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.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

shitake pinto bean burgers

photo:  Alexandra Luna

My friend Alexandra shared this fabulous recipe with me and is letting me share it with all of you.  

I love bean burgers but confess that sometimes I get tired of the same recipe over and over again.  I also usually make lentil or black bean burgers.  This recipe sparked my interest because it was a different kind of bean and the addition of shitake mushrooms.

Mushrooms can be a very wonderful food to add to your diet.  Asian cultures promote the use of mushrooms for the medicinal values, they do have healthy properties, and they are very tasty. Shitake mushrooms in particular have something called lentian in them, a substance that helps to boost the immune system, and studies indicate that it has anti-cancer properties.  Shitake mushrooms are also a good source of iron, vitamin C, and fiber as well as providing some protein.

Here's Alexandra's recipe, let us know what you paired it with.

Shitake Pinto Bean Burgers
3 1/2 cups or 1 can of pinto beans
1 cup rough chop shitake mushrooms
1 small red onion diced
1/2 cup green onions diced
3-4 cloves of crushed garlic
1/2 tsp each of cumin and corriander
Sprinkle of chipotle chili powder

Saute garlic and onions for 2-3 minutes
Add mushrooms, green onions, cumin and corriander
Cook for 2-3 minutes
While veggies are cooking, mash beans
Add veggies, chipotle chili powder, salt & pepper to beans, mix well
Shape into patties
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
Spread a bit of coconut oil on paper (helps with browning)
Place patties on cookie sheet and bake in 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, flipping after 15 minutes

These are great topped with avocado and a side of greens.