May 23, 2011

Tips to Maximize Vegetables' Nutrients

It's important to eat fruits and veggies...pretty much any way you can. However, here are some tips to get the most nutritional value out of your produce, if you can.

1. Eat Fresh-Picked (Local/Homegrown)

When buying vegetables, try not to buy them more than a few days ahead of when you're planning to serve them. In fact, freshness is so important that it's better to buy from a farmer's market where they have just been picked, than to buy organic from a grocery store.

Some vegetables, such as carrots, will be higher in nutrients when originally cut. It's that cutting into the carrot causes it trauma, which triggers the carrots to release more nutrients as a sort of protective measure, much like our adrenaline goes up if we get hurt. Until you're ready to cook or serve the vegetables, store them in the new Green Bags or Green Containers. These storage pieces keep fruit and vegetables fresh longer by trapping gasses in them and away from the foods.

  • 2. Cook Minimally (heat/water; with exceptions)
    Heat can destroy nutrients in vegetables so make sure that if you are going to cook them, you do so for only a limited amount of time and with minimal amount of water. For this reason, steaming is much better than boiling (unless making soup and will keep the water--which retains all the nutrients). Stir-frying is excellent, just don't overdo the oil. Roasting is also a good method, compared to boiling. It preserves nutrients, and only minimal amounts are lost from the high temperatures.

    The vegetables should not be soft and soggy. Their texture should be soft but still with a snap to them. Aside from potatoes, carrots, and corn, for example, most other vegetables like squash, cauliflower, broccoli, and onions, shouldn't be cooked for any more than 5 to 6 minutes. The harder vegetables take around 20 minutes on average. Make sure that you wash vegetables thoroughly in fresh cool water using a brush when needed. There are even vegetable rinses that you can buy for cleaning them

    While there are many vegetables that are most nutritious when eaten raw, there are a couple that actually gain more nutrition from being heated and/or cooked. Carrots are one such example and although the tomato is technically a fruit, it is include here and noted that cooked tomatoes are more nutritious than raw. (Green beans and celery also can be enhanced in nutritional value when cooked)

    *(I always roast a big batch of carrots to have during the week: cut into little sticks, add 1-2 T oil and minced garlic, then sprinkle with a little salt and pop in the oven on a tray for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. We prefer to eat carrots this way--and they don't make my husband's throat itch as much this way, as opposed to the raw). 

    Another tip is to add flavors to the steam water to infuse your vegetables as they cook. Ex: soy sauce or lemon juice. Or add honey to steamed/sauteed orange vegetables.

    3. To peel or not to peel? 
    When you peel the outer skins from vegetables, you are throwing away many of the nutrients the food contains. It's best to scrub the outer skin and leave it on for cooking and eating to get the most health benefits. But, obviously organic peels are much better to eat than non-organic. If you want higher nutrient content with the least amount of chemicals, opt. for organic and unpeeled.

  • 4. Healthy Combinations
    There are a couple of vegetables that when combined become a lot healthier; one example of this is broccoli and tomatoes. They taste great together and provide protection against prostate cancer. What and how you serve your vegetables is also important for nutrition and making healthy meals. Thick heavy sauces and sugars may taste good but will not be good choices. Using vegetables in salads with some flax seed, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar would be a much more healthy choice.

  • May 17, 2011

    Benefits of Chia Seeds

    1. Lose Weight Without Starving
    Hunger is a main enemy of real weight loss. The tiny, healthy seeds can be made to taste like whatever you want, and their unique gelling action keeps you feeling full for hours. When a chia seed is exposed to water, it forms a coating of gel, increasing its size and weight (similar to flax seeds). Since the gel is made of water, it has no calories. It’s also difficult to remove from the seed, meaning that it helps your body think it is full, without adding calories!

    2. Balance Blood Sugar
    Keeping balanced levels of blood sugar is important for both health and energy. Blood sugar may spike after meals, especially if you eat high-starchy foods or sweets. This can lead to ‘slumps’ in your day where you feel tired and out of energy. By balancing your blood sugar, you not only lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, but you also ensure steady, constant energy throughout your day.
    But how does the Chia Seed help with this? Both the gelling action of the seed, and its unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber combine to slow down your body’s conversion of starches into sugars. If you eat chia with a meal, it will help you turn your food into constant, steady energy rather than a series of ups and downs that wear you out.

    3. Help Prevent Diverticulitis / Diverticulosis
    With the abundance of over-processed foods and white flour on the market today, rich sources of fiber are harder to come by. These foods of convenience have contributed to the rise of diverticulitis. Irregularity is a big factor in this risky condition. To help ensure regularity, you need plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet. If you don’t want to eat celery, and whole-grain everything…or piles of bran flakes, the Chia Seed is here to help. Each seed is coated with soluble fibers which aid its gelling action. The exterior of the seed is protected by insoluble fiber. The insoluble fiber is unable to be digested (it does not contribute any calories, or break down) so instead, it helps keep food moving smoothly through the digestive process. Soluble fiber, and the gel coating of the seed keeps the colon hydrated and ensures the easy movement of food.

    4. Add Healthy Omega-3 Oil to Your Diet
    Omega-3 oil is usually thought of as “that healthy stuff in fish”(also in walnuts). But, what if you don’t want to eat fish every day? What if you’re a vegetarian, or simply worried about pollution adding harmful substances to your fish dinner?

