04 Mar 2014
in food, health, recipes, science
Tags: antioxidants, digestion, fennel, fiber, heart, liver, nutrition, vegetables
Fennel makes a great side for barbecued chicken.
Fennel’s a bit of an odd vegetable. Although he turns up in the produce departments of most super markets, he’s not really a regular guest at most people’s tables. Fennel’s best pals with Celery, another kind-of-blah veggie that is often left languishing. Thee two veggies have the same pale greenish-white crisp flesh. And Fennel’s stalks grow around one another like Celery’s stalks do. Both veggies can be served raw or cooked. And both have a fibrous, mind flavor.
But Fennel deserves a closer look. Once you get to know him, you’ll see he’s loaded with character. More
25 Feb 2014
in food, health, recipes
Tags: adapting recipes, mushrooms, nutrition, nuts, walnuts
This walnut soup idea grew from a recipe I had saved from a teenage chef in Texas, who says his friends loved it. He’s probably grown up by now and very smart indeed if he’s continued down the walnut-tree-lined road of healthy eating. I found the earthiness of the walnuts in this dish was nice. The original recipe might be something the kids in the family would take to. But for me, I needed a little more oomph on my spoon. More
19 Feb 2014
in food, health, recipes
Tags: antioxidants, broccoli, memory, nutrition, omega-3, party food, walnut
Walnuts slash diabetic risk by a quarter. Click pic for more.
Raw walnuts not only provide a workout for your chin, they also strengthen bones and teeth.
Then too, walnuts help you remember things… like the leafless salad I promised to post in last week’s blog entry. That’s because of the huge amounts of the rarer fat component omega-3 that walnuts have. Remember? More
11 Feb 2014
in family, food, health, science
Tags: antioxidants, men's health, minerals, nutrition, omega-3, vitamin E, walnut
Can you spot the walnut hiding among all these other tasty tree nuts?
Develop the jaw,
But walnuts, stewed,
Are more quietly chewed.
—with a gentle nod to Ogden Nash
Crunchy or pureed, if we’re smart, walnuts will be found hiding on our plates in everything from soup to salads! I’m so impressed with walnuts’ healthy benefits, I hardly know where to begin. Have you heard of the quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, or the flavonol morin? I hadn’t, until recently.
But we don’t have to remember their names. We just have to remember where they hang out… in walnuts! More
04 Feb 2014
in family, food, health, recipes, science
Tags: best recipes, easy recipes, food science, kids' recipes, nutrition, super-food
Here Vinny presents his best efforts for 2013 –
easy, healthy, and kid friendly food.
For a glimpse into Vinny’s kitchen, click on any picture.
For recipes, copy and paste the link that appears below the caption. More
07 Nov 2013
in books, children, education, family, fitness, food, health, recipes
Please pass the word to your friends
Howdie! If any of my faithful readers are in downtown Toronto on Saturday, November 9, why don’t you drop by for a visit?
Sharon and I are in town for a child-development conference sponsored by Sick Kids, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, talking about our book Cook Up A Story. We’re at the Novotel Toronto Centre, 46 The Esplanade, second floor, from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm. Come by for a chat. It will be so nice to meet you! More
24 Sep 2013
in food, health, recipes
Tags: diabetes, Greek yogurt, nutrition, sugar spike, sweet potato, wheat, whole-grain flour
Fat, protein, and complex starches make good guards for refined flour and sugar.
In my last post I came down pretty hard on refined white flour. That’s the silky white wheat flour that bakers love to use in cakes and cookies. I was harsh with it because it’s such a soft touch! At the first sign of strong acids in our stomachs, it breaks down into the sugar our body uses for energy. And to make matters worse, refined flour likes to hang out with its pal, ordinary sugar.
The sugar police try to keep our blood levels on an even keel. But when there’s too much refined white flour and sugar around, sugar runs riot!
Sugar out of control can lead to diabetes and other serious health problems.
So, for our health’s sake, do we have to give up on refined flour completely? My answer is not necessarily. We just have to cook a little smarter. If we put refined flour under guard, we can control it long enough that blood-sugar levels remain even.
We control the bad effects from refined flour by eating other foods at the same time that make flour harder to digest. Healthy fats make a good guard. Other complex starches also do the trick, like those found in whole-grain flours and sweet potatoes. We can also be careful to keep flour’s sugar buddies away. Only the sugars that have something extra to offer are allowed in, and only a little at a time. And finally, we can invite protein into the gang, a nutrient that is much slower to digest than refined flour or sugar.
The biscuit recipe below comes with an army of guards to protect our systems from blood-sugar spikes. Can you spot them?
But there’s still enough refined flour to provide the flaky tenderness we want in a scone. Natural sugar in the sweet potato is boosted with a little maple syrup to make these biscuits a real treat. I served them with a simple salad and bowls of steaming homemade soup with tomatoes from my garden. M-M-Good!
Sweet Potato Scones
• ¾ cup sweet potato ( 1 medium potato boiled till soft, skinned, mashed and measured)
• 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• ½ cup whole-wheat flour
• 2 tablespoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• ¾ cup unsweetened Greek yogurt
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 3 tablespoons oil (coconut oil or olive oil… or melted butter, if you must)
How to make them
• if you don’t already have left-over sweet potato in the fridge, boil, peel and mash one, and set it aside to cool.
• Preheat oven to 425F and spray baking sheet with cooking oil.
• Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and sift them together or give them a whiz in your food processor.
• Mix wet ingredients along with the mashed potato in a medium bowl.
• Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones in the large bowl and stir just until the dough forms a soft ball. The less you handle the dough, the tenderer the biscuits.
• Turn dough out onto floured parchment paper (to protect the counter).
• Roll or pat gently into a round, ¾-inches thick.
• Using a 2-inch cookie cutter dusted with flour, cut the dough into round biscuits and transfer them to the baking sheet.
• Roll remaining dough into a ball and pat it again into a round ¾-inches thick. Cut more biscuits. Repeat until all the dough is used. You should end up with 12 biscuits.
• Bake for 10 minutes or until the biscuits are a light golden brown.
• Serve immediately.—Adapted from a recipe in Looney Spoons, a great cook book Vinny would have been proud to have written (but sadly, he didn’t ).
Nutrition for 1 scone: 124 Cal, 4 g fat, 19 g carbs (of which 3.7 g are sugar), 1 g fiber, 3.3 g protein, 321 mg sodium. Good source of iron, calcium, potassium, folate, and vitamins A, C and B.
Next week I’ll look at all the good things sweet potatoes do for us, besides guard against ill effects from refined flour. And I have a couple of other great recipes starring the sugary tuber to share with you, including the tomato soup I mentioned here.
Meanwhile, do you have any recipes to share with me that help the sugar police regulate refined flour and sugar?
Wheat and the glycemic index… loaded question Vinny explains why the glycemic load might be a better indication of the risk of sugar spikes from eating any one food.
Wheat is not satan… but watch out for all those little sugar devils Is wheat the cause of today’s alarming rise in weight-related problems in Canada and the US? A look at the popularity of gluten free diets.
One potato, sweet potato, bean potato, more Learn what sweet potatoes hold for you under their skin. Recipe: Baked sweet potato with goats cheese, black beans, and walnuts.
Sweet potato pancakes Find out why sweet potato is ranked the most nutritious of all veggies, and make your sweety some pancakes for Valentines Day.
Eggs and veg Check out Vinny’s recipes for hearty, egg breakfasts. Who needs toast, anyways?
13 Aug 2013
in food, health, holidays
Tags: cravings, nutrition, snacks
It’s so hard to control cravings while at the cottage, for some reason. I came across this chart the other day, though, and found it helpful. Like, this morning for example… When presented with a tray full of sweet home-made sticky buns, instead of the plain unadorned brown sugary ones, I chose the ones full of nuts! The joke’s on me. Now I’ll have to swim all day to make up for giving in to this treat. But… so worth it! Maybe tomorrow I’ll do better. Hope you do too!
In the meantime, here’s a reminder. Go check out Vinny’s Facebook Page! People who “like” it before the end of August are up for a chance to win a free copy of Vinny’s book – yay!
Originally posted on Earn Your Body:
Food Cravings. A dieter’s worst nightmare. How many of us can say I have never craved chocolate, chips, or an entire plate of pasta. Cravings can single handedly destroy a diet or healthy nutrition lifestyle. If we don’t answer our cravings, they tend to build and get worse. I came across a great pin the other day that explained what your body is really craving when it wants chocolate and also some healthy options to replace chocolate with but still satisfy the craving. Take a look below for a list of popular food cravings and how to cope.
