Paleo Diet: Should You Eat Like a Caveman?

Paleo Diet: Should You Eat Like a Caveman?

 

The Paleo diet fascinates me because of its origins. “Eat like a caveman” is the mantra of the proponents. What does this entail? I don’t know; I wasn’t there, but if I were, I would be healthier according to Paleo diet enthusiasts.

The Paleolithic Era

Stone Age man lived approximately 2.5 million years ago, and used tools made of stone, wood, and bone to hunt birds and animals. They actually salvaged dead animals killed by other means to provide for themselves. Hmmm.

History tells us that people who lived in the early Stone Age conducted their lives in a very structured way. Each day, a band of families bonded together to share food that they had hunted and gathered: fish, birds, wild animals, and plants. They ate when they could, which was not always every day. Food was not abundant. It was either feast or famine.

hunter gathererThe Rise of Farming

Ten thousand years ago, farming became a source for food. The newly introduced food products were dairy, legumes, and grain. According to Paleo diet supporters, the human body has not been able to adapt to the addition of these food into their diets. In a nutshell, the Agricultural Revolution harmed our eating habits.

agriculture

What is the Paleo Diet?

Whole foods lie at the center of the paleo diet.  Dieters should fill cupboards and refrigerators with grass-fed meats, vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds. They should eliminate farm-based foods like dairy products, grains, beans, salt, cereals, coffee, alcohol, and processed foods.

According to paleo supporters, our bodies cannot tolerate foods produced through agriculture and manufacturing. They believe that diabetes, cancer, and obesity are the consequence of farming and the industrial revolution. A new system had replaced the hunter-gatherer.

Foods Allowed

You can eat any of the following foods on this diet:

  • Lean meat
  • Fish and seafood
  • Fresh fruit
  • Nuts (no peanuts)
  • Vegetables that have no starch (lettuce, cabbage, spinach, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower).

Compared to the Western diet, the Paleo diet is:

  • Higher in protein (20 – 30%)
  • Lower in carbs and sugar (carbs provided by fruits and veggies)
  • Higher in fat (good fat: olive, coconut, walnut, avocado, flaxseed)
  • Higher in fiber
  • Lower in sodium
  • Less acid
  • Higher in vitamins (C, A, B12)

Important: This diet is NOT appropriate for athletes. Paleo diet does not allow enough carbohydrates to supply adequate energy for the athlete.

Foods Forbidden

Just like in the Garden of Eden, there are forbidden foods on this diet. The apple is not one of them.

The foods a Paleo dieter should never touch are:

  • Gluten (oats, wheat, barley) Remember our post on gluten. Read now.
  • Rice
  • Potatoes and corn
  • Legumes or beans (peanuts, peanut butter, hummus, tofu, or edamame)
  • Dairy (milk, ice cream, cheese, or yogurt)
  • High fat meats (cold cuts, hot dogs, ground meat, and ribs)
  • Sugar (sports drinks, soda, honey, jam, syrup, candy, cake, and cookies)
  • Processed foods (mac and cheese, fries, fruit snacks)
  • Salty foods (soy sauce, crackers, chips, pretzels and other salty snack foods)

Potential Benefits

The Paleo diet has some benefits. The studies related to the diet are inconclusive, but some of the benefits are undeniable. The diet contributes to the following:

  • Stomach health because of the fiber in vegetables and fruits
  • Stable blood glucose levels
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Positive cholesterol levels

People have insisted that this diet makes them feel a lot better and gives them energy.

Problems with the Diet

After researching the diet, we can see the following problems:

  • The food is expensive.
  • There are no portions specified. A dieter can easily overeat. For example, nuts are very caloric.
  • The diet is high in protein but low in carbohydrates, so it is unbalanced. Carbs are a source of energy.
  • What do vegetarians do? The diet provides limited protein sources.

Original Premise

In 1970, Dr. Cordain from Colorado State University revealed his theory that humans should limit foods to what the cavemen ate.

Dr. Cordain’s associates ran a case study and limited the scope to folks with  autoimmune deficiencies.

Case Study

This study followed the eating habits of 56 patients.

Eight subjects had Crohn’s disease and 48 had other autoimmune deficiencies. With Crohn’s the immune system attacks the stomach lining of the patient. This produces many painful and uncomfortable symptoms.

All subjects surrendered their medical records and participated in the diet rules.

The eight with Crohn’s adhered to the diet and gradually their symptoms became less severe, and they all went into remission. One patient had dramatic results. In two years, the symptoms had not returned.

Other diseases like lupus did not have good results. There was no improvement in the symptoms.  Many other studies need to happen for any accurate assessments.

Modified Paleo

The diet has many health drawbacks. Rather than submit completely to the Paleo diet, modify it a bit. You can occasionally add the following foods:

  • Black beans and buckwheat
  • Sweet potato, beets, and turnip
  • Cheese, yogurt, fermented butter

Final Thought

Rather than meat and potatoes, eat lean meat and sweet potatoes. Current studies are proving that the Paleo lifestyle is not for everyone. Athletes and vegetarians should find another eating plan. In a nutshell, dieters need to limit meats and nuts, and eat plenty of veggies and fruit.

Personally, I would not last on this diet. If you don’t mind its limitations, then give it a try. It definitely improves health and wellness. The modified version is a lot more palatable.

Enjoy your food. I think each of us needs to come up with a comfortable healthy plan. If you think this is the plan for you, read some basics to decide. Read now

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Amazon has good books to check out about Paleo. Shop now.

Here is a modified Paleo meal that you can try.

pork dinner paleo
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Pork Loin with Apples

This recipe follows the Paleo diet. Pork pairs very well with apples and in this dish, the flavors blend nicely.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword main dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless pork loin
  • 1 cup of chopped and peeled apples
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • cup chopped and toasted walnuts
  • cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup or raw honey
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. minced parsley
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  • Drizzle the pork loin with olive oil generously and rub it into the pork.
  • Rub the entire loin with the rosemary and parsley.
  • Slice the loin vertically about 1/2 way down.
  • Use a sizeable bowl to combine apples, mushrooms, cranberries, shallots, toasted walnuts, garlic, pepper, salt and the maple syrup or honey.
  • Gently spread the mixture, using a wooden spoon, into the open pork loin.
  • Place it in a roasting pan and oven-cook it for 1 hour in 350 F.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes and serve.

How To Dine Italian and Still Be Gluten-Free

How To Dine Italian and Still Be Gluten-Free

Throughout my life, I am sure I ate more gluten than is healthy. The words “gluten-free” were not in my vocabulary. I remember those peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches every day of my college years. Some Marshmallow Fluff is probably still sticking to my ribs.

I had never heard of celiac disease and could never imagine going through life without pasta, bread, and other foods containing wheat, not to mention a lemon filled donut every now and then.

