Queen Nefertiti proclaimed it to be the food of the Gods, King Louis XIV dubbed it the “king of vegetables” and a European museum is dedicated solely to it… yep we are talking ASPARAGUS! Asparagus has been cultivated for millennia. The tender immature perennial shoots or spears typically pop up around mid-May to mid-June in WI and are a delicacy not to be missed!
Aside from their delicious taste, asparagus is loaded with nutrients – six fresh cooked asparagus spears contain 1 g dietary fiber, 490 IU vitamin A, 10 mg vitamin C and 131 mcg Folate and just 27 calories per cup. Asparagus is high in antioxidants helping slow down the aging process and the minerals and amino acids it contains help protect the liver against toxins.
Fresh asparagus spears should be firm to the touch, straight and unbendable (firm but tender) and the tips should be tightly closed and a dark green or purple color. White asparagus is the same as green except it has not been exposed to sunlight. To store, trim a half an inch from the ends of unwashed asparagus and stand them in a jar with an inch of cold water covered in the refrigerator or wrap ends in a wet paper towel and put in a plastic bag in the veggie drawer of the refrigerator for longer storage time.
Asparagus pairs well with many vegetables like mushrooms & especially seasonal morels, and other foods like eggs, salmon and hollandaise sauce. Asparagus should be lightly cooked, steamed, or roasted for best flavor and texture. Brush some olive oil on tender spears and throw them on the grill until crisp tender. Raw stalks can be thinly shaved into a salad, add some cherry tomatoes, Feta and vinaigrette. Try asparagus wrapped in prosciutto for an appetizer or side dish.
Most of us have heard of “asparagus pee” the peculiar smell that urine takes on after consuming asparagus. In actuality, only 25% of us have a specific gene that enables us to detect the smell. Apparently my Husband and I both have that gene!
Fresh local asparagus is one of the first spring vegetables available and only around for a few short weeks so head to your farmers market or favorite store before it’s all gone!
Ever since my Hubby brought home some Sous vide egg bites from Starbucks, I admit I have been somewhat obsessed with them! So creamy, rich and decadent these little egg bites are! Did I mention they have bacon?!!! (Sous vid) is a method of cooking in a warm water bath). I immediately found myself googling “make your own Starbucks Sous Vide Egg Bites” in hopes of finding a recipe. I soon realized I must be hiding under an internet rock or something as they are a THING! The ingredients are simple staples – eggs, cottage cheese, Gouda (or cheese of choice), and cream. So far so good… until I discovered you needed a (not so cheap!) Sous vide oven in order to make them. Boo whew. But I kept digging and eventually found anInstant Pot recipe for Sous vide eggs. Could the results be the same in the Instant Pot? Yes indeed! I am happy to report the Instant Pot Sous vide eggs come out just as good if not better than (no offense!) Starbucks. The only thing I needed was a $10 silicone mold* that fits right in the Instant Pot to make these Keto friendly low-carb (about 15 carbs for the whole recipe!) gems.
Starbucks also makes egg whites (um – yuck!) and red pepper Sous vide bites. I am going to make them using whole eggs with red peppers, spinach and feta. The advantage to making Sous vide eggs myself is I have control of the ingredients. Aside from being a fraction of the cost, I can use quality pastured eggs and dairy from farmers I know and trust minus the antibiotics, hormones, additives and preservatives I’d rather not have.
Sous vide eggs are another great way to enjoy those little nutritional powerhouses we call eggs! Enjoy!
Sous Vide Instant Pot Eggs
4 large eggs
4 Bacon Strips cooked
1.5 Cups favorite cheese, shredded
½ Cup Cottage Cheese
¼ Cup Heavy Cream
¼ tsp. Sea Salt
1. Put 1 cup of water in the bottom of your Instant Pot followed by the trivet that came with your pot.
2. Crumble the bacon strips and evenly distribute into the silicone mold*.
3. Add the eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, cream and salt in a blender and blend until smooth (I used my Nutri bullet) about 15 seconds.
4. Add a dash of hot sauce if desired and blend for a few more seconds.
5. Divvy the egg mixture evenly into the 7 pods.
6. Place gently in the Instant Pot. (I find it works well to set the mold in the trivet and then place in Instant Pot).
7. Place the cover on the Instant Pot and select “Steam” and set to 8 Minutes.
8. NPR (natural pressure release) for 10 minutes and then quick release (QR) the rest.
9. Carefully remove the egg bites from the Instant Pot and let cool down for a few minutes.
10. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.
*If you don’t have a silicone mold you can use for 4 mason jars coated with cooking spray. After filling with egg mixture cover loosely with foil and place gently on trivet in Instant Pot.
