What to do with a cucumber! …. A smoothie with banana, peanut butter and maple syrup

Cucumbers are this kind of vegetable that I find boring. Mostly because I have learnt (when I was living in France) to make one major recipe with them, cucumber salad… cucumber salad… mixed salad with cucumber for a change.

To say the truth, I also enjoy cucumber in sandwich: French baguette, brie, cucumber and sunflower sprouts. Yummy but this is only a few slices of cucumber… not really enough.

As I try to diversify my diet, each time I go to the market or the small “fruits and vegetables” shop near my apartment, I can’t resist the temptation. And each time, 2 to 3 cucumbers are irremediably dropping into my shopping basket. This happens not only because they are cheap but also because I love their freshness.

And to be honest, I am also aware that cucumber is good for your health!

I know, I know we are focusing on the rainbow colors for fruits and vegetables, a real obsession because we have learnt that more colourful are the veggies and fruits, better this is for your health.

But one of the general rules in nutrition and health sciences that I have learnt in my previous life (when I was a nutrition scientist) is the fact that nothing is everlasting. And as a result, I was not surprise when we have rediscovered a few years ago that white vegetables are also good for our health.

White is now part of the “rainbow colours” good for your health, and cucumber is one of the good white veggies.

Let’s review why cucumber is good for your health…

Despite the fact that cucumbers are made up of mostly (95 %) water, they are rich in vitamin K (21 % of daily intake per 100 grams), B vitamins (~10%), copper (2%), potassium (4%), vitamin C (5%), and manganese (4%). In addition, they contain unique polyphenols and other compounds that may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases and much, much more.

Then …

Cucumber can flush out toxins. All that water in cucumber acts as a virtual broom, sweeping waste products out of your system. With regular use, cucumber is known to dissolve kidney stones.

Cucumber can protect your brain because of its anti-inflammatory flavonol called fisetin content that appears to play an important role in brain health by improving your memory and protecting your nerve cells from age-related decline.

It will reduce your risk of cancer because it contains polyphenols called lignans that may help to lower your risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers. It also contains phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which also have anti-cancer properties.

It fights Inflammation by “cooling” the inflammatory response in your body, in part by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes.

Cucumbers have antioxidant properties because they contain numerous antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene as well as flavonoids that provide additional benefits like “natural antihistamine ” & anticancer properties and that can also lower your risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.

It can help to manage stress because it contains multiple B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin). B vitamins are known to help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.

Cucumber can support your digestive health because it is rich in two of the most basic elements needed for healthy digestion: water and fiber.Cucumber skins contain insoluble fiber, which helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.

It can support heart health because of its contain in potassium, which is associated with lower blood pressure levels.

Cucumbers can help with diabetes and cholesterol. It contains a hormone which is needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin which has been found to be beneficial to diabetic patients. It also contains sterols that may help reduce bad cholesterol levels.

It can promote joint health, relieves gout and arthritis pain. Cucumber is an excellent source of silica, which is known to help promotes joint health by strengthening the connective tissues.

Who have thought that this watery fruit (yes, this is a fruit) is a super food!

One thing I have learnt over the past two years is the fact that cucumbers make a great base for vegetable juice as well as smoothie because of its mild flavor and high water content. And this is how I really enjoy my 3 cucumbers in a weekly basis.

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

 

Servings: 4          Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

2 to 3 bananas cut into chunks

1 cucumber sliced

2 tablespoons of all-natural peanut butter

1 to 2 tablespoons of organic maple syrup

1 cup of 2% milk (or almond milk as an alternative)

If you want to increase your protein intake, you can add 1 to 2 scoops of rice or egg protein

6 ice cubes

Preparation

Put all ingredients into a blender in the order listed and blend until smooth.

Blending times may vary depending on the type of blender you own. If you have a Vitamix blender, start the blender off on variable 1 and quickly increase to variable 10, then to high.  Let blend for about 20-30 seconds on high.

I love the combination banana, peanut butter and maple syrup, which is softened by the freshness of the cucumber. It is really refreshing!

I drink some for breakfast and I keep one glass for later in the day as a snack – easy to carry in a thermos, easy to drink when you are in the go.

I keep the leftover (if any) in the fridge for 24 hours maximum.

Bonne Appetite!

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Sautéed Kale with Imperial IPA mustard sauce

If you ask me what I want for lunch or dinner, most of the time, I would say a lot of yummy vegetables. Vegetable is my motto!

In fact, I have learnt to cook veggies here in Toronto with two of my best friends, Wendy and Peihong, both from China. In France, we cook a lot, and we love veggies, but most of the time we boil them before to sauté them in olive oil or butter: mushroom, spinach, green beans, peas… This is the way I was trained.

