Friday, July 22, 2016

Cauliflower Rice

A grain-free diet can help many of us with health issues. It’s been found to help those with not only digestive trouble, but also conditions like fatty liver, diabetes and autoimmune issues. When you decide to cut out things like wheat, oats, kamut, rye, spelt, rice, corn, and the like, you start becoming creative with substitutions. Something I’ve come to enjoy despite my initial reservations is “cauliflower rice”.

I won’t pretend and tell you it tastes like rice, because it certainly doesn’t. But it does look a little like rice, hence the name. Cauliflower rice makes a nice accompaniment to Asian dishes. I use it under stir-fried vegetables and chicken, for instance, to soak up the sauce.

What’s nice about this side dish is that it doesn’t fill you up with all that useless starch like rice does. I know a lot of people say they couldn’t give up rice, especially Asians. Likely introduced at birth and served with nearly every meal, rice has become comfort food to them - a  link to family, culture and tradition.  I get that.

But to say that rice is nutritious is inaccurate. There is very little nutrition in it and even the Whole Grains Council admits that rice is a processed food and highly refined. This is because the germ and bran have been stripped off it. Ok, brown rice is better, but it’s still pretty starchy. With white rice, all that's left is a shell of its former self, technically a grain but not even considered a whole one at that. It’s got a ton (45g) of carbohydrates per cup and very little to offer in the way of fiber and nutrients.

In contrast, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, bok choy and our friend cauliflower offer wonderful benefits to our health. Cauliflower, actually, is nearly a superfood; that’s because it:

1. Fights cancer with it’s sulphuric compound called sulforaphane.
2. Boosts heart health, again because of its sulforaphane.
3. Is anti-inflammatory because of its 13C, indole-3-carbinol, an anti-inflammatory compound
4. Is rich in vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and B, potassium and manganese.
5. Boosts brain health because of its choline.
6. Offers detoxification support
7. Has digestive benefits
8. Contains antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Hopefully I’ve sold you on why rice is out and cauliflower is in. Now, on to the recipe.

Cauliflower “Rice"

1 whole head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup water

Feed the cauliflower florets into the feeding tube of your food processor which has been fitted with a grater disc and process until grated into a rice “grain". Heat oil in a large skillet or wok and add onion and garlic, sautéing for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and cook 5-7 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add water, then cover and steam for 5 minutes until the veg is cooked and the water has been absorbed.

Alternatively you can make the following substitutions, especially if serving with something like mango salsa over fish (yum!):

Use coconut oil instead of EVOO;
use 1/4 cup coconut milk in lieu of the water;
use green onions instead of yellow;
omit the garlic and add 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, 1Tbsp. lime juice, 2 tsp honey and 3/4 tsp sea salt instead.

I hope you enjoy it!




Sunday, July 17, 2016

Honey, not just for bears

Since adopting a sugar-free diet, I’ve become reacquainted with honey. I used to eat a lot of it as a kid. My dad would buy a big 10 pound tub of wildflower honey every so often from the health food store. It would go on toast, in smoothies, and over yogurt. Ten pounds of honey seems like a lot (and it is) but my dad and I did our best to get through it!

While technically still a sugar, with nearly as many calories (21 cal vs 16 cal) and grams of carbs (6g vs. 4.2g) as table sugar, honey is allowed by those of us on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) because of its chemical composition.

Honey is a monosaccharide, comprised of a single sugar molecule. Because of this, honey is easier to digest than sugar. Sugar is a disaccharide and starches are polysaccharides. These require additional splitting in order to be transported from the intestine into the bloodstream and can often create intestinal problems for those of us who are sensitive. Other monosaccharides are fruit, lactose free yogurt, and certain vegetables.

Even if you don’t have digestive concerns (unless you’re diabetic, battling a candida (yeast) problem, or on a low-carb diet to reduce your weight) I recommend eating more honey and less refined sugar for a number of reasons. (For sure we should all be eliminating artificial sweeteners, which are just simply poison.)

Honey is a natural product, offering enzymes and minerals that sugar cannot.  Sugar has gone through a refining process and is no longer natural, Honey is simply a more natural way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Eating honey local to your area can benefit those with allergies. By eating honey produced by bees near where you live, you are building your immunity from local plants. A resource for finding local honey producers by state: www.honey.com. Other good sites are www.beeculture.com, and www.localharvest.org.

Certain types of honey, such as Manuka, have been shown to be more effective than antibiotics in the treatment of serious, hard-to-heal skin infections. The only types of honey you should ever attempt to use for wound care are Manuka honey or raw (unprocessed) honey. Conventional “Grade A” type honey found in most grocery stores may actually worsen infection and should never be applied to wounds. Clinical trials have found Manuka honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria.

