Saturday, February 28, 2009

'tis the season

Here in Texas 'tis the season...for wildflowers.  Driving around town, seeing the beautiful flowers that were sown last fall, bluebonnets (the Texas state flower), Indian paintbrush, squaw weed, anemone's, wine cup and more, their pretty delicate flowers and bright colors along the roadside bring a smile to my face.  They are a symbol that winter is pretty much over, that the heat and humidity of summer is almost upon us.  

I'm enjoying this season, trying to stay in the now.  To focus on the beauty that is blooming to life around us, the soft gentle breezes that will disappear too quickly, the joy of being able to throw open the windows and enjoy the fresh air.  

I often find that we are rushed from one season to another without the ability to enjoy what is right in front of us.  Usually this is focused on merchandizing for the holidays (did anyone but me notice that St. Patrick's Day stuff was out before Valentine's Day was over?) and exhorting us to buy things instead of enjoying the moment.  I have come to find that I have all of the "things" and "decorations" that I need  or want.  Actually we gave away most of them when we downsized to our smaller house and I'm much happier being able to avoid the stores and/or ignore those displays around me. 

When I work with a client and we are looking at issues that cause stress we frequently find that it is from this feeling that we are being hurried along.  You can't enjoy one season or one holiday because the next one is hard on it's heels and quick, quick you have to get ready.  By taking the time to fully enjoy what is around us we create less stress for ourselves, a calmer environment for our families and a healthier life.  

There is a great book called The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle and he has just come out with a companion book Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises from The Power of Now.  When we are caught up in the hurry and flurry of media/marketing driven life sometimes we need some guidance and more than a little practice to get back to what truly has meaning for us.  I am still working on this for myself; I think it's a lifelong practice.

Take a moment, where you are to go outside and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.  If there are no flowers where you are today, just gaze out your window and enjoy the season.

Be well.

picture courtesy of

Friday, February 27, 2009

three recipes

I recently shared some recipes with friends and family. People liked them and it occurred to me to share them here as well. We usually eat vegetarian meals since two out of the three of us in the house are vegetarians. Rather than a traditional large portion of animal protein surrounded by two small sides (one of which is usually a simple starch) and an iceberg lettuce salad we tend to eat "composed" plates. This is an idea that I was introduced to years ago in one of my favorite cookbooks The Occasional Vegetarian
by Karen Lee. Basically you create multiple dishes and serve those equally, no one dish is the "main" course.

I love lacinato kale so that's what I used for this composed plate. Kale is a member of the Brassica family which means that it is related to things like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and turnips. It's a dark leafy green, and we all need more of those, that is chock full of vitamins A, C, and K. Kale is a great source of calcium (surprise!) but with a lot of fiber It also has a high level of antioxidants and is considered anti-inflammatory. Kale is one of our favorite dark leafy greens and I hope you'll try it. Maybe it will become one of your favorites too.

Sauteed Kale and Onions (serves 3)

1 onion, diced medium
1 bunch kale chopped medium
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
pignolis (pine nuts)

sautee onions in 1 T. olive oil until slightly soft
add chopped kale and the other 1 T. olive oil
cook on medium stirring frequently until kale wilts
add salt and pepper to taste
turn to low and let cook 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally
in last 3-4 minutes put in a handful of pignolis and toss to mix thoroughly

Braised Carrots (serves 3)

6 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 T. butter
1/2 C. veggie broth
pinch thyme
salt and pepper

place veggie broth and cut up carrots into a pot
bring to a boil
lower to a simmer, add thyme and cover to cook 10-12 minutes
when carrots are al dente uncover and add butter salt and pepper
cook on medium cooking off liquid (watch so it doesn't burn) stirring frequently

Quinoa Pilaf (serves 4)

1 C. quinoa
2 C. vegetarian broth
1 C. mixed vegetables
salt and pepper
generous pinch italian herbs
1 t. dried onion

rinse quinoa thoroughly (otherwise it will taste soapy)
put quinoa, broth, herbs, and onion in a pot
bring to a boil
lower to a simmer, cover and let sit 15-20 minutes
while quinoa is cooking steam vegetables
when quinoa is done mix together with drained steamed vegetables, salt and pepper