Here in Toronto, I have discovered the technique of stir fry, and I cannot go back to the “boil everything” technique I have learnt in France. When I don’t make salads or vegetable soup, stir fry is my number one technique when I cook veggies. Rapid, tasty… We are enjoying our vegetarian meal… me for sure!

I have already talked about the nutritional and healthy benefits of kale in a previous blog. Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. It is extremely high in vitamins A, C and K, all antioxidants known to help protect against cancer and heart disease. Kale is also very high in lutein which promotes healthy eyes. And for sure, kale needs to be part of your weekly food intakes.

I try to eat kale two times a week and this is one of my favorite side dish. I love how a combination between three simple ingredients can bring so much flavors. Imperial IPA beer jelly/mustard balances marvellously the peppery taste of Kale.

After my first try, I have made some research and I have found that hop flavors (as found in the Imperial IPA) pair amazingly well with green leafs like kale. This is a winner combination… a real alchemy.

To say the truth, this is now how we cook kale at home. Each time, we say the same thing… again and again. This is so good, this combination works so well…. mummmm.  I hope you will try and enjoy this recipe with your family and friends.

It is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Servings: 4          Preparation time: 10 minutes      Cooking time: 7 – 10 minutes

 Ingredients

! slice bacon, finely chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 bunch kale, stems removed (optional), leaves finely chopped

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard like Originale Maille mustard

2 generous teaspoons of Imperial IPA beer jelly

If you don’t have access to an IPA beer jelly, try an apple jelly or apple cider jelly. The key point is… the jelly need to be a little savory (not too sweet!).

½ tsp Sea salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

Preparations

In a skillet over medium/high heat, add olive oil, onion, shallot and bacon. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute

Add kale, stir well and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly

Mix together the mustard and the beer jelly, add to the kale , stir and cook for 3 minutes

You can cook your kale for a shorter or longer time. It really depends how you like your kale – crunchy or well cook

Add salt and pepper, stir and cook for 1 minute

Serve hot

Bonne Appetite!

French tomato pie with goat cheese and Imperial IPA beer jelly (or honey)

This is a classic in French cuisine – mustard, tomatoes and cheese layered on a flaky pie crust. This was my first recipe published last year in my blog: Alchimie et gourmandise. We love this pie – we call it the French pizza. I wanted to revisit this classic this summer, and add a little of “je ne sais quoi…”.

As I am working with local craft beer, my idea was to add some Imperial IPA beer jelly to the mustard and to pair this aromatic jelly with goat cheese… A must to try. I hope you will enjoy this French pie with a Canadian twist as much as us.

If you don’t have any beer jelly, don’t worry. You can use also honey or apple cider jelly.

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Pie crust recipe

Ingredients

250 grams all-purpose organic unbleached flour

125 grams of butter, cubed and very cold

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

100 ml very cold water, plus more is needed

Directions

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Add the cubed butter to the flour mixture, and cut it using a pastry cutter (rubbing it in with your fingertips also works in a pinch). Keep working the butter into the dough until in coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.

Scrape off any residual butter-flour mixture from the pastry cutter, and drizzle in the water.

Gently work the water into the dough with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until it becomes a shaggy but relatively cohesive mass. Give the dough a few kneads with your hands (fewer than 10) so that it forms a rough ball.

Try to work these steps as fast as you can. This is one of the secrets for a flaky crust.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap, and chill for at minimum one hour or overnight. This allows the water to fully hydrate the dough, making for a more cohesive product that’s easier to roll out.

The tomato mustard French pie

 Ingredients

100 g of mustard

I use normally a combination (50/50) of artisan whole-grain mustard (not sweet at all) and Maille Dijon Originale mustard. French mustard like Maille is the best choice because it is not sweet and it will pair perfectly with the Imperial IPA beer jelly, honey or apple cider jelly.

1 tablespoon + 4 to 5 teaspoons Imperial IPA beer jelly (or honey or apple cider jelly as an alternative)

If you are using honey or sweet apple cider jelly, put a little less because it is going to be too sweet.

3 large or 5 medium ripe heirloom tomatoes (like candy’s old yellow, green zebra, cavern…)

5 to 6 round slices of goat cheese – 250 g (8 ounces) (like The Tournevent, la fromagerie Hamel, Quebec)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of fresh herbs of Provence (a combination of parsley, marjoram, rosemary, thyme or oregano)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Fit the pie crust into a 11-inch pie dish (or smaller size like a 9-inch). With a fork, poke holes into the bottom of the crust.

