Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Broccoli Boost

 The Broccoli Boost – A Super Food For Every Body

In our home, broccoli is one of our favorite vegetables.  Even when my daughters were little, they loved broccoli.  There’s just something about those little power ‘trees’ as my girls called them.  But when former President George W. Bush made his shocking proclamation that he didn’t like broccoli and that he wasn’t about to eat any, you could almost hear parents across the country gasping. While some kids might have praised the proclamation as an excuse to justify their own broccoli beliefs, the popularity of broccoli has really never wavered. Parents still are finding ways to get broccoli on their kids’ plates by using any means possible, even by pretending they’re trees! We’re going to peek inside and see what this versatile vegetable has to offer on the nutritional level.

What’s In It for Me

Today, broccoli remains one of the best selling vegetables in America for many reasons. This low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetable has been praised for some miraculous health benefits. This list of benefits includes fighting cancer, boosting our immune systems, building stronger bones, and lowering the risk for cataracts. Broccoli earns its distinction as one of the top super foods in diets around the world.

Broccoli is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, B6, folate, potassium and manganese. We’re familiar with most of these, of course, but did you know that folate is linked to reducing birth defects and heart disease? Along with these nutrients, broccoli is also a good source of protein, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, and iron.

The words super-food and antioxidant often go together, and broccoli is no exception. Rich in antioxidants, those damaging free-radicals don’t stand a chance against broccoli. One of those antioxidants is Q10 which helps the body produce energy. Another specific component of broccoli’s superpower status involves a compound called sulforaphane which triggers potent anti-cancer enzymes. These enzymes are also effective in eliminating bacteria that can cause peptic ulcers. 

And, you don’t have to eat a lot of broccoli to get all these super nutrients. Just one cup of broccoli provides over 40 milligrams of calcium and almost 80 milligrams of vitamin C. That even beats milk as a nutritional food source. All this nutrition is available in only 25 calories, plus broccoli is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Choosing the Right Bunch

Selecting fresh broccoli isn’t difficult. Look for sturdy stalks with compact, dark green florets, and avoid wilted specimens with yellowing buds, as these stalks are already past their prime. Broccoli stores well in the refrigerator for up to three days before losing its vitamin content. In some supermarkets, you will even find hybrids like broccoflower or broccolini, which combine kale or cauliflower with broccoli. 

Trim any leaves from the stalk and trim the woody end of the stalk off the bottom. If you prefer to eat only the florets, or your recipe calls for just the florets, cut the broccoli florets off the stalk, rinse under running water, and drain. Save the stalks for another recipe if desired.

Cooking and Serving Tips

Broccoli is one of the more versatile vegetables you can eat, holding up well in a number of recipes and cooking methods. Of course, the closer you keep your broccoli to its raw state, the more nutrients you will maintain.

If you are cooking your broccoli to serve as a side dish, you should only cook it for a few moments, until the florets turn bright green. Cooking broccoli for more time than necessary causes the nutritional benefits to deteriorate. If the broccoli becomes mushy during steaming or boiling, it’s cooked too long. You may choose to flash-cook the broccoli in a microwave to keep the cooking time short and to maintain more of the nutrients. Although, the microwave debate still goes on about whether it reduces or destroys nutrients in broccoli. You decide.

Broccoli can be used in anything from stir-fry to casseroles, omelets, soups, and salads. The florets are a pretty, and nutritious, addition to many dishes. The stalks can be chopped and sauted, roasted, or cooked and pureed for a creamy broccoli soup. You’ll find thousand of recipes using broccoli once you start searching.

Of course, we can’t talk about broccoli and kids without talking about broccoli trees. My grandsons call them dinosaur trees. Raw broccoli florets look like little trees, so use this to your advantage when trying to get kids to eat their broccoli. With a bit of creamy dressing for ‘snow,’ make a little forest of broccoli trees and your kids will be tempted to gobble them up in no time.

It should also be noted that sprouts from broccoli have the same healthful benefits as the plant itself. Toss a handful of sprouts on top of a salad for a real boost of flavor and nutrients. Or, tuck a pile of broccoli sprouts into a tortilla wrap sandwich for a crunchy treat. Anywhere you want to add crunch, add broccoli sprouts.

No matter how you serve broccoli – raw, blanched, steamed as a side dish, or as an ingredient in a main dish, you can’t go wrong with this powerhouse vegetable. Besides the boost broccoli gives your immune system, and your overall health, broccoli is just plain tasty. This is one super food you don’t want to skip.

 
What is your favorite way to eat broccoli?   

