugary, and salty foods, and move your butt (Mike’s words). You won’t feel so hungry you have to crack open a tub of chocolate crackle ice cream at midnight. You’ll succeed… because it’s only for 17 days!
Dr. Mike peppers his pages with scientific studies that prove his points. He also gives us some tasty recipes to show us how to use the foods he builds his diet on.
He hooks me with all this and I decide to give it a try.
I wanted to lose that nasty weight I’d piled on since the shoulder fiasco. In September, I saw a picture of myself. I looked decidedly in need of attention.
I began with daily walks lasting an hour or more at 5–6 kilos/hour. At the same time, I tried cutting back. I have a sound understanding of what’s in the foods I eat. It was a matter of discipline.
I lost 7 or 8 pounds, then plateaued. Leading up to Christmas and 3 months into my weight control program, I had lost only 10 pounds… just one-third of the weight I needed to ditch. After all the holiday celebrating quieted down, I was up 3 pounds again! Dr. Mike to the rescue!
Day 1 of my 17-day diet was 11 January 2013. Today marks day 17. I’ve lost 8 pounds. That’s the same amount of weight it took me nearly 3 months to lose the old way. My total loss since September 2012 is 18 pounds. I’m more than halfway to my goal!
The 17-day diet is full of all the super foods Vinny loves. And it gets results. Fast. Thanks, Dr. Mike! I’m so looking forward to meal-planning as I head in to my second 17-day cycle… semi-fasting and somewhat feasting!
22 Jan 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: anemia, blood, calcium, cancer, chick peas, collagen, fiber, free radicals, Gangnam style, heart, Korean, manganese, nutrition, protein
There’s nothing fishy about it!
Hey…Hey… Foxy Lady. Wop wop.. wop wop wop. You gotta try this healthy recipe! Garbanzo beans, AKA chick peas, are the talk of Pinterest right now… hot hot… hot hot hot.
Folks are roasting them whole by the bushel and popping them into their mouths as a handy snack. The bland little beans belong to the legume clan. They’re also the main ingredient of hummus, which is galloping out of more than one refrigerated case at the grocery store these days, in its many guises.
What’s all the fuss? People are looking for gluten-free fiber with a burst of nutrition. Garbanzos fill the bill. One cup of the stuff gives you half the fiber you need in a day, in a single serving. It also delivers 15 grams of protein and 85% of the daily manganese you need, as well as plenty of other minerals.
Manganese is special. We don’t need much of it, but this useful mineral is great for our health. Manganese battles free radicals to reduce risk of heart disease and cancer. It helps make collagen to speed wound healing and oil achy joints. It partners with iron in the blood to help prevent anemia. And last but not least, manganese works with calcium for strong bones that resist breaking.
Toasted chick peas can be spiced up any way you like. But I thought we would gallop along to the Korean rap tune from PSY and try on a whack of Korean spices for size. Koreans love soy sauce, soybean paste and red pepper paste. These sauces are enjoyed with onions, garlic, scallions, ginger, sesame oil, and crushed sesame. It’s no surprise, after having trotted along to Opan Gangnam Style myself, that powdered red pepper is the most popular spice in Korea!
I’ve tried roasting chick peas before, mildly seasoned two different ways. Really, they were a bust. That’s why I say go all out with the seasoning on chickpeas. Or don’t bother with them at all.
Also, be very careful with the timing. A second too long and they taste like dust. Or bunny pellets. Just not good.
But roasted chickpeas would be such a great snack if only I could get them right! So I thought it was worth persevering… for the manganese, alone. Here’s what I came up with.
PSY’s roasted garbanzo beans
2 cups canned chickpeas (1 15-oz tin)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red chili paste (or more if you like things nice and hot)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves chopped garlic
I took the dresses off this batch but it isn’t necessary
Preheat the oven to 375̊ F. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse very well. Put them on a towel to dry a bit. Some recipes say to take the transparent coverings off the beans. I’ve done this in the past, but this time round I left them on and the result was better than ever. Put the beans in a big bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Toss until the beans are evenly coated.
Spread them out in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Toss the pan every 10 or 15 minutes. Don’t let the beans blacken. Watch carefully the last 10 minutes or so. They’re done when they’re dryish, a little rubbery in the mouth, not too crunchy! Turn the oven off and let the beans cool in the hot oven. This will dry them further, without turning them to sawdust. Just the way you want them.
When they’re completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to a week (as if they’d last that long).
For a serving of 1/2 cup: Calories (kcal) 180.3, Fat (g) 4.7 including 0.6 g saturated fat, Carbohydrate (g) 28.7 including 5.6 g fibre, Protein (g) 6.5, Sodium (mg) 585.1, Potassium (mg) 248.0, Calcium (mg) 47.5, Vitamin A (RAE) 5.0, Vitamin C (mg) 6.5, Folate (DFE) 86.0.
It’s pretty clear grown-ups would like this tasty treat. But how popular are they with the shorter set? I called in my trusty taste tester to find out.
“Absolutely fabulous,” says Isla. “Oppa Gangnam Style!” Translation: Awesome! I say: you don’t taste the heat from just 1 teaspoon red chili paste. You feel only the slightest nip. Most of the flavor comes from the soy sauce and ginger. If you’re making these for PSY, though, and not the kids, you might like to shake a little cayenne into the mix. Wop Wop Wop Wop!
Search for roasted chick peas or garbanzos on Pinterest and you’ll find hundreds of recipes. Here’s one I used for inspiration, from The Improv Kitchen. Thanks so much!
15 Jan 2013
in children, family, food, health, humor, recipes, science, stories
Tags: bread, carbohydrates, fiber, nutrition, Peter Pan, snack, stone-ground, wheat, whole grain, whole wheat
She may not be Tinkerbell… but she does have wings!
Shiver me timbers, Matey! If flour lived in Never-Never Land, enriched white wheat flour would play the part of Captain Hook. Arrrr. It’s bad to the core. In fact, it’s bad precisely because it doesn’t have a core. After milling, only the endosperm remains. The bran, which gives us fiber, goes first in the grinding process.
But even worse, wheat’s heart of gold, the germ, is beaten out too. The germ is banned from white flour because it produces an oil when ground. The oil goes sour quickly, shortening flour’s shelf life. But with the loss of wheat’s germ, so goes most of wheat’s goodness.
Some vitamins are added back after the grinding, thus the nickname “Enriched”. But enriched flour is still no treasure chest. Humans just can’t copy exactly all the wonders of the real thing. So forget Invisibles Wonder Bread. Bilge! Made from unbleached wheat flour, it’s the Smee of Never-Never Land. It tries… but it just doesn’t measure up.
Nothing beats whole-grain wheat flour for natural goodness. But it can be hard to find. Where oh where is the Peter Pan of our flour saga hiding? At Bulk Barn. the flours marked “whole wheat” had unbleached wheat flour near the top of the ingredient list. Same at Natural Food Pantry. So I sent Tinkerbell out to find our hero. When she came back, she said I should be looking for stone-ground whole-grain wheat flour to play the good guy. As long as it’s labeled whole grain it’s the real thing. Stone-ground is a bonus.
Why does stone-ground whole-grain wheat flour mark the spot? It’s the only kind of flour where the endosperm, bran, and germ all remain in their original proportions. Because the stones grind slowly, the germ stays cooler. The oils aren’t broken down by heat as much and the vitamins are preserved better. Only small amounts are ground at once, so the germ’s oil is well distributed, to reduce spoilage. Because stone-ground flour is coarser than the roller-ground stuff, oxygen has less chance to break down the oils and its nutrients. Bakers and health nuts alike prefer stone-ground whole-grain wheat flour because of its texture, its sweet, nutty taste, and it’s good nutrition.
Many folks today say Peter Pan is a Lost Boy. These people stay away from all kinds of wheat flour, even whole grains. But unless you are allergic, or sensitive, to gluten, I think this trend is a bit over the top. The science on this just isn’t in yet.
As a general rule for good health, I’d rather see people steer clear of sugar than wheat.
Try this easy bread recipe that kids can make themselves in no time flat. It’s like a tasty, banana-flavored pita bread, without the pocket! Sprinkle a little fairy dust and make a snack platter you can fly away on to the land of good eating!
Pita Pan Bread Snack-Platter
Make the bread
1 large ripe banana
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces or 170 grams) stone-ground whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
A tablespoon or two of coconut or canola oil
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mash banana with fork.
- Combine flour, sugar, and spices, and mix them into the banana, just until a dough forms. Knead once or twice to bring into a nice ball.
- On flour-dusted work surface, cut the dough into 6 pieces. Shape each piece into a round disk. Roll each disk into a thin, flat round, about 4 or 5 inches across.
- In a hot frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until it sizzles. Fry the dough rounds, in batches, about 45 seconds on each side or until browned. Add more oil to coat pan, as needed.
- Cool on wire rack. Store in refrigerator or freeze, separated between sheets of wax paper, in large resealable plastic food-storage bag. Makes 6 pita pan breads.
Make the snack platter
Cut each round into four pieces. Decorate the pieces with the following, alone or in combinations of your own liking:
- Peanut butter
- No-sugar-added jam
- Cream cheese
- Pepper jelly
- Home-made nutella
- Almond flakes, pistachios, or cashews
- Dried cranberries, raisins, or apricots
I’ve tried this out on all sizes of pirates, young and old. They all say, “Thank you Pita Pan!”
09 Jan 2013
in children, family, food, health, recipes, reviews, science, stories
Tags: art, avoiding sugar, baking, chemistry, index 2012, mood, nutrition, traditions
A year in review, through Vinny’s favorite pictures. The pictures are a fun way to index some of the posts you liked best. Should old acquaintance be forgot… click through and remember!
Vinny goes back to school
Yak’s Sherpa pie
Kale and coconut oil
Eggs pickled pink
Drowning in sugar
A scoop o’ soup
“Happy Trails” mix
Sun and sand dollars
Lunch at Hogwarts
Quinoa goes to a party
Black Hack meets OObleck
Eggs from the Land of Time
Blue eggs? Experiment!
Tea party à la St-Paddy’s Day
Nutella from scratch
Let them eat snake
Picky food monsters
Plateful of Mg
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. Here’s to a happy new year!
08 Jan 2013
in food, health, reviews
Tags: awards, feedback, mood
We’re delighted to have received a number of lovely awards and comments from you over the past year. It’s encouraging to know that people are reading some of the stories we’re putting together and starting conversations with us about them. Even better, it’s nice to be making new foodie friends in the stratosphere, both young and old.
Vinny has tagged some pretty great sites in return, and if you click on the various badges, you’ll find short reviews of some entertaining food blogs.
In an attempt to put all the feedback in one place so I can tidy up the screen for you, here are a few other places you can go to for feedback:
Thanks again to all of you who have checked in here over the past year and to those who have contributed your own thoughts and efforts toward mindful eating. Wishing you everything your hearts desire in the year ahead!
02 Jan 2013
in children, education, family, fitness, food, health, holidays, recipes, reviews, science, stories
Tags: feedback, index 2012, New Years, nutrition
Vinny goes back to school
Yak’s Sherpa pie
Kale and coconut oil
Click the pics to view the posts The carrots are cooked! Thanks to the WordPress gurus, we now know our blog, Cook Up A Story, got 11,000 views in 2012. People from all around the world logged on to read Vinny’s 41 stories over the year and to check out the 242 pictures we uploaded. I know there are lots of blogs out there with far bigger readerships, but I’m thrilled with the faithful following we’ve grown over the past year. Thanks so much to my readers who make blogging such a lot of fun!
The busiest day of the year was April 5th, with 575 views. The kids from Mohawk Gardens Public School poured all over Vinny’s blog that day, leaving helpful comments wherever they went. Their most popular place to comment was Feedback. The post Mini chefs tackle dishes with maxi nutrition documents the kids’ efforts at cooking up stories. Check it out!
“Happy trails” mix
Stevia… safe and natural sweetener
Tea party on St-Paddy’s Day
Nutella from scratch
The largest share of the audience came from the United States (4,611), followed by Canada (3,107) and the United Kingdom (761). Other countries in the top 10 were Australia, Germany, New Zealand, India, the Philippines. the Netherlands, and the Russian Federation.
But Vinny had visitors from more exotic places too… like Gabon, Brunei Darussalam, Afghanistan, Albania, and Mongolia… 103 countries in all.
