karen's blog


Eye on Iodine

09 Jan 2012
Posted by karen
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Have you ever been told you're high maintenance? Nutritionally, we all are - to sustain and maintain health, our body's daily requirements cuts a lengthy list - water, carboyhdrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals. But unlike the image of "more is better", only small amounts of some things are needed: more accurately, sometimes just a trace.

The mineral, iodine, is one such example. My alert to its significance came after reading a friend's blog with her iodine story, and more recently, a chat with my niece about her  markedly reduced pain from (benign) breast cysts - since using iodine supplementation. 

Check out the FAQs.
 

What does iodine do?

-- helps metabolize excess fat
-- necessary for physical and mental development (why it's so important for women of childbearing age and children)
-- produces thyroid hormones that regulate the body's metabolic energy

What's the scoop on how much, too much?

-- no significant danger of iodine toxicity from a natural diet
-- small risk of chronic iodine excess, but care should be taken with supplements - excessive amounts can reduce thyroid function, possible effects are a metallic taste or sores in the mouth, diarrhea, vomiting 
-- worst case deficiency - goiter disease: the thyroid gland doesn't have enough iodine to manufacture hormones and as the cells are trying to trap more iodine they swell, eventually causing the whole gland to enlarge
 

What contributes to iodine deficiency?

-- increased exposure to toxic substances that displace iodine, e.g. radiation, fluoride
-- iodine-deficicent soil
-- replacing iodized sea salt with white sea salt -a product processed to make it 'free flowing' and is not abundant in minerals
--inadequate dietary intake
-- thyroid function may slow down with aging
 

Possible symptoms of iodine deficiency.

-- fatigue
-- brain fog
-- extra weight that just won't "get lost"
-- hair loss
 

Natural food sources for iodine.

-- seafood (carefully check your sources for possible mercury toxicity)
-- sea vegetables - seaweed like nori, wakame, dulce. Kelp is the most common for high iodine and is also rich in other minerals and low in sodium. 
-- vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil (higher probability in areas closer to the sea as compared to inland) - garlic, onions, mushrooms, spinach, lettuce
-- iodized salt or unprocessed sea salt - be aware not to overdo these, although sea salt does have less of an effect on blood pressure than processed table salt
 
 
 
Kelp as a supplement.
-- is most often sold as a powder or in a liquid form to add to drinking water
-- it is rich in iodine, the B vitamins and also a source of other minerals and trace elements
-- reported to be beneficial to brain tissue, sensory nerves, blood vessels
-- used in treatment of thyroid problems and may protect against the effects of radiation
 
 
Seafood and sea vegetables are staples in Japanese cooking - a good way to eat healthy, usually lighter meals, and a food source for iodine. My daughter and her family, who got us hooked on sushi (which is easier to order in a restaurant than to make at home), came up with the simplified version below.
 

Roll-Your-Own (Maki) Sushi

Sushi works best with white rice. Not a food I normally recommend but for this recipe I'm compromising for the upside of getting more sea vegetables in your family's diet. You can make a pot of rice as you normally would, or if you want to - and have time for - making "proper" sushi rice, you can use the following method. To be honest, I've only gone as far as mixing in the vinegar mixture - hats off to you if you get to the cooling part!
 
2 cups sushi or short grain rice
2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1 Tbsp sea salt
 
Place rice into a bowl and cover with water. Rinse at least 3 times or until the water is clear. Put the rice and 2 cups water into a pan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to bowl, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 15 mins, remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
 
Combine the rice vinegar, agave and salt in small bowl and mix until dissolved. Transfer the rice to large bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold gently but thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Transfer to a large flat baking pan. Fan the rice with a piece of cardboard while turning gently with a fork until it has all cooled. It's easier with 2 people! This will make it shiny and slightly sticky - which is the trick you're trying to achieve.
 
So that's it for the rice.
 
The other ingredients:
nori sheets
tamari sauce and wasabi for dipping
 
And your choice of the following:
finely julienned slices of carrots and cucumber
sliced fresh mushrooms and/or your choice of rehydrated "wild" mushrooms
chopped green onions
avocado slices
small slices of tofu
finely sliced pepper
pickled ginger
black sesame seeds
smoked salmon or canned tuna (non-vegetarian option)
 
Now for the eating...
 
Cut the nori sheets along the perforated markings, than again in half, so you have pieces about 1 1/4" x 3 1/2". These pieces will be your individual sushi rolls. Fill your plate with a spoonful of rice and whatever other fillings you want. Use the nori pieces either as a scoop or base for the rice, then put your other selected fillings on top and roll as much as you're able - dip in a bit of tamari sauce and wasabi and enjoy! With everyone building and rolling, dipping and eating, it's not a tidy affair - but delicious. Take your time - share an eating experience and good conversation around your table.
 
