Variety is the Spice of Life!

How many times have you read a recipe and thought, “I have NO IDEA what that spice is (or how to pronounce it) let alone how it will taste?” or “When will I ever use this spice again?” I have.

Before last year when I started my health make-over, I didn’t even own a spice rack! I was so intimidated by spices that if I didn’t recognize one or already have it I would deliberately omit it from the recipe. It’s like saying, “I don’t know what interest vs principle means, so I won’t bother trying to figure that out and I’ll just keep paying the minimum payment.” Imagine? Wait, don’t.

This month, I’m going to try to help take the mystery out of some spices that are not only common but should be added to your dishes frequently. Why? Mainly because not only do they add a punch of flavour but they happen to be very good for you!

Spices are great (and important) because they can turn any basic meal from ordinary to extraordinary!

The spices discussed will be: garlic, ginger, coriander, and turmeric. I consider these to be some of the essential spices.

My plan for the month of May is to demystify them by sharing with you some of their benefits and giving you some recipes to incorporate them in.

There are many others that I wanted to discuss but I wanted to start with these since they are on my top 10 list (yes, I actually have a top 10 list and anyone who knew me in my 20s would be shocked that am this in love with cooking and no longer in a passive-agressive realationship with Dominoes pizza!).

Don’t worry, I promise to do another Spice Month soon to discuss the other six spices that I deem essential and/or amazing.

Stay tuned!

First up: Garlic.

PS: Tell us, what is your  favourite spice?

PPS: What spice would you bring with you on a desert island?

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Recipe: Quinoa Patties

Looking for a way to add other grains into your diet? If you’re getting bored of rice, mix things up with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH).

Some quick facts about this super grain:

  • An amino acid-rich protein (a complete protein suitable for vegans) considered to be a grain but actually part of the the leafy green family, like spinach or swiss chard (WHO KNEW?)
  • Contains the high levels of the amino lysine, essential for tissue growth and repair. Lysine is also used to treat cold sores.
  • Great source of maganese, magnesium, folate and phosporus making it useful in combatting migrains, diabetes and atherosclerosis

Did you know that you can purchase quinoa all year round? Find it at either at your local health food store or in the health food section of your grocery store.

This week, I wanted to make something different but not too complicated. With a little digging on the interwebs, I found this recipe.

This was simple enough and one of the only quinoa patty recipes I’ve found that doesn’t require me to purchase a dehydrator (more on that later).

*** I made mine bite sized. Though it took a little bit more time to cook, it was TOTALLY worth it.

I really like their ideas on what to pair it with.  Another treat would be goat cheese, with sliced roasted beets on top. Or avocado with a slice of tomato and some salt and pepper. Or, have it with salad and/or soup. That’s usually my fail safe option. Or you can cut up the patty and put directly on your salad or in a pita or tortilla.  I had a couple for breakfast this morning with my Vega shake. So many options!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (organic if possible)
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour (I like to use rice flour)
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying (olive, coconut, saffoil, grapeseed…)
* I also added some chili powder to spice it up a bit. Feel free to add any spices that you prefer!

Method

Simmer the quinoa in the water for approximately 15 minutes. By then , the liquid should be absorbed and the quinoa should be tender. When it has finsihed cooking, let it cool for a bit.

Mix the cooked quinoa with the eggs, onion, garlic, flour, parmesan, salt and pepper, adding more flour if required.

Here's the quinoa mixed with all of the ingredients.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

Spoon the mixture into the pan and form patties of any size that you desire and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.

The bite sized patties frying in the pan...they smelled SO good!

Set aside on paper towels to drain.

The first few that I made...I must have ate about 5 of them, you know...to make sure they came out alright 😉

 
 
 
 
Here they are, the finished product, served on top of my spinach salad!
 
 
 
 
 

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Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Enjoy!

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Tell us, how do you prepare your quinoa? What is your favourite dish?

Up next…spicing it up with spices!

