“BEETIFUL” BEETROOT

Beetroot for sale in a market

Have you ever seen this red root vegetable at the grocery section at the supermarket and either ignored,scorned it or wondered what the hell you were going to do with it at home?

You are not alone.

This root vegetable is rich in Vitamin A,C B1and B6 and some essential minerals .

Vitamin A is great for your eyes,immune system for a healthy skin and hair,Vitamin B1 goes towards building a healthy nervous system and Vitamin B6 is needed for cell growth.

Not many people know the wonderful properties of the beetroot or the amazing ways it can be used in food preparation.Here are some ways I use it in my kitchen.

1.Added to salads.

You know the same way we add grated carrots to cole slaw and other salads,add grated beetroot or cube it and add to your favourite salad.It adds color taking your salads to a whole new kaleidoscopic level not to mention the added nutritional value you are pumping into your body.

2.Eaten raw.

Yes just like carrots or tomatoes you can eat beetroot raw.

3.In juices.

Blend it with your favourite fresh fruit juice whether pineapple,mango  or orange juice.

Just remember that if you are going to keep it out for long add something acidic like lime or lemon juice to prevent it from oxidation which changes its color.

Its is also great as a juice on its own

4.In smoothies

Add it to your favourite fruit smoothie as a color enhancer and as a natural sweetener .

5.Cooked

Though i prefer the taste of raw beetroot they can also be cooked and added to soups and stews.

And there you have gre to start adding the beetroot  to your “must have” vegetable list.

A lot of people underestimate the power of the beetroot and here are five fun facts about the beetroot that show you shouldnt,courtesy of www.lovebeetroot.co.uk

1.Taken as a juice it’s a natural cure for a hangover.

2.Its nature’s answer to Viagra,see you don’t need those little pills.

3.Eating beetroot nullify’s  garlic breath.

4.Boiling beetroot in water and then massaging the water into your scalp is a cure for dandruff

5.Apparently it can be used as a hair dye too!

Have you used beetroot in your kitchen,share some interesting ways you have eaten this beetiful vegetable.

Head over to the fun facts page here to read more.

THE ONE VEGETABLE I DO NOT LIKE…OKRA

Okra intimidates me and I do not like it at all.

This is a vegetable that has defied my culinary skills .

Image from wikimedia.org

Its furry texture and then the gooey substance it secretes once it sliced,then when i tried to cook it….i vowed never to lay my knife on it ever again or subject my saucepans to this insufferable vegetable ever.

If you know of a good Okra recipe or are a whizz at turning this vegetable into a delicacy please help.

SUGAR BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL SUGAR

If you ever read food labels you may have come across ingredients with interesting names like sucrose,fructose,glucose,lactose,saccharine,maltose,corn syrup,sorbitol,mannitol,barley malt extract,molasses or corn syrup.

All these are different names given to sugar.

But did  you know that sugar occurs naturally in some of the foods we take in, that our body after breaking down all the food we have taken in is absorbed in our bodies as a simple form of sugar-glucose?

Sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables  is usually fine,it is the “added sugar” that is found in most commercially produced foods that is usually detrimental to your health .

Foods that have sugar added to them include everything from soda,biscuits,cereal ,candy,cake to tomato sauce,ketchup,salad dressings even peanut butter.

If you are interested in cutting back on your sugars,then you may need to be checking  your food labels and start cutting back on foods that contain sugar in high amounts.

Added sugars not only contribute to weight gain as they provide “empty calories” but they have also been seen to put one at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,dental decay,obesity and put one at increased risk of heart disease.

So next time you are reading your food labels and see sugar in any of its forms  listed among the first few ingredients you may want to think twice before putting it in your shopping trolley .

RULES TO WEAN BABY BY

I will never forget the time when i have had to wean my babies,i almost hired a marching band when my kids graduated from breast milk to solid food.

Unfortunately my daughter who mis now five had to take formula at two months when i had to go back to work but my two-year old was very lucky,he breast-fed exclusively for the first 6 months.

Here are some rules which as a mum and as a nutritionist i lived by,hope they can help a new mum who is thinking of weaning.And i must say this has been inspired by one of my blog friends over at Mummytales,she writes the most hilarious posts on her mummy adventures.