    Chia is the richest plant-source of this healthy oil. By weight, chia contains more omega 3 than salmon, and it still tastes like whatever you want! Omega 3 oil is important in heart and cholesterol health. It’s also recently been targeted as a weight-loss helper. USA Weekend magazine also reports on a study where overweight dieters who included omega 3s in their eating plan lost 2 more pounds monthly than the control group, who did not.

    5. Feel More Energized All Day Long
    Don’t want to feel like taking an afternoon nap? Your energy levels have a lot to do with what you eat. Chia is one of nature’s highest plant-based sources of complete protein. Usually protein from items like peanut butter and some beans are incomplete, meaning you have to combine them with other foods to get the full benefit. Not Chia though (as well as quinoa), its protein is complete to raise your energy levels.

    6. Bake with Less Fat
    Do you enjoy making baked goods at home, but hate all the butter and oil that has to go into them? Chia gel (or flax seed gel—basically the seed soaked in water until the water thickens into a gel) can substitute for half the butter in most recipes! The food will bake the same and taste the same (or better) from the addition of the chia gel. All you need to do is divide the amount of butter or oil in half, and then use the same amount of chia gel to fill in. The anti-oxidants in chia can even help keep the food tasting fresh longer. Everything from cookies to cakes to muffins, pancakes and waffles can be made with chia gel as your butter replacement.

    7. Add Age-defying Anti-oxidants
    Anti-oxidants have been in the news lately due to their super healthy benefits. You know that blueberries and several exotic fruits (that aren’t always in season) have them, but did you know that chia is extremely high in anti-oxidants too? These helpful substances are what makes the Chia Seed stay fresh for so long. At room temperature, they’ll stay fresh and ready to eat for over two whole years! And that’s all without a single chemical or preservative. This amazing ability is not found in other seeds like flax or sesame, because those seeds don’t have the same rich anti-oxidant content.
    Anti-oxidants help prevent free-radical damage in your body. Free radicals lead to problematic conditions such as premature aging of the skin and inflammation of various tissues. Fight free radical damage by staying fresh and healthy with nature’s anti-oxidant powerhouse.

    8. Get So Many Essentials All in One
    Being deficient in minerals or vitamins can create a craving for food. For example, if you’re low on calcium, you may feel compelled to eat lots of cheese and ice cream. This happens because your body knows that cheese is a source of calcium, and it hasn’t been getting enough. But what if dairy and whole milk are a “Diet don’t”? You can always add calcium to your food by sprinkling on the chia. By weight, chia has more calcium than whole milk. It also has magnesium and boron, essential trace minerals used in the absorption of calcium and other vitamins. By balancing your vitamins and minerals with chia, you can curb cravings that might tempt you.

    9. You Can Pack in More Flavorful Punch
    How can a seed with NO flavor help the foods you already like to taste better?

    First, because they have no taste of their own, chia seeds will never cover up or add to the flavor of your food.

    Second, when the seeds hydrate, they magnify the taste of whatever they were added to. Put them in pudding?  Swirl them into a smoothie?  The same thing goes with dressings, dips, salsas, sauces and more. 


    Understanding Stove/OvenTemperatures

    Level Of Hotness
    Degrees Celsius
    Gas Mark

    Cool /Very Slow Cook - Good temperature for rising bread
    Cool /Very Slow Cook   - Just to Warm things Up can make 'sun-dried' tomatoes at this Temperature often marked with an S on some cookers.
    Warm/Slow Good for slow cook meals - i.e. start a casserole on the hot plate then finish at this temperature.  
    Warmish/Slow Cook
    Warm/Moderate   For Reheating casseroles pies etc - meat dishes should simmer for   ½ hour at this temperature to kill off any bacteria
    Moderate - Good for a lot of cakes
    Moderately Hot - Pizza
    Quite Hot - If in doubt use this temperature it's a good midway point for most things
    Hot - Roast Potatoes and Vegetables
    Very Hot - Baking some types of bread
    Extremely Hot - I've never cooked at this temperature.

    May 16, 2011

    Eggplant Lasagna

          1/2 t. vegetable oil
          1/2 c. chopped onion
          1 garlic clove, minced
          1/2 c. dry red wine
          1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
          1/8 t. thyme
          1/8 t. rosemary
          1/8 t. black pepper
           Dash of salt
          1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
       1 eggplant (3/4 lb.), cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices
      1/8 t. salt
      1 1/2 t. water
      1 t. vegetable oil
      1 egg white
      1/3 c. Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
      Cooking spray
    Remaining ingredients:
     1/2 c. (2 ounces) shredded mozzarella
      2 T Parmesan
      1/8 t. black pepper
      cooked lasagna noodles

    1.  To prepare sauce, heat 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic, and sauté 30 seconds. Add wine; cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and the next 5 ingredients (tomatoes through tomato sauce). Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
    2.  Preheat oven to 450°.
    3.  To prepare eggplant, arrange the slices in a single layer on paper towels. Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon salt on both sides of eggplant. Let stand 15 minutes, and pat dry. Combine water, 1 teaspoon oil, and egg white in a shallow bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place the breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl. Dip eggplant in egg white mixture, and dredge in breadcrumbs. Place breaded slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 24 minutes or until eggplant is golden and crisp, turning after 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack
    4.  Combine cheeses and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Spoon 1/4 cup sauce into bottom of an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Line some noodles over sauce. Arrange a single layer of eggplant slices over noodles; top with 1/4 cup sauce and about 3 tablespoons cheese mixture. Repeat the layers.

    I have never come across a better eggplant recipe!  I usually HATE eggplant but actually ate the eggplant plain before adding to the lasagna and it was really good!  Recipe from