Remember these replacements. Maybe copy or printout this chart and hang it in your kitchen. Ignoring food cravings is just as bad as giving into them. Substitute a healthy option and you will have more control over not only your cravings but you diet. NO EXCUSES. EARN YOUR BODY.
06 Aug 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: antioxidants, drinks, nutrition, vitamins, watermelon
Cool off with watermelon
Who would have thought the common watermelon is a berry? Botanists call its fruit a pepo, a special kind of berry with a thick rind and fleshy center.
Like other berries we love, the watermelon is packed with goodness. It has the most nutrition per calorie of any common food.
Red is the give-away. Bright colors signal a big pay-off in lycopene, an antioxidant repeatedly studied in humans and found to protect against a whole slew of cancers… prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and colorectal, for starters.
Watermelon offers lots of beta-carotene and another antioxidant, vitamin C. Besides helping lycopene to ward off cancer, these vitamins also battle heart disease, arthritis, and asthma.
A surprise benefit is the mood vitamins, B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine). Thiamine is important for maintaining electrolytes and transmissions of nervous-system signals throughout the body. Pyridoxine works with enzymes that convert food into cellular energy. Let’s party!
Then there is the mineral potassium, guardian of our cardiovascular system, brain, and kidneys.
Finally, watermelon provides lots of the master mineral Magnesium. Magnesium is the big boss for over 300 cellular metabolic functions. Poor soils make it scarce in today’s foods. Lack of Magnesium is related to most of our population’s poor health. Symptoms are irritability, tension, sleep disorders, and muscular cramping. After that, it’s heart attacks and other serious illnesses.
Watermelon is in season now, during the summer, so eat lots! It’s among the cleanest 15 commercial agribusiness fruits and vegetables available, so no worries about pesticide contamination.
Watermelons retain most of their nutrition after being cut and stored in the fridge. But pull the pieces out long enough for them to reach room temperature. This maximizes the phytonutrient capacity.
How to enjoy watermelon
Eat plain: Just quarter a large watermelon berry and slice off slabs. Eat the flesh right off the rind and spit out the seeds.
Use in a salad: Chop the flesh into bite-sized chunks and use them to top a plateful of greens. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and nut oil. Top with crumbled feta cheese.
Make a summer cocktail: Here’s a recipe I’ve been loving these days, modified from Peri’s Spice Ladle.
Vinny’s pink watermelon fizz
- 2 cups watermelon cubes, frozen
- 4 ice cubes
- Juice of one fresh lemon (1/4 cup)
- Juice of one fresh lime (2 tablespoons)
- 2-4 tablespoons of any sugar syrup you have. I used home-made red-current couli, But any fruit syrup, even grenadine (from pomegranates) or maple syrup, will do.
- 2 pinches of salt
- 2 pinches of black pepper
- 3-4 ounces raspberry vodka (optional)
- ¼ to 1/3 cup club soda, depending on whether you add alcohol or not and the size of your glass
- Blend the whole works except for the club soda for a few seconds.
- If you want to serve some of the cocktails without alcohol, leave the vodka out and add it back to the glasses of the folks who want it.
- Fill each glass about halfway with the watermelon fizz. Add 1 ounce alcohol to each glass if you didn’t include it in the mix. Top up with club soda. Adjust flavor with more lemon juice if needed.
- Spoon some of the pink foam into each glass and top with a raspberry or a mint leaf to garnish.
Natural News – Watermelon nutrition
Celiac Kitchen – Check this out for an amazing watermelon “cake” recipe
25 Jun 2013
in food, health, recipes
Tags: antioxidants, bromelain, fruit, immunity, minerals, nutrition, pineapple, vitamins
Pineapple wears a crown for a reason. It is royally healthy. In fact, it may be the healthiest fruit we can eat.
Pineapple reigns in the tropics. The plant stores the goodness from the sun year-round and gives us its fruit from January to June.
Picking pineapples stops the ripening. They don’t sweeten up for you on your counter. Choose one that smells great and eat it in a day or two. Or store it in the fridge to prevent spoiling. Pineapple cut into chunks and stored in a sealed container keeps for up to a week without loss of nutrients.
And pineapple is silly-rich in nutrients. Check out Dick and Dana’s blog for lots of easy-to-read details on pineapple’s bounty. Or for a more scientific treatise, try The World’s Healthiest Foods. Here are just a few of pineapple’s incredible benefits.
- If you have worms in your innards (and I sure hope you don’t), pineapple juice can help kill them off. Whew!
- Pineapple is high in manganese, a mineral we need to activate many essential enzymes in our bodies. Among other things, it’s used to strengthen our bones.
- Bromelain is another key to pineapple’s value. This enzyme breaks down protein efficiently. It improves digestion and reduces inflammation. As inflammation is the cause of many serious diseases, like arthritis, cancer and heart problems, pineapple is an exceedingly valuable food.
- Fresh pineapple is high in vitamin C to fight off colds. Its bromelain also gets rid of the mucous that hangs out with colds and sinus problems.
To get you started with this wonderful food, here’s a pineapple recipe that’s been making the rounds on Pinterest
lately. No wonder. It’s really… pinteresting :).
- 1 pineapple peeled (and cored if you want… but know that the core fruit has the most nutrients)
- 1/2 sweet onion (like Vidalia)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (a big fistful)
- 2 jalapeno peppers (or to taste)
- juice from one lime
- salt and pepper
The hardest part about this recipe is the chopping. You need to chop up the pineapple, red onion, cilantro and jalapenos. Do this by hand for a chunky salsa, or put it in your food processor if you like a more soupy variation (and are rushed for time). Next, transfer to a serving bowl and squeeze the juice out of one lime and season with salt and pepper.
If you don’t like foods too hot, leave out the seeds from the jalepenos and reduce the amount. But don’t leave the peppers out entirely. A little spiciness revs up your metabolism and galvanizes your taste buds. You won’t need nearly as much salt… And that’s a good thing.
That’s it. You’re done!
Enjoy your pineapple salsa as a side dish for barbecued salmon, tuna, or halibut. Or use it as dip for lime corn chips. I especially like the ones made from blue corn! Or even more wicked, you can try it with dried banana chips.
Pineapple is easy to get along with. Here are a few other pineapple friends to bring together for a tasty party.
- Combine diced pineapple with chopped shrimp, grated ginger and a little olive oil. Season to taste and serve this fragrant shrimp salad on a bed of spinach.
- Drizzle maple syrup on pineapple slices and broil until brown. Serve plain or with a dab of Greek yogurt.
- Serve a mix of chopped pineapple, grated fennel and walnuts as a side dish for chicken.
A fun project
Get your kids to plant the pineapple’s crown in a small pot and put it in some bright sunshine. Grow yourselves a little tropical atmosphere without leaving home. Click on photo from Nothing Right for more instructions.
11 Jun 2013
in children, family, food, health, recipes
Tags: eggs, farming, mushroom, nutrition, omelet, vitamin D
Add light and grow your own vitamin D! Mushrooms are the only item in your produce section that can perform this feat.
Vinny presents a photo-story today, for your viewing pleasure.
A mini mushroom farm arrives in the mail
Slit the plastic, add water and some sunshine, and wait. Mist twice daily to keep it all moist.
Overnight, MAJIC! Look at all those little blue-headed mushroom caps that popped up while we slept :)
In a few days, they’re big enough to eat!
Harvest them, and make yourself a mushroom omelet – mmmm!
Read a story about mushrooms and learn more about their goodness, here.
Order your own mushroom farm (this plug is entirely unsolicited and freely given), here.
Easy Mushroom Omelet
- One bunch of mushrooms from your own mushroom farm (about 8 ounces)
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh spinach (if you have it)
- a little sea salt and some pepper (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 tablespoons or so of grated romano or parmesan cheese
- 1 or 2 eggs, lightly whisked
Cook it up
- If your mushrooms are dried out, soak them in enough boiling water to cover for half an hour or so. Then chop them up into pieces the size of your little fingernail.
- Chop up some onion and spinach (if using) into similar-sized pieces.
- To a cast-iron or nonstick frying pan, add the oil. On medium heat saute the onions and mushrooms until they are limp and brown. Throw in the spinach and the cheese, stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Take the mixture out of the frying pan and put it onto a small plate.
- Add a dab more oil to the pan if needed and pour the whisked egg(s) into the hot pan. The eggs should begin to set almost immediately. Spread the mushroom mixture over half the egg. Once it has set completely, use a metal spatula to flip the egg over the mushrooms, then to serve the entire omelet onto your plate.
