Quick and easy rainbow dinner

An easy dinner for me is a baked potato or jacket potato as we say in England. This might be a sweet potato or a regular potato.  But since we are growing our own potatoes now, I can't say any of our potatoes are "regular". They are way too good for that!

Throw something on top of the potato - and ta da! A quick, easy, healthy dinner.



The other day I made a chopped salad to go on the potato - and by the side of the potato.  It included:

  • cucumber (home grown)
  • yellow heirloom tomato
  • mint (home grown)
  • spring onion
  • sugar snap peas
  • pea shoots
  • chioggia beets (home grown)
  • green figs
  • pomegranate seeds
and then drizzled with pomegranate balsamic vinegar.


It was delicious and so attractive too.  Red, yellow, green, pink, blue, and white. Eating a rainbow a day is important as different phytonutrients are seen in different colored plants, so eating a rainbow of colors ensures that you get a good variety of phytonutrients.

One last thought about my potato. Eating our homegrown potatoes has shown me what a floury potato really is.  I've seen the descriptor in recipes of floury or waxy potatoes - but I've never thought it that obvious.  The white potatoes we are growing are the most floury potatoes I have ever eaten! They really taste of flour!!  Unfortunately I don't know what variety they are as we planted a mix of red white and blues!
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Fig and Broccoli Tartine

One of the dishes we made in our Food as Medicine classes this week was Fig and Broccoli tartine. Tartine is the French word for open faced sandwich. It sounds so much nicer than just "sandwich".



These are lovely - and you can really be creative with your toppings, depending what is in season. I just happened to see some green figs for sale and our fig tree doesn't ripen until the fall, so thought it would be nice to use those - but you could put anything on top of the broccoli.


I don't generally eat a lot of broccoli - no specific reason, just that I don't seem to use it much - but this is a great way to serve raw broccoli and get all the benefits of some good cruciferous vegetables.

Here's the recipe:

Broccoli spread
1 head of broccoli
2 stems of basil
Juice 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
2 garlic cloves
Approx 1/2 cup water
Pepper to taste

Tartine
Artisan 100% whole grain bread, thinly sliced
Fresh figs, sliced

Decorate/garnish: pea shoots, pomegranate seeds
Drizzle:  fig or pomegranate balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses

Combine all the ingredients for the broccoli spread in a blender or food processor with half of the water and puree. Add more water as needed until smooth, stopping and scraping down as necessary.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add more water if it seems dry.
Toast the bread.
Spread the broccoli spread generously on the toast.
Top with figs, pea shoots, pomegranate seeds and drizzle sparingly with balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses.

Instead of the pea shoots, you could try leafy sprouts or thinly sliced radish or anything that makes it look pretty!

As the bread we used was whole wheat, I made my own gluten free tartine using a square quinoa/rice cake - and it looked just as pretty - maybe even prettier, as you can see in the above 2 photos!



Another variation for those with nut allergies is using chickpeas instead of hazelnuts in the broccoli spread. I've made it using one drained can of chickpeas and no nuts.  The spread can also be used as a pesto for pasta or vegetables, by adding a little more water to it.

So get your creative hat on and think about some pretty tartines for summer lunches, or even dinners on hot evenings.
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Happy Valentine's Day

I made some raw sugar free and dairy free chocolates for my sweetheart today.  I hadn't made dairy free white chocolate before...in fact, I've never made any white chocolate before!

Here they are:

Strawberry and White chocolate just poured in the molds

Above shows his box of goodies including the strawberry hearts, strawberry and coconut white chocolate bark, and then the following dark chocolate barks: pomegranate and pink peppercorn; goldenberry; and heart sprinkles.

We are off to see the movie "Amour" for Valentine's day.  Heard such good reviews about it and thought it apropos to see it on Valentine's day.

Hope you have a lovely day ie a day filled with with love.xxx
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Food as Medicine - Pomegranates - Part 3

Have you been out and bought your frozen pomegranate seeds yet or your pomegranate juice or dried seeds?  In the past couple of Food as Medicine posts, I've spoken about pomegranate looking hopeful for use with prostate cancer, and also some dental problems.


Studies show that pomegranate can also help to prevent and reverse atherosclerosis.  One study looked at the carotid artery and found that the group of men drinking pomegranate juice for a year had a 30% decrease in arterial plaque, while those not drinking the juice had a 9% increase.