Recipe: Veggie Stir Fry with Whole Grain Rice

In keeping with my theme of Whole Grains, I’ve decided to share a simple recipe for a veggie stir fry. Stir fries have been featured quite a bit on this blog mainly because they are so easy to make and … Continue reading

Benefits of Whole Grains

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably overwhelmed with information and choices about what to put into your body. There is a lot to consider from nutritional benefits, to taste, to cost and to the effects it will have on your body.

Then there are those fad diets and extreme diets urging you to eliminate foods from your diet, not just harmful foods but nutritious foods. How does that make any sense? I’ve successfully lost more than 20 pounds and have kept it off for a year by simply eliminating foods that are harmful to me  (refined sugars, processed foods, coffee, wheat and dairy).  But that’s me 🙂 You have to find what works for you. I’m hoping that some of this information will help take some of the guesswork out of choosing healthy grains and alternatives to wheat.

So let’s jump in!

What is a whole grain?

According to WebMD, “A whole grain contains all edible parts of the grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. The whole grain may be used intact or recombined, as long as all components are present in natural proportions.”

A grain is considered whole when it is comprised of 3 parts: Bran, Germ and Endosperm.

According to HealthCastle.com, “…whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber, as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables. Most of the antioxidants and vitaminsare found in the germ and the bran of a grain.”

Wheatfreefood.com illustrates this best:

“To visualize a whole grain’s structure, think of an egg. The bran in a whole grain is akin to the shell of an egg, it is the protective outer coat. The germ is within the bran similar to the white of an egg. And the endosperm is the innermost part of a whole grain much like a yolk sits in an egg.”

So, what’s the difference between WHOLE grains and REFINED grains?

“Refined grains have their bran, germ, and most of the vitamins and nutrients removed during processing. The only part that remains is the starchy endosperm. This is why refined grains have more of an impact on raising blood sugar levels and thus have a higher glycemic index. Whole grains as mentioned earlier, contain the endosperm but also contain the germ and the bran. The bran provides abundant fiber which helps with satiety and slows down absorption keeping blood sugar levels happy, making whole grains a very good source of nutrition.”

Other reasons they are FANTASMIC?

Because whole grains are high in fiber, they aid in the following:

  • Lowering risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood coagulation.
  • Helping to regulate blood glucose (especially those with diabetes)
  • Contributing to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.  Some studies have also shown that people who consume more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who consumed less whole grain products.

It is recommended that women get at least 25g of fiber a day and men should get at least 35g of fiber a day. This shouldn’t be too hard to achieve since each serving of whole grains yield from 1 to 4 g of fiber per serving, comparable to fruit and vegetables. If you have balanced meals and snacks throughout the day, it should be manageable.

What are the options?

  •     Whole oats/oatmeal
  •     Popcorn
  •     Brown rice
  •     Whole rye
  •     Whole-grain barley
  •     Wild rice
  •     Buckwheat
  •     Triticale
  •     Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  •     Millet
  •     Quinoa
  •     Sorghum
  •     100% whole wheat flour

How do we incorporate into our diet?

Choose whole-grain breads (like Ezekiel), cereals, bagels and crackers.  Be sure to read the ingredients on the package to ensure that there is very little sugar, in fact, there shouldn’t be any sugar in the mix if it’s whole grain. And make sure that all the ingredients are from REAL food – nothing you don’t understand or cannot pronounce. The simpler, the better!

Here are some quick suggestions:

  • Sandwiches with whole grain breads (like Ezekiel).
  • Whole oats in the morning
  • Snacks including whole grain crackers or make your own trail mix with whole oats
  • Use rice and quinoa when making your meals, rather than white rice or white pasta

So readers, I’d love to hear from you: How will you incorporate whole grains into your diet?

Stay tuned for a few recipes involving whole grain rice and quinoa!

Recipe: Rice Pasta with Goat Cheese and Broccoli

The final Product!

One of the things that I had time giving up, and this may sound disgusting to some, was the Canadian classic, Kraft Dinner. Even just talking about it makes me want to bust open a pack of KD and throw in some butter, some whole milk and then, after it’s been cooked and that powdery “cheese” goodness has been lovingly mixed in with those enriched yet bleached wheat noodles, I’d drench it in ketchup (and maybe add some hot dogs to it).

