Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Latin Inspired Quinoa

What is Quinoa?
Well I just learned how to say it recently. It was rather embarrassing and the grocery store clerk looked at me as though I was speaking another language. For the record the correct way is ˈkiːnwɑ. I know this because she said it several times...and looked it up to make sure she wasn't a trickster.
Quinoa grains contain essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. It's an ancient "grain" native to South America and was once called "the gold of the Incas," who recognized its value in increasing the stamina of their warriors. It has been shown to do many things including reduce migraines (due to it's high vitamin B content) and provide cardiovascular health. It's also gluten free!
Moral of the story is that it's good for you! Don't believe me read more here, here, and here.

Latin Inspired Quinoa
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup chopped cilantro, fresh of course
1/2 cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt to taste
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped green chiles
Chopped cucumber
Soak quinoa for 5 min (or longer if you forget about them) in the pan. (Soaking helps quinoa to cook evenly, and loosens up any residue of saponin, which can give a bitter taste.) Return to the pan, add broth and salt. Bring to simmer, cover and cook 20-25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Add cilantro, scallions and lime juice to the quinoa; mix and fluff with a fork. To serve, allow people to add their own tomatoes, chiles and cucumber. This would also be a great way to add in your leftover shredded carrots or chopped green peppers.

What's your favorite way to enjoy quinoa?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fighting the War on Sugar

I have a major sweet tooth. Anyone around me can attest to that. The weird thing is that my daughter doesn't really like sweets. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise given the fact that I ate cake every day during the last 5 months of my pregnancy. The point here is that I LOVE cake... and sweets... and maybe I love them a little too much. It's the kinda love that has me dreaming about vacations together on an island in the sun. (Sorry family it's just me and the cake this time.)

So there are moments (a lot of moments) that I'm jealous of my daughter. I wish I didn't like sweets. There are many days when it feels like an addiction. In fact, research shows that sugar activates some of the same parts of the brain as heroin does. Heroin! So it's no wonder that when I get that hint of refined white sugar the gates open. Then I spend the next few days (sometimes weeks) trying to kill that craving.

We all get it I'm sure...maybe with different foods. Sometimes cravings are healthy and serve to tell us what our body needs. In the case of these sweets... well we just don't need them.

Here are a few tools that I found to help me get over the call of the sugar:

Infrared Sauna:
An Infrared Sauna uses infrared heaters to emit infrared radiant heat which is absorbed directly into the human body, unlike traditional saunas which heat the body indirectly via air or steam. Since saunas increase perspiration, they are able to liberate "toxins." For those of you in the Seattle/Tacoma area Eco Chic Salon & Spa is a great place to enjoy this type of sauna. When I was first diagnosed this really helped. I went about once a week for the first month and would encourage anyone I know to give it a try. It is by no means an instant fix, but it helped.

If I get plenty of sleep the cravings aren't as intense. However, I'm not good about getting enough sleep...not at all. On average I get about 6-7 hours. By no means is it reason to see a doctor, but I'm being honest in that I know it helps. Sometimes, something as simple as a quick nap can keep me from being waist deep in homemade marshmallows.

This goes back to that whole "your body will tell you what it needs" philosophy. If I'm not getting enough potassium, my body should give me that you need a banana craving. Vitamin B has been particularly helpful, but I am also deficient on several B vitamins.  When I stay current on my vitamins (and I take a lot of them) cravings aren't deafening.

Healthy Snacks:
As a hypoglycemic it is important to eat every few hours. Skipping snacks causes blood sugar levels to dip which signals a craving that you need sugar. Each snack should contain a whole grain and a protein. This takes planning and it is important to keep emergency snacks on hand for when you might forget to pack something.

Recipe Makeovers:
Sometimes cravings are very specific. For example a few weeks ago I wanted pumpkin raisin cookies. I wanted them sooooo badly. Luckily I knew I could tweak it into a healthier version. Which I did, and it was exactly what I needed. If it's something you can't shake, and it has been around for days, try to reinvent it.

