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Pike 1926
The Pike School
Andover, Massachusetts
An independent, coed, day school
for grades pre-kindergarten through nine

Chef's Notes

2012-13

 (Chef's Notes from 2010-11 and 2011-12 may be found in the Chef's Notes Archive.)  

This year's Chef's Notes are listed with the most recent at the top.

 

#25 Artificial Chemical Sweeteners

This will end my overview notes on sugar as well as my notes for this school year. I hope in some small way the information has been both informative and beneficial to my readers. I now offer my research and thoughts on artificial sweeteners. Rather than confuse my readers with chemistry and the huge volume of research, I will move quickly to the basic findings and conclusions: “Avoid all chemical sweeteners and use Stevia instead.” So says consumer health advocate Mike Adams in his book, Grocery Warning.

Artificial sweeteners are found under a multitude of names: sucralose, acesulfame, and, of course, aspartame. You will know the latter by its common name, NutraSweet. Overuse of any artificial sweetener is now being found to contribute to tumors, headaches, migraines, and a long list of medical problems, including Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, the FDA states there is a “safe” level of such sweeteners, which will not harm people. Even the American Medical Association has agreed with the FDA that these sweeteners are safe for consumption at the recommended levels. However, it is important to note that currently there is NO requirement that food manufacturers list the amounts of aspartame nor any chemical sweetener in their product. Unfortunately, chemical sweeteners are found in everything from your vitamins to your desserts. So, it is very difficult to track the actual amount the average person consumes. Therefore, the general public is most likely consuming more than the arbitrary limits that have been established. In summary, it is better to believe that none of the chemical sweeteners are really safe for consumption in the long term. Avoid them and choose Stevia, an alternative sweetener.

Stevia is produced from a plant and contains no chemicals or artificial additives. It has no calories, adds no carbohydrates, does not alter blood sugar levels, and it does not cause the pancreas to produce insulin. While I do not find it as sweet as my old friend Equal, it is the product I have switched to and am currently using. It is the correct choice.

Another product on your supermarket shelf is Truvia, a natural sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant, erythsitol crystals (a sugar alcohol found in fruit), and natural flavors. The natural sugar alcohol is free of chemicals, tastes like sugar, and has no additives, but it does add some calories and it does effect the glycemic index to a slight degree. I find Truvia to be sweeter than I prefer. Thus, there are choices you can make. Do the research, and limit or eliminate refined sugars and artificial chemical sweeteners; you will live healthier.

 

#24 Honey: Another Disappointment

My main purpose in my notes is to motivate the reader to research and analyze the subjects, not to drastically change one's diet, but to make astute choices in one’s eating habits and avoid common pitfalls. I also aim to provide some of the hidden facts that food producers do not wish us to know about their products. Unfortunately I now turn to honey, another of my past favorites.

When questioned as to why I did not list honey as a natural sweetener and an alternative to refined table sugar in a previous Note, I hesitated on the answer, as honey is a natural sweetener. However, it is considered to be as damaging as refined sugar. Consider the fact that the honey bear is the only animal in nature that suffers from severe tooth decay. Yes, honey has been found to decay teeth much faster than refined table sugar. And the bad news does not end there. Honey mimics refined sugar, as 96% of it's dry matter is composed of simple sugars such as fructose, sucrose, and glucose. Honey is also much higher in calories than refined table sugar. Per tablespoon, honey has 65 calories, while refined table sugar has only 48. This is clearly not good for weight loss. Also, if you are using honey on a regular basis BEWARE; it can lead to increased blood serum fatty acids, faster decaying teeth, and, of course, the similar problems I have stated with the over-consumption of refined sugar. The vast majority of nutritional studies and certified nutritional advisors agree that consumption of honey can be dangerous on a daily or prolonged basis or in large amounts. It should be used sparingly and treated like refined, added sugar.

Next week I will focus on which sugar substitutes are best for you and your body; you may be surprised.      

 

#23 Orange Juice: The New Pink Slime                     

I cannot express how distressing this particular note is to me personally, as I really like orange juice. I have drunk oj all my life, from early childhood to today, as I take my vitamins each morning. “No more,” I am sorry to say. My research uncovered some nasty facts of which I was not aware.

Let me start with the basics and then move to the real concerns. Orange juice is very high in natural sugars, along with fiber, vitamins, and a lot of health benefits from it's chemical make-up. However, according to the Athletic Minded Traveler, studies have confirmed that drinking one glass of orange juice a day raises the diabetes risk by 20%, thanks to all that natural sugar. You may think squeezing your own would help, but it has the opposite effect. Squeezing your own requires the juice of four oranges for an 8-ounce glass and contains four times the sugar of one orange, no fiber, and a reduction of the benefits of simply eating an orange. The obvious solution is to eat a single orange.

If you have squeezed your own juice at home, you most likely have noticed that the taste is slightly different as you go from season to season and different types and origins of oranges. Yet, if you buy prepared, fresh, natural orange juice from Tropicana, Minute Maid, Florida Fresh or the like, the taste is always the same, regardless of the season. The flavor, aroma, and taste is always consistent. Common sense makes one wonder, "How do they do that?" Could it be that PepsiCo and Coca Cola, who own most of the companies producing orange juice, have developed a method to achieve this?  Correct! There is a definite formulae that is followed, just as in the mixing of Pepsi or Coke.

All our oranges are harvested in season and then squeezed for their juice. Now things take a downward turn. The juice is moved to large holding tanks where the oxygen is removed, along with some of the chemicals, and the juice is held, vacuum sealed, for later use. This will prevent spoilage for a year or more. Unfortunately, it was soon realized that when released from the holding tanks and the oxygen put back in, the juice was tasteless, with no aroma or body. To remedy the problem, flavor and fragrance companies were contracted--the same ones used by Dior and Calvin Klein--to produce a "flavor pack," using the spent remains from the juice processing. That would be pulp. rind, fiber tissue, seeds, etc. Thus, excellence through chemistry developed flavor packets complete with the oils of orange to reconstitute the juice, a “natural product,” not unlike the concept of "pink slime" in hamburger meat, as they involve the by-products of the oranges. However, even industry insiders will tell you that these flavor packets do not even resemble anything found in nature.

The benefits to these large companies is that now they can tailor the taste of their product to the countries to which they are marketed. Thus, you would find the taste of your juice different in Brazil or Europe than in the United States. Minute Maid prefers their orange juice slightly sweeter; no problem. So here we are with our tailored product labeled as “fresh squeezed, not from concentrate” with not a word about “flavor packs" amongn the ingredients.

The important thing to realize in our understanding of this situation is that our Food and Drug Administration has no formal definition of the term "natural." Its position is that it does not object to the term if it is "truthful” and the product does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. PepsiCo and Tropicana are being sued in the Eastern District Court in California for their orange juice not being from concentrated fresh premium orange juice. The argument is that it is heavily processed and have added aroma and flavorings. The counter is that these "flavor packs" are made from orange by-products--rind, skin, seeds, oils and remnants--and do not need to be listed as ingredients. Remind you of the "pink slime" arguments? This court case was filed in January 2012 and will most likely go on for a very long time, as we have two industry giants not wishing to bury this information and not change their posture on the subject. As for myself, I have stopped drinking orange juice, and other juices, and will simply eat the raw fruit for my needs. Very disheartening. Next week: honey.


