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…
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!
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!
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!
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!
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…
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
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.
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!
09 May 2012
in children, family, food, health, recipes, science
Tags: bananas, blood sugar, breakfast, carbohydrates, cranberries, diabetes, digestion, fiber, gluten free, heart, low glycemic, Native American, nutrition, oats, pemmican, presentation, snacks, sugar, traditions, weight control
Banana oat cones are healthier than ice-cream. They are also ridiculously tasty!
“Why do mares and does eat oats?” asks Isla.
“Oats look to me like dry little paper bits,” says Will. “Ugh. Does Bambi’s mom know something we don’t?” Will adds.
“Well,” says I, stalling for time over yet another why question. “Mom’s are usually right.” I smile. “And people eat oats, too. They’re good for us, but I can’t remember exactly why. Let me get back to you.”
I look into this burning question and guess what? Oats are another of our super foods! That’s why you find oatmeal porridge or oat cereals for breakfast on many popular weight loss diets, even ones that feature low-carb eating.
Groats, steel-cut, stone-ground, or old-fashioned rolled… the type of oats makes little difference to the nutrition you get – they’re all good. All these kinds of oats are made from the whole grain. Like other whole grains, they are great sources of fiber. But they have more of a special kind of fiber than other cereals. It’s called soluble fiber and it helps keep cholesterol in your blood down. Its fiber and protein also make oats slow to digest into sugar, a feature called low-glycemic. This means oats gives you a steadier level of sugar in your blood… so you stay full longer and you’re less likely to get diabetes. Oats is also a good source of good fats, the unsaturated omega fatty acid kind. Extensive studies show these help keep your heart healthy longer.
Just stay away from instant (or quick-cooking) oats. They are more processed than other oats. Time saved when making instant over old-fashioned rolled oats is minimal, but with instant, you lose the low-glycemic benefits.
Confirmed meat-eater that I am, I’ve never been a fan of breakfast cereal. So I’m overjoyed to learn that I can make cookies from regular rolled oats. The two recipes here are easy enough that even little kids can join in making them. One recipe doesn’t even need baking… just mix it up, roll it into balls and eat. Neither has flour, so they can be enjoyed by folks on a gluten-free diet. And both are sweetened mainly from fruit and maple syrup. You can even leave the maple syrup out if you need to. I served the oat balls in ice-cream cones, convinced that presentation makes a difference to kids.
My picky eater digs into this fiber-rich cone treat
“Yum,” says Will, my picky eater, spying the mound of cones on the dining-room table.
“Me too,” says Isla, reaching for a pink one.
Here are the recipes, with thanks for inspiration to those who’ve tried them before me.
Banana-Cranberry Oatmeal Cones
1 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
1 c unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 c almond meal (or whole almonds ground in a blender/food processor)
2 tablespoon flax-seed meal
Adapted from Tiffany Lane Handmade
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup dried cranberries (or any dried fruit), chopped if necessary
3 ripe bananas, mashed until smooth
1/4 cup hazelnut oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond or cocoanut extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, coconut flakes, almond meal, flax-seed meal, salt, cinnamon, allspice and cranberries until evenly mixed.
In another bowl (or blender), combine mashed banana, coconut oil, vanilla and almond extracts. Then pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
Drop tablespoons of batter onto your prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Be careful and check often, because mine burnt on the bottoms at 20 minutes. Delicious as is for breakfast or with soft unripened goat’s cheese (or any low-fat cream cheese).
Pemmican cones don’t need baking!
Adapted from My little bit of this and that
This recipe reminds me of the pemmican our ancestors made from nuts, seeds and buffalo fat to last them through long trips and the winter months. I think peanut butter makes a tasty substitute for buffalo grease. Serve these in cones or take some of these balls in your backpack on a hike through the wilds.
1 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
1/4 cup maple syrup (optional)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup pistachios (optional)
2 tablespoons of homemade nutella (optional)
1/2 cup ground almonds
pinch of salt
1/4 cup apple juice
a few chocolate chips to garnish
Mix all this together. Add more juice if the mixture isn’t sticky enough to form balls. Make little balls of dough and top each one with a chocolate chip. You can eat these balls directly, or you can bake them on a greased pan at 350F for 10 or 15 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack before tasting.
25 Apr 2012
in children, family, food, health, recipes
Tags: avoiding sugar, breakfast, chocolate, fats, hazelnut, nutella, nutrition, nuts, palm oil, sugar
Giant Nutellas lurk about in the strangest places. Here they are, hiding on the bottom shelf in Le Bon Marché in Paris!
Hazel is deeply wise. She holds the secrets of the earth within her. Love her and she’ll tell you where to quench your thirst… for water and for knowledge. What’s more, she’ll bless you with a silver tongue for telling others what you’ve learned.
So it’s said. But is there any truth behind the power of our elf Hazel?
Here’s what we know for sure: Hazel harnesses the power of the nut. And nuts are powerhouses of nutrition. Eating a handful of nuts a day can help prevent heart problems and weight gain. That’s why nuts are key players in many popular weight-loss programs these days.
Raw hazelnuts are half the price of the roasted, skinned ones. I’m the miserly sort, so I went for the cheapo ones.
Would you believe there are 130 hazelnuts in just one of those giant kilogram jars of Nutella? There is also a heap of skim milk and cocoa powder thrown into the mix. How can anything with so much fiber, vitamins C, B, and E, protein, folate, and calcium be anything but good?
Well, Nutella has its detractors. For one, there is a large dose of sugar – 11 grams in one tablespoon. And then, there is the whole palm oil thing. This vegetable oil has 41% saturated fat (the bad kind, but just half what palm kernel oil has….) and no trans fats (the worst offender). So maybe palm oil is only half bad? The jury is still out, but I think there could be a place for modest amounts of palm oil in our food.
However… health is not the only concern opponents to palm oil have. Over-farming of the rainforest is threatening endangered animals, like the gorgeous orangutan. Our elf Hazel would definitely be sympathetic to this cause!
Momma orangutan and baby. Photo courtesy of harrymoon, FlickR Commons
I just LUV Nutella, though, and I’ve even used it as an ingredient in my healthiest cookies ever (the recipe is in my book). So what is a nutty orangutan-loving Nutella fan to do? Well, if you have the time and the inclination, you can make your own hazelnut spread. It’s not hard if you have a food processor. You get to say how much sugar is enough, and you can simply leave out the palm oil or use olive oil instead.
Vinny’s Homemade Hazelnut Chocolate “Nutella”
1 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
1/4 cup (50 grams ) cocoa (dutch-processed is less bitter)
1 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup skim milk powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional, use stevia instead and unsweetened chocolate rather than bittersweet to lower the sugar by half again)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 heaping cup (200 grams) chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, or chips
3/4 cup (125 grams) chopped milk chocolate, or chips
Warm hazelnut sauce on eggy pancakes with strawberries
On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the nuts in a 400ºF oven for 10 minutes, or until their skins begin to pop. Shake them up half way through. Then keep an eye on them, because they burn easily. Burnt hazelnuts taste yucky!!! Pour the hot nuts onto an old (but clean) tea towel, gather the corners into a bundle and rub the nuts together like mad. You want to rub off as much of their skins as possible. This is hard work. Maybe that’s why the roasted nuts were twice the price! While they’re warm, blend the nuts in a food processor until they go from finely ground to pasty.
