HATE CABBAGE? NOT THIS QUICK, COLORFUL”CRUCIFER-IED” MEDLEY!

If you hate cabbage or eat it only on St. Patrick’s Day, boiled to death with corned beef, you’re really missing out on a great tasting and healthy veggie.

Corned beef can stand up to boiling — it actually needs long, moist heat — but that same cooking method kills the taste of veggies dead in their tracks.  Then there’s the smell of cabbage: it’s those sulphur-containing “glucosinolates”, real workhorse phytochemical compounds that fight cancer cells and have anti-inflammatory benefits.  The baggage they bring however, is their “aroma”.

No big.  Stir-frying them and adding some flavorings, even just a little salt and pepper, tames all that and makes cabbage dishes delicious.  Example: before thinking you don’t like cabbage, do you ever get “moo-shu chicken” from your local Chinese take-out?  It’s absolutely loaded with cabbage — usually napa cabbage, but it’s one of the cruciferous veggies, nonetheless, and a great one.  See what some flavorings can do?  That’s often on the oily side though, and you don’t have to have all that added oil for cabbage to taste good.  This recipe uses very little and makes a lot.

Quick, Colorful& & Cruciferous Stir-Fry Medley

Recipe: serves 4 if you use 3 cups of shredded veggies plus the onion.  I even bought pre-shredded veggies – it’s colorful. It’s a little more pricey, so I usually do my own chopping, slicing, and shredding, but last night the convenience really felt good.  I only had to slice the onion.  Ahhh…

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil per 3 cups shredded (or thinly sliced) veggies, tightly packed. Use one type or a combo of these:  red and green cabbage, carrots, celery, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale. I like color so I used red and green cabbage and carrots.
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly.
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds.
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the oil on medium, then add the onion and cook, stirring and tossing, until they “sweat”.  Add the rest of the veggies and toss to coat, then keep stirring them up, until they’re the desired degree of tenderness. Add salt and pepper – but taste first though – you’ll need less salt than you think.

Optional substitutions for caraway seeds:

• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
• 1 tablespoon of hoisin, plum, or soy sauce
• 1 or 2 cloves of smashed garlic (add during cooking so it doesn’t burn)
• 1 tablespoon grated parmesan or pecorino

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DRINK BEER, LIVE LONGER, MORE OR LESS

But maybe a little less than you thought.  Lots of people see holidays like St. Patrick’s Day as the a day when getting drunk doesn’t seem so awful, because:

a) it’s tradition to do it,
b) people almost EXPECT to do it, and
c) you feel almost left out if you DON’T do it.

I had a patient once who recalled his family’s St. Patrick’s Day tradition, “it’s a rule: you go to the parade, then you come home and abuse yourself.” A case of beer PER PERSON (that’s four 6-packs or 24 cans) during the course of the day was not unusual, “and that wasn’t the only stuff we drank, either.”

Moderate drinking seems to be fine (see below) but there’s no way this kind of drinking is moderate and certainly not healthy, even if it’s “typical” for some St. Patrick’s Day.

What’s “moderate drinking”? There really are definite numbers here. The feds describe “moderate drinking” as: 2 drinks for a man, one for a woman. What’s “one drink”?

• 12-ounce can or bottle of beer
• 5-ounce glass of wine
• 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

So that case of beer should have last about 12 days for a man, and 3-1/2 weeks for a woman. That’s the bad news for beer drinkers. For wine drinkers, you may want to check your pour. Five ounces is likely less than you think – it means 5 drinks per average bottle or white or red.

Booze: The good news

Moderate drinking, as defined above, seems to be associated with a longer life. The 90+ study was initiated in 2003 to study the common factors about people who live to be 90 years and older. There’s reason for this study – the nonagenarians are a fast-growing group. Baby boomers will likely contribute to their expansion in the years to come.

The 90+ year-old folks who have one or two drinks per day tended to live longer than those who abstained. Ditto for moderate coffee drinking, which has been defined as two to three cups daily. As for why moderate drinkers live longer, that’s till up for grabs.

