Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reducing risk of ovarian cancer: Eat your apigenin

Ovarian cancer, like all cancers, is scary. Each year, approximately 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 15,000 women die of the disease. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk significantly by choosing the right foods. According to a new study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, women who eat the most amounts of plant-based foods and drinks with the naturally occurring flavonoid, apigenin, may have a loser risk for ovarian cancer than those consuming the least.

Apigenin is found in celery, parsley, red wine, tomato sauce, and other plant foods. It appears to protect cells against oxidative damage, which can lead to cancer. The study that found the association investigated the diets of over 2000 women, about half of whom had ovarian cancer.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sprouting for Beginners - Day 4

Now we're in business. I would say that the majority of the beans have sprouted. It's time to get munching!

I tried each one separately, and they're quite tasty. The flavors are hard to describe -- my mom says they're "grassy" -- they are crunchy, slightly (but not unpleasantly) bitter, and even a little sweet. The ones that don't have shoots are still edible.

I'm leaving them to sprout a bit more, and tonight I'll rinse them well in cold water and store them in a covered container in the fridge. I plan on adding them to a big green salad tonight. Anyone have any recipe ideas for fresh bean sprouts?

When I was in Hawaii in 2005, I bought prepared Raw Hummus from a health food store. It was one of the most delicious hummuses I've ever had, and I was told that it was made with sprouted garbanzo beans. I'd like to try to recreate the recipe, so my next sprouting attempt will be 100% garbanzo beans. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sprouting for Beginners - Day 3

It's working! The sprouting has begun! This is such an amazing process for a preschooler to see; I'm pretty impressed too.

The blend I'm using is a mixture of mung, adzuki, and garbanzo beans, and as you can see by the photo (click to enlarge it), the mung beans have started to sprout. The adzukis and garbanzos look ready to pop any minute. I'm pretty psyched about this, because I've read in several places that the ideal sprouting temperature is 70 degrees F, and my kitchen is a chilly 65. But this does not seem to have posed a problem.

I've been rinsing with warm water 3 times a day, as the instructions indicate. This would present a challenge for folks who are not accessible to their sprouts throughout the day, so right after work on a Friday (or whatever time starts a 2+ -day stretch at home) is a good time to start a sprouting cycle. For families with children, this is a nice task for them to help out with.

I'm curious to see what happens with the 3 different beans, and if I will have to remove the mung beans first (I hope not!), as it seems that OVERsprouting is a real possibility. At the point of oversprouting, the sprouts begin to grow leaves and taste bitter.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sprouting for Beginners - Day 2

Well the biggest change since the beans began to soak several hours ago is the size of the beans -- they've about doubled in size. After about 12 hours of soaking, directions say to drain and rinse with lukewarm water. We did this. Then we placed the jar on its side, to maximize the surface area of the beans to allow more room to sprout.

Also, I found out that shaking the beans may disrupt them, rendering them unsproutable, so gentleness is important.

You'll read lots of claims about the health benefits of sprouts, and it may be difficult to determine which are actually factual. I did a short review of the scientific literature, and here's my take on the nutritional facts about sprouts:

Sprouting increases enzyme activity, which renders the nutrients more digestible. This means that sprouted grains and legumes may offer a nutrition advantage with regard to total usable amounts of certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. For example, phytate, found in whole grains, is a powerful inhibitor of iron absorption. However, when the grains are sprouted, phytase (the enzyme that degrades phytate) is activated, breaking down the phytate and allowing for improved iron absorption.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sprouting for Beginners - Day 1

I was going to call this "Sprouting for Dummies" but a) I don't want to insult anyone, and b) there might already be a book by that name. I've personally always felt, well, challenged, when it comes to sprouting. But every time I read about it, I'm told how "easy" it is. And the fact that sprouts are super-nutritious and economical just reinforced my desire to give it a try.

So, this is the first of several posts that will detail my very first attempt at sprouting.

Today, a cold rainy day, Ben and I embarked on our Sprouting Journey. We got this Sprouting Jar and the sprouting seeds at our local health food store, which cost less than $10 (for both!). Yes, you can use any old glass jar covered with a cheesecloth/rubber band, but I opted for a large jar with the metal mesh top. And you can sprout many different beans and seeds, but I opted for the stuff sold specifically for sprouting, just to start.