1.Breast is best for the first 4-6 months

Image from www.nhs.uk

Exclusive breast-feeding for the first 6 months is a very good idea.I have noticed a difference with my daughter who with 2 months of breast-feeding had more visits to the pediatrician than with her brother who got 6 months of mummy y loving.

And if you have to get back to work before the 6 months are through,get a pump.

For some reason i could never get enough milk to leave for her  and yes there are some mothers who for some reason cannot breast feed,make sure you talk to your baby’s pediatrician for advice on what formula to give the little one and for advice.

2.One food at  a time

When introducing foods to a baby The American Academy of pediatrics recommends giving  one ingredient  at a time.

That way it will be easy to pick allergies and preferences you baby may have.

3.Variety Variety

Give your child different flavours,tastes colors to experience.

DOnt stick to one thing,make it your little culinary orchestra.from mashed potatoes to baby squash or butternut,banana rice make weaning fun for both you and baby.

I have provided two links from BBC Health and NHS that provide great advice for mothers thinking of weaning their babies.

4.If baby does not like it,move on to something different

SOmetimes babies have minds of their own and may not take to a particular food as you expected,move on to something else and introduce it at a later date.

5.No fruit juices

Pediatricians advice tha that only fluids babies should take are either milk or water,packaged fruit juices are not healthy nor do they offer nay nutritional value to your child,unless they are fruit puree that you have made yourself.

commercial or packaged fruit juices have been shown to contribute to child obesity,juvenile onset  diabetes and dental caries.

You may want to hold off on the salt ans sugar when making food for your baby until they are a little bit older.

Lastly just like an adult make sure your baby get nutrients from all the food groups,fats and carbohydrates,body building foods i.e proteins and essential  minerals and vitamins that are provided by fruits and vegetables.

Have fun and share your weaning experiences here.

5 HEALTHY SCHOOL SNACKS

Snack box filled with fruit from kidsandfruit.org.auNow after my last post you must be asking yourself what your child is going to eat ,right?

Well here are some healthy and nutritious ideas.

1.Fruits

Pick fruits that retain their quality for long even after being out of the refrigerator for a while.

I am thinking of apples,oranges,tangerines,bananas,mangoes,grapes if you can afford them too are great.

2.Sandwiches

Make sandwiches for your child,toast them if you can and you can include tomatoes,cucumber,shredded chicken or beef pieces,some cheese.Very healthy and tasty too

With sandwiches there is no lack of the fillings ,be adventurous.

3.Nuts

Kenya exports some of the best cashew nuts in the world,peanuts too are good,give a taste of them to your child if they do not have any known peanut allergies.

Sesame seeds or simsim as we call it in Kenya, is readily available in Kenya and often i have seen sesame seed bars on sale .You can even make the sesame seed bars yourself if you feel adventurous enough.

4.Fruit yoghurt

Yoghurt especiialy the one that comes in little tubs and has some real fruit in it is also great,pack it that for your child together with a spoon and its good to go.

5.Popcorn is also another alternative so long as it is not too heavily salted or oily

And last but not least do not forget your childs water bottle.

What other healthy snacking ideas can you add to this list   that your child takes to school?

WHAT IS IN YOUR CHILD’S SNACK BOX?

Packaged fruit juices,biscuits,crisps,popcorn,chocolate who has not put one or two of these items for their kid to carry to school?I know I have but think about it,how healthy is it for your child to be snacking on these items loaded with sugar,empty calories and salt?

If you took a walk to a Kenyan schools from nursery through primary at around 10am in the morning when most are on tea break and took a peek at what we pack for our children to take to school ,we would be surprised to see the amount of sugar we are feeding our children.

Most of the time,its packaged fruit juice,biscuits,chocolate ,crisps and other not so good stuff.

I remember when I went to kindergarten which thankfully was for a year,we would have milk and biscuits and on some days ,which was the high light of our week,we would be given milk and cookies.Yippee!now which five or six-year-old does not love that.

At times I have even found myself packing some of these things i am talking about for my child ..but i digress.

First on the list is fruit juice or drinks.And in Kenya with no regulatory or consumer body that keeps watch,most of them are just made of sugar,flavourings and preservatives.

