Reading and Understanding the New Nutrition Facts Panel

I often spend what seems like hours reading the labels on the food products I’m considering buying at the grocery store. And I always find unpleasant surprises such as how a simple can of kidney beans often contains either high fructose corn syrup or sugar If you didn’t look you wouldn’t know and you’d be adding unnecessary calories to your chili or whatever dish you were planning to make. And who needs extra calories? Who wants sugar in their beans? I certainly don’t. And so I was happy that my friend Kath Beyer sent me some fascinating information on Pyure that takes stevia plants and refines them into a powerful but non-caloric sweetener we can use as a sugar substitute. But even better, the article she sent shows how to really read the new nutrition panels on the foods we buy.

Stevia is a plant product that can be used as a sugar substitute

First some background. As much as we love our sweets and sweet tastes, no one wants the extra calories nor what sugar does to our health. There are many sweeteners on the market but Pyure is a line of plant-based, sugar substitutes created for people who want the best sweeteners for both their taste and the health benefits we’re all looking for.

The Pyure Process

It starts with harvesting and drying the highest quality leaves from the best tasting species of organic, non-GMO stevia plants.

Then through a process similar to steeping tea, we extract the very sweetest part of the stevia leaf.

What’s left with is known as Reb A, a fine white powder 350 times the sweetness of table sugar!

For more information, the Sweet Talk blog is filled with information about the benefits of organic and zero-calorie stevia products.

Sugar and the New Food Label

Families using Pyure are taking a step towards more healthy eating.

First the Really Bad News

We as Americans consume WAY too much sugar. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the average person consumes approximately 17 teaspoons per day or 270 calories from added sugars. The World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugar to 10% of our total daily calories (about 50 grams for a 2000 calorie diet) while the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 24 grams per day (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams per day (9 teaspoons) for men. 

That means we are typically eating almost three times the AHA recommendations. According to the FDA, scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar.

The new nutrition label makes it easier than ever to identify sugar and added sugars in your food.

Identifying added sugars on the label.

Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods like fruits, veggies, and dairy products like milk or plain unsweetened yogurt. These nutrient-dense foods are encouraged as part of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, and the sugar grams found in them will count towards the total carbohydrates on the label.

The new label also requires listing “Added Sugars” in grams and as a percent Daily Value (%DV). The added sugars category includes sugars that are either added during the processing of foods or are packaged as is, like a bag of white sugar. It also includes sugars from syrups and honey, sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices and sugar added to dried fruit. 

The question of “refined sugar” can be confusing. Bottom line. When it comes to our bodies, sugar is sugar. Agave, coconut sugar and pure maple syrup may be marketed as better for you, but they are still 100% sugar and all count towards the proposed daily limits for added sugars.

The new labels are a huge improvement for savvy consumers because until now it was impossible to distinguish the amount of sugar that was added to foods containing both naturally occurring and added forms of sugar like flavored yogurt or a fruit and nut granola bar.

What about low and no calorie sweeteners?

Low and no calorie sweeteners like stevia are not included in added sugars since they do not provide significant calories, carbohydrates or behave like sugar in the body. That’s important for the more than 100 million Americans living with diabetes or prediabetes, as well as diseases like low blood sugar.

Since stevia is 200 to 300 times as sweet as sugar only a tiny amount is needed to achieve the sweet taste we look for in our favorite foods. That makes stevia or products sweetened with stevia an easy way to help manage the amount of sugar we consume.

Where do you find sugar alcohols on the label?

Since sugar alcohols fall into their own category, they have their own line on the nutrition facts panel. Sweeteners, like erythritol, that contribute zero calories per gram do not affect glucose or insulin levels, but they are counted in the total carbohydrate content on the food label. 

That adds a bit of confusion, so there is a separate line for these sugar alcohols under the “sugars” line on the food label. To calculate the “net carbs,” subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrate grams. For example, Pyure Organic Maple Flavored Syrup (1/4 cup serving):

Total carbohydrate: 27 g

Dietary Fiber: 13 g

Erythritol: 10 g

Net carbs = 4 g 

Only foods that actually contain sugar alcohols will have the separate line listed on the label, making them easier to identify.

Although the new label is more realistic and designed to be easier to read, when it comes to carbohydrates and sugars, there is still some sleuthing that needs to be done. We hope this breakdown clears everything up for you.

Now we’ve learned about reading labels, let’s take a break and try one of the recipes on Pyure website.

Keto Cream Cheese Pancakes

Adapted from Healthy Recipes, these pancakes feel indulgent without all the artificial sugar. Top with your favorite fruit, sugar-free maple syrup alternative, or sugar-free hunny alternative.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Microwave the cream cheese for 10-20 seconds to soften it. Make sure it doesn’t turn into liquid. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs well with a hand whisk.
  3. Add the cream cheese, vanilla, and stevia. Whisk until well incorporated and smooth. This will require some time and patience!
  4. Heat half the butter in two mini nonstick skillets (or use an egg frying pan) over medium heat. Add ¼ of the batter to each skillet. Cook until golden brown and set on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook 1 more minute. Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil.
  5. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter to the pans.

Sources:

I’ll soon be sharing more product information, recipes, and nutritional information.

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Angela Medearis: The Ultimate Kitchen Diva

Photograph by Penny De Los Santos-Diabetic cookbook, Author Amgela Medearis

“People are eating African American food every day, but they don’t know it,” Angela Shelf Medearis says to me when we chat on the phone. In part, she’s talking about James Hemings who, in the complicated way of slavery, trained in the culinary arts in Paris and became a noted chef de cuisine and yet lived most of his life enslaved. Hemings either created or introduced a variety of the foods we eat now such as macaroni and cheese, ice cream, French fries, meringues, crème brulée, and French-style whipped cream.  Another dish he created that we don’t eat regularly if at all is his handwritten recipe for snow eggs–soft, poached meringue, set in puddles of crème anglaise.

          Hemings was the son of Elizabeth Hemings, an enslaved woman and  John Wayles, the man who “owned” her. The two had six children together.  Wayles also had a more traditional family and his daughter Martha married a plantation owner named Thomas Jefferson. Thus, James was the half-brother of  Martha Jefferson who “inherited” James  (that’s so creepy I even hate writing it) when Wayles died. James was eight when they all came to live at Monticello. His youngest sister, Sally was just an infant. To make matters even more complex, after Martha died and Sally reached some type of maturity—she was probably in her mid-teens, she became Jefferson’s mistress and had six children by him, four of whom lived to adulthood.

