A-Z of Plantalicious ingredients  D is for Dates

I can recall my parents always having dates in the house around Christmas.  As a child I could never see the appeal of these sticky blobs, and would avoid them.  As I got older, I have realised that the dried dates of my childhood were not really the best incarnation of this most ancient and nobel of fruits.  In fact, Dates are one of the oldest cultivated fruits – it’s thought that they were a staple part of the Babylonian diet 8,000 years ago. Grown in North Africa and Israel, there are several varieties, but only a handful are exported to Britain.

Colours range from honey yellow, red to brown, the last of which is the most common.

Available fresh or dried, they’re very sweet, with a rich, deep flavour and a lush, slightly chewy texture. My favourite is the  mahogany brown Medjool variety which is the sweetest, and tastes a little like toffee.

Given that they are sweet and sticky, the key question is are they good or bad for your health?  Dates are high in sugar, with 60-80% of their calories from sugars.  In addition to all that sugar, dates are high in fibre and in a particular kind of soluble fibre that helps keep you regular – known as beta-D-glucan. In addition to its usual function as a soluble fiber, beta-D-glucan can also absorb and hold water, giving it the ability to add bulk and softness to stools — a quality predominantly associated with insoluble fiber.

Dates are one of the best sources of Potassium which helps regulate blood pH, is required to maintain intracellular fluid balance and is used to convert glucose into usable energy. Potassium also maintains intracellular fluid balance and is involved in hormone secretion, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Low potassium levels are linked to high blood pressure. Medjool dates are higher in potassium than oranges, bananas and spinach, providing 20 percent of the nutrient’s daily value per 3.5-ounce serving.

Dates help your body to absorb iron as they are high in copper which is an essential trace mineral that helps your body both absorb and use iron to form red blood cells. It’s needed to maintain healthy nerves and is also an important component of several of the enzymes that facilitate the production of energy. Copper is used to form collagen, a fundamental component of skin, bone, cartilage and connective tissue. It’s also a critical element of an important antioxidant known as superoxide dismutase, which is manufactured by the body to prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals.

Additionally dates contain significant amounts of several other essential nutrients, including: manganese, magnesium and vitamin B-6 as well as: niacin. pantothenic acid, calcium and phosphorus and some iron. Dates also provide lesser amounts of folate, zinc, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin K. A 2009 study published in the “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry” found Medjool dates to be high in antioxidant phenols. According to the study, these compounds may help reduce high blood triglyceride levels.

Here is Dr Michael Greger’s take on Dates – http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-dates-good-for-you/

A quick tip/recipe – I make a date syrup by blending dates with warm water in my vitamix and blitzing until smooth.  I let it down with more water and store in a jar.  It is great to use in desserts, to top lattes/mochas and to use over fruit and iced desserts.

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A-Z of Plantalicious ingredients  C is for Chia Seeds

 

I thought that I would use letter C to talk about Chia Seeds.  I came across them when I used to spend half of my time in Canada before they were common iin the UK.
I cannot recall how I discovered them, but they are tiny little nutritional powerhouses. They are apparantly a Mayan Superfood.  They are part of the salvia family and look like slightly larger poppy seeds.  They have an amazing ability to aborb up to 11 x their on weight in water/liquid.  (The ranges I have seen are from 9-17 x).
Why should you bother with them?
  • Combat Diabetes

Chia seeds might be a potential natural treatment for Type 2 Diabetes due to their ability to slow down digestiion.  The gelatinous nature of chia seeds when added to liquids can also prevent blood sugar spikes.

 

  • Improve Heart Health

Chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in diabetics and may also lower cholesterol.

  • High in Fibre

Chia seeds are very high in fibre and so good for your digestive health and keeeping you “regular”.

  • Bags of Omega 3 – Good for Brain Health

The high level of Omega 3’s in chia seeds are good for your brain health.

  • Calcium – Helps fight Osteoporosis

Good for bones and teeth as Chia seeds are very high in Calcium.

  • A good source of Protein

Chia seeds are a good source of dietary protein and without any cholesterol too!

  • Sources of minerals

Chia seeds contain Maganese which helps your body use other essentail nutrients like biotin and thiamin.  They also contain phosphorus which helps with your teeth and bones whilst synthesizing protein which helps your body repair itself.

  • Fill your boots and smile

Chia seeds contain Tryptophan, an amino acid that helps regulate appetite, sleep and improve your mood.

So how can you incorporate chia seeds into your diet?  Easily –
Just sprinkle them on salads, add to baked goods, make crackers incorporting them, or a simple chia pudding:
Here is a chia pudding that you could use for dessert or breakfast –
2 cups of plant milk (I used vanilla soy milk)
1/2 cup of whole (or milled) chia seeds
1 Cup of fresh or frozen berries
Garnish with a sprinkling of cacao nibs (optional)
Method – Mix together ingredients.  Chill for several hours, and then serve with a sprinkling of cocao nibs.
You can also mix this up and make it with banana and maple syrup which I love.
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NEWSFLASH ->> Plantalicious Receives UK Trade Mark

Plantalicious is pleased to announce…..