In some countries before a fruit juice can be cleared for sale in the market,it needs to have a specified amount of real fruit pulp.

In 2001,the American Academy of pediatrics published a paper called The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics.

And in it they decried the overconsumption of juice among infants and young children as it was seen to contribute to obesity,malnutrition,dental caries and diarrhoea

But why lie packaged  fruit juice and fruit drinks does  tastes good(because of the sugar added),is attractively packaged  and kids love it.

Next on the list of favourite snack time treats is biscuits or cookies and what are most of them loaded with sugar and calories.Same as fruit juice and drinks bad for teeth and no nutritional value if consumed in excess.

Let us not forget the flavoured brand of crisps that have hit our supermarkets from tomato to barbecue to salt and vinegar flavours,they taste so good but how healthy if eaten every day between monday and friday?

How many of us ever make sandwiches from tomatoes ,some chicken ,cucumber,lettuce and pack them for snacking?

Or include nuts and fruits and make some real juice and give them to our children.

A lot of the eating habits we have as adults start from childhood and we need to be careful as mothers to  start of our kids early in life on healthy eating.

So next time you are sending your child off to school,put a little more thought into what is going in their snack box.

5 NUTRITION COMMANDMENTS TO LIVE BY

Fruit basket from www.xisto.com

Despite what most people think,good nutrition is just a scientific term for healthy wholesome eating.Give your body what it need to grow,rejuvenate,function and fight off disease and infection and you can live to be 100 years.

But trust human beings,we hate rules and through out our life span we often break more than a few.

Nutritionist then are just the angels on our right shoulder reminding us that our bodies need more than fried foods,soft drinks and alcohol to get by.

So for those who can’t stand nutrition speak ,here are a few rules you will never forget.

1.Fresh is best.

This is one rule you should never forget,vegetables and fruits in season are always cheap and you get the most nutritional value from them.So always remember that when shopping.

Fresh vegetables always taste best,better than anything from a can or bag for that matter.

2.Read food labels-always

Most of the time when we go shopping for anything from cereals,to tomato sauce to many food that is out of a can or box,we just automatically put it in the shopping cart without reading what ingredients are in it.

Always read your labels and if you recognize none of the ingredients used to make that tub of margarine or can of tomato paste,leave it on the shelf.

If you can’t recognize most of what is listed as ingredients  or if it reads like the periodic table in high school chemistry then it  is not good for you or your body.Put it back on the shelf

3.Your health is in your hands

“The key to good health is in your hands” may often sound cliché but yes it true.

Only you can determine what end s up on your plate and in your body ,make the right choices.

4.Nature’s best kept secrets

Mother nature has  provided herbs and spices that when added to food ,take it to a whole new level.

I am thinking ginger,garlic,rosemary,cinnamon,oregano,mint,basil .Most of them are available in almost all supermarkets either whole or in powdered form

You do not need that bottle of commercial food flavouring!

5.If its being advertised it may not be  good for your body

If you look at most food adverts,90% of the time they involve things that aren’t too good for you.

From soft drinks,to alcohol to cigarettes,and everything in between consists of items your doctor has either warned you about or asked you to take moderate amounts of.

Reason being that most of these items that make up an advertising company executive see dollar signs have no nutritional value other than the feel good factor they make you get.

I am yet to see vegetables being advertised.

So there goes,5 simple rules you can live by and if you have to break them remember take everything your doctor says is bad of you in moderation.

GARLIC GOODNESS

Legend has it that garlic bulbs were hand in houses in mediaeval times to chase away evil spirits,but nowadays in Kenyan cuisine it is increasingly gaining prominence as a tasty alternative to commercial food condiments.

But did you know that garlic also has other uses apart from using it to make pilau?

Garlic is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of vitamin B (B1 & B6), vitamin C, protein, phosphorus, selenium, calcium, potassium, iron and copper.(source www.beinghealthy.tv)

1.Garlic Bread

Toast bread,get a clove of garlic and split it lengthwise,rub lightly on  warm bread and you have garlic bread.

Nothing ever tasted so good served with  a mug of ginger tea,there is even no need for margarine or butter.

2.Use in salad dressings

Ok,we all know of the expensive range of dressing available on supermarket shelves,you can make you own vinaigrettes with just some oil,lemon juice and some minced garlic.