Now we are in another century where eating gluten-free has become a lifestyle or a necessity.  There is no treatment for celiac disease other than a specific diet. Those who are choosing it as a lifestyle have some healthy guidelines to observe.  Folks who follow the diet claim weight loss, extra energy, and overall well-being.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is found in grains specifically wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (somewhere between wheat and rye).

By the Way: Pure chocolate is gluten-free. Read the label for any chocolate product less than pure. Recall our previous post on chocolate. Read now.

Diseases Associated with Gluten

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. Gluten is the villain because its presence in the body triggers a reaction from the immune system that irritates the lining of the small intestine. After a while, the system becomes unable to absorb nutrients.

Gluten sensitivity causes uncomfortable symptoms (abdominal pain, headache, bloating, diarrhea, foggy brain, rash) but does not damage the tissues of the small intestines.

Gluten ataxia is an autoimmune disorder that causes problems with muscle control.

Wheat allergy prompts the immune system to react to gluten as if it were a disease-causing factor, for example, bacteria or a virus.

How To Tell If a Product Is Gluten Free

Look at the label. The FDA commands labeling products, so if you see the FDA label, it is gluten-free.

Important: If a product has a “Wheat Free” label, that does not mean it is gluten-free.

Check for ingredients like:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Malt
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Oats (unless specifically labeled gluten-free)

These ingredients means the product is NOT gluten-free

Note: Those on a gluten-free diet can have alcohol. Remember to carefully read the labels. These safe alcohol products must carry the gluten-free label. The alcohol products include:

  • Wines fermented from grapes or other fruit
  • Distilled spirits distilled from materials other than gluten

Recipes

The following recipes are completely gluten-free and, I might add, very delicious.

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Chicken with Zoodles - gluten-free

In this versatile recipe, cook the chicken on a grill or sear it in a pan.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword chicken, main dish, zoodles
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 300kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts pound them down.
  • ¼ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 12-ounce package gluten-free spaghetti
  • 3 medium-size zucchini or 1 package zoodles (produce department)
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 dollop honey
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard
  • 2 tbsp. pesto
  • 2 tbsp. sun- dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup Pitted Calamata olives halved
  • Chopped fresh basil

Instructions

  • Place chicken in sealable bag. Make a marinade by combining ¼ cup olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, 1 tsp. prepared mustard, a dollop of honey, juice of 2 lemons in a mixing bowl. Whisk to combine and pour marinade over chicken. Squish it around in the bag every now and then. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil in the water. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving some of the pasta water and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, remove chicken from the marinade.
    If you are grilling, heat grill on high. Place chicken on grill and cook for 7-8 minutes. Flip chicken and cook for another 7-8 minutes, or until completely cooked through.
    OR (I do not own a grill.)
    Cook the chicken breasts in a frying pan (about 6 minutes). It is better if you pound the chicken before you marinate it.
  • Trim the ends of the zucchini and use a spiralizer to create noodles. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to create long ribbons or buy premade zoodles.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a high-rimmed skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini noodles and sauté while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add drained pasta to the skillet and combine. Then add sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and pesto, and stir to combine.
  • Slice chicken into strips and add to the noodles and zoodles mixture. Toss to combine and serve. Garnish with basil leaves.

Notes

As the owner of this website I’ve tracked down some special deals for some of the products mentioned here. When you use the link on this page to make a purchase, I may get a small commission, and you may get a great bargain. It is a win-win all around. Full disclosure.
This dish pairs nicely with Sauvignon Blanc. Best choice - Napa Valley Fume Blanc. 

 

avocado and chickpea salad
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Avocado and Chickpea Salad with Spring Greens and Fresh Mozzarella

The ingredients in this summer salad taste fresh for a lunch or a dinner on a hot day.
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword glutin-free
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Romaine lettuce
  • 1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 avocados diced
  • 1 English cucumber sliced
  • 1/4 cup red onion thinly sliced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes diced
  • 1 cup mozzarella balls
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • In a large serving bowl, combine greens, chickpeas, avocado, cucumber, onion, tomatoes and mozzarella.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, create the dressing. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice and oregano.
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

 

gluten-free biscotti
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Gluten-free Italian Biscotti

This recipe is gluten free and yummy.
Calories 140kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups organic gluten free flour blend
  • 1 1/2 tsp double acting baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp extra fine pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 cup unrefined coconut sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup roasted & chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 3 large pasture raised eggs
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil or oil of choice
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract; Omit and use extract of choice or 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp zest of lemon or orange

Instructions

  • Bring eggs to room temperature
  • Toast nuts & cool. Bake in a single layer on a baking sheet at 325 F 10-15 minutes.
  • Roughly chop nuts to desired size.
  • Zest a lemon
  • Move oven rack to center
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Place unbleached parchment on baking sheet and grease/spray lightly.
  • Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.
  • Whisk in nuts and dried cranberries . Set aside.
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, extracts and zest.
  • Add flour mixture to wet mixture and thoroughly combine with a heavy spoon.
  • Scoop out the dough into two even logs on a parchment lined baking sheet. Shape dough with wet hands into two smooth logs. Leave about 4 inches between each log, and keep the height of each log at about 1.5″.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool the entire pan on a cooling rack for 30 min to 1 hour.
  • Move logs, one at a time, to a cutting board. Cut cookies at an angle or straight, 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick.
    Note: Take care to use a side to side rocking motion with the knife to make the job easier with less crumbling.
  • Remove from oven and cool on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack until fully cooled. Cookies stay delicious when stored for several days on the counter or frozen for up to a month.

Final Thought

I did live gluten-free for a while. It is a commitment because you must stock your pantry with gluten-free ingredients.

If it is a necessity due to health concerns, gluten-free is a great eating plan. The food is tasty and the sacrifices are minimal. Here is a list of naturally gluten-free foods. Read now.

3 Simple Escarole Dishes that Make You Want More

3 Simple Escarole Dishes that Make You Want More

Escarole meals were frequent in Dot’s kitchen. Mom took advantage of its versatility to create a variety of recipes.

Personally, I love escarole. I cannot understand the often-utilized description of this green vegetable as “bitter”. I remember eating it many times in childhood dinners and thought it tasted sweet. We’ll refer to its flavor as “pleasant bitterness” and leave it at that.

What Is Escarole?

The vegetable in question is a member of the chicory family and can be identified by its wide green leaf with slightly jagged edges. Look for it in the produce department along with the kale and lettuce. Pick it up, throw it in your cart, and give it a try.

escarole

As you probably have guessed by now, the Sicilians have multiple methods of cooking it. Let’s explore this nutritious vegetable and discover what makes it so popular.

