Tag Archives: Healthy

Oh Controversial Coconut Oil – Shall I Love Thee?

coconut_oil

Note: If you get to the bottom of this post, you will find a very yummy recipe!

 

 

 

 

My friend Marieke Klosse-Beeler has a wonderful company, Pamperosity, all about pampering yourself with all natural products. She asked me to share my knowledge in her blog this week about cooking with, as well as the health benefits of coconut oil. She was also kind enough to plug my blog and The Healthy Delectable Web Series, and announce the latest news, my upcoming Cookbook, that I plan to release on kindle later this Fall!

Check out Pamperosity and Marieke’s post about coconut oil HERE!

Coconut Oil went from being the “bad” oil in the 90’s to being hyped as a “cure-all” today.
So, what’s the truth about Coconut Oil?

According to a WebMD article, “Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short and medium chain fatty acids, primarily lauric (44% ) and myristic (16.8%) acids. It is this unusual composition that may offer some health benefits.”

What does this mean? Because they are smaller, they’re absorbed intact, as opposed to long-chain fats, that have to be broken down in the small intestine.  Smaller and medium-chained fatty acids are delivered directly to the liver to be used for energy.

The other good news is, medium-chain fats don’t store in fat cells to the same extent as long-chain ones. Studies show that medium-chain fats appear to increase calorie burning in the body.

The WebMD article article also states, “Coconut oil, like all saturated fats, should be limited to 7%-10% of calories because it can increase risk for heart disease, according to the AHA and 2010 Dietary Guidelines.”

From my research, coconut oil shouldn’t be replaced with other important oils, such as extra virgin olive oil and grapeseed oils, for our diet, both of which are unsaturated.

Everyone loves a virgin, and according to a 2011 NY Times article, the key to the healthiest variety of coconut oil, is extra virgin. Generally speaking, anything that hasn’t gone through a chemical process is best, and easiest for your body to break down. The “bad fats” are trans fats, which was the proudest of food labels, before gluten free showed up on the market. The lauric acid in coconut oil, (also found in breast milk, by the by) is said to increase levels of good HDL (the good cholesterol). While researchers are skeptical, lauric acid is also said to have possible antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral properties. While there is no scientific evidence to prove it, the natural foods community believes these properties can help weight loss, treat digestive issues, skin problems, and perhaps also viruses, like H.I.V.

As for cooking with coconut oil, it has a wonderful mellow, nutty, slightly sweet flavor, and enhances sautéed and roasted veggies, has a high smoke point, and can withstand hotter temperatures, and makes an excellent substitution for baking with animal fats, such as butter and lard. As I stated in the Pamperosity post, coconut oil lends to an excellent flaky pie crust, makes baked good moist, and makes my favorite latest treat, a magic shell for ice cream sundaes (see recipe below).

It is also an excellent moisturizer for skin and hair.

Whether you air on the side of science, or keep up with the latest in the nutritional world, it seems that coconut oil is definitely good for you, in small amounts.

Homemade Two Ingredient Magic Shell magic-shell-2-james-ransom-for-food52(Recipe adapted, and photo borrowed from Food 52)

This is a simple recipe. All you need is 2 parts oil to 3 parts chocolate. So, for 1 cup of magic shell, you will need:

  • 160 grams (about 1 cup) of good quality chocolate chips
  • 100 grams of coconut oil
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Directions:

  • Combine chocolate and oil into a microwave safe container. Microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate melts. Stir to combine all the flavors. (You can also combine ingredients and melt over low heat in a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water) Allow the mixture to cool slightly, and then pour onto your scoop (or scoops) of ice cream!

Enjoy (in moderation)!!

When An Old Reliable Friend Moves Away

When I heard the news that my local Trader Joe’s would be closing its doors at the end of August, I can honestly say, I got a pit in my stomach. TRADER-JOES-largeAnd I’m not alone, as others, like LAIST are writing about it too. Ever since I moved into my beloved condo in West Hollywood in 2005, this TJ’s has been my reliable neighborhood companion.

I know, I know, it’s just a friggin’ store, why get so dramatic?!

When I lived in NYC, I shopped everywhere by bicycle or by foot. It was great! And in a new home, in a new city, having a TJ’s walking distance away was a real comfort, and I knew that anytime I just needed one or two things (although let’s be real, you never leave a TJ’s with just one or two things), it was just a few minutes away. Not to mention, having been to the other Trader Joes’ around town, this one had the best parking.