This is an “association” study – it cannot show that moderated drinking of booze or coffee CAUSE you to live longer. Studies like these can only generate a hypothesis. Still, at least drinking moderately isn’t associated with negatives like earlier death.

It could be that people who drink moderately also aren’t taking take medication that is incompatible with alcohol. Therefore, the alcohol consumption acts as a screener or “marker” of people who are healthier to start. Same with coffee drinking. If you have high blood pressure, you may be told to stay away from caffeine, associating abstainers with poorer health.

“Beer-Bank”? It’s No-Deposit, No Return 

With booze, unfortunately there is no “banking” your beers ahead of time so you can enjoy a big blast on St. Patrick’s Day – or on any random Friday night. It’s two drinks per day, use them or lose them. If you know you’re going to drink more than that, keep it to no more than one drink per hour. The liver just can’t metabolize alcohol more quickly than that. Even at that rate, you may still not pass a breathalyzer, so don’t drink and drive. Period.  And please, holiday or not, legal drinking only, not for kids.

By the way, plenty of other factors were also associated with longer life, including daily exercise and working on hobbies of interest. Sounds like those who are enjoying themselves more also tend to live longer.

Silver lining for moderate drinkers/teetotalers

Keep your drinking sensible and instead of kissing the Blarney Stone, you’ll kiss hangovers good-bye and feel great the next day.  Cheers!

I TRIED “POT” & GOT A LEAN, HEART-HEALTHY BEEF DINNER!

No cannabis involved.  I’m talking about making my first pot roast and it turned out great.

I’ve written earlier about my “grill-phobia” and how I conquered it. Pot roast was my next cooking obstacle to overcome.

February is Heart Month

It’s also cold, we’re tired of winter, and we’re getting grumpy. We really want comfort food. And we want the kind of comfort food that doesn’t require too much prep work, either. But we need heart-healthy, too.

I mentioned this dilemma to my 90-year-old mother and she suggested a pot roast. I always loved the one she made but figured it was beyond my culinary skills.

Pot roast checked all my boxes though – it’s good comfort food, for sure. Thanks to some great info from the Beef Checkoff folks, at www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com, I learned it was lean (go for a boneless shoulder roast). As for the fuss-factor, the prep time was only about 30 minutes, then the oven does the rest. “Value added”: it lasts for more than one meal, tastes even better the next day, and has lots of veggies, so even more heart-healthy.

I decided on a recipe from the New York Times that we’d clipped out several years ago but never made. It was “adapted from Gavin Kayser” but I adapted it further, based on what I liked and what I had on hand. Here’s how I tweaked it:

• I cut some fat. Instead of 3 tablespoons of canola oil to brown the meat and 3 tablespoons of butter to sear the veggies, I used one scant tablespoon of olive oil for the meat and a dash more for the veggies. I grew up in an olive oil home and I see no reason to change.
• Instead of 8 cremini mushrooms, I used a  10-oz package. Mushrooms add lots of umami and leftover raw mushrooms might go to waste anyway.
• I  only had a cup of red wine instead of the called-for 1½ cups, so I didn’t open another bottle.  And it was merlot, not cabernet. It worked.
• 4 cups of beef broth would have overflowed the pot, so I made do with about 2 cups instead, unsalted.  I’d salt to taste later.

One more little tweak: I added ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon. Mom said, “When you cook with tomatoes, add a little cinnamon. It really adds flavor.” Done.

Recipe: Dr. Keith’s Pot Roast

A 3-pound boneless beef shoulder roast (that I got on sale!) works well.  It’s lean, stands up to long, moist cooking, and doesn’t need baby-sitting. Here’s the procedure, and don’t be afraid to change it. It’s forgiving:

Chop your veggies:

  • 2 red onions, cut into quarters
  • 4 carrots and 3 celery stalks, and 2 medium parsnips, each cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 rutabaga (yellow turnip), about a pound, peeled and cut into about 12 chunks. Not too small or they’ll break up.
  • 10-oz. cremini (a.k.a. baby portabella) mushrooms, halved
  • 1 head of garlic: cut the top off to expose the cloves but keep the head intact

Get your seasonings and flavorings together:

  • ¾ cup (a 6-oz can) of tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves, 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 cup of red wine – use what’s open
  • 2-3 cups of unsalted beef broth

HINT: Do the above prep the night before.  I did — it made the actual cooking faster & a blast!