Meanwhile, warm the milk, powdered milk, maple syrup, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt in a small saucepan. Watch it and stir, because the milk can easily burn on the bottom. Remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil.
In a glass or stainless steel bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Take off the heat a little before it’s completely melted, because you don’t want it to curdle.
Add the melted chocolate to the ground nuts and process the mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the warm milk mixture bit by bit, and process until the sauce is well blended. It will be more liquid than Nutella, but don’t worry. It gets thick when it is thoroughly cool.
While it’s still warm, you can strain it into jars if you like it smoother rather than nutty. But I like the extra fiber. Makes about 2 1/4 cups. Keep it in the fridge.
Vinny served the hazelnut sauce on eggy pancakes and poured some over strawberries. He also uses it in his chocolate cookies, melting moments. The spread works fine without palm oil. Hazel the elf, in her usual charming, understanding, socially conscious, honest and tolerant way… says, “Enjoy!”
Vinny’s homemade hazelnut and chocolate “Nutella” spread gets a thumbs up!
Yield: About 2 1/4 cups or 36 tablespoons.
Nutrition information per tablespoon (From eaTracker, by Dietitians of Canada):
6 g fat (including 1.8 g saturated fat, no trans fat)
9.6 g carbs (including 1.2 g fibre and 7.6 g sugar)
2.4 g protein
19 mg sodium (salt), 116 mg potassium, 53.8 mg calcium
21.5 RAE Vit A, 7.4 DFE folate
Recipe adapted from The Family Kitchen. If you want to compare nutrients with the commercial Nutella by Ferrero, here’s their nutrition label.
04 Apr 2012
in children, education, food, health, recipes
Tags: breakfast, British, Brussels sprouts, bubble and squeak, cabbage, carbohydrates, carrots, fast food, Harry Potter, left overs, nutrition, potatoes, rumbledethumps, traditions, vegetables
Rumbledethumps… with sweet potatoes and white ones.
British kids like Harry and Hermione find foods with the strangest names on their school menus. Which of these silly-sounding dishes isn’t like the others… Is it Bubble and Squeak? Rumbledethumps? Spotted Dick? Or Hash? Here’s a hint: Think potatoes.
Bubble and Squeak are best friends. The dish named after them is made with leftover veggies from a roast dinner. It’s mainly mashed-up potato and cabbage, but you can throw in carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts, whatever.
Bubble the Owl and his pal Eek come to lunch when we try a few British dishes.
Bubble and Squeak could be one of the earliest of the fast foods. A recipe for it first came to light in 1804. Now, it turns up on school lunch menus in England all the time. Fry some up for yourself and see if you can figure out how it got its name? There’s a recipe at the end of this post you can try. I like to use sweet potatoes, rather than the white ones. White potatoes are only a breath away from sugar once they get into your stomach. Sweet potatoes provide energy longer.
Rumbledethumps is a similar treat that turns up in Scotland. The ingredients are amazingly like what goes into bubble and squeak… left-over veggies. Wave your wand at my recipe below to learn how to make it fresh.
Harry might have had trouble identifying the third potato dish in my list of funny-sounding foods. That’s because hash turns up more often in North America. Hash browns are made from raw potatoes that are grated and squeezed (to get out extra liquid) before they’re fried. Left-over cooked potatoes that are sliced (not mashed) before popping them in a frying pan are usually called home fries but are sometimes confusingly served as hash browns. Hash dishes are often served for breakfast. I usually say “No thanks,” though, when they’re offered. I’d rather fill up on breakfast foods that last longer in my tummy than potatoes do.
The remaining dish on our list, spotted dick, has nothing to do with potatoes or policemen or dogs. But it would have been a favorite with Harry Potter. It’s a steamed pudding! (Or as they might say in some quarters in Britain, puddink… which might possibly be shortened to ‘dink, which may then have been repeated as dick…). Well, that’s one way I’ve heard it explained. Funny name and all, spotted dick would be popular at Hogwarts. The spots are raisins and the pudding part is made from a suet dough. More about how to make a steamed pudding in my next post. In the meantime, here are a couple of potato recipes to keep you busy and energized.
Rumbledethumps is ready for the oven… topped with cheddar cheese and mozzarella
Fresh Rumbledethumps – Shred a half cup of onion and a cup of cabbage. A food processor works nicely. Lightly saute them in 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil and a dab of butter, until the onion is transparent and the cabbage wilted. Mash a cup or three of boiled potatoes with a little butter, salt and pepper and stir in the onions and cabbage. My suggestions: Add a half cup well-drained cottage cheese or an egg to the mix, or use sweet potatoes instead of white ones.
Put all this in an oven-proof dish and top with 1/2 cup shredded hard cheese. In Britain they usually always use cheddar. Pop the dish in an oven preheated to 350°C and bake until golden brown.
The cottage cheese or egg increases the protein in the dish. Protein slows down digestion of the potato, so you don’t get an energy surge from the dish. Sweet potatoes are also digested more slowly than white ones and have added vitamins. They make a healthy substitute!
Bubble the Owl says sweet potatoes taste the best, whether they are oven roasted or fried up as Bubble and Squeak. Shrimps and maple syrup are the sides.
Easy Bubble and squeak – Use up your left-over veggies. Eat this potato dish with meat on the side, as protein slows the digestion of the potato.
- 1 tablespoon butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup onion, finely chopped
- Leftover mashed potato (use sweet potatoes if you have them for a healthier version)
- Any leftover vegetables: cabbage, turnip, peas, carrots, Brussels Sprouts, etc., finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fried bacon pieces (optional)
In a large frying pan melt the butter and oil together, add the chopped onion and fry gently for 3 minutes or until soft. Turn the heat up slightly and add the mashed potato and vegetables. Fry for 10 minutes turning over in the melted oil two or three times ensuring the potato and vegetables are thoroughly reheated. Press the potato mixture on to the base of the pan with a spatula and leave to brown for 1 minute. Flip over and repeat. Or make small patties, like I did.
Serve and cast a spell on your table for good health and happy mealtimes!
27 Mar 2012
in children, family, food, health
Tags: antioxidants, cactus fruit, dessert, dragon fruit, fiber, fruit, minerals, nutrition, presentation, snack, tasting, vitamins
Great bowls of fire!
There’s a strange new animal stalking the aisles of the produce section of our grocery store these days. It’s beautiful and a little dangerous looking… with long over-lapping scales tipped in green overlying a glossy, red, leathery skin. It’s almost as if it’s breathing flames at you… or getting ready to stab you with poison darts!
Oh No! It’s Dragon Fruit… Hide!
Of course it’s not an animal at all. It’s a delicious but sinisterly attractive food called the Dragon Fruit. I say ‘sinister’ because you do have to be a little careful. First of all, look them over closely in the store. Choose one with green tips (not brown and withered). And eat it only once the flesh gives slightly when pressed. You don’t want one that is too mushy or too firm. Like most fruits (and porridge), it tastes best when it is ‘just right.’