I was out of town when the store closed, so I didn’t say a proper good-bye, and when I returned to LA, it was gone. At first, I felt like someone died. Where would I shop? I tried the Hollywood TJ’s on Vine, one night after the gym, and the unpleasant experience began as soon as I turned into their underground parking garage (My Trader Joe’s had an easy and convenient outdoor lot), and took my ticket from the automated ticket box, a guy on a scooter whizzed through the open gate, and it shut on me before I could follow. Now with a line of cars behind me wondering what the hold up was, I had to get out of the car, and walk back to the box to get another ticket. Once I entered the store, it was filled with people, Hollywood people. I longed for the elderly West Hollywood Russians who walked too slowly down the aisle, and would stand way too close to me in the checkout line, or the super friendly staff who knew me and were more than willing to look in the back if I couldn’t find what I wanted on the shelves, and who I could count on to recommend their favorite beer or wine. That night as I drove home from the Hollywood Joe’s, I missed my neighborhood companion. A couple of days later, I went to the local Whole Foods store, where I already shop at occasionally, but which costs me about triple what I pay at TJ’s for my regular groceries.

Then something happened. On my way home one afternoon, I remembered I needed to buy a plant as a gift, and again cursed that I couldn’t go to TJ’s to get one of their wonderful orchid plants. Then I remembered a local plant store, Moe’s. I worried that it would be more expensive, but I didn’t have time to figure something else out. To my surprise, I could find some very affordable and healthy plants on sale, and even decided to buy myself a beautiful fern as well. So, as the reality that my local reliable store has moved on is sinking in, I am beginning to open up to what my neighborhood still has to offer.

Farmers Market 2
On Monday, I shopped at my local farmers market, where I became lazy about going to on a weekly basis because I could always go to TJ’s if I missed it that week (even though the produce is far superior (and cheaper) at the farmers market). There are also plenty of local Eastern European delis and grocery stores in the neighborhood that carry the things I may need on a moments notice, like cream for my coffee.

Farmer Market 1

And actually, the small stores and the farmers market are what I love about living in a neighborhood, where the locals all go. The Trader Joe’s was an incredible convenience, but sometimes it’s good to expand one’s view to what else is out there.

 

 

 

Mint Tea

Herby Delight

Mint Tea

This tea is ridiculously good and easy to make!

All you need are fresh herbs, hot water, and a vessel to steep them in.

This afternoon I’m sipping on a simple mint tea, but you can use just about any herb. When I have them on hand, I like to combine mint, a bit of sage, a chunk of ginger and some rosemary. Just steep the herbs a few minutes and pour yourself a glass. And it goes great with a bit of honey.

Herbs and honey are filled with healing properties, so your mouth and body will thank you!

Quinoa "Grits"

Healthy Quinoa “Grits”

Quinoa "Grits"

One of the curses and blessings of looking at and reading about food all the time, is it makes a gal hungry!

I saw a photo of cheesy grits this morning, and could not get the image out of my mind. It’s Monday. I had an ice cream sundae last night, and I try to keep my diet clean and healthy during the week. Then I got inspired to make a healthier version of the cheesy, grainy creaminess I was craving. Here’s what I did:

I cooked quinoa in salted water. When the water cooked through, I added some olive oil and closed the lid a moment to let it steam through. The olive oil added a nice layer of flavor and also kept the quinoa from sticking to the bottom of the pan. While the quinoa was still hot, I cracked an egg into the pot, and stirred vigorously to let the egg cook through. That added the creaminess I was craving. If you’re nervous about eating raw egg, you can keep the pot over a very low flame on the burner. And finally, to complete the need for a little more salt, fat and cream, I stirred in a small amount of grated Parmesan. So, while it’s not corn, with heaps of butter, cream, and cheese, which I save devouring on special occasions, it did the trick. And then to make it more healthy, I tossed the quinoa “grits” with fresh arugula, tomato and avocado. And the whole thing took me about 20 minutes to prepare, and really only about 5 minutes of active work.

I don’t know if they’re cowboy approved. But it sure made for a healthy and delicious lunch!

