Thursday, December 30, 2010

book roundup

People frequently ask me what I'm reading or what cookbooks I use.  They've figured out, correctly, that I've always got a stack by the bedside (and the coffee table, the kitchen counter, my desk in my office....) and I'm constantly learning and reading.  I'm one of those people that love to read cookbooks, yes, cover-to-cover, as well as fascinating books about all different kinds of things.

I thought I'd share with all of you my Top Ten of 2010 (in no particular order), I hope you chose to read some of them.

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef - I love this book.  Great stories, delicious pictures and fabulous recipes.

SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue - this was a book that I found myself returning to several times as I got close to the dinner hour and realized that I hadn't planned as well as I should.

Origins - Truthfully I'm still reading this one but it is definitely a top ten book.  This book really highlights how much of an effect our diet has, not only on our own heath but on the health of our unborn children.

White Coat Black Hat - This book provided a frequently startling and almost surreal look at how the pharmaceutical industry has infiltrated the medical industry.  And not to our benefit.

Hope's Edge - I had read this book before but chose to re-read it to remind myself that there is a lot of good stuff going on in the world.  Places where positive change is being made.

The Crazy Makers - This was a "preaching to the choir" kind of book.  So much information about our food and how it affects us.

What I Eat - a great follow up to Hungry Planet: What the World Eats which itself was a great follow up Material World: A Global Family Portrait.  This book is a fascinating look at food and the world we live in.

Ready for Dessert - because, after all, who doesn't love dessert?  This was a great cookbook because there were some favorites in there, a lot of updating, and he's a great writer.

Silent Spring - This is a revised version of the seminal work by Rachel Carson.  Definitely worth a read.

In the Green Kitchen - Just because there is so much to learn from this amazing woman.

I'm always looking for a good book to read.  There are a lot of fabulous books out there and I'm looking forward to more reading.  In the meantime, what are your favorites?  What made your personal top ten list and why....maybe I'll add it to mine.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

gluten free cookie fun

Walking into The G's Healthy Gourmet with a couple of borrowed kids I am greeted by the sounds of Christmas carols playing over the speakers and the sight of children rolling dough and sprinkling flour.  Tiffany, the Pastry Chef, and her husband, Nick, the Executive Chef at The G's, greet us at the door.   We settle at a table while Tiffany brings us our supplies...rolling pins, a block of cookie dough, a bowl of her own specialty gluten-free flour, cookie cutters, milk (because what goes better with cookies than milk?) and a plate of cookies to munch on while we are working.

Rolling out the slightly cold dough and pressing the cutters into it is a lot of fun for the kids.  It's hard to get the cold dough started, the adults help get things going.  Some of the children seem to really like the idea of flouring the table, the rolling pin, the dough, the floor; Tiffany assures the adult guests that they have someone coming in to clean up after the event is over.  Rolling, cutting, reshaping and re-rolling the dough, the kids are having a lot of fun.  Excitedly chattering away about the choices of cookie cutters they are using the children quickly fill up their baking trays.  After getting each child to initial their parchment paper lined tray Tiffany and Eric, her assistant, take the cookies back into the kitchen and slide them into the oven.

Ten long agonizing minutes.  Waiting and waiting for those cookies to come out of the oven.  Playing with flour.  Making shapes out of left over dough.  Is it ten minutes yet?  Are the cookies ready yet?

Then the wait is over and the warm cookies arrive.  A pretty pile of holiday shapes all waiting for their final transformation.  With them come bowls of fluffy frosting (a serious temptation for little fingers), parchment paper frosting-filled bags and the excitement of creating a masterpiece.

It was clearly obvious that everyone, kids, parents, the folks at The G's, had a good time.  Each child went home with their cookies carefully placed into a stack of take-out boxes, proudly carrying the haul of their handmade creations.  What a  sweet way to start the holiday season.

Monday, December 20, 2010

what's in your water?

Water | Abhijit Tembhekar | Wikimedia Commons
Everyone seems to be drinking more water these days, that's a good thing.  Unfortunately though many kids are drinking flavored water drinks that are presented as healthy.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  They come with names like Vitamin Water and Fruit2O.  Let's not even start with the whole sports drink issue.

I was horrified when the pediatrician told my daughter that she needed to add more water to her diet, suggesting that she start drinking Propel.  My daughter was thrilled and turned to me with a gleeful look on her face that faded when she saw my expression.

I am continually amazed at how manipulated we are by manufacturers.  There is no other way to say this other than to just say it.  Water is water period end of story.  Why are they trying to fancy it up with all sorts of chemical additives for color and flavor, and why are they adding preservatives.  Preservatives?  What's in water than needs preserving?

Are many of us dehydrated?  I believe the answer is yes.  Do we need 8 glasses of water per day?  That depends on what your bio-individual needs are.  If you live in a climate that causes you to lose a lot of moisture or you exercise a lot or you don't eat high moisture foods and take in other liquids it all adds up.  However I also believe that by the time we feel thirsty we are generally more dehydrated than we realize.

Dehydration is known to cause headaches, can lead to worsening asthma, hypertension and other health issues.  Proper hydration is also key to helping the body eliminate toxins.  That is why it's important to make sure that we are getting enough fluids to stay well hydrated.  Breathing, digesting, sweating, and excreting all cause us to lose fluids.

