Category Archives: Wine & Food

Melted cheese… ooooh!

enhanced-buzz-29096-1385768472-0It was in a certain inflight magazine, during a certain flight taken some years ago that I read a food article with interviews with a few chefs. One of them said that all restaurants have at least one dish with melted cheese on their menu, and this was the most popular dish of all. Being a huge melted cheese lover myself, I wasn’t surprised to see this information and yet it WAS new information, vis a vis restaurant menus 🙂

In trying to find out why, I stumbled upon the Popular Science website and this is what they say about this phenomenon, in an article titled: ‘Why does cheese taste better when melted?’ The writer says the reason is mainly how it feels in the mouth. Melted cheese has a creamy texture which most people find very appealing, and the warmth of the cheese adds to the taste.

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All together, the sensations associated with melted cheese—smoothness, gooeyness, and warmth—speak of a fatty delight…and humans love fat :)! Ivan de Araújo, a researcher at Yale, has studied how the nervous system responds to fatty foods. He says, “Receptors in our mouths are keyed in to the texture of oily, calorie-dense foods.” This sort of food, evidently soothes the nervous system, and in today’s world, and our fast-paced life our nervous systems can use all the help they can get from us! Everyone, agree? 😉

I don’t know about you all but writing this post has got me craving a dish with melted cheese! There’s none at home, so I’ll just have to go and eat out 😉 — nice excuse, eh?

Do be sure to get white wine to drink with warm or hot melted cheese dishes. That’s my preference at least…so, until you experiment and find other wines to go with melted cheese dishes, just trust this choice ;)! You won’t be sorry…

 

The health dangers of MSG

The dangers and prevalence of MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate) in our foods will shock you! This dangerous food enhancer is linked to numerous health problems including fibromyalgia, obesity, fatty liver, high insulin and blood sugar, high cholesterol, liver toxicity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, disturbance to the gut-brain connection, neurological and brain-damage prevalence. The danger lies in the fact that MSG is almost impossible to avoid. 

Why? The reason is twofold:

1. There are over 40 different ingredients that manufacturers use, that all have MSG, and so it is not separately listed. 

2. It is not just a flavor enhancing additive – it is a natural by-product of processing proteins. These MSG by-products are found even in many of your favorite organic health foods.

Keep reading to discover how to avoid this insidious poison.

What Is MSG? MSG, or monosodium glutamate, got its reputation as a flavor- enhancer which was extracted from seaweeds in China. In the early 1900′s, the process was perfected in Japan and the product became commercially available. The expression “Chinese Food Syndrome” was coined by the New England Journal of Medicine as approximately twenty minutes after eating Chinese food, some sensitive people would experience tingling, numbness, brain fog, chest pressure and pain. In the 1970′s, researchers found that pharmaceutical MSG would kill brain cells in a laboratory. Shortly thereafter, they realized that commercially available MSG would have the same effect.

Not Just A Flavor Enhancer:

By now most of us have heard of MSG’s role as a flavor enhancer. But how does this work? Concentrated free glutamic acid or MSG act as nerve stimulants and will change how the taste buds taste food. A really bad tasting food will taste fantastic when high levels of glutamic acid are introduced as a flavor enhancer.

The form of MSG that is a byproduct of processed protein is not considered as MSG, and this is where the real danger lies. Unfortunately the FDA does not require manufacturers to label these foods as having MSG unless the “added ingredient” is 99% pure MSG. And sadly, a product labeled ‘No MSG’ may still have MSG or ‘free glutamic acid’ as a result of protein processing, as long as pure protein was not added.

The truth is that protein-hydrolysis-based glutamates or MSG are found in just about every highly processed food. Even vegetable proteins are hydrolyzed to make veggie burgers and many other frozen or pre-prepared vegan and “health foods.” Do your homework on the internet, and begin informing/education yourselves about additives. For starters, when purchasing processed health foods, look for these common ingredients loaded with MSG, that do not require an MSG listing on the label:

  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
  • Textured Vegetable Protein
  • Yeast Extract

Here’s one link to start you off with :)! http://www.msgtruth.org/whatisit.htm

Happy investigating — DO IT… it’s for your own good health!

 

Doctrine of Signatures

In yesterday’s post I wrote that the walnut, looking as it does like the brain, supports the functioning of the brain. In researching this further I came across the term ‘Doctrine of Signatures’. This is its history:

stock-photo-nuts-and-dried-fruits-mix-116210527Paracelsus* (1491–1541) developed the concept, writing that ‘Nature marks each growth…according to its curative benefit’.

