Monday, September 24, 2012

Low Calorie Vegan And Gluten Free Zucchini And Turnip Soup With Fresh Ginger - Perfect For Weight Loss!

Zucchini turnip soup has less than 50 calories per cup!

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Have you ever eaten a turnip? They're a delicious root vegetable which when peeled looks a lot like a potato but with fewer calories and carbohydrates. Turnips have a slightly bitter taste and add a wonderful and interesting flavor to soups. You can also mash them up like potatoes or roast them with a little olive oil and salt. 

Turnips are a great source of fiber, vitamin C and manganese and are also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, calcium, potassium and copper.
Peeled turnips look like potatoes.
Potatoes have 116 calories per cup and 28 g of carbohydrates.
Turnips have only 36 calories and 8 g of carbohydrates!

Great Soup for Weight Loss!
This soup uses up lots of  that garden zucchini. It's quick and easy to make with a few simple ingredients  and blends up into a delicious, low calorie, low fat soup. Eating a 45 calorie cup of this soup before a meal will definitely curb your appetite. Or make a whole meal of it with a 2-cup serving and a mixed green salad.

Zucchini and Turnip Soup 
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 8 cups]

8 cups diced zucchini
4 cups peeled and diced turnips
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 cups water
1 large Rapunzel vegan vegetable bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste if needed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the zucchini, turnips, garlic, ginger, water, bouillon cube and bay leaf in a large pot. Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, partially covered, until the vegetables are soft. 

After vegetables soften, remove bay leaf and blend.

Remove the bay leaf and place the soup in a blender and blend until smooth. If you don't have a high-speed blender, make sure you mince the ginger very small.

Place in a blender.
Blend until smooth.

Adjust for salt (remember many bouillon cubes already contain a lot of salt) and add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Serve with additional freshly ground black pepper if desired.

Per cup: 45 calories, 0.5 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2.6 g protein, 8.6 g carbohydrates, 2.1 g dietary fiber and 309 mg sodium.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Before You Reach For The Iceberg Lettuce - Select The Best Greens For Your Salad!

 Iceberg lettuce is crisp and delicious but not a nutritional star.

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Salad Greens
When I was a kid, we ate a salad with every meal. It was always the same - iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, vinegar and oil. There really wasn't much choice of salad greens in the super market back then. Today, of course, you can walk down an entire isle of salad green options - besides iceberg you may find romaine, butter lettuce, red leaf, green leaf, arugula, spinach and so on. And many are offered both organically or conventionally grown! So how are we to choose?

Taste preference is always a major factor. Arugula or rocket, has a slightly bittier or peppery taste. Lettuce has a more subtle flavor and often takes on the flavor of the salad dressing. Salad greens are also selected for their distinct textures. Romaine is crunchy while butter lettuce (also known as Boston or bibb lettuce), red leaf and green leaf have a more delicate texture. Salad greens also vary in their nutritional content.

Nutritional Comparison of Salad Greens
All salad greens are very low in calories (less than 10 calories per ounce), and have no saturated fat or cholesterol. They are also extremely low in sodium. Although they may not seem to be contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals, on a per calorie basis, they are very nutrient dense.  Here's how these salad greens differ in several beneficial nutrients:

Vitamin A
This fat-soluble, antioxidant vitamin is important for vision, growth and development, healthy skin and a strong immune system. If you have night blindness, dry skin or just want to boost up your immunity and want a salad green with the highest amount of vitamin A, your best choice would be romaine or spinach - just two ounces would provide your entire daily requirement. Red and green leaf lettuces are also a very good choice. Iceberg on the other hand only provides 3% of your daily requirement per ounce.

One ounce of Romaine lettuce is only 5 calories and provides:

2439 IU vitamin A
7 mg vitamin C
29 mcg vitamin K
38 mcg folate
9 mg calcium

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant and supports a healthy immune system, teeth and gum health and the formation of collagen (that's what keeps our skin from sagging ladies!). It also enhances the absorption of iron. If you bruise easily or have other signs of capillary weakness, once again romaine and spinach are the best choices for their vitamin C content - two ounces provides about one quarter of your daily requirement. Since vitamin C is very heat sensitive, eating a big raw salad is a good way to get it. Make sure and include a sliced, raw, red bell pepper - one of the best sources of this vitamin (1 cup of sliced red bell pepper provides twice your daily requirement!)  

