Nuts to the Holidays! Looking at the December food magazines at the bookstore, I got a "sugar high" by just looking at all the cakes, cookies, and candies on the covers. So, am I going to cloister myself away to avoid these "tastes of the season". That's what I would have to do to avoid some of the Christmas goodies. No, I'm not, but I am going try to sneak some tasty nutritional ingredients into my diet to help balance my sugar high. Nuts are the perfect antidote. By themselves, they contain mostly good fat, protein, and no carbs - the perfect sugar balancer. This is true of all nuts. Each one is a wonderful source of vitamins and many of the minerals lacking in our normal American diet. My newsletter this month will focus on walnuts with their super nutritional profile, including omega fatty acids. So - nuts to holiday cooking. Check out the recipe for this wonderful orange walnut torte. Happy Holidays.
An Italian Orange Walnut Torte
You've started your list - turkey, potatoes, squash, stuffing, green beans and, of course, pumpkin pie. This works. You've made a lot of very good Thanksgiving meals sticking to the standards that everyone looks forward to and expects. You feel pretty sure that nothing is missing. OK, Let's look at your list again. All those traditional foods are wonderful, but as often prepared, a little bland. Certainly good enough for many of our guests to eat themselves into a Thanksgiving coma, but how could you change these good foods into superstars? The secret is acid! Add some acid to at least some of these dishes and they will shine because acid is an antidote to blandness. There are lots of acidic foods to choose from. Finding the right one can change an average dish into a great one.
In the picture above I've lined up some of the foods I had in my house, placing them in a line from the most acidic on the left to milder acid on the right. Most of us are aware that lemon and vinegar are acidic, but there are many milder acids. So what is it exactly that the acid does? It balances and brightens flavors. For example, just adding olive oil to a salad will enhance the flavor, but adding a good vinegar will make it pop. Greek Yogurt is a mild acid, close to 5 on the pH scale, but can add a wonderful tang to the right recipe. Mustard is one of my favorite acids, with a pH of 3 and it can brighten all sorts of dishes, including salad dressings, fishes, meats, and grains. Wines and liquors are acidic and often add brightness to a dish. Many wonderful dessert dishes have liquor added to balance the sweetness. The brandy in my Creamy Brandy Cherries elevates a very simple dessert dish into a special one. Below is a squash dish that contains a number of acidic ingredients, including brandy, that enhance the great taste of this vegetable. Just click the link
Brandied Winter Squash for the recipe. How can you tell if your dish is balanced? Taste it! You'll find that your tasting skills will improve as you try various vinegars on your salad or different amounts of mustard in your dishes.
I've encouraged you to use acidic ingredients in your dishes to balance the flavors and avoid bland foods. Acid is the opposite of alkaline, so we should be clear about what these terms mean. Acid levels of foods and liquids are measured on a pH (power of hydrogen) scale of 0-14. A measurement of 7 is neutral, less than 7 is acid and above 7 is alkaline. The alkaline diet states that you should eat those foods that keep your body's pH above 7. However, your body's pH levels are not affected by the food you eat, unless you're dealing with a serious illness. For example, your blood's pH is in the very narrow range from 7.36-7.44. Going much above or below that can be fatal. Your stomach is very acidic with a pH between 2.3-3.5 which is necessary to digest your food properly. Another confusing fact about the alkaline diet is that, although the pH of a lime is 2.2, a reasonably strong acid, it is rated as highly alkaline on the alkaline diet. The theory behind the alkaline diet is faulty according to a number of reliable sources; however, the diet itself is fairly healthy, mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Its major drawback is that it eliminates some foods that are good for you.. For though the lime is rated as highly alkaline on this diet, an orange with a similar pH is rated as mildly acidic.
A common suggestion is that a vinaigrette salad dressing should be three parts oil and one part vinegar. However, vinegars can vary so much that for a more gentle balsamic vinegar a 2 to 1 ratio might be much better. But you'll need more oil with a stronger vinegar.