Let it soak for a few minutes in fresh water, like you would any fruit. After all, it came to you from a long distance. You never know how a food is treated on its journey. This is not one of those foods that has been grown just down the road, after all… that is, unless (unlike me sitting here in chilly old Ottawa, Canada) you live in Mexico and places further south, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Hawaii, Israel, Palestine, Australia (north), or China (south)… . What all these exotic places have in common is heat. And heat is just what the dragon-fruit-bearing Hylocereus cactuses love.
It seems there are several species of this cactus, with variations on the color of the skin and the fruit they bear. But the one we’ve seen popping up in Canada has red skin and a creamy fruit studded with tiny black seeds, rather like a kiwi.
Eating this fruit is a piece of cake. Just take a sharp knife and slice it lengthwise. It cuts like butter. Then take a large spoon with a sharp edge (if you have one like that) and try to scoop out the soft flesh in one large piece.
Trim off any hint of the red skin from the flesh and throw it away. I’ve seen some references that say the skin is a good source of fiber. But I’ve seen others that say it can contain toxins! If anyone has an authoritative source on this matter, I’d love to know about it.
I like to cube the edible flesh and pile it back into the bowl made from taking the flesh out of the dragon fruit in the first place. The flesh tastes delicious.. sweet, mild, soft like a kiwi but not as tart, and gently perfumed. There is nothing unusual about it that you would have to get used to. In fact, you might want to serve it with a yogurt dip to zap it up a notch.
Of course, I wouldn’t be mentioning the dragon fruit if it wasn’t good for you. Dragon fruit is low in calories and is a good source of vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, plus fiber and antioxidants. It’s said to be good for lowering cholesterol and in the management of diabetes. So there. The next time you spot dragon fruit in the fresh foods section of the supermarket, don’t pass it by. See if you can slay a couple of them! Then serve them to Firefox and any other of your friends (or your friends’ pets). They’re also good in a fruit salad. Stay tuned for a recipe another day. And so, here ends another adventure in good food, brought to you by your pal, Vinny Grette.
20 Mar 2012
in children, family, food, health, holidays, recipes
Tags: avoiding sugar, banana bread, caffeine, colcannon, drinks, fiber, Irish, mint, mood, nutrition, recipe book, roibus, St. Patrick's Day, sugar, tea, traditions
Tiger and Firefox come to the party!
Hey, kids, it’s Saint Paddy’s day, so why not throw a mad-cap Irish party! Get out your top hats and Irish bowlers, invite Tiger and Firefox to join us, and set the table.
“But what should we serve?” ask Will and Isla.
“How about a tea party?” I say right back. “In Ireland people drink more tea than any other beverage. The only drink that comes close to tea there is Guinness, a stout Irish beer that is totally not on for kids!”
“Oh, Vinny! Kids can’t drink tea…,” say Will and Isla.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” I say right back. “Check out the power of the leaf!”
I have no problem with this idea. Tea is a wonderful drink for good health. It’s enjoying lots of praise these days as a super-food. It keeps you well-watered without adding too much of the demon sugar to your diet. Its nutrients keep the heart pumping and your brain sharp. And it doesn’t take much of a guru to see that teas are way ahead of colas for controlling your weight. Even diet colas can’t compare, as recent studies are showing that artificial sweeteners are adding to the sugar problem, not curing it.
“There are lots of caffeine-free teas around that kids at a tea party could have,” I say. “Herbal teas with a little spoonful of honey or maple syrup and a splash of low-fat milk would be good. I’m thinking Roibus, a red bush tea from South Africa, or mint tea, or rose hip tea, or even decaf green tea. Any tea will do for kids as long as it’s caffeine-free.”
“I’d like to have raspberry smoothy tea,” says Isla.
So that’s what we do.
Allow me to pour
As St. Paddy’s day is all about green, we talk about green pistachio ice cream and our famous green eggs (or they blue?).
I also tell them about Irish soda bread, which is like a giant tea biscuit and easy for kids to make.
And we think about Colcannon, another famous Irish dish made from mashed potatoes and cabbage. If the cabbage is boiled until it is soft, the whole thing can be pureed together, with a little butter and milk and a dash of salt and pepper, to make a traditional food that kids might eat even if they don’t want to try cabbage on its own.
I adapt a recipe from my favorite family cookbook
But for this Irish tea party, we make some banana bread (recipe below). I throw in oat bran for extra fiber and add some ground almonds instead of walnut bits. This trick means kids get the added nutrition of nuts without the chunks. This quality is important, because Will picks anything out of his food that his agile fingers can pry loose.
We end the party with some music. Will loves Lord of the Dance, which I always think of as Irish. I learn with surprise it was composed by an American! And to top it off, it’s sung below by The Corries, a Scottish folk trio. You can tell my age went I confess how much I LIKE Ronnie Brown, the lead singer. See if this song doesn’t give you a few shivers too .
Isla loves bears and dancing, which Jacqui Lawson helps us out with.
We fill the rest of the afternoon drawing rainbows, clovers, snakes, and leprechauns and telling Irish stories, including the one about Saint Paddy’s day.
The luck ‘o the Irish to you!
Vinny’s fortified banana bread for superheroes and mad hares
- 1/3 cup margarine (without trans fats) or 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup stone-ground whole-wheat or whole-grain flour
- 1/4 cup oat bran
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup mashed ripe banana (ripe, frozen ones work fine)
- 1/2 cup ground almonds
Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan or spray with Pam. Preheat oven to 350F.
Cream together the margarine and sugar. Add eggs and beat well with a hand-mixer. Measure the dry ingredients into a food processor and give them a 30-second whir. This step adds air needed for a fluffy outcome (without having to sift). Add the nuts and pulse again for a few seconds to mix thoroughly.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet mix in batches, alternating with the mashed bananas. Blend well with the hand-mixer, but be careful not to overdo it. Stop as soon as you see the dry foods are wet.
Pour into the loaf pan and sprinkle some oats on top for decoration. Bake in a moderate oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack. If it isn’t all eaten right away, wrap the rest and store overnight.
Party on, dudes!
05 Mar 2012
in children, family, food, health, science
Tags: beans, cancer, carbohydrates, castor beans, diarrhea, digestion, fats, fiber, heart, intestinal gas, lima beans, minerals, nutrition, protein, raw food, rhymes, safety, tomatoes, vegetables, vegetarian, wild plants
The many faces of Mr. Beans
“Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
Beans, beans at every meal!”
I love you, Mr. Beans, especially on this blustery, cold March day. But this little rhyme pretty well sums up what else I think about you. Your down-home taste spiked with bacon, tomato, and maple syrup fills my tummy nicely. And your hearty goodness gives me the energy I need to take me through the day… not to mention the awesome protein, fibre, iron and calcium you put into my tank while you’re at it. “But, Mr. Beans,” I have to ask,” Why so much gas? That’s something that’s really not pleasant to pass!”