The writings of Jakob Bohme** (1575-1624) spread the ‘doctrine of signatures’, suggesting that God marked objects with a sign, or “signature”, for their purpose. Parts that resembled the human body, animals, or other objects were thought to have useful relevance to those parts, animals or objects. The “signature” could sometimes also be identified in the environments or specific sites in which plants grew. Böhme’s 1621 book The Signature of All Things gave its name to the doctrine.

Böhme did a great service to the cause of foods as medicine, but by changing Paracelsus’s word ‘nature’ to ‘god’ did some disservice too! You see, allopathic medicine has attempted to write off the Doctrine of Signatures as superstition, even though studies have repeatedly shown that its core principles are true. The kidney bean, for example, not only resembles a kidney in shape and color, but also helps to maintain kidney functioning when regularly consumed. Let’s take a look at some other examples:

Walnuts – for Brain

With its two hemispheres, cranium-like shell and knotted folds, the common walnut looks like the human brain on many levels – and the brain is exactly what it benefits. Walnuts are the only nut that contains large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to prevent cognitive decline since mammalian brains are composed of, and require, the exact same acids.

untitledGrapes – for Lungs

Bunched grapes closely resemble the branches of alveoli that comprise our lungs, and which allow oxygen to pass from the lungs into the bloodstream. Grapes are proven to reduce the risk of lung cancer, and the chemical proanthocyanidin – present in grape seeds – can minimize the risk of allergy-related asthma.

Tomatoes – for Heart

Like the human heart, tomatoes are red and usually contain four chambers when sliced. They are an unbeatable source of lycopene, a plant chemical that helps prevent coronary heart disease and which neutralizes the harmful effects of LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, tomatoes are rich in folate, which aids the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells – the very cells that the heart pumps around the body.

Carrots – for Eyes

A sliced carrot strongly resembles the human eye, even down to the complex pattern of the iris. Is nature telling us something? Carrots are extremely rich in beta-carotene, a plant chemical that minimizes the chances of contracting cataracts and developing age-related macular degeneration (a common eye condition that affects approximately 25 percent of individuals above the age of 65).

Avocados – for Womb

The womb-shaped avocado takes approximately nine months to grow from blossom to ripened fruit and contains an unusually large seed (‘baby’) in its center. Eating avocados helps to stabilize female hormones, remove excess birth weight and prevent cervical cancer.

Figs – for Testicles

If avocados were designed for female health, then the testicle-shaped figs were surely designed for male health. These sweet fruits hang in pairs, are protected by a delicate skin and, when sliced, reveal thousands of stringy white seeds. Figs are known to increase sperm count and sperm mobility and can help men overcome sterility.

Celery – Celery sticks contain identical amounts of sodium (23 percent) to the bones they resemble. Like calcium – which celery also contains in high amounts – sodium is essential for healthy bones.

Ginger – A piece of ginger looks a lot like the stomach it is renowned for settling.

Sweet potatoes – Sweet potatoes closely resemble the human pancreas and help to stabilize the blood sugar levels of diabetics.

Impressive, no? What do you think?

*Paracelsus (/ˌpærəˈsɛlsəs/; born Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 11 November or 17 December 1493 – 24 September 1541) was a Swiss German Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist

**Jakob Bohme (1575 – 1624) was a German Christian mystic and theologian. He is considered an original thinker within the Lutheran tradition

 

Nuts about nuts — Walnuts

untitledWalnuts are rounded, single-seeded stone fruits of the walnut tree. The walnut fruit is enclosed in a green, leathery, fleshy husk. This husk is inedible. After harvest, the removal of the husk reveals the wrinkly walnut shell, which is in two halves. This shell is hard and encloses the kernel, which is also made up of two halves separated by a partition. Interestingly, the seed kernels — commonly available as shelled walnuts — are enclosed in a brown seed cover which contains antioxidants. These protect the oil-rich seed from atmospheric oxygen and prevent rancidity.

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Walnut seeds are a high density source of nutrients, particularly proteins and essential fatty acids. Compared to certain other nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts (especially in their raw form) contain the highest total level of antioxidants, including both free antioxidants and antioxidants bound to fiber. Walnuts, like other tree nuts, must be processed and stored properly. Poor storage makes walnuts susceptible to insect and fungal mold infestations.

