Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Easy Homemade Granola

If you’re looking for a great granola without all of the sugar and added preservatives—make your own! This quick and easy recipe is full of nutritious ingredients without all the extra junk! Best of all, granola is easy to modify. There really aren’t any hard and fast rules, so feel free be creative and swap out some of the ingredients!


6 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick oats)
2 t ground cinnamon
4 cups shredded or flaked coconut (flaked coconut lends a “meatier” texture)
2 cups chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
1 cup organic coconut oil
1 cup raw honey
1 T vanilla extract
1 cup raisins (or any mixture of dry fruit)
  1. In a large bowl, mix together oats, cinnamon, coconut, along with the nuts and seeds.
  2. Heat coconut oil and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat until just melted but not hot. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  3. Stir honey mixture into oat mixture. Pour into two large baking dishes and bake at 325 for 35-40 minutes or until oats are golden brown. Stir occasionally while cooking for even browning (keep an eye on them after 30 minutes because it can burn quickly). Remove from oven, and cool.
  4. Add raisins or dried fruit. Store in an airtight container. If you’d like to extend the life of the granola beyond a few weeks, store in the fridge.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Healthy Hamburger?

“Most people think you can’t have a healthy beef burger, but you can,” says John La Puma, MD, classically trained chef and author of ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine.

However, traditional burgers have their pitfalls. First of all, never use conventional frozen patties because they contain the same mixture of low-grade meat, fat trimmings, and chemical additives in fast food burgers. Ground beef in regular supermarkets may be produced the same way and most likely come from factory farms that give cows hormones and antibiotics.

Geez, well how do you find the best burger meat? Good question! In descending order, these are your best choices:

  1. Grass-fed; compared to corn-fed, it’s higher in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, beta-carotene, and vitamins A and E. It’s also lower in cholesterol and saturated fat.
  2. 100% organic (grass-fed or not) don’t contain added hormones or antibiotics).
  3. Local (raised without hormones or antibiotics)
Lean meats take a bit of extra care to cook because you’ll want to avoid overcooking which will cause dryness. Here are some cooking tips:

  1. To avoid meat becoming too dry, you’ll want to literally stand there and watch your burgers on the grill! A burger that is just right can easily cross the line to dry city in a matter of seconds!
  2. For additional moisture, after cooking, garnish your burgers with organic cheese, avocado, lettuce and tomato.
  3. To prevent lean burgers from becoming tough, be gentle when making patties and resist the urge to over-handle.
  4. To avoid steaming rather than grilling, be sure your grill, or pan, is hot before you put the burger on. 
Healthy “Real” Hamburgers
Serves 4. Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes

2 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp dried oregano (Mexican preferred), crushed
1 lb well-trimmed grass-fed (preferably organic) beef chuck steak, ground
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns split
½ ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into 8 slices
4 organic romaine lettuce leaves
4 slices organic tomato
Optional garnishes: salsa, spicy brown mustard, ketchup (without high fructose corn syrup), jardinière (Italian relish of pickled vegetables), or pepperoncini peppers

  1. Oil a grill or grill pan with the olive oil. Coarsely chop the garlic on a chopping board. Sprinkle the salt over the garlic; use the side of the knife to “cream” the garlic into a paste. Sprinkle on the pepper and oregano and mash them into a paste. Combine the mixture with the ground chuck, mixing lightly, and form it into four ½-inch-thick patties.
  2. Place the burgers on the grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill covered for 5 minutes. Turn the patties; continue grilling, covered, 3-4 minutes for medium doneness. To lightly toast the bunds, place them on the grill, cut sides down, during the last minute of cooking. Serve patties in buns with avocado slices, lettuce, tomato, and optional garnishes of your choice.
  3. For big appetites, you can put two patties on one bun.
Per Serving: 326 Cal; 26 G Prot, 13 G Total Fat (3.5 G Sat Fat); 25 G Carb, 52 MG Chol, 523 MG Sod, 5 G Fiber, 4 G Sugars

Reduced-Carb Options:
Replace one-half of the bun with a slice of toasted, sprouted whole-grain bread and the other half with a romaine lettuce leaf. Or, for a bread-free version, wrap the burger in a big lettuce leaf.

For us gluten-free folks--Udi’s makes a pretty good GF burger bun.

Recipe from the book ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine by John La Puma, MD, and Rebecca Powell Marx.

As always, bon appetite!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Don’t Diet!