A breakfast fit for a Faerie Queene
FYI – Vinny’s posting every two weeks, on Tuesdays still, during the summer. Hope you all have a wonderful summer holiday, sampling fresh fruits and veggies from local gardens. YUM!
PS Vinny’s alter ego (Sharon) made her weight loss goal since our last post – 30 pounds gone forever. Thanks, Dr. Moreno, for your helpful science-based advice.
28 May 2013
in family, food, health, recipes, stories
Tags: cancer, heart, mushroom, nutrition, salad
Blue oyster faeries weave a safety net for your heart
The Faerie Queene hung her head. Her heart ached and she knew not what might mend it.
She summoned her trusty knights to her fortress deep in the forest. “Dear Sirs,” she began. “Your mission is to find a way to chase the chill from my blood.”
Sir Woe-be-Gone spoke first. “Rub a paste of mustard and lemon over your neck,” he said. “And get a good night’s sleep.”
Sir Cry-No-Tears piped up next. “Balderdash! What’s needed is a steamy tea, flavored with garlic and thin slices of onion.”
Then a sweet voice sang out above the rest. More
07 May 2013
in books, family, food, holidays, recipes
Tags: broth, carrots, Mothers Day, nutrition, presentation, shitakes, soup, stock
Thanks, Mom! And just in time for Mother’s Day :)
A few weeks ago Vinny was all excited about turning leftovers usually meant for the garbage into a nutritious soup stock (see Garbage soup). Once you get into the habit, it’s a magical way to feed yourself, body and soul.
Yesterday, though, I read a post from Things my Belly Likes where we’re told how to turn your Cinderella soup stock into a princess. A few of these tricks were new to me. As they all sound so reasonable and delicious, I pass them on here.
- Add cloves – Toss a few of these into the soup pot along with some black peppercorns and the result is a spicy, flavorful broth with extra kick. Cloves are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and great for the immune system. If you think you’re getting the latest cold/flu bug, then cloves are a must.
- Sprinkle in seaweed – Your thyroid will thank you for that iodine kick you get by adding edible seaweed to the broth. A few strips of dried dulse or kelp to the bones at the start, before it comes to a boil, is all you need. You might not be able to taste it but your thyroid knows it’s there, and it thanks you.
- Vinegar is vital – Vinegar helps leach out all the healthy minerals from the bones. Use about two tablespoons per gallon of broth. Any good vinegar will do so – apple cider, balsamic or even red wine vinegar. Stay away from plain white vinegar, though, because it apparently results in a bitter broth. Lemon and wine, both also acidic, could likely do the job, too.
- Go heavy on the garlic and onions – These veggies are especially important to ward off the cold/flu, because garlic and onion are legendary immune system boosters. Use at least two large white onions and a whole bulb of garlic. Just score the sides of the bulb, smash it a bit and chuck it in.
- Roast the bones – Before making your stock, roast the bones and veggies too in a hot oven for 30 minutes. It heightens the brown color.
There you have it. Wave your wand, throw these tidbits into the cauldron, and simmer up some good health.
As a tasty snack, eat your stock cold out of the fridge while it’s like a jelly. Or use it to make a powerful soup by adding fresh veggies, legumes and other tasties.
Clementine gives up her secrets
But there’s one very special soup I want to share with you here. Remember Clementine in the Kitchen from last week’s post? It was Sharon’s dad’s favorite cookbook ever. She rediscovered it only recently. And hidden among its pages lurked a recipe her mom had clipped from a magazine… a rich soup stock dressed up with shitake mushrooms and chopped spinach. How healthy is that!
But what made this soup Adela’s own was the carrot flowers. Nothing pleased Sharon’s mom more than a pretty presentation. And if the exotic mushrooms didn’t do it, these cutsie flower coins would take this soup out of the ordinary. The crowning touch was a drop of good sherry added at the table. Adela’s dinner parties were always something people looked forward to.
I made Adela’s soup today to see how it holds up, so many years later. I had to update it here and there. The main difference is that I replaced dry shitakes with fresh ones. The fresh ones wouldn’t have been readily available in the 1950s and 60s. But I’m happy to report: it was DELIcious!
Shitakes and flower carrots make this soup special
Vinny makes Adela’s party soup
Shitake mushroom and spinach broth
serves 2 for lunch
- 1 cup rich, homemade beef broth of the type described above [I used the left-overs from yesterday's Hochepot]
- 1 cup water
- 2 ounces (50 grams) shitake mushrooms, brushed clean and finely sliced
- 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped and packed down
- 1 large carrot, scrubbed and left unpeeled
- Dry sherry [or lemon juice for folks who can't drink alcohol]
For carrot flowers - Use the sharp tip of a clean bottle opener to make five grooves lengthwise down the side of the carrot. Then slice the carrot into thin coins to get pretty flower shapes.
In a large saucepan add carrot flowers to the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. When carrots are tender, about 10 minutes, add the mushrooms and spinach. Cover and cook another 2 minutes. Divide into 2 bowls for lunch or 4 bowls for a dinner appetizer. Add 1 tablespoon dry sherry to each bowl at the table. [I used Madeira, as there was no sherry to be had.]
I was happy with the result. Sharon tasted it and beamed: Thanks, Mom!
Happy Mother’s Day!
Garbage soup – Soup basics: make soup every day from whatever you have in the fridge
23 Apr 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: avocado, fats, nutrition, omega 3 fatty acids, pear, protein, sugar, walnut
The Avocado and the Pear
Short and squat, Miss Comice Pear rolled into his office. “I want you to defend me,” she exclaimed, blushing a rosy red.
The lawyer, whose desk plaque proclaimed him to be the Honorable V. H. Avocado, LL.M., sat back and picked up his pen. “What is the charge?” he asked.
“They say I’m harboring a load of sugar. They accuse me of doing great harm. But it’s not true!” Comice was distraught.
“Calm down,” replied Mr. Avocado. He adjusted his dark green jacket over his rather-rounded middle. “Perhaps if you began from the beginning?”
“Dr. Aitkin was the first to accuse me. He got Dr. Dukan to testify, too. They say I hold too much sugar for a weight-loss diet.” Comice sighed. “Yes, I have some sugar. But it’s mine… naturally! And it adds just a few calories to those that come from my healthy fiber and vitamins.” She smiled. “I do people lots of good.”
“Sounds to me like it’s a case of the good out-shining the bad.” Mr. Avocado nodded. “I’ll take your case. I think we’ll make a good pair!”
The Pretty Comice
Many juicy fruits make excellent choices in a balanced, healthy-eating program. These valuable additions to lean meat and dairy, good fats, and low-starch veggies give your meals variety.
Pears are particularly useful for their whole raft of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients work as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Pears digest easily and most people are not allergic to them. Their fiber fights cancer (especially of the digestive tract), diabetes, and heart disease. Dr. Moreno (who gave us the 17-day diet) allows two watery fruits a day on his healthy-eating program.
And what makes V.H. Avocado so honorable, you might ask? Isn’t he a little, well, too fatty to be good for our health? How wrong you are. The fats in avocado are of the good variety. Its main kind (oleic acid) protects heart health. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. These most desirable inflammation fighters are hard to come by, but they are plentiful in avocados and walnuts. Be sure to include these foods in your balanced diet.
The fats in avocado also feed our brains = an excellent food for kids
And surprise! Avocados are a source of complete protein. You get all 18 amino acids in avocado, a fact vegetarians pay attention to. That’s because most plants only contain some of the essential amino acids muscles need. So vegetarians usually have to mix and match to make sure they get all of them.
Here is a totally delicious recipe that pairs an avocado pear with comice pears. You’re welcome! You’re also welcome to makes substitutions. The recipe contains the healthiest combination of foods I know. But if you don’t have one of the ingredients, make it with another. As long as it’s similar, you can’t go far wrong. If you prefer, add 1 teaspoon maple syrup instead of the stevia I recommend. It adds 10 calories per serving and 2 more grams of sugar.
Leave the skin on the pear and scrape up and eat all the dark green flesh next to the skin of the avocado. That’s where more than 50% of the nutrients hang out.
Avocado stuffed with creamy pears and walnuts
Great for breakfast, lunch, or mid afternoon snack (serves two)
- 1 ripe avocado, halved
- 8 ounces low-fat cottage cheese
- 2 comice pears with skin, cored and chopped
- 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
- 1 small shake of stevia (equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar), optional
- Cut the avocado in two, lengthwise, and throw away the seed. Leave the flesh in the skin and place each half on its own plate.
- Combine the rest of the ingredients and mound half the cottage cheese mixture into each of the cavities of the two avocado halves. For a creamier version, blend the cottage cheese before mixing.
