Monday, June 24, 2013

Patty Pan Squash Skewers With Orange Marinade - The Perfect Vegan And Gluten-Free Summer Barbecue!

Vegetable skewers are great to serve at a BBQ!

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Patty Pan Squash
Patty pan, also known as scallop squash, are perfect for barbecuing. Their flesh is firm and they stay on the skewer, unlike their cousin, zucchini. Pair them up with mushrooms, onions, peppers, or other veggies that will take similar amounts of time to cook, and you have a simple, but very impressive looking meal.

If you can find them, buy baby patty pan squash,
 about 3 inches in diameter.

1 cup is only 23.4 calories!

You can buy a marinade from the store or just use your favorite Italian salad dressing. I like to make my own with a little citrus juice (orange, lime or lemon), extra virgin olive oil, garlic (of course), pepper, something salty, and something sweet. Experiment to see what you like. Don't worry too much about the calories from the oil as most of the marinade will drip off during the cooking process. Oil also helps prevent the veggies from sticking to the grill.

Here's a simple recipe for patty pan squash skewers with an orange marinade. Serve them on top of brown rice, orzo, or quinoa or wrapped in a tortilla.

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Patty Pan Squash Skewers with Orange Marinade
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 6 skewers]

For the marinade
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
2 or 3 cloves garlic, skins removed and pressed
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt 

For the skewers
6 small patty pan squash
18 crimini mushrooms
1 large red onion

Combine all marinade ingredients, mix well, and set aside.

Make the skewers. Clean the onion and cut in half vertically. Then again in thirds vertically. Separate into big chunks. Set aside.

If you buy the baby patty pans, cut in half vertically. If they are large, cut each half again vertically. Set aside.

Clean the mushrooms with a clean, damp paper towel. Without removing the stems, trim them in line with the mushroom cap.

For each skewer, place a double slice of onion, a mushroom, and a piece of patty pan squash, another double slice of onion, another mushroom, another piece of patty pan squash and end with another double piece of onion and a mushroom. 

Place all of the skewers in a large, shallow roasting pan. Pour the marinade over the skewers. Let them sit in the marinade for 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally until they are well coated.

Pour marinade over skewers and turn to coat.

On a low flame, place the skewers on the barbecue and cook slowly, turning every three minutes, until they are tender, about 20 minutes. Save the marinade from the roasting pan and use it to baste the skewers while they are cooking. It's important to turn the skewers frequently, especially when you first put them on, to prevent sticking.

Once the squash is fork tender, remove from the barbecue, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve on top of your favorite grain. Rice and quinoa are good gluten-free options. Or, cut them into smaller pieces and place inside a warm tortilla with salsa.

Patty pan skewers served over orzo pasta.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

American Medical Association Declares Obesity A Disease - Is This Good Or Bad?

One third of Americans are obese.

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Obesity Declared a Disease
When I first heard that the AMA decided to classify obesity as a disease, my first reaction was, "really?" Many feel that obesity is self inflicted and can be prevented and cured by diet and exercise. But doesn't that really describe almost every disease? Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and countless other ailments can be prevented by a healthy diet and lifestyle. I personally don't believe that diseases are caused by our "bad genes". In fact, most diseases are caused by the "unhealthy recipes" passed down from generation to generation. (I will show you how to fight "bad genes" with "delicious and healthy vegan recipes" in my new e-book, Health Begins in the Kitchen, available in July.)

My natural suspicion that most actions taken by the AMA are self serving made me immediately focus on the benefits doctors and pharmaceutical companies would now receive. But the most important thing we should consider about this "declaration" is how it will affect the one third of Americans that are obese and are suffering from the many health issues associated with it. 

The Good
Here are the things I would love to see happen as a result of this declaration:

Making obesity a disease removes some of the stigma of talking about weight. It is a lot more comfortable for the doctor and the patient to discuss a "disease" rather than someone's  weight, poor eating habits or sedentary behavior.

Doctors should now be reimbursed for the time they take to discuss nutrition and exercise with their obese patients. Given that this is not the specialty of most doctors, they should now be able to refer these patients to nutritionists and exercise coaches. This should be covered by insurance.

Some people overeat and become obese for psychological reasons. It would be great if obese patients can now seek therapy to deal with these deep-rooted issues and be given better tools to address these problems. This too should be covered by insurance.

And wouldn't it be nice if policy makers would be more encouraged to make changes that would help prevent this health issue. They did it with smoking after the U.S. Surgeon General informed us that smoking caused disease. Tobacco was more heavily taxed and marketing was restricted. As a result, the percentage of people who smoke has been cut in half since the 1960's. With obesity now a disease, perhaps the government will be more likely to subsidize fruits and vegetables, rather than corn, meat and dairy. Or prohibit the marketing of sugary foods to children. I can dream, can't I?