If what we need is to stay well hydrated what we do not need is all of the extra chemicals that come with most packaged water drinks.  Not only that if you look at the label you will see that they are misleading you by claiming to only have a certain number of calories.  What you need to remember is to look at the label and see how many calories are in a serving and how many servings are in a bottle.  One bottle of VitaminWater has 50 calories and 13g of sugar per serving.  The label purports to contain 2.5 servings per bottle.  Most people I know drink the whole bottle; that means 125 calories and over 32g of sugar per bottle.  And those are empty calories.  Providing no nutritional value and not filling you up at all.

Let me give you a hint, there are no calories in water.  If you are looking for a little flavor in your water consider adding a slice of fresh fruit, a squeeze of citrus, a slice of cucumber, or a sprig of mint.  These all add a lot of flavor without adding sugar, calories, "natural flavors", or other chemicals.  Just drink water.  It's what your body needs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

crock pot nuts

Mixed Nuts | Melchoir | Wikimedia Commons
Previously I had posted some delicious snack mix recipes for the crock pot. I wanted to share another great use for your crock pot, seasoned nuts.  At this time of year a lot of nuts are available in the grocery store fairly inexpensively.  Making seasoned nuts is easy, tasty, and extremely versatile.  They can even make great gifts when packaged in a cute jar with a bow or fabric top.

I love nuts as a snack.  They're high in protein and although they're also high in fat unsaturated making them heart healthy. I like to use raw nuts and soak them.  They also have lots of micronutrients, different ones for different nuts.  

Soaking the nuts will help break down the enzymes that protect them from germinating too early.  Breaking down these enzymes will make the nutrients more available.  How long you soak nuts depends on what type they are.  You can use this soaking/sprouting chart that I found online as a reference.  To soak nuts I prefer to add 1 T. of an acidic medium to the soaking water, usually liquid whey left over from making homemade Greek yogurt, but in a pinch lemon juice will do.

You do need to dry the nuts after soaking before you make these recipes.  You can either use a dehydrator or cook them on low (200 F) in your oven.  When they are completely dry they are ready to eat as is or spice them up a bit.

Crock Pot Roasted Nuts

4 c. raw soaked nuts
1/2 C. melted organic butter

Cook on low for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, with the lid off
When done turn off the crock pot and let the mixture cool completely in the crock before jarring up

How you season them is up to you.  I have a couple of mixes that I like but feel free to go ahead and make up your own.

1 T. Penzey's taco seasoning + 1/2 t. hot sauce or 1 t. red pepper flakes

1 T. tamari sauce + 1/2 t. garlic powder + 1/4 t. sea salt

1 T. curry powder + 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1 T. sucanat + 2 t. ground cinnamon + 1/4 t. nutmeg

2 t. vanilla + 2 t. sucanat + 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice

Thursday, December 16, 2010

musings on a grocery cart

Shopping Carts | Dan4th
Doing my grocery shopping yesterday several things occurred to me.  I usually try not to pay too much attention to what other folks put in their grocery carts or how they shop.  Unless I'm there specifically to work with someone and help them learn how to shop healthier it's not my place to be nosy about that.  However sometimes you can't help overhearing comments, or noticing certain things.  Today was one of those days where things really stood out.

So here are those thoughts that occurred to me:

If you're willing to pay more money for organic grapes why wouldn't you buy organic raisins?  After all raisins are made from grapes.

Most folks don't know this but the reason the organic vegetables are all the way on the other side of the produce area is because there are regulations that the water from the conventional produce can't touch the organic produce.  This is to make sure that there is no cross contamination.  For those people who pick up organic produce and then change their mind when they see the price of the conventional....please don't put the organic stuff into the conventional pile.

The labels on your produce tell you if it's organic or not.  Organic produce has a five digit label starting with a 9.  Conventional produce has a four digit number.

Coupons are created to convince you to buy products.  Often they are highly processed, low nutritional value items.  Not always but usually.  Think about what you are buying and why.  If it's because you have a coupon and that's the main reason, maybe you want to reconsider.

If you or your children get hungry when you are at the grocery store don't buy a box of crackers or chips to snack on; you'll all just be cranky and your blood sugar will be going crazy by the time you get home.  Buy something with protein in it, this will help balance your blood sugar.  Consider string cheese, a healthy (i.e. not over-sugared) protein bar, a smoothie drink (again, choose low sugar), or some raw nuts.  Better yet don't go to the store hungry.

Consider the bulk bins if your grocery store has them.  As an example, at my local grocery store quinoa is cheaper in bulk than in boxes.  The same is true for many other items.

And a personal observation from making dinner...why does the package of brown rice wakame noodles say 4.5 servings per package and then when you open the package at home the noodles are in three bundles.  How does that work?

Monday, December 6, 2010

nutrition bars

Recently a package with this selection of nutrition bars arrived in my mailbox from the nice people at Kardea Nutrition. While I was under no obligation to write a review these were so good that I had to let you know about them.

These bars are truly a tasty alternative to the usual candy-bar-thinly-disguised-as-nutritious options that you find on the grocery store or health food store shelves.  These are not too sweet, which everyone in my house  liked, and they are delicious, chewy, and packed with protein.  I'd like to tell you what my favorite flavor is but then I'd have to say all of them because they were all just that good.

