Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Q.Bel, the way to go!

Who didn’t love Kit Kats or still does? It’s that wafer and chocolate combination that is quite a winner. Though as I have gotten older and savvier to higher quality ingredients, I prefer to avoid this tasty treat and instead partake of a great competitor.

I came across a company called Q.Bel. It’s an all-natural wafer bar that comes in a few flavors including dark chocolate mint chocolate. Truly, these have made their way into my shopping cart on most every visit to my local health food store.

Q.Bel does not use artificial ingredients, colors, flavors, or preservatives. Additionally, they have no use of corn syrup or hydrogenated oils as does other chocolate bars. It’s a winner all around!

Check out their website at http://www.qbelfoods.com

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Apologies, Apologies at the lapse in articles with my blog. It has been a frustrating 4 months now with a limited flavored diet. This little gem inside is wrecking my culinary desires. I did find a wonderful product though during this time, and baking is beginning to become commonplace again. So without further adieu, I want to introduce you to my newest staple.

I am sure by now you have either seen articles about or products from Gardein- garden products. Mostly, I see them at Fresh and Easy or health food markets. But, I spotted this particular product at Ralphs. I have not been impressed at all by their other products, finding them to lack flavor and desirable texture. However, an exception came along with their Seven Grain Crispy Tenders. Seriously speaking, I have NOT been able to find a good chicken nugget substitute except when dining at Native Foods. These Crispy Tenders are just that; flaky, tender and with a crispy "skin". A very good replacement for those inferior products I find elsewhere. My kids love them!

Retailing for $3.99, which serves 5 (well our four), that's about a $1.00 per meal. I typically stock up on them for usage in sandwiches, to dip in sauces, or to serve as an entree.

We think they're great, I think you will think so too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tea and Scones- The Perfect Combo!

Coming in from outside, after playing snake-in-the-grass with bare feet, and the sun shining on my back, I relished the cold chill of my moms sun-made Lipton's tea; I was eight.

At ten, I thought I'd grown up. So, I began taking pleasure in a mug filled with warm tea alongside my mom and her guests; my snoopy mug being my favorite. From chamomile to mint and even robust black tea, I began sampling.

I always thought it was quite elegant to drink from nice China teapots with cup and saucer. Of course my mom was nice enough to oblige me with this indulgence, often allowing me to hold my own tea parties well into college with her dainty antique plate ware accompanied by lovely cloth napkins. It's a fond memory of mine.

Though I dabbled for a year or two with a coffee fascination, it never quite suited me. My love of tea continued. Also reaching adulthood, I wanted something to accompany my tea drinking. So, I began making biscottis and scones. To me, the slight sweetness of these pastries are a great pair; not to mention their crumbly texture.

To this day I keep a well stocked assortment of tea for my own guests pleasure, and am known for my own sun-brewed peach iced tea. It's also a joy to watch my own children enjoy a tea party with their friends the same way my mom allowed me to.

The scone recipe I have included for your enjoyment was one I adapted to being Vegan from the 2000 December issue of Bon Appetit: Chocolate Chip Scones. Though I have plenty of flavor varieties, these satisfy me with my sweet craving. They marry well with a nice English Breakfast tea. Find what suits you. Happy tea drinking. I hope you enjoy the scones.

(yield: 6-8)

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. organic cane sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbsp. chilled Earth Balance
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Emergen-C egg Replacer egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Almond Milk and 2 Tbsp.organic cane sugar for glazing

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Pre-line baking sheet with Parchment Paper, unless you have scone making pans (oiled/dusted
with flour). Sift 2 cups flour,
1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into large bowl.
2. Add Earth Balance and lemon peel; with a pastry whisk or fingertips until Earth Balance is reduced in size.
3. Mix in chocolate chips.
4. Whisk almond milk, along with lemon juice, Emergen-C egg replacer egg (follow box directions), and vanilla in a small bowl
to blend.
5. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients; mix until dough comes together in moist clumps.
6. Gather dough into ball. Press dough out on lightly floured surface to 8-inch round; cut round into 6 wedges. Transfer
wedges to prepared baking sheet or scone pans and form.
7. Allow scones to bake for 10 minutes, brush scones lightly with milk and sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar. Bake until
scones are crusty on top and tester comes out clean.
8. Serve warm alongside your choice of tea (or coffee)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vegetarian Pregnancy

I thought I was done. In fact, my husband had three appointments to get the ole' snip snip. But, we find ourselves now seven weeks along expecting our third child. Three kids. Never thought I'd be having "a" kid, let alone three. As a young adult, I never wanted them, however I now can't imagine life without them, and look forward to meeting my third.