Much Nutrition, Few Calories

Every two cups of raw escarole have only 15 calories and 0 fat, and it is pretty filling.  Its important nutrients are:

  • Fiber – helps the digestive system.
  • Folate – supports metabolism and red and white blood cells.
  • Copper – supports bones, connective tissue, and red blood cell formation.
  • Vitamin A – reduces the risk of cancer and osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin K – helps in blood clotting,

Important: People taking blood thinners should limit the amount of escarole they consume because Vitamin K does not interact well with blood thinners.

Additionally, escarole helps retard inflammation, boost eye health, and promote digestive well-being.

Choice and Preparation

Choose the vegetable on the basis of its green leaves and crisp-looking exterior. No blemishes or yellow spots should be visible on the bunch. Leaves must be firm.

If you are not using it immediately, wash it and wrap it in damp paper towels. It will last for about 4 days in the fridge.

To begin its preparation, cut off the bottom, and get rid of the outside leaves. Most importantly, wash it thoroughly. I actually take it apart leaf by leaf to wash it. Some chefs find it easier to cut it up before immersing in water. Take your pick.

Put it in a large pot of water to soak. Examine the water carefully to check for grit. Actually, I soak it twice and recommend doing that. Many sources tell us to keep the outside leaves, but frankly, I find them really bitter so I toss them.

Versatility

There are so many appetizing ideas for escarole.

You can chop it and use it with salad ingredients. It holds up well with any kind of dressing be it warm or cold.

Use a leaf or two as a bed for some meat for presentation. Sometimes it is a good idea to substitute a leaf of escarole for bread for a wrap. it has a great crunch factor.

For a salad, pair with bacon, apples, toasted pecans, dates, and avocado cream-based dressings.

For soups or stews, combine sausage and white beans with the escarole.

Here are other ways you can prepare it: sauté, braise, stir-fry, and add to stew or soup. Spread blue, feta, or pecorino cheeses over a sauté.

Recipes

Sautéed

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Anything sautéed means olive oil. Shop now. Remember to use a good quality one. Recall our previous post about olive oil. Read now.

escarole and beans
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Sauteed Escarole with White Beans and Bacon

This dish is satisfying as a lunch or a side dish.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword escarole

Ingredients

  • 1 head escarole washed very well
  • 2 - 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped roughly
  • 1 ½ - 2 cups white beans cooked
  • 3 slices bacon well-cooked
  • ½ cup black olives sliced and pitted
  • 1 pinch red pepper

Instructions

  • Cut the bottom off, and wash the vegetable well. Remove outer leaves and set aside.
  • Cover the bottom of a shallow pan with olive oil and heat to medium.
  • Add the escarole and some salt to the pan, and coat the leaves with the olive oil.
  • Cover the pan and cook until escarole is somewhat wilted and brown in spots. (15 minutes)
  • Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic starts looking yellow and the escarole is soft.
  • Stir in the bacon and add the olives. Cook until warmed through.

Notes

Serve with crunchy bread and your favorite red wine. (Pinot Noir) Shop now.
Serve with Romano cheese sprinkled on top. (optional)

In A Salad

Salads have a bad reputation because they are associated with dieting. What can be in an interesting salad?

shrimp and escarole salad
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Warm Shrimp and Escarole Salad

This healthy and hearty salad is colorful and flavorful.
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword escarole
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 300kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. drained capers chopped
  • 1 1/4 lb. large shrimp peeled, deveined
  • 1 head of escarole torn into large pieces (about 10 cups)
  • 3 tbsp. finely grated Romano
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and capers; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 1 minute.
  • Increase heat to medium-high.
  • Add shrimp; cook, tossing occasionally, until just cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  • Add half of escarole and toss until it begins to wilt, about 1 minute.
  • Add remaining escarole and toss until wilted, about 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
  • Add Romano and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper; toss to combine.

In a Frittata

This recipe blends many flavors to create a delicious meal.

escarole frittata
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Escarole and Mushroom Frittata

Escarole and mushrooms make a tasty frittata.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Calories 275kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds escarole washed well and coarsely chopped
  • 16 large eggs beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 4 strips of bacon well-cooked and broken up

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large ovenproof nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  • Add the onion, and cook over moderately high heat until golden brown, 10 minutes.
  • Add the greens and cook until wilted.
  • Season the eggs with salt and pepper, and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
  • Pour the eggs into the skillet and cook over moderate heat until the bottom and sides begin to set.
  • Lift the sides of the frittata to allow the uncooked eggs to seep under.
  • Continue cooking until the bottom is set and the top is still runny, 3 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.
  • Transfer the skillet to the oven, and bake for about 8 minutes, until the center of the frittata is set.
  • Slide the frittata onto a cutting board. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Final Thought

These recipes bring back so many memories of the childhood kitchen I knew so well. As the years go on, I have shuffled some ingredients to make the recipes uniquely mine.

I hope you enjoy cooking and eating them as much as I love cooking them.

7 Best Appetizers That Will Make You a Superstar

7 Best Appetizers That Will Make You a Superstar

Appetizers, antipasti in Italian, are appetizingly fun!! According to Webster’s Dictionary,  an appetizer is a small portion of food or drink to stimulate the appetite before a meal. This chef oftentimes serves for her guests only drinks and lots of tidbits to satisfy the appetite and soak up the alcohol.

As you probably already know, my choices come from both Sicily and the US because it wouldn’t be a Sandi party without a little bit of each. There is no standing tradition for the Sicilian antipasto because early Sicilians were poor and were lucky to get food on the table let alone, little finger foods to whet the appetite.

Centuries ago, the rich barons’ and noblemen’s chefs did not plan food to be served before the meal. However, if the meal was late, the chef would quickly prepare a table with toasted bread, olive oil, olives and anchovies so as not to anger the nobles.

olive oil and bread

 Antipasti vs. Appetizers

Modern day Sicilians have a purpose for everything. Traditionally, they have selected their antipasti for color, flavor, and texture. If there is a meal to come after, the antipasti must complement the upcoming feast.

Presentation is everything — the colors, the plating, the attention to detail in the preparation alerts guests that it is a time for enjoyment and gratification.

In America, we serve appetizers on game days and sneak them for midnight snacks. People gather to watch sports, catch up with friends and eat.

When folks come to dinner, do you serve an appetizer? I generally serve something little like cheese and crackers. I am not sure that its role in the meal is as special as our Italian party goers.

shrimp cocktail

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp cocktail is cooked shrimp served in a martini glass with cocktail sauce. You will especially like this appetizer because it is so easy, elegant, and tasty.

Origins: Las Vegas, Nevada USA

From the Food Network

Ingredients

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tbsp. horseradish

Worcestershire sauce to taste

1 lemon

tabasco sauce to taste

Note: You can purchase shrimp that is already peeled and deveined. If you want to save some money, do it yourself. This video shows you how.

Peel and devein shrimp:

Directions for Cocktail Sauce

1. In a small bowl, combine ketchup, horseradish, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a squirt of lemon and a dash of tabasco sauce.