….that it has been granted a UK Trade Mark under the Trade Marks Act of 1994 of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as of 16th September 2013, under Number UK00003022174, for classes: 29 (Soups); 30 (Salad Dressings); 38 (Blogging Services) & 21 (Cookery Demonstrations).

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 Given that Plantalicious is a “hobby business”, why have we secured a trademark?

It prevents someone else from using the name.
It protects Plantalicious from being accused of infringing another company’s mark.
Effectively it is “Insurance” for any marketing spend, preventing others using it to their advantage.
It records the trademark as an asset of the business in the balance sheet.
Should we wish to, it opens the business up to the opportunities of licensing.

But really, it means that the name PLANTALICIOUS is ours!

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Should I apologise for my “Special Diet” when eating out? Is this Culinary Racism? What do you do?

Once again, I am travelling and today I am taking clients out to lunch.

The clients chose the restaurant and suggested that I check in advance what veggie options they have as they know that I eat a WFPB (whole food, plant-based) diet.   I checked online and whilst the menu had some choices on the starters that work for me, the main courses were all meat and fish with only a few salads and side dishes that looked ok for me.  So, I called the restaurant and realised during the call, that I was actually apologising for my diet and food choices and any inconvenience that it may cause them.

Why did I do that?

  • Is it my natural British politeness (not always evident, especially when tired from travelling)?
  • What was I apologising for?
  • As a paying customer, why should I apologise for what I choose to eat?
  • What is the worst that they can do – Make me a salad?  Serve me vegetables?

If I am a meat eater and I do not like red meat or I do not like lamb, I do not call up ahead and apologise, or grovel to the waiter.  I just make another choice that suits me.  My issue is that due to not eating fish, meat or diary there are occasions when there is nothing suited to me, listed on the menu.  I guess that I may be seen as an oddity by the staff and so I typically apologise that I have a “specific diet” and explain that I do not eat meat, fish or diary.

I actually think that by asking for something specific you are driving a change in what is provided.  I am happy to apologise if I am being an inconvenience but maybe I am being an “inspiration”?  Maybe, I am leading the way in what the eating out public will be wanting in the future – I believe so.  Just look at vegetarian options.  For many years there were few options for vegetarians on menus, now almost everywhere in the UK offers numerous vegetarian options on their menus.  I have noticed a trend with some younger chefs particularly to offer some interesting whole-food, plant-based options too.  (To much applause from me).

I also hate the idea that seems to be more prevalent in the US than the UK, that if you are vegan or vegetarian, then you should go to a specifically vegan or vegetarian restaurant.  Isn’t that “culinary racism”??? Should Lebanese food only be eaten by the Lebanese or Indian by those from the sub-continent?  Of course not, then why should vegans and vegetarians not eat with their friends at any restaurant of their choosing?

My tip….

What I have found is that if I say what I do or don’t eat ahead of time, the kitchen team and chefs are usually happy to provide me with something that works for me.  Calling ahead certainly avoids any embarrassment especially when I am entertaining clients.  A lot of chefs are happy to make something special as long as it is not asked for with a minutes notice during a busy service.  Calling ahead is polite and respectful and with most places having either their full menu or sample menus online you can easily check if you need to call ahead.

As Audrey, my darling Mother used to say, “You can’t get if you don’t ask” and “What’s the worst thing that can happen?  They might say No!”

 

Just don’t upset the Chef!

So what do you do and have you experienced culinary racism?

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A-Z of Plantalicious ingredients  B is for Beetroot. 

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This ruby- red jewel of a vegetable was always a somewhat poor relation in my home as a child. We had pickled beetroot from a jar. As a teenager, I worked in a market garden and used to boil beetroot in a huge copper. I hated it as a result of the pungent smell. As I got older I rediscovered the joys of beetroot.

Did you know that fresh beetroot juice is associated with improved athletic performance?  Have it ahead of a workout and combine with apple, carrot and ginger for a great kick-start juice.  Another terrific juice is Beetroot combined with strawberries and lime – I call it Red Rocket Fuel – see http://www.plantalicious.com/recipes/red-rocket-fuel-a-great-start-to-your-day/

A lot of people seem to dislike beetroot due to its earthy flavour. To reduce this, wash thoroughly and or peel it. You can use gloves to prevent your hands being stained red.

You can bake and roast them and then use in salads. I love to slice them thinly and use them as a base for salads especially using the gorgeous golden beetroot and pink ringed candy ones.

One simple dish that I do a lot is to peel and grate the beetroot (in a food processor or on a box grater) and sauté them in a pan. Before I chose to eat a no added fats wholefood plant based diet I would use butter or oil. Now I use a little stock with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and lots of black pepper.  I sauté them on a high heat until the juices evaporate and the grated beetroot is cooked. It makes a great side dish.

Another idea is to combines grated beetroot with grated potato to make an unusual rosti.

Some fun facts – Beetroot is a great hangover cure, a natural viagra and has an element in it which relaxes the mind (google it to find out more).

What are your beetroot recipes?

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