- Serve with a small spoon to scoop out the avocado’s flesh and enjoy it with the sweet fruity nutty cheese mixture. Be sure to scrape the flesh right down to the skin, to scoop up all the precious nutrients. So good!
Note: For each of two servings: Calories (kcal) 338.2, Fat (g) 20.8 of which 3.3 g is saturated, Sodium (mg) 466.8, Potassium (mg) 715.6<, Carbohydrate (g) 25.5 of which 9.7 g is fiber and 12.1 g is sugar, Protein (g) 17.4, Vitamin A (RAE) 20.4, Vitamin C (mg) 13.6, Calcium (mg) 95.6
On her way out the door, Comice Pear turns and asks,” What does the V. H. on your desk plaque stand for, anyway?”
Her attorney smiles. “Very Healthy, of course!”
Something’s fishy… Boost heart-healthy omega-3 fats with fish. Make salmon two flavor-filled ways.
Mmmm… I . love . turtles! Walnuts are a treasure chest for precious omega-3 fats. Use them with chocolate and dates to make a family favorite.
Creamily-creamless-triple-chocolatey pudding loaded with omega-9 Make a chocolate pudding from avocado or use the mix to ice a cake deliciously!
17 Apr 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: cabbage, chicken, German, nutrition, probiotics, sauerkraut, traditions, vegetables
Will and Isla carefully chop through mountains of cabbage.
I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.
“Sing along,” says Vinny, waving his arms furiously in time to the music.
“In the old days,” he went on, “people made their own sauerkraut so they would have veggies to eat during the long winters.Your great grandpappy was a sauerkraut-maker extraordinaire. People came from all over to buy his home-made kraut. Now, we just go to the deli. It comes in jars or cans. I like the Polish kind best myself. But it’s good to keep the old ways alive. Keep chopping!”
“Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” sings Will at the top of his lungs. Isla just hums, too busy to get involved in the lyrics.
Today we know that the old ways were healthy ways. Sauerkraut is what you get after cabbage is well salted and allowed to rest for a few weeks in a crock, closed off from air. Salt pulls water from the cabbage to make a brine. The little bugs that thrive in this environment are good bacteria. They make the brine acidic, in a process called fermentation. These healthy bugs go by the name probiotics. They work against the bad bacteria in our stomachs to improve digestion.
Many people think the healthy bacteria protect us in many ways… like keeping inflammation in check, reducing allergies, preventing constipation… But the science is still young. Just to be on the safe side, many doctors and nutritionists recommend two servings of probiotic foods a day.
Probiotics are found in fermented foods… like pickles, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, and, of course, sauerkraut. You can also get probiotics in supplements. But unless you’re taking antibiotics, which wipe out the good bugs along with the bad ones, it’s best to rely on real food for your probiotics.
Sauerkraut is best served raw, because high heat kills all those cute little helpful bacteria. But you still get the nutrients in the cabbage. It’s packed with vitamin C!
Put well-rinsed raw sauerkraut with soft poached eggs in the morning. The meal has a nice tang and makes a satisfying start to the day.
At lunch, sauerkraut makes a tasty addition to salad. But what I like best is putting a big scoop into the bottom of my bowl before pouring hot soup over it. Yummy!
For dinner, Vinny has modified Dr. Mike Morano’s recipe for Bavarian chicken, starring a heap of sauerkraut.
Vinny’s Bavarian chicken
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 large apple, cored and chopped
- 8 ounces sauerkraut, canned, low sodium, and well rinsed
- 12 medium Brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut in half
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon caraway seed
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 3 chicken breasts or legs, or a small roasting chicken
How to put it together
I like sautéing the onions, ginger, and garlic in my large soup pot to get started, using a bit of oil. But if you don’t want any oil, just skip this step.
Put all the veggies and spices into the pot over medium heat and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Before you start cooking the veggies, put a small chicken in the oven to roast or prepare three boneless chicken breasts for the barbecue. If the meat is ready first, keep it warm, then serve the chicken on top of the veggies.
Alternatively, poach the chicken breasts in the soup pot, submerged in the liquid. Add the chicken after the liquid has come to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the meat to cook through, about 20-30 minutes. This method is easier, but I like roasted or grilled chicken better :).
- 2 teaspoons fresh dill weed, chopped
- 2 teaspoons paprika
Paprika boosts metabolism and fresh dill contains vitamins.
This dish is one of my favorites. The stove-top veggies are good with lots of lean meats… tasty even for folks who don’t like cabbage (or Brussels sprouts).
The veggies (per serving): Calories (kcal)100.1, Fat (g) 3.6, Sodium (mg) 377.0, Potassium (mg) 433.1, Fibre (g) 5.1, Vitamin A (RAE) 27.4, Vitamin C (mg) 48.7, Calcium (mg) 60.9, Folate (DFE) 51.4. The chicken: a 6-oz breast has 252 calories and 46 grams of protein.
A German meal is all I need
To make my day complete.
It’s hard to keep account of all
The cabbage that I eat.
17-day diet – An intro to this balanced way of eating, with a list of all the related links on Vinny’s blog.
09 Apr 2013
in children, family, food, health, recipes, stories
Tags: 17-day diet, nutrition, protein, soup, traditions, vegetables
DIY with a different soup every time
On a winter’s night after a long day’s walk, a ragged beggar finds himself in a quiet farming village. He dreams of a warm fire and a hot meal. He knocks on the door of a tidy house. A pair of eyes peer out at him from behind the printed curtain. But no-one opens the door. At the next house a young woman with a crying baby tells him she has nothing to spare. He is even turned away from the Ukrainian church, where a few women are sewing together on a patchwork quilt.
Watching them gives him an idea. “Watch me make a delicious soup with these magic buttons,” he says at the door of the grocery store, pulling three buttons carved from the bones of an ox’s tail off his ratty old coat. More
02 Apr 2013
in food, humor, recipes
Tags: 17-day diet, barbecue, cancer, fats, fish, heart, inflammation, nutrition, omega 3 fatty acids, protein, salmon
If you hate smelling up your kitchen, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the deliciousness of fresh or fresh-frozen fish. Just cook it on the barbecue, outside! It’s easy for every day and delicious enough for any special occasion.
Fish is full of those hard to come by but oh so important omega-3 fatty acids. Why are they important? First, it’s because we can’t manufacture them in our bodies. We have to get them in food. Second, they help prevent the many chronic diseases that plague us these days.
And why do we have such high rates of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, to name just a few? It’s because our diet provides many more of the other omega fats than it does omega-3. We aim for a ratio of 4:1 or better, for omega-6 versus omega-3 fats. But omega-6 is found in super-high amounts in the cheap vegetable oils the food industry prefers… especially corn oil. If you eat out regularly, for sure you are getting too many omega-6 fats for good health.
Isla makes a herb and oil stuffing for omega-3-rich salmon
The only Westernized society that reaches that goal of 4:1 is the Japanese. They are one of the healthiest populations on the planet despite their incredible love of cigarettes. The population of the United States, and other developed countries where eating out is popular, consume 19 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. This is the most likely reason we rank poorly in every measured health barometer.
What’s so good about omega-3 and so bad about omega-6? It’s simply that omega-3 prevents inflammation and omega-6 promotes it. The more inflammation, the more trouble your heart has pumping blood through your arteries, the easier it is for cancer to take a hold, and the more likely you will suffer allergies and lung problems.
The moral of this little story is eat more fish. Don’t let the smell keep you from enjoying fish regularly. There’s no need to go to extremes like our hero has done in the photo off the top. Cook your fish on your barbecue, outside. We barbecue winter and summer. Or wrap it in foil and bake it in the oven on high heat.
To get you started, here are two wonderful ways to cook salmon. The Wild West style is good for a large party. Just cut the quantities for a more intimate group. Way #2 is my favorite salmon recipe ever. The flavor of the stuffing infuses throughout and keeps the flesh moist during the cooking process. The only drawback is that the delicious flavor could be too strong for the picky eaters in the family. However, you can give the kids parts of the fish that have not got any little green or red specks on it.
Barbecued Salmon, Wild West style
8-10 lbs whole salmon (serves 20)
Mix the following ingredients together and marinate the salmon in it flesh-side down for 2-6 hours. I put it all in a plastic bag in the fridge Don’t marinate for more than 6 hours as the salmon will toughen:
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup rye whiskey
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (I leave this out if I’m cooking the salmon right on the coals. Sugar causes charring. If wrapping the fish in foil, then leave it in)
On a covered barbecue, cook skin-side down until skin separates, or wrap in heavy foil and place over coals for 45 minutes or so.