My husband, teen and I sat down to share the samples they sent us and we all liked them.  Honestly I don't think it's that easy to find nutrition bar that everyone can agree on (especially as teens tend to be very picky about that sort of thing).  With 7 g. of protein per serving and no junky ingredients this is a bar that is worth keeping in your purse, glove box, office desk drawer, whatever for when those snack attack moments happen.  The ingredients and nutrition panels are available online so you can see for yourself

The friendly folks at Kardea are offering not one but two! giveaways of their delicious nutrition bars.  One 10-count box and one 4-bar sample box.  There are lots of ways to win, please leave notes in the comments section so I know you've entered.  If you are already subscribed, following, etc just leave a note in the comments:

1.  subscribe to this blog
2.  follow me on twitter @grainsnmore
3.  "like" my Facebook Fanpage grainsandmore
4.  email the nice folks at
5.  follow @KardeaNutrition
6. "like" KardeaNutrition on Facebook
7.  Promote this post on Facebook or Twitter

Legal mumbo-jumbo (not very interesting but necessary):

This giveaway is meant solely to be entertainment, no express guarantees are provided here
The product is coming directly from Kardea Nutrition; Grains&More assumes no responsibility for shipping or product
Odds of winning depend on the number of entries
Any taxes, if applicable, are the responsibility of the winner
Contest open to US residents only
Grains&More did not receive any financial compensation for this offer

Saturday, December 4, 2010

recipe calendar

I'm excited beyond words.  

That image to the left?  It's a recipe recipe calendar.  Put together with the favorite, most loved recipe posts of this past year.

This is the first time I have ever set them down in glossy-print-and-photo; I'm so happy to see and hold this calendar, for me it represents another professional step forward.  

One of the neat things about it is the CD style case which presents each month upright in the holder.  On the back of each month is a recipe.  When the year is over the cards are sized to fit in a regular 4" x 6" recipe card box making them easy to keep and use year after year.

If you're looking for a great gift or stocking stuffer (for yourself or for someone else) I'd be more than thrilled if you would choose to give one of these.  Ordering is as simple as clicking on the button in the left sidebar.

Wishing you and yours a happy healthy holiday season.  Thanks for all of your support and encouragement over the last 12 months, it's been great and I look forward to the next twelve.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

winter and vitamin D

I have been getting a few emails about vitamin D;  I'm sure it's generated by all of the press about the changing recommended levels, levels of exposure and how important it is for our health.

Vitamin D, known as the "sunshine vitamin" is a fat-soluble vitamin produced in the skin by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) type B rays.  Fatty fish and eggs are a good food source of vitamin D and it is often added to milk.  I have a personal theory that part of the reason behind the epidemic of vitamin D deficiency is that our parents were forced to take cod liver oil by their parents.  They hated it so much they decided not to give it to their kids.  The science of the times did not recognize how important cod liver oil was and it was considered "old fashioned."  As a result I, and many others of my generation, grew up not taking it.  So we didn't give it to our kids.  While I'm not sure how much scientific veracity there is to that theory it certainly seems to fit the current situation.  Decreased cod liver oil consumption combined with reduced sunshine/increased sunscreen and suddenly many people, including pregnant women and their infants, are deficient.

Why all of the scientific attention to vitamin D lately?  It's very important to our health.  Not only does it help support our bone structure, it's vital to immune system health, increasing activity of our natural killer cells and macrophages.  Many studies now show that it may help protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease and there are even suggestions that vitamin D deficiency may be a contributing factor to increased influenza rates during the winter months.

One question I recently received about vitamin D:

"I was taking 400 IU but a while back started reading about re-examined attitudes toward D and upped it to 2,000 IU.  Then I thought that might be too much so I am currently taking 1,000 IU.  Your thoughts?"

Here's a little information to help you understand vitamin D better.  

I believe, and the studies support, that we do not get enough and that the levels set by the government are too low.  If you wear sunscreen you need to be aware that SPF8 and over will effectively block UV-B; this means your body cannot synthesize D from sunlight.

If you do not get enough outdoor exposure, are over 60 years of age (our ability to synthesize D decreases as we age), and/or live in northern latitudes you are probably not getting enough vitamin D.  Someone who lives in New England or further north generally does not get sufficient vitamin D during the winter months and can become deficient.  Especially if they did not have sufficient stores to begin with.

How to find out if you need more?  You need to get a blood test.  It is important to get the 1,25 OH-dihydroxy,  not the 25(OH) vitamin D to find out what your levels are.   Taking 2,000 IU per day is not an unreasonable amount especially in the winter.  

Osteomalacia (vitamin D deficiency) is often treated with 5,000-50,000 IU for three to six months.  Once a good level is reached doctors usually drop people to 1,500-2,000 per day.  Most doctors aim for at least 30-40 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter) although many Functional Medicine practitioners prefer a level of 50-60 ng/dL.  It is important to note that too much vitamin D can be just as bad for you as too little, which is why it is important to get tested and know what your levels are.

When you take vitamin D is it best to take it as vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) combined with K2 which is the most effective form.  D2 (ergocalciferol) is not as effective.  I personally prefer to take a sublingual D3/K2 liquid formulation to make sure that I am getting the best possible absorption.

The very best way to get your vitamin D?  Get sunshine.  Whenever possible get 15-20 minutes per day before you put on your sunscreen.  

Other resources which provide good information about vitamin D:

Dr. Holick's YouTube video on Vitamin D 
The Vitamin D Council

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

the deliciousness of kale

Karen Roth is a colleague of mine and very knowledgeable about health and nutrition.  She's written a guest-blog for me to share with all of you about the health benefits of one of my all-time favorite vegetables, kale.  Karen has also shared a really amazing recipe, I'm sure you're all going to love it.


