Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vegan Panko-Crusted Tofu With Dijon Mustard

The Dijon mustard gives this panko breading intense flavors!

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Soy is a Healthy Food
I have always come squarely down on the side that says soy is a healthy food. Obviously you shouldn't eat soy if you are allergic to it, but eating moderate amounts of whole soy foods such as edamame or tofu is good for most people. It's an excellent source of vegetarian "complete" protein. Soy has been shown to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and is linked with lower risks of breast and endometrial cancer. The FDA claims that eating 25 grams of soy protein per day may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Eating lots of fake meats with soy isolates or taking it as a supplement is not recommended. 

But despite the positive studies, eating soy remains a controversial subject. This topic comes up at every health conference and this year's 2013 Health and Nutrition conference was no exception. Dr. Weil discussed it the first day. He feels that there is a lot of misinformation about soy, most of which comes from the meat and dairy industries. The controversy arises from the fact that soy contains isoflavones that have estrogenic activity and some claim that they might accelerate some breast cancer cells or be bad for developing young boys. Studies have shown, and Dr. Weil agrees, that soy blocks access to estrogen receptors and is even safe for women with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. And no, it does not feminize boys.

Today's recipe
I enjoy tofu once or twice a week. Here's a incredibly easy and flavorful way to prepare it.
The Dijon mustard in this recipe not only serves to hold the breading onto the tofu, but it adds an intensely wonderful flavor to the dish. Other than heating the tofu and browning the breading, there is not much to cook so the entire recipe goes together very quickly.
I serve it with Thai Cabbage, Daikon and Carrot Salad.

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Panko-Crusted Tofu
Requires a shallow roasting pan
[makes 3 (2-piece) servings]

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus some to grease the pan
1 pressed garlic clove
1 packed teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 (14 to 16 ounce) block extra-firm organic tofu
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a shallow roasting pan with olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine garlic, lemon zest, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and cilantro (or parsley). Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the bread crumbs are well coated. Set aside.

Make the breading.

Cut the block of tofu into 6 slices. Lay them down in the greased roasting pan and spread each evenly with 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. 

Coat the tofu with Dijon mustard.

Sprinkle the Panko mixture over the tofu. It should stick to the mustard.

The breading should adhere nicely to the mustard.

Bake in the oven until the tofu is hot and the bread crumbs are slightly toasted and brown.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Serve with Thai Cabbage, Daikon and Carrot Salad.

Per serving (2 pieces of tofu): 272 calories, 18 g fat, 2.7 g saturated fat, 421 mg omega-3 and 3,996 mg omega-6 fatty acids*, 17 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 2.2 g dietary fiber and 356 mg sodium.

* Nutritional information for omega-3 and omega-6 excludes any contribution from the Panko bread crumbs since that information is not available from the manufacturer.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thai Cabbage, Daikon And Carrot Salad Topped With Roasted Peanuts - Vegan And Gluten Free

Thai cabbage salad with daikon and carrots.

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Fresh and Crunchy
I love the crunch of the fresh vegetables and roasted peanuts in this salad. They blend so beautifully with the tangy dressing flavored with fresh garlic and ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and freshly squeezed lime juice. Hemp oil provides the omega-3 rich base for the dressing and crushed red pepper flakes give it a little kick!

For a heartier, main course salad, stir in cooked rice noodles. 

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Thai Cabbage, Daikon and Carrot Salad
Vegan (Mostly Raw), Gluten Free
[makes 8 servings]

For the salad
8 cups thinly sliced raw cabbage (1 small head)
3 large carrots, peeled and grated
2 cups peeled and grated daikon
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus some for garnish
4 ounces thin rice noodles, (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup dry-roasted, salted peanuts, crushed
salt to taste

For the dressing
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
1 packed teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 cloves pressed garlic
1 packet stevia
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons cold-pressed hemp oil 
2 teaspoons unrefined sesame oil

Place the cabbage, carrots, daikon, green onions and cilantro in a large bowl. Set aside.

Crush peanuts by placing in a ziplock bag and smashing them with a mallet. Set aside

Crushed peanuts

 Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or cup. Pour over the cabbage mixture and mix well. Salt to taste but remember that you will be getting additional salt from the peanuts.