          So, Sally Hemmings was Martha Jefferson’s half-sister, and her children were half-siblings to Martha and Thomas’s children. I only mention all this to show how intertwined Black and White families were and also how the foodways of both merged.

          But while Hemings introduced the Frenchified cookery to America,  

Medearis, the founder of Diva Productions, Inc., the organization that produces her multicultural children’s books, cookbooks, videos, and audiocassettes, points out that people weren’t eating black-eyed peas before Africans arrive in this country.

          “Back then they even thought tomatoes were poisonous,” she says. “But when they shipped slaves, they also shipped  the foods they ate with them  because that was a cheap way to feed them,” she says. “The recipes for those foods traveled from one place to the other. If they stopped in the Caribbean or South America before coming here, then the recipes changed with the foods and spices available and the types of cooking techniques.”

          Medearis, a television chef known as the Kitchen Diva, has written 107 books. Many are children’s books, but she also is a cookbook author focusing on both the historic roots of African American cookery and healthy eating like The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook: 150 Healthy, Delicious Recipes for Diabetics and Those Who Dine with Them.

But she didn’t start out to be a cook.

          “I only cooked enough that social services wouldn’t come and take away my children,” she says with a laugh. But her mother, after she retired, decided she wanted to market her raisin pie for some extra income.

While her mother and sister did the cooking, Medearis who often wears feather boas during her TV appearances and on her PBS cooking show and isn’t shy about being in the limelight, did the marketing.

But when her mother and sister decided to quit, Medearis knew she had to learn to cook if she wanted to keep her food business going.

Now she’s so full force that celebrity chef and restauranteur Bobby Flay arrived for a Jerk Chicken Throwdown while she was marinating jerk chicken for a family get. It was for his Food Network show Throwdown with Bobby Flay. 

          Who won I ask?

Medearis’s Jerk Chicken

          “My chicken had been marinating for hours,” Medearis replies. “He just arrived from Manhattan and threw some spices on his chicken. It burned. I beat Bobby.”

Watch it here.

Though she originally didn’t cook Medearis had written several loved historic research. Did I know that George Washington Carver drove a food wagon around to introduce people to healthy foods?

No. I knew that Carver, who famously said, “There is probably no subject more important than the study of food,” was born a slave and became a botanist, author, educator and agriculturalist. He also collaborated with auto magnate Henry Ford on growing peanuts and soybeans.

And don’t even get her started on Carver and black-eyed peas.

“Black-eyed peas, okra, peanuts and sesame seeds, and the oil they produce, are documented contributions from Africa via the slave trade to our American cuisine,” she writes in her syndicated column. “I prepared black-eyed peas any number of ways while doing research for my first cookbook.”

That would be The African-American Kitchen: Cooking from Our Heritage, a best seller that even now 30 years later is considered a standard on the foodways African Americans bought to this country.  The problem though was getting it published. Her award winning children’s books were published by Dutton and when she brought the idea for her cookbook, she found an editor there who loved the book. But the editor at the next level turned it down, saying he’d published an African American cookbook almost 30 years earlier and no one bought it. He didn’t think the country was ready for another.

What’s a Kitchen Diva to do? Make a peach pie, of course, as it’s representative of both Black and Southern food history.

“You could hardly get a peach pie anywhere back then in Manhattan,” says Medearis. Wrapping up both the peach pie and the manuscript, separately we presume, she sent both off to the publishing company.

She got the contract.

“That book sold so many copies it was crazy,”

Overall, she’s written 107 books seven of which seven are cookbooks. Published in seven languages, she’s sold a total of 14 million books. But despite that, she’s not ready to stop.

“People ask me when I’m going to retire,” says Medearis who lives in Austin, Texas. “Why should I? I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’m doing what I want to do.”

Creole Chicken Stew

Makes 8 Servings

“This is a quick and healthy version of New Orleans-style gumbo,” writes Medearis about this recipe, which was published in her book, the . “Using frozen vegetables is a real time-saver when making this tasty stew; it’s also the perfect way to use kohlrabi when in season. Select small, tender okra pods for this recipe, and don’t slice them until right before you add them to the stew.”

1½ tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onions

1 cup coarsely chopped carrots

¼ cup chopped celery

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons diced seeded jalapeño chile

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch-wide strips

1 cup peeled cubed Yukon Gold potatoes or kohlrabi, or a combination

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup halved okra or frozen cut okra

4 cups cooked brown rice

2 green onions, chopped, including green parts

In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the yellow onions, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaf, jalapeño, salt, pepper, and thyme and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a plate, leaving as much oil in the pot as possible. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil. Stir in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to turn golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Gradually whisk in the broth and cook for another 5 minutes, whisking until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the chicken, potatoes or kohlrabi, and zucchini. Return the sautéed vegetables to the pan. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the okra and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Serve over ½ cup of rice per person and sprinkle with the green onions.

Kitchen Diva: Tap Your Inner Chef With DIY Recipes

Angea Medearis, the Kitchen Diva, wrote one of her syndicated columns on creating Do-It-Yourself recipes.

“Basically, a DIY dinner recipe is about finding a way to retain the flavors of the recipes you love while using the ingredients that you have on hand,” Medearis writes. “If you have always wanted to free yourself from the restraints of a recipe, now is the time to do it! Think of the current lack of ingredients as permission to tap into your inner chef.”

To ease into creating your own DIY dinner recipes, Medearis suggests starting by making a pot of chowder.

“No one really knows the origin of the term chowder,” she writes, “but whether it came from French, Caribbean, Portuguese or Brazilian cooks, the basic meaning is connected to the large pot that the meal is cooked in.”

Medearis is a history buff paritcularly when it comes to food.

“Chowders were introduced to North America by immigrants from France and England more than 250 years ago. Native Americans called the dish ‘chawder’.” she says noting the word interpreted as “chowder” by early settlers and fishermen in New England.

“The original versions of the dish consisted of a pot filled with a mixture of fresh fish, salt pork, leftover hardened biscuits (which were used as a thickener), onions, water and whatever spices were available, writes Medearis. “A chowder is a delicious way to use the ingredients you have on hand to create a meal that does not require extensive prep or simmering for hours. My recipe for Seafood and Sweet Corn Chowder uses the basic techniques.”

