Saturday, September 24, 2011

Omega III

"If you don't eat fish, how do you get enough omega-3 in your diet?" "Do you get enough protein?" Two questions I've heard often repeated when people find out I'm vegetarian. The answer to both is: There are plenty of plant-based means for including good fatty acids (known as omega-3s) and protein in your diet. Walnuts, avocado, flax, hemp, olive oil, green leafy veggies, soybeans, and pumpkin seeds are some of the most common sources. You can take vegetarian supplements, but I have a really hard time swallowing those gigantic pills.

So why the big fuss over omega-3? WebMD offers an explanation...

"The benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer's disease. Just how do omega-3s perform so many health "miracles" in people? One way, experts say, is by encouraging the production of body chemicals that help control inflammation -- in the joints, the bloodstream, and the tissues." Read the whole article here

Pretty important stuff, right?

In our house we like to include a sprinkling of flax seed or ground flax in just about everything from smoothies to cookies. (Flax is an excellent replacer for eggs in baking!) I recently found an easier way of ingesting our daily dosage of omega-3....Smooth, creamy, and delicious! 

Kinda spendy, but totally worth it! One tablespoon has 93% of your daily allowance for omega-3 (1,490 mg). And, it tastes awesome...We chose the pomegranate/blueberry variety of Barleans brand flax oil.  They also have cinnamon, lemonade, banana/strawberry flavors and of course, plain ol' plain. 

Hey now, there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy improving your health! :0) So, whether it's munching on a handful of walnuts, grinding flax seed between your teeth, savoring luciously smooth flax oil, or eating a hearty green salad, make a mental note to daily add more omega-3 to your diet!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ethnic Food of the Day: Lebanese Lubia (لوبيا)

We love ethnic food. Period. Korean. Middle Eastern. Thai. African. Mexican. Indian. You name it, we like it. We are blessed with a wide cultural circle of friends and they each have something new and delicious to bring to the table (pardon the pun) as far as cuisine is concerned. I'm excited when one of them is willing to teach me how to make a traditional dish. 

Our Lebanese friend, Rabih, showed me the basics for Lubia, a saucy Middle Eastern dish served with white rice. Lubia/Lubya simply means "beans" in Arabic. You could use white or red beans and make Fasolia, but traditionally green beans are used in this recipe. Now, I should put a disclaimer on this. This is my interpretation - probably not super authentic, but so good! This is my go-to dish when I'm short on time because it's simple, healthy, delicious, and my family loves it. 

The recipe calls for baharat, or Middle Eastern mixed spices. For sake of time I purchased some from a Middle Eastern market but if you're feeling adventurous, you could make your own! I made some a few  years ago. Find a recipe here.

Olive oil
4 cups canned green beans 
1 large can diced tomatoes, in juice (or 2 - 15 oz. cans)
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag Morningstar Griller Crumbles (eliminate if making gluten free)
Red pepper flakes
Lebanese Baharat or Middle East Mixed Spices 

In a large stockpot, saute onion in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat. When semi-clarified, add minced garlic and sauté a moment more. Add green beans and tomatoes. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, then add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, a pinch or two of sugar (to neutralize the acid), about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. Seven Spices, and salt to taste. Stir and add 1/2 of the bag of Morningstar Griller Crumbles if using. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes more, or until all ingredients are fully incorporated and stew is bubbling nicely. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy hot over white or brown rice. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Truly Vegan Cheese?

I visited our local Whole Foods Market yesterday for two items...Came home with more than I bargained for. I wasn't even hungry while I was shopping! It's just that I saw this great deal on Kidz Clif Bars for Gracie's lunches, and I simply HAD to get some more rye and barley flakes for our hot cereal in the morning...There was the vegetarian beef and chicken flavored broth mix, and finally in the cheese department, this: Monterey Jack Vegan Gourmet Cheese by Follow Your Heart. Usually if a cheese claims to be vegan, it still has casein or whey protein in it. I perused the ingredients ~ WHOA! Completely vegan cheese alternative. Into the cart it went...

