Collard Greenz

Food, recipes and everything in between


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Kicking that Sugar Habit to the Curb, Grainless Baking and other Healthful Tidbits

sugar pic

I am ever the skeptic of fad dieting and trends, but I have learned that leading a relatively grain/gluten/refined sugar/dairy free diet really does leave me with a much happier gut and digestive track  and feeling overall more energetic. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy and indulge in the occasional pastry or baguette avec fromage.  However, as good as it tasted going down,the way I feel afterwards really does call into question the reason I ate it in the first place. Limiting these foods also helps maintain a low glycemic and truly beneficial diet for those with autoimmune, hormonal and metabolic conditions (between me and my daughter, we suffer from 3). This way of eating can actually even have healing properties on the digestive system as well. Aside from people with specific dietary restrictions, omitting trigger foods and having an abundance of nuts, fruits and natural fats (avocado, coconut, olive oil…) are nutritious for everyone, and consistent intake of such high quality foods can help prevent future medical issues as well. At a quick glance, eliminating sugar and processed wheat significantly reduces the risk of developing cardio vascular disease, obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and liver disease and has also been linked to decreasing the risk of developing depression and Alzheimer’s Disease, to name a few.  If only it were as easy as just “eat less and move more” … like all vices and bad habits, to reverse sugar dependency and make the brain WANT to eat less, sugar has to go (nb. I am talking about the processed refined stuff, this does not include natural fruit sugar which is high in fiber and other vitamins and nutrients).

Additionally, adding more nuts into your daily diet is good for heart health and provides healthy fats, calcium, protein and other nutrients that are great for your body. I like to bake using combination of nut flours including almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews and coconuts. Each nut flour requires some ‘getting used to’ as it’s never a 1:1 substitution for traditional wheat and other grain flours, but it’s worth experimenting with as the end results are seriously tasty and naturally sweet. Often baked goodies benefit from a little sweetness and I tend to achieve this using unsweetened fruit purees and coconut sugar, a naturally low glycemic, unrefined sweetener.

I often hear that healthy eating “tastes good but it’s just too expensive to do at home regularly…” It is true that some healthy ingredients are more expensive than their conventional counterparts, eg. one pound of almond flour sets you back about $9.00, vs. a pound of the conventional white stuff is about $0.50. But also keep in mind a pound of carrots costs approximately $1.50 per lb, verses a pound of potato chips costs on average $2.99 per lb, and the cost of convenience food verses homemade requires a separate article altogether. It might seem silly to use some expensive ingredients, but there truly are immeasurable health benefits in quality foods. By choosing to eat healthy foods, we are making an investment into our health and well-being for the long term. Think of it this way, you can pay more now for healthy, nutritious and delicious foods or you can pay a doctor and pharmacist later on if you don’t feed your body well. The better foods we put in our body, the better we feel, the healthier we are, and the less likely we are to become sick and have additional medical related expenses in the future.

Also, I strongly believe that people can afford to pay more for food when budgeted appropriately which includes limiting convenience/prepared foods and eating out, as well as maintaining appropriate portion sizes. You don’t have to shop an upscale supermarkets either, I am a mama on a tight budget whenever I go food shopping. Most supermarkets, if not all, have an abundance of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and alternate gluten free grains that won’t break the bank. Lastly, quantity really is equally as important to the actual foods we put in our bellies. It does take more effort and forward planning, but well-planned and budgeted food shopping should and can include healthy ingredients resulting in a tasty end product you make yourself🙂


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Food Hacks, is this really healthy?

cereal-shopping

After a several month blog hiatus studying for my PT Certification exams (yeah I am officially certified!), I am now back to the world of blogging.

I am forever in search of healthy low glycemic food options that are both tasty and live up to their labels, especially for breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Carbohydrates can be low glycemic and they are an absolutely essential and necessary as part of a balanced and healthy diet, but not all carbs are equal. As clichéd as it is, we are what we eat, and why fuel your body with badness when it can be fueled with goodness? Did you know that when you search for ‘healthy cereal’ in certain search engines, the first hit that comes up is Frosted Mini Wheats? We know companies pay for advertising etc to appear at the top of a search, but this seems almost unethical.