2. Chill for at least 1/2 hour and serve.

2. Cantaloupe and Mozzarella with Prosciutto and Basil

This is a great summer antipasto. Guests will appreciate the combination of flavors. The colors look so appetizing on a plate, pink, white, and orange.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Origin: Italy

From Martha Stewart

Ingredients

1 cantaloupe, halved and seeded

3/4 lb. small mozzarella balls

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1/3 pound thinly sliced prosciutto

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Directions

  1. With a large melon baller scoop melon flesh into a large bowl (or cut into bite-size pieces).
  2. Add mozzarella, oil, and red-pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  3. Arrange prosciutto along edges of a large serving platter.
  4. Stir basil into the melon mixture, transfer to the center of a platter, and serve.

3. Deviled Eggs

This appetizer is extremely popular in the US. It consists of hard-boiled eggs that have been shelled and halved and their boiled yokes removed and mixed with condiments.

deviled eggs

 

 

 

 

Origin: USA

From Genius Kitchen

Ingredients

3 large eggs hard-boiled

2 tbsp. mayonnaise

1/2 tsp. prepared mustard

1 dash pepper

Directions:

  1. Boil eggs for about 6 – 8 minutes.
  2. Let eggs cool and then peel.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut eggs lengthwise in half.
  4. Remove egg yolks and place them into a mixing bowl.
  5. Using a fork, mash egg yolks together. Add mayo, mustard and pepper to the mashed egg yolks.

4. Artichoke Bruschetta

If you like artichoke, you’ll fall for this dish. It is a taste of Sicily in each bite. You can actually mix it up and add different ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes. It is delicious.

artichoke bruschetta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Origin: Italy

Taste of Home

Ingredients

1 jar (6-1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped

1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

1/3 cup fresh baby spinach, finely chopped

5 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, minced

1 loaf French baguette (101/2 oz.)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Cut baguette into 30 slices; top with artichoke mixture.
  2. Place on ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Broil 3-4 in. from the heat for 3-4 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

5. Oysters Rockefeller

This dish consists of oysters served in a half-shell with various ingredients mixed in.

oysters rockefeller

 

 

 

 

 

 

Origin: New Orleans, LA

All Recipes

Ingredients

2 slices bacon

24 unopened, fresh, live medium oysters

1 ½ cups cooked spinach

⅓ cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

½ teaspoon salt

1 dash hot pepper sauce

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon anise flavored liqueur

4 cups kosher salt (to place in pan under oysters to bake or broil)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).

2. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.

3. Clean oysters and place in a large stockpot. Pour in enough water to cover oysters; bring the water and oysters to a boil.

4. Remove from heat and drain and cool oysters. When cooled break the top shell off of each oyster.

5.Using a food processor, chop the bacon, spinach, bread crumbs, green onions, and parsley.

6. Add the salt, hot sauce, olive oil and anise-flavored liqueur and process until finely chopped but not pureed, about 10 seconds.

7. Arrange the oysters in their half shells on a pan with kosher salt.

8. Spoon some of the spinach mixture on each oyster.

9. Bake 10 minutes until cooked through, then change the oven’s setting to broil and broil until browned on top. Serve hot.

6. Broiled Green Figs with Pancetta
broiled green figs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This appetizer is extremely Italian. It is very yummy. The figs pair nicely with the pancetta flavor.

Origin: Venice, Italy

Martha Stewart

Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed

6 green figs, halved lengthwise

6 thin slices pancetta, halved

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler. Sprinkle fennel seeds onto cut sides of each fig. Wrap figs with pancetta, overlapping ends.
  2. Place figs, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Broil until sizzling and pancetta is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Flip, and broil 2 minutes more. Serve warm.

7. Truly Crispy Oven Baked Wings

These wings get their crispiness from a unique cooking method not from frying. To enhance the flavor, serve it with your favorite buffalo sauce. You can find a good recipe for a sauce to complement the appetizer in this article. Read more.

crispy wings

 

 

 

 

Origin: Buffalo, NY

Cooks Illustrated

Directions

  1. Pat wings dry with paper towels;
  2. Toss wings in baking powder and salt;
  3. Bake at 250F/120C for 30 minutes, then at 425F/220C for 40 – 50 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Final Thought

These recipes are tried and true. I love how sometimes the method you use to cook something makes all the difference in the world as to how it comes out.

Now I want to have people over for antipasti. Try the recipes and tell me how you liked them.

Addio Good bye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refrigerate? 18 Foods You Should Not

Refrigerate? 18 Foods You Should Not

Do you know there are certain foods that you should not refrigerate? I did not, so I stuck my nose in a book or two and found out some interesting information I want to share with you.

Melon

Do not refrigerate whole cantaloupes, watermelon and honey dew. I would not be able to get a whole water melon into my fridge anyway.

Melons retain their flavor if you keep them out on the counter. The USDA wants our melons at room temperature to retain the antioxidants. Once you have cut the fruit, refrigerate for only four days. They are not at their best after four days.

watermelon

Potatoes

Get those potatoes out of your refrigerator NOW, and place them in a cool dark place. When potatoes are cold, the starch breaks down and they taste gritty.

potatoes

Honey

Don’t refrigerate your honey, honey, because it crystallizes and hardens in cold temperatures. Keep it at room temperature for a nice syrupy texture. Remember what we found out about honey? Read more.

bear and honey

Coffee

I am guilty of this one. I have to run down to my fridge and rescue my coffee from the cold. A sealed container keeps coffee fresh, aromatic, and tasty out of the fridge. Condensation is not coffee’s friend. Remember our coffee article. Read more.

Tomatoes

Excuse me while I run down to my fridge again. I would have never guessed this in a million years. Tomatoes get mealy when refrigerated. Put under-ripe ones on the window sill. This is a fruit you must eat quickly or it will go bad on your kitchen counter.

tomatoes

Onion

This applies to uncut onions. The cold makes them mushy and moldy. Once you cut an onion, place it in a resealable bag and use the vegetable drawer to preserve it.

onions

Garlic

Garlic is our friend and we need to store it correctly. Apparently that place is not the refrigerator. We must store garlic in a cool, dry, and ventilated container. I found a cute one. Shop now.

Once you break open the head, use the cloves within 10 days. We have a post about garlic. Read more.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

garlic

Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is not in my fridge. Actually it is not even in my house. If I want something hot, I use cayenne pepper.

However, if you are a fan, remove it from your fridge. Bacteria will not grow in hot sauce because of the vinegar in it. Some like it hot, so the heat of the peppers is more powerful at more temperature. Remember the post about condiments? Read now.

hot sauce

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Out of the refrigerator this condiment is nicely spreadable. The exquisite chocolate flavor is splendid when not chilled.

chocolate hazelnut spread

Bread

Although the cold keeps mold away from bread, it also makes it dry. Keep it on the counter. Remember the bread boxes from the olden days. That would be a perfect storage area for bread. Actually, I think you can get a bread drawer. I have one in my kitchen. I found an adorable bread box. Shop now.

