One of my nightly rituals is a cup of herbal tea. One of my favorites is Mighty Leaf Chamomile Citrus Tea. After reading about the harmful things in tea recently I was pretty surprised. Most teas contain pesticides. All of my favorite teas — from Tazo to Mighty Leaf — all have ‘natural flavoring’ that is sprayed onto the tea. The ingredients of this flavor are unknown and anything can be called ‘natural’ because it’s a non-regulated term. Many of the paper bags contain chemicals and the silk-like ones are actually plastic; which as we all know shouldn’t be paired with boiling water. I searched high and low for a tea that didn’t contain all of the aforementioned components, and Numi and Rishi are the only two brands I could find that fit the bill. With such limited choices, I decided to start buying my herbs in bulk and making my own tea blends. I shop online at Mountain Rose Herbs as I am able to find almost all of the ingredients there. This is my knock off version of Mighty Leaf’s Chamomile Citrus. It is great for helping me fall asleep!
Sleepy Tea Recipe
- ½ cup dried orange peel
- ½ cup dried chamomile flowers
- 1 T plus 1 t of dried rose hips
- 2 T dried lemon grass
- 1 T dried lemon balm
- 1 T dried lemon myrtle
- 3 T dried hibiscus, crushed
Mix Ingredients in a large bowl and store in a tea tin or container. It’s best to store tea in a container that keeps light out as it can degrade the tea. I use ½ tablespoon per 6-8-ounce cup of tea. Add boiling water and allow tea to steep for 3-5 minutes. Add honey to taste or drink plain.
- 1 pound small brussels sprouts, washed and ends trimmed
- 1 large bulb fennel, fronds removed and bulb thinly sliced
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 T balsamic vinegar
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Wash and slice fennel and trim brussels sprouts. You can cut them if half if they are large. Place the fennel and brussels sprouts on a large sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss vegetables in the oil to coat evenly. Lightly salt the vegetables. Place in the 450 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Check halfway through cooking time and toss for even cooking. Vegetables will be golden on the edges. Remove the fennel and brussels sprouts to a bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper and toss to coat.
All tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The production of green tea originated in China thousands of years ago. Green tea is the made from the young buds and leaves of the plant. Typically the leaves are dried immediately and then heated or steamed to prevent the oxidation process. Some types of specialty green tea are rolled by hand to preserve the essential oils in the leaves for more flavorful brewing.
White tea is made from the immature leaves that are picked before the buds open. The leaves are not dried but steamed. White tea like green tea contains a high amount of polyphenols that are powerful anti-oxidants. White tea is often more expensive – depending on the variety — because it must be harvested by hand. The Silver needles variety goes about $25 per ounce. This variety is comprised of the buds of the plant, and is harvested by hand during a 2-day period in early spring.
Black tea is made from the same plant, but it is partially dried and then allowed to ferment. Oolong tea is in between green and black because it is only partially fermented. Both black and Oolong tea contains less antioxidants than green and white tea.
Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea contains about 24-40mg of caffeine per 8-ounce cup. If caffeine is a concern then decaffeinated varieties are also available. Drink 2-4 cups per day to see a health benefit.
Green tea has been shown to reduce risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Green tea has been recently touted for it anti-breast cancer benefits and is said to improve the benefits of endocrine therapy such as Tamoxifen. Here is a link to the research Green tea is also preventative for many other types of cancer (esophageal, stomach, prostate, pancreatic, colorectal, and lung) It can also reduce cholesterol (raise good cholesterol), protect the body from environmental toxins, sun damage, and aids in weight loss.
The valuable components of green tea are antioxidants called catechins or polyphenols. These antioxidants search in your body for free radicals that can damage DNA. Green tea also contains EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) and 3 types of flavonoids.
Charleston Tea Plantation
The Charleston Tea plantation is the only remaining tea plantation in the United States. It has a working factory where the tea is processed into the various types of tea. It is located on Wadmalaw Island right outside Charleston, South Carolina. In 2003, the Bigelow family purchased the plantation. It is a very unique experience and I recommend if you are ever in Charleston area to make it part of your sight seeing plans. They offer trolley tours of the plantation that are definitely worth the cost. You can also take a free factory tour and taste samples of all their teas in the gift shop. One of my favorite green teas is their Island Green Tea. It is a mint flavored green tea. (This is my honest opinion. I was not compensated for this view and I do not have any affiliation with Charleston Tea Plantation)
Brewing Methods of green tea
The temperature of the water for brewing green tea is critical. Heat the water to be between 170-180 degrees. You can either use a thermometer to measure the temperature or invest in a kettle that will heat to specific temperatures. Never use boing water to make green tea! It will make the tea taste very bitter.
Steep the tea for 1-3 minutes depending on how strong you like your tea.