Above is a picture of green beans. My husband and I used them to fine-tune their flavor. First, I sautéd them in a little olive oil and some garlic and then added a little broth, covered and steamed them until their texture was just how I liked them. I squeezed some lemon juice on one of the dishes and added balsamic vinegar to the other. I assumed I would prefer the sweet taste of the balsamic; however, although I liked the taste of both, I found the lemon preferable. When served with the rest of the meal, the lemon was the clear winner, though between my husband and myself, all the beans were eaten. Let me know what you think. If you send me some of your ideas about using acid, I'll include them in my next blog.
Just send them to email@example.com
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember that focusing on the things for which you are grateful, will turn the meal into a celebration!
I knew lentils were good for you, but I had no idea how amazing they were. Their nutrition profile, sustainability and ease of cooking makes them a food that is not only great for our health, but for our planet's health as well. There is so much to be said about this amazing "pulse" (that is their proper classification) that I will refer interested readers to the lentil article on the site of the world's healthiest foods.
When you went into most supermarkets a few years ago looking for lentils you would only find bags of brown lentils and it is these lentils that are most familiar to the American cook. The brown lentil and the green lentil have been called the continental lentils and are sturdy lentils and keep their shape when cooked. Now in most grocery stores,, you will often find the smaller more delicate ones as well, usually red or yellow. These cook quickly and get mushy, perfect for the dals of the Indian Cuisine. The lentil is a stable of Indian cuisine. Varied and flavorful dishes are made from this simple food by creatively layering blends of wonderful spices. So when you decide to make a lentil dish, be sure to purchase the right lentil.
How to cook lentils:
Lentils don't need to be presoaked. Even the green ones, which are most hardy, only need about 30 to 40 minutes of boiling, Although the green ones are often used in French recipes and are expected to keep a firmer texture, they shouldn't be chewy. When salt or an acidic ingredient, like a vinegar or lemon juice, is added to the boiling water early in their cooking, they will not reach their proper tenderness. Other seasonings, can be added as the lentils cook to give them the flavor of the dish and the acidic ones can be added later. I generally keep lentils on hand since they make a fairly easy, satisfying, cheap, soup. (I can't use all these adjectives for most dishes.) Click here for this recipe which is on my website. Lentil Soup However, I wanted to try a different lentil and found a green lentil dish on the website www.realsimple.com. It's under Halibut with Lentils and Mustard Sauce. In Florida, at the time of this writing, Halibut was $22 a pound. But any substantial fish will work, i.e. salmon or swordfish. I thought this recipe would be interesting, since it added the surprise of a sweet potato and had an unusual mustard sauce which was not thick, but complemented the dish nicely. See the recipe below.
Fish with Lentils and Mustard Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups green lentils, rinsed (1/2 pound)
kosher salt and black pepper
4 6-ounce pieces of a hardy fish fillet
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the garlic and sweet potato and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the broth and lentils and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the fish with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
In a bowl, whisk together the mustard, wine, and tarragon. Divide the lentil mixture and fish among plates and drizzle with the sauce.
(Obviously, the taste of this simple sauce will vary considerably by with your choice of mustard and wine. It is not at all thick, but the flavor was a nice addition.}
#Stonesoupblog #lentils #healthycooking
BRUSSELS SPROUTS - Delicious? Really?
Don't stop reading yet - let's give these poor sprouts with a poor reputation a chance!
Brussels sprouts are "sprouting" up all over. You can see them as a side dish or appetizer in lots of restaurants. I happen to be in Cleveland as I write this and just googled "Brussels sprouts in restaurants" and got lots of sites, including "The 15 Best Places for Brussels Sprouts in Cleveland". There are rave reviews about this wonderful vegetable.
Why Have Brussels Sprouts Been So Unpopular?
The flavor of Brussel sprouts contains a bitter element that stands out to at least 50% of people, those with the gene TAS2R38. Also, Brussel sprouts were generally simply prepared by boiling, so the plate of sprouts was preceded by a very unpleasant smell.