I also read somewhere that whatever part of our body, a fruit, vegetable or nut reminds us of, that’s the body part or organ it’s good for. For example, the likeness of a walnut to our brain means that they are good for nourishing the brain. To me this sounds very plausible!

 

Nuts about nuts ;)

article-2549826-0AFFB236000005DC-712_306x423With my mind on health foods these days, I’m going to write about a few nuts 🙂 — no not crazy people, even though there are plenty of such nuts around in the world ;), but I’m going to write about nuts, which constitute food.

The first of these, my favorite, is Brazil Nuts! These grow in the Amazon forest, and nowhere else on the planet. Native Amazonians have cherished these delicious nuts since ages, which provide them much-needed protein, fats and other essential nutrients. They are also rich in selenium, which has attracted attention because of its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect cells from damage. There is some evidence that selenium supplements may reduce the odds of prostate cancer.

220px-Brazil_nut_DSC05477Brazil nuts grow near the tops of 150-foot-tall trees in hard casings similar to coconuts, but they are never imported in this form. Inside the case, 20 to 30 nuts fit together like the sections of an orange. The case and its contents are heavy and can weigh anything up to 4.5kg, and individual trees can produce as many as 450kg of nuts. The trees grow only in the wild and aren’t cultivated. Collectors of these cases stop work when the wind is strong because a case landing on your head can literally kill you.

Although these nuts are called Brazil nuts their biggest producer is Bolivia, which produces about 50% of the world’s supply.

Scientists have researched  that a late-night snack of 6-8 Brazil nuts – which are packed with selenium and potassium – washed down with a calcium-rich glass of milk contains all the ingredients you need for a satisfying sleep. The research says that those with sleep apnea may benefit from this snack too. So, insomniacs could give this a try!

 

Eat those berries

blueberry-teaserBlueberries
Serving: 1 Cup – 57 calories
Benefits:

* Packed with powerful antioxidants                  * Research indicates links to good vision, acuity and brain development

For quite a long time, healthcare professionals and scientists didn’t give the little blueberry its due, since it had relatively low vitamin C content when compared with other fruit. Then it was discovered that the blueberry was a nutrition powerhouse, a superfood loaded with phytonutrients and a fruit that had benefits unlike any other.

raspberry-teaserRaspberries
Serving: 1 Cup – 52 Calories
Benefits:

* Rich in fiber and antioxidants, raspberries support heart health                                              * 44% DV of Vitamin C                                           * 7g Fiber                                                                  * Excellent source of fiber – More fiber than a bran muffin

New research suggests that eating red raspberries (yes, they come in several colors) may prevent cancer by inhibiting the abnormal division of cells and promoting the normal death of healthy cells.

blackberry-teaserBlackberries
Serving: 1 Cup – 43 calories
Benefits:
  • * Excellent source of fiber
  • * 5g fiber
  • * 50% DV of Vitamin C
  • The berry’s striking dark color comes from anthocyanin, a powerful phytonutrient that may protect from diseases such as cancer

Studies show blackberries have one of the highest antioxidant contents per serving of any food tested. In a 2006 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists indicated that blackberries’ antioxidant content of 5.75 millimoles per serving was far above that of other foods. This means that regular consumption of blackberries may have a positive impact on health, athletic performance and disease risk.

strawberry-teaserStrawberries

Serving: 1 Cup – 50 calories
Benefits:

* 160% DV of Vitamin C                                         * More Vitamin C than an orange                        * Immunity-boosting

Every day, research confirms that strawberries are an important part of a healthy diet. Eating just one serving of strawberries, or about eight of these sweet fruits per day, may help improve heart health, lower the risk of developing some cancers and lower blood pressure.

My favorite berries have always been raspberries and blueberries, and I often tend to avoid buying blackberries…but this is going to change! 🙂

(All the above information is from Driscoll, the fruit company, but verified from other sources.)

 

 

Food as medicine (3) — Chia seeds

2014-03-02 16_53_02Another item gaining a lot of popularity with healthy eaters nowadays is Chia. Chia is the seed of a plant whose botanical name is Salvia Hispanica. It is a species of flowering plant, in the mint family, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. There is evidence that in pre-Columbian times the Aztec used it and economic historians have suggested it was as important as maize as a food crop. It is still used in Mexico and Guatemala, either with the seeds ground or with whole seeds, as a food source or made into for nutritious drinks.