“There’s not much gain without some pain,” replies the humble Mr. Beans, who still hasn’t quite given up yet on verse, but is about to. “Your stomach doesn’t have the right stuff to digest my fibre. So it moves untouched into your large intestine… where hungry bacteria break it into bits called short-chain fatty acids. These fats nourish the intestinal lining and protect it from evil invaders that could cause cancer.” Mr. Beans stops for a minute to take a breath. “Miss Tomato Sauce deserves some of the credit,” he continues. “She partners with me in your bowl by giving you lycopene, another powerful foe of heart disease and prostate cancer. That’s the good news.” Mr. Beans looks down modestly. “But, sadly, when bacteria play with these fats, they produce those nasty gases nobody likes.”
At this point, I would likely have thanked Mr. Beans for being such a super food, and tasty, too. But I wondered how Good gets the better of Evil in this hearty plant food? So I dug in a little deeper. It seems that if you want to keep the wicked gases at bay, there are a few things you can do.
- Soak, soak, soak. For each pound of dried beans, use ten or more cups of boiling water. Boil for ten minutes, cover, and set the beans aside overnight. The heat breaks down the bean skins, releasing the guilty party into the soaking water. Throw out the soaking water, and voila! No more gas. Use fresh water to continue the cooking as directed in your recipe.
- Wait until the beans are soft before you add tomatoes, molasses, and salty things etc. to the pot, because acids and salt in these added ingredients keep your beans from softening. Soft beans are more easily digested.
- If you’re desperate, add 1 tablespoon of epazote to a large pot of beans. The leaf of this wild herb is prized for its gas-reducing talents. I haven’t tried this. Let me know if it works for you? Adding a few drops of Beano to the pot just before serving does work, as long as you aren’t diabetic. Read the package for cautions.
If you think a little wind is bad news, you may be shocked to learn there can be more evil things lurking in the heart of even the most charming bean. Raw Kidney beans, the star of chili dishes, contain a kind of sugar that makes people violently ill. Kidney beans must be boiled for at least 10 minutes before using them in your recipe. Never add them raw to a slow cooker, either, as the pot doesn’t gets hot enough to destroy the scoundrel. Three raw kidney beans is all it takes to do the harmful deed.
Lima beans are nearly as bad. Just a handful of raw limas can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The good news is… boiling them as just described takes away their sting.
But the biggest villain of all is a bean that attracts with its beauty but is never grown as food. A recent episode of The Mentalist had Lisbon and Jane nosing around the kitchen of a celebrity chef who met his unfortunate end during a chef’s cook-off. Castor beans mysteriously turn up in the house of one of the rival chefs… and lo and behold a poison called ricin is found in the victim’s hot pepper bottle. Jane reveals that ricin comes from the dastardly castor bean and explains just how the chef was done in. Many gardeners proudly grow the castor bean plant for its large leaves and bright red flowers. But beware of its beans. They are lethal if mistakenly eaten.
All kinds of beans can be had in cans
So that’s the good, the bad, and the ugly lurking within the innocuous Mr. Beans. But treated with respect, beans makes meals both hearty and healthy.
Here are a few recipes, if you feel like venturing beyond the canned variety of baked beans, which by the way do just about as nicely but are more expensive than if you started from scratch:
Best middle-of-the-road chili recipe of all time
Easy oven-baked beans (they’re low on sugar and zapped with a touch of yummy bacon)
Old-fashioned baked beans (try using less sugar than this recipe calls for…)
20 Feb 2012
in children, education, food, science, stories
Tags: art, chemistry, colloid, cornstarch, experiments, oobleck, play, starch
Oh… no! Evil Dragon Man tries to blow up Black Hack (our favorite British taxi dude).
Last year we saw how much fun we can have, turning plain old cornstarch into OObleck. How about we have some more? Mix up some OObleck from about 1 and 1/2 cups of cornstarch in a large bowl…. Check out my previous post for details. Now we can play!
Slowly dip your hand into the gooey stuff. It sinks, but it’s hard to take your hand out quickly (without taking all the OObleck and its container with you). Instead, lift your hand slowly and pretend its a monster from the lagoon!
Try sinking a plastic dinosaur or a toy car in your bowl of OObleck… anything you like, as long it washes up easy. What a great, gooey mess when you pull it all out . Make up a story about the slimy things you find in the green lagoon.
Black Hack made a wrong turn. He’s stuck in quick sand!
Dragon Man gets his giant magnet and points it at Black Hack. He hauls him out!
Make a rainbow
You can create eerie mixed-media art using OObleck. Pour a little of the stuff into six muffin cups. Add food color to make a rainbow in your tray. Spread out some newspaper and decide what you want to paint. Go crazy!
After a day of drying, the cornstarch coating starts to crumble. Take pictures to preserve your art.
Never pour OObleck down the drain!
The solid particles of starch will settle out of the water and clog your pipes. Instead, put the OObleck into a ziplock bag and throw it out with the garbage.
Here is some of the art we created:
Dragon Man falls in the quick sand too. He thrashes his wings. He’s sinking!
Black Hack gets a disguise… he’s dressed up like a woman (hahaha)
Dragon Man stops fighting. He floats! Slowly he swims to safety.
How does it work?
When you mix cornstarch and water together, the solid bits of cornstarch get suspended in the liquid. The result is a liquid that changes into a solid when force is applied. Smack it and it feels hard. Press it down gently and it feels soft and runny.
That’s right, OObleck is what scientists call a colloidal suspension. When you punch the cornstarch-and-water mixture, you force the long starch molecules closer together. The impact traps the water between the starch chains to form a semi-rigid structure. When the pressure is released, the cornstarch flows again.
All liquids flow. But some flow more easily than others. Water flows fast. But honey is one liquid that flows verrrry slowly. Turn its bottle upside down and it takes a long time before the honey in the bottom starts to flow downwards toward the tip. If you heat the honey for a few seconds in your microwave oven, it flows faster. Most liquids react this way to heat and cold. In fact, that is how the expression, “Slow as molasses in January” comes about. OObleck is different, though. How fast it flows depends on force.
Cook Up A Story. See main menu for more about the book. Click pic to order.
The best thing about using cornstarch in cooking is that it has almost no flavor. A close second-best thing about cornstarch is how it acts when it is heated. It gets thick… even when there is only a little of it in the mix. This makes it great in some recipes for pudding, jelly or sauce. Heat makes the starch molecules absorb liquid, swell up, and stick together. Cornstarch produces a glossy jelly-like texture, perfect for many Asian dishes. It’s also great in frozen desserts, because it holds its shape. When making a sauce, corn starch is best mixed into a bit of cold water, then whisked into the hot liquid. Cornstarch is not only fun to play with, it makes food fun to eat, too. Watch for future posts where I’ll be showing you how to make some cornstarch sauces and puddings that are simply delicious. Let’s get cooking!
05 Feb 2012
in children, food, holidays, science, stories
Tags: alkaline, base, chemistry, Chinese, duck eggs, eggs, experiments, gel, New Years, pickles, play, preservation, protein, sulfur, thousand year old eggs, traditions
They’re from Land Before Time!
With the Chinese new year just behind us, I invited some friends over to help me look into that famous Asian delicacy, 1000-year-old duck eggs. When the gang arrived, I pulled the brown, grassy ovals from the cupboard.
“You never said we were going to be tasting dinosaur eggs!” Will gasped.