If you're not quite ready to go with the sushi, start your Japanese cooking with this simple condiment. Gomasio fills your kitchen with a wonderful nutty, toasty aroma when you make it. I dare you to try resisting eating it directly out of the spice jar! Thanks to Kira from Food Works Nutrition for this recipe, and one for sushi rice.

Gomasio

1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt (or other unprocessed sea salt)
1 Tbsp. dulse flakes (readily available where I live on the Atlantic coast - yeah!) 
 
Roast the sesame seeds in a pan at a low heat until they are just starting to pop. Take them off and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the salt and grind in a clean coffee or spice grinder. Don't grind them so much that it turns into flour - which I found out happens very quickly, mine almost got to that point. You want it to have texture. Add the dulse flakes, put in a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate. (My husband took a deep whiff of this - he loved the smell and the answer to his question what we'd sprinkle it on? "Anything and everything.") 
 
(Note: the material on Real Food Matters is not meant for medical diagnosis or treatment. For health concerns, I recommend you see your physician or health practitioner.)

 

Posted by karen
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We're in that window between holiday weekends.

Digesting a huge meal can be taxing on your body. Consuming back-to-back a few of these indulgent meals (that often include food choices and combinations that you don't usually eat), can make you feel right out of balance - bloated, craving certain foods, a sense of being "fuzzy" and out of control, short on energy.
 
Crammed social calendars and the excitement - and exhaustion - of hosting guests can add to a feeling of overwhelmed.
 
If this is you.... 
 

Here are a few tips - nutrition-wise and otherwise - to help you on the rebound.

 
Get out in the sunshine - let some of that glow shine on your face and in your eyes.
 
Give your body a chance to recuperate by fasting for a day.
 
If you can, squeeze in a day of consuming only juices or blended smoothies to help your body recover and get back on track.
 
Give yourself a day of just fresh fruits and vegetables
 
Exercise - just 20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Even better, no matter what the weather, get outside to play and exercise.
 
 
Read a good book, light a candle, soak in a hot bath, brew a cup of tea, play a board game or enjoy conversation with a friend: go off-line, turn off the television.  
 
Make a comforting curry dish. The healing, warming spices - ginger, cinnamon, cloves, chilies, cayenne and turmeric - are a yummy alternative to other feast flavours.
 
Get good quality sleep, give yourself permission to take a nap during the day.
 
Drink plenty of water - flush out the excesses and rehydrate after eating food saltier than normal. 
 
 
If your hospitality door is still revolving, your guests are probably as ready as you for more simple fare.
 
Serve the following nut roast with a large leafy salad, and a curry lentil soup. Everybody wins.
 
 

"Crank's" Nut Roast

1 medium sized onion
1 oz butter
8 oz. mixed nuts: peanuts, walnuts, cashews, etc.
4 oz. whole wheat bread (gluten-free bread can be substituted)
2 c. veg stock
2 tsp. yeast extract (Marmite)
1 tsp. mixed herbs
 
Chop onions and saute in butter until transparent. Grind nuts and bread together in a food processor or coffee grinder (bread crumbs stop the nuts from getting gummed together in a ball), until quite fine. Heat the stock and Marmite to boiling point, then combine all the ingredients together and mix well - the mixture should be fairly slack. Turn into a greased shallow baking dish, level the surface, sprinkle w/few breadcrumbs, and bake in the oven at 350F for 30 minutes or until golden.
 
(This makes quite a small loaf - amounts can be easily increased. Thanks to my good Scottish neighbour, Fiona, for sharing this old recipe from the UK.) 
 
 
Talk to you soon - Happy New Year! 
Posted by karen
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This last post before Christmas is all about the sweet finish. If your house is like ours, desserts are a special treat - saved for occasions that are also special. 

It's been several years since I stopped buying - and drinking - egg nog. Nutnog is the alternative I've been waiting for. 

Cashew Nutnog for four (or more)

Cover 1 cup* cashew nuts with water and soak overnight.
 
In the morning, drain the cashews, rinse well and put in blender.
 
Add:
3 cups fresh water
1/3 cup maple syrup (or substitute with honey, agave syrup or 4-5 Medjool dates)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
couple dashes of sea salt
 
Blend for at least 1 minute, until thoroughly blended.
 
Chill (will thicken up when it gets cold). Shake well before serving. 
 
Serve in pretty goblets and sprinkle liberally with more grated nutmeg.
*If you like your nog thick and creamy, use another 1/2 - 1 cup nuts.
 
 
(Nutrition notes: among other things, cashews boast magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. And - they have a lower fat and higher carbohydrate level than most other nuts!)
 
