• 22Aug

    So what about xylitol – it’s another safe sugar substitute. Yea!  

    Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and does not require insulin to be metabolised. It’s been used in other countries for years by diabetics as a safe alternative to sugar and artificial sweetners – notably Russia and Japan. And it does not promote tooth decay so you’ll find it in many sugar free chewing gums, mints and toothpastes. There are many other studies that show other health benefits to the use of xylitol – check it out on a search on the good old internet.  

    Because xylitol is only slowly absorbed and partially utilized, you will find it a great low calorie substitute to sugar. More specifically – 2.4 calories per gram or 40% less than other carbs.  

    Xylitol is a natural substance found in many vegetables and fruits, as well as in some species of hardwood trees such as birch. In fact, most of the xylitol you’ll find out in the market is extracted from birch pulp. And – your body even produces anywhere up to 15 grams daily.  

    So how does it taste? It is sweet with a very slight cooling sensation. You can use it 1:1 in place of sugar but one word of warning – eating large amounts of xylitol can cause intestinal distress with some people more sensitive than others.  

    My experience of using it in small quantities such as to sweeten a fruit-ade or tea has been without problems.

  • 15Aug

    August is a great time of the year to visit your local Farmer’s Market. You can taste freshly picked fully ripe produce as you take in the sight of multi-hued tomatoes, eggplants, squashes, beans and peppers all the while surrounded by the heady aroma of ripe melons, soothing lavender, fragrant apples and sweet juicy peaches. A trip to the market can cause serious sensory overload!  

    I never knew tomatoes had flavor until I tasted my first vine ripen tomato way back in my college days. After that experience, I only brought tomatoes in season or grew my own.  

    Tomatoes, originally from the Andes, has been alternately revered and feared. In the same family as Belladonna, tomato leaves are indeed poisonous but its fruit, the tomato, is not. Later, tomatoes were thought to be an aphrodisiac and was called ‘the Apple of Love.’ In Italy, tomatoes were much more accepted and was known as pomodoro or golden apple referring to the first tomatoes which were probably yellow cherry size tomatoes. At the turn of the century, it was thought that tomatoes caused cancer. Then it was later ‘discovered’ that by cooking for at least 3 hours the toxins could be inactivated. After World War I, community farm groups interested in raising awareness of nutrition began programs for youth to start home gardens. Tomatoes became very popular because they were so easy to grow. In fact today, tomatoes are the most popular home garden vegetable and the 3rd most popular canned vegetable.  

    Tomatoes, did however, take another dark turn in the 50’s and 60’s when profit minded agri-businesses sponsored research to develop small hard thick skinned tomatoes to withstand mechanical harvesting and long distance travel. Flavor was sacrificed resulting in my childhood experience with pink cardboard flavored tomatoes. In the past decade, heightened awareness of nutrition and the search for natural and ‘wow what a concept’ flavorful foods has brought about the resurgence of heirloom or pre agri-business varieties of all types of fruits and vegetables including tomatoes. 

    Heirloom tomatoes refer to tomato varieties that were grown in America’s past and have thankfully regained popularity. A few examples include the ‘green grape’ cherry tomatoes, green and orange striped ‘green zebra’, yellow and red ‘marvel stripe’, the large pale yellow ‘great white’, the greenish red ‘cherokee’, the large pinkish red ‘brandywine’, and the bright orange ‘gold dust.’ Tomatoes also range in flavor with some as sweet as sugar to some with more acid.  

    When shopping for tomatoes, look for tomatoes which give slightly to gentle pressure, have no soft spots or broken skin. Avoid rock hard tomatoes which do not have full color because unripe tomatoes will never have as fully developed a flavor as a true vine ripen tomato. When you take them home remember that refrigeration will rob a tomato of its flavor so its best to store in a cool place outside of the refrigerator. Don’t be afraid to have fun and try the many varieties.

  • 14Aug

    I love sandwiches – virtually any depending on the mood. Sandwiches are fun…the combinations are endless and vary from incredibly simple to really fancy.
    I just bought a pannini grill – what fun to play with my new toy. So far I’ve grilled eggplant, portobello mushrooms, medallions of pork tenderloin and a number of grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum.
    Lately I’ve been dining on the basic grilled cheese but also meatloaf with a big slice of cheddar and good ol’ american yellow mustard. Yum Yum
    But yesterday I had the most incredible sandwich – one that will be toasted into my memory forever. Do you ever have those experiences? When you eat something so incredibly good that you recall years later – “oh, that quail dish was so good…” Ok, maybe it’s just me…
    Back to the sandwich, my sister in law Cathy and niece Sammie trekked over to the City yesterday to visit Anne Gingrass at Desiree Cafe in the Presidio. I  hadn’t seen the cafe since she expanded and had a hankering for her cooking.
    We perused the menu and Cathy decided on the grilled Ham and Cheese and I decided on the grilled Cheese with Swiss Chard and Potato. As we anxiously waited for our sandwiches we sipped on refreshing Ginger Mint tea while we played with Sammie. 

    Our sandwiches arrived golden and crispy on the outside and hot and yummy on the inside. One bite into my grilled Cheese with Swiss Chard and Potato sandwich and my taste buds did a big high five. To my chagrin, when my hands were full of sandwich Cathy switched the other half of my sandwich with her ham version. The ham was great too but that chard sandwich…between two pieces of sturdy white sandwich bread was a slice of melted white cheddar, a generous layer of sauteed swiss chard and tender discs of creamer potatoes. I enjoyed every bite of my Chard sandwich and will be craving it for weeks to come.
    Luckily the chard I planted a few weeks ago in the garden are starting to sprout…off I go to check on their progress.