Live Total Wellness

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Getting To Know Your Squash

Get to know your squash

Unique in their own individual shape and brimming with wonderful fall colors, winter squash is flavorful addition to so many dishes.
Generally, winter squash can be substituted in recipes calling for pumpkin or sweet potato. You can easily use any of these squash in soups, stews, pilafs or pies — satisfying dishes that make winter warm.
What's your favorite way to eat squash?  If you haven't tried squash yet, which one do you think you'll give a try?  Some people just like to use them with fall decor.  What are your ideas?

I think I'll give the delicata a try.  I've never eaten it before and trying some of the recipes gives me some ideas for the preparation.  

acorn squash
Acorn — Try its sweet, nutty, peppery flavor oven-roasted with butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, fresh herbs or filled with a wild rice stuffing.
butternut squash
Butternut — This gently sweet squash is a pleasure pureed in soups, roasted with various spices as a side dish, or roasted and added to salads for a flavor boost.
delicata squash
Delicata — This squash tastes like a combination of corn, butternut squash and sweet potato. Try it in this succotash.
hubbard squash
Hubbard — This grainier, less sweet squash is tasty boiled, baked or mashed with butter and seasonings, or pureed into soups.
kabocha squash
Kabocha — The rich, sweet flavor of this squash tastes divine tempered with soy sauce, ginger and other seasonings from Asia as with this recipe.
spaghetti squash
Spaghetti — When cooked, this squash, with a mild, nutlike flavor, separates into strands similar to its namesake noodles, creating a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate alternative to pasta.  Try this recipe or just add butter, olive oil or pasta sauce and you have an easy side dish or main course.
sugar pie pumpkin
Sugar Pie Pumpkin — Much smaller in size than your typical carving pumpkin, this squash is sweeter and perfect for pies and other sweet treats.  I grew some in my garden this year and can't wait to cook them into some pies and muffins.
turban squash
Turban — But you don't want to wear this quirky squash.  It has orange-yellow flesh and tastes slightly like hazelnuts when baked or steamed. Its hollowed-out rind can double as a soup tureen. I have fun serving food in the hollowed out shell. People think I'm such a gourmet cook!(sly grin)  Or, keep it whole for an easy harvesttime centerpiece.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Super Spinach!

The Spinach Spectacle - A Super Food That Steals The Show

Do you remember that cartoon character Popeye?  All he had to do was eat a can of spinach and instantly he was stronger and healthier.  You can see why spinach is considered a super food. Sure, spinach may not give you the same super powers, but it is packed with enough nutrients to give your diet a healthy blast. Spinach is part of the chenopod super-food family, along with beets, chard, and quinoa.  Add spinach to your healthy diet and you are keeping some good company. Let's take a look at why spinach has gained super food status.

Making The Case For Spinach

Years ago, spinach was not considered a very kid-friendly green. Typically, either canned or frozen spinach was served. This processed spinach could have a bitter taste or an unpleasant texture, and no matter how parents tried to disguise it, there was no getting around the fact that it wasn't tasty.

However, with the increased availability of fresh spinach, the popularity increased considerably.  Cooking fresh spinach properly, or serving it raw in salads, maintains the texture and flavor of the spinach making it much more palatable and, yes, tasty. These improved methods of serving spinach have made spinach a 'new' favorite super food.

Where Did Popeye Get the Power

The image of Popeye becoming super strong after eating a can of spinach is only a hint of what sorts of benefits spinach provides. The list of health benefits is very long, including off-the-chart amounts of vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium potassium, and vitamin B6. For a complete meal, all you would need to add is an omega rich protein. That's what makes spinach a super food!

What do all these nutrients do for you?  Vitamins A helps prevent cholesterol from oxidizing inside our bodies. Spinach contains good levels of antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc, and selenium. These antioxidants help lower the risk of several blood vessel related problems, such as atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Antioxidants are also your first defense against the free-radicals roaming around your body trying to damage your healthy cells.

