Friday, August 22, 2014

Getting Around the High Cost of Kale Chips

Most of us folks who are eating to heal are trying to get as many super greens into our diets as possible.  However, I have to confess that I am less than excited by kale.  Yes, I know, some of you really like it.  I've been adding it to my morning green smoothies, eating it sauted with garlic and olive oil and adding it to interesting salads.  It's okay.  However, I have to say that it is much more than just okay when it's in the form of chips.

It seems like only a year or so ago, kale chips were everywhere in stores.  I still see them, although not in quite as many options.  Most people who've tasted kale chips respond positively, so the fall-off in availability must be due to the relatively high cost of store-bought kale chips.

It's too bad, because chips made from the super green, kale, are a tasty snack.  And how often can the two phrases "tasty snack" and "super green" be used in the same sentence?

One issue with the commercially available kale chips is that so many brands contain soy oil.   Some people avoid soy because of allergy problems, GMO concerns or omega-6/omega-3 imbalance issues (soy has both but more of the omega-6's and we want less of those and more omega-3's).

Make Your Own Chips

Kale chips can be made in a snap by simply coating cut up pieces of kale with olive oil, sea salt and lemon pepper seasoning.  Lay them on a cookie sheet covered in a Silpat and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until they are crispy and starting to brown.  For even further convenience, buy your kale pre-cut, washed and bagged from your local supermarket. Once the chips are roasted, store them in an air-tight container.

What to Do With Them?

Kale chips can be eaten like any other chip as a simple snack.  However, you can also use them as toppings for soups or other soft textured foods.  If you're eating grain-free or gluten-free like so many of us, you have fewer crouton options than the rest of the world.  Kale chips are a colorful crispy alternative to bread croutons.  They're also great for adding extra excitement as a topping to mashed potatoes, or any mashed or pureed vegetable such as cauliflower or turnips. In addition, try sprinkling kale chips on creamy risottos and pasta dishes.   The bright green color, the crisp texture and the salty taste add delicious interest to these dishes as well as super-nutrition.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Find Inspiration from the French

In France almost all women cook (and many men, too, of course).  Whether they are the CEO of a large multinational corporation or the mother of six children, they take the time to shop for the highest quality foods they can afford and they prepare these foods at home each night.  French families eat almost every dinner at home around the dinner table and Mom or Dad prepares it in the kitchen.

The French are 3 times less likely to have heart disease or obesity than Americans and their life expectancies are longer, too.  

Janine di Giovanni makes 'tarte au citron' with her French mother-in-law.
 Photograph: Paul Cooper.  Source The Guardian

The French emphasize the pleasure in food.  They know that quality determines the degree of pleasure and so the freshest, most in-season foods are preferred.  French women usually shop every other day and they not only expect, but they demand whole, fresh and nutritious foods from their vendors and markets.  

At home in their kitchens, dishes are simply prepared in ways that bring out the beautiful and delectable nature of quality foods.  Most meals include a fresh salad plus a vegetable.  Vegetable soups are eaten regularly.  Desserts are served every night, but they are almost always fresh sliced fruit or yogurt. 

The French government passes laws that protect the quality and integrity of their food source.  Manufactured and processed foods are rare in the French diet.  The bulk of the French diet consists of food that comes right from farms.  The French do eat a lot of bread from local boulangeries, but that bread is made from wheat that is freshly ground each day before cooking, unlike American wheat that is filled with preservatives and stored for months.  The French buy artisan cheeses, wines and chocolates, all made from the highest quality ingredients.  Even their sausages and prepared meats are prepared by the local butcher, not in some distant manufacturing facility. 

All of this is done in pursuit of the pleasure of food and good health.  If busy Parisian women can cook and live like this, there is no reason that we can’t also.  Learn to love your new way of eating.  Find passion and pleasure for the beautiful healing foods you eat.  Take the small amount of time it takes to seek out the best local foods you can find and then to prepare them so that their quality and delicious nature is enhanced.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Some New Greens...Quinoa and Ammaranth

Last week at my local Farmer's Market, I picked up some greens I've never cooked with before, quinoa and amaranth.  The farmer I purchased them from informed me that they would be great added to salads and also could be cooked up like any other green.  I washed them up, broke off their stems at the intersection with the leaf and tossed them in a pan.  Evaluation:  delicious!!

Sesame Greens

1 shallot chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
amaranth greens
quinoa greens
olive oil
sesame oil
sea salt
sesame seeds

Wash  and de-stem greens.  Remove quinoa flowers and seeds (see below).  Saute wet greens in a little olive oil.  When softened, pour on sesame oil, salt and pepper and top with sesame seeds.  

Remove the quinoa flowers.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Upping the Omega-3s

Most of us could use some additional Omega-3s in our diets.  

Our bodies can produce many of the fats they need on their own.  However, Omega-3 and Omega-6 are two fats that we can only get from our diet. 

For health, a balance of these Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats is required.  In pre-industrial times this balance was easily achieved in the normal course of eating from the natural bounty of the earth.  However, as we began to manufacture food substances, the healthful balance of these two oils was interrupted.  We began to consume large quantities of processed vegetable oils which have more Omega-6.  In fact, in the typical Western diet, we get 4-5 times more Omega-6s than we should.  