I prefer to press rather than mince garlic in this dressing but if you don't have a garlic press, smash and then mince the garlic.

Cook rice noodles (if you are using) according to manufacturers directions. Drain, rinse and stir into cabbage mixture.

Thin rice noodles make a nice addition.

Top the salad with crushed peanuts and additional fresh cilantro and serve. 

Thai salad with optional rice noodles

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Microbes Within: How They Shape Our Lives And Influence Our Health, Blogging From The 2013 Nutrition And Health Conference In Seattle, Washington With Justin Sonnenburg

The microbes within greatly influence our health.

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Great Conference
I’m flying home now as the 2013 Health and Nutrition Conference in Seattle has ended. After attending over 20 amazing talks over the past 3 days, my mind is flooded with things I want to share with you. I already blogged about Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Dr. Naiman’s insight into sleep, dreams and nutrition. But before I return to my normal life of recipe development and preparing to launch my ebook, I have to write about the most mind-blowing presentation of the entire conference given by Justin Sonnenburg from Stanford University’s School of Medicine. It’s not terribly appetizing so I would not suggest reading this during dinner, but this information has far reaching implications and can truly change how you think about yourself, your diet and your health.

We're Just a Bag of Germs
Dr. Sonnenburg talked about the role of intestinal microbiota with respect to health and disease.  Sounds pretty dry, right? But it’s anything but. It turns out that we are literally a walking carrier of microbes. There are an enormous number of these little guys living on our skin, in our mouths and mostly in our gut. Their cells outnumber our own cells by 10 to 1. They have 100 times the number of genes than we do so from a genetic standpoint, we are 99% microbial. Now it may not be obvious when you look in the mirror, but in fact we are just a bag of germs! 

Now don’t get completely freaked out. You’ve been hosting these microbiota your entire life and they influence many of our life functions in a BIG way! They can affect our metabolism, our immune function, how we harvest energy and nutrients from our food, how we metabolize drugs - they can even contribute to irritable bowel or obesity (OK, you are definitely partners in that one!). The microbiota profile of the Western world, influenced by our highly processed food and agricultural practices, may be the reason for the increased cases of certain food sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, asthma, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Our Microbiota
Let’s talk a bit more about the microbiota. Most of them live in our intestines. There are 500 to 1,000 bacterial species: 90% of whom, in the Western culture, are Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. Other cultures have different species and varying amounts of diversity. Now if you were to look at a cross section of the intestines, you would see villi that are covered with mucous (I told you not to read this before dinner). The mucous is covered with carbs which feed our microbiota. What we eat determines what they are and how happy they are. Since they affect so many facets of human biology, we want these guys to be as happy as possible. Besides, if you don’t eat polysaccharide-rich, high fiber foods, the microbiota will start to eat your mucosal lining

How They Get Here
So how do these microbiota end up in our bodies and what determines which types are most prevalent? Full colonization of your gut happens over the first 3 years of life. It begins at birth when the baby is exposed to the mother’s vaginal and intestinal microbes. When babies are born by Caesarean, however, they do not acquire these critical microbes. In fact, their microbiota profile more closely resembles that of the parents’ skin which may prevent their immune systems from developing properly. With one third of all births in the U.S. being delivered surgically, this could explain the high incidence of food sensitivities, allergies, asthma and autoimmune problems.

Mother’s milk then allows the microbiota to flourish. It contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMO’s). These HMO’s are indigestible by the baby but these prebiotics help seed the bifido bacteria in the child’s intestinal tract. They also attract other microbes needed as the baby weans to solid foods. Baby formulas that do not contain prebiotics, (and the early ones certainly did not), will not support the growth of these important microbes as effectively as good old mother’s milk. Luckily, breastfeeding rates are increasing.

Effect of Diet
Even if a person has developed beautiful and healthy microbiota, it’s important to feed and nurture them. Unfortunately the Western diet, agricultural practices and common medical protocols have a very detrimental affect on them.

