Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Beet and Apple Salad

It's beet season, so we're eating really healthy lately. Beets are not only good for your liver, but look at their color, anything that color has tho be healthy. This is one of our family staples. If you're needing a snack, why not pull out the beet and apple salad? Sweet enough to satisfy your sugar cravings too. 

One of the simplest recipes ever! 

  • 4 beets
  • 2-3 apples, cored and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1/4-1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to bake beets at 450 degrees. Cut beets up into quarters, place in middle of foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap beets up nicely and bake until tender. Take beets out and plunge in cold water bath. Remove and slip off peels with your fingers. If peels won't come off easily, use a peeler. 

Cut beets up into 1-2 inch chunks. 

As for your apples, any kind will do. Cut and core apples leaving skin on. Then chop into 1-2 inch pieces and add to bowl with beets. Add oil and vinegar and toss. Eat then or let sit to marinate a bit. Salad lasts up to a week in fridge. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Strawberries and Beets Popsicles and Smooties

They're the same color, so why not combine them? It's been a real challenge to get my kids to eat anything that grows out of the ground. So hiding it seems to be my next strategy. Chef Fox was onto me though. But when saw the strawberries, he was convinced to give it a try. 

Frozen is what we had and perfect for smoothies. Our original intention was simply popsicles, but Chef Fox had an even more brilliant idea, why not popsicles and smoothies?! Fabulous!

With a few chops of his kid-friendly knife, all was ready. One beet and 6 frozen strawberries were ready. 

When he went to get the popsicle molds I quickly added 1/4 cup coconut milk, a banana, a cup of blueberry juice, and 8 drops of liquid stevia to the blender. Any juice would do though.

These are our popsicle molds. And we quickly put them into the freezer. But wait, there was more left over... and before i could turn around, Chef Fox had poured him and his brother two glasses of smoothies and were gulping it down like they hadn't drank in days. 

The next morning, breakfast popsicles were a big hit. Yes! 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Veggie Quinoa Salad- gluten-free

This stuff is really good. Me and my husband used to be big quinoa lovers. But then the kids decided they only would eat rice, so we've forsaken our favorite grain for a few years now. Finally, it has returned in the form of the quinoa salad. I like it best cold, but it's equally as delicious warm. 

I have to say, the colors don't look too exciting, I don't think I'd want to eat this if I saw it online...but trust me. It's surprisingly delicious. Quinoa is wonderful for many reason. The main ones being it's a great source of fiber and is a complete protein. It's also high in magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. And by adding the veggies, you've got a very healthy salad. It's a long list, but it's a really easy recipe. This makes a lot, but it's intended to go in your fridge and be snacked on all week long. 

  • 5 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups frozen corn 
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 bunch (1 pound) asparagus
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup oilve oil
  • 1 tbs onion powder
  • 1/2 tbs garlic powder 
  • 1/2 tbs-1 tbs cumin powder
  • 3 tbs sesame seeds (or more!)
  • sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
Optional Dressing:
  • 1 cucumber
  • 4 tbs-1/4 cup lemon juice (the real stuff doesn't come in a lemon shaped plastic squeezie bottle!) 
  • 1/2 carrot, in chunks
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, cumin, onion, and garlic powder to taste
Begin by cooking quinoa in about 2 times much water. Boil water first, add quinoa and turn down heat to simmer with lid on. When water has mostly been absorbed (about 10-15 minutes), you'll notice the quinoa looks fluffy. When you stick a wooden spoon into the middle, and look down towards the bottom, you should see very little or no water left. Turn off heat and let cool off while you prepare the other parts. 

While cooking quinoa, bring small pot a water to a boil. Take asparagus and break off bottom fiberous ends. Chop into 1 inch pieces. Chop carrots into small pieces to your liking and put asparagus and carrots in boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes or until veggies are tender but not too soft. Drain and place veggies in bowl with quinoa. Chop up bell pepper and put in bowl with quinoa.

Add all ingredients from vinegar on and mix, mix, mix!

Now for the dressing. It's tasty without the dressing, but this just gives it an extra kick of deliciousness. You can also put it on the side for people to just add as much to their salad as they like. Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until uniform. The dressing should have a watery paste consistency. 

I just let it cool and then dig in, but you can put into the fridge to cool off. And then enjoy. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Quick Guide to Natural Sweeteners

For about a year now I've been trying to find a good substitute for refined sugar when baking. My main goals were trying to get the glycemic index down to an acceptable level while still having it be "natural". So just so everyone's clear here...natural comes from nature, not made in a lab. High fructose corn syrup is made in a lab and so is erythritol and xylitol, the later two are both marketed as "natural" sweeteners.  High Fructose corn syrup's glycemic index is 87, just to give you a good reference. 

