Health Benefits of Pomegranates

Pomegranates are delicious in salads and syllabubs, with goat’s cheese, and in numerous recipes, both savoury and sweet. They have also long been a symbol of fertility, presumably because of the mass of shiny red seeds that every pomegranate contains, and feature in the parables and myths of various cultures and creeds. As well as their role in cooking and storytelling, pomegranates are said to have the following health benefits:

In general, pomegranates are thought of as helping the body to detox – in fact, they are said to have more natural antioxidants than any other type of fruit, and are stuffed with polyphenols, tannins and other naturally occurring chemicals that help to boost health. Pomegranates help reduce harmful biological functions while boosting vitamin intake and promoting good health. Try a pomegranate for breakfast, or have a glass of pomegranate juice alongside your morning toast or bagel.

Pomegranates are said to reduce the risk of heart disease, and early research has shown that they reduce the occurrence of various underlying biological functions that cause heart trouble – they help to balance the types of cholesterol found in the body, and also increase the speed at which potentially troublesome blockages are naturally resolved.

Pomegranates are also said to have a role in fighting various forms of cancer, including prostate cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer, because of their natural antioxidant properties. However, the scientific studies into the benefits of pomegranates for cancer patients are in their infancy, and you should ask your doctor for more information and the latest research.

The high fibre and vitamin content of pomegranates may help you lose weight and keep fit. Obviously a committed dieter will need to make other changes to their eating pattern other than including pomegranates, but the fruits can be a low-calorie mood booster that make you feel much healthier.

Some research suggests that pomegranates can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, and slow the disease’s progression.

Pomegranates may help your body resist infections such as the common cold, as they’re full of vitamins. Try taking some pomegranate tea during the cold season to ward off and reduce sniffles, sore throats and blocked noses.

Depression may be improved with pomegranates and pomegranate products – research in this area is limited, but the fruits are so beautiful and good to eat that they’re bound to boost anyone’s mood. Pomegranates are said to be particularly helpful in helping women who are going through the menopause to overcome depression.

There is also some evidence that pomegranates may improve bone density, and that their consumption guards against osteoporosis and other skeletal disorders.

Pomegranates may also be able to prevent tooth decay, as it naturally discourages plaque. You shouldn’t abandon your usual teeth-cleaning routine, but instead add some pomegranates into your regular diet.

If you’re interested in incorporating pomegranates into your diet, then pomegranates are found in Turkish, Georgian, Greek and Jewish cuisines, as well as other food cultures around the Middle East – reading recipes from these areas will give you some great ideas to boost your pomegranate consumption. Pomegranates are also delicious in smoothies.

Health Benefits of Spirulina

Spirulina is a food supplement made from tiny bacteria that are found in abundance in East Africa. It has been used as a food supplement since ancient times, when Aztecs skimmed spirulina-rich algae from water sources and dried it into cake form. Spirulina is available in various formats, including as pills, powder and flakes, as well as in its whole-food form. Its attributes and health benefits are as follows:

Around sixty per cent of spirulina’s bulk is protein, which is extremely high. It includes all essential elements of protein, including amino acids and various other nutrients. Spirulina is therefore particularly valuable to vegetarians and vegans as a health supplement, as it contains all the nutrients that a meat- or animal product-free diet may lack. The iron content in spirulina means that it can guard against anaemia.

The same properties that make spirulina useful to vegatarians and vegans also make it important for athletes. Spirulina can boost energy and help to maintain stamina. The high protein content means that its particularly useful to weightlifters and boxers, and other athletes who need to be conscious of their weight while eating a diet that retains and boosts muscle tissue.

Spirulina is also often recommended as being particularly suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as it replenishes their bodies at a time when nutrients are in particularly high demand. However, you should have a chat with your doctor or midwife before introducing any supplements into your diet during pregnancy.There is also some evidence to suggest that spirulina can be useful in reducing reactions to allergies and intolerances. Although anyone with a serious allergy should in no way rely on spirolina to ward of anaphylaxis or any other life-threatening reaction, some studies have shown that spirolina reduces the effects of common allergies, like hayfever.

Spirulina is also thought to have a role in reducing cholesterol and so reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers. It forms an important part of the diet in Japan, which has a much lower incidence of heart disease than in most Western countries – Japanese studies show that spirulina acts to lower harmful types of cholesterol in men.