Gut microbiota live on polysaccharides. They thrive on high-fiber foods so a plant-rich diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds would make them happy. A diet rich in highly-processed foods would not. Diet is a major driver and as we went from hunters to an agricultural community to one that consumed highly process foods, our microbiota have changed dramatically. The goods news is that microbiota can respond and change if you change your diet. 

Danger to the Microbes
Antibiotics can cause the microbiota population to plummet. They can recolonize but it becomes more difficult with repeated use. Antibiotics disrupt the efficiency of the intestinal ecosystem and allow pathogens to be introduced and take hold. This can lead to inflammation and a host of medical issues. Besides the antibiotics given to us by our doctors, we are exposed to them via our food supply. In severe cases of microbial devastation or antibiotic resistance, fecal transplants may be done. This procedure implants fecal material from a healthy host donor into a recipient thus recolonizing the recipient with microbiota. This has been used to successfully treat C. difficile infections. This procedure can have many other applications.

Dr. Sonnenburg, after examining the pictures of colons post colonoscopy, noted that the preparatory procedure pretty much wipes the intestines clean. He was in no way suggesting that people avoid this potentially life-saving procedure but it made me think that perhaps doctors should be much more proactive in advising their patients to re-colonize afterwards with probiotics and prebiotics. 

Your health care practitioner might recommend a  high quality probiotic after a colonoscopy or course of antibiotics.
I met the people from Bio-K at the conference. This probiotic can be found in the refrigerated section of whole foods.

The Implications
The implications of this work is far reaching. These microbiota play a tremendous role in our health. Their genetic content is far more adaptable and resilient than ours. Our microbiota's collective genes, or microbiome, like that of our human genome, will become a significant factor on how we will be treated for disease in the future. (Already there are companies, like uBiome, who will map your personal microbiome) We will someday use this data to predict and treat disease.  Perhaps the combination of our human genome with our microbiome mapping with allow a specific diet to be designed for us for optimal health. What amazing therapeutic potential! The possibilities are endless and I have thought of practically nothing else since hearing this lecture. 

Can We Take Action Now?
What can we do now?
There are more questions than answers at this point but there are some things we can do. 
* Make friends with your microbes. In fact I’ve given mine a name: The Mobies. It just popped into my mind and stuck. 
* When you eat and shop from now on, ask yourself, “would The Mobies (or whatever yours are named) like this?” This might be a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. They love bugs so the thought of feeding their own personally named internal bugs might be fun for them!
* Eat a plant-rich, fiber-rich diet. See my posting on High Fiber Foods.
* Avoid highly-processed food and foods with additives.
* To provide friends for your microbes, eat more fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, fresh barrel pickles, yogurt (they have some good non-dairy ones now) and kimchee. 
* Use antibiotics sparingly. 
* If you are pregnant, opt for a natural birth if possible and breast-feed your baby for as long as you can.
* After getting a colonoscopy, ask the advice of a naturopath or herbalist on the best way to recolonize your gut.
* Get a little dirty.

Eat plenty of fermented foods like raw sauerkraut or fermented vegetable salads found in the refrigerated section of your health food store.

Get Dirty
Let me explain my last comment about getting a little dirty. Our society has become germaphobes. To quote one of the brilliant speakers at the conference, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, “we have to stop treating our environment like it’s out to get us”. In light of Dr. Sonnenburg’s talk, this makes a lot of sense. We use antibiotics at the drop of a hat, we use hand sanitizers, we use chlorine washes for our lettuce, we processes the life out of our foods, we boil our babies’ pacifiers. It’s a miracle that we have any microbial life in our bodies at all! 

More Reading
Michael Pollan weighed in on this subject yesterday with an excellent article in the New York Times, "Some of My Best Friends Are Germs"

This is a fascinating and far reaching topic and you will be reading a lot more about it in the future. All the recipes in this blog are microbe friendly - just ask The Mobies!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Can You Overcome Insomnia? Blogging From The 2013 Nutrition And Health Conference In Seattle, Washington With Professor Rubin Naiman

Dr. Rubin Naiman, Director Circadian Health Association and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Arizona

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I’m here at the 2013 Nutrition and Health Conference in Seattle.
I’d like to share a topic near and dear to our hearts – sleep. This presentation discussed “The Role of Nutrition in Sleep and Dreams” by Rubin Naiman.