If you think you cannot use the bread quickly enough for it to stay fresh, then freeze it. I take my oat nut bread out of the freezer each morning to toast it. It works.

bread

Nuts

Refrigeration keeps nuts from going rancid, but cold temperatures reduce the nutty flavor of our favorite healthy snack. You should store nuts in an airtight container in your pantry. If you have a large number of nuts in your fridge as we speak, just toast them and store them.

nuts

Apples

You know, Dot would never refrigerate our apples. I wondered why back then. I thought it was because the cold would hurt her teeth. Apparently she was wiser than I thought. (That is a lot because I thought she was very wise.)

Place them in a pretty bowl on your counter. After two weeks, what do you do? Make pie! I have a fruit bowl similar to this.Shop  now.  Remember our post about apples. Read more.

apples

Avocados

Stone fruit

Peaches, apricots, nectarines, and plums should ripen at room temperature. Put them in the bowl with the apples and you’ll have a yummy decoration. Don’t forget to eat them.

If you must refrigerate them, do so for a few days only. (Or make something with them.)

peaches

Cucumbers

This is a surprise to me. Did you know that cucumbers are sensitive to the cold? They are very happy at room temperature and remain crisp.

cukes

Chocolate

Keeping chocolate in the refrigerator is a sin. It absorbs the odors of other foods and the texture changes. Leave it out for maximum delightfulness. There is more information about chocolate in another post. Read more.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is sacred. Keep it in the pantry. It congeals in the cold. Remember we had a post about olive oil. Read more.

olive oil

Pickles

I have always refrigerated my pickles. They say there is enough brine in them to keep them safe to eat. I still like a bit of coolness to a pickle. Perhaps I will disobey this rule. Is there a refrigerator police?

pickles

Refrigeration in Sicily

Italians shop daily for food. The markets are small with vendors selling meats, produce, cheese, and fresh pasta that come directly from the producer. The food is fresh, and they prefer to buy only what they need for a day or two.

I remember my Nana’s fridge. It was an icebox. She would call it ice-a box-a. That was a long time ago.

Italian market

 

 

 

 

 

Italian refrigerators are small since the cook needs to preserve very little. They purchase what is in season and available at the local market. The name of the game in Sicilian cooking is quality and freshness.

Final Thought

I would like to dispense of the large refrigerator. I enjoy the thought of cooking fresh food every day. Maybe I should go and live on a farm.

My trips to Sicily never had a touristy flavor. I always try to enter through the back door and live like the locals. You would be surprised what the food is really like.

Okay, now. Go and clean out those refrigerators!

Let’s make a picnic Sicilian style.

Find some Italian specialty stores and buy:

Olives – Come out of a big barrel

Cured meats – Prosciutto, salami

Cheese – Provolone, my favorite in chunks

Italian bread – Nice and fresh from an Italian bakery

Red wine – A couple of bottles at least. The California Wine Club has good deals. Shop now.

Real wine glasses – Careful not to break them.

A checkered table cloth – In a basket – with checkered cloth napkins. (This is a classy picnic.)

A large wicker basket I always wished I had one of these. Shop now

Blood oranges

Cannoli

Limoncello, Frangelico, or Amaretto and shot glasses

A large Boston Red Sox blanket on which to sit and spread out the goodies

Mangiamo, let’s eat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine: A Gift from the Gods to Sicily

Wine: A Gift from the Gods to Sicily

When I introduce a bottle of wine to a party, my guests immediately begin to smile. It has an instant effect on the mood of the gathering. It also pairs well with food to enhance the enjoyment of the meal.

As George Carlin once said, “What wine goes with Captain Crunch? I loved that guy.

But seriously, wine goes so very well with food. Red or white? Both please.

wine and food

History

Wine has a prominent place in mythology when Bacchus discovered how to turn grapes into wine. This Roman god of wine (also known as Dionysus) introduced the beverage to the Sicilians.

Bacchus

In Sicily, it is now part of the culture and the most cherished beverage. This is in a large part because those who conquered the land could not do without the beverage that they so loved (Italians, Arabs, and Greeks).

The Greeks began cultivating as early as 1500 BCE. If you are confused with the term BCE, it means before the common era, in other words before Christ, BC. When did they change that?

In 1773 John Woodhouse transformed the Sicilian wine into something that was more enjoyable and less perishable. He introduced alcohol to it.

What a punch that must have given our favorite beverage. It was already pretty strong from its fermentation, but who can resist additional alcohol to a drink they already loved.

What Makes the Wine So Wonderful?

Contrary to what you probably think, the most coveted varieties come from Sicily rather than Italy or France. The weather, the native grapes, and fertile soil combine to create the best growing conditions in the world.

The dry climate keeps mildew and rot to a minimum, especially in well-ventilated areas near the coast. As a result, the growers do not need chemical sprays, so much Sicilian wine is produced from organic grapes.

The modern and up and coming winemakers are now creating organic, bio-dynamic, and natural wines. The following video explains this fairly new phenomenon.

Now you know that the Sicilians are trailblazers in environmental winemaking! For a while, they lagged behind the rest of Europe and the world, but the modern technology and new techniques drove the new generation back to their ancestral vineyards with new ideas and additional enthusiasm.

Why Should I Work in the Vineyards?

In Italy, culture plays a big part in the career path that children in a family pursue. For example, if your grandfather and father were winemakers, then you would naturally take up the winemaking business to carry on traditional wines. Families take pride in their vineyards, the wine, and innovations they can carry out.

Giuseppi Bernardi

Giuseppi Bernardi started his career by doing university studies. After he graduated, he was compelled to return to his family heritage. The family vineyards were on Mt. Etna, where the soil, temperature, and weather combined to help him improve the standards of Sicilian wine.

mt. etna

He and other winery families in his area collaborated to make Sicilian wine stand out from the others. They introduced new equipment and innovative techniques to keep the wine fresh and aromatic.

Donnafugata is one of the labels created in the era of wine evolution. Do you want to try it, then look for the label in fine restaurants and upscale wine stores all over the world.

Michael Madrigale, a former sommelier for an upscale Manhattan bar, went back to Italy to discover quality wines. He stated, “People are now looking for authenticity more than a famous wine region. It took the Sicilians a long time to establish their new reputation for quality wines. Now the market is telling them people are willing to spend more money for quality.”

Where Can I Find Sicilian Wines?

We can now find Sicilian wines all over the world. Here are some of the varieties that you should explore.