My recipe for Seafood and Sweet Corn Chowder uses the basic techniques for making a chowder, but is designed to accommodate the need to vary ingredients based upon what you have on hand or what you can purchase at the store.

Whether you decide to make a seafood or vegetarian chowder, feel free to create your own version of this DIY dinner.

SEAFOOD AND SWEET CORN CHOWDER

If you don’t have all the vegetables, seafood or spices on hand, omit or substitute the ingredient with what you do have. This chowder will still be delicious without it!

3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil

1/2 cup (about l large stalk) chopped celery

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced or 1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon dried dill or tarragon, or 1 tablespoon dill pickle juice

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes

2 cups chicken broth, seafood stock, clam juice, bouillon fish base or water

1 to 2 large Russet potatoes, or 3 red skin or Yukon Gold potatoes cut into 2-inch cubes, about 2 to 3 cups

2 large carrots, chopped

2 cups frozen corn, thawed, or 1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel or cream-style corn, or 6 ears sweet corn, husk and silk removed, or frozen corn on the cob, thawed with kernels cut from the cobb

2 cups heavy cream, half and half

Whole milk or 2 (14-ounce) cans evaporated milk

1 3/4 to 2 cups fully cooked, skinless salmon chunks, or 1 can (14 3/4 ounces) salmon, drained, flaked, bones and skin removed, or 1 to 2 cups fresh or frozen peeled and deveined shrimp, cooked peeled and deveined shrimp, or cooked crab meat (checked for pieces of shell) or a combination of the seafood equaling 1 3/4 to 2 cups.

1. Place the butter or oil into a large saucepan or Dutch oven placed over medium heat. Add in the celery, onion, green bell pepper, garlic or garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper, dill, tarragon or dill pickle juice, and the cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Saute, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the broth, stock, juice or water, potatoes, carrots and the remaining teaspoon of he salt and pepper. Cover and bring the chowder to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to low; stir the mixture, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until the vegetables are nearly tender. Stir in the corn, cream or milk, and the salmon, shrimp or cooked crab meat (or a combination of seafood). Simmer on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.

4. Garnish with lemon wedges, chopped parsley or green onions. Serve with toasted French bread or crackers. Serves 6

Here’s the Jerk Chicken recipe that won the Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup lime juice

1/2 cup molasses

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped

4 green onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Scotch bonnet chili, serrano, or Thai bird

chiles, seeded and minced

3 bay leaves

3 peppercorns

1-inch piece cinnamon, crushed

2 tablespoons ground sage

1 tablespoon ground thyme

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

5 pounds chicken pieces

Combine the oil and vinegar in a medium glass bowl. Stir in the orange and lime juice, molasses, soy sauce, cilantro, green onions, garlic, chili, bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sage,thyme, allspice, pepper, and nutmeg.

Place the chicken pieces in a large baking pan and pour the spice mixture over them, coating each piece well. Cover with plastic wrap and place the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate 12 hours or overnight, turning once.

Allow the chicken pieces to come to room temperature before grilling. Heat the grill until the coals are somewhat white with ash; the flame should be low. Place the chicken on the grill and cover with the lid. Grill for 30 to 35 minutes, turning pieces to cook evenly. Baste pieces with remaining marinade.

For more information including recipes, https://www.medearis.com/

Living Life Deliciously: Recipes for Busy Weekdays and Leisurely Weekends

              Her friends call her Tara Teaspoon, a reference to Tara Bench’s more than 20 years spent working as a food editor at Martha Stewart Living, Kids, and Weddings magazines and as the food and entertaining director of Ladies Home Journal magazine. Now a food blogger, recipe creator, and food stylist, Bench has written her first cookbook, “Living Life Deliciously: Recipes for Busy Weekdays & Leisurely Weekends” (Shadow Mountain Publishers 2020) with over 120 recipes designed for both casual and more experienced cooks. To make you feel like she’s In the kitchen cooking along with you, each of Bench’s recipes has a description of her experiences In creating and using It at the beginning. And at the end she offers Tara’s Tips, other options for other ways to prepare It, how to jazz up Its presentation or ways to make It easier and faster.

              Crediting Martha Stewart’ Living, her first job after graduating from college with teaching her everything about being a food editor, Bench left the relatively new magazine–It was launched 30 years ago and grew exponentially while she worker there–for the venerable Ladies Home Journal. First published In 1884, LHJ was one of the first women’s service magazines.

              “I loved working at a magazine with such an amazing legacy,” she said. “Flipping through the pages of those turn-of-the-century Issues was fascinating.”

Thai Chicken Meatballs

              Noting that there are obvious and huge differences in the way we cooked and ate from decade to decade, Bench can see both Innovative and regressive changes.

              “Can you Imagine being around when people started cooking with small appliances, like a toaster, a blender, let alone a microwave?” she said. “Then, over time there was a desire to relearn to cook from scratch and using traditional cooking methods. We are a bit all over the place right now, with the Insurgence of new machines like Instant Pots and Air Fryers, then whole food trends and unrefined food. What I love Is that there Is always Innovation, and new perspectives on health, wellness, enjoyment, and convenience.”

              Bench’s passion for vintage cookbooks Is part of her love for the history food and cooking has created.

              “I’m fascinated by old cookbooks and the story they tell about Ingredients, homes, families and what foods brought them together,” she said. “I’m entranced by the techniques and practices of cooks before kitchens had microwaves, and large freezers, let alone electric mixers and food processor. the recipe In some of the old cookbooks are of dishes, Ingredients and styles of cooking that have been forgotten.”

              But Bench is in the her and now and when it comes to new cooks wondering how to begin stocking their kitchen, she recommends five essentials–a good and sharp chef’s knife, a knife friendly non-slip cutting board, a heavy, medium-sized saucepan, and a ceramic-nonstick skillet. On, and a dishwasher.

              “Ok, skip the dishwasher,” she said with a laugh. “The last one Is a toss-up between a U-shaped whisk and a silicone spatula.”

For more Information, visit https://tarateaspoon.com

              The following recipes and photos are courtesy of “Living Life Deliciously” by Tara Bench (Shadow Mountain Publishers 2020).

Thai Meatball Golden Coconut Curry

Makes: 6 To 8 Servings

Tara Bench notes that this one-pan coconut curry is easy to pull together with some spices from the pantry and a few fresh veggies.

