Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars

Guest Post by Cafe Nilson, the Virtual Chef.

We regularly have homemade granola bars at home and this recipe with the added chocolate just makes it a perfect snack on the ski slopes. Wrapped individually in plastic wrap, they are small enough to fit in the pockets of our ski jackets and a great munch on the chairlift.

I only tweaked this recipe a little bit to satisfy the non-so-sweet tooth of our household. The oatmeal crunch part of the original recipe required 2 cups of brown sugar which I replaced with 1 cup of agave nectar. I was a little worried as to how the end result will look and taste like since I am replacing the ingredient with a syrupy one. But we liked the results! For the chocolate part, I used blueberries instead of the raisins called for. On the first batch, I stuck with the original salty peanuts but on the second batch I made, I used chopped almonds. Boy, they are both good!!! Here’s the tweaked recipe:



Ingredients:
Oatmeal Crust
•2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose flour)
•1 tsp baking soda
•1 tsp salt
•1 tsp ground cinnamon
•2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
•1 cup agave nectar
•2 large eggs
•2 tsp vanilla extract
•3 cups rolled oats
•1 cup salted peanuts (or any nuts, I used chopped almonds on one batch)

Chocolate Layer
•2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
•2 tbs unsalted butter
•1/2 cup heavy cream
•1/4 tsp salt
•1 tsp vanilla extract
•1 cup dried blueberries
•1 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts (or any nuts)


Directions:
1. For oatmeal crust, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

2. In an electric mixer, beat softened butter on medium until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and continue beating. Add vanilla and agave nectar, reduce speed to low and beat until combined. Carefully add dry ingredients and beat for 1 minute. Using a spatula, add the oats and nuts. Set aside 2 cups of the batter.

3. Evenly press the remaining batter/dough on a baking pan. Set aside while you prepare the chocolate layer.

4. For the chocolate layer, melt the chocolate chips, butter and salt in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Add cream and stir until melted. Remove from pan and stir in vanilla, blueberries and nuts.

5. Pour the chocolate mixture over the oatmeal crust. The scatter the remaining 2 cups of oatmeal mixture over the top.

6. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool for at least 2 hours.

7. Turn right side up onto a rack then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting.
 
Notes: This recipe should make 32 rectangles. Mine made more since I cut them so small (about an 1 1/2 inch by 1 inch).
 
Original post: http://www.cafenilson.com/2010/01/chocolate-oatmeal-almost-candy-bars/

Chicken `a la Senorita

Another one of my favorite cookbooks is The Everything Cookbook by Betty Wason, copyright 1970. Betty was an American author and broadcast journalist; a pioneer of female journalism in the United States.She worked for and with Edward R. Murrow during World War II, though she and a handful of other journalists were never included in the famed group of Murrow's Boys. She wrote numerous books on food and cooking from the 1940s through 1981.

The below recipe is unique and has a quick, easy, wonderful sauce that will have everyone guessing. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
1 - 2 1/2-pound chicken, cut up
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 8-ounce can minced clams
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 soup can water

Directions:
Shake chicken pieces in bag with flour and salt; brown in olive oil until crisp on all sides.  Add onion; cook until golden and soft.  Add remaining ingredients; cover.  Simmer gently until chicken is very tender -- about 20 minutes.  Makes 4 or 5 servings.

Suggested Go-Withs:  Rice, spinach, green salad with blue cheese dressing; for dessert, fruit compote.

Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Wason

Adirondack Flapjacks - Circa 1950's

While digging through my mom's old recipe card file I found this handwritten classic, and simple, flapjack recipe. Don't forget the hot maple syrup and whipping cream on top!


Ingredients:
4 eggs
2 Tablespons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder


Directions:
Beat egg whites and yolks separately then beat together egg yolks, sugar, salt, milk, butter, flour & baking powder. Add egg whites last. Pour out individual flapjacks on a hot griddle. Serve with melted butter, and hot maple syrup which has been boiled until thick. Top with whipped cream.

Recipe from my mom, Sally's, handwritten index cards of recipes ~ approx. timeframe 1950's.

I love you Betty Crocker!

When I learned how to cook, the Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book was my best friend. My mother had purchased it in 1951 when she was a young wife. I still have the book; however it has definitely seen better days. This little piece of history has had the cover taped over and over again but I cannot rid myself of it as the worn pages remind me of cherished times. The book is bursting full of how-to's, recipes and lots of nostalgia so it will continue to reside with me as long as I have more tape to apply.