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not spirulina supplements can help with weight loss, with some arguing that it doesn’t, and other sources maintaining that spirulina can boost the metabolism and suppress the appetite. While its extremely unlikely than spirulina on its own will have an effect on your waistline, it can form a part of a weight-loss regime as it helps to regulate blood-sugar levels and suppress cravings.

Possibly the most important health benefit of spirulina is that it works to stop HIV cells from replicating, and it has also been found to help children in the Third World, who are underweight and HIV positive, to gain weight and reduce the likelihood of anaemia. The health benefits of spirulina in the fight against HIV is yet to be fully explored, but it could potentially have an exciting role in the battle against this feared disease. If you are interested in finding out more, ask your doctor.

People with certain metabolic disorders that affects their ability to digest amino acids should avoid spirulina.

Spirulina is commercially farmed in many countries. It can be found in most health food shops.

Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad

After a wonderful, ridiculous weekend in Montreal this Easter, my friend Julia and I have decided we are beginning a new, healthier life. This may only last a week, but today I went to yoga AND made a delicious, healthy supper. Day one of new healthy lifestyle = success!

This recipe is actually one of very few recipes that I kinda, sorta came up with myself. It started with some inspiration from smittenkitchen . I really liked the blister-y, almost burnt taste of the sweet potatoes. However, I found it hard to eat because the celery and pecans kept falling off. A couple weeks later in the grocery store, I saw a leafy and delicious lookin’ bale of kale (he he) and thought I’d try to pair that with the sweet potatoes. It turned out deliciously – the kale was sauteed so it stuck to the sweet potatoes and I used sunflower seeds instead of pecans so they weren’t as cumbersome.

This is another try at the sweet potato salad. I decided this time to go for spinach because the only kale in the grocery store was limp and ugly lookin’. As well, I added some portobello mushrooms in to the mix. I have to say, while the spinach was just as delicious as the kale, I really did not like the mushroom addition. It made the salad too soggy and did not add much flavor-wise. Next time, I would just stick with the spinach, sweet potatoes, goat cheese and sunflower seeds. They are flavorful enough as is! So here is the finished product:

And here is the recipe:

Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad
One medium-sized sweet potato, peeled washed and cut into chunks
~2 cups baby spinach, stems taken off (this only applies if you buy the not pre-washed and pre-stemmed variety – a little bit of stem is okay)
~2 tbsps goat cheese (or however much you like – I like a lot of goat cheese)
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 small portobello mushrooms (or one large portobello)
Olive oil (enough to coat the base of the pan)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Now, first we must peel, wash and cut the sweet potato into bite-size chunks. Then, lightly toss the sweet potatoes in olive oil and give them a good sprinkle with salt and pepper. I know this is new, healthier lifestyle day one, but do NOT skimp on the salt. Salt makes things taste good! Once the potatoes are coated in oil and seasoned, place them in the oven for 30 minutes. Check them halfway through and turn them over. When they come out, they should be blistered and almost burnt looking. This is a good thing.

While the potatoes are in the oven, wash and remove the stems from the spinach. As well, cut up your mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. When the potatoes are out of the oven, pour some olive oil into a non-stick pan (enough to cover the base of the pan) and sautee the spinach for 2 minutes. Remove the spinach from the pan and place over the sweet potatoes on a plate. Then add more oil if the pan is dry and sautee the mushrooms until browned. Place the mushrooms on top of the spinach, then sprinkle goat cheese and sunflower seeds over top.

Yum.

What You Don’t Know About Saffron

This spice is worth its weight in gold. It holds the title as the world’s most expensive spice, and not just by a few dollars. Fortunately it’s reasonably affordable because it has a very strong flavor and is used in very small amounts – a pinch for most recipes.

Saffron is made from dried bright red stigmas of the saffron crocus. Each blossom has three thread-like stigmas that have to be removed by hand, and it takes 80,000 of them to make a pound of saffron! It isn’t hard to understand why it is so expensive.

After they are picked, they are carefully toasted to dry them. They are either left in threads or ground into a powder. Some people feel the powder is inferior to the threads, because fillers are sometimes ground into the mix. But if they are of the best quality you get more for your money because the powder has a much stronger flavor and you don’t have to use as much.

The threads need to be soaked in hot liquid for at least 20 minutes before cooking – the longer the better. Don’t use a whisk when stirring them, as they will get caught in the wires and will not blend properly into the food.