Precook the crust for 7 to 10 min. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into slices 3-5 mm thick. Lay the slices as on paper towels to remove excess water content in tomatoes if needed

Remove the crust from the oven.

Mix together the two kinds of mustard with one tablespoon of Imperial IPA beer jelly. Spread it over the bottom of the pie crust in an even layer. Cover the mustard with slices of tomato, overlapping in a spiral from the edge to the center. They will slightly shrink while cooking. Then, don’t be afraid to put two layers of tomatoes.

Arrange the slices of goat cheese on top, and add a teaspoon of Imperial IPA beer jelly on each disk of goat cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes, and sprinkle the tart with the herbs of Provence.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 450 degree F, or until the dough is cooked, the tomatoes are tender, and the cheese on top is nicely browned. Depending on the heat of your oven, if the cheese doesn’t brown as much as you’d like it, you might want to pass it under the broiler until it’s just right.

Remove from the oven and let it to rest for 15 min.

Imperial IPA beer jelly (or vanilla) infused yogurt pudding with tomato compote

In the French Caribbean islands, we are making vanilla tomato jam. And yes, tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable!

I have always loved the idea to use tomatoes in sweet recipes. I started with jam a few years ago. This is one of my favorite jam here in Toronto. We have so much tomatoes during the summer. But this summer, I wanted to be a little more adventurous and I have decided to develop a dessert with tomatoes that also includes one of my beer jellies.

Imperial IPA beer jelly is the perfect choice because hops and tomatoes work really well together. But don’t worry, if you don’t have any Imperial IPA beer jelly, you can use vanilla for both the tomato compote and the yogurt pudding. It is going to be delicious too.
Inspired by Indian cuisine, this is an aromatic, crunchy, creamy and refreshing sweet treat (adapted from Ragini Dey’s recipe (Spice Kitchen)). It remind me one of my grand mother Adele recipe. Hope you will like it!

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Prep Time: 15 min        Cook Time: 30 to 45 min         Yield: 4 servings

 Ingredients

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 vanilla bean

4 curry leafs (or 1 small bay leaf)

4 pods of green cardamom (opened, seeds removed and ground)

180 grams (7/8 cup) sugar

250 grams (1 cup) plain yoghurt

140 grams (0.6 cup) sweetened condensed milk

80 grams (0.3 cup) cream fraîche

4 teaspoons of Imperial IPA Beer Jelly (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract as an alternative)

1 egg, lightly beaten

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 320°F (160°C).

Cut lengthwise down the vanilla bean into two halves and scrape the pod halves to collect the seeds.

Mix together the tomato, vanilla pod and seeds, curry leafs, cardamom and sugar in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and cook for about 8–10 minutes.

Do not overcook the tomatoes, it is really important to keep intact the crunchiness and the freshness of this fruit.

Remove the tomatoes, and distribute them equitably between 4 X 250 ml glass Masson jars.

Reduce the tomato syrup half or until it forms a syrup. Remove the vanilla bean and curry leafs, and pour the syrup into the jars over the tomatoes.

Warm up the Imperial IPA Beer Jelly using a microwave or using a water bath.

Mix together the yoghurt, condensed milk, cream, beer jelly and egg in a medium bowl.

Pour the yoghurt mixture over the tomato mixture and bake in the oven for 20–35 minutes, or until the pudding is just set. It seems that 25 minutes is enough but it will all depend of your stove.

When the pudding is cooked, it will look smooth like a panna cotta and still a little wobbly. Do not cook it for any longer once it reaches this stage, because overcooking will make it curdle and the water will separate.

Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, then serve. The pudding will become firmer and lose its wobbliness when chilled.

You can keep this dessert for at least 48 hours in the fridge. It is a really refreshing sweet delicacy!

Pickeld Black Cherry

Each year during the summer season, I try new recipes for jam and pickle or I rediscover something I was making with my grandmother Adele in Burgundy. This year, because of my cooking class, I have decided to make pickled black cherry. Never made it, never eat it! This is a premiere.

Easy to prepare – less than 30 minutes. You can choose the spices and aromatics that you would like to infuse your cherries with. However, you need to be patient , at least one month (better two months) before to open the jar and enjoy this treat with pâté, cured meat and local artisan cheese, or mix into stuffing and pie fillings, or add to a rich sauce made with wine or beer, or in a salad like us (recipe will come next in my blog). It needs some time to be able to develop its full potential of flavours and be ready to tickle your taste buds.