If you eat one cup of fresh spinach leaves, your body is provided with almost 200% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K. This is a remarkable amount of vitamin K which will ensure you are receiving the ultimate nutrition for your bone health.

Magnesium is a nutrient that our body just loves, considering it is the fourth most abundant mineral in our body. Magnesium protects against heart disease and helps lower blood pressure. Another important mineral found in spinach is potassium, which maintains proper pH levels in our body fluids and regulates the kidneys, heart, and adrenal glands.

Spinach has been shown to do everything from fighting cancer to lowering the risk of diabetes. Because spinach helps build strong bones, we know it helps minimize the incidence of osteoporosis. Even skin conditions ranging from acne to psoriasis to cancer can benefit from adding a healthy dose of spinach to your diet. There is also evidence that spinach can reduce the incidence of migraines, cataracts, and memory loss.

When cooked, spinach provides the most benefit from its lutein and beta-carotene values. Cooking the spinach also neutralizes oxalic acid, which inhibits iron and calcium absorption and adds to the risk of developing kidney stones. If you are not at risk for kidney stones, raw spinach may be your preferred method for enjoying, but consider the health benefits of eating cooked fresh spinach, as well.

Choose Wisely

Popeye's canned spinach may have introduced us to the super food qualities of spinach, but the taste just couldn't sell it.  I believe that if canned spinach was our only option, spinach would not be making the super food splash it is today. However, frozen spinach is often a tasty alternative.

If you choose fresh spinach, you will receive the same super nutrition in both regular size spinach or  baby spinach. Be sure to choose spinach that is a rich, dark green, and not yellow in color.  If the spinach in the produce section looks slimy, avoid it. That is a sign of spoilage. Store your spinach without washing it first as moisture will cause the spinach leaves to decay quickly. You only have about a 4 or 5 day shelf life, so buy as close to serving as possible. When ready to serve, wash leaves and dry thoroughly.

Endless Eating Choices

Begin your search for spinach dishes by going back in time to find classic menu fare. Let's start with the always popular Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing.  This is traditionally made with cold spinach on a plate topped with a hot sweet-sour dressing, red onions, crispy bacon, and slices of hard boiled egg.

Of course, another traditional dish that you'll find on any good steakhouse menu is Creamed Spinach.  This classic is made simply but elegantly by cooking the spinach until tender, then adding the ingredients which include garlic, heavy cream, a pinch of nutmeg, and sometimes a little Parmesan cheese.

Those two classic restaurant dishes are delicious enough, but that's just the beginning.  Spinach goes well in a number of recipes including hot and cold pasta dishes, casseroles, and obviously a number of different salads. Spinach can form the basis for a dish, like spinach lasagna, spinach quiche, spinach soup, spinach salad, etc., or it can be a part of a dish like a ham and cheese filled omelet with spinach, pizza with spinach, fish and spinach wrap, shrimp stir fry with tangy spinach, or any number of recipes where spinach adds a nice element.

All the leafy greens like kale, collards, Swiss chard, and spinach deserve our attention.  With spinach, we have the image of Popeye to help convince us that this is one super food we do not want to pass up. If you still haven't gotten past the spinach of your childhood memory, now is the time.  Fortify your nerve with a pile of great recipes, then go ahead and eat your spinach!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Salmon- This is the way to go!

The Salmon Solution – A Super Food With All The Right Stuff

We love salmon in our family.  Ever since we moved to the Pacific Northwest, we have been eating this healthy fish and loving it.  You've probably heard a lot of talk over the years about salmon being one of the healthiest fish to eat.  You may have even added salmon to your diet.  But, do you know why?  Here is some information as to why salmon is a super food and what specific benefits salmon has to offer as a part of your regular diet.

Meet the Super Fish

The mighty salmon is probably one of the most widely studied fish we know. These studies often involve sustainability and contaminants comparing farmed salmon with wild caught salmon. Farmed salmon represents a large majority of available fish in the U.S. However, these farmed salmon have been treated with antibiotics, have more fat content, and have less beneficial omega 3. For these reasons alone, wild salmon is a much healthier choice for regular consumption.  It's the only salmon we eat.