So What Happened?
Farmers have actually modified the bitter element in the Sprouts a little, our palates have expanded and we, or the cooks among us, have become more creative.
Tips to Make Brussels Sprouts Most Acceptable.
To encourage the reluctant to give this vegetable a try, there are a number of flavors that can help balance the bitterness. Sweet ingredients, like a favorite fruit juice or maple syrup, and sour ingredients, like your favorite vinegar, can tame the bitterness. And then there is bacon. Bacon's flavor goes well with many foods and Brussels sprouts are no exception.
Mystic Ransdell had been clear about her distaste for Brussels sprouts. Above is a picture of the dish that made her a convert. She gives us the recipe in her blog, GoofyLoon Explorations.
My "Go To" Recipe
(A simple roasted Brussels sprouts dish)
Though I am usually a measurer, it isn't necessary for this recipe.
Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved. (Tender fresh ones off a stalk are best, but frozen ones that are thawed are also good and much faster.)
Olive oil. A couple of Tablespoons to coat the sprouts well.
Salt. At least 1/8th a teaspoon
Arrange sprouts face down on cookie sheet lined with foil. Cover them with a second sheet of foil and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove foil and cook until sprouts are tender. (10 more minutes for fresh - less for frozen)
While sprouts bake add a few Tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet with a couple of cloves of minced garlic. Heat over medium heat until shimmering. Toss with Brussels sprouts when done and serve with Parmesan cheese. Delicious!
#Stonesoupblog, #Brussels sprouts, #Vegetables, #Healthy Eating
Why is an ancient grain eaten by the Romans perfect for today? Because it is an easy way to make a tasty and healthy dish. If you are looking for a great recipe to feed yourself, or your family, or bring to a potluck - use the Farro recipe at the end of this blog or use Farro in place of the rice in your own recipe. Its nutty flavor can make an ordinary dish pop. Why is Farro called an ancient grain? Because it’s considered the original grain from which all the others are derived. It is a direct ancestor of our modern wheats with twice the protein and fiber of modern wheats.
It also can look elegant and modern - surrounded by cantaloupe pieces.
When purchasing this grain, it’s important to note that Farro comes whole, semi-pearled, or pearled. However, even the pearled, which has been most processed, is much more nutritious than the more highly processed and bland grains that are commonly used. In one serving of pearled Farro, there are 5 grams of dietary fiber and 6 grams of protein, compared to less than 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of protein in white rice. Since the unprocessed Farro has the whole bran, it is recommended that it be soaked overnight before cooking. If you haven’t used Farro yet, start with the pearled variety. It can be used in place of other grains for a tastier and more nutritious dish. Try this wonderful grain in this great, versatile recipe.
Just click on this link for this great recipe
Fruit and Nut Farro Salad
#stonesoupblog, #farro, #healthy grains
Jane dragged herself into my office. The family physician next door had sent her to me in my position as staff dietitian. He wanted me to see if there could possibly be a link between her frequent afternoon headaches and a possible dietary component before he sent her for further tests. I soon discovered that there was a link between her diet and her headaches, but it was due to what she was not eating. Jane told me she seldom had time for breakfast since her shift started at 7:00 and she often had only coffee or a diet coke until 3:30, when she was done for the day. Then she was famished and most often stopped to grab something to eat at one of the fast food places nearby. Frequently by this time her headache was already starting and she would spend the rest of the night lying on the couch, watching TV, snacking, and nursing her headache.
Has this ever happened to you? Do you need some energy food to rescue you?
Actually I didn’t need my degree in nutrition to figure out what the problem was. Probably Jane’s grandmother could have given her the right advice. She needed to eat something before 3:30. We discussed a number of options, but it was the Powerful Bran Muffin that fit her best. The recipe was easy, tasty, healthy, and filling. Jane could make it on her day off with a friend and the muffins they didn’t eat could be frozen and ready for breakfast or even lunch
Make these to have on hand when you need rescuing.
