Wednesday, March 25, 2009


My friend Ashleigh recently asked me about our soda maker.  We love it!  I had purchased it as a gift for Steve a couple of years ago and it has been a huge hit.  The bottles are reusable, lasting up to 3 years, and are BPA-free with no pthalates or polycarbonates.  The carbonators last for quite a while and bring the cost of a liter of seltzer in at about 18 cents each.  No batteries, no plug, simply the machine, a bottle, a carbonator and water.  Definitely a good drink choice and an environmentally conscious one.  I do not make any money from this company, I just like their product and you can get one too at

My favorite summer drink is to take a splash of  homemade fruit juice syrup with seltzer over ice.  It's also great with homemade lemonade as a spritzer or even some of that fabulous elderflower syrup that they sell at Ikea.  My friend Lisa likes to float fresh raspberries and lime slices in her seltzer.  However you drink it, it's delicious and easy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

oatmeal smoothie

A recent visit with my aunt brought up the idea for this smoothie.  At the coffee shop near her apartment they were serving them.  We didn't get one but the server told us they were fabulous; oatmeal, milk and vanilla syrup.  I don't know why but the idea of this smoothie caught my imagination and I decided to try to create one when I got home.  This is what I came up with and it's very delicious.  Steve liked it too.

Oatmeal Smoothie

1/4 C. oatmeal
1/4 C. oat bran
1 T. ground flax seed
1 T. coconut oil
2 C. milk
1/2 t. vanilla

heat milk and coconut oil in a saucepan until steamy
pour over remaining ingredients
blend together

Typo alert: the above has been corrected to read 2 C. of milk.  This is for two servings.  If you want to make one serving just cut everything in half.  1/4 C. is 4 T. so a half serving would be 2 T. for the oatmeal and oat bran.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

phyllo pear galette

A recent combination of extra phyllo dough and some pears that were just right turned into a marvelous dessert.  First I have a confession to make, I'm not very good at making pie crusts.  Because of that I rarely make two crust pies.  Aside from the obvious increase in calories there's the need to roll out two crusts.

As I was looking at my pears and thinking about a pear tart I realized that phyllo might be an excellent flaky "crust" and I could make a galette style tart instead.  According to the Food Dictionary at Epicurious the definition is: "Hailing from France, a galette is a round, rather flat cake made of flaky-pastry dough, yeast dough or sometimes UNLEAVENED dough. The term also applies to a variety of tarts, both savory and sweet, and there are as many variations as there are French regions. They may be topped with fruit, jam, nuts, meat, cheese, etc."  My galette turned out even better than I imagined and is something that I will definitely make again.  

Phyllo Pear Galette

8-10 sheets thawed phyllo dough
1/4 C. butter melted
3 medium pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4 C. raisins
1/4 C. sucanat
1 T. lemon juice
2 t. lemon zest
1 t. cinnamon

preheat oven to 350 F
mix pears, raisins, sucanat, lemon juice, zest. and cinnamon together and set aside
working one layer at a time brush the bottom of a pie dish with butter and layer in one sheet of phyllo
brushing butter on each sheet layer them one at a time into the pie dish using damp paper towels to keep the edges moist
arrange pear mixture in the dish
fold the edges of the phyllo over the mixture
brush top edges with butter
bake 30 minutes


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

oats or barley, barley or oats?




















A question recently posed at a forum I belong to was about the nutritional differences between barley and oats. The poster noticed that barley flakes were less expensive than oatmeal and wondered if barley flakes were a good substitute for the oatmeal. Here's my response:

The biggest difference is that barley is a glutinous grain and oats are not, so if gluten sensitivity is an issue don't substitute the barley.  And, as people who do have gluten sensitivity know, you need to be sure you are getting gluten-free oats because they are frequently grown near wheat or processed in the same plant and this can be enough contamination to be an issue.

Barley flakes tend to be not as soft or tender as oat flakes (oatmeal), but they are still a great cereal, or addition to soups and stews.  I sometimes use mine to substitute for 1/2 the oatmeal in a homemade granola recipe.

They break down like this:

1/2 C uncooked oatmeal has 150 calories, 3 g fat, 4 g fiber and 5 g protein

1/4 C uncooked barley flakes has 80 calories, .5 g fat, 3 g fiber, 3 g protein

These facts are from the back of the packages. To me this would indicate that the 1/2 C measure of barley would be slightly higher in calories, have less fat, more fiber and more protein than the oats but would probably be chewier.  