“The Thai meatballs make this meal extraordinary, and leftovers are rare at my house,” she writes in the recipes introduction.  “The full-fat coconut milk gives the dish a subtle sweetness and creates a quick, rich sauce that’s perfect for spooning over rice. The turmeric gives it a luscious gold color and aromatic flavor. Add a few tiny slices of fresh red cayenne chilis for a kick of heat. “

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 teaspoon fennel seeds 

1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-inch strips 

1 small red onion, sliced root to tip 

1 clove garlic, minced 

1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half 

½ teaspoon turmeric 

¾ teaspoon dried basil 

¼ teaspoon cayenne 

½ teaspoon kosher salt 

1 cup water 

1 recipe Thai Chicken Meatballs (see recipe below), prepared 

1 (14.5-ounce) can coconut milk 

Chopped cilantro 

Sliced red chilis, like fresh cayenne (optional) 

Cooked long-grain rice, for serving 

Tara’s Tip

This curry is delicious with more than just meatballs. Try it with sliced chicken breast or shrimp. I cut the chicken into thin strips so it cooks in about the same time it would take the meatballs to heat through. For a vegetarian option, add a few cups of your favorite cut-up veggies in place of the meatballs and use soy sauce in place of fish sauce.

Thai Chicken Meatballs

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons grated ginger

1 jalapeno, seeded

1 ¾ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces (can use ground chicken instead)

½ cup packed cilantro

1 tablespoon fish sauce

½ cup breadcrumbs

2 egg whites

In a food processor, combine onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeno and pulse until finely chopped. Add chicken, cilantro, fish sauce, and breadcrumbs and pulse until well blended but not quite pureed; no large pieces of chicken should remain. Add egg whites and pulse briefly.

Heat broiler to high and place rack 4 inches from heat. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

Use a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop or a ½ cup to portion mixture into about 30 balls. Coat hands with water and shape into meatballs. Arrange on prepared baking sheet.

Broil until meatballs are highly browned, about 4 minutes. Turn meatballs over and broil another 4 minutes. Serve, or continue to add them to another recipe.

Stovetop Variation

To cook meatballs on the stovetop, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook meatballs in batches, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 6 minutes.

Mexican-Spiced Black Bean Hash Browns and Eggs

Mexican-Spiced Black-Bean Hash Browns and Eggs

“My take on huevos rancheros involves crispy hash brown potatoes instead of tortillas and seasoned with all the spices that make Mexican food delicious,” she said. “It’s a one-skillet meal filled with crispy and soft potatoes, black beans, eggs, and tasty fixings.”

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 (30-ounce package) frozen hash browns, partially thawed (6 cups)

½ cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 cup canned black beans, drained

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

¾ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ small jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped

4 large eggs

Toppings, such as salsa, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, diced avocado, and cotija cheese

Heat oil and butter in a large 12- or 14-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until butter melts. Add thawed hash browns and onion and stir to coat. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, until just starting to crisp. Stir in cumin, oregano, chili powder, salt, and jalapeño and cook 4 to 6 minutes, until potatoes start to brown and crisp.

Reduce heat to medium. Stir in black beans and then make 4 wells in the potato mixture. Crack 1 egg in each well, cover pan with lid, and cook eggs to desired doneness, about 10 minutes for soft eggs.

Divide hash browns and eggs between 4 plates and serve immediately with your favorite toppings.

Tara’s Tips

The presentation of the eggs cooked in the hash browns is fun, but you can skip that step and serve the hash browns with fried or scrambled eggs on the side.

Sidebar: Tara Teaspoon On How to Use Herbs and Spices in Cooking

A small amount of a new and different spice will add depth to your dishes. Experiment start with small amounts and have fun in the kitchen.

Make gingerbread caramel sauce. Those staple ground spices you use in the fall can turn caramel into an all year-round holiday. Add ground Saigon cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg to store-bought or homemade caramel sauce for a gingerbread caramel sauce. Drizzle on ice cream, use as a dip for apples and other fruit, sweeten your morning oatmeal or coffee and even to spruce up a cocktail.

It’s good for the soul, and even better when you spice it up: Homemade, or out-of-the-can chicken soup takes dinner to the next level with the addition of herbs and seasonings. Make a Southwest chicken soup by adding ground cumin, ground coriander, oregano, and chili powder to taste. Serve with tortilla chips. Or, add a sprinkle of curry powder, coconut milk and some fresh spinach for an Indian-inspired soup. You could even make a version hearty and comforting by adding a teaspoon of ground sage and grated cheese.

Deviled eggs are a cult favorite, making a play on the food scene in a big way. Zest up your favorite recipe by adding celery salt or Spice Islands Lemon Peel to the egg yolk filling. For a Southwest, smoky flavor add ground cumin and ground ancho chile to the mix, serve with lime wedges for squeezing. You can add an Indian twist to deviled eggs with some garam masala seasoning or curry powder; garnish with toasted coconut.

Make your own house seasoning mix. Restaurants do it all the time—house blends of herbs and spices that get used on roasted potatoes, veggies, meats, on salads and fish. Create your own by combing onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried rosemary, dried thyme, dried sweet basil, and grated Romano or Parmesan. Store it in a jar in the fridge and pull it out every day in place of the same old salt and pepper.

KETO POWER!!

Keto diets which while very similar to the Atkins Diet, both of which are based on drastically reducing carbohydrates in order to throw the body into ketosis meaning it turns to fat for fuel once its glucose stores are used up. But while Atkins was designed for weight reduction, the keto diet is being studied for its possible ability to reduce seizures in people with epilepsy, be heart healthy, protect brain functioning including increasing alertness and maybe treat or prevent conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and certain types of sleep disorders. Two great books to help you learn about and incorporate keto into your diet are: The Keto Instant Pot Cookbook: Ketogenic Diet Pressure Cooker Recipes Made Easy and Fast By Urvashi Pitre and The One-Pot Keto Diet Ketogenic Cookbook: 100+ Easy Weeknight Meals for Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Sheet Pan, and More by Liz Williams.

Other Interesting Keto news.

Global Keto Diet Market to Grow 5.6% per Annum to $15.6 Billion Value by 2027

With more and more consumers becoming aware of its overall health benefits, the ketogenic diet has grown into one of the most popular diet plans over the years. According to DrJohn.org research, the global ketogenic diet market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.5% and reach a $15.6 billion value by 2027.

North America Holds the Largest Share of Global Keto Diet Market

In 2018, the global ketogenic diet market reached $9.6 billion in value. The expanding trend continued in 2019 with a 4.27% year-on-year growth rate. The 2019 data show that North America generates the most significant share of the global keto diet market revenue.

