Uncategorized, What is FOOD?

Hungry for Hummus

Hummus
Image by kchbrown via Flickr

It could not have happened at a better time. I was rushing to the subway, eager to get home and eat a late lunch, when all of a sudden I noticed an eclectic group of people gathered on the sidewalk patiently waiting in line.

As the nosey New Yorker that I am, I figured it had to be something. It’s a well-known fact that New Yorker’s have become somewhat immune to most daily peculiarities that happen on our sidewalks. For a New Yorker to not only stop what they are doing, but also patiently wait on line, it had to be something pretty good.

At the head of the line was a red idling truck where 2 young women were busily giving away individual sized packages of Sabras Hummus and snack sized bags of Pita chips to everyone in line.

Yippee! Free food!!!

As mentioned in my past post “When Free Can Be Fattening,” I am always a sucker for a freebie. However in this case, this freebie was not only NOT fattening but relatively healthy and low carb. One tablespoon has only 3 carbs.

My plan was to just take the hummus and leave the chips. However by the time I reached the head of the line, these women clearly were weary of giving away their goodies and insisted that I take several packages of BOTH the hummus and the pita chips.

“But I really don’t want that many,” I weakly protested.

“Don’t worry” the young woman enthused. “Once you try it, you’ll want more.”

As I lumbered down the subway with my hands full of humus and pita chips, I reasoned that I would give the chips to my kids and eat my hummus with celery and carrot sticks.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, Hummus can also be spelled hamos, hommos, hommus, homos, houmous, hummos or humus. It is a very popular middle eastern dip made primarily from chickpeas. Chickpeas, or Garbanzo beans in Spanish, or Cece beans in Italy have been used in cooking for thousands of years. In fact, according to The Food Encyclopedia, garbanzo beans are one of the world’s oldest cultivated foods dating as far back as the Neolithic period  in what is now Sicily. During the Roman Empire, chickpeas were shipped in jars from Sicily to the rest of Italy. The middle eastern region is thought to have created Hummus hundreds of years before that by combining chickpeas with lemon juice or vinegar, tahini (sesame seed butter), garlic and olive oil.

Although the history of hummus is lengthy, this ancient dip did not become popular in the United States until the end of the 20th century. Its popularity has steadily increased over the years with a 2010 market research report indicating a 35% growth in hummus consumption over the past 21 months. Sales are reportedly reaching nearly $300 million.

It’s no wonder that Americans are getting “hungry for hummus.” Chickpeas, the main ingredient are rich in protein, fiber, folic acid, zinc and magnesium. Tahini, which is sesame seed butter has about 3 grams of protein per tablespoon along with fiber and mono saturated (the healthy kind) fats.

Try the recipe below and let me know if you are “hungry for hummus”

Roasted Garlic Hummus

  • 1/2 head of roasted garlic (see note below)
  • 1 can of drained chick peas
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of tahini
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Remove roasted garlic cloves from skins. Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serve with your favorite raw veggies.
*** How to roast garlic –  Cut off 1/4 inch of the raw garlic head. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil on top of exposed cloves. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
I like to eat my hummus with lots of raw veggies. Celery Sticks, carrots sticks, red bell pepper and zucchini slices are my favorite. Experiment with your favorite veggies.
Chow for now!
Uncategorized, What is FOOD?

Is That a Pea in my Pod?

Stir-fried snow peas with prawns - Kao Gang
Image by avlxyz via Flickr

All my life, I have disliked green peas. Growing up, I always dreaded the ubiquitous “vegetable medley” favored at  so many school cafeterias. As a kid, I was not averse to plucking out each and every green pea from my Hungry Man Frozen Dinners lest accidentally consuming one of those green, mushy, mealy and slightly sweet little balls.

Because of my aversion to green peas I eschewed snow pea pods most of life assuming them to be the same dreaded vegetable… only bigger.

It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I finally tried a snow pea pod. I was at a chinese banquet and shrimp with snow pea pods was one of the entrees served. As the waiter ceremoniously served everyone at the table, I did not want to be the only one to say “hold the peas,” so I quietly accepted my fate. I reluctantly tried one snow pea pod.