People came back again and again to check out posts on diet soda, home-made nutella, and custards. But they also liked reading up on unusual foods and ingredients… like stevia, beets, dragon fruit, turr, quinoa, kale, and escargots. The popularity of a post may have been related to how close to the top of the index list it sat. But not entirely…
Lunch at Hogwarts
Quinoa goes to a party
Eggs from the Land of Time
Eggs pickled pink
New in 2013 I’ve organized Vinny’s blog posts to appear in the right margin by category and tag. That way, people can see at a glance what topics are covered in particular areas.
Do you have suggestions to help make the blog better? Are there some topics you’d like Vinny to write about? Do you have a favorite post you’d like to mention? We’re looking forward to another active year of fun and good eating on this site. Please do leave a comment or drop us a line. Why not follow Vinny and let’s cook up some stories together!
31 Dec 2012
in food, health, holidays, humor, reviews
Tags: art, avoiding sugar, awards, baking, carbohydrates, desserts, fruit, goals, mood, New Years, snacks, sugar, treats
Sculpture by Salvador Dali, Dali Museum-Theatre, Figueres, Spain. Photo by me!
If, like me, you’ve found yourself drowning in a tsunami of baked goodies this holiday season, perhaps you’ll want to make a New Year’s resolution.
Repeat with me: In 2013, I promise to choose fruit instead of baked sweets for treats, snacks, and dessert.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
2012 is going out of here with a bang!
My thank you goes to Fae’s Twist and Tango for nominating Cook Up a Story for Blog of the Year 2012. The honor arrived just under the wire, December 31.
Fae’s blog is the work of a storyteller, like Vinny’s! She publishes articles about travel, food and recipes, with a twist and tango — fun to read. Fae has posted many good recipes, but one that’s caught my eye is borscht, a soup we love with lots of beety goodness.
To pay it back, I nominate three extraordinary blogs in turn. These great food blogs highlight what I value most: good writing, wholesome foods and family traditions.
Local Kitchen – When explaining why she promotes cooking “local,” Kaela says, “I’m too poor to be elitist and too foul-mouthed to be holier than thou, so really: taste was my only option. Come join the conversation and discover how wonderful local food can be.” You won’t be disappointed when you visit her site.
My French Heaven – “We must feed our minds and spirit with the things that we love the most,” says Stéphane Gabart. “Mine are food (mostly eating it), hospitality, and design. So here is my little blog. I will try to make it more than just food and pretty pictures. I have a lot to share about what I think it means to feed/nourish oneself and others.” Check this out for the gorgeous photos and stay for the ideas!
This Lunch Rox. Healthy lunches made fun – Lots of ideas for getting a picky kid to eat the good food in his (or her) lunch box! Jamie says, “Over time I developed a passion for healthy cooking. Preparing wholesome food for me and my family brings me more joy than I ever dreamed possible and the lunch boxes are an extension of that. Long story short… I am mama to two beautiful boys who inspire me to create lunches that make healthy eating fun!”
Wishing everyone, everywhere, a healthy and happy year as we head into 2013!
From Vinny et al.
25 Dec 2012
in family, food, health, holidays, recipes
Tags: additives, antioxidants, apricots, avoiding sugar, blood sugar, calories, christmas, custard, desserts, digestion, eggs, eyes, fiber, fruit, ginger, immunity, mood, presentation, Stevia, Tom Lehrer, vitamins
Tell us to go out and buy!
So says Tom Lehrer, mathematician, teacher, lyricist, pianist, composer, singer/songwriter and all round great guy. He wasn’t much impressed with the consumerism that Christmas often embodies. His little holiday ditty from the 1960s is just as relevant today as it was when he penned it:
Christmas time is here, by golly,
Disapproval would be folly.
Deck the halls with hunks of holly,
Fill the cup and don’t say when.
This year we’re trying to fill our cups and plates, not with folly, but with great-tasting foods that feed our bodies and minds with goodness. Our host of angels are made from a low-sugar, low-fat biscuit recipe that kids can roll out and cut into fun Christmas shapes. I used these little darlings, decorated in inert gold leaf, to brighten up my apricot trifle.
The good: Apricots are nutritious. They are a source of lycopene, vitamin C and vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) to boost our disease fighters, dietary fiber to aid digestion and control blood sugar, and vitamin A to protect our eyes.
The bad: A lot of the calories in apricots come from sugars.
The good: There aren’t that many calories, really, in the grand scheme of things, and we need a little sweetness this time of year.
Dried apricots have an even higher concentration of vitamins and nutrients, but are also slightly higher in carbs. Dried apricots are usually treated with sulfites in order to help preserve their shelf life and bright coloring. Untreated dried apricots are much darker in color, and can be found more easily in health food and nutrition stores. Your choice.
Vinny’s apricot trifle
I’ve linked to the original recipe for an apricot tart, by Thom & Aimee. My version is a bit different. I used a thin slice of angel food cake for the crust. I don’t like a pastry crust and the nut crust I tried instead was a disaster. I made my custard with evaporated skim milk, not cream. I used stevia to sweeten the cream and only 80 grams of sugar to sweeten the paste. The result was plenty sweet enough. What else. Oh yes, I used ground dried apricots and candied ginger to flavor the paste, not ground almonds. My technique was a little less demanding, too.
The ginger was terrific and even my picky eater liked it… although he did ask what I ADDED to the custard while forking through a piece of it. I smiled and said nothing. I decorated the top with canned apricots (with the syrup rinsed off), as well as the golden angels. The apricots were too much for the little guy. They were left on the side of the plate. Maybe next time?
Hark, the Herald Tribune sings
Advertising wondrous things
God rest ye merry merchants
May ye make the Yuletide pay
Angels we have heard on high
Tell us to go out and try
Try new nutritious foods and ways of cooking, that is…
Merry Christmas everyone! Peace and love to all __So says Vinny Grette
PS – If you are interested in having me post the exact recipe, let me know. I could do it up some time soon in the new year.
18 Dec 2012
in family, food, health, reviews
Tags: awards, feedback, mood
Vinny and I just got an early Christmas present. Casey of Case of the Munchies has given us a Sunshine Award! What could be warmer at this time of year than to be recognized for working with children? A fellow Canadian, Casey takes beautiful photos of mouth-watering food that he’s prepared by following his own instincts, while interpreting recipes he finds inspiring. He has a casual, happy style so suited to the Sunshine Award. I’m delighted that he has honored me in turn. Visit his site and take a gander.
To pay it back, I’d like to nominate a few of my own favorite blogs for the Sunshine Award, in no particular order.
- Jason’s Bites, a beautiful blog full of delicious food ideas. Jason says, “the whole point of my blog was to show everyone how eating healthy can be DELICIOUS and awesome!”
- Stefan’s Gourmet Blog lives up to its promise. Stefan enjoys preparing unusual dishes and choosing accompanying wines, with flair. Lots of good ideas and an excellent guide for learning new cooking techniques. Loads of great photos, too.
- One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Longer is full of well-referenced material on maintaining good health throughout a long and happy life. I always learn something from reading Tony’s blog. Well worth checking into.
- Planet Snazzy, where fellow Snazzians can find cheery info on food, fashion, fun, and fitness! Lots and lots of great info on this site.
- Simply Young and Thrifty is a cheerful, bright page, fun to click into. Amy says, “I am a foodie, a deal lover, and a student of the world. Staying healthy and happy is my priority. As I experience life, I hope to share ideas on how to nourish the soul, strengthen the body and mind, and stay young and curious.”
In lieu of a bunch of silly personal info that I’ve already posted previously here and there, I’ll offer up a song that says it all. Dear readers, you make me happy when skies are grey. Listen up, this little ditty says it all! It’s a good note to end on.
01 Dec 2012
in children, family, health, holidays, reviews, stories
Tags: advent, avoiding sugar, calendar, chocolate, christmas, mood, play, sugar, traditions
Here we are, boys and girls, December First! It’s that magical time of the year when we start celebrating all things family, beginning with that special couple 2000 years ago who rejoiced together in a stable over their new-born son.
One fun tradition of the season is the Advent Calendar. Kids everywhere will be pushing back the flaps on a small door marked with the date. Many will find a sugary candy waiting for them. One gulp and it’s gone… nothing to show for it but empty calories. And so it goes, as they count down the 25 days until Christmas.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our family turns to Jacquie Lawson Cards instead. She offers a sugar-free advent calendar every year for our enjoyment. Each day unveils a new musical animation with stories, games or puzzles. Once opened, these animations can be replayed again and again, with no added calories!
This year Jacquie brings to life a winter wonderland in a mountain village. While we wait for the next day of December to arrive, we can decorate a tree in our own special cottage, listen to Christmas music or work a puzzle. There’s a nominal fee for all this fun but we think it’s well worth the price.
If computer animation isn’t your thing, you might like to make your own advent calendar. That way, you can choose your own nutritious treats, like nuts or dried fruit or even coupons for family outings or games, or decorations for the tree. There are many ways you can deliver these treats. You are limited only by your imagination. Check out Martha Up Close and Personal for a few ideas.
Or how about a daily advent treat from Fun Kids? Subscribe to a free podcast and get a new song every day in December until Christmas. Open iTunes to subscribe.
click on pic to order
While we’re on the topic of Christmas, perhaps I could shamelessly plug my own offering. How about the gift of healthy eating for a family you know and love? For $4.75 US you can download a copy of Vinny’s e-book Cook Up A Story to your iPad or iPhone. Vinny’s main dish is stories and recipes for the kids, where good food sets the mood. The whole family can sample a side order of basic nutrition facts along with the fun.
This is my gift to you dear readers: four inexpensive and sugarless ways to enjoy the holidays! HoHoHo!
27 Nov 2012
in children, family, fitness, food, health, recipes, stories
Tags: avoiding sugar, baking, beets, cake, chocolate, desserts, Marie Antoinette, mood, nutrition, Stevia, sugar, teeth
“Woe is me!” sighs Marie.
Marie Antoinette found herself bored silly. She had everything she wanted. If she clapped once, her servant would come with a tray full of chocolate cake. Twice got her steaming mugs of cocoa and cream. Three times and she went mad over baskets of truffles and éclairs. But she wasn’t happy.
Bad teeth made her head ache. If something amused her, she hid her black smile behind her fan. To wear her palace gowns, she had her corsets pulled so tight, Marie could hardly catch enough breath to shout, “Off with their heads!”
“Do something!” she ordered the King.
Louis shook his own head and consulted the court surgeon.
“We have no good way to patch up bad teeth, short of pulling them all out,” the doctor said. “To keep the ones Marie has left, she must eat less sugar.” As he took his leave he added, “And your wife needs more exercise.”
Louis loved his wife and wanted to see her well and cheerful. He ordered his chef to make a glorious cake with no sugar. The result was a confection of chocolate, nuts, and veggies, sweetened with a magical herb called stevia. Louis had it wheeled in to his wife’s dining salon on a cart lit by a single gold candle. “This,” said Louis, “is what we will eat with our tea from now on. When we want other sweets, we shall eat fresh fruits and berries. When we want a snack, we shall eat nuts.”
Marie pouted. But Louis insisted. So Marie took a small slice. Sugarless icing crowned the cake. A hint of chocolate cream oozed from the burgundy center. Marie daintily slid her golden fork under the tip of the slice and raised a royal crumb to her lips. “Mmm,” she said. Then she placed the whole forkful into her mouth. “Chocolaty and moist,” she proclaimed. And she ate it all up.
When she asked for another piece, Louis shook his finger back and forth. “Not now, my dear,” he said. ” But perhaps you would like to dance?” He held out his hand, his wrist flounced with lace, and asked his violinist to play. He whirled Marie around the floor. They leaped. They twirled. They chasséed like pretty ponies. On they went until Marie was gasping for air.
Marie flopped into the down feathers of her brocade lounge and laughed.
“I’m glad you enjoyed that, ” said Louis. “We shall dance every afternoon, until we are in the best of shapes, as befits our royal station.”
“WHAT in coronation was in that cake,” Marie asked. “I haven’t felt such energy since I was a girl!”
“It’s hush-hush,” he said. “We wouldn’t want the masses to hear of our secret ingredient. They could start demanding high prices. Worse yet, they might keep it all for themselves.” He paused. “But if you promise not to tell…” Louis hid his mouth behind his hand and whispered in her ear. All he said was: “Beets.”
“From this day forth,” Marie announced with a flourish,”We, The Royal House, will settle for nothing short of beets. The peasants, let them eat cake!”
And so, with a regular program of dance combined with sensible eating, she and Louis took control over their health. They may not have lived happily ever after… but they felt better trying.