  • Nero D’avola has a bold fruity flavor.
  • Grillo is fresh and easy on the palate and goes great with fish. Grillo is one of the best-known Sicilian grapes. This wine pairs perfectly with the Mediterranean diet that people are enjoying these days. A perfect combination is Grillo with swordfish.
  • For a lemony aroma and a crisp taste, try Catterato. It is a white wine and a favorite among the experts.
  • Inzolia, a white wine, is crisp and satisfying. It was once an ingredient of Marsala  wine, it now stands on its own.
  • Marsala is a sweet wine often used in cooking.
  • The Moscato grape yields the crisp, sweet Moscato wine.

This article gives an excellent list of the best value in Sicilian wines. Read More.

Wine Pairing 

Sicilian wines are versatile and pair with almost any food.

White wines go with light-bodied foods and cheeses. Grillo complements the entire meal, from pasta to grilled white meats and goat cheese.

Reds pair naturally with richer dishes. Nero d’Avola, matches with everything from antipasti to grilled meats. 

Final Thought

When I was about 10 years old, Dot took Aggie and I to Sicily to meet my Grandfather. The culture was very different in the village and it still remains simple and underdeveloped. 

I remember that I was poured a glass of wine at dinner. My guess is that either they wanted me to go to sleep or the water was bad. I probably refused to drink milk because I saw that it came from a goat.

I wish I had the opportunity to see my relatives again, but they are all gone. I do remember that the food was delicious, and the wine made me sleepy. Too bad I was only 10 and too young to remember the importance of family.

I found fruit wine recipes that I think are really cool. Read More.

Everyone has been in the position of having a great bottle of wine, and no wine opener. Look at this method. You’ll love it.

 

Garlic: Why Do We Love You?

Garlic: Why Do We Love You?

Sicilians love garlic; I love garlic; the world loves it but WHY?  You make our breath questionable. Sometimes you give us indigestion, but we simply adore you. And we should.

The magic cloves add a distinct flavor to Sicilian cooking, but it also has medical uses. It can prevent or treat many diseases.

Ancient Egyptians used it for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Doesn’t it amaze you how smart the Ancients were?

Garlic’s relatives are the onion, scallion, chive, leek, and shallot all in the allium family. Both raw and cooked, it can have antibiotic attributes. Its cousins also provide some amazing health benefits.

Sicilian Garlic

Do you realize that there is a variety labeled Sicilian? It is a soft-neck variety. I did not perceive the neck of the garlic to be particularly important, but it is.

The hard-neck variety does not have a long shelf life. Soft neck garlic can actually keep for one year.  This variety grows in California.

Garlic Through the Ages

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, prescribed garlic as a treatment for respiratory issues, parasites, bad digestion, and fatigue. Yikes, did the ancients get parasites? Oh yes, and garlic repelled vampires too, according to legend.

Hippocrates

It was eye-opening to read that garlic was one of the first performance-enhancing substances used by the ancient Greek Olympians.

The magic of garlic spread through Middle East Asia, and Nepal. These ancients used it for any of the following reasons: fevers, diabetes, bronchitis, high blood pressure, TB, liver problems, dysentery, flatulence, intestinal worms, and rheumatism. Then the French, Spanish, and Portuguese explorers introduced it to the New World.

Current Uses of Garlic

Did you know that garlic is a treatment for hardening of the arteries? It has a positive effect on the heart and blood and helps in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Prevention is the name of garlic’s game.

It also has a role in preventing many cancers: lung, prostate, rectal, colon, breast, and stomach. Not all of these facts are backed by research, but the research has been promising.

Scientifically Proven Benefits of Garlic

Scientific journals found the following facts about:

Malignant brain tumors

Studies at the Medical University of South Carolina suggested that garlic and its cousins show great promise in controlling malignant brain tumor cells. More studies are necessary, but this is an encouraging step in the right direction.

Hip osteoarthritis

A group at King’s College and the University or East Anglia, both in England, discovered that women with diets plentiful in allium vegetables, (garlic, leeks, shallot, and onions) had fewer occurrences of hip osteoarthritis. Why? It contains allicin, a compound in garlic that holds amazing medicinal characteristics.

Bacteria

Campylobacter bacterium is a bacteria that causes intestinal infections. A compound in garlic was 100 times more successful than two popular antibiotics for fighting this bacterial.

Dr. Xiaonan Lu from Washington State University states, “This work is very exciting to me because it shows that this compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply.”

I think this is huge.

Heart protection

Diallyl trisulfide is a compound in garlic oil. This oil is an excellent way to deliver the benefits of hydrogen sulfide to the heart. Hydrogen sulfide protects the heart from damage. I like the idea of my heart being protected, and I like garlic!

 

High cholesterol and high blood pressure

23 volunteers participated in a study. These people all suffered from high cholesterol, and 13 of them had high blood pressure also. The subjects were divided into two groups.

  • High cholesterol with normal blood pressure
  • High cholesterol with high blood pressure

They all ingested garlic supplements for four months. After the four months in both groups:

  • Cholesterol was much improved
  • Systolic and diastolic blood pressure was extremely improved

Fun fact: Extract from the bulbs might protect the liver against alcohol-induced liver disease. Wow!!

For drug interactions and possible side effects, here is an important article. Read more.

Ridding the World of Garlic

If you think you have heard ridiculous arguments, listen to this one. One chef in a Roman restaurant specializing in Sicilian food recommended banning garlic. Seriously. I read it on a printed page. He and other critics complained that it is too smelly.

The logic is that Italians no longer need this food because they now can afford less smelly alternatives to spice up meals (citrus, herbs). They no longer rely on cheap choices to give food flavor. They can now use the good stuff.

It never dawned on me that this food was a poor man’s food.

This debate happened in 2007 and of course, it never came to a conclusion. Can you even imagine an Italian restaurant in Italy not including garlic in dishes? Who bans food anyhow?

How Is This For a Stereotype?

“  A 1939 Life magazine feature about Joe DiMaggio – the first issue to feature an Italian American on the cover – lauded him for ‘not reeking of garlic‘ in spite of his background.” Snobby Life magazine. Hmph!

This wounds me. Mommy save me from this discrimination! Call the IGNORANCE police!!!

Anyway, in spite of all objections, the world still loves garlic. A thump on the head to LIFE magazine.

Can It Help with Weight?

Do you want to lose weight? Who doesn’t?

According to recent studies, the magic bulb could be part of an effective strategy to avoid weight gain and discard unwanted fat.

Case Study:

Laboratory mice consumed an extremely caloric diet for eight weeks. All mice ate the same diet, but garlic was mixed into it. The researchers discovered that adding garlic actually reduced the mice’s ability to store fat, so they lost weight.

This study suggests that humans could also succeed in losing weight by eating more of it.

Final Thought

Now that I know how garlic can help me with cholesterol and blood pressure, I am going to investigate some supplements for myself. I always enjoy my food when it is enhanced by the tasty cloves of heaven.