This nutnog can also be made with raw almonds or Brazil nuts: but the "milk" will have to be strained in a fine mesh bag to remove the pulp before adding the other ingredients. (The pulp can be saved to use for baking or adding to hot cereal breakfasts.) The how-to can be viewed here.
 
A perfect partner with the nutnog is the following banana cake: gluten free, moist and delicious. This recipe came from my daughter-in-law; it's a standby treat in her GF house.
 

Banana Cake - gluten free 

3 cups almond flour
3 eggs. beaten
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. gluten-free baking soda
2 ripe bananas, mashed (enough to make 1 cup)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
 
Spread in lightly greased 9-inch square pan. (Use liner paper if wanting to remove the whole cake.) Bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes.
Test for doneness, cake will be moist but you don't want it soggy.
 
Let cool, cut and enjoy.
 

The following offering is a simple, elegant, light dessert my son-in-law prepared for a feast many Christmas's ago. Its presentation is as impressive as your flair.

Wine Baked Pears

4 ripe pears, preferably Bosc, with stems, washed and dried
2 cups fruity white wine - I like to use a  local pear wine - or a Reisling is very tasty too
1/4 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves
4 strips orange zest
 
optional: roasted walnuts or pecans garnish
                ricotta cheese or thick plain yogurt
 
Preheat oven to 400F.
 
Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pear so they will stand upright. Arrange the pears in a large pie pan. Whisk wine and honey in small bowl until well blended; pour over the pears. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange rind to the wine mixture around the pears.
 
Put the pears in the oven, basting every 15 minutes until they are wrinkled and tender - 45 minutes to 1 hour - depending on the type of pear used. If planning to use the nut garnish, toast them in a separate dish in the oven for about 10-12 minutes. Don't forget them!
 
When baked, remove pears from oven to cool. (By now your house will exude a spicy, heady fragrance.)
 
To serve: use slotted spoon to transfer the pears to shallow dessert bowls. Drizzle the wine mixture over the pears and garnish with the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange zest. If using, sprinkle with toasted nuts and serve with ricotta cheese or yogurt.
 
Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
 
 
For many of us, Christmas is about families, traditions - and memories. I miss my Mom. In January it will be 6 years ago since she died and, except for her last Christmas, Mom was always a vital part of preparing for the feast(s). When my generation encouraged her to let us do more of the work, she was happy to allow that - but she set the hospitality standard for me. I'll always be grateful for her expression of giving from her kitchen and I'd like to chat with her about that - and other foodie things - once in a while. This is one of those "whiles." 
 
Mom's Scottish background ensured shortbread was included in her holiday baking. She wasn't a total purist, using only one recipe that came from her great-grandmother :) She'd often try new recipes with different proportions of butter (always used butter), flour, sugar and flavourings. Now that I'm the Nana, wishing to share and continue our heritage traditions, I too am trying new shortbread recipes.
 
Except I'm looking for recipes using gluten free flour, and sweeteners other than refined sugar. I've also included the optional coffee flavour. This summer my 8-year-old grand daughter liked this variety from a coffee place/bakery/restaurant in Lunenburg. (I think it was her "legal" opportunity to enjoy the flavour of coffee :) Since I'm experiementing I thought, "why not"? I'll do coffee shortbread this year to honour my Swedish Dad who still enjoys a good cup of coffee.
 
I dared not mess with a butter substitute. Not yet, not this year.  And maybe never. I think there are some things that are best left alone, left in the recipe and enjoyed once or twice a year. The one ingredient I forgot when I made this, but included in the recipe, is the almond or vanilla extract.
 
If you're familiar with baking with gluten free flours, you don't expect most baked goods to have the same texture as when you use wheat or spelt or another "conventional" flour. And that holds true for this shortbread too. The texture isn't the same but they are still melt--in-your-mouth shortbread:  a very acceptable substitute if you or your holiday guests are not able to eat gluten.
 

Shortbread - gluten free, does have butter and coconut sugar

 
1 1/4 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
optional: 1-2 Tbsp. instant coffee powder -according to how strong a flavour you want
 
Put in food processor the dry ingredients,  the cold butter cut into rough chunks, the extract and the optional coffee. Process until ingredients cling together.
 
Press mixture evenly into a lightly greased, paper-lined 9 x 9 pan. Mark into squares or rectangles, prick with fork and bake at 325F for 35-40 minutes. When baked, remove from oven, cut again (it's important to cut while warm,  they'll crumble if cut later), let stand 10 minutes. Lift to a wire rack and let cool. 
 
I've tested this recipe only once so I am hoping to hear feedback and suggestions from any of you who make these. I'm sure you've got some good tweaking ideas.
 
Enjoy your Christmas, friends. God bless your feasting, your fellowship with family and friends - and give you safe travels.
Posted by karen
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This is it. The weekend that launches my season of Christmas hospitality. It's fast and furious, with a dinner for four Friday night and hosting a neighbourhood potluck brunch on Sunday. 
 