Ingredients:
(Serves 2)

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • About 1/4 cup shaved or grated parmesan
  • salt and black pepper
  • big bunch of arugula
  • 1/2 – 1 whole tomato, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into chunks

Directions:

  1. Toast the quinoa dry in a pot. When it starts to smell nutty, add water and salt, lower flame and cover for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Once the water cooks through, turn off the heat, add olive oil and cover pan to steam.
  3. After a minute or two, crack an egg and stir vigorously. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you’re concerned about the raw egg, you can keep the pot over a very low flame while stirring the quinoa and egg mixture.
  4. Stir in parmesan.
  5. Place arugula, tomato and avocado into a bowl. Add quinoa and toss to coat. Taste, and season more to your liking.
Homemade Tomato Sauce

Mmmmm…marinara

Homemade Tomato SauceWanna know the secret to this homemade tomato sauce?

San Marzano tomatoes. When a friend of mine shared the secret to a great tomato sauce is canned San Marzano tomatoes, I made sure to buy a few cans the next time I was at the store. And after researching basic marinara recipes, I realized that this very simple sauce is very easy to make. I bought fresh basil and parsley at my local farmers market. The fresh herbs really infuse the sauce with a lot of dimension. So here’s what I did:

 


Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 24 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 big bay leaf
  • big bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne or red pepper flakes

 

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil to hot medium sauce pan. Add onions and cook over medium heat 2-3 minutes, until translucent.
  2. Lower heat, add garlic, and cook 1 minute.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, cover pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes. You can just leave it alone, or stir from time to time and check to see if the flavor is developing. Don’t be afraid to use the salt! The tomatoes love it. Go to town with all of the spices – except the cayenne or red pepper. Just a pinch will do, if you like an extra kick. The spice will continue to deepen as the sauce cooks.
  4. Remove the bay leaf, and use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. Or you can leave it alone if you like a chunky sauce.
  5. Serve with your favorite pasta (Tonight, I made quinoa pasta, which is my favorite gluten-free pasta). Top with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan. Mangia!
Homemade Coconut Milk

Look, Ma! Homemade Coconut Milk!

Ever since I was introduced to the art of making my own nut milk, I couldn’t bare to buy the boxed variety in stores. The main reason, other than the cost, is that preservatives are added to these milks, to retain freshness for much longer. The only thing I was bummed about was that I didn’t know how to make my own Coconut Milk – until now! This heavenly milk has a pretty short shelf life – 3 to 4 days, so I don’t make a lot at a time. But oh boy, it’s delicious!

Ingredients: coconut_milk

  • 4 cups warm filtered water (water should not be too hot, to retain the natural enzymes found in the coconut meat)
  • 1 cup raw unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or sweetener of choice, or no sweetener!)
  • Dash vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients to your blender or vitamix. Blend for about 2-3 minutes, until milk is frothy. Keep your hand on top of the blender while blending, to avoid any messy explosions (yes, that’s what happened to me).
  2. Place a nut milk bag or cheese cloth over a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl. Pour contents in the bag or cheese cloth, and with your hands, squeeze out all the liquid from the pulp. Discard the bag with pulp (or use it for your baking or in your smoothies!), and pour the milk into a glass jar or bottle. Tightly seal and store in the refrigerator. Will keep 3-4 days.

What are the benefits of Coconut Milk, you ask?

Coconut milk is high in enzymes and vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and panthothenic acid.

It is high in Lauric Acid, a a medium-chain fatty acid that is otherwise only available in human breast milk. Lauric Acid converts into Monolaurin in the human body, which helps destroy fungus, bacteria and viruses.

And most importantly, it’s delicious, and will make you go, Mmm!
Enjoy!

 

 

Cooking with Boys

I have a very special and rewarding job. I teach cooking to two adorable (future heartbreakers) 13 year old boys. Their enthusiasm for food and trying new ingredients gives me faith in humanity. Ok, maybe not that dramatic, but I love seeing them waft their hands over a pot of soup, inhaling the scents, and sighing excitedly over the aromas. I love how badly one of my boys wants to put cumin into everything. They love cracking eggs, and rolling dough and trying new flavors. On one of our lessons, we cooked lentils, they kept snacking on little fingerfuls of the freshly cooked lentils that were cooling in a colander, excited to discover a new food they hadn’t had yet.

I try to come up with nutritious recipes and dishes that boys their age would eat. While they are certainly more ambitious with their palette than one assumes of the average child and teen, they are still kids, and love pasta and pizza and burgers. My goal has simply been to pack these same dishes with tons of vegetables, and to make the pasta and bread products with whole grain alternatives. Below are some of the dishes that they have prepared in our lessons.