I praise God for giving me two relatively healthy girls. As I embrace my fifth pregnancy, I hope for the best. Having had two miscarriages, I had people automatically jumping to the conclusion that I had them because of being Vegetarian. Not the case. It's hereditary. Since no one else in my family (either mom or dad's side) is a Vegetarian, that theory was put to rest; along with the DNA testing that followed suit.

So with that said, I wanted to be a little bit of a spokesperson for the Vegetarian mom, or one that may be expecting soon.

I realize everyone has their own opinion, and without being a doctor, I only express my opinions from my own experience.

During my pregnancies carrying my two daughters, I couldn't stand the smell of garlic, nor the taste of vegetables. I only craved cheese. So, my main staple was quesadillas. Normally, I can't stand the milk laden, chewy, stringy, by-product of a cow. So, I was flexible.

Having gained a doctor approved 17 pounds with my first and 19 pounds with my second, I am curious what this third will bring on. I know my muscles are already relaxed and remembering that form. The feeling of "all jelly, no toast" sitting around my mid-section is a constant reminder as well as the nausea setting in.

The difference this time around is that Lent has started, and I took a self vow to omit sweets from my diet, and not partake in Facebook usage. So, I will still be blogging, but not about desserts. But I promise, after these 40 days (tomorrow 34) pass, I will once again provide you with new product reviews and dessert recipes.

Until then, stayed tuned....if my tastebuds cooperate, I will bring you some new recipes soon!

Blessings to you all!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wheat Berry Cranberry Salad

I always like to share recipes, whether they are my own, adapted, or passed along. Additionally, with most people knowing this, I am often a recipient of these things.
My friend Amy graciously sent me a recipe for Sweet Wheat Berry Salad. I have to admit, I usually use my wheat berries in a savory way, and wasn’t sure what to expect from this recipe. However, I was drawn to try it because of some dearly loved ingredients, and because I trust my friends tastebuds!

The cranberries, sweet and tart, simmered in a reduced maple syrup sauce, coated the nutty flavor of the wheat berries perfectly.

This Sweet Wheat Berry Salad was served alongside Salsibury Seitan with a Golden Gravy, Mashed Cauliflower and Potatoes, and Steamed Brussel Sprouts. It was a harmonious blend of sweet and savory.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup)
_. 1 1/2 cups uncooked wheat berries (hard winter wheat)
_. 1 teaspoon salt, divided
_. 1 cup fresh cranberries
_. 1/4 cup maple syrup
_. 1/4 cup cranberry juice
_. 2 tablespoons olive oil
_. 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
_. 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
_. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
_. 1/2 cup diced celery
_. 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
_. 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
_. 1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Place the wheat berries in a medium bowl, and cover with water to 2 inches above wheat berries. Cover and let stand 8 hours. Drain.
Place wheat berries and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above wheat berries; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 1 hour or until tender. Drain; cool to room temperature.
Combine cranberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cook for 4 minutes or until cranberries pop, stirring frequently. Transfer to a large bowl; cool 10 minutes.
Add juice, oil, vinegar, mustard, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to cranberry mixture; stir well to combine. Add wheat berries, celery, onion, parsley, and pecans to cranberry mixture; stir well. Serve at room temperature, or cover and chill.
Nutritional Information
223 (31% from fat)
7.6g (sat 0.9g,mono 4.6g,poly 1.7g)
Jackie Mills, Cooking Light, NOVEMBER 2006

Wheat BerryCranberry Salad

Wheat BerryCranberry Salad from Cooking Light

Monday, January 25, 2010

Agave Nectar: Good or Bad

My brother sent me this article regarding agave nectar. I felt I needed to pass it along to my readers. It is quite interesting.
AGAVE….Good or Bad?