There are some wonderful and easy Sicilian recipes in this post. The mystery of the Sicilian dish is simplicity. AND garlic is king.

Sicilian Style Sauce Get Recipe

Sicilian Style Broccoli Get Recipe

Sicilian Style Cod with Parsley and Garlic Potatoes Get Recipe

Condiments: What Are They Doing To Us?

Condiments: What Are They Doing To Us?

Condiments, what are they, how do we use them, and are they good for us? There are so many condiments and we use them carelessly, without thinking about the health consequences. I have been wondering about these topping for a long time, so I decided to do some research.

What Are America’s Favorite Toppings?

When I was growing up, I recall the foods that were common to barbecues, and realize now that those foods and the toppings we used were questionable. Ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, A1 sauce and more. I want to examine these foods as they pertain to our health.

Relish

Relish is low in fat and calories, but each manufacturer has its own standards. The word refers to any cooked and pickled chopped vegetable or fruit. If you are a relish lover, beware. Although relish is made from vegetables, it has a real downside. There are 4 grams of sugar and 122 grams of sodium in a serving.

Sodium does a real number on blood pressure. As blood pressure rises, it puts a strain on the heart and organs. This could lead to heart disease or stroke.

So what is the health score on relish? Stay away. Alone, a teaspoon of relish is harmless. What food goes with relish, the hot dog which is terrible for the body.  

Winner!!! How about choosing lettuce and tomato on a turkey burger?

Salad Dressings

The millennials and Gen X have replaced the old-time relish with ranch and blue cheese dressing. What is the reasoning?

These dressing pair better with wings, fries, popcorn and pizza, the new favorite foods. Wow, am I out of touch? Oh yes.

ranch dressing

Ranch dressing is so wrong in terms of health. Calories, fat, sodium, and sugar combine for America’s new favorite topping. In 2 tbsp’s the dressing has 100 to 140 calories from fat.

When a dressing is labeled with high volumes of saturated fat, sodium and sugar, you must put it down. I would anyway.

Winner!!! If you must have ranch, a healthier choice is the ranch dressing that contains low fat, protein-rich Greek yogurt. This is a great slideshow that includes ways to make your own healthy dressing. Read more.

Mayonnaise

Store-bought mayonnaise is loaded with saturated fat, and it only includes trace amounts of good nutrition. The only benefit that mayonnaise provides is omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, in my opinion, not enough to combat the saturated and trans fats in the topping.

Winner!!! To improve mayo’s nutrition, you can make it at home keeping these things in mind:

  • Use pasteurized eggs because unpasteurized can carry foodborne diseases like salmonella.
  • Use fresh lemon juice.
  • Cut back on vinegar.
  • Use healthy oils, for example, flaxseed oil, olive oil, sesame oil, avocado oil and safflower oil.

Note: Everyone is thinking, Sandi, what about your beloved extra virgin olive oil?  Well, it is very healthy, but some have strong flavors that can affect the overall taste of your mayonnaise.

Homemade mayonnaise Get Recipe

Ketchup, Barbecue and Steak Sauce

Did you know that ketchup is loaded with high fructose corn syrup? That is an ingredient that hits us in the face these days. It is the “F” word of food. Nasty stuff.

The rest of the bad news is MSG, flavor-boosting chemicals, and lots of sugar. Don’t be fooled by the label “organic”. There is just as much sugar in an organic brand. I have the same objections for barbecue and steak sauce Avoid!

Winner!!! Make your own or try fresh salsa. You can also make your own barbecue and steak sauce.

Sour Cream

This one kills me because I do like sour cream on my baked potato. The little tubs that reside in the cooler section of the super market are chock full of preservatives and not much real food. Also non-organic dairy products contain genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.

Scary Fact: RBGH is banned in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and 27 countries of the European Union because of its danger to health. It is the largest selling dairy animal drug in the United States. Yikes. I think I will reconsider dairy-free. Refer to Lactose-Free versus Dairy-Free for more information.

Winner!!! Try top quality Greek yogurt as an alternative or make your own sour cream.

Sicilian Condiments

Believe it or not, Sicilians use a variety of condiments.

Typically oilsaltsugarvinegarherbsspicesolivescapers and salted anchovies are often used in combination to spice up a dish. These are very different from what the Americans put on food to give it more flavor.

Grated lemon, lime, homemade sauce (gravy) are also part of the Sicilian condiment eating tradition. Add some fresh herbs, for example parsley, and add a new flavor.

You know exactly where I am going with this, I bet. Sicilians do not rely on store-bought for additional flavor on food. It is all fresh. Refer to Healing Foods: Eat Your Way to a Happy Body for information on how the Sicilians eat.

Final Thought

A long time ago I stopped using condiments. I try to use fresh herbs, spices and organic foods to enhance the flavor of my meals. I am not saying that I don’t have any of it in the house, but I do not use it very much.

Sometimes a recipe with call for 1 tablespoon of mustard. That is when I use the store bought condiment. Other than that, I do not like the negative health consequences of processed condiments. I have actually stopped using mayonnaise and am opting for homemade to eat with my tuna.

Avocado Benefits: Love the Avocado

Avocado Benefits: Love the Avocado

Avocado benefits have come to the dietary forefront lately. For all the days I have lived on this earth, I have not met an avocado until lately. Now that we have been introduced, I have not met an avocado I did not like.  It is an amazing fruit low in carbohydrate, but high in good fat. Did you think it was a vegetable? I did. There are so many varieties of this superfood and each has its own health benefits. California and Florida are the primary areas of avocado growth in the United States.

The California Avocado

The Haas variety is the most available and has a thick skin that turns from green to black as it ripens. These medium-sized fruits have about 160 calories each.  It seems like a lot, huh, but the fats in avocado are what we call the “good fats”.

The Florida Avocado

This green-skinned avocado has less fat, more moisture, and not as nutty a taste as the Haas. They remain light green in color and have a thin skin which allows them to bruise easily. As a result, the Florida avocado can be shipped to only the east coast of the United States. There is less fat in the Florida avocado, so there are fewer calories. The fat in both varieties provides many nutrients.

Health Benefits

Avocado benefits are as follows:

  • Enable the body to absorb nutrients
  • Provide essential nutrients including fiber, potassium vitamin E, B-vitamins, and folic acid
  • Contain a healthy source of fat, “good fat” also known as monounsaturated fat
  • Have more potassium than a banana which can contribute to lowering blood pressure
  • Produce avocado oil for healthy cooking
  • Lower cholesterol (very good news)
  • Protect eyes because of a great number of antioxidants
  • Help prevent cancer
  • Help with weight loss because they make you feel full
  • Contain the most protein of any fruit

Fun fact: You can use avocado spread as a replacement for high fat spreads like mayonnaise or butter. This seems very appealing to me.

