Monday, May 17, 2010

Homemade Pretzels

1 package active dry yeast or 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast
1/2 C. warm water
1 egg, separated
1/4 C. honey
1/4 C. or 4 T. of unsalted butter, softened
1 C. milk
1 t. salt
5 C. freshly milled flour (equivalent to 3 ¼ cups wheat)
2 T. coarse sea salt

In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add egg yolk, honey, butter, milk, and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add flour one cup at a time until blended. On floured surface, knead dough for 5 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl and cover with a damp paper towel for 1 hour to let rise. Roll out on floured surface using a rolling pin. Cut into one-inch strips with a pizza cutter and roll into ropes. Shape dough into pretzels (I made different sizes as you can see below).

Place on baking baking sheet. Brush pretzels with egg whites and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. Serve with mustard or freeze for later enjoyment.

Not all Lettuce is Created Equal.

Know what you're gaining from the greens you're consuming so that you can get a variety of nutrients your body needs to feel and work at its best!

- Blah. Adds a little color, but that's about it. Contains almost no fiber, vitamins, or minerals.

Romaine - These celery-flavored greens are the best source for beta-carotene, the cancer killer.

Arugula - Mustard flavored leaves containing 10% of the bone-building mineral found in a glass of whole milk and 100% less saturated fat.

Spinach - A great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protects vision from the maladies of old age.

Mustard Greens - These spicy, crunchy leaves are overflowing with the amino acid tyrosine which is known to improve memory and concentration.

Endive - This bitter, crispy green is packed with fiber and folate - a vitamin necessary for the health of pregnant women.

Watercress - A pepper-flavored HEPA filter for your body. Offers phytochemicals that may ward off lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke and other airborne pollutants.

Bok Choy - A bowl of this cabbage-flavored green provides 23% of your Vitamin A daily requirement and 1/3 of your Vitamin C daily requirement. It also provides a host of phytochemicals - flavonoids, isothiocyanate, and dithiolthione.

Kohlrabi - Each serving provides 25% of your daily potassium, keeping your blood pressure in check. Also contains glucosinolate which may prevent some cancers.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Homage to Chick-fil-a

Since moving to St. Louis, among many things I love, I have found 2 things I deeply dislike about this city: 1) the wretchedly cold winters and 2) the lack of Chick-fil-a's that requires that I drive for 30 minutes, fight for a parking spot, and walk into a crowded mall just to enjoy a delicious fried chicken sandwich. So today, I have decided to celebrate my favorite fast food restaurant (ok, the only fast food restaurant I dare eat at) in hopes that more Chick-fil-a's will migrate out west.

Here are a few fun tidbits about Chick-fil-a:

1. No sandwich on the menu exceeds the 500 calorie marker (a rare achievement for fast food restaurants)
2. They use whole breast meat in their sandwiches, nuggets, and strips -- not pressed or formed meat
3. The chicken arrives raw and each piece is filleted and breaded by hand
4. The menu is trans-fat free

Best Picks are...
1. Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich on a Wheat Bun -- 270 calories, 3.5g fat, 940mg sodium
2. 8 pack nuggets with BBQ sauce -- 305 calories, 13g fat, 1020mg sodium
3. Southwest Chargrilled Salad with Fat-free Honey Mustard Dressing -- 360 calories, 8g fat, 1170mg sodium

While I appreciate Chick-fil-a serving superior meat and providing healthy alternatives, such as a fruit side and wheat buns, I must admit that not every selection on the menu is exactly wholesome. Below are a few items to steer clear from.

Worst Picks are...
1. Hand Spun Cookies and Cream Milkshake -- 790 calories, 33g fat, 660mg sodium
2. Chicken Caesar Cool Wrap -- 480 calories, 16g fat, 1640mg sodium
3. Chicken Strips Salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing -- 800 calories, 60g fat, 1745mg sodium

Don't be fooled by the salads at fast food restaurants. Often times, they comprise nutritionally weak lettuce and veggies topped with cheese and fatty dressings. You think you have made a healthy choice, but you would have been better off with the fried chicken sandwich! In comparison to other fast food restaurants, Chick-fil-a does use Romaine in their salads, so bringing your own balsamic vinaigrette can cure this substandard salad.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Perfect Pick

Here's a quick guide to picking and storing common fruits, including their nutritional benefits.