#22 Sugar Part III

Last week I stated that I would provide my readers with a list of ways that over-consumption of added sugars and their counterparts are dangerous to your health. After looking at a great deal of research and numerous studies and articles, I have come to the conclusion that the serious reader needs to know about Nancy Appleton. Dr. Appleton has been writing and lecturing about the dangers of sugar and other health issues since the 1970s. Her 1988 best-seller, Lick the Sugar Habit, is still available. Her most recent book is Suicide By Sugar: A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction. In it, she lists 143 ways sugars present a danger to one's body, and you can see that list by clicking here. That link will take you to one of many posts worth reading on www.nancyappleton.com.  Next week I will be writing about orange juice and honey, as I have been asked questions on both and now feel that I have enough information to provide answers. You will be surprised. 

 

#21 Sugar Part II: Effects to Health.

As with the "Pink Slime" and "Blue Zones," the reader is ahead of the curve with the sugar problem. MSN.com just became aware of this problem and issued their first bullet last week. All experts and studies agree that cutting out ALL sugary drinks and limiting foods containing "added sugar" is the best overall step to improving one's general health, to which I say, “Good luck with that,” as "added sugars" are everywhere.

I have attempted over this last week to personally apply this directive and found it to be extremely difficult. It is far easier (though, still, really not that easy) to concentrate on the recommended amounts of "added sugar" allowed daily, as mentioned in Part I; that is: no more than 150 grams of "added sugar" for men and no more than 100 grams of "added sugar" for women. As an example of the degree of difficulty, I offer this example. Each morning I take my vitamins with an 8 ounce glass of half orange juice and half cranberry juice. Both juices are the top brands and are bought at a high-end grocery store. However, in this 8-ounce cup, I have just consumed about 28 grams of "added sugar." I have begun, this week, squeezing my own oranges and eliminating the cranberry juice. This is just one, small example that "added sugars" are everywhere.

Why has this happened? Well, it was during the ‘70s that our awareness of fats in foods and their dangers came to national attention. Manufacturers scrambled to take the fat out but realized that what they were left with was rather tasteless. They quickly discovered that by the addition of "added sugars" taste returned. Thus, refined sugars, fructose, and high fructose corn syrup became the accepted subsitute. Unfortunately, the dangers of "added sugars" were not fully understood and are finally being realized by the health community.

Kimber Stanhope, a nutritional biologist at the University of California, Davis, states that her research reveals that "the over consumption of high-fructose corn syrup increases risk for heart disease and stroke". Also according to her findings, the over consumption of "added sugar" and fructose requires the liver to work harder to turn these products to fat. This fat is very unhealthy and leads to dangerous levels of LDL cholesterol, which forms plaque in the arteries. Too much of these sugars are also linked to numerous types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. Ms. Stanhope is joined in her statements by Lewis Cartley, a Harvard professor and the Head of Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center. He explains that some tumors have insulin receptors which feed on glucose. Our bodies use insulin to keep our blood sugars under control. Ingestion of large amounts of "added sugar" or fructuse triggers the release of insulin in order to process these sugars. That raises the insulin level, slows the rate of growth hormones, and depresses the immune system--very unhealthy for our bodies.

We have already established that refined or "added sugars" and fructose are devoid of vitamins, fiber, protein and minerals. Now we see that these additives have a degenerative effect on the immune system, liver, endoctrine system, aging process, and heart health. This, unfortunately, is only the beginning. In Part III I will address in detail how toxic sugar is to your system and present to the reader a huge list of illnesses that can be attributed to sugar. As a final thought to this section: please realize that all major researches and health organizations, including the American Dietetic Association, The American Diabetic Association, and the American Heart Association all agree that our consumption of "added sugars" is one of the top three major causes of degenerative disease.


#20 The Dangers of Added Sugar-Part 1

In the coming weeks, I am going to focus my nutritional notes on the subject of sugar. Natural sugars are those found in nature. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and the lactose in milk are all examples of natural, unprocessed sugars. Refined sugars, on the other hand, which are found in almost all processed foods, pose many dangers and health risks. These are the sugars that are slowly killing us.The purpose of these next few notes will be to examine those dangers and risks.

In the refining process, all vitamins, minerals, fiber, proteins, and water are stripped from the cane or beets being processed. This leaves us with a processed chemical product not found in nature. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, a California based endocrinologist, "Sugar is as addictive as cocaine and causes obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.” The good doctor suggests that all Americans should seek rehab for their sugar addiction. While on CBS "60 MINUTES," he demonstrated his claim through a series of brain scans. Also, do not be fooled by brown sugar as a health food, as this is really just refined white sugar with molasses spun back into it for color and flavor. Raw sugar is a wholesome food product, but hard to find. Raw sugar is a coarse, brown, sticky substance produced by simply boiling down whole cane juice and not easy to locate in American stores.

So why all the concern about "added" sugars? Aren’t saturated fats a concern, also? Of course we all should be concerned about saturated fats. However, our awareness of saturated fats is already very high. These "added" sugars, hidden in all processed foods, have not gotten as much press. Surprising amounts are added to tomato ketchup, peanut butter, low-fat organic yogurts, salad dressings, and others of our most popular foods. The list is nearly infinite. According to every recent study on these "added" sugars, the average American consumes between 130 and 155 pounds of this worthless substance every year. That is between 1/3 and 1/2 pounds per day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has listed the consumption of sugar for the average American at 156 pounds of sugar per year. Now you can easily see why I am going to devote a number of articles to this topic.

In the coming weeks I will examine the health risks of this large amount of "added" sugar to our system, the dangers of the majority of artificial sweeteners, and how we can make our lives better by eliminating these sugars form our diet. I will provide some recipes for making your own tomato ketchup and peanut butter,etc. I am also going to limit my intake of added sugars and reduce my saturated fats to see how this does or does not aid overall health and weight. That means I will limit myself to no more than 150 grams of added sugar daily. Women are allowed only 100 grams. Remember: this is "added" sugar, but keep in mind calories when going for the natural sugars. Be careful not to over-compensate. More in my next note.


#19 The Interaction of Grapefruit and Prescription Medications

I knew this, but I had forgotten, and when a doctor prescribes an oral medication for me, I seldom if ever read all of the warnings and disclaimers that usually end with “in rare instances may cause severe reactions, even death”. But really, grapefruit juice?

It has been over a decade since grapefruit juice was accidently discovered to interact with prescription medicine. Researchers were trying to investigate how alcohol could interact with felodipine, a drug prescribed for high blood pressure and angina treatment, and they chose grapefruit juice to mask the taste of the alcohol. To the researchers’ surprise, the felodipine levels in the study were several times greater than in previous studies. Looking for an answer, they believed that the furanocoumarins contained in grapefruit could be responsible, because they block enzymes in the lower intestine whose function is to break down many medications. Grapefruit juice appears to create a severe blocking effect for a 24-hour time period after ingesting it, thus increasing the potency of some medications. Check with your pharmacist to confirm that none of your medications or the medications your family members take are affected by grapefruit juice. There are currently 43 prescribed medications that have been identified as having absorption issues with grapefruit, according to Lawson Health Research Institute in Ontario, Canada. “Potential” interaction raises the number to 85 prescription medications. I actually take three of these medications, but I do not drink grapefruit juice or eat grapefruit. Researchers are now examining the blocking interaction of both licorice and kale. They are not believed to have as serious an affect, but it is known they impede digestive enzymes.


#18 Puff Dough Turnovers

Here is a recipe I am currently developing. It does allow for your alterations; you can change the filling to suit your preferences. I give you Puff Dough Turnovers.

