The Power of Foods to Kickstart your Health!

I'm reading Dr. Neal Barnard's new book which is the basis for an upcoming Food for Life class series I'll be offering at the PenBay YMCA later this month. Its such a great read that I thought I'd share some of this vital information with you as a lead up to the series.  This book is hot off the press and the classes and recipes are brand new!

In the book Dr. Barnard devotes a section to Complete Nutrition, and smoothes over any concerns regarding not getting enough nutrients by choosing a low-fat, plant-based diet. He talks about the same concerns many people have expressed to me. Where do you get your PROTEIN and CALCIUM if you don't eat meat or dairy??? The book explains in plain english how when we replace animal products with other healthful foods you are not only getting the fiber, vitamins and antioxidants from a nutrient-rich diet but you are eliminating the cholesterol and reducing the fat!  We will be addressing these same topics in the class series as attendees prepare to embark on what might be their first exploration of a plant-based diet.
In the book and in the class we will compare this concept of dieting to other popular diets. One of the studies cited in the book, done by Harvard Researchers who developed the Alternate Healthy Eating Index,  rates the intake of healthful and unhealthful foods in order to rate diets. It turns out that cutting carbs and calories does not improve the healthfulness of a person's diet but switching to a low-fat, plant-based diet does! In fact Index scores improve dramatically when eating a low-fat, plant-based diet.

Where do nutrients such as Protein come from? Dr. Barnard talks about his interview with Dr. Denis Burkitt, who was a pioneer for realizing how important fiber is for the diet, he raises the question of protein. Read on to find Dr. Burkitt's response & Dr. Barnard's own words on protein:
"Neal! Forget about protein!" 
As he pointed out, if you have any normal variety of grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits, you'll easily get all the protein you need. If you are keen on boosting your protein intake for whatever reason, you'll find plenty of it in beans and bean products, such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk and vegan deli slices.
The section on Complete Nutrition then goes on to discuss Fat. Hands-down most people get too much of it. When I talk about eliminating added fat in the diet there are always those who say "what about healthy fats such as Omega 3's?" We do need some fat in our diets and the book explains this nicely.  Dr. Barnard discusses ALA's and LA's in plant foods vs the saturated fats found in animal products.

When it comes to calcium, "beans and greens" are your best options with Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale & collards all being healthy sources which have a higher absorption fraction than milk and dairy products meaning our bodies can more readily use the calcium from these plant sources.  Finally the book talks about the problems associated with sourcing calcium from dairy products even though the "got Milk" campaign would never wish you to know it.  Studies have been done which prove milk-drinking children do not have stronger bones than non-milk drinkers and that older woman who drink milk to not have greater protection from bone fractures (due to osteoporosis) than woman who drink little or no milk.  Also noted, if you get your calcium from milk or dairy, you are missing out on the benefits of beta-carotene, fiber, iron, and other nutrients provided by plant-based sources but you are adding excess FAT and CHOLESTEROL!
In this section we learn that keeping calcium is just as important as getting it! Our bodies eliminate calcium by the minute and the process speeds up with the consumption of animal protein and sodium, which are in milk/dairy products to begin with so avoiding these things will actually help our bones. Something else which helps to keep our bones strong, EXERCISE! Both in children and adults so lets get up and go! On that note, I'll head to the PenBay YMCA for some strength training!
We'll delve in to more from Complete Nutrition and other interesting sections of the 21 Day Kickstart book in the coming few weeks until the KICKSTART series begins. We'll have loaner copies of the book at the series or you may purchase one from me.

Andiamo a mangiare! Lasagna!

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This lasagna has a layer of spinach, mushroom & onion on the bottom, butternut squash/tofu mixture in the middle and a special "Pink" Cashew Cream on top!