This is a "world-away" contrast to a former chapter of my life.  When December was a flurry of celebrations: from the get-go birthday party on the 2nd for my daughter - to a host of Christmas parties connected to all the life-circles of my husband and I and our two children- to our son's birthday on the 23rd. And this event was the starting gun for the marathon of Christmas celebrations that revolved around a community of family - going from house to house - which would wrap up sometime around the New Year. Just recording this makes me breathless. But it was wonderful: a time of sharing, laughter and fun, and of course, eating.
 
Coming from a heritage of accomplished cooks, the food was plentiful and delicious. Taste memories range from the traditional Swedish lutefish and lefse, to the stuffed turkey, a myriad of salads and vegetable dishes - and a "stretch buffet" of sweets and desserts.
 
But just like the jam-packed holiday schedule has changed, so have many of the food choices that are now on our feast menus. 
 
Generally, we now have: more fresh vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, less animal fats, more natural sweets, less refined sugar.   
 
The following recipes I've made this weekend are some healthy holiday eating suggestions you may want to serve at your holiday feasts.
 

Begin with "A Starter" 

Curry Pumpkin Hummus 

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp.allspice
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or Herbamare)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
garnish: chopped pistachios or toasted pumpkin seeds
 
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne, and maple syrup. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
Stir in tahini and chick peas; remove from heat.
Stir in the pumpkin, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.
Spoon into a shallow serving bowl and sprinkle with garnish.
 
(Nutrition notes: these flavorful curry seasonings improve circulation - good "flu-fighters". Tahini and chick peas are protein sources - pumpkin supplies vitamin A.)
 
Recipe adapted from "Quick-Fix Vegan: Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less" by Robin Robertson

Home-Made Pita Chips - one version GF, one not

Cut whole-wheat pitas (or for gluten free use corn tortillas) into wedges and arrange on large baking pan. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a wee bit of sea salt. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until crisp: flipping them over half-way through. Not gluten free, but a healthy alternative to nachos cooked in oil. 
 

Quinoa and Roasted Squash Salad - delicious make-ahead salad

1.5 cup quinoa
2 3/4 cups water
pinch sea salt
 
2.5 pound squash - acorn, buttercup or Kabocha - enough for 8-10 cups cut into cubes
3 Tbsp.extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. Herbamare
1/2 tsp.cinnamon
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups red onion, cut into slivers
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup chopped parsley
 
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar (I used balsamic fig from this great source in Halifax)
1 tsp. orange zest
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
 
optional: crumbled feta cheese
 
Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and place in 2-quart pot with the water and sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool completely. (Can be made ahead 1-2 days before you need it and kept in the fridge.)
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash into quarters, scoop out seeds and cut into equal bite-sized chunks, about 1-inch squares. Place into baking dish, toss with the olive oil, Herbamare and cinnamon. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Stir once halfway through - let cool on the pan.
Place the pecans in a separate small baking dish and slide them in the oven along with the squash. Roast for 10-12 minutes - don't forget them in there!
 
Saute the slivered red onions in a wee bit of olive oil - for about 5 minutes, just until soft and beginning to change colour. Remove from heat.
 
Place cooled quinoa into a large bowl, add the roasted squash, roasted and chopped pecans, sautéed onions, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
 
Put dressing ingredients into small jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake well and pour over salad. If desired, sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top before  refrigerating until serving.
 
Recipe adapted from www.nourishingmeals.com
 
 

One favorite has not changed - that's our holiday fruitcake. Gloriously good and gluten free.

 
 
Many years ago my Mom found a recipe for this fruit cake which has become an annual Christmas standby - and sometimes shows up during other times of the year too!
 
Over the years I've tweaked it to suit my family; it has evolved into a delicious gluten free version.
 
This is not the traditional candied fruit, butter-rich kind of fruitcake. It's made with dried fruits, nuts, eggs, flour (I use a GF mix, as mentioned), baking powder, bit of honey or maple syrup and vanilla. You know it's good when even the grandkids say, "it won't be Christmas without Nana's fruitcake."
 
Click here for the recipe for the Healthy Nut and Dried Fruit Christmas Cake.
 
This cake doesn't have to be aged - it'll be a hit (and so will you!) if you squeeze it into your schedule this week.
 
Happy healthy holiday eating!!
Posted by karen
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The 2011 calendar will soon be wrapped up. Have you thought about - or made - any nutrition resolutions for your fitness and athletic activities? Maybe they look like these:

-- gearing up for a month-long digestive cleanse and decreasing exercise intensity

-- launching into a vegan diet

-- testing out what eating raw is all about

-- cutting out caffeine for a month

Or maybe your "extreme" resolution is to figure out how to fuel yourself properly while training for your first marathon.

