Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Healthy Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

About Molasses
Isn’t it ironic that the waste product of manufacturing white sugar, is a nutrient-rich, low-glycemic syrup? I’m talking about molasses. That gooey, rich, unmistakably black-brown nectar with a rather divisive flavour.
There are a few varieties of molasses, but to understand how they vary, let’s first look at how molasses is made.
Molasses is created from either sugarcane or sugar beets (but because the molasses made from beets can be quite bitter, sugarcane molasses is the most common variety available for human consumption). These plants are harvested, and then cut, crushed, and mashed so that the juice is extracted. “Fancy Molasses” is the first product to be made, but is in fact the only type of molasses that is not a by-product of sugar processing, but instead a direct product from sugar cane. This type is super sweet and is most commonly enjoyed as the syrup straight on pancakes or waffles, and as an ingredient in baked goods.
Varieties of Molasses
The real deal molasses comes from boiling the juice of sugar cane down to crystallize the sugars, producing a concentrate, the first of which is called First Molasses, First Strike Molasses, Barbados Molasses, Light Molasses, Mild Molasses, or Sweet Molasses. This comes from the first boiling of the sugar. It is light in colour and mild in flavour. Some people also enjoy this type directly on their food, like fancy molasses. It is about 65% sucrose.
Next up is Second Molasses, Second Strike Molasses, Dark Molasses, or Full Molasses. As you may have guessed, this is made from the second boiling of the extracted cane juice, a process that extracts even more sugar, producing a darker, thicker syrup typically used as a cooking ingredient in sauces, marinades and baked beans. It is about 60% sucrose.
Blackstrap molasses is likely the one all you health foodies out there know and love. This type of molasses is made by boiling the cane syrup a third time, which extracts even more sugar and concentrates the flavour. By this point, the sucrose content is so low (about 55%) that the syrup no longer tastes sweet, but slightly bitter. The colour is nearly black, and the consistency is very thick and viscous. Blackstrap molasses is used in baking, sauces, stews and even as a food supplement due to its high nutrient content.
Nutritious and Delicious
Blackstrap molasses is highly concentrated in essential minerals, such as iron, calcium, selenium, manganese, potassium, copper, and zinc. As I mentioned above, this type of molasses is sometimes used as a dietary supplement or tonic. One tablespoon stirred into warm water is a food-based way to boost mineral levels, especially iron, as this small amount contains a whopping 20% of your RDI. You can also enjoy it in foods such as smoothies, tea, warm cereal, or dressings, sauces and stews. Remember to eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C to enhance its absorption. I like to use a little lemon juice.
Blackstrap molasses is one of the few sweeteners that is low on the glycemic scale with an index classification of 55. This means that it metabolizes slowly in a controlled way, demands less insulin production and won’t cause a spike in blood glucose levels. All in all, blackstrap molasses is a fantastic, healthy sweetener to which I enthusiastically give a thumbs up!
 
Healthy Holiday Gingerbread
Makes at least 2 dozen medium-sized cookies
Ingredients:
2 ½ / 350g whole spelt flour
¼ tsp. fine grain sea salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. ground ginger (or less if you prefer more mild gingerbread)
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
½ cup / 70g coconut sugar
½ cup / 125ml unsulfured blackstrap molasses
3 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Sift the dry ingredients together.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, then whisk in the molasses, applesauce, and vanilla.
3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and fold to combine – you may need to use your hands to mix this, but don’t overwork the dough. Fold just until the ingredients come together evenly. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, make a ball, then flatten into a large disc. Wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Remove dough from the fridge, unwrap and cut in half. Wrap one half and return it to the fridge. Place the other half of the dough between two pieces of baking paper and roll out (if it is very stiff, you may need to let it warm up just slightly). Remove top half of the paper and cut out desired shapes with a cookie cutter or a knife. Slide a knife or thin egg lifter under each shape and place on a lined baking sheet. Ball up the scraps of dough, roll it out between the parchment and start again. Once the dough becomes too warm, return it to the fridge and repeat the entire process with the other half of the chilled dough.
5. Place cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes (7 minutes produces a softer, chewier cookie, while 10 minutes produces a crispier one). Remove from oven and let cool on pan. Decorate with the Cashew Cacao Icing if desired (recipe follows).