Not so Lazy Lasagna - In the Pink for Valentine's Day!
(courtesy of the Cancer Survivor's Guide, with some additions)
Makes 8 servings
Your days of soaking lasagna noodles and eating high-fat lasagna are over. Enjoy this cholesterol- and dairy-free meal which also boasts tons of filling fiber and cancer-fighting nutrients. Top this dish off with fortified nutritional yeast for a cheesier flavor and for added vitamin B-12.
1 16-ounce bag chopped frozen spinach, thawed, or 3 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil, or 10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced 
1 lg. onion, diced
10 button mushrooms, sliced, or other favorite vegetable equivalent to about 3 cups chopped
1 pound dry whole-wheat or rice lasagna noodles
2 28-ounce cans plain low-sodium tomato sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed OR roasted
1 pound firm reduced-fat tofu
1/4 cup dairy-free (vegan) parmesan cheese substitute or nutritional yeast 

NOTE: I added an entire butternut squash, peeled, cubed, roasted and mashed with the tofu as an additional layer. I did not add the tofu to the spinach/mushroom/onion mixture. I also made up a batch of Cashew Cream mixed with tomato sauce for the lovely pink top layer, Perfect for Valentine's Day! Heck, I made this lasagna almost entirely different from the recipe but no matter which way you make it, it will be delicious without the meat or cheese!
Preheat oven to 325˚F.

Mix together spinach, tofu, garlic, and salt in a mixing bowl. *Remember, I mixed the tofu and garlic with the roasted butternut squashed and left the spinach/mush/onion mixture as the first layer and the squashed as the 2cd layer.

In a 9"×13" pan, coat the bottom with tomato sauce (about 1/2 cup) followed by a layer of lasagna noodles, overlapping noodles slightly. Spread 1/2 of the spinach and tofu mixture on top of the lasagna noodles, and cover the spinach and tofu layer with another layer of lasagna noodles. Add a layer of tomato sauce, enough to cover the noodles, and then add a layer of mushrooms or other veggies. Sprinkle 1/2 of the basil and 1/2 teaspoon of oregano evenly over the veggies. Continue to add layers of noodles, spinach and tofu, sauce, mushrooms or other veggies, and remaining basil and oregano (1/2 teaspoon) until the layers reach the top of the pan. The final layer should be sauce topped with vegan parmesan substitute or nutritional yeast. * Note, this is where I added the cashew/tomato cream and I wait until I take the foil off to add my Daiya Mozzerella shreds (optional) as they stick to the foil other wise. You can make the cashew cream with roasted red pepper too! I linked to a decent recipe above.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Stick a knife through the center of the lasagna to make sure the noodles are completely cooked. Let cool for 15 minutes, uncovered, before serving.


Served with a salad and a dollop of more 'mato sauce!

Approx. Per serving compared with Tyler's Ultimate Bolognese.  You know how I love to RAZ Tyler Florence :-)
  • Calories: 334  vs. 661 which does not include the noodles
  • Fat: 4.6 g this will go up with the addition of Cashew Cream but Hey, Tyler's Ultimate has close to 50 g of fat!!
  • Saturated Fat: 0.7 g vs 21 g in Tyler's Ultimate which is over 100% of  your daily allowance even on SAD!
  • Calories from Fat: 12.4%  vs 58% calories from fat in TU
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg 140.8 in TU
  • Protein: 18.4 g 35.1 or 70% of your daily allowance in TU, just in this one piece!
  • Carbohydrates: 62.8 g
  • Sugar: 10.3 g
  • Fiber: 11 g vs 2.2 g in the Ultimate. You get the picture
  • Sodium: 1449 mg actually I lowered the sodium by using low sodium tomatoes and no added salt but how can Tyler's be lower in sodium?? 583.7 in TU
  • Calcium: 147 mg
  • Iron: 6.3 mg
  • Vitamin C: 16.9 mg
  • Beta Carotene: 3152 mcg - will be much higher if you added the squashed
  • Vitamin E: 6.2 mg
Well, you get the picture here. This is for sure the "healthier" version of the two but tastes Fantastic! And you can have 2 pieces! :-)

Paula Deen - Eat My Grits!

photo courtesy of the inquisitr

I know, I know... I have stooped so low as to jump onto the band wagon of that ole Cash Cow, Paula Deen. As we all know by now, the southern celebrity chef has announced she has Type2 diabetes and is a spokesperson for a diabetes drug. I felt as though I had to go there along with everyone else and blog about it when D and I had this breakfast for the 2cd morning in a row (I have it frequently but it has become his new favorite). It is a true twist on an old southern favorite ingredient: Grits!

