Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Finishing Salts - Not Just For Steak

Finishing salts don't necessarily increase your salt intake.

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Finishing Salts
I received a beautiful collection of finishing salts for Christmas. I haven't had a lot of experience with them, other than a few unique ones my friends brought me back from Iceland last year. So it's been a lot of fun to experiment with them.

First of all, let's answer the question, "what is a finishing salt?" A finishing salt is an unrefined salt that is generally used on top of food, not cooked into food. They have various textures, some really big and chunky and some more delicate. Finishing salts can be infused with various flavors and can be used on top of every kind of food imaginable. I used to think that finishing salts were just used on top of steak and other meats, but they can be sprinkled on top of grains, potatoes, eggs, fruits, vegetables, even ice cream. My favorite dark chocolate truffle is topped with a chunk of sea salt.

Flavory's Essential Gourmet Finishing Sea Salt Collection came with six different salts. At first, I began to read up on what to do with each one, but I finally just put them all out on our dining table and started experimenting.

Place your finishing salts on the dining table
and start experimenting.

I found that most of the flavored salts were very subtle, except the smoked salt. What I enjoyed more than the flavors, were the different textures. I loved the big chunky ones, especially the Black Pyramid that gave me a surprise crunch and burst of flavor as I enjoyed it on my baked potato. 

Black Pyramid on a baked potato with Tofutti

These fun salts are from Iceland

The blueberry finishing salt from Iceland is excellent on ice cream.

Blueberry finishing salt on coconut Bliss ice cream

But Isn't Too Much Salt Bad For Me?
Sodium is an important mineral that your body needs to regulate body fluid, blood pressure, blood volume and acid-base balance. It is required for muscle and nerve conduction. If you don't get enough, you could experience low blood pressure, muscle cramps, dizziness and nausea. But many Americans use too much which could lead to hypertension and water retention.

The recommended daily allowance for sodium is 2,300 mg, about 1 teaspoon. Those at risk for heart disease are cautioned to keep their daily intakes of sodium down to 1,500 mg or less. 

But using finishing salts could actually lower your salt intake if you:
* Cook your food or recipe without any salt. 
* Then, top your dish evenly with a modest amount of finishing salt. 

The taste and texture of the finishing salt will dominate and you will not notice the absence of salt from your cooked dish!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Instant Pot Brussels Sprouts And Carrots

Cooking veggies in an Instant Pot can be tricky.

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Instant Pot and Veggies
Once you have an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker, you almost forget you've got other pots and pans, even though it's sometimes just as easy to cook something in your normal repertoire of pots and pans. 

One of the biggest challenges for me, with my Instant Pot, is cooking vegetables. If you get the timing wrong, your crisp veggies can easily turn to mush. So it's a matter of experimenting and getting to know your individual pot and each individual vegetable.

I suggest you keep a little notebook and experiment with different dishes (this goes for grains and beans too). Once you've perfected the timing for each of your favorite vegetable, you can then attempt to cook several of them together.

The easiest pairings are those foods that aren't that picky, like mushrooms. You can throw them in with anything and they will be just fine. But other veggies are a bit more tricky.

For example, Brussels sprouts and carrots. Brussels sprouts take a bit longer to cook than carrots but if you cut the Brussels sprouts in half and cut the carrots in larger slices, you can cook them together in 2 minutes. And if, after your cooking time, the veggies aren't cooked enough, don't turn the pot back on - just place the lid over the pot and wait a few minutes. 

But the key is experimentation. I have watched broccoli turn to mush in a single minute because I cut the florets too small so now I leave them in bigger pieces and only cook them for one minute. You can also play with the pressure, cooking them on lower pressure instead of higher pressure.

           *                             *                            *                            *

Instant Pot Brussels Sprouts and Carrots
Vegan or Vegetarian, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

1 1/2 pounds Brussels Sprouts
4 large carrots
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
1/3 to 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon Earth Balance or ghee*

*ghee is not vegan but is lactose and casein free.

Trim the ends off of the Brussels sprouts and cut in half. Rinse and place in the Instant Pot.

Peel the carrots and cut thick slices on the diagonal. Place them into the Instant Pot together with the remaining ingredients and stir.

Hit the "Manual" button and set for 2 minutes at high pressure. When done, hit quick release and carefully open the lid. If the vegetables are not yet cooked, just set the lid back on top and wait a minute or two.

Stir and serve.

Nutritional Information
Per serving: 73 calories, 1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 112 mg omega-3 and 100 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 4 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, and 160 mg sodium.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Are You Getting Enough Iodine?
Sea Vegetables Are A Great Source!

Kombu is a great source of iodine and easy to use.

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Iodine Deficiency on the Rise
Studies show that nearly three quarters of adults may not be consuming enough iodine. Many people now enjoy sea salt and other fancy salts that do not have significant iodine content but even those labeled iodized table salt may not contain sufficient quantities to support optimal health. The avoidance of salt, in order to protect against high blood pressure, adds to this problem. 

