19 Apr

Low Fat Cooking | Summer Barbecues

Most of us are fairly familiar with the ins and outs of grilling burgers and ‘dogs, but what about the side dishes? Sure, a nice big bag of chips and a bowl of slaw have always been faithful accompaniments to your favorite burgers, but why not venture out a little further and try something different? Just about anything that can be prepared indoors can be mastered on the grill with the right implements, including vegetables, and grilling often provides a medium and inspiration for extra creativity. If that isn’t enough to tempt you to haul those veggies outside, since outdoor grills often cooks more quickly than traditional indoor methods, more of the nutrients of your favorite vegetables are sealed and more readily retained when cooking outdoors!

Following are some tried and true veggie and side dish favorites that can be prepared right outside with the main meal and will save you the hassle of running in and out of the house to check on indoor cooking endeavors. Furthermore, the flavor the grill will bestow upon your favorite veggies will probably make outdoor cooking during the summer months a contender to those pre-packaged foods that often accompany a casual barbecue. So grab your BBQ apron and get started!
Grilled Portabello Mushrooms
1 lb. of portabello mushrooms
1 tblspn. of olive oil
1 ½ tblspns. of red wine or balsamic vinegar
dash of low-sodium soy sauce
Drizzle olive oil, vinegar and soy sauce over portabellos and marinate for 30 minutes. Grill over medium hot coals for 8 – 10 minutes on each side. Serve as a side dish, or as a portabello “burger” topped with the fresh vegetables.
Grilled Potatoes
4 medium baking potatoes
1 cup of low-fat or fat-free bottled Italian dressing
Wash potatoes and cut into ¼ inch slices almost all the way through the potato, but not entirely (so that the whole potato stays in one piece). Divide potatoes and place atop foil squares or pouches. Pour dressing over the top making sure that it gets into the cracks of the potatoes evenly. Seal packets and grill over medium high coals until tender. Open packets and grill for an additional 5 minutes; serve hot.

Chili Lime Corn
4 large ears of fresh corn, husks and silk removed
2 tblspns. of chili powder
Juice of two large fresh limes
Dash of olive oil
In a small bowl, combine chili powder, lime juice and olive oil until well mixed. Place corn cobs in individual foil squares and pour marinade over corn to saturate. Seal foil firmly around each individual cob and grill for approximately 45 minutes over medium hot coals, turning once during cooking times. Remove corn packets from grill and serve hot, pouring any remaining marinade from packets onto corn.


20 Mar

Low Fat Cooking | Let’s Talk Salsa!

Forget the sodium-packed jarred stuff lining the shelves of your local grocery store, which can be so loaded with chemicals and preservatives (and other combinations of vowels and consonants that none of us can pronounce), the natural nutritional value is often lost among them. Salsa is an easy-to-prepare, wonderfully delicious and naturally heart-healthy snack that can be served in an endless number of ways. Once you perfect your first batch, you’ll find that your creative culinary side will invade your kitchen and, before you know it, you’ll be inventing recipes you never knew you had in you!

First, many salsa recipes contain fresh tomatoes. Fruit or vegetable you ask? Botanically, tomatoes are a fruit because technically, a fruit is defined as the edible portion of a plant that contains seeds whereas a vegetable consists of the edible stems, roots and leaves of a plant. So now that this century-old, burning question is out of the way, why are tomatoes valuable to our health? Tomatoes are not only an excellent natural source of Vitamins A and C, but they are one of the few foods that contain the natural antioxidant, lycopene. Research has shown that a diet rich in lycopene-containing foods, such as tomatoes, can actually reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as rectal, colon, prostate and stomach cancer, by as much as 60%. For the record, one medium tomato contains 35 calories, a mere ½ gram of fat, and 40% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C. The good news is that tomatoes don’t appear to lose their nutritional value when grilled, roasted, steamed or otherwise cooked, as many vegetables can. In fact, some research shows that the nutritional composition of the tomato actually increases when cooked, such as in your favorite home made marinara sauces and soups! How’s that for diversity?
Tomatoes can be served in harmony with a variety of vegetables and fruits when making salsa. No matter how you slice it, they seem to compliment just about everything. Salsa can be served as a topping for chicken or seafood, and can be utilized as a great marinade for a steak on its way to the outdoor grill. Of course, the most traditional method of serving salsa is appetizer-style with tortilla chips. Keep in mind, however, that the typical tortilla chip contains 1 or more grams of saturated fat per chip. Given how easy it is to polish off a couple of baskets of these crunchy triangles with salsa over a margarita with some friends, that’s a lot of fat coursing through our unsuspecting veins! As an alternative, cut some fresh corn tortillas into triangle shapes, place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until crisp. In fact, most Mexican restaurants these days will honor requests for baked tortillas vs. fried ones from their health-conscious patrons at no extra charge. It might take a little extra time to get them to your table, but the nutritional difference will be well worth your wait.