Doctors in UCSF studied patients with heart disease. Nearly half had suffered heart attacks, most had high blood pressure and nearly all had high cholesterol levels. They were all taking several drugs, including statins, blood thinners and blood pressure medications.  For three months, one group drank 8oz pomegranate juice a day, and the others drank a placebo.  After three months, the group drinking pomegranate juice had a 17% increase in blood flow to the heart while the placebo had a 18% DECREASE.

UCSF researchers also found that episodes of angina decreased 50% in the pomegranate juice drinking group, while increasing 38% in the placebo group.

Pomegranate seems to protect cardiovascular health by augmenting nitric oxide, which supports the functions of endothelial cells that line the arterial walls.  Nitric oxide signals vascular smooth muscle to relax, which increases blood flow through arteries and veins.  Nitric oxide also reduces injury to the vessel walls, which helps prevent the development of atherosclerosis.

These studies definitely look interesting - but as always, please remember that not one thing does it all. If you eat a bad diet and just add pomegranate juice to that, you are not going to get healthy.
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Food as Medicine - Pomegranates - Prostate Cancer - Part 2

Following on from Monday's blog post about pomegranates, today we will look at the effects of pomegranates on prostate cancer.  It's exciting stuff, especially as the last 5 years have seen a great increase in research showing how pomegranates can fight the disease.


Initial animal studies in Germany and the US showed that pomegranate extracts can stop prostate cancer cells from growing and then killed the cells, and also prevented prostate cancer from growing and spreading.

Following on from this, researchers in UCLA gave 8 oz of pomegranate juice a day to men with prostate cancer who had been treated with either radiation or surgery, but still had rising PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels - a biomarker of tumor growth. The study lasted 2 years.

Before treatment, the average PSA doubling time was 15 months.  (Doubling time is how long it takes to for say a PSA of 2 to get to a PSA of 4).  After treatment, the doubling time was 54 months - considerably slower.  85% of patients given the juice responded.

Other tests showed a 12% decrease in growth of cancer cells, a 17% increase in death of cancer cells.

The results suggest that drinking pomegranate juice may be a non-toxic option in slowing prostate carcinogenesis and preventing it.  However, these studies are only preliminary and not large scale (upto Phase II).  We'll have to wait for further studies to see if drinking pomegranate juice alters the course of prostate cancer overall so that men live longer or better.  Phase III trials are currently in progress and some are recruiting.


Further studies are now also being conducted looking at the effect of pomegranate on other types of cancer, including breast, colon, lung, skin, leukemia and more.

References:

Pomegranate Ellagitanins, Heber D. In Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd Edition 2011.  

Specific pomegranate juice components as potential inhibitors of prostate cancer metastasis. Wang L. Ho J, Glackin C, Martins-Green M. Transl Oncol. 2012; 5(5): 344-55


For further references, check PubMed - searching for pomegranate and prostate cancer or pomegranate and cancer
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Food as medicine - Pomegranates - Part 1

Pomegranates are still in season but they are coming to an end.  Buy them while you can, as they are such a wonderful health food.

Their many benefits are too extensive for one blog post, so I'll cover them in a few.


The whole plant seems to practically burst with disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols - from the seed, pulp, skin, root, flower and even the bark of the tree.  In fact, pomegranate seed extracts and juice have two to three times the anti-oxidant activity of red wine and green tea.

And while lots of foods have high levels of polyphenols, what makes pomegranates such superstars is that they are a top source of several varieties of polyphenols, namely flavenoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, punicic acid and many others.  Hundreds of scientific studies confirm these polyphenols can prevent and treat a variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and stroke.  This ties in to the pomegranate being known as "a pharmacy unto itself" in Ayurvedic medicine.


There are several ways to get your pomegranate!

  • You can find fresh whole pomegranates from October - February, and use the seeds - arils
  • You can purchase the seeds frozen throughout the year
  • You can drink pomegranate juice 
  • You can buy dried seeds which are called ANARDANA - they can be used dried or soaked in water before use to plump them up
  • You can buy  pomegranate "spice" which is ground up dried seeds, again called ground anardana
  • You can buy pomegranate molasses

Anardana is used a lot in India - both whole and ground in curries, chutneys and as fillings for savory snacks such as pakoras and in flatbreads like parathas.