Cashew-Cacao Butter Icing
Makes about ¾ cup
Ingredients:
½ cup / 65g cashews
a few pinches of sea salt
3 Tbsp. / 40g cacao butter, melted
1 ½ Tbsp. raw honey (or liquid sweetener of your choice)
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
3 Tbsp. hot water

Directions:

1. Soak cashews with sea salt for four hours, or overnight.
2. Drain, rinse and place cashews in the most powerful blender you have along with all other ingredients. Blend on high until as smooth as possible.
3. Pour into a piping bag and store in the fridge until it firms up, about 2 hours, then use. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer. If you do not have a piping bag, you can also use sandwich bag with a teeny corner snipped off

When purchasing molasses, read the label to ensure that what you are buying is 100% pure molasses (some companies will cut blackstrap molasses with corn syrup to make it sweeter) and that it is “unsulfured”. Sulfur dioxide can be added to all grades of molasses to help preserve it, as it prevents the growth of bacteria and mould. From a health perspective, sulfur can cause reactions in sensitive people (you can read more about that here). Sulfur dioxide also has a very bitter flavour, and can drastically alter the flavour of the dish you are making. Look for organic molasses whenever possible too.
Store unopened molasses in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Opened containers must be stored in the fridge and will last for up to six months.
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Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

Sugar free / Dairy free / Wheat free / Vegan

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Stir oats, bananas, applesauce, raisins, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon together in a bowl until evenly mixed; drop by the spoonful onto a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

 

recipe by Gene Payne
allrecipes.com


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Strawberry Ripe Protein Bars

6 Ingredients   610 Calories   20 Minutes   2 servings

 

Nutrition

Calories 610

% DAILY VALUE*

Total Fat 31g     48%
Saturated Fat 23g   115%
Cholesterol 75mg    25%
Sodium 150 mg    6%
Potassium 560mg 16%
Protein 27g
Calories from Fat 280

% DAILY VALUE*

Total Carbohydrate 57g   1 9%
Dietary Fiber 9g 3     6%
Sugars  42g     84%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Makes 4 large or 8 small bars

Ingredients

60 grams freeze-dried strawberries (organic if possible)
60 grams unsweetened shredded coconut
60 grams unflavoured whey protein powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
60 millilitres unsweetened coconut or almond milk
80 grams dark chocolate (I like 100% but anything above 70% is good)

Directions

Place the strawberries in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground.  Add the coconut and whey, and vanilla, and process until the mixture is fine but not totally ground to a flour.  There may be small pieces of berry or coconut.  This is great as it adds texture.

Add the coconut or almond milk and process until the mixture starts to come together.   Line a bar tin with silicone paper and press the mixture evenly into the tin.  Cover and refrigerate until it firms up.  Alternatively, you can just divide the mixture into 4 or 8 equal portions and form in to bars.  Place on a tray, lined with silicone paper, and refrigerate until they firm up enough to coat.

Place the dark chocolate into a plastic bowl and microwave for about one minute.  It might need another 15 seconds or so.  Stir the mixture until melted.  Keep stirring the mixture as it cools slightly.  You can also melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water (a bain marie).  Once melted, remove from the heat and stir until it cools slightly.

Coat each bar in the chocolate and set on to a tray, lined with silicone paper, to set completely.  You can set the bars at room temperature or place in the refrigerator for ten minutes or so until the chocolate sets.

Now, you can temper the chocolate well and coat the bars with a smooth finish if you are like me and prefer them this way.

Not everyone really cares about that so you can just spoon or spread the chocolate on to each bar to coat, for a rough finish, like the bars below.  Does it make a difference?  Well, sure, they look a little different but taste wise?  Slightly different texture for the chocolate but basically the same.  Of course.

Macronutrient Profile

I’ve included macros based on the recipe as stated and using the ingredients I have specifically used.   I based the chocolate macro counts on Lindt Excellence 85%  as it is an easily sourced dark chocolate and strikes a balance between the 100% and a mellow 70% 🙂

If you use a 100% cacao, the fat will creep up slightly and carbohydrates and sugars will decrease a bit.  So I used the 85% as a guideline for the 70% – 100% range.


