Thursday, February 26, 2009

Warm Scallop And Asparagus Salad

Scallops are my husband’s favorite seafood and asparagus one of his favorite vegetables, so when I found them BOTH on sale last week, I jumped all over it.

Although scallops have some cholesterol, they are low in calories and fat and make a wonderful food when you are trying to lose weight. Although there have been warnings about mercury, the FDA considers scallops “low mercury” seafood and allows 2 servings or 12 ounces of this popular shell fish per week. Scallops are also a good source of protein and vitamin B12.

Asparagus, a mild diuretic, is also low in calories and is an excellent source of folic acid and vitamins A, C and K.

Here’s a light but very filling salad which is perfect as a main dinner course.


Scallop And Asparagus Salad [makes 2 servings]
8 large scallops, about 10 oz.

8 large or 12 small asparagus spears

½ head of red leaf lettuce, cleaned and torn

½ medium red bell pepper cut into strips

¼ cup of red onion, thinly sliced

½ medium avocado, sliced

1 T of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of one lemon*
2 T of extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 large fresh white or crimini mushroom

¼ t of dried tarragon

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean the scallops VERY well by rinsing under a gentle stream of cold water making sure all of the sand is removed. Put the scallops in a bowl and gently mix with ½ T of olive oil, lemon zest, tarragon, and minced garlic. Set aside. Clean the asparagus very well and place in a shallow baking pan, 1 layer deep. Drizzle with ½ T of olive oil, salt and pepper and shake the pan back and forth until coated. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, gently shaking mid way through the cooking to make sure they don’t stick. When cooked, remove the pan from the oven and set aside.

Mix the lettuce, red bell pepper, red onion and mushroom. Make a dressing of the remaining 1T of olive oil, 1 T of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to the salad and mix gently. Place the salad mixture in two large plates and garnish each of the plates with avocado slices.

In a no-stick skillet, on medium-high heat, cook the scallops 4 minutes per side. The oil in the marinade should be sufficient for cooking. While cooking, sprinkle lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper. Place 4 cooked scallops and half of the asparagus over each plate of salad. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 340 calories, 23.8 g of fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 45 g cholesterol, 27.3 g protein, 16.3 g carbohydrate, and 3.8 g of fiber.


*Put Zest Into Your Life!
Whenever you use an organic lemon, wash it well and zest it. I use a Microplane zester/grater for the job (as pictured). It’s one of the most useful kitchen gadgets I own and it’s only around $10 to $12. Dry whatever you don’t use of the lemon zest and save for use in soups and baked goods, or sprinkle generously on fish, poultry and vegetables. Research has shown that limonene, found in lemon peel, may decrease cancer risk. You can also do this with oranges or grapefruit.

Friday, February 20, 2009

5 Minutes To A Healthy Breakfast Salad

Mornings can be tough. You’re tired, in a hurry to get to work, trying to get the kids to school, and focused on the tasks of the day. Preparing a healthy breakfast is usually the last thing on your mind. Many people just grab a quick bowl of cereal or skip it all together. Others think a Starbuck’s cafe latte is enough to start the day or the Krispy Kremes brought in by a co-worker.

I know you are tired of hearing how important this much neglected meal of the day is. But you are being nagged for a reason; actually, for a number of reasons.

Breakfast is just what is says. It “breaks” the “fast”. You haven’t eaten in 12 hours. If you are like me, you are either eating or nibbling every few hours during the day and then morning comes around and you haven’t eaten since dinner time. If you skip breakfast, this time can stretch to 18 hours. This can have several affects on your body. Starving the body usually causes a slowing of the metabolism. Skipping breakfast can cause you to lack the energy and concentration you need to do your job, study or whatever else you do. It can also make you overly hungry for lunch causing you to overeat or make poor choices.

Here’s a very healthy, colorful and delicious breakfast that everyone in the family will enjoy. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and it provides about one third of your daily fiber needs.