Several foods (cereals are notorious for this) boast their healthy qualities, and purchasers are enticed by labels such as ‘super food,’ ‘low glycemic,’ ‘cholesterol lowering,’ ‘trans-fat free,’ ‘natural,’ ‘non-GMO,’ ‘fat burning…’ the list goes on… but on closer examination of the ingredients list, you will often find forms of sugar, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats/oils listed among the top three ingredients. When it comes to any food you purchase, always read the ingredients list, not just the nutritional facts.

The FDA has several rules and regulations regarding the labelling of food, but to say there are gray areas is an understatement. For example, there are little to no rules regarding the use of ‘natural ingredients’ on the cover of a product. A cereal could contain certain ‘natural ingredients’ but also have loads of fat and sugar. Also, if the total fat in a food is less than 0.5grams per serving, and no claims are made about fat, fatty acids, or cholesterol content, trans fat does not even have to be listed on the nutrition facts label. In fact, products can state ‘ZERO TRANS FATS’ on the front in large letters when the product still actually contains Trans Fats (a form of unsaturated fat).

On your next trip to the supermarket, take the time to read the ingredients and if you are looking for genuinely healthy cereals, here is a tip, avoid the breakfast cereal aisle altogether, instead look for the health food aisle. If there are several words you’ve never heard of and/or cannot pronounce listed on the box, you probably should not be consuming it anyway.

PS – Here is a quick shout out to a few cereals that are truly healthy and extremely yummy as a crunchy snack in their own right or as part of a healthy breakfast – PaleoKrunch, Viki’s Granola, Simply Fiber (zero salt or sugar) and Ezekiel – all regulars in my kitchen cupboard … I am not secretly and undercover product pusher I promise!


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Chocolate & Coffee Swiss Roll 

I am thankful for so many things this year, foremost, the health of my family and loved ones….Without getting too mushy and serious though, I am also seriously thankful for stumbling across this recipe from Delicious Magazine mere days before Thanksgiving and making it a last minute substitution as one of the desserts at our table this evening!  

 
It really was the belle of the ball. Totally atypical and a not traditional turkey day sweet, but extremely popular nonetheless. I love me a bit of homemade pumpkin pie as much as any self respecting American (and baked and ate it in abundance of course). However, for those looking for a change or alternative to traditional pies over the holiday season, this one really bangs it out of the park. 
This is very much a grown up dessert with dark chocolate & espresso beans providing the primary flavor profile, but it’s also just sweet enough to appeal to the kiddos as well. 

The light airy flourless egg white chocolate sponge and cool coffee and chocolate cream filling sing with sweet simplicity and delight on the palate. I also substituted sugar with low glycemic coconut sugar. Coming in at about 10 carbs a slice it’s also relatively guilt free (recipe serves 14 in my estimation, not 10 as printed recipe suggests), more carbs and calories for stuffing and pie!
Preparation of this dessert also provided much comic relief to our crowded bustling kitchen this morning. Upon whisking the egg whites into peaks, I played the old ‘flip the bowl’ upside down trick on the kiddos and they loved it… Only to then try and impress my non baking bro-in-law with the same trick to have the egg whites fly all over his face, thus breaking all rules of logic and science.

Wishing everybody a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving and holiday season!
Zelly B.


