low-fat

Ginger-Berry Pie and Vanilla Ice Cream

There are a lot of things growing this time of year to get excited about.  Tomatoes, peas, squash, the list goes on.  But for me the best thing about spring produce is berries.  My favorite fruit on earth is raspberries, one of the few fruits incidentally that does not grow on the Gulf Coast where I grew up.  Perhaps that is why I love them so, they are always a treat.

But I also love all spring berries like blackberries, strawberries and blueberries.   There are two wild blueberry bushes in my yard and they are loaded with tiny little morsels of yumminess right now.  My neighbor picked a bowlful to make her morning pancakes and I have already harvested a delicious pie from them.  The best thing about those bushes is that it’s free food.  Not exactly manna from heaven but blueberries from heaven are almost as good in this economy.

Now the thing is that pies are not exactly the healthiest things in the world.  No fear, I have recently developed a new berry pie recipe that is healthy and good.  Not normal healthy food good but good.  Additively good.  I rely on two of my old favorites, agave nectar to replace the sugar and coconut oil to replace the butter then I make a crust using fat free ginger snaps and now we have a flavor combination that is remarkable.  And it’s easy to make, too.

: Ginger-Berry Pie

Crust:

  • 1 2/3 c. fat free gingersnaps, crushed
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. agave nectar

Filling:

  • 3 cups fresh spring berries (cut strawberries in half)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  1. Thoroughly blend crumbs, coconut oil and agave. Press firmly on bottom and side of a 9″ pie pan and chill.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together agave and cornstarch. Add berries; gently toss until they are coated. When using frozen fruit allow fruit mixture to stand for 15 to 30 minutes or until fruit is partially thawed. Stir berry mixture, and transfer to the crust. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 – 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. I love to top mine with a little vanilla ice cream and guess what. I have a healthy recipe for that as well.

Preparation time: 45(s)

Cooking time: 20 – 35 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

This is for a 1.5 qt. countertop ice cream machine.  I specked this out and a 1/2 cup portion has less than 80 calories.  My pal Susan Irby (the Bikini Chef) will be so proud.

: Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 1 15 ounce can evaporated fat free milk
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 15 ounce can coconut milk
  1. In a small sauce pan heat evaporated milk over low heat. Do not boil. Stir in the agave cook just below a simmer. In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs. Slowly whisk a little of the hot milk mixture into the eggs to temper them. Repeat this until half of the milk mixture is incorporated into the eggs then pour it all into the pot making a custard. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes, it will thicken. Refrigerate until completely cool, overnight is best. Stir the coconut milk and vanilla into the custard and place into your ice cream machine. Follow machine directions from there.

Preparation time: 24 hour(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

 

ToFurkey Is ToFunky

Tofu is not natural. It is a processed food, a highly processed food as a matter of fact. ToFurkey is tofu that is processed over and over and over again. Then it’s processed some more.

Now if you’ll recall I have already exposed to the world that everyone who says they like tofu is lying through their teeth.  No person in the history of mankind, from the wheel to the moon has ever actually liked tofu.  There is no universe where tofu is appetizing.  Those who eat it do so because of peer pressure, insanity or some combination of the two.

Psychologists estimate that 1 person in 10 is completely incapable of recognizing sarcasm.  So for those of you in that 10% I’ll take this opportunity to point out that the previous paragraph was a stellar example of sarcastic hyperbolism.  It is my favorite way to make a point because, well, it amuses me.

That, by the way, was an example of narcissism.

So back to tofu being a nasty, highly processed food.  Most people do not like it’s texture because, well, it’s nasty.  In all honesty it is hard to find any fault with its taste because it doesn’t have any.  Tofu is like eating Styrofoam, only a less appetizing Styrofoam.

Amy’s, a veg-friendly processed food company probably makes some of the most wholesome mass-produced foods on the market and they process their soy beans nine different ways in order to produce a batch of tofu.  You can watch their process HERE.  I have a lot of respect for Amy’s but even they get a few things wrong.

In their video they state that they only use organic soy beans which means they are not genetically modified.  Genetic modification does not disqualify something from being organic.  It should, but it doesn’t.  I guess that’s the result of having a President that’s in the pocket of agri-business lobbyists.  Or more accurately, four Presidents in a row.

So if Amy’s, a company committed to natural, wholesome food, processes soy beans nine times to make tofu can you imagine how many times less scrupulous companies do it?

Now that you know that tofu is a highly processed food dig this.  Recently the History Channel did a segment about how ToFurkey is made.  It starts with tofu (which is processed at least nine times) and processes it even more adding tons (literally) of additives and chemicals.  You college kids may want to try the Processed Foods Drinking Game – just grab a bottle of Jack and take a swig for each new process.  But be forewarned, you may not be around for the end of this video.  Check it out and then read on:

After watching that, the pink goo McDonald’s uses to make their McNuggets doesn’t seem quite as gross.  An interesting note is that the narrator actually referred to ToFurkey as healthy.

There is an important distinction to make here and it is probably the closest you’ll come to an actual point in this ramble of a post.  Thanks to Weight Watcher’s, Jenny Craig, et al along with Hollywood and print media we have confused low-fat/low-calorie with healthy.  Low-fat/low-calorie is not pseudonymous with healthy.

Cyanide is low-fat/low-calorie.

Sarin Gas is low-fat/low-calorie.

Weapons-grade Plutonium is low-fat/low-calorie.

E-coli is low-fat/low-calorie.

Herpes is low-fat/low-calorie.

