29 Jan 2013
in books, family, health, reviews, science
Tags: 17-day diet, avoiding sugar, calories, diet, Dr. Mike, nutrition, weight control
A doctor’s plan for rapid results
Vinny moves over to let Sharon talk about her adventures with the 17-day diet
Ok. Right off the bat my radar goes up. Anybody knows you can’t expect to lose weight fast… and keep it off. But Mike says, yes you can! He promises results that last. It’s right there on the front cover.
I crack the book open. His first words to me are, “Just give me 17 days.”
This diet gets results, Dr. Mike says, because it balances food and exercise to adjust your body’s metabolism to burn fat, “day in and day out.”
The first 17 days offers fast weight loss.
The second 17-day cycle ups your calories to confuse your metabolism. This feast-famine thing prevents your body from adapting. No plateauing. It keeps you interested. It also works to help you lose weight, as long as you are feasting on a fairly low-fat diet. I had confirmation recently in the journal Metabolism that this approach is scientifically sound. This bodes well for Dr. Mike’s diet!
The third cycle helps you move closer to your goal by establishing healthy eating habits, like proper portion size, with the foods you really like. Think pasta and alcohol!
And the last cycle is maintenance. This phase is actually the hardest for most dieters and where many fall down. Including me. Three years ago I was at my goal weight. Then I broke my shoulder, and all the weight I lost crept back.
Mike doesn’t promise you a rose garden. You have to stop eating unhealthy junk. You’ve got to eat veggies, fruit and lean meat. You learn to keep your portions down, cut down on fatty, sugary, and salty foods, and move your butt (Mike’s words). You won’t feel so hungry you have to crack open a tub of chocolate crackle ice cream at midnight. You’ll succeed… because it’s only for 17 days!
Dr. Mike peppers his pages with scientific studies that prove his points. He also gives us some tasty recipes to show us how to use the foods he builds his diet on.
He hooks me with all this and I decide to give it a try.
I wanted to lose that nasty weight I’d piled on since the shoulder fiasco. In September, I saw a picture of myself. I looked decidedly in need of attention.
I began with daily walks lasting an hour or more at 5–6 kilos/hour. At the same time, I tried cutting back. I have a sound understanding of what’s in the foods I eat. It was a matter of discipline.
I lost 7 or 8 pounds, then plateaued. Leading up to Christmas and 3 months into my weight control program, I had lost only 10 pounds… just one-third of the weight I needed to ditch. After all the holiday celebrating quieted down, I was up 3 pounds again! Dr. Mike to the rescue!
Day 1 of my 17-day diet was 11 January 2013. Today marks day 17. I’ve lost 8 pounds. That’s the same amount of weight it took me nearly 3 months to lose the old way. My total loss since September 2012 is 18 pounds. I’m more than halfway to my goal!
The 17-day diet is full of all the super foods Vinny loves. And it gets results. Fast. Thanks, Dr. Mike! I’m so looking forward to meal-planning as I head in to my second 17-day cycle… semi-fasting and somewhat feasting!
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!
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
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!
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
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.
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.
27 Jan 2012
in books, food, health, reviews, science
Tags: chemistry, fructose, grains, leafy vegetables, meat, Michael Pollan, processed foods, sugar, western diet
Eat more leaves
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Thank you, Michael Pollan, for this simple advice. You’ve researched the heck out of the Western diet to show us it’s this easy to eat for better health. We just need to stop eating packaged food… especially those with packages boasting health benefits. And although you want us to eat more plants, you don’t make us give up on meat completely. Thank goodness!
Although I was already leery of processed foods, I’ll have no trouble now giving them up as often as I can… especially any of those with fructose near the top of the ingredient list. Who knew it was even worse for us than glucose, the sugar our bodies burn for energy? And who knew refined white flour was the first fast food? Apparently, processing makes the starch molecules in flour more easily digestible into glucose… that’s right, the fuel our bodies burn for energy. Our bodies were never built to handle such a flood of glucose all at once.