History

According to the California Department of Public Health, the origin of the avocado tree was 7,000 years ago in southern Mexico and Columbia. The Aztecs and Incas introduced the avocado to the Spanish conquistadors. The English colonists nicknamed the fruit “alligator pears” because of their green, scale-like skin and pear shape. There are 80 varieties in California alone. Lately, we have become most aware of the avocado benefits.

Weight Loss Benefit

The avocado aids in weight loss because it contains monosaturated fat and fiber. Apparently, eating an avocado suppresses hunger. BioMed Central published a study where 26 overweight adults recorded a 28 percent decrease in hunger and a 23 percent boost in satisfaction after including half an avocado This one is worth trying, I think. It would be interesting to do this for 1 week and see if ½ an avocado a day actually helps to subdue appetite. Does anyone want to test this theory with me? Let me know in the comments section. Fun fact: To keep an avocado from browning,  add an acid like lemon or lime juice to the avocado and wrap it in plastic wrap. You can also add a light coating of oil and then wrap it.

Beauty Benefit

I like this one! Avocado can aid in maintaining beauty. It has a good amount of vitamin C which can lessen skin inflammation, quicken wound healing, and subdue dry skin. Avocado oil can also boost collagen production and reduce signs of aging. Fun fact:  Avocado trees do not self-pollinate. They need another avocado tree close by to bear fruit.

Possible Downside

Consuming this delicious superfruit is great if you do not overindulge, Avocado is caloric so if you cannot consume a lot or you will gain weight. You should ask your doctor or dietitian how much avocado can safely be introduced into your daily diet without ruining dietary goals. I am going for one a day, so ½ an avocado will not be wasted.

Final Thought

I regret that it took me so long to discover the avocado. I really love the texture, taste, and health benefits. Keeping calories in mind, I am going to add avocado to my daily routine. By the way, if you have the proper climate, you can grow an avocado tree. Read more. Enjoy the videos. This is a crazy man singing an avocado song, I am serious. I think it is funny,  

One of my favorite chefs teaches you how to slice and dice an avocado the correct way.

The Recipes

Avocado Salad (skinny)  Get Recipe.

Avocado Salad with bacon  Get Recipe 

Blackened Catfish with Mango Salsa   Get Recipe

Guacamole Get Recipe

Lactose Free versus Dairy free

Lactose Free versus Dairy free

Dairy-free versus lactose-free, I never knew there was a difference, but there is. People allergic to lactose are lactose intolerant. Those allergic to the proteins in milk (casein and whey) are allergic to dairy. It is essential to understand how lactose and dairy affect the allergic person.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance, also known as lactose deficiency, is very common in adults. The National Library of Medicine tells us that approximately 30 million Americans suffer from some kind of lactose intolerance by the age of 20. That is rather surprising. As a kid, the general rule was “three glasses of milk each day”. How things have changed!

Lactose is a sugar detected in milk products. When a person’s body stops producing enough of an enzyme called lactase, the person becomes lactose intolerant.

If a lactose-intolerant individual ingests a milk product, the symptoms are ungodly (bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea.) Some people can get away with a little bit but should not push it.

Over-the-counter tablets are available to relieve or avoid symptoms. There are always lactose-free products to squash the urge for milk.

Allergy to Dairy

An allergy to dairy has a far greater effect on the victim of the allergy.

It is crucial that those with a dairy allergy avoid products with casein and whey. Mostly seen in children, the symptoms are far more severe. They include hives, wheezing and vomiting. In extreme cases symptoms even anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Some children get lucky and grow out of a dairy allergy. That is certainly good news.

If you have a dairy allergy, it is imperative to check the food labels. Remember to avoid products with whey and casein. These can turn up in unexpected places, for example, some varieties of canned tuna and a few protein powders.

Some good brands of dairy-free cheeses are:

  • Daiya Mozzarella
  • Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Cheddar
  • Teese cheddar vegan cheese
  • Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
  • Follow Your Heart Shredded Parmesan
  • Teenut Treenut Cheeses
  • Home Made Dairy-Free Queso Cheese Dip

Important: Dairy-free and nondairy are different. Products marked nondairy can contain a caseinate milk derivative. An example would be a nondairy coffee creamer.

Lactose-free Products

Nowadays, consumers need not fear because there is a product for everyone out there. The merchants have ears for every consumer problem.

Important: A lactose-free product might contain other dairy products, so it is not safe for those allergic to dairy. Read food labels because some common foods contain lactose.

This list surprises me: bread, breakfast cereals, soups, margarine, deli meat, salad dressing, candy, cookies, and pancake mixes.  Holy deception Batman!!!

The good news is that if a product is labeled “lactose-free”, it is actually free of lactose. This article is excellent for someone who is on a lactose-free diet. Read more.

Any product that contains whey, galactose, casein, nougat, lactulose, or rennet contains dairy. It’s also possible that dairy is lurking in labels such as “natural flavoring” or “artificial flavoring.”

Dairy-free Products

Dairy is any product made from cow’s milk (and other mammals), as well as products made from milk (cream, cheese, and butter).

If any of these words are included in the ingredients, it is not safe for those with dairy allergies (caseinate, chocolate, cream, condensed milk, curds, dried milk, evaporated milk, a milk derivative, milk powder, milk solids, sodium caseinate or whey).

Are you thinking, “Are eggs okay if I am allergic to dairy?” This is a common question. The answer is that eggs are perfectly fine. If they bother you, you are allergic to eggs not to dairy.

Be Cautious

If you are on a dairy-free diet, be mindful that you get everything that you need in terms of nutrition.

Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral for bones and teeth. Adults need around 1,000 mg of calcium each day.  Children and individuals over 50 years old need slightly more.

If you eliminate dairy, you will be at risk of being calcium deficient. Fortunately, you can still get calcium from other sources. Vegetables like kale and broccoli, legumes, dried fruit, tofu, and other foods fortified with calcium are good choices. There are calcium supplements as well.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is extremely important for absorbing calcium. Unfortunately, most foods do not contain large amounts of vitamin D. If you need dairy-free alternatives, try fortified soymilk and almond milk. They can be just as nutritious and fortified with vitamin D as a bonus.

Protein

There is plenty of protein in milk. Men need 56 grams of protein per day and women need 46 grams, according to the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies.

It is important to get enough protein throughout the day. There are plenty of nondairy protein sources. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and several dairy-free alternative milk products.  Soy milk can have up to 9 grams of protein per cup. Refer to 10 Unexpected Sources of Protein for more detailed information.

This is a good article comparing the varieties of dairy-free milk. Read article.

The following video gives 7 reasons to adopt a dairy-free diet. Watch video.

 

Final Thought

Ice cream is my favorite treat. I do not eat it often, but I am so thankful that I can when I want to. There are lactose-free and dairy-free ice cream alternatives to enjoy.

Recipes

Toasted Muesli

Vegan Breakfast Quinoa