Is agave nectar good? Is agave nectar bad? Believe it or not, I thought I’d written a definitive post on this topic.
As it turns out, I hadn’t. Earlier this week a reader emailed me, seeking an answer to the classic question: Agave nectar — good or bad? She pointed out that she’d done a search for agave nectar on this site and only turned up two entries. In one, I’d said to avoid it. In another, I mentioned that I’d used agave nectar while experimenting with kombucha and didn’t enjoy the results.
So, she concluded: “Why, if agave nectar is a natural sweetener, should it not be used? What about it is bad? I’ve been preferring it to honey and maple syrup on my waffles, pancakes, and yogurt.”
I realized then that I needed to post a definitive guide to agave nectar, answering the question once and for all. This is it.
Agave Nectar: Good or Bad?
The short answer to that reader’s question is simple: agave nectar is not a “natural sweetener.” Plus, it has more concentrated fructose in it than high fructose corn syrup. Now, let’s get into the details.
Agave Nectar Is Not A Natural Sweetener
Once upon a time, I picked up a jar of “Organic Raw Blue Agave Nectar” at my grocery store. It was the first time I’d ever seen the stuff in real life, and the label looked promising. After all, words like “organic,” “raw,” and “all natural” should mean something. Sadly, agave nectar is neither truly raw, nor is it all natural.
Based on the labeling, I could picture native peoples creating their own agave nectar from the wild agave plants. Surely, this was a traditional food, eaten for thousands of years. Sadly, it is not.
Native Mexican peoples do make a sort of sweetener out of the agave plant. It’s called miel de agave, and it’s made by boiling the agave sap for a couple of hours. Think of it as the Mexican version of authentic Canadian maple syrup.
But this is not what agave nectar is. According to one popular agave nectar manufacturer, “Agave nectar is a newly created sweetener, having been developed in the 1990s.” In a recent article now posted on the Weston A. Price foundation’s website, Ramiel Nagel and Sally Fallon Morell write,
Agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules.Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.
The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which corn starch is converted into HFCS. The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites.
Compare that to the typical fructose content of high fructose corn syrup (55%)!
In a different article, Rami Nagel quotes Russ Bianchi, managing director and CEO of Adept Solutions, Inc., a globally recognized food and beverage development company, on the similarities between agave nectar and high fructose corn syrup:
They are indeed made the same way, using a highly chemical process with genetically modified enzymes. They are also using caustic acids, clarifiers, filtration chemicals and so forth in the conversion of agave starches into highly refined fructose inulin that is even higher in fructose content than high fructose corn syrup.
So there you have it. Agave nectar is not traditional, is highly refined, and actually has more concentrated fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. It is not a “natural” sweetener. Thus far, the evidence definitely points toward the conclusion: Agave Nectar = Bad.
“But,” you ardent agave nectar enthusiasts say, “agave nectar has a low glycemic index. I’m a diabetic, and it’s the only sweetener I can use!”
What’s wrong with fructose?
First, we need to clarify something. Concentrated fructose is not found in fruit, or anywhere else in nature. When the sugar occurs in nature, it is often called “levulose” and is accompanied by naturally-occurring enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin. Concentrated fructose, on the other hand, is a man-made sugar created by the refining process. To clarify:
Saying fructose is levulose is like saying that margarine is the same as butter. Refined fructose lacks amino acids, vitamins, minerals, pectin, and fiber. As a result, the body doesn’t recognize refined fructose. Levulose, on the other hand, is naturally occurring in fruits, and is not isolated but bound to other naturally occurring sugars. Unlike man-made fructose, levulose contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin. Refined fructose is processed in the body through the liver, rather than digested in the intestine. Levulose is digested in the intestine. (source)
I want you to pay special attention to those last two sentences, for they are a huge key that will help unlock the mystery of why fructose is bad for you.
Because fructose is digested in your liver, it is immediately turned into triglycerides or stored body fat. Since it doesn’t get converted to blood glucose like other sugars, it doesn’t raise or crash your blood sugar levels. Hence the claim that it is safe for diabetics.
But it isn’t.
That’s because fructose inhibits leptin levels — the hormone your body uses to tell you that you’re full. In other words, fructose makes you want to eat more. Besides contributing to weight gain, it also makes you gain the most dangerous kind of fat.
This has been verified in numerous studies. The most definitive one was released just this past year in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The full study is available online, but for the sake of space I’m including Stephan’s (of Whole Health Source fame) summary here:
The investigators divided 32 overweight men and women into two groups, and instructed each group to drink a sweetened beverage three times per day. They were told not to eat any other sugar. The drinks were designed to provide 25% of the participants’ caloric intake. That might sound like a lot, but the average American actually gets about 25% of her calories from sugar! That’s the average, so there are people who get a third or more of their calories from sugar. In one group, the drinks were sweetened with glucose, while in the other group they were sweetened with fructose.
After ten weeks, both groups had gained about three pounds. But they didn’t gain it in the same place. The fructose group gained a disproportionate amount of visceral fat, which increased by 14%! Visceral fat is the most dangerous type; it’s associated with and contributes to chronic disease, particularly metabolic syndrome, the quintessential modern metabolic disorder (see the end of the post for more information and references). You can bet their livers were fattening up too.
The good news doesn’t end there. The fructose group saw a worsening of blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity. They also saw an increase in small, dense LDL particles and oxidized LDL, both factors that associate strongly with the risk of heart attack and may in fact contribute to it. Liver synthesis of fat after meals increased by 75%. If you look at table 4, it’s clear that the fructose group experienced a major metabolic shift, and the glucose group didn’t. Practically every parameter they measured in the fructose group changed significantly over the course of the 9 weeks. It’s incredible.
Back to our original question — Agave Nectar: Good or Bad?
The conclusion is clear. Agave nectar is bad for you. It’s not traditional, not natural, highly refined, and contains more concentrated fructose than high fructose corn syrup.
(photo by edgeplot)
Liked what you read? You may find these other posts interesting:
_. Are Natural Sweeteners Good For You?
_. On The Road to Being GMO-Free
_. The Dangers of Splenda
_. Another killer reason to avoid packaged foods
_. Fresh, Natural, Healthy Lemonade Recipe