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Goodness in Grains

There is all this buzz around grains and related intolerances. Frankly, it’s getting out of control, I cannot seem to walk down any isle in the supermarket without finding several products overtly labelled as gluten free which are gluten free ANYWAY by their nature. Why do peppercorns, fruits, vegetables or bags of mixed nuts need to be labelled as gluten-free?! It’s hardly surprising to me that we have bred (no pun intended) a society of gluten intolerance when stores offer so many ‘gluten-free’ options. It seems society has practically instilled a fear in gluten. Let’s not forget that gluten is the main protein component of wheat, rye and barley and it’s been cultivated for over 10,000 years as a staple in ANY healthy, balanced diet. As recently noted in by NY Times columnist Roger Cohen, it is “safe to say gluten has never had as hard a time as in recent years.” Whether it’s because several gluten related products are laced with toxic chemicals and insecticides remains open for debate, but the fact remains, we seem to have produced a generation of gluten-free eaters.

kamut - Copy

This post may be gluten-free, but I most certainly am not and neither do I think it’s a good idea (unless for genuine medical reasons such as celiac disease). I am not a hippy, crunchy type (no judgement there), I like mod-cons & gluten, and like most folks, every once in a while, I indulge in treats. However, I truly cannot sing enough praise about the importance of healthy, balanced eating habits which includes eating unrefined, true grains in their natural form. Not only does this taste better, it makes you feel happy too, a win all around. My genetics have graced upon me the potential and increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol & Type 2 Diabetes, just to name a few, as well as a whole host of risks associated with already having three autoimmune conditions (also genetic). To that end, it is in my best interest to stay a lean mean, fit, healthy machine…but you don’t need to have red flags in your gene pool to persuade you to eat healthily. The long term health implications are fairly self-evident in lowering the risk of a host of age related health complications, including, but not limited the aforementioned ones.

Gluten haters may wish to zone out now…natural unrefined grains are diverse in texture, taste and appearance and work well in a variety of dishes including as a hot meal grain substitute and also sprinkled into salads for added crunch and nutrients. Spelt and farro are among my favorite staples for tasty sweet and nutty grains. I also recently discovered Khorasan wheat (aka ‘Kamut’) and I think it may just top farro as my new favorite grain. Khorasan refers to a historical region in modern-day north east Iran. The grain is approximately twice the size of modern-day wheat and is known for its rich nutty flavor. Kamut is significantly higher in protein (about 40% more so than conventional modern day wheat) and contains several minerals including immune booster zinc, compared to modern processed wheat. Leading nutritional studies also repeatedly emphasize that consuming natural unprocessed, unrefined grains with little to no chemical treatment will drastically reduce total cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as lower levels of key pro-inflammatory cytokines. The protein also keeps you fuller for longer and means you can make a healthy and nutritionally balanced meal out of a simple grain dish (much to the dismay of my meat loving husband).

Lightly toast the grains in a hot non-stick pan until slightly golden and toasted, Kamut will actually pop almost like popcorn, be careful to put a metal mesh fry topper on the pan or you will have popped Kamut all over your kitchen. Once lightly toasted, add liquid and cook as instructions suggest. I like to use stock. Once the grains are just cooked through (they will be firm, nutty and slightly chewy and crunchy), drizzle a small amount of EVOO and freshly cracked S&P to taste. Sprinkle with some toasted nuts and seeds to added crunch and texture and mix with a salad. Kamut served here with a salad made of red cabbage, Brussel sprouts, radish, kale, apple, toasted mixed seeds & avocado with a poppy seed dressing.

kamut salad - Copy


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Low Glycemic Gluten Free Veggie Pesto Pizza

As the parent of a daughter with T1 Diabetes, I am constantly in search of new ways to cook healthy, tasty, low glycemic recipes. Omitting gluten, particularly processed wheat is one great way to curb blood sugar spikes. As a family of pizza lovers, this is particularly challenging, the crust and sauce are high in carbs and gluten (tomato is naturally high in sugar and often sauce has added sugar). With the restriction of limiting meals to approximately 20 carbs (for my diabetic 2.5 yr old daughter), this is especially difficult, it means she can just about have half a slice, leaving her hungry and cranky for more!

I also have a pizza loving friend with rheumatoid arthritis who has certain other dietary restrictions. This planted a seed in my brain, why can’t I create a tasty pizza like meal that leaves you feeling satisfied and your hunger satiated, without blowing your dietary limitations simply by smelling the air in which the dish was made (a pizza parlor :P)!