Be well.

photo courtesy of

Sunday, February 22, 2009

chemicals are touching the food

I just got back from the grocery store and once again I find myself very frustrated by many of the products in the aisles.  I teach a class called "Poison Pantry" where I talk about some of the ingredients that are in the pantry that shouldn't be there.  As I tell folks, "Notice I said ingredients, not food."  That's because this stuff isn't food and shouldn't be part of our diet.  It's there either because it's easier for the manufacturer or because it extends the shelf life.  And just because it's in our food doesn't mean we have to eat it.

The latest example of my frustration lies with a preservative called BHT,  butylated hydroxytoluene.  Along with it's counterpart BHA (butylated hydroxianisole) it is used as a preservative.  According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) there is evidence that these phenolic compounds may cause cancer and both substances are considered to be "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."  BHT and BHA can both be replaced by vitamin E or are not even necessary in products, however the USDA allows their use anyway and so they are still part of the manufacturing process.
Because of consumer resistance, I am assuming, some manufacturers are not using these products in the food they produce.  Today I got quite a shock when I read the side panel of a box and discovered that although there was no BHT in the food itself it had been added to the packaging as a preserving agent.  Okay it's not in the food but, hello folks, it's TOUCHING the food.  And am I going to be upset about that?  You betcha.  These products are not good for our health, are not required in many cases, don't use them.  Use something else that is not "reasonably anticipated" to make me, my family, or anyone else ill.

The lesson here?  Read all the way to the bottom of the label.  It may take longer but it really is important.

Be well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

creamer and meatless meals

My friend Karen recently asked me what she could use for a substitute for vanilla cinnamon Coffeemate creamer.  She would like to give up the artificial ingredients in the creamer.  The best substitute that I can think of is to flavor a half pint of light cream with the amount of vanilla and fresh ground cinnamon (which will be stronger than the already ground stuff).  Mix it all together and keep in the fridge until you need it.  A half pint is 8 ounces and should remain good for approximately 10 days.  The cream really is not that bad for you if you are simply using a small amount for flavor and smoothness.  Of course if you are one of those people who take a little coffee with your cream this is not going to work.

Another question was what is a legume and how can she incorporate more meatless meals into the family diet.  First the definition of a legume:  Legume refers to plants or their fruit of the leguminosae family.  The simple answer is lentils, beans, peas and peanuts.  There are others such as alfalfa, carob, etc but let's stick with the first four.

Making meatless meals is very easy, just substitute a bean or lentil for the meat in a recipe and you're good to go.  In one of my previous posts I mentioned our favorite vegetarian shepherd's pie which is an excellent and tasty dish for a meatless dinner.  We also make taco salad substituting black beans for the meat with taco seasoning, crush tortilla chips in the bottom of the bowl and everyone dresses their own salad with diced tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, shredded cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa; it's a very tasty dinner.  Another great choice is a baked potato bar, I prefer to use sweet potatoes, with broccoli, beans, other vegetables and sauces to taste.  

Of course if you are looking for new recipes rather than converting recipes you already have there are some great resources on the web.  These can be found at:

  • AllRecipes twenty-for-twenty - a great list of 20 ingredients that combined create 20 dinners
  • Vegetarian Times - a neat feature here is the ability to use checkboxes to define your search by season, cuisine, meal-type, appliance and more
  • Recipe Source - formerly the SOAR, this is a list of the vegetarian recipes in the archive

  • I'm sure there are many others but these are the ones that I like the most.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    avoid sugar if you have a cold

    I just spoke with a friend, Sarah, who is feeling a little under the weather.  She's got a bad cold and is generally not feeling well.  She wanted to know if there was anything she could take in addition to orange juice and tea to help her feel better.

