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Archive for the ‘Healthy’ Category

Granola

My friend served me some homemade granola that she bought at a fair when I was at her house last winter. So yummy! So I have tried to replicate it. Not exactly the same, but really good! I put it on top of ice cream, or I eat it for breakfast with a banana, or I just grab a handful (or two) when I am hungry. I bet you will do the same…

3 cups oats

1 c slivered almonds

1/4 c olive oil

2 t vanilla

1 Tt cinnamon

Pinch Kosher salt

1/8 cup xyletol ( I like things not too sweet, so this works for me; you might want to change this to 1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar)

Mix together in bowl.

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Spread on rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 325 until dry and crisp, a little over 45 minutes in my case. Let it cool and store in sealed container. I keep mine in the freezer.

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“Natural” Sugars

Sugar? No sugar? I guess you have to decide for yourself. It seems that a diet  with as little sugar as possible is best, but sometimes, we all just want something sweet and gooey and baked, right? So here is a run down of natural sugars that are “safer” to use–and I’ll let you decide!

sugar

Sugarcane Sweeteners : Sugarcane is a tropical grass that has been cultivated by humans for thousands of years. The final result depends very much on the processing steps: light and dark brown, powdered, and granulated white sugars are all highly refined, while the ones listed below are made with fewer processing steps, which benefit the environment and also means that more of the vitamins and minerals that naturally occur in sugarcane remain in the end product.

Blackstrap molasses, unlike other sugarcane sweeteners, contains lots of vitamins and minerals. “First” molasses is left over when sugarcane juice is boiled, cooled, and removed of its crystals. If this product is boiled again, the result is called second molasses. Blackstrap molasses is made from the third boiling of the sugar syrup and is the most nutritious molasses, containing substantial amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. When buying, consider choosing organic blackstrap molasses, as pesticides are more likely to be concentrated due to the production of molasses. Blackstrap molasses has a very strong flavor, so it is best to just replace a small portion of sugar with molasses.

Rapadura is probably the least refined of all sugarcane products and made simply by cooking juice that has been pressed from sugarcane until it is very concentrated, and then drying and granulating it or pouring it into a mold to dry in brick form, which is then shaved. Because the only thing that has been removed from the original sugarcane juice is the water, rapadura contains all of the vitamins and minerals that are normally found in sugarcane juice, namely iron. Rapadura replaces sugar 1:1 and adds a molasses flavor and dark color.

Sucanat is very similar to rapadura. Made by mechanically extracting sugarcane juice, which is then heated and cooled until tiny brown crystals form, itt contains less sucrose than table sugar (88 percent and 99 percent, respectively). but for cooking purposes, it replaces sugar 1:1 and is also an accepted substitute for traditional brown sugar.

Turbinado sugar is often confused with sucanat, but the two are different. After the sugarcane is pressed to extract the juice, the juice is then boiled, cooled, and allowed to crystallize into granules (like sucanat, above). Next, these granules are refined to a light tan color by washing them in a centrifuge to remove impurities and surface molasses. Turbinado is lighter in color and contains less molasses than both rapadura and sucanat. A popular brand-name of turbinado sugar is Sugar in the Raw, which can be found in most natural food stores, and even in single-serve packets at coffee shops. it also replaces sugar 1:1 and is a great substitute for brown sugar, too.

Evaporated cane juice is  a finer, lighter-colored version of turbinado sugar. Still less refined than table sugar, it also contains some trace nutrients (that regular sugar does not), including vitamin B2. It replaces sugar 1:1.

Non-Sugarcane Sweeteners Natural sweeteners are flooding the market these days. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common ones that are not made from sugarcane.

