Hazelnut Cashew Butter

We finished up a batch of sunflower seed butter yesterday so I decided it was time for another experiment. This time, I used hazelnuts and cashews.

Hazelnuts and cashews are nuts that everyone loves, so how could I go wrong making a butter out of them? But first, let’s look at the health benefits:

Hazelnuts: Like all nuts, hazelnuts contain lots of healthy fats. They are especially high in oleic acid, which is the same fat found in olive oil. Oleic acid is great for lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol, supporting a healthy heart, and creating healthy hair and nails. Hazelnuts also contain powerful phytochemicals that can support brain health, improve circulation, and help relieve allergy symptoms. They are high in protein (9 grams per half cup) and fiber (5 ½ grams per half cup), so are great for topping salads or yogurt to make a complete meal. Finally, hazelnuts are a strong source of vitamin E, folate, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Cashews: Cashews are lower in fat than most other nuts and, like hazelnuts, are very high in oleic acid so are good for heart health. They are rich in copper, which helps with proper absorption of other nutrients such as iron. Copper is also important for proper bone development, along with the calcium and magnesium found in cashews. Cashews have high levels of tryptophan, which is a natural mood enhancer. They are one of my favorite nuts and I eat them in so many different ways: in stir fry with veggies and brown rice; on top of yogurt; roasted with different spices; on salads; and now, as a nut butter!

I started with about 1 cup hazelnuts and 2 cups cashews. Any ratio works, this is just what I ended up with. I buy my nuts in bulk so it’s always kind of a guess as to quantity.

Mix the nuts in your food processor, blender or Vita Mix until the butter is very smooth and creamy. Enjoy!

I made this last night after class and Ed came home just in time to taste-test it. We both loved it – and the color is nice and light, like hummus (vs. the pumpkin seed or sunflower seed butters, which are just as tasty but are grayish-greenish, which can be a tad unappetizing...). I think kids would love this too – it’s perfect for sandwiches or for dipping veggies or apples.


Picky Kids: There IS a Solution

First of all, I need to let you guys know there was a typo in my blog post yesterday. When I said that one 20-ounce Coke contains 67 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of 32 little sugar packets, I meant to type 22. This is a pretty significant difference and I had to let you know about it. I’m sorry if I shocked anyone, but I mean seriously, 22 sugar packets is still a LOT of sugar! When I re-read the blog post from my iphone yesterday and realized my mistake, I was a little annoyed with myself but sort of forgot about it. But then I got a phone call from my friend Therese saying that she enjoys 1 Coke every week or two and that now I have RUINED it for her, I felt the need to let you guys know of my error! Seriously, though, 22 packets is still a ton of sugar and I’m sorry if I have ruined soda for you but I think it’s time you know the truth! You should just be glad I didn’t provide the sugar packet comparison with other popular drinks, like Gatorade, Vitamin Water, Powerade, Nantucket Nectar juices, and flavored teas! You’d be shocked and again, I would ruin these drinks for you! Just go for plain old water…

Anyway… let’s move on.

This morning I read an article from yesterday’s Denver Post titled “What can parents do to get their kids to taste new foods? Nothing.”

Naturally, this caught my attention. My initial reaction was “I disagree!” and I sat down to read the article.

The author, Anne Brockhoff, basically says that kids go through many different phases with food and eating, and the best way parents can deal with this is by not catering to their needs. This is something I’ve talked about at PWN before, but I think it’s so important that I am going to write about it again. Since I do not have kids nor any experience working with picky eaters, I realize some credibility is at stake. But I have read many books and articles on this subject, attended a conference that focused on this, and since then become more interested, aware, and observant of this phenomenon.

Ellyn Satter, who is cited in the article, is an expert on this topic and has even written books for families who struggle with kids and eating. She states: “The trend in recent years is that almost everybody has become more anxious about it.” This appears to be very true. And the natural response when your child rejects the dinner you’ve made or decided to serve? I’m guessing it’s to rush to the kitchen and find something they will eat, because you want them to go to bed with a full tummy (and let’s be honest, there are probably selfish motives too – you don’t want them up at your bedside at 2:00 am whining about how hungry they are!).

But despite the title of the article, Brockhoff’s conclusion was not “nothing” (thank god!). She talked about the need to continue introducing new foods into a child’s diet, and reminded us that sometimes you have to introduce it 100 times before the kid is ready to try or accept the food. Her best point? In my opinion, it was this: “…serve children the same meal you make for yourself. They don’t need separate ‘kid-friendly’ foods or snacks, many of which are inferior to the grown-up versions in both taste and nutrition. Parents are often surprised by… the foods their kids will take to.” I don’t have kids, but when I do, this is going to be my rule. It’s so much healthier and so much easier, so therefore seems so logical. Making 1 dinner each night is enough work… I cannot imagine having to make 2 separate dinners! Not to mention I feel I’d just be encouraging this bratty, selfish behavior if I catered to them by only fixing foods they prefer. Okay, I’m obviously opinionated about this and have no right to be until I’ve experienced it with my own kids, but I really do think it’s unfair to a child to only feed them kid food. They deserve better!

