Beet this Refined Delectability

In return for the many love and effort-filled meals that my mother has procured for family over the years, I decided a good Mother’s Day gift would be a healthily tasty–or tastily healthy–meal that we could savor and receive a gust of natural energy from. Beets were in the fridge and I remembered a recipe from a wonderful French cookbook (excellent gift)–Swinging French Jazz Bistro Favorite Parisian Bistro Recipes.

To be honest, beets were not my biggest allurers in the vegetable inventory, but I thought “Why not?” and why not was right! Here are some health incentives that will appeal to logos (your sense of logic) and then I’ll move on to the taste bud attraction. First of all, beets are very nutritious, yet low-calorie, bundles of sweetness. Having this sweet taste, they provide us with surges of energy and are fortunately very easy and very cheap! They can be bought for about $2 a pound and don’t even need to be cooked. An un-beet-able source of magnesium, calcium, iron, phospherous, fiber, and Vitamins A & C, beets also contain folic acid (pivotal for health of pregnant women) which is important for the creation and maintenance of new cells. (Give up those supplements and let nature be the one to supply you!) And, of course, the color of beets isn’t only a feast for the eyes but also for the health of our bodies. Betacyanin, which gives beets their striking red, is said to fight cancer, especially that of the colon.

So without further ado, let’s give the tongue a turn or two. The recipe is called “Roast Beet and Mâche Salad with Haricots Verts, Leeks, and Walnut Vinaigrette” and I have copied it from the Bistro cookbook (for which there is a link above!) along with my own pictures.

My Final Subject of Pride!

Ingredients:

4 or 5 beets, depending on how large they are                                                                       2 tablespoons vegetable oil                                                                                                     4 fresh thyme sprigs (or powdered thyme)                                                                             4 ounces (125g) haricots verts or baby Blue Lake green beans (I actually used asparagus), chopped into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces

-For the Vinaigrette-                                                                                                              1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60mL) sherry wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)                                      1 teaspoon Dijon mustard                                                                                                     3/4 cup (6fl. oz./180mL) grapeseed or canola oil                                                                1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60mL) cold-pressed walnut oil (I just used regular walnut oil)                Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 leeks, white part only (I used the white part of Vidalia onions)                                             4 ounces (125g) mâche (lamb’s lettuce) or frisée (curly endive) (I just used lettuce 🙂         2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped and toasted (I prefer a handful which I toast on a pan with a little bit of oil – yumm!)                                                                                                          4 ounces (125g) goat cheese, cut into slivers (I say put as much or little as you like)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C). In a large bowl, toss the beets with the oil. Separately wrap each beet and a sprig of thyme in a square of aluminum foil. (Or you can sprinkle the beet with powdered thyme – a little easier) Roast in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beets are tender when pierced with a knife. Unwrap and let cool.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the green beans for 5 to 10 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Using a slotted spoon or a wire-mesh skimmer (spoon with holes), transfer the beans to a bowl of cold water. Drain and set aside. In the boiling bean water, cook the leeks for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and let cool.

To make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar and mustard together. Gradually whisk in the oils until emulsified (completely mixed). Season with salt and pepper.

Peel the beets. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, thinly slice the beets and arrange the slices to cover 4 salad plates. Brush the beets with vinaigrette. (This part makes you feel really sophisticated!) In 2 medium bowls, toss the green beans and leeks separately with the remaining vinaigrette. Arrange the green beans on top of the beets and top them with a mound of leeks.

Add bouquet of lettuce in the center. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and garnish with slivers of goat cheese. Serve and savor!

Makes 4 servings

P.S. For me, there was a good amount of vinaigrette left over because it is only used for brushing and soaking (of the dish ingredients), so make sure to use it for a salad afterwards.

Branning it Up!!!

Amidst all the carrot soup, zucchini and salads, who doesn’t want a little treat? Well, here’s a perk of moist deliciousness which can accompany a healthy meal and bring along its own virtues as well!