I’ll have more trouble with your advice to swap meat for leaves… I love meat! Maybe if I can just make leaves one of the main veggies on my plate every time I eat, and I cut down on the serving size of my meat course, that will be a step in the right direction?
After reading In Defense of Food, I ran down to the grocery store and came home with a bunch of red kale, a bundle of watercress, and a box of baby spinach and arugula. I found some simple recipes, and the kale and watercress were delicious. Tonight we start in on the box of mixed greens. I was so surprised to learn that green leaves are good sources of omega-3… a fat?! Better yet, I learned that although omega-3 may be really good for us, it’s not the whole story – there are likely interactions with other unknowns in the leaves that account for their effectiveness in regulating our good health. So I’ll try to stay away from supplements and focus on eating real food instead.
It all makes sense, especially the way you explain it. Foods are such complex biochemical systems that it’s no wonder scientists are still straightening it all out. Going back to eating like our parents and grandparents did, as you suggest, definitely means getting back into the kitchen… and spending more time at the table with our families. I like that idea. Let’s put culture back into agriculture and tradition back into family life.
I hope I’m not one of those people you warn us about, Michael, obsessing over healthy eating! Just point me toward real foods that keep me healthy and let me indulge my love of eating for pleasure. From the information you’ve given us in your book, thank you for doing just that. So well researched and simply written, In Defense of Food is an asset for anyone concerned with eating a balanced diet. Check it out at the library today.
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
09 Jan 2012
in books, family, food, reviews, science
Tags: Alton Brown, baking, baking soda and baking powder, biscuits, cake, chemistry, desserts, measuring, texture
Watch your baking take off!
I hate to admit this, but baking can be a bit iffy. Sometimes pie crusts turn out flaky. But other times, they end up as hard to chew as a bathtub ducky. Same kind of problems with cakes and biscuits, too…
It turns out, to be a good baker you have to be patient! You also have to follow the directions closely. I have trouble with both those requirements. When the recipe says to let the dough rest in the fridge for half an hour, I figure, “No way! Even I don’t have time to rest!” And when the recipe says to sift the dry ingredients together, I figure, “Wha’? The flour is presifted. I’ll just stir the stuff up with a fork.” And as far as taking care with my measuring is concerned, I always figure a little more of a good thing never hurts…
Alton Brown, science chef extraordinaire and author of I’m Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking, is the guy who’s set me straight. He says getting tasty results out of your oven means being ULTRA careful with the mixing. Alton doesn’t like to use measuring cups and spoons for dry ingredients. He says a cup of flour can weigh between 3 and 6 ounces, depending on the kind of flour and how you sift and measure it. He doesn’t like sifting much, either. He has another solution to ensure consistently good baking.
Alton weighs all his dry ingredients (like they’ve been doing in Europe, forever). That takes care of differences in volume between sifted and unsifted flour. Then he dumps his dry ingredients into his food processor and gives them a good whirl.
This method makes sure that the ingredients are evenly blended. But it also adds lots of air to the mix… air that would otherwise have been added during sifting.
It turns out you need lots of hot air to react with the baking soda and baking powder in your recipe. These leavening agents release gases when they get wet and warm. The gas bubbles rise through the dough, creating air pockets that make your baking light and airy. The more air, the more bubbles. The more bubbles, the more tender and delicious your cakes and pastries will be.
If your recipe gives you a choice between weighing or measuring your dry ingredients, get yourself a good digital kitchen scale and start weighing. Then mix everything thoroughly in your food processor. Voila! You’ll be dining on air in no time!
As a New Year’s project, I’m working out some weights for my own recipes in Cook Up A Story. You can still get good results carefully measuring your dry ingredients. But you can be a lot more confident if you weigh them. I’ll be posting weights here shortly, so we can all be better bakers in 2012. Watch this space.
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!