Seventy million people have insomnia – I being one of them so I was hoping that I’d learn about a magic nutrient or some clever tip to help me and others get a better night sleep. Here’s what I learned from Dr. Naiman:

There is a very complex interaction between eating and sleeping. Our food and nutrition can affect our sleep and dreams. Also, not getting enough sleep can impact poor nutrition. Sleep loss is associated with increased illness and inflammation. Cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune and mood disorders and other illnesses are all associated with sleep loss. Dr. Naiman commented that depression and insomnia are so closely linked that some think they are the same thing.

What I took away from this interesting talk is that most insomnia results from our being “over-consumers”. We over consume food, information, light and energy. Sleep is the dissipation of energy and time for letting go. Because we take on more than we can let go, many of us cannot rest or sleep. Speaking of not being able to “let go”, Dr. Naiman tells of an interesting correlation between constipation and insomnia. Over 50% of people with constipation have insomnia!

Another important “take away” from this talk, one that I could totally relate to, is that the reason we have a hard time sleeping is because we don’t “rest” before we try to sleep. Rest is the essential precursor to sleep. In fact, when we get sleepy, many of us respond to it as a need for more fuel, not rest. We are literally “rest-less”. Rest is the bridge from being awake to sleep. Do you rest before you sleep? Or do you watch TV, work on your computer, or finally make time to get on the treadmill?

Dr. Naiman feels that we  are “less sleepy” and have insomnia are because we are hyper aroused. So how do we slow down enough to get a good night sleep.

There is no magic nutrient (in fact he mentioned that very few cases of insomnia are because of a nutritional deficiency). Sleeping pills and antidepressants actually disrupt critical REM sleep and also disrupt our memory. So when you pop that ambien, you didn’t necessarily sleep well, you just can’t remember that you tossed and turned all night!

One of the reasons we don’t “rest” or enjoy going to bed at night is because we do not value sleep. In fact, many of us view it negatively – almost a waste of time. We look at sleep as not being awake or not being conscious. Sleep is valued only as it helps us in our waking life (it improves our immunity, our memory, etc.) but it is an end in and of itself. Dr. Naiman encourages is to learn to fall back in love with sleep! Remove the things on your nightstand, like your cell phone, your laptop, your book club novel and other items that might beckon you to the waking world.

Melatonin is the hormone our body produces that allows us to sleep. We produce it as a response to darkness. It causes the dilation of distal blood vessels. As the level of melatonin increases, our core body temperature is lowered. But exposure to light can greatly interfere with the production of melatonin and our ability to sleep. Suppression of melatonin has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. In fact, people working on the night shift have a higher risk of cancer.

To help sleep, it is necessary to reduce “light pollution”. Look around your bedroom? Do you have a brightly lit alarm clock, an outside light that shines in your window, or a night light?  These can all effect your production of melatonin and should be removed from your bedroom. 

REM, or dream sleep, is critically important. REM is the time that we digest and assimilate information and emotion. This is really the most important part of sleeping. Most issues related to sleep loss is really from “dream” loss. Alcohol interferes with REM sleep. So do certain medications like anti-depressants. As I mentioned before, no sleeping pill truly creates sleep and they usually damage our sleep in the long run. Chronic sleep loss leads to increased mortality. 

Some myths about sleep that were debunked by Dr. Naiman.
* Turkey in not a sedative. In fact eating anything at night disrupts sleep. 
* Nightcaps are not good. They may help put you to sleep but they don’t allow you to sleep well. 
* Chamomile helps put you to sleep but it’s a diuretic too. In fact he thinks Sleepy Time tea (that contains chamomile) should be called “pee pee time” tea.

Although he briefly touched upon sleep and dream promoting nutrients and supplements like GABA, L-threanin, glycine, 5HTP, tryptophan and melatonin, he reaffirmed the need to address hyperarousal. It is better to “let go” in order to sleep. We cannot override all this inflammation in our lives, our mind, etc. by taking some “pill” or nutrient to sleep. Melatonin supplements (which he himself takes and he was most positive about) is “just an appetizer”. It should just remind you of a natural desire to enjoy sleep. It will gently seduce you into sleep.