If a recipe calls for saffron, it isn’t a good idea to use a substitute. The flavor is so unique that nothing else will taste the same. To preserve that unique taste in a recipe, it’s better not to use other strong flavored spices, such as chili pepper, in the same dish, as it will overpower its taste.

If you want to add it to baked goods, go lightly, as the flavor will be more pronounced the next day.

Saffron will easily absorb other flavors and odors, so be careful where and how you store it. If you don’t use it very often it will keep for several years when it is stored in a dark space, and is sealed so no moisture can get to it.

When buying it, there are some things to look for. The threads should be a bright red, with no other color. Sometimes if it isn’t real saffron it will be tinted to make it look authentic, and splotches of yellow will be visible. Substitutions are sometimes made, but the product doesn’t look like threads. It may color food, but it won’t taste like saffron.

There are many recipes on the Internet that will give you ideas for using this exotic spice.

Can Scrambled Eggs Be Frozen?

Ordinarily it isn’t a good idea to freeze cooked egg whites because they taste rubbery when they are thawed. But when they are all mixed up with the yolks, they keep their good taste and texture. So yes, you can freeze scrambled eggs and have a handy breakfast waiting for you in the freezer. Great for mornings when you don’t have time to cook. Sprinkle with some cheese before you warm it up, and take it with you!

HOW TO FREEZE

For the best texture, cook them just until they are still a little more soft than you want to eat them. They will firm up a little bit when you reheat them. Let them get completely cool, and freeze in individual servings in a muffin pan. Put them into the freezer for about 20 minutes until they are slightly frozen. Then wrap them and put into a freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. They will keep up to a year, but will have the best taste for a few months. If you want to serve several people at once, they can also be frozen in an airtight container or freezer bag.

HOW TO THAW

To thaw scrambled eggs, take them out of the freezer the night before and put them into the refrigerator. That way they can be reheated in a frying pan or in the microwave for a short length of time. Or if you don’t think about thawing them ahead, they can be thawed in a pan or microwave on low heat to keep them from cooking too much. They should be eaten right away and shouldn’t be refrozen.

About 3 Great Nuts

ABOUT HAZELNUTS

In folklore it is believed that hazelnuts became known as “filberts” because they were ready to harvest on St. Philbert’s Day. But they were being eaten in China 5000 years ago and were harvested by Romans. In 2838 B.C. they were said to be among the five sacred foods that God gave to human beings. Long ago these nuts were also used as a medicine.

STORING
Hazelnuts can be stored for a longer period than most nuts. Put them in plastic bags, either shelled or unshelled, in the refrigerator at about 32 degrees for one year, or in the freezer for two years. When ready to use them, let them warm to room temperature before opening the bag.

USING
Hazelnuts are added to all kinds of foods, including main dishes and desserts. They are especially tasty with coffee and chocolate, and are a main ingredient in Nutella. When roasted they give an added flavor to berry and chocolate desserts such as cobblers, and are often ground and used in cakes and pastries. They have a bitter skin that is usually removed before using in recipes. To remove the skin, roast them at 275 degrees for about 15 minutes. While still hot pick them up with a dry towel and rub them until the skin comes off.

NAMES
They are called “cobnuts” or “hazels” in the United States.

NUTRITION
These nuts are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are a protection against many diseases and cancers.

ABOUT MACADAMIAS

For thousands of years aborigines ate macadamia nuts that were native to Australian rainforests.

CRACKING
Macadamias have the hardest shell of any nut, and they are very difficult to crack. There are several suggestions on the Internet for cracking them, but it saves a lot of frustration to buy them already shelled.

USING
There are many ways to use ground macadamias – to flavor ground meat, poultry and fish dishes; added to pastry dough or shaken onto pie crust before adding the filling. To grind them, the easiest way is to pulse them in a food processor. Don’t do it too long or they will turn into nut butter. If you accidentally grind them until they start to get creamy, keep grinding until they are smooth and spreadable. You can add a little honey to give them a sweeter taste.
Macadamia nuts can be used the same as other nuts in most recipes. They add a flavorful crunch to baked goods like cookies and cakes, and spruce up salads and other foods where you use nuts. They go really well with coconut, chocolate and fish.

ROASTING
They have more flavor if they are toasted before they are cooked in a recipe. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them for about 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees until they are golden brown. You can use a toaster oven, but bake them half as long. Let them get cool before you grind or chop them so they don’t get oily or lose their shape.Toast only as many as you need because they won’t keep as well as raw nuts.

