Friday, September 24, 2010

Sweet Potatoes with Banana and Pecan Topping

Blueberries, almonds, and salmon are always at the top of superfood lists. One food that often gets overlooked but deserves a mention is the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a powerful source of several essential vitamins and healthy carbohydrates that can lead to a healthier heart and a better mood. If you want to support your Emotional well being with one hearty vegetable, the sweet potato is a great way to go.

Let’s Start with the Heart

Sweet potatoes are an amazing source of fiber, potassium and other nutrients that have been shown to prevent heart disease. One study showed that eating sweet potatoes could lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 29%, and eating just two a week may cut your risks of suffering a heart attack by as much as 86%.
Fiber is essential for a healthy heart, and sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of dietary fiber available. Fiber helps you maintain a healthy weight because it fills you up and keeps you satisfied, and a healthy weight is one of the keys to a healthy heart. Fiber also scrapes various passages in the body, clearing out artery-clogging plaque build-up.

The Antidiabetic/Antidepressant Connection

Many people don’t realize that blood sugar and mood are very closely connected. When blood sugar spikes and then crashes, depression can often result, and, if you become hooked on this rush and crash cycle, it can have serious long-term effects on both your emotional and physical health.
Emotionally, blood sugar issues can cause anxiety, depression, and addiction. When blood sugar is constantly rushing, it can make you feel jittery, nervous, and “on edge.” When blood sugar crashes, it can send you into a depressed mood as you lose all energy and become extremely fatigued. Over time, this cycle can cause adrenal fatigue as the body fights to maintain equilibrium in the face of such stress, and you can become addicted to the cycle because more sugar sends you rushing back up again out of a crash—only to bring you crashing down again soon.
This cycle has physical effects as well. It can build up insulin resistance, a major factor in the development of diabetes. Insulin is a hormone designed to carry sugar from the blood to the cells, providing them with vital nutrients. Diabetes is a serious disease that can have negative and even dangerous physical effects.
Where does the sweet potato come in? Animal studies have shown that the sweet potato helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and lower the chances of insulin resistance. It has been called an “antidiabetic” because of its abilities to create stable blood sugar, but it could also be called a natural antidepressant for the same reason.
When your blood sugar is stabilized, your mood is steadier and calmer. You’re able to focus better and think more clearly. Eating a sweet potato can keep you feeling energized and elevate your mood for as many as three hours afterward. You’ll also avoid that sugar rush and crash cycle that does so much damage to your mood and to your body.
Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin B9, or Folate. Folate is an essential support for your brain’s ability to produce the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, as well as other vital bodily functions.

Other Reasons the Sweet Potato is Super Veggie!

The sweet potato is rich in vitamin vitamin C, manganese, fiber, vitamin B9 (Folate) and iron. Vitamin C, Folate and beta carotene (vitamin A) are three of the top cancer-fighting nutrients, and fiber is also a cancer-fighting agent. It is believed that as many as 30% of cancer cases could have been prevented by practicing healthier diets, and sweet potatoes would be one way to implement those changes.
Sweet potatoes also support good eyesight and help with weight control. One eight-ounce sweet potato can provide women with almost 1/5 their daily protein requirement and enough iron to support healthy levels for two-and-a-half days.
Whether you’re interested in improving your mood or enhancing your heart health, re-energizing during your mid-afternoon slump or fighting cancer, the sweet potato is one superfood that deserves a shot.

1 to 2 pounds sweet potatoes, washed
2 medium bananas, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons brown sugar or less if preferred
walnuts or almonds *optional

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray.

Using a fork, poke several holes in the sweet potatoes. Microwave until the potatoes are soft, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the microwave oven and set aside. Cut lengthwise in halves and when cool to the touch, scoop out the potatoe with a spoon, and set aside in a bowl, reserving the jackets.

Place the banana halves in the prepared baking dish above. Bake uncovered until the fruit is soft and juicy, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour the orange juice over the bananas. Stir to scrape the drippings and mash the bananas well.

In a large mixing bowl, add the bananas, sweet potatoes, spices, extract and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, or hand masher,  blend until smooth.

Transfer to the reserved jackets and return to the oven. *Top with nuts and bake until warmed through sprinkle with more cinnamon.

Printable Recipe

Monday, September 20, 2010

Grilled Potato Wedges Heart Healthy Low Cholesterol

In 18th century, potatoes were introduced to North America  via Irish immigrants, however their origin is
South America. Over 7,000 years ago, potatoes were first cultivated in the Andes Mountains. Many kinds
of potatoes are seen today, but the most common of these are the russet, round white, and the red
potato. Potatoes are tough and durable, store well, and have an impressive nutritional content including
being a rich source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Like other fruits and vegetables, potatoes are a
low calorie food and are free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium. However, the leaves and stems of a potato plant are poisonous and may cause illness when ingested. We gave come along way in eating this versatile vegetable, of course most famous for being fried. Here is a very healthy alternative~

You can use any number of herbs or spices to season the potatoes:

4 medium red potatoes and/or sweet potatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon seasalt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, parsley, basil and rosemary
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Scrub potatoes thoroughly with a brush. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into quarters.

Cook potatoes, covered, in a small amount of boiling  water  in the microwave for 10 minutes. Drain.

In a small bowl combine garlic, olive oil, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir in enough water to make a mixture that's easy to brush on potatoes. Brush over potatoes; place in grill basket or on a sprayed pieces of aluminum foil on top of the  gas grill with slits in it. Grill  on oil sprayed aluminum foil, or foil tray with holes, till crispy and browned.

When choosing potatoes, be sure they are firm, smooth, and the color they are supposed to be.
Softness, a green tinge, or wrinkly skin may indicate a potato that is past its prime.
PreparationPotatoes should be thoroughly washed with clean tap water and scrubbed lightly before preparation.
Any sprouts or eyes growing from the potato should be cut out. The skin can be removed or
left on depending on use.

Common methods of preparation include boiling, baking, microwaving, mashing, frying and grilling.
Consuming baked and grilled potatoes with the skin left on provides the most nutrients.

Monday, September 13, 2010

White Bean Dip, Healthy Appetizer

Beans are a great source of protein, the B group of vitamins, folic acid, iron and starch. They are also packed full of healthy fibre, which cuts down levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol in your blood, thus protecting you from heart disease.   Here is a quick recipe that adds some love to your diet and heart!

1 can (or made fresh from dried) 15 oz white (cannellini) beans,  or use black, red, or chick peas rinsed and drained
8 garlic cloves, roasted
2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped spinach

In a blender or food processor, add the beans of your choice, roasted garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Blend until smooth ( I love to leave the chunks in so just pulse a few seconds), fold in spinach and herbs. Serve on top of  slices of toasted  baquette bread Italian bread or French bread.  This is also excellent placed on top of red (sweet) bell peppers cut into squares

Legumes are one of the most versatile, nutritious and inexpensive foods available. You can buy legumes dried or already cooked in the can. If you buy them dried, you need to cook and soak them first. To save time, use the quick-soak method. Place washed beans in a large pot with three times the volume of cool water. Bring beans and water to a boil for two minutes, then remove from the heat. Cover and let stand for one hour, then drain and rinse in a colander.

My favorite way to make dried fresh legumes is to use the crockpot overnight. Wash them, cover with water, turn on the pot and go to bed. Next morning there are beans ready!

Plastic Filled Christmas Ornaments

The skies the limit with imagination with these plastic filled Christmas ornaments! Using things I find around the house and outside t...