Per Calorie, Spinach Has More Protein Than Beef!

Photo by timsackton from Flickr.com

I am so over Popeye. I mean, really, telling me to eat my spinach while puffing on a cancer-inducing pipe that may even be filled with an illegal recreational substance. Think about it. What else could cause those delusions and momentary episodes of crazy strength? So, there will be no Popeye quips as we consider spinach. Rather, we ask that you and Popeye put down the pipe.

Prepare yourself for a crazy fact about spinach. Per 100 calories, spinach has 12 grams of protein versus beef which has 10 grams. What the heck? Tis true, tis true.

But, you ask, “Well, how much spinach exactly is 100 calories?” 100 calories of the green leafy vegetable is about a pound. That, admittedly, is a lot of spinach. You may think there is no way you could pound a pound of spinach to get all that plant-based protein, particularly when it takes just a nibble of beef to obtain the same amount. So for now, you think it best to sprinkle your meals with spinach when possible to get the benefits of its

protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, and vitamins A, C, K and B6! But, it’s not that difficult, lovely reader!

Buy yourself a pound of spinach and make the following wilted spinach recipe. If you are on a low-sodium diet, do be aware that spinach has a naturally high salt content. Much like you, me, and Popeye, spinach is great, but not perfect.

Grow your own! Photo by OakleyOriginals from Flickr.com

Jenna’s Wilted Spinach

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound pre-washed spinach (remove tough stems)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and garlic. Saute garlic in oil 2 or 3 minutes. Add spinach to the pan in stages. Fill the pan with leaves and turn leaves in warm oil until they wilt. Add more spinach to the skillet and repeat the process until all of the spinach is incorporated. Season the wilted spinach with salt and pepper. I serve this dish either over brown rice with a splash of soy sauce, or as a side to salmon, or gasp, a bit of beef.

Consider:
Topping spinach with slivered almonds or sesame seeds. Some cooks use nutmeg, but nutmeg makes my stomach churn… so you’ll never get me to add it to something as good as wilted spinach.

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Gluten-Free Vegan Monster Cookies Brought to You by Flax!

Photo by HealthAliciousNess from Flickr

Photo by HealthAliciousNess from Flickr

Flax. These slick little seeds used to confound me. I’ve had to adopt a completely egg-free and milk-free diet due to my son’s anaphylaxis to all eats containing egg and milk. So where does this lead me and my culinary efforts to eat yummy, essentially vegan sweets

that do not taste like cardboard? Flax. A slippery little seed with incredible binding power if you can just slide past its slip.

Photo by hagwall from Flickr

How to do this? Well, I’ve tried grinding them myself in a coffee grinder, a food processor, and pummeling with a mortar/pestle. I’ve soaked and then attempted annihilation of the seed’s exterior. But really the most effective way to grind them is to let the professionals do it. I buy the seeds pre-ground and in small quantities from the grocery store. Remember once the seeds are ground they are incredibly susceptible to becoming rancid. How do the grocery stores grind these little goodies so well? I’m not sure. But I do know, once ground, you too can access the flax seed’s amazing fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, most of the B vitamins you could ever want, and lignans! Gasp! What are lignans? Well, they convert in our intestines into various beneficial substances that seem to balance out hormones, promote fertility, reduce peri-menopausal symptoms and possibly prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Go on, get your good self to the grocery store and purchase at least 3 Tablespoons of ground flax seeds for the following fabulous vegan dairy free, egg free and gluten free cookies that kick your sugar cravings to the curb with loads of surprising yum. If you buy more than 3 Tablespoon, store in your fridge and make another batch soon! The flax won’t last!

Vegan Monster Cookies – adapted from La Vegan Loca
3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups organic, creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cherries corsely cut (or other dried fruits)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
  2. Combine ground flax seeds and water in a food processor and whirl until the liquid becomes viscous and thick, about 1 minute.
  3. In a very large mixing bowl, combine the flax mixture and sugars. Mix well. Add the vanilla, peanut butter, and margarine. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips, raisins, baking soda, and rolled oats. The dough will get very unwieldy. Fret not. Keep mixing.
  4. When the dough is thoroughly mixed and all ingredients are distributed evenly thoughtout, drop by tablespoons two inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
  5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in airtight containers.
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Mama Wants an Egg! Crack a Few for a Healthy and Tasty Treat

Photo by bgottsab from Flickr

Photo by bgottsab from Flickr

Fat shmat! I know those of you with burgeoning baby bellies such as mine may be worried about gaining unnecessary weight. Don’t fret. At least don’t fret when you’re wanting an egg or two, but are concerned about fat and cholesterol. It turns out that an egg’s nutrients far outweigh the fat that’s sidetracked our love affair with this perfectly-packed powerhouse. Don’t forget, we need fat to increase our resistance to infections, absorb vitamins, and heal wounds properly. Why not get your fat from a great source like

an egg, rather than chips or cookies?