    Orange juice is actually not a good choice.  Yes, vitamin C boosts the immune system, but sugar suppresses it.  Unfortunately most people reach straight for the orange juice when they are sick in an attempt to get more vitamin C into their system.  Although they are adding vitamin C to their system they are also adding sugar which slows down the body response.  If you must have juice, although herbal teas and broths would be better, it is best to dilute the fruit juice so that you are taking less sugar.  Even eating fruits is not necessarily recommended as the fruit sugars will still work to suppress your immune system.  

    Taking vitamin C tablets could prove beneficial in lessening the duration of a cold.  According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregan State University, "The preventive use of vitamin C supplementation reduced the duration of colds by about 8% in adults and 14% in children." 

    Other food sources of vitamin C (not in order of nutrient) include brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, winter squash and green peas.  There are others but these tend to be the highest.

    national sweet potato month

    February is National Sweet Potato Month.  And what a delicious choice for a featured food.  Sweet potatoes are versatile, nutritious and easy to add in to your diet.

    The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is sometimes confused with a yam which comes from a completely different plant family.  It's also only distantly related to traditional potatoes.

    Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene and a good source of vitamin C, both of which are anti-inflammatory antioxidants.  They are also a good source of fiber with 3.14 g per serving (a single sweet potato averaging about 77 g).

    Most people are used to thinking of sweet potatoes candied with marshmallow and brown sugar on the Thanksgiving table, or perhaps baked into a sweet potato pie or just baked and served with butter.  But there are a lot of different ways to serve them across many different cultures.  In Korea they are used to make dangmyeon, a cellophane noodle, while in Japan it's frequently used in tempura.  In Africa sweet potatoes are dried and then served with a peanut sauce in a dish called Amukeke.

    As I've mentioned in a previous post we like to eat them in potato pancakes.  Another favorite i our house is sweet potato fries but we don't do that too often because we don't eat a lot of deep fried foods.  

    Recently KatieR  had a great idea which calls for using a dehydrator to make sweet potato chips.  You cut the potato into the desired thickness, brush with a thin coating of olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite spices, such as curry powder, and dehydrate until done.    If you don't have a dehydrator you can use your oven set to it's lowest setting and bake until you reach the desired crispness.

    I think the next time I go to the grocery store there will be a couple of extra sweet potatoes in my basket so we can give this a try.  If you try it too let me know what spices you used and how it turned out.

    photo courtesy of

    Sunday, February 15, 2009


    Recently I had a conversation with my friend Kay about dairy products which mostly centered on our family's decision to purchase organic milk products. We choose to purchase organic milk, butter, cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, and yogurt. Organic sliced cheese isn't easily available in our area so we have to bend there but we try to buy brands that at least promote that they do not use recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH).

    The conversation centered around the reasons for consuming organic dairy.  The first is that it supports organic farming which means no genetically modified organisms are fed to the cows, they are not given antibiotics or hormones and no pesticides are used in their environment.  Kay countered with the thought that it was cruel to not give antibiotics to a cow who has an infection.  That is certainly true and I would not expect a sick cow to be denied antibiotics.   In organic farming the practice is that if a cow requires antibiotics that animal is removed from the organic herd and treated.  The cow is then sold to a conventional dairy operation.  Having said that, research shows that organic cows, because they are not milked as heavily, suffer much less often from mastitis than conventional cows.  Canadian scientists (Canada has banned this substance) reported a 25% increased risk in mastitis in cows treated with rBGH.

    I don't believe that drinking artificial hormones is good for anyone but I especially do not want to expose my daughters, to extra hormones if I can control it.  In an effort to make dairy operations more "efficient" Monsanto developed rBHG.  This tremendously increased production by as much as 50% and there are reports of  farms where cows need to be milked three times per day; this was touted as a great success.  But success comes with a price.  According to this article referencing the Journal of Reproductive Medicine twinning rates have tripled in this country since the introduction of rBGH/rBST. It makes you wonder what the continued genetic effect of these hormones will be on children that were conceived while their mothers consumed these hormones.

    Leaving the hormone and chemical issues aside, organic farming methods are more humane for the cows.  Organic farms house their cows in less crowded conditions and the cows get more fresh air, and tend to be pastured, meaning they eat grass.  A recent European-wide, QLIF study, published in the Journal of Food of Science and Agriculture, showed that cows who eat grass produce milk that is higher in Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLA's) which are beneficial for heart health and decreasing diabetes risk.  They also reported higher omega-3 levels in milk from organically raised cows.