I love shopping at the Farmer’s Markets this time of year. There are so many new vegetables available, many of which may intimidate most of us. In comes Kale. Looks simple, like lettuce, and it’s dark green which the brain says, “that’s got to be really good for me. But why? And how do I prepare it so that it actually tastes good?”

First for the “why.” Well, with all the toxins surrounding us, we need to support our liver’s ability to neutralize and detoxify harmful chemicals. Scientific studies have shown that sulforaphane and isothiocyanates, both sulfur compounds, can do just that. Kale is chalk full of these wonderful compounds.

Also, I can’t go without mentioning the benefits Kale can have to eye health….as I reach for my reading glasses. Note to self: buy more kale! Kale contains the most concentrated source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids protect the eyes from harmful UV light and also protect against cataracts.

So let’s “see” how we can prepare a delicious kale dish. While I can’t take credit for this recipe, I can certainly attest to the simplicity of preparation and the flavor factor that I’ve tested on many a guest.

Dark Leafy Greens with Caramelized Onions, Raisins and Pine Nuts
From One Bite at a Time by Rebecca Katz

6 cups kale, stemmed, and cut into bite-size pieces
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, cut into quarter moons (about 1 cup)
¼ tsp sea salt
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup raisins
1 TBS toasted pine nuts
Cover the kale with cold water and set aside until ready to use. In a large, deep sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to low and cook slowly until the onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, just until aromatic. Add the raisins and stir for about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of water to loosen all the flavorful bits from the bottom.
Begin adding the greens to the pan with a pinch of salt, continuing to add as many greens as will fit in the pan. The water that adheres to the greens will be enough liquid to wilt the greens. Taste the greens, add an additional tablespoon of water, if needed, cover the pan, and cook the greens until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Taste again, adding of pinch of salt or a drop or two of maple syrup, if necessary.
Arrange the greens on a plate and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. Serve hot. Don't forget to pour the cooking juices over the greens before you add the nuts—more nutrients!
Prep Time: 15 minutes · Cook Time: 15 minutes · SERVES 6
Storage: Store for two days in the fridge in an airtight container
Per Serving Calories: 109; Total Fat: 5 g (1 g saturated, 3 g monounsaturated);
Carbohydrates: 15 g; Protein: 3 g; Fiber: 2 g; Sodium: 129 mg

Karen Roth, MS, NC holds a Masters of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition and is an active member of the National Association of Nutritional Professionals, the American Holistic Health Association and the Menopause Type Network®. Offices located in both Santa Clarita and Sherman Oaks, CA. For more information visit: You can also follow her on Facebook and on Twitter

Saturday, November 27, 2010

gluten-free holiday gift giving

The holidays are approaching.  Gluten and those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease have gotten a lot of publicity lately.  There are lots of gluten-free items on the grocery store shelves, there are articles in the news, there are restaurants proclaiming that they have gluten-free items.

Apologies in advance for the advertorial nature of this post, however I've gotten quite a few questions about what to give to folks who need to switch to a gluten-free lifestyle or who know someone who has to deal with this issue.  After writing practically the same email a number of times I've realized that there are probably others out there who have the same question so I'm putting it out on the blog.

While I'm not a gift-giving expert there are a few things that come to mind; items that I think anyone following that lifestyle would be happy to have on their gift list.  I'd like to start by sharing a column that I recently wrote for the Woodlands Family Magazine about gluten-free living.  Admittedly the information is geared toward those who live in The Woodlands, but the information about gluten-free living holds true for anyone.  And many of the grocery stores and restaurants are chains so you may be able to find one near you that can accommodate your needs or the needs of your loved ones.

I do not have any affiliation with any of the products listed below, however they are linked through Amazon and I do receive a few cents if you purchase through the links I provide.

One of the best gifts that I think you can offer someone is a bread machine.  Making bread by hand is wonderful and I love doing it.  But I realize that for many folks this just does not fit into their busy modern lives.  The Breadman is a great machine and I will actually be giving this as a gift this year.  If you have more dollars to spend I have several friends who use a Zojirushi and they love it.

A great thing about a bread machine is how simple it is to use.  Put the ingredients in, push a button, walk away and a few hours later you have fresh bread.  If you are making specialty breads a bread machine is great; it will allow you to thoroughly knead the dough, then pull it out to shape, and bake in a conventional fashion.  This is wonderful for rolls, baguettes, pizza and all sorts of other wonderful treats.

There are a couple of not-to-be-missed gluten-free cookbooks:

These are cookbooks that I own, love and use a lot.  The great thing about these books is that they give you an amazing amount of great information to help you or your loved one learn what they need to know to make the transition to gluten-free living.  They very clearly explain how folks, can live happy, healthy and gluten-free.  I actually feel they're a great choice not only for those who must live gluten-free but those who want to be able to bake and cook for them.  Even if you don't have to avoid gluten, if you have someone in your life who does, these books make it easy to understand what works for that lifestyle.

There are a couple of other books on my personal wish-list that I feel are worth mentioning here:


Another nice thing to do for those on your gift list who need to be gluten-free is to consider giving a gift basket full of gluten-free goodies.  Ingredients that they need for their gluten-free life, or gluten-free mixes that can give them a boost in making delicious treats.


The ingredients that go into gluten-free baking can often be confusing for folks.  Xanthan gum, guar gum, potato or tapioca flour (not starch), nut flours, bean flours.  These are all things that you have to have in your pantry to be able to compensate for the absence of gluten in your baking.