You can assemble a healthy breakfast salad in many ways. I like to use one crisp fruit (like a pear or apple), a sweet, softer fruit (banana, peach, mango, papaya), berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries), raw nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans) and a topping (coconut or a healthy cereal like Ezekiel sprouted grain or Post grape-nuts). Use your imagination and select your favorite fruits and nuts, especially focusing on ones that are local, organic and in season. I even threw in an avocado this morning. Yumm!


5 Minute Breakfast Salad [makes 2 servings]

1 large pear, diced

1 medium banana, vertically cut in half and sliced into half moons

1 cup of blueberries

¼ cup of chopped raw walnuts

2 T of unsweetened shredded coconut

Toss together gently and serve immediately.

Per serving: 293 calories, 12.8 g of fat, 3.9 g of saturated fat, 4.3 g of protein, 45.5 g carbohydrates, and 9 g of fiber.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vitamin B6 A “New Drug”? Oh My!

Recently, the FDA declared pyridoxamine, a naturally occurring form of vitamin B6, “a new drug”. I find this incredibly troubling. Don’t you? The FDA was given “regulatory functions” as a result of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 whose purpose was to protect the American people from dangerous drugs and food. Some of the important things they do include evaluating new drugs, medical devices, as well as additives to food and baby formulas. Their employees inspect food manufacturing facilities to ensure food safety. When I see harmful drugs, like Vioxx, get approved by the FDA and cause tens of thousands of heart attacks, I begin to think that these guys must be stretched pretty thin. Then when you see hundreds of people get sickened by peanut butter made in “inspected” facilities that knew there was salmonella in their product, it makes me feel that the FDA has really taken their eye off the ball! So with all of the critical issues facing food and drug safety today, why would the FDA spend OUR money on declaring vitamin B6 a “new drug”?

It’s not a secret that the FDA would like to see more nutritional supplements regulated and the drug companies would like these relatively inexpensive substances all be declared drugs. There’s a lot more profit in prescription drugs and the drug companies may feel that they are losing out to what’s become a multi-billion dollar nutritional supplements industry. A week doesn’t go by that you don’t see an article trying to discredit the benefits of vitamins. Just this week, the New York Times wrote a piece, “Vitamin Pills: A False Hope”? What’s troubling is that this war between the holistic community and the traditional medical community has cause tremendous confusion, not to mention distrust. I must admit, when I see an article like this, my first response is, “what drug company paid for this study”? But then I read it trying my best to extract the truth.

Many of the vitamin studies are difficult to decipher. If you track multivitamin users, as they did with the 161,000 older women in the Women’s Health Initiative study depicted in the New York Times article, you aren’t really sure what they took. All multivitamins are not created equal. Some are synthetic with incredibly high doses of isolated nutrients and some, more recently developed supplements, are based on organic whole foods which contain smaller doses of more naturally occurring forms of these vitamins and minerals. One wouldn’t expect the results from these different multivitamins to be the same.

So with all of this confusion, what’s the best thing to do? Like everything else, become your own nutritionist. Become informed. Find out what you need and if you are getting it. Ask your doctor for a blood test to measure your level of vitamins and minerals. I was recently surprised when my naturopath told me that my blood test indicated that I was low in vitamin D. She recommended I immediately increase my vitamin D3 supplementation. Without a blood test, you are shooting in the dark. Many vegans are deficient in vitamins D and B12, since there is no source of these vitamins in the plant kingdom, and unfortunately don’t realize it until they become seriously deficient. Whether or not you can correct your deficiencies with wholesome food or supplements, it’s always good to get the proper data.

