Tuesday, 30 October 2007

HotM 9: Holiday Food

Ilva first brought up the idea for Heart of the Matter to me last March, when I wrote this post. Back then, it didn’t have a name and was just an idea being tossed around between blog friends - something to try, to put out there for the world to find, and to see what happened. Back then, I was smack in the middle of ramping up to finish my degree and trying find some semblance of balance in my life, so we kept putting it off until a day “when I wouldn’t be quite so busy” (ha ha ha). Unfortunately, my life just kept getting busier and busier...the actual writing of my dissertation began, I was planning a wedding, and trying to apply for future jobs. So when she told me about Joanna - and who more perfect to carry this idea forward than someone who had experienced the devastation and lifestyle changes that a brush with heart disease requires (read Joanna’s story here) - I told them to go ahead without me, with hopes that I would be able to join them later.

Between the two of them, these lovely ladies have turned this little idea into a true force – a resource for those of us seeking heart-healthy recipes and a healthy lifestyle while maintaining a focus on delicious and interesting food. The site is filled not only with helpful links, thoughts and recipes, but also encouraging words and a sense of community, providing a forum to discuss the ever-present threat of this rapidly growing disease. And I, dear readers, am lucky enough to be able to join with them now as host for November’s Heart of the Matter – Eating for Life (HotM 9). With the all of the many holidays coming up in the next few months: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, St. Andrews Day, or whatever other holiday(s) you may celebrate in the upcoming months, we decided that it would be good to get recipes together early so that we would have heart-healthy alternatives (or additions) to our normal holiday fare. So the theme for November will be: Holiday Food.

What do you think of when you think of holiday foods? I think of family recipes – for Thanksgiving in the U.S., what comes to mind is the crisp skin of a roasted turkey, sweet potatoes studded with tiny marshmallows and sitting in a pool of real maple syrup, gooey and cheesy artichoke dip, sweet-tart cranberry sauce and tender, moist stuffing - nearly all of it dripping with butter, full of cholesterol and fat or sugar. In December, as Christmas grows nearer, there is spiked eggnog, homemade Christmas cookies and indulgent mincemeat pies. There has to be equally delicious alternatives to some of these treats – let’s make them so that we can enjoy them without feeling guilty, and knowing that we’re doing a good thing for the hearts of our loved ones as well as our own. Whatever the holidays you’ll be celebrating, think about the food you’d like to have then.

Can you re-work an old holiday family favorite to make it heart-healthy? Do you have Christmas treats that you like to give as gifts (for what better gift than the gift of health?)? Do you have a seriously good rendition of a classic holiday dish that just happens to be good for you, or have you spent long hours perfecting one? Why not share it with us all? And while you’re at it, if you’d like to, tell us a little bit about the holiday you’re cooking for and what it means to you.

You can start submitting your entries as soon as you’d like – simply send me the link to your entry at my email address (mphilli4 AT uoregon DOT edu) by November 18th. This is a little earlier than the usual deadline (the 23rd), but since Thanksgiving is on the 22nd for those of us in the U.S., I’d like to get them rounded up for you by the 20th in case there are Thanksgiving recipes so you still have time to run to the store when you see that perfect heart-healthy recipe you’d like to bring to your own table. Plus, having all the recipes in by this time, especially Christmas recipes, leaves us already prepared with healthy menus as those busy holiday days encroach when we’re strapped for time between shopping and eating and holiday parties (Ilva will be hosting a fabulous theme full of quick and easy recipes for HotM in December, just to make sure we all have a repertoire of heart-healthy foods to use as a defense against those nights when we’re exhausted from running back and forth to and from just such occasions).

In your post, make a link to my site, The Accidental Scientist, or to the HotM site if you’d like, so that your readers can find the event and see the round up when it comes out. If you’re new to this (like I am!), the rules to eating a heart-healthy diet are nicely laid out in Joanna’s Basic Rules, and we ask that you consider this as a one-entry event, ie. that you don’t use your entry for other events as well. Feel free to browse the other recipes on the HotM site for inspiration if you’d like – we can’t wait to see what you have to share!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

HotM 8: Baking round up

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Well, as usual, I'm running to catch up with myself. This month's excuse is that it's half term, and we've been busy - but who isn't busy with everyday life? Apologies, especially to those of you who responded quickly to my cri de coeur for help with low cholesterol heart-healthy baking.