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This is also the perfect gift for Christmas or when you go visiting friends… add a nice cheese, a bottle of wine or a pack of craft beers, a nice artisan bread or some crackers. The perfect combination for an impromptu culinary experience.

I think it is time to pickle, this is my recipe:

Adapted from Epicurious.

Yield: Makes 3 X 250 ml jars

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

200 ml (1 cup) distilled white vinegar

200 ml (1 cup) water

30 grams (1/4 cup) sugar

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 to 3 cloves

2 to 3 cardamom pods

3 curry leaves or 1 bay leaf

450 grams (1 pound) fresh rip cherries

3 small rosemary sprigs

Preparation

Wash the cherries as described previously (20 to 30 minutes in 10% white vinegar solution) and pat dry. Cut the stems to keep 1 inch, and don’t remove the stones as these add flavour to your finished product, just remember to warn guests about the pits.

Wash the seals (or lids) and jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Set the seal aside in simmer hot water and place the jar in the oven on a moderate temperature (about 200 F degrees) for 10 minutes.

Bring the first 10 ingredients to a boil in a medium stainless-steel saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 minutes.

Add cherries and rosemary to saucepan. Simmer until cherries are tender, it will take 3-5 minutes.

Transfer cherries and rosemary to 250 ml jars. Pour in enough pickling liquid to cover cherries.

Seal the jar straight away and chill, and leave for 2 months before eating.

Will keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year. Once opened store in the fridge and eat within 3 weeks.

Strain before serving.

Bon Appetite!

 

 

Dark Cherry Clafoutis

Oh my, this is one of my favorite desserts during the summer . Easy to do, luxurious, wobbly, custardy, light but flavourful, healthy and so tasty.

Clafoutis is one among so many different French fruity desserts that we can enjoy during the summer season. It is a speciality of the Limousin region, where it is traditionally made with the local black griottes, or sour cherries, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter.

There are numerous variations using other fruits, including plums, prunes, apples, pears, rhubarb, figues, cranberries or blackberries. When other kinds of fruit are used instead of cherries, the dish is properly called a “flaugnarde”. You can also prepare a savory version with different vegetables like cherry tomatoes, shallot, zucchini, spinach… You can also add ham and cheese. Children will love it!

Clafoutis is a versatile and casual dish, a little rustic for sure but so tasty. So feel free to personalize it, your family and friends will love it.

The name “clafoutis” comes from the Occitan dialect word claufir, to cover or fill. And it is exactly what this dessert does, very pleasurably, indeed.

Traditionally, a French clafoutis contains the whole cherries (i.e. with the pits). Over the past few weeks, I read a lot about cherry clafoutis and I have found several recipes that call for removing the pits – some important authors: Julia Child and David Lebovitz, to name some of the well known North American French cuisine gurus.

The idea of removing the pits is a difficult decision for me. I live in North America and I understand that it is important to adapt recipes to the audience we would like not only to reach but also to engage in a culinary journey. However, I really want to share with people the pleasure of French food and the essence of what makes our cooking style that is prepared using simple ingredients so tasty.

I have a lot of thoughts about this dilemma. It is true that I am under the influence of the French tradition and the fact that I don’t want to be too “Americanized” – stubborn French girl!

But to be honest, it is more complicated than this. It relates to my childhood, my grandmother Adele’s clafoutis, the way she taught me how to make this recipe, and the sweet and lip-smacking souvenirs associated with this dish. A real gourmandise! And honestly, I really think I will be so disappointed to discover after so many decades of delicious cherry clafoutis that the fact of keeping the pits doesn’t make any difference at all. The flavour is the same with or without the pits!

Then, I have decided that I will leave to you the decision to remove or not the pits. The only thing I can do is to give you the “food science” explanation of why we need to keep the pits when doing this specific dish – to be able to make the most delicious clafoutis!

According to The Larousse – one of the most prestigious series of French cooking books, the pits have a particular aroma which infuses the batter as they warm up in the oven. As a result, removing them robs the dessert of its full cherry flavour. The pits contain amygdalin, the active chemical found in almond extract. Thus, a small amount of amygdalin from the pits is released into the clafoutis during baking, adding a complementary note to its flavor.

If you decide to remove the pits, you can add some of this flavourful characteristic by adding 1/8 teaspoon almond extract. This is the secret!

I think it is time to cook. This is my recipe for a true French cherry Clafoutis.