To learn how the royal beets worked their charm, check out my previous post.
Royal Beet Cake
serves 10 or 12 people
75 grams (2.5 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
3 large eggs
80 ml (1/3 cup) canola oil
30 ml (2 tablespoons) coconut oil, melted
400 grams raw beets, yielding 300 grams roasted grated beets
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
40 grams (1/3 cup) cocoa, unsweetened
50 grams ground almonds
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
150 grams (1 cup) whole wheat pastry flour
4 teaspoons stevia powder (to equal 300 grams or 2 cups sugar)
4 ounces light cream cheese
2 tablespoons skim milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 teaspoon stevia powder or to taste (to equal 75 grams or 1/4 cup sugar)
1. Trim 3 large beets, clean skins with a dry towel, oil them with canola, and roast them in a sealed casserole at 400F for 60 minutes or until you can pierce them with a fork. Then cool, peel, grate, and measure correct amount.
2. Melt chocolate over hot water in a pan on the stove. Combine with other wet ingredients.
3. Whir dry ingredients in a food processor to add air, then fold them into wet ingredients. Pour into 1-litre (4-cup) cake pan, greased and lined with parchment paper.
4. Bake at 350F for 40 min or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack: 10 minutes in pan, then remove and cool completely.
5. When cool, slice horizontally.
Whip cream cheese and milk together. Add cocoa and stevia to taste. Ice first layer, place second layer on top and ice it too. Decorate with fruit if you like.
Nutrients per serving, based on 10 servings:
288 Calories. 19 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 642 mg cholesterol), 23 g carbs (4.6 g fiber, 5.8 g sugar), 9.3 g protein, 71 mg calcium, 3.1 mg iron, 357 mg sodium, 427 mg potassium, 74 DFE folate, 4.4 mg vitamin E. Leave off the icing and ave even more calories!
Here are three recipes that inspired me: Passionfruit project, Nutrition Guru, and Greenfingers. My original recipe came in at over 650 Calories per serving, most of it sugar and fat.
P.S. My story of Marie is imagined. Although the real Marie is famous for having said, “Let them eat cake!”, it’s likely not true. Read the facts here.
19 Nov 2012
in children, fitness, food, health, recipes, science
Tags: beet leaves, beetniks, beets, biology, borscht, bread, christmas, cream, dill, nitrates, nutrition, Sonny and Cher, traditions, Ukrainian, vegetables
People who are into sports could take a winning tip from Sonny and Cher’s top-100 hit of 1967. You heard it here first, guys… The beat goes on was code, man. Yeah. They’re saying like eat your beets, and you’ll run harder, longer, faster!
It’s true. Lots of science backs this up, but the latest news came out this spring… 45 years after Sonny and Cher gave us the word.
A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that eating 7-ounces of baked beets 75 minutes before exercise helped racers run three percent faster during a 5K. Better yet, in the last 1.8 kilometer, they ran five percent faster. Being able to up your performance like that means you torch both your opponents and major calories.
The secret is all those nitrates in beets. Nitrates help deliver more oxygen to your muscles, so you don’t get tired as fast during a race.
Juice them, soup them, or put them in cake! And don’t throw out the leaves. They’re totally delicious, especially when you use them to make my favorite dish, beetniks. No, the name of this dish is not referring to Sonny and Cher in the 60s. Beetniks turn up at parties in western Canada, especially weddings and Christmas gatherings, when people expect to have a great time and good food. They’re not hard to make, especially if you start with frozen dough.
Click to try out these beet recipes
Then lace up, go out and run your personal best!
Beet soup or borscht
Beet cake (see my next post)
Baked beets or roasted beets with tahini sauce
And my personal favorite…
2 or 3 dozen larger beet leaves, washed
(In a pinch, you can use red chard leaves)
Bread dough, a pound or so
(I use whole-wheat frozen bread dough)
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or 2 tablespoons butter)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup milk thickened with 1 tablespoon flour (or 1 cup cream)
Handful of fresh dill
- Defrost frozen bread dough in the fridge overnight
- Wash the beet leaves and leave them to wilt and dry overnight in a tea towel. If using chard, cut the ribs out
- Chop the onion and garlic
- Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a golf ball and roll it in your hands into a sausage. Wrap a beet leaf loosely around the middle of the dough, leaving the ends unwrapped.
- Place the rolls on a cookie sheet, an inch apart.
- Cover the pan of rolls with a damp, clean kitchen towel and let the bread rise for an hour or so. While one tray of rolls is rising, prepare more for a second tray and so on.
- Once the rolls have risen, bake them 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- You can freeze beetniks at this point and save them for a special occasion. If eating right away, continue to the next step.
- Sauté the onion and garlic in coconut oil in a large pan until soft.
- Remove from heat and stir in the flour, then add the milk slowly, stirring until well mixed. Return to the heat and continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Keep warm and when ready to serve, add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the dill.
- If you are using cream (very rich, but if for a special occasion, oh well?), stir it into the sautéed onions and garlic (no flour needed) and allow it to simmer until it thickens. Add dill last.
- To serve, put three beetniks per person into the warm cream sauce and let them simmer away until they’re hot. This takes more time if the beetniks are frozen than if they are fresh out of the oven. That’s it!
- Serve beetniks with meat and veg or with other treats that come to us from Canada’s west via eastern Europe… like cabbage rolls or barbecued marinated lamb.
Of course, beetniks use the leaves of beets, not the roots. That makes it a different animal from what scientists tested in the study up front. But you won’t go wrong with beet greens. They’re loaded with minerals to keep your blood and bones strong… making you a better athlete!
Just so you know, a 1-cup serving of beet leaves provides you with 15 percent of the daily recommended value of iron, a mineral vital to your red blood cells, which carry the oxygen to your muscles. Iron also regulates cell growth. Besides iron, the same serving of beet greens also contains 15 percent of the calcium you need every day to keep your bones healthy.
So… Go beets! Go kids! Run, run, run! It’s just like Cher was trying to say. Beets help you go on, and on, and on, and on…
Photo from Ravenous Penguin
07 Nov 2012
in children, family, food, health, recipes
Tags: avoiding sugar, baking, brownies, calories, chocolate, desserts, eaTracker, fat, nutrition, nuts, Stevia, sugar
Halloween demands chocolate!
As it happens, a very chocolaty recipe jumped right onto my screen just after Halloween, from Chew Out Loud.
Health-conscious bloggers like Vinny, however, might think this recipe seemed a tad high on sugar (2 1/2 cups). So I tried this recipe using stevia in place of sugar.
Chew’s method for working with chocolate, using boiling water and hot fat, worked wonderfully.
Figuring out how much stevia to use was challenging, though. I would have needed a cup and a quarter of the Stevia Sugar I usually use… and I didn’t have that much left in the jar. So I used the pure stevia powder I had on hand instead. I needed only 2 teaspoons of this stuff. I started off with just 1 teaspoon in case my math was off. The batter wasn’t sweet enough, so I added another teaspoon. The batter now tasted sweet but also a little bitter. This has happened with other batters I’ve made and the cookies turned out well. So I added a half cup of apple sauce to replace the bulk lost when I removed the sugar… and forged ahead.
Don’t over bake!
The result? Disappointment. Liquid fat bubbled up around the pan during baking. When I bit into my brownie, it was, well, dense. Maybe I baked them a bit too long – my toothpick came out clean and there should have been a few crumbs… But the sweetness was good, so I served these brownies with whipped cream to my dinner guests the next day. They all liked them, but the ladies left some behind – too rich…
So I ran the recipe through eaTracker. OMG. Who would ever want to know that each of my eight servings had 555 calories and 39 grams of fat?!? Even the sugar was too high per serving… from the 6 squares of semisweet chocolate, I guess. Also, could the super-dense texture have been the result of no baking powder?
I reworked my recipe with these thoughts in mind and tried again. I wanted the sugar to be around 5 grams per serving and the fat around 10 grams… and the taste, GREAT.
I replaced half the fat with apple sauce, adding fiber to replace the bulk normally occupied by sugar. I upped the unsweetened chocolate and reduced the semisweet chocolate. I used three whole eggs instead of 2 eggs plus 2 yolks. I lowered the flour and salt and added some baking powder. I increased the stevia and substituted coconut oil for butter.
With this new recipe, if you cut it into 16 servings, we approach my goal. If we make 32 pieces, we can enjoy chocolate with a guilt-free conscience!
Taste test result: “Good!”
But just how good is it? We put my skinny recipe up against my original from Chew’s. Both were tasty, neither one overly sweet. Chew’s brownie was dense and rich with flavor. Mine tasted just as chocolaty, and the sweetness from more stevia was a plus. The texture was dense, but lighter than Chew’s. There was no hint of apple, even in the skinny recipe, which had twice as much of the stuff.
Vinny says you CAN have the great taste of a chocolaty brownie and eat it too… with less than half the calories and no added sugar. It just takes a little know-how.
Skinny Halloween Choc-Choc-Chocolate Brownies
one 9×13 pan makes 16 (or 32) squares
1/3 cup (1 ounce) processed cocoa (unsweetened)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water
3 ounces unsweetened good-quality chocolate, chopped fine
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used walnut oil)
2 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Stevia, equivalent to 2 1/2 cups sugar (I used 1 tablespoon of pure stevia)
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 1/4 cups (5.6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (Really! Keep them BIG)
ground pistachios to decorate (idea from The Plum Palate)
Put oven rack at second-to-lowest position and preheat to 350F. Make foil sling: Leave enough foil hanging over edges of pan to grab. Cut corners on the foil and fold it into corners and up sides of pan. Grease foil and set aside.
Whisk cocoa and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts. Whisk in oil and melted coconut oil. Whisk in eggs and vanilla.
Whiz salt, baking powder, stevia and flour in a food processor to mix evenly and add air. Fold into batter with spatula until just combined.
Fold in semisweet chocolate pieces.
Transfer batter into pan, spreading it into corners. Bake for about 25-33 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. It’s done when toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Do not over-bake, or brownies will be dry.
Toothpick should have crumbs
Transfer pan to wire rack and cool for half an hour. Remove brownies from pan using foil sling and put them back on wire rack to cool completely. Cut brownies into 16 or 32 squares.
How skinny are they?
Serving is 1/16th of the pan.
|Saturated Fat (g)
|Vitamin A (RAE)
This is as healthy as I can make them!
30 Oct 2012
in books, children, education, food, health, recipes, reviews, science, stories
Tags: cooking classes, feedback, home ec, nutrition, play, weight control
This spring Cook Up A Story caught the imagination of a public school teacher in Burlington, Ontario. John Highley, who teaches at Mohawk Gardens Public School, said, “If we can get the word out to schools, this thing might take right off. I see teachers using Cook Up a Story as a resource in their classrooms for nutrition/health units from grades 1 to 6, as well as the grade 5 chemistry unit.”
Through John’s efforts, the Grade 6 Chefs Challenge started on March 21, 2012, and ran for nine weeks. Taking part were 18 students, 11 and 12 years old. Each group of 6 students cooked up an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert over three weeks, using recipes from Cook Up a Story. While waiting for things to cook, they read some stories.
Young chefs season some Birdies on a Stick
Their Language Arts teacher encouraged them to post on the book’s blog, also named Cook Up A Story. Comments from the kids came in all through the website. I answered their questions and encouraged the kids to keep cooking. Click on “Contact” in the main menu at the top of the screen and “Readers’ comments” on the right to see some of these exchanges.
Vinny Grette, host of the book and author of this blog, is a boy on a mission. He’s out to show children how to eat well for good health, through stories. Vinny’s come up with a half dozen of them… tales where good food sets the mood. He uses these adventures for kids 6 to 12 years old as bridges to recipes, nutrition and food facts. The package aims to encourage healthy eating for the whole family.
“It’s satisfying to hear how excited the kids were about getting into the kitchen to make delicious foods from healthy ingredients,” says Sharon Rudnitski, the writer behind Cook Up A Story. “They started off with Birdies on a stick, seasoned chicken wings roasted on skewers, with less salt than the usual fare. Then they tried their hand at Mademois-Ellie’s meat pie, a party food in French Canada known as Tourtière. And they finished with Melting moments, a chocolate cookie high on taste and fiber and lower on saturated fat and sugar.”
Says Sharon, “The best thing about this after-school program is seeing my ideas being used the way I had hoped they would. With childhood obesity on the rise and nutrition so much more in the news today, I wanted to do something that might help today’s kids navigate all this buzz without feeling threatened.” The word “fat,” never passes Vinny’s lips except to talk about the merits of olive oil versus butter.