 

 
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The Great Pumpkin

 

The Pumpkin Puzzle – A Super Food Getting Its Just Desserts

Pumpkin is really a wonderful food!  It’s more than that huge round orange ball we carve out every October or the pie we eat each Thanksgiving.  Thinking of pumpkin as a nutritious super food can be a bit puzzling.  After all, isn’t the image that comes to mind sweet and smooth and covered in whipped cream?  But, according to nutritionists, we should be thinking of pumpkin more often than during the annual Charlie Brown cartoon or as a delicious way to top off a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner.

Pumpkin is a vegetable, regardless of those images. In fact, pumpkin is a nutrient-rich super food that has a great number of health benefits. Let’s take a look at why pumpkin should get its just desserts… beyond desserts.

A Well-Rounded Vegetable

The list of nutrients in pumpkin is almost endless. Starting with the basic vitamins and minerals we all know, pumpkin has a healthy amount of vitamins C and E, and is a rich source of  potassium and magnesium. Pumpkin is also right up there with other super foods in the dietary fiber category.

Pumpkin also contains two lesser known elements called carotenoids, which are alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. These carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds that are specifically linked to decreasing the risk of a number of cancers, as well as lowering the risk for heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

Beta carotene is an important antioxidant. Foods rich in beta carotene, like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots, have the potential to lower cholesterol and to slow the aging process of our vital organs. Antioxidant rich foods, like pumpkin, are key to fighting the free radicals which attack our healthy cells and can cause many illnesses.

And, it’s not just the flesh, the insides, of the pumpkin that is healthy. The seeds from the pumpkin also earn their super food status. These seeds, or pepitas, are also nutrient-rich and beneficial, containing high concentrations of phosphorous, zinc, copper, selenium, and other nutrients. The seeds also have essential Omega 3 fatty acids and even the amino acid typtophan, known for its anti-depressant benefits. So, as you see, the pumpkin has a lot more to offer than you might think.

Thinking Outside the Pie Pan

Of course, pumpkin is associated first with pie. Beyond pie, many folks know about making pumpkin muffins or cake. These are great and delicious, but trying to branch out into more pumpkin dishes takes a little more imagination.

But, first to clarify; no, pumpkin does not taste like pumpkin pie. That flavor comes from the spices used in the pie, like nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. Because pumpkin basically has very little flavor of its own, it will taste like whatever you want it to taste like.

Pumpkin is truly versatile enough to go into soup, chowder, stews, casseroles, and other main dishes.  You can puree pumpkin and add to soups as a thickener and to add great fiber and nutrition. Try roasting pumpkin and mashing like you would any squash. Flavor with herbs, salt, and pepper for added taste. You can steam it, boil it, or puree it to use in a variety of other recipes, like pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. The seeds, of course, can be roasted in a number of ways, then added to cereal, trail mix, or salads. 

For a real different twist, and a very pretty presentation, scoop out the flesh from several small pumpkins, chop up and add to your choice of meat, vegetables, rice or bread cubes, and seasonings. Then stuff the pumpkin shells with the mixture and bake to make an entrée that your guests won’t soon forget.

Pumpkin has definitely earned its place among the top super foods for a healthy diet. Colorful, nutritious, delicious, and oh so versatile – all the things a super food should be!

 
Try pumpkin in your next curry.  How do you like to eat pumpkin?  Share some ideas and recipes if you like.

The Omega 3 Factor

The Omega 3 Factor – A Super Food 

We have heard many reports concerning the benefits of Omega 3’s in relation to heart health.  The discussion of the world’s healthiest foods requires some basics concerning Omega 3 fatty acids.  No diet would be complete without Omega 3 fatty acids.  These fats play a vital role in our health and development throughout our entire life. This article will take a closer look at these important nutrients and the effects they have on our body.

Wellness Starts at the Top

First, we need to take a brief look at the science of our brain. The brain is made up of about sixty percent fat.  This fat is found mainly within the membranes that surround the brain’s nerve cells. The composition and chemistry of these membranes has a direct effect on chemical reactions in the brain. These chemical reactions are the brain’s signals. Extensive studies have been conducted to analyze the Omega 3 fat influence on these brain signals.  It is believed that Omega 3 fatty acids promote better and faster transfer of signals in the brain. This is important news which means that means Omega 3 fatty acids are good for you and your brain.  

When your brain signals are working optimally, your whole body benefits. Other than brain health itself, other health benefits related to Omega 3s have been discovered.  These GOOD fats are found to inhibit cancer cell growth, reduce inflammation throughout the body, prohibit excess clotting in the blood, and reduce the risk of obesity by stimulating a hormone called leptin.  Leptin is important since it helps regulate metabolism and body weight.

While we wait for any definitive studies to prove the true power of Omega 3s in treating or improving things like mental disorders, heart disease, and cancer, many researchers still claim there are significant benefits to consuming foods that contain these vital fats.

