Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peaches and Cream

Local peaches are on the market right now in Lancaster.  Swipe them up!  I just bought a basket two days ago that were very firm, but... today they were perfectly ripe and juicy and ready to go.  So, I cut up 4 of them into bite-size pieces and put some whipped cream on top for dessert.  My kids loved it just like that.  But then they got giddy when I took a bar of dark chocolate and grated a little over the top of each one's bowl.  It added just the right taste combination and color contrast (kids love sprinkles).  If you have too many ripe peaches at one time for you to eat on that perfectly ripe day, then just wash 'em, cut 'em up, and freeze in a ziplock bag.  They make great smoothies or later ingredients for pancake topping or peach crumble.  Here's some helpful info. from  Fresh Peaches are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Niacin and Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin C.
Have a great night!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kid's cookbooks

Here are some good ones:
1.  "Hallelujah Kids" vegetarian cookbook by Julie Wandling.
2.  "Disney's Family Cookbook" by Deanna F. Cook and the experts at FamilyFun Magazine.
3.  "New Junior Cookbook" by Better Homes and Gardens.
4.  "Kids' Fun and Healthy Cookbook" by Nicola Graimes
Some of the recipes need to be tweaked for best nutrition, but they also have a lot of whole-foods goodness in them too.  If you have any more GREAT kids' cookbooks in mind, please let me know!  Thanks.  Have a great night.  Love, Amy

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Make amazing desserts with no sugar!

Hi everyone!  I was just playing piano, cleaning the kitchen from supper, and answering a lot of kid-questions while tapping out some thoughts here.  My husband, Steve, is outside moving some rather huge stones around to make steps ascending our big hill.  That man loves stones.  Seriously, he's like a kid having fun when he's got a big yard project underway.  On to the topic at hand ...In most recipes which call for refined white sugar, be encouraged that it's pretty easy to substitute smaller quantities of stevia, agave nectar, or maple syrup with great results.  For example, this simple pudding (recipe below) has amazingly complimentary flavors on your tongue with it's creamy start and maple syrup finish.  Try it and let me know how you like it!  Tapioca is a starch extracted from the root of the plant species Manihot esculenta. This species, native to the Amazon (e.g Brazil), and it is gluten-free and almost protein-free.

Tapioca pudding - also called "Maple Tapioca Pudding"
Exceptionally tasty full-bodied sugar-free pudding!
2 eggs
1 c. maple syrup
4 c. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. tapioca pearls
Beat eggs and add rest of ingredients in heavy saucepan. Cook until thick, stirring almost constantly. Optional: top with real whipped cream.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

Can I tell you about some really GREAT hot cereal we had this morning?  It's just like cream of wheat, but it's made with brown rice instead.  I bought it pre-packaged as "Arrowhead Mills Whole Grain Organic Rice and Shine Hot Cereal." It tastes nutty / ricey and brown rice is really beneficial with Vitamin B, thiamin, niacin, and phosphorus, etc...  very good for you!  It's also gluten-free and wheat-free (many people have sensitivities to gluten and wheat).  Most importantly, brown rice contains the whole bran, germ, and endosperm... whereas white rice only has the endosperm.  (More info. below)

Here's the easy prep... I put 2 cups of the brown rice cereal into a container with 6 cups filtered water, covered it tight, and let it sit on the counter overnight.  Soaking grains gets rid of phytates and partially sprouts the grains in order to release active enzymes which greatly helps your body digest the food and uptake maximum nutrition (phytates preserve the grain before it's eaten but they interfere w/ your body's absorption of the grain's nutrients if not soaked).  Then just pour the whole thing into a pot in the morning and simmer for 2 minutes.  Done!  Top it off with a little maple syrup and milk, and it's really good!

Here's some helpful information from wikipedia:

White rice comparison

Brown rice and white rice have similar amounts of caloriescarbohydrates, and protein, although many types of brown rice contain more fat than white rice. The main differences between the two forms of rice lie in processing and nutritional content.

When only the outermost layer of a grain of rice (the husk) is removed, brown rice is produced. To produce white rice, the next layers underneath the husk (the bran layer and the germ) are removed, leaving mostly the starchy endosperm.

Several vitamins and dietary minerals are lost in this removal and the subsequent polishing process. A part of these missing nutrients, such asVitamin B1Vitamin B3, and iron are sometimes added back into the white rice making it "enriched", as food suppliers in the US are required to do by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)[citation needed].

One mineral not added back into white rice is magnesium; one cup (195 grams) of cooked long grain brown rice contains 84 mg of magnesium while one cup of white rice contains 19 mg.

When the bran layer is removed to make white rice, the oil in the bran is also removed. Rice bran oil may help lower LDL cholesterol.[1]

Among other key sources of nutrition lost are small amounts of fatty acids and fiber.

In addition to having greater nutritional value, brown rice is also said to be less constipating than white rice.

[edit]Cooking and preparation

A nutritionally superior method of preparation using GABA rice or germinated brown rice (GBR), developed during the International Year of Rice, may be used.[2] This involves soaking washed brown rice for 20 hours in warm water (38 °C or 100 °F) prior to cooking it. This process stimulates germination, which activates various enzymes in the rice. By this method, it is possible to obtain a more complete amino acid profile, including GABA.