COMMENT - TELL ME ABOUT YOUR RESCUE FOOD
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins - makes 18 muffins.
COMBINE IN A LARGE BOWL:
1/2 (7 oz) BOX BRAN CEREAL
3/4 CUP RAISINS
1 CUP SUGAR
1 CUP WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR
1 1/2 CUP ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
2 1/2 TEASPOONS BAKING SODA
3/4 TEASPOON SALT
MIX THE FOLLOWING IN A SEPARATE BOWL:
1/2 CUP WESSON OIL
1/2 QUART BUTTERMILK
COMBINE THE EGG MIXTURE WITH THE CEREAL MIXTURE.
OPTIONAL: 1/4 CUP CHIA SEEDS AND/OR 1 CUP OF WALNUT PIECES
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
I've been a dietitian for many years and counseled numerous clients successfully about weight loss. The diets I have recommended to my clients include the nutrient dense foods consistent with optimal health. But I have also emphasized how important the calorie content of the food is. Peter Wilson’s article in the April/May 2019 journal, The Economist, entitled "Is the Calorie Dead?”, has made me rethink this emphasis. The author claims that "Counting calories has disrupted our ability to eat the right amount of food … and has steered us towards poor choices." He also praises Weight Watchers for switching to a point system that is biased toward healthier choices.
As I looked further into the calorie question, I found an article by Cynthia Graber, an award-winning science journalist. She was reporting on the work done at the FDA’s Human Nutrition Center. In very carefully monitored human experiments researchers have found that the calories humans get from various foods are not what is normally reported; for example, the calories the human body can extract from nuts, particularly raw nuts, are much lower than normally stated and the calories from many highly processed food are often higher.
The science of nutrition continues to evolve, but the way calories are counted is very outdated, producing many numbers that are merely gross estimates. So what can be done? Graber found that many of the scientists were coming up with intricate ways of calculating how individuals uniquely metabolize their food, but, of course, few people have access to this kind of careful monitoring. But what if each individual could learn to recognize when his or her body feels full so that the amount of nuts they eat will not depend on the calorie number? That number, we now know, is not wholly accurate anyway. It appears that what we can learn from the high-tech examination of calories is that we need to pay attention to what our body is telling us, rather than relying on external information. We need to realize that each one of us can learn to recognize how much we need to eat by mindful observation.
Unfortunately, our scientific examination of this issue prevents us from seeing food as the pleasure it should be and as the wonderful lubricant of social interaction. Cooking and eating good food with friends can help us reclaim our balance. Check out a menu on this website, invite some friends, enjoy the food and the company. By cooking food together, you'll appreciate the food thoroughly with less need to overeat. You'll be avoiding the expense and also the extra sodium, fat, and calories that are often part of restaurant fare. Learning to enjoy good food will help you avoid overeating without the need to concentrate on calories.
#stonesoupblog, #souffles, #soupuniversity
There is no doubt that the idea of making soufflés sounds a bit daunting, even to those who are fairly comfortable in the kitchen. The basis for the soufflé is normally a custard, which can be a little tricky to make. It also includes whipped egg whites, which traditionally means separating the egg whites from the egg yolks very carefully.
HOWEVER, the following recipe for banana-walnut soufflés is as easy and as fool-proof as it gets. It doesn't require making a custard, which means egg yolks are not necessary. A small carton of egg whites will give you what you need without having to break eggs (and you don't have to figure out what to do with the yolks). These are individual soufflés that can hold their shape easier than those with the larger volume from a more traditional soufflé dish.
1. Measure two portions of sugar - three tablespoons each and also measure 2 teaspoons of sugar to dust soufflé dishes.
2. Toast walnuts very carefully on a small saucepan over medium heat.
3. Coat just the bottoms of six soufflé dishes with cooking spray and then sprinkle each with 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.
4. Melt margarine/butter in saucepan over medium heat and add flour slowly, stirring constantly to make a smooth roux and cook for 1 minute.