Let's review:
  • Raw honey (above)- glycemic index 30.
    • A great sweetener. It will gave your baked goods a mild nutty taste that I love. Raw is the key though. There are some honey producers that think that adding sugar and other chemicals to their honey is a good thing. But I do not. Always check your honey, or better yet, just buy it locally from your farmers market. 
    • Baking will take a bit of adjustment. If you are substituting with a liquid sweetener, reduce liquid in recipe by 1/4 cup. Honey is also sweeter than refined sugar, use 2/3 up honey to every cup sugar called for. You may also need to add 1/2 tsp extra baking soda to help your baked goods rise. Lastly, reduce your heat by 25 degrees so that things won't burn. 

  • Agave syrup- glycemic index 15-30.
    • Agave has become very VERY popular lately. I liked this picture above because it actually showed where the agave syrup is coming from. After it is harvested, it is refined down to a syrup that is similar to high fructose corn syrup but with more vitamins and minerals. Fructose is fine, we eat it ever day in fruits, honey, and many other natural foods. The glycemic index of agave is amazing....but where it gets processed in the body is the problem.
    • Agave fructose is broken down in the liver and then stored as fat, not as readily used for energy. And for a liver that is not accustomed to processing so much fructose on such a regular basis, I worry about overworking the liver! We Americans like our sweets, so unless you're into moderation, I would not use agave regularly as a sugar substitute. 
    • Use it here and there. Sweeten tea or ice cream with it. And reduce liquid by 1/4 cup if you decide to bake with agave. 

  • Coconut (palm) sugar- glycemic index 35.
    • So far my favorite for baking. I'm satisfied with the fact that in order to taste good, baked goods might need some sort of sugar. And I don't think anything bad can come from a coconut! 
    • It is completely natural with a low glycemic index and a lovely taste. The type I buy is the granular type. It doesn't work well in macaroon recipes, but every other baked good I've tried works well. 
    • There is some debate over weather coconut sugar is being harvested sustainably. I have had a hard time finding info on it. It seems to be the producers of other coconut products that seem to be having issues with the palm sugar industry because it is making their prices rise. 
    • Healthy Tip: To slow the amount of sugar going into my kids bloodstreams, I like to add a few tablespoons of coconut milk and/or ground almonds to whatever I'm baking. The extra good fat slows the sugar down. 

  • Maple syrup- glycemic index 54.
    • Okay, this stuff is beyond tasty and there is no question whether or not you should have this in your kitchen! 
    • It is natural, the nectar of the maples. It's glycemic index is a bit too high for me to use it in baking instead of sugar (and too expensive!), so I say in moderation. And mostly for flavor. 
    • And again, reduce your oven by 25 degrees to avoid burning, add 1/2 tsp. baking soda to help things rise, and lastly reduce liquid by 1/4 cup. 

  • Brown rice syrup- glycemic index unknown?
    • It was hard to find a glycemic index of brown rice syrup. It is composed of 3 different sugars all with a glycemic index above white sugar. Other sources say its index is I'm confused and if anyone can help clarity, please do. 
    • I like this picture, because it shows exactly how sticky and thick it is to use. The best use for it that I've found is for chewy granola bars. 
  • Erythritol- 0 glycemic index
    • There are plenty of pictures of this alcohol sugar, but I thought this picture above made the point. It's not a food! It's not natural. And when I drank ice tea sweetened with it a week ago, I wound up with the most horrible migraine ever. 
    • So no, i wouldn't recommend using erythritol. 
    • Xylitol is also an alcohol sugar, made in a lab. So no, it's not natural even tough it has a great glycemic index. It does seem to have some good dental benefits though. 
  • Stevia- 0 glycemic index
    • This is one of my favorite sweeteners. It's natural and has no effect on your blood sugar. 
    • Stevia's main drawback can be it's taste. It has a sweetness that is 100 times greater than refined sugar and the sweetness lasts, it doesn't just go away after eating. It's important to use it correctly. I've found a few tricks that seem to make it work well. 
    • I use mostly liquid stevia. And 2-3 drops equals 1 cup of white sugar. But it is best to use part coconut sugar and part stevia. I usually use 1/2 stevia and 1/2 coconut sugar. This is good enough to fool even the pickiest. 
    • It doesn't work in every baked good, but I have a tab that outlines some of my favorite recipes that can be made with stevia.