I fondly recall my ooo's and aaah's as I flipped from page to page especially enjoying the color pictures of baked goods. Learning to measure correctly and follow directions was sometimes frustrating; however the end result was always worth the effort. These are treasured childhood memories which I hold onto dearly.

When I got married in 1984 I was given the "new" Betty Crocker Cookbook and was so excited until I looked inside. The recipes had been changed so much that I barely recognized my old friend. The main difference was the fact that many of the recipes used boxed and processed ingredients like cake mixes, cans of soups and such.


Sometimes changing and improving things is really great; however I'm a firm believer in knowing how to actually cook....don't get me wrong - I've whipped up plenty of recipes using Cream of Mushroom soup; but I'm a good cook because I also know how to follow a recipe and make a homemade mushroom sauce.

I'll be sharing some recipes from my mom's old classic recipe books in the next few days, as well as her handwritten cards which were found in a little metal box (remember, recipe card boxes?).

Betty Crocker, I love you!

New Applesauce Cake

First, make thick unsweetened applesauce (below). Then prepare 13" x 9"oblong pan with grease and flour.

Sift together
2 3/4 cups sifted Softasilk or 2 1/2 cups sifted Gold Medal flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice

Add
1/2 cup soft shortening
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup walnuts, cut-up
1 cup raisins, cut-up
Beat 2 minutes

Add
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 very large egg (1/3 cup)

Temperature: 350 degrees F (moderate oven)
Time: Bake oblong cake 45 to 50 minutes.

To make 1 1/2 cups applesauce: wash, quarter, and core 6 to 8 tart apples. Add 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook to a mush, stirring occasionally. Press through a siever or food mill.

Handwritten notes by my mom: Very tasty! Substituted 1 3/4 tsp. apple pie spice for cinnamon/cloves/allspice. Sprinkled powdered sugar on top.

Unite for Haiti


How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
~Anne Frank

My heart sits heavily within my chest as I sit here writing about the tumultuous happenings in Haiti. By now, I'm sure that each of you reading this knows about the earthquake, the deaths and destruction of this small country so I won't bore you by rehashing all of the sorted details of the event.

Long before the earthquake, Haiti was an impoverished country, one of the world's poorest and least developed. Half of the children in Haiti are unvaccinated and just 40% of the population has access to basic health care. Even before the 2010 earthquake, nearly half the causes of deaths have been attributed to HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, meningitis and diarrheal diseases, including cholera and typhoid, according to the World Health Organization. Approximately 5% of Haiti's adult population is infected with HIV and cases of tuberculosis in Haiti are more than ten times as high as those in other Latin American countries. Some 30,000 people in Haiti suffer each year from malaria. Having a government of dictatorship certainly hasn't helped their plight either.

You may assume that my heavy heart is due to Haiti and yes, you would be partially correct. It is truly heartwarming to see so many from around the globe come together to assist during this tragedy; however why must it take such a tragedy for us to love one another and work together?

I recall after 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina how people unselfishly helped each other, were friendly and went above and beyond what they normally do; however over time many slipped right back into their daily lives of judgment, hatred and selfishness. Here we are again, this time assisting Haiti during tragedy. I assume that after time has passed that the general population will just recall Haiti as a distant memory. Society will get back to their daily lives and forget about the impoverished of the world. Will you continue assisting those in need even after this event has become a memory?

My hope for the future is that the tragedy of Haiti has opened eyes around the globe as to their life of destitution and that we as a society can assist them in not only rebuilding their land, but in rebuilding a stronger society...if they so wish.

In a perfect world we would all work together each day to make the world a better place. There would be global acceptance of each of us; no matter our skin color, language, politics or faith. I'm keeping hope for a perfect world and will continue to make donations and volunteer time to help others and not just wait for another tragic event to happen...how about you?

If you would like to assist the relief effort in Haiti please follow the link below to find an organization which you would like to help:

http://wamu.org/calendar/community_minute/haiti_earthquake_disaster_relief.php

A Versatile Vegetable - The Sweet Potato

The house smelled of the delicious Pork Roast which had been cooking in my crockpot all day. I racked my brain for a perfect side dish, however nothing came to mind so I found myself searching through the deep dark shelves of my pantry for the perfect complimentary side dish. I happened upon two large sweet potatoes; they were just laying there waiting to be whipped into perfection. After a quick peeling I cut them into chunks, threw in the microwave and then mashed and whipped them in the Mix Master with some Splenda, olive oil and milk...the result was a fabulous side dish that was fluffy, flavorful and easy! These heavenly whipped potatoes made an otherwise good meal into a special meal. I love these vibrant orange veggies even though I didn't really embrace them until the age of 30.

