Monthly Archives: June 2012

Vegan Gourmand Macaroni & Cheese

This is my go to mac & cheese recipe to share whenever someone says “I could never give up cheese”.

I know that this is still not the healthiest of recipes. But I post this recipe because it can help someone who is transitioning their diet to a more healthful one.

This recipe for mac & cheese is still light years healthier than the real thing and is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. I have tested it out on meat and cheese eaters and they could not tell the difference and many have said they liked it better than the real thing.

Enjoy!

Servings: 6

Ingredients: 

8 ounces uncooked regular elbow macaroni pasta

3 cups Daiya vegan cheddar style shreds

3 tablespoons vegan butter (I use Earth Balance brand)

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (I use Silk brand)

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Italian flavor)

¼ cup of vegan butter melted (I use Earth Balance brand)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard

 Instructions: 

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain thoroughly when done. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare the cheese sauce while oven is warming. In a small pot melt the 3 tablespoons of vegan butter. When melted, add the pepper, nutritional yeast, Garlic, Onion, Mustard & salt

Stir in the almond milk. Add the cheddar, and cook over low/medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, continually stirring until smooth and creamy. Stir into the macaroni and mix together.

Transfer to an 8×8 casserole dish. Mix the ¼ cup of melted vegan butter with the bread crumbs mix until completely combined and top mac & cheese. Bake for 20 minutes uncovered, or until the cheese is bubbling and top is starting to brown.

Remove from oven and serve.

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Herbal Tea for Health and Enjoyment

Are you trying to get off the caffeine train that keeps on going around and around? Well your stop is coming up.

Herbal tea is not for grandma and grandpa or the hippy girl anymore.

Herbal tea has experienced a huge interest and people are really starting to discover, more than ever, the seemingly endless rainbow of flavors that can be created. The flavors range from mild mellow ebbing flavors to knock you off your feet bold complex flavors. They are also finding out that herbal teas are healthful and even healing.

Herbal tea is not really tea at all. It is technically an herbal infusion.

Herbal infusions look like tea and are brewed in boiling water like tea – yet they do not come from the Camellia Sinensis bush, the plant from which all real teas are made.

Instead, tisanes are made from carefully planned and measured mixtures of botanicals to get the flavors that are desired.

An herbal infusion or “Tea” may contain dried flowers, leaves, pieces of dried fruit and/or its rind, roots, spices, nuts, barks, seeds or other botanicals that give them their taste as well as many health benefits.

Here are some of the claimed benefits you can experience from drinking herbal teas.

Calms anxiety

Support of your heart health

Helps reduce cholesterol and weight

Helps with calming stomach and digestive problems

Treats cold and flu symptoms

Provide cleansing properties for the body

Promotes healthy sleep

Promotes energy

Antimicrobial

Antiviral activities

Strong antioxidant

Anti-tumor action

Anti-allergy

Relieve the symptoms of abdominal gas and bloating

Curb nausea, vomiting or upset stomach due to motion sickness

Gentle liver cleansers

Sources of vitamin C

Relieve headaches

A tea that has been touted as having huge health benefits is Rooibos or red bush tea as it is also known by.

Rooibos tea is my favorite of all herbal teas. What I like about it is it tastes very close to Chinese tea but without any acidy finish that you sometimes can have with regular teas, it is a very smooth tea. It is caffeine free and of course I love the health benefits.

Rooibos is an Afrikaans word, that means “red bush” and it only grows in South Africa’s Western Cape Province and is naturally caffeine-free.

Rooibos tea is made from the leaves of the Aspalathus Linearis bush.

The teas history started in the Cederberg region of South Africa. The indigenous bushman of the area used the leaves of the plant for many centuries. The leaves were used as herbal remedies for many ailments, and was enjoyed for its taste.

The health benefits of rooibos tea are many, but most believe that the biggest health benefits come from the extremely high levels of antioxidants that it contains, antioxidants are powerful substances that fight free radicals in the bloodstream.

