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Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, October 26 and 27, 2013
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Sunday
Nov292009

Pomegranate POW!

My first experience with fresh pomegranate wasn't good. A friend handed me a section of the ripe fruit studded with its juicy red jewels. Charmed, I took a bite, which instantly squirted a permanent red stain on my new white blouse. I couldn’t escape two more stains even after extra careful biting. But I was intrigued by the flavor—so tart, so potent! Since then I've stuck with the juice.

Pomegranates are native to the Mediterranean and Middle East, a fruit that’s been grown since 4000 B.C. Some scholars believe the “apple” eaten by Eve in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate! It is rich in polyphenols, natural plant antioxidants that fight disease, which are also found in the superfoods blueberries, cranberries, red wine, and green tea. Published research has found a link between drinking 8 ounces of pure pomegranate juice daily and improved heart health in patients with heart disease (decreased plaque build-up and improved blood flow), and improved prostate health in men with prostate cancer. POM Wonderful juice is one brand with 100% pomegranate juice and no added sugar or juice fillers, which is probably why it’s the most expensive (about $4 for 16 oz). Other varieties are less expensive but may contain other juices or water.

The tart, strong flavor of pomegranate juice and its lingering aftertaste can take some getting used to (even more so than cranberry juice, especially if there’s no added sugar). If you find it too strong, try it mixed with other juices or seltzer. Or try it in recipes like the one below for a fruity quick bread, which I modified from Fat-Free Baking by Sandra Woodruff. Juice and/or mashed fruit adds moisture to muffins and quick breads so that less fat or none at all is needed. I love how easy this recipe is, with a short ingredients list that mixes up in one bowl and perfect for a healthful morning treat that looks festive with the dried cranberries. It’s fat-free and nutritious, which is ideal this time of year as we try to balance out the extra holiday calories! 

Fat-Free Fruity Quick Bread

Ingredients

2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat, half white)

1/3 cup sugar

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

3/4 cup pomegranate juice

1 large mashed ripe banana

1 t vanilla extract

1 cup Craisins

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the juice, mashed banana, and vanilla extract and stir just until mixture is moistened. Fold in Craisins.

  2. Coat an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the mixture evenly in pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

  3. Remove the bread from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

For variety, add mini chocolate chips or finely chopped walnuts to the batter, or spread on light cream cheese after it's baked!

Tuesday
Nov242009

Ready, Set…Gobble!

Here it comes! Holiday shopping and decorating. Food. Planning family get-togethers. Food. Remembering the historical meaning of holidays. Food! All of a sudden food is everywhere, which can cause anxiety about our waistlines. Because of juggling family schedules, some years I've attended three Thanksgiving meals and two Christmas feasts! Not to mention the office parties and holiday luncheons with friends. There's also the pressure to sample: you can’t refuse your mother-in-law’s special once-a-year stuffing and pecan pie but you also can’t forget that two days ago you munched plate after plate of canapés at the office party. Try these strategies to help survive holiday noshing:

Be mindful. The easiest way to put on weight is to abandon all self-control. Everything that enters your mouth counts! By all means, enjoy the peppermint brownies your coworker has baked but take one square back to your desk and savor each bite slowly. If there are several treats laying out, cut off a small piece of what looks best for a mini-tasting. If you're at a sit-down meal, create a full plate taking a little of each dish (so the cook feels appreciated) and chew slowly (relishing each bite and lavishing the chef with compliments for good measure) while chatting away with other guests; this leaves less time for plate refills.

Eat healthfully otherwise. Expect many calorie-laden eating opportunities, so fill up on healthful foods the rest of the time: high-fiber whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and fish and lean meats. Limit sweets and high calorie snacks, banking those calories for the special treats offered at holiday events.

Exercise. Holidays can be stressful but try to stick to your exercise routine. Exercise can help alleviate stress and keep your metabolism in top shape so you don’t feel as sluggish after eating those extra calories.

Forgive. Do the best you can, but if you gain a few pounds don’t become discouraged and eat everything in sight. That will only harm your body. If you overeat, balance that by refueling your body with the healthful foods mentioned above and continue to exercise. In no time you will feel great again! 

This rich feast from Wandering Chopsticks reminded me of my Thanksgivings growing up - Asian style!

On another note, here are some food safety reminders from the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals if you’re cooking up a big bird this year.

Thawing Time in the Refrigerator

Size of Turkey/Number of Days

4 to 12 pounds:  1 to 3 days

12 to 16 pounds:  3 to 4 days

16 to 20 pounds:  4 to 5 days

20 to 24 pounds:  5 to 6 days

Note: You can refrigerate a thawed turkey for 1-2 days.

Thawing Time in Cold Water

Size of Turkey/Hours to Defrost

4 to 12 pounds:  2 to 6 hours

12 to 16 pounds:  6 to 8 hours

16 to 20 pounds:  8 to 10 hours

20 to 24 pounds:  10 to 12 hours

Note: It is recommended to change the water every 30 minutes.  

More Tips

  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. A whole turkey is safe cooked to a minimum of 165°F. Check the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The stuffing should also reach 165°F, whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish.
  • Bacteria can be swimming in the gravy. Remember to bring the gravy to a boil when first preparing it and again when reheating the sauce to enjoy the leftovers.

Wednesday
Nov182009

Salivating over Tofu and Quinoa

Here are a couple of blogs that inspired me recently!

Thanks Amateur Nutritionist for a great recipe new to me: baked tofu! What a fabulous idea for a nutritious ingredient that is unfortunately, in its natural state, bland and mushy. But this particular idea, modified from an Eating Well recipe, is a fast easy way to infuse a burst of bright flavor into tofu. It's easy to eat too, served like a burger with lettuce and tomato. I changed the marinade ingredients from the original recipe to a tablespoon each of Hoisin sauce and honey. Make sure to toast up the bread (I used Arnold Sandwich Thins). The only downfall is that it’s not too filling so you may need to add mayo or a slice of cheese, or serve it with pasta salad or a hearty soup. I ate this sandwich three days in a row, it was so good!

 

Hapa Bento is a fun site I stumbled onto with gorgeous photos (when you’re salivating over shredded carrots and quinoa the pics have to be pretty amazing!). The entire site is devoted to bento boxes, Japanese-style lunch boxes that are traditionally filled with rice, meat or fish, and pickled vegetables. Kind of a hip-ified version of the TV dinner although these have long been a mainstay of Japanese diets. The Americanized version has no limits, using whatever ingredients you have handy, but retaining the extra care and creativity needed. Instead of an everyday packed lunch for your child of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a side of broccoli and carrots, and apple wedges, a bento box might present the same ingredients as slices of turkey and carved apples decorated into Mickey Mouse placed on an artfully arranged pattern of carrots and broccoli. I love this concept because it makes us take the time to prepare and appreciate food ingredients, offers portion control, and feels like a luxury to eat such beautifully crafted healthful food so you savor it more.