The rise of the ketogenic diet market in North America is primarily a result of the growing consumer awareness related to obesity and health issues. The recent surveys showed that besides the easy availability of keto-friendly products and the wide offer on the market, the consumers in the US and Canada have also started to adopt active diet habits to lose weight. At the same time, North American keto diet companies are constantly improving the quality of their products to fully accommodate the customers’ demands.

With the increasing number of consumers interested in keto-friendly products, Europe is the second-largest keto diet market in the world. According to the surveys, Europe is expected to generate 32% of the global keto diet market growth in the years to come.

Beverage Products Generate the Most Significant Market Revenue

One of the key drivers for the rapid global keto diet market growth is the increasing availability of keto products across different distribution formats. The 2019 surveys show that drink products are generating the most substantial part of the overall market revenue.

The low-carb and high-fat keto beverages are developed to help accelerate the metabolic state of ketosis, which improves the body’s efficiency while burning fat for energy. Today, the global ketogenic dieters are offered with an increasing number of new beverage products. Almond butter in to-go pouches, medium-chain triglycerides oil, nutritional drinks, and bone broth with keto-specific packaging are some of the most popular products on that list. Other significant revenue streams on the market are keto-friendly supplements and meals, sauces and condiments, sweeteners and dark chocolate.

The Keto Instant Pot Cookbook: Ketogenic Diet Pressure Cooker Recipes Made Easy and Fast

By Urvashi Pitre

Rockridge Press $10.30 (Amazon price)

Urvashi Pitre, who blogs at TwoSleevers.com and wrote the bestselling Indian Instant Pot Cookbook, offers an introduction to the Keto diet concept, the use of Instant Pots for those who are new to cooking with one and then shares a broad range of Keto recipes that are tasty.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

2 cups Cauliflower Rice (see note below)

2 tablespoons cream cheese,

at room temperature

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/2 cup grated sharp

Cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground

Black pepper

In a heatproof bowl, mix the cauliflower, cream cheese, half-and-half, Cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper together. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil.

Pour 2 cups of water into the inner cooking pot of the Instant Pot, then place a trivet in the pot. Place the bowl on the trivet.

Lock the lid into place. Select Manual or Pressure Cook and adjust the pressure to High. Cook for 5 minutes. When the cooking is complete, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then quick-release any remaining pressure. Unlock the lid and carefully remove the bowl. Remove the foil.

Place the cooked cauliflower under the broiler, and broil until the cheese is brown and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Per Serving Calories: 134; Total Fat: 11g; Total Carbs: 4g; Net Carbs: 3g; Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 6g

Note: Many grocery stores are now selling cauliflower rice in their frozen food sections. But if you want to make your own, here’s an easy way to do so. Place cauliflower florets in a blender with plenty of water, pulsing until the cauliflower is completely chopped up. Drain the mixture using a large strainer. It’s as easy as that.

The One-Pot Keto Diet Ketogenic Cookbook: 100+ Easy Weeknight Meals for Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Sheet Pan, and More

By Liz Williams

Rockridge Press $8.99

Roasted Asparagus, Bacon and Egg Bake

12 uncured bacon slices

16 to 20 asparagus spears, ends snapped off and discarded

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

8 large eggs

1 avocado, peeled and sliced

Preheat oven to 425° F.

In large cast iron skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon. Turn the slices with tongs every few minutes and cook until bacon is 75% cooked, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Drain the bacon grease from the skillet and discard, keeping 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan. Add the trimmed asparagus spears to the skillet, season with salt and pepper and toss until coated with fat.

Bake in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until the spears start of soften. Remove from the oven and turn the asparagus with tongs. Return the bacon to the skillet. Crack the eggs over the top of the bacon and asparagus.

Return the skillet to the oven and back for 5 to 7 minutes or until the eggs reach desired doneness.

Serve immediately with avocado slices.

Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Second Edition: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery

Photographs copyright © 2009, 2017 by Leo Gong

When Rebecca Katz’s Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Second Edition: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery, a finalist in the Health & Special Diet category of the IACP Awards, came out a decade ago. the idea of cookbooks geared towards specific illnesses was still relatively new. But the success of that book as well as Katz’s One Bite at a Time: Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends, both of which provide nurturing recipes designed to help those who are undergoing treatment and dealing with side effects as well as introduce foods that studies have shown might help in preventing the disease, was so great, that a second edition came out a little over a year ago.

Curried Chicken Salad

SERVES: 6

1 1⁄2 pounds roasted organic chicken

1 Granny Smith apple, diced into 1⁄4-inch pieces

1⁄4 cup raisins or currants

1⁄4 cup minced scallions, green part only

2 stalks celery, diced small

1⁄2 cup organic plain Greek-style yogurt

1⁄4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon curry powder

1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger

1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt

6 butter lettuce leaves, washed and dried

1⁄4 cup slivered toasted almonds, for garnish

1⁄4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Chop the chicken into 1⁄2-inch pieces and put them in a bowl. Stir in the apple, raisins, scallions, and celery. Separately, whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, lime juice, curry powder, ginger, and salt. Add the yogurt mixture to the chicken and stir gently until thoroughly combined. Serve atop the lettuce leaves, garnished with the almonds and cilantro, if desired.

COOK’S NOTE: Save time by using store-bought organic roast chicken.

STORAGE: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.

PER SERVING: Calories: 300; Total Fat: 11.3 g (3.1 g saturated, 3.8 g monounsaturated); Carbohydrates: 15 g; Protein: 34 g; Fiber: 2 g; Sodium: 375 mg

Orange Pistachio Quinoa

Quinoa is its own little ecosystem, containing all of the essential amino acids that we must obtain through the diet. Put another way, quinoa brings some good nutrients to the table that the body needs to begin repairing itself. Its mild taste makes it a perfect backdrop for this nicely layered crunchy/chewy portable dish, in which olive oil, citrus, vitamin-rich pistachios, and raisins dance delightfully on the taste buds, and herbs (mint, cumin, and coriander) provide a huge hit of taste and anticancer nutrients.