    Is organic dairy more expensive?  Yes.  It is worth it?  Absolutely.

    If you cannot make your budget stretch to cover organic dairy I strongly urge you to not consume products tainted by rBGH.  This website will give you a list of producers in your state who are artificial hormone free.

    photo courtesy of

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    peanut butter

    I was so upset to read this latest article from the Consumer's Union. Apparently PCA, the company responsible for the salmonella-contaminated peanut butter that has killed a number of people and sickened many more has declared bankruptcy. This effectively removes them from any legal due process being brought against them. The worst part is that they knew and ignored the fact that their product was contaminated as reported here.

    The best that we can hope for at this point is that there are no further illnesses or deaths and that this will bring about much needed changes to our food-supply system.

    photo courtesy of

    pick a peck

    I was talking with a friend, Danielle, the other day and she mentioned that she didn't really like vegetables.  It's funny, since I am a Nutrition Educator people somehow feel they have to confess their dietary habits to me.  Whether they don't eat vegetables or they like soda.  What they don't realize it that I'm not here to pass judgement on anyone.  If you want to improve your nutrition, need support for changing food habits, or need information to help with health issues, I'm happy to help.  But I truly don't spend my time making pronouncements about someone else's food habits;  if I did that I wouldn't be a very fun person to hang out with.

    In talking to Danielle about her non-vegetable habit she did share that she likes peppers.  A lot.  While there are a lot of different kinds of peppers (capsicum) from chili peppers to cayenne, I realized that she was talking about sweet, or bell, peppers (capsicum annuum) which are available in a few different colors.  They are all the same fruit (yes, like tomatoes peppers are a fruit because the seeds are on the inside) and the color mostly indicates ripeness.

    Bell peppers are a member of the nightshade (solanaceae) family, similar to potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant.  Nightshade vegetables are noted for being very high in alkaloids which is an inflammatory substance.  Nightshade vegetables should be avoided by those who have arthritis or other joint difficulties because alkaloids and other inflammatory substances are very hard on their system.

    Green bell peppers are the most common ones found in the supermarket.  They are also the least expensive.  This is because they are not fully ripe.  They are also not as sweet as their colored counterparts.  If left on the plant a green bell pepper will become either yellow or orange.  If left further it will become red.  As a pepper progresses through the growth process it becomes sweeter and the vitamin content changes.  Of the colors red bell peppers are highest in vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta carotene.  Red peppers also contain lycopene which is gaining a lot of positive press as a carotinoid that appears to lower the risk for prostate, cervix and other cancers.  Green bell peppers have more vitamin A and beta carotene than yellow or orange ones.  

    Bell peppers are also a good source of fiber, vitamin K and folate.  They make an easy and tasty addition to almost any dish and can be cooked in a wide variety of ways.  My favorite way is to sautee them with onions and garlic, but grilling them comes in a close second.  Diced and sprinkled on top of a salad or tacos they are delicious.  Stuffed and baked is another tasty way to serve them.   There are many more ways to incorporate them into your diet.

    Although I certainly suggest eating a wide variety of vegetables, and lots of them, every day, peppers are certainly one way to get some fiber and some nutrients into your system.

    Be well.

    photo courtesy of

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    comfort food

    Every now and again there's nothing like a pudding for comfort food.  Creamy and sweet, it hits the spot.  The other day I was in the mood for comfort food and decided that tapioca was the order of the day.  Honestly it's not the quickest comfort food to prepare, but it tastes so good that it's worth the time it takes to make it.

    I tend to have tapioca on hand not only for making pudding but so that I can grind it up into a flour when I am experimenting with gluten free mixes.

    Tapioca comes from the cassava root and in other parts of the world is referred to as yuca or manioc.  Although native to South America it has spread around the world and is the third largest source of carbohydrates for human consumption.  There are several different types of cassava root and many of them are poisonous if eaten directly (and like rhubarb, the leaves are completely inedible to humans) but with processing it becomes safe to eat.