I briefly discussed the health benefits of incorporating Sweet Potatoes into your life last month; however felt the need to extrapolate on how fabulous they are. Sweet Potatoes regularly end up on the top "Super Foods to Eat" list because they are a nutrional all-star. "Super foods" are foods which have a significantly higher nutritional value than most others. Sweet Potatoes are one of the best vegetables you can eat as they are loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in your body and switches on DNA that's in charge of producing new skin cells and shedding old ones. Besides all the health benefits they are also reasonably priced, easy to work with for beginning cooks and extremely versatile.

Sweet potatoes can easily become part of your diet by simply replacing some of your regular potato intake with them. In fact, you may find sweet potatoes so delicious that they become your potato of choice. If you can't find, or simply don't want, fresh sweet potatoes then the canned variety are available all year at your grocery store (search the bottom shelf).

I've included some Sweet Potato recipes below, which just prove how versatile they are. Just remember to have fun and experiment!



Southwest Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Prep: 10 min., Cook: 20 min.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:
5 to 6 medium-size Sweet Potatoes (about 3 1/2 pounds)
1 cup Low-Fat Sour Cream
1/2 cup unsweetened Butter, softened
1 (4-ounce) can Chopped Green Chiles
3/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Pepper
Garnish: Fresh JalapeƱo Slices

Directions:
Peel potatoes; cut into 1-inch pieces; Bring potatoes and cold water to cover to a boil in a large saucepan, and boil 12 minutes or until tender; Drain and return potatoes to pan. Add sour cream and next 4 ingredients. Mash with a potato masher or fork until smooth. Garnish, if desired. Serve warm.

Note: To make ahead, place prepared Southwest Mashed Sweet Potatoes in a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish; cover and chill up to 2 days. When ready to serve, let stand at room temperature 45 minutes; top with 1 tablespoon cut up butter, and bake, uncovered, at 350° for 35 minutes or until thoroughly heated.


Sweet Potato Fries
Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 35 min
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients:
2 pounds Sweet Potatoes
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tablespoon Chili Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside.

Use peeler to peel sweet potatoes. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise then cut into 1/2-inch thick fries.

Place sweet potato fries in a large mixing bowl. Add oil and spices. Toss until they are thoroughly coated with spices.

Spread fries in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Place in preheated oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes turning once to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and serve hot.



Sweet Potato Biscuits
Prep Time: 5 min  Cook Time: 15 min
Serves: 15 to 18 biscuits

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 heaping tablespoons sugar or Splenda
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened unsweetened butter
2 to 4 tablespoons nonfat milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate, large bowl, mix the sweet potatoes and butter. Add the flour mixture to the potato mixture and mix to make a soft dough. Then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and toss lightly until the outside of the dough looks smooth. (Note: Don't overwork the dough!) Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits on a greased pan and coat tops with melted butter. Bake for about 15 minutes. (Watch your oven: If the biscuits are browning too fast, lower the temperature.)


Lime Sweet Potatoes
Yield: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
3 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Lime rind

Directions:
Combine potatoes and olive oil, and spread in an aluminum foil-lined jellyroll pan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Combine honey, lime juice, and lime rind. Pour over potatoes; gently toss. Bake 30 to 40 more minutes or until potatoes are tender. Serve warm.



Sweet Potato Pecan Bundt Cake

This sweet potato recipe is a snap to prepare with a cake mix and mashed sweet potatoes. Drain and mash canned sweet potatoes to make this cake even easier.

Ingredients:
•1 cup mashed Sweet Potatoes
•1/2 cup nonfat Milk
•3 large Eggs
•1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
•1 1/2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon
•1/2 teaspoon ground Ginger
•1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
•1 package (18.25 ounces) Butter Pecan Cake Mix with pudding in the mix
•1 cup chopped Pecans

Preparation:
Spray Pam© cooking spray and dust with flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan. Heat oven to 325°.

In a large mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat together the sweet potatoes, milk, oil, eggs, and spices. Slowly beat in the cake mix. Beat on high for about 2 minutes. Beat in nuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched with a finger.

Cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Invert onto a cake plate to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar or make a Caramel Glaze and spoon over the cooled cake.