01 Dec 2011
in food, science
Tags: biology, color, eggs, murre, Ripley's, trivia, wild
Lovely murre egg
You just can’t believe everything you read… But there is always a grain of truth behind every lie. And the Internet is a wonderful tool for digging out the facts.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not (in an edition dated in the 1950s) claims the cooked whites of murre eggs are blue and the yolks are red. Vinny loves unusual foods, so he wanted to taste these colorful eggs for himself. But when he searched for scientific evidence, nowhere could he confirm the blue color of cooked murre eggs.
What he did find out is that murres are cute little birds that look a lot like penguins. They live in large numbers in the north and as far south as California, off the coast in the Pacific Ocean.
During the gold rush, when fresh food was scarce for hordes of visitors out to find their fortune on the west coast of America, hunters prized the beautiful turquoise eggs of murres. Maybe people confused reports about the color of the shells with the color of the whites. We do know that sulfur in eggs increases with age or when cooked at overly high heat, turning the whites blue. So maybe the eggs just went bad!
But how could Vinny find out what fresh murre eggs really look and taste like? He couldn’t just go buy some at the local super market. Thanks to You Tube, Vinny found a video showing some folks hunting murre eggs on steep cliffs in the Pacific where the murres breed. And he just asked them! Ryan’s sister says, “Murre eggs… are delicious. The [cooked] egg whites are the same color as a chicken’s, but the yolk is a little darker—almost an orangish-yellowish color.” Maurice Analook tells Vinny the cooked yolks he tried had rings of red.
In Canada murres are a prized food source for people in Newfoundland. Stay tuned and Vinny will show you a recipe Newfoundlanders use for cooking up murre. He’ll also explain how you can make blue eggs for yourselves and astound your friends with your culinary skills. Eggsciting!
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
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.
04 Jun 2011
in children, family, food, health, science
Tags: avoiding sugar, breakfast, calories, chemistry, immunity, maple syrup, nutriti, phenolics, sugar
The sugar shack: Maple goodness is best in small packages! Story source: click my photo
If you really need to have a sweetener, choose maple syrup. It’s good! And now there is some proof that it might also be good for you.
Yes, spoon for spoon it has about the same number of calories and carbs as garden variety white sugar has. But maple syrup comes from the heart of trees. It flows in the spring, from roots to branches, to renew sleeping buds. Native Americans drank the first sap as a spring tonic. And recently, a scientist named Navindra Seeram conducted a “commendable analysis of the chemical constituents of maple syrup and discovered some interesting, previously undetected compounds in the process, ” according to a well-known commentator on science issues, Joe Schwarz. These compounds are disease fighters called phenolics.
But Schwarz has been one of Seeram’s worst critics. To suggest that maple syrup is healthy, he says, because it contains some phenolics is rumpled thinking. Phenolics are abundant in fruits and vegetables, he adds. He also worries that people hearing about “healthy compounds” in maple syrup could let their appetites for the sweet treat run wild.
“We’re not saying you should eat this to get phenolics,” Seeram emphasized. “We’re saying that if you’re choosing to eat this sweetener, it has these phenolics which are present in other healthy plant foods.”
If kids want sweetener on their pancakes, though, it might be worth the extra cost to splurge on maple syrup.
For more maple syrup magic, try this recipe for maple candy. Maybe you should cut the recipe in half, though. A pound of candy seems like an awful lot, and a little of this stuff takes you a long way. Share with friends, while you’re at it… sweet!
29 May 2011
in children, food, health, science
Tags: art, artificial sweeteners, avoiding sugar, diabetes, diet soda, drink, nutrition, stroke, sugar, water
Painting by David Payton
Too much sugar’s bad for us, but sugar-free soda could be even worse. It’s not proof positive, but new research raises concern about diet soda. Studies find higher risks for stroke and heart attack among people who drink sugar-free soda every day versus those who drink no soda at all.
The findings should be “a wakeup call to pay attention to diet sodas,” said Dr. Steven Greenberg. He is a Harvard Medical School neurologist and vice chairman of the International Stroke Conference in California, where the research was recently presented.
A simple solution, health experts say, is to drink water instead.