Get it?  Low-fat/low-calorie is not the same as healthy.  Coconut oil is very high in fat and very high in calories but it is healthier than extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, butter and it is damned sure better for you than margarine.  Both the medium chain fatty acids and the calories in coconut oil will ramp up your metabolism helping your body to burn fat cells better than just about anything out there.  Coconut oil is a classic example of high-fat/high-calorie being healthy.  ToFurkey conversely is a classic example of low-fat/low-calorie being unhealthy.  Plus, it just doesn’t taste very good.

So before you start spouting off about how healthy or ethical tofu is I invite you to go ToFurk yourself.  We ain’t inner-stead, thank ya.

Review: The Coconut Oil Miracle

The set-up to this simple book review is a little long.  Bare with me, there is an amazing payoff.  The issues of health are quite complex and we simply can no longer afford to sum them up in 300 words.

For decades now Americans have mistakenly associated “skinny” with “healthy.” They are not the same thing. You can be perfectly healthy while still sporting a belly roll. Six packs abs, though sexy, are usually the result of dehydration. However, you will be healthier if you reduce the excess body weight and that, unquestionably, is where the confusion comes in.

Actual Fake Newspaper HeadlineIn their quest to get your attention the national media comes up with headlines that confuse health issues.  For instance, the media has erroneously reported that salt causes heart disease, hypertension and any number of ailments, not true at all.  What research has determined is that salt aggravates existing conditions but there is no evidence that it causes them.  Salt can aggravate  high blood pressure doesn’t sell newspapers like Salt, the silent killer.  The downside is there are idiot law makers out there that only bother to read headlines when deciding public policy (yes I am talking about you, New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz).

One of the most egregious examples of the national media twisting scientific research in pursuit of the almighty dollar is the assault on fats that began in the early 1990’s.  First they reported that we should eliminate all fats from our diets.  When enough nutritionists complained they revamped it to say that saturated fats were evil and we should eat more unsaturated fats.  What science has determined (and the media ignored) is that it is not an issue with fats at all.

It is all about fatty acids – a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid consisting of four or more carbon atoms connected by a unbranched aliphatic tail called a chain.  These chains can be short, medium or long.

Does that sound confusing?  It is.  And simply put the average journalist cannot comprehend it, not without studying the science involved anyway.  Therefore we get summaries like, “eliminate saturated fats from your diet.”  Our bodies require two types of fatty acids to perform properly, Omega 6 (usually found in saturated fats) and Omega 3 (usually found in unsaturated fats).  Obesity occurs when there are significantly more Omega 6’s than Omega 3’s.

One of the casualties of the assault on fats, aside from the truth, is the assumption certain botanicals are bad for you because they are high in them.  Avocado springs to mind.  For most of the 90’s we were told not to eat avocado because it has too much fat.  As it turns out, avocado is quite healthy.  Another item we were told to avoid was coconut oil; it’s a saturated fat.

The Payoff

Bruce Fife, a certified nutritionist and naturopathic doctor, has written an eye-opening book on coconut oil and its unmatched health attributes.  The medical shock journalists are right, coconut oil is a saturated fat, but, as Fife explains, it is a remarkably healthy one.  In The Coconut Oil Miracle (Avery, 2004), Fife examines the science the media has chosen to ignore.

The author explains the three kinds of fatty acid chains in depth, short (olive and canola oil), long (butter, lard) and medium (coconut oil).  He illustrates how medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) have been proven to promote weight loss, defend against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis, prevents premature aging of the skin, bolsters the immune system and can even improve digestion.

As it turns out pan fried chicken cooked in coconut oil is is better for you than grilled chicken.  Gravy made with coconut oil and organic flour is better for you than gravy made with low sodium stock and corn starch made from genetically modified corn.  What’s even better about cooking with coconut oil is that the taste and texture are exactly what you would expect with unhealthy fats.  There is no coconut flavor either.

Coconut oil does have its drawback though it is mainly functional.  It has a low smoke point, 350 degrees, which is too low for most deep frying.  Seafood should be fried at 360 to 375.  You can deep fry at 350 but do not expect your batter to be as crispy (this can be helped by using rice flour instead of wheat flour).  Breaded items tend to do ok.  You can use coconut oil for anything you sauté.

Fife relies on tons of research citing each by name so you can check the results yourself.  There have been countless studies done on isolated cultures in the Pacific where coconut makes up a large portion of the daily diet.  The findings reveal that these societies have an astoundingly low occurrence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The Coconut Oil Miracle is an example of the kind of research each of us should be doing ourselves.  Trusting in hit-and-run journalism in magazines and on the nightly news has done more harm than good to our society.  Fife’s book is a testimony to proper research but it does have one drawback, the recipes.  I have tested a few and they have been at best okay and at worst an utter disaster (like the coconut oil mayonnaise).

This does not surprise me.  Most nutritionists I have known do not care if something doesn’t taste good or has a funky texture as long as it is healthy.  If this were not true it is doubtful anyone would have ever had to endure a rice cake or tofu.  The key to cooking with coconut oil is to simply use it where you would other fats, especially saturated fats.  Fried chicken , biscuits, gravy, et al can be a part of your everyday diet if you use coconut oil.

If you are serious about eating healthy then you need to stop relying on articles (like this one) and start reading books (like The Coconut Oil Miracle).  You have to do research – in-depth, time consuming research – otherwise don’t bother.  Eat whatever you want and suffer the consequences because flowing from one fad to another is far worse for you than just not giving a damn.

Other suggested reading to help you do your own research:
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth
Substitute Yourself Skinny by Susan Irby

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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