Barbecued Salmon, California Style
Salmon fillet large enough for 4 people (perhaps 2 pounds)
Puree the following ingredients. You can make this ahead and store in a jar in the fridge overnight:
- 3-5 large garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup fresh dill leaves (about 30 grams)
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes (about 1/3 cup or 15 grams), reconstituted in hot water
- 1/4 – ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Place salmon skin-side down on a large piece of greased foil.
With a sharp knife cut two long slits lengthwise along the fillet, slicing to the skin but not through it, dividing the salmon into three.
Spread the garlic mixture over the fish and into the slits.
Close foil and cook for 15-25 minutes, depending on size (see the 10-minute rule, below). Fish should taste moist, not dry.
1) Use fresh cilantro or parsley leaves instead of dill if you prefer.
2) Some health advocates say don’t use olive oil in cooking, as the fats can be denatured. Macadamia nut oil is expensive but has lots of omega-3 compared with omega-6 and withstands heat. It is a healthful choice.
The 10-minute rule for cooking fish
Measure the fish at its thickest point and cook it for 10 minutes per inch, turning halfway through the cooking time. Add 5 minutes if you’re cooking in foil.
26 Mar 2013
in family, food, health, holidays, humor, recipes, stories
Tags: 17-day diet, breakfast, carbohydrates, eggs, minerals, nutrition, presentation, protein, vegetables, vitamins
Humpty on the half shell
“What experiments are we doing, today, Vinny?’ asks Will, poking his head into my basket of vegs.
“SO many ways to cook eggs for breakfast,” says Vinny with glee. “We’re going to try three fast ones.”
Way #1 (Humpty Dumpty on the half shell)
“For the most fun,” continues Vinny, “We’ll start with Humpty scrambled right inside his own shell.”
“Who says Humpty was an egg?” asks Isla.
Spin 3 minutes
“What else could he be?” Vinny scratches his head. “He fell off a wall and got scrambled. Just like our eggs. Once we’re through with these beauties, nobody will be able to put them back together again!”
We select a small beet from the basket, scrub it, cut it into bits and put it into a small pot of water on the stove. Then we drop an egg into the toe of Grammy’s panty hose. We race around the house spinning the egg in front of us until we’re flat out of breath.
We also spin another egg relentlessly in our salad spinner for a couple of minutes. But this isn’t nearly as much fun or as good an exercise. (Plus, it doesn’t work.)
Then we tenderly place the eggs in the beet water and bring it all to a gentle boil. After 8 minutes, we move the eggs to a cold-water bath.
To serve, slice the eggs in half and pair them with whole-grain toast. Ta Da! Spreading the scrambly egg on the warm, crunchy toast… it’s an exciting Easter treat indeed! Brighten with a touch of horseradish and some of the chopped red beets if you want more oomph. You need to soak the eggs much longer than we did to get the red to seep into the shell.
Way #2 (Microwaved)
Microwaved eggs in a hummus bed
“I don’t have time to cook eggs in the morning,” claims Will and Isla’s mom, as she rushes around organizing lunch boxes, homework, and snowsuits while the clock ticks persistently toward 8:30am.
“But you have to eat something before you go to work,” says Vinny. “And the kids will do better at school with a little protein behind them. My eggs take no more than 2 minutes to cook.” Vinny grins. “I use the micro!”
Vinny finds a small, deep bowl and puts 1/4 cup beet hummus in the bottom. He zaps it for 30 seconds on high. Then he digs a small hole and breaks an egg into the hummus. He covers the dish with a plate and sets the power at 7 and the timer for 1 minute. Some 60 seconds later, we’re ready to dig into a creamy egg poached in hummus. Time varies depending on the oven and how you like your egg. I like my hummus spicy. I also like to serve this dish topped with some Greek yogurt and ground black pepper.
For variation, fill the bottom of the bowl with salsa or sauerkraut or with any other left-over cooked veggies you have in the fridge. Roasted broccoli or cauliflower is nice. It’s the technique I’m pushing here… easy and full of possibilities for a protein- and vitamin-packed start to your day.
Way#3 (Pan-poached with spinach and mushrooms)
Use a cast iron fry pan or a nonstick fryer to whip up another easy eggs-and-veggie dish. Vinny’s weekend breakfast treat uses a cup or two of rinsed baby spinach and three or four mushrooms, cleaned and sliced.
Lightly coat the fry pan with canola oil. Stir fry mushrooms until they start to brown. Add a half teaspoon of chili paste and stir. Add the washed spinach and cover.
When the leaves wilt, arrange veggies in a circle and make a hole in the centre. Add another small amount of oil. Break an egg into the hole and cover the pan. After a minute or so add a splash of water to the hot pan and cover again. Check once the steam has subsided. Add more water if the egg needs more cooking. Let it all evaporate. Take the whole works out with a spatula and place on a pretty plate. Enjoy.
For a change, try sauteing leeks and mushrooms. Or steam up some broccoli slaw for your egg nest. Top the egg with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sauerkraut.
Pan-poached eggs with leeks
Breakfast Health Benefits
These egg dishes are perfect if you are looking for high-protein low-carb breakfasts. Perhaps, like me, you’re following Dr. Morano’s 17-day diet? I’ve been eating eggs done ways 2 and 3 for 2 months. I now boast a healthy BMI and resolve to keep it there!
Eggs contain a lot of cholesterol, but dietary cholesterol is not as bad for your heart as originally thought. You can safely eat an egg a day. In return you get a large dose of protein and selenium and a goodly amount of riboflavin, vitamin B12 and phosphorus. Egg’s choline helps protect your memory. The veggies provide balance and a host of vitamins and minerals. And the yogurt and sauerkraut provide probiotics for better digestion. The hot sauce gives your metabolism a boost first thing in the morning, a good thing for weight control. These breakfasts kick butt!
If you need more than one egg to take you through the morning, boost the number of egg whites.
Egg microwaved on a bed of roasted veg
It’s a riddle, by the way. You’re supposed to guess what Humpty is. We can thank Alice (of Through the Looking Glass fame) for the answer… It’s an egg. Humpty’s VERY provoked.
The 17-day diet, starring Dr. Mike Morano – An introduction to this balanced and effective eating plan. Follow the many related links here to recipes, theory and nutrition.
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!
Originally posted on Cook Up a Story:
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.
12 Mar 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: 17-day diet, antioxidants, bones, eyes, heart, magnesium, nutrition, omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, squash
Squash-o-copia: butternut, acorn, and ambercup
Simple! Vinny says. Roasted squash is such a delicious, low-fat side dish. Enjoy it during cycles 2 and 3 of the 17-day diet.
The roasted butternut was so good my significant other ate the skin! I suppose that’s one way to boost your fiber – but not one I’d really recommend :). Squash tastes wonderful with lean poultry or pork.
Tip: to make the squash easier to cut, pierce it with a fork and bake it in the microwave for 60 seconds before slicing it.
Why eat squash? Besides the satisfying taste, squash comes packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Its vitamin A protects your eyes, bones, and reproduction. The antioxidants protect against cancer. And minerals, like potassium and magnesium, protect your heart and kidneys. Besides this its fiber aids digestion and the omega 3 fatty acids, especially high in spaghetti squash, have just been shown to be vital to heart health. Here are two simple ways to take in all this goodness!
Simple recipe #1: Roasted butternut squash
- oil to grease the baking dish (e.g. Pam)
- 1 small butternut squash, about 2 lbs (the pale ones in the photo)
- ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
What to do:
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- With a heavy knife, cut off the top of the squash near the stem, then slice it crosswise, into circles about 3/4-inch thick. Scoop out seeds and membranes.
- Place circles in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Combine orange juice and maple syrup and drizzle over squash wedges.
- Roast for 30 minutes or until they’re soft when poked with a fork. Spoon syrup over wedges before serving.
Calories 134.1m Carbohydrate 32.0 grams (fibre 3.7 g, sugar 9.1 g), Protein (g) 2.4, Vitamin A 1207.0 (RAE), Vitamin C 52.9 (mg), Folate 64.2 (DFE), Calcium 119.7 (mg), Sodium 10.0 (mg), Potassium 838.8 (mg)
Simple recipe #2: Baked acorn squash
- half an acorn squash (the dark green one in the photo)
- 1.5 tsp(s) coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 0.25 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
What to do:
- Bake at 375F for 40 min cut side down in a little water until tender.
- Add coconut oil to center, melt, and add syrup.
- Finish with the cinnamon a dash of salt and pepper.
- Bake another 10 min until liquid is absorbed.