Kids get answers
“My website is full of lots of foodie fun,” says Vinny, while snacking from a fiery bowl of dragon fruit. “I like to write about stuff that kids and their families can savor together. My hope is that the book gets kids interested in good, healthy food basics, so that they want to learn more. When they tap into the website, they can flesh out their nutrition smarts.”
“Vinny is the 12-year-old boy who lives inside all of us, regardless of the passing years,” Sharon muses rather wistfully. Inspired by kitchen adventures for as long as she can remember, Sharon used her degree in food science to launch a publishing career with the science arm of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Now she enjoys bringing her healthy-eating messages privately to kids in the community.
Sharon published Vinny’s efforts last summer. The book is illustrated by Pierre Sylvestre who has 20 years of experience as animator and storyboard artist. It’s available through Blurb Bookstores, an on-line publishing service that distributes books around the world. Click on http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3118045 for more details.
Much thanks to John Highley for making the Grade 6 Chefs Challenge such a success!
23 Oct 2012
in children, education, family, food, health, humor, recipes, stories
Tags: acne, avoiding sugar, baby food, banana, Belafonte, brain, carbohydrates, dessert, Fozzie, minerals, mood, muscles, nerves, nutrition, oats, potassium, Sesame Street, vitamins
Not only monkeys eat bananas,,, kids like them too
“Um, Excuse me… Sorry. Mr. Tally Man?” asks Fozzie Bear. “Uh, what’s that? What’s a tally man?”
Sesame Street’s guest star Harry Belafonte answers this burning question once and for all. The singer tells his muppet pals the tally man is a very important person. Without him, people in northern countries would have no bananas.
“Daaaaay yo! No bananas?” I holler. “What would kids ever do without bananas?”
“Right on!” replies Chiquita, a well-known pint-sized banana expert who is watching her favorite program with Vinny. “Mashed bananas is one of baby’s first solid foods. They’re just so easy to digest and hardly ever cause allergies. Perfecto!” She snatches one from the bowl on the table and peels off its skin. “What would a peanut butter sandwich be like without the occasional banana slice thrown into the mix? Bananas keep it all from sticking to the roof of your mouth!”
“Well, Chiquita,” I say, not quite able to keep from showing off. “There’s a bit more to bananas than their creamy feel. Bananas tote along a mineral called potassium. For some bizarre reason, the sign for potassium is a capital K. The big K on a food label means a big bonus for your muscles, nerves and brain. K reduces blood pressure and risk of stroke. K also helps your bones absorb calcium to stay strong.”
“That’s all good,” says Chiquita, “but how about this? Bananas bring you a bunch of feel-good chemicals that pull together to keep you from getting depressed. And vitamin B6 in bananas helps you sleep and keeps you calm.” She smiled. “You’re not the only one to know a little about bananas.”
“Pass me a banana, quick, then,” I say, “I’m starting to feel a little crazy!” Vinny peels a ripe one and gulps it down. He smiles slowly, then passes the peel to Chiquita. “Yes, I do believe I’m starting to feel calmer. But it seems to me you need help from this banana, too, in another important way. Maybe you should press the inside of the peel to that humungous pimple on your nose. It’ll dry it out in a flash.”
“That’s rich, Vinny” says Chiquita, with a toss of her head. “When I’m finished with this slimy old banana skin, I’ll save it for you. You can throw it into your garden to spruce up those sad-looking flowers by your front door you call roses.”
“Daylight come, and I want to go home,” I sing, ignoring Chiquita. “I love that song! It makes me want to bake some cookies. These ripe bananas will be perfect for mixing up some Skinny Monkeys.”
So Vinny and Chiquita get started in the kitchen. Here’s the recipe they use – low on fat and calories (just 47 in each cookie) and high in protein and fiber.
Bananas, chocolate, nuts, and oats – so good and good for you, too!
Skinny Monkey Cookies
- 3 bananas
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1/4 cup cashew cream (or peanut butter)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Dash of cinnamon
- stevia equivalent to 1/4 cup sugar (or less… but sadly, I like it sweet)
- chocolate chips to decorate
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mash bananas in a large bowl, then stir in remaining ingredients. Let batter stand for about 20 minutes, then drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Top each cookie with a chocolate chip. Bake 10-12 minutes.
After 10 minutes baking on a silicon pad, the cookies tasted very moist, almost too gooey. I put them back in the oven for another five minutes. The cookies never became crispy. Not much risk of burning these babies, I’d say. They tasted moist and chocolatey but a bit bland.These cookies taste best warm. I nuke them in the micro on low power for 5-10 seconds, until they feel warm to the touch. I have to say, they weren’t much of a hit with the kids at room temperature.
Cool completely, then place cookies in a freezer bag. Seal, label, and freeze. To serve, zap on defrost in the microwave until they feel warm to the touch.
Baking tip: Remove the plastic monkey BEFORE you put the pan in the oven….
Thanks to once a month mom for this nutritious kid-friendly recipe idea featuring bananas.
For interest’s sake, here’s one more, not-so-skinny treat, featuring fried bananas and brown sugar. It comes to us from the Philippines, where banana cue is a popular street food.
(1 banana = 0.422g of potassium, 13% of your daily requirement)
16 Oct 2012
in children, family, food, health, local, recipes, stories
Tags: casserole, Chewbacca, leeks, meat, nutrition, potatoes, protein, Tibet, traditions, trivia, vegetables, Wolf Man, yaks
Recipe for eternal youth
My last time out I told you the tale of how Yackity came to live on a farm in Canada. It was a fine life, and Yackity learned how to grow many kinds of foods and make lots of delicious and healthy meals. But there was one dish that her mother had made for her which was always a favorite.
We can imagine inhabitants of Shangri-La baking Yackity’s one-dish dinner for their pampered guests. Its healthful ingredients likely held the key to their long lives!
Yackity shared her recipe with me and I pass it on to you today. If you have trouble finding the ingredients in your area, feel free to make substitutions. This recipe is made to be tampered with.
It would be a shame if you had to toss the yak out of Yackity’s pie. But I realize not everybody is as fortunate as we are to have a yak farm near by. You can always substitute some other lean red meat… emu, beefalo, even pork (surprisingly lean these days). Try to stay away from beef if you can.
Check out this chart, and make up your own minds. See how the calories, cholesterol and fat are all so much lower for yak compared with beef?
| 4 oz. Meat
Yak nutrition analysis provided by Midwest Laboratories, Inc., a USDA-Accredited Lab.
All beef, beefalo, pork and chicken analysis provided by USDA.
Without any more fuss, here’s how to bake this pie.
Yackity’s Tibetan Pie
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes (I used a large purple-skinned sweet potato, which is white inside – yummy! Tibetans grow lots of potatoes, so use whatever kind you like.)
- 2 tablespoons real butter (Yaks are a source of milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter for Tibetans)
- 1/4 cup milk (I always use skim)
- 1/4 cup raw barley (very Tibetan)
- 1 onion, diced (I used a leek – kids like the mild flavor)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 pound ground yak
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (not very Tibetan, but it’s all I had…)
- 1 tablespoon flour
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup crumbled goats cheese (yak cheese isn’t commonly available…)
1) Scrub the potato and slice it into one-inch pieces. Boil until soft, then rinse in cold water. Take the skins off and mash with butter and a little milk. Salt and pepper to taste.
2) Add the raw barley to 1 cup boiling water in a small pan on the stove. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or till tender. Add a 1/4 teaspoon salt the last 5 minutes.
3) Peel and chop the carrot and garlic.
4) Spray an oven-proof deep pie dish with oil.
1) Heat the olive oil in a fry pan. Add the carrot and cook until soft. Add onion and garlic, and stir until onion gets limp. Remove to a plate.
2) Add more oil to the pan, then add the yak and cook on medium heat until brown.
3) Add cooked barley and flour. Put the cooked veggies back in the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes, or until thickened.
1) Put the meat filling into the deep dish, then top with the mashed potatoes.
2) Crumble the cheese over the potato crust. At this point you can refrigerate to serve later.
3) To reheat, put the pie into a 350F oven. When the topping is brown and bubbly, the pie should be hot enough to serve – about 35 minutes.
If you can find yak meat where you live, what are you waiting for? Buy some. It’s good for you and so delicious. Even a kid would like this pie. The sweet potato and barley lend a delicate flavor to a dish already raised out of the ordinary with the unusual meat.
Yackity is ready now to say goodbye. But before she leaves you, she would like to tell you one other fascinating factoid: Chewbacca and the Wolf Man both wore costumes made of yak hair. How cool is that?
Yackity’s Yaks – Read part I of this amazing tale and learn more about the biology of these wonderful animals.
11 Oct 2012
in children, family, food, health, local, science, stories
Tags: biology, calories, farrmers markets, fats, meat, muscles, nutrition, protein, taste, Tibet, traditions, yaks
Let me tell you the strange tale of how a Sherpa lass called Yackity ended up on a ranch far from home and got to the meat of the matter.
One evening, while Yackity fed her animals their usual treat of puffed maize, a cruel wind picked her up and blew her far away from her haven in the Tibetan mountains.
When Yackity came down to earth again, she found herself all alone in a land that reminded her of home. Pine trees, grassy fields, worn rocky outcrops, and many bright flowers felt familiar.
But other things looked strange. Tall whispery trees bent their branches down to a small stream that flowed past their roots. Prickly bushes along the fences drooped from the weight of red berries. Black birds with a blood-red patch on their wings flitted among the reeds.
“Where am I,” Yackity wondered aloud. As she looked around, she was surprised to see an old man walking toward her. What surprised her was his age. Where Yackity had come from, people retained their youth right up to their time of passing. Yet this old fellow seemed fit and spry… running through the fields, shouting “Clara! Micheline! Jasper!”
“Hello there!” Yackity waved, finding she could magically speak to the old man in his own language. “Who are you calling? And where am I?” she asked.
“You’re on one of the few Yak ranches in Canada,” the man replied. He spread his arms. “I was calling the animals so you could meet them. That’s why you’ve come, isn’t it?” He smiled. “My yaks roam across 750 acres of lush vegetation here. They nibble on willow when they are ill and feast on raspberries when they are pregnant. They need only half the food a cow eats and find most of it for themselves. I give them some hay in winter, though. Winters are cold here, but their shaggy hair and extraordinary body chemistry equip yaks to thrive without much shelter, regardless of the weather.”
“What’s so special about their body chemistry?” Yackity asked. “I kept yaks myself in my homeland and never heard of any super powers…”
Jasper, the hardy yak
“I could yack about that forever!” exclaimed the old man. “The main thing is their humungous red blood cells. When it’s cold, yaks breathe slowly, storing oxygen in them. When it’s hot they just breathe faster. Their body fat differs completely from other animals as a result.”
“That’s odd,” Yackity went. “The only meat I’ve ever eaten is yak. It doesn’t have much fat at all.”
“That’s right” said the ranch owner. “Yak meat IS lean. It has just half the calories of beef, the meat people eat most often here abouts. Yak meat has one-third less saturated fats, the nasty ones, and one-third more of the omega 3s and linoleic fatty acids, the ones that are good for us.”
“Oh,” said Yackity, speechless for once. “What I like,” said Yackity, licking her lips at the thought, ” is the delicate juicy flavor. We say yak meat is what keeps us Tibetans limber enough to climb the mountains until we’re well and truly old. If you have some around, I’ll make you my favorite dish for you!”
The old man had a large supply of it in his freezer. Tune in next week to learn how Yackity made her Tibetan pie.
To this day you can still find Yackity on the ranch in Canada, thriving on yak meat and other treats from the land, while helping the old guy care for his animals.
Tibetan pie half undressed, so you can see what’s inside
Many thanks to Rosemary Kralik, for allowing me to post photos of her animals. Rosemary runs Tiraislin, a yak farm just west of Ottawa. She sells her meat from her farm and at the Ottawa Farmers Market. Her yak products are delicious and so good for you, too!
Yackity’s Life-everlasting Tibetan Pie – A great recipe for Sherpa pie and some simple science facts about meat. Yak meat comes out on top in every way… a super meat!