SERVES: 6

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

COOK TIME: 15 minutes

1⁄2 cup raw pistachios

1 1⁄2 cups quinoa

2 1⁄2 cups Magic Mineral Broth (page 49) or water

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1⁄2 teaspoon coriander

1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1⁄2 cup chopped fresh mint

2 scallions, both green and white parts, finely chopped

1⁄8 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Zest of 1 orange

1 1⁄2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1⁄2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1⁄2 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Spread the pistachios in an even layer on a sheet pan and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until aromatic and slightly browned. Let cool.

Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse well under cold running water to remove all the resin.

In a pot, bring the broth and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Add the quinoa and cover. Decrease the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer from the heat and fluff with a fork. Spread mixture out on a sheet pan and “rake” with a fork occasionally until cooled.

Transfer the quinoa from the sheet pan to a large bowl. Stir in the cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper. Add the mint, scallions, orange juice, orange zest, olive oil, lemon juice, toasted pistachios, and raisins. Mix well and taste; you may need a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon, or a dash of olive oil.

VARIATION: Make this a meal in a bowl by adding 1 cup of cooked chickpeas when you stir everything together.

COOK’S NOTES: Rinse, rinse, and rinse again! Quinoa is naturally coated with a bitter-tasting resin. To get rid of the resin, put the grain in a bowl of cool water, swish it around with your hand, then drain it in a fine-mesh sieve.

Quinoa is gluten free, which makes sense when you consider that botanically, it isn’t a grain at all; it’s more closely related to beets.

STORAGE: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 days.

PER SERVING: Calories: 265; Total Fat: 10.3 g (1.3 g saturated, 5.9 g monounsaturated); Carbohydrates: 40 g; Protein: 7 g; Fiber: 6 g; Sodium: 435 mg

Photographs copyright © 2009, 2017by Leo Gong

Basil Lemon Drizzle

This is the little black dress of condiments—appropriate in almost any situation. What it really comes down to is mixing lemon zest, basil, and lemon juice, and—zingo!—you have a condiment that brightens and brings out the flavor in anything you put it on top of—veggies, chicken, fish, whatever. An added bonus is the blast of cancer-fighting properties, especially basil’s anti-inflammatory agents and lemon’s antioxidant phytochemicals.

MAKES: 1⁄2 cup

PREP TIME: 5 minutes

COOK TIME: Not applicable

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)

1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until well blended.

GOES WITH: Italian White Bean Soup (page 52), Minestrone (page 57), Cooling Cucumber Avocado Soup (page 62), Roasted Red Roma Tomato Soup (page 69), Creamy Broccoli and Potato Soup (page 71), Basil Broccoli (page 75), Easy Eggs in a Cup (page 100), Nana’s Egg Salad (page 102), Tuscan Farro and Bean Salad (page 111), Lemon Mustard Salmon Salad (page 115), Mediterranean Lentil Salad (page 144), Simple Tuscan Farro (page 147), and, as you might guess from this list, myriad other savory dishes.

VARIATION: For a richer drizzle that’s more like pesto, add 1⁄4 cup pecans or walnuts when you process the ingredients.

STORAGE: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

PER SERVING: 2 tablespoons—Calories: 125; Total Fat: 14.1 g (2 g saturated, 10 g monounsaturated); Carbohydrates: 1 g; Protein: 0 g; Fiber: 0 g; Sodium: 150 mg

CREDIT:Reprinted with permission from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen 2nd Edition, copyright by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson,2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Cleveland Kraut: Crafted Fermentation

          Fall always reminds me of sauerkraut because that’s when my Romanian grandmother would bring home the large heads of cabbage. Some she would parboil, then peel the leaves off the core and fill with meat for stuffed cabbage. Others she would grate into large piles which she would then place in containers to ferment into sauerkraut. When it had fermented, weeks and weeks later, she would serve it with stuffed cabbage or a Romanian sausage similar in taste to Polish sausage. Of course, adding sauerkraut as a topping for a brat in a bun is common at football games, but my grandmother never served that.

          For all of my enthusiasm for sauerkraut, I never realized it was considered a super healthy food until recently. Reading a WebMD article, I learned sauerkraut contains much more lactobacillus than yogurt, making it a superior source of this important probiotic. A few bites of sauerkraut everyday are said to help those with ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. The healthy aspects of sauerkraut are due to the fermentation process which is thought to create certain plant compounds that might destroy precancerous cells. It’s also low on calories though when you use it in a Rueben or grilled cheese sandwich, it isn’t exactly a low calorie meal.

          There are caveats to buying sauerkraut and one is to make sure that it isn’t pasteurized because that destroys the benefits of fermentation.

.          Discovering all this positive sauerkraut information was surprising. And so was finding out that it no longer is just an old fashioned Eastern European or German dish.  Cleveland Kraut from Cleveland Kitchen, a relatively new company named by USA Today as one of their top ten best new health foods, sells a variety of sauerkraut in flavors such as Whiskey Dill, Roasted Garlic, Classic Caraway, Curry and Beet Red. Their Gnar Gnar--a spicy mixture of green cabbage, green bell peppers, jalapenos, kosher salt, leeks, Sriracha, garlic and red chili, is similar to kimchi, the fermented Korean condiments which can range in heat from mild to fiery hot. If you want to mix it up, there’s their Variety Pack.

Cleveland Kraut, which comes in pouches, is best eaten raw. It’s crunchy and tasty. Once cooked, the heat destroys the probiotic value though it still retains its other healthy benefits. That’s one reason why canned sauerkraut doesn’t have as many health sauerkraut benefits.

          The following recipes are from clevelandkraut.com

Classic Reuben

2 slices rye or sourdough bread

4-6 ounces corned beef

2 slices of Swiss cheese

1/4 cup Whiskey Dill kraut

Thousand Island Dressing (to use either in the sandwich or as a dip)

Assemble the first three ingredients (bread, beef, cheese) and toast open faced in a 350 degree oven to melt the cheese. Top with kraut and other slice of bread (and Thousand Island if you are using it in your sandwich).

Chili con Carne with Roasted Garlic Sauerkraut

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion diced

2 cups Roasted Garlic Kraut

1 pound 90% lean ground beef

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 1/2 cup beef broth

1 15 ounces can petite diced tomatoes

1 16 ounces can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 8 ounces can tomato sauce

Optional toppings:

Diced parsley or cilantro

Sour cream

Shredded cheddar cheese

Add the olive oil into a large pot and place it over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion and the Roasted Garlic Kraut. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground beef to the pot. Cook for another 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chili powder, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until well mixed.

Add the broth, diced tomatoes, drained kidney beans, and tomato sauce. Stir well.

