Farm Blueberries

Stopped by the local farm today and was so happy to find blueberries. It’s a little too early for local berries, but they were from new jersey, which isn’t too far away.

Anyway I had a couple of handfuls and they are delicious. I’m waiting to eat the rest of them tonight!

Blueberries rock!!! Summer rocks!

EDIT: 2011-07-12 – ate a big bowl of blueberries last night and they were heavenly. Hmm, now my addiction begins!

Whole Foods Organic Cherries on Sale Friday Only

Yes, I do love cherries.

But we don’t purchase them too often, because they are so darned expensive!

Well on Friday, July 8th, Whole Foods is having a grand sale on ORGANIC cherries! Only $2.99 per pound. That’s almost a third of the normal price, last time I checked!

Cherries are bursting with goodness too. Antioxidants, along with beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron and fiber. And they are one fruit that my DH loves too, he actually loves them more than me I bet!

So, I am definitely planning on buying up a bunch of cherries this Friday!

Did you know it’s easy to pit them by hand? Once pitted, you can freeze them for a later date. Just spread them in single layer on a large cookie sheet so they freeze individually, then once frozen, pop them all into a freezer bag.

How scrumptious will cherry compote taste in the winter!? I did this with bags of cranberries, and it was wonderful to have access to fresh cranberries after the holidays!

I’ve listed some recipes from Whole Foods web site below. I’m loving the cherries and kale recipe. I might have to try that with the greens from this week’s CSA share! And I still have some frozen scallops from a previous Whole Foods sale that will work nicely with the cherry balsamic sauce!

whole foods one day sale on cherries

Pondering Toast vs Bread Calories

A few weeks ago, I was wondering if my toast had less calories than bread. I googled, and duh, of course the calories are the same, they are just calculated differently.

For instance, before toasting, my serving of bread was 2.5 oz, after it’s turned to toast, the weight was reduced to 1.6 oz – no, the calories didn’t disappear, but moisture inside the bread did, taking away a good chunk of its weight.

That is a whole ounce difference, which could lead to overeating if you’re not careful to weigh your bread BEFORE toasting it. If you have to weigh bread after toasting, then you would need to calculate the calories as toast NOT bread.

I love toast, it makes day-old bread taste amazing – just make sure not to burn it!

toasted bread

other links of interest:

Recipe: Homemade Low Sugar Granola with Oats, Pecans, & Coconut

homemade granola-low sugar

I made a batch of homemade lower sugar granola for my dad for Father’s Day, based on a recipe I found for “Sugar Free Granola” on allRecipes.com – it’s not necessarily “sugar free” but her recipe contains no added refined sugars. The granola did get sweetness from dates and apple juice. I do not drink juice anymore, so I decided to improvise and substitute 1 Tbsp agave nectar.

So, anyway, it was delicious, and I’ve been wanting to make a batch for us, so this afternoon, I did! I am looking forward to adding it to plain yogurt!

Keep in mind, this granola is not very sweet at all. (see below for approximate nutritional data) If you are used to highly sweetened foods, then it might not be for you! LOL.

Ingredients for Homemade Lower Sugar Granola with Oats, Pecans, Coconut

1 cup chopped pitted dates (about 20 deglet dates) – 150 grams
1 cup water
1/4 cup coconut butter – I use the Artisana brand
1 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
1-1/2 cups rolled oats – 150 grams
1/2 cup shredded coconut – 50 grams
3/4 (approx) cup chopped pecans – 100 grams
1/2 cup ground flax seed – 50 grams – I use Bob’s Red Mill Flaxseed Meal
1/2 cup sunflower seeds – 75 grams
1 tsp cinnamon

Recipe Notes:

  • if you do not have coconut butter, you might follow the original recipe and add the 1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice, or you can also add oil. A nut oil or fruity olive oil would be nice.
  • When I made it for my dad, I also added raisins and unsweetened dried cherries. I left them out of this version, but they can easily be added after the granola cools. It’s probably not a great idea to include them before baking, as they can dry out and harden.

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat oven for 350F
  2. In small saucepan, over medium-low heat, combine the dates and water, and cook until they become pasty and thick, about 5 minutes. Make sure to stir often so they don’t burn. If the dates get too hot, lower the heat.
  3. Once the mixture is just finished, stir in the coconut butter and agave nectar. Keep on very low heat (or turn off the stove) and stir until well melted and blended.
  4. Then add the tsp of almond extract (optional) to the date mixture
  5. While dates are cooking, mix up the rest of the dry ingredients in a large bowl
  6. Spread the oat nut mixture onto a large baking sheet and bake for about 7-10 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  7. Once toasted, pour the oat nut mixture back into the large bowl and gently blend in the date glaze. Mix until it’s well combined. If there are dry patches, add a teenie bit of water.
  8. Return the granola back to the baking pan and bake for another 20 minutes or so. Make sure to keep turning/stirring the granola so it browns evenly, and watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.
  9. Remove from oven and allow the pan to cool on a rack. Stir occasionally to cool. Once cooled, the granola will harden slightly.
  10. Store in airtight container. I am not sure if this granola with it’s lower sugar content will keep as long as conventional granola, so if long term storage is needed, then freezing might be a better option.

