nutrition and health

The Republic of Tea serves dessert in a teacup

Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea I've heard there are people who don't like dessert.  I am not one of them.

The thought of ending a meal without something sweet makes me sad.  But then I remind myself that dark chocolate is chock full of anti-oxidants and no more blues.

When I heard The Republic of Tea was introducing a new dessert tea - specifically chocolate - I was ready to give it a taste test.

The Republic's Minister of Enlightenment was kind enough to send me the new Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea and a recipe for Chocolate Coconut Iced Latte.

The low caffeine dessert tea is an herbal blend of roasted carob, caramel malted barley, roasted chicory, dates, coconut flavor, cocoa powder and chocolate flavor. 

Since my only experience with barley is in soup and my acquaintance with chicory is limited to its use as a coffee substitute, I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the canister. 

A little research demonstrated that both barley and chicory are good, good, good for you as a brew. Barley is reported to aid digestion and ease congestion and bronchitis symptoms while chicory is said to cleanse the blood and improve the health of the liver.

Chocolate and coconut added to the mix could only be a bonus.

Opening the canister, I got a whiff of the wonderful pleasures to come.  The aromas of coconut and coconut were rich and dark, like a delicious cordial.

I put the kettle on and got the teapot ready.  My mother and I watched the kettle impatiently.  After rinsing the pot, we poured the hot water over two tea bags and waited for the tea to steep sufficiently.

The tea's color was a deep, nut brown and the aroma was lovely and tropical. I was happy just smelling my cup. 

Normally, I take milk and sugar in my tea, but since The Republic promised this tea was naturally sweet (and therefore a low calorie treat), I took my first indulgence without the usual suspects.  It is naturally sweet and could certainly be consumed without any addition.

But I am a creature of habit and nothing says tea cozy like a milky-sweet cup. I added my sweet addictions and finished the last drop.

My mother is a tea purist. She takes her tea with a teaspoon of sugar, no more, and no lemon, no milk. Nothing fancy for her. Black tea or green tea keeps it simple.  She found the coconut overwhelming. It was not her cup of tea.

Of course, I loved it. Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea lends itself to lingering after dinner and I'm pretty sure it would pair quite nicely with a mango mousse or pumpkin cheesecake.

Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea is packaged in a recyclable tin containing 36 unbleached, round tea bags free of unnecessary strings, tags and staples. Available now, the dessert tea has a suggested retail price of $9.50.

Also available from The Republic of Tea is Double Dark Chocolate Mate, an organic roasted yerba mate from Brazil generously dusted with all-natural dark organic cocoa powder. Available now, the dessert tea has a suggested retail price of $15 for a tin containing 36 unbleached round tea bags.

Chocolate Coconut Iced Latte

Yields one serving.


Ingredients

2 tea bags, Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea

6 ounces filtered water, heated to boiling

3 ounces milk or milk substitute

Sweetener, if preferred


Brew two tea bags in 6 ounces of filtered water for five minutes. Remove tea bags and allow tea to cool.

Add 3 ounces of milk or milk substitute. Blend milk and tea. Serve in a tall glass over crushed ice. Sweeten as desired.


Secrets of the French kitchen with Chef Jean-Stephane Poinard

Behind the scenes at Bistro de Leon

The French have a reputation for creating gastronomic delights from the simplest ingredients.  

Think pot au feu, a hearty beef stew whose literal name means pot on fire, or cassoulet, a slow-cooked white bean stew with various meat from sausage to duck or mutton.  

The traditional French kitchen always has been stocked with the freshest ingredients, locally grown and produced.  But, while most of us associate a typical French kitchen with savory and sweet delicacies, we usually don't recognize it for the place of economy and thrift that it is.

Generally, we think of luxury and expensive ingredients when we think of French cuisine. However, eating well shouldn't be a luxury and the French kitchen is the perfect place to learn this lesson.

In a recent conversation with Bistro de Leon restaurateur Jean-Stephane Poinard, the Paul Bocuse-mentored chef generously shared secrets of his kitchen - many learned in the kitchens of his Maman and Grand-mère, masters of French comfort food or la cuisine de nos mères.  