So, what nutrients does an egg actually hold? They supply all of the essential amino acids people need (See the Oats entry. Hit me!). They also provide vitamins A, B2, B6, B9, B12, D, E as well as choline, iron, calcium, lycine, phosphorus and potassium. Goodness, gracious. The list could go on but let’s stop here and think about the necessity of these little goodies. Vitamin A (retinol) is needed for vision and bone growth. Vitamin B2 is invaluable for our metabolism and vitamin B6 is also needed for metabolism as well as gene expression. The good of folic acid (B9) is mind-numbing, seriously. If you don’t eat folic acid you can experience limb numbness, neuropathy, and cognitive decline just to name a few degenerative states. B12 helps to prevent autoimmune diseases and vitamin D prevents many disease states. My head is spinning. I think I need an egg before I can go on…

Photo by she always was the softest thing from Flickr

Photo by she always was the softest thing from Flickr

So, how are you going to cook an egg once it’s cracked? I personally don’t cook eggs at home anymore as my son is anaphylactic to all egg products. Scrambling is fun, but don’t do it every time as breaking down the yolk and completely cooking it can cause your eggs to lose important nutrients. Also, as I don’t cook these crave-worthy morsels at home anymore, I am going to link you to a fantastic recipe from About.com. My university roommate made me this delightful dish most every late night we spent studying. It is the dish I am craving most. Ice cream and pickles be damned! Also, please post your yummy suggestions as well.

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokumbap) Recipe
Kimchi Fried Rice (Bokumbap) is humble food that is mostly enjoyed at home, but you might also see it in some casual Korean eateries. Quick, easy, and cheap to make, kimchi bokumbap is simple Korean homecooking at its best. More from About.com

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Really? The Claim: Long Work Hours Can Cause Depression – NYTimes.com

Photo by Bob B. Brown from Flickr.com

Photo by Bob B. Brown from Flickr.com

On first moving to Portland, Oregon, I heard the phrase “work-life balance” again and again. It is a philosophy that Portlanders hold sacred, knowing that on the few beautiful days granted to them per year they need the freedom to be outside and enjoy as much sunlight as possible. To me it became synonymous with the city’s fantastic happy hours. Running daily from 4pm to 6pm, and starting again after 10pm, wonderful bars and restaurants serve great food at a fraction of their normal prices, reason enough to work less and play harder.

And now, we have

scientific proof linking overtime with increased risk of depression. Don’t take a chance people, leave work early to eat, drink and be mellow. Read the full story at Nytimes.com.

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How Massage Heals Sore Muscles – NYTimes.com

Photo by Nick J Webb from Flickr.com

Photo by Nick J Webb from Flickr.com

What’s more mellowing than a massage? Researchers have placed this luxurious treat into the category of ‘good for you,’ right where it belongs!

Scientists have found that massage reduces the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a role in muscle inflammation and soreness. Soothing hands also stimulate mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside cells that convert glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair.

Read the New York

Times‘ article “How Massage Heals Sore Muscles,” and schedule your next massage STAT!

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Gratitude for Grapefruit

Photo by dullhunk from Flickr.com

Photo by dullhunk from Flickr.com

At the time of writing

this, I am five months pregnant and jones-ing for grapefruit most every hour. I am a bit surprised as my first memories of grapefruit involve my parents bickering every morning when the fruit was in season. My dad believed sugar to be the best topping. My mom believed in salting to even higher puckering levels. We were cornered, my sisters and I. Were we salters? Were we sugar fiends? My youngest sibling chose not to eat the fruit at all. My other sister chose to add both in order to make peace with such opposing views. I, not wanting to deny myself goodness, and quite sick of their nit-picking over a fruit, chose neither and just left it free to be its wonderful self.

Just now, Costco is selling huge bags of grapefruits that are just the loveliest, sweetest wonders mid-winter. Thank you, Texas! Thank you truck drivers! Thank you hybrid of a pomelo and orange! I have bought a few successive bags as they seem to be the only thing that calms my recently finicky tummy. I should not be surprised. Despite the citric acid it contains, it is very easy to digest and can help quell indigestion. Other interesting bits to know about this lovely pulp, is that it can naturally reduce fevers, lower bad cholesterol, and jumpstart your metabolism if you eat it first thing in the morning.

Photo by harmonica pete from Flickr.com

Woot and a howdy to grapefruit! Drinking a liter of grapefruit juice also raises your body’s pH levels and can prevent kidney stones from forming. The vitamin C content in a grapefruit is off the charts and you know that vitamin C fights free radicals and prevents yucky conditions like cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Grapefruit is also a natural preservative and is even found in my nasal saline wash! You must also know that it is the best hangover cure around as it supercharged with enzymes that help your liver cleanse itself. Pass me that porter beer bartender! Errrr, after I give birth and finish nursing my impending darling…

Below, I’ve got a quick smoothie recipe that is frothy not due to dairy but the pulp from the grapefruit. It is indeed yummy and is also quite easy to whip up if you’ve got a sharp and fast kitchen tool like a blender, food processor or juicer. Give it a try!