  • Sprinkle the roast with 1½ teaspoons of salt and a good amount of pepper.
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large oven-safe pot (I used a 6-quart Dutch oven) to medium-high heat, and add the meat. 3 or 4 minutes on each side sears it. Remove the meat and set it aside.
  • Add another modest dash of olive oil and lower the heat to medium. Add the vegies, including the garlic, and stir it around to coat it and then occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and mix it in well. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes.
  • Add bay leaves, rosemary, wine, and broth and stir occasionally, until it seems like there’s a thick gravy, about 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 340 degrees.
  • Add the meat back, including any meat juices on the plate. (Hint: I removed about half the veggies before adding the meat, then added the veggies on top, so the meat was really surrounded by veggies top and bottom.)
  • Cover the pot and cook for about 2½ hours. Then let the roast sit for at least 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and rosemary and squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and back into the pot.

The tomato paste (super-nutritious) and broth worked their magic here for a tasty, rich sauce. Salt to taste, but not until you’re ready to serve it — there’s so much flavor you won’t need to add much.  Since the oven was on, I roasted a bunch of veggies to go with it.  Meal’s complete!

Would I make this again?  Big “yes”, in a healthy heartbeat.

Find even more recipes for pot roast and other lean beef dishes at: https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/recipes

IF YOU FORGOT TO BUY CHOCOLATE, YOU MAY NEED TO EAT MORE!

If your significant other likes chocolate, you probably give it on Valentine’s day, but some science says eating it every day might help your brain function better. Chocolate and its components have been studied a fair amount in recent years, from its effects on blood flow through arteries to performance on cognitive tests.

What exactly does chocolate do to our brains?

This scientific review looked at studies on chocolate’s effects on our mood and found “very reliable effects of chocolate and chocolate components” on lessening mental fatigue and negative moods. Even better: the best effects came from eating “whole chocolate” rather than in pill form or in a supplement-type drink.
The review also looked at studies that showed acute effects of chocolate on brain function. Performance on cognitive tests that measured factors like working memory, attention, and reaction time were improved after giving test subjects single doses of “cocoa flavanols” – the antioxidants in chocolate. Not all studies showed such benefits, and to be fair, most studies used a fairly high dose of cocoa flavanols.

There is also a host of population studies that show “associations” between chocolate consumption and better health, less heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc., but these are non-specific and just serve to generate clinical trials.

How does chocolate do all that?

The exact mechanism is still unclear. What we DO know is that eating flavanol-rich chocolate and cocoa improves things like blood flow, blood pressure, and insulin sensitivity. Cocoa flavanols also have been shown to stimulate areas of the brain that deal with working memory, so they appear to be biologically active, and positively so.
It’s also possible that the caffeine and theobromines in chocolate are involved. Although caffeine can increase blood pressure, but theobromine seems to overcome this effect, helping reduce blood pressure.

Cocoa flavanols have long been known to improve blood flow. Better blood flow to the brain may be responsible for the cognitive effects. Improved circulation may also contribute to improved insulin sensitivity, among other benefits. Still, there’s a lot more we need to know before saying anything conclusive, but it’s good to know chocolate has some good things going for it besides taste.

What chocolate has the most antioxidants?

Definitely it’s plain, unsweetened cocoa powder, and not the type that the label says was “processed with alkali” or “Dutched”. That process pretty much destroys the antioxidants. Cocoa powder has almost no fat in it, either, so it’s also pretty low in calories. I use it in my homemade hot chocolate (I use about double what’s called for in most recipes!). Aside from it’s use in baked goods, you can add it to smoothies and try adding a tablespoon of add cocoa powder to chili (intensifies the flavor and I highly recommend it!).