Use a rounded teaspoon per 6-ounce cup of water.
Make sure you use filtered water to make your tea. Chorine and fluoride can affect the flavor. Make sure you allow enough room for the tea to expand when brewing.
The perfect cup of hot tea
- 1 6oz teacup of filtered (170-180 degree) water
- 1 rounded teaspoon of green tea.
- Brew for approximately 3 minutes.
- Serve sweetened or plain.
Placing a pitcher in the sun to make green tea also works well. The sun gently warms the tea, so it typically takes about 2-3 hours for it to brew. I recommend not adding sugar until you are ready to serve the tea to prevent any bacteria growth.
- 1 quart pitcher of water
- 6-8 teaspoons green tea
- Place in sun and brew 2-3 hours.
- Sweeten as desired. I use a couple of packets of stevia.
- Place in fridge to chill approximately 1 hour.
This method requires a little more time, but is sure to keep the antioxidants in your tea intact.
- Add several ice cubs to 12 ounces filtered water.
- Use about 2 rounded teaspoons of green tea.
- Allow the tea to steep for about 20 minutes for one glass (about 1 1/2 cups).
- If you are making a small pitcher (4 cups) if will take about 40 minutes to an hour. You can also brew in the refrigerator overnight.
I prefer loose tea to bagged tea, but I do occasionally use bagged tea. There are many different options available for brewing loose tea. I particular like several of the options offered by Bodum. Bodum has single cup, pitcher, and teapot brewing options for loose tea
Look out for Fakes
Be wary of bottle green tea. Bottled teas contain substantial amounts of sugar and other ingredients like preservatives. Bottled tea also contains fewer antioxidants. It is also much more economical to make your own tea.
Cooking with Tea
There are many ways to consume tea besides drinking. There are lots of delicious recipes for cooking with tea. Check out my recipe for Green Tea Soup.
The most recent New York Times article about the Mediterranean Diet prompted me to revisit the essential components and foods that make up the diet. Although the focus of the diet is reduced heart attacks and strokes, it is also cancer preventative. I considered my diet to consist of foods mentioned in the diet. I always cook with olive oil, love seafood, and regularly eat nuts and whole grains. The quiz, found here, enlightened me to the reality that my diet doesn’t truly fit the mold. It’s not that I wasn’t eating the right foods, but I was not consuming the amounts suggested in the diet. For example I cook with olive oil about 90% of the time, but I don’t consume the recommended minimum of four tablespoons per day!
That being said, no diet is perfect. The number of whole grains suggested per day is too much akin to the food pyramid. Six to Seven servings of whole grains a day is way too much for my caloric requirements. Anyone who has entered menopause or is taking Tamoxifen can probably relate to this.
Taking the best parts of the Mediterranean diet and utilizing those components is the best approach. Dr. Andrew Weil advocates a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the Asian diet.
That brings us to the topic of today’s blog…Sofrito. When I took the quiz for the Mediterranean Diet I wasn’t exactly sure what sofrito was. A quick search of the Internet revealed that it is Spanish in origin. It is said to come form the Catalan region of Spain. It has influenced French, Italian, and Portuguese cooking. Sofrito actually means to sauté or light fry something. During the late 1400s the Spanish brought this dish to the Caribbean and Latin American countries they colonized. There are a myriad of different recipes and variations of sofrito.
When creating a recipe I used the Spanish version of the dish, which typically includes garlic, onions, leeks, tomatoes, and olive oil. Sofrito should be made up ahead of time. The flavors develop and it actually tastes better the following day. Sofrito can be used as a sauce for chicken, shrimp, mussels, and eggs. Serve the chicken and shrimp with sofrito over brown rice. It is fantastic with fried eggs and is very reminiscent of huevos rancheros.
- 1 28 oz. can or box (BPA free) crushed tomatoes
- 1 large red pepper, very finely diced
- 3 large cloves of garlic
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 leek, cleaned well and finely sliced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1-teaspoon sweet paprika
- Salt and pepper
- Prepare the Sofrito a day ahead for optimum results.
- Add oil to a heavy bottom stock pot
- Add the onion, leek, garlic and sauté until translucent and soft.
- Add the red pepper and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender.
- Add the tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper.
- Turn the stove to low and simmer the mixture for 20-30 minutes.
Mussels with Sofrito
- 2 pounds mussels, cleaned and beards removed
- 1 cup Sofrito
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ cup water
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Crusty bread for serving
- In a large pot over medium-high heat bring the water, wine, and sofrito to a boil.
- Add the cleaned mussels and cover.
- Cook for about 6 minutes. All the mussels should be open. Cook 1-2 minutes longer if they have not opened. Remove any mussels that do not open.
- Serve in bowls and drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
There are so many different kinds of squash out there that are so good for you. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. See my previous post on Winter Squash for all the details.