The most important thing to remember is that living gluten-free does not mean you have to be deprived.  There are so many wonderful things that you can eat and so many delicious substitutions that it's really not deprivation, just a different way of doing things.  My friend Claire recently wrote a post about her adventures with gluten-free baking that shows how simple it can be and how delicious.

So enjoy your holidays, with or without gluten, and all that the season has to offer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

fried at the state fair of texas

Last month was the State Fair of Texas. My friend Kim, who blogs at Running Solo, ventured forth with her family to enjoy the sights, sounds, and even the smells of the Fair.  She kindly reported back on the gustatory adventures they experienced:

Healthy eaters are faced with unhealthy choices every time we venture outside our homes for food. This may be why many of us prepare our own meals so often. It is simple to visit the green grocer and read labels in order to acquire the staples we use to prepare our healthy meals. Even so, problems still exist, such as pesticides and additives that we cannot pronounce. The bigger problem occurs when we eat at our favorite restaurants or go to fairs, festivals, or other public events. Unhealthy levels of fat, sodium, and sugar, not to mention calories, are injected, applied, and introduced to improve taste, to entice people to eat more, and thereby to increase revenue. Even the “healthy” choices, self-labeled by the restaurants and fast food joints and then rubber stamped by some official government agency, are rife with unsavory elements that we choose not to consume.

I do my best to select healthy foods when I eat out at restaurants. Usually I do fairly well. I am weak on occasion. However, those weaknesses result from my choice and not by a lack of choices.
My recent trip to the State Fair of Texas, conversely, was a perfect example of a lack of choices hampered by the need for convenience.

The first thing I had to overcome was the onslaught to my senses.

My food mood was enforced early, within minutes of getting out my car, with a multitude of smells, sights, and choices. The heavy, pervasive aroma in the air, a swill of overused cooking fat and cooked sugar, immediately engulfed me. For a relatively healthy eater like me, it bordered on repulsive. But, over the span of a few minutes, my nose became accustomed to the smell and, to my surprise, my stomach started to growl and grumble.

Once inside the fairgrounds, the signs on every booth conspicuously contained the one word for which this fair is renowned: fried. Everything from guacamole, Frito Pie (the recipe which won 2010 Best Tasting award), butter, margarita, okra, potatoes and all food groups in between. It was difficult for me to imagine what fried margarita might taste like, let alone how it is made.

We walked deeper into the fairgrounds. While my son scoped out the arcade games, I surveyed what people were eating. They were proudly sporting foods of convenience, and none of it was fried, but no less unhealthy. A dazzling array of fatty foods on a stick meandered past: turkey legs, corn dogs, cotton candy, sausage with globs of yellow mustard, candy apples.  The turkey leg caught my eye for two reasons: not fried and low fat. But, along with every good choice comes a tradeoff. The tradeoff for low fat was high sodium. The Livestrong website states that the total fat for a smoked turkey leg is 4 grams and the protein is 11 grams. However, the sodium is a whopping 570 mg for 80 calories worth of food!

Before the turkey leg I decided to try the Fried Beer, which won the 2010 Most Creative award. So, my son and I ventured back to the front of the fairgrounds and into the food pavilion. We made several passes by the rows of tables to see what people were eating. It was lunch time; conventional food on a stick, eaten solely for convenience, had given way to sit down meals of larger proportions. And most of it was fried.  And yet, much of it was not. Pizzas were in abundance, and not just for the children. Another choice that astounded me was salad, mainly the Greek salad. While I understand the choice of pizza for those non- adventurous eaters, the Greek salad option befuddled me. One of the reasons I even venture to a fair like this is to eat food I normally do not consider. Were they eating salad for that same reason or were they healthy eaters, like myself, trying to maintain their diet?

We found the only stand serving Fried Beer and got in the short line. The length of the line should have triggered some trepidation. When the dish finally came, colorfully masqueraded in a red-checkered container, it looked nothing like what I imagined. The pieces resembled miniature ravioli smothered in a gruel-like queso. They were less like pizza dough, more like pretzel dough, which made more sense considering the queso substance they floated in. The beer that squirted from the center upon being bitten was flat and lukewarm, like it had been sitting out in the sun too long on a hot day, and made a small brown stream as it wound its way through the yellow cheese.  Basically this was a recipe for loss of appetite. I wish I had gone for the Fried Frito Pie. Next year I will do my research ahead of time.

We headed out of the pavilion and over to the BMX exhibition. My son found his perfect spot and wanted to wait another hour so that no one would take it. Of course, knowing I would be bored out of my mind, I went to find my turkey leg. On the way, though, I came across a lady eating what looked like something sweet and gooey dipped in chocolate. It was a chocolate-dipped Turtle Cheesecake. Yummy. I love cheesecake. I had just found my dessert.

But first for my turkey leg; stalls selling turkey legs were in abundance. With my grand smoked turkey leg in my hand, I made my way back to the exhibition. On the way back I noticed some wire baskets filled with fresh fruit hanging from the awning of one of the vendors. Could it be? Was someone really offering truly healthy choices at this decadent, fat and fried fair?
No, of course not. The fruit was plastic. Can you say bait and switch? However, that same vendor was selling what was called a Fruit Cup. I did not stop to see what it looked like, instead I assumed that is was something like fruit cocktail-in-a-can that you might buy at the local grocery store, loaded with sugar and preservatives.