“What did you mean by duck eggs?” asked Isla. “These look more like duck-billed dino eggs to us.”
I got hooked on this unusual food while looking into the truth behind a note in a yellowing old copy of Ripley’s Believe it or Not. It claimed that eggs of murres, a northern seabird, had blue whites when fried.
It turns out, blue (or green) eggs DO occur naturally, but only once they start to go bad. Rotten eggs are bluish-green and stink like a bean toot when they’re broken.
Eery halo markings
Thousand-year-old eggs are different, though. They only look rotten. And they’re not anywhere as old as you’d think. In spite of their name, it only takes 100 days to make them. Although shunned by most Western palates, the Chinese have valued these duck eggs for 500 years. It was time to see why. I peeled off the brown muddy coating. Underneath, we found a pale blue eggshell spotted with brown circles.
“I told you!” said Will. “It’s just like in Land Before Time. It’s going to be a baby dinosaur skeleton inside!”
“It’s Littlefoot!” said Isla.
I cracked the shell and began gently peeling it back. Something glistened. “Yikes!” I said, dropping the egg back onto the counter. It’s black inside!”
“A monster!” shouted Isla.
“We have to check this out,” Will said gravely. “Keep peeling, Vinny.”
“If you’re so brave, you do it,” I returned. And Will did. Sticking his thumbs under the shell he took off the whole thing. In his hand sat a transparent, firm jelly… a rich amber egg.
“Beautiful!” Isla said. And it was. She took up a sharp knife. “Let’s see what’s inside.” She grinned while she neatly sliced the thing in half. The yolk had turned solid, like it is in a hard-boiled egg. But its color! “Ewww!” Isla said. “It’s a dark bluey gray. What the heck is wrong with it?”
Of course, nothing was wrong with it. It was a perfectly preserved duck egg. These eggs are kind of the complete opposite of pickled eggs. Instead of using a vinegary acid, Chinese chefs bathe the eggs in a basic, or alkaline, mixture of salt, ash, lime, and/or tea and wrap them in the husks of rice. Then they wait three months or so before they unveil their work. The special bath seeps through the shell and works away on the protein in the eggs to unravel them. The whites turn into a creamy jelly and the aged yolks are greeny blue. The odd color is due to a chemical reaction between the bath and the sulfur in the yolk. There’s really nothing in the world like them.
You just cut these babies into wedges and serve them with sweet pickled green onions or any sweet pickled vegetable. I like them soused in a sauce of 2 tablespoons each vinegar, soy sauce and rice wine and 1 tablespoon minced ginger root. Will put some of the amber whites on his tongue.
“What does it taste like?” Isla asked, wrinkling her nose.
“Nice,” said Will. “Kind of like a normal egg… only maybe a little like nuts, too.” He added, “There’s a kind of chemical smell – nothing stinky.”
Cook Up A Story. See main menu for more about the book. Click pic to order.
Okay, these eggs aren’t something most people will rush out to try. If you do want to, any Asian grocery store will have them at a reasonable price. I got six for $3.69.
What’s cool though is seeing how chemistry works its magic on the innards of eggs, changing their very essence. It’s also cool to think the Chinese have figured out how to keep eggs in an edible state for months, even years, without needing to put them in a fridge. It makes you think just how much there is learn from the old ways.
18 Jan 2012
in children, family, food, science
Tags: chemistry, colloid, custard, desserts, eggs, experiments, fats, pudding, sauces, sol, tasting
Custard fight – “Baked” dukes it out with “Stirred”
James Bond may have taken his martinis stirred. But in a recent egg custard duel, Stirred came in a far second behind Baked!
See for yourself. Using the same ingredients, eggs, milk, and sugar, follow the directions below for two different ways to cook them. What you end up with is either a sauce… or a pudding.
People usually pour custard sauce over fruit or cake. Baked custards are sometimes jazzed up with caramel or liqueurs.
After you taste the recipes below, tell me, how do you like your eggs?
Get out 3 eggs, and measure 1 3/4 cups skimmed milk, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
You need a medium sauce pan, a metal spoon, a large bowl of ice water, a medium-sized pitcher or bowl, and plastic wrap.
1. Cook the eggs, milk and sugar over medium heat in the saucepan. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the metal spoon. If it starts to boil, take the pan off the heat.
2. Put the pan into the ice water. Stir a few minutes to cool, add the vanilla, then pour the mixture into the pitcher or serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.
Get out 3 eggs, and measure 1 1/2 cups skimmed milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
You need a medium sauce pan, a spoon, four to six oven-proof single-serving baking cups, a baking pan large enough to hold the cups, a kettle of boiled water, and plastic wrap.
1. Put the milk in the saucepan over medium heat until you see steam rise. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Remove from heat to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat the eggs with a hand-mixer at high speed until they foam, then get thick and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Pour the eggs slowly into the cooled milk and stir. Then spoon the mixture into the ovenproof cups in the baking pan. Pour 1/2 inch of boiling water from the kettle around the cups and put the pan in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean. Take the pan from the oven with oven mitts. Take the cups from the water and let them cool for 30 minutes. Eat right away or put into the fridge for later.
“Stirred” is better for dipping!
Now for the fun part. Pour some of the stirred custard into a small glass. Take a spoonful of baked custard from the cup. What does it look like? How is it different from the stirred custard? Taste some from each type of dessert. What are the differences? What is the same about each of them? Which do you like the best?
But “Baked” wins!
You are now ready to try some recipes for custards. There are many variations on both the stirred and baked types. I like one called creme brule from Alton Brown, but it’s a bit rich. I save it for special occasions. Look at the ingredients. Do you see why it’s rich? Now have a look at a recipe for creme caramel or panna cotta. They have less saturated fat, so they’re better for us. I usually use skim milk instead of whole milk or cream. It tastes good enough
Congratulations! You’ve done a food science experiment by altering only the method of cooking. You now know the difference between a sol (the sauce… a liquid colloid) and a gel (the baked custard… a solid colloid). Check out the link. If you understand this stuff, you get an A in Chemistry!
13 Jan 2012
in books, children, education, food, health, recipes, reviews, science, stories
How did you like the soup?
Vinny wants to create a place on his blog where you can post comments about his book. This is that space! Find it whenever you want in the menu on the right, under Vinny’s picture. So go ahead. Click on “Comments” in the top left corner and join the conversation!
To get you started, here are a few questions Vinny has for you, about his recipes, the stories, and the information he’s given you on how our bodies use the food we feed it.
If you’ve tried any of the recipes from Cook Up A Story, Vinny would love to hear from you. How did they turn out? Were there parts of the recipe you didn’t understand? Did you need a lot of adult help? Did you clean up after? Are there any changes to the recipes you’d like to suggest? Vinny believes in making substitutions in recipes, if you want to. Maybe you’re allergic to a certain food. Or maybe you don’t have one of the ingredients in your cupboard. Perhaps you want to try out a different cooking method. So… did you try any food experiments while cooking up the recipes? What turned out well for you?
Do you have a favorite story or character from Vinny’s book? Why? Can you suggest a better ending for any of the stories? What role does the food play in your favorite story? What lessons did you learn from your favorite story?
