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Hugh and I are about to embark on a 3 month long tour of Southeast Asia, and we have quite a bit in store for us. I am just bursting with excitement about getting to try all the wonderful exotic fruits and the delicious food that region has to offer. I will try to blog as often as I can about all the neat foods I am trying, but in the meantime here are some of the fruits native to that region that I can’t wait to eat:

Durian: also known as ‘The King of Fruits” in Asia. It supposedly has an extremely strong odor, and is in fact banned in some public areas, such as hotels, malls and subways. However, its taste is considerably more pleasant. Some have described the texture and flavor as ‘a rich custard highly flavored with almonds’. It is also rich in energy, fibre, minerals and vitamins. It is considered a strong blood cleanser, and Asian legend say that durian is a powerful aphrodisiac. Awesome, can’t wait to try it!

Mangosteen: Hugh and I had the pleasure of trying some here in Toronto, purchased in China Town. These round little fruit have a taste very similar to peaches, so sweet and wonderful. They are however extremely pricey to purchase here. I’m glad they are much more readily available in Southeast Asia. The health claims for mangosteens have been popping up everywhere. It has been proven to relieve if not correct some skin conditions, allergies, nervous system, cardiovascular system, urinary, and digestive problems!

Custard Apple: supposedly they ‘taste something like banana and pineapple combined’, and has a rich custard like texture. Mmmm sounds good to me! It too is a powerhouse of nutrition – filled with vitamins and minerals, good for energy, and can combat a bunch of ailments!

Jackfruit: it is said to be the largest tree-fruit in the world. Supposedly the flesh has a crisp texture, with a strong, sweet flavor. It is full of health benefits, and can lower blood pressure, fight against stomach ulcers and can slow down the degeneration of cells that make the skin look young and vital. Sweet!

Salak aka Snakeskin fruit: I read somewhere that ‘it looks like garlic cloves, it has the texture of garlic cloves, but tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a pear’. It has a bunch of health benefits as well, such as easing heartburn and digestive disturbances.

Longan: described as extremely sweet and juicy. It is used as a remedy for stomachache, insomnia, and amnesia. The fruit is said to invigorate the heart and spleen, nourish the blood and have a calming effect on the nervous system.

I can’t wait to try all these, but I mostly can’t wait to eat tons of the super healthy tropical fruits such as papaya, pineapple, and coconut. I heard vegetarianism is still not very common over there, so when I have nothing else to eat I know I’ll get plenty of nourishment from these fruits. And there’s always white rice!

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/05/dining/05well.html?_r=2

http://cspinet.org/new/201006291.html

Cool Chayote

My dear followers, I must apologize for the long hiatus. Some big changes are about to take place in the next few months, including a big move to half way across the world. So needless to say, all the planning has been keeping me nice and busy.

The idea for this post came about when I was researching which fruits and veggies were popular in Australia. And to my delight, I found out that Chayote’s have been known to grow extensively there!

About a year or so ago, Hugh and I noticed this interesting looking item at the grocery store, and we just had to try it. We both instantly liked this refreshing crunchy vegetable (well, technically it’s considered a fruit). We love slicing ‘em up and dipping ‘em in my homemade hummus.

Chayote is a tropical member of the cucumber and squash family. It is fat free, sodium free, a good source of vitamin C and fibre! It also contains significant amounts of the B-vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate. The fruit is also a rich source of potassium, and contains decent amount of magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese. Chayote’s have diuretic, cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory properties. In Native American medicine, the fruit is a common folk cure for all kinds of urinary disorders – including urinary infections and renal stones. Awesome!

It can be stored for up to one month uncovered in a cool, dark place, or in a plastic bag refrigerated for up to a week. Choose unblemished chayote with dark furrows. Color ranges from cream to dark green, but most are an apple-green. The smaller ones are more tender.

I find their flavor to be rather bland, very reminiscent of a cucumber in fact. That’s why they are so good dipped in hummus. They don’t even need to be peeled. Not only can they be enjoyed raw, they can also be boiled, baked, stuffed, mashed, fried or pickled! A ton of recipes can be found on the net. But again, I love dipping ‘em in hummus. So here is my hummus recipe.

Enjoy!

You’ll need:

2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

1/3 cup tahini

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp sea salt

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

1 pinch cumin

Directions:

Blend all ingredients using hand-held blender or in blender or food processor, adding water as needed until smooth.

One of my greatest pleasures is going to my local Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning. I love the vibe there, the fresh local produce, all the neat products, and of course sampling all the delicious foods. I’m lucky I live a 10 minute walk from The Stop’s Green Barn Farmers’ Market (located in between Christie & Wychood, off St Clair).