Perfect Pick: Ripe peaches will have a fruity aroma with a background color that is yellow or cream. It should also give to pressure at the seams without being too soft. For future use, opt for those that are firm but not rock hard. Note that red blush on your peach's skin is a variety indicator and not an indication of ripeness.
Peak Season: June to September
Proper Care: Store firm peaches at room temperature in open air until ripe. Once ripe, toss into the fridge and consume within a couple of days.
Payoff: Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, Fiber, Potassium

Perfect Pick: Look for a pleasant fragrance with some softness at the stem end. The fruit should be free of bruises, although some brown discoloration (russeting) is fine. Firmer pears are preferable for cooking.
Peak Season: August to February
Proper Care: Ripen at room temperature in loosely closed paper bag. Refrigerate once ripe and consume within a couple of days.
Payoff: Fiber and Vitamin C (if consumed with skin on)

Perfect Pick: Vibrant green leaves with mild softness and a sweet aroma from the stem end indicates a ripe pineapple. Avoid spongy fruit with brown leaves and a fermented odor.
Peak Season: March to July
Proper Care: Store pineapple with a weak aroma at room temperature for for a couple of days until it softens slightly. Then refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Payoff: Bromelain compounds with anti inflammatory powers and helpful in digesting proteins

Perfect Pick: Choose those with glossy, taut, uncracked skin that's deep red in color. The fruit is past its prime if, when you gently press the crown end, a powdery cloud emanates.
Peak Season: August to December
Proper Care: Place in a cool, dry location for several weeks.
Payoff: Antioxidants shown to improve sperm quality thus boosting fertility

Perfect Pick: Plump and dry raspberries with good shape and intense, uniform color are ready for consuming. Be certain to examine the container for mold or juice stains at bottom (indicating crushed berries). Berries with the hull attached are a sign of under-ripe and overly-tart berries.
Peak Season: May to November
Proper Care: Refrigerate unwashed berries on a paper towel in a single layer for (ideally) no more than 3 days. Cover with a damp paper towel.
Payoff: Contains the antioxidant ellagic acid (possesses anticancer properties) along with 8 grams of fiber per cup

Perfect Pick: Look for bright red coloring all the way to stem without any blemishes. They should have a fruity smell and be slightly giving, but without mushy spots. Smaller strawberries usually have more flavor.
Peak Season: June to August
Proper Care: Keep unwashed in a single layer on a paper towel in covered container. Here, they will last 3-4 days in fridge.
Payoff: More Vitamin C than most other fruits

Perfect Pick: Tomatoes should be rich in color and free of wrinkles, cracks, bruises or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will have some give, although too much softness is a sign of over ripe and watery fruit. During off season, choose Roma or Cherry tomatoes for more flavor.
Peak Season: May to August
Proper Care: Never store in fridge because cool temperatures destroy its flavor and texture. Instead, store at room temperature out of direct sunlight for up to a week.
Payoff: Lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant that fights prostate cancer

Perfect Pick: Dense, symmetrical melons free of cuts and sunken parts are perfect for consuming. The rind should appear dull, not shiny, with a rounded creamy-yellow underside that shows where ground ripening took place. A light slap should produce a hollow thump.
Peak Season: May to August
Proper Care: Store whole in fridge for up to one week as the cold prevents the flesh from drying out and turning fibrous.
Payoff: Citrulline, an amino acid that's converted to arginine, relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow. Also a good source of Vitamins C and A.

Perfect Pick: Firm apples with no bruising are your best choice. Worm holes do not negatively impact flavor. The smaller the apple the bigger the flavor.
Peak Season: September to May
Proper Care: Keep apples in a plastic bag in the crisper away from veggies. Here, they remain for several weeks.
Payoff: The pectin in apples help lower bad cholesterol

Avocado (Yes, avocado is technically a fruit!)
Perfect Pick: Firm without mushy spots. Should not rattle as this is a sign that the pit has pulled away from its flesh.
Peak Season: Year round
Proper Care: Place firm avocados in a paper bag at room temperature for a couple of days to ripen (through the release of ethylene gas). Place ripe avocados in the fridge.
Payoff: Cholesterol-lowering mono-saturated fat. Also used in the prevention of prostate and breast cancers.