Surprisingly enough, this snow pea pod did not taste like the green peas of my youth.

Crispy, crunchy and slightly sweet, these pea pods bared little resemblance to the mushy, mealy, overcooked, sweet green mush that I remember being force-fed as a child.

It ends up that although green peas and snow peas are in the same family, they are different foods.  Garden peas or green peas are the seeds that come from the flowering plant pod Pisum Sativum. The pod, round and firm in shape, is technically a fruit, as it has seeds (the peas). However, the peas themselves are considered to be a vegetable. These green peas need to be shelled before eating. The pod is not edible.

Snow peas on the other hand are flat and thin and are meant to be eaten whole. Each snow pea pod has 5 -7 seeds and are relatively flat in shape. The name “mangetout” (French for – eat all) can be applied to this legume and its sister pod, sugar snap peas as both the pod and the interior peas can be eaten.

Then there are the sugar snap peas that are sort of a combo of both. They have plump edible pods that are crispy and crunchy. They do not need to be shelled and can be eaten whole.

Buoyed by my recent interest in experimenting with different vegetables, I decided to cook snow peas pods for the first time.  Having never tried cooking anything remotely resembling a pea before, I did what I alway do and googled “how to cook snow peas pods“. It  seems it is pretty similar to cooking any fresh greens.

First you need to rinse the very well and trim off the woody tips of the snow pea pod. Sautee one small chopped onion, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1/2 tsp of chopped ginger in some olive oil in a hot skillet for 2 minutes. Then add the cleaned and trimmed snow pea pods into the pot. I added 2 tsp of soy sauce, a teeny bit of sesame oil and some black pepper. I stirred it around and covered the pan for another 2 minutes. Voila, thats it!

The result was a lovely low cal, low carb, crispy, crunchy and satisfying dish. A whole cup of snow peas pods only has less than 5 carbs!

Try eating some snow pea pods. I promise you they do not taste like green peas.

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

All Hail Kale

Curly kale
Image via Wikipedia

I stopped by my local outdoor farmers market this past Saturday to pick up a few fresh veggies. Unbeknownst to me the market hours are 8:00am to 3:00pm and are strictly enforced. Failure to pack up and vamonos by the witching hour can result in the farmer being fined, or possibly even losing their license.

As I was leisurely meandering through the produce 5 minutes to 3:00, deciding on what to buy, I noticed that all the price signs had already been removed in preparation of closing the stand.

I innocently asked “How much is this?” and “How much is that? to which the busy “farmers” quickly barked out prices while loading their truck.  As I was delicately selecting the greens to put in my bag, the “farmer” impatiently said to me “Lady, how ’bout I give you the rest of whats left in that box (motioning to the large box of Kale) for 5 bucks…. deal? As you all know I love a good deal, this farmer had himself a DEAL!

I triumphantly lugged home several pounds of fresh organic kale home with me ready for some good and healthy eating.

Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables out there. It is chock full of:

  • Beta carotene – fights cancer, heart disease, prevents cataracts, boosts immunity, fights asthma, depression, helps immunity, high blood pressure and arthritis
  • Vitamin K – helps with the clotting of blood
  • Vitamin C – good for your skin helps immunity, combats free radicals,
  • Lutein – good for your eyes
  • Calcium – good for you bones, brain and nervous system

Kale also has great antioxidant properties (great for your skin, fights cancer and good for your cells and heart) and is considered an anti-inflamatory.

Although not as popular as cabbage, Kale or borecole is actually a form of cabbage. In fact the name “borecole” finds its origin from the Dutch wordboerenkool” (farmers cabbage).

The great thing about Kale is that is a very fibrous vegetable and can hold its own against other strong flavors. Some green leafy greens like spinach are more delicate and wilt easily. Not kale. Kale is a very strong and hearty green. All Hail Kale!

As it was a dark and rainy day, I decided to make a rich and hearty kale and spicy sausage stew.