Recipes adapted from Southern Living, About.com & The Food Network

Grilled BLT Panini

Flour tortillas are spread with ranch dressing and filled with cooked bacon, sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and Gruyere cheese, then grilled.  I'm going to make some of these up for our little Super Bowl party next month. The George Foreman Grill© will definitley come in handy for these delightful snacks.


Ingredients:

16 slices (applewood smoked) bacon
4 large flour tortillas
1/2 cup ranch dressing
2 large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
4 oz Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded lettuce
2 Tbsp finely chopped purple (or red) onion
1/2 tsp each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Place bacon slices in large skillet over medium heat and cook gently until golden and crisp. Remove crisped bacon from skillet and place on paper towels and lightly blot to absorb excess grease. Place tortillas on work surface and spread Ranch dressing in center of each tortilla. Place 4 bacon slices on the side of each tortilla. Top with tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and onion and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold to form a wrap; cook seam side down on medium-high grill for 2 1/2 minutes, turn and continue grilling for another two minutes (or place in your Panini maker or Foreman-type grill). Serve immediately.  Number of Servings: 4

Recipe adapted from BetterRecipes.com

George Foreman GRP90WGR Next Grilleration Removable-Plate Grill with 5 Plates, Red

Cuisinart GR-1 Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press

The Last Hurrah: the Ultimate Super Bowl Party Planner

Gorgeous Veggie Burgers


Sometimes you just gotta have a burger; however don't want all the fat and calories. This beautiful burger is easy to make, delicious and nutritious.  Enjoy!

Makes: 4 burgers
Prep: 15 minutes - Grill: 8 minutes

Ingredients
1 10-ounce package frozen soy burgers
3 tablespoons canned vegetable broth
1 8-ounce can pineapple slices (juice pack)
1/2 of a medium red onion, sliced
4 whole wheat hamburger buns, split
4 slices fat-free process or reduced-fat Swiss cheese (4 ounces)
4 tablespoons bottled fat-free thousand island salad dressing
4 leaves leaf lettuce

Directions:
For a charcoal grill, grill burgers on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 8 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling and brushing with vegetable broth several times. Add pineapple and onion slices to grill for the last 3 minutes of grilling time, turning once halfway through grilling. Add bun, split side down, to grill for the last 1 minute of grilling time. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place patties on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Serve burgers on grilled buns, topped with pineapple, onion, cheese, salad dressing, and lettuce.

Nutrition per burger:
Calories 339
Total Fat (g) 5
Saturated Fat (g) .6
Monounsaturated Fat (g) 1
Polyunsaturated Fat (g) 1
Sodium (mg) 889
Carbohydrate (g) 56
Total Sugar (g) 18
Fiber (g) 8
Protein (g) 21
Vitamin C (DV%) 13
Calcium (DV%) 26
Iron (DV%) 20
Original recipe from: http://my.hearthealthyonline.com

Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

I awoke to the lovely sound of rain pounding on the roof this morning.  Once my eyes finally made their way to the open position it appeared that it was still dark outside, not from the time on the clock, but by the dark thick clouds which loomed overhead. After coaxing the puppies to go outside (okay, I had to actually get bundled up and walk out in the drenching rain with them to assure them that they wouldn't melt if they got wet!) I sat at my laptop with a steaming cup of coffee. It immediately hit me that we needed a crockpot recipe for dinner...something to warm the insides, was easy (I'm all about easy!) and not expensive (I'm all about inexpensive!) so here we go...Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup.  The original recipe called for making your own tortilla chips which seemed overkill.  I will probably toss my tortilla chips into the oven on low for a few minutes before serving (okay, forget heating up the oven for that, how about just tossing in the microwave for a few seconds?).  I'll be getting this going in a few minutes after I return from the freezer to grab the frozen Costco chicken breasts (best quality, best price); hopefully I won't melt!


Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 8 Hours
Ready In: 8 Hours 30 Minutes
Servings: 8

"A quick, no-fuss version of chicken tortilla soup! All you do is put everything into the slow cooker, and turn it on. Then garnish with corn tortilla strips!"

Ingredients:
1 pound frozen chicken breasts
1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Corn tortilla chips

Directions:
1. Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.
2. Shred the chicken with a fork (can be done right in the crockpot)
3. To serve, sprinkle tortilla strips over soup.

Garnish with shredded cheese, splash of fresh lime juice, a tsp of sour cream and chopped avocados.