Sitting with my son, I gnawed, chewed, and picked at my turkey leg. I saw people with funnel cakes and hamburgers, French fries and snow cones. If they were not consuming fatty foods, they were downing sodium and sugar in abundance.  In my head, the calorie counter was going berserk.  I noticed two school age girls sit down near me happily munching on their burgers. They told me that at school and at home they eat only vegetables. This was their chance to break free and eat something “forbidden”. A few minutes later their parents showed up, apparently unfazed by their food choice.  A couple on the other side of me was eating fried guacamole. I asked how it tasted. The woman scrunched up her nose and said it was OK but not what she wanted or expected. Her date offered me his leftovers. Turkey leg still in hand, I politely declined.

Toward the end of the day, I became queasy. I blamed it on the beer(s), but wondered if it was not more a result of eating food I am not used to. Or, it could be from the combination of foods that I ate. Did other fair-goers experience the same thing? It appeared to me that, based on my observation of body mass alone, many people who frequent state fairs do not pay much attention to diet. Fried, salty, and sugary food are staples and the food here at the fair represents an exotic variation of what they already consume on a daily basis.

I understand that the types of food served at fairs and festivals are not meant to be healthy, but rather tasty and convenient for wandering around. Consumed in moderation, these foods can be liberating for those of us who keep our diets constantly in check. But, beware, over-indulgence can wreak havoc.  My nausea lasted most of the rest of the day and I gained over 3.5 pounds. I think I will keep my attendance at fairs to a minimum. I feel too good when I am eating the right foods. Or, at the very least, maybe next time I will smuggle in an apple.

© Kimberly Bluth 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

energy bars

Energy bars are a great snack to have in your pantry.  They are handy and healthy for after school, wonderful if you need a little something in the afternoon to tide you over until dinner, great for after a workout, and easily portable for on the road.  Unfortunately many of the commercial bars are loaded with chemicals and preservatives (which should be avoided as much as possible).

You can bypass the chemicals and preservatives in commercial energy bars if you make them yourself.  My favorite way to do this is to start with a batch of my own Great Granola.  It's easy to make in your slow cooker, delicious, healthy, and very reasonably priced.  The overall cost of these homemade energy bars is typically less than purchasing them in the store.

To boost the nutrition of my energy bars I add sesame seeds, which are high in copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.  They also add fiber and a great nutty flavor.  Another addition is almond butter.  Almonds are an alkalizing nut with heart healthy monounsaturated fat.  Studies have shown they can limit the rise in blood sugar which normally happens after you eat; they also provide antioxidants.  Almond butter can be purchased in a number of grocery stores from the grind-your-own machine, you can make it very easily in a food processor, or you can purchase commercial varieties.  If you purchase commercial almond butter look for one with no added oil, sugar, or preservatives.

After making the bars I wrap them individually in wax paper and store them in an airtight container.  They keep well although given their popularity I have yet to figure out exactly how long they will last.

Great Granola Energy Bars
makes 16

3 C. granola
3/4 C. sesame seeds
1 C. almond butter
1/2 C. raw honey

Toast sesame seeds lightly in a pan until golden
In a double boiler combine almond butter and honey
Stir together as it begins to soften and melt
When very warm and liquid add in sesame seeds
In a large bowl thoroughly combine granola and honey, almond butter, sesame seeds
Oil a baking pan (I use either grapeseed or walnut oil)
Pour mixture onto pan
Lightly oil your hands and press mixture onto the pan
Allow mixture to cool completely before cutting into bars

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

organic beef giveaway winner

Rocky Mountain Organic Meats - Heartland WY

We have a winner!!!  Robert L. was chosen via the Truly Random Number Generator!  We're looking forward to seeing what he does with his delicious prize!  Thanks to all of those who participated.  Remember, if you eat beef, organic and grass-fed is the way to go....just ask my friendRod at Rocky Mountain Organic Meats.

Monday, October 18, 2010

what kind of oats?

Oats | kateshortforbob | Wikimedia Commons
Bob wrote in and asked "I have heard that not all oatmeal has the same nutritional value, and I'm confused. There are so many types of oatmeal, steel-cut, instant, etc, etc. What is the most nutritious type?"

This comes up a lot. We're told that oats are really good for us, they are, and that we should eat more of them for reducing cholesterol, to help reduce cardiovascular disease and to stabilize blood sugar. Oats are a wonderful food. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is easily digested and helps the body by slowing down how quickly it can process simple starches and sugars. Soluble fiber also breaks down within the digestive tract, binding with cholesterol and thereby escorting it out of the body. Insoluble fiber cannot be digested and helps to create bulkier stools which move through the system more quickly. They also help mitigate certain bile acids.

More than just fiber, oats also provide manganese, selenium, tryptophan, phosphorus, and magnesium. They even provide a modest amount of protein (6 g per cup).

Quick or instant oatmeal is not as good a choice since it is broken down; your body can get through it too quickly. It's also it's more highly processed and the more processed a food is is the less nutritious it typically is. Oat groats and steel cut oats are generally considered to be the best. The groats are the whole grain, containing all of the fiber, bran and the beneficial germ. Old fashioned or rolled oats are also very good although they don't have all of the bran since some of that is removed during the rolling, or flaking, process.  I keep all three, oat groats, steel cut oats, and thick rolled oats, in my pantry all the time.  They're very versatile and are great for a wide range of recipes.