What was the most interesting new food fact you learned? Do you have any questions about food choices you’d like to ask… or advice about food you’d like to share? Or anything else?
Let’s chat while we cook up our stories. Vinny loves to hear from you
20 Dec 2011
in books, children, food, holidays, humor, reviews
Tags: art, Hanukkah, Hanukkha, latke, Lemony Snicket, potatoes, traditions, vegetables
Let’s make a latke!
I dare you to read The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming without immediately jumping up to make a Latke. The poor thing is so upset by its bath in hot oil that it hops right out of the pan and runs through the village screaming. As Lemony Snicket points out, “This is unusual behavior for a potato pancake. But this is a Christmas story, in which things tend to happen that would never occur in real life.”
We also learn in a very funny way what its like to be different. And at the same time people who are not Jewish find out a little about the history behind Hanukkah.
This small book offers so much – laughs, understanding, history, whimsical art – it’s no wonder copies are jumping off the shelves in libraries and bookstores everywhere, and running off down the street to children’s homes . Happy Hanukkah! The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming. 44 pages. by Lemony Snicket, McSweeney’s books, 2007.
15 Dec 2011
in children, food, health, science
Tags: anthocyanins, cabbage, chemistry, color, eggs, experiments, immunity, mood, murre, presentation, tasting
Murre egg? Afraid not!
How you serve up a meal is often more important than what you serve. Food that looks different from what you’d expect can put you off. Or, it might just be fascinating.
Rumor has it that prospectors ate blue eggs during the gold rush… the eggs of murres. Eggers from San Francisco took almost half a million murre eggs a year from the Farallon Islands in the mid-19th century to feed the growing city. But were they really blue? Vinny couldn’t find any proof. If you’d like to see what blue eggs might have tasted like, fry up a batch of Vinny’s eggs, below. This dish will certainly set the mood for a green Christmas.
Fried Blue Eggs
½ cup chopped red cabbage
1. Boil the cabbage for 5 minutes in a small pot on medium high heat in 1/2 cup water. Strain the purplish red juice into a small glass and put it in the fridge to cool.
2. Carefully crack the egg and separate the yolk from the white. If you have an egg separator, this will be easy. If not, it takes a little practice. Here’s how. Put each yolk and each egg white in its own bowl.
1. Add 1 tablespoon of the red cabbage juice to the egg white and whisk with a fork until the white is uniformly colored. The reddish juice turns emerald-green when it’s mixed with the egg white.
2. Heat a frying pan with 1 tsp of oil on medium heat on the stove. When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, pour the green egg white into the pan, then place the yolk in the centre. Cover the pan for a few minutes. Cook the egg until the bluish-green whites are firm and the yolk no longer jiggles when you shake the pan.
With a flipper, take the bluish-green egg from the pan, sprinkle with a little sea salt and some pepper if you like, and enjoy!
How does it work?
Anthocyanins in the red cabbage are red when the food is acidic (or sour), but they change to bluish-green when the acid in the food is neutralized (or alkaline). Egg whites are one of only a few foods that are highly alkaline, so the red cabbage juice turns green when it’s mixed with the whites.
Scientists are studying anthocyanins, found in many brightly colored foods, to see if they protect against disease. Lab studies are promising, and clinical trials on people are now under way.
Blindfold the taster and see if he can tell the fried blue egg from an ordinary fried egg. Let Vinny know what you found out!
07 Dec 2011
in children, food, local, recipes
Tags: herbs, murre, newfoundland, poultry, protein, savory, traditions, wild
Common murre… a food source in northern communities
Local foods sometimes make a tasting experience like you can get nowhere else. When I travel, I always try to find foods from the region. And at home I like to buy foods grown nearby. I find these foods are fresher and tastier than most supermarket stuff. Way more fun!
Watch an awesome video of a couple of guys in Newfoundland doing some home cooking. They got themselves a pair of murres and some local savory, and they’ve cooked up a real feast. Bake it like a man!
The video shows how to roast the murres just right. The chef calls the birds “turrs” but says, “Some people call ‘em murries!” The accent is a little hard to follow. And I’m not sure the birds look that appetizing… but hey, no accounting for taste.
These are the same kind of birds that lay the blue eggs with the red yolks we talked about in my last post.
The Newfoundland fellow describes the method of cooking and shows us all the steps. He says, “The bird was soaked in a brine for 3 hours and then put in a roaster with chopped onion, carrot and potatoes. Made a gravy with the liquid/juice from the bird / vegetables and with a roux base. Dressing stuff in the bird and made from scratch with the special ingredient being the Mount Scio savory. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM, was some friggin’ good, bye!”
The guy says they taste nothing like chicken… quite unique. And for him, delicious. If I ever get a chance, I’d try ‘em!
Many thanks to the Audubon Society for the photo and You Tube for the video.
20 Nov 2011
in children, food, health, holidays, stories
Tags: advent, avoiding sugar, British, calories, chocolate, christmas, London, play, traditions
London Tower helps bring Christmas closer
Only 10 more sleeps until we turn the calendar on a new month – December. Then the fun begins! Many people start counting down the days to Christmas with an advent calendar. Each day comes with a thought, a scene, and/or a chocolate candy that brings us closer to the real meaning of the holiday.
For Christians, the holiday is a celebration of the birth of Christ. We mark it with many happy traditions that unite our family with yours. We also reach out to people of other faiths at this happy time. We recognize that we are all part of one large family – citizens of the world.
My advent calendar this year comes without chocolate. It is an Internet version of the city of London, in England, where my daughter now lives with her husband. The city scape gets more and more lively the closer we get to Christmas. Every day there’s a new animation or game with music, always a surprise. No matter when I visit my internet London, it’s the same time of day or night as it is in my own house. Even the moon looks the same as it does at my place.
This London animation comes to us courtesy of Jacquie Lawson and costs $3 to download (or only $2 a copy if you buy five to send to friends). There are a lot fewer empty Calories involved than with a traditional calendar filled with wishy-washy milk chocolate… like none! And just tons more fun. Check out the calendar here! If you actually get to go to London, like in real, there’s much that’s good to eat. For one blog featuring London, check here.
If you want an advent calendar you can actually hold in your hand, try the bookstore of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They have fantastically gorgiferous calendars that work their magic without candy.
So, there’s two suggestions for fun and artful Christmas countdowns. Enjoy!
Cook Up A Story. See main menu for more about the book. Click pic to order.
And when you’re thinking of useful and healthy, responsible gifts for Christmas, don’t forget Vinny. Check out his book on-line, but don’t forget to click the link in the right menu on this site first, for current promotion codes to ensure the best possible price. US prices are better than Canadian ones, so select US Dollars (bottom right on your screen in the bookstore) to get yourself started.
10 Nov 2011
in children, food, holidays, recipes, stories
Tags: British, farming, hunger, mood, rations, Remembrance Day, starving, sugar, traditions, trench food, trivia, vegetables, war
Food rationing in Canada, WWII
This week Vinny hopes you’ll stop to remember the bravery of our troops in past wars. But it’s not just guns and bombs they had to face up to.
