Perfect day to announce…

that I am changing my lifestyle.

After a lot of thought and consideration, I have decided to adopt the vegetarian diet. While I considered myself a “flexitarian” before (eating a mostly plant based diet with meat on occasion), I am embracing the vegetarian lifestyle with fervor.

Why is this the perfect day? Today is World Vegetarian Day and October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. The North American Vegetarian Society is even doing a contest with a pledge to be a vegetarian for one day, one week, or one month. Check it out here: http://www.worldvegetarianday.org/pledge-vegwin/

Why now? I grew up in the midwest where consuming meat was an unconscious norm and just continued that lifestyle without thought. When I lived in Boulder during my 4 years at the University of Colorado I became more aware  of the vegetarian diet, but it really wasn’t until studying nutrition years later that I recognized its benefits. Also, several films (including Food, Inc.) only made me more aware of the treatment of animals that we consume.

While this change will be difficult, especially with the holidays coming up, I am very lucky to have a supportive husband who does not mind eating vegetarian meals that I cook. Though, he isn’t totally sold on the idea for himself … yet.

I will be blogging about any trials (because, let’s face it, changing lifestyles can be hard), continue posting recipes and nutritional information, as well as discussing any other information about vegetarianism that may apply.

Will you join me? Will you sign the pledge, even if for one day or one week?

Roll with the grains

I love bread and rolls, especially homemade versions of both.  So when I stumbled across this recipe for multigrain rolls that included whole wheat flour, oats, and oat bran, I knew I had to make them. I have made them several times now, always freezing what I don’t need to reheat later with a subsequent meal.

The addition of nutrient packed seeds in this recipe really makes it that much better.  But let’s talk about the grains.  This recipe includes two types of whole grains – oats and wheat – and two different types of processes of oats.  These types are fascinating in their differences (a #youmightbeadietitiantobeif moment), and will be talked about in an upcoming post.  I wanted to delve into grains in general for this post, however.

The USDA recommendations for whole grains is at least 3 servings a day, or half of all the grains eaten.  A serving of grains would be equivalent to 1 slice of 100% whole wheat bread, 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice, whole wheat pasta or cooked cereal (like oatmeal) or 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal. They actually have a very handy chart that lists which items are whole grains and how much is needed to equal a serving found here.

The reason for whole grains is that they contain more nutrients than the stripped down, regular grain version. Whole grains contain the germ, endosperm and bran part of the grain. They are higher in fiber, which reduces constipation, regulates blood sugar and dissuages the feeling of hunger.  They also contain multiple B vitamins, such as thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and folate (B9), which help maintain healthy metabolism, nervous system, digestion and blood cell production. Whole grains are also one of the handful of sources of iron not from meat (non-heme).  Magnesium and selenium are also in higher density in whole grains.

When buying grain products, be sure to look at the first ingredient in the food to make sure it is a whole product (such as whole wheat). Other grains to consider adding to your diet besides oats and wheat are amaranth, quinoa, cous cous, buckwheat, wheat berries, brown rice, barley, spelt, teff and maize (corn). 

Multigrain Rolls

Printable Version

(From Annie’s Eats, which was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

Ingredients:
 
For the dough:
½ cup oat bran
¼ cup flax seeds
½ cup boiling water
1 cup warm milk (105-110˚ F)
2¼ tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
¼ cup honey
2 large eggs
2/3 cup old-fashioned (not instant) oats
7 oz. (1¼ cups) whole wheat flour
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. salt
15 oz. (about 3 cups) all-purpose flour
Oil, for greasing the bowl
 
For the topping:
1 large egg
1 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. mixed seeds (poppy, sesame, fennel, etc.)
Coarse salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

Combine the oat bran and flax seeds in a small bowl.  Pour the boiling water into the bowl and mix to moisten.  Let sit until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the milk, yeast and honey; mix briefly to blend.  With the dough hook and the mixer on low speed, mix in the eggs, oats, wheat flour, pepper, salt and oat bran mixture until combined.  Slowly add enough all-purpose flour, ½ cup at a time, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.  Continue to knead on medium-low speed, about 3 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball.  Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1½-2 hours.

Brush a baking dish lightly with oil (I used a 10-inch round baking dish).  On a lightly floured surface, turn the dough out and divide into 16 equal pieces, about 2½ ounces each.  Form each portion into a ball and place the dough balls in the baking dish, spaced slightly apart so they have room to grow together.   Cover and let rise until puffy and nearly doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk and water.  Brush lightly over the proofed rolls.  Sprinkle the unbaked rolls with the seed mixture and coarse salt.  Bake until the tops are golden, about 26 minutes.  Let cool 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Yield: About 32 small rolls or 16 large ones.

Nutritional Facts: (approximated, based on 32 small rolls, dependent on how much/type of seeds and salt you add on top of rolls)
Calories: 94; Fat: 1.6 g (0.3 g Sat, 0.7 g PolyUn, 0.5 g MonoUn); Cholesterol: 18 mg; Sodium: 300 mg; Potassium: 48 mg; Carbs: 17.2 g; Fiber 1.6 g; Sugars: 2.7 g; Protein: 3.3 g

5 Reasons to Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup

As with most additives, there is still ongoing research into the implications and complications of the ingredients, but one thing is for sure – High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is NOT GOOD.  So here are my reasons for avoiding it:

1.  HFCS is not recognized by the body like other sugars.  In fact, the brain will not indicate that one is full upon consumption of HFCS and often the consumer will overeat.  Thereby leading some to be overweight or obese when eating more products with HFCS. 

2. Products made with HFCS are high in calories and low in nutritional value.

3. No matter what those darn commercials tell you, HFCS is not natural. While it is derived from corn, after chemical treatment, it no longer continues to be anything like corn.  Even the FDA specified their natural definition and concluded that HFCS is not so.

4. Fructose is metabolized into fat and has no vitamins, minerals or enzymes to be used by the body.  The body ends up using its own micro-nutrients to assimilate it for its use.  However, the natural fructose that is contained in fruits is assimilated as the fruit contains all of the essentials in order to be broken down.  Fruit also contains fiber – HFCS, not so much.

5. The makers of HFCS claim that it has the same amount of calories as sugar, which is not a good thing in my opinion.  So, uh, if it contains the same amount, but is worse on your body, then why not just use sugar??  Oh, that’s right, because you want your products to last forever, even in landfills. 

Disclaimer: Most of these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.  They are based on my research only and the reader should conduct their own searches in finding the correct information from valuable resources (medical journals, etc.).  As always, the consumer is in charge of what they do and do not eat.  However, do your one and only body right by avoiding HFCS.

Essential Amino Acids

In my last post about fish tacos, I had marked the term essential amino acids with a star, but then forgot to elaborate on it!  That’s okay, though, as it really deserves a whole post about it. Are you ready for a small microbiology lesson?  I promise that I will try to be clean and concise.

Essential amino acids are amino acids that can only be provided by food that we eat.  Some creatures, called autotrophs, can make all 20 amino acids automatically, usually through the process of photosynthesis.  We humans are heterotrophs, which means that some of the essentials that we need must be obtained through other sources.

The essential amino acids are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine.  If we do not obtain these amino acids in our diet, even just one, our body will degrade as amino acids make up the proteins in our DNA.

So where can we get these important micro-essentials?  Complete proteins.  These consist of most animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.  If one is a vegan or a vegetarian, they can be provided through a combination of whole grains (i.e. quinoa, buckwheat, corn) and legumes (i.e. beans, nuts).

Most people should not have to worry about getting all of their essential amino acids.  But in case you were ever curious as to what the term meant, as I was, I hope this helped you!