NUTRITION
Macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fatty acid and help reduce cholesterol. They also have high amounts of minerals and protein.

ABOUT PISTACHIOS

Pistachios go back 9,000 years, and are mentioned in the Bible. It is said that the Queen of Sheba liked them so much that she took the whole harvest just for herself.

NAMES
Pistachios are known by various names – “smiling nut” in Iran, “happy nut” in China, and green almonds in other places.

USING
Some cooks use shelled pistachios to top rice or other dishes the same way they would with other nuts. They can also be used instead of pine nuts as the base of pesto and in sweets. They are used in desserts, such as ice cream and cookies, on salads, sprinkled on roasted squash, and stirred into pasta. You can even make your own pistachio butter!

NUTRITION
It is said that pistachios contain more anti-oxidants than green tea. They have a lot of vitamins, fiber and nutrients, and help to reduce the risk of heart disease. They are also a source of protein.

Cantaloupes Tips

Time to enjoy this sweet, juicy fruit. You may look at them in the market and wonder how you can tell if they are ripe. Unfortunately there is no way to know for sure until you cut it open, but there are three things you can do to help get a good tasting melon.

1. Pick one up and hold it in your hands. It should be heavy for its size and a    light beige color.

2. You’ll notice a round spot – that is where it was attached to the plant. Press on either side of the circle with your thumbs. It should give a little, or leave a slight indentation.

3. Then sniff the circle. It should have a sweet smell, like you would want it to taste.

When you bring your melon home, it may have passed all the tests for maturity and still not be completely ripe. Leaving it at room temperance for two or three days will ripen it to a good flavor and aroma. You can put it in a shady spot on the countertop, or, like other fruits, put it in a loosely closed brown paper bag at room temperature. This traps the ethylene gas that the cantaloupe releases and that helps the fruit to ripen. To encourage the ripening to go a little faster you can put a ripe banana or apple in the bag with the cantaloupe. The bag is porous, so the carbon dioxide escapes and oxygen comes in. This is important; otherwise the melon would ferment. As soon as it is fully ripe, store it in the refrigerator.

STORING IN THE REFRIGERATOR

If you want to keep the melon whole for serving, put it into a tightly sealed plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It will keep for about five days. Put cut-up melon into an airtight container (such as Tupperware) and keep it refrigerated for up to three days. This not only keeps the fruit fresh, but prevents the strong aroma from permeating other foods around it.

FREEZING

To prepare cantaloupe for freezing, cut it in half, cut off the rind, scoop out the seeds and cut it in whatever shapes you want it to be (balls, slices, etc). Then spread the pieces on a baking sheet and put it in the coldest part of your refrigerator. When they are frozen pour them into a freezer bag, leaving ½ inch of space for them to expand. Since they were frozen in separate pieces you’ll be able to take out just what you need at one time.

The melon will have a sweeter, deeper flavor if served at room temperature.

6 Cheese Facts And Tips – What You Should Know

USING

When you take cheese out of the refrigerator to use it in a recipe, it can be kept on the counter up to an hour, but put it back as soon as possible. The heat from a warm kitchen will soften the cheese, and the change in texture could make a difference in your recipe.

MOLD

Mold certainly looks unpleasant, but in some cases it doesn’t spoil the cheese. It doesn’t work its way into hard and semisoft cheeses, so because it’s only on the surface, it can be cut off and not affect the taste. Cut off ¼ to ½ inch of the affected cheese, then use it as soon as possible. Be careful not to get the knife into the mold, as it could spread it.

GRATING AND SHREDDING

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they really are very different depending on how they are used in a recipe. Grated cheese tends to be more like powder, or with very small pieces, and works best with a hard cheese, such as parmesan. When you shred cheese it comes off in long strips, and takes longer to melt. Because of these differences they are used for different reasons. For instance, if you added grated cheddar to chili it would melt more quickly than if it was shredded. For grating you have a choice of many different graters, but an old-fashioned box grater is handy because you can either grate or shred with it. If you’re concerned about skinning your fingers, grate as long as you feel comfortable, and save the small pieces for a snack or cut them up and add to soup, salad, or a sandwich. They will keep well for a short time in the refrigerator. To make cleanup easier, spray the grater with cooking spray before grating the cheese. You can also grate with a food processor or blender, spraying the blades the same as a grater. Cut the cheese into small chunks and pulse in small batches.