One cup of oats per day is considered to be very beneficial, especially if you have high cholesterol or are looking for foods to help stabilize blood sugar. Making it with milk will add more protein and some calcium. Adding fresh ground flax seeds, about one tablespoon, will further increase the fiber content and add a healthy omega 3 boost. Adding fresh berries, my favorite is blueberries is great, a dash of cinnamon on top and you've got a really great meal to get you going in the morning.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

green tomato chutney

Green Tomatoes | Medved' | Wikimedia Commons
QuantumVegan just harvested about fifty pounds of tomatoes.  That's a LOT of tomatoes.

When we lived in Vermont that kind of a harvest was sure to mean we were getting green tomatoes.  The growing season is so short there tomatoes don't always have time to ripen.  So you come up with lots of good ways to use green tomatoes.  There's green tomato pie, green tomato salsa, the ubiquitous fried green tomatoes and more.

Luckily green tomatoes have lots of nutrition, as I posted before, including lycopene.  If you're getting close to the end of your growing season and you're looking at a large crop of green tomatoes, here's my favorite way to use them up; green tomato chutney.  It goes very well with cheese and crackers, it is excellent with cold roast meats, delicious as a side to a spicy vegetarian lentil dish, it's very versatile condiment to have in your pantry.

This recipe is based on one from Fancy Pantry which appears to be out of print.   find it to be a good book with lots of wonderful recipes and well worth having.  But in the meantime here's my version:

Green Tomato Chutney

4 pounds green tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
4 pounds green apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 C. yellow onions, minced
2 C. raisins
3 cloves garlic minced
3 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 1/2  C. raw apple cider vinegar
3 T. minced fresh ginger
2 T. mustard seed
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. red pepper flakes

In a large stock pot mix together tomatoes, apples, onions, raisins, garlic, cane juice crystals, salt, and vinegar.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
Continue to boil for approximately 30 minutes continuing to stir frequently.  The fruits will begin to soften and meld together.
Add the spices.
Boil for another 10-15 minutes until you reach the consistency you want.
Ladle into hot sterile jars and seal according to directions.
Bath for 10 minutes remove and let cool.

This recipe needs to settle to allow all of the flavors to come together.  Let it sit in a cool dark space for at least a month before opening.

Makes about 6 pints.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

baking with kids

ready, set, bake

Baking is wonderful and something I love to do.  Even more fun is to bake with kids.  They're so excited and fascinated by the process.  Learning their way around the ingredients, how to measure, the wet and dry combining process; it's a fun edible science and math experiment in the kitchen.

This is one of my baking buddies, Miss A.  She came over the other day with her brother, Mr. C.   I had promised them that the next time they came over we would make cookies so that was our plan.

As it turns out Mr. C's idea of making cookies was to allow his sister and I to do all the baking while he played the part of Official Cookie Tester.  And, might I add, he was rather impatient for those cookies to be done.

Miss A and I got down to business, put on our aprons and got out my "Famous Chocolate Chip Oaties" recipe.  Mr. C. wanted to know why they were famous, had they been on t.v.?  Did someone famous invent them?  I told him that it was a recipe I had created and I simply call them Famous because everyone who eats them really likes them and wants more.  Needless to say he was less than impressed and informed me that unless they've been on t.v. they can't be famous.  Maybe I should send a box to Ellen?

One of the things I love about baking with kids is how curious they are.  Miss A wanted to taste everything.  Of course we decided that the chocolate chips were pretty tasty.  Surprisingly she liked the oatmeal, even raw, and requested a large spoonful of her own to nibble on.  We had two kinds of sugar and she tasted both of them.  Then we got to the baking soda.  Miss A asked if she could taste it.  I was a little surprised and said, "I'm not sure you want to do that."
"Why?" she asked.
"Well," I replied "it's a little bitter tasting and I'm not sure you're going to like it."
"But I want to taste everything." she said.
So I let her taste it.
Her face scrunched up a little and she said, "It's not really bitter but I don't like it."
"Want some chocolate chips to wash that down?" I asked.
Of course the answer was yes.

We wound up making two batches of cookies the regular variety and the peanut butter variety.  The recipe is below and we're sure you're going to enjoy it, just like we did.

Famous Chocolate Chip Oaties

1/2 C butter
1 C evaporated cane juice crystals
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1 C + 2 T white whole wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 C chocolate chips
1 C rolled oats

Preheat oven to 375
Blend together butter and sugar until creamy
Add egg and blend well
Add vanilla and blend well
Mix together flour, salt and baking soda and sift into butter mixture
Blend in chocolate chips
Blend in oats

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet
Bake 10 minutes
Let sit on baking sheet 2 minutes
Move to rack to finish cooling

For the Peanut Butter variety:
Substitute sucanat for the evaporated cane juice crystals
Add 1/2 C chunky peanut butter

Saturday, October 9, 2010

organic beef giveaway

Rocky Mountain Organic Meats
When I teach classes helping folks learn how to make good healthy choices for their diet, organic is at the top of the list.  While I certainly understand that many of us cannot afford to eat 100% organic (I know I can't) there are ways to make sure that you are making the best possible choices.  Organic dairy and organic meat are at the very top of my list.

Organic standards are defined by the USDA and require certification to ensure that producers are meeting the standards set forth in the National Organic Program.  Organically raised animals are not given any hormones, antibiotics, medications to encourage growth, or genetically modified feed.  They are also allowed access to the outdoors on pesticide free grasslands and not placed into Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO).