If all of these things happen and obesity rates drop significantly, so will the rate of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, joint issues, some cancers, and a myriad of other weight-related diseases. For those of you who watch The Biggest Loser or Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, you'll notice that the people on the show end up tossing most or all of their medications after losing significant weight and getting in shape. 

The Bad
Unfortunately there are some bad things that could come from this "declaration". 

Some fear that obese people might just think they were stricken with a disease and feel powerless to control it. Or worse, they may expect the doctor to prescribe a pill to cure or control their illness.

I also fear that it may promote lap band surgery, a procedure that involves placing a plastic band around the upper part of the stomach to make it smaller. This limits the amount of food a person can eat and also reduces their appetite. Eating a healthy, plant-rich diet involves eating high-fiber salads, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods that take lots of space in your stomach. There is no need for deprivation! Putting a band around your stomach robs you from enjoying a big, healthy meal. It's absolutely the LAST thing anyone should do. I wish Governor Christy (the new poster child for lap band surgery) came to visit me for a few weeks so that I could have shown him how to enjoy food and lose weight at the same time. People who take the surgical route avoid having to learn about nutrition. 

We Can Only Hope
The declaration making obesity a disease could possibly lead to the education of both the patient and the doctor about how a plant-rich diet can help cure obesity without deprivation or surgery. Somehow, with the AMA leading the charge, I fear that it may lead to more drugs and surgeries. We can only hope for the best.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Vegan and Gluten-Free Kidney Bean Salad With Chili-Lime Dressing- Perfect For Summer Picnics And Barbecues!

Kidney bean salad with corn, avocados and red onion.

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Summer is the time for friends to get together and enjoy an outdoor barbecue or picnic. When asked to bring a dish to share, be aware that many people have food sensitivities and eating preferences.  With hearty kidney beans, creamy avocados, crunchy fresh corn and a tasty chili-lime dressing, no one will suspect that this delicious salad is also rich in protein, high in fiber and perfect for those who avoid meat, dairy and gluten. And it couldn't be any easier to prepare!

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Kidney Bean Salad with Chili-Lime Dressing
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 8 servings]

For the dressing:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon cold-pressed hemp oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

For the salad:
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Kernels from 2 large ears corn
1 red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion

Place dressing ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until well combined.

Add all salad ingredients and gently toss until evenly coated with dressing.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Per serving: 196 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 386 mg omega-3 and 1,790 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 8 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 9 g dietary fiber and 485 mg sodium.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Refreshingly Raw 20-Calorie Strawberry Popsicles - Gluten, Dairy And Sugar Free!

Delicious, raw vegan,strawberry popsicles - only 20 calories!

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Getting Ready for Summer Fun
My grandson is coming this summer to visit, as he does every summer. We have a folder called "10 days of fun" which we have been filling with ideas of things to do while he is here. He has recently taken an interest in cooking, so I thought one of the "fun" ideas would be to make popsicles. I will put this recipe in the folder but I'm hoping he will invent his own favorite concoction. 

My 10-year-old grandson, Xavier, loves to cook!

Ice Pop Maker
You don't need a mold but they are very inexpensive and make the process pretty fool proof. The results also a lot more professional looking.

 I bought a Norpro Ice Pop Maker for under $13 on Amazon and an extra bag of popsicle sticks for another few dollars. Some people just freeze the fruit mixture in a tall shot glass or ice cube tray and place a popsicle stick in it when it starts to freeze. But using a mold is a lot easier.

This frozen pop maker produces a nice looking popsicle! 
Here's a recipe, but like all recipes, it is just a suggestion.
Use any fruit or juice. Use your favorite sweetener or none at all. I love stevia because it's safe and calorie free. You can also blend fruit with non-diary milk or yogurt. The combinations are endless! 

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Sugar-Free Strawberry Popsicles
Raw Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 6 popsicles]

1 pint strawberries
4 packets stevia
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup water

Wash strawberries, remove tops and thinly slice.
Place in a bowl and sprinkle with stevia. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Slice strawberries and add stevia.

Placed in a food processor with an S-blade. Add lemon juice and process until it reaches the consistency of tomato sauce.

Processs until almost smooth.

Pour into molds but leave about 1/4 inch at the top to allow for expansion. This recipe will make about 6 popsicles.  

Fill popsicle mold with strawberry mixture.

Place the lid over the filled molds and insert sticks.

Place lid and insert sticks.

Pop in the freezer unit frozen, about 4 or more hours, or overnight.

Place in the freezer.

To remove the frozen popsicles from the mold, briefly submerge the popsicle maker in a large, deep bowl - the depth of the popsicles. Leave in for 20 to 30 seconds, until the popsicles slide out.

Dip in a large, deep container filled with warm water.

You can eat them right away, although you might want to return them to the freezer for another hour, wrapped in wax paper, to harden up a little.
You can store these in the freezer, wrapped, for a few weeks.


* Per popsicle: 20 calories, 0.2 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 39 mg omega-3 and 54 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber and 1 mg sodium.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

One Million Steps, One Hundred Days - Take The Challenge!