    Many cultures around the world eat cassava root in various forms, as grated root cakes, using the flour to make thin flat breads, as a stew, to thicken soups,  and more.  In this country it is most commonly used to make tapioca pudding.  To prepare the root for making tapioca it is shredded, soaked and exposed to heat.  As it dries it forms pellets that are referred to as pearls.  The larger pearls are often used in tea drinks such as bubble tea while the smaller pearls are used for making pudding or ground into flour.  Cassava root is very high in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C but has very little protein.

    In rummaging around my kitchen to make pudding I realized that I had very little milk on hand.  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.  I was in the mood for pudding, didn't want to go to the store and certainly didn't have enough milk.  Having coconut milk in the pantry I decided to try it as a substitute.  I'm so glad I did because I've come up with a new favorite way to enjoy tapioca pudding.  Try it, I think you'll enjoy it too.

    Coconut Tapioca Pudding

    1/2 C. tapioca pearls
    1 C. water
    2 C. coconut milk
    2 egg yolks, beaten
    1/2 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
    pinch of salt
    1 t. vanilla
    1/2 C. grated coconut, toasted

    note:  coconut milk is sold in 15 oz cans.  If you like you can use 15 oz coconut milk and 1 oz of another milk to make the two cups.  It occurs to me that almond milk might be a nice addition

    place tapioca pearls in water and let soak for 4 hours
    In a pan gently heat grated coconut, stirring frequently, until light brown
    drain tapioca
    place in a sauce pan with coconut milk, egg yolks, cane juice crystals, and salt
    heat over medium high heat stirring constantly until mixture begins to thicken
    reduce to low heat
    continue to  stir until pearls are translucent and pudding is thick, about 20 minutes
    remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes
    add vanilla and let pudding cool completely

    To serve spoon pudding into a bowl and sprinkle with toasted coconut

    photo courtesy of

    Friday, February 6, 2009

    taking time

    As a holistic Nutrition Educator I often encourage my clients to work on other areas than just food.  We talk about ways to reduce stress in their lives, ways to increase exercise and to work toward living a happy, healthy, balanced life.  I try very hard to practice what I preach and I thought I would share an example of that today.

    I'm very fortunate that my family lives in TX where the winters are, let's be honest, not to hard to take.  I'm doubly fortunate that the community that we live in has over 180 miles of hiking and biking trails.  This morning Steve and I took advantage of that and hopped on our bikes to ride over to the local coffee shop for a date.  Granted the coffee shop is not that far, only about four miles.  But taking the time to ride our bikes over, sit together and enjoy a cup of coffee/tea and then ride back was something that put me in a great mood all day.  We got sunshine, fresh air, a little physical activity and some time to simply be together.

    Many of my clients complain that they don't "have time" for these moments.  And while they don't happen as often as we may like, we need to make them happen.  It goes a long way toward helping us de-stress and be more balanced.

    Obviously if you live in a cold, snowy winter climate a bike ride is not an option for you. Perhaps a sled ride followed by a thermos of hot chocolate.  Perhaps a snowball fight outside and then a cuddle in front of the fire to warm up.  Even just some quiet time sitting in a sunny window if going outside is not an option can be very calming and restorative.

    We're each given the same amount of time, it's how we use that that determines our state of mind and state of being.  Take time for you.

    Be well.

    photo courtesy of

    Thursday, February 5, 2009

    dough flying everywhere

    I recently came across a video of Richard Bertinet's slap-and-fold method of working bread dough. You can find the video here.

    As with the No Knead Bread phenomenon that swept the foodie sites a couple of years ago, I wanted to modify this to work for me. What that means is I wanted to use fresh ground, whole grain flour. I decided to try this new method with an overnight soaked dough that I like because it has great flavor and usually turns out pretty fluffy. I wanted to know how the slap-and-fold method would affect the consistency of the dough.