Perfect Pick: Ripe bananas have uniform yellow skins or small brown freckles indicating they're at their sweetest.
Peak Season: Year round
Proper Care: Store unripe bananas on counter away from sunlight or in open brown paper bag. Refrigerate ripe bananas or freeze for use in breads and smoothies.
Payoff: Vitamin B6 which prevents cognitive decline

Perfect Pick: Plump, uniform berries. As with raspberries, check the bottom of the container for crushed or moldy berries.
Peak Season: June to August
Proper Care: Keep unwashed in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Berries will spoil quickly when left at room temp for too long.
Payoff: Disease-fighting antioxidants

Perfect Pick: The stem end should have a smooth indentation. Should also have a sweet aroma with a slightly oval shape and good coverage of netting. The blossom end should give slightly to pressure. Avoid those with soft spots (indicating an over-ripe melon).
Peak Season: May to September
Proper Care: Store ripe cantaloupes in plastic in the fridge for up to 5 days (will begin to lose flavor after this)
Payoff: Loads of Vitamin C, offers protection against stroke

Grapefruit and Oranges
Perfect Pick: Should give slightly to a squeeze. Small imperfections won't impact flavor, but avoid those with large soft spots.
Peak Season: October to June
Proper Care: Store in refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
Payoff: Anticancer lycopene and 120% of daily Vitamin C in every cup!

Perfect Pick: Plump and wrinkle free grapes with firmly attached stems are ready for eating. Red grapes should be without a green tinge. Green grapes are sweetest and ripest with a yellow tinge.
Peak Season: June to December
Proper Care: Loosely store unwashed in a shallow bowl for up to a week. Grapes may also be frozen for a delicious snack.
Payoff: Resveratrol (a potent antioxidant found in red grapes that protects against cardiovascular disease)

Perfect Pick: Ready-for-consuming kiwi is slightly yielding to pressure. Avoid mushy, wrinkled or bruised kiwi
Peak Season: June to August
Proper Care: To ripen, store at room temperature or place in a brown bag with an apple. Place ripe kiwi in fridge in a plastic bag for up to a week.
Payoff: 20% more Vitamin C than an orange

Lemon and Limes
Perfect Pick: Brightly colored with thin skin, these fruits should feel sturdy but give ever so slightly when squeezed. Lemons should have no hint of green coloring.
Peak Season: Lemons are year round and limes are best chosen from May to October
Proper Care: Store at room temperature in a dark location for a week or refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Payoff: Phytonutrient liminoids which have anticancer and antiviral properties

Perfect Pick: Ripened mangoes will have red skin with yellow splotches and will give to pressure. Firmer mangoes with tight skin and green near the stems that are duller in color are for future use.
Peak Season: April to August
Proper Care: Ripen at room temperature until fragrant and giving. Ripe mangoes can be stored in fridge for up to 5 days.
Payoff: High in iron, Vitamins A and E, and phenols (antioxidant with anticancer properties)

Perfect Pick: A ripe papaya is beginning to turn yellow and is somewhat yielding to a gentle squeeze.
Peak Season: Year round
Proper Care: Eat ripe ones immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. Unripe papayas are greener and should be stored at room temperature in a dark setting until yellow splotches appear.
Payoff: Fiber, Vitamins C, A, E and K

Perfect Pick: Look for shiny, firm, plump, dark cherries. Avoid those with cracked or wrinkled skins.
Peak Season: May to July
Proper Care: Store cherries uncovered and unwashed in coldest part of refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Payoff: Offers protection against cancer and has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis and diabetes patients

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Greek Pizza

Last night, I made homemade pizza crust from my freshly milled flour! I used the crust for a Greek Pizza recipe I've made many times before. My husband, who has previously eaten the pizza served on store-bought whole wheat crust, even commented on the improved crust!

To make this pizza crust, you will use the basic bread recipe from my last post (with half the honey). Make sure to select the dough prompt on your bread machine. When the dough is finished, divide it in half. Roll out 1/2 of the dough on the pizza pan (using cornmeal for stickiness). Add your desired toppings (my recipe for Greek Pizza below) and let it rest for 10 minutes. Finally, bake at 400 degrees for 15ish minutes (oven times vary).