sugarcane

  • Agave nectar is produced from the juice of the core of the agave, a succulent plant native to Mexico. Far from a whole food, agave juice is extracted, filtered, heated and hydrolyzed into agave syrup. Vegans often use agave as a honey substitute, although it’s even sweeter and a little thinner than honey. It contains trace amounts of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Just be aware that the fructose content of agave syrup is much higher than that of the evil high fructose corn syrup. But it does have a low glycemic index becauf its low glucose content.
  • Brown rice syrup is made when cooked rice is cultured with enzymes, which break down the starch in the rice. The resulting liquid is cooked down to a thick syrup, which is about half as sweet as white sugar and has a mild butterscotch flavor. It is composed of about 50% complex carbohydrates, which break down more slowly in the bloodstream than simple carbohydrates, resulting in a less dramatic spike in blood glucose levels. The name “brown rice syrup” describes the color of the syrup, not the rice it’s made from, which is white. To replace one cup of sugar, use 1-1/3 cups brown rice syrup, and for each cup of rice syrup added, reduce liquid by 1/4 cup and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Brown rice syrup has the tendency to make food harder and crispier, so it’s great in crisps, granolas, and cookies. You may want to combine it with another sweetener for cakes and sweet breads.
  • Honey, made by bees from the nectar of flowers, is a ready-made sweetener that contains traces of nutrients. Cooking notes: To replace 1 cup sugar in baked goods, use about 3/4 cup of honey and lower the oven temperature 25 degrees Fahrenheit and reduce liquids by about 2 Tablespoons for each cup of honey.
  • Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees, which is collected, filtered, and boiled down to an extremely sweet syrup with a distinctive flavor. It contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals (like manganese and zinc) than honey. To replace 1 cup sugar in baking, use about 3/4 cup of maple syrup and lower the oven temperature 25 degrees Fahrenheit. For each cup of maple syrup, reduce liquids by about 2 tablespoons.

The bottom line is that sugar is sugar. And added sugar—whether it’s marketed as “natural” or not—harms your health, and adds pounds to you.  Even natural sweeteners don’r really add a significant source of vitamins or minerals to your diet. So again, use moderation when it comes to sugar.

And, just because it’s good to be reminded, let me talk about high fructose corn syrup for a minute, because it carries crazy risks:

  • While the consumption of table sugar triggers the secretion of insulin and leptin, which signal your body that you are full, HFCS does not.
  • Consumption of HFCS can elevate triglyceride levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
  • HFCS can upset the magnesium, copper, chromium, and zinc levels in the body, which could lead to deficiency diseases like bone loss.

There you have it!

Here’s a chart of how these sweeteners compare with one another and with regular table sugar:

Sweetener

Serving size

Calories

Carbs

Other nutrients of note

White (table) sugar

2 tsp

33

8 g

None—AVOID!!!

Blackstrap molasses

2 tsp

32

8 g

Manganese (18% DV), copper (14% DV), iron (13% DV), calcium (12% DV), potassium (10% DV), magnesium (7%DV), vitamin B6 (5% DV), selenium (4% DV)

Rapadura

2 tsp

30

8 g

None

Sucanat

2 tsp

30

8 g

None

Turbinado sugar

2 tsp

30

8 g

None

Evaporated cane juice

2 tsp

30

8 g

Riboflavin (3% DV), potassium (1% DV), manganese (1% DV), copper (1% DV), iron (1% DV)

Agave nectar syrup

2 tsp

40

8 g

None

Brown rice syrup

2 tsp

40

10 g

None

Honey

2 tsp

43

11 g

None

Maple syrup

2 tsp

45

9 g

Manganese (22% DV), zinc (4%

Scrumptous Tomato Soup

I was looking online for soups that freeze well as Christmas gifts, and I came across a recipe for homemade tomato soup. It was asking for lots of olive oil and butter, which I love, but too much is too much sometimes… so I revised it and tested it my way. It is absolutely delicious! Full of flavors, simple, and it freezes well! And who doesn’t need a simple soup after the holiday meals?

Scrumptuous Tomato Soup

2 cans of 14 ounces chopped tomatoes

4 T olive oil

2 medium carrots, diced

2 medium onions, diced

2 celery stalk, diced

4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat oven to 450 Fahrenheit. Drain chopped tomatoes and reserve liquid. Spread tomatoes on a cookie sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper.  Roast tomatoes until they are a bit caramelized, about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add diced carrots, onions and celery and cook until softened. Add broth and reserved tomato juice. Add chopped tomatoes when they are ready. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add chopped fresh basil. Puree in blender. Enjoy!

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Workout Shoes

 

sneakers

 

I ran my marathon on $7 shoes… but I would not advice it to anyone! And while it may not be a great idea to switch shoes just before an important race, it is important to consider replacing your shoes every so often .. and that is no fun when they are finally comfortable!  Running and walking shoes don’t last forever, and the support for your feet does wear out as your break down the cushioning with every step that you take.

