Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Week 7: Power Foods........

When a disease like Alzheimer's runs in your family like it does in mine, you tend to take heed of articles that offer a possible prevention to the disease. An article by Nicholas Bakalar in this week's Science section of The New York Times, offers a clue to prevention (Aging:Vitamin D Levels Tied to Dementia Risk). The article references a study which appears online in The Journal of Geriatric Psychology and Neurology; scientists who studied the levels of Vitamin D in the blood serum of a sample of people over the age of 65 showed that those people exhibiting signs of dementia also had lower levels of the vitamin. After reading this, I should admit that I grabbed the car keys and was on my way to the closest health store to buy out all the vitamin D supplements! Not so fast, however. Another article in the Science section of The New York Times by Tara Parker-Hope questions whether vitamins and supplements live up to their reputations (Vitamins: A False Hope?). The article sites several recent studies which have suggested that vitamins in pill form do nothing to prevent disease such as cancer. In fact, some studies have shown unexpected harm from taking these vitamin supplements, for example higher lung cancer rates in two studies of beta carotene use. Another study suggested a higher risk of precancerous polyps among users of folic acid compared with those in a placebo group:

"Scientists suspect that the benefits of a healthful diet come from eating the whole fruit or vegetable, not just the individual vitamins found in it. 'There may not be a single component of broccoli or green leafy vegetables that is responsible for the health benefits,' Dr. Gann said. “Why are we taking a reductionist approach and plucking out one or two chemicals given in isolation?” (Source:Vitamin Pills: A False Hope? By, Tara Parker-Hope. Published February 16, 2009. New York Times, Science section.)

Eating to live rather than living to eat has become a popular mantra among health gurus. In an article in Men's Health magazine, 12 "power foods" were listed. These foods have been proven to: • Build muscle • Help promote weight loss • Strengthen bones • Lower blood pressure • Fight cancer • Improve immune function • Fight heart disease. Most of the foods mentioned are probably already in your fridge or pantry. For example the article sites berries such as raspberries or blueberries as being able to protect your heart, enhance eyesight, improve memory and prevent cravings during the day. They are packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, and tannins. They fight against heart disease, cancer, and obesity. Throw a handful on top of your yogurt or into your instant oatmeal - which is also on the list. Instant oatmeal that is unsweetened and unflavored has been shown to boost energy and sex drive, reduce cholesterol and maintain blood-sugar levels. Oatmeal provides complex carbohydrates and fiber which fight against heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and obesity. For the complete list check out David Zinczenko's article : 12 Powerfoods: Never Go Hungry.

The trick is to find ways to include these “preventative medicine” foods into your everyday meals – you don’t have to just eat nuts, berries and oatmeal all day. Once you learn how to incorporate these helpful foods into your daily diet, it becomes second nature. One of the recipes I have chosen for this week is out of the "Eating For Life" section of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (www.bhg.com): Spinach-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Apple-Cranberry Reduction. Spinach is packed with nutrients, promotes immunity and helps to stabilize free radicals. To get the full benefits of the cranberry juice*, make sure to use 100% cranberry juice with no added sugar. This will be a little bitter, but the apple juice will help to sweeten it up. The three other recipes are just as delicious and include many of the healthy foods you'll find on the Men's Health list. I hope that you enjoy making them: Tex-Mex Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Cumin Spiced Carrots, Pasta with White Clam Sauce, Corn Cakes with Black Bean Soup.

* Cranberry juice contains a mixture of natural vitamins and minerals (effective in the treatment of urinary tract, bladder, and kidney infections), as well as antioxidants and phytochemical nutrients (helpful in protecting against heart disease and cancer).

