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