Ingredients:

Shrimp (30-40) – whole, peeled, deveined, tail off***         18
Garlic Oil                                                                                        4 oz
Grape Tomatoes – cut in half                                                   18
White Mushroom Caps – small, sliced                                   12
Lemon Juice – fresh squeezed                                                 1 oz
Sour Cream                                                                                   6 tablespoons
Parmesan Cheese – finely grated                                            6 teaspoons
Seasonings – your choice of:
                                    Old Bay
                                    Cayenne Pepper
                                    Salad Supreme                                        to taste
Sea Salt                                                                                         to taste
Pepper – cracked black                                                              to taste
Butter – clarified                                                                           as needed - 2 tablespoons
Puff Pastry – 4x4 inch square                                                     6
Fresh Chives – minced                                                               as needed - 2 tablespoons

Method:

Heat garlic oil over medium heat. Add shrimp and sauté until shrimp are cooked.

Remove only the shrimp from pan. Set shrimp aside in a bowl for later use.

Add lemon juice, tomatoes, and sliced mushrooms to heated garlic oil in pan, and sauté until cooked.

Remove sautéed tomatoes and mushrooms. Set aside in bowl with reserved shrimp.

Turn off heat under pan. Add sour cream, Parmesan cheese, seasonings, salt, and pepper to remaining garlic oil. Blend well.

Add enough sauce mixture to shrimp, tomatoes, and mushrooms to moisten and flavor.

Set aside remaining sauce mixture to use when serving turnovers.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush both sides of puff pastry square with clarified butter, and place on sheet pan.

Divide shrimp mixture in six portions and place mixture in center of each square. Fold half of dough over mixture to form a triangle. Crimp/seal edges tightly with a fork.

Place sheet pan in over and bake until dough rises and turns golden brown. Remove from oven.

To plate turnovers, place a spoonful of reserved sauce on plate. Place the turnover on top of sauce and add second spoonful of sauce across the top of the turnover. Garnish with chopped chives and serve. If there is remaining sauce, place it in a bowl and serve to guests. 

*** Chicken, pork, or an alternate seafood can be substituted for the shrimp. Adjust seasonings to compliment the type of meat used. The recipe can be altered to suit your taste; onions, spinach or other vegetables can be used as well.

I have been asked to continue with my recipes between my nutritional notes, so I will be doing recipes intermittently. I will continue my health notes next week with grapefruit juice's interaction with your prescription medications. I strongly urge you to read next week’s nutrition note.


#17 Last notes on Phytoplankton, Superfoods, and Nutraceuticals

We are finished for now with the series on Phytoplankton, with the exception of these final comments. After taking the power for thirty-plus days (1 tsp. per day) and the pills for thirty days (two per day), I sent for and am now taking the liquid form. Oceans Alive suggests one dropper a day for sixty days. They hasten to add that for more fragile health concerns, several droppers per day is normal. I have started with two droppers per day. The first I place at the back of my tongue for direct absorption into my blood stream. I recommend this method for those who are strong of heart as the taste is VERY salty and VERY strong in seaweed and kelp flavor. It is much better than the powder, but still distasteful. The very good news is that my second dropper of the day, mixed with orange, cranberry, or any juice or coconut water product, is almost undetectable. Having now taken the phytoplankton in all three forms, I would definitely recommend the liquid form in juice. I hope to report the same or better results from this liquid trial.  I believe the information I have provided to date will be helpful in improving your overall health. Should you have additional questions or need guidance in this field, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Moving forward to my notes on Superfoods and Nutraceuticals, I refer you back to my note #13, where I began discussioning these topics. I defined these terms and stated that we have already covered the superfoods in earlier notes, but without the pretentiousness afforded the subject by many current writers. It is only in recent years that scientific research has verified and increased public awareness of natural food products, but the foods have always been here..

Science has also shown that foods may be boosted in benefit by being fortified with vitamins and provide extra nutritional value. Thus we have nutraceutiicials. When I first started with this subject, I had hoped I would be able to impart some new and different information to the reader. However, the more research I did, the more I realized this was merely a new slant or update on information of which the reader already had knowledge. Though the names were changed in some instances, the products were much the same. Take the product "Ghee." Mysterious sounding, but Wikipedia defines it simply as "a class of clarified butter commonly used in South Asia Cusine." Clarified butter has been used in cooking much longer than I have been alive. Clarified butter is simply butter that is free of milk product residue, salts, and impurities. Ghee is carried by Walmart at $11.60 for 16 oz. or by Purity Farms (Swanson) Organic Ghee at $10.99 for 13oz. You can always simply make it by heating two pounds of butter and simmering it for several minutes, removing it from the heat, and letting it stand to cool. The butter on the top should be golden and clear. Carefully remove this liquid to an air-tight container, and it should last you a week or more at room temperature, longer if kept cold. And the residual milk by-products I simply put in my mashed potatoes at home. I use ghee as but one example of "new" innovations in nutrition and food products that are simply more chic and marketable "buzz names" for long-established (and less expensive) foods. Read my notes, keep things simple, and use familiar products with proven nutritional values.


#16 Marine Phytoplankton in Comparison to Other Algae

Perhaps in the last note, the term "debunking" Spirulina and Chlorella was somewhat strong. Still, there is little reason to choose either of these supplements over marine phytoplankton. Marine phytoplankton is far superior to other algae products currently being marketed. Unfortunately, much of the available information in articles and on the web are by companies attempting to sell you their supplements. Still, if one examines and sifts through the vast amount of information, one can construct a proper nutritional profile by independent writers, such as Mike Adams, editor of NaturalNews, who wrote on phytoplankton in 2008.                           

Phytoplankton contains 72 minerals, all vitamins, magnesium, manganese, silicon, iodine, 92 trace minerals, and the list just goes on. Additionally, it has 14 amino acids, omega 3 and 6, co-enzyme cq-10, and the most important component: chlorophyll.

I would like to clarify the terms "phytoplankton" and the "algae" I am referring to as I write. There are well over 43,000 different types that were studied in the attempt to locate a correct nutritional strain. Oceans Alive (#1 recommended by NaturalNews and other independent sources) isolated a strain called Nannochlorpsis gaditana. This specific type of algae, after a very careful study and analysis, was found to match the nutritional human profile. Simply put, this particular type of marine phytoplankton supplies all the base nutritional materials to produce new healthy cells and neutrochemicals. It overshadows all other algae products. That is not to say that either Spirulina or Chlorella can not make a positive impact on your health. They share similarities to the phytoplankton, but they are not complete, have a different nutritional profile, and are grown in fresh water. It is well to note that most all Chlorella are hard shelled and break down very slowly in the digestive system, sometimes not at all. There is one recent strain of Chlorella called Chlorella sorokiniana that has recently come to market. This strain will break down and get into your system in less than three hours. If you choose to take either the Spirulina or Chlorella, it will not hurt your well-being, but why not just buy the organic pure phytoplankton? No matter what you choose to purchase for a supplement, remember to READ THE LABEL and any other available product information. It is your health. Many suppliers have rushed algae-based supplements to the market and this has resulted in poor quality standards, uncontrolled strains of algae, numerous fillers, the use of fast growing microalgae at the lowest price, and improper processing. That, combined with poor packaging, causes oxidation to destroy the active ingredients before the product even gets to the marketplace. So do the research. While we are not offering a cure-all, we are offering a supplement that works to provide positive impact on the body and a healthy nutritional food for cell structure.                  

I would like to end this note with two statements that I have not verified as absolute, but they sum up my feelings on other algae products. First, no animals actually feed on Spirulina and Chlorella. Second, if we do not know why animals do not eat it , should we consume it? Apparently, animals do not find the blue-green algae a useful food source, but all marine life thrive, directly or indirectly, on phytoplankton.  Enough said for now.