Several other factors contribute to us not having adequate dietary iodine. For one, eating a lot of soy and cruciferous vegetables can inhibit the absorption of dietary iodine, especially when eating cruciferous vegetables raw. The environmental toxin, perchlorate, pervasive in ground water and food supplies, can also block the thyroids ability to absorb of iodine. 

Why we Need Iodine
Iodine is needed for the production of thyroid hormones and is required in order to have a healthy thyroid gland and achieve optimal health. The thyroid control's your metabolism, regulating many body functions such as heart rate, body temperature, and more.

When you produce too little thyroid hormone, you have a condition called hypothyroidism. Symptoms of Hypothyroidism include:
* a slow metabolism
* lower heart rate
* unexplained weight gain
* dry skin and hair
* hair loss
* constipation
* always feeling cold
* weakness
* muscle aches
* fatigue
* depression

Inadequate iodine consumption can cause cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and certain forms of cancer. 

Pregnant women with iodine deficiency may have babies with a form of mental retardation know as cretinism.

Sea Vegetables as a Source of Iodine
Sea vegetables are an excellent source of iodine. But take care not to overdo their consumption, especially if you have hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), or an autoimmune thyroid disease, as dietary excess can worsen these conditions.

The RDA for iodine is:
* 150 micrograms per day for adult men and women
* 220 micrograms for pregnant women
* 290 micrograms for lactating/breastfeeding women

The amount of iodine in commonly found seaweed:
* One inch of Kombu has 1,454 mcg
* 1 tablespoon of Main Coast Kelp has 595 mcg
* 1 tablespoon of Agar Agar has 120 mcg
* 1 tablespoon of Wakame has 82 mcg
* 1 tablespoon of Main Stage Dulse has 68 mcg
* 1 sheet of Nori has 40 mcg

Ways to Consume
Cooking with Kombu: An easy way to introduce iodine-rich sea vegetables into your diet is to add a strip of kombu into a pot of beans, soup, or grains when cooking, especially when using your Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. When your dish is cooked, you can either remove the kombu or, if it's nice and soft, cut it up and stir it back into your dish.

Kombu - 2.1 oz - Strips

Seaweed Salad: I love seaweed salad, especially when dining at Japanese restaurants. However, many restaurants buy this salad in bulk which often contains food coloring, such as yellow #4 and blue #1. So always ask if they make their own and what they put in it. When serving it at home, I like to buy mine from Vital Choice. It's pricey but you get at about three small 2-person servings in each 8 ounce tub. Of course you can make your own but I have yet to find the authentic "stringy" dried Hiyashi Wakame seaweed used to make it. 

Wakame Seaweed Salad - 8 oz tub
Vital Choice's seaweed salad has no additives, preservatives, heavy metals, radionuclides, or synthetic food coloring

You can also just use regular wakame for a seaweed salad but it will have a different texture. I prefer to throw pieces of wakame in soup or beans, as I described above with kombu. It's typically found in miso soup, when you order it in a restaurant.

Dried Wakame

Nori: My grandsons can go through a case of Kirkland's Roasted Seaweed snacks like a swarm of locusts. Sushi rolls are another way to enjoy nori. You can easily make your own sushi at home. Check out my recipe for Brown Rice Sushi with Roasted Eggplant, Peppers and Shiitake Mushrooms.

Kirkland Signature Roasted, Seasoned Seaweed Winter Harvest (12 Packages of 17 gm Seasoned Seaweed)
Nori snacks
Nagai Deluxe Sushi Nori Full Sheet 50 Count + Wel Pac Sushimaki SU BAMBOO MAT 9.5"X9.5"
This Nori comes with a bamboo mat for making sushi

Brown rice sushi

Dulse Flakes: You can sprinkle dulse flakes on your food with products from Eden Organic and others.

Eden Foods Raw Organic Dulse Flakes
Dulse flakes

Agar Agar: Commonly used in vegetarian cooking as a thickening agent, it can be purchased as flakes or powder. 

Eden Foods Agar Agar Flakes, 1 oz
Agar agar flakes

Kelp: Bragg's makes a nice Kelp general purpose seasoning that combines kelp flakes with rosemary, onion, garlic, thyme, red bell pepper, carrot, tomato, black pepper, basil, EVOO, parsley, tarragon, lemon and orange peel, apple cider vinegar, celery and dill seed, oregano, savory, she, ginger, coriander, bay leaf, and turmeric. Sounds amazing, no?

Bragg Organic Herbs And Spices Seasoning - Sea Kelp - 2.7 Ounces
Bragg's Kelp Seasoning

I hope I gave you a few ways to increase your iodine consumption using delicious sea vegetables. But remember, don't overdo it!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

4 Easy Tips For Healthy Weight Loss

How to lose weight sensibly.