Chef Poinard is a native of Lyon and a member of the elite Les Toques Blanches Lyonnaise.  He currently is collaborating on a book about absinthe (including 18 of his recipes).


The French are reknowned for their inventive cuisine and for very little waste in the kitchen. What are some smart ways for home cooks to make the most of their food budget?

People used to cook whatever they wanted.  They didn't worry much about its cost, where it came from or how it made them feel.  Now people are beginning to realize that if they eat crappy food, they feel bad. They are interested in the long term plan.

Feeding yourself is a pleasure. We can do small things that make food more flavorful and more interesting and we can save too.

A baguette, if it is made with good quality flour and yeast, you have to see all the little bubbles inside like Swiss cheese, can be frozen if you are not using it all right away.  Save half in the freezer and reheat it in the oven at 350º.

You recommend re-purposing day-old baguettes as well.

Don't throw away dry bread. There are many ways you can use bread.  A plain salad is not very fun - even for kids.  Make little croutons, add egg, a little lardon (thick bits of slab bacon).  It's a little appetizer with lots of tasty treats.

You can dry the bread all the way through and process in the food processor to make bread crumbs.  Mashed potatoes with cheese and bread crumbs make a nice gratin.

French toast is a good way to use the baguette.  When the bread soaks in the milk and egg, it's very rich, very filling.  

Just with the baguette, we can do a lot of stuff.  Goat cheese melted on a crispy baguette makes a nice appetizer or crouton for a salad.

There are so many ways we can economize and make healthy flavorful foods, reducing waste.
 
Chicken stock is very flavorful when its made from the carcass of a roasted chicken. Don't throw out the bones. Why buy chicken stock when you can make your own? It's very cheap.

Add the carcass, garlic, celery, onions, thyme and carrots to water in a stockpot. Boil for 15-20 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth.   Believe me, it will be delicious.

You can make a Bouillon aux petites pâtes to give people when they are sick and the kids like it.  You add alphabet pasta or little stars to the chicken stock to make it even healthier.

Freeze the stock as well or reduce it a lot to make a glaze or base to flavor a lot of dishes.

We all would love to eat fantastic flavorful meals every evening, but the reality is that busy days and long commutes can cut into our time for cooking. 

Cooking a big meal on Sunday, you have many ways to use the leftovers during the week.  This saves time and money by using seasonal ingredients.

What is your favorite, quick meal that is simple to prepare, nourishing and fabulous? 

Pot au Feu is a wonderful Sunday dinner.  It's flavorful and healthy.  Leeks, chard and celery are all very juicy vegetables. You make a little extra and you can make many nice meals during the week.  

You can take the leeks and use a vinaigrette.  Leeks are a great detox. The celery cleanses your liver. 

You can make a Pistou or Pesto soup with the leftover vegetables and meat. Pistou is so easy to make and very inexpensive.

What are some inexpensive cuts of meat that can be prepared elegantly and simply?

London Broil is the cheapest cut of meat. It's pretty tough, but we cook it in the pressure cooker to make it very tender with stock, potatoes, turnips and carrots. 

You can use the leftover meat for stuffed tomatoes or to make a dish like Shepherd's pie.  You grind the meat to stuff the tomatoes, to use in a gratin with mashed potatoes.  It's very nice.


Do you have a favorite recipe you would share? 

Pistou. Compare the price in the store. Basil in season costs nothing.  You make 4-5 times more for the same cost and you can store extra in the freezer.  

Pistou
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts 
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup good olive oil 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 fresh ground black pepper 
 
  Process until smooth in a food processor or blender.  Seal with a thin layer of olive oil.

Can you recommend some value wines and some menu items that pair well with them? 

Don't buy wine according to the label.  You pay for the label.  Sometimes you get a very nice tasting wine for a very good value.  In Lyon many people go to the domaine to buy the wine the winemakers declassify.  They can't sell more than a certain number of AOC or appellation d'origine contrôlée bottles so they sell it as vins de pays or table wine.  You get the same wine at a much lower price.

What are some wines you recommend?