Salmon is categorized as a 'fatty' fish, but don't let that scare or confuse you.  The fat that is referred to is where we find the most powerful super food imaginable – omega 3 fatty acids.  You have probably heard a lot of about these fatty acids recently.  They are essential nutrient elements that contribute to your body's healthy functioning, beginning right at the top with the brain, and continuing throughout the body.  And, you can get more omega 3 fatty acids in just one 4 ounce serving of salmon than you would get in several days of trying to eat other healthy foods containing some omega 3s.

With so much emphasis on the tremendous amount and availability of omega 3 fatty acids in salmon, some of the other healthy aspects have tended to be overlooked. Salmon is rich in tryptophan, the amino acid that helps the nervous system relax, rest, and even sleep. With more than 100 IU's of vitamin D in a serving of salmon, you have one of the very best sources available. Also, a super source of selenium, which is associated with decreased risk of joint inflammation, prevention of certain types of cancer, and is known to protect against cardiovascular diseases.

And that's not all. Don't forget the protein. Salmon, like other fish, is a great, low fat, low calorie source of protein.  Then you get B3 (niacin), B12, B6, phosphorus, and magnesium.  And not just minimal amounts either... you're getting serious doses of nutrients in this seriously delicious fish.

More Salmon Benefits

As you can see, salmon has a lot to offer, but along with all those vitamins, minerals, and omega 3s, salmon is also lower in cholesterol than other seafood and shellfish, like shrimp and lobster.  So, while the omega 3s are improving cardiovascular health, the salmon is not adding a lot of cholesterol to counteract all the benefits.

The all-important omega 3s we've been talking about in salmon not only contribute to better brain function and memory, but also supports skin health, joint health, heart health, and digestive health, along with a host of other benefits.

Salmon also has selenium and certain amino acids that protect the nervous system from the effects of the aging process. It is also known to lower the risk of Parkinson and Alzheimer's disease, and can help prevent blood clots that can contribute to stroke.

Salmon tends to speed up the metabolism which helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body. That little four ounce serving of salmon we talked about earlier provides up to 30 grams of protein, which we know supports muscle strength. But, don't forget about one of our most important muscles – the heart. Yes, salmon has a lot of offer every system of our body. But, how can you enjoy salmon a couple times a week without getting tired of it?

Preparing Pleasing Salmon Dishes

A broiled, baked, or grilled salmon fillet is delicious all on its own, for most fish lovers.  Simple dishes include basic lemon or tomatoe slices on top of the salmon and bake, broil or grill (my favorite!)  But for some, the unique flavor of salmon is better when fixed in slightly different dishes or with a variety of sauces.

Cooked salmon works well with a lot of flavors.  A number of different glazes and seasonings can turn each salmon experience into a unique one.  Some herbs and spices to try in your rubs or sauces include cayenne pepper, mustard, fennel, ginger, and paprika.  A classic sauce for salmon that's worthy of your time is a maple syrup glaze. Made simply by reducing a mixture of maple syrup with various ingredients like brown sugar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and even chili powder, makes a splendidly sweet and savory glaze that compliments the salmon perfectly.

My family has a favorite recipe called Bourbon Basted Salmon.
For every pound and a half of salmon mix
3 TBLS of bourbon,
1/4 Cup of brown sugar,
3 TBLS of green onion, chopped,
2 TBLS soy sauce (tamari if need to be gluten free), and
2TBLS of olive oil

Place salmon, skin side down, in a shallow baking dish.  In a small bowl, combine all marinade ingredients.  Pour over salmon and marinate in refrigerator at least 1 hour.