#15 Nutraceuticals and Super Foods

First I want to provide an update of the phytoplankton trial after three months. Personally, my eczema is still at an extremely low ebb and is a non-issue at this point. The gentleman who was suffering from stage-four lung cancer did not see any growth in the tumor, and this was without any form of medication other than the phytoplankton. Unfortunately, there was no relief from all the side effects of the tumor: fluid build up, coughing, shortness of breath and lack of energy. In this advance stage, we may be just too far down the road, and the individual is nearly eighty. The last individual who I felt would see the least results surprised me by seeing great benefit to the  anti-inflammatory properties of phytoplankton and has already ordered more pills. I have hesitated to mention two of the other side effects of the phytoplankton on me. This is something that is not mentioned in any of the articles but had a very physical effect on me. I started taking the powder around Thanksgiving and, within a very short period of time, noticed that I had stopped drinking wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. I simply lost all interest in them. Then I noticed that I also had stopped snacking at night, which I previously had loved to do. My wife was the one who pointed this out to me. I have to believe these were side effects of the phytoplankton, as the reader will remember from my Note #12, that " I changed nothing in my dietary or vitamin consumption, food or beverage intake, or my daily activity." As I said this was a personal experience. On this football playoffs weekend, surrounded by nachos, popcorn, chips, bar-b-que, beer, and people imbibing in all of it, my total consumption was one beer, the beginnings of another, which I left 3/4 full, and no snacks. This was not a deliberate attempt at abstinence; I simply didn't want any more. I can only stress that was a solid side effect for me, and I intend to continue the supplement, as I am sure there are other benefits I am receiving that I have not yet realized.

My new note concerns some new buzz words you are going to hear: Nutraceuticals and Super Foods. After reading several articles, two cook books, and searching the web, I feel that I can offer the reader some insight to this "new" trend in nutrition. Let me start with super foods, which are simply foods that are steeped in nutrients, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. These foods have long been a part of natural medicine and the natural product industry. An example comes from "Smart Balance" and their "10 Superfoods for Heart Health": almonds, avocado, blueberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, carrots, flaxseed, oatmeal, brown rice, and salmon. Blueberries, for example, which work at the cell level with their antioxidant property and fiber are certainly a super food by definition.

The term Nutraceuticals is a term coined by Steven Defelice, MD., who created the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine. The word is a combination of "nutrition" and "pharmaceutical." We now have natural medicines being produced from superfoods. Yet, while pursuing this study, I realized that without the glitz and pretentiousness of the new names and processes, I covered most of this material in past Notes in layman's terms. Thus, I am returning the two, new-era cookbooks that recommend restocking one's pantry with such faddish, expensive, and hard-to-find items as maqui berries, maca, hemp seed, gogi berry, grasses, chia seed, camu camu berry, sea buckthorn, etc., etc. in favor of explaining, in straightforward terms, how to take the best from this "new" (old) direction, in combination with common, nonengineered foods, to improve our health. Next week, I will begin by debunking the new algae, Spirulina and Chlorella, which do not compare well to the marine phytoplankton which I have discussed in length the last several months.


#14

Resolutions

Welcome back as we start a new year. I’m sure we have now all made and already broken some New Years resolutions. Perhaps many of you went the usual route and chose resolutions like lose weight, get in shape, and watch what we eat. To assist you with these particular resolutions, the recent issue of Health magazine ran an article called “Beyond Donuts: The biggest diet mistakes we all make,” written by Cynthia Sass, RD, Health’s nutrition professional. The contents make very good sense and embody a good deal of what I have discussed in recent notes. The information is presented in five concepts.

First, while something is good for you, it does not mean you need to over-portion or consume it in greater amounts. Portion control of foods that are good for you is the key - one piece of whole grain bread; not three pieces at one sitting. It is common sense not to overdo a meal because you constructed it from items good for you.

Next, if you are looking at becoming a vegetarian or a vegan or if you decide to go gluten free, you MUST replace your protein, fats, and carbs that you would have gained or consumed from a normal healthy diet. These lost items, known as macronutrients, can be replaced with standard portions of beans, brown rice, and quinoa, as well as a few tablespoons of nuts (almonds, walnuts, and cashews) added to a salad. The failure to replace macronutrients can lead to fatigue, weight gain, and low metabolism in addition to bloating and digestive issues. Replacements should be added in normal portions so you will avoid overeating. 

The third suggestion is one we all will like – eating often. You should be eating every four to five hours, using healthy snacks in between breakfast, lunch, and dinner (keeping in mind proper portions). A healthy diet does not involve “saving up” calories to be used in a larger meal. Your body needs constant energy, and it will burn muscle if there is no food for fuel. “Saving up” is counter productive and dangerous to your body’s wellbeing and overall health.

The next most common mistake is emotional- or stress-eating, and it is something we all fall prey to. The higher the stress or emotional state we experience, the stronger the temptation to indulge or overindulge. No matter if your craving is savory or sweet, the search for the release of the stress or emotion can be tied to the consumption of food. Boredom can even precipitate the desire to eat. Redirecting your food cravings by learning to relax (release the stress, emotion, or boredom) using healthy options is important. Try exercise, yoga, music. Take advantage of other non-food related outlets to reduce stress, emotional pressure, and personal situations.

Lastly, there is no such thing as a quick fix. Look at where you are and where you want to be in the next three months, six months, and a year. Then develop a realistic, solid plan you can live with within those time frames. Your plan should be well thought out and it should combine an initial diet and a light exercise program. Both should be something reasonable and realistic. You can adjust your food intake and exercise as you go when you feel ready (more exercise requires more food, so you don’t lose muscle mass). It is your body; let it guide you.

All of the above are suggestions, things you must choose for yourself for a healthier, longer life. To end on a humorous note, a card I saw recently read, “I’m opening a gym called ‘Resolutions.’ It will have exercise equipment for the first two weeks and then turns into a bar for the rest of the year!” The choice is up to you.


#13

Lobster Bites on Sourdough Bread

This recipe will delight your holiday guests and be an elegant addition to your food offerings. 

Broken Lobster meat, knuckle & claw, minced fine                           1 pound
Cream Cheese                                                                                          ¾ cup
Brie                                                                                                              ¾ cup
Chives, minced                                                                                         1 cup
Lemon Juice                                                                                              1 teaspoon

1. Blend mixture to a creamy but firm consistency.

Sourdough Bread, cocktail round size                                                40 slices
Unsalted Butter, melted                                                                          as needed
Eggs, large                                                                                                6
Half & Half                                                                                                 ¼ cup
Old Bay Seasoning                                                                                 1 teaspoon
Lemon Zest                                                                                               as needed
Basil, slivered                                                                                           as needed

2. Mix eggs, Half & Half, and Old Bay in bowl until smooth.

3. Brush melted butter on both sides of sourdough bread rounds, place on baking sheet, and bake until light brown.

4. Place lobster mixture on bread round and top with another bread round to make a “sandwich”.

5. In a large skillet melt a few tablespoons of butter to medium heat.

6. Dip “sandwiches” in egg mixture and sauté both sides until golden brown (1 to ½ minutes each side). Return to baking sheet and hold for service.

7. When you are ready to serve them, pop the tray of sautéed “sandwiches” in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes.

8. Remove from oven, plate, and serve.

9. Garnish with lemon zest and slivered basil.

- I would recommend making this item up the day of your party because making them too far in advance will cause them to become soggy.

- Minced jalapenos, a small quantity, may be added to the lobster mixture to add some heat.

- If you can’t find sourdough circles, you can create your own with a circular cookie cutter.  Think cocktail bread size (about a half dollar). Pepperidge Farms makes thin sliced breads. 

- The item can be made in a larger size but it will need to be cut in half to serve, and it presents better if not cut up for service. 