That means NO butter and not much marge. Not many egg yolks. No cream. No cheese to speak of. Not a lot of oil, even if it is olive oil. You see the problem. Off the top of my head, we're down to meringues and macaroons. As we're all after a healthier lifestyle, and as SO many food bloggers like to bake, I feel sure that you've all got at least one delicious yet low-fat cake or biscuit recipe that you use in your kitchen ... you'd be doing me, and countless others, a huge favour if you'd share it.

Almost immediately, I had an email from Janette (no blog link attached):

I don't have a recipe but I do have a book suggestion.
Only seen it at Amazon and on the shelf at the bookstore
and library...

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes
for Cupcakes that Rule by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope
Romero, and Sara Quin (Paperback - Sep 26, 2006)

Now I know that there are people who are irritated by the stridency of the vegan bloggers network, but this month I noticed particularly how vegans have got low cholesterol baking cracked - no butter, no egg yolks ... all the same problems. And anyway better by far than the sour message I received (which I can't now find, so I think I must have deleted it) saying the best thing to do was not to eat baked goods. Yes, well, thanks for that. Luckily, most bloggers like nothing better than an excuse to get out their baking pans ... so here, without further ado, are their delicious - and heart-friendly - results.

Bee started by making her own nut butter (actually, a really good idea, just look at the ingredient list of your favourite peanut butter if you don't believe me ... full of stuff you can hardly believe is necessary). She used this to make heart-healthy almond cookies, flavoured with cranberry and orange ... but this master recipe could just as easily be used to make peanut, cashew or hazelnut biscuits.

Lakshmi at The Yum Blog says that Zero Butter low fat cooking opens up a whole world of amazing possibilities - Cakes and Brownies can graduate from a “once in a while” indulgences to a routine snacks. She does this by using apple puree instead of butter ... in this post producing healthy chocolate brownies. Not just a one-off, but an approach that you can adapt to all your favourite indulgent recipes.

Gillian Law (no blog) sent this link to Molly Cake, a moist and fruity cake which contains no refined sugar or fat. It’s also free of eggs and dairy products, which means it’s suitable for vegans, or anyone trying to cut down a little. Once tested, all who have tried it want the recipe.

Check out Ilva's grape foccacia ... this is an end-of-summer treat for Italians, to use up the last of the harvest. Ilva (my HotM co-host) says you don't need a recipe, you can use your own bread dough - but she gives one, as well as beautiful photographs.

Nupur's banana bread
is healthier than most, because it uses fiber-rich whole-wheat flour and the fat is mainly peanut butter, a rich source of protein, micronutrients and "good" fats. More egg whites instead of any yolk, and apple sauce. Chocolate chips, too.

Here's a link to my home-made vanilla essence. Mine is still in the early stages, although it will be ready in time to use for baking in December. I've included it because when you take the egg yolks out of your baking, you're taking quite a bit of the taste too ... this is a lovely way to put in a vibrant fresh taste.

Labelga in Brussels gives a recipe for lovely chewy oatcakes with dried fruit ... it's an obvious way forward for those watching cholesterol, yet many off-the-shelf products, and even recipes are not that healthy. This one uses olive oil and no eggs, the moisture comes from the fruit itself, which needs a good long soak (I'd use fruit juice rather than water, and perhaps tea for the spelt ...).

Over at Foodblogga you'll find Heart Healthy Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones - wonderful flavours, and using cottage cheese rather than apple sauce because of an unfortunate attempt at apple sauce muffins.

Dhivya at Culinary Bazaar has baked us a delicious ricotta dessert with berries - again, egg whites only, low fat cheese, plenty of fruit.