Running happens to be my favourite fitness gig - but whatever the exercise activity, our performance and experience will show whether our eating choices have been left to chance.

Goals are good.

If you've not yet decided, and don't want to be left out of the resolution loop, check out the following list. These all carry a worthwhile nutrition objective - and benefit.

Avoid diet sodas and foods with Aspartame and other synthetic sugars.

-- consuming Aspartame also includes ingesting methanol (wood alcohol) which is a dangerous neurotoxin and a known carcinogen.

-- one of the many negative side effects is the harmful effect on the nervous system

-- synthetic sugars contribute to acidity, a condition which leads to (1) inflammation, and (2) the body creates fat cells to store that extra acid so that, ironically, consistent consumption of Aspartame could add to your weight.

Avoid refined sugar - only a few of the reasons why:

-- refined sugar weakens the immune system by stealing your white blood cells' ability to destroy bacteria 

-- can encourage addiction to eating foods devoid of vitamins, minerals and fibre - when our body really needs and wants those nutrient-rich foods

-- upsets mineral relationships in the body, e.g. messes with the absorption of calcium and magnesium

Eat more greens and veggies for antioxidants, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, omega 3's

-- a hefty daily serving of greens

-- a generous daily serving of coloured veggies and bright-coloured fruits, berries

-- a hearty daily portion of sulfur producing veggies - e.g. cabbage, broccoli, turnips, onions, garlic, etc.

Make your own power bars and gels.

-- the nutritional value of processed energy bars is often the equivalent of candy bars. Home made bars and gels with nutrient-rich calories are less expensive and easy to make. The recipe for the gel is in my post about dates (you'll have to scroll down a ways to find it).  I shared some of this power gel recently while running with a friend. She's hooked. So much tastier than the gels you buy - and made with real food ingredients.

Protein Bar Recipe

1 cup protein powder (hemp, soy or whey)

2 cups rice bran

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 tsp. sea salt

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup shredded coconut

3/4 cup hemp seeds

Mix above and add:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 - 3/4 cup brown rice syrup or honey

1/4 cup maple syrup

Mix thoroughly and form into balls or press into a pan to cut into bars.

Store in refrigerator or freeze.

This recipe came from a colleague who makes them for a pro sports team. Convinced?

Eat more fermented foods - e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi

-- the healthy bacteria in these foods speed up digestion and assimilation of nutrients

-- fermented foods help reduce sweet cravings (and when you do indulge, fermented foods help digest the sugars)

-- fermented foods contribute to an alkaline state, as compared to an acidic environment, which is responsible for an increase of free radicals and a decrease in the production of cellular energy

-- bonus - you can easily make it yourself, see how to do it here

Log your food intake - what you eat every day and when you eat it.

-- the timing of your food intake affects how you feel when you exercise

-- tracking food you eat along with your exercise performance can be a helpful fitness nutrition tool - especially if you want to notch up your activity for competition

 

I challenge you to choose at least one New Year's nutrition resolution.

You never know what rewards could await you in 2012.

I'd love to hear from you - what are your nutrition resolutions?

Posted by karen
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We don't have to expect dietary damage control in January.

We can plan to prepare and eat healthy foods for our holiday-Christmas eating.
 

My Healthy Holiday Eating Workshop will help you to be ready:

 
--when you're the hostess - healthy nutritional alternatives
                                                 - accommodating food sensitivities
                                        
--when you're the guest - tips on 'holding your healthy line'
                                             - suggestions on offerings you can share  
 
--for the days in between 'the parties' 
 
 
 

What you can expect:

 
--tasting and sampling
 
--gluten-free options
 
--flavorful, sweet treats - without refined sugar
 
--take-home recipes and nutrition notes for the above
 
--to have fun
 
 

When and Where:

 
--Monday, December 12
--6:30 - 8:00-ish
--Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia
 
Contact me for registration and information. Limited seating - register early!
 
 
 
 
Some of the fixings for quinoa - roasted squash salad. It is fresh, flavorful - and festive (taste and see the finished product at the workshop - my photo accidentally got deleted from my memory card :(
 
 
Give yourself a Christmas gift...set yourself up for Healthy Holiday Eating.
Posted by karen
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Hold the line on healthy.

 
We're marching into the season where schedules and life get busier, and if we're not intentional about it, healthy eating patterns and food choices can end up somewhere "down there" on the list. 
 
It's not the time to opt for nutrient-deprived fast food, to stock up on processed "easy meals," or fill up on the goodie trays in the coffee room at work.
 
Flu bugs and colds are not taking a holiday. Stress and sleep slip out of balance. 
 