Here are some of the benefits of rooibos tea:

  • Protection against cancer – The antioxidants in rooibos tea have been shown to increase the productivity of carcinogen-detoxifying enzymes, as well as protecting cell proteins, cell fats, and DNA.
  • Improvement of immune system – Rooibos tea’s effective combination of antioxidants and important minerals gives your immune system a boost.
  • Reduction of insomnia, tension, headaches and irritability – A tea with no caffeine, rooibos drinkers have found that enjoying a cup before bed has helped to relax them and relieve any tension to allow for a great night of sleep. By helping to normalize tea drinkers’ sleep habits, rooibos often reduces headaches and irritability.
  • Stronger bones and teeth – With high levels of antioxidants and minerals like manganese, fluoride and calcium, rooibos tea promotes good bone growth, and helps to keep teeth strong.
  • Relief from colic and stomach cramps – Rooibos tea is sometimes called “the mother’s miracle” because its antioxidants makes the tea an anti-spasmodic agent, which relieves stomach cramps and lessens colic in infants. Just mix this natural, decaffeinated beverage with milk and your baby will soon stop suffering from stomach pain and sleep easily.

I drink both loose tea and tea bag teas. A few of my favorite tea bag teas are: Orange Cinnamon Spice (made with Rooibos) by Twinings of London, Safari Spice (made with Rooibos) by Celestial Seasonings and Lemon Ginger by Stash Tea. I also drink Sleepy Time and Tension Tamer by Celestial Seasonings. Also plain Rooibos tea by Freshpak

A few of my favorite loose teas are: Rooibos Mango by Adagio Teas, Rooibos Tropics by Adagio Teas and Rooibos Bangkok Lemongrass by Teavana (I can’t find online. I bought it from their store in the mall.) The Mango and Triopics teas make excellent ice tea.

Note: All Rooibos teas make excellent ice tea as well. I drink them all summer.

To prepare herbal teas you use hot water like most other teas but depending on the type of herbal tea depends on how hot the water should be for optimal infusion. (I use filtered water)

For straight up Rooibos tea, which is a very hardy tea. It can be infused with boiling water and steeped for 5-6 minutes.

For most other herbal teas or Rooibos tea with added herbs for which there are so many different tea blends, there is no way to give any temperature or steeping guidelines with any accuracy. But most can be infused with water at 208 deg. F and then steeped for 5-6 minutes. You will have to experiment to find the perfect temperature and steeping time for each type of herbed tea you have and for your tastes.

Any tea, is most of the time always infused with water between 175 deg. F and Boiling depending on the type.

I challenge you to experiment with herbal teas of all kinds and let me know what you have found and your favorite of the week. I say that because I am sure you will end up having many favorite teas the longer you continue to try new flavors.

“If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you” – Author Unknown

Happy steeping!

Philippine Brand – Dried Young Coconut

I like coconut. But I don’t normally love coconut. In this case though I am truly twitterpated. (twitterpated: An enjoyable disorder characterized by feelings of excitement, anticipation, high hopes, recent memories of interludes, giddiness, and physical over stimulation which occur simultaneously when experiencing a new love.)

I don’t believe that this is a new product, although it is new to me and I have not seen it in the stores up until just weeks ago. I purchased my 18oz bag at Costco for $8.99 and could not wait to try some so as the door closed on my car in the Costco parking lot the bag of Philippine Brand Dried Young Coconut opened. (It is selling online for $19.99 to $28.99 a 18 oz bag) Can you say rip off?

The coconut is cut into little hunks lightly sugared and then dried but not dried so much that they are rock hard. I expected a tough tasteless experience but I found to my pleasure quite the opposite. The pieces are tender and slightly sweet with a great coconut flavor. The first few were ok, but as I ate a few more they became addicting. Oh they are good!

If I did not consciously stop myself from taking another piece I could have eaten half the bag. Both flavor and texture are great.

Let’s talk a little about nutrition a bit. Coconut in general is a healthy food. Coconut is highly nutritious and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is called a functional food because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional value.

Here is a link to the nutritional profile of raw, unsweetened coconut.

So let’s read the nutritional facts provided on the bag.

So as you can see it is really an unexciting label except for the out of this world high fiber content and a high sugar content.

My recommendation because of the high sugar content is that you eat it in small quantities and only for a treat such as desert or grab a handful as you head out the door, leaving the bag at home.

It would also be a great addition to home made trail mix if you are a hiker or camper. I enjoy this product and will buy it again.