5. Gradually add milk and 3 Tablespoons of sugar, while continuing to stir. Cook and stir until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl.
6. Mash and measure banana and combine with walnuts and vanilla and lemon juice and add to milk mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely. (Put dish in ice bath to quicken the process)
7. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 3 Tablespoon of sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.
8. Gently fold egg white mixture into banana mixture.
9. Spoon evenly into prepared soufflé dishes
10. Place dishes in a 9 x 13 pan and add hot water to the pan to the depth of 1 inch. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until puffed.
Best if served immediately
An alternative to serving immediately, is stopping at step 9, putting the individual soufflés in the freezer until firm for about 2 hours and then wrapping with aluminum foil and freezing for up to two weeks. When you wish to serve them, continue to step 10, adding five or 10 minutes until puffed.
If you google good foods or superfoods you will find a variety of lists, many of which disagree. The same can be said about the lists of bad foods. As a matter of fact, when I googled bad foods the first list that came up was “7 Bad Foods That are Actually Good for You”. What we know is that, in general, something is wrong with our food choices as evidenced by our increasing obesity and chronic diseases.
So do we just throw up our hands and say it’s too complicated or is there way to begin? One item in which the health community has general agreement is that sugary drinks are inversely affecting our health. An article in the November 2013 issue of American Journal of Public Health stated:
“Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) may be the single most important driver of the obesity epidemic. In the past decade alone, per capita intake of calories derived from carbonated drinks and SSBs has increased by approximately 30%. Moreover, beverages are thought to account for 10% to 15% of calorie intake for children and adolescents”
Does taxing these beverages make a difference? This same article goes on to say that the states that tax these drinks have significantly less obesity than the states that don’t. Is taxing in this case taking away too much of our individual freedom? We tax cigarettes and alcohol. How does our individual freedom figure into the increasing cost of health care resulting from the increasing obesity? Good foods/bad foods - there is no disagreement about where the sugary drinks belong.
COMMENT - WHAT DO YOU THINK?
The smell of comfort food coming out of the oven at dinnertime creates the anticipation of pleasure, but when the weather is chilly, or downright cold, this pleasurable anticipation is elevated to a whole new level. But how do we make the act of creating this wonderful experience joyful? We enlist someone or someones to cook with us; we can enlist children, spouses, or friends. But what if they aren't as precise as we are - or, even worse, much more precise? What if they use three pans instead of one? It's important to focus on making the occasion joyful and also letting them understand they're involved in the clean up. If we can make cooking a joyful experience for others, we will enjoy our cooking more and reap the benefits of great home cooked food. The following is a favorite old standby in lots of homes. This is a recipe for six that fits nicely in a 10.5 inch baking pan, but my mother used to make them in individual ramekins and put our initials in the mashed potatoes on top. This is a great memory you can make together with family and friends.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces.
3. Add potatoes to large pot and cover with water and boil over high heat until potatoes are fork tender about 20 minutes.
4. While potatoes are boiling, dice the onions and carrots.
5. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions and carrots sauté about 2 minutes and add the meat and cook until the meat is brown.
6. Add beef broth and bring to boil over medium-high heat stirring well, lower heat medium and stir in tomato paste and Worcestershire, stir well and mixture begins to thicken.
7. Add peas and corn, stirring until well combined.
8. Add salt and pepper to taste*, remove from heat and put in a baking dish.
9. Drain the potatoes well and add butter, milk, and HALF the cheese and mash until desired consistency and salt and pepper to taste*
10. Spread the potatoes over the meat and sprinkle the remaining half of the cheese on top of the potatoes. Place dish on a baking sheet to catch any drippings.
11. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown.
(* since in our house we add less salt than is common, 1/4 teaspoon usually works for us, but I do recommend you taste and add the salt and pepper by 1/4 teaspoons until it tastes good to you.)
#StoneSoupBlog #comfortfood #cookingtogether
Tricia Gregory, MA,RD/N
A dietitian who is a foodie and loves a great dinner party with wonderful food and terrific friends.