So, my impression? While not tasting like traditional cheese (I've yet to find a cheese alternative that actually does), it'll do in a pinch. It has a unique texture due to its tofu base, very moist. It shreds well as you can see from the photo, but I found that it didn't melt when I combined it with vegetables for the Mini Spinach/Broccoli Tarts I made for lunch today. It did add a nice saltiness though, without being overpowering.

Nutritionally, it's lo-cal with 70 calories per 1 oz. serving. There are 7 g. of fat, 0 cholesterol, 150 mg of sodium, 2 g. carbs, and 1 g. protein. That's in comparison with normal Monterey Jack cheese...105 calories per 1 oz., 8.5 g. fat, 240 mg sodium, and 6.5 g. protein. Don't mean to confuse you with a host of numbers and data, but I had to be fair, right? That's the important stuff.

So, here is how I made the tarts ~

12 small wonton wrappers
two medium broccoli florets, chopped (Just two pieces of the broccoli stalk)
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
1 oz. Shredded Vegan Gourmet Monterey Jack cheese
4 fresh basil leaves, julienned (rolled and cut in ribbons)
dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
granulated garlic

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 6-tin muffin pan with food spray. Place two wonton wrappers in each cup, gently pressing down into the base and overlapping the edge of the tin to give a nice tart shape. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until lovely golden brown on the edges.

For the filling:
Saute diced onion in a small amount of olive oil. When slightly clarified, add chopped broccoli. Cook until broccoli is crisp tender (maybe 1 1/2 minutes); add handfuls of spinach. Gently toss to combine until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and add a few sprinkles of dried oregano, a sprinkle of granulated garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Mix in basil and shredded cheese.

Fill your tartlets with about 2 Tb. of vegetable mixture and put back into oven to heat ingredients all the way through, maybe 5 minutes or so. Remove and allow to cool slightly before enjoying. You'll notice that the bottom of the wonton skin does not stay very crunchy, due to the vegetable juices escaping. But, you could bake them a little longer before filling if you'd like a little more crunch.

Serving size? Probably three....But I ate all six. They were that good! And small, too....Just sayin'.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

I've been on a baking frenzy lately...I don't know why, but I seem to be obsessed with cupcakes. I never even liked cupcakes! I think it was the frosting ~ Why do people like frosting? Thick, sugary goo that impairs the lusciousness of the cake? Well, I guess not all frostings are like that.....but I digress.

So, today I was going through a box of food items that some friends left for us when they moved to Australia. Imagine my delight when I saw a container of Chai Spiced Tea. Instantly my creative juices started flowing. Chai Cupcakes! Here, I thought, is an original idea! I doubt anyone has thought of it...Ugh! Martha Stewart and a host of others beat me to it.

So, thanks to Darla of, I found my perfect Chai Cupcake recipe. If you love a warm Chai tea on a cool autumn day, this is the recipe for you. Sorry it's not an original, but I did make a slight adjustment. I discovered a perfect substitution for cake flour! I'll share the joy in the ingredient list. I'm so excited about this recipe because you can substitute applesauce for eggs. Not only is it low fat, it's full of awesome fiber, too!

1 1/2 cups cake flour (If you don't have it, mix 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup of cornstarch to equal 2 cups. Then portion out your 1 1/2 cups. Cool, huh?)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine
3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup soy milk
4 chai tea bags (I used Stash brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. This recipe will make about 18 regular size and 24 mini size.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices; set aside.

In a small saucepan, warm milk until it just simmers. Remove from heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and allow the milk to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add applesauce, just until combined.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture over the butter/sugar/applesauce batter and mix with a hand mixer on low speed until just combined. Add 1/2 of chai milk mix and beat on low until combined. Add another 1/3 of the flour mix and beat. Scrape the bowl, then add remaining milk. Mix until incorporated, then add the last of the flour. Be careful not to over mix.

Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 of the way full and bake for approximately 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. I always like to test the tops of the cupcakes, too. If they spring back when lightly touched, they are most likely done.

Allow to cool completely before frosting. Darla suggested using a cinnamon scented buttercream frosting. My husband would like a cream cheese style frosting...You choose what you'd like to accent them with.

Enjoy! I certainly my exercise regimen increases.