In my early 20’s I would regularly eat a crab salad made with imitation crab meat. I was not a big fish lover and this convenient and mild tasting “crab” was one of my favorite “healthy” ways to get fish into my diet (or so I thought at the time). I often enjoyed crab Rangoon and crab cakes from our local Chinese takeout too.
Chances are if you have dined on seafood from a Sushi, Chinese restaurant or grocery store, you have probably eaten imitation crab meat. So what? some of us might say – Wikipedia states “Crab sticks, imitation crab meat or seafood sticks are seafood made of starch and finely pulverized white fish, shaped and cured to resemble the leg meat of snow crab or Japanese spider crab.” Um, YUCK!
Imitation crab meat contains more starch and carbohydrate than protein (almost 2/3rds of the calories come from carbs) and is not a vegan or vegetarian food as is commonly believed. Real crab meat in contrast is 85% protein and 1% carbs. Real crab meat is an excellent source of protein and contains heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins A, C, and B including B 12, and the minerals phosphorus, zinc, copper, calcium, selenium, and chromium.
Low nutrition profile aside, imitation crab meat may contain additional additives including MSG, gluten, sugar, hydrolyzed corn, soy & wheat (gmo’s), unhealthy vegetable oils and other possible allergens. None of which is in real crab meat (unless you have a shellfish allergy).
Dr. Axe sums it up well in his recent article Imitation Crab Meat May Be Worse Than You Think: “Because of its sparse nutrient profile and long list of additives, many people consider it to be the seafood equivalent of the hot dog, made of fish parts and questionable ingredients that have been ground up into a cheap, highly processed convenience food.”
Whole food in it’s natural, unprocessed, unadulterated state is always best, so I’ll take a pass on imitation crab meat…and stick with the real thing!
-Cynthia Hill, NTP
As the first hint of summer makes its slow arrival in the Midwest, I step outside late afternoon to enjoy the warming temps. Immediately I begin to smell the most wonderful intoxicating scent. It takes my brain a moment to identify what it is – oh yes! someone in the neighborhood has fired up their grill – the unmistakable smoky aroma of backyard grilling, summer and happiness! I realize momentarily how I have missed the smell & taste of grilled foods throughout the long winter months. Now this tantalizing scent beckons me, beckons me to release our own grill from its winter cover and start planning a meal around it. But wait… isn’t grilling food bad for you???
Grilling in general and especially grilled meat has had its share of bad press lately. With the onset of warmer weather the warnings about the dangers of grilling and barbecuing return, and how doing so contributes to the formation of carcinogens (PAHs) and mutagens (HCA) in our food.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are present in the smoke created from fat dripping onto hot coals. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced when amino acids, sugars and creatine in meat react with heat. Does grilling generate enough of these carcinogenic compounds to pose a threat to our health and steer clear of the grill forever? Mark Sisson, primal living expert, and author of the Primal Blueprint writes he may have “overstated the danger of the carcinogenic compounds found in charred meat”. In his article “How Bad is Charred Meat, Really?” he references numerous studies that show the doses of HCA in animal testing to be 1000s of times higher than what we would get from grilling. (The National Cancer Institute also suggests that both HCA and PAH dosing in animal models is thousands of times higher than what we would consume in our diet).
This leaves me with a burning question from an ancestral point of view – man has been grilling for a very very long time. If it is so bad for us, why do the carcinogenic effects only appear to have happened in the last 150 years? We must consider our current diet of high PUFAs, processed foods, grain fed animals and environmental toxicity as contributing factors.
Would I eat grilled foods every day? probably not as with most things moderation is key. I will continue though, to eat a cancer fighting nutrient dense whole foods diet (including plenty of protective vegetables) that supports optimal health and immune function which is always our best defense!
Spring is the perfect time to enjoy fresh lamb! Rack of lamb makes an impressive presentation and its no fuss preparation requires little time in the kitchen. Serve with roasted potatoes and spring peas or fresh asparagus for an elegant springtime meal.
Rack of Lamb
1 Rack of Lamb (preferably grass fed)
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbl. Worcestershire sauce or 1/2 TBL balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl. Olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 TBL. Fresh Rosemary
1 tsp. Sea salt
Use a food processor to process the garlic, rosemary, and sea salt until finely minced. Add the Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce (or balsamic vinegar) and olive oil and process for 1 minute. Alternately, finely mince rosemary and garlic and mix together with sea salt, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and olive oil.