Next, bake the other 1/2 of the dough without toppings for 10-12 minutes. Freeze for later use (I'm told a clean trash bag works great for freezing the pizza crust).

Greek Pizza Recipe

12 inch whole wheat pizza crust (or dough from instructions above)
2 1/2 cups whole fresh baby spinach leaves
8 ounces of cooked, chopped, seasoned chicken (I sautee chicken with salt, pepper, oregano and rosemary)
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles
2 Tbs. chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and spread evenly on pizza crust/dough. Bake for 15ish minutes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Basics of Milling

After weeks of researching and gleaning insight from experienced millers (i.e. my sister and cousin), I have finally milled my own flour! It all started when my sister, Katie, heard a woman speak at her weekly bible study on the nutritional benefits of milling flour. After sharing the information with me, I was immediately hooked! I no longer felt okay about buying "whole wheat" breads at the local supermarket that offered little to no nutritional value. Here are the basics of what I've learned:

A whole grain is made up of 3 main layers.

1. Bran - the outer layer containing the roughage that helps move unwanted toxins and poisons through your digestive system. The bran also contains many vitamins, minerals, and proteins.

2. Germ - the health center of the grain, overflowing with vitamins B and E, as well as unsaturated fat and protein.

3. Endosperm - the starchy white center. Blah.

Now, whole grains comprise nearly 90% of all the vitamins, minerals, and protein your body will ever need! Unfortunately though, commercially milled products do NOT provide you these nutrients.

Why you ask? Once the whole grain is milled, the oils located in the bran and germ oxidize and turn rancid within just 3 days! So for commercial purposes, both the bran and germ—and all the nutrients contained therein—are stripped in order to allow product shelf life.

Yes, most of the bread you buy at the store is made up purely of endosperm! You’re basically eating gluten, starch, and sugar. For marketing purposes, you’ll see products claiming to be “enriched with vitamins and minerals!” Don’t be fooled. The fact that a product requires enriching is a warning sign on its own. Besides, most of the essential vitamins stripped are not able to be replaced through the enrichment process.

If you're like me, you may be thinking to yourself, "Who has time to mill their own flour??" But I can assure you that milling hasn't been nearly as time consuming as I originally imagined. Yes, it takes longer than picking up a loaf at your local grocery store, but the extra time is certainly worth the added benefits. Plus, if you have a bread machine, it does all the work - you just pour the ingredients straight into the machine and wait for your bread to be done!

If you are interested in milling your own bread, here's what you'll need to get started:

1. Mill - I have the Wondermill and love, love, love it! It's extremely simple to use and takes about 30 seconds - from start to finish -to mill a few cups of flour! Mine was a birthday gift bought off can also check out your local health food store.

2. Bread Maker - Although you don't have to have a bread maker to make your own bread, it cuts out a lot of time and effort needed to prep the bread for baking. Breadmakers can be expensive, so I recommend going on Craigslist and purchasing a gently used one for between $15 - $30.

3. Grain - I buy my grain in bulk (50 pound bags) because it's cheaper in the long run. Keep in mind, whole grains do not expire (only after the whole grain is milled does it have an expiration date). I found a vendor at my local farmer's market that sells bulk grains. Also check out local health food shops. You will probably need to request a bulk size order as most stores won't have 50 lb. bags hanging around. I store the grain in airtight paint containers in a closet. I have both Hard Red Wheat and Soft White Wheat which I usually combine in recipes.

Now you're ready to begin milling and baking bread! Remember, only mill enough flour for what your recipe calls for. Otherwise, it will be nutritionally depleted after 72 hours.

Here is a basic bread recipe to follow:

1 1/2 cups hot water
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey (local honey is preferred because it helps in preventing allergies)
2 tsp salt
1 egg (optional)
2 Tbs. Lechitin (found at your local health food store)
1 tsp gluten (this makes the bread smooth)
4-4 1/2 cups freshly milled flour (equivalent to 3 cups of un-milled wheat berries)
1/2 cup ground flax (buy whole flaxseed and grind it in a food processor -- do not mill)
1 Tbs yeast

Add all ingredients, except yeast, directly into your breadmaker in the order shown above. Make a little burrow in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the yeast. Follow the prompts on your bread machine for making wheat bread. Wha-la, you're done!