Bring the mixture to boil. Then, reduce the heat to low / medium-low and gently simmer the chili uncovered for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve warm and garnish with desired toppings.

The Indian Slow Cooker: 70 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes

              Known for her cookbooks which make Indian cooking easily accessible for home cooks, Anupy Singla says that her mother never taught her to cook.

              “She didn’t want me to get stuck in the kitchen like she did,” Singla tells me as we chat on the phone about her cooking.  So instead Singla, who was born in India but grew up outside of Philadelphia having moved to the U.S. when she was three, became a journalist working as a business reporter for Bloomberg News in Chicago and a morning reporter for Chicago’s CLTV. So far so good according to mom.

              But the flavors, tastes and the lessons she learned from her grandfather when she returned to visit her large family in Punjab, led her to leave journalism and focus on cooking. Singla is still writing though and now has several cookbooks including the recently released updated edition of her best-selling The Indian Slow Cooker: 70 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes (Agate 2018; Amazon price $13.36) as well as Indian For Everyone, which is a compilation of the most popular Indian recipes outside of India.  Besides that, her blog with the wonderful name of “Indian As Apple Pie”—because, as she says, her approach to Indian food is from an American point of view–has grown to include a wide selection of spices and spice blends that she makes as well. She also offers Spice/Bollywood Tours of Chicago’s Little India.

              In other words, her mother’s fears were unfounded.

              “It’s great to be in the kitchen, when you own it,” says Singla.

Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes

Aloo Gobi

Slow Cooker Size: 4- Or o- Quart

Cooking Time: 3 Hours on Low

Yield: 7 Cups

“Until I made this myself in the slow cooker, I refused to believe my mother-in-law when she said it was possible,” Singla writes in the introduction to this recipe. “I also wondered why I wouldn’t just make this dish on the stovetop, where it could sit for less time. After trying it once, I realized the answer: because I can now stick it in my slow cooker and go about my day. I don’t think twice about the kids near the stove or anything burning. My father—the real foodie of the family—also wouldn’t believe this dish could be made well in the slow cooker, so he just had to try it himself. He had me on the phone in excitement for half an hour after trying it for the first time.”

1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups)

1 large potato (russet or yellow), peeled and diced (about 2 cups)

1 medium yellow or red onion, coarsely chopped

1 medium tomato, diced or pureed (optional)

1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated

3 cloves garlic, minced

3–4 fresh Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, chopped or sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon red chile powder or cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 heaping tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

Put all the ingredients except the cilantro in the slow cooker. Mix well.

Cook on low for 3 hours. Mix once or twice during cooking, especially in the beginning. Eventually the cauliflower will release enough liquid to prevent anything from sticking to the sides of the slow cooker.

Add the cilantro. Mix well but gently so as not to break up the cauliflower. Serve with roti or naan and a side of onion and cucumber salad.

To make this dish in a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker, halve all the ingredients and proceed with the recipe. Cook on low for 3 hours. A half recipe makes 4 cups.

Creamy Turmeric Corn Soup

Slow Cooker Size: 5-quart

Cooking time: 4 hours on high

Yield: 18 cups  

Singla notes at the beginning of this recipe that turmeric is a spice she likes to add wherever she can do so without the spice affecting the taste of her non-Indian dishes.

“Blending a tablespoon into this corn soup is a great way to get all the healing properties without altering the light, bright taste of corn,” she says. “Any more and it tastes too earthy. Use nuts like cashews rather than dairy to make it creamy.”

2 ½ pounds frozen yellow corn, defrosted

1 medium potato (any kind), peeled and diced

1 large shallot, minced

½ cup raw, unsalted cashews

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

2 tablespoons sea salt

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

10 cups water

Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker.

Cook on high for 4 hours. Remove 1 cup of the corn. (Carefully pick out any pieces of the potato and cashews that are removed and put them back into the slow cooker.)

Blend until smooth with an immersion blender or carefully in batches in a blender. Add back the corn you removed. Mix well and serve immediately.

To make this dish in a 3 ½-quart slow cooker, us a 2-pound bag of frozen corn, 2 teaspoons turmeric powder, and 7 cups water. Cut the other ingredients in half and proceed with the recipe, cooking on high for 4 hours. A half recipe makes 11 cups.

The recipes above are reprinted with permission from The Indian Slow Cooker: 70 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes, 2ed by Anupy Singla, Agate Surrey, 2018.

Danielle Walker’s “Eat What You Love”

I love the premise of Danielle Walker’s latest cookbook, Eat What You Love: Everyday Comfort You Crave, with its idea that even if you’re gluten-intolerant (which so many people seem to be), have a dairy allergy, suffer from an autoimmune disease, are following a Paleo diet or just want to incorporate healthy eating a few days a week, you can easily do so.

Shrimp Fried Rice

Walker, who also authored the New York Times best-selling Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple, likes to take classics that we love—think lasagna, apple crisp, fried chicken (yes, fried chicken), sloppy Joes and chicken pot pie and made them healthy and full of flavor.

“I’m always looking for ways to incorporate more vegetables into my family’s meals, and using riced cauliflower in this fried rice recipe inspired by Chinese takeout is a great way to do it,” she writes in her description of one of her super easy recipes (though I cheated and used soy sauce instead of coconut aminos and also bought rice cauliflower instead of doing my own). “The salty sauce can make any vegetable taste appealing, and this dish is pretty much all veggies. While it’s super-simple to make cauliflower rice at home, many supermarkets sell fresh or frozen riced cauliflower, so that’s what I use more often than not. Go ahead and use it straight from the freezer; there’s no need to thaw it first.”

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

I’ve cooked several recipes out of this cookbook which I just received and all of them have turned out great—helping me keep my New Year’s resolution of eating healthier.

Shrimp Fried Rice

Serves 4 to 6 ·

11⁄2 pounds jumbo raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails removed

6 tablespoons coconut aminos (see note below)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

5 tablespoons avocado oil

1⁄2 small yellow onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons peeled and minced fresh ginger

1 carrot, diced

2 eggs, beaten

11⁄4 teaspoons fine sea salt

1⁄4 cup frozen peas

2 green onions, tender green tops only, chopped

Combine the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of the coconut aminos, and 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a bowl.