Purchasing honey is also a great way to support beekeepers, who often struggle financially to make ends meet. While buying honey at your local market, Trader Joe’s or health food store is better than buying their sugar, go to your farmer’s market or neighborhood beekeeper directly and buy honey from them. They will be happy to let you taste the many varieties of honey they offer so you can decide which flavor you like best.

A few months ago I did just that. We were driving the back roads to a little mountain town northeast of San Diego called Julian for the weekend and came across a roadside shack selling local honey. They had some really interesting flavors: avocado, habanero, and cinnamon honey to name a few. I bought 2: desert sage, and cherry; cherry being particularly good over blueberries and whipped cream!

A few weekends ago we were in Ojai and our friends noticed a sign on the main street advertising a honey tasting nearby. Heavenly Honey offered samples of the 6-8 varieties they produce. I again bought the sage (it’s one of my favorites) and also this time a little darker honey variety than I usually get, Buckwheat, which was also really tasty. I tried it on my nutty pancakes I made last weekend and it was perfect.

But there are so many flavors to choose from. Another one I really love is orange blossom.

Embrace your inner bear and eat more honey, especially from beekeepers at your farmers market. You’ll be supporting our endangered bees and hard-working beekeepers by investing in Nature’s purest sweetener.

This recipe is particularly good at this time of year when peaches are in season and we’ve got the grill on half the time anyway.

Grilled Peaches with Cinnamon Honey and Whipped Cream

One ripe peach per person, cut in half, seed removed
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream*

Turn on your grill to low.

Wash, dry and cut in half one ripe peach per person.

Melt some butter in a small saucepan, to which you’ll add a little honey and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of each peach half with a little coating of this mixture. Place the peach halves face down on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes until nice grill marks are achieved. Turn over, brush with a little more honey butter and cook another 5-8 minutes until the peaches are warm.

While the peaches are grilling, prepare some freshly whipped cream, sweetened, of course, with a little honey if you like.

Remove peaches from grill and serve alongside the whipped cream for a delicious, easy, summertime dessert.

* Alternatives to whipped cream or ice cream: ricotta cheese, mascarpone, chèvre, Greek yogurt, regular yogurt, or cream cheese. Any of those would be great with a little cinnamon, ginger,  and / or nutmeg, of course, sweetened with a little honey. 



Friday, July 1, 2016

Lettuce Wraps

The heat of summer is upon us. It’s been pretty warm here in Southern California. Normally we don’t see these kinds of temperatures until July or August, but, here we are, burning up already. Last week we had an unprecedented 110 degrees F! Insane.

When temps reach this high, I crave something cool to eat, or at least something light. Lettuce wraps are perfect for that. Often they can be found on restaurant menus under the appetizer section, but I like eating them as a meal. I just eat more of it! In fact, this recipe is a copycat of those famous wraps everybody loves at P.F. Chang’s Restaurant.

But, of course, it’s been modified. And what makes this recipe so fantastic is that wonderful marriage of sweet and spicy flavors that I like so well. There are probably no less than a million recipes out there for lettuce wraps, but what tends to be a big digestive problem for me with most Asian food is either the corn-starchy, sugary component, or tons of soy sauce in their sauces, which I find sometimes overwhelming anyway. This sauce is completely digestion-friendly, and soy-free, as it’s both Paleo as well as SCD-compliant. I found it on a site called cavegirlcuisine.com and I think it rocks.

I love the crunch of the nuts, the slight sweetness from the little bit of honey, all balanced by the spiciness of the Sriracha. I plan to make this dish a lot this summer. It’s probably the best lettuce wrap I’ve ever had!

Give this recipe a try when you’ve craving something light on a hot summer evening. Makes good leftovers for lunch the next day. Serve with a side of cauliflower rice (recipe to follow soon), or if you eat grains, regular white of brown rice, or maybe a fried rice dish. If you’re especially hungry, add a side of stir-fried vegetables.

Make sure to properly chop everything very fine. You want the mix to be small enough so that you can adequately wrap a lettuce leaf around the filling. Big chunks won’t do!

Also, you can make this dish vegetarian if you like by using a soy crumble, or breaking down tofu with a fork to resemble ground meat. Tofu, however, has no flavor, so you’ll want to season it with some spices to give it a little more oomph.

Ingredients:
1Tbsp. coconut oil
1 lb. ground chicken
5 oz. mushrooms, finely chopped
1/3 cup green onion
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
3 Tbsp. coconut aminos
4 cloves of finely minced garlic
1/4 cup almonds, sliced or rough chopped
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Sriracha hot sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. finely chopped cilantro (optional)

Directions:
Heat oil in a wide sauté pan. Add the chicken and brown, making sure to crumble the meat into the smallest possible bits. When almost cooked all the way through, add mushrooms, onion, ginger and garlic and cook until limp. Add remaining ingredients, except for cilantro, and stir together for a couple of minutes, then remove from heat.

Serve with either Boston Bibb (my favorite) or iceberg lettuce leaves that have been washed and thoroughly dried. Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top.

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