[edit]Storage and preservation

Brown rice can remain in storage for 6 months[citation needed] under normal conditions, but hermetic storage and freezing can significantly extend its lifetime. Freezing, even periodically, can also help control infestations of Indian meal moths.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

There are people who believe that the food additive and flavor enhancer, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), causes headache, chest pains, drowsiness, weakness, tingling and numbness sensation in the head, etc.  There is a doctor who published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968, describing these symptoms as routinely appearing in himself within 15-20 minutes of eating food from chinese restaurants.  Then there are people who assert that all the fear and paranoia about MSG is unfounded; rather, it is a great flavor enhancer producing a savory meaty flavor to foods with no proven ill-health effects.  Who to believe?  Well, I believe my body.  I just ate some chinese take-out yesterday from a nearby restaurant (Leola) and had a horrible headache within a half-hour.  It lasted for about 5 hours with a constant pressure in the front of my head.  My 7 year old daughter ate the same food and experienced the same thing.  It tasted great, but I can't imagine ever going back to that restaurant again.  When I asked the man at the counter if they use MSG, he said something like, "MSG...I don't know.  We don't put it in, but we buy our sauces pre-made, so we use whatever is in there.  I don't know what's in it."  Hmmm... I say to myself... the likely culprit.  My self-study will go on.  I just want to encourage you to be a student of your own body and listen to it well.  Feed it well.  Care for it.  We have God given instincts that often get over-looked in a fast paced life.  Believe your gut when it tells you not to eat "that thing" again.  And be confident that it's ok to ask about ingredients in restaurants.  I'll end with some healthy thoughts on making your own stir-fry at home.  It's easy and colorful.  The most time-consuming part is washing and chopping.  After that, it's like riding downhill on your bike.  Start by soaking brown rice in water overnight.  This is an easy step that brings the best absorption of nutrients from the rice to your body.  By the way, white rice is kinda like white flour.  It's missing the vital parts of the grain.  If your family is not used to brown rice, you can slowly acclimate by using half brown rice and half white rice until you make the switch.  As the brown rice is simmering, lightly saute your favorite veggies in extra virgin olive oil.  I like broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, snow peas, bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, seaweed, etc... Cover and set aside.  If you wish to add meat, saute it in olive oil as well.  Combine the veggies and meat and experiment with sauces.  I like to mix up some "Bragg's Liquid Aminos" with a little sesame oil, garlic, and peanut butter.  That gives it a really hearty flavor.  Stir it into the meat and veggies.  Top it with some chopped cashews.  Yum!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What's so great about living in Amish land?

Right now, Lancaster PA is lush and green... the streams are flowing and the lightening bugs are  flickering every night.  Farm land paints the ariel views like a quilt made of earth.  Still, I think that the cultures of people here are the most interesting part of living in Lancaster.  Last month, I noticed a piece of paper posted at my local health food store (Miller's Natural Foods).  It said "Ladies Day" to discuss preserving foods, on June 24, 10:00-3:00, and it gave the address of a person's home in Cochranville, PA.  I asked the cashier if anyone was welcome, and she said yes.  So, my friend and I ventured out into the unknown.  As we drove down a long farm driveway, we noticed quite a few horses and buggies.  When we got out of my truck, we were greeted by a smiling Amish man, and as we entered his basement, my eyes took in wall to wall women all seated quietly on wooden benches and listening for the group discussion that was starting to take shape.  I would say that there were about 50 women there, and maybe only 8 of us were not Amish.    They refer to us as "English."  I immediately felt intrigued by the whole experience.  We were happily crammed into this basement just listening and learning together in an open discussion format about personal experiences and health benefits of canning, freezing, drying, cold-storing, and fermenting foods.  Some women brought along their canned creations for all to sample.  They passed around homemade pickles, ketchup, pickled sorrel (a juicy green garden herb stem), cherry jam made with cherries and gelatin ...and no sugar.  An amazing lunch was served because everyone brought something to share and each person put their recipe along side their food.  There were a lot of giggles and light-hearted joking as the ladies shared their experiences with techniques and methods that did or didn't work out well.  And the conversations were so intriguing because the room was full of people who are genuinely living off the land and wanting to be as healthy as possible.  It is so basic and admirable.  I felt honored that I was welcomed by this group who were so open to post the open invitation at Miller's Natural Foods store.  I am still a beginner when it comes to preserving foods, but I'm learning.  I have made strawberry jam and frozen corn so far.  If you live around here, I want to encourage any of you to attend this group at a future meeting.  It's a cultural experience.  I went away feeling like there is nothing to worry about in life as long as your basic needs are met.  It's a good feeling.  By the way, the family which hosted this meeting sells it's organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, baked goods, canned goods, and drinks at "Maple Arch Farms"located at 3418 Limestone Rd., Parkesburg, PA 19365... phone number 610-593-7105.  They are open daily 9-5:30, except closed on Sunday.  They pick their fruits and vegetables fresh each morning!