This is my final line of defense. At this point I have the plate of cake in hand. It is nearly the point of defeat. However, if I can reach for a glass of water (or sometimes 2) I might be able to put it down and walk away. For me the odds are 50/50. That's not a great percent, but in all those cases where I still had the sweet, I ate much less of it. Give it a try sometime... it really does help.

Fighting the War on Sugar isn't easy
It's about finding what weapons work for you. It's about understanding your triggers and learning to avoid them. But more than anything it is about taking care of your body. You can read more about other options in fighting the war on sugar here.

What tools do you use to avoid sugar?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fat Free Pumpkin Raisin Cookies

Nothing says fall like pumpkin. I love the smell, the taste and the anticipation of all the pumpkin flavored foods. This year I resolved to make a healthier version, and I nailed it!

It took me awhile to make sure I could call these fat free. With only 70 calories and .2 grams of total fat I was certain it had to count as something. So I looked it up, and according to the FDA a food may be considered fat-free, if it has 0.5 g of fat or less per serving. A saturated-fat-free food must contain less than 0.5 g of saturated fat and less than 0.5 g of trans fats.You can read more about that here. But basically it means that 2 cookies still count as fat free!

These cookies are really more of a muffin texture. If you decide you'd prefer muffins just pour the batter in the muffin tin. Personally I hate cleaning out the muffin pans, so I went the cookie route on rounds 2 and 3 of this recipe. You also have to admit that eating a cookie for breakfast is much more fun than eating a muffin. Enjoy!

Fat Free Pumpkin  Raisin Cookies
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie seasoning
3/4 cup canned plain pumpkin puree
3/4 cup raisins
6 tablespoons egg whites
1/3 cup apple juice
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray. Whisk dry ingredients together. Add in the remaining ingredients. Stir until no traces of dry ingredients remain. Drop the batter by level tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, spacing the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake the cookies until firm to the touch and lightly golden on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Store in an airtight container or pop into the freezer for later.

Calories    70.4
Total Fat   0.2 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg,
Sodium     105.0 mg
Potassium     99.4 mg
Total Carbs     16.1 g
Dietary Fiber     1.3 g
Sugars         5.1 g
Protein     2.0 g

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baked Crab Rangoons

I've said it before... but there is nothing like cooking with friends. I met up with Bree for our much anticipated Hypo/Three Stones Asian Night and it was a HUGE success! She made these amazing Fresh Rolls that were filled with sprouts, shrimp and other goodness. If I hadn't seen her make them I would have thought they were impossibly difficult, but they weren't so TRY THEM!
For this event I decided to give one of my most requested dishes a healthy makeover. Crab Rangoons are typically deep fried and super fattening, but I proved that they don't have to be fatty to be delicious.

Practically Fat Free Baked Crab Rangoons
1 package imitation crab
1 package fat free cream cheese, softened
3 stalks green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 package wonton wrappers
In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except wonton wrappers. Mix until well blended. Place a glob of this amazing mixture in center of each wonton wrapper. Using your finger or a pastry brush, moisten just the edges of the wrapper with water. Fold in half to form triangle, pressing edges to seal. Arrange on baking sheet that has been coated with vegetable spray. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve with strawberry jalapeno pepper jelly. Here's a quick recipe in case you aren't the type that makes batches of this to freeze: Combine 1 cup sugar free strawberry jelly with enough jalapenos to give it a good heat. Put this mixture in your food processor until it is nicely evenly mixed.

Each time I make these the amount I get varies based on how much filling I stuff into them. This time it created 36 delicious rangoons. Each one is about 36 calories and .2 grams fat with NO saturated fat. While that doesn't give you the excuse to finish the pan by yourself...it should remove the guilt of treating yourself to a few extra.

I also decided to whip up a few Brown Rice California Rolls. I love love love sushi and making it is much more affordable than picking it up from the store. Be sure to check out my instructions here.

Join us next month for Skinnygiving as we tackle our favorite holiday feast foods.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays for 10/4/2011.
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