I love Cote du Rhone.  You can buy a Ville Fleurie for $6-7 a bottle.  Another is the southwestern French Rosé, Costières de Nîmes. Viognier - this wine is amazing.  It's very tasty, very floral. 

Don't be afraid of the box. If you find a good value, you can buy three liters for about $19.  Black Box is nice, the sauvignon blanc and the Merlot, a little more forte or strong.

People are focused on the label. It's not the label. It's what's inside the bottle. You serve it in the carafe. People love the carafe and it's good for the wine. It's oxygenated.

What are some exciting food combinations that home cooks can use to liven up their meals?

Strawberries, basil and balsamic vinegar make a nice salad.  An avocado mousse with shrimp and cumin mayonnaise.



Lawmakers hope to ban junk food in the schools

It seems unbelievable that this is even on the table, but here it is in the Senate. Lawmakers want to ban candy and soda vending machines from public schools in response to childhood obesity.


How about improving the lunchroom fare too?  From what I've seen, it's still pretty terrible and processed.  
There is absolutely no reason why more fresh food can't be prepared in the schools.  It is a fallacy that it would cost more, particularly when you factor in the health benefits to our kids.


Have you had your recommended daily allowance of almonds today?

Almonds promote a healthier heart 

An almond a day keeps the doctor away.

And that's exactly what Kenneth M. Lankin, MD, wants.  The physician behind Awesome Almonds, the healthy and natural specialty snack, was raised by a health conscious Mom who was a head of her time. 

"My brother and I used to get sandwiches on brown wheat bread and some fruit," Lankin writes. "At the time we felt persecuted.  We thought our mother was strange."  After he began learning about the nutritive value of almonds in 2001, the physician-entrepreneur discovered his Mom was way ahead of the curve.

With no added fats, artificial colors or preservatives, Awesome Almonds are made with all natural ingredients: almonds, pure beet sugar, real vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee and orange juice.  As a source of nutrition they are high in protein, unsaturated fat, dietary fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium.

Almonds are perfect for a heart healthy diet and have been recognized for their cholesterol-lowering properties in scientific studies.

According to the Foundation for the World's Healthiest Foods, nuts have been linked to lower risk for heart disease by five independent studie, including the Nurses Health Study, the Iowa Health Study, the Adventist Health Study and the Physicians Health Study.

Awesome Almonds come in three flavors: Cinnamon Vanilla, Cocoa Java and Orange Vanilla.

Have you had your RDA (recommended daily almonds) today?


Real Age Touts "Olive Oil for a Flat Belly"

Yay!  I'm delighted to see that something I adore, an essential ingredient in my culinary repertoire, might make my "food baby" flatter than a lovely, paper-thin crepe.  You too can have a flatter tummy by adhering to a Mediterranean diet rich in "good fat" -- olive oil. 

Here's what the website Real Age has to say on the subject of trimmer tummies and olive oil:

That bagel? It could go right to your gut. Literally. But a bit of olive oil each day may help keep your middle little.

That's what researchers are saying after testing two diets -- one high in carbs and the other based on healthy fats from olive oil. The "fat" diet kept bellies flatter.

Why Belly Fat Is So Bad
Besides making you sad when you zip up your pants, excessive abdominal fat increases your risk for high blood sugar and many other health problems. But in a recent study of overweight people, a Mediterranean-style diet -- where approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of the calories came from unsaturated fats, like those in olive oil -- seemed to help prevent tummy-expanding over time. Another bonus: The fat-focused diet helped people maintain better insulin sensitivity, too. Not so with the high-carb diet, which seemed to encourage body fat to relocate to people’s bellies. (Read this to find out how much Mediterranean eating it takes to reduce heart disease.)

Weight Loss Arithmetic
Keep in mind that extra olive oil isn't going to help you trim your middle. It could just help keep your pants from getting tighter. For serious waist whittling, you'll need two must-do's: a healthy diet and extra exercise. Try the YOU Docs' plan for making this 1+1 waist loss equation work for you.

Did You Know?
Some fats make you hungrier. Get the scoop here on which ones can leave you wanting.

   

    RealAge Benefit: Eating only healthful fat can make your RealAge 3.4 years younger.