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How to Cook Sweet Potatoes Without Losing Nutrients

Few foods are as versatile as they are nutritious, but the humble sweet potato is one exception. Whether you bake, roast, grill, saute, steam or microwave it, the orange-fleshed root vegetable delivers substantial amounts of vitamins A, C and B-6, potassium, iron and dietary fiber. Boiling sweet potatoes is not the most nutritious option because some of the vitamins are lost into the cooking water. You’ll get the most nutritional value from a sweet potato if you eat the whole thing, as its skin is a highly concentrated source of minerals and fiber. You’ll also absorb more of the vegetable’s beta-carotene – which your body converts to vitamin A – by consuming it with a small amount of fat.

In the Oven

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2

Rinse the sweet potato under cool running water. Use your fingers to brush off any dirt, as a scrubber may strip away some of the vegetable’s thin skin. Pat it dry with a paper towel.

Step 3

Pierce the sweet potato with a fork several times. Not only will this help the flesh cook evenly, but it will also keep the potato from bursting by allowing steam to escape.

Step 4

Place the vegetable in a roasting pan or other shallow baking dish. Because sweet potatoes tend to ooze some of their sticky sugars as they cook, you may want to line the dish with a piece of aluminum foil for easy cleanup.

Step 5

Cook the sweet potato for 35 to 45 minutes, turning it once about halfway through. Baked sweet potatoes are done when their skin becomes papery and their escaping sugars look as though they’re caramelized.

Step 6

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Use an oven mitt to transfer the hot sweet potato to a plate.

Step 7

Serve it with a drizzle of olive oil, a dollop of plain yogurt or a sprinkling of freshly ground flaxseed.

In the Microwave

Step 1

Prepare the sweet potato as you would for baking — gently rinse it, pat it dry and pierce it with a fork several times.

Step 2

Set it in a microwave-safe dish. While a plate is sufficient, a rimmed dish will help keep your microwave clean. You can also place a paper towel between the dish and the sweet potato to help minimize hard-to-clean residue.

Step 3

Microwave the vegetable on high for about three minutes.

Step 4

Flip it over using an oven mitt. Continue to microwave it for another two to four minutes, depending on its size. As with the baked variety, microwaved sweet potatoes are done when their skin is papery and the sugars they exude begin to brown.

Step 5

Transfer the sweet potato to a plate using an oven mitt. Allow it to cool slightly before you cut into it, as microwaved potatoes tend to release a lot of steam.

Things You’ll Need

Paper towels
Fork
Roasting pan
Aluminum foil (optional)
Oven mitts
Microwave-safe dish
Olive oil, plain yogurt or ground flaxseed, if desired

by MEG CAMPBELL        Oct 13, 2015


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Pot Cookbooks Moving Mainstream As Legalization Movement Grows

Michelle Locke, The Associated Press    Published Thursday, August 28, 2014 

There are books about cooking with herbs. And then there are books about cooking with herb.

Yes, we’re talking cannabis cuisine, a small niche in the culinary world but one that is drawing more interest as the legalization movement moves pot closer to the mainstream.

“When I sell books personally at events like Seattle Hempfest and Denver County Fair, response has been huge in those states that have newly legalized, and I will sell hundreds of copies over a weekend,” says Elise McDonough, author of the “The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook,” which grew out of the recipe column in the magazine (which, by the way, turns 40 this year).

McDonough, who lives in Santa Cruz, California, has a new book out this summer, “Marijuana for Everybody,” which includes a chapter on cooking with cannabis, as well as advice on selecting edibles from newly legal retailers in Washington state and Colorado, the two states that allow the recreational use of marijuana.

“I think as the legalization juggernaut continues to roll across the nation, you’re going to see a lot more interest and a lot more books,” says McDonough.

Finding hard data on pot cookbook sales is tough. But a look at Amazon’s rankings show that several, including McDonough’s, are enjoyed renewed sales vigour, particularly considering their specialty status and that most are at least several years old. McDonough says about 35,000 copies of the High Times cookbook have sold, a respectable total for a niche genre.

Titles in the marijuana cookbook category include “The Ganja Cookbook Revolution” by Jessica Catalano, “Baked: Over 50 Tasty Marijuana Treats,” and “The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook,” by Cheri Sicard.

Sicard, like McDonough, has a new book coming out – “Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women” – cheekily set for release on 4-20-15, an unofficial holiday for marijuana fans. And it, too, goes beyond recipes to take more of a general lifestyle approach.