Here is the back story (there is always a back story with me). While my good friend Deb was visiting we took a trip to Morse's Sauerkraut.

look at all that PORK!
Cabbage for making Kraut
It was a snowy winter day (long before Deen's announcement) we decided to go out for a country drive. I had never been to Morse's although I had heard much about the wild and wacky things they sell in the shop which is attached to the restaurant which is located in the middle-of-nowhere, right next to our home, beyond Hope, in Appleton, Maine. I thought it might be a fun adventure on our drive. Among many items available in the shop which I did not consider to be food items I saw ONE THING I wanted to purchase with a burning desire; Organic Stone Ground Grits in beautiful white cloth bags. So what are grits you say??? Well I could not explain grits any better than the woman who penned an entire Southern Living Cookbook about them: Glorious Grits, America's Favorite Comfort Food by Susan McEwen McIntosh.  Here is an excerpt from an old Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article reviewing the book:

"They're corn, of course. In the stone-ground method, "corn passes between two granite stones that crush and grind the grain slowly, generating a lower temperature than occurs in modern milling," writes Mrs. McIntosh in "Glorious Grits." Roller-milled grits results in a product with a longer shelf life, but vitamins and nutrients are lost.
Specifically, stone-ground, whole-grain grits maintain the high-fiber bran, or hull, "which is rich in antioxidants and B-vitamins," she writes. The germ, just under the hull, also contain B vitamins, protein and healthy fats, and contributes flavor.
The remaining endosperm is carbohydrate-rich but lacks nutrients offered by corn's other components. Factory-milled products generally remove the bran and germ, good for the producer, not so good for the consumer, Mrs. McIntosh writes.
Stone-grounds grits, because they maintain the fibrous components of corn, "are more coarsely textured. They take 20 to 25 minutes to cook" with an "improved texture, heartier in how it feels in the mouth, and retain the flavor of fresh corn," she says.
They also have to be cared for more gently than roller-milled grits. Keep them in the refrigerator.
Polenta, probably better known up North, is made from the smaller grindings of corn and cooks more quickly than grits. Keep the grinding going and you'll get cornmeal, which is flour-like.
Then you can get into color: Blue, white or yellow -- there is a rainbow of grits, cornmeal and polenta."

Now Here I am in a YANKEE shop dedicated to European sausages, sweets and Kraut with a very Southern Lady and we find a bin full of Organic Stone-Ground Grits. Why would a shop here in the middle of nowhere Maine have such an item and how on earth we found these grits, I mean look at the images of that shop on the website, it was chock-a-block full! Of course we had to purchase and eat them!?? Grits are an acquired taste which took me years of living in the South to acquire, which magically happened for me right after my grits-loving (god rest his soul) husband died of cancer! It really even used to gross me out to watch people eat them. We get back home with the grits and then Debbie asks with a very worried tone in her voice "what in the world are we going to eat with our grits if we can't have eggs????" We had collards and fakin bacon and it was Fantastic!!
Then I introduced this combo to David upon his return from a shoot and it was such a big hit that he wants it everyday in place of any oatmeal. 
Broccoli with Lemon, Hummus and Grits!
Paula Deen would do well to eat this powerhouse breakfast! The 1/2lb. of broccoli lightly steamed with a squeeze of lemon has 77 calories with less than 1g of fat BUT has nearly 7g of protein, 0 cholesterol and 6g of fiber, this is just the Broccoli. The Grits, cooked with only water have 150 calories with 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 4g of Protein and only 1 g of fiber (hard to believe only 1g!) We added a tablespoon of low-fat hummus and some Sriracha sauce which adds another 40 calories, 1 g fat and 2g each protein & fiber. With all of the fiber and protein in this meal I'm not too worried about the carbs and I don't think Paula with her newly announced diabetes would be either, especially if she is taking her drugs. To read about Grits and Diabetes click here.  One of Deen's recipes for grits contains 252 calories, 0 fiber (she uses instant or quick-cooking grits) and 102 mg of cholesterol!! see Paula's recipe here.


There is really no need for a recipe, is there? Serves 2: You just steam a lb. of broccoli until just tender either in the microwave or stovetop and squeeze 1/2 lemon over it after cooking. Making the grits might be more challenging as you must first find some organic stone ground grits. The article from the Post-Gazette tells you how to do this. Cook them much like steel cut oats 2 - 1 liquid to grits and stir like risotto, adding liquid as needed. I use some low sodium fat free veggie stock in place of water too. Plop a tablespoon of low-fat hummus on top of the hot broc and add a bit of hot sauce (a natural with grits) and Enjoy! You could easily have grits and eat them Paula, but leave off the eggs, cream and butter :-)


Cook Well, Eat Well and Live Long!