When it comes to dairy and beef products grass-fed is the best.  Why?  The biggest reason is that cows are not meant to eat corn.  They are ruminant animals and will be healthier if they are allowed to graze.  Their healthier lives in turn create a healthier product.  Beef from grass-fed cows has been scientifically proven to be better for you.  A study published in the April 2010 Nutrition Journal shared the results of three decades of research comparing grain-fed and grass-fed cattle.  The grass-fed cattle produced beef that was higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids, higher vitamin A content and lower overall fat.     Grain-fed beef tended to have higher cholesterol elevating myristic and palmitic fatty acids.  Clearly, if you are going to eat beef you want the organic, grass-fed variety.

See those cows in that pretty picture up there?  They live in Heart Mountain, WY where they are being watched over by my new friend Rod at Rocky Mountain Organic Meats.  He's generously offering up 10 pounds of his finest grass-fed organic ground beef, for FREE!  It's an $85 value which includes shipping; all you have to do is join in the contest.  How do you join?  It's easy:

1.  Subscribe to the email feed for this blog (if you are already subscribed say so in the comments)
2.  Become a Fan of RockyMtnCuts or GrainsAndMore on Facebook (if you already are say so in the comments)
3.  Follow Rocky Mountain Organic Meats or GrainsAndMore on Twitter (if you already do say so in the comments)
4.  Mention or link to this giveaway on your blog or twitter feed (leave a comment to let me know where)

One entry allowed per method.  That gives you seven chances to win.  Contest is open until October 25, 2010, 12:00 p.m. CST.

Winner is kindly requested to share a picture and recipe made with the prize for posting back here on the blog.

Good luck!

P.S.  Want to stay in touch with Rod?  You can sign up for his newsletter and get the latest and greatest from Rocky Mountain.

Legal mumbo-jumbo (sorry, boring but necessary):

This giveaway is strictly meant to be entertainment, no express guarantees are provided here (although I'm sure Rod wants you to be a very satisfied customer).
The product is coming directly from Rocky Mountain Organic Meats, therefore Grains&More assumes no responsibility for shipping or product.
Odds of winning depend on the number of entries.
Any taxes are the responsibility of the winner.
Grains&More did not receive any financial compensation for this offer.

Monday, October 4, 2010

blood pressure

This post is for my friend Sam who wonders what foods are good for lowering blood pressure.

Hypertension is a growing concern in this country.  Especially when coupled with the unfortunate reality of  restaurants that over-salt their food.  Not only restaurants, even at home, we are overexposed.  Most of us tend to over-salt our foods, then we become addicted to that level of salt flavor.  It can take some time to readjust our palates.  A diet high in fat, sugar and sodium, but also a high stress lifestyle can all contribute to high blood pressure.  It is important to note that if you have blood pressure problems you need to let both your doctor and any nutrition professional you are working with know what you are doing.  Herbal remedies, lifestyle changes and medication all taken together can cause a drop in blood pressure.  Hypotension, blood pressure that is too low, is just as bad for you as hypertension.  A typical adult blood pressure is considered to be 120/80.

Alfalfa is an herb with a reputation for lowering blood pressure.  Other herbs believed to be beneficial for lower blood pressure include parsley, ginger root, nettle, and sage. Often taken as an infusion or a tea these should be avoided if you are on any sort of blood thinners.

Celery is an easily available food that has been recognized in Chinese medicine as being effective for lowering blood pressure.  Studies done in Western medicine appear to confirm this benefit.  Containing both potassium and sodium celery is not only a vasorelaxant it is also a diuretic helping to relieve the body of excess fluid.

Garlic is also known to be very beneficial for reducing not only blood pressure but also cholesterol.  Fresh garlic is better as the beneficial allicin is fully available when chopped or minced.  Letting the garlic sit for 5-10 minutes after cutting allows the allicin to fully develop.  Cook garlic lightly for 10-15 minutes (in other words closer to the end of the cooking time) to get full benefit.

Hibiscus tea is known to be very effective for lower blood pressure.  The dried flowers can be purchased either through health food stores or even some larger chain grocery stores.  A double-blind study published in 2009 in the Journal of Human Hypertension concluded that non-medicated hypertensive diabetic patients had a positive outcome from drinking two cups of infused tea every day for one month.  The report further stated, "This study supports the of similar studies in which antihypertensive effects have been shown for [Hibiscus sabdariffa]."

Sam also wanted to know about salt.  Specifically the "fake" salt that many folks go on when they are told they can't have table salt anymore.

That "fake" salt is usually potassium chloride.  Because it's not sodium it's deemed to be better for you by some medical practitioners.  I will say that if you need to avoid excess sodium I think it's better to also avoid the potassium chlorides and look for other taste alternatives.  Adding herbals blends like no salt-seasoning mix is a great way to add flavor without the salt.

I also like using lemon juice on things like black beans or sweet potatoes where I might normally use salt.  The tangy flavor really adds a boost without the need for salt.

As to the difference between salts.  I prefer to use sea salt because table salt is typically highly processed, stripped of minerals, chemicals are added to prevent clumping, and then iodine is added back in.  Sea salt is simply dried and bottled.  No additives and all the minerals are still in there.  Sea salt does tend to have less iodine than table salt and iodine is important for our health.  Adding sea vegetables to your diet is a good way to make sure you are getting enough.  Kosher salt is a coarse salt named for the process by which it is created.  To my knowledge there are no additives and it is not stripped of minerals.  But the larger crystals limit some of the uses for it depending on the flavor profile of the dish you are making.

The average person should get from 1,500 to 2,300 mg of salt per day.  1 teaspoon has about 2,000 mg and it's important to remember that many foods already have sodium in them so we don't need to add much.