***A can of black beans thrown into the crockpot would also be delightful!

Recipe is adapted from original located at Allrecipes.com

A Rainbow of Color is Way to Eat Healthy

Did you know that adding color to your plate may add years to your life?

The natural pigments that make fruits and vegetables so colorful can also help protect your body from common diseases and illnesses as you age. Think color! The bright red of ripe tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, and cranberries; the brilliant orange of carrots; the vibrant green of kiwifruit and kale; and the dramatic purple of Concord grapes.

Scientists in labs across the country have made astounding discoveries about the health benefits of highly pigmented fruits and vegetables, which contain disease-fighting compounds called phytonutrients. These powerhouses act as a rogue police force, fighting off free radicals that cause cancer and a host of other enemies that increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and more. Here’s just a sampling of the health benefits of eating colorful fruits and vegetables.

* The red in tomatoes helps reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and other types of cancers.
* The yellow in corn protects against macular degeneration, the number-one cause of blindness in the elderly.
* The orange in carrots and sweet potatoes helps prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol and helps reduce the risk of stroke.
* The green in dark, leafy greens helps prevent cancer.
* The blue in blueberries helps protect memory and motor function as you age, and helps fight cancer and heart disease.
* The purple in Concord grapes and grape juice helps prevent heart disease.

So when you’re filling your shopping cart or your plate, think the more color, the better!


COLORFUL FRUIT KABOBS
8 Servings - Prep/Total Time: 15 min.

Ingredients
Assorted fruit-strawberries, seedless red grapes, cubed cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple, and sliced kiwifruit and star fruit

1/3 cup sugar or Splenda
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions
•Alternately thread fruit onto skewers; set aside. In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and juices until smooth. Bring to a boil;  cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Brush over fruit.

Refrigerate until serving. Yield: 1 cup glaze.



BIG BATCH VEGETABLE SOUP
Prep: 15 minutes Total: 1 hour 15 minutes

This basic soup can be made with any combination of fresh or frozen vegetables, so it will taste a little different each time. The recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled.  Serves 8.

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions or thinly sliced leeks (whites only)
1 cup thinly sliced celery
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 cups mixed fresh or frozen vegetables, such as carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans, peas, potatoes, and zucchini (cut larger vegetables into smaller pieces)

Directions
1.Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions or leeks, celery, and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent, 5 to 8 minutes.

2.Add broth, tomatoes and their juice, tomato paste, and 3 cups water to pot; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes.

3.Add vegetables to pot, and return to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Let cool before storing.

Copyright 2010 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/big-batch-vegetable-soup
Article Adapted from 5 A Day: The Better Health Cookbook, by Dr. Elizabeth Pivonka and Barbara Berry.

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/seven-food-colors-of-health.html

The Miraculous Power of Green Tea

"Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one."
(Ancient Chinese Proverb)

In my continuing pursuit of health I decided to rid myself of diet soda pop about six months ago. It is amazing how addictive the stuff is! I found myself craving it from sun up until sun down and probably drank at least a six pack a day. It took about a week being off of the stuff before cravings stopped. I knew that I needed to replace the saccharin and aspartame filled beverage with a healthier choice; however I hated drinking water.

After completing some research on the Internet I found compelling information about the wondrous antioxidants that are contained in Green Tea. Unfortunatley, I've never liked drinking hot tea, so what was I going to do? The next day we traveled to Costco for our monthly shopping and low and behold there was a beautiful box of Matcha Green Tea staring me in the face. The instructions stated that it was deliciously good whether prepared hot or cold so I quickly grabbed the big green box and threw it on top of the basket.

As soon as we returned home I broke into the box of tea, threw 6 bags into my 2 quart pitcher and filled it with cold water. I put the pitcher into the fridge for an hour and then gave the antioxidant-filled brew a test drive. Mmmm....not bad...not great, but not bad. I stirred in a touch of honey and gave it another sip. This sweetened version I could get use to.

As of today, I drink 32+ ounces of green tea each day plus 16 to 32 ounces of water. During the summer the tea left unsweetened is especially refreshing after I've been doing yardwork for hours. I've even tried it hot and it isn't bad at all. My arthritis and cholesterol have both improved since adding this to my daily lifestyle.

My case in point is that it takes time to create new habits and get use to new things. I actually had a taste of a friend's Diet Coke the other day and thought I was going to be sick because it tasted so aweful to me. Hang in there if you are trying to create new and lasting habits - - it can be done!