Looking for Omega 3s

If you live in Alaska, Taiwan, or Japan you may already be eating enough foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. These populations routinely consume fish that is fatty, in a good way. Diets that contain fatty fish continue to show better results with respect to less inflammatory ailments and less obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

If you don’t live in one of these areas, you can still find plenty of the Omega 3s you need.  These fatty acids are most prevalent in seafoods, with salmon, tuna, scallops, sardines, and trout being particularly rich. Other sources of Omega 3s are algae, krill, and shrimp, as well as certain nuts and seeds, like walnuts, hemp seeds and flaxseeds (but your body must make the chains for the Omega 3’s so don’t count on seeds and nuts only for your Omega 3’s).  

Vegetables and spices like cloves, mustard seeds, cauliflower, collard greens, and cabbage are good sources for Omega 3s. Even certain berries, like strawberries and raspberries, provide at least some of the same healthy benefits.

Eating a healthy diet rich in organic green leafy vegetables, lean free range meats, seafood, as well as nuts, seeds and berries, will contribute to your overall health. This general guide just happens to include many foods that are naturally rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Eating more of these foods could be one of the simplest ways to supplement your good health!
 
The importance of Omega 3’s in your diet can’t be stressed enough.  More articles on this ‘super’ fat will be coming soon!  In the meantime, start incorporating these ‘super’ foods in your diet this week!

SALMON – Way to go!

SALMON – Way to go!.

SALMON – Way to go!

The Salmon Solution – A Super Food With All The Right Stuff

We love salmon in our family.  Ever since we moved to the Pacific Northwest over 20 years ago, we have been eating this healthy fish and loving it.  You’ve probably heard a lot of talk over the years about salmon being one of the healthiest fish to eat.  You may have even added salmon to your diet.  But, do you know why?  Here is some information as to why salmon is such a super food and what specific benefits salmon has to offer as a part of your regular diet.

Meet the Super Fish

The mighty salmon is probably one of the most widely studied fish we know. These studies often involve sustainability and contaminants comparing farmed salmon with wild caught salmon. Farmed salmon represents a large majority of available fish in the U.S.  However, these farmed salmon have been treated with antibiotics, have more fat content, and have less beneficial omega 3. For these reasons alone, wild salmon is a much healthier choice for regular consumption.  It’s the only salmon we eat.

Salmon is categorized as a ‘fatty’ fish, but don’t let that scare or confuse you.  This fat is the most powerful super food imaginable – omega 3 fatty acids.  You have probably heard a lot of about these fatty acids recently.  They are essential nutrient elements that contribute to your body’s healthy functioning, beginning right at the top with the brain, and continuing throughout the body.  And, you can get more omega 3 fatty acids in just one 4 ounce serving of salmon than you would get in several days of trying to eat other healthy foods containing some omega 3s.

With so much emphasis on the tremendous amount and availability of omega 3 fatty acids in salmon, some of the other healthy aspects have tended to be overlooked. Salmon is rich in tryptophan, the amino acid that helps the nervous system relax, rest, and even sleep. With more than 100 IU’s of vitamin D in a serving of salmon, you have one of the very best sources available. Also,  salmon is a source of selenium, which is associated with decreased risk of joint inflammation, prevention of certain types of cancer, and is known to protect against cardiovascular diseases.  Selenium and certain amino acids protect the nervous system from the effects of the aging process. It is also known to lower the risk of Parkinson and Alzheimer’s disease, and can help prevent blood clots that can contribute to stroke.

And that’s not all!  What about the protein?  Salmon, like many other fish is a great source of protein.  You also get B3 (niacin), B12, B6, phosphorus AND magnesium.  Plus, these are minimal amount either…you will get high doses of nutrients in this seriously delicious fish.

More Salmon Benefits

As you can see, salmon has a lot to offer, but along with all those vitamins, minerals, and omega 3s, salmon is also lower in cholesterol than other seafood and shellfish, like shrimp and lobster.  So, while the omega 3s are improving cardiovascular health, the salmon is not adding a lot of cholesterol to counteract all the benefits.The all-important omega 3s we’ve been talking about in salmon not only contribute to better brain function and memory, but also supports skin health, joint health, heart health, and digestive health, along with a host of other benefits.

Salmon tends to speed up the metabolism which helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body. That little four ounce serving of salmon we talked about earlier provides up to 30 grams of protein, which we know supports muscle strength. But, don’t forget about one of our most important muscles – the heart. Yes, salmon has a lot of offer every system of our body. But, how can you enjoy salmon a couple times a week without getting tired of it?