    My first challenge was how wet the dough was. Halfway through the slapping and folding I realized that perhaps a fluffy dough was not the dough to be doing this with, I probably should have started with a more rustic dough. Also, it might have made sense to try it with all-purpose flour, as the recipe calls for, but I didn't. The flour I used was fresh ground, 1/2 spelt, 1/2 hard red wheat, soaked overnight in buttermilk.

    After I mixed in the rest of the ingredients I followed the instructions and began to slap the dough against the counter. I dutifully resisted the urge to add more flour. The dough was very wet and it was tempting to add flour at least to clean off my hands. It took a while to learn to control the dough. I must be the world's messiest dough slapper because there was dough everywhere. Little bits would fly off and stick to the back wall, to the underside of the cabinets, as well as all around me onto the floor. it also seemed to take a rather long time for the dough to become cohesive. But I persisted. I know that I worked the dough far longer than the video suggested was necessary but I did eventually get a nice smooth ball of dough which I returned to the bowl and covered to let rise.

    The dough took longer than expected to rise, about 2 hours. Punched down, formed into two boules and set to rise again. This rise seemed normal. I baked it in the oven and it seemed to turn out well. As the picture shows it made two really lovely boules, nice and fragrant, soft crust, dense crumb with a rich flavor. The bread turned out really well and was worth the effort.

    I'm not convinced that I'm going to start slapping dough on a regular basis but I am going to try this again. I plan to back up and start with Mr. Bertinet's sweet dough recipe and then try again to modify it to whole grains. It was fun to experiment with the dough and see the results; it's also fun to think about what will happen with other changes and then try those ideas out.

    I believe we need to do more than simply eat our food, we need to enjoy it. So I encourage you to play with your food, savor it with all of your senses; that includes thinking about how it's made.

    Be well.

    kegels for men

    I was recently asked by a male client if men should do kegels too.  Women are advised to do them, especially when they are pregnant, as they are helpful for protecting against urinary incontinence and uterine prolapse.  Research reveals that yes it is helpful for men to do kegels as well.  It helps them to avoid urinary problems and is reported to help with prostatitis.  

    Kegels are an exercise designed to strengthen the pubococcygeus muscle which stretches from the pubic bone to the tail bone. The easiest way to learn how to exercise it is to stop urinating in the middle of flow. As you learn how those muscles work you can then practice your kegels any time.

    Wednesday, February 4, 2009


    I was recently asked if it was true that we shouldn't cook with oil at all.   The simple answer is I believe it is okay to cook with oil in moderate amounts. The more complicated answer is you need to use the right kind of oil(s).

    Saturated fats, trans fats, monosaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, organic, conventional, GMO,  there are a lot of factors to consider.  There are so many choices at the grocery store that it can be a little overwhelming. Then throw in the misunderstandings of how fat works on our bodies and we wind up with a lot of people eating and cooking with margerine and higher and higher levels of heart disease in this country.

    I suggest that you avoid vegetable shortening and margerine.  I think it's important to avoid GMO foods whenever possible and unfortunately I have come to believe that most corn products in this country are contaminated which means if you are using corn oil it should be organic.  I believe cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oils are the best.  (Cold pressing produces a high quality oil unlike a heated process which destroys nutrition, flavor and color.  Expeller pressing produces less oil but the seeds are not chemically treated before pressing and there is no heat applied during the process.)

    There is an excellent book by Mary Enig, Ph.D.,  Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol that is the encyclopedia of understanding fats.  If this is a subject that you are interested in I encourage you to get this book.  

    A quick excerpt:

    • natural fats and oils that should not be be used for frying or be heated include flaxseed oil unprocessed, cold-pressed canola oil, and unprocessed, cold-pressed soybean oil
    • Natural fats and oils that are safe for most deep fat frying include coconut oil, palm oil, lard, tallow, high oleic safflower oil, high oleic sunflower seed oil and regular sunflower seed oil with added sesame oil and rice bran oil
    • Natural fats and oils that are safe for one-time (my emphasis) frying include corn oil, olive oil and peanut oil
    Dr. Enig herself prefers to use a composed oil for sauteing and frying that is one-third coconut oil, one third sesame oil and one third olive oil.  Once the coconut oil is melted and blended in the mixture remains liquid at room temperature.  And yes, contrary to what you may have heard, coconut oil is good for you.