 
This is the call: strengthen the ramparts on healthy eating.
 

Here's my defensive eating plan.

Greens

Greens are on the menu - every day, at least once a day. In a salad, a green smoothie or transformed into a "hot dish." Please read more about  these super foods and find recipe ideas from my "gotta have greens" article on active.com.
 
 

Miso

A cup of miso soup will be my hot drink choice for some of my "tea breaks". Miso is a fermented product with probiotics (aids digestions), it's also good for circulation, blood pressure and resists toxins. Miso makes a tasty, nutritious addition to all kinds of dressings, sauces and dishes. It's interesting trying a variety of misos - pictured below are brown rice and soybean.
 
 
 
 

Easy peasey cup of soup, perfect for an appetizer too.

Pour boiled water into good-sized mug. Stir in 1 tsp miso. Add chopped green onions, snippets of dulce, finely grated carrots, (opt - tiny cubes of tofu). Stir thoroughly, let sit for 2 - 3 minutes and enjoy.
 

"I'd like to bring something."

This will be my answer when invited to a party. One idea for an appetizer: a veggie tray and healthy dips . It's a great way to introduce a nutritious buffet option, besides knowing the list of ingredients:) The following guacamole recipe has a different taste twist, with some bonus nutrients.
 
 
 
 

Miso Dulce Guacamole -  great for fresh veggies or tortilla chips, or as a spread on wraps with fresh veggies

2 well-ripened avocados, pitted and skins removed, *save pits
1/2 tomato, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped dulce or nori
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup tahini
2 Tbsp. miso paste (brown rice or soybean)
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
olives for garnish
 
Mash all the ingredients together or process in a food processor. Best if eaten the same day. *Putting the pits back into the dip until time to eat will help stop the dip from turning brown.
 
(Nutrition notes: avocadoes are full of healthy fats, garlic and onion: antioxidants, 
 
(adaptation from Thrive: the Vegan Nutrition Guide by Brendan Brazier)
 
 

Avoid refined sugar.

Okay, refined sugar is really hard to escape at this time of year.  I know I'll be indulging sometime. 
 
That's the key. Sometime - which doesn't mean sampling everything on the dessert tray.  Choosing something special that I really want to taste.
 
I plan to be extra diligent in my own kitchen, where I have the choice, the ingredients and the tools to create sweet treats without refined sugar.
 
Both for eating at home and sharing with others.
 
 

I have a simple plan. Now, to move forward with courage.

I live a real life in a human body and like everyone else,  I live in a nutritional "war zone".

But I have a plan. Do you too? Let me know!

Posted by karen
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My house is a maze of boxes and suffused with the energy and excitement combo that accompanies an approaching change. No, I'm not in one of my rare seasonal house-cleansing frenzies. This weekend our daughter and family are moving out and forward, on to their next life adventure, ending their six-month transition period of living with us. A season where our house has pulsed with the activities and kafuffle generated by five people (and one cat) – added to our mix of two.

No surprise that the kitchen has been the hub – and a huge amount of gratitude goes to my daughter, Renee, who's masterminded (and implemented) most of the healthy feeding program to sustain all the creative and physical energy.

One person can't – or wouldn't want to – do such a task singularily. Renee's husband, Damien, has 'done' most breakfasts and I've taken some shifts as head or sous chef, cleaner-upper and filling in other gaps. Celine, Laurent and Brienne – aged 12, 10, and 8 – have had their daily kitchen chores plus food prep as requested. They're proficient in cutting and chopping veggies, concocting delicious salad dressings (move over, olive oil and balsamic vinegar), and blending super smoothies – all adding to the wake of accumulated food bits and pieces scattered on the kitchen floor.

My body has probably never been happier with iself – fuelled mostly by fruits and veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, dried fruits instead of sugar. Meals and snacks (a favorite part of the food plan) have been just out-and-out delicious and nutritious....

African Peanut-Potato Stew...Tortillas...Pumpkin & Black Bean Casserole... Falafel...Simple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies...Slow-Cooked Tofu in Pineapple Barbecue Sauce...Creamy Cashew Lemon Pie...Easy Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna... Hearty One-Pot Meal Miso Soup...Raw Peanut Butter Cookies...Buckwheat Hazelnut Pancakes...Grated Beet & Carrot Salad... Chickpea and Roasted Tomato Salad...Savoury Millet Stew...Breakfast Rice Pudding...Roasted Potato & Asparagus Salad...Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge...

But even when it's great, we can have our moments when we want a change of menu. This week for Celine, that meant finding an alternative breakfast recipe that she could make for the household. This health-aware pre-teen found one, tweaked it to use ingredients she had available – and we ate it this morning! Yum yum.