Here are specific benefits of incorporating this Super Food into to your life:
Is any other food or drink reported to have as many health benefits as green tea? The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of green tea since ancient times, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression.

Today, scientific research in both Asia and the west is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking green tea. For example, in 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent. University of Purdue researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol.

To sum up, here are just a few medical conditions in which drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful:
•cancer
•rheumatoid arthritis
•high cholesterol levels
•cariovascular disease
•infection
•impaired immune function

What makes green tea so special?
The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.

Why don't other Chinese teas have similar health-giving properties? Green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. What sets green tea apart is the way it is processed. Green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG compound from being oxidized. By contrast, black and oolong tea leaves are made from fermented leaves, which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.

Other Benefits
New evidence is emerging that green tea can even help dieters. In November, 1999, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a study at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Researchers found that men who were given a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those given only caffeine or a placebo.

Green tea can even help prevent tooth decay! Just as its bacteria-destroying abilities can help prevent food poisoning, it can also kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque. Meanwhile, skin preparations containing green tea - from deodorants to creams - are starting to appear on the market.

Harmful Effects?
To date, the only negative side effect reported from drinking green tea is insomnia due to the fact that it contains caffeine. However, green tea contains less caffeine than coffee: there are approximately thirty to sixty mg. of caffeine in six - eight ounces of tea, compared to over one-hundred mg. in eight ounces of coffee.

Resources:
http://chinesefood.about.com/library/weekly/aa011400a.htm
http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/70/6/1040
http://chinesefood.about.com/library/weekly/aa011400b.htm

Green Tea for Sale:
Kirkland Signature Green Tea Matcha Blend, 100% Japanese Tea Leaves, 100 Tea ...
Matcha Green Tea Powder 16 oz (1 lb) bag of loose tea
Matcha Green Tea Powder 8 oz bag of loose tea
Bigelow Decaffeinated Organic Green Tea, 40-Count Boxes (Pack of 6)

Big Plump Blueberries are a Super Food


What is low calorie, full of antioxidants and blue? You guessed it, Blueberries! These delightful little plump berries have been known and recognized for their health benefits for years and that is why we've selected them as today's Super Food!


With just 40 calories in a ½-cup serving, blueberries offer a great lineup of nutrients like potassium and iron, as well as being an excellent source of Vitamin C. And let's not forget that blueberries also provide dietary fiber, two grams in each ½-cup serving which about equals the amount of fiber in a slice of whole wheat bread.

Health Magazine has recently listed blueberries as the top source of antioxidant activity in a Guide to 50 Super Foods. The magazine added, “Blueberries are a particularly rich source of antioxidants called anthocyanins (also contained in apples, grapes, blackberries, radishes, and red cabbage). Several studies suggest anthocyanins discourage blood clots from forming, warding off heart attacks. They also appear to improve night vision and to slow macular degeneration by strengthening tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye.”  

Another big backer of blueberries includes Prevention Magazine. “Recent studies even suggest that blueberries may actually reverse the decline in memory that can occur with aging,” noted the nationwide publication. “Here's the scoop: among all the popular fresh fruits and vegetables, blueberries are number one in total antioxidant power. Besides antioxidants, blueberries contain condensed tannins that help prevent urinary tract infections.”

“In general, blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidant phytonutrients of the fresh fruits and vegetables we have studied,” concluded Dr. Ronald Prior in a noted 1998 research study (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 46, no. 7) conducted at Tufts University. Because of the good news to date, researchers will go on to study the health benefits of blueberries long into the future since there is much left to know and confirm. “In the meantime,” admitted Dr. Prior, “I'm eating blueberries every day.”

Did you know?: 
  • Blueberries were prominent in Russian folk medicine, used as a preventative measure and cure for flux and other abdominal problems.  
  • Native Americans used blueberry leaves in medicinal teas thought to be good for the blood and blueberry juice was used to treat coughs.
  • The blueberry is still prized for its antioxidant health benefits and as a laxative, as well as other folk remedies.
  • During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots consumed bilberries (a blueberry relative), which purportedly improved their night vision. Later studies show a sound basis for this practice because blueberries are high in bioflavonoids which are used by the rods in the eye for night vision.
  • Blueberries rank as the number one fruit provider of antioxidants. They are also high in iron.