There are farmers markets located throughout the city, most open all year round. Here is a list of all the Toronto Markets: http://tfmn.ca/?page_id=2

Of course Spring and Summer are the best times to visit, since they are brimming with so much fresh local fruits and veggies. I love trying interesting vegetables that aren’t even available at the supermarket. Most of the produce is organic, or at the very least they follow sustainable growing practices, and are low-spray or pesticide free. So it’s not only good for your health, but for the environment as well! You can taste the difference. Supermarket produce can take up to two weeks to travel from farm to store, even in the summer. And most supermarket fruits are picked pre-maturely, not being allowed to ripen naturally. Thereby the nutritional content and flavour really suffer. There are also so many other awesome products besides fruits and veggies. Hugh and I love buying local raw honey (way better than the pasteurized crap sold at supermarkets), raw local hemp seeds, raw cacao (super healthy and delicious), and homemade fresh pickles.

Some other reasons to love and support Framers’ Markets:

  • More money is spent in the local economy
  • They cut out the middleman, putting more money in the farmers’ pockets
  • They help reduce food miles, vehicle pollution, and fossil fuel use.
  • They help to reduce packaging.
  • You get fresh, healthy produce usually at competitive prices.
  • You get to meet the farmer who grew your food

What can be better? And for meat eaters, the Farmers’ Market is the best place to purchase meat. The prices tend to be similar to regular meat purchased at supermarkets. However, the animals are treated humanely, are not injected with hormones and antibiotics, and are a whole lot more nutritious than their supermarket counterparts.

Gotta love Farmers’ Markets!

Groovy Granola Bars

I just had to post a healthy bar recipe since there is a huge health scam going on now. The health scam I am referring to is gross misleading marketing campaign of practically every health bar out there. It frustrates me to no end seeing these fruit, nut, meal replacement, protein bars or what-have-yous being made to look like they are actually good for you. Upon closer inspection they are really not that much better than your average chocolate bar. Most contain a whole lot of refined sugars, or even worse corn syrup, and a ton of bad fat, all sorts of chemicals, preservatives, flavorings, etc. Now a bunch are being loaded with synthetic vitamins and minerals, making the consumer believe they are eating something nutritious. Although there are some decent ones out there that can be found at health stores, most are complete and utter crap.

That’s why it’s so much better making your own. Yes this granola bar has sugar in it, but it’s of the less refined variety, so it wont give you the horrible blood sugar fluctuations most of these bars would. It is high in protein and fiber, so it’ll keep you fuller longer. But the best part is, it tastes damn good!

There is a lot of debate on whether or not oats have gluten. There may be small amounts so I would not recommend this recipe to anyone who is Celiac. In that case, quinoa flakes can make a good substitute for the oats.

Enjoy!

You’ll Need:

  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar – a delicious low glycemic sweetener (or sucanat – an unrefined brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (or Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups organic quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the coconut sugar, agave nectar, almond butter, coconut oil or Earth Balance, and vanilla. Stir until melted and all ingredients are well combined. Stir in the oats, sunflower seeds, cranberries, and ground flax seeds.

Press well into an 8-in. square baking dish covered with parchment paper or lightly greased.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until set and edges are browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

So the other day, after I kept hearing all about the delicious coffee being offered for free at McDonald’s, I decided perhaps I’d try one. I’m not at all a coffee drinker but since it was free and all, I thought what the heck, I’d give it a try. However, being the anal label reader that I am, I decided I just had to find the list of ingredients for their coffee. And boy am I ever glad I did!

I kept hearing rumors of certain coffee shops and fast food joints that actually put MSG in their coffee (yuck!). But after seeing the list of ingredients, I realized this was far worse.

I wish I had posted this sooner when the free coffee promotion at McDonald’s had just begun. But hopefully it will scare some people off of purchasing coffee from Micky D’s any time soon.

Here is a list of the chemicals being added to McDonald’s coffee: sodium phosphate, sodium polyphosphate, Di-Acetyl Tartrate Ester of Monoglyceride, sodium stearoyl lactylate, tetra sodium pyrophosphate, sodium hexametaphosphate, and sodium citrate. Yikes!!

What exactly does all that mean? Here’s a breakdown on some of the chemicals:

Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate – a solid powder irritating to eyes and skin, and hazardous in case of inhalation.

Tetra Sodium Pyrophosphate when ingested it can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Sodium Hexametaphosphate – the Material Safety Data Sheet warns “do not ingest”.

Sodium Citrate includes diarrhea as an adverse reaction. It should also be “used with caution in patients with cardiac failure, hypertension, impaired renal function, peripheral and pulmonary edema, and toxemia of pregnancy.”

That’s pretty disturbing if you ask me. No wonder we have so many health issues here and in the States – we are constantly bombarded with chemicals. It is far safer making your own coffee at home (actually, green tea or herbal teas would be the ideal).

Next time you grab a cuppa Joe, ask yourself: would you like some coffee with your chemicals?