 

The Recipe: Pomegranate Muesli

Ingredients:

2 cups pomegranate juice

1 cup steel cut oats (could also use old fashioned oats – not quick or instant)

1/2 cup each sunflower and pumpkin seeds

4 apples, peeled and grated

1/4 cup cashews, coarsely chopped

5-6 cups fruit – combination of sliced strawberries and blueberries

1/3 cup raisins

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

2-3 Tbsp. hemp hearts

Instructions:

Soak oats and seeds in pomegranate juice overnight in refrigerator.

In the morning, stir in remaining ingredients. 

 

Note – add or substitute other fruits.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Nutritrient Notes:

-- soaking the oats and seeds overnight contributes to better digestion

-- pomegranates - high in vitamin K, contain vitamin C, choline, magnesium, potassium and calcium

-- hemp hearts - high in protein and fibre

-- flax seeds - omega-3 fats, selenium, fibre, phytochemicals, antioxidants 

 

Celine's Dad peeled the apples (to helped speed up the operation) but she did pretty much everything else. When it came time to dish up our breakfast bowls, it wasn't only Celine who appreciated something new on the breakfast menu! 

The youngest cook in the house, Brienne, is not one to be left behind - in anything. You have to check out her Miso Soup Recipe - and try it. It's sure to become a lunch standby.

Cooking healthy meals takes planning, time and work - at any age. Inviting and allowing young cooks to mess about in the kitchen is messy. But it's fun - and offers them the pleasure of creating, and eating, nutritious food. A gift that will come back in spades - for their own healthy food habits and opening a window for future shared cooking experiences. 

When these young cooks are your grandkids, the pleasure is especially sweet. Who helps you in your kitchen?

 

(Photo thanks and credits to Fimby.)

Make your Own Yogurt

26 Oct 2011
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Yogurt. This complete-protein source has become a mainstay in many households. Mini packages get tucked into lunches, it's added to smoothies, spooned over granola, the Greeks transform it into tzatziki, it becomes dessert with fruit and a drizzle of honey...if your diet isn't dairy-free or vegan, you've probably got your own idea to add to the list.

What does it have going for it?

-- contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and other "friendly" bacteria needed for the digestion of food

-- can help prevent candidiasis (yeast overgrowth)

-- source of calcium and other essential nutrients

-- through the fermentation process, fat and calories are reduced, and usually increases in the B vitamins

-- recommended especially after antibiotic therapy (which kills off some of the normal bacteria in the intestine)

 

Make your own yogurt.

-- use low-fat milk 

-- forget the sugar - use a wee bit of maple syrup or honey if you have to, but it really does taste delicious as is

-- add whatever fresh or frozen fruit you like - or raisins, nuts, grated coconut.....

-- it costs much less than a carton from the supermarket

-- what you need: milk, plain yogurt to use as a starter, large dutch oven kettle, whisk, thermometer (opt), small bowl, large glass or pottery bowl, tea towel

 

Here's how you make it.

-- pour 2L carton of milk into a large kettle - you need room for it to come to a full boil

-- turn on stove burner to medium or medium-high. Be prepared to stand there and stir, to avoid scorching or burning the milk - or having it boil over as soon as you turn your back on it.

-- stir consistently until milk comes to a full rolling boil, threatening to boil over.

-- remove kettle from heat source, let sit and cool for 45 minutes. Timing is important - set the timer so you don't forget.

-- while milk is cooling, take plain yogurt out of the refrigerator, making sure it doesn't have added sugar or gelatin in it. Just plain yogurt with bacterial culture. Put 4 Tbsp yogurt (about 1/3 cup) in a small, fruit nappie-size bowl. Let it sit on the counter and come to room temperature while the milk cools.

-- after cooling for 45 minutes, milk should be close to 112 degrees, if you want to check it with a thermometer. The trick is not to have the milk too hot to kill the yogurt bacteria, but it needs to be warm enough to activate the starter. I always go by the 45-minute mark. (I mention using the thermometer reading in memory of my Mom who faithfully used that method - with great success.) Add about 1/2 cup of the warm milk to the plain yogurt in your little bowl, stirring well to thoroughly mix, then add the whole works to the milk in the kettle. Stir well.

-- Pour into a glass bowl - ideally with a lid, but if it doesn't have one, cover it with a layer of plastic wrap and foil.

-- Cover the "baby" to keep it warm under wraps - using a couple tea towels to completely wrap it up. The casserole-carrying wrap my Mom made for me years ago works perfect and is a wonderful reminder of her.

-- place the covered bowl in a warm spot for overnight or all day. An ideal location in the winter is near a wood-burning stove, otherwise I put it on top of my refrigerator. If your house is really cool, you can let it rest on a heating pad, on low heat.

-- after 8-12 hours (will depend on the room temperature), check your yogurt to see if it's ready.