By now we all know (or should I say I hope we all know) that eating an extreme diet or severely restricting food choices is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we can make if we’re trying to lose weight (and keep it off)! Although you can initially lose weight on almost any diet, the minute you go off the diet, all the weight comes back—and more! This makes long-term weight loss nearly impossible and leads to discouragement and frustration. The best way to lose weight is to adopt healthy new habits and not think of these new changes as a “diet”, but rather as a new way of eating. Start slowly by working on these basic issues:

  • Avoid fast food, processed foods, and junk foods like the plague! Replace these empty calories with real food.
  • Eat smaller portions (this is easier to do when you’re eating real food because it is more satisfying).
  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds
  • Eat more lean protein; it will help you feel full longer
  • Increase consumption of “good” fats such as omega-3’s while avoiding “bad” fats such as trans fats and polyunsaturated fats
Dieting doesn’t work because by definition it is restrictive. By focusing on what you can’t have, it sets you up for defeat. Instead, focus on adding more of what you can have and get back to basics by enjoying fresh, seasonal foods and cooking at home more often.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mess O’ Greens Slow Cooked

If you’ve spent any time in the South, then you know what a “mess o’ greens” is! Best of all, these cruciferous veggies are a concentrated source of good health. Collards, kale, and mustard greens provide a plentitude of nutrients. They provide nutritional support for detox, and are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. The array of antioxidant phytonutrients is quite amazing—well over 45 and counting.
A few tips to get started:

·        Always choose greens that are bright and crisp, with no yellow or brown spots and no discolored edges or small holes. Colors should be vibrant; yellow leaves mean they’re long past fresh, and have lost much of their nutritive value.

·        Store for no more than a few days. Keep them in the coldest part of the fridge in a zip-lock bag with the air squeezed out.
2 cups organic chicken broth
4 bunches fresh greens (collard, kale, mustard), stems removed and coarsely chopped
6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
4 green onions cut into ½ inch pieces
1 smoked ham hock or smoked turkey drumstick
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Salt to taste

1.     In a large heavy pot, bring broth to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and barely simmer for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.

2.     Remove ham hock or drumstick; shred the meat, discarding all skin, fat and bones, and return meat to pot. Crush garlic cloves with a fork and give the whole pot a good stir.

Wheat Belly; Lose The Wheat, Lose The Weight!

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find the rise in obesity among both adults and children in the U.S. very perplexing. After reading Dr. Davis’s book Wheat Belly, I was shocked to discover that the wheat we eat today is not the same wheat that our great-grandparents consumed.  In Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis exposes the truth about modern-day wheat. Modern wheat causes blood sugar to spike more rapidly than eating pure table sugar (white sugar) and has addictive properties that cause us to ride a roller coaster of hunger, overeating and fatigue! In most grocery stores, entire aisles are devoted to bread in all its forms.  As if that weren’t enough, there are yet more aisles full of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies, tarts, sweet rolls, bagels, croissants, brownies, cereals, and other sweet baked goods.

And if you look at processed foods of all kinds, you’ll find wheat. And don’t even get me started on all the wheat lurking around in fast food and restaurant fare—wheat is everywhere! Wheat is the primary grain used in U.S. grain products; approximately three-quarters of all U.S. grain products are made from wheat flour.

Dr. Davis explains that modern wheat is approximately 70% carbohydrate by weight. The carbohydrate in the form of a starch is called Amylopectin A. Amylopectin A is the most digestible form and is found in wheat.  Because it is the most digestible, it is the form that most enthusiastically increases blood sugar.  This explains why (gram for gram) wheat increases blood sugar to a greater degree than other carbohydrates such as lima beans or potato chips.  The Amylopectin A of wheat products might be regarded as a super-carbohydrate, a form of highly digestible carbohydrate that is more efficiently converted to blood sugar than nearly all the other carbohydrate foods, simple or complex.

What about whole grains?  Isn’t whole grain bread better?  Not according to Dr. Davis. The degree of processing, from a blood sugar standpoint, makes little difference: Wheat is wheat, with various forms of processing or lack of processing, simple or complex, high-fiber or low-fiber, all generating similar high blood sugars.  Just as “boys will be boys,” Amylopectin A will be Amylopectin A.  In healthy, slender volunteers, two medium-sized slices of whole wheat bread increase blood sugar by 30 mg/dl (from 93 to 123 mg/dl), no different from white bread.  In people with diabetes, both white and whole grain bread increase blood sugar 70 to 120 mg/dl over starting levels.

Dr. Davis devotes a significant part of this compelling book detailing many of the health problems associated with modern wheat consumption. He also describes his clinical experience in helping many of his patients kick their wheat habit and restore not only their health, but effortlessly return to their ideal weight.  He describes the increase in celiac disease over the past 50 years.  While the most severe form of celiac is easier to diagnose, there are milder forms that manifest themselves as anything from mysterious rashes that come and go to diarrhea and other GI disturbances to arthritic aches and pains.

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Davis that the fat phobia of the past forty years turned people away from eating real food such as eggs, organic meats and full-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils such as olive oil. But here’s the kicker, saturated fat was never the problem.  Carbohydrates in combination with saturated fat cause measures of LDL particles to skyrocket.  The problem has always been carbohydrates—not saturated fat.  In fact, new studies have exonerated saturated fat as an underlying contributor to heart attack and stroke risk.

Part three of the book is devoted to saying goodbye to wheat and creating a healthy and delicious new lifestyle by identifying and eliminating wheat in all forms. There are many tasty recipes included as well!

This book, in my opinion, is one of the most important to have in your library (and your kitchen) if you’re serious about taking charge of your health. Trust me, it’s worth it!


2011 by William Davis, M.D., Wheat Belly, Rodale