CUTTING

Most cheese is easiest to cut when chilled. However, some hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, will be easier to cut if they are brought to room temperature. Round cheeses are to be cut in wedges, like a cake. Tall truckles are easier to serve if sliced horizontally. A “truckle” of cheese refers to a wheel of cheese usually taller than it is wide, and sometimes it has a barrel shape. Truckles vary greatly in size, from the wax-coated cheeses sold in supermarkets, to larger artisanal cheeses.

COOKING

Heating cheese at a high temperature can make it curdle or separate, and sometimes gives it a leathery kind of texture. If you want to keep cheese warm after it is melted, it’s best to place it over low or indirect heat. If you are broiling foods that have cheese on the top, place it a few inches from the source of heat just long enough to melt it.

WHAT IS THE LIQUID ON THE OUTSIDE OF CHEESE?

If a little liquid forms inside the package, it’s just whey from the cheese, and there’s no need to be concerned. You can wipe it off with a paper towel and enjoy the cheese.

4 Steps to Make Delicious Drop Cookies

Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly. Start with room temperature butter and cut it into cubes. You can tell if it is room temperature by gently pressing a finger on the butter. If it leaves a slight indentation it’s just right. Beat it on low speed for about 30 seconds or until it’s creamy. Add the sugar and beat on high until it’s fluffy and pale yellow. Scrape the sides of the bowl several times so that it’s all blended in. Be patient – this can take a few minutes, but it’s worth the effort, as it will give a nice rise and lightness to the cookies.

Don’t over-mix! Gradually stir flour mixture into the sugar mixture just until you don’t see any unmixed flour. Over-mixing will make the cookies flatter and they will look greasy – not too appetizing!

Chill the dough. You’ve been working in a warm kitchen, and chances are the dough has warmed up, especially the butter. Even 30 minutes in the frig will help, and it can be kept covered up to three days. The dough will stick together better, and it’s less likely to spread during baking.

Don’t over-bake! They will keep on cooking and getting crisper as they cool, so it’s a good idea to take them out of the oven before they are totally baked. Shiny metal pans help to keep them from getting burned on the bottom. Make sure to cool the pan before making another batch of cookies. Place the pan on the center rack and rotate it halfway through the baking time so they all cook evenly.

A warm cookie and glass of cold milk anyone?

Tips For Beating Egg Whites

If you have difficulty in beating egg whites into stiff peaks, these ideas may be helpful to you.

The whites will separate from the yolk best when they are cold, but will triple in volume if they are beaten at room temperature. So after separating the eggs, let the whites rest for about 30 minutes to warm up. If you are in a hurry, the bowl of whites may be set into a larger container with very warm (not hot) water for about 10 minutes.

What you beat them in will make a big difference. A copper bowl is the best, because it makes high stiff peaks, takes less time to beat the whites and they will stay stiff longer. To get a similar result, the next best bowl would be stainless steel or glass. When beating them in an aluminum bowl they often turn a grayish color and look very unappetizing. Depending on what they have been used for, wooden bowls can have oil residue left from previous uses, and it can keep the whites from beating into stiff peaks.

Start beating the egg whites at low speed, gradually increasing the speed to medium-high. If you start at high speed it will cause air bubbles that keep the whites from making stiff peaks. Continue beating the whites and once they have reached the soft peak stage, gradually add the sugar (this ensures that the sugar fully dissolves into the foam). If sugar is added in the beginning it will take a lot of beating to get any peaks at all. Add the sugar a small amount at a time while you continue to beat. It helps to get stiff peaks and keep them from deflating if you add one-eighth teaspoon cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar for each egg white, or if you are making a meringue use one-eighth teaspoon for every two whites. Add before they begin to thicken.To make sure the sugar is completely added in, rub a little of the beaten white between your fingers. If it feels gritty, it needs to be beaten some more.

Be sure not to over beat, because the peaks will flatten and start to get watery. After you are finished beating, use them right away or the same thing will happen. If whites are over beaten they are apt to dry out.

If you are using the beaten whites as a meringue, you’ll have better success if you don’t make it in rainy or exceptionally humid weather. The meringue is mostly air, and moisture will make it go flat. To keep the meringue from shrinking, spread it on a pie when it’s hot.