Be well

photo courtesy of

Monday, March 9, 2009

feed them junk, no wonder they can't think straight

I just found this video and it is distressing to watch and see how many lobbyists and lawyers show up for a meeting on school lunch nutrition.  While it is certainly not the only reason that children in this country are overweight and unhealthy I am sure it is a contributing factor.  We need to do better for our children. is trying to make some changes.  Sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), they are working to educate government and education officials, food service workers, parents, and others to try to promote healthy choices in school nutrition. If this is something that interests you (and it should interest all of us) you can sign their petition. They aren't the only organization promoting education on this issue; there's also Two Angry Moms which is a movie that I think should be required viewing for every parent, school board official, educator, and public official. As this OpEd piece by Alice Waters says, "Every public school child in America deserves a healthful and delicious lunch that is prepared with fresh ingredients. " We frequently talk about the "hope of the future" resting in these children. But we are not giving them the nutrition to ensure that they learn and grow, to help them mature into that hope we are asking them to be.

Chef Jamie Oliver took on the British School Lunch program in London and apparently had quite a success there. Perhaps we can learn from their program, plus the programs we have right here at home created by people like Alice Waters and her Slow Food Slow School program which has created such successes as The Edible Schoolyard (you can see a video of the schoolyard in action here).  Let's do better for our kids, they deserve it and we do too.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

loving lycopene

In my recent post on peppers I mentioned lycopene.  I thought I would mention just a little more about it because it is so beneficial to us.  Lycopene is a carotenoid that produces red color.  There are other carotenoids like beta-carotene, zeaxanthin or lutein; carotenoids produce yellow, orange or red colors in our food.  There is some evidence to suggest the possibility that a diet high in lycopene may be helpful in protecting against prostate cancer although more research is needed.  It is also believed to be helpful in preventing or treating macular degeneration, cataracts and skin cancer.

Lycopene is fat soluble, which means your body absorbs it best when you eat it with some fat.  Think sliced tomatoes with fresh basil and a generous drizzle of a good quality extra-virgin olive oil.   Avocados are another good source of fat to pair with a juicy ripe red tomato.

You don't find lycopene just in red peppers or red tomatoes, it's also there in watermelon, pink guavas, pink grapefruit and papayas.  As we get closer to real-tomato-season (as opposed to the tomato-looking things currently in the grocery store) think about fresh salsa, homemade tomato sauce, gazpacho and other delicious dishes to boost your lycopene.  And if you haven't tried guavas or papayas give them a chance, they're tasty and wonderful just the way they are.

photo courtesy of

Thursday, March 5, 2009

a fabulous twist on taboule

With thanks to my friend Claire for bringing this recipe to my attention and for taking the beautiful picture of this gluten-free version of taboule using quinoa instead of bulghur (cracked wheat) created by Chef Rachel. Claire and I were fortunate enough to meet Chef Rachel at the National Association of Nutrition Professionals conference last Fall where she was making wildly delicious desserts that were gluten and dairy free. This quinoa is so tasty that I cannot get enough of it.  I have made it twice in one week and think that this is my new favorite for summer salad.  

Quinoa (keen-wa) is usually culinarily treated as a grain although it is actually a pseudocereal, the seed of a plant called Goosefoot (Chenopodium).  Originally from South America it was a major crop for the Incas who referred to it as the "mother of all grains."   With a very high protein content and a complete set of essential amino acids it is a great choice for anyone but especially for vegetarians or vegans. It is also gluten free which makes it an excellent choice for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.  As a great source of fiber, and high in magnesium, phosphorus and iron to round out it's nutritional profile, it is truly a powerhouse of a grain.  One very important note, it is essential that you wash quinoa before cooking it.  There is an outer coating of saponin on it that, if not rinsed off, will give your food a soapy flavor.  Quinoa is so delicious that even my picky teen likes it; give it a try and I believe you'll discover a new food that you will like too.

For the taboule recipe you can visit  Chef Rachel's blog. Don't forget to check out her Poached Pears recipe while you are there.

Photo courtesy of Claire Wang

calcium comes from....

In a previous post I mentioned that kale is a good source of calcium.  This brought a couple of inquiries as to what other foods you could eat, aside from milk, to get your daily requirement of calcium.  And one question about how much calcium you actually need to take in on a regular daily basis.

Calcium is a mineral that is essential to our development. It is necessary for healthy bones and teeth which many people know. But it is also necessary to help with clotting factor, with muscle contractions and it is also used by your body to help with nerves and enzymes.  

There are a number of different types of calcium.  Calcium carbonate is the least expensive form and needs to be taken with food.  This is the form that you find in something like Tums antacid tablets.  Calcium citrate does not need to be taken with food and is better tolerated by people who suffer from gas or constipation.  It is the calcium supplement recommended for people who are taking proton-pump inhibitors. And there is calcium phosphate which is even less likely to cause intestinal distress than either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate.