Brockhoff provides some tips for helping kids overcome picky eating and developing a sophisticated palate:

  • Schedule a kid’s meals and snacks, and stick to the schedule. Remember the division of responsibility: Parents decide what, when and where; kids decide how much and whether or not to eat.
  • Skip the kiddie foods, as they often rely on sweeteners, salt and fat for their appeal. If you know it’s bad for your body, why would it be good for your kid’s body??
  • Don’t label your child. Calling them a “picky eater” gives them license to refuse food. Just don’t make a big deal out of it at all. If they choose not to eat, so be it. Maybe tomorrow they’ll be hungrier and try something.
  • Don’t give up. Take a long-term approach, and you’ll see the results as they become older and more open to new foods.

The content was actually strong and I ended up agreeing with almost everything the article stated. My conclusion? The title was misleading! There ARE things you can do to get kids to taste new foods. Check out some of Ellyn Satter’s books (listed here) if you struggle with this at home and want more information. She’s a great resource and is considered an expert in this area.


A Few Quick Things...

Just a few quick things today at PWN, because I’m taking a mid-week break from school and work to head up to Copper Mountain and ski with my cousins. Weekday skiing is a rare occurrence for me, so I cannot wait! No lift lines, no traffic, and lots of fresh snow – it should be a pretty great day.

So here are a few things I’ll leave you with:
  • Yesterday a couple of my classmates presented on soda and sports drinks. We all know they are loaded with sugar, but their information was still shocking. One 20-oz. Coke contains 67 grams of sugar. That is the equivalent of 32 little sugar packs, like the ones you put into your coffee or tea!!! Can you believe it? People usually put one or two into a big cup of coffee, but Coke has 32! Wow. I do not drink soda at all – I don’t enjoy it enough to make it worth it, so I just made the decision to give it up completely about a year ago. But this was still so eye-opening.
  • I had a question from a PWN reader yesterday about where to find the gluten-free grains I talk about every once in a while: teff, amaranth, quinoa, brown rice, steel-cut oats and millet. I get all of these at one of Denver’s health food stores – either Whole Foods or Vitamin Cottage. I find that buying in bulk saves a lot of money and is easier for storage because I can just fill up my glass canisters. Teff is the only grain I am unable to find anywhere in bulk, so I buy Bob’s Red Mill prepackaged teff. You can probably get the oats and quinoa at a regular grocery store in the organic section, but for the rest you’ll have to go to a health food store.
  • Another question from a PWN reader: Should kids be taking vitamin D? This depends on the kid and on the city you live in. If your kids are getting real sunlight every day (without sunscreen on – even a thin layer of low-spf sunscreen is enough to block vitamin D) then they are probably getting enough vitamin D. But if you live in a state that has long winters or lots of rain, your kids may need to supplement vitamin D. The doctor I work for only gives her two daughters vitamin D when we’ve had a snowy streak in Denver, or when they are feeling a cold or flu coming on. It’s probably good to just keep some on hand for times like this. Dr. Mercola sells a vitamin D spray, which would be really easy to give to kids – you just spray it under your tongue and let it sit for 20 seconds, then swallow it.

That’s all for today! I’m attempting a new nut butter this week and hope to share it with you on Friday… so check back!


Flour: Whole Wheat vs. White

I am reading an interesting book right now called The Food Revolution, by John Robbins. John Robbins is the son of Irv Robbins who, together with his brother-in-law Burt Baskin, started Baskin-Robbins. John was the only son and was expected to take over the family ice cream business. But after seeing his uncle and father, as well as other family members, suffer from heart disease and diabetes, he decided to take a different route.

John and his wife moved to an island and had a baby boy named Ocean and lived off the land for less than $1000 per year. A little extreme, right? I thought so. But either way, the book has some good points.

Robbins included some interesting facts about whole wheat flour vs. refined white flour. For those of you who have tried some of my very simple/basic recipes I’ve posted, you may have noticed that I do not bake with white flour. I always knew whole wheat was more nutrient-dense than white, but Robbins provided more specific information as to why. When whole wheat flour is refined to make white flour, the following percentage of nutrients are lost:

  • Protein: 25% lost
  • Fiber: 95% lost
  • Calcium: 56% lost
  • Iron: 84% lost
  • Phosphorus: 69% lost
  • Potassium: 74% lost
  • Zinc: 76% lost
  • Copper: 62% lost
  • Manganese: 82% lost
  • Selenium: 52% lost
  • Thiamin (B-1): 73% lost
  • Riboflavin (B-2): 81% lost
  • Niacin (B-3): 80% lost
  • Pantothenic acid (B-5): 56% lost
  • Vitamin B-6: 87% lost
  • Folate: 59% lost
  • Vitamin E: 95% lost
That’s a lot of nutrient loss! When whole wheat flour is milled into white flour, 25 total nutrients are lost and only 5 are replaced. However, “replacing” a nutrient means using chemicals to add something back in. This is the case in anything labeled “enriched," such as breads you find at the grocery store. However, enriched products contain nutrients that are not as available to our bodies, meaning our bodies cannot absorb them fully and receive all of their benefits.