Butter lettuce is only 4 calories per ounce and provides:

927 IU vitamin A
only 1 mg vitamin C
29 mcg vitamin K
20 mcg folate
10 mg calcium

Vitamin K
Although most people aren't deficient in this important vitamin, some people are - like those suffering from Crohn's or other diseases that effect absorption in the digestive tract or those taking certain drugs that interfere with it. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for the regulation of blood clotting and is also very important for bone health. Spinach has a high concentration of vitamin K (135 mcg/ounce), 1 ounce providing more than the daily requirement for a man (120 mcg/day) or a woman (90 mcg/day). Those of you on warfarin (Coumadin), a blood-thinning medication, may want to avoid foods this high in vitamin K. If that's the case, the other lettuces are better choices than spinach.

One ounce of Red Leaf lettuce has only 5 calories and provides:
2098 IU vitamin A
only 1 mg vitamin C
39 mcg vitamin K
10 mcg folate
9 mg calcium
Although red leaf lettuce, with its deep colors, looks more nutritious, green leaf lettuce is higher in vitamins C & K, folate, calcium and potassium. 
One ounce of Green Leaf lettuce has only 5 calories and provides:
2073 IU vitamin A
5 mg vitamin C
49 mcg vitamin K
11 mcg folate
10 mg calcium

Folate plays a key role in amino acid metabolism and DNA synthesis. It is essential during pregnancy in preventing neural tube defects. If it's folate that you are after, spinach is a good choice with each ounce providing 14% of the daily requirement with romaine coming in a close second (one ounce providing 10%). 

It's important to note that folate can mask vitamin B12 deficiency so raw food vegans, who eat lots of high folate foods and little or no B12-rich foods, can be B12 deficient for a dangerously long time without noticing it.

Arugula, or Rocket,  is 7 calories per ounce and provides:

664 IU vitamin A
4 mg vitamin C
30 mcg vitamin K
27 mcg folate
45 mg calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is important for bone and tooth development as well as muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Although salad greens aren't a huge source of calcium, the salad green with the most calcium is arugula. A 4 ounce arugula salad provides 180 mg of calcium. More important, it's an alkaline food which doesn't draw calcium from the body like dairy sources which are acidic and cause the body to draw calcium from your bones for neutralization.
Although spinach is fairy high in calcium, it is also high in oxalates which reduce the absorption and retention of this critical mineral. To reduce the oxalic content, it's best to eat spinach cooked.

Spinach is 6 calories per ounce and provides:
2625 IU vitamin A
8 mg vitamin C
135 mcg vitamin K
54 mcg folate
28 mg calcium

So How Does Iceberg Lettuce Stack Up?
This old favorite isn't completely devoid of all nutrients - it's just not nearly as high as others. 
It contains only 1/17th the vitamin A as romaine, 1/8th the vitamin C as spinach, 1/14th the vitamin K as green leaf lettuce, and 1/11th the calcium as arugula .

Iceberg lettuce is 4 calories per ounce and provides only:
141 IU vitamin A
1 mg vitamin C
7 mcg vitamin K
8 mcg folate
5 mg calcium

How they rank
Of course their ranking depends on the nutrient you are the most deficient in - but overall, for a raw salad, romaine and arugula are the best nutritionally.
Red and green leaf are next in line followed by butter leaf.
Although spinach is an excellent source of many key vitamins and minerals, it's better prepared cooked to lessened the effect of calcium robbing oxalates.
As you may have guessed, iceberg comes in dead last. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Creamy Vegan And Gluten Free Polenta With Fresh Corn

Creamy polenta with kernels of fresh corn.

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Cornmeal  - Naturally Gluten Free
For those of you trying to limit your consumption of wheat, cornmeal is a great substitute. Since it's made from corn it's naturally gluten free. Polenta is basically boiled cornmeal which, when thickened, makes a great foundation for sauces, stews and sautéed vegetables. When it cools, it can be sliced and then grilled or sautéed. 

Fresh Corn 
Fresh corn is in season and is abundant in your local farmer's market and grocery stores. I love fresh, sweet corn and generally just eat it raw, right off the cob. I add fresh corn kernels to this polenta recipe at the very end to maintain its crunch and flavor. 