I prefer to eat whole foods and try to avoid taking pills when I can.  So what do you eat to get calcium?  Lots of things, mostly dark, leafy greens.  Turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, collard greens, kale, these are all great sources of calcium.    Blackstrap molasses is also a very good source of calcium.  And it exists in herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, even cinnamon.  According to the Eating 4 Health model that I studied, and now practice, spices are booster foods (as are things like nuts, sea vegetables, algae and nutritional yeast) and are an important part of our healthful nutrition.  So don't skimp on the spices, use them, enjoy them, taste them in your food.  A 2 tsp. serving of dried basil contains over 63 mg of calcium. 

According to the Linus Pauling Institute at the University of Oregon the Adequate Intake (AI) of calcium for adults aged 19-50 is 1,000 mg per day.  AI is a recommended value created when an RDA cannot be determined.  That may sound like a lot but if you balance your diet to include more leafy greens it's not that hard to do.  By way of example, one cup of 2% milk provides roughly 297 mg of calcium.  One cup of cooked spinach provides approximately 245 mg.    And,  here's a surprise, four tablespoons of sesame seeds actually provides more calcium than a cup of milk, at 351 mg.  Granted not many of us sit down to eat four tablespoons of sesame seeds at one go but if you use tahini to make a dressing or put it in other dishes, the amounts can add up quickly. This recipe for lemon tahini dressing is one of my favorites.

So eat your dark leafy greens, add spices to your food and boost your calcium.

Be well.

photo courtesy of

Monday, March 2, 2009

high oleic canola oil

I recently received an email from Wayne who wanted to know about high oleic canola oil, which is marketed as trans fat free. He had eaten some foods that had it as one of the ingredients and did not like it at all. He was wondering if I had any information about it.

Trans fat free oils are those which are either naturally without trans fat or that have not been hydrogenated to increase the saturation factor. Margerine is a prime example of fat that has been transformed to make it have a longer shelf life. Oleic acid provides some stability to the oils and so scientists are breeding high oleic acid strains of things like corn and canola. With the exception of high oleic sunflower oil I have not been able to find clear evidence that these other oils are not genetically modified rather than the result of a direct breeding program. My recommendation is to choose organic oils, which means there will be no GMO and no pesticides.

Be well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

amino acids

Recently I wrote a post about meatless meals where I suggested adding beans to the diet.  If you are a meat eater who is simply trying to eat less meat this is a fine way to supplement the diet, although the information below is also important.

If you are switching to becoming, or already are, a vegetarian or a vegan it becomes a little more complex.  Not difficult by any means, but you do need to put more thought into what you eat.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and there are twenty all together. Eight of the twenty are considered "essential amino acids" because we require them but our body cannot manufacture them so we must get them from our food. These eight are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, and lysine. Animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs, contain all eight however different foods such as legumes, seeds and grains do not.  Therefore they must be combined to create a complete protein.  Legumes are high in lysine but low in methionine.  Conversely most grains and high in methionine and low in lysine.

In many cultures there are a lot of recipes that call for a mixture of legumes and grains that then create a complete protein.  The above picture is for a Korean dish called Kong bap (this picture shows the dish uncooked) and is a mixture of seven grains and four beans.  Because this dish contains beans (adzuki beans and green peas) and grains (barley, rice, Job's tears, sorghum and corn) it provides all of the essential amino acids.  This dish also has soybeans which are considered to be a complete protein by themselves.  Other examples include black beans with corn tortillas from South America or chickpea falafel with whole wheat pita from the Middle East.  

This is not the only combination that makes a complete protein.  Seeds and legumes together are also a good combination.  Examples would include hummus which is made from ground sesame seeds and cooked chick peas.  

The idea is ensure that if you are not eating meat that you are not simply adding legumes to your diet but that you are adding them with whole grains and/or seeds to ensure good nutrition.

Our dinner tonight a curried crockpot lentil and rice dish.  This recipe originally came from a Lebanese friend of mine and is called M'judra, I've modified it a little over the years and it's one of our favorites.  I plan to serve this with an Indian spinach dish called Palak and a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers with a spice called Chat Masala.  It's a tasty, healthy and satisfying meal.  We make it with a fair amount of curry powder because that's how we like it, if you need to reduce the curry powder it will still be delicious.

Curried Crockpot Lentils and Rice

1/2 C. rinsed lentils
1 C. rinsed red rice (can use brown rice if you prefer)
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 T. curry powder
1 T. nutritional yeast
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
3 1/2 C. vegetable broth
1 T. olive oil

saute the pepper and onions in the olive oil until just starting to soften
place all dry ingredients into the crockpot
add broth and stir well
cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours (check at 4.5 hours to see if you need a little more water)
add salt to taste after done cooking

Note:  you don't add the salt while cooking because it will delay the lentils from softening


photo courtesy of