Another shocking statistic Robbins provided was this: The percentage of total dietary energy (calories) in most worldwide diets that is provided by whole grains is 75%. However, in America, whole grains only make up 1% of total dietary energy in our diets.

Bottom line: We eat too much refined, enriched flour and other refined grain products!

I have been baking with whole wheat flour for years and cannot even tell the difference anymore. My advice for switching to whole wheat flour exclusively? Simply throw your bag or canister of white flour out, refill it with whole wheat, and never think about it again! There are some recipes where you may have to read about substitution guidelines (such as for bread or things that need to rise), but for basic things like cookies or muffins, replacing white with whole wheat is fairly straightforward.

Other products containing the refined white flour include most boxed cereals and many types of crackers, cookies or cakes found at the grocery store. Try to incorporate whole grains into your diet and reduce refined grains. Remember the grain hot cereal I wrote about here? It’s so easy to make and so much more nutritious than a bowl of cereal (tip: make extras and keep it in the fridge for later in the week!). And for dinners or lunches, try to include whole grain breads, brown rice, quinoa, or other grains in place of white rice or white pasta. They are better for your health and will also keep you full longer!


Green Tea

I often get asked if coffee is bad. It’s not really a yes or no answer, and I tackled that question a few months ago, here. Some people worry they drink too much coffee, and try incorporating green tea into their diet to get the caffeine without the negative side effects of coffee. Green tea’s health benefits have been talked about for a long time now, and there are even products like green tea ice cream and Starbucks’ green tea latte (which I think is pretty gross because it’s this limey-green color, which just cannot be natural…).

Last week, my parents sent me the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. My aunt Julie gave them a subscription as a gift, because they love reading about health and nutrition (a love I seemed to inherit!). There is an article in there about green tea, and I found it interesting and thought it would be good to reiterate the importance of green tea in the diet.

SO, consider this a refresher/reminder on why we should all be drinking green tea!

The researcher at Tufts who is studying the many health benefits of green tea says we can almost think of green tea as a plant food. Green tea comes from the leaves of the camellia sinesis bush and contains many natural antioxidants. Green tea has a higher level of antioxidants than other teas because of the way it is processed. As we know, the more processed a food, the fewer nutrients there are within that food. Green tea leaves are withered and steamed, and that’s it. Other teas go through further levels of processing, including fermenting, which alters the plant such that some antioxidants are lost.

Traditionally, green tea was used as a stimulant, diuretic and astringent, and was known to protect the heart, regulate blood sugar, improve digestion, treat gas or bloating, and strengthen the mind. Recent studies have shown that people in China and India, who have been using green tea for half a million years, were onto something:

  • A 2006 study found that those who drink 5+ cups of green tea per day have a 26% lower risk of death by cardiovascular disease than those who drink 1 or fewer cups per day.
  • The polyphenols in green tea may help reduce plaque buildup on teeth and prevent cavities and tooth decay.
  • The Cholesterol Treatment Center in New Hampshire conducted a study and found that green tea catechins (antioxidants) may help lower LDL cholesterol and increase vascular function.
  • Green tea may inhibit growth of early-stage cancer cells in those who drink at least 2 cups per day.
  • Green tea can help with weight loss, particularly abdominal fat. Drinking 2-3 cups per day can lower triglyceride levels and BMI.
  • The antioxidants in green tea can combat the growth of viruses and bad bacteria. They also help keep us young by reducing DNA damages associated with aging.

Most of us have tried green tea and many people enjoy it. The hard part, at least for me, is drinking enough of it to reap all of the health benefits listed above. Here are some ideas for ways to incorporate green tea into your diet:

  • Brew a big pot of green tea and keep it in a pitcher in your fridge. Add to smoothies in place of juice.
  • When you make iced tea this summer, make it half green tea, half regular. The taste won’t be altered much and you’ll get the extra antioxidants.
  • Try adding green tea to soups. They usually call for water anyway, so green tea will be an easy substitution.
  • One or two days per week, have green tea instead of coffee.
  • Add honey, fresh lemon, or ginger to your green tea to make it more enjoyable and contribute to the health benefits.
  • Remember in December when I told you about Drazil Foods? Try adding green tea to your kids’ smoothies or fruit juices so they can benefit from the antioxidants too!