And afterwards, try scrubbing your bathtub with kosher salt and a squeezed grapefruit half as a sponge. No joke! It’s easier, healthier, and better smelling than anything I could squirt out of a plastic bottle from a fancy cleaner company.

Grapefruit Smoothie
1/2 inch ginger knob peeled
3 carrots stems removed
1 grapefruit peeled but with pith

Blend, process, or juice!

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Steel Cut Oats Make the Best Brain and Body Food

Rolled vs. steel cut oats. Photo by little blue hen from Flickr.com

Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine, Arginine, Histidine, Lysine, Phenylalanine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Methionine.

When I say this list, I somehow become a palpably nerdy and decidedly feminine version of Jay-Z in my wee brain and then I mutter, “Hit me!” as if asking the nutrition gods to drop that dope list on me again. Why begin this
entry with this list and let you in on what my husband calls an, “(sigh) embarrassingly private moment?”

Well, dear eater, this list

is the complete list of the 10 essential amino acids (proteins) your body must get from outside sources. These 10 essential amino acids are also, wait for it, found in STEEL CUT OATS. That’s right, I’ve pulled up my hoodie and murmured, “Hit me,” again.

What else should you know about your oats? Don’t get them rolled or boxed as “quick cook” versions. That squishes the goodness right out of them. You want them to be steel-cut, pinhead, Irish, or Scottish. These labels mean that your dope oats have undergone minimal processing and that mighty fine list of essential amino acids is present to increase brain and body function.

Oats also contain beta-glucan, a fiber that has the ability to lower cholesterol and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Beta-glucan has also been linked to enhanced immune system responses. Oats also have antioxidant compounds called avenanthramides that further reduce cardiovascular disease. High fiber diets including steel-cut oats are also well known to reduce blood pressure risks, aid in diabetes prevention and treatment and reduce asthmatic symptoms. Also, if packaged in a gluten-free facility they can provide a great grain alternative for those with celiac disease/gluten tolerance issues. Que my hoodie and a, “Hit me!”

Packages of steel-cut oats always have a recipe for my favorite breakfast food. So, rather than repeat the easily found, I’ve included my recipe for vegan haggis that I fondly call “Vegas.” It is a different yet yummy use of oats and is a riff off a recipe found at allfoods.com online and with a bit of hotsauce is also mighty fine with tortilla chips in front of a good basketball game on the telly.

Jenna’s Vegas, A.K.A. Vegan Haggis

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
5 fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup dry red lentils
2 tablespoons canned black beans – drained, rinsed, and mashed
3 tablespoons ground peanuts
2 tablespoons ground hazelnuts
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 1/3 cups steel cut oats

Directions

Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and saute the onion 5 minutes, until tender. Mix in carrot and mushrooms, and continue cooking 5 minutes. Stir in broth, lentils, mashed black beans, peanuts, hazelnuts, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Season with thyme, sage, cayenne pepper, and mixed spice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in oats, cover, and simmer 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 5×9 inch baking pan. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan. Bake 30 minutes, until firm and the moisture is completely absorbed and the oats and lentils are al dente. You may need to add more broth if the mixture dries out before the oats and lentils are done.

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Cluck, Cluck? Chicken for Din-din!

Photo by Jim Bahn from Flickr.com

For the fifth night in row in Costa Rica, a fan spat dead bugs onto the sweaty bodies of my husband and myself as a rooster crowed his domination over his hens at all hours of the dry-season. We were on vacation trying to relax, but it was hell trying to sleep with those chickens clucking and crowing outside our bedroom window. My patience with the fowl neared a breaking point. Even as a food, I thought, chickens can be boring and annoying. They are ubiquitous and much too easy to over cook and dry out. Ew. Dry. Chicken. Ew.

But, before I let us pass by this beaked beast, we must remember that these affordable eats are a great low-fat source of protein that protects against low-bone density. Chickies also are a great source of niacin, one of the B vitamins that protects against damage to DNA. Probably most fascinatingly, these fowl is a source of protein that also contains selenium which is important for major metabolic pathways, including thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function. Selenium is also becoming linked to cancer prevention in some research studies.

I’ve included the foolproof recipe I use to roast my birds and dare I say, they are never dry. Or boring. Or annoying. And, the only ones crowing are my guests saying how surprisingly delicious they found the chicken.

Jenna’s Easy Eats Chicken

Serve this with nothing more than a green salad and some crusty bread.

