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Week of January 27, 2008

Grow Your Own Sprouts

I love all kinds of sprouts, but it seems like when I decide I want to buy at my local grocery, they are slightly wilted and have seen better days. So I thought how hard could it be to grow my own?

As it turns out . . . it is really pretty simple.

All you need is a mason jar ( with the ring portion of the lid only) or any other jar and a rubber band, a piece of cheesecloth or other breathable fabric, and the seeds, beans, grains, or nuts you wish to sprout. Seeds used for sprouting can be found at some grocery stores or health food store, or from an online retailer. (just Google "sprouting seed retailers".

Some of the most popular plants to sprout include: Alfalfa, Broccoli, Mung Bean, Mustard Seed, Radish, Sunflower Seeds and Wheat.

Pour a thin layer your choice of sprout-able into the jar, and cover with several inches of warm water. Cover the mouth of the jar with the cheesecloth and screw the ring from the lid over the fabric. If you're using something other than a mason jar, use the rubber band to seal the cloth over the opening of the jar. Let the seeds soak overnight (or up to 24 hours for large beans, garbanzos, and nuts).

In the morning, turn the jar over the sink, letting all of the water drain off. Then fill the jar with fresh water and immediately re-strain, giving the jar a good shake to get as much water out as possible. Repeat the adding water/straining process each morning and evening for the next 4 to 6 days, or until the sprouts have reached the stage at which you'd like to eat them (generally 1/2 to 3 inches). Then rinse them one last time, shake out as much water as possible, and enjoy!

NOTE: If you start batches of sprouts in three-day intervals, you'll have a ready supply of nutrious sprouts always on hand.

Store the sprouts in their jar in the refrigerator, and bear in mind that sprouts perish rather quickly and need to be eaten within a week.


Week of January 20, 2008

Sugar Substitutes

So you want to lower your sugar intake. That's a good idea. But if you want to use a sugar substitute, which one should you choose.

There are several sugar substitutes on the market and the best one to use is really a personal preference. However, when cooking, we have found that some types of sweeteners work better in cooking than others.

Here are the ones that work best:

  • Splenda - a "measures like sugar" calorie-free sweetner
  • Equal - a calorie-free sweetner with aspartame
  • Equal Spoonful - a "measures like sugar" calorie-free sweetener with aspartame
  • Brown Sugar Twin - a "measures like sugar" brown sugar calorie-free sweetner

Here are some of the more common brands of "measure like sugar" sweetners that you will find in your grocery store:

  • Splenda - contains sucralose, a modified sugar molecule that is not absorbed by the body, no aftertaste and is heat stable (1/2 cup of sweetener = 1/2 cup of sugar)
  • Equal Spoonful - contains aspartame, has no aftertaste, but loses some sweetness in high heat (1/2 cup of sweetener = 1/2 cup of sugar)
  • Sugar Twin - contains saccharin, has some aftertaste and is heat stable (1/2 cup of sweetener = 1/2 cup of sugar)
  • DiabetiSweet - contains a combination of acesulfame-K (Sunette) and isomalt, has no aftertaste, looks like sugar and is heat stable (1/2 cup of sweetener = 1/2 cup of sugar)
For concentrated forms of sweeteners that come in packets, you will find these brands:
  • Equal Packets - contains aspartame, no aftertaste, comes in bulk form or single packets. Equal loses some sweetness in high heat. (Bulk - 3 1/2 teaspoons = 1/2 cup sugar) (Packets - 12 packets = 1/2 cup sugar)
  • Sweet 'N Low - contains saccharin; some aftertaste; available in bulk form or in packets, heat stable (Bulk - 1 tablespoon - 1/2 cup sugar) (Packets - 12 packets = 1/2 cup sugar)
  • Sweet One - contains acesulfame-K (Sunette), no aftertaste, heat stable (12 packets = 1/2 cup sugar)

Liquid sugar substitues that are available include

  • Sweet 'N Low - contains saccharin, some aftertaste, heat stable (1 tablespoon = 1/2 cup sugar)
  • Sweet-10 - contains saccharin, some aftertaste, heat stable ( 1 tablespoon = 1/2 cupsugar)
In addition to the above calorie free sweeteners, you will find these sweetening alteratives as well.
  • Equal Sugar Lite: This is a new product that is a blend of sugar and calorie-free sweeteners. It has half the calories and half the carbohydrates of regular sugar and can be easily substituted that call for sugar. It bakes, browns and provides the needed volume to baked goods. (Use cup for cup like sugar)
  • Stevia - This is an herbal sweetener that comes from the stevia plant. It is said to be 100 to 300 times sweeter than granulated sugar. You can find stevia at most health food stores in bulk powdered form, liquid extract or in single serving packets. It has no calories or carbohydrates.
  • Fructose - Fructose is fruit sugar and is found naturally in fruits and fruit juices. Fructose is actually not better or worse than sucrose (table sugar). They are both simple sugars and broken down by the body in the same way. Fructose is 1 and a half times sweeter than sucrose, so you use slightly less for the same sweetening effect.

Week of January 13, 2008

How to Make Your Own Herbal Vinegars

Herbal vinegars can add extra flavor to your foods.