Place the rack of lamb on a lightly greased rack (rib ends facing down) in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Brush both sides of the lamb with the mustard mixture. Let stand for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
Roast lamb for approximately 20 minutes for rare and 25 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut roast into single ribs and serve.
Give thanks for all animals and plants that nourish and sustain us.
Olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, lard, tallow, butter…vegetable oils or animal fats? What should you choose? What are good fats? What are bad fats? What are healthy? What are not? What fats are safest to cook with and what are not? To answer these questions let’s begin with a basic understanding of the composition and properties of fats and oils:
Fats are molecules consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Fats are classified as saturated fatty acids (SFA’s), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s). All fats are a combination of fatty acids and are classified by the highest percentage of either sat, mono or poly:
Saturated fats are solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Saturated fats do not turn rancid easily even with higher temperature cooking. Butter and coconut oil are examples of saturated fats.
Pure Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and solidify at 39 degrees F. Monounsaturated fats are relatively stable and do not turn rancid easily. Olive and avocado oil are examples of monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature or upon refrigeration and are highly unstable. Polyunsaturated fats are fragile and are easily damaged by light and heat turning rancid quickly. Vegetable oils and grape seed oil are examples of polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are broken down into two subgroups: Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
So what fats are healthy? and what fats are safe to cook with??? Animal fats and tropical oils that are high in saturated fat – yes saturated fat! Your body needs saturated fat to function optimally! Saturated fats are the most stable for higher temperature cooking (baking, frying, broiling, grilling, sautéing and roasting). Some excellent choices are lard, Ghee (clarified butter), beef and lamb tallow, chicken, duck & goose fat (from grass-fed/pastured/organic animals), coconut & red palm oil (organic, virgin, sustainably sourced). Vegetables roasted in duck fat are to die for!!!
Monounsaturated fats can be safely used for brief stir-frying, light sautéing, and slow simmering over low heat. Good choices are pure unfiltered/unrefined/uncut olive oil (contrary to popular belief, olive oil is safe for light cooking less than 400 degrees), peanut oil (occasionally as it is high in PUFA’s), avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and sesame oil. High heat cooking may damage MUFA’s resulting in free radical damage. Healthy monounsaturated fats support the immune system and joint health.
Polyunsaturated vegetable oils including flax, hemp, pine nut, pumpkin, grape seed oil and high oleic sunflower oil should never be heated or used in cooking (despite what their labels may say). They should be stored in the refrigerator. Due to their high omega-6 content, these oils should be used sparingly and must be unrefined and unprocessed/cold pressed. (Which can be difficult to find). Omega-3 rich flax oil should always be refrigerated and used sparingly in small amounts only (drizzle on salads, or in smoothies). High Oleic sunflower oil has some MUFA’s so very light heating would be acceptable.
Vegetable oils canola, soybean, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower and corn oil (including margarine/spreads made with them). All of these (artery clogging hydrogenated trans fats) oils are used in processed foods, fast food/restaurants. They are cheap genetically modified highly processed industrial oils that have only been in the human diet for a short amount of time. Our bodies do not recognize these oils as food and they are not fit for human consumption! Canola oil is a marketing ploy at it’s best – touted for its omega-3 and MUFA’s it is a highly processed rancid oil, derived from the genetically modified rapeseed plant. It is often partially hydrogenated to increase stability turning the delicate omega-3 fatty acids rancid quickly (free radicals). Soybean, cottonseed, corn, and safflower oils (also gmo) go through similar processing leaving them vulnerable to oxidation and free radical production when exposed to heat and light. Soy/Soybean oil in addition depresses thyroid function. Processed Omega-6 vegetable oils promote inflammation in the body. Best to get your Omega-6’s from vegetables, raw nuts and seeds.
Fats play a very important role in our health and bodies. Healthy fats are imperative to good health and do not make you fat. Thanks to an inaccurate study done over 50 years ago, we were led to believe that consuming fat was bad, and that saturated fat led to high cholesterol and heart disease. This theory has been proven to be completely false. We are now seeing the detrimental side effects and suffering of the low fat no fat era with countless degenerative diseases. So aim for a balance of healthy fats (sat, mono & poly) and improve your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio by consuming less polyunsaturated (vegetable oils) in processed foods and fast food/restaurants. Source fats from quality grass-fed/pastured/organic animals, and oils that are organic/unprocessed/cold pressed and unrefined. Ditch the toxic vegetable oils. Good healthy fats are the preferred fuel of the heart and provide an excellent source of long burning fuel for the body. Fat fear not!
To learn more about healthy fats and the important role they play in our health, please visit the Weston A. Price Foundation for additional information.