03 Oct 2012
in children, family, food, health, recipes, science, stories
Tags: chips, chocolate, coconut oil, fats, fiber, immunity, kale, milk, nutrition, Oprah, snack, stroke, vegetables
Click on the coconut to hear Grampa’s song
My Great-Great-Ever-So-Great Grampa used to sing about coconuts at the top of his lungs. But he wasn’t much into eating them. Although he loved fine dining, his choices rarely included stuff that was good for him. Broccoli? Yuck! Brown bread? No way! Bring on the butter and the whipped cream!
I thought he was crazy to refuse a slice of Gramma’s coconut cream pie. He turned his nose up, too, at her sticky coconut macaroons. Instead, Grampa chowed down on butter tarts.
Grampa could uncover a health food in a church casserole with one whiff of his nose. He’d have it chucked off his plate before you could say pat-a-cake. So when I started seeing raves popping up all over the Internet toasting the health benefits of coconut oil, I figured Gramps was just ahead of the curve.
In his day, coconut oil was reviled for having sky-high amounts of saturated fats (usually dubbed the bad ones). Today, bloggers are trumpeting it as super healthy. Its benefits are not due to the awesome omega-3s everybody loves now. Instead, it contains an unusual blend of short and medium-sized fatty acids.
People swear coconut oil helps with weight loss because its rare fats raise our metabolic rate. One of its fats (lauric acid), found elsewhere only in mothers’ milk, is said to boost our immune system. It’s also rumored to cure serious illnesses like AIDS, thyroid problems and Crohn’s disease.
But let’s not jump on the band wagon too early. The medical community is still studying its effects. Results are promising but far from conclusive. In the meantime, here are a few things people agree on.
- Unprocessed raw coconut oil offers the most benefit.
- Virgin coconut oil does not raise the risk of heart disease, like saturated fats do.
- Coconut oil is stable when used for cooking at high heat.
- Virgin coconut oil is better than butter and trans fats but not as good as liquid vegetable oils. So whatever you do, don’t replace olive oil or canola oil with coconut oil. But feel free to use coconut oil instead of butter or shortening in your baking. In fact, you can use 25% less oil when you do this.
- If Oprah says so, it must be true!
Even if coconut oil turns out not to be a miracle food, it is still useful in high-temperature cooking to flavor other super foods… kale, for example. Kale is just a SUPER super veggie! But it can be hard to “like.” However… if we team kale up with chocolate and coconut oil, it tastes amazing! So without further ado, here’s Vinny’s recipe for baked chips – super crunchy – made from kale. Thanks to Averie Cooks for the idea! My apologies to someone on WordPress who also posted, but I just can’t find it again.
Let’s make some veggie chips! (“Crisps” in Britain)
Kale chips baked with chocolate and coconut oil
- 1 bunch kale
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons honey or the equivalent in stevia (I used 1.5 tablespoons of Stevia Sugar)
- 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, melted
- pinch of sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Wash kale, removing ribs. I cut them off with scissors.
- Dry thoroughly. I used my hair dryer – only took a minute!
- Tear leaves into bite-size pieces. MUST fit neatly into mouth because the baked chips are too crunchy to bite in half.
- In a large bowl, whisk cocoa, sweetener, and coconut oil. Add dash of sea salt. The syrup that I sweetened with stevia tasted bitter (gasp!), but the baked chips tasted wonderful (whew!).
- Massage the chocolate sauce into the kale.
- On a large baking sheet (or two…), arrange kale leaves in a single layer.
- Bake 10-15 minutes, until kale is crispy. The time varies with the batch – use your cooking sense.
- Turn oven off and prop the door open to let the chips air dry.
Kale chips come out of the oven kind of, well, black. But they aren’t burnt – trust me!
You won’t believe the chocolaty rush you get, as these chips dissolve in your mouth. Would Grampa have liked this snack with all its crunchy goodness? Sadly we’ll never know. He passed away at a regretfully early age from a stroke. Perhaps if he had only eaten more kale and veggie oils…
26 Sep 2012
in food, health, reviews
Tags: awards, feedback, mood
Everyone deserves a little recognition now and then. So today, I’ll take a minute to shine a light on two wonderful bloggers.
First, let me present Peri Avari, the talented writer of Peri’s Spice Ladle. Peri says, “If you are looking for newer and healthier food options to match your healthy lifestyle: the answer lies in Indian food.” Sounds good to me. It’s not just her Parsi-inspired cuisine that makes this blog a popular destination, with over 500 followers. It’s also her warm writing style and her faithful presence in our in-boxes that brings people back, offering good food, along with good thoughts, words, and deeds.
Next, I introduce you to BeautifulSimpleMeaningful, Sophie—wife, mother of two, and from what I gather, academic on a sojourn with her family in Belgium where they are experimenting with role reversal—is a woman after my own heart. Neither novel ingredients, complicated recipes, nor time-consuming techniques for creating basic foods like bread or tofu in her own kitchen faze her. Her motto pretty well sums it all up: “I only have time to cook once a week. So it had better be good.”
I’m so grateful to these two women for nominating Vinny’s blog for three awards circulating about the blogosphere recently.
Earlier this month Sophie kindly put us up for the One Lovely Blog and the Inspiring Blog awards. This is not the first time we’ve been nominated for these honors but it is no less exciting to be given them by such a great blogger. Thanks so much!
Then today, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Peri has tagged us for the Reader Appreciation award! There’s no doubt about how much we appreciate receiving it. Heartfelt thanks, Peri. As this is the first time Vinny has been given this award, we must fulfill these rules:
- Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to his/her blog
- Include the award logo in your blog (see column at the right)
- Answer the questions below (and I have answered them in italics)
- Nominate the blogs you enjoy reading, link them and let them know that they have been nominated (with pleasure)
First, the Q and A:
- What is your favorite color? Pink – is there any other color?
- Favorite flower? Hibiscus (or orchid, or lily… so hard to choose just one)
- What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink? Roibus tea – not only nonalcoholic, but also caffeine free… and pink!
- Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter? Facebook - I don’t have a smart phone – wish I did
- What’s your passion? Children and gardens
- What’s your favorite pattern? Plaid
- Do you prefer giving or getting presents? Both!
- What’s your favorite number? 1,000,000, especially if there is dollar sign in front of it
- Favorite day of the week? Tuesday, the day I post (usually…)
As I have already nominated a number of blogs for the One Lovely Blog and the Inspiring Blog awards, I’ll move right along. My selections for the Reader Appreciation Award (no particular order) go to these fabulous reads:
- Gastronomy Mommy – A like spirit with a blog packed full of stories and recipes about healthy eating
- Cornaby’s – a fun read full of honest assessments about the recipes she tests. Jana, our 300th follower, is also the winner of a free copy of Vinny’s book
- A High School Foodie – a real live 15-year-old chef who reminds me of my own imaginary friend, Vinny Grette
- Running in Mommy Land – an eclectic writer who gets plenty of reader appreciation
- iGame Mom – an informative stopover for families who surf the web, and who doesn’t these days?
To all my faithful readers, so happy to have you along. Please keep reading, commenting, and trying Vinny’s recipes. Let’s get cooking!
18 Sep 2012
in children, family, food, health, local, recipes, science
Tags: anemia, Annie Oakley, antioxidants, brain, corn, digestion, eyes, fiber, heart, minerals, nutrition, okra, prostate, pumpkin seeds, seeds, skin, stroke, sugar, vegetables, vitamins
Annie Okra hits the target every time when it comes to scrubbing out our innards. Also known as “lady finger,” this nutritious green pod is rich in fiber as well as some other gluey stuff. This duo helps digest your dinner. Moving food particles smoothly on their way through the gut, they keep us regular.
Okra is one of the few green veggies that offer lots of antioxidants, with all the benefits they bring for our eyes, skin, heart and lungs. Other vitamins in this little parcel are B, K, and folate. B vitamins promote healthy cells. K is an aid in memory, prevents blood clotting, and promotes healthy bone and prostate. And folate is kind to babies. The pods also deliver minerals.
Like Annie Oakley, the famous sharpshooter from the days of the wild west in America, Okra thrives in hot weather. So it’s not likely we will find it locally in Canada. But I did find it imported at our local grocery store, looking fresh and firm.
If you do have a hot sunny spot and you want to grow Okra, you’ll be rewarded by glorious hibiscus flowers, which turn into the pods we eat. Okra is a cousin of the Mallows, from where we originally got marshmallows! But that’s a sticky story for another day.
Speaking of sticky, some people dislike Okra because when it’s boiled, as in the famous southern dish called chicken gumbo, it gets slippery or even, GASP, slimy. But the Plum Palate recently posted a recipe calling for roasted Okra. Okra roasted in a little oil doesn’t get slimy, and that’s a good thing .
This recipe also calls for corn on the cob, which is at its peak this time of year. You can scrape the kernels off the cob with an ordinary paring knife, whether the corn has already been cooked or is still raw. Good both ways.
Like Okra, corn comes with a lot of fiber. On the bad side, it also come with lots of sugar. But if you are like me and only eat corn in the fall when it’s fresh from the farm, go ahead and eat as much as you like.
Finally, you can use up any pumpkin seeds left over from previous recipes Vinny has recommended, and in the process give yourself another big dose of antioxidants. Pumpkin seeds are crunchier roasted, so take a minute or 10 and heat them up in the frying pan until they start popping and you smell their lovely aroma.
So let’s get cooking!
Roasted Okra, with Sweet Corn and Pumpkin Seeds
Serves four as a side dish
1/4 pound (or more) fresh okra, stems and tips trimmed
4 ears of cooked (or raw) sweet corn, with kernels sliced from the cob
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
- Preheat oven to 425C
- Toast pumpkin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until seeds start to pop, about 8 minutes. Add paprika and stir for a minute or so until well combined and fragrant. Remove from heat and add sea salt, to taste. Transfer to the bowl of a mortar and pestle and grind the seeds.
- Combine Okra in a bowl with 1 teaspoon oil and a little salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
- In another bowl, do the same with the corn.
- Put Okra in a single layer on a flat cookie sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper and roast for 12-15 minutes. Shake pan every 5 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, add cooked corn kernels to the pan. If the kernels are raw, add them at the 5 minute mark.
- Once veggies are browned, put them into a serving bowl and top with crushed pumpkin seeds.
- Finish with a generous dash of paprika.
The Plum Palate says: “Corn is sweet on the tongue. The Okra comes across as mild but robust. The salty pumpkin seeds add crunch and spark.”
This recipe for the incredible Annie Okra is easy!
PS: Annie Oakley. one of the first American women to become famous world wide, was a champion for women’s rights and a star performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Annie died in her early 60s in 1926 from pernicious anemia caused by inability to absorb vitamin B-12.
Annie’s premature death goes to show that vitamins are indeed important. Annie, get your gumbo!
11 Sep 2012
in children, family, food, health, recipes, science, stories
Tags: aging, antioxidants, biology, cancer, carrots, color, fats, free radicals, fruit, heart, immunity, nutrition, nuts, oxygen, pollution, seeds, soup, squash, tomatoes, vegetables, vitamins
Auntie Oxidant is hitch-hiking in your veggies. Give her a ride with this delicious creamed soup!
Auntie Oxidant is a kid’s best friend. Who wouldn’t want to have a powerful protector like her on their side? She’s a real fighter who guards our cells and disarms invaders that cause disease… good to have around.
Auntie O lounges about in fruits and veggies. You probably know some of her family already. Meet:
- Vitamin A – hiding in ORANGE fruits and veggies, like carrots and sweet potatoes
- Lycopene – swimming in cooked tomato dishes, like catchup
- Vitamin E – holding hands with vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds
- Anthocyanin – showing off in RED or BLUE foods, like beets and red carrots
Known in the science world as antioxidants, these nutrients protect cells from free radicals.
”The amount of antioxidants in your body is directly proportional to how long you will live.”
- Dr. Richard Cutler, former Director of the National Institute of Aging, Washington
Free radicals are trouble-makers – formed when oxygen molecules are ripped apart.
Oxygen comes into our bodies in the air we breath. It arrives in pairs of oxygen atoms, with each pair bound tightly into a molecule. We can’t do without the oxygen twins for more than a few seconds. They are essential to life.
But the twins have some powerful enemies. Smoking, alcohol, air pollution, infection, sunlight, radiation… all these things tear at the oxygen molecules, breaking the twins apart.
The separated oxygen atoms are freed at a price – they each lose one electron. The deprived oxygen atoms go on a rampage… stealing electrons from other molecules and damaging cells. Cancer, stroke, sunburn and even aging itself are triggered this way.