Chia seeds are rich in nutrient content and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and manganese. They are also rich in proteins, dietary fiber and antioxidants.

So, why should someone eat Chia Seeds? Here are some reasons why:

1. Combat diabetes

2. Add more fiber to the diet, and when mixed with water or other liquids, they expand forming a gel that can aid in weight loss by keeping you feeling full longer

3. Help stock up on Omega-3s

4. Stronger teeth and bones

5. Meet the body’s needs for manganese, phosphorous, protein

6. Fight belly fat

7. Improve heart health

2014-03-02 16_51_54How can we incorporate them into our diet, and into our life? This way:

The easiest way is to add it to everything and anything. Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds don’t have to be powdered, and being tasteless they can be added to anything at all, from sprinkling them on salads, to adding them to soups, smoothies or anything at all, really! They may even be sprouted. It has been suggested to sprinkle them even on ice cream :)…just keep a sprinkle bottle handy in your handbag or briefcase!

I’m so glad I write this blog and research different things. I’ve had a Chia Seed packet for six months and haven’t opened it — today I will :)))! The photos are of this packet, and its content!

After writing this blog I put a teaspoonful in my mouth and started chewing. The seeds have a beautiful nutty flavor and started becoming gelatinous, and as I continued to chew them they got swallowed without an effort. Lovely taste too :)!

 

Food as medicine (2) — Quinoa

2014-02-28 11_30_49Quinoa*, a seed which is a native of Colombia and some other South American countries, is one of my favorite foods. Teaching a lunchtime ESL course at a local Van Houtte Café today, I bought myself a soup and a quinoa salad. Noticing this, my student, a Colombian, informed me of an interesting story. He told me that when the Spanish Conquistadors** invaded South America, they found the natives, the Incas and the Chipchas, physically very strong. Believing that their staple diet consisting of quinoa made them this way, the conquistadores burnt as many quinoa crops as they could find. Man’s inhumanity to man is very tragic, but history is full of such stories 🙁

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More on quinoa: Quinoa was important to the diet of pre-Columbian Andean civilizations and is considered a ‘superfood’. It’s protein content is very high (14% by mass), and per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet. Nutritional evaluations of quinoa indicate that it is a source complete protein. Furthermore, it is a good source of dietary fibre and phosphorous, and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calcium, thus is useful for vegans and the glucose-intolerant. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied spaceflights.

Costco members may be happy to know that Quinoa Salad — yummm! — is one of the pre-prepared foods available there :)!

*Quinoa, pronounced Kinwa, or Keenoa

**Conquistadors were Portuguese or Spanish “conquerors”; they were soldiers, explorers, and adventurers at the service of the Portuguese and the Spanish Empires, who sailed beyond Europe, conquering territory and opening trade routes. They colonized much of the world for Portugal and Spain in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

 

 

New wine enthusiasts… or old compulsive drinkers ;)

Here’s a back-to-basics post on wine appreciation — how to learn to appreciate and enjoy it more!

untitledIt all begins with your nose. Yep — your nose, not your tongue and mouth. For longtime drinkers, who start gulping their wine as soon as it is poured into a glass, STOP!… You might as well be drinking any other alcoholic drink, if this is what you’re doing! Wine needs gentle handling and deserves love and appreciation by slowing down and following a few steps outlined here…

* FIRST SNIFF — pour a bit of wine, then put your nose into the glass and sniff. R-e-a-l-l-y sniff, and try and identify what aromas you can smell. Why this is important is because the full taste of anything includes its smells…this is true of everything we eat and drink.

* THEN SWIRL the glass, helping to release more aromas and smells. Now back to the nose in the glass, to identify still more smells. Look for fruit smells, woody smells, earthy smells or any other ‘unknowns’ — don’t worry if you find nothing… it may take some practice.

* NOW SIP — slowly partially filling your mouth and…

* SWILL the wine around in the mouth, gently, ladies may do so delicately ;)…this will bring the experience of the full taste of the wine, and help you decide if you like it or now!

Do be careful not to judge hastily because sometimes it takes a few sips to decide. Also, food that you’re eating will affect the taste. For pure tasting, it’s best to cut up a baguette and eat that as you taste wine. Take your time… and enjoy! Cheers! 🙂