Creamy Potato Leek Soup

In my previous blog, I raved about my wonderful immersion blender, and with the weather still chilly, making soup is a great way to get some additional use out of it.

Also mentioned in another story, I spoke of my creamy potato leek soup as being the only soup that my husband actually requests. Maybe you have a husband like mine, or loathe soup yourself. Or maybe, you love soup like I do. Regardless, I hope you’ll want seconds! Enjoy!

Creamy Potato Leek Soup

6 medium size russet potatoes, large dice
6 cups of water
1/4 cup sliced leeks
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. Garlic
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 tsp. Dried dill
1/4 tsp. Paprika
1/8 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 vegetable bouillon cube
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Sauté garlic and leeks in a soup pot with olive oil
2. Add russet potatoes (skins included), bay leaf, paprika, dill, and bouillon cube
3. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add water. Bring to boil
5. Allow to simmer until potatoes are tender
6. Add mustard, salt, and pepper
7. Using a blender or immersion blender, puree until smooth. Adjust with salt and pepper to your liking.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My new sexy kitchen assistant

Although I cook frequently, I am not one to have a lot of gadgets. I believe in a simple approach to food; one that uses your hands more than a machine.

I am a girl who owns a kitchen-aid, but rarely uses it. I prefer kneading my own bread; it's even therapeutic. Instead of a Cuisinart, the knife is my favored tool. It keeps things basic in approach, and gets me more involved; more hands-on.

With that said, I have been through seven blenders in the last eight years. I am tired of replacing what was supposed to be "one of the best on the market".

As I have a love for soup, creamy being my favorite, I need a blender. Though, I have never liked having to transfer hot soup to the blender and then back to a pot repeatedly. Additionally, our household blender gets used on a daily basis to make smoothies, salsas, hummus, or pesto.

I broke down this Christmas and bought myself a new sleek, even sexy gadget that I have fallen in love with. It is my frequent companion as I create deliciousness. It is my immersion blender. It has made that once dreaded, potentially hand-burning soup transfer obsolete. It has been fantastic!

Though is may be a little pricey for some, I promise you it is worth the investment. For a Cuisinart immersion blender, like the one mentioned above, it ranges from $29.99-$59.99. It depends on what gadgets come with it, and where it's purchased. But, I know you will love it too! It is a great kitchen assistant.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blueberry Bliss Muffins with Crumble Topping

After dealing with a house full of illness for a week, nothing has sounded better than french fries, which I have not indulged in, and blueberry muffins with crumble topping. I promised my lovely friend Krista, one of the sweetest gals I have met in my lifetime, to give you another article of baking content. I promise I will have another savory dish soon.

