Mighty Crumb Baking Company

Food To Live For™

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Three Cups of Tea, Please

You probably already know tea is good for you.  Over the past decade and even this week, studies of green, black and Oolong teas have found they are rich in antioxidants which can help stave off several cancers, including, skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder.  The teas have also been shown to improve the health of arterial walls, lower blood pressure, reduce our risk for heart disease, lower cholesterol, prevent Alzheimer’s and reduce body weight and abdominal fat. (Sources: Harvard Health Letter, WebMD)

Getting the Most from Your Tea  Catechins, a group of disease-fighting flavonoids and antioxidants, are the powerhouse behind tea’s health benefits. The best way to get the catechins and other flavonoids in tea is to drink it freshly brewed from organic tea leaves. (Who needs the extra pesticides?)  Decaffeinated, bottled tea drinks, and instant teas have fewer of these compounds. Steep tea for three to five minutes to bring out its catechins; the longer you steep, the more flavonoids will seep into your brew.  Several studies suggest drinking at least three cups each day to get the best tea benefit.

Chai – An Uber Tea  Now, let’s take it up a notch.  Chai tea, which comes from Ayurvedic medicine, contains many health-promoting spices that are also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  These include ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, black pepper and fennel.  Chai is a literal antioxidant elixir.  Since dairy milk is reported to block the absorption of antioxidants, I substitute almond milk in my chai recipe, below.
Edible Tea  Did you know you can eat tea?  I absolutely love the Tea Leaf Salad at Burma Superstar at 309 Clement St. in San Francisco.  Blogger Tea & Cookies explains the salad well: “The tea leaves are fermented, apparently hand-carried back from Burma, and have a deep vegetal flavor unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. It is mixed at the table with romaine lettuce, peanuts, fried garlic and split yellow peas, sesame and sunflower seeds, tomato, and dried shrimp… It is crunchy and crispy and the flavor is out of this world, a musky, fragrant taste I’ve found nowhere else.”
Below, I’ve attempted to recreated Burma Superstar’s recipe using all organic ingredients including the tea leaves.  It’s not quite as exotic tasting as the restaurant’s fermented Burmese leaves, but it has great flavor, texture and healthfulness!
Chai (Adapted from the Culinary Institute of America Master Chefs)
3 cinnamon sticks
4 teaspoons sliced ginger (no need to peel)
1 T cardamom pods
1 1/2 t fennel seeds
1/4 t whole cloves
1/8 t black peppercorns
4 c water
12 bags or 4 t black tea leaves (traditionally Darjeeling is used)
1/4 to 1/2 c honey or to taste
4 c almond milk (or your favorite milk)
If you have a high-powered blender, grind all spices together first and place into pot with water (otherwise brew spices whole, cracking cinnamon sticks, and simmer for an additional five minutes).  Boil 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (15 minutes if using whole spices).  Off heat.  Pour liquid through a fine mesh strainer into an 8 cup or larger Pyrex or ceramic pitcher.  Stir in honey to taste.  Add milk to strained tea and stir.  Enjoy hot or cold.
Tea Leaf Salad
1/3 c yellow split peas
2 T olive oil
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/3 c green tea leaves (I used Republic of Tea’s Organic Dancing Leaves Green Tea sold bulk at Whole Foods.)
3 t Thai fish sauce (You can get this at Asian markets.)
2 T sesame oil
1/4 c sesame seeds
1/3 c sunflower seeds, unsalted
1/2 c peanuts, unsalted
2  T olive oil
8 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly lengthwise
2 T fresh lime juice
2 t cilantro, finely chopped
2/3 head of romaine lettuce, sliced into thin strips crosswise
1 small tomato or 1/2 of a large tomato, cut into small cubes
6 shrimp, precooked and shelled, sliced down the middle lengthwise
To minimize clean up, I reuse one small saucepan and one small saute pan, rinsing and wiping cleaning between uses.  Place split peas into  saucepan with 2/3 c water.  Bring to boil and then immediately turn down to simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until water has evaporated.  Pour 2 T olive oil in saute pan.  Add peas to oil and saute for 5 minutes.  Turn peas out onto paper towel placed on a dish to drain.  Rinse and reuse your saucepan to cook the tea leaves, the apple cider vinegar and 2 of the teaspoons of fish sauce.  Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes to soften tea leaves.  Drain any remaining liquid out into sink.  Rinse and reuse your saute pan adding the sesame oil.  Put tea leaves into saute pan and saute for 5 minutes.  Turn leaves out onto second paper towel to drain.  In clean, dry saute pan toast individually the sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and peanuts until lightly browned.  Pour each into individual small bowls when done.  Next, place the olive oil into this saute pan and saute garlic slices until browned on both sides being careful not to burn.  Off the heat and remove garlic with slotted spoon onto paper towel, keeping the oil in the pan. 
To make the dressing:  To the hot oil in the pan combine lime juice, the last 1 t fish sauce and cilantro.
To assemble the salad for presentation:  On a platter, place lettuce strips in center.  Arrange shrimp slices on top of lettuce.  Group each item separately around platter–yellow peas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, tea leaves, garlic, and tomatoes.  Pour dressing over lettuce.  Toss it at the table, combining all ingredients.