Here's a way to make creamy polenta without the dairy by using a non-dairy creamer and nutritional yeast. Enjoy!

Creamy Polenta with Corn
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

2 cups water
2 cups unsweetened soy or other non-diary milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon Earth Balance buttery spread
1/3 cup unflavored, gluten-free soy creamer
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn

Combine water, milk and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk in the cornmeal, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring frequently, until it's smooth and without lumps, 2 minutes.

Slowly whisk in the polenta

Stir in the Earth Balance and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the polenta is thick and creamy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Add a little water if it gets too thick or dry.

Polenta will get very thick. Add water if needed

When the polenta is cooked, add the creamer, nutritional yeast and corn and stir until smooth. Cook several more minutes until the polenta reaches the desired consistency.

When cooked, add creamer, nutritional yeast and corn.
Cook until thick and creamy.

Serve immediately or cover and set aside until needed.

Per serving: 187 calories, 4.7 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 6.7 g protein, 30.1 g carbohydrates, 2.8 g dietary fiber and 449 mg sodium.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Good News! Trader Joe's Now Offers White Whole Wheat Flour - Here's How It Measures Up.

White Whole Wheat Flour at Trader Joe's.
Grown on the high plains of the Midwest and Colorado.

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Finally, More Choices!
For years I've been baking with King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour. This type of flour is milled from hard white spring wheat instead of traditional red wheat. The beauty of white whole wheat is that it is delicate like white flour (in fact you wouldn't know you're eating whole wheat!) AND it has the fiber and other nutritional benefits of whole grain. Unfortunately King Arthur is sometimes hard to find and is twice the price as conventional all-purpose flour.

A few weeks ago I noticed that Trader Joe's had their own brand of white whole wheat flour, "Baker Josef's",  so I picked one up to try. I'm excited to report that it bakes as well as King Arthur's. Here's how else it compares:

A 5-pound bag of King Arthur's white whole wheat flour costs $4.95. If you buy King Arthur's organic white whole wheat flour, it costs $7.95. 
Trader Joe's Baker Josef's white whole wheat flour costs $2.99 for a 5-pound bag. Unfortunately, organic is not available.

Nutritional Content in 1 Cup of Flour
* White, all-purpose flour has 455 calories, 4 g of fat, 13 g of protein, 95 g of carbohydrates and only 3 g of dietary  fiber.

* King Arthur's white whole wheat flour has 400 calories, 2 g of fat, 12 g of protein, 72 g carbs and 12 g of dietary fiber.

* Baker Josef's white whole wheat flour has 440 calories, 2 g of fat, 16 g of protein, 92 g carbohydrates and a whopping 16 g of dietary fiber!

Bottom line, Baker Josef costs about the same as conventional all-purpose white flour and is 40% cheaper than King Arthur's white whole wheat.

Baker Josef has 23% more protein than all-purpose white flour and has 33% more protein than King Arthurs's white whole wheat.

Baker Josef has 433% more dietary fiber than all-purpose white flour and 33% more than King Arthur's. 

Remember, dietary fiber from whole grains can keep your regular and may lower your risk of colorectal cancer.  Fiber also lowers cholesterol and helps control your blood sugar levels. 

If there's a Trader Joe's near you, I suggest you give Baker Josef's white whole wheat flour a try, especially if you are still using white flour. If you use and enjoy King Arthur, it's still a great product and a great choice. Trader Joe's is just giving us another option.

King Arthur's is still a great product and a great choice!

Baking with White Whole Wheat
White whole wheat flour bakes like white flour. Start out by substituting it for 1/4 or 1/2  of your white flour but eventually I'm sure you'll use it for the entire recipe. It absorbs a bit more moisture than white flour so add a little more liquid to your recipes. All of my baked recipes on the blog (except for those that are wheat-free) assume the use of white whole wheat flour so there's no need to add additional liquid to these. 

White whole wheat flour can be used for bread, pizza dough, pancakes, muffins, breading, stuffing, biscuits, to thicken gravy or anywhere else white flour is used. I promise you, your kids won't even know you snuck in all this fiber and nutritional goodness into their diets!