We washed the jar, measured out 1/2 cup beans, and rinsed them well. We put the rinsed beans and 2 cups of lukewarm water into the jar and set it on the counter.

That's it.

They stay there for 12 hours. And during that period, I will dump the water, rinse the beans, and replace the water.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's sprouting adventure.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easy Recipe: Blazin' Green Beans

DH almost finished the whole pound before I had a chance to taste one! These green beans were so easy to make, it is hard to believe they were so tasty.

Dina's Blazin' Green Beans
  • 1 lb or so of fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic (QUICK FIX: Garlic from a tube or jar)
  • dash or two of sea salt
  • 2 tbsp balsamic glaze (recipe below) (QUICK FIX: Balsamic glaze from a jar, like BLAZE brand)

Steam green beans until bright green and crisp-tender (on the "crisp" side). Meanwhile, saute garlic in a medium frypan until it starts to get golden. Add the beans and saute over medium-high heat. Add salt and cook for about 2 minutes. Add glaze, toss to coat, and serve.

Balsamic Glaze:
I've discovered Blaze and I love it. But you can make your own glaze too. Just simmer 1 cup of good quality balsamic vinegar mixed with 1 tbsp brown sugar for about a half hour. (The longer you let it simmer, the thicker and more intense the flavor.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A vegan faux meat you've got to try

I saw this new frozen vegan faux meat product at Whole Foods and thought, "sure, the last thing we need is another faux meat" but bought it just the same. Hey I have to know what things taste like before recommending them, right?

This stuff ROCKS. It ranks top 5 (along with May Wah's edibles) for Best Vegan Meat Experience Ever. The soy-wheat protein blend cooks up into chewy, satisfying, non-uniform "cutlets" (more like small, irregular chunks). It's not organic but it is made with non-GMO soy. The sauce is absolutely delectable. The ingredients state that the sauce is just maltose (a sugar), plum juice, and vinegar, but the spices added to the product as a whole end up in the sauce, which is a wonderful combination of sweet, tangy, earthy, and spicy-hot.

I just microwaved it as directed; it was perfect "as is." But this is a fantastic meal starter, perfect for stir fries (I envision snow peas, broccoli, pineapple, carrots, and bell peppers with it); on skewers with grilled onions and bell peppers; chopped and tossed cold with edemame and soba noodles... the possibilities are deliciously endless.

One serving (1/4 of the box -- watch out; it's easy to overdo!) contains 210 calories, 12 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat, 530 mg sodium, 3 grams fiber, and 6 grams sugar.

Brand: Vegetarian Plus
Web Site:
Item: Vegan Citrus Sparerib Cutlets in Plum Vinegar Sauce

Vegetarian Plus sells other faux meat products as well, some (but not all) of which are vegan.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Part of my spring cleaning routine involves the fridge: not just discovering what forgotten leftover lurks in the far back corner, but really starting fresh. All the foods come out, the baking soda box gets changed, and all shelves, walls, and drawers get a good scrub. 

Something about this task inspires me to cook more, to procure fresher produce, to buy less stuff in jars and bottles.

This year, I was mortified to find 4 containers of Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, 3 jars of (opened) sweet relish (anyone have any good recipes calling for sweet relish?), 3 jars of (opened) salsa of different heats, 9 onions, and 13 different kinds of Asian sauces! My fridge is average-sized, mind you; things just get lost in there what with the fresh greens (which need their own zip code), fruits and other vegetables, bags of nuts and dried fruits, jars of nut butters and jams and salad dressings, and of course my stir fry sauces. 

In the spirit of wasting not, I kept everything that had no evidence of spoilage, and I rearranged everything a lot more logically. (My mom would be proud.) Doing this is a great exercise in starting anew as far as cooking and meal planning. I have decided to shop more often but buy less (mostly to keep veggies fresh and avoid overcrowding), to keep leftovers front and center so they do not become lost and forgotten, and inspire creativity with all of those sauces and spreads.

How about you? What spring rituals help you eat better, live better, and feel better?