Monday, December 23, 2013

Vegan And Gluten-Free Low-Sugar Cranberry Sauce With Pomegranate And Pear
A Great Dish For The Holidays!

We added fresh pears and pomegranate arils to
our popular low-sugar cranberry sauce.

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Get Them While You Can
I can't get enough of fresh cranberries and pomegranates. Just knowing they will soon be gone makes me appreciate them even more. 

Here's a variation of our popular low-sugar cranberry sauce recipe with the addition of pears and cranberries. It was a big hit at Thanksgiving and it could be a great addition to your Christmas menu too! 

Serve it with roasted root vegetables, stuffed acorn squash, rice casserole, on top of a baked sweet potato, with vegan stuffing, or just eat it with a spoon. It keeps well so you can make it early in the day or even the night before.

     *                     *                       *

Low-Sugar Cranberry Sauce with Pomegranate and Pear
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 10 to 12 servings]

1 large pomegranate
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
Juice from one large organic orange
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
12 ounce bag fresh cranberries, stems removed
1 pear, peeled and diced
8 drops stevia, or to taste (optional)

To remove the arils, see my post on how to neatly clean a pomegranate and set aside the pomegranate arils.

After grating what you need from the orange peel, cut the orange in half. Squeeze the juice from both of the orange halves into a 1-cup measuring cup. Fill the rest of the measuring cup up with water. Place in a small saucepan with the orange peel and sugar.
Heat on medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.

Add the cranberries and bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. 

Add the pear and cook for another minute or two, stirring frequently.

Remove from the heat and add a few drops of stevia at a time until the sauce reaches the desired sweetness. Be careful because too much stevia will actually make it bitter.

Stir in the pomegranate arils. Place in a serving bowl, cool to room temperature and serve. 

Store in the refrigerator.

Per serving (10) 81 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 9 mg omega-3 and 42 g omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 2 mg sodium.

Per serving (12) 67 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 7 mg omega-3 and 35 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 2 mg sodium.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Go Nuts For Nuts - You'll Live Longer!
Nut Medley Recipe

Eating nuts can lengthen your life!

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Longevity Foods
Occasionally you'll hear someone promote a food that could improve your health and possibly extend your life but often it's not something you would want to eat everyday. Cholorella and spirulina come to mind. Or, it's not something you have easy access to like goji berries, for example. But a 30-year Harvard study recently revealed that plain old, easy-to-find nuts can help you live longer.

Amazing Study Results
In this study 119,000 men and women were tracked, making this the largest study of its kind. The results were astounding. Here's what they found:

Over the 30 year study period, people who ate just a handful of nuts (about 1/4 cup or an ounce) each day:

 * were 20% less likely to die from any cause,
 * had a 29% reduction in deaths from heart disease, and
 * had an 11% reduction in deaths from cancer.

There was also a linear relationship between how often people ate nuts and the amount of benefit they received. The more times a week they ate nuts, the longer they lived. 

 * Those who ate nuts less that once a week had a 7% reduction in mortality.
 * Those who ate nuts once a week had an 11% reduction,
 * two to four times per week, a 13% reduction,
 * five to six times per week, a 15% reduction, and
 * seven or more times a week, a 20% reduction.

But Aren't Nuts Fattening?
Nuts are high in calories because of their fat content and I'm sure if you ate a pound of nuts each day you would gain weight. But the study found that regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn't eat nuts. So eating a handful of nuts a day not only improves your chances of living longer but it can also keep your slimmer. 

What To Do (In my opinion)
So how can you take advantage of this good news? 
To take advantage of the many benefits of nuts, eat a variety of them, of course avoiding those you may be allergic to. Walnuts provide more omega-3 fatty acids, Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, almonds are high in vitamin E, pistachios provide vitamin B6, macadamia nuts and pecans are rich in manganese as are most other nuts. So mix it up!

I prefer to eat raw nuts because the roasting process can create carcinogenic chemicals. Some of the nuts that are sold as "raw" are actually blanched (like almonds) or exposed to high heats during the shelling process (like cashews). But at least they are not roasted in oil. 

Raw nuts, however, are high in phytic acid which can lower your absorption of minerals like, zinc, calcium, iron and others because it has a tendency to bind with them. If you are a raw foodist and nuts are a key part of your diet, this could be an issue. To prevent this, nuts could first be soaked, rinsed, and dehydrated. However, if you are only consuming an ounce or two of nuts a day, (which is all you really should be consuming to get health benefits) it's not a problem. 

I also prefer to eat unsalted nuts. I find that I can eat a handful of unsalted nuts but if they are salted, I want to eat a lot more. I cannot walk away from a bowl of salted pistachios!

Because of their high fat content, nuts can go rancid so always keep them in the refrigerator.

Store nuts in a large glass jar
and keep refrigerated.