Preparing Pleasing Salmon Dishes

A broiled, baked, or grilled salmon fillet is delicious all on its own, for most fish lovers.  Simple dishes include basic lemon or tomatoe slices on top of the salmon and bake, broil or grill (my favorite!)  But for some, the unique flavor of salmon is better when fixed in slightly different dishes or with a variety of sauces.

Cooked salmon works well with a lot of flavors.  A number of different glazes and seasonings can turn each salmon experience into a unique one.  Some herbs and spices to try in your rubs or sauces include cayenne pepper, mustard, fennel, ginger, and paprika.  A classic sauce for salmon that’s worthy of your time is a maple syrup glaze. Made simply by reducing a mixture of maple syrup with various ingredients like brown sugar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and even chili powder, makes a splendidly sweet and savory glaze that compliments the salmon perfectly.

My family has a favorite recipe called:

Bourbon Basted Salmon.
For every pound and a half of salmon mix
3 TBLS of bourbon,
1/4 Cup of brown sugar,
3 TBLS of green onion, chopped,
2 TBLS soy sauce (tamari if need to be gluten free), and
2TBLS of olive oil

Place salmon, skin side down, in a shallow baking dish.  In a small bowl, combine all marinade ingredients.  Pour over salmon and marinate in refrigerator at least 1 hour.

Brush the insides of a fish grilling basket with oil.  Remove salmon from the marinade but reserve the marinade.  Place salmon in basket and close securely.  Grill salmon in basket over hot coals, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 7 minutes per side.  Baste with reserve marinade during cooking.  Serve hot or cold.  Using the grilling basket carmelizes the brown sugar and bourbon.  It gives the most delicious crust with a tender moist inside meat.

Alternately, you can cook the salmon directly on an oiled grill, or wrapped in aluminum foil, turning once, about 7 minutes per side

Creamed soups are another good option for enjoying salmon.  Much like lobster bisque, salmon bisque has a rich flavor that can be slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and definitely delicious.  Keep this bisque simple as the flavor of the salmon will carry it just fine.

Salmon that has been cooked, cooled, and tossed in a big salad with mixed greens is a great choice for folks who like a little crunch surrounding their salmon. Choose a light vinaigrette and a variety of vegetables for your salmon salads. One vegetable that is especially complimentary with salmon is cucumbers. Try making a simple flaked salmon and diced cucumber sandwich spread for something extra special.  Just mix in a bit of  mayonnaise and spread on veggies or crackers.

Smoked salmon is a favorite for holidays and buffet tables . A few pieces of smoked salmon on a hearty cracker is enough to convince most non-believers that salmon is a food to favor.  But, you can also used smoked salmon to create wonderful salads, spreads, and more.  There is really no end to the ways you can enjoy this super-food.

This popular fish lends itself to a number of different ideas and recipes, so don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors to find the ones you like best. Salmon is a super healthy food that provides countless beneficial nutrients all wrapped up in a super tasty fish.  Now you know why we LOVE it sooo much!  Bon appetit!

My Grainless Granola

My Grainless Granola.

My Grainless Granola

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Whether you eat it for breakfast, with some coconut or almond milk or as a snack, this crunchy, grainless granola will satisfy your hunger cravings anytime of the day.

The sunflower seeds are packed with nutritional benefits.  Not only do they help you feel satisfied but they are loaded with Vitamin E,  62% of daily value in 1/4 C.  Vitamin E helps with inflammation and fighting free radicals.  These powerful little seeds contain magnesium and phytosterals, which are believed to reduce blood cholesterol.  Use shelled raw sunflower seeds for optimal nutritional benefits.

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, also contain Vitamin E as well as other important minerals, especially zinc.  Add the benefit of protein and you have a well rounded seed.  Use shelled, raw pumpkins seeds in this recipe, however, there are many benefits to snacking on raw unshelled pumpkins seeds which contain higher values of Vitamin E.

Coconut and coconut oil have so many benefits it would be difficult to list them all here without leaving something out.  Look for my next post about Coconuts and Coconut Oil but suffice it to say that the mighty coconut is chock full of nutrition.  A few of the benefits, they are an excellent source of minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc, as well as, a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine.

Cheers to your health! Enjoy!

Grainless Granola

1-1/2 C raw sunflower seeds (I use all organic)

3/4 C raw pumpkin seeds

3/4 C raw unsweetened coconut flakes

1/4 C melted Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

2 Tbsp raw honey

1/2 tsp vanilla

Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.

Stir well.

Place mixed ingredients on a foil covered baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and stir well.

Bake for 5 more minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cinnamon if you like.

Cool completely (I know you’re dying to taste it but first you’ll burn yourself and second it will need the time to cool and get crunchy.)

Once cooled, ENJOY!

This can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks (if it lasts that long!)

Let me know how it turns out for you!