So how does this new FDA approval affect you? The RDA (Recommended Daily Requirement) for vitamin B6 is 1.3 mg for adult men and women. It increases to 1.7 mg for men and 1.5 mg for women over the age of 51. Although this vitamin is found in many different foods, it is not very highly concentrated in any of them. Some of it is also lost in the cooking process so many people may need to supplement in order to get sufficient amounts. Vitamin B6 plays a key role in amino acid metabolism, as well as maintaining proper balance of sodium and potassium which allows the proper functioning of the nervous and muscular system. It also supports red blood cell metabolism. Deficiency symptoms include water retention (B6 is often found in water pills used to reduce bloating), anemia, nervousness, depression, skin inflammation, confusion and convulsions.
Here are some good food sources for this important vitamin:

Amount, % RDA
Wild Atlantic Salmon:
4 oz cooked, 92%
½ cup, 64%
Chicken Breast:
4 oz broiled, 62%
California Avocado:
½ cup, 51%
Crude Rice Bran:
2T, 46%
Garbanzo Bean:
½ cup, 42%
Baked Potato:
1 medium, 38%
1 cup, 38%
Pistachio Nut:
1 ounce, 34%
Sweet Red Pepper:
1 cup raw, 33%
4 large, 31%
1 cup cooked, 23%

If the drug companies actually do go after companies making nutritional supplements containing pyridoxamine, you will either have to go to a doctor for a prescription in order to acquire this vitamin, or make sure you eat foods like those mentioned above. Hopefully it will not get to the point that our local pharmacies start dispensing bananas, but you never know!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chocolates Without Guilt – Tropical, Chocolate Truffles

Sometimes research presents us with facts we don’t want to hear but every now and then we receive a gift. Like, finding out that chocolate is actually good for us! Anyone who has ever eaten chocolate is familiar with its ability to “lift our moods”. There is also evidence that chocolate can lower high blood pressure. In addition, the flavonoids (polyphenols) in chocolate are very powerful antioxidants which can counteract harmful free radicals. The good news just keeps coming! But before we go buy a bag of snickers bars, you need to know a few factoids:

• Data showed only dark chocolate was effective in lowering blood pressure

• Studies indicate milk may prevent the antioxidant absorption from chocolate so here’s another vote for dark over milk or white chocolate

• Flavonoids are weakened when cacao is processed

• Many chocolate treats are very high in saturated fat and calories so they should be eaten in moderation no matter how good they are for you

I have a recipe that can give you all the benefits of chocolate but none of the guilt. This RAW VEGAN CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE recipe has no milk, very little saturated fat, ZERO cholesterol and no unnecessary processing of the cacao. It makes a perfect Valentine gift and is VERY AFFORDABLE and easy to make. Compared to a Godiva truffle, our recipe has 75% of the calories, 60% of the fat, only 20% of the saturated fat and twice the fiber at a fraction of the cost.

I have served these guiltless chocolate treats to dozens of people of all ages and food preferences, who gobbled them down and pleaded for the recipe. With all the goodness of these precious morsels, I haven’t been able to remove the calories so if you are trying to lose weight, you will have to restrain yourself to several a day.


Tropical Chocolate Truffles, With Mango And Coconut [makes 28 truffles]

1 ½ cups of raw walnuts
12 pitted Medjool dates
1/3 cup of raw cacao
1/3 cup of finely chopped, dried mango*
3 T of raw, unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional)

*Mango can be replaced with other dried fruit, like dried apricots or cherries

Cut dates in half, remove and discard the pits, and set dates aside. Take ¼ cup of walnuts, chop and set aside. Put remaining 1 ¼ cups of walnuts in a food processor with an S blade and process until fine. (In an 11 cup food processor, this will take about 20 seconds). Add the pitted dates and blend until the nuts and dates stick together, around 45 seconds. Add cacao and salt and blend until the mixture is smooth (another 20 seconds). Times may vary depending on the size of the dates and the food processor. Put the mixture into a bowl and, by hand, mix in the chopped mango and chopped walnuts until they are evenly distributed throughout. From this mixture, make about 28 round truffles by shaping and gently rolling them in your hands. After each one is made, roll immediately in shredded coconut. Refrigerate truffles for several hours before serving. They will last for a week in the refrigerator; however, they usually disappear long before that!

Each truffle has 81 calories, 4.6 g of fat, .8 g of saturated fat, NO cholesterol, 1.3 g of protein, 10.7 g of carbohydrate and 1.8 g of fiber.