Let’s talk about added sugar!

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There is no doubt that I enjoy sweets, but one must remember to enjoy sugary treats in moderation. Foods that have added sugar usually provide extra calories with little or no nutrients.  

In 2009, the American Heart Association recommended that: 

  • women should consume less than about 25 grams (100 calories) of added sugars per day
  • men should consume less than about 37.5 grams (150 calories) of added sugars  each day

The ingredients list can give you information about the type(s) of added sugar in a particular food. Nutrition labels can help you count the amount of sugar that you consume each day.

Added sugars include:

  • high fructose corn syrup
  • corn syrup or corn sweetener
  • brown sugar
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • sucrose
  • glucose
  • malt syrup
  • honey
  • agave

Consider decreasing your added sugar intake to lower your risk of:

  • obesity
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • stroke

As you decrease the amount of sugar in your diet, you can discover new, more natural flavors and better health. 

For more information visit http://www.newsroom.heart.org/index.php?s=43&item=800

Fruit and Nut Snack Bars

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I’ve been snacking on Larabars for a couple of years now. I like them because they are made with simple, tasty ingredients. For example, the Apple Pie Larabar is made of dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins and cinnamon. I buy the Apple Pie and the Cherry Pie flavors because they have less than 5 % daily value saturated fat.

Lately, I’ve discovered Pure Organic’s Chocolate Brownie bar. It’s amazing! The mixture of organic dates, walnuts, agave nectar, almonds, cashews, brown rice protein, and cocoa remind me of the Little Debbie brownies I ate as a young girl. It’s a healthy way to get your chocolate fix.

Read more healthful facts about these bars at:

http://www.larabar.com/food/larabar/apple-pie

http://www.larabar.com/food/larabar/cherry-pie

http://thepurebar.com/pure-products/our-6-flavors/chocolate/

Sweet Potato, Kale, & Leek Soup

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A warm, bright bowl of Sweet Potato, Kale, & Leek Soup is perfect for a cool November day.

Sweet Potato, Kale, & Leek  Soup

  • Serves 6 to 8 

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cups chopped leeks, white section rinsed well

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups chicken or turkey broth

1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and very thinly sliced

kosher salt, to taste

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until light brown spots appear, about 10 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and also cook until spots appear, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

2. Pour in the chicken broth plus 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Then, simmer the potatoes over medium-low heat until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

 3. Increase the heat and bring soup to a boil again. Add kale and cook for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how done you want your kale. Kale can even be eaten raw. Add salt to taste.

Who needs a multivitamin when you’ve got this soup! The dark green and orange colors of this soup mean that it is rich in vitamins A, C, & K. 

Notes on Ingredients:

  • If you’re not familiar with leeks, substitute 1 large onion.
  • The best way to cut kale very thinly is to stack 4 or 5 leaves, roll them tightly into a long cigar shape, and slice crosswise. 

Toasted Buttercup Squash Seeds

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Winter squash, such as pumpkin, sweet dumpling, and buttercup, are bountiful during this time of year. They’re a beautiful way to decorate a home in the fall. They’re also a great way to get beta carotene into your diet to decrease the risk of certain eye diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Beta carotene is what makes most winter squash flesh orange.    

This is the first year that I’ve tried buttercup squash. It’s the dark green squash with lighter green stripes next to the pumpkin in the photo below. By the way, I purchased the big pumpkin in the photo for $3.99 at Trader Joe’s. What a deal!   

While preparing the buttercup squash for dinner, I saved its seeds. They’re similar to pumpkin seeds. I left them out to dry on my kitchen counter for a couple of days and rubbed them clean to expose their white shells. You can also rinse the seeds first and then dry them. They can be eaten raw or toasted to add protein, iron, potassium, and phosphorus to your diet.  Remember, it’s best to eat seeds sparingly because they are high in total fat and calories.   

To toast seeds without turning on the oven, place seeds in a single layer in a heavy, ungreased skillet. Then, toast over medium heat for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan and stirring them until they are lightly brown. The seeds are almost ready when you hear them start to “snap, crackle, and pop”.  Transfer them immediately to a dish to cool before eating.     

Peach Cobbler Update

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In August, I posted a recipe for Peach Cobbler.  It was based on a recipe card that my mother had on file for many years.  I shared it with you because the recipe always yielded a good cobbler.  However, soon after publishing the recipe, I realized that the recipe was not completely a Delicious Discovery.  I thought the method was too fussy for a cobbler and I thought it could use a little more dough on top. 

So, for about a month, I’ve been working on the Peach Cobbler and have updated the August 24th, 2010 post with my own recipe.  Peaches still abound in the market, so try my recipe for a not-too-sweet Peach Cobbler with warm, soft fruit and a crunchy topping.

Fresh Gazpacho Salsa Dressing

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Last week, I picked up a recipe for Fresh Gazpacho Salsa Dressing at my CSA distribution site.  It’s a great way to put the many tomatoes I am getting from the farm to use.  I made a few changes to the recipe to suit my family’s needs and taste.  However, you may want to use the 1 green chili pepper and freshly ground black pepper that I omitted.   

 Fresh Gazpacho Salsa Dressing

 ½ lb. ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 large tomato)

1/4 cup diced sweet white onion

½ Tbsp. onion powder

½  red bell pepper, diced

¾ tsp. garlic powder

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

¼ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. kosher salt

pinch of sugar

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.

2. Use immediately or store tightly covered in the fridge.  Use within 3 days.

The recipe suggests using the dressing in a salad with any combination of the following: roasted corn, black beans, chickpeas, lettuce, spinach, hearts of palm, marinated artichokes, etc. 