-- if it has more water (whey) than what you like, strain the yogurt using fine-mesh strainers. Letting it sit longer will give you yogurt "cheese", a healthy substitute for cream cheese. 

-- enjoy, but be sure to save enough as a starter for your next batch

 

What if it doesn't turn out?

-- if you're using starter from your previous batch, maybe it's been in the fridge for too long and has lost its punch

-- the milk might have been too hot or too cool

-- all is not lost - it can be used in baking, pancakes

-- don't give up - the odd time mine doesn't turn out either but as long as I keep making it on a regular basis, this rarely happens.

 

I hope you try making yogurt. Except for the occasional home-made ice cream indulgence (and a latte once in a while), I rarely consume milk products - other than my home made yogurt. Let me know how yours turns out.

Posted by karen
karen's picture

Let's have a date.

Most of us "need" a sweet fix once in a while. I'm not talking about the sweetness of grilled beets and carrots (which are great in their place) - nor refined sugar added to food, in disguise or otherwise.

I'm talking dates.

Need a Background Check on Our Date

-- high in fibre

-- high in glucose (a carbohydrate), which may be why they're sometimes referred to as "Nature's fuel" - ideal snack to fuel activity

-- concentrated sugar and energy - 1 Medjool is about 75 calories

-- fairly rich in niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, calcium, and magnesium

My kitchen is stocked with either Medjool and/or whole, pitted dates. They're yummy and a quick fix to satisfy post-dinner cravings for a "little something sweet" - they also shine as a sweetener in preparing other foods. The softest dates, like Medjool, are the easiest for a food processor or blender to process. However, soaking dried dates for 4-12 hours works well too  -- once soaked, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Raw Peanut Butter (and Date) Cookies

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my kitchen has been a-buzz "building" healthy food for our (temporary) live-in family. A favorite afternoon snack has been these delicious peanut butter cookies; a good example how dates can replace sugar. My daughter at Fimby has the recipe at the end of her Raw & Healthy post. A note of caution: these cookies can be yum-yum addictive.

Make your own energy gel using dates.

A fellow nutritional consultant, Kira Neumann, has the following recipes on her website. The gel has been my go-to sustenance for this summer's long training runs. And tasting the pie will give its own goodness report. Thanks, Kira.

Energy Gel Recipe

4 Medjool dates (or 6-8 dried dates) - soak for 3-4 hours for better blending

2 Tbsp. agave syrup

2 Tbsp. chia seeds

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 Tbsp. lemon zest

1 Tbsp. lime zest

1 tsp. dulse flakes (cut into very tiny pieces - mine were a bit big, can you see the green bits in the attached photo?)

pinch of sea salt

Blend ingredients together: due to the amount I recommend using a small machine like a Bullet blender. It will be quite stiff so you'll probably have to stop and scrape down the sides several times. (I've tried adding 2-3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice but this makes it quite tart. I'd test this before using on a race, as the extra acid might trigger digestion issues you won't want to deal with on the run! Can always experiment by adding a bit of water to the mix.)

This makes over half a cup of gel, enough energy for a few runs or bike rides. I make 1-Tbsp. size balls and freeze them. On my way out the door to exercise, I put one or two in a small ziploc bag and tuck in a pocket.

(Bonus: the chia seeds in this recipe also add an energy punch - plus protein, fiber, omega 3's, calcium, antioxidants)

Let the Whole Family come along on the Date - with a Pie!

Creamy Cashew Lemon Pie

1 and 1/4 cups almonds

1 and 1/2 cups medjool dates (will be separated into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)

1 cup cashews

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

3 Tbsp. coconut oil

3 Tbsp. hemp seed hearts

3 lemons

Step #1

Soak overnight (at least 12 hours) - almonds, cashews and dates - in separate bowls. Drain and rinse in the morning.  

Step #2

In a food processor mix the almonds, 1 cup of the dates, 1 tsp, vanilla, cinnamon (if using) and hemp seeds. Process until everything is pulverized into fine pieces - should clump together.

Alternate scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times with mixing, until it's fine enough to press into a pie plate. This is your crust - put into the fridge while you make the filling.

Step #3

Don't bother to wash out the food processor bowl: put in the cashews, the remaining 1/2 cup of dates, 1 tsp. vanilla, coconut oil and the lemons - cut off the peel, take out the seeds and cut into chunks. Process until creamy and smooth. If you want a creamier look, add a bit of water. Spread into your waiting pie crust, put back into the fridge until time for dessert. (Can fast-track the setting time if you pop into the freezer for half an hour.) Very tangy, very lemony, very date-alicious.


Kira suggests serving this with fresh berries - I didn't have any in the fridge but will try that next time.

Life is sweet, with a date.

 

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