Actually, as crazy as it sounds, shoes actually begin to age before you even buy them: (1) Since they are glued together, the glue is already dying out while the shoes are waiting for you on the store shelf or in the warehouse.  (2) The air pocket in the cushioning might already slowly be dissipating–why do you think that the older models are on sale? I wasn’t too happy when I figured this out since I used to always buy my workout shoes on the clearance rack! Don’t hesitate to ask the salespeople how long the shoes have been in the store.

Typical shoes die after about 350 to 500 miles, depending on a few factors, one of which is your weight—the more you weigh, the faster they wear out.  If you walk an average of 7 hours per week (one a day), then your shoes should be replaced every three months.  If you walk about 30 minutes a day, the support will last about six months—every time we change the clock!

A good way to find out if your shoes are dead is by rotating walking shoes–alternate an old and a new pair, and see if you can sense the difference between them.

You can also figure out if your shoes are dead by looking at the soles.  If the heel is worn more on one side than on the other, or the sole tread pattern is worn down, or there are winkles in the side or bottom of the sol, it’s time to go get new ones! Remember, if you wear dead shoes, your feet don’t have the support and cushioning that they need, and this can lead to painful shin splints, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome and stress fractures–yikes!

Well, wearing these too often will do that too…

red_shoes

but they are so cute! Especially with a little black dress.

Here are some tips on how to care for your workout shoes so that they have a little longer life:

~Don’t wear them all day but use them only for your exercise time—less exposure to foot moisture and bacteria!

~Air out your shoes between uses–don’t leave them in your gym bag! If you store them where they are exposed to air, they can dry out fully between uses.

~If you wear custom insoles, replace them  every time you replace your shoes. But don’t change insole as a substitute for new shoes—they do not give you the same cushioning and support as the shoe itself.

~If you wash your shoes, use gentle soap and cold water so that the glue is not destroyed. And don’t throw them in the dryer—the heat will contribute to faster breakdown of the glue.

~If you use your workout shoes more than once a day, maybe you should own a couple of pairs and get into the habit of alternate them–they’ll dry fully between uses.

 

Organic?

“Mother Earth” did not make food the way it is now. And I have become concerned about the long-term health effects of all the chemicals, hormones, pesticides and junk used in the growth of non-organic foods. And really, we should. Because there is more and more of all of these in our foods, and the results don’t seem to be too wonderful.  I am also wondering about the environmental impact of industrial farming practices that degrade soils, contaminate waterways, increase greenhouse-gas emissions, contribute to a dependency on fossil fuels, and encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

beefAnd you know what? I am no longer comfortable eating questionable foods, and I have simple questions that should not be difficult to answer: Where does my meat come from? Is it bred for best flavor or primarily for uniformity of size and color and increased yield? How is it grown? Is it part of a system that works in harmony with nature, or is it grown with synthetic chemicals and fertilizers? Is production sustainable? Do the conditions in which livestock are raised reflect a measure of respect for the animals’ natural instincts and well-being or are speed, efficiency and the profit margin the primary concerns?

So, I am thinking “organic” more and more. But I am wondering if I really know that “organic” means. Here is what I have found out:

Here is the USDA current definition of “organic”: The USDA currently defines organic this way: “Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.”

Sounds good, right? Should be healthier, right?

Well, real organic really is. A study from the University of California at Davis found that organic produce includes significantly higher levels of vitamin C and a greater variety of micro-nutrients than conventional produce. A Danish study concluded that organic milk contained significantly higher levels of vitamin E, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Other studies have shown that grass-fed animals produce meats, milk and eggs with more vitamin E, folic acid, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fat and cholesterol than corn-fed animals.

But the important question today is more: is all “organic” food truly organic?  Here’s the scoop, and it goes back to being a label reader once again.

~Food labeled “100% Organic” is entirely organic whole food or is processed from entirely organic foods.

~Food labeled “Organic” describes food that is no less than 95% organic (an organic soup, for instance, might include a small portion of non-organic ingredients).