Use a cider or wine vinegar as a base. Bruise the freshly picked, cleaned herbs and lossely filla clean jar. Pour on warmed but nothot vinegar to fill the jar and cap with an acid-proof lid. Set in a sunny window and shake daily for 2 weeks. Test for flavor; if a stronger tast is required, strain the vinegar and repeat with fresh herbs. Store as it is or strain through cheesecloth and rebottle. Add a fresh sprig to the bottle for identification and visual appeal. Use in salad dressings, marinades, gravies and sauces.

Tarragon Vinegar
Follow the above instructions and add a sliced clove of garlic to the steeping tarragon and vinegar. Remove the garlic after one day and replace with 2 cloves for the remaining 2 weeks. Strain and bottle.

Blended Vinegars
Other nice savory flavors may be created using combinations of herbs.

Try the following:

  • 1 part tarragon to 2 parts lemon balm
  • 1 part basil to 2 parts salad burnett
  • 1 part each of tarragon, basil, chives and 2 parts each of lemon thyme and salad burnet and 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 part each crushed seed of anise, caraway, celery, coriander, cumin, dill, salad burnet and 1 clove garlic.

Week of January 6, 2008

Ways to Cut Back on Sodium

Want to shake the salt habit? Here are a few ways that may help you gradually decrease your usage.

  • Cut back gradually, so that your taste buds have time to adjust to the change.
  • Avoid high sodium flavor enhancers like garlic salt, celery salt, onion salt, MSG, etc. Enhance flavor with plain garlic powder, onion powder, etc.
  • Do not add salt while you are cooking. Instead, use spices, herbs and citrus zests.
  • High sodium foods don't always taste salty. So READ the labels. Avoid products with more than 15 percent daily value for sodium. (The % Daily Values give you a general idea of how one serving contributes nutritionally to a 2,000 calorie diet. Look on the right hand column of the Nutrition Facts label for the % Daily Value numbers.)
  • Limit your intake of cheese and processed meats.
  • Limit intake of condiments such as soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, pickles and olives.
  • Choose low-salt or salt free crackers, chips and snack foods.
  • Choose no-salt added or low sodium versions of canned soups and canned vegetables. Canned soups and broths are notoriously high in sodium.

You might want to try making your own broths / stock for soups and flavoring. Note the sodium levels below for homemade stock versus purchased broth. As you can see, there is not as much difference in the calories or fat, but a great difference in the sodium.

Based on quantities of 1 cup.

Here's how homemade and commercial stocks and broths compare nutritionally.

Ingredient (1 cup)
Calories
Fat
Sodium
Homemade beef stock
8
0.3g
9mg
Regular commercial beef stock
15
1g
890mg
*Less-sodium beef broth
15
1g
440mg
Homemade white chicken stock
28
0.8g
18mg
Regular commercial chicken stock
10
0.5g
960mg
*Fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
15
0g
570mg
Homemade vegetable stock
8
0.1g
2mg
*Less-sodium vegetable broth
15
0g
570mg


Complex flavor in fine Balsamic Vinegar comes from this long and exacting aging. A variety of woods are used including durmast, chestnut, ash, cherry and mulberry. Balsamic vinegar makers keep a secret art in the matching and blending of resinous aromatic wood staves. One taste of a truly fine Balsamic will make clear why it is worth all the effort. Balsamic Vinegar is truly in a class apart from other vinegars. Unlike the sharp tastes we usually associate with vinegar, the balsamics present a rich dark complex of sweetness and intrigue.

After having said all of this, let us return to the supermarket shelf where a full two-thirds of the brands are "imitation" balsamic vinegars that have nothing in common with the traditional balsamic vinegar. These are basically wine vinegar with added sugar and artificial flavors and colors.

Again, your best guides will be your own taste and budget. But generally speaking, a fine "tradizionale", to use sparingly, is wonderful to have on hand for special presentations, while a good quality "condimento" is excellent for every day use.

Week of January 01, 2010

Creeping Weight Gain

As January approaches, most of us once again think of New Year's resolutions if you have gained weight in the last year. As most of us grow older and our metabolic rates drop, the pounds tend to creep up on us. Before you know it, you have to buy new clothes to fit your expanding measurements.
You wonder how you could have gained another five pounds this year. You think to yourself that "I don't eat that much that is bad for me". OK, all right, you do grab a pat of butter here, a little extra mayonnaise there, a little half-and-half in your coffee . . . what can it hurt? It is such a very small amount!
Yes it may be tiny, but consistent indiscretions do finally add up. If you drink two and one half tablespoons of half-and-half distributed among your 2 or 3 cups of coffee each day, you add 50 fat laden calories a day. That does not sound like much until you realize that those 50 extra calories have blossomed into 5 extra pounds at the end of one year.

Do the math: 50 calories x 375 days in a year = 18,750 calories.

3500 excess calories are necessary to gain one pound.

18,750 divided by 3500 = 5.2 pounds.

Take a look at those consistent things that you are ingesting each and every day that adds unwanted fat and calories to your diet. Replace the half-and-half with fat free half-and-half or use 1% milk. Instead of the pat of butter on your toast, try using spreadable fruit or sugar free jam or marmalade only. Replace the mayonnaise with low fat mayonnaise or use mustard or honey mustard.
After you take a close but really honest look at what you consistently eat every day, you probably won't have to wonder where those extra fifteen pounds you have gained over the last few years have come from.


Before you begin any exercise or diet program, you should have permission from your doctor.
Contents in this web site are in no way intended as a substitute for medical counsel .

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