 

#12

Phytoplankton Update and Recipe for Bonacker-Style Clam Fritters

I am now two weeks into my program of ingesting 100% pure marine phytoplankton. I remind the reader that each of us has different body chemistry and diet and dietary needs; thus, these are my reactions in the initial stage. I have suffered in the past several years from slight eczema on my ankles, legs, and around my ears. Especially in the winter months, it becomes red and scaly and itches. That was the situation when I started this trial experiment. After two weeks, the red spots are light pink and I am experiencing no scaling or itching. I changed NOTHING in my dietary intake, vitamin consumption, or beverage consumption. I can only conclude that the ingestion of the phytoplankton produced this initial result. Secondly I have always been a very light sleeper, requiring only four to six hours a night. After several days, I noticed that I slept like the dead for 3 1/2 to 4 hours per night, and then somewhat lighter until I arise. My alarm even went off a few times in the last two weeks, and that has never happened before. The rest of the initial results are subjective. I do notice a slight increase in my morning energy level and slightly less pain in my ankles when I stand for eight or nine hours. While fully realizing this supplement is not a fountain of youth, nor will I ever be 21 again, I will continue to take this product and hope for more positive results in the next two weeks, and then I will continue for another month. To read more, visit http://www.purehealingfoods.com/phytoplanktonInfo.php

Now for the small downside of this item. It is sold in powder form,100 mg (a 30-50) day supply for $140.00, so it is not inexpensive. However DO NOT BUY THIS ITEM! While having the reported positive effect on me, my one teaspoon per day is difficult to mix with any liquid--orange juice, cranberry juice, etc. I have not yet tried Vodka, but I am about to give it a shot. Mixed in 6-8 ounces of liquid, it looks like green pond scum and is extremely strong in flavor, which stays with you. I may never eat sushi again, as it has the taste of the nori wrapper, but a lot stronger. I gag it down each morning. I called the company and found that it is now produced in gel capsule form, 90 grams for $142.50. In this form, it has a brief moment of the bad taste, and then it is over and done. Cliff Hauptman at Pike has started the capsules, so I know this to be true. It is the exact same phytoplankton I am taking, and he is taking three a day, which is roughly the equivalent of a teaspoonful. I am definitely going to the capsule form for my second month. I will just bear with the awful taste until the capsules arrive, and the remainder of my batch goes to plant food.

Bonacker-Style Clam Fritters

On a more culinary note, my recipe this week is again old school, but different enough to be a big hit. While many make a version of potato pancakes for the holiday, and I have enjoyed some great ones, most fall into a vortex of store-bought, frozen, or incorrectly made. Thus I thought I would share with you a recipe for clam fritters. It was initially developed by Craig Claiborne, whom, you might remember, was one of the all-time great food writers. He called the recipe Bonacker-Style Clam Fritters. Mr Claiborne thought it to be the "....perfect example of authentic American cooking. Bonacker is the name given to the natives of East Hampton, Long Island." He found them to be less heavy and with a lighter, more palatable breading than most.

Here is the recipe as it was initially developed 

Ingredients:
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking power
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/3 cup of clam juice
1/4 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of melted butter
Pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 1/2 cups of fresh chopped clams
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil          

Directions:
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking power in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the eggs, lemon juice, clam juice, milk, butter, and cayenne, whisking until the batter is smooth. Add parsley and clams. In a heavy skillet, add vegetable oil to a depth of 1/8 inch and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot but NOT smoking, spoon about 2 tablespoons of clam batter for each fritter. Fry golden brown on one side, then turn the fritters over and fry for about two to three minutes more. Test to make sure they are cooked all the way through. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper, and serve. You can prepare your own particular sauce with this, being careful not to overwhelm the fritter. Garnish with lemon zest and minced chives.

Comments:
A final note on this recipe item. The salt and pepper and the lemon zest and chive garnish are a great enhancement. The recipe produces a nice flavor fritter. If it were something I were making at home, I would double the lemon juice. I also prefer a little zip in my food, so I would add three tablespoons of finely minced onions and two tablespoons of finely diced jalapeno (without the seeds), both sauteed in a little garlic oil. However, this fritter is very light and a delight to eat. 

In terms of cooking, I would cut the amount dropped into the oil from two tablespoons to one tablespoon, as the former produces a dinner-style size, while the one-tablespoon makes a cocktail party size. Now, having said all this, I am most sure that this is what Mr. Claiborne grew up with, as he comes from that area and it holds fond memories for him, as well as it is exactly what he expects, rather like a good pot roast that most of us grew up with in our childhood. It is also the reason that we test every recipe here before we publish it, so as to make the necessary comments and suggestions. I would definitely use this over the holidays in cocktail form, but with my adjustments. It is truly the lightest fritter I have ever eaten. As one final note, I would cook them two minutes on each side to GOLDEN brown and finish them in the oven if they required any additional time to finish or firm up. I really dislike dark brown sauteed or fried items of any type. They look burnt, even if they are not. Thank you for your understanding. I really had fun with this recipe.

 

#11

BPA Warning

I had intended to continue with my holiday recipes in this note, but my wife sent me this article from her office and said it might be a good nutritional point for many in our community. After reading the article and several other corresponding articles, I do feel it is information of which we should be aware. It is from the editors of Rodale.com. You may read the complete article at MSN Healthy Living under the title “The easiest way for kids to lose weight?” but the gist of it is this:

"You would never give your child a birth control pill. But the food industry is feeding children something almost as damaging every time it packages food in a can. Bisphenol A, a chemical that was initially developed as a drug to aid in healthy pregnancy, is commonly used in the epoxy linings of canned goods and some plastics, and it's being linked to a growing number of health problems, from heart disease to metabolic disorders in adults."

Additionally a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that it could be contributing to America's childhood obesity epidemic. This study looked at a random sampling of 2,800 children from ages 6-19 who filled out data every two years. This was done in three different surveys and compared their body mass index(BMI) with levels of Bisphenol A (BPA)detected in their bodies. Nearly all the children had detectable levels of BPA. Those with the highest levels were more likely to be overweight with higher BMI. This held true even after caloric intake, physical activity level, and genetic factors were accounted for in the study.

The study was quick to point out that BPA does not necessarily cause obesity. However, the evidence suggests that BPA  may be stored in body fat. It would stand to reason that obese children would have more BPA in their bodies than children with less body fat. The results
definitely suggest that exposing children to constant low levels of a chemical known to interfere with hormonal development is not a good thing. Studies also suggest that 99 percent of BPA in children's bodies comes from their diet. There are also studies that have found that in addition to weight retention, this nasty chemical has been associated with aggressive behavior and other similar behavioral problems in children.

Thus, here we have a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to obesity, infertility, and behavioral and neurological issues. Still the chemical industry and some government researchers continue to say it is safe. Remember “Pink Slime.” The FDA has not formally banned the chemical but encourages food companies to find safer alternatives. While the federal government has banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, this is way short of serious protection to the general public. Though it is impossible to protect your children from all the BPA in the food system, here are some ways you can immediately reduce the exposure: avoid cans (they are lined with an epoxy that contains BPA); use fresh or frozen items; never microwave plastic (even "microwave-safe" containers can leech chemicals such as BPA); be wary of BPA-free plastic products, as many contain other and equally damaging hormone disrupting chemicals; and use glass where possible, such as in food storage containers.


#10

Kaffir Lime Seared Scallops

Prior to beginning this note I want to inform you that I have received my phytoplankton and have begun the control experiment on Monday, November 19, and will continue for a month. The initial dosage will be one teaspoon a day, taken at night before bed. I am sure it will take several days to notice any change, but I will keep you posted.