So bottom line, we need to regard sleep as fondly and as enthusiastically as we do our waking life. We need to retrain ourselves to want to sleep and give ourselves that “rest” period before we go to sleep to act our bridge to sweet slumber

I will end by sharing how Dr. Naiman’s Jewish mother assessed one’s health by asking these three key questions:
Did you eat?
Did you poop?
Did you sleep?
Could anything affect one’s good health more than these things? Wise woman!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dr. Andrew Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet - Blogging From The 2013 Nutrition And Health Conference In Seattle, Washington

Dr. Andrew Weil

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Greetings from Seattle
I’m blogging from the 2013 Nutrition and Health Conference in Seattle. This is the 10th year for this conference and it's a great venue for doctors and other health practitioners to come and increase their knowledge of nutrition. The problem of having insufficient nutrition education in medical schools is well known. In 1985 only 27% of medical schools met the dismal requirements of 21 hours of nutrition education. In 2006 only 41% of med schools provided the new and still inadequate 25 hour minimum. Many doctors want to know more as is evident by their attendance here at this conference (over 50% of the attendees are physicians). 

Please note, this is not a vegan conference and I will be reporting findings that many of my followers may not agree with but I feel it's important to bring you all information unfiltered. 

This morning, Dr. Weil gave a great talk on "the optimum diet". He encouraged dietitians and doctors to consider the individual when recommending a diet. He doesn't feel that one diet fits all and discourages what he calls “dietary extremism” – or diets that avoid entire food groups in the name of health: whether it be Dean Ornish and fat avoidance, the Paleo diet which avoids beans and grains, vegan diets that avoid all animal products (of course for many vegans, the avoidance of animal foods in products is not just for health but for reasons of compassion and the environment), raw food diets that avoid cooked foods, and others. 

When looking at what diet is best for a person, Dr. Weil feels that we must not ignore that each of us has unique genomes and biochemistry which makes us benefit from different types of diets. We are also products of different ethnic and cultural traditions where the foods we eat not only contribute nutritionally but also to our enjoyment and social connection.

Looking at epidemiological evidence, both the traditional Mediterranean diet and the Japanese diet are the ones most associated with longevity. In addition, most age-related diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and others have been increasing linked to inflammation. Dr. Weil’s dietary recommendations take both of these key factors into account. He promotes many of the foods that are common in either the Mediterranean diet or the Japanese diet, many of which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Let me note that although diet can significantly effect inflammation and disease, he also points out that stress, genetics, lack of exercise and exposure to environmental toxins also contribute greatly to inflammation.

Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Pyramid

Starting at the bottom of the pyramid:
Eat Vegetables and Fruits (More veggies than fruits):
* Vegetables, both raw and cooked (4 to 5 servings a day minimum)
Because they are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids that have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  Focus on dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables and all parts of the color spectrum - organic when possible.

* Fruits, (3 to 4 servings per day). Also rich in flavonoids and carotenoids. Go for a wide range of color and those lower in glycemic load such as berries and others.

Eat Grains, Beans and Legumes:
* Eat whole and cracked grains (3 to 5 servings per day.)  Whole grains digest slowly, stabilizing blood sugar. According to Dr. Weil, when you pulverize a grain however, even a whole grain, it loses its ability to do this. Foods with a high glycemic Index are digested rapidly and are inflammatory. So pulverized whole grains are as inflammatory as white flour. I interpret this to mean that cracked wheat, barley, brown rice and quinoa would be superior to flour, even if it's whole grain. So if you don't see the "whole grain", it doesn't have the benefit of the whole grain.

* Pasta (2 to 3 servings per week). “Al dente” pasta not only tastes better but has a lower glycemic index than “fully cooked” pasta!  Who knew?

* Beans and Legumes (1 to 2 servings per day). Rich in folic acid, soluble fiber and other important nutrients, they are a low-glycemic-load food. Eat beans like Anasazi (my favorite), chickpeas, and lentils, to name a few.