Nourish Me, Starve Cancer

What do these foods have in common?

By now we all know the benefits of eating well to build immunity and prevent disease.  We may also be familiar with the benefits of phytochemicals and antioxidants–found abundantly in brightly colored fruits and vegetables–and their ability to bind to oxygen-free radicals in our bodies to prevent potential cancer-causing oxidation.  Now, recent research reveals a completely new and exciting cancer-fighting potential of certain healthful foods…the ability to starve cancer cells by stopping angiogenesis (the proliferation of blood vessels), thereby cutting off blood supply to those cells.  Among these foods are strawberries, garlic, leafy greens such as kale, olive and grapeseed oils, turmeric, soy, red wine and green tea.

Under normal, healthy conditions, our bodies keep our blood vessel growth in balance.  Blood vessels proliferate normally in wound healing, during menstruation, and pregnancy.  They also decline when no longer needed so as to keep them in check.  When we’re out of balance, too few blood vessels can cause problems including chronic wounds that will not heal, and heart disease, and unrestrained blood vessel growth can signal the presence of many diseases.  According to recent research by William Li, M.D., President and Medical Director, The Angiogenesis Foundation, many diseases including cancer, diabetes and maybe even obesity have the common denominator of blood vessel growth gone wild…or angiogenesis.

Cancer starts as a cluster of mutated cells.  According to Li, microscopic tumors exist in all of our bodies as we age.  When fueled by a blood supply, these tumors can proliferate and become dangerous.  Without that fuel these cells can exist and never become a threat.  There are several anti-angiogenic pharmaceuticals on the market to treat cancer by curbing blood vessels (Tarceva, Avastin, etc.).  Beyond drugs, according to Li, “mother nature has laced a large number of foods, beverages and herbs with naturally occurring inhibitors of angiogenesis.”  Eating them can boost our bodies’ immunity and prevent blood vessels from forming and feeding cancer cells.

Curious to learn more? Watch this very informative 20-minute TED Talk by William Li to learn more about the prevention of angiogenesis through what we eat:  http://www.ted.com/talks/william_li.html

One Recipe, Two Sauces

1. Cutting Edge Green Goddess Dressing 

2. Green Peanut Sauce

I choose organic produce whenever possible.  Use the dressing on salad or as a marinade for chicken.  Use the peanut sauce on pasta and as a sauce on grilled or sautéed chicken and beef strips for saté.

1/2 cup kale leaves (2-3 leaves), tough part of stalks removed

1 lemon, peeled

1 scallion, cut into several pieces

1/4 cup parsley leaves

5 fresh or frozen strawberries

1/2″ knob fresh ginger, peeled

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 T olive oil

2 T sesame oil

2 T tamari (or soy sauce if you are not gluten-free)

1/2 t turmeric

1/4 t crushed red pepper


1/2 cup peanut butter

1 additional T tamari

Place all ingredients into a high-power blender and blend until smooth.

Important Popcorn Update

I’m still learning about nutrition and health, reading articles daily.  Today I learned a disturbing fact about microwave popcorn in an article titled, “7 Foods You Should Never Eat”

published by the Health Freedoms Alliance. Chemicals including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) lining microwavable popcorn bags cause infertility, liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer.  When heated, they vaporize and infuse the kernels.  I felt uncertain about the “Snap,Crackle, Popcorn” recipe I included in my post called “When to Choose Organic Produce”, so I called the manufacturer of the popcorn I’d recommended in the recipe, Bearitos brand organic “No Oil, No Salt”, to ask about their bags. I was very happy to learn that they specifically do not use PFOA in theirs.  While I do feel better knowing this, the article was thought-provoking, and I am questioning the use of a paper bag in the microwave for any use since it contains dioxins, another cancer-causing chemical.  I never use any other paper or plastic products in the microwave so why would I use a popcorn bag?  My new popcorn kernel recommendations: Pop them in a microwave-safe bowl with a safe lid or dish over it; allow steam to escape by leaving a small gap.  Or, pop the old-fashioned way on the stove.