I love making soups this time of year. They are usually pretty easy and they are great to warm you up on a cold winter day. Soups also are great left over. I really enjoyed taking this to work a couple of times for a yummy lunch!
Note that in the following recipe I used 1 acorn squash. Feel free to use 2-3 acorn squashes, depending on their size, and omit the canned butternut squash if you prefer. You could also use all canned pumpkin or butternut squash and save yourself the step of cleaning and roasting the acorn squash. I used the canned butternut squash for 2 reasons. Butternut is higher in beta carotene than acorn squash, and I only had 1 acorn squash on hand .
Creamy Acorn Squash Soup with Kale Recipe
- 4 strips bacon, 4 ounces, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (preferably nitrate free bacon)-optional
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 pound kale, thick stems removed, leaves finely chopped (about 8 cups)
- 1 can butternut squash or canned pumpkin (not pumpkin mix)
- 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 acorn squash
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Cut acorn squash in half and clean out seeds by scraping with a spoon.
- Roast squash on a baking sheet for 15-20 minutes.
- Cook bacon and set aside.
- Heat a large pot and olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onion and cook until 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the kale and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Scrap squash from skin and process in a food processor to make a puree. Add some stock to make a smooth paste.
- Add squash puree, canned squash, and chicken or vegetable stock to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Serve garnished with bacon
I’ve been trying to come up with new ways to eat all those tasty and healthy squash that are so abundant in the fall months. Butternut squash is one of my favorites! Check out my previous post for Butternut Squash Pizza.
This recipe is pretty easy and would be good for a weeknight meal. I recommend either buying either already cut up butternut squash or peeling, cleaning, and cutting in advance as that is the most time consuming part of the meal.
Winter squash (butternut squash, acorn squash, Hubbard squash, delicata squash, and pumpkin) have thick skin and contains seeds. Although their shapes and colors vary widely, the deep orange pigmentation is one of the hallmarks of beta-carotene rich vegetables. Butternut and pumpkin contain the most beta-carotene out of the squashes. They also contain carotenoids, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Pumpkins also contains lutein and zeaxanthin.
They are all high in vitamin A, except acorn, and are also an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and manganese. The carotenoids help prevent oxidative damage that can lead to cancer and cardiovascular diseases. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Cancer Research reported that women with the highest levels of alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin had a 50 percent reduction in breast cancer risk. It was particularly true for women with high mammographic density.
Don’t shy away from canned squash either. The carotenoid content is not lost during the canning process and actually increases the concentration of carotenoids.
Butternut Squash Pasta with Pecans Recipe
- 1 lb. penne pasta or other short cut pasta, preferably whole wheat pasta
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½ inch pieces.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup pecans, chopped coarsely
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus a drizzle olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Ricotta for serving
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Place cubed butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Roast 15-20 minutes
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta and add olive oil and parsley and season with salt and pepper.
- In a medium skillet add 1 tablespoon of butter. Roast pecans in butter until toasted.
- To serve divide pasta among 4 plates. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Spoon squash over pasta. Top with roasted pecans and a dollop of ricotta cheese.
I am always looking for meals ideas for “Meatless Mondays,” or any other day of the week for that matter. Beans or Legumes are a great vegetarian option because they are a great source of protein, folate, and fiber; which makes them a great anit-cancer food. They contain soluble fiber which keeps your blood sugar low and stable. Legumes are a slow burning and long lasting source of energy, so they keep you feeling full for a longer period of time. This also makes them optimal for people with diabetes.
Lentils are a member of the legume family and they originated in the Mediterranean Region thousands of years ago. Lentil were domesticated as early at 8000 BCE and were found in civilizations in the middle east. Egypt, Greece, Syria, and Turkey valued lentils for their flavor and versatility. See my previous post for Roasted Fall Vegetables with Lentils for another recipe and for more information on lentil’s cancer prevention properties. Lentil are high in vitamin B6, folate, fiber, protein, pantothenic acid, thiamine, manganese, iron, copper, potassium, and zinc. They are also a good source of vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and selenium. They also contain antioxidants.
This recipe for lentil salad is very easy to prepare. Unlike most dried beans lentils do not require soaking prior to cooking, and they cook up fairly quickly. This salad is wonderful served with salmon for a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids (as pictured), but also makes a great meatless meal. This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten’s Warm French Lentil Salad.
One Cup Serving of Cooked Lentils Contains:
- 230 calories
- 18 g protein
- 15.6 g fiber
Lentil Salad Recipe
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 leek (white and light green part only), cleaned well to remove sand and finely diced
- 3 to 4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups lentils, preferably green french lentils but you can use any type of lentil for this dish
- 1 onion peeled and stuck with 8 whole cloves
For the dressing
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the leek and carrot in a skillet for about 5-6 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Place the leek and carrot in a large bowl.