Rich with dietary fiber, potassium, iron, niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin, wheat bran is a great way to satiate and satisfy. As a fiber powersource, wheat bran aids digestion and has been found to regulate blood sugar, beneficial in reducing the risk of diabetes.

So, without further ado, let’s get cooking!

Ingredients ~~~

– 3 cups unprocessed wheat bran (I usually use Hodgson Mill)                                              – 1 cup boiling water                                                                                                                 – 1 cup brown sugar                                                                                                                 – 1/2 cup butter                                                                                                                         – 2 & 1/2 cups flour (use whole wheat if you can!)                                                                  – 2 tsp. baking soda                                                                                                                  – 1 tsp. salt                                                                                                                               – 2 eggs, beaten                                                                                                                       – 2 cups buttermilk                                                                                                                   – raisins! (as many as suit your fancy – I would highly recommend them)

Mixing dry bran with other ingredients...

Mixed ingredients

Mix 1 cup wheat bran with 1 cup boiling water; stir and let water absorb into bran.              In a separate bowl blend sugar and butter.                                                                             Measure and combine flour, baking soda and salt.                                                                Combine the moist bran with beaten eggs, the remaining 2 cups of bran, buttermilk, blended sugar-butter mixture, and flour, soda and salt mixture.                                            Stir well until blended. (Wisking is always enjoyable!)

When preparing to bake, preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).                                                  Stir batter well and spoon into prepared (buttered – this makes the muffins easier to take out once they’re done) muffin tins.                                                                                    Bake 15 minutes.                                                                                                                     Serve and enjoy!! (I, personally, love to cut them through their middle and sandwich a thin piece of melting butter in between.)

(Yield – 2 dozen muffins)

Fibrous delectability!

Since you do want them warm, fortunately the batter is refridgerate-able for up to about a week, so just seal it in an airtight container and keep it safe.

Recipe taken from the back of a Hodgson Mill Unprocessed Wheat Bran (Millers Bran) box! (Read boxes, you might find treasures…)

Cutting ↓ Puts You a Cut ↑

Having previously gotten into a discussion with a fellow blogger, Pursue Natural, on the importance of moderation, I decided to make a post on this topic in which I will include some great cultural sayings which promote this vital health practice.

So, cutting down puts you a cut above! Yes, it is true that eating too little or dieting (which can sometimes be an abandonment of food altogether) is certainly unhealthy and not advisable! However, it is important for us to listen to the biological signs of our bodies and recognize when we are no longer hungry. In chapter 46 of journalist Michael Pollan‘s Food Rules, I found quite a few cultural sayings like “You need to tie off the sack before it gets completely full,” (German) and “hara hachi bu” – (Japanese for “people should stop eating when they are 80% full”) which advise us to quit the downing when our stomachs are no longer growling.

A few other examples: “The Ayurvedic tradition in India advises eating until you are 75% full; the Chinese specify 70% percent, and the prophet Muhammad described a full belly as one that contains 1/3 food and 1/3 liquid–and 1/3 air, i.e., nothing.” (quoted from Pollan’s Food Rules) Like the French, the Spanish also say “Tengo hambre” (“I have hunger”) and “Ya no tengo hambre” (“I no longer have hunger”) to express “I’m hungry” and “I’m full.” So maybe this is a good way to think of it; after all, we feel less inhibited by a content stomach than an overloaded one.

Ellie Krieger also explores some great tips in an article called Get Wise About Serving Size which include using smaller plates–making us cut down without even realizing it; maximizing our veggies–which fill our stomachs more than meats and oils do, especially with healthy nutrients; and “going easy on the helpings.” A family tradition which I also find very beneficial (and which I was happily surprised to find among Krieger’s tips) is a first course of vegetable purée soup. Just cook some cut-up vegetables in a little olive oil, water, and broth (bouillion works as well) and purée them in a blender/Thermomix/Vitamix. The soup tastes great and lets you go lighter on the main meal! (Some of my favorites are zucchini-squash-basil, carrot-ginger, and asparagus-almond.)