Pomegranate molasses is popular in the Middle East.  It is made by crushing the seeds into juice and cooking it until it reaches an almost black, thick molasses-like texture.  The molasses have a berry like taste with a citrus tang.  I discovered pomegranate molasses about 9 years ago and love it. If you haven't tried it before, make this your new food of the week. I frequently use it to make a salad dressing, or drizzle it on a savory or sweet dish. I also use it instead of sugar in baking - but it is thick so you have to chose recipes carefully!

Walnut and pomegranate roulade drizzled with pomegranate molasses
(sugar free, gluten free, no added oil)

I sprinkle pomegranate seeds on my oat muesli every morning....in fact, I'm getting worried about my supply running dry as its now February and the season is coming to a close. I guess I'll be using frozen pomegranate seeds instead.

A couple of quick snippets:
DENTAL 

  • researchers found that rinsing the mouth with pomegranate extract reduced bacteria-causing dental plaque 84% MORE than commercial mouthwash
  • researchers in Thailand treated gum disease (periodontal disease) with pomegranate extract and found it decreased gum erosion and plaque
  • a pomegranate formula was found to clear up denture stomatitis, a fungal infection in people wearing dentures.


I'll tell you about other specific health benefits in the next few posts, including pomegranates effects on

  • atheroschlerosis, 
  • diabetes 
  • prostate cancer
  • aging
In the meantime, try to think of ways you can add pomegranate to your diet EVERY day.....on cereal/oatmeal for breakfast, sprinkled on a salad for lunch, drizzled on a whole grain meal for dinner ...

What is your favorite pomegranate dish?

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Light as a feather cake

I made this cake with just three ingredients - and one of them was 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice!



It is lovely: so light as a feather.

It uses just eggs, lemon juice and almonds! How simple is that.

The frosting is pomegranate seeds in a cashew and almond cream.

I think this could be one of the recipes I use for my gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free dessert class coming up in October. I'll tell you more about that as the time gets closer and I've decided what we'll make.

Have a great weekend.  Hope your mood is as light as a feather!
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Pretty in Pink - Rhubarb Smoothie

I was going to make a smoothie yesterday but the only frozen fruit I had was some rhubarb - so I made my first rhubarb smoothie!

And FYI: Did you know that in the US, Rhubarb is considered a fruit, but elsewhere it is considered a vegetable?  A New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used as a fruit in the US, it was to be counted as a fruit for the regulations and duties.  A side effect was the reduction on imported rhubarb tariffs, as tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits.

Pretty in Pink

For most smoothies, I just use fruits and vegetables and nothing else - but the pink of the rhubarb made me want to have this a little creamy.  So I added a carton of Bio-K probiotic - which looks like yogurt, but isn't yogurt - but has 50 billion probiotics in it and is non-dairy and has no sugar. I then also added a product I just found this week - pomegranate powder. It is made from freeze drying pomegranate seeds and then grinding them into a powder.  I adore pomegranates but, sadly, it is no longer their season, so I thought I'd give this a go.


It's a pretty pink powder and considered a superfood.  It has lots of vitamins and minerals, especially high in Vitamin C and potassium.  Potassium is an often overlooked mineral but made more important for us because of the high levels of sodium we consume as salt in our diets.  Practically every packaged food we consume contains high levels of sodium and the balance in our bodies of sodium to potassium is very important.  Potassium is generally inside cells and sodium is generally outside of cells. But when there is an imbalance, sodium goes inside the cells and can affect the reactions in the cell, and ultimately lead to disease.


So reducing salt intake and increasing potassium intake can really help prevent illness and also treat illness.

I don't generally like sweet things but after blending the rhubarb, BioK and pomegranate powder in the blender, with a little water, I realized it needed a little sweetness, so I added a banana.

Now, it is delicious.  The creaminess is very satisfying, - a great way to get a high dose of probiotics - and the sharpness suits my taste perfectly. And the color just makes me happy! I think I'm going to have to get more frozen rhubarb as a staple for my smoothies!

Recipe
1 packet of frozen rhubarb
1 carton of non-dairy Bio-K probiotics
1 tablespoon of pomegranate powder
1 banana
Blend until smooth and enjoy! Makes two 8 oz glasses. 
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