Items Already in the Pantry or Fridge:
mayo,cumin, cayenne pepper, soy sauce, honey, salt, black pepper, unsalted butter, Parmesan cheese, flour, dry white wine, balsamic vinegar, dried rosemary, baking powder, sugar, cornmeal, milk, 1 egg, cooking oil, ground red pepper, apple juice

Shopping List**
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 limes
1 bulb of garlic
1 bunch of cilantro
6 kaiser rolls
1 medium tomato
1 red onion
Boston or Bibb lettuce
1 bunch of carrots
2-6 1/2 oz cans of minced clams
10 oz of linguine
1 3/4 cups of half and half
1 bottle of clam juice
2 medium onion
1 bunch of fresh parsley
1 cup dry black beans
2 cups chicken broth
1 bunch celery
1/2 cup of frozen whole kernel corn
fresh chives (enough to garnish)
1-8 oz container of sour cream
1 pound pork tenderloin
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 cup of cranberry juice

**Most recipes are for 4-6 servings. If you are making more, or less, you will need to adjust the shopping list accordingly**

Tex-Mex Grilled Chicken Burgers with Cumin Spiced Carrots ( serves 6)

4 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts
3 limes
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp cumin
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup of mayo
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
6 kaiser rolls
1 avocado
1 medium tomato sliced
slices of red onion
Boston or Bibb lettuce

Combine the juice of 2 limes, honey, soy sauce, cumin, garlic and black pepper in small bowl. Place chicken into a shallow baking dish and cover the chicken with the marinade. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine the mayo, juice of 1 lime, cayenne pepper and cilantro in a small bowl. Set aside.

The chicken can either be cooked on the grill outside, on the stove in a grill pan or in the oven at 400 degree for about 20 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

Serve on Kaiser rolls and garnish with the mayo mixture, slices of avocado, tomato, onion and lettuce.

Cumin Spiced Carrots:
4 medium carrots cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 tbsp of butter (unsalted)
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Place the carrots into a medium pot, cover with water and bring to a bowl. Cook until slightly tender. Drain. In a pan melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook until tender. Serve alongside the burgers.

Pasta with White Clam Sauce (serves 4)

10 oz linguine
2-6 1/2 cans minced clams
1 3/4 cups half and half
1 bottle of clam juice
1 medium chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 tbsp of butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine*
1/4 cup Parmesean cheese

Melt the butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until tender but not brown. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper. Add the half and half, 1 bottle of the clam juice. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Stir in the clams, fresh oregano, parsley and wine. Heat through. Serve over hot pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

*Non alcoholic wine is available in some stores.

Corn Cakes with Black Bean Soup (6 servings)

1 cup of dry black beans
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp of salt
1/8 tsp of ground red pepper
4 cloves of garlic minced
8 oz sour cream
chopped chives for garnish

Corn Cakes:
2 tbsp of flour
1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1 cup boiling water
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn
1/2 red pepper chopped
1/4 cup of sweet onion chopped
1 slightly beaten egg
3 tbsp cooking oil

To make the soup:Rinse the beans. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven combine beans and 6 cups of water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand for 1 hour. Or place beans and water in a pan. Cover, and let them soak in a cook place for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans.

Return beans to saucepan. Stir in two cups of water, the broth, onion, celery, cilantro, salt, red pepper and garlic. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered for 1-1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.

Remove approximately 1/3 of soup and transfer to a blender. Holding the lid on the blender down tightly, process the soup until smooth. Add back to the saucepan. Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream and garnished with chopped chives.

To prepare the corn cakes: In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine add the boiling water to the corn meal, stir to make a stiff mush. Stir in the milk until smooth. Add the corn, red pepper, onion and egg. Add flour mixture until well combined.

In a large skillet heat the 2 tbsp of cooking oil over medium heat. Drop the batter by rounded tbsp into the hot oil, making 6 cakes. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Transfer to a serving plate and serve with the black bean soup.

Spinach-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Apple-Cranberry Reduction (serves 4)
1 1-pound pork tenderloin
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/4 apple juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Slice the tenderloin lengthwise, almost all of the way through, making a pocket. Set aside.

In a large skillet cook the spinach in a small amount of water just until wilted; drain well. In a small bowl combine the wilted spinach, artichoke hearts, cheese and rosemary. Spoon spinach mixture into the pocket in the tenderloin (filling will be exposed). Place in a shallow roasting pan, stuffing side up. Roast in a 435 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into meat registers 160 degrees.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan combine the apple and cranberry juices with the balsamic vinegar. Bring to boiling. Boil gently about 15 minutes or until the mixture measure 1/3 cup. Spoon the juice reduction over the tenderloin during the last 10 minutes of roasting. To serve bias-slice the pork. Serve with a garden salad.

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