ENJOY!

Nutritional Data

Based on 23 servings of 1 oz each – approx 1/3 cup

1 oz of homemade granola-low sugar

(Use the nutritional data as a guide; the info is not absolute, your results might vary considerably depending on the total weight of the finished product)

Calories: 136
Total Fat: 9g
Saturated: 3g (from healthy coconut fat)
Polyunsaturated: 1.6g
Monounsaturated: 2g
Trans: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Sodium: 1.6mg
Potassium: 12.4mg
Carbs: 12.4g
Fiber: 3.3g
Sugar: 5.5g
Protein: 3g
Vit A: 0
Vit C: 0
Calcium: 1.7%
Iron: 5.3%

1 oz of homemade granola-low sugar

I’ve Got Blueberry Fever at Whole Foods!

whoo hoo! I received word that organic (USA) blueberries are going to be on sale at Whole Foods this Friday, June 17th. One pint is $1.99.

I’m so looking forward to this sale. I’m afraid I will buy so many that my face will turn blue from eating too many! Actually I should I say you never can have too many blueberries! Last summer, I ate pint after pint every week, buying big batches twice a week! I just love them!

And blueberries are soo darned good for you. They pack a ton of antioxidants, which help to prevent cancer! It’s also said that they help with memory improvement, keeping your mind and body fresh and active!

I can’t bring myself to cook or bake with fresh blueberries. It almost feels like I’m wasting them! I find them irresistibly luscious simply eating them from a big bowl! But just in case there are others interested in cooking with blueberries, here are some Whole Foods recipes. I do like the idea of blueberry spelt muffins, but I’d probably use frozen fruit instead of fresh. hahaa!

Enjoy!

blueberries on sale at whole foods

Chocolove xoxox Dark Chocolate

We love dark chocolate, and there are some weeks that we’ll eat it every day. Just a half serving with some raisins, nuts, or peanut butter. Dark chocolate is really healthy for you too, the darker the better.

I occasionally purchase Chocolove brand 77% and 70% Belgium dark chocolate bars. It offers a very rich, decedent chocolate flavor. Really delicious. A half serving is very filling!

Even though it does taste wonderful, it’s not something I purchase regularly. It’s not organic or fair trade, and it does contain soy lecithin, which I am not thrilled with, but it’s a good choice to purchase once in awhile.

UPDATE 2012-01-6: To find a list of recommended fair-trade chocolate brands, check out:
http://www.foodispower.org/chocolatelist.htm – Chocolove is on the “Cannot recommend but are working on the issues in various ways” list, so hopefully one day, they will be recommended fully!

Recipe: Whole Wheat Rye Sesame Muffins

whole wheat rye sesame muffins

I haven’t been inspired (or had the time) to make any muffins or quick breads for months. But I’ve been craving desserts, so tonight, I decided to take to heart Michael Pollan’s Food Rule #39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

Which muffin recipe to make? I thought about peanut butter chocolate chip, blueberry, and oat raisin, but decided I’d like to try something new.

I searched through my Evernote recipes and found a lovely sesame seed muffin recipe. I loved that the recipe included a good amount of sesame seeds, but I wanted more whole grains, so I adapted it to my needs.

Here’s my modifications:

Healthy Low Sugar Whole Wheat Rye Sesame Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup rye flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder (aluminum free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp (approx) freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 cup milk (I used So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk, but almond milk would also work very well, as well as plain yogurt)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (the good stuff, not imitation)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat & rye flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sesame seeds.
  3. Whisk oil and egg together in a small glass bowl or large glass measuring cup until slightly frothy
  4. Mix in molasses, milk, and vanilla.
  5. Pour wet mixture into dry flour bowl and stir to combine. Try not to over mix.
  6. Scoop into 12 muffin tins lined with paper and bake for 14-20 minutes.

whole wheat rye sesame muffins

Notes:

  • The mixture is firm, so it’s easy to pile the batter high in the tin.
  • I think I’ll add more spice next time. The cinnamon and nutmeg was fine, but I think it needs more ginger and maybe even a bit of anise or fennel seed.
  • It was easy to scoop the batter into tins using my Oxo Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop.
  • I slightly over-cooked the muffins, so next time I’ll bake for only 14 minutes. I bake in a counter-top convection oven.
  • These muffins are not sweet, so more sweetener can be added if that is what you like. We plan on topping with a dollop of jelly for tomorrow’s breakfast!
  • Raisins would be a great addition, as would some dark chocolate chips (leave out the spices).
  • The sesame seeds are yummy! I might increase the amount added next time. They add a touch of chewy sweetness to the muffin.