Make a mixture of your favorite raw, unsalted nuts. 
 * Store in a glass jar and refrigerate.
 * Serve to your guests as an appetizer.
 * Put an ounce in everyone's lunchbox.
 * Put out a bowl for family "grazing".
 * Sprinkle nuts on top of green salads and fruit salads.

          *                                *                                *

Nut Medley
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 24 (1/4-cup) servings]

1 cup raw, shelled, unsalted English walnuts
1 cup raw, shelled, unsalted pistachios
1 cup raw, shelled, unsalted pecan halves
1 cup raw, shelled, unsalted cashews
1 cup raw, shelled, unsalted almonds
1 cup raw, shelled, unsalted Brazil nuts

Mix all ingredients and store in a glass jar. Refrigerate until needed. 
Enjoy a serving a day!

Per serving: 188 calories, 17 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 505 mg omega-3 and 5,692 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 1 mg sodium. 

Serve this nut medley to your holiday guests and put
1/4 cup servings in your family's lunchbox every day.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Great Christmas Gifts For Healthy Cooking

These are some of my favorite things for a healthy kitchen!

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Things for the Kitchen Make Wonderful Gifts
I'm always buying things for my kitchen and I especially love buying these kinds of gifts for people who enjoy cooking - especially young adults who are just starting out. When you buy an appliance, kitchen tool, or ingredient that allows someone to cook healthy meals, you are giving them the gift of longevity. I can't think of anything better than that. 

So if you are still making your Christmas list, you might want to include some of these gifts for your special someone. Or, feel free to put one of these under the tree for yourself! 
I've included links to Amazon because they generally have the best prices (and I hate going to the stores at this time of year) but if you can find these items locally, that's always a great way to shop.

$ - under $50
$$ - from $51 to $100
$$$ - from $101 to $200
$$$ - from $201 to $300
$$$$ - from $301 to $400
$$$$$ - over $400

Knives ($)
All cooks need a good knife. This 4-inch Stainless Steel Paring Knife is a good start. 
JA Henckels International Classic 4-inch paring knife

A nice serrated edged knife is needed to cut tomatoes, like this 5 1/2 inch Tomato Knife.
Wusthof Gourmet 5 1/2 inch Tomato Knife

A good high-speed blender is my most important appliance. My favorite is the Vitamix. I have given one to each of my children. They are used for making healthy smoothies, raw and cooked blended soups, dips, nut milks, salad dressings, the preparations for healthy frozen treats, non-dairy "cheese" sauces, hummus, cashew cream, and so much more. They can even be used to make your own flour and to grind nuts and seeds. The Vitamix 1782 TurboBlend, 2 Speed, is the less expensive model and works great. If you want one with a variable speed, get the Vitamix 5200.

2-Speed Vitamix $$$$

Variable Speed Vitamix $$$$$

Pomona Pectin ($)
Here's a stocking stuffer for anyone interested in making healthy jelly and jam. Pomona's Universal Pectin allows you to make jelly and jam with little or no sugar. It's a must for those who like to can! I love this product so much I devote an entire chapter to it in my eBook.

The healthy way to make jelly and jam!

Le Creuset Cookware ($$$$)
Every chef needs a high-quality 5 1/2 quart Dutch Oven (or as Le Creuset calls them, "French Ovens".) For years I used non-stick Dutch ovens but the non-stick coating tends to scratch and can become toxic. I also adore my All-Clad stainless steel pots. But my life changed when I finally broke down and bought my Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5 1/2 quart French Oven. At first I was reluctant to buy such a heavy pot (it's 11 pounds), but then I realized that using it served two purposes. Healthy cooking AND keeping fit! The enamel coating keeps food from sticking and makes it very easy to clean. It cooks evenly and will last forever. I use it all winter for making soups, stews, grains, and spaghetti sauce. It is truly a magnificent pot! 

Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart French Oven

Microplane Zester/Grater ($)
Here's another very important tool that I use almost every day. It's a Microplane 40020 Classic Zester/Grater. I use it to zest lemons, limes and oranges. I also use it to grate ginger and garlic. It's so much more convenient than a big grater and cleans easily. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer!


Food Processor ($$$)
I absolutely adore my 11-cup Cuisinart food processor. I use it to make raw pesto, hummus, raw walnut meatballs, raw chocolate truffles, pizza dough (or bread dough), and for shredding veggies for coleslaw or other salads. 

Cuisinart 11-cup food processor

Citrus Juicer ($)
This inexpensive, glass citrus juicer comes in handy every time a recipe calls for fresh lemon or lime juice. I use it all the time!

Glass Citrus Juicer

Ice Cream Maker ($$)
What's more fun than making ice cream or sorbet - especially when it's healthy and you get to control what's in it! I make all kinds of concoctions in my Vitamix and then toss them into a my Cuisinart 2-Quart Ice Cream maker . In about 20 minutes I have a healthy, non-dairy frozen dessert! 