The other six foods to avoid that are included in the article are:  canned tomatoes as the acid in tomatoes leaches out even more bisphenol-A (BPA) (an estrogen-like hormone that can cause infertility, and breast and testicular cancers) than is present in most canned foods; corn-fed beef which is less nutritious than grass-fed; non-organic potatoes which, like all root vegetables, absorb fungicides, pesticides and herbicides through the soil, and are treated with even more chemicals so they won’t sprout once harvested; farmed salmon which is filled with contaminants; milk with artificial hormones; and conventional apples, the fruit with the highest pesticide residue.  You can read the article here:  http://healthfreedoms.org/2011/12/06/7-foods-you-should-never-eat/

Updated Coconut Popcorn

1/2 cup of organic, plain popcorn kernels

2 T coconut oil

1 t Himalayan salt

Melt coconut oil in saute pan.  Add kernels and cover, shaking pan and watching carefully.  Alternatively, pop plain kernels in microwavable bowl covered by dish leaving slight gap for steam to escape using popcorn setting; add melted oil to kernels afterwards if using microwave.  Add salt when popped.

Wow, Cacao!

Revered for its health benefits since the 16th century as a Mayan cocoa drink, cacao the part of chocolate that comes from the cocoa bean, has recently been the subject of numerous studies.  The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value of cacao is higher than blueberries, strawberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, amazingly, cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids and phytonutrients than any food studied. Among the many health benefits, studies have found improved kidney function, increased insulin sensitivity and cognitive and mood enhancement. Research has also shown the following amazing cardiovascular benefits from its flavanols:

• dilated blood vessels  • lower blood pressure  • an anti-clotting effect similar to the daily aspirin benefit  • prevention of additional neural damage in the case of a stroke  • improved function of endothelial cells (cells lining the arteries)  • higher anti-oxidant levels in the blood  • lower levels of LDL-cholesterol – the so called “bad cholesterol”

Healthy Chocolate Choices

While chocolate is available in many forms, the types of chocolate vary according to the proportion of cacao used in each.  If you are into eating chocolate for its health benefits as well as its satisfying deliciousness, there are a few ways to get the biggest bang for the bite.

1. First and best is raw cacao in the form of cacao nibs. Raw cacao is an amazing superfood due to its high mineral and antioxidant content. Even the 40-50% fat found in cacao seeds in the form of cocoa butter is highly nutritious, sometimes used as a substitute for cod-liver oil and as a prescribed part of a diet during the last days of pregnancy. Since many of the special properties of cacao are destroyed or lost by cooking, refining, and processing, raw nibs offer the purest form of readily edible cacao.  How to use them?  See recipe ideas below.

2.  Cocoa powder is the nonfat part of the cocoa bean.  The cocoa we know and love is usually combined with sugar, cocoa butter, and soy lecithin. Adding milk to chocolate counters the health benefits by blocking the activity of the phytochemicals responsible for the powerful antioxidant activity of cacao.  Hence my new favorite healthy chocolate drink–the “Tcho shot”. Tcho chocolate in San Francisco produces a fabulous drinking chocolate that retains the fruitiness of the cacao bean. When combined in small doses with boiling water, the ensuing shot of hot chocolate is the richest, most delicious chocolate drink I’ve ever tasted.

3. Dark Chocolate – In order to get the health benefits from edible chocolate, seventy percent cacao or higher is the optimal amount. Make sure “70%” is disclosed on the package and be wary of the term “dark chocolate” which, for some brands, can actually be as low as 35% cacao as the U.S. has no standard requirement for dark chocolate.  In cooking, dark chocolate is synonymous with semisweet, and extra dark with bittersweet, although the ratio of cocoa butter to solids may vary. There are many great choices of high-end chocolate bars boasting 70% and higher.  For my Chocolate Chip Sweet Potato Antioxidoodles™, I use a delicious 70% chocolate chip packaged for the consumer under Whole Foods’ own brand.

Moderation is key.  
Try to make a little go a long way: research shows you get maximum benefit with fewer ill effects from just one or two squares a day.
• A small bar contains about a quarter of the recommended daily calorie intake for women.
• Chocolate contains saturated fats, the ones closely associated with heart disease.
• A survey of people’s dieting habits revealed that chocolate derailed the best intentions of 48 per cent of female dieters and 32 per cent of male dieters.
Uses for Cacao Nibs
Add them to salad, trail mix, granola, blend into smoothies, sprinkle on ice cream.
Four Flavors Salad
4 c arugula
1-2 chopped avocados
1 pear, peeled and sliced (I prefer Comice pears for their sweetness)
1/4 c cacao nibs
freshly ground pepper to taste
Vinaigrette dressing, whisk together:
1/4 c lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 t Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

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