Nutritional Data

Each muffin is approximately 2 oz.

Calories: 165
Total Fat: 8.3g
Saturated: 1.7g
Polyunsaturated: .5g
Monounsaturated: 3.2g
Cholesterol: 16.3mg
Sodium: 225mg
Potassium: 53mg
Total Carbs: 17g
Fiber: 2.7g
Sugars: 4g
Calcium: 13.5%
Iron: 12.5%

Use the nutritional data as a guide; the info is not absolute, your results might vary considerably depending on the total weight of the finished dish.

UPDATE: For breakfast, we ended up melting some organic whipped butter on top of a sliced muffin. It was yummy. I’ll definitely add a bit more sweetener next time, or possibly some sweeter mix-ins like raisins or chocolate chunks, along with a bit more sesame seeds.

butter topped whole wheat rye sesame muffins

Dark Chocolate

Updated: For a list of recommended chocolate brands, check http://www.foodispower.org/chocolatelist.htm.

I like taking a bite of plain dark chocolate with a one or two nuts (cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios), that way I made my own nutty chocolate bar in my mouth.

Same with peanut butter. Spread a bit on top of a few dark chocolate squares, and you’ve got a healthy version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!

What does Chocolate Percentage % Mean?

100% chocolate is 100% unsweetened pure chocolate, either in the form of cocoa, chocolate liquor, and/or cocoa butter. The higher the percentage, the higher the actual chocolate content. The lower the chocolate, the higher the sugar.

From wikipedia:
The cacao bean products from which chocolate is made are known under different names in different parts of the world. In the American chocolate industry:

  • chocolate liquor is the ground or melted state of the nib of the cacao bean
  • cocoa butter is the fat component
  • cocoa powder is the nonfat part of the cacao bean which is ground into a powder

I usually eat a 1/2 serving of dark chocolate almost every day. It is so healthy, and the darker the better. Start off with 60% and work your way up to 70%, then 85%.

Once you get to 85%, the added sugar immensely decreases, and the fiber increases! Keep in mind the calories and fat (sat fat) increase, but if you keep it to a half serving every day, it can be a good snack choice. Plus, it’s been said that the saturated fat from chocolate is composed much differently than beef saturated fat.

Please make sure you read the labels on different brands, as the nutritional data can differ. A lot of manufacturers are using partially hydrogenated oil instead of cocoa butter.

Here’s a comparison using Green & Black chocolate:

34% Milk chocolate – 12 blocks (40g)

Ingredients: Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Whole Milk Powder, Organic Chocolate Liquor, Organic Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Organic Vanilla Extract.

Notice how the FIRST ingredient is sugar, then milk!

Calories: 220
Fat: 13g
Sat Fat: 8g
Cholesterol: 10mg
Sodium: 30mg
Carbs: 23g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 20g
Protein: 4g
Calcium: 8%
Iron: 6%

70% Chocolate – 12 blocks (40g)

Ingredients: Organic Chocolate Liquor, Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Organic Vanilla Extract, Organic Whole Milk Powder

Sugar is second, while milk is last.

Calories: 240
Fat: 18g
Sat Fat: 10g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 5mg
Carbs: 18g
Fiber: 4g
Sugars: 10g
Protein: 4g
Calcium: 2%
Iron: 20%

80% Chocolate – 12 blocks (40g)

Ingredients: Organic Chocolate Liquor, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder, Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Vanilla Extract, Organic Whole Milk Powder

Sugar is added only after ALL the chocolate ingredients. There’s no soy (Soy Lecithin) added, although because it’s made in the same factory as the other flavors, it’s not officially “soy-free”

Calories: 250
Fat: 20g
Sat Fat: 12g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 10mg
Carbs: 15g
Fiber: 4g
Sugars: 8g
Protein: 4g
Calcium: 4%
Iron: 20%

Unfortunately, I love Green & Black’s Organic chocolate, but it’s actually a UK company now owned by Kraft Foods. sigh. So many big food companies are scooping up smaller food companies, and it’s getting hard to find a decent chocolate. So, READ LABELS! Check the ingredients!

I keep telling myself to find another chocolate brand, but it’s hard because the Green & Black can be purchased for a good price. We eat so much chocolate between the two of us, it’s a difficult decision.

UPDATED 2012-01-6: I’ve since realized that saving money when buying chocolate isn’t worth it. Just as buying meat from a local, ethical farm is important, supporting chocolate manufacturers that are truly fair-trade is also important.