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Happy New Year!
I hope you all had a great holiday. We certainly did, as we surrounded ourselves with good friends and good food. 

As I do every January, I set my goals for the year. Of course we never know what Mother Nature has in store for us, but a goal to stay healthy is always on my list. One way for all of us to stay healthy is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. For some, this involves losing a few pounds and for others, it may involve losing more. Whatever your weight loss goals are, here are 4 easy tips to accomplish them.

Weight Loss Tip #1 - Set Reasonable Short Term Goals
You may have a long term goal of losing, let's say, 25 pounds. That may seem overwhelming. But if you take it one step at a time, it will seem much more doable.

The short term goal to achieve your 25 pound weight loss in a year is only 1/2 pound a week or 2 pounds a month! It's best to focus on that. 

Have more to lose? The short term goal to achieve a 50 pound weight loss in a year is only 1 pound a week or 4 pounds a month

Have less to lose? If you have a smaller weight loss goal, say 10 or 15 pounds or less, you may plan to achieve that in only 5 or 6 months instead of a year. The short term goal to lose 10 pounds in 5 months is only 1/2 pound a week or 2 pounds a month. 

Slower weight loss is better and more sustainable so don't try to lose too much too soon.

Weight Loss Tip #2 - Develop a Plan
Let's say you've set your goal to lose a half pound a week or two pounds a month. Let's do the math. You can lose one half pound by: 
* Eating 1,750 less calories, or
* By burning 1,750 extra calories, or 
* A combination of calorie reduction and exercise. In this case, eating 875 less calories and burning an additional 875 calories. I encourage a plan that includes both. 

Let's say we've selected the combination plan of eating less and exercising more. Now, how are we going to do that?

To eat 875 less calories a week means reducing your daily calorie intake by only 125 calories. That's not so bad. You can do that by eliminating the non-nutritious food in your diet: Here are some examples:

* One 5-ounce glass of wine (125 calories)
* One 12-ounce can cola (136 calories)
* An ounce of plain corn tortilla chips (138 calories)
* A 12 oz Starbucks soy latte (162 calories)
* One small glazed doughnut (124 calories)
* One small side order of McDonald's French Fries (209 calories)
*  One half chocolate Power Bar (124 calories)
* 20-ounce Gatorade (150 calories)
* One half cup vanilla ice cream (137 calories)
* One McDonald's chocolate chip cookie (160 calories)
* One half slice of Pizza Hut pizza

If everything you eat is already nutritious, then you will need to cut down on your portion sizes.

To burn an extra 875 more calories a week, you just need to burn an extra 125 calories per day. Calories burned will vary with your weight, but let's use a 155 pound person as an example: According to the Calorie Control Council Get Moving Calculator, a 155 pound person can burn 125 calories by:

* 18 minutes of aerobic exercise
* 22 minutes on a stationary bike
* 13 minutes of outdoor bicycling at 12-14 mph
* 27 minutes of brisk walking
* 35 minutes of weight lifting
* 13 minutes of singles tennis
* 15 minutes of jogging
* 21 minutes of intense dancing
* 21 minutes on an elliptical machine

You don't have to do any of these exercises all at once. For example, you can walk 15 minutes in the morning and another 12 to 15 minutes in the evening.

Weight Loss Tip #3 - Journal, Journal, Journal
Journaling can sometimes be a pain, however, it is the most effective way to achieve your weight loss goals! Sign up for MyFitnesspal.com or any of the other journaling programs or aps. 

Journaling makes you mindful of what you eat. Knowing you will be recording your every bite you take will make you think twice about popping a piece of candy in your mouth. Most importantly, it will educate you on the nutritional value of the foods you eat. Through time, you will learn what is in your food and will allow you to naturally make better selections. 

Recording your exercise will motivate you to exercise more, especially knowing that you will reach your weight loss goals more quickly. 

Your achievements are nicely graphed which can really be exciting when you see the graph pointing to your ultimate goal!

Weight Loss Tip #4 - Avoid Fad Diets
You are probably getting bombarded with ideas for fad diets this time of year. But you should really avoid them. Eating pre-packaged meals or shakes doesn't teach you how to eat in the long term. As soon as you stop their programs, weight will undoubtedly return. 

Learning to cook healthy food is the best way to guarantee long-term weight loss and ensure good health and longevity for you and your family. It will also set a good example for your kids. I watched my family cook healthy, Mediterranean meals when I was young and when I had a family of my own, they watched me cook too. They grew up and now cook like that for themselves and for their families. But if your kids are watching you pick up take out for dinner, they will probably do the same thing in the future. That's why I created the tagline:
“Health, excellent or ill, is passed to our children not just 
through our genes but primarily through our recipes.”

For a start, you can try the recipes in my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen.

Once again, I wish you very happy and healthy 2017. I will do my best to keep posting healthy recipes and nutritional articles to help you and your family stay healthy and fit!