Now that I know better – that sounds like a recipe for disaster – even though my stomach is growling at the thought.

I’ve had to come up with other creative ways to include my love for pasta and my love for gooey cheese in a nutritious dish.

This, my friends, has become an oldy but a goody!

NOTE: If you don’t like broccoli, I won’t hold it against it you. You can always substitute it for spinach or even roasted green or red peppers or even zucchini – actually, any veggie that you think would be delicious. But I wanted to keep this somewhat simple, so I went with broccoli.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of brown rice pasta (spirals, penne, whatever you prefer, just not spaghetti – doesn’t bode well).
  • 1/2 head of broccoli
  • 1/2 of a large portabello mushroom or 3 baby bellas – chopped
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1/3 large red onion – finely chopped
  • 1 cup of goat mozerella cheese – shredded
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp of coriander
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp of 0regano
  • Garlic (2 cloves, minced)

Method:

Boil water and cook the rice pasta. TIP: Add a table spoon of olive oil to the water so that the pasta doesn’t stick together.

While the pasta is cooking, steam the broccoli (should take about 10 to 20 minutes, but keep an eye on it). When it’s tender, it’s ready!

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

In the meantime, in a medium frying pan, heat 1 table spoon of olive oil and add your spices. Let them simmer for about a minute or until fragrant. Then add your onions and stir until they become soft.

Then add the mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and garlic. Let this simmer for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Layer so that the rice pasta goes in first, then the veggies, then the cheese.

When the pasta has finished cooking, drain it and add it to the frying pan. Same goes with the broccoli. TIP: Once the broccoli florets have been steamed, cut them into smaller pieces or in half.

Mix all ingredients together. Let the flavour soak in for a couple minutes then transfer to a medium sized baking dish. Add the shredded goat mozerrella cheese on top and bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese starts bubbling.

Remove from oven and let cool for  a few minutes before serving.

Serves between 2 and 3.  Serve with some chicken or fish and salad or on it’s own – why not?

Cook time: 30 to 40 mins

Enjoy!

Alternatives To Wheat

Be honest…does looking at this painting make you nervous?

VAN GOGH - WHEAT FIELD WITH CYPRESSES

If you’re anything like me and eating wheat is taxing on your body, please know that you may not have to give up foods that you enjoy! Nowadays, with food allergies becoming more prevalent in our Western society, there are more and more alternatives to wheat: brown rice pasta, spelt, quinoa, many varieties of rice, buckwheat and many more.  But even if you’re fine with wheat you need to be aware of the difference between whole wheat and whole grains.

Whole Wheat tends to be a clever marketing gimmick to entice consumers to purchase their bread products. The wheat is still highly processed and stripped of the germ, the bran, and majority of fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Whole Grains still have maintained their nutrients (you should see the seeds and grains in the actual bread). One brand that I love, and they make sprouted grains (a more natural occuring form of seeds and much easier to digest) is Ezekiel. This can be found in your frozen food section in your grocery store.

How do you know if you have developed a sensitivity to wheat?

Symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Gas, cramps, or bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Irritability or nervousness

What’s the big deal?

By continuing to consume foods that you are sensitive to, not only do you suffer some of these symptoms (how fun is that?) but your body will become inflamed and you will have trouble losing weight and over a long period of time, you could develop some serious health complications.

This is a great article that explains why inflamtion is your worst enemy.

The Solution.

You can avoid inflamation by eating foods that are clean and non-toxic (no preservatives, no sugar) and avoid foods that are harmful to your immune system – that means pinpointing foods that trigger reactions and eliminating them and avoiding other foods that contribute to the breakdown of your boday.

Please note that I’m not saying that wheat is terrible – what I am saying is that if you notice your body reacting negatively when you consume wheat, please do not ignore it! If you don’t notice any reaction, then nevermind 🙂

For those that cannot consume wheat, stay tuned for some recipes to help inspire your cooking!