Take the Challenge - Start Walking!
1,000,000 Steps
100 Days

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One Million Steps
There have been quite a few mentions of a one million step challenge on Facebook and various blogs. My husband, Doug, told me about it a few weeks ago.

I'm pretty competitive and I LOVE a challenge. So I thought I'd challenge him to walk one million steps in one hundred days and I'd do the same. Of course, this really means, "who can clock the most steps in this timeframe." By the way, he's even more competitive than I am. 

The official start date for our challenge - June 1st!

To illustrate how ridiculous it is for me to compete with Doug in reaching this milestone, let me compare our jobs and daily routines.

My husband pretty much "hand" farms our vineyard. Because the vines are planted very close together (European style), he can't get a tractor between the rows. This means he has to walk up and down the 2 linear miles of grapevines whenever he needs to do something to them. He can clock 10,000 steps before lunch!

Doug logs lots of steps farming the vineyard

I, on the other hand, am a blogger, researcher and author. I sit in a chair most of the day. How can I possibly compete with Doug on walking a million steps?

This is where you will find me most of the day.

Getting Ready with our Little Fitbits
My son got me a Fitbit for Christmas so I am all set for this challenge. So Doug had to buy one too. My suspicions were confirmed when he clocked nearly 25,000 steps the first day he wore it. Now I'm starting to worry. But the next day, he was down in the 12,000 range so I thought there was still some hope for me. 

The Fitbit Zip is light and hooks onto your pocket. It's wireless and syncs automatically to your computer so you can monitor your progress. You can find less expensive pedometers, some as low as $20.

The Fitbit Zip Wireless Tracker.
We paid about $49 each.

Upping my Game
I always try to get in my 10,000 steps per day but some days it just doesn't happen. This challenge has inspired me to up my game. Here's how I've modified my work day to get more steps in.

* Every hour on the hour, I take a 5 minute break and either jump on the elliptical (which is a few feet from my desk), do jumping jacks,  or march in place.

* I only buy enough groceries for one day and walk to the grocery store every afternoon.

* I moved my home office downstairs so that every time I need anything in the house, I have to walk up a flight of stairs.

* I placed a step behind the couch so when I watch T.V., I can be doing step aerobics.

When watching TV, use a step or just march in place.

* When I have to mail a letter, I walk to the post office.

* I take out my Zumba tapes a couple of times a week and dance.

The Benefits!
There are many benefits, besides the glory of accomplishing this goal, of physical activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical activity can:
* Control your weight  (depending on your weight and current level of activity, you can lose 5 to 10 pounds by walking a million steps!)
* Reduce your risk of heart disease
* Reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
* Reduce your risk of some cancers, such as endometrial and lung cancer
* Strengthens your bones and muscles
* Improve your mental health and mood and reduce depression
* Help you sleep better
* increase your chances of living longer

Partner Up
It easier and more fun to take this challenge with a friend, spouse, work partner or neighbor. 
So pick a partner, pick up a pedometer, 

How are we doing?
The totals for the month of June are:
328,138 steps
135 miles
48,300 calories
418,071 steps
192 miles
80,011 calories

By the end of July:
671,586 steps
276 miles
98,850 calories
799,544 steps
367 miles
153,000 calories

We Hit Our Goal!
By the end of August (92 days)  I hit 1,004,085 steps
Doug met the 1 Million Step goal by August 15th, after 77 days!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Fresh Corn Salad With Baby Arugula And Red Onions

Fresh corn gives this raw salad a delicious crunch!

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Fresh Corn
Corn is abundant at the market right now. You can get lots of conventionally grown corn for a very low price and since it's part of the Environmental Working Group's Clean 15, it's safe from a pesticide perspective. However, if you are concerned about eating GMO foods, you may want to consider paying a bit extra for organic. 

I love corn, either raw off the cob or in a salad like this. Today I was inspired by a dish I saw in the deli case at Whole Foods.  It's a simple mixture of fresh corn with baby arugula and red onion with a lemon and oil dressing. When I compared the nutritional value of salad greens last September, arugula was high on the list so I always love using baby arugula in my salads. And, of course, I love its spicy flavor.

And remember my tip on cutting corn. Snap it in half, lay it down on its side, and cut the corn off horizontally instead of vertically. This will keep it from flying all over your kitchen!

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Fresh Corn Salad with Baby Arugula and Red Onion
Raw Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 4 servings]

For the salad
2 ears of corn
2 to 3 large handfuls of baby arugula (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

For the dressing
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or cold-pressed hemp oil (I prefer a mixture of both)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Clean corn and remove the kernels. Place in a large salad bowl with arugula and onions.

Make the dressing: Whisk oil, lemon juice and salt together until well combined.

Add dressing to the salad and toss until well coated.

Serve immediately.

Per serving: 103 calories, 4 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 311 mg omega-3 and 1,581 g omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g dietary fiber and 162 mg sodium.