I used it as a marinade and sauce for baked salmon.  The dressing imparted a pleasant sweetness to the fish, which my family and I throughly enjoyed.

Fig Love

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Life without figs would be heartbreaking.  I’ve been eating fresh figs at the end of each summer for as long as I can remember.  After all these years, I’ve become well acquainted with the two types of figs in my garden. 

The fig on the left has a mellow, honey flavor, while the one on the right has a delightfully intense sweetness .  There are so many other varieties of figs, each with their own distinct taste, color, and shape.  Do you share my love for figs?

Concord Grape Pie

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Two summers ago was the first time I baked and tasted grape pie. 

I followed a recipe in the Sept. 2008 issue of Bonappetit  to make use of the Concord grapes that grow in my backyard.  

Click here for the recipe: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2008/09/grape_pie_with_lemon_verbena_ice_cream

I’m lucky to have my own supply of Concord grapes, since they aren’t so popular in supermarkets.  

Concord grapes ripening on the vine

Concord grape harvest

The pie recipe I use calls for seedless red grapes, but I suggest that you use Concord grapes.  I’ve spotted them in more markets lately.  I don’t want you to miss out on the amazing pie and the juice strained from the Concord grapes during the pie prep.  

Concord grape juice

The taste of fresh, unfiltered Concord grape juice is nothing like grape juice from a bottle.  It’s hard to describe, but my sister calls it “nature’s candy”.

Note:  I cool the grape pie for at least 1.5 hours before serving. 

 

Stuffed Tomatoes & Fresh Tomato Sauce

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On a hot summer day, it’s nice to keep the oven off and to eat food that’s light, fresh, and maybe vegetarian.  The flavor of these tomatoes stuffed with brown rice and walnuts remind me of stuffed bell peppers, because the main ingredients used are similar minus the ground meat.  If you prefer, substitute cooked ground beef for the walnuts.            

Tomatoes Stuffed with Brown Rice & Walnuts 

  • Serves 2 for lunch & 4 for appetizer

2 large beefsteak tomatoes (2 lbs.)

Salt Blend:

½ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. paprika

1/8 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

Filling:

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

½ cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup cooked brown rice

1.  Slice each tomato in half horizontally.  Remove and discard the seeds.  Run a knife around the inner edge of each tomato, leaving a wall thick enough to support the filling.  Then, scoop out the pulp/juice and reserve it to make Quick Fresh Tomato Sauce (recipe below).  Invert the tomatoes to drain any excess juice.     

2.  In a small bowl, mix the salt, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder.

3.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Sauté onions for 1 minute.  Add garlic and pepper and cook for 3 minutes.  Stir in walnuts and cook for 1 minute.  Mix in the rice and ¾ tsp. of salt blend.  Then, sprinkle ¼ tsp. of salt blend over the hollowed-out tomato halves and fill them with the brown rice mixture.     

 

I strongly suggest that you use brown rice in this recipe because it imparts a nuttier flavor than white rice.  Also, brown rice is healthier than white rice because it’s high in fiber.  Remember, fiber keeps you full for a longer time, helps your digestive system run more smoothly, and has been associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.        

A few years ago, I was hesitant to incorporate brown rice into my diet because I didn’t think I would like the taste or the texture.  However, I decided to try brown Jasmine rice (from Trader Joe’s) because white Jasmine rice was the staple in my home.  I liked it, so I started to sample other kinds of brown rice and discovered that I enjoyed Nishiki medium grain brown rice the most because it’s moister than others.  Explore the many brown rice choices you have in your supermarket and I’m sure you’ll find the type of brown rice that is perfect for you.              

Homemade tomato sauce is easy to make, tastes better than store-bought, and is often healthier than pre-made sauce because it contains less salt.  In the following recipe, the amount of salt used to season the sauce is up to you.  A couple of pinches should do the trick.  The same is true for the addition of sugar.  As a Sicilian, sauce is not sauce unless it has some sugar in it!   

Quick Fresh Tomato Sauce 

  • Yield: 2/3 cup for 2 (1 cup each) pasta sides

½ Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1½ cup chopped tomato pulp, including juice (from 2 large beefsteak tomatoes)

4 large basil leaves

1 Tbsp. red wine

Salt and sugar, to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Carefully pour in the tomatoes and add the basil leaves.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 18 minutes, until much of the juice has evaporated.  Stir in the red wine and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.  Discard the garlic and season with salt and sugar to taste.  Toss with pasta and serve.       

Peach Cobbler

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Peaches have been plentiful, so I’ve mostly been eating whole peaches as a snack.  However, I’ve also topped my pancakes with them, stirred them into my vanilla yogurt, mixed them into my pesto pasta salads, and added them to my turkey burgers!  Now, here’s my recipe for a not-too-sweet Peach Cobbler.  It’s a great warm dessert made even more special with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  

Peach Cobbler

Peaches:

2 lbs. & 4 oz. peaches, sliced  

1/3 cup sugar

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. water

Topping:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar plus more for sprinkling

¾ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 large egg, beaten

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large bowl, add the peaches, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water, add mixture to the peaches, and toss gently to coat fruit evenly.     

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl, mix the egg and oil.  Using a rubber spatula, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until all moistened.     

3. Pour peaches into a 9 inch pie plate and spread batter over the fruit.  If desired, sprinkle top with some sugar.  Bake cobbler until topping is light brown and a toothpick inserted into the topping comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Allow cobbler to cool slightly on a wire-rack before serving.  Enjoy!