I chopped up a few links of spicy sausage and fried them up in my cast iron Dutch oven. I was lucky enough to pick up Di Paola’s free range spicy turkey sausage at the same farmers market, however, any spicy sausage will do. After the sausage was browned and cooked through, I pulled them out of the pot and set aside for later. I then sautéed 1 medium chopped onion and 2 cloves of chopped garlic in the same pot (with the sausage dripping) in a little olive oil. I then dumped in my roughly chopped cleaned kale, 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water. I let the goodies come to a boil and then poured the cooked sausage on top of the greens and simmered the stew for 20 minutes of so.

This Kale and spicy sausage stew was the closest thing to heart-healthy, hearty, low- cal and low-carb comfort food you can get.

Next up – Homemade Kale Chips  (What else am I going to do with the other 3 lbs of Kale?)

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Just Beet it, Just Beet it

Jackson in the music video for "Beat It&q...
Image via Wikipedia

I was channeling my inner Michael Jackson while I was cooking some beets in my kitchen the other day. Regardless of your opinion of the late Mr. Jackson, there is little argument that his 1983 mega hit “Beat it” was one of most popular and influential songs/music video of its time.

Who can ever forget the throughly entertaining video that depicted the show down between two rivaling gangs in an abandoned warehouse? Two opposing gang members have their wrists bound together, armed with switchblades. As they begin their pas de deux of death, Mr. Jackson intervenes and ultimately brings the gangs together through the power of song and dance.

Although beets, the vegetable have nothing to do with “Beat it” the MJ song and video, the song was running through my head, much to the chagrin of my family, while I was boiling my pot o’beets.

While singing is definitely not my forte, I am a firm believer in self-expression and amused myself humming the catchy tune while preparing our meal.

I recently was turned on to the power of beets after learning about the myriad of health benefits they provide. Up until VERY recently, I never acquired a taste for beets.  The deep reddish purple color and unusual consistency seemed quite “funky” to me.

It wasnt until I heard about all the health benefits that I decided to,  (channeling my inner John Lennon) “Give beets a chance“. 🙂

Beets are loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C. They also are an excellent source of choline, folic acid, maganese, iodine, potassium, fiber and iron.

Health benefits include aiding in the prevention of cancer, anemia, constipation, gout, kidney ailments, varicose veins, dandruff (!) and gastric ulcers.

Beets are also great for people watching their weight as 1 beet (2″ in diameter) only has about 35 calories and less than 6 gms of carbs.

Preparing the beets could not be easier. Just boil a pot of water, add beets and simmer about 20-30 minutes until the beets are tender. Run the freshly boiled beets under cold water and rub the beet. The outer skin will simply peel off and the beet is ready to serve. I cubed my beets and tossed them with a little balsamic vinegar. I crumbled some goat cheese and toasted diced walnuts into the bowl and gently tossed.

There are several other ways to prepare beets but as the newbie that I am, I thought that I would KISS (Keep IT SIMPLE STU***) them and call it a day.

Although I made a valiant effort to get my kids to try, they took one look at my purple concoction and gracefully declined. I don’t blame them. Tossing the beets with the cheese made the once virgin white creamy cheese into a dark fuchsia mess.

Even my husband, turned his nose at my bowl o’beets. 😦

Oh well. More beets for me.

Their loss. Although I agree that they did not seem very appetizing, the beets were in fact not only extremely nutritious, they were also very delicious.

In the words of Michael Jackson:

Just Beat it, Beat it

No one wants to be defeated

Showin how funky, strong is your fight

It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or who’s right

Just Beat it. Beat it, Beat it, Beat it.

***Little tip, don’t add the cheese until the very end. Just a little bit on TOP of the prepared beets would prove to be more aesthetically appealing as the beet juice will not mingle with the cheese until it’s in your mouth.

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Here Chickie, Chickie, Chickpea

Roasted Chickpeas
Image by fritish via Flickr

I was rummaging through my parents kitchen cupboard looking for something to snack on. My mother, annoyed that I was invading her “sanctum” inquired “What the heck are you looking for? You just finished lunch. You’re snacking and eating all the time!” To which I retorted, “Well, HELLO??? I am on the I LOVE FOOD DIET after all.”

I was at my parents house in Florida this past week as my kids had their Winter Break and we all needed a break from the brutal NYC winter weather.