13 Mar

Rethinking First Foods for Babies: Safe Choices when Starting Solids with Infants

With increasing understanding of human nutritional requirements and the effects of various foods on the body, general dietary recommendations, including infant feeding recommendations, continue to change.

Safest Choices for Baby’s First Foods

Homemade baby food from fresh, organic fruits and vegetables provides the highest quality, most nutritious, and safest baby food. Soft fruits and vegetables can be mashed raw. Firmer fruits and vegetables can be gently steamed or blended with a small amount of water. Small batches can be prepared, poured into ice cube trays, frozen, and stored for later use. Organic canned baby foods provide a convenient alternative.

  • Fresh, raw, mashed fruits such as avocado, pear, melon, apple, banana
  • Gently steamed, mashed vegetables such as carrot, squash, broccoli

Foods to Avoid

Avoid common allergens, such as wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, peanuts, citrus, and tomato. This is especially prudent in a family with a history of allergies or asthma.

Avoid any foods that cannot be eaten raw. Grains, beans (legumes), and potatoes (tubers) are toxic when raw. Cooking neutralizes some, but not all, of the toxins (i.e., enzyme blockers, lectins).

Rice cereal, although often recommended as a low-risk first food, can trigger severe gut inflammation in infants. This reaction is known as food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) and is also associated with consumption of other grains, cow’s milk, soy, and meats [Rice Can Trigger Severe Gut Reaction in Infants. Archives of Disease in Childhood. New York: Reuters Health, 2008].

When to Begin Solid Food

Babies show the following signs of readiness for solid foods generally at around six months of age. Starting solids too soon increases the chance of allergic reactions. Breastfed babies should continue to breastfeed and formula-fed babies should continue to consume infant formula until the baby is consuming a significant diet of solid foods.

  • Sitting unsupported
  • Watching others eat
  • Reaching for food
  • Emergence of teeth

Set aside a significant amount of time for feeding. Expect a mess. Introduce one food at a time, at least three days apart. Watch closely for signs of sensitivity or allergy (i.e., congestion, rash, gas, diarrhea, or constipation). Any food that a baby reacts to negatively should be removed from the diet for a few months before reintroduction.

When a baby shows readiness signals for starting solid foods, choose fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and avoid common allergens as well as potentially toxic grains, beans, and potatoes. Simple food choices and simple feeding methods help keep babies safe and healthy.


4 Mar

How to Prepare for an Exam and Avoid Stress: Strategies for Coping With Examination Anxiety

The most important long-term exam strategy is making sure revision is constant throughout the academic year so that the subject matter becomes familiar.

Long-Term Exam Preparation With Index Cards

Exam preparation should begin at the start of the academic year. Such a strategy will help avoid exam anxiety attacks.

During the academic year, whilst taking notes in lectures, or from books, it is also a very good technique to abstract the most important aspects of lecture/book notes and put them onto index cards. Index cards come in two or three sizes. Choose the relevant size to the subject being studied.

  • The most important points should be written by hand onto these cards.
  • Use only one side of the cards for speed when flipping through them for revision.
  • Writing notes neatly by hand and condensing them onto a limited space helps to reinforce them in the brain.
  • Draw miniature coloured Mind Maps (see below) and charts on the cards also, to help visualisation
  • Now flip through the cards, underlining in red marker the important points. This gives yet another means of embedding the information in the mind. Visually it is easy for the mind to recall a card with a couple of succinct paragraphs and points underlined in red.
  • Separate each set of subject cards with an elastic band. Remove the band and flip through the cards when stuck in traffic, eating lunch in a café, etc.

On the morning of the exam take the relevant set of subject cards and flip through them right up to the point of going into the exam room.