Now my next holiday recipe for Kaffir Lime Seared Scallops.

The dish takes it's name from the Kaffir lime, which is Asian (Indochinese) in origin. It is very intense in aroma and flavor, and its season is September through December. This lime is very tart and is as well known for its leaves as for the lime itself. The leaves are used whole or slightly torn in soups and sauces. The leaves are NOT eaten in their whole state, but are simmered to extract the flavor and then removed and thrown away. Of course, you can use key limes if you can not find the Kaffir limes. You cannot miss the Kaffir lime, as it has bumps all over its skin to distinguish it from other limes.

In terms of this recipe, the size of the scallop or shrimp (works for them, too) will depend on what you are placing the item in for service. For the spoons mentioned in my last note, a smaller sea scallop would be better.  In a bibb lettuce cup, a somewhat larger scallop is best.  And for an entree, use a large scallop.

It is a good time to inform those readers who do not know about the sizing of shrimp and scallops, that both these items are done by count to the pound. With the scallop, this is pretty straight-forward, as the only cleaning is the removal of the small attachment muscle prior to cooking. With shrimp, the count is also by the pound, but the end-product is different, as you must peel and clean the shrimp, and the loss may be substantial. As an instance, if you buy a pound of 16-20 shell-on shrimp, you will get 16-20 shrimp, but after the removal of the tail, shell, and vein, you will find the pound has become a half-pound. Instead of that 1-ounce shrimp, you now have one of 1/2 to 3/4 of an ounce. So, cleaned, these shrimp are really 21-25 to the pound. Thus, that nice "jumbo" shrimp is now only "large," and you have not cooked it yet, so we may be on our way to "medium" at 26- to 30-count shrimp after cooking. Your best bet, if possible, is to buy cleaned, peeled, and tail-off frozen.  Then you only need to contend with cooking loss.

For this recipe you will need a pound of dry sea scallops, muscle-off; two tablespoons of butter;  two tablespoons of vegetable oil; and a coating mixture of salt-pepper-and old bay seasoning. This is a LIGHT mixture to add flavor, not overpower the item.

Now heat a frying pan, with the butter and oil in it, on med-high heat. When the butter and oil start to crackle, dust the scallops in the coating mixture, place them in the hot oil, and cook three to four minutes on each side. Please be careful NOT TO OVER COOK; better under than over. Remove the frying pan and place the scallops on a plate.  Return the frying pan to the heat, and add three tablespoons of butter; 1/4 cup of good dry white wine; and two medium shallots, diced fine. Cook about two minutes. Next add 1/4 cup lime zest; 2 teaspoons of juice from the Kaffir lime; three leaves from the lime, torn slightly; fresh cracked black pepper to taste; and a teaspoon of honey. Cook an additional five minutes, whisk the sauce, and adjust for taste, i.e., salt, pepper, more sweetener, etc., etc. Remove from heat and strain the juices. Return them to the pan. Place the scallops, along with any juices the have seeped out, into the sauce and toss to coat. Turn off the heat. Add finely-diced, fresh herbs:1/8 cup Italian parsley; 1/8 cup of chives; and 1/8 cup of basil. Toss the scallops one more time to coat with the herbs and serve.


#9      

A Favorite Product       

In this note, I would like to introduce you to a product that you are most likely not aware of, although it is made in Boston. It was awarded the Catered Arts Through Innovative Excellence award in 2003. This award was presented by the International Caterers Association to the most novel and trendy concept. Still, the concept was slow to catch on, but the company continued to modify its product, and this year (2012) it received the "Best in Show" award at the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Exposition in Orlando. So although a Boston company, it had to travel to Florida for proper recognition. Moreover, the great benefit to this item is that you can use your own special recipes with it, several of which are suggested by the maker, and others can be found in magazines or books.

I sincerely hope that after this build up I have caught your attention. The article about this product comes from "Edibles by Jack" at www.ediblesbyjack.com. What I am referring to is the edible Asian spoon. At last count, it came in 14 flavors to match and/or compliment your filling. As an example, I love Caprese salad. If one was to take buffalo mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and basil, and dice them fine, toss them in a seasoned olive oil with a bit of cracked peppercorn, and place a spoon full in the bowl of the edible spoon, my choice for the flavor of the spoon would be Italian Herb. You might also like Parm-Basil or Black Pepper Parm; they produce all three in their shop. The beauty of this item is that you can have a glass of wine in one hand and the spoon in the other. No need for a knife, fork, or spoon. Even the napkin is not essential. You simply place any leftover in a trash container. The website will provide a listing of all the flavors and cost, as well as packing size. They are packed small enough so that you could have a variety of novel appetizers for your guests to try at your gathering. In my next note I will give you my recipe for Kaffir lime seared scallops, which would go nicely in a spoon.



#8

Holiday Recipe: Mini Vegetable Pinwheels

(This last weekend we had our Admission Open House. Prior to my recipe note, below, I want to relate some feedback I received from two visiting mothers, concerning my Chef’s Notes. Both mothers had read the articles on marine phytoplankton and on coconut oil. Each is currently using both items, and they reported that they noticed how much better they feel – an overall healthier feeling in general. Although I have never put either of these items out as a cure-all or perfect answer to good health, I have recommended them to you for your evaluation, to see if these and other similar products will provide you with a healthier life. Every person is unique; our different physical and emotional make-ups and our varied lifestyles each affect our overall health, so outcomes will vary when trying a new product. I will begin a personal control test of both, each for a thirty day period, and I will update you on my actual progress and the overall effect on my health.)

This week, for my vegan/vegetarian friends, my selected hors d’oeuvre is mini pinwheel sandwiches.You, of course, may add any number of fillings for my meat and seafood lovers. What I will provide is a basic vegetable roll that you can customize to your liking.

Ingredients: 

Lavosh Bread – rectangular (sheets 9” or 10” long)      3 or 4
Garlic Hummus                                                                     1 cup
Red Pepper Hummus                                                          1 cup
Oil (to soften Hummus and to sauté veggies)                  as needed
Hydroponic Bibb Lettuce                                                     1 head
Vegetables – your preference                                             quantity as needed
(English cucumber, roasted red peppers, grape 
tomatoes, sautéed sweet onion, sautéed zucchini, 
roasted or sautéed garlic, avocado. Slice thin and 
soak in water/lemon solution to keep from turning
dark)
Fresh Herbs – chopped fine                                                for garnish

  • Vegetables all need to be sliced thin/slivered thin enough to be able to roll up in the wrap.
  • Sauté lightly the onion, zucchini, or other vegetables typically cooked.
  • Slice thin the lettuce leaves.
  • Combine both types of hummus. Add oil if necessary to thin mixture to a spreadable consistency - the oil from any sautéed veggies can be used instead, to add flavor.
  • Lay lavosh bread flat and lightly spread with hummus, creating a light coating.
  • Leaving ½-inch bare on each end, top hummus with layers of shredded lettuce, and then vegetables.
  • Starting from one end, tightly roll up lavosh bread into a log, and seal it in plastic wrap.
  • Place roll-up in refrigerator and chill for later use, at least 1 to 2 hours minimum.
  • Remove roll up from the refrigerator, trim off the ends, and slice into approx. 1½-inch sections, creating a pinwheel. Discard the trimmed ends.

To serve

  • Place remaining hummus mixture in small bowl and place in the center of the serving platter.
  • Line serving platter with extra lettuce leaves.
  • Carefully handle and place pinwheels on lettuce on the serving platter around the bowl of hummus.
  • Garnish with fresh chopped herbs if desired. 