During wartime, hunger was also a torment. As much food as possible was dished out to the troops, to help keep them strong in battle. But often, it wasn’t enough. And as more and more was set aside for soldiers, less and less was left over for the women, children and the elderly at home. Food became a luxury.
In 1942 during the Second World War, Canada introduced food rationing to ensure that everyone got their fair share. Each ration book contained coupons for tea, coffee, sugar, and butter, along with spares in case other foods needed to be doled out. Once you used the coupons, you couldn’t buy any more of these foods.
Britain rationed food even more closely than Canada did. They also enacted a law requiring people to eat all of their rations. Rumor has it some prison sentences were even given for disobeying. Imagine if YOU had to do jail time for refusing to eat your broccoli!
People in Britain were encouraged to grow food, even in the cities. Posters asking people to ‘Dig for Victory’ popped up everywhere. If you go to the Imperial War Museum in London, you can see a photo of boys planting a garden on a bomb site in London’s East End.
The government created “healthy” recipes using the ingredients people might have on hand. If you like ordinary root veggies, you might want to try making the fabled Woolton Pie of Britain’s war years. Many people got fed up with it day in and day out. But this sounds a lot tastier than the potato peel pie they ate on Guernsey during the war! Find a more edible version here.
Things were even grimmer during the First World War, when many Canadians served with the British troops. Men on the Western Front were very critical of the trench food they received. The bulk of their diet was bully beef (canned corned beef, like today’s Spam) and stale bread and biscuits. By the winter of 1916 bread was being made from dried ground turnips. The main food was now a pea-soup with a few lumps of horsemeat. Kitchen staff had just two large vats to cook everything in. Soldiers often complained that their tea tasted like vegetables.
Vinny says, “Take a few minutes on November 11th to remember how even the simplest pleasures, like eating hot fresh food, are scarce during war time. Let’s not take for granted the sacrifices our ancestors made for us in the name of freedom.”
And the next time you pick around at your plate of food, stop. Be thankful, and dig in for victory!
30 Oct 2011
in children, food, holidays, science
Tags: calories, experiments, halloween, powders, safety, sugar, trivia
Calling all pixies. You may want to toss a little fairy dust around, to cast a spell on your friends this Halloween. But if you use powdered milk, flour, cornstarch, sugar or cocoa, keep your tricks well away from the candle in the pumpkin. These dusts can explode!
For such a thing to happen, you need a large dust cloud in a confined space, air, and a spark. So you won’t likely set off any smoke detectors in your kitchen. But the food industry has to take care. Combustible sugar dust was the fuel for a terrible explosion and fire that occurred in 2008, at the Imperial Sugar Company in Georgia.
Some students in Germany decided to try a little experiment with powered milk and fire. Watch this video to see the calories in milk powder actually burn burn burn. Scary! Don’t try it yourself.
With Halloween just around the corner, Vinny says, “This experiment with exploding milk powder shows just how much energy there is in the food we eat. Have fun and stay safe this Halloween. To power your way through your whole neighborhood tonight, eat your sugar, don’t throw it!” There’s lots more fun from Vinny in Cook Up A Story, the book. Check it out.
Many thanks to Marti of Fact or Fiction for posting Exploding fairy dust. Check out her site for more amazing truths.
Photo compliments of http://www.christmas-graphics-plus.com/free/animated-fairies.html
23 Oct 2011
in books, children, family, fitness, health, reviews
Tags: exercise, heart, immunity, potatoes, Ripliey's, trivia, vaccine, water
An exercise in thinking
Vinny’s got a few new snippets for you about keeping our bodies in tip-top shape, from Ripley’s Curioddities.
Ripley says in 75 years the human heart pumps 3 billion gallons of blood – enough to fill a tanker 46 times. That’s a lot of liquid! Vinny says to keep your blood flowing, drink lots of plain old water whenever you get thirsty.
Vinny also says kids and their families should make exercise a part of their day. And according to Curioddities, it’s not really that hard. Start getting into shape just by thinking about it! Researchers in Britain divided people into three groups. One exercised their pinky fingers twice a week. The second group just thought about exercising their little fingers. The third group did nothing. Then they measured finger strength. Fingers in the first group were 33% stronger. The third group showed no change. But the second group, who had just thought about the exercise, increased finger strength by 16%. How ODD! Scientists explain it this way. Increased brain activity sends signals to the muscles faster, improving strength. Visualizing your activities works!
Vinny’s saved the best tidbit for the last. Do you HATE needles? Well, Ripley says soon kids will be able to eat french fries instead of getting shots. Scientists are building vaccines into the genes of potatoes. At Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, a potato with a built-in cholera vaccine has been successfully tested on mice. Cholera kills 3 million children a year in places where people can’t afford vaccines. These new potatoes provide a cheap way to protect kids from disease. Vinny says: let’s take a pass on those fries, though… Mashed potatoes, anyone?
There are 208 pages of amazing facts on all kinds of subjects in Curioddities. Check it out yourself at your nearest library.
Ripley’s Curioddities Scholastic New York, 2011.
06 Oct 2011
in children, family, food, health, recipes
Tags: avoiding sugar, beets, color, eggs, pickles, presentation, protein, snacks
Pink up your pickled eggs for even more pizzaz!
Like pickles? Then maybe this easy recipe from Auntie Marlene will tickle your taste buds. Pickled eggs make a healthy snack, whenever hunger fangs sink their teeth into you and dinnertime isn’t anywhere in sight. Keep some handy.
How to make them
Find a glass jar big enough to hold a dozen eggs. Make sure it has a lid that fits. Hard boil the eggs, cool and shell them, then layer them whole in the jar with sliced onions.
In a small saucepan, dissolve 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tsp pickling spices with 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Pour this hot brine through a strainer and add the liquid to your jar with the eggs. Make sure you cover the eggs completely. You may need to make more brine, depending on the shape of your jar. You can also top up with juice from a store-bought jar of pickles.
Keep your jar of eggs in the fridge for 2 or 3 days to let the flavors mingle. Then slice and serve. To be safe, eat the eggs within 7 days.
You can keep store-bought pickled eggs on a shelf for several months. But don’t try to can pickled eggs at home.
Vinny says… Presentation counts! Red or pink eggs are really cool at Christmas time or on Valentines Day. To get this effect, simply add juice from a jar of pickled beets to your brine. For people who want to get fancier, C&G design posts another recipe for red eggs (although I ‘d probably cut back on the sugar… ). Much thanks to C&G Design for the beautiful photo!
28 Sep 2011
in children, food, science
Tags: Blurb promo code, cost saving, discount price
Buying on line? Vinny’s books are available at cost, plus a small surcharge to help support children’s programs in the community. The print books are now available at 20-25% off with the promo codes, below.
To save at checkout, follow these steps.
1. Go to the Blurb book store by clicking on the book you want:
Pocket book $18.85US. eBook for $4.75
Gift format: Large 8×10″ glossy format, with more illustrations and games, from $34.85US
2. Scroll to the bottom of the Blurb screen and select “Blurb United States” from the check box. US prices are lower than Canadian and the exchange rate is good.
3. Scroll back to the top right corner of the Blurb page and choose what format you want. If you choose an eBook, there is no additional saving.
