Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

Product Spotlight on Bread

Friday, 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.

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In touch with the season

Saturday, 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
Broccoli Romanesque
Broccoflower
Cauliflower – check out the orange and purple varieties!
Kale
Collards
Chinese Broccoli aka Gai Lan
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage

How about leafy Greens?

Spinach
Mustard
Bok Choys of all varieties
Swiss Chard
Rapini

Bulbs and Roots and Tubers?

Fennel
Artichokes
Beets
Turnips
Rutabagas
Celery Root
Carrots
Radishes – try the colorful watermelon radish
Yams
Sweet Potatoes – ever try the purple Okinawan variety?

And we have Squashes…

Butternut
Acorn
Kabocha
Delicata
Hubbard
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
Pears
Asian Pears
Pomegranates
Quince
Cranberries
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.

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Product Spot Light on Yogurt

Monday, 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,
granola?

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!

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Eat Food, Not Food Products

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Sound advice from Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

After all, food products are made by food companies who’s main objective is the bottom line – profit. They are beholden to their shareholders who expect the maximum return on their investment. Not your health. Period.

Food, on the other hand, is made by Mother Nature and her main objective is to support life.

So let’s eat some good food in all it’s natural glory.

But wait –what distinguishes real food from food products? Well, there are degrees but let’s say food is closest to it’s original form and food products are processed to some degree with or without additives. Some examples…

Food is oat groats or oatmeal versus the extreme food product – “Cherrios”

Food is eggs versus “Egg Beaters”

Food is a fresh apple or dried apples versus apple juice or the extreme product – X brand’s “Apple Fruit Snack Pie”

Food is a handful of raw nuts and dried fruit versus a calorie, er – “energy” bar

Food is a platter of fresh vegetables or home cooked vegetable soup versus the extreme product – “Vegetable Ritz” crackers

Food is roasted free-range chicken versus a frozen commercially made chicken pot pie or fast food fried chicken.

So here we go – eating Food means…

Starting the day off with some oatmeal, free-range eggs or fruit and nuts.

Need a snack – veggies, fruit, nuts or a piece of cheese

Lunch? A hearty home made soup or maybe a sandwich of whole grain bread, or piece of chicken with salad.

A nourishing dinner? Roast free-range chicken (or homemade chicken pot pie) and a pile of fresh veggies quickly sautéed or steamed.

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