Have you had your sea vegetables today?

February 18th, 2010

Most folks these days are mineral deficient. Minerals, as in: calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, iodine, sodium, zinc, selenium, etc….What’s the big deal you may ask? Minerals are needed not just for our bones but for our muscles to contract and relax, for all enzymes to function properly, nearly every physiological process involves a mineral.

One of the best ways to get minerals is to eat lots of vegetables and some fruits. If you want a mineral packed source – turn to the sea. Sea vegetables or seaweed are actually algae.

Sea Vegetables contain nearly all the minerals needed by humans. These mineral include: calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iodine, iron, zinc and numerous trace minerals. Sea vegetables also contain important vitamins: beta carotene, B1, B2, B6, niacin, vitamin C, pantothenic acid and folic acid. It also, contains varying amounts of protein depending on type with the some red algae having amounts comparable to legumes.

Common sea vegetables are brown algae: arame, hijiki, kombu (aka kelp), wakame, agar-agar; red algae: dulse, irish moss (carrageen) nori (aka laver).

Of note hijiki contains high amounts of calcium; kelp or kombu contains high amounts of magnesium; dulse is high in B6, iron and potassium.

Health Benefits include aiding in detoxification of the body (binding to heavy metals), source of minerals, support digestion, support the immune system, beneficial for bone, anemia, aid with hormone balance, may aid with weight loss by induce fat burning, lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, reducing blood pressure and reducing risk of metabolic syndrome.

One study showed the ability of iodine or iodine-rich seaweed to inhibit breast tumor development: Smyth PPA. The thyroid, iodine and breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res. 2003;5:235-238.

Sea vegetables are also a source of lignans (also found in flax seed) which are thought to play a role in preventing certain types of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate sea vegetables into your diet

· Add a piece of kombu or kelp in a pot of beans, soups and stocks
· A pinch to a handful of most any sea vegetable to any long cooked dishes such as lentil & bean soups, stews, chilis, etc
· Sprinkle flaked or cut up pieces of sea vegetables on salads, over rice or other grains.
· Use flaked sea vegetable as a seasoning in place of salt
· Add a small amount into baked goods
· Add to a sandwich
· Dry into snack chips

This is a favorite soup recipe which features laver or nori:

Laver Egg Drop Soup
4 servings

3 eggs
4 cups chicken stock
4 sheets of nori, torn into small pieces
1 Tbs corn starch
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs shaoshing wine or sherry
3 scallions, sliced
¼ tsp ground white pepper
¼ tsp toasted sesame oil

Stir together 1/2 cup of chicken stock with the cornstarch, set aside.

Lighty beat eggs.

In a medium size pot, heat together remaining chicken stock with ginger,
soy sauce, pepper and wine with the nori pieces. Bring to a boil, stir in the
cornstarch slurry. Let simmer. Add the scallions.

Turn off heat. While stirring the soup in a clockwise direction, slowly
add the egg in a thin stream. Garnish with a few drops of sesame oil.
Serve immediately.



Product Spotlight on Bread

November 24th, 2006

Convenience has two faces. In order to save time – to mass produce, sacrifices are made. Case in point – bread.

First let’s look at wheat, the main ingredient in bread. Domesticated wheat – bred to grow faster, resist disease, increase yield among other things has sacrificed many of the nutrients in the original wild varieties of wheat – spelt, kamut, emmet, and farro are a few. Cool names too! Scientist are now breeding these ‘lost’ nutrients back into domesticated wheat. Kind of strange, why not go back to the wild variety?

Second, let’s look at leavening or what is done to make the dough rise. Today, super fast acting yeast cultures with special flours and conditioners make bread rise fast. Time, after all is money. Back in the old days, bread was made with a long slow fermentation using a culture of wild yeast and lactobacillus bacteria along with some other critters and enzymes. The result was a nutritious loaf with a sour tang – what we call sour dough bread.

So what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with our technologically ‘advanced’ mass-produced bread? Well, we now understand that fermenting grains, in this case, via the long slow rise of bread makes the grains easier to digest by breaking down the gluten and making the nutrients more bio-available. Nutrients are also added from the by-products of the various critters in the fermenting culture.

Further, grains have a compound called phytic acid, which while in our gut, bind to minerals that are essential to our health – like calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and copper. Finally, the long fermentation breaks down much of the starch converting our loaf of bread from what is usually considered a refined carbohydrate into a complex carbohydrate.

There are many fine artisan breads being baked out there using the time honored tradition of a long slow fermentation using wild cultures – breads with crisp crusts, hearty textures and oh so much flavor. If you’d like to try baking a loaf or two or eight yourself, check out the posts on No-Knead Bread at Tasty Bytes.