Calories (kcal) 99.2, Fat (g) 3.5 (no trans fat or cholesterol), Sodium (mg) 4.4, Potassium (mg) 395.7, Carbohydrate (g) 17.9 (Fibre 2.1 grams, Sugar 5.6 grams), Vitamin A (RAE) 19.4, Vitamin C (mg) 11.9, Calcium (mg) 45.4, Folate (DFE) 18.3
Squash stuffed with ground meat and beans
The 17-day diet
26 Feb 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: 17-day diet, buckwheat, carbohydrates, gluten free, groats, kasha, mushrooms, nutrition, Prairies, Russia, Ukrain
Never let it fade away… ♪♪♭♪
Put Vinny’s recipe for mushroom and kasha soup in your pocket, too, and try it out on a rainy day. It’s great on cycle 2 of the 17-day diet… or on any other day!
At the same time, if you aren’t of Ukrainian or Russian descent, try out an ancient grain that might be new to you. That would be kasha.
Actually, I misspoke. Kasha, otherwise known as toasted buckwheat groats, is NOT a grain. It’s a flower bud. How lovely is that!
We eat it on Christmas Eve, when we prepare 12 traditional Ukrainian delicacies to usher in the season. But once buckwheat is in the cupboard, we use it as a side dish with stews and in cabbage rolls and other hardy foods through the winter.
Kasha (or buckwheat groats)
Kasha is perfect for people on gluten-free diets, as well as for folks on the 17-day diet, looking for good protein content in a slo-carb complex food.
Substituting kasha for refined grains adds nutrients, flavor and texture to your meals. Ready in 15 minutes, kasha is quick-cooking and versatile.
Leslie Beck, RD, Canada’s leading nutritionist, says, “Kasha is closer to being a complete protein than other plant sources, including soybeans, since it contains all eight essential amino acids in good proportion. In particular, kasha contains significant amounts of the amino acid lysine, which makes it unique as a grain substitute, since this amino acid is typically lacking in most true grains.”
One cup of kasha gives you 20% of your daily fiber. It is also full of B vitamins and important minerals, like magnesium, which helps lower blood pressure.
Another special benefit is that kasha is high in rutin, a flavonoid that strengthens blood vessels and prevents blood clotting. Kasha is truly good for your heart!
As it’s gluten-free, it’s also suitable for people with celiac disease.
Buckwheat lasts up to 3 months in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.
Use kasha wherever you would use rice. It’s also great as a cereal, as a filler in ground meat, as a replacement for pasta, and as an alternate for oats in cookies and muffins. But the recipe I’m sharing here is for soup. M-M Good.
Mushroom and kasha soup
(adapted from The Shiksa In the Kitchen)
While you’re cooking up this delicious soup, perhaps you’ll want to sing. Listen to “Catch a falling star” here - tralala!
- 1/3 cup dried mushrooms, soaked in 3 cups boiling water
- about 2 tablespoons canola oil, separated
- 1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cups chicken stock (the soup thickens if you keep it in the fridge a day or two)
- 1 cup kasha
- 6 okra, washed and sliced (optional)
- enough salt and lots of pepper to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add 2 teaspoons oil and saute the sliced mushrooms. Let the slices brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set the sauteed mushrooms aside.
- In the same pot, add 2 more teaspoons of oil and sauté your onions and garlic for 5 minutes until they start to brown.
- Add the last 2 teaspoons of oil and then the carrots & celery.
- While the vegetables are cooking, drain the dried mushrooms but keep the soaking liquid. Dice the mushrooms and toss them into the pot. Once the vegetables are cooked nicely, stir in the soaking liquid. Keep the gritty stuff at the bottom from getting into your soup.
- Once the mushroom stock is bubbly, add the sautéed mushrooms, stock, kasha, okra, and bay leaves. Bring everything to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until the kasha is cooked through and the soup is thick. Season to taste. Garnish with grated cheese or roasted pine nuts if you like.
Makes 6 servings. Each serving contains: Calories (kcal) 286.6, fat (g) 8.6, sodium (mg) 582.1, potassium (mg) 909.3, carbohydrate (g) 43.2 (fiber (g) 6.1, sugar (g) 7.3), protein (g) 13.2, vitamin A (RAE) 245.7, vitamin C (mg) 7.6, calcium (mg) 45.3, iron (mg) 2.1, folate (DFE) 73.7.
Mushroom and kasha soup
But how does it taste? Fabulous. It may take a few times out of the gate before you get to LOVE the essence that is kasha. It tastes nothing much like rice or even oats. To me, it has a meatiness, in keeping with all the protein it packs. The unusual flavor of kasha marries well with the earthiness of mushrooms. Kasha definitely perks up with a little salt. But don’t overdo it for your heart’s sake. The Worcestershire sauce gives the soup a real kick, almost like sweet and sour soup. Keep tasting until you like the result.
To your health/Na zdorov’ya!
Kick up your heels for kasha!
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!
Postscript: Success was achieved on June 2, 2013. Thirty pounds gone forever! Thanks, Dr. Mike Moreno!
22 Jan 2013
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: anemia, blood, calcium, cancer, chick peas, collagen, fiber, free radicals, Gangnam style, heart, Korean, manganese, nutrition, protein
There’s nothing fishy about it!
Hey…Hey… Foxy Lady. Wop wop.. wop wop wop. You gotta try this healthy recipe! Garbanzo beans, AKA chick peas, are the talk of Pinterest right now… hot hot… hot hot hot.
Folks are roasting them whole by the bushel and popping them into their mouths as a handy snack. The bland little beans belong to the legume clan. They’re also the main ingredient of hummus, which is galloping out of more than one refrigerated case at the grocery store these days, in its many guises.
What’s all the fuss? People are looking for gluten-free fiber with a burst of nutrition. Garbanzos fill the bill. One cup of the stuff gives you half the fiber you need in a day, in a single serving. It also delivers 15 grams of protein and 85% of the daily manganese you need, as well as plenty of other minerals.
Manganese is special. We don’t need much of it, but this useful mineral is great for our health. Manganese battles free radicals to reduce risk of heart disease and cancer. It helps make collagen to speed wound healing and oil achy joints. It partners with iron in the blood to help prevent anemia. And last but not least, manganese works with calcium for strong bones that resist breaking.
Toasted chick peas can be spiced up any way you like. But I thought we would gallop along to the Korean rap tune from PSY and try on a whack of Korean spices for size. Koreans love soy sauce, soybean paste and red pepper paste. These sauces are enjoyed with onions, garlic, scallions, ginger, sesame oil, and crushed sesame. It’s no surprise, after having trotted along to Opan Gangnam Style myself, that powdered red pepper is the most popular spice in Korea!
I’ve tried roasting chick peas before, mildly seasoned two different ways. Really, they were a bust. That’s why I say go all out with the seasoning on chickpeas. Or don’t bother with them at all.
Also, be very careful with the timing. A second too long and they taste like dust. Or bunny pellets. Just not good.
But roasted chickpeas would be such a great snack if only I could get them right! So I thought it was worth persevering… for the manganese, alone. Here’s what I came up with.
PSY’s roasted garbanzo beans
2 cups canned chickpeas (1 15-oz tin)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red chili paste (or more if you like things nice and hot)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves chopped garlic
I took the dresses off this batch but it isn’t necessary
Preheat the oven to 375̊ F. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse very well. Put them on a towel to dry a bit. Some recipes say to take the transparent coverings off the beans. I’ve done this in the past, but this time round I left them on and the result was better than ever. Put the beans in a big bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Toss until the beans are evenly coated.
Spread them out in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Toss the pan every 10 or 15 minutes. Don’t let the beans blacken. Watch carefully the last 10 minutes or so. They’re done when they’re dryish, a little rubbery in the mouth, not too crunchy! Turn the oven off and let the beans cool in the hot oven. This will dry them further, without turning them to sawdust. Just the way you want them.
When they’re completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to a week (as if they’d last that long).
For a serving of 1/2 cup: Calories (kcal) 180.3, Fat (g) 4.7 including 0.6 g saturated fat, Carbohydrate (g) 28.7 including 5.6 g fibre, Protein (g) 6.5, Sodium (mg) 585.1, Potassium (mg) 248.0, Calcium (mg) 47.5, Vitamin A (RAE) 5.0, Vitamin C (mg) 6.5, Folate (DFE) 86.0.
It’s pretty clear grown-ups would like this tasty treat. But how popular are they with the shorter set? I called in my trusty taste tester to find out.