As for solid chocolate, the darker the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant level – usually. Not all 70% chocolate will have the same amount of flavonoids, but again, the darker the better.

The presence of milk seems to reduce the absorption of the antioxidants. This study found that having a glass of milk when eating dark chocolate reduced the antioxidant absorption by 46%. Eating milk chocolate alone? The plasma antioxidants were reduced by a full 69%.

Cut-to-the-chase advice on chocolate

If you like chocolate, have it! Yes, it has calories, about 160-170 in an ounce, but with a cup of coffee or tea it makes a better snack or dessert than most. All those antioxidants make getting your cocoa on a good thing. Having milk with it cuts your absorption of the antioxidants, but it’s so loaded you’ll still get a good dose.

Me? Oh, I’m in.

EGGNOG ON! 10 WAYS TO STILL ENJOY THE YEAR’S HIGH-CAL DRINK

I have loved eggnog since childhood. If it were available, and I’d been allowed, I’d have drunk it all year long. To really savor every drop, I’d “drink” it with using a teaspoon. At about 330 calories per glass though, you need to think before you drink eggnog.

WHY SO HIGH IN CALORIES?

Troll through eggnog recipes and it’ll be no surprise why it’s so calorie-loaded. The bulk of traditional eggnog is made up of heavy cream and sugar. Sometimes it’ll include half-and-half or milk as well, but the “old-school” recipes deal with only the heaviest stuff. Then comes the eggs, vanilla, nutmeg and whatever else. Grown-up eggnog also adds rum or brandy – that doesn’t lower the calories, but you might care less about them.
Traditional all-heavy-cream eggnog can run you a good 600 calories a glass! Most eggnog sold in supermarkets however, is a milder 330 calories in every 8-oz. glass. Still pretty hefty. That’s more calories than in two glasses of full-fat milk, only with less protein and calcium. Despite fewer calories, it’s still thick and creamy, owing to the addition of some harmless vegetable thickeners.

10 WAYS TO EGGNOG SMARTER

I don’t want to have an eggnog-free life, but eggnog’s calories do need to be budgeted. Try these tips and you can fit eggnog in pretty much anytime of the year :
• Have a shot, not a glass. Sometimes you want just a taste and a shot will do just fine.
• Add a shot to your coffee for a rich, holiday sweetener.
• Add a shot to your tea, instead of milk. English breakfast tea or black tea are excellent this way.
• Top Greek yogurt with some eggnog and chopped walnuts or almonds. A shot is only about 40 calories – and easy splurge.
• Pour a shot over oatmeal, finish with dried cranberries. Make the oatmeal with milk, for added protein and calcium.
• Have your usual whole-grain cereal with your usual milk but then pour a shot of eggnog over it. the eggnog stays full-strength, so your taste buds get hit with flavor, not calories.
• Dilute eggnog 50-50 with skim milk. 4-oz of each gives you about 205 calories (165 for 4-oz of eggnog and 40 for the same amount of skim milk). Plus, you’ll have lots more calcium and protein and it STILL tastes sweet and rich.
• Go really light: add a shot or two to whole, low-fat, or fat-free milk. With fat-free milk, it’ll bring you home at about 110 calories per glass. Amp up the flavor by adding some extra nutmeg.
• Go high-protein and super-light: 1-oz. of egg substitute, 7-oz. of fat-free milk, two packets of zero-calorie sweetener of choice, nutmeg to taste (I like lots of this spice). You can use sugar, but you’ll have more calories and it’s harder to dissolve sugar.
• No-work eggnog: “Lite” eggnog is plenty available in supermarkets. Calories range from about 190-220 calories per glass. Have at it.
• Bonus tip: Not eggy, but “nutmeggy”: Try heating warm milk with a few dashes of nutmeg and a sweetener of choice. Really great at bedtime.