Friday, February 25, 2011

UnDiet...Week Nine

The new Dietitians of Canada Cookbook...featuring a recipe by yours truly! Available in my Amazon store.

Hello UnDieters!

This week, I want to appeal to the adventurer in you...your mission this week is to try a recipe that you have never tried before. Whether you hoard cookbooks that you rarely use (like me) or think that a big cooking day is boiling pasta, it is time to be bold. Make the effort. You can make something elaborate or search for a 30 minute meal that will help you survive the weeknight dinner crush. It is up to you: choose a recipe, shop for the ingredients, make something fantastic and have fun!

Life is busy; the effort involved in planning a meal with multiple ingredients can seem daunting but once you have mastered a recipe it becomes part of your repertoire and effortless to enjoy on a regular basis. Also, when you get stuck in a rut, healthy eating becomes boring. Way more boring than ordering a pizza. Weekends are the perfect time for a culinary adventure. You have got the time to browse recipes over morning coffee, make a shopping list and maybe even check out a farmer's market without the stress of trying to decide on how you are going to get dinner on the table after work.

So crack open one of your dusty cookbooks or browse online for a recipe...I know you are tempted to skip this week because "it isn't as important" as eating blueberries but believe me, I have your best interests at heart. Cooking is a critical skill for eating well and trying something new is important for keeping healthy eating fresh.

I have included a few of my favourite sites for you here so you have literally thousands of free recipes at your fingertips:

Get Cooking...let me know how your culinary adventures went!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

UnDiet...Week Eight!

Good Morning UnDieters! This one is a wee bit late, so my apologies....
I am going to continue on my one woman mission to increase your fibre intake so this week, I want to introduce you to sprouted grain breads. By now, we have all heard of whole grains and why they are so much better for us: more fibre, more essential fats and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. However, as is true with much of our modern "food", we also need to think about how those whole grains are processed to complete the health picture.
While whole grain breads are a step up from white breads, have you ever noticed that some of them feel just as soft and squishy as their white counterparts? The healthiest end of the whole grain spectrum is the whole grain itself: a kernel of whole wheat, steel cut oats, whole quinoa or other such goodies. These are grains as nature intended. Chewy. Dense. Full of flavour. Packed with nutrition. The more human beings interfere with the whole grain goodness, the less healthy it becomes.

When whole grain flours are pulverized into flours and baked and expanded into a loaf of bread, you get a little extra fibre but much of the integrity of the original whole grain is gone. The resulting fluffy loaf is digested and broken down into sugars almost as quickly as its white cousin and isn't really that great for you, especially in comparison to the original whole grain. Sprouted grain breads are different. They are made from 100% whole grains which are then sprouted and crushed before being made into bread. They are never pulverized into flour. The result? Sprouted grain breads are denser and heavier, with more fibre and protein. A single slice of sprouted grain bread can have 5 grams of fibre and 5 grams of protein, a stark contrast from the average 2 or 3 grams of fibre of lesser whole grain breads.

So this weekend, buy a 100% sprouted grain bread and swap it in for your usual bread. This is one of those simple swaps that can make a big difference! If you eat 2 pieces of toast for breakfast, switching to sprouted grain can leave you fuller and more satisfied all morning long. In addition, that 10 grams of fibre you just ate will get you more than 1/3 of the way towards your daily fibre goal for a woman and about 1/4 of the way for a man. Add that to the bran buds and beans you are already now enjoying and many of you will be getting all the fibre you need. And feeling more energized for it.

My job is done. (For fibre anyways....44 more weeks of healthy tips coming your way. Looks like January 2012 is going to be filled with smug self satisfaction instead of more resolutions.)

Need help finding sprouted grain breads? Check out my Healthy Grocery List for a couple of good brands.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eat...Freestyle Oatmeal Cookies

I had the overwhelming urge to bake tonight. Can't explain it really. I rarely bake except for the occasional muffin or holiday cookie. But tonight I wanted to fill my apartment with the sweet aroma of butter and sugar and I sure didn't want to have to buy any groceries. So I sifted through internet recipes for inspiration and then created this recipe based on the reality of my pantry. 

Feel like a cookie? Get baking....why "freestyle"? Because I threw these together as I do everything, haphazardly...and give you options to do the same.

Recipe. Freestyle Oatmeal Cookie

Place oven racks in top and bottom third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

1/2 cup organic butter 
1/2 cup natural unsweetened peanut butter (or your favourite natural nut butter)
1 1/2 cup loosely packed demerara sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large organic eggs

2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (get pure, uncontaminated oats for a "gluten free" recipe)
1 cup rice flour (brown or white)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt

2 1/2 cups of goodies* 
*I used half of very good bittersweet chocolate and half currants but any dried fruit, nut, chocolate combo would be awesome. Some suggestions: cranberry, pecan and milk chocolate; apricot, walnut, white chocolate; blueberry, almond, dark chocolate

In large bowl, cream together butters and sugar with wooden spoon or electric beaters then add vanilla and eggs and blend until fluffy. Then add next 4 ingredients and mix well by hand. Finally, add the goodies and mix in.

Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheets, a dozen per sheet. These will seem too loose, like they won't work...I was so sure they wouldn't but they come together really well in the oven. Place one sheet on top rack and one on the bottom rack and bake 7 minutes. Alternate rack position and bake 7 more minutes until golden brown.