Blueberry Selection and Storage:
  • Blueberries are available in many forms and sizes, including canned, dried, frozen and pureed as well as fresh.  
  • Fresh blueberries are in their prime from June through August. Select berries that are completely blue, with no tinge of red. That natural shimmery silver coating you see on blueberries is desirable as it is a natural protectant.
  • Blueberries must be ripe when purchased, as they do not continue to ripen after harvesting. Avoid soft, watery or moldy blueberries. Stained or leaking containers are an indication of fruit past its prime.
  • Keep blueberries refrigerated, unwashed, in a rigid container covered with clear wrap. They should last up to two weeks if they are freshly-picked. Water on fresh blueberries hastens deterioration, so do not wash before refrigerating, and avoid those at your grocer's that are exposed to those mist sprayers used to keep greens fresh.
  • Blueberries are highly perishable so do try to use them as soon as possible.
  • Blueberries are an excellent candidate for freezing. After thawing, they are only slightly less bright and juicy as in their original harvest state. Do not wash them before freezing as the water will cause the skins to become tough. Rinse after thawing and before eating.
  • To freeze for future cooking, place the berries in a rigid covered container with one inch of space for expansion. If you plan on serving them in the future in their thawed, uncooked state, pack them in a syrup made of 4 cups water plus 3 cups sugar, seal and freeze. For crushed or pureed blueberries, add 1 to 1-1/2 cups sugar for each quart.
  • Frozen blueberries will keep for a year at 0 degrees F. Blueberries are also easily canned or dried at home.


For easy reference, the list from many sources of reported blueberry benefits includes:

  • improved vision
  • clearing arteries
  • more antioxidants for disease protection
  • strengthening blood vessels
  • enhanced memory
  • stopping urinary tract infections
  • reversing age-related physical and mental declines
  • promoting weight control.
Adding Blueberries to your daily life:

When you have blueberries in the fridge, pantry or freezer, you can easily add flavor, color and nutrients to so many of your favorite dishes.

 
Here are a few suggestions to get your blueberry juices flowing:

  • Whirl fresh or frozen blueberries in your morning smoothie and sprinkle them on cereal.
  • Heat blueberries in maple syrup to pour on pancakes or waffles.
  • Sprinkle dried blueberries on chicken salad.
  • Perk up your yogurt snack with a handful of blueberries.
  • Shake up your trail mix with dried blueberries.
  • Substitute dried blueberries when a recipe calls for raisins.
  • Add blueberries to a peanut butter sandwich and call it a PB-and-BB.
  • Stir blueberry juice into iced tea or lemonade.
  • Freeze blueberries and blueberry juice in ice cube trays to add to juice.

Want more ideas and recipes? The Oregon Blueberry website has a wealth of delicious recipes: http://www.oregonblueberry.com/recipes.html

References: 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a Super Food


Our first Super Food is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Thanks to the Food Network and people like Rachel Ray most of you know about EVOO. What you may not know about it is even greater than what you did know. While I lost my 89 pounds I added as much EVOO to my daily diet as I wanted without counting the calories of it. That's right, even though EVOO has 125 calories per tablespoon, I ate it as a free food.

I had never even used EVOO in cooking prior to my healthy lifestyle change so it was quite an introduction for a girl who always used margarine for everything. I am happy to report that I haven't had margarine in my home for almost three years now. We are so use to using EVOO in place of margarine or butter in our household that it is just habit.


According to Real Age it helps you lose weight. "Great taste, less filling" -- that light beer slogan rings true for olive oil. While ounce for ounce, all oils have the same calories, olive oil has a fuller flavor so less is needed for tantalizing taste. Plus research shows that overweight people who eat a diet with some fat -- including olive oil -- are more likely to shed pounds than those who slash fat. Why? Oil's rich flavor makes it easier to stick with the program."

Besides assisting you in losing weight it has been found to cut cancer risk, helps yours heart, keeps blood pressure down and even assists those of us that suffer from headaches. Healthy Daily states, "The greatest exponent of monounsaturated fat is olive oil, and it is a prime component of the Mediterranean Diet. Olive oil is a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is - freshly pressed from the fruit.

The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the "good" cholesterol) levels. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated as olive oil -mainly oleic acid. Studies have shown that people who consumed 25 milliliters (mL) - about 2 tablespoons - of virgin olive oil daily for 1 week showed less oxidation of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of antioxidant compounds, particularly phenols, in the blood.

But while all types of olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fat, EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives, contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed. Olive oil is clearly one of the good oils, one of the healing fats. Most people do quite well with it since it does not upset the critical omega 6 to omega 3 ratio and most of the fatty acids in olive oil are actually an omega-9 oil which is monounsaturated.