For a list of recommended chocolate brands, check http://www.foodispower.org/chocolatelist.htm.

California Pomelo Fruit

pomelo fruit from california
I always am interested in trying unique fruits. A few days ago, Whole Foods was offering Pommelo fruit on sale @ 2/$4. I’ve seen them at the grocery stores in the past, but they are usually $2.50 to $3 each. Each fruit weighs about 2 pounds, so I figured at $1/lb on sale, it was worth a shot!

Pomelo fruit is the largest citrus fruit. It’s quite larger than a grapefruit, but smaller than a cantaloupe or personal watermelon.

It is also spelled pommelo and pummelo (which was how it was spelled on the label)
California pummelo fruit label

At Whole Foods, they described the pomelo as tasting like a cross between an orange and grapefruit, but believe it or not, it’s said that the grapefruit is actually a cross between the pomelo and an orange.

I adore citrus fruit, so I thought I would be in for a treat, and just by looking at the sheer size of the fruit, I thought that my husband and I would be splitting the fruit between us for our an evening snack.

I sliced it down the middle and was disappointed to find such a large inedible rind with only a small edible portion. There would be no sharing of this fruit, I’d have to eat it all by myself! hehe

California pomelo sliced in half
California pomelo sliced in half

I ended up using a jagged grapefruit spoon to scoop out the fruit. It was awkward to dig out each segment because (as you can see from the photo) they weren’t evenly sized or symmetrical like a grapefruit usually is, but there was a ton of yummy juice that I drank from the bowl. It was sweet and delicious. Yes, very much like grapefruit, but with a lemony undertone.

As tasty as it was though, I doubt that I’d buy a pomelo again, just because it was just not worth the cost. I’ll stick with grapefruit and oranges thank you!

Yummy Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds

Found an interesting recipe from Jamie Oliver’s book “Cook With Jamie” for “Incredible Boiled Butternut Squash with Squash Seed and Parmesan Pangrattato”. The recipe suggested mixing fried butternut squash seeds with bread crumbs, and parmasan cheese. It got me thinking about roasting squash seeds. I never thought about roasting anything but pumpkin seeds, and it’s not something that I’ve ever done personally.

So, of course I googled, and I found a roasted butternut squash seeds recipe online at Simple Daily Recipes. On her blog, Jill insisted that roasted butternut squash seeds taste so much better than pumpkin seeds! The one or two occasions that I’ve eaten roasted pumpkin seeds, I found them to be chewy, and too “seedy”. Not sure if they weren’t roasted enough, or if that is really how they are supposed to be. But I was now intrigued and inspired to try roasting butternut squash seeds!

Tonight, as I started scooping seeds from a butternut squash for dinner, I had a conversation in my head. I thought okay, I really should save these seeds to roast them. I hesitated, nah, I’ll try it next time. No, don’t wait, winter vegetable season will be ending soon, just get a bowl and save them……so that is what I did.

It was fairly easy to scoop the seeds away from that stringy stuff, and I saved them in a small bowl, leaving them on my counter to wait until I had time to clean them.

Jill’s recipe was super easy, she actually referred to her roasted pumpkin seeds recipe, but suggested to lower the temp to 300°

So, here’s exactly what I did:

  1. After scooping out the seeds from the squash, I rinsed them under cold water using a colander, then transferred them to a flat dish to dry a little. My squash was very small, so there wasn’t a whole lot of seeds.
  2. I placed a piece of parchment paper on a small aluminum baking tray and dumped the seeds onto the tray. I let them sit while we had dinner, so they’d dry out a little bit more on their own.
  3. Jill suggested to salt the heck out of them, so I did.
  4. Then I put them in a hot 350° oven (which was on from cooking dinner), lowering the temp to about 300°. I roasted for a little over 10 minutes, then poured them into a small dish.

My notes:

  1. I wasn’t sure how the extra orange stringy stuff would be, so I tried to get it all off the seeds. I should have read the comments posted to Jill’s blog, as one person suggested to keep the gunky stuff on, as it gave more flavor.
  2. I used way too much salt. Next time, I will definitely use a lot less. I will also experiment with other toppings like a bit of brown sugar (sucanat) and cinnamon. I’m also thinking that a little melted chocolate on top might work too. Oh the possibilities are endless!
  3. Jill’s blog commenters, also suggested roasting spaghetti squash seeds too, so that will be something I’ll try soon!

Bottom line, roasted butternut squash seeds are fantastic! Reminded me of popcorn that is “half popped” – Crunchy and flavorful, with just enough chew. It doesn’t taste like you’re eating unhulled seeds like with pumpkin. I ate the whole bowl! I was bummed there was such a small amount, I wanted more!