Dietary restrictions for this recipe, no: gluten, dairy, egg, soy, corn, solanaceae botanicals (aka nightshades linked to being inflammatory for those with a solanaceae intolerance).

A note on night shades – plants belonging to this family produce an alkaloid compound called solanine that acts as a nerve poison on insects that try to eat them. It is believed to have inflammatory properties, possibly even toxic if eaten in large quantities. Solanaceae includes tomatoes, potatoes (but not sweet), peppers, chili peppers, pimentos, paprika, goji berries and eggplant (as well as tobacco). Fear not, nightshades are only a problem for a small number of people. Those who suffer from arthritis are sometimes advised to avoid nightshades. However, clinical studies suggest that this advice really only applies to people who have a sensitivity to solanine. For these folks, eating nightshades causes an inflammatory reaction—including joint pain. Most people are not sensitive to solanine. Many medical professionals refute (a) the characterization that nightshades are “inflammatory” and (b) the advice that everyone with arthritis should avoid them. In fact, nightshade plants are high in antioxidants which actually help reduce inflammation.  Chili peppers also contain capsaicin, a strongly anti-inflammatory compound.

Now back to the PIZZA

The dough is yeast based using whole grain un-processed brown rice flour and sweat potatoes. It has a crunchy flat bread meets savory tart like texture, with a sweet nutty taste. It would lend itself well to any number of savory toppings, not just the one listed in this recipe. Special tools: perforated pizza tin, pizza cutter, potato ricer

Ingredients for the crust

2 large sweet potatoes (about 14 ounces) (roasted in skins, then pealed and riced using potato ricer)

1/3 cup warm water (110*F)

2 tsp coconut nectar

One ¼ oz pack of active dry yeast

1.5 cup brown rice flour

1 tsp Kosher salt

3 tbps EVOO

Directions for the crust

Once potatoes are cool enough to handle after roasting, peal and rice them in potato ricer, you should have about 2 cups.

Whisk together warm water, coconut nectar and yeast in small bowl. Let sit until a small layer of foam develops at the top and the yeast is activated (3-5 minutes). If this does not happen, discard and try again.

Place potatoes, rice flour and salt in mixing bowl with paddle attachment (if using mixer), this can be done by hand but the dough is quite sticky so just be prepared. Mix on medium speed until just combined and produces a fine crumbly meal. Continue to mix on medium speed, slowly add EVOO until combined, then drizzle yeast mixture and continue mixing just until dough comes together (again it will be slightly sticky and tacky), you will need a spatula to help give a final stir to ensure everything is all combined. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until the dough rises by at least half (approximately 1.5-2 hours).

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Remove dough on (rice) floured surface and work into a ball, you will need to add about 1/3 cup extra rice flour at this point to incorporate it into a workable dough by hand, but it will still remain sticky and tacky compared to gluten based doughs. Roll out to approximately 1 cm thick and place on perforated pizza tin (pre sprayed w oil and sprinkled with rice flour to ensure it doesn’t stick).

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Place desired toppings on pizza dough, bake at approximately 500* F in pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes until it is crisp and lightly golden brown, remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before serving (burning the roof of your mouth is the worst!) 

Ingredients for the topping

3 cups kale

½ large zucchini

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

3 medium shallots sliced into fine rings (or 1 red onion)

¾ cup toasted pine nuts

1 tsp coconut nectar

1/3 cup EVOO

S&P to taste

Dairy option (I made one with, one without): 1 cup mozzarella or grated pecorino, ½ low fat ricotta

 Directions for the topping

*Tip – prep the toppings while dough is proofing

Sauté kale and zucchini until wilted (about 5 minutes), remove from heat. Place in food processor along with coconut nectar, EVOO and 1/4 cup of water, process until green pesto like sauce texture. Return to heat and add dash of S&P to taste. The coconut nectar ensures the greens are not bitter.