Long-Term Exam Preparation With Mind Maps

Mind Maps are invaluable for helping to remember information. They mimic the way in which the brain retains information. Any book by Tony Buzan, the inventor of Mind Maps, will be a great investment.

There are computer programs that help to create Mind Maps. These are great, but creating a Mind Map with coloured marker pens on large sheets of drawing paper will help to reinforce the subject in the brain.

During the academic year, create Mind Maps on every subject being studied and pin them to the walls of the study.

Read them at regular intervals, particularly before sleep, and especially the night before the exam. Again, like cards, these are visual patterns that are easy to recall in the exam situation.

Study Past Exam Papers

Find past exam papers in the school/college library and study them.

  • Create an exam situation at home.
  • Time the exam and answer the paper, repeating this process at regular intervals throughout the academic year. This will increase confidence and ensure that practically any question that may come up in the exam can be answered..
  • Take these mock exams seriously and the mind will become familiar with this situation.
  • As a result, the day of the real exam will be less stressful.

The Night Before the Exam

Some people feel that students shouldn’t revise the night before an exams, as the mind should be rested. However, having got this far, it’s probably just as well to keep up the revision. Tomorrow, after all, it will all be over. So why not continue with a calm, focused revision pace until those exam doors open?

On the night before the exam it might be a good idea not to go out for a drink with friends or watch too much tv. Definitely don’t stay up revising too late. Instead, eat a healthy meal and do some calm, last-minute revision. Study the Mind Maps on the wall and flip through the index cards.

Set the alarm and have a good night’s sleep.

The Day of the Exam

No matter how careless a person may be of his or her appearance during the academic year, the day of the exams should be different. It’s psychologically important to wear smart but comfortable clothing. Feel like a professional and have the attitude of being in a totally different zone today.

Hard as it may be, try to avoid negative people on the day of the exam. Instead, flip through the revision cards until the last moment, focusing the mind. Banish all doubts about potential performance.

Avoid Exam Nerves by Strategic Planning

  • Begin revising for exams from the start of the academic year
  • Use index cards to help memorise the main points of lecture notes and books
  • Use Mind Maps as a visualisation technique
  • Study past exam papers

By following a calm, systematic approach to exams from the beginning of the academic year and using the practical tools suggested, exam nerves can be minimised.


26 Feb

Low Fat Cooking | Summer Barbecues

One of essential keys to unleashing the best flavors and textures from grilled meats and vegetables is in the marinade. Marinades not only add zest and flavor to grilled foods, but also serve as natural tenderizers for meats that have tendencies to become tough during grilling, such as flank stank or pork chops. When your goal is to flavor and tenderize, choose a marinade that contains an acidic element, such as fresh citrus juices from limes, lemons or oranges, vinegar, or wine. To marinate meats, combine all ingredients in your marinade recipe and let stand for 15 minutes to combine flavors. Place in a large airtight plastic zip-lock bag and add raw meat to the marinade.  Seal and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours and a maximum of overnight. By allowing meats to marinade for prolonged periods of time, the flavor of the seasonings and juices from the marinades will more deeply penetrate the meats and result in flavorful and tender creations on the grill. Marinating works well with beef, chicken, pork and shrimp, as well as fish, which can be marinated in much less time because of its tender consistency. When grilling marinated meats, brushing them with reserved marinade during cooking time will yield even more flavor as the natural juices escape through the openings of the grate. Marinating vegetables, however, requires much less time. Most vegetables should be adequately marinated within 20 to 30 minutes for optimum flavor and crispness. Over-marinating of vegetables can result in soggy, discolored veggies and can override their natural flavor and goodness, so a quick marinade or a sprinkling with a good dry rub for veggies just prior to grilling is generally your best bet. Some good choices for marinating vegetables include seasoned broth, nonfat Italian dressings and dry white wines seasoned with herbs.

A dry rub is a combination of seasonings and spices that are literally “rubbed” on raw meats before grilling and, in essence, flavors the surface only as opposed to penetrating the meat as a marinade will do. The rub can be applied as lightly or as heavily as you wish, depending on how much flavor you’d like to achieve. As the heat cooks the outside of the meat, the rub adheres to the surface resulting in intense flavor that won’t readily dissipate during the cooking process.
Below are some recipes for marinades and rubs that can successfully implemented with beef, chicken, pork or seafood.