Cooking with Boys

[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_chickpea-ragout.jpg]00Chickpea Vegetable Ragout with Quinoa Pasta
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_broccoli-cheddar-hot-pockets.jpg]00Broccoli Cheddar Hot Pockets
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_bistro-salad-happy-face.jpg]00Bistro Salad Happy Face
"Bistro" salad with pears, walnuts, egg and garlic toast. We were working on plating that day. :)
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_chopped-kale-salad-with-pumpkin-seeds-apples-dried-cranberries-and-homemade-ranch-dressing.jpg]00Chopped Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seeds, Apples, Dried Cranberries and a Homemade Healthier Ranch Dressing.
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_cilantro-lime-white-bean-hummus_seasoned-pita-chips.jpg]00Cilantro, White Bean and Lime Hummus, with Homemade Seasoned Pita Chips that we made from fresh pita bread.
Look at that presentation!
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_grilled-cheese-tomato-spinach-sandwiches.jpg]10Spinach + Tomato Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
(Accompanying creamy tomato soup, of course!)
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_tomato-soup.jpg]00Creamy Tomato Soup
(Accompanying grilled cheese, tomato and spinach sandwiches, of course!)
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_macncheese_broccoli.jpg]00Homemade Broccoli Mac n Cheese
(Our first lesson!)
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_mexican-baked-eggs.jpg]00Mexican Baked Eggs with Black Beans, Tomato and Cheese.
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_pesto-peas-pine-nuts-and-spinach-quinoa-pasta.jpg]00Spring Pesto Pasta with Peas, Pine Nuts and Spinach, made with quinoa pasta.
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_pizza-making.jpg]00Pizza Making in Action
Putting the finishing touches on their homemade Very Green and Very Cheese Pizza on Whole Wheat Pizza Dough.
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_very-green-cheesy-pizza.jpg]00Very Green and Cheesy Homemade Pizza on Wholewheat Pizza dough.
Voila! The finished product!

 

Sneaky Greens

Sneak your greens in a fix, with a bunch of other delicious and nutritious goodies, in this lovely shake I often make before my morning run. Don’t fear the green. You will hardly notice it’s there, among the coconut and fruity deliciousness. This smoothie makes me feel soooo good!

Ingredients:
4 oz Coconut Milk (any alternative milk will do)
4 oz Coconut Water
4 oz Aloe Juice, or low sugar juice of your liking
About 1 Tablespoon Flax Oil (high lignan is best)
Half Banana
Big handful of greens, like swiss chard or spinach
Other fruit you have handy – fresh and frozen

Combine into a blender (I use my beloved-can’t live without it immersion blender), blend and enjoy!

Spring Inspiration

Happy Spring!

Winter kept most of us wet and some of us very cold. Now as the sun makes its way back into our lives, and the weather warms, most of us are feeling inspired and motivated, and are taking on some spring cleaning, tax paying and exercising outdoors.

Below I posted a gallery of some of the dishes I’ve made in the past that are healthy, nutritious and easy to make. They are here to inspire you to get in your kitchen and make something clean and delicious that nourishes your body and gets you ready for Summer (click on the “i” to read the description).

Enjoy!

 

Will You Be My Valentine?

I have some ridiculously special friends. And in all of the Valentine’s Day hullabaloo, I just want to stop to acknowledge the people I love, and will always love, past the “in love” and the “end love” and all that other kind of love. These dear ones, and my family is certainly included, root me down when all I want to do is fly into a murky abyss. They see my best side, encourage me to see it too, and remind me to love myself first and foremost. The beautiful thing about our love, is it flows freely, without expectations. It ripples out into every action and interaction, and continues to flow into unimaginable distances. This is the kind of Valentines I’m inspired to embrace. It is a pure love that makes its way into the Earth, nurtures the soil, which then gives birth to our food. This is a love to feast on!

My dear friend April (whom most of you know as the Co-Creator and Director of The Healthy Delectable Show) asked her friends on facebook to post a poem on her wall. I am so so so grateful she did, because it inspired me to write this poem, which helped me write this blog post! I would like to share it with you:

racing by i didn’t see,
i am for you,
you are for me,
and now i’ve moved far up ahead,
just past your shadow left to shed,
and not knowing what’s in store,
i keep looking out for more,
when all there is to do is stop,
and find you standing in full bloom,
so easily my heart fills up.

Hoping your heart is full and nourished this Valentines!

P.S. If you like a daily dose of love, I highly recommend signing up for The Daily Love, to receive lovely quotes, messages and affirmations in your inbox every day!