Sweet Potatoes… hold the marshmallows

November 21st, 2006

According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commision, sales of sweet potatoes a.k.a. yams peak during the month of November. No doubt many a Thanksgiving table will feature a casserole of butter and brown sugar coated sweet potatoes hidden under a blanket of (no doubt another hot November seller) mini marshmallows.

I have to admit my family would have my hide if I didn’t make the candied yams. My family loves their traditional Thanksgiving dishes and don’t dare mess with tradition! I heard a mighty ear full during my early cheffing career while trying to ‘explore new tastes.’ Then when I decided to be more health conscious and cut back on the sugar and butter – whoa! Mom’s favorite dish was messed with! I went home with my head hung low and the dish barely touched. So I have learned not to mess with tradition when it comes to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner! …though I have managed to accidentally forget the mini marshmallows the last few years…

If I could re-write the traditional menu, I would make this sweet potato dish that our good friend R shared with us a few years ago. For a more colorful salad, use a mix of yellow, orange and purple sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Amount Measure   Ingredient — Preparation Method
——–  ————      ——————————–
Dijon Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons Bragg’s apple cider vinegar or White wine vinegar or White Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds Sweet potato or Yams — steamed and diced
2 each scallion – thinly sliced

Whisk together dijon vinaigrette ingredients.

Cook sweet potato by putting halved unpeeled sweet potato in a single layer in a steamer. Steam til tender – about 1/2 hour. Remove from heat and cool. Peel and dice into 1/2 – 3/4″ dice.dice.

Toss sweet potatoes with scallions and vinaigrette. Serve at room temp or slightly warm.



In touch with the season

November 18th, 2006

We have gone over a number of Thanksgiving staples over the last few days – all wonderful seasonal foods. This year more than ever I am determined to keep the foods on our table seasonal – fresh and local. Why? Fresh foods are more nutritious – nutrients degrade rapidly after harvest so local seasonal foods spend less time in transit to my table.

So what’s in season?

All the cruciferous veggies:

Broccoli Romanesque
Cauliflower – check out the orange and purple varieties!
Chinese Broccoli aka Gai Lan
Brussels Sprouts

How about leafy Greens?

Bok Choys of all varieties
Swiss Chard

Bulbs and Roots and Tubers?

Celery Root
Radishes – try the colorful watermelon radish
Sweet Potatoes – ever try the purple Okinawan variety?

And we have Squashes…

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes

We have the last of the figs but every season brings plenty of sweet fruits to enjoy

Apples – for fun try the ‘new’ heirloom varieties like Arkansas Blacks
Asian Pears
Pineapple Guavas – maybe your friendly neighbor will have a tree – quite common in the East Bay Area.
And look – the start of citrus season…grapefruits, tangerines, mandarin oranges, meyer lemons, navel oranges, pommelos

With all this local bounty – pass on the south of the border Asparagus and pass the roasted Brussels Sprouts.


Product Spot Light on Yogurt

November 13th, 2006

There are so many yogurts out there to choose from – ‘light’, ‘Activa’, ‘creamy’, ‘custard’, ‘carb control’, ‘light ‘n fit’… and what is ‘whips’? You will find all of these in a dizzying array of flavors in tubs and jugs and tubes – some decorated with cartoon characters and wild colors to appeal to kids.

While yogurt is a healthy food, the best choice is usually not in one of these slick packages with fancy names and descriptions. Check the label – 10, 12, 14 grams or more of sugar? artificial sweeteners? artificial colors? or gasp…bovine growth hormone?

What should one look for in a truly healthy yogurt?

Ideally – the plain Jane – from pasture raised whole milk with no growth hormone, unsweetened, with live cultures – no added non-fat dry milk and from a local company.

That’s the ideal. The main criteria is – plain, no growth hormone and live cultures.

To flavor the yogurt add:

fresh in-season fruit or,
frozen fruit or,
dried fruit or,
apple sauce or,
a dash of vanilla

Still need a bit more sweetness, add:

a small amount of maple syrup or,
honey or,
a small pinch of stevia or,
even cinnamon.

Want some crunchies – how about some:

nuts or,
seeds or,

Go ahead – try out a few different brands of plain yogurts – they all have different flavor profiles. Here in the Bay Area in order of least tart – I enjoy Strauss, Brown Cow and Pavel’s Russian Style.

Miss the convenience of those little individual servings? Try this – Get a quart of your favorite plain yogurt and divide into smaller (reusable) serving size containers, add the ‘extras’ that you like, cover and store in the frig for the quick grab and go.

Now we’re talking – yogurt as a truly healthy part of a meal or snack!