Brush the insides of a fish grilling basket with oil.  Remove salmon from the marinade but reserve the marinade.  Place salmon in basket and close securely.  Grill salmon in basket over hot coals, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 7 minutes per side.  Baste with reserve marinade during cooking.  Serve hot or cold.  Using the grilling basket carmelizes the brown sugar and bourbon.  It gives the most delicious crust with a tender moist inside meat.

Alternately, you can cook the salmon directly on an oiled grill, or wrapped in aluminum foil, turning once, about 7 minutes per side

Creamed soups are another good option for enjoying salmon.  Much like lobster bisque, salmon bisque has a rich flavor that can be slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and definitely delicious.  Keep this bisque simple as the flavor of the salmon will carry it just fine.

Salmon that has been cooked, cooled, and tossed in a big salad with mixed greens is a great choice for folks who like a little crunch surrounding their salmon. Choose a light vinaigrette and a variety of vegetables for your salmon salads. One vegetable that is especially complimentary with salmon is cucumbers. Try making a simple flaked salmon and diced cucumber sandwich spread for something extra special.  Just mix in a bit of light mayonnaise and spread on toasted English muffins or hearty crackers.

Of course, a favorite for holidays and buffet tables is smoked salmon. A few pieces of smoked salmon on a hearty cracker is enough to convince most non-believers that salmon is a food to favor.  But, you can also used smoked salmon to create wonderful salads, spreads, and more.  There is really no end to the ways you can enjoy this super-food.

This popular fish lends itself to lots of different ideas and recipes, so don't be afraid to experiment with new flavors to find the ones you like best. Salmon is a super healthy food that provides countless beneficial nutrients all wrapped up in a super tasty fish.  Now you know why we LOVE it sooo much!  Bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Weekend Adventures

Our family gatherings are always so much fun.  Between the little kids and the big kids, there is a lot of food and always something happening.

This Labor Day weekend was no different.  We are a family with a lot of allergies.  So any meal needs to be designed around nut, dairy and wheat allergies, not to mention my one daughter is vegan.

As I started to plan the menu, I realized that it would entail cooking 5 different foods for everyone.  Not my idea of fun.  So I decided to make a few of our favorite dishes and throw in some new recipes.  I came up with salmon patties, hamburger patties, quinoa greek salad, broccoli and homemade ice cream with fresh picked blackberries.

Never having made salmon patties before I found a good recipe on the internet that seemed simple enough.  And it was except for the fact that I had to take all the skin off the salmon and then made sure there weren't any bones in it.  The recipe called for PANKO but since we have the wheat allergies, I didn't use any.  Everyone concurred that the patties would be fine since part of the salmon was processed in my food processor with the veganaise, mustard and spices.

Next, the quinoa salad.  Everyone loves this salad as it's easy and has enough to please everyone's taste.  After cooking the quinoa, I always add spinach, Greek olives (sliced), feta cheese, cut cherry tomatoes, and chopped cucumbers.  Then a dressing of Greek seasoning and balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Now for the broccoli.  Some fresh from my garden and some fresh from the farmer's market, I steamed the broccoli and afterwards add a splash of olive oil and Celtic salt.

Final menu item - ICE CREAM!  Earlier in the morning, we all went out to pick fresh blackberries.  The ice cream was stirring in the ice cream maker except for the blackberries.  Everyone agreed that they wanted to put the blackberries ON the ice cream not IN it.  So fresh ice cream with fresh blackberries to end the evening.

It was so much fun making everything with my daughters there to help.  I just love having everyone over and trying new recipes.

The verdict:
The salmon burgers were ok.  Nothing that great, they definitely needed more spicing up.  We all decided that we liked grilled salmon the best and next time, save the time and grill the salmon like we always do.  Some traditions are difficult to break!

The quinoa salad is always a hit and everyone asks for that everytime we get together so that's a given.  Broccoli, how could you go wrong with that - even the little ones love their 'trees'.

The ice cream enjoyed and savored by everyone.  My daughter's boyfriend said it was the best he ever had (do you think he just said that because he's the boyfriend?)

Another successful weekend.  Can't wait for the next one!

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