Check out Zlamushka's Polish carrot cake. She uses margerine (fine, there are some good heart-healthy ones out there), and the cake is packed with fruit and vegetables, as well as whole flour. The icing is tofu and honey with vanilla or jasmine essence.

You'lll find cranberry and pistachio biscotti at Fun and Food - something lovely to dip into your coffee without feeling guilty!

Over at Tasty Palettes you'll find a guilt-free apple crisp ... one of the comments says that it looks like apple crumble, and that's something my son really loves, so this is definitely one to try. Apple sauce instead of butter in the topping - clever.

Christine's daughter in law gave her a useful tip which she passes on to us at Christine Cooks - one banana may be substituted for one egg in most baked vegan recipes. And that's what she's done in her experimental chocolate brownie recipe. Don't they look good?

Chris at Mele Cotte immediately thought about using vegan recipes for this baking challenge, and modified a peach cake recipe. Her post describes how the first experiment didn't really work out - but she took this version to the office to share. The exquisite decoration is halved grapes.

Lauren bakes apple (or pear) muffins to take to work to snack on in the afternoon (SO much better than a Mars bar!). This is her first entry for Heart of the Matter, and she says she's been a long-time lurker on various food blogs - so thanks for sharing, Lauren, and welcome!

Linda has made Kruidkoek - that's Dutch spice cake. It's one of those cakes that's better made a day or two in advance, but Linda confesses to eating her third fresh slice as she was posting! Yoghurt, honey, flour, muscovado sugar, spices - and that's all.

Deeba is passionate about baking, and has made a spicy apple crumble using oats and marge for the topping.

I found Tanna's email apologising for being late when I started work on this roundup. So I emailed back and said that I was even later, and please would she send her post - her baking is a constant inspiration, and I know I'm not the only one to be inspired. This month, she's made blueberry polenta muffin tops. Mmm

SO many good things to try ... thank you ALL for taking part. This one has been especially good for me, because it's an area where I haven't had much success, where I feel I need a few fresh ideas - and I've certainly got lots to work on now. Let me know if the links don't work, or if I've left you out, as my usual system didn't work so well this month.

And watch out for the announcement of next month's Heart of the Matter, from Michelle (who has joined us as co-host) at The Accidental Scientist ... I'll leave her to tell you what we've decided on!

Monday, 1 October 2007

HotM 8: Baking

Baking, for those watching their cholesterol and seeking a heart-healthy diet, is a minefield. I am the sort of blogger who would enthusiastically join the Daring Bakers - but all that cooking we can't eat ... it seems a little crazy. All those eggs, all that butter. There's only so much bread you can eat.

In the three years since Lucius's heart attack, I've found delicious ways round lots of the problems - what to do instead of cheese, how to make delicious heart-healthy puds that feel indulgent - but I've never really cracked cake. Or biscuits. I bought by mail-order a book called Low-fat Baking by Linda Fraser. I've never cooked anything from it, or felt remotely tempted to do so. I nearly threw it out last month. Now, this October, I'm giving it one last chance. And I'm going to share the results with you.

You'll have realised by now that this post is a cry for help ... we're looking for heart-healthy baking recipes. That means NO butter and not much marge. Not many egg yolks. No cream. No cheese to speak of. Not a lot of oil, even if it is olive oil. You see the problem. Off the top of my head, we're down to meringues and macaroons. As we're all after a healthier lifestyle, and as SO many food bloggers like to bake, I feel sure that you've all got at least one delicious yet low-fat cake or biscuit recipe that you use in your kitchen ... you'd be doing me, and countless others, a huge favour if you'd share it.

I'm sure many of you know the "rules" by now, but here's a recap: all you have to do is to send me the link to your entry at joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk before 23 October, make a link to Joanna's Food and to the HotM blog as well if you like. I'll post the round up on both blogs. In order to keep the focus on heart health we ask you to consider this as a one-entry event, i.e. we prefer that you don't use your post for other events as well.

I'm really looking forward to reading all your recipes and tips ...

PS you CAN include bread if you like, but I think it would be better if we saved that for another time