Healthy FatsI was so pleased to see that Dr. Weil does not fear fat (I don't either). He promotes healthy fats, especially extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, avocados, hemp seeds and freshly ground flaxseeds. These healthy fats are rich in either monounsaturated fats or omega-3 essential fatty acids. The Mediterranean diet uses lots of extra virgin olive oil, rich in polyphenols that have antioxidant activities.
Dr. Weil recommends 5 to 7 servings of healthy fats per day where a serving is 1 teaspoon of oil, 2 walnuts, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed or 1 ounce of avocado.

Fish and Seafood
Dr. Weil promotes the consumption of 2 to 6 servings of fish per week, such as salmon, herring, sardines and other high omega-3 fish. EPA and DHA omega-3, found in seafood and algae, has strong anti-inflammatory properties. 

Whole Soy Foods (1 to 2 servings per day of whole soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, soymilk, edamame or soynuts). 
Although soy foods are quite controversial with regard to their health benefits, Dr. Weil feels there is an enormous amount of misinformation circulating, much of which comes from the meat and dairy industries. 
The main controversy is with respect to soy's safety for breast cancer survivors and young boys. Although soy contains isoflavones that have estrogenic activity, Dr. Weil interprets the data to say that soy does not accelerate breast cancer but actually blocks access to estrogen receptors. It has even been found to be safe for women on tamoxifen. It also does not feminize boys, another piece of misinformation which has caused mothers to not feed it to their young sons. Moderate consumption of whole soy foods (not soy isolates) is safe and beneficial. 

Eat Unlimited Amounts of Cooked Asian Mushrooms
Shiitake, enokidake, maitake, oyster and others, contain compounds that enhance immune function. 

Other Sources of Protein such as eggs and cheese (if consumed at all) should be limited to 1 to 2 servings per week. In general, he feels it is important to reduce the consumption of animal foods. If you eat chicken, it should be organic and cage free with the skin and associated fat removed. Organic dairy should be used moderately. Eggs should be from free-range chickens or omega-3 enriched.

Healthy Herbs and Spices, especially turmeric, curry powder, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, basil, cinnamon, rosemary and thyme are natural anti-inflammatory agents. Use generously to season your foods.

Tea: Drink 2 to 4 cups of white, green and oolong tea per day. Tea is rich in catechins that naturally reduce inflammation. Also drink pure water through the day.

Best Recommendation of All - Wine and Chocolate
Drink a nice glass or two of red wine per day. 
And, eat a piece of dark chocolate with at least 70% pure cocoa, a few times per week. Dark chocolate contains beneficial polyphenols with antioxidant activity.

Check out the printable version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammation Pyramid.

Stay tuned .... more to come from Seattle!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Take A Fresh Look At Peas And Carrots - Young English Peas Make All The Difference!

Fresh English peas and tender young carrots on quinoa.

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It's Time For English Peas
Fresh English peas are starting to appear in the markets here in Northern California. And if you planted your garden early enough, there may be some in your backyard. 

While shucking peas, I always ask myself if it's worth the trouble or if I should bother my blog followers with such a time consuming task. But then I see that small but beautiful pile of bright green peas and I immediately have the answer.

Perfection inside a pea pod.

Peas and Carrots
I was looking for something to cook for dinner last night. All I had in the house was a pound of fresh English peas and some carrots. I thought to myself, hmmmm, peas and carrots. How simple, how cliché. But sometimes the simplest dishes can surprise and delight us. 

When you think of peas and carrots, a frozen box of vegetables comes to mind - not a pretty picture. But when you shuck a pound of fresh English peas and chop tender young carrots into pea-size pieces, it is a beautiful thing to behold!

Shucked English peas and small diced carrots.

So here is a very simple dish of fresh peas, chopped carrots and some seasoning and a squeeze of lemon that when put on a bed of fluffy cooked quinoa, will make a surprisingly tasty meal rich in protein and dietary fiber.

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Fresh Peas and Carrots with Quinoa
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
1 vegan bouillon cube*
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup small diced onions
1 pound fresh English peas (about 1 to 1 1/3 cups)
1 full cup small diced carrots
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
Squeeze of fresh lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

* I use 1 serving (half a large cube) of Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon with sea salt and herbs

Prepare the quinoa. Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse in cold water for several minutes. Place in a small saucepan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until all of the water is fully absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered.