Sicard has noticed an uptick in interest since legalization, though not a drastic one, since a number of states already allow medical use of marijuana. She also notes that people have been cooking with pot for a long time. Pot brownies, after all, are practically a cliche.

cooking with cannabis

But brownies, points out Sicard, are not the only choice for the marijuana cook. In fact, it’s easier to work with the pronounced herbal taste of the drug in savory dishes.

Sicard, who lives in the Los Angeles area, was a food writer before she became a marijuana recipe expert. That’s a skill she developed after getting a medical recommendation to take marijuana for chronic nausea. Researching ways to use marijuana, and wading through advice both good and bad on the Internet, prompted her to write her own book.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there and that is why there is the need for good cookbooks,” she says.

Krista Lyons, publisher of Berkeley, California.-based Seal Press, which is publishing Sicard’s new book, has seen the market change for marijuana books. It’s not that no one published them before; there’s a history of small publishers releasing books about marijuana. But now “you can walk into an Urban Outfitters and find a book about pot on a front table,” she says. “It’s just an indicator that attitudes have shifted.”

What Nutritional Value Does Marijuana Have?

Why hemp?

Because no other single plant on earth can compete with the nutritional value of hemp.

The nutritive properties of the hemp seed are astounding. Rich in essential fats and oils, the seeds could provide a nutritional boost to a food-culture which mistakenly percieves all fat as a bad thing; which is more and more lacking in the important fats oils; and which is being inundated with downright dangerous fats, oils, and synthetic substitutes. The seeds can be ground into a flour, not unlike other strictly cereal crops like wheat or oats.

Cannabis hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids necessary to maintain healthy human life. No other single plant source provides complete protein in such an easily digestible form, nor has the oils essential to life in as perfect a ratio for human health and vitality.

Hempseed is the highest of any plant in essential fatty acids (EFAs). Hempseed oil is among the lowest in saturated fats at 8% of total oil volume. The oil pressed from hempseed contains 55% lineoleic acid (LA) and 25% linolenic acid (LNA). Only flax oil has more LNA at 58%, but hempseed oil is the highest in total EFAs at 80% of total oil volume.

“These essential fatty acids are responsible for our immune response. In the old country the peasants ate hemp butter. They were more resistant to disease than the nobility.” The higher classes wouldn’t eat hemp because the poor ate it. – R. Hamilton, ED.D., Ph.D. Medical Researcher-Biochemist UCLA Emeritus.

LA and LNA are involved in producing life-maintaining energy from food and the movement of that energy throughout the body. EFAs govern growth, vitality and state of mind. LA and LNA are involved in transferring oxygen from the air in the lungs to every cell in the body. They play a part in holding oxygen in the cell membrane where it acts as a barrier to invading viruses and bacteria, neither of which thrive in the presence of oxygen.

The bent molecular shape of the EFAs keeps them from dissolving into each other. They are slippery and will not clog arteries like the sticky, straight-shaped saturated fats (SFs) and the trans-fatty acids (TFAs) in cooking oils and shortenings that are made by subjecting polyunsaturated oils like LA and LNA to high temperatures during the defining process.

LA and LNA possess a slightly negative charge and have a tendency to form very thin surface layers. This proprty is called surface activity, and it provides the power to carry substances like toxins to the surface of the skin, intestinal tract, kidneys, and lungs where they can be removed. These acids’ very sensitivity causes them to break down rapidly into toxic compunds when when refined with high heat, or improper storage exposes them to light or air.

cooking with pot

Nature provides seeds with an outer shell that safely protects the vital oils and vitamins within from spoilage. It’s also a perfectly edible container. Hempseed can be ground into a paste similar to peanut butter only more delicate in flavour. Udo Erasmus, Ph.D. nutritionist says: “hemp butter puts our peanut butter to shame for nutritional value.” The ground seeds can be baked into breads, cakes, and casseroles. Hempseed makes a hearty addition to granola bars.

Pioneers in the fields of biochemistry and human nutrition now believe cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and most cancers are really diseases of fatty degeneration caused by the continued over-consumption of SFs and refived vegetable oils that turn EFAs into carcogenic killers. One out of two Americans will die from the effects of CVD, One out of four Americans will die of cancer. Researchers believe cancers erupt when one’s immune system response is weakened. And, more Americans are succumbing to immune deficiency diseases than ever before. Promising syudies are now under way using the essential oils to support the immune systems of HIV patients.

The complete protein in hempseed gives the body all the essential amino acids required to maintain health, and provides the necessary kinds and amounts of amino acids the body needs to make human serum albumin and serum globulins like the immune enhancing gamma gobulin antibodies.