Unfortunately all my parents had in their cupboard was carb filled chips, pretzels and other “no’s no’s that would not suffice on the I LOVE FOOD DIET. Just as I was about to give up and delve in to the “Party Size” bag of Lays Potato Chips, I spotted a lonely and dusty can of Garbanzo Beans way in the back of the shelf.

Eureka! I hit the jackpot. I was going to make a batch of my delicious and nutritious spicy roasted chickpeas! I took out the baking tray from the toaster oven and wrapped it in aluminum foil (easy clean up!).

Then I opened my can o’beans. I drained the beans and then rinsed them in cold water. By doing this you remove the extra starches that ruminate in the canned liquid. I then patted my little golden nuggets with a paper towel and laid these little balls on the baking sheet. I drizzled the chickpeas with a little olive oil and then sprinkled the legumes with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder and a teeny bit of cayenne pepper. I popped these babies into the toaster oven at 450 degrees for about 30 -40 minutes until they were brown and crunchy.

Delicious, salty, crunchy and savory  with just a little kick from the cayenne, I munched on these poolside with a few light beers the rest of the day. Yum! 🙂

Chickpeas also known as  Garbanzo beans, Indian pea, Ceci beans or Bengal grams is an edible legume packed with protein. Chickpeas have a long history dating back thousands of years. In fact depictions of chickpeas have been found on pottery during the late Neolithic (3500 BC) period in what is now Greece.

Further, in their book, Domestication of Plants in the Early World, authors Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf cite evidence of drawings of chickpeas in a cave in Southern France dating as far back as 6790 BCE.

Chickpeas are chock full of zinc, folate, protein and fiber. While they do contain some carbohydrates  (approximately 70 grams for the can), it’s a whole lot less than the 227 grams of carbs, not to mention the huge amounts of fat, in the bag of potato chips I was about to devour.

As the saying goes, beans, beans, good for your heart….

Guiltless snacks. I love the I LOVE FOOD DIET!

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

SUCCESS!!!

Monday Muffin
Image via Wikipedia

OK world. Its official. I am SKINNY!!!! I am back to my pre-pre-pre-pregnancy (2 children) weight and I feel FABULOUS! I celebrated my new fabulousnes by plunking down a few hundred dollars to get my hair done. With my freshly colored tresses and  my newly thin physique, I am feeling GOOOOOOOOOD. 🙂

I kid you not. I did NO exercise….. NONE. As part of my experiment on the I LOVE FOOD DIET, I purposely stopped going to the gym, (I used to work out religiously 3  – 4 times a week). I wanted to truly see if just by following the I LOVE FOOD DIET, the weight would come off….and it did.

I have not starved myself. I have not given up any of my favorite foods. I simply stopped eating heavy carbs. There are an amazing amount of low carb substitutes that can be used in your favorite recipes. My favorite low carb find is Flax Seed Meal. I wrote about the amazing health benefits of Flax Seeds in my post “Move over My Hammy Part II”. In that post I mentioned from an article on Web MD that scientists around the world are touting Flax Seeds as the “one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet”. There is substantial evidence that this “wonder-food” can help prevent cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart disease.

I use this wonder food to make my famous cranberry almond flax-seed meal muffins. Every time I feel a carb craving, I grab one of these delights, pop it in the toaster and smother with butter or cream cheese. Each muffin has only 2 carbs each! Please see recipe below.

Yummy in my Tummy Low Carb Flax seed muffins

  • 1 cup of flax-seed meal (I like the Golden Flax Seed Meal versus the Dark brown version. Its looks more  “muffiny” when cooked.
  • 4 -5 packets of sweet and low
  • 1/4 cup of oil ( I used Olive oil because that was all I had in the house, but Vegetable oil would work as well.
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • ***1/4 cup of sliced pecans (optional – 1 oz of pecans contain only 4 gms of carbs)
  • ***small handful of dried cranberries (optional – dried cranberries have LOTS of carbs. Just use them sparingly, if at all)

Mix all ingredients up and pour into muffin pan or shallow baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes  at 350 degrees. (or until toothpick inserted comes out clean). Serve warm with fresh butter or cream cheese.  Deeeeliiiiicious!

 The I LOVE FOOD DIET is amazingly easy to do and easy to stay on. 

Happy Holidays!

Chow for now!