Living Lite

Kale and Spinach Gratin with Garlic, Rosemary, and Thyme

February 1, 2016

Spinach and Kale Gratin with Garlic, Rosemary, and Thyme
(excerpted from Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes)

Kale is everywhere (virtually alone) at the Farmer's Market. It's not everyone's favorite vegetable, though - let's face it - So I'm constantly searching for great kale recipes. What to do with Kale...

Any greens will do in this versatile recipe.

 Serves 6

1 pound Kale, cleaned and stems removed
2 pounds Spinach, cleaned and stems removed
1 Tablespoon Olive or Canola Oil
1 Large Garlic Clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh Rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp dry)
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves, chopped (or ½ tsp dry)
1 recipe Olive Oil Bechamel Sauce (see recipe)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
¼ Cup Parmesan or Gruyere Cheese, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash the Kale and Spinach and remove the tough stems. Chop roughly. Heat the oil in a large iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until it just begins to color. Add the greens, the rosemary, and thyme to the pan, and let cook a couple of more minutes while stirring until the greens are wilted.

Stir the Bechamel sauce into the greens. Add salt and pepper. Pour into an oiled 2-quart soufflé or heat resistant glass dish and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is just beginning to brown. 

Olive Oil Bechamel Sauce

This is a classic French white sauce, but using healthy olive oil instead of butter.

 Makes 2.5 cups

3 Cups 1% Milk
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Flour
Salt and Ground Pepper to taste
Pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)

Simmer the milk in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add a bit of flour, and when it sizzles, add the rest. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk over medium heat. Do not brown. Whisk in the hot milk. Return the mixture to the heat, stirring until the sauce thickens. Reduce to low making sure it does not burn. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Deep Green Leafy Vegetables have the highest antioxidant content of all vegetables. High in fiber, they are rich in minerals, B-vitamins, beta-carotene, and lutein, a compound which may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of preventable blindness), or other eye diseases such as cataracts. Absorption of carotenoids, such as lutein, in your body is increased by cooking and by the presence of fat (so cook in a little healthy olive or canola oil!).

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Comfort Eating to Avoid Blizzard Bloat

January 25, 2016

Snow Days -  They’re the best and worst days of the year for people who love food

You’re enjoying the surprise day off, seldom-seen nearby neighbors, and delicious goodies you’ve stocked up at the last minute for the storm.  It’s so fun, but you’re dreading the aftermath – feeling that blizzard bloat of a few more pounds around the middle.

Not to mention the holed up feeling of angst that triggers the urge to devour everything in sight

Then we have the added disadvantage of being biologically programmed to crave fatty, salty and sweet foods. In fact, the brain has a hard time distinguishing between stress and hunger. And eating when you’re stressed really lays on the pounds.

But there’s no need to feel guilty, or despairing. While we are biologically programmed to eat when stressed, there is a simple way to tame the urge and let us choose the things we really want to enjoy eating and drinking.

My advice is to decide on one or two delicious – and healthy – recipes with multiple servings to have at your finger-tips at home. It makes the most of the time you spend in the kitchen and keeps you from being a short-order cook.

To take stress out of your life (and high calories out of your diet), get in the habit of preparing batch meals ahead of time—preferably on weekends, when you are not as rushed or tired as you are during the week. This is such an important concept that an entire section of Diet Simple is dedicated to batch cooking recipes.

Batch cooking involves preparing quick and easy dinners ahead of time so that you always have something in the freezer or refrigerator that is ready to eat on a moment’s notice.

How does “White Beans with Garlic and Basil” sound? How about “Veal Stew with Carrots La Boutard,”  “Chili Non Carne”? They’re homemade, and require only a few minutes to reheat. Once you make the batches, divide them into serving sizes and keep them in airtight containers in the refrigerator, and some in the freezer.

Studies show you’re more likely to eat whatever is in your environment. If you surround yourself with delicious, healthy, wholesome foods, that’s what you’ll end up eating. It’s simple physics: We naturally take the path of least resistance. So why not make things easy on yourself? Plan to make a few batch meals on weekends so you and your family will have wonderful food at your fingertips during snow days.

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Great News for Those Who Love Tea in All Its Forms

January 17, 2016

Need an excuse to break for afternoon tea at work? A new study found green or black tea, in a very concentrated form,  can improve your overall health in many different ways.

As I wrote in my Washington Post article, tea has long been known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So researches decided to extract one of the most active compounds in tea to see what would happen. The extract, called "AssuriTEA," was given to subjects in different doses. They found all doses had benefits, but most of the benefits were experienced in the subjects with the largest dose. After taking the extract for 28 days, the subjects showed improved antioxidant levels (which protects you from almost all diseases), lower blood glucose levels, and increased energy. They also found lower systolic blood pressure at both dosages and lower diastolic blood pressure at the higher dosage.

Even though we don't have access to this extract; no matter; I recommend using "whole" tea leaves anyway: The whole food is always better! Studies use concentrated forms of foods so they can more easily measure results. This study, published recently in the journal "Functional Foods in Health and Disease," confirms the health benefits of tea are impressive – I know what I’m doing at 3 o’clock today! You?


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