Coffee, Caffeine & Your Health

Coffee has become almost an American icon, and has definitely become one in cities such as Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.

I just love the taste of a cup of coffee or a frothy sweet latte. I can almost taste the tall soy, decaf, white chocolate mocha, no whip latte kissing my lips. Man those Italians sure knew how to kick up that coffee bean to the next level.

And I do indulge in a cup once in a while. But I only do so as a treat. I might have a cup of coffee or a latte once every two to three months on an average.

Now the information about the health hazards or the benefits of drinking coffee varies greatly. Depending on the study and who is doing the study. There are some recent studies that suggests that coffee is good for you. Here is a link to WebMD’s article “Say it’s so, Joe: The potential health benefits — and drawbacks –- of coffee.” Here is a link to a Huffington post article “7 Health Benefits of Coffee” It looks as though there might be some health benefits in drinking coffee. But read these articles carefully and decide for your own health which way the scale tips.

At the least I believe that caffeine is an addictive drug that can lead to many unhealthy health conditions and I believe that coffee and caffeine are not good for your health as a whole.

I have done some research and found that if these studies are correct and you were to weigh them on a scale, the unhealthy attributes hugely outweigh the positive. And certainly this article nor the WebMD’s or Huffington Post’s articles are exhaustive on this subject and there is much more to be studied and said regarding coffee and health.

You be the judge, here is some of the evidence on Coffee. (these are older studies)

A dose of 500-600 MG (5-6 six ounce cups) of caffeine a day presents a significant health risk.
British Journal of Addiction 78:251-258, 1988

If you drink 3 cups a day, you triple your risk of getting pancreatic cancer. (1)

If you drink 2 cups a day, you double the risk of getting fatal bladder cancer. (2)
If you drink 2 cups a day, you raise your risk of getting colon cancer 250%. (3)
If you drink 3 cups a day, you raise your risk of getting fibrocystic disease. (4)
If you drink 3 cups a day, you increase breast cancer risk.(4)
If you drink 2 cups a day, you increase ovarian cancer risk. (5)
If you drink 1 cup a day, you double female bladder cancer risk. (6)
1: NEJM 304:630-633, 1981      2 : AMJ of Pub. Health 820-823, 1984      3: Family Pract. News 116(18), 1986 4: Surgery 86:105-109, 1979       5: Int’l J of Cancer 28(6)691-693, 1981     6: Medical World News 63-73, 1/26/76

Caffeine and Iron Absorption

A cup of coffee reduces iron absorption by 39%, and a cup of tea leaf tea will reduce it by 64%.
Drip coffee will lower iron absorption by 72%, and if you double the coffee’s strength it will reduce it by 91%! While good old orange juice with its vitamin C may increase iron absorption in a meal by 250%!
AMJ of Clinical Nurtr. 37:416-420, 1983      AMJ of Nurtr. 32:2484-2489, 1979

Caffeine and Heart Disease

Caffeine can increase the heart rate. (1)
Caffeine can cause frequent, irregular beats. (1)
Caffeine can raise blood cholesterol. (2)
Caffeine can accelerate blood clotting, leading to heart attack.(3)
Five cups of coffee a day may increase heart disease risk by 300%. (4)
1:Primary Cardiology 10/84 104-110      2: AMJ of Epidemiology 128:124-136, 1988
3: Biochemical Journal 109(5)841-849    4: NEJM 315(6)977-982, 1986

Caffeine and High Blood Pressure

It can make the antihypertensive medication ineffective because it raises blood pressure. (1)
Two to three cups of coffee raises diastolic BP for 3 hours. (2)
Two cups a day can raise BP 20%. (3)
(1) Psychosomatic Medicine 45:447-451, 1983      (2) AMJ of Hypertension 7:755-758, 1994      (3) Psychosomatic Medicine 52:320-336, 1990

Here is a link to an article “The hidden dangers of caffeine: How coffee causes exhaustion, fatigue and addiction

But What about Decaf?

Well you might say “I’ll just drink de-caffeinated coffee.” But decaf is not the answer either. Even decaffeinated coffee has hundreds of chemicals that are harmful to the human body and are related to either cancer or heart disease. Remember whether you’re drinking decaffeinated or regular coffee, one cup a day raises the risk of bladder cancer by three times.