- Bring about 8 cups of water to a boil with the onion and cloves. Add the lentils and reduce heat to medium low, or a simmer.
- Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until tender.
- Drain the lentils and discard the onion.
- Make the dressing by combining the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. (whisk in a small bowl or place in a small jar and shake to combine.
- Add the lentils to the leek and carrot mixture and toss with the dressing while hot.
- Allow to cook slightly and serve warm.
Well it seems I have been MIA for a couple of weeks. I don’t know about all of you, but it has been a busy Summer for me. It often doesn’t seem there are enough hours in the day!
My husband and I traveled to Houston TX for my quarterly visit to MD Anderson. We had a great time. We usually visit something new on each visit. On this particular trip we made a day trip to Galveston. Galveston has some of the most beautiful Victorian Era houses.
What’s even more amazing is that so many of them have managed to survive the big hurricane that hit Galveston at the turn of the century and more recently hurricane Ike.
The ornamental designs and colors are really something to see.
Bishop’s Palace was impressive!
The beach was pretty, but just can’t compare to South Carolina beaches! Of course I
could be am a bit biased .
The highlight of the trip was definitely the visit to Brennan’s of Houston for brunch.
The bananas foster was to die for!
Ok…Back to what this blog is supposed to be about which is healthy cooking and eating. Although I enjoyed eating out while on vacation, it’s back to healthy eating again at home. One of my favorite foreign/ ethic dishes to make is Tabouli. I love making this dish during the Summer because it is very light and goes well with many things.
It you haven’t heard of Tabouli before it’s Arabic in origin, but don’t be put off by it’s strange sounding name. It’s a healthful dish that is quite easy to prepare.
It is made with quite a bit of parsley which has some great health and cancer prevention benefits. Go here for more information on that.
- 1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 2 hours
- 1 bunch green onions (Vidalia green onions are best for their sweetness), diced fine
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- pepper to taste
Soak the bulgur in hot water for 2 hours. Drain off excess liquid. Place in a large bowl. Add green onions, tomatoes, and parsley. In a separate bowl mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to the bulgur mixture and toss to coat. Allow the mixture to sit for several hours in the fridge. This makes a great salad or an excellent side dish.
The beginning of summer brings lots of vegetables. The last few weeks of our Spring CSA have been particularly plentiful. Two of my favorite things are summer squash and zucchini.
Zucchini bread is a great way to use zucchini. This is a healthier version because it uses whole wheat pastry flour and coconut sugar instead of their “white” counterparts.
Feel free to use another kind of sugar. I use the coconut sugar and stevia to sweeten the bread because it has a lower glycemic index than other sweeteners.
Zucchini contains vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin K, folate, potassium, lutein, beta-carotene. Zucchini is also high in fiber which is also beneficial to cancer prevention. Check out this article on the 8 health benefits of zucchini.
Zucchini Bread Recipe
- 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 3 teaspoons stevia
- 1/3 cup grape seed oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups shredded zucchini
- 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- ½ cup pecans, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
- Whisk together the “wet” ingredients in a medium bowl: milk, eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla.
- Stir in zucchini to the wet ingredients.
- Combine the “dry” ingredients: flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts until just combined.
- Pour into the greased loaf pan.
- Bake at 350°F until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. (50 minutes to 1 hour.). Cool 10 minutes in the pan then remove to a wire cooling rack. Let cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.
This soup, much like my Antioxidant Soup, was created as a way to use up a bunch of different vegetables.
Durning the peak of the Spring CSA season It is very difficult for my husband and I to eat everything that we get each week. That is saying a lot because we eat quite a few vegetables daily in our house.
I wasn’t sure exactly what ingredient to focus on in this soup because so many of the ingredients contain cancer-fighting antioxidants and cartinoids like beta carotene and lycopene. It also is full of vitamins(vitamin K, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D, folate), minerals, and fiber. It also contains sulphoraphane from the Kale.
Summer Minestrone Soup
Adapted from Martha Stewarts Minestrone Soup Recipe
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cup matchstick carrots, or 2 carrots peeled and diced
- 1 large celery stalk, diced
- 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 5- 6 new potatoes, halfed or quartered depending on size
- 5-6 leaves red kale, tough stems removed and sliced into 1 inche peices
- 1 yellow squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 small zuchinni, diced into 1 inch pieces.
- 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (low sodium if you have them)
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 garlic clove, minced (optional)
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, for serving
- In a large pot, over medium heat add the oil. Then add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, red-pepper flakes, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.
- Add the canned tomatoes cook for about 1 minute, then add potato, cannellini beans, and 7 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in green beans.
- Reduce to a simmer, and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the kale and cook for about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Add minced garlic.
- Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.