When buying olive oil you will want to obtain a high quality EXTRA VIRGIN oil. The oil that comes from the first "pressing" of the olive, is extracted without using heat (a cold press) or chemicals, and has no "off" flavors is awarded "extra virgin" status. The less the olive oil is handled, the closer to its natural state, the better the oil. If the olive oil meets all the criteria, it can be designated as "extra virgin".

What is pure and light olive oil? "Pure" olive oil is made by adding a little extra virgin olive oil to refined olive oil. It is a lesser grade oil that is also labeled as just "olive oil" in the U.S. "Light" olive oil is a marketing concept and not a classification of olive oil grades. It is completely unregulated by any certification organizations and therefore has no real precedent to what its content should be. Sometimes, the olive oil is cut with other vegetable oils."

So you may be wondering how to use EVOO in your daily life. We keep a cruet on the counter (out of direct sunlight) to use on our toast each morning in place of butter (a basting brush works great for spreading). For green salads I drizzle a bit on top then use half as much Ranch (or any) dressing as I usually would. It is very good used in combination with Balsalmic Vinegar on salads too. I replace 1/2 of the mayonnaise called for in potato/macaroni type salads. You can also drizzle it over slices of crusty bread or onto open-face sandwiches. Use it on a baked potato or add it to mashed potatoes/yams instead of butter. Extra virgin olive oil tastes great on cooked vegetables or brushed onto fish or meat before serving. Basically you can replace anything that calls for oil, margarine or butter with it...I even use it for my fabulous cookies and have never had any comment other than, "fabulous" and "delicious".

How do you use the Super Food Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your daily life? have you noticed any health benefits?

Resources:
http://food.yahoo.com/blog/beautyeats/8039/5-reasons-why-olive-oil-is-the-ultimate-healthy-fat

http://www.healingdaily.com/detoxification-diet/olive-oil.htm

http://whatscookingamerica.net/OliveOil.htm

DIET is a four-letter word!

Since this is the first post of the New Year it came to mind that most people reading this have either started a diet, contemplating a diet or are wanting to watch what they eat. The word DIET is a nasty four-letter word in my opinion as the diet industry has become big business with low rates of success. If you have dieted, lost weight AND kept it off then congratulations! To the rest of the 95% of us that gained back the weight...or more weight than we lost - never fear, there is hope. I'll be discussing Super Foods in upcoming posts, which may help you in your journey towards a healthier lifestyle (notice, I didn't say a diet which may help you!)


You may be wondering what gives me any authority on losing weight or eating healthier. I won't go into all the details; however I have been overweight for more years in my life, than not. While growing up I was an athlete and could eat just about anything I wanted. I married right out of high school, quickly had a baby and have never been thin again since. As life stresses hit me over the years my weight escalated higher and higher.

In 2007, I lost 89 pounds by simply writing down everything that I ate, adding up the calories each day to keep within 1600 to 1800 calories a day plus ate lots of Super Foods while doing so. I've also been a carb junkie my entire life; but the most important thing was WHY I was a (bad) carb junkie. I truly believe that the reason the majority of overweight people are overweight is because we eat instead of dealing with life. I am a Food Addict and use food to soothe myself when I'm sad, mad, glad, have PMS or bored. I have fond memories of my mother and I going to the local bakery, buying a dozen raised glazed donuts and eating half of them on the way home...it even makes my mouth water just writing about it - plus provides a happy memory of my mother.

You may be able to relate to this, you may not, depending on your circumstances or where you are in your journey to being honest with yourself. If you consider yourself overweight and only have 5, 10, 20 pounds to lose then I can't relate and you probably can't relate to this article.

In March of 2008, life started a toward spiral with two family deaths, long term illness, empty nest syndrome, a job loss, husband's work injury, moving AND I gained back most of those unnecessary 89 pounds. It is hard to accept that I failed yet a great friend basically told me to let go of my self-loathing and failure to move forward. This statement was just what I needed to get started in a forward direction again. I began adding back Super Foods into my life and I'm feeling better (less depression, less aches, better mood, hugely reduced bad cholesterol level).

If you have never written down everything you eat, I highly suggest it! Just eat the way you normally do while writing down the calories for one week (there are many free online calorie calculators). Let me know what you discover about the things you eat.

I'd also love to hear about your experiences with the Super Foods which we will be discussing during the week...first post coming shortly.