Chart of caffeine content in foods

SIDE BAR: Diet and Cancer

     Few people realize that one third of all cancers of the human body occur within the stomach. And that one half of all cancers are found in the organs of the digestion, including the liver, pancreas, small intestine and the colon. By abstaining from smoking, alcohol, and other damaging chemicals you will feel better and quite possibly keep from getting cancer, having a heart attack or some other horrible disease. A matter of fact the odds are for you. Studies from the American Institute for Cancer Research show how your diet is directly related to cancer. In the article “The Diet and Cancer Link” they state that there is almost 1.4 million new cancers cases in the U.S. each year, and more than 500,000 deaths from this disease.

They also state in one of their articles “Reducing Your Cancer Risk” “It’s estimated that 60% to 70% of cancers in the U.S. could be prevented through healthy diets, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking.” This article tells you how to reduce your cancer risk. Two of the recommendations are 1. “Choose a diet rich in a variety of plant based foods” 2. “Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.”

They have also released a diet and cancer report entitled “Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective” The American Heart Association has set Dietary Guidelines for Healthy American Adults,  these are reports and articles worth your time to read and heed! Not only should we watch what we eat but also what we drink. Caffeine and the sugar we drink are two very dangerous chemicals to our bodies. Click here to read any or all of AICR’s articles online.

Coffee Alternatives

So now that I have totally bummed you out about coffee and caffeine let me offer you up some alternatives. Now these are a bit different tasting than coffee but like everything else once you have gotten used to the replacement you will be just fine with it and even crave it. Becoming healthy takes change, time and persistence.

For a healthy alternative to Coffee try either Teeccino herbal coffee, Pero, Postum or Kaffree Roma. And don’t forget herbal teas.

Teeccino

Teeccino Herbal Coffee is the top selling coffee alternative in America. Available in two flavor lines to satisfy the preferences of coffee lovers. Teeccino’s Mediterranean flavors have a rich full-bodied, complex flavor that is slightly sweet and nutty from dates, figs and almonds. Teeccino’s Maya flavors are perfect for the coffee purist who prefers a more intense coffee profile without any sweetness.

Pero

Looking for a natural alternative to coffee and tea? Your search is over. PERO is a 100% natural beverage with a coffee like taste. It’s 100% naturally caffeine free and blended from select all natural ingredients–malted barley, chicory, and rye. And because PERO contains no stimulants, it will not elevate heart rate or blood pressure, cause sleeplessness or create any adverse physical ailments typically associated with caffeine consumption. Plus the low acidity of this natural beverage makes it easy to enjoy morning, noon or night without the fear of stomach upset.

PERO can be mixed with your favorite ingredients to create your own hot drink specialties to relax and enjoy. So, take a break– and make PERO the beverage of choice for you and your family.

Postum is a great hot beverage that is 100% natural and naturally caffeine-free. With a coffee like flavor, its a great alternative to decaf coffee which still contains 7 to 10 percent caffeine. Even back in the 1890’s Postum was used as a coffee substitute to promote a healthier lifestyle.

 Cold Carob/Postum cooler

   When you want a coffee drink or coffee ice cream you can make one of these. Don’t let the ingredients stop you.

 1 Tablespoon carob powder 1 1/2 teaspoons Postum 2 Tablespoons boiling water 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dark molasses 4 oz. cold vanilla soymilk Ice cubes as needed to fill mug. Put the boiling water in the bottom of a large coffee mug. Stir in the carob powder and the Postum. Add the molasses and stir until dissolved. Add the soymilk and ice cubes to fill the mug. Add water if needed. Makes one serving. Optional–I often throw the ice cubes and soy milk in the Vita Mixer to crush the ice and then I mix it all together in a mug.

Kaffree Roma Roasted Grain Beverage

This roasted grain beverage is both delicious and satisfying. Enjoy the taste of coffee without caffeine, tannic acids or coffee beans. Have a cup any place any time, even right before bed time.

To make an espresso drink out of any one of these coffee alternatives just brew it strong like espresso (it does takes a little experimenting to get it the right strength)  and make your drink as you would normally do and enjoy.

Although the science on this subject falls on both sides and is not decisive. I hope this article has been helpful to your journey to health. Please feel free to comment or share a favorite recipe for your coffee alternative.

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