Friday, June 27, 2014

Home Cooking for Health

Despite my trail of letters here in the netherworld of the web, I do not see myself as an expert or to that end, using writing as therapy. It's about letting the sand flow through your fingers and occasionally finding a shark's tooth or a sand dollar. However, while I'm fumbling around in the dark and sharing the glimmer of light I've collected, part of me is embarrassed by my meager findings considering the time I've spend searching. Nonetheless, I can't resist so when something sticks or shows up that interests me, I share it.

Though I worked for many years as a registered nurse with patients suffering from cardiac and renal disease, nutrition expert I am not. I also know first hand the pain of weight gain, food prep, and the need to make healthy choices. I have been both plumper and thinner in my life as many have. I'm interested in health and health is partly about choices-- food and activity.

After college when I was at my meatiest, I promised myself to never diet again, but I realized that I had to cook. If I wanted sweets, making them myself slowed me down. I also gave up sweet tea and soda. Though I dislike strenuous exercise, I can usually manage a walk. My early cooking forays were mostly sweets, but slowly I came to cooking everyday foods that were better for me to eat. I'm still trying to get more there. Americans generally need to eat more vegetables, legumes, and fruit. We've got meats and desserts covered. Look for the recipes that encourage you to eat what will make you feel awesome and that means greens, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains for most of us. Knowing that I'm not alone, I share my interest and experiences.

I fell in love with flavor and when I discover a recipe that excites my tastebuds, I share it. My love of beautiful food is in recognition that my brain comes with a stomach, though I appreciate beautiful food, it is more often from the realm of magazines or restaurants than my kitchen table. I do like butter, yogurt, and eggs and shy away from substitutes for these items in particular. In short, I came to home cooking, kicking and screaming and with the hope to NOT have to exercise too hard to keep it all in check which just gets harder with age.

My cooking skills evolve with my tastebuds's desires. I am also warming up to the idea of adding vegetables, beans, and whole grains to the foods I cook because it is a simple way to get more of the healthy stuff into my diet. I don't need labor intensive recipes for every meal, but sometimes I cook for fuel and sometimes I cook for fun. I do work on recipes that I love to eat, and I tweak them over time to get a tad more nutrition added without overwhelming my tastebuds. Some cooks are further along this path than I.

What has worked? Cook what you eat. Exercise. Find ways to add vegetables and legumes into recipes. Use more herbs.

Herbs can be expensive, but oh boy do they add to the tasty factor of a dish. A sprinkle of fresh rosemary or a crush of Greek oregano can move the tastebuds from wanting only heavy salt toward a delightful and fresh herb taste with a pinch of salt. Growing the herbs makes them both handy and more economical. No one wants to dash out at dinner time for three dollar herbs that last a day or two, but if you do, tie them up and dry them that day, otherwise they tend to morph in to science projects in the fridge. Use them fresh or dried.

Recently, I listened to a talk by Michael Pollan, linked below. Some favorite quotes from it that stirred my thoughts because they hit upon things I've learned for myself and maybe you have too:

"The one diet for America. The one diet that would work? Eat anything you want, just cook it yourself." 
Harry Balzar as quoted by Michael Pollan

"Corporations cook very differently than people. They use vast amounts of salt, fat, and sugar, much more than you would ever use in your own cooking, and the reason they do that is that those are three incredibly attractive and incredibly cheap ingredients and when they are layered properly as in a chip or in various pastries and forms of junk food, they're incredibly addictive. In fact, people in the industry, they don't talk about addiction, in the food industry, even though they traffic in addiction, they talk about cravability, it's the same thing, and snackability is another term they use, it's a lovely word. Anyway, so I came to see that cooking has a huge bearing on our health. In fact, there's been a lot of research in America that shows that shows that even poor women who cook have healthier diets than wealthier women who don't." 
Michael Pollan

Fruit & Vegetable Muffins


140 grams (1 1/8 cups) whole-wheat pastry flour
5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
70 grams (1/3 cup) packed dark brown sugar
1 small apple, grated, and juices reserved (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup grated carrots or butternut squash or parsnips
1/2 cup grated zucchini or beets
55 grams (1/3 cup) raisins
40 grams (1/2 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut


Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease mini-muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, olive oil, honey, brown sugar, grated apple and juices, and grated vegetables.

Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the raisins and coconut.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way up, and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes for mini-muffins and about 20 to 22 minutes for regular muffins. The muffins are finished baking when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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