Antioxidants ride to the rescue. They use their own electrons to rope those crazy radicals in and tie them up before they can do harm. Without Auntie O, we sort of rust away, from the inside out… or in the case of sunburn, from the outside in!
The Bottom Line
Scientists agree that eating lots of fruits and vegetables lowers your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. A diet rich in veggies and fruit keeps you healthy, through and through.
If your kids won’t eat their veggies in chunks, try them on a delicious pureed soup. Why not start with Auntie O’s favorite, adapted from Cooking up a storm, dish by dish.
Get shopping, preferably at a farmers’ market
Auntie O’s Soup of the Day
CREAM OF ORANGE AND RED VEGGIES
Makes 14 cups
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 red (or orange) carrots,* cut into cubes (about 1 pound or 450 grams)
1 butternut squash, peeled and de-seeded, and cut into cubes (about 1 1/2 pounds or 680 grams)
1 red onion, cut and diced (about 10 ounces or 300 grams)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tomatoes, diced (about 1 pound or 450 grams)
1 litre chicken stock
a little salt and paprika to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or to taste, depending on acid in tomatoes
pumpkin seeds and basil to garnish
- Wash, peel, chop and measure the veggies. Tip: Slice the squash into one-inch rounds, then slice off the hard skin and take out the seeds. Now cut it into cubes.
- In a soup pot on medium heat, stir fry the carrots for 10-15 minutes in the oil. My red carrots turned the soup a beautiful burgundy!
- Add the butternut squash, together with the onions and the garlic, and stir fry for 10 minutes longer
- Add the tomatoes, and cook 2 minutes more
- Add the chicken stock – bring to a boil
- Cover and simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes or until the veggies are squishy
- Switch off the stove – let the mixture cool for 5-10 minutes
- Puree the soup in a blender or food processor, or use a hand blender right in the pot on the stove top (the easiest)
- Serve warm, topped with basil and pumpkin seeds, if you like
* Red carrots have been grown in Turkey for centuries. Their color remains stable and adds a lovely burgundy glow to your soup. You can find them at farmers markets or veggies stores, sold as heritage carrots. They are even healthier than orange carrots because of the special antioxidant they contain, anthocyanin. If you can’t find any red carrots, orange ones work too.
04 Sep 2012
in children, food, health, recipes, science
Tags: apples, asthma, avoiding sugar, baking, blood sugar, cake, calories, carbohydrates, dessert, diabetes, digestion, fiber, heart, lungs, minerals, nutella, nutrition, snack, Stevia, sugar, vitamins, weight control
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Photo by Heather Burke
This little rhyme is one of the first things kids learn about healthy eating. Apples are a food basic. One of baby’s first solid foods is apple sauce. And as kids grow, they often choose apples as a favorite snack. But are apples really so good for us?
The answer is YES! At the very least, you can expect fewer visits to the heart doctor later in life. The apple’s soluble fiber slows the release of sugar into our blood and controls insulin levels. Pectin in apples also lowers insulin levels. The effect is lower cholesterol in our blood and lower risk of heart problems.
But it’s not just the heart that benefits from apples. Its fiber also cleans intestines. It sops up toxic heavy metals that interfere with our health. Plus, it makes us regular. In this way, apple’s fiber reduces risk of cancer. Our lungs, too, are happier when we eat apples. Two studies show two apples a week lower risk of asthma. Time-honored studies also confirm that apples benefit our bodies. According to ancient Chinese medicine, apples strengthen the heart, quench thirst, lubricate the lungs, decrease mucous and increase body fluids. Vitamin C and some healthy minerals also help. All good.
Even better, an apple contains only 50-80 calories.
Sliced… and politely waiting for lunchtime
So apples can help you lose weight. According to one study, women who ate an apple before meals lost more weight than women who didn’t. Apple’s fiber is playing a role here, again. It fills you up and controls your sugar load. A lower body weight, of course, also helps your heart’s health. It’s all related.
Here’s a trick for packing a sliced apple in your child’s lunch box. It won’t go brown if you fit it all back together again like a jig-saw puzzle. Hold it together until meal time with a rubber band.
Apple sandwich , without bread
Or use apple slices like pieces of bread and make a sandwich! Fill your sandwich with peanut butter or homemade nutella sweetened with stevia. Then dot the spread with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, or almond slices.
Apple desserts with added white sugar are probably not doing us any favors, though. That’s why Vinny is pleased to present his Mom’s fabulous recipe for apple cake. He’s changed it up a bit, to ditch the sugar. Vinny’s cake is sweetened with stevia. And he’s used unsweetened applesauce, to add back the bulk lost by leaving out the sugar.
Sweet without sugar, naturally!
Vinny’s Momma’s Misty-Moisty Apple Cake
1/4 cup butter or margarine, cubed, at room temperature
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup (30 grams) Stevia Sugar (to replace 1 cup sugar)*
1 cup all-purpose flour (125 grams )
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped peeled apples, Macintosh or Gala
- Preheat oven to 350 F (180C).
- Grease a 9-inch cake pan (2 1/2 L).
- In a large bowl beat together butter, eggs, and apple sauce until blended. The butter doesn’t incorporate as smoothly without the sugar. Don’t worry.
- In a small bowl, stir dry ingredients well.
- Stir dry mix into egg mix until blended.
- Add apple pieces.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
- This cake is moist enough to eat right out of the oven.
- Or you can serve it warm with ice cream, cheddar cheese, or whipped cream (sweetened with a teaspoon of stevia).
- OR.. you can make stirred custard (sweetened with stevia) to float your slice of cake in. All delicious.
* Read the label on your stevia package to make sure you are using the amount recommended to replace 1 cup sugar (then use a little less). Remember: A is for Apples… and apples earn their A effortlessly. Enjoy an apple every day – just for the health of it!
21 Aug 2012
in children, family, food, health, recipes, science
Tags: beans, biology, blood pressure, broccoli, fish, grains, heart, leafy vegetables, magnesium, nutrition, nuts, scallops, seeds, spices, stroke
A plateful of Magnesium
Are your grandparents looking a little worn around the edges? Maybe you see them filling up on junk food or puffing away on cigarettes too often?
If so, they could be setting themselves up for a medical catastrophe known as Stroke. Holy smokes! That could be serious. Is there anything you can do to help?
If you’ve struck out asking them to quit smoking (a very hard thing to do… but oh so healthy), maybe you can get them to stock up on foods that are high in the superhero Magnesium (Mg).
Magnesium, a mineral found in some foods, has just been proven to fight off the scary Stroke.
The most common kind of stroke happens when the blood thickens enough to form a clot, which blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Researchers at the Swedish Karolinska Institute found that the risk of older folks suffering this kind of problem was reduced by 9% for each 100 milligrams of magnesium they eat each day.
Researchers think it may be because Magnesium helps lower blood pressure.
Get ready to be healthy. Chop, measure, mash, and mix before you start cooking.
Here are some foods that have mega-loads of Magnesium. Put a few of them on the menu every day.
- Green leafy vegetables, like spinach, kale, collard greens, and broccoli.
- Nuts and seeds. Pumpkin and sesame seeds, peanuts, almonds and cashews are good choices.
- Whole grains, like brown rice, oat bran cereal, and whole grain breads.
- Beans. Black beans are a particularly good source, with 120 mg of Magnesium in one cup.
- Fish. Scallops, halibut, and oysters are all good sources of Magnesium. Choose sustainably raised fish when possible.
Vinny’s readers will already have learned about most of these healthy foods. Click on the links above to find out more.
Try the recipe below for a dinner packed full of tasty Magnesium. You won’t be sorry! It’s awesomely delicious. Isla says: “The outside and the insides of black beans are yummy!” Only a four-year-old would think to dissect a black bean, which she went on to eat daintily, one by one, off the end of her fork.
A magnesium smorgasbord, to battle the bullies that bring on a visit from Stroke
SCALLOPS WITH BLACK BEAN SAUCE
The part of the scallop we eat is the large muscle found inside this beautiful shell fish (royalty-free image)
Ingredients for 2-3 servings
1 pound scallops
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon stevia sugar (or ordinary sugar or honey)
Pinch of pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon black beans (or black bean paste)
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 fresh green chili, finely chopped (optional, especially if serving kids)
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root
2 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
• Rinse scallops in cool water. Drain and pat dry. If scallops are large, cut in half (across the middle, to make each piece skinnier).
• Marinate scallops with soy sauce, stevia, pepper, cornstarch, salt, and balsamic vinegar for 30 minutes.
Prepare black bean paste
• Rinse black beans
• Add garlic, chilies, and ginger root
• mix well and mash with a spoon.
Put it all together
• Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch skillet.
• Add three-quarters of the black bean paste, and stir fry for 1 minute.
• Add onions and bell peppers and stir fry for about 5 minutes.
• Add marinated scallops and cook until scallops turn white, about 5 minutes.
• Add the rest of the black bean paste and cook for 1 minute.
• Sprinkle with sesame oil
• Serve with steamed rice mixed with more cooked black beans and a side of steamed broccoli.
Tasty, chalk full of magnesium, and oh so good for keeping Stroke at bay:).
Magnesium in a pan
13 Aug 2012
in children, family, food, health
Tags: anticeptic, antioxidants, currents, fiber, fruit, grains, grapes, nutrition, nuts, raisins, seeds, snacks, sugar, sultana
A whole bunch of raisins!
Once upon a time there was a bunch of grapes. They spent way too long in the sun and ended up as raisins. Did you know? Raisins are just dried grapes. They are produced in many regions of the world. You can eat raisins raw or use them in cooking, baking and brewing.
Raisins are usually dried in the sun. But they can also be dipped in water or put into driers that suck the air out of them. “Golden raisins” are Sultanas, which are a type of white grape. They’re treated with a gas called sulfur dioxide, and dried under a flame to give them their lovely yellow color.
Kids like raisins because they are naturally sweet. Yet they fight the bacteria in the mouth that make holes in your teeth!
Use raisins with whole grain cereals for added goodness. Throw them into a mix with nuts and seeds and other dried fruit for a wholesome snack. Or eat them by the handful, all by themselves.
Keep reading for everything you ever wanted to know about the amazing raisin, a good “reason to be”… healthy!
All about raisins
- Raisins come in a rainbow of colors, including green, black, blue, purple, and yellow.
- Seedless varieties include the Sultana (also known as Thompson Seedless in the USA) and Flame grapes.
- Currants are miniature raisins that are dark in color (nearly black) and have a tart, tangy flavor.
- Several varieties of raisins are produced in Asia and, in the West, are only available at ethnic specialty grocers. Check them out! Green raisins are produced in Iran.
- In the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada the word “raisin” is reserved for the dried large dark grape, with “sultana” being a dried large white grape, and “currant” being a dried small Black Corinth grape.
- Raisins range from about 67% to 72% sugars by weight, most of which is fructose and glucose.
- They also contain about 3% protein and 3.5% dietary fiber.
- Raisins, like prunes and apricots, are also high in certain antioxidants, but have a lower vitamin C content than fresh grapes.
- Raisins are low in sodium and contain no cholesterol.
- New research has shown, despite having a high concentration of sugars, raisins fight bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities and gum disease.
Eat raisins and live happily ever after! The end.
Credits: Photo is courtesy of Foodimentary!
01 Aug 2012
in children, food, health, recipes
Tags: escargots, fats, French, garlic, goat cheese, gourmet, herbs, meat, milk, minerals, nutrition, protein, snails, traditions, vitamins
Bon Appétit !
Escargot, if you don’t already know this, kiddies, is French for snail. And that’s right, people eat them. In fact, many of best restaurants offer snails at high prices.
I personally knew one little girl who ordered escargots whenever she saw them on the menu, usually while we were driving in Quebec, Canada’s French province. She liked her snails with chocolate milk.
Servers everywhere shook their heads in wonder when she placed her order. On one trip in particular she ate escargots so often we had to drive with the windows down. That’s because snails are most often served swimming in garlic butter. After a while, the air gets pretty rank.
The fact that we find escargots in Quebec is not a coincidence. The French eat 40,000 tonnes of snails each year. Most of these are served floating in hot melted butter. This method of cooking snails, however, undermines their nutritional goodness. Without the butter, snails are high in protein, low in fat.
In fact, snail pie is an option to combat hunger in Africa. Here’s why. Snail meat contains protein, fat (mainly polyunsaturated fatty acid, the good fat), iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, K and folate. It also contains the amino acids arginine and lysine at higher levels than in whole egg. Finally, it contains healthy essential fatty acids like linoleic and linolenic acids. The high-protein, low-fat content of snail meat makes it a healthy alternative food. How about that!