When the two fats are out of balance, inflammation is created.  Omega-6s are pro-inflammation and Omega-3s are anti-inflammation.  Excessive inflammation can have many significant effects on the overall health of our body.  Heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's and many types of cancer are thought to be caused by inflammation.  

A diet that increases the Omega-3s and reduces the Omega-6s is helpful in decreasing inflammation and the risk of disease that it causes.  Overall, it is not a good idea to eat a lot of Omega-6s and then compensate by eating lot's of Omega-3s, too. What we want to do is keep overall fat consumption somewhat low but increase our consumption of Omega-3s.

How do we reduce our Omega-6s?  Omega-6s are found in processed vegetable oils such as soybean oil, corn, sunflower and cottonseed.  These oils are used in manufactured food everywhere (and many of them are GMO, to boot!)  In order to avoid them, we need to eat real food ...

This means eating food that farmers make, not food that manufacturers make.  

Cook at home, shop the outside of the supermarket or your local farmer's market and avoid all processed and fast foods.  Importantly, make your own salad dressings and mayonnaise as processed vegetable oils with their high levels of omega-6s are commonly used in most pre-made dressings.  

How do we get our Omega 3s?  Eating a lot of cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna and trout can help.  Eating about 1/2 pound of fish per week should do the trick.  However, because of the high mercury and pesticide levels in fish, it is inadvisable to eat any more than that.  Many people prefer to take a daily supplement of fish or krill oil rather than consume the fish.  

Also, several oils contain Omega-3s but flax seed oil is by far the most significant source.  Flax oil is a delicious oil but it is delicate and goes rancid quickly.  Consuming rancid oils creates dangerous free radicals and that completely defeats the health promoting purpose of eating more  Omega-3's.  Be sure to buy flax oil cold-pressed, packaged in a light-blocking container and to keep it refrigerated. 

You can also get your flax oil in supplement form, however, there is some research that indicates that the omega-3s are more readily absorbed by the body in food form.  My thinking is always, "Why would you take a pill when there is a delicious food you can eat and enjoy instead?"

You only need to consume about a tablespoon of flax seed oil per day to increase your Omega-3s.  

Unfortunately, flax oil is expensive.  Luckily, you can combine it with olive oil.  Olive oil is low in omega-3s but also in omega 6s so it does not disturb the delicate balance between the two.  It is an oil that is beneficial and has been safely consumed for several thousand years. 

The benefits of flax oil are lost when it is heated so it is best to use it in cold foods or to add it on warm foods that have already been prepared.  Drizzle it over your morning eggs or hot whole grain cereal.  You can pour a little into a bowl of soup just as you serve it or use it to top lentils and other beans.   Many entrees will benefit from a little flax oil poured over the top.  

Of course, one of the best ways to eat flax oil is in dressings with salads.  In the recipes below, I've stretched the flax oil with olive oil in an effort to keep the price appropriate for most budgets.  The two oils together are not only healthy, affordable, but delicious as well.   

Mixed greens and amaranth leaves with farmer's market tomatoes, cucumbers and salad dressing with flax oil.

Salad Dressing with Flax Oil

2 T olive oil
1 T flax oil
1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 t lemon juice
1 t Dijon
1 T finely chopped shallots
1/2 t dried dill
1/8-1/4 t finely ground sea salt
1/8 t finely ground black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients.

Omega-3 Plus Caesar Salad Dressing

Anchovies are one of the fish that are high in Omega-3s.  If you like them, use them.  If not, the dressing is delicious without them.

In a food processor combine:

6 anchovy fillets packed in oil (optional)
1 small garlic clove
pinch of sea salt
2 Omega-3 egg yolks
2 T fresh lemon juice
3/4 t Dijon mustard

Process until combined.  Add drop by drop with blades whirling:

2 T olive oil
2 T flax seed oil

If you are avoiding or healing inflammation, you may not be eating dairy.  If so, do not add Parmesan cheese.  The dressing is fine without it.  If you include dairy foods in your diet, add 3 T finely grated Parmesan.

Season with freshly ground pepper.

For the salad, mix romaine lettuce with your choice of a super green (chard, beet greens, kale, spinach, amaranth, quinoa, arugula, mizuna etc.)  If you are healing inflammation, you are probably avoiding wheat so create croutons using gluten-free bread or home-made coconut/flax bread.  Just cut the bread into squares and saute gently in olive oil or butter along with a little sea salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence or Italian herb blend.

Another alternative to croutons is to top the salad with nicoise olives and organic chicken.

Finally, below is a mayonnaise recipe which has been adapted to include flax oil.

Homemade Mayonnaise 

2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 T Dijon mustard
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 cups of oil total--At least 3/4 cup must be canola or best-quality olive oil (olive oil mayonnaise has a strong taste)  The rest can be flax oil, or you can use as little as 1/2 cup flax oil out of the total 2 cups.

1.  Combine egg yolks, whole egg, mustard and salt and pepper and half the lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process for one minute.

2.  With the motor running, dribble in 3/4 cup of the canola or olive oil in a slow steady stream.  Dribble in remaining oil while continuing to process.  When all the oil is in, shut motor off and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula.

3.  Taste the mayonnaise.  Correct seasoning if necessary; if you are using canola oil, you will probably need the remaining lemon juice.  Scrape mayonnaise into a storage container, cover and refrigerate.  Mayonnaise will keep safely for at least 5 days.  Let it return to room temperature before stirring.

Makes 3 cups