The body’s ability to resist and recover from illness depends upon how rapidly it can produce massive amounts of antibodies to fend off the initial attack. If the globulin protein starting material is in short supply, the army of antibodies may be too small to prevent the symptoms of sickness from setting in.

The best way to insure the body has enough amino acid material to make the globulins is to eat foods high in globulin proteins. Hempseed protein is 65% globulin edestin plus quantities of albumin (present in all seeds) so it’s easily digestable protein is readily available in a form quite similar to that found in blood plasma.

Hempseed was used to treat nutritional deficiencies brought on by tuberculosis, a severe nutrition-blocking disease that causes the body to waste away. (Czechoslovakia Tubercular Nutritional Study, 1955.)

The energy of life is in the whole seed. Hempseed foods taste great and will insure we get enough essential amino acids and essential fatty acids to build strong bodies and immune systems, and to maintain health and vitality.

Excerpted from Hempseed Nutrition by Lynn Osburn. 

source: www.hemprecipes.com


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Recipe: Fig-a-licious Vegan Tart (Gluten and Sugar Free)

5th December 2014     By Trinity Bourne     Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

I love dispelling the myth that healthy food can’t be absolutely delicious.
There’s something really satiating about eating a dessert that not only tastes scrumptious, but is also full of healthy ingredients.
My ‘Fig-a-licious Vegan Tart’ is free from diary, egg, wheat, gluten, refined sugar and it STILL tastes delectable. We absolutely love this one here, so I felt to share it for anyone else looking for a tasty, gluten-free, vegan treat.

Serves: 4 – 6

Baking: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

– 250g (9 oz) figs, plus water to soak
– 1 heaped teaspoon of orange or lemon rind
– 75g (2½ oz) rice flour (brown or white)
– 75g (2½ oz) tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch)
– 1 heaped tablespoon ground flax seed
– 3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
– 3 tablespoons coconut oil
– 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
– Extra dash of oil (to oil the tin)
– Extra rice flour (for rolling on)

You will also need:

  • A round baking tin with pop out bottom (12cm/8 inches in diameter) or something similar (The pop out bottom is not essential, although it will help you get the tart out when it has baked)
  • A fine grater (for orange/lemon rind)
  • Blender
  • Rolling pin
  • Sharp knife to cut the top pastry layer

 

Fig-tart-300x240

Directions

  1. Soak figs in water overnight (or at least 3 hours) to soften for blending.
  2. Finely grate orange peel (or lemon rind).
  3. Drain figs and blend together with the grated orange peel. Put this to the side whilst you prepare the gluten-free pastry.
  4. Briefly mix rice flour, tapioca flour, ground flax seed together in a mixing bowl.
  5. Mix in coconut oil, rice syrup and vanilla essence with a spoon. Once it has started to combine together nicely, use the back of your spoon to ‘press’ it all together until you have one large ball of pastry.
  6. Lightly oil the cake tin.
  7. Take about half of the pastry ball/lump, place it in the middle of the tin and press downward in all directions until it is evenly spread all over. This should create a layer about ½ cm (¼ inch) thick. If it’s a bit too thick in one place and lacking in another, then just press & push (a bit like being a pastry massage therapist) until it’s sort of even. Doesn’t have to be perfect.
  8. Create a fig layer on top of the pastry by spreading your blended fig mixture evenly all over. Spoon it on and then spread with a blunt knife.
  9. Take the remaining pastry from the mixing bowl and roll into a thick cylindrical shape (doesn’t have to be perfect). Lightly flour your kitchen counter top and begin to roll until the pastry is approximately ¼ cm (⅛ inch) thick. This can be a little fiddly, but get’s much easier with practice.
  10. Use a sharp knife to cut your rolled pastry into strips of approximately 1cm width (½ inch) wide. Carefully lift strips (using a cake slice/spatula if you have one) and form a lattice pattern on top. There is a bit of an art to creating a lattice pattern and, honestly, the best way to learn is just to make it up as you go a long. If you don’t want to create a lattice then use your creativity to  do what ever you feel like on top instead.
  11. Bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 6 (200˚C/400˚F) for approximately 25 minutes or until the pastry begins to tan on top.
  12. Serve warm, right away or allow to cool. They should keep nicely for a few days in a sealed container.