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
The things is: they’re ugly little critters!
But we should get over it and learn to love these nutritious power houses.
After all, snails have been eaten as food since at least ancient Roman times. Apicius, the author of the oldest surviving cookbook known (it dates from the time of Jesus), gives us a recipe for snails. He preferred his snails to be fattened up on milk and then lightly sautéed. Snails are wildly popular in many countries, if not so much in English Canada and the USA. Restaurants internationally serve about 1 billion snails annually.
But let’s lower the butter content a tad. Here’s a great recipe we can try, for example, from Escargot Passion. It’s not entirely butter-free, but it IS made with less butter than usual. It’s said to be very easy.
Low-fat escargots, with goat cheese stuffing
Here are the proportions for 48 snails, previously cooked in court bouillon. The recipe makes eight servings of six escargots each.
- 200 g of goat cheese ( or greek feta )
- 50 g of butter
- 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
- salt to taste
- optional – flavor with tarragon, anise, or crushed mustard seed. I used tarragon.
See the little cup that holds the snail shells? Functional design!
- 48 empty snail shells
- 8 oven-safe snail plates with places for 6 snails
- 8 snail forks
- 8 snail tongs (optional, if you’re handy enough with your fingers)
- Whole wheat baguette
How to prepare
- Knead the ingredients together until you have a smooth paste.
- In each empty shell, place a little of this paste. Then push a cooked escargot into the shell. Fill the remaining space in the shell completely and smoothly with the paste. Use 5 grams for each shell (a teaspoon). Arrange the snails six to a plate.
- Put the plates in the oven (200°C or 400°F) just long enough to melt the butter.
- Serve immediately. Be careful because the plates and snails are hot. Pick the snails out of their shells with a special little fork. Sop up the melted paste with pieces of the whole wheat baguette.
Tip: You can actually buy snails ready to go in cans and avoid the worst part of snail cooking – the cleaning of the live little critters. If you’re interested in this aspect of snail cuisine, see Escargot Passion in the last paragraph or read these instructions for finding, cleaning and cooking snails from your own garden.
So don’t be shy… go ahead and try this recipe. We all know snails are what little boys are made of (along with puppy dogs’ tails)… so they must be pretty good. The hardest part is finding the canned and cooked snails, but you can do it. Let me know how you like the recipe?
There’s a nutritional powerhouse within that lovely shell
17 Jul 2012
in children, family, food, health, recipes
Tags: acorns, calories, chocolate, dried fruit, fats, fruit, Lone Ranger, Native American, nuts, pemmican, Roy Rogers, safety, seeds, snacks, tannin, traditions, trail mix
Ke-mo-sah-bee! “Trusted friend”
In a recent blog we talked about the goodness of hazel nuts. We even used hazelnuts to make some reasonably healthy homemade Nutella! If you think about it, Hazelnut and Acorn could be twins.
The Nut twins: Acorn…
And his sister Hazel Nut
If an acorn has enough power under its little cap to sprout a giant oak tree, just think what if could do for you if you were to eat it! It’s not a secret. Even as long ago as the early days of the wild west, folks knew the power inside those tough little shells. Cowboys like the Lone Ranger, taught by his Native American partner Tonto, grew strong on acorns. They used acorn meal as flour, as an ingredient in mush, or pounded with meat, fat, and berries to make pemmican.
But there’s a catch. All the goodness of acorns is hidden behind an enemy known as Tannin. Our forefathers put their crop of dried, shelled and ground acorns in bags and left them for days in a swift-running stream. This process washed the harmful tannins away. A faster way is to boil the nuts, toss the darkened water containing the tannins away, replace it with fresh water, and continue until the water remains clear. Tannins can ruin your kidneys if you’re not careful.
Maybe that’s why acorns are not so popular these days. They’re just too much trouble, when there are lots of other great-tasting nuts around for the taking. Acorn’s twin, Hazel Nut, is a good example.
Nothing’s like freshly ground nut butter
But there are so many more. Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, and even the lowly peanuts are only a few of the delicious and healthy nuts we can find by going to our neighborhood grocery store. There we can get them in the shell or out, plain or roasted, salted or spiced, whole, sliced or ground, or, best of all… made into nut butter.
Did you know? Breaking news… Nuts and seeds are one of nature’s belly fat killers. Adding these to your diet is a great strategy.
Hi Ho Silver… Away! Who WAS that masked man?
Just remember… all good things in moderation. Nuts pack lots of nutrients but at the same time provide a lot of calories ounce for ounce. I say keep the serving size down to a handful a day, and live long and prosper.
Happy Trails Snack Mix (Listen to the song while you mix this up )
Good cowboys and cowgirls need a little something to tide them over as they ride the range. Trail mix is much better for you than dastardly useless chips (or “crisps” as they’re known in the UK). For those times when hunger pangs strike, mix together 1/4 cup of any of these things you have in your pantry:
dried apricots, dates and/or mangos, chopped
any other nut, seed, or dried fruit you have in your cupboard…
For every five ingredients, you can add 1/4 cup chocolate chips, if you really have to. It’s probably better to leave them out, but if you use them, choose DARK chocolate. The dark stuff contains antioxidants (cancer fighters). You may as well get some benefit from your sugar hit.
Eat a handful whenever you feel weak from hunger and your next meal is more than a half hour away.
Happy trails to you, and may we meet again!
09 Jul 2012
in children, family, food, health
Tags: artificial sweeteners, avoiding sugar, brain, calories, cancer, desserts, diet soda, drink, honey, maple syrup, nutrition, Stevia, sugar
Princess of sweet
Once upon a time, there lived a magical sweetener, named Stevia. Cousin of Chrysanthemum and sister of Sunflower, Stevia was incredibly sweet. The truth is Stevia was 300 times sweeter than her ugly stepmother, Sugar. Better yet, Stevia was sweet without any added calories. And best of all, Stevia was so much kinder than any of her catty artificial friends, who promise the same calorie-free hit but deliver nothing but trouble.
I’m referring of course to the shifty Splenda, Aspartame, Saccharine, Sucralose, and Acesulfame. Evidence suggests that these artificial sweeteners are contributing to cancer, brain disorders, and sugar dependency problems. They are used in soft drinks, packaged puddings and jellos and many other processed food that are labeled sugar free.
Artificial sweeteners are no-nos for kids or pregnant mothers.
Food processors of course know that people want to cut back on sugar. To hide the sugar, they use different members of the sugar family in their foods. That way, sugar can be scattered across the ingredient list, not staring you right in the eye at the top.
Here are some of the more notorious of Sugar’s relatives: Corn sweetener, Dextrose, Fructose, Fruit-juice concentrate, Glucose, High-fructose corn syrup or HFCS (a particularly lethal individual), Lactose, Maltose, Molasses, and Sucrose. Whew!
But what if you crave sweetness once in a while? Well, you may have to make your own treats. I use maple syrup or honey in place of white sugar. Even with these products, I’m still adding volume-for-volume the same number of calories. To get ahead of the game, I reduce the amount I use in the recipe. And besides, these natural sweeteners come with benefits: maple syrup is a tree sap full of cancer fighters and honey is baby food for bees, with many extras to offer people who eat it too. Maple syrup and honey are a good choice as long as the recipe calls for only a little sweetener.
If you need a lot of sweetener, though, try looking to our gentle Stevia for help. It’s natural, it has no calories, it’s safe, and if you use the right amount, it’s sweet without any aftertaste. For centuries South Americans have used Stevia in herbal teas. Decades ago, Stevia made friends with the Japanese who even used it in Diet Coke! By 2000, Agriculture Canada was experimenting with Stevia in various processed foods, as a safe, calorie-free substitute for sugar.
Stevia – it’s natural! Photo courtesy of healthFA.
But if it’s so good, why aren’t food processors using it as a sweetener of choice here?
It comes down to money. You can’t patent a natural product. So years ago, Stevia’s rivals lodged complaints and Stevia became illegal in processed foods in the US, Canada, and the UK. Until recently, artificial Splenda remained safe as Queen of Colas.
That’s why I could hardly believe who it is we have to thank for a new sweetener we have today, based on the Stevia plant… Coca Cola! They came up with a way to harness the calorie-free sweetness of stevia in a patented product called Truvia. Truvia is a spoon-for-spoon substitute for sugar. It’s in foods like VitaminWater Zero, Sprite Green, and Blue Sky Free. Pepsi has also come out with a Truvia competitor. And in Canada I’ve spotted a similar product called Stevia Sugar in health stores. I’ve tried it and it’s great. I use the tip of a spoonful in my coffee and there’s no bitter aftertaste at all.
Stevia Sugar…, Truvia’s sister
Since 2008 when Stevia was approved for use in food in the US, Truvia has become the second best-selling sugar substitute, beaten only by Splenda.
Side effects? Studies show that Stevia is safe at normal consumption rates. Truvia might, however, cause diarrhea in a few people, especially people with bowel problems. This problem comes from the sugar alcohol used to cut the sweetness of Stevia. But it takes an awful lot of Truvia to cause this difficulty and, again, only in a few people.
So I say let’s give Stevia and her offspring, Truvia and siblings, a whirl. Stay tuned for some recipes and more episodes in the Stevia Story. Good night and sweet dreams!
Sodas sweetened with Stevia, available in Canada
07 Jul 2012
in food, health, reviews
Tags: awards, feedback, mood
Many thanks to fsszj of Household arts and science fame for awarding me the Inspiring Blog Award.
It’s an honor to be recognized by a person like fssz. Her blog is the epitome of the art of home management. She covers such topics as arts and crafts, cooking, education and research, family relationships, health and nutrition, hospitality, human development, and most importantly, real-life responsibilities. fsszj somehow finds the most wonderful and popular recipes and household hints ever. Do look this one up. You won’t be sorry you spent the time.
Inspiring: from the verb Inspire – to encourage or stimulate. Synonyms – Exciting, exhilarating, galvanizing, swaying, stirring.
Eureka! Now I get it. My blog is definitely intended to get people stirring – stirring up simple healthful tasty foods in their own cozy kitchens. I’m into trying to get families excited about spending time together around the table. I galvanize folks, or at least try to, into taking a little time to make meals special. I feel exhilarated when people remember where they came from enough to cherish their family’s traditions. I try to sway people of all ages into trying new foods that they cook from scratch with unprocessed ingredients.
So if just a few of you make a few small changes in these directions, or feel inspired to continue on a path you’ve already embarked upon, maybe my efforts here are worth while. Thanks to fsszj for making Vinny feel appreciated.
Here are a few other blogs I’ve been reading lately that make me feel inspired. I hope they will do the same for you. Nominated in turn for the Inspiring Blog Award are:
Behind her smile’s blog – inspires me to continue with my efforts to bring healthy tasty foods to kids and their families
Health demystified – inspires me to live a balanced life
Apronhead – inspires me to look at the world with clear eyes through beautiful photography and provocative thinking
Awesomely awake – inspires me to be creative and mindful in helping to raise children
quête saveur – a flavor quest
- inspires me to try new foods from another culture
Happy blogging, happy cooking, and, most important, happy eating!PS: Stay tuned for a fun-lovin’ post called
Nuts to you, Cowboy
and a slightly more serious effort,
Stevia’s a real sweetheart!
01 Jul 2012
in family, food, health, holidays, recipes
Tags: baking, cake, Canada Day, dates, dessert, goat cheese, maple leaf stencil, nutrition, nuts, pizza, presentation, raspberries, traditions, war
Our home and native land is celebrating a birthday! Isla says: We need to bake a cake. Of course we do. I should have thought of that myself!
First, I thought about making a Victoria sponge cake, named after an old by-gone queen. But it doesn’t make the grade as a food suitable for posting here, where we like to feature healthy eating for kids of all ages… Darn!
Then I made a wonderful discovery. Canada’s queen (Queen Elizabeth, of course, who is also, not so coincidentally, Queen of England) came up with a perfectly delicious cake around the time of the last world war that should have done very nicely. I made a couple of adjustments to the sugar and fat components (see above comment pertaining to healthy eating ), and away we went! Sadly, The Queen mustn’t know how to bake very well… My cake turned out flat as a pancake. Or perhaps it was my adjustments???
Whatever, I had two options: make another cake and stack them, as I explained in my directions, below. Or ice the single layer I had already and call it a Canada Day pizza. Regardless, I’ve adjusted the technique a little, which you will see reflected in my instructions, in an attempt to get the cake to rise a bit more successfully. If you try it, let me know how it comes out?