Not only is cutting down a simple way of moderating our quantities to what we actually need, but it also allows us to spend wisely on more quality and less quantity. As the French say, the best bite is the first!

Sugar? A toxin?

Obviously, we know that sweets aren’t really meant to be the central staple of our diets. (If we did, things like birthday cake wouldn’t be such a guilty pleasure.) However, it is impressive just how little we actually know about the elusive substance sugar. On a TV program called 60 Minutes, Sanjay Gupta presented a segment (April 1st, 2012) on the dangers of sugar which highlighted its effects on our bodies and our bodies’ inevitable attraction to it.

According to Doctor Robert Lustig, sugar, especially in the amounts of which we are consuming it, is a major cause of many common diseases like heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Doctor Lewis Cantley, Professor at Harvard’s Medical School, has also begun to make connections between sugar consumption and cancer. Basically, eating/drinking sugar causes a spike in our insulin levels (a hormone) which has now been found to trigger the growth of certain cancer cells. Glucose (sugar) is usually consumed by our muscles or other tissues, but cancer cells can be signaled by insulin to start consuming the glucose instead. What happens next? These cells grow.

But the problem with our relationship to sugar is that we not only find it hard to identify, or just eat it without identifying it, but we also can easily become addicted to it. We love it.

Actually, we have biologically evolved to love it for the energy it gives us and because it used to be found only in fruits which provide a bunch of other nutrients. If you think about it, though, you wouldn’t eat three apples at a time on top of a full lunch. But that’s about the amount of sugar you drink when having a 20oz coke. Take note: not all calories are equal. In this case, you’d be getting a lot more nutrients from three apples than from a 20oz coke of pure sweet. Sweet for your tongue, maybe, but not for your body.

Also, in a lot of today’s processed foods, sugar substitutes like high fructose corn syrup have replaced a lot of the sugar that used to be in them which isn’t so favorable to the health-conscious eye. Replacing a lot of the society’s bad-mouthed fat, sugar now shows up secretively in a whole host of “food” products (or, as journalist Michael Pollan likes to say, “edible food-like substances”) which make common cereals and lunch snacks not unlike candies and cookies.

Addiction plays a major role in the U.S.’ love affair with sugar. Just like any drug, alcohol and smoking included, sugar has us around its little finger. We jump at the sight of it, and our brains jump at its arrival. In fact, as Sanjay Gupta’s brain itself demonstrated in an MRI Scanner, dopamine (a chemical in the brain which signals reward) is released when we eat sugar, making us feel pleasure at its taste and making us want more.

And of course, as humans, we like instant gratification. So we eat more and more and more… Until now, where the average American consumes about a third of a pound per day (about 130 pounds per year) of calories which derive from sugar! Sound healthy? No! What’s worse is when we eat so much sugar that we soon build a tolerance to it which makes us eat ever more to reach the same level of pleasure. Same with drugs and alcohol.

One motto that I adopted from journalist Michael Pollan is the SSSSS rule – small amounts of sugar and snacks on Saturdays and Sundays. In other words, sweets in moderation. Once I embraced this, I won both ways. First of all and most importantly, I take better care of myself and treat my body well! Second of all, sugar tastes a lot more sweet and a lot more special when eaten on special occasions.

Think of it this way, when someone has put love and effort into a homemade, natural sweet, there’s nothing that will beat! As the French say, the best bite is the first. Let’s go quality, not quantity.

What’s your ANDI score?

The ANDI Score System tells you just how nutrient-rich different foods are. Devised by Dr. Joel Fuhrman–Medical Doctor and founder of Eat Right America–ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index and each food’s nutrient density scores can be found by simply dividing its nutrient content by its calorie content. Here’s a chart of ANDI scores to give you a taste of what will nourish and let you flourish:

Goodlifer: ANDI scores

The Whole Foods Market has recently adopted and is implementing the ANDI System to continue promoting good health and provide superior nutrition!