#7

A Brief Diversion to Talk about Sugar

Prior to continuing with my recipes, I had promised several parents I would address the sugar issue, a HUGE topic and most likely too large a subject to give readers a complete, clear, concise overview. However, the November issue of Health Magazine contains a two-page nutrition update, “The Whole Story about Sugar.” While not actually the whole story, it is a good primer for the layperson. What I am reporting, here, is taken directly from that article.

“We actually need sugar; it’s our body’s preferred fuel,” says David Katz, MD, Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. He goes on to add, “But we just eat too damn much of it.” He hastened to add that we need to clearly define the difference between “naturally occurring sugar” and the dreaded “added” sugar. The sugar found in fruit, vegetables, milk, fish, shellfish, and some meats is naturally-occurring sugar. Any sugar added in the manufacturing, processing, or food preparation is added sugar. This is what we should NOT be consuming in large quantities. Cereal is a great example – Cinnamon Toast Crunch contains 8g of sugar per serving, Honey Nut Cheerios (my personal favorite) contains 8g of sugar per serving, but regular Cheerios contains less than 1 gram of sugar per serving. So the obvious answer is to choose regular Cheerios with a calorie-free sweetener. “The FDA deems Stevia, Equal (aspartame), Splenda (sucralose), and other calorie free sweeteners safe.” Kimber Stanhope, PhD, a nutritional biologist at the University of California-Davis, states that “Short term data suggests they’re safer than table sugar.” Also important to note is that faux sugar does not cause blood sugar spikes, weight gain, or any of the ills associated with added sugar. The reader would do well to note that sugar in the raw, agave nectar, and the like are NO better than table sugar. Also, many contain fructose, which gets held up in the liver more than other types of sugar. While sucanat and honey have some trace nutrients, they are all the same as white sugar in terms of calories (some contain more) and we tend to use more of these particular items.

So the question is how much sugar is okay for us? While this depends on one’s gender, age, and activity level, the American Heart Association recommends that most women should consume no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day. I sit here writing this drinking a Sprite Zero with no added sugar, looking online at a regular Pepsi which has 41 grams of sugar per 12 oz can. Hard to believe a single can of Pepsi contains more than one day’s recommended allowance of added sugar. One surprising item that contains “hidden” sugar is salad dressing. It can contain, per serving, more than the daily recommended intake of added sugar. So once again, the lesson is READ THE LABEL!!! Also, use natural sugars found in fruit to satisfy your sweet cravings. These natural sugars, in addition to tasting sweet, also contain vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and a small amount of sugar. In closing, I encourage you to read more on this vast topic, including the numerous opinions and personal viewpoints from various experts, because I have discussed briefly only a few of the main points in this overview.


#6

Holiday Recipe:  Asian Sweet Chile Chicken in Lettuce Cups Hors d'Ouevre

For my second hors d’oeuvre suggestion I am offering an item I encountered many years ago in a Chinese restaurant in La Jolla, CA – they called it Ming Squab. Over the years I have adapted the recipe and substituted chicken for the squab so the new very popular incarnation is dubbed Asian Sweet Chile Chicken in Lettuce Cups. The item is simple to assemble and it looks great, although it appears as though you spent quite a bit of time on its preparation.

For this recipe you will need:

Fresh Roasted Chicken – fully cooked                       1
       (purchased from your local grocer)
Chicken Broth                                                                  12 oz

Sweet Onion – minced fine                                            1
Garlic Cloves – slivered fine                                          3
Oil – canola or olive                                                         2-4 tablespoons

Asian/Thai Chili Sauce – your preferred brand           ¼ to ½ cup
Salt                                                                                       to taste
Black Pepper – cracked                                                   to taste

Lettuce Leaves – bibb, butter, hydroponic,
           endive, inner romaine                                           1 to 2 heads
Lemon Zest                                                                         2-3 tablespoons
Chives – chopped                                                             3-4 tablespoons

First remove the skin from the fully cooked roasted chicken, set aside.
Remove all of the meat from the chicken and mince it fine.
Place reserved skin from the chicken in a food processor with chicken broth and puree.
Sauté garlic in oil until light golden brown. Set aside for later use.
Sauté onion in oil until translucent.
Mix together skin/broth puree with sautéed onions/oil. Add minced chicken to the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Blend in Asian/Thai Chili sauce to flavor.

To assemble item you will need the firm crunchy leaves from the lettuce. Place the lettuce leaf on your tray and top with a generous spoonful of the chicken mixture. Garnish (sprinkle on top) with the sautéed garlic, lemon zest, and chopped chives. Serve at room temperature.

The nice thing about this item is that YOU can tailor it to your personal culinary preferences. The chicken mixture can be adapted – it can become hot and spicy by adding Shiraha Chile sauce; minced cilantro or ginger adds a subtle background flavor; and adding chopped salted peanuts gives the dish a great crunch. This item has a wonderful Oriental flavor so STAY AWAY FROM adding cumin, Chinese five spice, or anise, because they will overwhelm the other ingredients. If you want to add curry, go ahead, but use a mild Chinese curry. Also remember to add your personal spices/herbs a little at a time, mix and taste before adding more, because once they are added in you can’t take them out.

I like this dish for several reasons: the chicken mixture can be made a day or two in advance (I think you will notice that the flavors are enhanced if you make the mixture ahead of time); and the item looks great on the tray. 

 

#5 

Holiday Recipe: Jumbo Shrimp with Prosciutto and Basil Hors d'Ouevre

As we approach the holidays, I thought I would share several of my preferred hors d’oeuvres that are just different enough from the usual run-of-the-mill party fare to make your event more special. My personal favorite is Jumbo Shrimp with Prosciutto and Basil. This item can be served hot or cold with a variety of sauces. I prefer to serve the shrimp at room temperature with a light roasted onion-garlic sauce, which complements the delicate flavors of the item. This recipe is good for four to six guests but can be modified, depending on your number of guests.

For this dish you will need the following items:

Jumbo Shrimp, raw, shell off but tail on                    1 lb
(U16, which is 16 shrimp to the pound)

Prosciutto – sliced                                                        ½ lb

Basil – large leaves                                                      1 bunch

Take out the vein if it is not already removed, and rinse each shrimp. Dip shrimp in olive oil and shake off any excess. Wrap a basil leaf (or two) around the shrimp, and then immediately wrap the sliced prosciutto around (and over) the basil. Secure with a water-soaked toothpick. 

If I were a purest (I am not), I would tell you the shrimp are ready for the grill. However, I prefer to bake them in a 350-degree oven for 8-12 minutes. The timing is not exact because I do not know your oven, nor if you were able to purchase the jumbo shrimp.  Best rule of thumb is to remove the shrimp from the oven just when they turn white (I prefer mine under-cooked when they are translucent and just turning white). Do not overcook the shrimp, or they will become tough and rubbery. Let the shrimp rest before serving.

The sauce can be made ahead of time (2-3 days) and can be used on/with various items.

Onions – peeled, sliced ¼ inch thick                                                  1 lb

Garlic Bulbs – tops cut off & majority of outer skin removed           2

Olive Oil – your choice                                                                          1 cup

Balsamic Vinegar – your choice but good quality                            to taste

Lemon Juice – fresh squeezed                                                           1 ½ Tbs

Dry White Wine –good Italian                                                              1 ½ cups

Fresh Ground Pepper                                                                           to taste

Chives – fresh, minced                                                                         for garnish

Place onions, and garlic on a baking sheet, generously sprinkle with olive oil, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Roast in the oven for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, press the roasted garlic cloves out of each shell, and place them in a food processor with the roasted onion. Blend to a liquid, adding more olive oil if necessary. Add in lemon juice, white wine, and pepper, and continue to blend. Adjust seasoning to your taste; if you prefer a sweeter sauce, add a little maple syrup or honey to the mixture. 