1 plump organic roasting chicken, weighing around 4 lbs.
Olive Oil
10 button mushrooms (more for the bottom of the

pan if you like them as much as I do)
White Grape Juice
Salt and ground black pepper
Root vegetables that you like to eat (carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions even whole heads of garlic) cleaned and cut into 2-3 inch knobs.
Fresh herbs, like parsley, sage and thyme, roughly chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Remove the bird from the fridge at least an hour before cooking it. Two or three hours at room temp is even better. Place your cut and clean root vegetables and extra mushrooms in a single layer on the bottom of a roasting pan. (Don’t clean the garlic. Don’t even cut it or separate the cloves. Just put the heads in and, once cooked, squeeze out their caramelized yum on your bread during dinner.)

Take off any trussing, and place the bird in a roasting pan. Enlarge the opening of the cavity with your fingers and stuff the bird with as many mushrooms as you can and pour in a hefty palm of salt into the bird. Really. Fret not. While holding over the roasting pan, also fill with cavity with the white grape juice until it runs out of the bird. Place the bird on the root vegetables and pour the remaining juice over the vegetables until the vegetables are nearly covered.

Drizzle olive oil over the top of the bird and sprinkle with a little salt and some pepper as well. Cover the whole roasting pan with tin foil and place in the center of the hot oven and leave for 25-30 minutes. Take off the foil and turn down the oven to 350F, and roast for another 35-50 minutes depending on its size. (For a bigger bird that will require additional cooking time, it is okay to protect the skin with the foil for a little longer.)

A good test for doneness is to pierce that part of the bird where the thigh joins the breast; the juices released should run clear. If you have a thermometer, let the bird reach 160-165F in its thickest part. Keep in mind that doneness for a chicken is 165F, but that the temperature will continue to rise even after you remove it from the oven.

Remove the bird from the oven, cover with tinfoil again as well as a big fluffy bath towel. Really. Leave the bird for 20 minutes to rest before carving.

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Broccoli So Good It Should Be Stalked

Photo by Clara S. from Flickr.com

To be honest, I didn’t like broccoli for a long, long time. When I first went shopping as an adult, I was surprised to find the veggie green and crisp in its original form. They seemed alien – these green stalks that resembled trees as seen from an airplane. This form of broccoli, sprayed intermittently and stacked appealingly in the produce isle, was entirely unlike the veggie simmered limp and decidedly brown by my mother. (Sorry mom. But, you do have other skills other than cooking broccoli.)

Still, despite the fresh green that the broccoli offered from our local greenhouse even midwinter, I did not trust a vegetable that could turn out so horribly once applied to a pan. It wasn’t until my son, 18 months at the time and looking to use his newly sprouted molars on something other than the base of my thumb, happily ate a whole hor’s d’ouvre tray of fresh broccoli at an art gallery opening. I didn’t stop him as I figured the patrons and owners wouldn’t notice as long as he was quietly munching away. I bought my very first stalk as an adult after that. I was 36 years old.

Photo by Carolyn Coles from Flickr.com

Broccoli, In addition to its great crunch and fabulous looks, it has high amounts of potassium which is good for your nervous system, your brain, and your muscles. It contains vitamin C which is a natural antihistamine that can help you breathe clearly while fighting a common cold. It also contains elements that repair skin damage, aid your immune system, and maintain bone health. It even contains

some vitamin A which our bodies use to form a light absorbing molecule necessary for low-light and color vision. And, as you crunch through your florets, remember that it also contains calcium and magnesium which regulate blood pressure.

More:
Recipe: Jenna’s Twisty Waldorf Salad

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Recipe: Jenna’s Twisty Waldorf Salad

Photo by woodleywonderworks from Flickr.com

While I have since found ways to stir fry, blanch, and even roast broccoli in ways much more edible than my mother could ever dream, I decided to include a recipe that loves broccoli for what it is; a crunchy, green bit of good. The twist on a Waldorf salad below can be made vegan, holds up to lunch boxes and potlucks, and is darn yummy too. Enjoy.

Sunflower Seed Dressing Ingredients
(adapted from 101 cookbooks website recipe)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1 T honey ( or agave nectar to taste if making vegan)
salt to taste
warm water to loosen dressing as desired

Salad Ingredients
2 crunchy apples washed and cubed into bite sizes
1 cup broccoli florets cleaned and cut into bite sizes
1 dash salt
1 cup thinly sliced celery (can be omitted)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (can be omitted for nut allergies)
1 cup sunflower seed dressing
raisins to taste (can be omitted)

Preparation
Put apples, florets, celery and walnuts into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for a few minutes. Add a cup of the sunflower dressing and toss. I like the dressing on the thicker side for this recipe as it sticks to the apples and the nooks and crannies of the walnuts and florets. If you’d like, even add a few raisins… If you find

that the apples are browning, feel free to add more lemon juice. But, usually the lemon juice from the dressing does the trick.

More:
Be a Broccoli Stalker

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