4. If you order a print copy, it is made especially for you. Shipping cost per copy is less when you order more than one. Bulk orders are also discounted (seven or more copies).
5. Choose what delivery date you want and enter your address and credit card info.
6. Click on promo code at the end of your transaction, and try these codes, TYPED ALL CAPS:
MYDAD25 (expires May 31, 2013): Get 25% off. One-time use only.
DAD20 (expiry date May 31, 2013): Get up to 20% off an order of $50 or more. One-time use only.
Codes have expiry dates… They are also sometimes dependent on the currency you are using and the total cost of your transaction. If one doesn’t work, try another one. A maximum saving sometimes applies. I’ll post new discount codes here as I find them!
14 Sep 2011
in books, children, education, family, food, health, recipes, science, stories
Tags: farmers market, nutrition, presentation, tasting
Reading at the Farmers Market
Sharon bundled me up the last two sunny Sundays and carted me off to the Ottawa Farmers Market, at Lansdowne Park. She also took along our book, Cook Up A Story, and some other props. We hoped to meet with some kids who would like to listen to stories where good food sets the mood. And we met lots! We talked to the kids and their parents about making choices about the foods we eat. And we even sold some books. It was a great time and we hope to be back the last Sunday in September for more of the same. Many thanks to Chris Cooper for snapping some shots of Sharon with the kids at the market. You can sort of see my arms and legs sticking out from behind Sharon’s back. Next time hope she finds her own chair!
I took some time away from my blog in August because our summer cottage had no Internet access. Most of the time it never even had a telephone! We had fun making birdies on a stick and campfire birthday cakes there, though, on the barbecue. We used my own recipes of course, from the pages of my book.
To preview the book, click on the book’s cover, below.
Cook Up A Story. See main menu for more about the book. Click pic to order.
Hope to get back into posting more food factlets, recipes and book reviews soon. Keep checking this space!
08 Jul 2011
in books, children, family, food, science
Tags: chemistry, cornstarch, experiments, oobleck, play, powder, texture
Dr. Seuss invents OObleck
Cornstarch is a pretty boring food. This silky powder has no taste, no smell and no color. But it has one special thing going for it. It gets sticky when it’s wet.
Stickiness is the key to its success in making OObleck, the green slime that rains down from the sky in Dr. Seuss’s story about a king who makes a foolish wish. Use cornstarch to mix up a little OObleck yourself in just 10 minutes.
Start with one cup of water and about one and a half cups of cornstarch. A few drops of green food coloring in the water makes your OObleck look like Dr. Seuss’s. Add the cornstarch in batches and mix until it’s smooth and firm. Slap the surface. It should feel solid. If it doesn’t slap you back, add a little more cornstarch. It takes about 10 minutes of mixing to get it just right. Honest to goodness OObleck sometimes acts like a solid and other times like a liquid. Squeeze it and it feels hard. Sink your hand into it, and it feels liquid. Now let’s see what amazing things we can do with this slime.
Do you like to listen to music? With OObleck, you can actually watch music! Put some OObleck onto a shiny metal tray, like a pan for baking cookies. Put the whole thing on top of a stereo speaker (a woofer) and blast the music. Hold the tray down with your nails, not your fingertips, so as not to dampen the sound vibrations. Be amazed at what rises up. Watch here to see what can happen.
There’s a lot of complex chemistry lurking in food. Cornstarch is a good example. It changes foods from liquids into jellies, thickening and stabilizing sauces and puddings. It doesn’t do much for the flavor but it certainly punches up the texture of the foods we eat. Cooking would be a lot duller without cornstarch. But if you’d rather play with it than eat it, there’s plenty we can do with this wonder food. More to come.
19 Jun 2011
in books, children, family, food, health, recipes, stories
Tags: cooking lessons, experiments, mood, nutrition, play, trivia
A family’s guide to healthy eating. Click pic to order.
Vinny is excited about offering you a chance to read his book! Go ahead and preview a few pages on-line. Just click on the pic! Or log on to www.blurb.com/bookstore and enter “Cook Up A Story” in the search box.
If you’d like to order a copy, your book will be manufactured on demand. If you live in Canada it will be shipped to you from Calgary within 10 days. There are savings for groups ordering five or more copies. Your discount increases with the number of copies ordered. Best yet, the shipping cost per copy falls when you order more than one. The overall savings can be as much as $8 to $10 a copy. If you live in Ottawa and can pick up your copies from Sharon, she’s made a bulk order and would love to pass along the savings. Funnily enough there are even further savings if you pay in US dollars. Scroll to the very bottom of the screen and in the right corner select “United States” from the Blurb Country drop-down menu.
The quality of the books is pretty nice, too. You get 80 pages in full color on an opaque paper stock with a slight luster. The soft cover is durable and these books are perfect bound. The hard-cover version is image wrapped with gray end papers and has the same excellent paper stock as in the soft-cover copy, but these books are library bound for greater durability. A third option is a hard cover with a dust jacket. More technical details are available on-line.
All except $2 of the cost covers printing and distribution. Sharon is donating any profits after expenses to children’s literacy groups or a food bank in the community.
16 Jun 2011
in books, children, health, recipes, stories
Vinny and friends
Cook Up A Story is ready! This morning the first copy came out of the oven and is sitting on my kitchen counter. Once it’s cool, we’ll let you sample it. Hope you’ll like the flavor!
ACTive.Voice, a very small press indeed, is the publisher. That means Cook Up A Story is getting by with a very very small marketing staff… namely, me. And we have an even tinier marketing budget… mostly just elbow grease. Vinny’s hoping we can get the story out there anyway, with a little help from our friends.
Vinny has a Facebook page. And Vinny has his own blog. And Vinny is starting to make some friends there, old and new. But he needs more friends. He needs your help!
Get Ready… If you have a Facebook account, can you do Vinny a big favor? Can you look at Vinny’s page on Facebook and like it? If Vinny gets enough fans, he wins some freebie marketing things that might help a lot.
Get Set… You can also help by logging on to Vinny’s blog. When you get there, could you maybe click the like button at the bottom of the page? The more likes the blog gets, the more it turns up on Google search engines and other good things like that. You can also subscribe if you want to be notified by email whenever Vinny publishes a new post – see menu on the right.
Go! Vinny has posted more than 25 stories on his blog for you since Christmas, for your reading (and eating) pleasure. We hope once news of the book gets out, we’ll get kids and their parents posting here too. Maybe you can help them get started? Let Vinny know you’ve visited by leaving him a comment of your own (top left) on some of your favorite posts.
Finally, if you can think of someone we can approach who might like us to set up an after-school course or presentation for them featuring Cook Up A Story (stories, healthy eating, cooking tips etc for kids 8-12), would you tell us (and them) about it? Send them this link. Or ask me for a brochure you can pass along. I’ll keep track of and follow up on any and all marketing leads.
Once Cook Up A Story actually arrives here in Ottawa, Vinny will have a big party and you’re all invited! Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter in the life of Vinny.
We’re getting $1 or $2 a book as profit, which initially will cover expenses. We’re donating anything left over after that to literacy programs in the community. Thanks for your help in getting the Vinny’s healthy-eating messages out to kids! We’ll get by with a little help from our friends.