    Just remember when you use fat in your diet make sure it's a good fat, and use it in moderation.

    photo courtesy of

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    pizza pizzazz

    My friend Karen just asked me for a pizza dough recipe. This recipe is one of my favorites in part because it is very versatile and works up so quick. The original recipe was published in The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn as Cuban Bread; I modified it to use for pizza, calzones, parmesan sticks, anything that requires a pizza-type dough. The "big" difference, as far as I can tell, between pizza dough and bread dough is the addition of oil. This helps create a chewy, denser crust and adds some of that delicious flavor. The addition of ground ginger may seem a little strange but it's a tip I learned from my Uncle Joe. He claimed that the ginger "aggravated" the yeast and helped it to rise the dough. Research shows that he was right and the tiny bit of ginger does not seem to have a measurable flavor effect. Give it a try.

    Pizza Dough

    5 C. whole wheat flour
    1 T. yeast
    2 C. hot water
    1 T. salt
    1 T. sugar
    1/2 t. ground ginger
    2 T. olive oil

    mix together 3 C. wheat flour, yeast, salt, sugar and ginger
    make a well in the center of the flour mixture
    add water and oil
    stir together
    add in remaining flour until a smooth dough has been formed
    grease the dough (I grease the dough instead of the bowl to ensure complete coverage)
    cover with a towel and let sit one hour or until doubled in bulk
    turn out onto a floured surface
    punch down the dough
    knead 4-5 times and start making pizza

    And if you're making a lot of pizza I have quadrupled this recipe before and it still works fine.


    edited: It was pointed out that I forgot the pizza baking directions so here's the second half of the recipe.

    preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
    (note: I like to use unglazed floor tiles in my oven as a pizza stone, they give great coverage and hold the heat very well)
    have cornmeal ready to sprinkle on the pizza peel to help prevent the pizza from sticking
    if you don't have a peel you can put the cornmeal directly on the tiles, just be careful transferring the pizza into and out of the oven

    Cut the dough in half and roll out into your pizza base
    mix together 1/4 C. olive oil and 1 clove crushed garlic
    brush some olive oil mixture onto the top of the pizza base
    par bake the crust for 5-7 minutes until base starts to bubble
    take out of the oven, crush the bubbles
    top with your favorite sauce, toppings and cheese
    return to the oven and bake another 10-12 minutes until done

    picture courtesy of

    Sunday, February 1, 2009

    bread and beans

    My friend Helene recently asked if it was possible to use leftover cooked grains in making bread.  The answer is most definitely yes.  It does change your proportions but adds a wonderful moistness to the loaf.  One great example is the receipe found here. Another use for leftover cooked whole grains is use them in muffins. This is actually my favorite way to use them because it's quick and easy. Unless you separate the egg whites and beat them it does make a denser muffin but we like them that way.

    Her other question was regarding de-gassing beans, I'm pretty sure we all know what that means. Helene is hoping to avoid taking lots of beano. Let me start by saying that flatulence is a normal bodily condition. I don't think it's possible to completely get rid of gas and, of course, beans are not the only food that has this effect on our system; cabbage and broccoli are some others and many people have a problem with dairy.

    Beans contain certain oligosaccharides that people cannot digest; we simply do not have the necessary enzymes in our system. One method of supposedly reducing the effect is to soak the beans overnight in warm water with baking soda. In the morning rinse the beans and cook. You can add baking soda to canned beans to reduce this effect however you need to use caution because too much baking soda will reduce the B12 in the beans and may leave a soapy taste as well. Another method is to boil fresh bay leaves with the beans. This has the added benefit of imparting a nice flavor. For cabbage dishes adding caraway seeds is supposed to help reduce the gassy effect.

    Don't give up eating beans just because of the effect they may have. Beans are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, protein, an excellent source of B vitamins and, depending on what kind of bean, lots of different minerals. Eat well, be well.