Cuisinart 2-Quart Automatic Frozen Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker

Healthy Recipes ($)
My eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen: Delicious and Easy Vegan Recipes and Seasonal Food Plan is a great gift for someone wanting to include healthy vegan recipes in their diet. From morning smoothies, to frozen desserts, these recipes will help you kick off the new year with delicious recipes that will help you get healthy and stay healthy without sacrificing taste and enjoyment. You get 160 vegan recipes (most are gluten free), 145 beautiful photographs, plus critical nutritional information, menus, and instructions and recipes for a raw food cleanse - all for only $9.99. 

Buy it on Amazon or
Buy it on iTunes

Happy Shopping!!!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Fat Free Vegan Lentil And Barley Soup
Easy To Make - One Step, One Pot
Great For "Between Holiday" Weight Loss!

Lentil and barley soup is rich in protein and fiber
and has less than 160 calories per serving!

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Watching your Weight Between Holidays
If you are trying to lose a few Thanksgiving pounds before your diet is once again challenged at Christmas and New Years, this fat-free vegan lentil and barley soup can help you out. It's rich is protein and fiber which really satisfies your appetite for only 157 calories per serving. If you're too busy Christmas shopping to cook, don't worry. This one step, one pot meal is easy to prepare. Make it on the weekend and heat it up for lunch or dinner during the week.

Transitioning to a Plant-Rich Diet
A hearty soup with lots of fiber and protein can be very satisfying for people transitioning to a more plant-rich diet. Protein from plant sources is just as beneficial as protein from meat and dairy and doesn't contain the cholesterol and saturated fat. And meat doesn't contain any fiber, one of the most critical components of any diet. 

Barley: High in fiber, selenium, and manganese.
(not gluten free)

Lentils: Hi in protein, iron, phosphorus, copper,
as well as fiber, folate and manganese.
  *                       *                         *

Fat Free Lentil and Barley Soup
[makes 6 servings]

4 cups vegetable broth*
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1/2 cup dried green lentils
1/3 cup pearl barley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 bay leaf

* or 4 cups water with bouillon cube

Place all of the ingredients in a 5 quart Dutch oven or soup pot. Bring to a boil on high heat. Lower the heat and simmer, tightly covered, and stirring occasionally, until the lentils and barley are cooked, about 45 minutes. 

Add all ingredients at once.
No need to sauté veggies in oil.

Always remember to remove the bay leaf.

Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Each serving is only 157 calories and has
7 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber!

Per serving: 157 calories, <1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 28 mg omega-3 and 216 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 g cholesterol, 7 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 9 g dietary fiber, and 228 mg sodium.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Did You Pick Your Lemons And Limes Before The Freeze? Here's What To Do With Them!

An easy way to store lemons and limes.

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Pick those Lemons and Limes Before they Freeze!
We are not buried in snow like many places in the country but we are having our first hard freeze in Northern California. Last night I was frantically pulling up all my lettuce, bok choy, and kale while Doug was pulling lemons, limes, and oranges off the trees. It's not too hard to juice and use up all the oranges but lemons and limes are a different story.

Saving the Grated Zest
Before juicing, you may want to save the grated zest. To do that, thoroughly wash the fruit. I would only do this if the fruit is organic. My favorite tool for this is a microplane zester/grater. But you can use a simple grater too.

Grate the cleaned peel.
You can do this with lemon, lime, or oranges.

You can either freeze the zest or dry it. You can dry it by spreading it out on a plate for a day or so or place it in a dehydrator. Once completely dry, you can put it in a jar.

Saving the Juice
Here's a popular and easy way to save the lemon and lime juice.

Juice the lemons or limes.

Place the juice in an ice cube tray and freeze.

Place the lemon or lime frozen cubes in a ziplock bag.
Label and date them and place in the freezer.

Uses for Frozen Cubes
My favorite use for frozen lemon or lime cubes is to place one in a pot of soup at the very end of cooking. Many of my soup recipes call for the addition of an acid like lemon or lime juice to intensify the flavor. 

Lemon juice in hot water is a popular detox method as it helps cleanse the liver. Just add a lemon cube to a cup of boiling water and drink it first thing in the morning. You can do this more than once a day. It's a great substitute for coffee.

And of course, when life brings you lemon cubes, make lemonade!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

How Chocolate Is Grown And Made At The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory
Chocolate Makes A Great Christmas Gift!

1 pound bar of Hawaii's premier Criollo dark chocolate.

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Our Trip to Kona
Doug and I recently spent 10 days in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii where some of my favorite foods grow abundantly. Papaya, avocados, and mangos are piled up in baskets at the local farmers' markets where they sell for one tenth of what we pay for them in California. What I didn't know, until this trip, was that some of the best cacao and chocolate I've ever had was grown and made right there in Kailua-Kona. We were lucky enough to be welcomed and given a tour of a very special chocolate farm and factory by owners Pam and Bob Cooper.