Garlic adds a tangy flavour to all salads.

You ration of oil to acid when making vinaigrettes is should be 2:1

3.In soups and stews

Using  garlic in your soups and stews  gives them a bold distinct falvour.Your family will be asking for second servings not to mention the health benefits they will be getting by eating more of this wonder bulb.

Do you use garlic in your kitchen,share some of the ways you use it .

DECONSTRUCTED GITHERI

Bobby Flay's Crunchy Corn and Avocado salad

Ok,you are wondering what I am talking about right…?

Deconstruction is just a fancy chefspeak for taking the individual components that make up a dish and preparing them in such a way that you get the same taste you would get if you had prepared the dish in the traditional manner.

The idea for this recipe was inspired by  an episode of Grill it!with Bobby Flay when he was preparing a corn and avocado salad.

But there is a little story that goes with the recipe too and it involves my days in high school.

Now in most Kenyan schools,githeri(a mix of fried dried maize/corn  and beans with potatoes and maybe greens too) is a staple food.Most students do not like it but they put up with it because hey,your parents did not send you tp a five-star hotel on Kenya’s coast to lounge  all day on a beach towel and sip pina-colada all day right?

Yes,they sent you to school to read.

Now students are always looking for interesting things to add to their school mens to make them more palatable and they include adding margarine,some flavourings like tomatoes sneaked from the school farm and maybe an avocado.

In my school which was an all girls school,we loved avocados and we especially loved adding them to our githeri which tasted for the most part like saw dust.

And I thought why don’t i bring back high school memories by tweaking my usual mix of maize and beans .

So here goes…

1 cup cooked beans

1 cup sweet corn

1/2 cup carrots chopped into cubes

1/2 cup red onions chopped

1/2 avocado,cubed

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 table spoons olive oil

Black pepper and salt to taste

Fresh parsley chopped for garnish

First boil the sweet corn for 3 minutes  to remove starch and then place in an ice  bath to stop the cooking process.

In a salad  bowl mix the corn,beans,onions,carrots in bowl.

Whisk the lemon juice and oil,salt and black pepper together in a  small bowl till throughly mixed pour over the salad and mix.

Add diced avocado pieces to the salad  just before you serve it  and mixing carefully so as not to mash them.

garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Here is the original recipe from Bobby Flay’s show.

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted nicoise olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed and drained again
  • 2 tablespoons roughly torn flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces blue corn tortilla chips

Directions

Gently toss the avocados, tomatoes, olives, chickpeas, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Crumble the chips over the top and serve

ALL ABOUT CHOLESTEROL

‘Cholesterol free’ is  a term that most manufacturers of cooking fats and oils use to describe their products.It is a term used to tell you the customer,that their fat or oil is good for your heart and health.

But what really is cholesterol and what does it do?

Cholesterol contrary to popular belief is present in our bodies and our bodies actually need this much villified globule of fat or lipid.We actually have this little globules  floating around in our blood plasma and the consumption of certain types of foods high in   “bad” cholesterol  is what is bad for your health.Consumption of certain foods (e.g peanuts)  that have the “good” kind of cholesterol is beneficial to our bodies.

Cholesterol then is actually a good thing because the body needs it  in the production of certain bodily functions like  bile acids,production of sex hormones and conversion of sunshine to vitamin D.

Low density lipoprotein  LDL is the bad kind while high density lipoprotein or HDL is the good kind.

You maybe wondering why we are referring to lipoproteins when we should be talking about cholesterol…it is because cholesterol is carried in our bodies and into other parts of our bodies by lipo proteins.

Foods rich in fibre will help lower your levels of cholesterol and drinking orange juice(real orange juice not that form a packet)increases the good kind of cholesterol.Garlic also when included in your salad dressing or when cooking food also helps lower your cholesterol levels .

Vitamin A,C and E that are present in foods like papaya,carrots,pumpkin,most citrus fruits and nuts like peanuts ,almonds and sunflower seeds also may help moderate levels of cholesterol in your body.

Foods that contain LDL,the  bad kind of cholesterol and which should be consumed in moderate  amounts include chicken liver,cow liver,meat,eggs and butter