I’ve updated the icing, too, using goat’s cheese and low-fat cream cheese, based on an idea I found on WordPress recently. Then I smothered the whole thing in raspberries, long-known as a super food, and super good too. This buys nicely into the pizza idea.
Then Isla had the best suggestion ever: let’s make it a flag cake! So the pizza became a very respectable looking flag, and the end result was fit for a queen… Or for a country’s birthday party.
Have fun on Canada’s birthday and dig in to the best healthiest birthday cake ever!
Canada Day Flag Cake
Vinny’s Jubilation Cake, with a polite curtsy to Queen Elizabeth
• 6 oz (170 g) dates, chopped and with any stones removed
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 cup (240 ml) water
• 1/3 cup (100 g) honey
• 2.7 oz (75 g) butter, softened (about 1/2 cup)
• 1/4 cup (50 grams) canola or olive oil
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla flavouring
• 1 and 3/4 cup (190 g) plain flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/3 teaspoon salt
• 150 g chopped pecans (optional)
5 oz chevre (goat cheese), at room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 lemon, zested
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup maple syrup, in honor of Canada Day (or icing sugar if you want a pure white background for your flag)
1 pint fresh raspberries or any red berry in season
1/3 cup raspberry jam (if making the layer cake)
1/3 cup whipped cream (if making the layer cake)
1 tablespoon raspberry jam (to paint the maple leaf)
How to mix it all up
1) Preheat oven to 350°F.
2) prepare two 8×12″ pans by spraying them with oil and lining them with parchment paper. You only need one pan for the pizza flag.
3) Combine in a small pot the dates and hot water. Bring to a boil and allow dates to bubble for a few minutes, stirring until the dates become sticky, like a thick jam. Add the baking powder, mix slightly, and stand back! It makes a good show.
4) In a large bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and honey. Add the beaten egg and vanilla and beat until creamy.
5) Whiz the flour, the second amount of baking powder and salt in a food processor for 30 seconds. Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Pour in date mixture, and mix all together gently.
6) Pour batter into one of the pans. Transfer pan to the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let stand.
7) For the layer cake, make another batch of cake dough and bake a second cake in the second pan. You can freeze the cakes at this point wrapped in tin foil. Thaw and frost them on the big day, as follows.
1) Cream all icing ingredients together in a medium bowl.
2) For the layer cake, spread 1/4 cup raspberry jam over the first layer. Then spread 1/3 cup whipped cream over the jam. Top with the second layer.
3) Spread the cheesy icing smoothly over the top of the cake and along the sides.
4) Make a cutout of a maple leaf. I reduced this image to half size.
Soggy Maple Leaf cutout
5) Dilute 1 tablespoon raspberry jam with a little warm water or lemon juice until it is spreadable. Use the cutout to paint a maple leaf in the centre of the cake with jam, then remove the cutout. Make a row of raspberries on each end of the cake. Happy Canada Day!
Happy Canada Day, Everybody! And no, this isn’t Vinny!
22 Jun 2012
in books, children, family, food, recipes, reviews, stories
Tags: British, casseroles, custard, desserts, drinks, eggs, fruit, gooseberries, leeks, mint, potatoes, Redwall Cookbook, shrimp, tea, traditions, turnip, vegetables
Cooking up stories from Redwall Abbey
Create and EAT all the dishes found behind the walls of Redwall Abbey. Try Greatwall gooseberry fool, shrimp and hotroot soup, and Mole’s favorite deeper than ever turnip ‘n tater beetroot pie, all washed down with Summer strawberry fizz.
These traditional recipes were born during the scarce years of the Second World War… but many probably go back much farther than that, handed down by mothers and mother’s mothers in Britain ever since they began to grow potatoes and cabbages.
Don’t worry, though. All these recipes taste great. And even better, they are good for you. All are made from seasonally fresh foods from scratch and most of them feature many fruits and veggies. Because sugar was rationed during the war, sweets are at a minimum.
Best of all you can read along, about the adventures of Mole and Badger in the Mossflower woods.
See if you can find The Redwall Cookbook at your library. This cheery little book, by Brian Jacques and illustrated by Christopher Denise, is sure to turn inexperienced Dibbuns into seasoned chefs. Dig in!
To get you started, try these:
Crispy cheese and onion hogbake
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cups (4 oz) grated cheddar cheese
4 eggs, beaten
¼ cup milk (Vinny suggests using skim)
1 ½ cup cornflakes (Vinny says try bran flakes instead)
4 tomatoes, sliced
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Place onions in a large casserole. Sprinkle the cheese over the onions; pour in the beaten egg and milk and season with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the cereal flakes over all and arrange the tomatoes to cover.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes. Serve hot.
OR HOW ABOUT…..
Leeks, ready to eat!
Gourmet garrison grilled leeks
1 ½ pound (about 4 medium) leeks, cleaned and chopped into 1 ½ inch lengths
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Preheat the broiler.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt.
- Boil the leeks for 10 minutes.
- Drain and transfer the leeks to a shallow oven-proof dish.
- In a bowl cream the butter, mustard and cheese and spread over the leaks.
- Broil until golden, about 3 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
Caffeine-free hot mint tea
(Vinny’s recipe, based on Redwall’s - what would a British meal be without tea?)
1 tablespoon Roibus tea leaves (or other caffeine-free tea)
1 small bunch of mint leaves (a nice handful)
honey, to taste
- Put the tea and mint leaves into a teapot large enough to hold six cups.
- Bring 5 cups of water to a boil and pour over the leaves.
- Let it rest (steep) for 5 minutes.
- Strain into four mugs and sweeten with honey, as you like it.
And we talked about some old times
And we drank ourselves some tea
Still delicious after all these years!
Greathall gooseberry fool
1 pound gooseberries (you can use any kind of berries but then, you must change the name…)
½ cup sugar (use less if you are using a sweet berry instead of gooseberries)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons plus ½ c milk (Vinny uses skim)
½ cup heavy cream, whipped
Grated chocolate to garnish
- Cook the gooseberries in a saucepan with the sugar and 2 tablespoons water, about 10 minutes, until the berries are soft.
- Press the fruit through a sieve over a bowl.
- Let the fruit puree cool.
Make the custard
- Mix the cornstarch and sugar with 2 tablespoons of milk.
- Bring another ½ cup of milk to a boil and pour it slowly over the cornstarch mix, stirring to blend well.
- Return the mixture to the pan and cook over medium low heat, stirring until thickened, about 4 minutes.
- Let cool, stirring occasionally.
- Fold the custard, then the whipped cream into the berry puree.
- Cover and chill at least an hour.
- Serve the fool in four pretty glasses and sprinkle with grated chocolate.
20 Jun 2012
in food, health, reviews
Tags: awards, feedback, mood
Thanks so much to Household Science and Arts for awarding me the One Lovely Blog Award. Especially so, as the honor comes from such a wonderful and prolific blogger herself. Her blog covers arts and crafts, cooking, education and research, family relationships, health and nutrition, hospitality, human development, organization, pet care and animal advocacy, and most importantly real-life responsibilities… but especially, great food. Every week there are many posts to contemplate, from a woman who thinks the family is the cornerstone of our society. Do check this one out.
I’m asked to reveal seven things about myself …. SEVEN! I can barely think of one. Anyway, here it goes, seven things I love:
1) The honesty of children
2) The serenity of the great outdoors – camping, gardening, hiking
3) Taste sensations – any good cooking efforts will do
4) Traveling, even if only down the road 30 miles. I’ve come to be known as an adventurer with confidence issues.
5) Family – mine in particular, but also the whole idea of family life in general.
6) Art and creativity of any kind
7) A good novel every week, especially if it has something to do with food
For your reading pleasure, I put forward these blogs, in turn, as worthy of the One Lovely Blog award (in no particular order). NINE of them!
Every college girl
Grandma’s fun factory
Maggie’s one butt kitchen
The Blissful adventurer
Peri’s spice ladle
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
13 Jun 2012
in children, family, food, health, recipes
Tags: calories, corn, experiments, fats, fiber, iron, maple syrup, minerals, nutella, nutrition, popcorn, protein, snacks, taste, vegetables
Rain pounds against our skylight. We can hardly hear the movie above the noise, as Harry Potter and his friend Ron swap their Bertie Bott Every Flavor Beans with their friends. Toast, sardine, grass, and dirty-sock flavors are all up for grabs.
“Can we go to the candy store? ” Isla asks, watching Harry suck on a toffee bean.
“Pleeeease?’ adds Will for good measure.
“Let’s pop some corn, instead, and test out a whole bunch of flavors of our own,” I say. It was awfully wet and windy, outside. “We can try different kinds of corn, all kinds of oil and lots of spices – it’ll be so much fun!”
Isla gives me a thumbs up. Will says: “Do you have any of that homemade Nutella left we could try?”
Nodding yes, I headed for the kitchen with the kids close behind.
Here’s what we dig out of the crannies of my cupboards:
- some yellow corn kernels and some white corn kernels
- brown paper lunch bags
- olive oil, walnut nut oil, and black truffle oil (OK, I admit it - I am a bit of a food junky)
- sea salt, black pepper, chili powder, curry powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, maple syrup, homemade Nutella, Tabasco sauce, Bangkok sauce, and Parmesan cheese
- a bunch of little white dessert bowls
- two mixing spoons
- a set of measuring spoons and my favorite measuring cups
Here’s what to do:
- Turn on The Popcorn Song, to keep us in a popping mood. I think you’ll recognize it once you hear it… listen up, it’s GREAT!
- Measure 1/4 cup of white kernels into one bag and 1/4 cup yellow kernels into the other bag. Fold the top of the bags closed, twice. Tear the fold in two places toward the center, about a half-inch apart, and fold down the paper between the tears to fasten the fold tightly. Don’t use tape, as it burns.
- Put the bags one at a time into the microwave and set the oven on high for 2-3 minutes. WATCH CLOSELY. If the paper smokes turn the oven OFF. Also, listen to the pops. When the racket stops, turn the oven OFF.
- Divide the popcorn into the dishes: three with white popped corn, three with yellow popped corn.
- Taste the two kinds of corn without any flavoring at all. What’s your favorite?
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of oil on each dish of popped corn. Try a different kind on each dish of white and yellow corn.
Then add a bunch of flavors to the bowls and toss. In different bowls, we tried:
- 1 tablespoon Nutella
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder, a sprinkle of salt, and a few dashes of Tabasco
- a few shakes of salt from the salt grinder and some freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon Bangkok sauce
The idea is to see if we can find some great snacks that get away from melted butter and sugar and use instead healthier fats and spices. But you can go ahead and try anything you like. Next time, I’ll try adding a little yeast. I’ve heard it’s a great flavor boost and adds protein and vitamins too.
The kids taste the popped corn from the various bowls and deliver their verdicts.
- Third prize goes to: Parmesan cheese and garlic powder, with truffle oil, on white corn
- Second prize: Nutella, with olive oil on yellow corn. The oil helps keep the corn crisper for longer, as the Nutella adds unwanted moisture along with its goodness.
- Fanfare please… First prize goes to: Maple syrup and cinnamon with walnut oil on yellow corn!!!
The kids liked the yellow corn best – it’s what they’re used to. But I really liked the white corn. It was tenderer and had a more intense flavor. Both corn kernels were the same price, and about a seventh less than packaged microwave popcorn. Why pay more for high-tech wrapping that pollutes the planet?
Three cups of air-popped corn without the added oil or flavorings is 93 calories. It contains lots of fiber, some protein and some iron. We use a little of the healthier unsaturated fats so that the flavorings stick to the kernels better. The type of oil changes the flavor. I loved the truffle oil with just a little salt and pepper. I didn’t miss the butter at all – especially with the Parmesan corn, my personal favorite.
Once you find a favorite, you can up the quantities and make a big batch for rainy movie afternoons.
Take it easy with any sauce that is more watery than it is oily. It makes the corn soggy – not cool.
Will and Isla won’t be trying brussels sprouts or dirt-flavored popcorn, no matter how much Harry and Ron rave about those kinds of beans. But we’ll definitely be getting out the corn kernels and spice jars the next time we hunker down for a wet afternoon with our favorite movies.
More popcorn ideas Thanks to SquawkFox for the inspiration for this food experiment . Check out the comments there, too, for more cool ideas.
Popcorn nutrition Here, you can also compare the nutrition of popcorn with other snacks – popcorn wins nearly every race!