“Absolutely fabulous,” says Isla. “Oppa Gangnam Style!” Translation: Awesome! I say: you don’t taste the heat from just 1 teaspoon red chili paste. You feel only the slightest nip. Most of the flavor comes from the soy sauce and ginger. If you’re making these for PSY, though, and not the kids, you might like to shake a little cayenne into the mix. Wop Wop Wop Wop!
Search for roasted chick peas or garbanzos on Pinterest and you’ll find hundreds of recipes. Here’s one I used for inspiration, from The Improv Kitchen. Thanks so much!
15 Jan 2013
in children, family, food, health, humor, recipes, science, stories
Tags: bread, carbohydrates, fiber, nutrition, Peter Pan, snack, stone-ground, wheat, whole grain, whole wheat
She may not be Tinkerbell… but she does have wings!
Shiver me timbers, Matey! If flour lived in Never-Never Land, enriched white wheat flour would play the part of Captain Hook. Arrrr. It’s bad to the core. In fact, it’s bad precisely because it doesn’t have a core. After milling, only the endosperm remains. The bran, which gives us fiber, goes first in the grinding process.
But even worse, wheat’s heart of gold, the germ, is beaten out too. The germ is banned from white flour because it produces an oil when ground. The oil goes sour quickly, shortening flour’s shelf life. But with the loss of wheat’s germ, so goes most of wheat’s goodness.
Some vitamins are added back after the grinding, thus the nickname “Enriched”. But enriched flour is still no treasure chest. Humans just can’t copy exactly all the wonders of the real thing. So forget Invisibles Wonder Bread. Bilge! Made from unbleached wheat flour, it’s the Smee of Never-Never Land. It tries… but it just doesn’t measure up.
Nothing beats whole-grain wheat flour for natural goodness. But it can be hard to find. Where oh where is the Peter Pan of our flour saga hiding? At Bulk Barn. the flours marked “whole wheat” had unbleached wheat flour near the top of the ingredient list. Same at Natural Food Pantry. So I sent Tinkerbell out to find our hero. When she came back, she said I should be looking for stone-ground whole-grain wheat flour to play the good guy. As long as it’s labeled whole grain it’s the real thing. Stone-ground is a bonus.
Why does stone-ground whole-grain wheat flour mark the spot? It’s the only kind of flour where the endosperm, bran, and germ all remain in their original proportions. Because the stones grind slowly, the germ stays cooler. The oils aren’t broken down by heat as much and the vitamins are preserved better. Only small amounts are ground at once, so the germ’s oil is well distributed, to reduce spoilage. Because stone-ground flour is coarser than the roller-ground stuff, oxygen has less chance to break down the oils and its nutrients. Bakers and health nuts alike prefer stone-ground whole-grain wheat flour because of its texture, its sweet, nutty taste, and it’s good nutrition.
Many folks today say Peter Pan is a Lost Boy. These people stay away from all kinds of wheat flour, even whole grains. But unless you are allergic, or sensitive, to gluten, I think this trend is a bit over the top. The science on this just isn’t in yet.
As a general rule for good health, I’d rather see people steer clear of sugar than wheat.
Try this easy bread recipe that kids can make themselves in no time flat. It’s like a tasty, banana-flavored pita bread, without the pocket! Sprinkle a little fairy dust and make a snack platter you can fly away on to the land of good eating!
Pita Pan Bread Snack-Platter
Make the bread
1 large ripe banana
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces or 170 grams) stone-ground whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
A tablespoon or two of coconut or canola oil
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mash banana with fork.
- Combine flour, sugar, and spices, and mix them into the banana, just until a dough forms. Knead once or twice to bring into a nice ball.
- On flour-dusted work surface, cut the dough into 6 pieces. Shape each piece into a round disk. Roll each disk into a thin, flat round, about 4 or 5 inches across.
- In a hot frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until it sizzles. Fry the dough rounds, in batches, about 45 seconds on each side or until browned. Add more oil to coat pan, as needed.
- Cool on wire rack. Store in refrigerator or freeze, separated between sheets of wax paper, in large resealable plastic food-storage bag. Makes 6 pita pan breads.
Make the snack platter
Cut each round into four pieces. Decorate the pieces with the following, alone or in combinations of your own liking:
- Peanut butter
- No-sugar-added jam
- Cream cheese
- Pepper jelly
- Home-made nutella
- Almond flakes, pistachios, or cashews
- Dried cranberries, raisins, or apricots
I’ve tried this out on all sizes of pirates, young and old. They all say, “Thank you Pita Pan!”
09 Jan 2013
in children, family, food, health, recipes, reviews, science, stories
Tags: art, avoiding sugar, baking, chemistry, index 2012, mood, nutrition, traditions
A year in review, through Vinny’s favorite pictures. The pictures are a fun way to index some of the posts you liked best. Should old acquaintance be forgot… click through and remember! We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. Here’s to a happy new year!
Vinny goes back to school
Yak’s Sherpa pie
Kale and coconut oil
Eggs pickled pink
Drowning in sugar
A scoop o’ soup
Picky food monsters
“Happy Trails” mix
Sun and sand dollars
Lunch at Hogwarts
Tea party à la St-Paddy’s Day
Nutella from scratch
Let them eat snake
Plateful of Mg
Black Hack meets OObleck
Quinoa goes to a party
Blue eggs? Experiment!
Eggs from the Land of Time
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!
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 save 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
Sonny and Cher, 1967
People who are into sports could take a winning tip from Sonny and Cher. Their top-100 hit of 1967, The beat goes on, was code, dudes. Yeah. They’re saying, like: Eat your beets, man, and you’ll run harder, longer, faster!
It’s actually 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.
Beets give runners an edge
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 3% faster during a 5-kilometer race. Better yet, in the last 1.8 kilometer, they ran 5% faster. Being able to up your performance by 2 percentage points 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
And my personal favorite…
Beetniks in creamed onions!!!
- 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
Make the beetniks
- Preheat 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.
Make the cream sauce
- 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.
Beetniks are ready to serve!
- 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…
The Queen’s beets – Let them eat cake Grated beets add nutrition as well as sweetness and color to your chocolate birthday cake. Read the untold story of Marie Antoinette.
Pretty in pink At your next party, serve a low-fat, low-salt beet hummus, packed with flavor and good carbs.
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!
What’s for lunch at Hogwarts? Traditional veggie dishes for British school kids
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 – Sherpa’s pie
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 More
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. More
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 coconut oil…
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-Oxidant’s Soup of the Day
CREAM OF COLORFUL-VEGGIES SOUP
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
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
01 Jul 2012
in family, food, health, holidays, recipes
Tags: baking, cake, Canada Day, dates, dessert, goat cheese, maple leaf stencil, nutrition, nuts, pizza, presentation, raspberries, traditions, war
Our home and native land is celebrating a birthday! Isla says: We need to bake a cake. Of course we do. I should have thought of that myself!
First, I thought about making a Victoria sponge cake, named after an old by-gone queen. But it doesn’t make the grade as a food suitable for posting here, where we like to feature healthy eating for kids of all ages… Darn!
Then I made a wonderful discovery. Canada’s queen (Queen Elizabeth, of course, who is also, not so coincidentally, Queen of England) came up with a perfectly delicious cake around the time of the last world war that should have done very nicely. I made a couple of adjustments to the sugar and fat components (see above comment pertaining to healthy eating ), and away we went! Sadly, The Queen mustn’t know how to bake very well… My cake turned out flat as a pancake. Or perhaps it was my adjustments???
Whatever, I had two options: make another cake and stack them, as I explained in my directions, below. Or ice the single layer I had already and call it a Canada Day pizza. Regardless, I’ve adjusted the technique a little, which you will see reflected in my instructions, in an attempt to get the cake to rise a bit more successfully. If you try it, let me know how it comes out?
I’ve updated the icing, too, using goat’s cheese and low-fat cream cheese, based on an idea I found on WordPress recently. Then I smothered the whole thing in raspberries, long-known as a super food, and super good too. This buys nicely into the pizza idea.
Then Isla had the best suggestion ever: let’s make it a flag cake! So the pizza became a very respectable looking flag, and the end result was fit for a queen… Or for a country’s birthday party.
Have fun on Canada’s birthday and dig in to the best healthiest birthday cake ever!