Remove to a rack to cool and then bake the last 2 dozen cookies from remaining batter.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

UnDiet...Week Seven

Oh boy, am I ready for spring. The endless stream of root veggies, apples and pears, while lovely, are beginning to grow tired. I am ready for fresh green things. That being said, we still have to find a way to eat well until the weather warms and if we can do it in a sustainable way, all the better.

So this week, it is time for a major antioxidant boost in the form of blueberries. Yes, there are "fresh" blueberries showing up from the southern hemisphere these days but I would urge you to go for frozen blueberries instead. I often get asked if frozen is as healthy as fresh and in situations like these, the answer is a resounding, "Yes!". 

Picking fruits and vegetables at the peak of their ripeness also provides nutrients at their peak. When produce is grown far away, it must be picked earlier so that it can withstand the long journey, potentially stunting its nutrient content. In addition, many nutrients, such as vitamin C are incredibly delicate and start to degrade quickly after the produce is picked. So in the winter, when local options don't exist frozen produce can be a very nutritious option.

So starting this week, pick up a big bag of frozen blueberries (bonus points if they are locally grown!) and eat at least a 1/2 cup a day. Look for a product that is unsweetened and give the bag a squeeze: the blueberries should still be individually frozen, not frozen together in clumps which indicates that they have thawed and refrozen at least once. Frozen blueberries are perfect added directly to smoothies and baking. If you want to eat them as a snack, simply keep a small amount in the fridge thawed so they are ready to top cereal, yogurt or even throw them in a salad.

Blueberries are a true superfood. Low in calories but packed with vital nutrition, blueberries are a fruit that will not raise blood sugars substantially making them a good choice for managing weight. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, including anthocyanins, which help to protect the heart and entire circulatory system. The antioxidants in blueberries, including vitamin C, also contribute to healthy skin while decreasing inflammation, another indirect cause of skin concerns and premature aging. Some research has even pointed to the power of daily blueberries to protect your brain against cognitive decline. Wait...what was that last sentence? Can't remember? You need to eat more blueberries!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recipe...Artichoke and White Bean Dip

You know that kind of want a treat. But you don't actually want a meal completely devoid of nutrition. That was me a couple of days ago. I didn't want junk food...but I didn't want a typical meal either. Voila! A sauteed veggie dip that was inspired by artichoke dip but made healthier via white beans. The beans add fibre and protein without all the extra fat. Would have been a good Super Bowl snack. Oh well, there is always 2012! 

Recipe: Artichoke and White Bean Dip

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 med zucchini, diced
2 med carrots, diced
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
salt and pepper

1 540 ml can of cannellini beans, mashed
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup of feta
1/2 cup of manchego 
1/8 tsp rosemary
Pinch chili flakes

1/2 cup of parmiggiano reggiano

3 roma tomatoes, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat oil in a medium skillet and saute red onion until softened, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini and carrots and saute until carrots are tender crisp, about 5 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and warm through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Turn off heat and mix in cannellini beans, sour cream, feta and manchego cheeses. Add in rosemary and chili flakes.

Spread into 9 inch pyrex pie plate or another oven proof dish. Sprinkle with parmiggiano and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Top with diced tomatoes and serve with good quality tortilla chips (I like Que Pasa).

You can definitely vary the cheeses - just be sure to include at least one sharply flavoured cheese or the dip will be pretty bland.


PS...this would count towards your UnDiet bean servings for the week. Don't say I don't look out for ya!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

UnDiet...Week Six

Whether you are vegetarian or worship at the temple of bacon, we could all use a little more veggie protein in our lives. While meat can be a healthy part of a good diet, we tend to eat way too much of it and forget that plants have protein too. So the challenge this week is to work a little of my favourite veggie protein into your diet: beans. 
Yes, yes, it's the musical fruit...but it is also pretty close to a perfect food. Super high in fibre, beans are also a great source of vegetarian protein and slow burning carbohydrates. But it doesn't end there: full of magnesium, iron, B vitamins, potassium...and if you choose a richly coloured bean like kidney or black beans, chock a block with antioxidant pigments too. 

Don't like beans because they make you gassy? News flash: a little gas is good for you. One of the benefits of beans is that their "resistant" carbohydrates become food for healthy bacteria which helps keep your gut happy. Your system will get used to beans the more you eat them. If you are bothered by gas, the kind that doesn't seem to want to pass on its own, you have options. The standard treatment is Beano, which actually works. A more holistic approach is Asafoetida, which is an Ayurvedic herb that complements beans nicely from a digestive perspective. You can find it at Indian food shops and remember...just a tiny pinch is all you need.

So this week, welcome beans into your world at least twice. Not so bad, right? I will even help you out with some ideas!

1. Eat hummus with chopped veggies as a snack. Buy a good quality hummus with no unpronounceable ingredients or make your own tomorrow to pack in your lunch all week. It's easy...try this recipe.
2. If you regularly eat soups for lunch, just toss in a half cup of your favourite beans, rinsed and drained to boost the nutrition and help you feel more full all afternoon. 
3. Make your favourite chili with two different types of beans. 
4. Making a marinara? Substitute half of your usual amount of ground beef with canned lentils, rinsed and drained.
5. Taco night? Saute up some black beans instead of your regular ground meat (or add beans to your carnivore, you!).

So long, gassy jack.