~Food labeled “Made with Organic…” indicates that a specific organic ingredient is included in the processed food. (Tortilla chips might say “made with organic corn,” for example.) In this category, the product must contain 70% organically grown ingredients to receive the coveted USDA seal. that means that 30 5 of the food is probably not organic.

fresh-fruits-vegetables-2419

Buying 100 % organic can get pretty expensive. Here are some of my thoughts:

~Some traditionally grown foods contain more pesticide residue than others, so if you have to pick and choose, go organic on the following: spinach, pears, nectarines, peaches, apples, strawberries, raspberries and potatoes.  Produce that is typically “unwrapped” before being eaten–bananas, corn, onions, mangos, avocados–has lower levels of residual pesticide.

Foods containing higher levels of pesticides

Foods containing lower levels of pesticides

Apples Asparagus
Bell peppers Avocados
Celery Bananas
Cherries Broccoli
Grapes Cauliflower
Peaches Corn
Pears Kiwi
Potatoes Mangos
Raspberries Onions
Spinach Pineapples
Strawberries Peas

~Go local before you go organic.  You can ask the local farmers what are their practices and find those who practice healthy farming!

~Don’t be loyal to a brand and don’t be seduced by fancy packaging or well-known faces on the label, whether they’re Elmo or Paul Newman. All foods labeled “organic” in the U.S. go through the same certification process, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

~Shop in season!

~ When your favorite organic foods are out of season, buy frozen, dried or canned versions of them. Produce such as peaches, corn and berries are cheaper this way than when shipped from thousands of miles away. And though canned goods tend to get a bad rap, they’re often picked ripe from the field and packed at the peak of freshness within hours. That means they tend to keep their vitamin and antioxidant levels – and their flavor.

~ Consider becoming a member of a food co-op that includes a sizable selection of organic items. Yes, you’ll pay a fee to join, but you’ll also get to purchase groceries at a discount. Many co-ops stock goods produced by farmers in the immediate area, so you’ll be doing your part to boost the local economy.

~ If you’ve got a green thumb, consider cultivating your own herb or vegetable garden at home. No space? Even a window box filled with rich soil will provide ample room for some basil and cherry tomatoes. Or find out if there’s a protected community garden in your neighborhood where you can plant and tend a few pepper and zucchini plants. It’s a bargain, and you’ll be able to monitor exactly what goes into the soil and onto your plants. ~Consider grass-fed beef. Corn feeds conventionally raised cattle. But grass, a cow’s natural food source, contains valuable nutrients that corn lacks, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene and folic acid. Meats from grass-fed animals contain more of these nutrients, too. Grass-fed beef also includes higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fat, cholesterol and calories than grain-fed cattle. What’s more, because cattle’s complex digestive systems did not evolve to eat corn, many corn-fed cattle develop serious digestive problems and infections, which in turn require treatment with antibiotics. Grass-fed cattle also have been shown to have far fewer E-coli bacteria in their digestive systems, and those that are there are less likely to be dangerous to humans. So splurge here!

          

 

Fall Brownies

Brownies with zucchini, bananas, applesauce and chocolate chips–what’s not to like? Low on calories, and filled with a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals.

What you will need:

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (I used plain pumpkin)

2 small or medium bananas mashed

1/2 cup xyletol ( or you can use white sugar)

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups flour (I used gluten-free flour)

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups finely shredded zucchini ( I actually used yellow squash because that is what I had)

Handfull of dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce (pumpkin), mashed bananas and sugar. Add vanilla and cocoa and mix together. Add baking soda, salt, and zucchini and mix together. Add flour and walnuts and mix together. Spread evenly into a prepared pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.Bake for 25 minutes until brownies spring back when gently touched. That’s it How simple is that?

brownie

Peach Souffle

This is a pretty cool Peach Souffle. But it’s really more like a breakfast dish than a dessert in my book. Either way, it’s full of great protein, has no wheat, only stuff that’s good for you, and tastes quite delightful. Worth a try!
8 eggs, whites and yolk separated
5 peaches, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4  tablespoons xyletol–I guess you could use maple syrup as well.
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
For the topping:
1 cup slivered almonds
4 T shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 tablespoons  xyletol
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place coconut oil and peaches in a baking dish.
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Separate eggs and whip egg whites until peaks form. In another small dish, mix yolks with vanilla and xyletol. Gently fold this mixture in the egg whites once peaks form, and place over peaches. Bake for 15 minutes.
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While it’s baking, mix all topping ingredients together and gently spread over the egg mixture in over after 15 minutes. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. That’s all there is to it!
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