Separately sauté shallots on low until they are very soft and caramelized (about 15 minutes). Remove from pan and briefly fry chopped garlic in olive oil until the aroma is sweet and nutty but color still pale this only takes about 2 minutes. Otherwise, it will burn and result in a sharp bitter taste. Remove garlic from heat.

To assemble the pizza: Place green sauce on dough, then sprinkle caramelized shallots, toasted garlic and toasted pine nuts, lastly sprinkle with cheese if using.

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Serve with mixed leaves salad in a lemon & EVOO dressing.


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Hot and Spicy Egg Drop Broth

Nothing soothes a sore throat quite like hot broth. This dish is ready in minutes and is incredibly comforting, soothing and tasty. 

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 cube good quality low sodium chicken stock

2L water 

1 cup chopped fresh spinach 

1 cup peas

2 stalks sliced spring onion 

1 cup sliced pan fried mushrooms 

2tbps sweet chili dipping sauce

1tbsp shrirachi sauce   

1 small packet thin egg noodles 

2 eggs

Method:

Simmer water and stock cube on medium heat for about 5 min until dissolved. Add vegetables, chili sauces, noodles and simmer for additional 5 minutes or until noodles just cooked, stirring occasionally. Lastly, add eggs to broth and let them soft boil in the simmering broth. Serve immediately. 

The silky smooth texture of the just cooked egg and velvety just broken soft yolk mixing with sweet and spicy broth is nothing short of fantastic & scrumptious.  

  


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Persian Chicken with Nutty Rice Pilaf

I have been on a real Middle Eastern kick in when it comes to food inspiration these days. This recipe is perfect for a healthy mid-week dinner that is quick and easy to make.

Ingredients (feeds approx. 4):

Chicken   

Marinate the chicken in the following ingredients ideally for at least 20 minutes before roasting, or better still, prep a night in advance and marinate in the refrigerator over night.

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (use breast if you prefer white meat)

2 tbsp. EVOO

1/3 cup pomegranate molasses

2 tbsp. za’atar

dash of salt and cracked black pepper to taste

marinaded chicken - Copypomegranate molas

Rice

1 tbsp. each: turmeric (a natural anti-inflammatory & preservative) & smoked paprika

1 tsp. cumin

2 cloves garlic and 1/2 onion minced

1 large carrot and 1/2 zucchini shredded

3/4 cup toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds

3 cups basmati rice

2 tbsp EVOO

dash of salt and cracked black pepper to taste

toasted nuts - Copy

Method:

Place chicken in roasting dish in 375* preheated oven. It will take about 25-30 minutes for the chicken to be cooked, the oven temp is slightly high so the chicken gets a little charred and golden brown on top. Once it’s just cooked through, tent loosely in foil and let it rest for about 5 minutes so juices can return to meat to ensure it does not dry out.

Meanwhile, once chicken is in the oven, prepare the rice in a large non-stick sauté pan – not a pot – this will enable the rice to caramelize and evenly cook to ensure it retains a nice fluffy texture, nobody likes gloopy rice mush. Heat EVOO in pan, fry spices for about 1 minute, add shredded veggies and minced garlic/onion, sauté until soft for about 2-3 minutes, then add a bit more EVOO if necessary, add rice and sauté the rice in the spice & vegetable mixture for an additional 3-5 minutes, this step is crucial to ensuring that the rice absorbs the nutty sweet flavor of the spices, vegetables and olive oil and it’s well worth taking the extra couple of minutes to do so. Add 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock. Let simmer on medium low heat stirring occasionally, once all of the liquid is absorbed, add a bit more stock. The idea is not add too much liquid too quickly nor to over-stir. Once the rice has simmered for about 20-25 minutes and absorbed all the liquid, it should be cooked. Firmly press rice mixture down in an even layer, let it remain in pan once liquid is absorbed so it may get golden and slightly crisp on the bottom. Once ready to serve, stir in chopped dill, toasted walnuts & pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds & lemon zest. Serve along side the pomegranate roasted chicken.

rice w dill

rice & chicken