Friday, May 28, 2021

Brain Boosting Bites


It's a list of foods I won't forget as I'm making a habit of including these in my menu. Salmon, dark green leafy vegetables, berries and walnuts make the list. Trout, cabbage, broccoli fit the bill.

A combination of foods in the Mediterranean and DASH diets may improve mind function as well as protect the heart. These include:

  • Seafood (twice per week)
  • Olive Oil
  • Lots of vegetables
  • Whole grains (three daily)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts
  • Poultry

Foods to limit include:

  • Processed pastries and sweets
  • Red meat
  • Butter and margarine
  • Fried foods

Above is my meal with many of the foods that met the cut. There's salmon, spinach, whole grain bread and strawberries. The salmon and par-cooked potatoes are seasoned with the spice turmeric. Benefits of the spice are encouraging in that a compound in turmeric may help fight brain degeneration.

To bake the salmon, I first greased a pan with olive oil. I seasoned the salmon fillet with salt and black pepper, then with turmeric. Placing the fillet skin side up in the baking dish, I baked in a 400 F. degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 145 F. The potato quarters are par cooked, seasoned with turmeric and baked in a separate pan greased with olive oil. 

June is Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month. Learn why good nutrition plays a role in brain health at  

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Naked & Unimpaired Grains (Loose the Packaging)


I'm not here to teach how to read labels on packaged cereals, breads and snack foods. I am not a connoisseur. While I've nothing against a packaged tortilla, a sandwich on grainy bread or a crispy cracker-I'm not one to eat them every day. I have concerns and questions:

After 50 years of eating processed and convenience foods, are we healthier than we might have been without?

Have we shaped a habit in our school kids to choose a packaged grain product (i.e., crustless peanut butter sandwich, pop tart, cereal bar or pancake) versus making it from scratch?

Does enriching breads and cereals with some nutrients (but not all) in proportions unlike the original grain create an imbalance? 

Are synthetic vitamins and nutrients creating allergies?

Has the lack of diversity in grains increased food intolerance and sensitivities? 

Just as I choose a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, I choose a variety of whole grains daily. My grain choices this week included rye, spelt, purple barley, brown and red rice, fonio (a millet), farro, oats, corn, red and white wheat. I so enjoy the variety of whole grains and testing these whole in main dishes and sides and ground berries (flours) in breads and baked goods.

I challenge you to try a new whole grain in a recipe.

That's purple barley snack cake pictured above. Here's the same barley in a delicious main dish:

Purple Barley Bouillabaisse

(5 Servings)

Heat olive oil in pan on stove-top.  Add onion, garlic, peppers, saffron and sausage.  Break up sausage and stir periodically until sausage is brown.  Drain and press out visible fat.
2 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch saffron
1/3 cup colorful sweet peppers, seeded and diced
6 ounce sausage

Return sausage mix to pan with hot chicken stock.  Stir in sherry and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and add barley, tomatoes and paste.  Simmer covered for about 45 minutes, until barley is tender.
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cups sherry
5 ounce purple or black barley
10 ounce petite diced tomatoes in juice, no added salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Just before serving, add peas and shrimp.  Cook for about 3 minutes,  until shrimp is pink and heated throughout. 

4 ounce raw peeled shrimp
3/4 cup peas, frozen



Saturday, May 1, 2021

In Pursuit of Minimally Processed Foods


I thought I understood what it meant to "Eat Real Foods". I'm a cheerleader for made from scratch foods, full of seasonal produce, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean protein. Then came the Ultra Processed Food critique with specific classifications of foods based on processing. 

After years of neglecting processing of foods in the studies, evidence emerges showing an association between ultra processed foods and many non communicable diseases. The NOVA classification system, in a report from the United Nations, breaks down food into 4 classifications of processing:

  1. Unprocessed and minimally processed foods, include fruits, seeds, milk, leaves, roots, eggs, whole beans and grains and meat. This allows for processes that include drying, crushing, grinding, roasting, boiling, non-alcoholic fermentation, pasteurization, freezing, placing in containers and vacuum packaging.
  2. Processed culinary ingredients, include oils, butter, lard, salt, sugar. In isolation these are unbalanced, but rarely are eaten alone. Use these with Group I but not overuse.
  3. Processed foods, include canned vegetables, fruit and fish, fresh bread and cheese, processed meats to include bacon, ham and pastrami.
  4. Ultra-Processed foods include packaged snack, margarines and spreads, baby formula, ice cream, sweetened cereals, soft drinks, mass produced bread, energy drinks, fruited yogurt, stick meat and foods made with colors, flavors, thickeners, gels, emulsifiers and other sugars like fructose, fruit juice concentrates, maltodextrin, lactose and dextrose. 

Aim for mostly Group I, some Group 2, a little Group 3 and few Group 4 Foods.

While I'm not entirely clear on where some of the foods in my menu plan fall, I understand the concept. Here's my version of a recipe I made with mostly Group 1 and 2 ingredients. Had it been last fall, my canned pumpkin (Group 3) would have been a seasonal fresh squash or pumpkin (Group 1). There are no Group 4 (Ultra-processed foods) in this recipe.

Whole Grain Barley, Wheat & Pumpkin Bread

(10 Servings) 

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and lemon zest.
1 cup barley flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange zest
Add apricots to dry ingredients, stirring to coat pieces with flour.
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
In bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar for 3 minutes.
2 eggs
7 tablespoon brown sugar
Add oil, applesauce and pumpkin to mixer bowl. Slowly mix to combine.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened (homemade)
1 cup pumpkin puree
Add dry ingredients to bowl, mixing only until combined.
Line a 8 1/2 X 4 inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Grease with olive oil spray. Bake in 325 F oven for 30 minutes. Rotate pan, cover with foil and bake 15 more minutes.
Cool in pan on cooling rack 1 hour. Invert pan and remove parchment paper.
This recipe is my take on Roxana Julllarpat's Barley Pumpkin Bread in her new book Mother Grains.