The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory
Doug and I can totally relate to the Coopers. In 1998 we left our high tech jobs in Silicon Valley to start a whole new life - I devote my time to writing about nutrition, Doug works in his Pinot Noir vineyard, and we both have learned how to make delicious wine. 

Similarly, in 1997, Bob and Pam Cooper made a big life change. They left Raleigh, North Carolina, and bought a house in Kona that had some cacao trees. They didn't know it at the time but they would grow and produce the first 100-percent single-origin chocolate bar in the nation! I'm sure other states would love to grow cacao but Hawaii is the only state in the "chocolate-growing-belt", a region that extends 20 degrees north and south of the equator. 

Although the farm consists of only a single acre of trees at his home and another 14 acres on the other side of the Big Island and the factory is perhaps the tiniest chocolate factory in the world, their product is mind blowing! Since I avoid dairy, I only sampled their two types of  70% dark chocolate. Although they were both delicious  I especially loved the one that was made from the rare "criollo" cacao bean. Only 15% of the world's chocolate is made from this bean. Often chocolates that are this high in cacao, and their health-promoting antioxidant flavonoids, can be harsh and bitter. But their criollo chocolate is smooth with the richness of 70% dark chocolate but the smoothness of milk chocolate. I wasn't the first foodie to uncover this jewel. Evidently Alton Brown and other chocolate connoisseurs beat me to it. 

Growing and Making Chocolate

Doug and I at he Original Hawaiian Chocolate farm and factory .

We really loved the tour and learned a lot about growing cacao and making chocolate. Here are some of the highlights of what we learned.

Growing Cacao
Cacao pods, which contain cacao beans, result from the pollination of the blooms by little flies (I bet they are the same little pesky flies that were biting me and the family all week!). Pollination happens within one hour of blooming. The pods contain about 30 to 40 beans and take 75 days to mature. What was really interesting is that instead of harvesting once a year, as we do with wine grapes, they harvest their cacao continually - every two weeks when each pod is perfectly ripe. If they wait too long, the beans start to germinate inside the pod and can no longer be used to make chocolate. 

The pods grow from the tree trunk and branches and come in various colors. 

Ripe pods on trunk and tree branches
Multi-colored ripe pods

Removing Cacao Beans from the Ripe Pods
The beans are removed from the ripe pods and are covered in a thick, white, slimy material. During the tour, while Bob was showing us the inside of a ripe pod, four geckos immediately jumped on the table and starting eating this white covering. To a gecko, at least, this coating might be just as yummy as the chocolate!

A gecko enjoying the white material covering the cacao beans.

Having the geckos eat all of the white coating would take too long :-) so to free the cacao beans, they are put into fermentation tanks where the coating gets removed through the fermentation process. 

Fermentation tank
White coating is removed during the fermentation process.

Cleaning the Beans
The beans are put onto drying racks which are opened every morning. The beans are then raked and culled to remove extraneous matter and immature beans.

Drying racks

Roasting the Beans

Flavors are locked in by roasting the beans in a coffee roaster. When they come out of the roaster, the beans still have their shells.

Cacao beans are roasted

The winnower removes the shell and breaks the bean into nibs. 

The winnower removes the shell.

The conch is where the chocolate is actually made. This process takes 15 hours.
First the nib is ground into a concentrated liquid called liquor. This takes 2 hours.
All the rest of the ingredients are then added to the liquor and mixed very thoroughly for the next 13 hours.

The conch

After the chocolate is finished in the conch, it goes into a holding tank where it is tempered. This process involves stirring the chocolate slowly while lowering the temperature from 120 degrees to 86 degrees. This stabilizes the cocoa butter crystals, gives the chocolate a satin sheen and a nice snap. It is then poured into various sized molds. They make individual bars, pieces in the shape of small or large plumeria, and 1-pound bars.

Bob Cooper discusses the tempering process and
shows how to mold the chocolate.

Products and How to Buy 
They offer and ship individual bars or single hand-poured large Plumeria shaped pieces in regular dark chocolate, Criollo dark chocolate and milk chocolate. 

One pound bars and single hand-poured small Plumeria pieces are offered in regular dark chocolate and milk chocolate. 

You can also buy roasted cacao nibs that you can blend into smoothies or just eat as a snack. 

Makes a Great Christmas Gift!
If you would like to receive this yummy chocolate by Christmas, Pam tells me that you need to have your order in by December 15th. We left with 2 pounds of this wonderful chocolate and we're savoring each bite.

Thanks to Bob and Pam for their hospitality and for a very interesting and informative tour. If you are ever on the Big Island, make sure to go visit the farm. Their tours are very popular and get booked up quickly so schedule your tour in advance.

Chocolate is Aloha!