The recipe I share with you today can certainly be altered to fit your preference of berries. I have made it with a berry medley that turned out absolutely wonderful.

Native to North America, blueberries come out on top as being rated the highest to destroy free radicals. A cup of blueberries is equal to 14% of your daily fiber intake. Besides them being a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; berries as most of us know, are high in vitamin C. Eating delicious, plump, and sweet blueberries is a great way to stock our bodies up on "the good stuff" to recoup from illness or protect us from getting ill. I know I need it!

6 Tbsp. of softened earth balance
2/3 cup organic cane sugar
2 "egg" ener-g replacer eggs (follow box directions)- if you eat real eggs.....use them
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup almond or soy milk
**2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (see below note)

**note: I have found that using fresh berries as opposed to frozen alleviate that blue Smurf look for the final product, if you don't over-mix. This recipe was adapted from "Mad about Muffins"

2 Tbsp. earth balance
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the earth balance and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the "eggs". Add the vanilla extract, baking powder, and salt. Mix in half of the flour and almond milk alternately, mixing gently. Then add the remaining flour and milk. Stir in the blueberries. Fill non-stick muffin tins or foil baking cups.

To make the crumble topping, cut the earth balance into small pieces and mix with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Sprinkle the topping over batter. Bake 25-30 minutes until muffins are lightly browned. Makes one dozen muffins

Monday, January 11, 2010

Quinoa- Lentil Soup

I had it in for him in freshman year in high school. He was funny, nice, and handsome. But he was very much out of my league. He ended asking me to prom, where we found out we had much in common with our love for the outdoors, and extracurricular activities. He only fell short in one category; he hates hot liquids, which includes soup. But, I married him anyway!

I love soup! Whether it is Split Pea with Yam, Tomato Tarragon, Faux Clam Chowder, or Cream of Corn; I will happily partake! My perfect meal during the winters is soup, salad, and bread. That combination seems to please every aspect of my palate for texture, flavor, nutrition, and uuummppphhh. My husband Kevin would be particularly happy if I gave up this adoration. But, he is kind enough not to turn up his nose when I prepare soup for dinner, and has even come to love my Creamy Potato Leek Soup. Thank God!

What I love most about soup is that you can pretty much throw the kitchen sink into it, and have it turn out great. Tonight, I prepared a simple Quinoa-Lentil soup that I served alongside garlic rosemary sourdough twists, and grilled asparagus with a balsamic glaze and red pepper confetti. I thought to pass along the soup recipe to my readers. I hope you enjoy it. I know I certainly did.

Quinoa-Lentil Soup
Yield: 6 servings

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 stalk celery, medium dice
1 carrot, medium dice
1/4 cup Vidalia onion, medium dice
1 tsp. Garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup pre-cooked quinoa
1 bouillon cube (Organic Gourmet)
1 tsp. Ground dried thyme
1/2 tsp. Dried rosemary
5 cups water
salt/pepper to taste

1. Sauté miripoix: Celery, Carrot, Onion, and Garlic with Olive oil in soup pot
2. When the miripoix is tender, add bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, and lentils to mix. Sauté together for 5 minutes.
3. Add water and bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, and then allow cooking for 35-40 minutes at on simmer. Lentils should be soft at this point. Add pre-cooked quinoa for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
4. Salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's Not Butter

So often, I am asked what I use in my baking as a butter substitute. Most people who are unfamiliar with the array of Vegetarian/Vegan groceries that are available, are truly missing out on some wonderful products that are better for our bodies.
Depending on what I am baking, I will use Organic expeller pressed canola or safflower oil, or my all-time favorite Earth Balance. Earth Balance is so naturally buttered-flavored, smooth, easy to spread, and makes wonderful pastries, that I have been a very loyal spokesperson for this company.

Additionally, they omit the use of GMO, Trans Fat, and Hydrogenated Oils making it a superior substitute. The company has a variety of butter substitute blends and are now making no-stir almond butter and peanut butter. Though I want to try these nut butters, I am pretty particular to the Trader Joe's Crunchy- Salted Peanut Butter. I am certain if the nut butters are as wonderful as their other products, I will become a fan of them as well.

When using Earth Balance in place of Butter, it is equal parts substitution. Perfect to bake cookies with, melt over popcorn, and simply spread on a warm piece of toast. I swear, you won't miss butter!