Meanwhile, prepare the peas and carrots.
Make broth in a small cup by dissolving the bouillon cube in the boiling water. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan that has a lid. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the peas, carrots, parsley and the broth. Bring to a boil. Lower  to a low boil, cover, and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 or 6 minutes.

Cook fresh peas, carrots, onions and seasoning
in a small amount of broth

When tender, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the peas and carrots. Season with salt if needed (remember, the bouillon cube already has some salt) and freshly ground black pepper.

Fluff up the quinoa. Serve the peas and carrots over the quinoa.

Per serving: 162 calories, 4.5 g total fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 114 mg omega-3 and 1,126 mg omega-6, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber and 187 mg sodium (from bouillon cube only, no added salt). 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quick And Easy White Bean Salad With Radishes - Vegan And Gluten Free

Use Cannellini, Great Northern or White Kidney for this
simple-to-make White Bean Salad with Radishes.

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Beans - the Perfect Meat Substitute
I attended a beautiful luncheon this weekend at Hafner Vineyard in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California. They are a family owned and operated vineyard and winery. And when I say family owned and operated, I mean it. We were wined and dined by the 87 year old patriarch who founded the winery. Every key job is filled by a family member including the winemaker and head of sales. Even their granddaughter, who recently joined the staff, was pouring wine.  The entire family is so passionate about their business that each of them choked up as they gave their welcome speeches.  They truly love growing and making wine and really show their customers their gratitude. Something that is quite rare these days.

Besides their incredible hospitality, I was very impressed with their menu. When you go to lunch in wine country, you can pretty much expect it to be meat and cheese heavy but I was shocked and delighted that their was so much on the menu that I could enjoy. Yes, there was meat and cheese, but they also served a delicious green salad, grilled asparagus and a large platter of white beans! This white bean salad inspired me to create a recipe as soon as I got home. I thought it would be a wonderful dish for anyone to serve, especially if they happen to be entertaining vegans for lunch. White beans are a wonderful source of protein and are a great substitution for meat. Today I will share my quick and easy version of white bean salad that gets some extra crunch and spice from fresh radishes.

Canned Beans and BPA
I often use canned beans when I'm in a hurry. They are a great convenience. Not many of us have the extra hours in the day to cook beans. But besides being careful to select canned beans with low sodium, there is another thing to look for - BPA.

BPA, or bisphenol-A, is an industrial chemical used in food and drink containers.  It mimics estrogen and is an endocrine disruptor because it can act like the body's hormones. It is linked to an increased risk of infertility, obesity, breast and reproductive system cancer and more.  Much of the focus has been on BPA in plastic bottles and, in fact, it is now banned in baby bottles and children's cups. But the FDA still allows its use in cans and their testing indicates that 90% of popular canned foods show the presence of BPA.

Surveys by the CDC found BPA in the bodies of every person over 6 years of age - and in 90% of babies in the womb!

So if you are buying canned beans and want to avoid BPA, look for "BPA-Free" on the label. Eden Foods has been the trail blazer with respect to providing BPA-free cans. 

Look for BPA Free Lining when buying canned food.

Eden Foods has been a pioneer in this area.

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White Bean Salad with Radishes
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

2 (15 oz) cans Eden Cannellini beans, drained
1/4 cup diced red onion
6 radishes, cut in half, thinly sliced
2 packed teaspoons fresh thyme (see Note)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold-pressed hemp oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
Greens (optional)

Mix beans, onion, radishes and fresh thyme in a bowl.

Mix lemon juice and oil in a cup and stir to combine. Pour over the bean mixture.

Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over greens.

Per serving: 162 calories, 6 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 423 mg omega-3 and 1,646 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 6 g dietary fiber and 243 mg sodium.

Note: Fresh thyme is far better than dried thyme in this recipe. But if you have to use dried thyme, use it very sparingly (maybe 1/4 teaspoon to start) and rehydrate it in the dressing before putting it on the salad.