Place the cauliflower in a food processor fitted with the grating attachment, or use the large holes on a box grater, and process the florets into rice-size pieces. Pick out any large fragments that didn’t shred and chop them up by hand with a knife or save for another use. You should have around 3 cups riced cauliflower.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the avocado oil in a wok over medium- high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the carrot and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons avocado oil and the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes more. Transfer the cauliflower mixture to a plate and return the wok to the heat.

Add the shrimp mixture to the wok and sear for 1 minute per side, until pink all over and just cooked through. Transfer the shrimp to the plate with the cauliflower and return the wok to the heat.

Pour the eggs into the wok and stir to scramble them for 10 seconds, until mostly cooked through. Pour the cauliflower mixture and shrimp back into the wok and add the remaining 5 tablespoons coconut aminos, the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and the salt. Stir in the peas and cook for 1 minute longer. Top with the green onions and serve immediately.

Note: Coconut aminos, which are available at some local grocery stores or can be ordered online, are a Paleo substitute for soy sauce and still deliver the same salty tang, only they contain no soy and no wheat. If you’d rather just stick with soy, use the same amount as the coconut aminos.

Chocolate-Zucchini Muffins

Makes 24 · These muffins are moist and fluffy plus they’re nut free writes Walker, who keeps them in the freezer for a quick breakfast when the family’s frazzled and trying to get out the door for school. If zucchini isn’t in season, you could use shredded carrots.

11⁄2 cups shredded zucchini

8 eggs

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup pure maple syrup

2⁄3 cup coconut flour

1⁄2 cup unflavored collagen peptides powder or protein powder of your choice (optional)

1⁄2 cup raw cacao powder

6 tablespoons arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1⁄2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two 12-cup muffin tins with baking cups, or grease the tins with coconut oil. Line a plate with paper towels.

Place the zucchini on the prepared plate and allow it to drain some of its moisture while you make the batter.

Place the eggs, applesauce, and maple syrup in a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment or use an electric handheld mixer. Mix on medium speed until combined. Add the coconut flour, collagen peptides powder, cacao powder, arrowroot, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and mix on medium speed until combined.

Wrap the paper towels around the zucchini and give it a light squeeze to remove any remaining moisture. Add the zucchini to the batter along with 1⁄4 cup of the chocolate chips and mix on low speed until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips over the top.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack before serving or storing.

Freeze in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, tightly covered with plastic wrap, for 4 hours. Place the frozen muffins in an airtight container and freeze for 4 months. To eat the muffins directly from the freezer, heat them in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes, until warmed through. Or, defrost in an airtight container in the fridge overnight, or for up to 1 week. If you prefer, warm on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven for 2 to 3 minutes.

The recipes above are from Danielle Walker’s Eat What You Love: Everyday Comfort You Crave Copyright © 2018 by Simple Writing Holdings, LLC. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness

Stressed out during her last term of graduate school when she was counseling clients 30 hours a week, Ashley Melillo returned to her love of cooking, combining it with creating healthy plant-based recipes and creating Blissful Basil, a blog to share her experiences of cooking plant-based meals.Swift Sweet Potato Coconut Curry (sRGB) (1)

“I was taking my work home with me,” says Melillo who works as a school psychologist in the Chicago area. “So cooking and blogging became self-caring.”

Now Melillo’s blog has morphed into her new cookbook, Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness (BenBella 2016; $21.95).

“I developed a love of cooking when I was young,” says Melillo who also earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. “In the kitchen there’s so much sensory going on—touch, smells, textures, tastes. It’s relaxing after a long week of work. Once I am doing it, it becomes very therapeutic.”

Cooking plant-based or vegan foods are healthy not only physically but emotionally says Melillo. But it isn’t easy to incorporate both exercise and a wide variety of plant-based foods into our life-style.Blissful-Basil-Sprung-Photo-Cookbook-11-15-15--7233 (sRGB)

Indeed, one wholesome smoothie such as her Energizing Carrot Cake Smoothie, Get Glowing Strawberry Mango Chia Pudding or her Cheesy Herb or the Sun-Dried Tomato Good Morning Biscuits, won’t turn our lives upside down health-wise. But it’s all a step in the right direction to achieving physical, mental and emotional well-being. It’s all part of shaping good habits by making good choices every day.

Of course, as a psychologist, Melillo recognizes that it’s most difficult to make these at the very time when we most need to do so.

“It’s when some of these emotions are most at their peak and when you feel almost too overwhelmed to try taking the steps to move forward, that’s when it’s the hardest,” she says. “But it’s the hardest things that push up forward and end up being the best things for us. But it’s important to make ourselves do so–to start chipping away at our anxiety or stress or depression. By taking that one step, often we can go on and take another and another and ultimately alleviate some of those overwhelming feelings.”

Easy Does It Sunday Evening Chili (sRGB)  Such a cooking style doesn’t have to be severe. Have a sugar craving?  Instead indulge in a vegan dessert such as her Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars, Enlivening Lemon Bars, Peanut Butter Cookies and Cosmically Fudgy Cacao Tahini Brownies. Don’t go out for pizza. Try one of Melillo’s pizzas like her White Pizza with Garlic Herb Oil, Mozzarella and Puffy Potato Crust.Blissful-Basil-Sprung-Photo-Cookbook-7551 (sRGB)

For those who aren’t ready to go full-force plant-based or Vegan or know much it at all, Blissful Basil covers a glossary of terms, recipes for pantry items to keep on hand and contains helpful symbols– colored circle noting which recipes are free of gluten, grain, soy, nut, oil, refined sugar and/or they’re raw.

Melillo asked meat lovers to taste test the recipes in her book because she wanted them to be appealing not only for those already committed to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle but to all those who pick up her cookbook or read her blog.

“I really want everyone to love the recipes in this book,” she says.

Swift Sweet Potato Curry

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

pinch of cayenne (optional)

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)

1 cup filtered water, divided

14-ounces full fat coconut milk

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, stemmed and finely chopped

4 cups cooked brown basmati rice, for serving

1 lime for spritzing

In a large pot over medium heat, toast the spices for 30 seconds while stirring constantly. Add the onion and 1/3 cup of the water then cook for 5 minutes, until translucent.

Whisk in the coconut milk and the remaining 2/3 cup water, and bring to a boil.

Add the sweet potatoes, decrease the heat to medium-low, cover and rapidly simmer for 15 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender. Stir occasionally while cooking.

Spoon the curry into bowls with warm basmati rice. Top with a squeeze of lime juice, scallions and cilantro. Serve warm with whole grain naan and enjoy!