Some scientists think the stroke culprit is aspartame, a no-calorie sweetener used in many processed foods. Lynne Melcombe, author of Health Hazards of White Sugar, links aspartame to binge-eating and sugar cravings among many other serious problems. Randall Fitzgerald, author of The Hundred-Year Lie, links some cancers to aspartame. Other doctors are saying it is too soon to advise people to change their soda habits, especially people with diabetes.
Natalie Dee’s cartoon, below, seems to tell us to take a good look at why we are drinking diet sodas. Disingenuous (for those who aren’t too sure whether this is a compliment) means foxy, wily or sly.
The cool image Vinny’s linked to at the top of his blog is from David Payton, who drinks a diet soda every day, then paints the empty can. Hope he checks out Vinny’s link…
26 Apr 2011
in children, food, science
Tags: carbohydrates, cleaner, cucumber, nutrition, presentation, trivia, vegetables, vitamins
Cute cuke – good for more than eating
Do you need to get your crayon art off the bedroom wall before Dad gets home? Have you scratched a splotchy mistake with a pen on your brother’s birthday card? Never fear. Cukes can save the day. That’s right… cucumbers!
Take an unpeeled cucumber and gently use the skin to erase the pen writing. It may take a while, but your cuke can get the waxy purple lady off your wall for you, too.
Adults may be interested in many other useful things people can do with cucumbers. Seems they’re good for cleaning bathrooms, oiling doors and sweetening your breath.
And, yes, cukes are good for you! Put down that can of cola full of sugar and caffeine, and eat a cucumber. They’ve got B vitamins and carbs that can that can keep you going for hours, with just a few calories.
And if that isn’t enough, Richard Folkard in Plant Lore says if you dream about cukes, it means you will speedily fall in love. Or, if you are in love, then you will marry the one you love. Plant Lore was printed in 1884, so it must be true
Photo from The Artful Parent
14 Mar 2011
in children, food, holidays, humor, science
Tags: art, desserts, pi, Pi Day, pie
Happy Pi day – 3.14 (March 14)
Food is so much fun! You know what pie looks like and how it tastes (yummy!). Now (thanks to College Humor Video) you can hear what Pi sounds like, to 32 decimal places! Maybe you’ll also start to see just how magical math can be. Why don’t you settle yourself down with a lovely piece of Pi, then sit back and listen to it?
16 Jan 2011
in family, food, science
Tags: apples, chemistry, dates, fruit, leafy vegetables, meat, minerals, mood, nutrition, potatoes, vegetables
Roast turkey cheers us up for the holidays!
Which foods do you turn to when you need cheering up? Donuts, maybe? Better think again. Scientists say no play time along with too many sweets can leave a kid feeling pretty low.
But wait… There are some foods that can actually make you feel better when you’re down. And I’m not talking medicine here. Sweet potatoes for one. They have a mineral that helps fight the blues. Same with apple juice. And dates!
Dark green veggies have another mineral that works with oxygen to help calm your breathing and heartbeat.
And meat is made up of molecules that turn on your happiness centers!
Cook Up A Story has a whole chapter devoted to mood foods. Isn’t it amazing? Eat a bunch of fruits, veggies and protein and see how your moods improve.
08 Dec 2010
in family, health, science
Tags: chemistry, fats, fish, nutrition
They’re talking in the papers today about a new study on omega-6 fats. Seems they’ve been telling people with heart problems to eat lots of omega-6. But this new study suggests maybe they shouldn’t have been. Omega-6 fats could be damaging hearts more than fixing them. Corn oil, soy oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil all provide overly high amounts of omega-6. These oils are used in mayonnaise, margarine, fast food and processed food.
This flip-flopping doesn’t worry kids much, but parents might feel perplexed… However, if your family follows Vinny Grette’s guidelines for eating well, you should be fine.
Fats have such complex chemistry! Scientists are still sorting things out. But Cook Up A Story has the basics down for you. Its simple picture of how fats work in our body and what foods our bodies need for good health should stand up for a while in the face of new discoveries. Balance is the key. It’s all good in moderation!
Eat fish for good fats… here’s one that didn’t get away! A Dorade Royale from the Mediterranean.