Canada Day Flag Cake
Vinny’s Jubilation Cake, with a polite curtsy to Queen Elizabeth
• 6 oz (170 g) dates, chopped and with any stones removed
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 cup (240 ml) water
• 1/3 cup (100 g) honey
• 2.7 oz (75 g) butter, softened (about 1/2 cup)
• 1/4 cup (50 grams) canola or olive oil
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla flavouring
• 1 and 3/4 cup (190 g) plain flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/3 teaspoon salt
• 150 g chopped pecans (optional)
5 oz chevre (goat cheese), at room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 lemon, zested
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup maple syrup, in honor of Canada Day (or icing sugar if you want a pure white background for your flag)
1 pint fresh raspberries or any red berry in season
1/3 cup raspberry jam (if making the layer cake)
1/3 cup whipped cream (if making the layer cake)
1 tablespoon raspberry jam (to paint the maple leaf)
How to mix it all up
1) Preheat oven to 350°F.
2) prepare two 8×12″ pans by spraying them with oil and lining them with parchment paper. You only need one pan for the pizza flag.
3) Combine in a small pot the dates and hot water. Bring to a boil and allow dates to bubble for a few minutes, stirring until the dates become sticky, like a thick jam. Add the baking powder, mix slightly, and stand back! It makes a good show.
4) In a large bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and honey. Add the beaten egg and vanilla and beat until creamy.
5) Whiz the flour, the second amount of baking powder and salt in a food processor for 30 seconds. Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Pour in date mixture, and mix all together gently.
6) Pour batter into one of the pans. Transfer pan to the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let stand.
7) For the layer cake, make another batch of cake dough and bake a second cake in the second pan. You can freeze the cakes at this point wrapped in tin foil. Thaw and frost them on the big day, as follows.
1) Cream all icing ingredients together in a medium bowl.
2) For the layer cake, spread 1/4 cup raspberry jam over the first layer. Then spread 1/3 cup whipped cream over the jam. Top with the second layer.
3) Spread the cheesy icing smoothly over the top of the cake and along the sides.
4) Make a cutout of a maple leaf. I reduced this image to half size.
Soggy Maple Leaf cutout
5) Dilute 1 tablespoon raspberry jam with a little warm water or lemon juice until it is spreadable. Use the cutout to paint a maple leaf in the centre of the cake with jam, then remove the cutout. Make a row of raspberries on each end of the cake. Happy Canada Day!
Happy Canada Day, Everybody! And no, this isn’t Vinny!
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!
07 Jun 2012
in books, food, health, reviews
Tags: feedback, give away, nutrition, recipe book, stories
Win your own copy!
Yes, it’s true! All you have to do is publish a review for Vinny’s book Cook Up A Story, somewhere on the web. Include a link to Vinny’s book details.
Then on Vinny’s Feedback page, let me know where you’ve posted your review.
On 30 June, I’ll put all the published reviews into a hat and select the winner of a free copy of Cook Up A Story.
Bonus: If anyone succeeds in getting a public library to buy and circulate a copy or two of Vinny’s book in June, you get three chances to win the draw for a free copy. Often, all it takes is for a library to get requests from two or three people in a community. Ask your friends to help
Where can you find a copy to review?
Go on-line to the Blurb bookstore, and click on “Preview” for Cook Up A Story. During June, the whole book will be available there for your viewing pleasure.
You can publish your review or comment on Facebook, Twitter, your own website or even on the Ottawa Library’s website if you happen to have a library card.
Why should you bother to review Cook Up A Story?
- It’s worth a look. Much thought over 8 years went into Cook Up A Story. Result: 80 pages of stories, recipes, and fun for families who want to eat more healthily. Writers, food scientists, chefs, artists, and tasters and readers of all ages were on Vinny’s team.
- It could interest kids in home cooking. A few stories for kids might be just the push families need to start passing healthy cooking skills to the next generation.
- It could help sort out confusing advice regarding food choices. Starting early with food basics gives the whole family the info they need to choose wisely.
- Vinny Grette covers many food issues people worry about today, from all sides. Learn the basics from Vinny’s book, then get refreshers through Vinny’s web site as you try your own food experiments. Teachers, nutritionists, parents and grandparents find Cook Up A Story not only useful, but also fun! Read some comments.
Spreading the word
- You could help others. Vinny relies on people like you to tell folks about Cook Up A Story. This self-published book is printed only when you order it. The cost includes printing, tax, and shipping, plus $2 that Vinny donates to children’s programs in the community. Blurb occasionally offers discounted prices. Of course, people can visit Vinny’s website any time, at no cost at all!
So go ahead. Let your friends and fans know you’ve read Cook Up A Story and help spread the message. Mindful eating is only a click away.
You may be the lucky winner of a copy of Vinny’s book for June!
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.
03 May 2012
in family, food, health, recipes
Tags: antioxidants, blood, bones, breakfast, broccoli, cancer, eggs, eyes, fast food, fiber, heart, immunity, minerals, nutrition, soup, stir fry, vegetables
Brocky Lee’s Slaw fortifies a lunch-time soup
Brocky Lee is a fine fellow. He’s a member of a well-recognized vegetable family, the Cabbages. Many of Brocky’s famous cousins include such luminaries as Sir Cauliflower, Mr. Kale, the brothers Radish and Turnip, and the little Missies Brussels Sprouts and Arugula.
Brocky Lee has been highly regarded as a useful veggie in Italy since the time of the Romans. He first came to England by way of Belgium in the 1700s… ever so long ago. He made his way to America with other Italian immigrants but didn’t become popular on this side of the ocean until the early 1900s. And now we see him turning up in all the best restaurants, nearly everywhere!
Here are a few pictures from Brocky Lee’s family album.
Brocky’s might comes down to stiff fiber, the means to sharpen eyesight, and powerful weapons called antioxidants. Bullies like Cancer and Heart Disease and pests like Flu all run when they see Brocky coming. He’s rich with precious metals like iron, calcium and zinc, which he uses to buy strength for your blood and bones. He’s just a real pal to keep around!
And now, this super guy is handier than ever. I’ve just discovered Brocky Lee’s Slaw… and although I don’t usually sanction processed food, this slaw is a fabulous time-saving way to sneak broccoli into every meal.
A slice from one of Carl Warner’s spectacular foodscapes
If you insist on showing us all up, you can make your own slaw easily with a food processor and save a whole bunch of pennies. Here’s how. Top your broccoli plants and use the little trees in stir fries. Try this excellent recipe from The Girl in the Blue Apron. She even pairs Brown Rice with Brocky Lee, for a delicious and nutritious marriage, serving up all the food groups. Then you can put the stalks through your shredder on the food processor, wasting not one bit of the precious plant. You can even shred the leaves if you want. They’re edible. Also shred a couple of carrots and a little red cabbage, and you have a home-made slaw to last you through the week.
Easy recipes that showcase
three faces of Brocky Lee with slaw
Breakfast: Brocky faces the day with a slaw omelet, spruced up with some tomatoes
I heat a little olive oil in my skillet on medium-high and add a handful of slaw. I stir it around a bit and when the whole thing is really hot I throw in a couple of tablespoons of water and put on the lid. The steam cooks the slaw super quick. After 2 minutes or so, I arrange the slaw into a circle and pour an egg, lightly whipped, onto the skillet. When it begins to firm up, I pile the veggies on top and flip it over. I like my omelet on a slice of whole grain toast. Easy, filling, and delicious.
Lunch: Brocky Lee fortifies a bowl of clam chowder from a can. Choose low-salt soups.
Even easier than the omelet, this lunch involves opening a can of your favorite soup. I used clam chowder. Add a large handful of slaw to the soup in the pot and heat gently. Once the slaw has softened to a texture you like, serve up the soup and decorate with a dash of paprika. Supplement with a slice of whole-grain bread or crackers, if you like. Easy peasy!
Dinner: A speedy stir fry starts with Brocky Lee’s Slaw
Fry some onions and peppers in a little oil until they’re tender. Add a couple of handfuls of slaw and stir until tender. Transfer to a plate and add a little more olive oil to the hot pan. Stir-fry some chicken cubes that you’ve been marinating for a few minutes in a half cup of yogurt seasoned with cinnamon, garlic powder, ground pepper, a tablespoon of soya sauce, and two teaspoons of cornstarch. If the mixture gets too thick as it heats in the pan, thin it out with a little more yogurt, or even just a little water. Once the chicken is cooked through, add the veggies back to the pan, stir another minute to rewarm, and serve the whole thing on top of some whole wheat noodles or brown rice. Use a quarter pound of chicken per person and adjust the seasonings to your own taste.
Brocky Lee comes in many guises. We could write a whole cook book devoted to his many faces. You have just seen three of them. Each of these dishy foods is easy to make, adaptable to your likes, and wonderful for your good health. In fact Brocky Lee is considered one of the superest of the super foods. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get cooking!
Health benefits of broccoli, a thorough review
Photo credit for Broccolo Romanesco: Judith Bruder
Sweet broccoli slaw – A delcious recipe option from Erica!