Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snack Series: Raisins and Peanuts

Dear hungry people -- this will be my last snack series post. I've really enjoyed sharing with you simple snacks and fascinating health information. The simple snack of today is raisins and peanuts. It's quite a nice salty sweet combination that you can find anywhere. I ate this a lot when I spent a year volunteering in Nicaragua. Every ten days, I would have a four day break, and I often traveled. While other snacks abounded, peanuts and raisins were cheap and everywhere and I often bought them during my travels. Even here in the US, if you're on a road trip and starving, you can certainly find peanuts and raisins at gas stations and travel plazas.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Snack Series: Spelt English Muffins, Peanut Butter, Bananas

This is by far one of my favorite breakfasts or snacks: bread, bananas, peanut butter. Can you tell that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day? All of my snack series is quite breakfast-y. I often refer to my mid-morning snack as my second breakfast.

What is spelt? Have you heard of it? It is a distant cousin of wheat, older than our current hybrid of wheat, and was cultivated moderately in the US until farmers focused more on wheat in the 20th century. Spelt is back on the rise, thanks to a recognition of the health benefits of whole grains, and can be found in health stores, Whole Foods, and some grocery stores (look for Bob's Red Mill products). I found these spelt English muffins at Whole Foods, and I love them! They have a nice tangy-ness that I don't taste in wheat.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Snack Series: Yogurt and Blueberries

Yum, yum, yum. Yogurt. Love it. I get this amazing yogurt from a local store in Baltimore that orders it from Pequea Valley Farms in Lancaster, PA. It is by far the best yogurt I've ever had. Made from grass-fed cows milk, the flavor is rich and zippy, and the texture is thick and satisfying. It's a bit pricey, but thanks to the fact that it only comes in full fat varieties, you only need a quarter cup to fill you up.

Yogurt that contains live and active cultures (be on the lookout for this on the label) is so, so good for you. It puts good bacteria in your intestines and stomach that help digest food and keep away the bad bacteria. The bacteria Lactobacillus helps break down lactose and sugars and converts them to lactic acid, which keep bad bacteria at bay. The bacteria found in yogurt are types of probiotics. You've all heard of those, right? They're also found in other fermented foods, such as miso, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Snack Series: Cheese and Crackers

Have you ever seen Wallace and Gromit? "I'm just crackers for cheeeese!" I would have to agree with that statement. I love cheese in almost every form I've tried. (I'm not a fan of bleu cheese, and I once picked up a lovely looking specimen of expensive cheese at Whole Foods that made my hand stink for the rest of the afternoon). Sharp cheddar would have to fall within my top five cheese winners. The saltiness and pungency of it makes my taste buds happy. Paired with a whole grain crispy cracker, it makes a satisfying snack.

I learned all about some great health benefits of cheese in this article. It's like concentrated milk with no lactose, which makes it perfect for those who are lactose intolerant (like myself). Cheddar gained popularity when King Henry II loved it, and proceeded to order 10,000 pounds of it. Talk about being crackers for cheese.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Snack Series: Black Tea and Biscotti

Today's featured snack is classic: tea and biscotti and a couple of dried figs. My friend Sarah gave me and Justin three different types of biscotti earlier this week, just because that's what our foodie friends do. She made Walnut Pepper, Lemon Anise, and classic Almond. All were delicious, but I especially like how the almond biscotti pairs nicely with a cup of black tea. I can choose to dip the biscotti to soften it up a bit, or enjoy it crunchy.

Almonds (found in my biscotti) can help lower the risk of heart disease, help keep your cholesterol levels happy, provide lots of magnesium (which helps the flow of oxygen, blood, and nutrients in your body), and potassium (which helps with nerve transmission and muscle contraction).

And the figs, well, let me share with you the top five health benefits of figs: relieve constipation, treat asthma, improve sexual weakness, help with weight loss, and control high blood pressure. News to me, too. I eat figs because they're delicious. And if they make you think of yucky Fig Newtons, well, just try a dried Turkish fig or a fresh fig. You'll love them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Snack Series: Cashews and Cranberries

Sweet, savory, and simple. Dried fruit and nuts. The ultimate hiking snack, travel snack, or I-want-to-stay-full-longer snack. Cranberry health benefits include protection against urinary tract infections, stomach ulcers, and anti-inflammatory issues. Cashews have heart-healthy fats, are good sources of energy, keep your bones healthy, and help prevent gallstones.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Snack Series: Cinnamon Apples and Peanut Butter

I've decided to start a short series on snacks since my busy schedule lately is prompting me to make familiar recipes that I've already shared with you, plus I have been a bit light on the inspiration lately. The good thing is that I usually find snacks inspiring. I like to be creative with them. My goal is to share with you my best snacks for the rest of March.

Snacks are very important to me. Almost as important as breakfast. If I don't eat every few hours I start to feel light-headed, dizzy, and cranky. Maybe it's blood sugar related, but I don't have diabetes or anything medical like that. I think I'm just a hungry person. Plus, I don't eat a lot at once, which makes my belly want snacks and small meals more often. On days when I'm extra active I might have up to three snacks between lunch and dinner (mind you, lunch is usually at noon, and dinner is at 7 or 8 in the evening). Other days I'll have a light snack between breakfast and lunch, and a heartier snack between lunch and dinner. I eat so late in the evening that I rarely snack after dinner.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pasta Party

 Some friends came over recently and we made pasta together. It was ridiculously fun. One of them has a pasta roller, so we clamped that to my counter and went to town. I have some fun photos to share with you, but the actual recipe I'm including was not part of our pasta party. It's just a really good tomato sauce that I like to make. Check the comments to see alfredo sauce and homemade pasta recipes that Pete shared.

Pete and Sarah have the genius solution of drying the pasta on a (clean) clothes drying rack. Worked perfectly!

Pete and Jonathan made an extra long strand of pasta. You can see the pride in their faces.