Remember that animal-shaped terracotta pottery from the ’80s that you had to smear wet seeds on which would later sprout “hair” (grass)? Who knew that you could, A. actually eat those slimy seeds, and B. over 20 years later they’d be revealed as a healthy addition to your diet? Yep, I’m referring to the Chia Pet and those little chia seeds that adorned them.
Formally known as Salvia hispanica, the flowering chia plant is native to Mexico. Its seeds have been cultivated for food since the age of the Aztecs, being as important a crop to them as maize (corn). When soaked in a liquid, chia seeds puff up — absorbing about 12 times their weight — and form a gelatinous outer shell (chia “gel”). Aztec warriors would use them as a portable food staple during battles, supposedly being able to be sustained for a whole day after consuming just one tablespoon of chia gel.
What is it about the chia seed that’s got the health food community going ga-ga for them, you ask? They’ve got a ton of nutrients packed into their tiny shells: the USDA claims that one ounce of chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat, 11 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein, and provide 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium. They’re chock full of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (read: the good fats), too.
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When the temperatures start to take a nose dive and it’s finally time to dig out the sweaters, I have one thing on my mind (besides keeping warm): soup! Synonymous with warmth and comfort, no wonder it’s such a popular dish this time of year.
The best part about soup is that it’s so darn easy to make. Seriously. You throw everything into a pot, bring it to a boil, lower it to a simmer, then let it ride for anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours (depending on what you put in it).
With most soup recipes, especially those that need to simmer for a long period of time, a lid is required during cooking to prevent the liquid from evaporating (or else you’ll just have a pot of soggy vegetables). Also, you’ll notice that soup is always cooked in a pot or saucepan with high sides instead of in a sauté pan with low sides. Why? The high sides prevent some of the moisture from leaving the pot and evaporating, while pans with low sides are designed to help wick moisture away — which is why they are great for making pan sauces and reductions.
Curried Cauliflower and Apple Soup is a creamy, dreamy dish using currently abundant seasonal produce. Cauliflower is a great base for a pureed soup because, when blended, it acquires a creamed consistency; hence no cream (or the added calorie count) is needed. The Madras curry gives the recipe an Eastern twist and a pop of flavor, but feel free to omit it or change it up with your favorite curry blend.
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Bread pudding is one of my favorite throw-together, quick and easy recipes. If you have at least these three items on hand, you can make the base pudding: bread (preferably day old and dry), eggs, and milk or heavy cream. It’s also a great go-to because it works for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. It just depends on the extra ingredients you throw in: sweet for breakfast or dessert, savory for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Plus, prep time is ten minutes or less. How great and versatile is that? Read the rest of this entry
If you’re one of those people who have, thus far, stuck to your New Year’s resolutions of healthy eating (or are trying to get back on the bandwagon), here’s a quick, easy and scrumptious dessert recipe that won’t leave you with extra calories to burn off or the guilt of cheating on your diet. It’s also a good way to get a serving or two of fruit into your daily diet.
What’s great about this recipe for frozen yogurt is that you don’t need an ice cream maker to put it together. The only equipment you’ll need is something many people already have stowed away in their kitchen cupboards — a blender or food processor. If you don’t have either, I’d highly suggest investing in one, as their blending and chopping possibilities are practically endless. Purchase an inexpensive one at Target, Wal-Mart or online (and you don’t need anything fancy, just one that performs the basic functions).
The original recipe I adapted this from uses a half cup of sugar which I’ve replaced with a quarter cup of light agave nectar. Agave nectar (or agave syrup) comes from the sap of the agave plant. Yep, the same plant that tequila is made from. But don’t worry, you’re not going to get buzzed from this sweet nectar, it’s just a healthier substitute for refined sugar. It’s lower in calories than sugar and also has a much lower glycemic index, meaning it won’t give you a spike in your blood sugar and can be used by those on low-carb diets and those with blood sugar issues.
As for the base, I like to use natural, low-fat Greek-style yogurt that’s free of preservatives, as it has more protein and is bit lower in sugar and carbohydrates than regular yogurt. It’s thick texture also makes for a creamier frozen yogurt. If you’re going the vegan route, then use a soy-based yogurt instead.
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Have you been to the grocery store and seen the prices on produce these days? No wonder people don’t want to buy fresh food that’s actually good for them, when they can save a buck by buying processed, pre-packaged food that is full of chemicals and fake ingredients. It’s also dejecting to think how far food travels before it reaches our tables — going from farm to processing and packing plants, then shipped off hundreds of miles away to grocery stores.
I am making a personal effort to buy more locally grown food. It saves me money and it keeps the local farmers in business. Last weekend, I ventured out to Plant City to check out some of the local farmers’ markets and found Parkesdale Farms Market. Parkesdale Farm has been in operation by the Parke family since 1956, growing an array of vegetables, fruits, and various plants and flowers over hundreds of acres. They are now the largest strawberry, citrus, and produce market in Florida. Read the rest of this entry