The sauce can be brushed on the shrimp or used as a dipping sauce (in a bowl in the center of the platter). Garnish shrimp with minced fresh chives.

 

#4

Phytoplankton: Sources and a Recipe

In the past two articles, I have explained the health benefits of phytoplankton and encouraged you to research the subject. I have also warned you about the many imposters on the market that offer little of the phytoplankton and a lot of filler and sugar. I’ve settled on two sources that seem to be among the best:  Oceans Alive Marine Phytoplankton and FrequenSea Marine Phytoplankton. The latter website brought me to BCboating.com which contains a multitude of information about FrequenSea Nutritional Supplement with Marine Phytoplankton, Vitamins, and Minerals. The site gives the reader a clear overview, as well as a complete listing of all its nutritional components. The list will amaze you.

Once you make the decision to try phytoplankton, we know 100% pure, naturally-processed is the best for you, with a proper dosage of one to two teaspoons per day. A thirty-day supply can run $40 to $50, so this product is not inexpensive. I would expect the price to drop in the future as phytoplankton becomes more main stream.

Either in liquid or pure powder form, I would recommend taking this supplement in a green tea smoothie: ¾ cup strong green tea; a teaspoon of phytoplankton; three tablespoons of organic yogurt; a cup of your favorite fruit; and ice cubes. Lunch and prior to going to bed are best in terms of timing.

I have ordered this product for my own personal use. Once I receive the product and begin using it, I will report back to you regarding what improvements I do or do not feel at the two to three week mark and again after the one month mark.


#3

More Plankton

Phytoplankton produces concentrated raw materials and releases them into the food chain; in fact, they form the very basis of our food chain. Phytoplankton store and release nutritional compounds and minerals. They are described as minuscule in size and include organisms like algae and protozoa. Life as we know it would not be possible without these organisms. When we refer to phytoplankton, we are considering them to be green vegetation that grows on the oceans. People can greatly benefit from all the nutrients stored in these plants. They can boost our cellular health, because phytoplankton contain the entire range of trace minerals needed by the human body, along with amino acids, omega 3, and numerous vitamins and enzymes. As research continues, more and more beneficial properties of phytoplankton are revealed. Currently, many claims lack a sufficient number of clinical studies, although preliminary studies have been extremely encouraging. The early research has shown that phytoplankton provide nutritional elements that can assist in the prevention and treatment of the following: chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney and bladder dysfunction, chronic joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis, skin eruptions, heart disease, respiratory disorders, several forms of cancer, and the list goes on, citing a multitude of other disorders.

There is a significant difference in opinion as to which product is best to ingest for the maximum benefit. From past experience we have come to understand that raw products are best. Currently there is only one--Ocean Alive--produced by Sunfood Nutrition, which meets the criteria, and there are numerous imposters on the market that contain large amounts of fillers and ingredients that have been processed.

In my next set of notes, I will provide website links, prices, and recommended dosages, as well as nutritional drinks that young adults will enjoy. The subject of phytoplankton is truly out on the cutting edge of nutrition with a multitude of information available, so I encourage you to research the subject on your own.

 

#2

Plankton

Before beginning this note, for the few meat lovers left in our community, I would like to recommend the September issue of The Wine Spectator.   A large number of the articles in this month’s issue are devoted to “All about Beef, an American passion." It is extremely well written, clear and concise, educational, and in a fully understandable text. If I had attempted to convey this information to my readers it would have required several lengthy weekly notes, and frankly, I am not sure I could have explored the topic as well. Thus I encourage anyone who consumes or purchases meat (beef) for their family or themselves to read these articles. I even found the recipes to be straightforward and easy to follow.

That being said, I now introduce the latest superfood – Plankton.

Marine phytoplankton, a microalga, is growing in popularity as an extremely powerful superfood in its raw, unprocessed, liquid form. It has been found to contain potent anti-cancer nutrients, elements that reverse heart disease, and it helps protect brain function. I hasten to add that nothing of this product is FDA approved as a vitamin or dietary supplement.

I discussed color in my first article: how pigmentation of most foods is what gives them the majority of their nutrients and health-giving protection. Marine phytoplankton contains myriad minerals, amino acids, nutrients, anti oxidants, and trace elements. It has gained in popularity for being a source of iron, zinc, magnesium, chromium, strontium, iodine, and the list goes on and on. It is said that all these contained minerals are the base of good long-lasting health. 

In my next article I will explain what marine phytoplankton is claimed to do for certain illnesses, what forms it is available in, where to buy it, and the recommended dosage. I am still investigating the subject, and while there is some disagreement, all do agree that phytoplankton is extremely beneficial to the human body.

 

#1

Put Color In Your Food

As I begin this year’s nutritional notes I was intending to introduce my readers to the new SUPERFOOD –Plankton and Phytoplankton.  However, as I am now researching the subject I find that they come in several forms and there are numerous cheap imitations.  Unfortunately, given the number of offerings and some differing opinions as to the form and amount that gives maximum benefit, I will need to postpone my report for a few weeks.  However, the one consistent point made by all: marine phytoplankton and plankton will be a superfood in the near future.  In the meantime I will begin the 2012-2013 nutrition notes with a discussion of putting color in your food.

Several years ago, I read a book entitled The Color Code by James A. Joseph, PhD, Daniel A. Nadeau, MD, and Ann Underwood.  While concentrating on photochemicals, pigments, and nutrients, and based in solid food chemistry, it boiled down to this main point: the color of food matters.  While I did enjoy the book, it was not a riveting, best seller list, novel.  I had mentally filed the information until I read an article in the August issue of Bon Appétit, “Get Some Color” by Meryl Rothstein, which seems to draw information from not only the aforementioned book but also from the work of Dr. Navinda Seeram, the director of the Bioactive Botanical Research Laboratory at the University of Rhode Island.  The point of the two discussions is that color brings nutrients to your “plate” through their pigment, because each color has a different and/or supplemental health-giving property/properties. As an example, red tomatoes add lycopene, while orange and yellow fruits and vegetables convert to beta carotene or directly add vitamin A to your body.  The color green – lettuce, basil, and zucchini - brings luten and zeaxanthin to your meal, while blue, dark red, and purple provide antioxidants.  In previous notes you may recall that blueberries, strawberries, and some beans are considered to be some of the best sources of antioxidants. 

So, by “coloring” your meals with colored fruits and vegetables, you can take advantage of the numerous health benefits obtained through the various pigments and chemical compositions of those choices.  These same vitamins and nutrients have been linked to eye health; the reduction of strokes, heart disease, prostrate disease, and lung disease; and to lowering the incidence of numerous other physical ailments.  A simple step forward in your health is the inclusion of colored fruits and vegetables in your daily meal planning, with use in omelets, sandwiches, salads, stir fry, and side dishes.  These suggestions are not a cure-all but are an easy step to improving your wellbeing.  Make a Caprese salad or sauté vegetables to serve with your dinner. Have fresh fruit with berries for dessert. And understand that even the small addition of lettuce and tomato to your sandwich, or peppers, onions, and spinach to your omelet, or choosing a sweet potato over a white one will help.  

The more I research, read, and write the nutritional notes, the more I realize that our students here at Pike are very fortunate that we can offer them a multitude of options that can provide them with the building blocks for their sound health.  Hopefully our five meals (of their twenty one meals per week) will inspire them to carry these guidelines and healthy options forward, understanding that you don’t have to give up tasty and inviting meals to eat healthy.

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