 

8 servings          Preparation 3 hours and 30 minutes                    Cooking 45 minutes

Ingredients

600 grams (1.32 pounds) sweet cherries

45 ml (3 tablespoons) kirsch or other brandy

3 large eggs, at room temperature

70 grams (½ cup) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract (only if you pit the cherries)

80 grams (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) plus 45g (3 tablespoons) sugar

330ml (1 1/3 cup) whole or low fat milk

Pinch of salt

Softened butter (for the baking dish)

 

Preparation

Wash the cherries and remove the stalks.

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If you are not buying organic cherry, it is really important to wash them appropriately to remove as much as pesticides you can. Cherry is one of the “Dirty Dozen” among the fruit and vegetable list. I recommend to simply wash them in a solution of distilled white vinegar and water. You can soak the cherries in a solution of 10% vinegar for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse them in clear water. Using this technique, you should be able to remove 80% of all pesticides.

Put in a bowl and lightly crush them, so the skins pop but the fruit retains its shape. Add 3 tablespoons sugar and the kirsch, toss together, cover and leave to macerate for two hours.

If you use pitted cherry, you don’t need to crush them but you will have some juice. Do not discard it, you can add some to the batter.

Why is it important to macerate the fruit in kirsch (or other brandy) and sugar for two hours before cooking?

This is a technique I use a lot when I am doing jam. The sugar will slowly permeate the cherries and intensify their flavour. The alcoholic bath will give an extra flavour.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).

Grease generously a 3-liter (3-quart) baking dish, just wide enough to hold the cherries in one layer.

Lay the macerated cherries in a single layer in the baking dish.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt and the 80 grams of sugar. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the milk until you have a smooth batter. Stir in the vanilla extract and almond essence, if using it.

Pour the batter over the cherries and bake for about 45 minutes, until it just sets but it is still a bit wobbly (a knife poked in the center should emerge relatively clean).

If you want you can sprinkle some Demerara sugar on the top (it will add a more interesting texture, providing a crunchy counterpoint to all that wobbly custard and juicy fruits).

The clafoutis can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold. It’s traditionally not served with any accompaniment.

You can make it up to one to two days in advance, and refrigerated it.

Bonne Appetite!

 

A little of science…

Nutritional and health value of cherry – A way to boost your energy and your overall health

There are two primary varieties of cherries: sweet and tart (also known as sour cherries). Sweet cherries, such as Bing cherries, are best eaten fresh (and raw), while sour cherries develop a fuller flavor when they’re used in cooking (like baking).

Cherries are one of the very low calorie fruits (63 calories, 13 grams of sugar and 2 grams of fibre per 100 grams).

Cherries, and more specifically sour cherries (mostly because most of the research done so far has been done with sour cherry), are packed with numerous health benefiting compounds that are essential for wellness.

It is important to keep in mind, if you eat cherries for their therapeutic value, that 10 sweet cherries or 1 cup of sour cherries contain about 4 grams of fructose (recommended total daily fructose consumption ≤ 25 grams).

Below are some of the benefits eating different kinds of cherry:

Be Zen and sleep well

Cherry fruits are one of few natural sources of stable anti-oxidant melatonin, a hormone that can lower the body temperature and also can cross the blood-brain barrier easily. As a result, it can produce soothing effects on the brain neurons, calming down the nervous system irritability, which helps relieve neurosis, insomnia and headache conditions. To sleep better, you can drink half to one cup of sour cherry juice an hour before bed.

Balance your blood pressure and maintain your heart as young as possible

Sweet cherries contains potassium (6% daily value per 100 grams), a natural blood-pressure reducer. Potassium balances fluids in our bodies, essentially offsetting the blood-pressure-raising effects of sodium. One cup of these ruby gems packs roughly the same amount of potassium as a small banana and also contains some quercetin, an antioxidant that may help keep blood vessels relaxed and stretched.

Sour cherries provide cardiovascular benefits equal to some medications, and can improve the result even when taken with prescriptions.

Finally, anthocyanins (the pigments that give the sour cherries its red color) may activate a receptor called PPAR in different tissues of body. It can regulate metabolism genes expression, which in turn regulates fat and glucose levels and thereby reduce risk factors for high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.

Relieve muscle pain

Scientific studies have shown that anthocyanins in the cherries may act like anti-inflammatory agents by blocking the actions of cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 enzymes. Interestingly, the sour cherries’ antioxidants can also protect against attacks by exercise-induced free radicals, which can lead to painful inflammation. Thus, consumption of cherries has potential health effects against chronic painful episodes such as gout, arthritis, fibromyalgia (painful muscle condition) and sports injuries like post-workout pain.

Fight cancer

Sweet cherries are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, anthocyanins (red, purple or blue pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, especially concentrated in their skin, known to have powerful anti-oxidant properties) and quercetin, which may work together synergistically to fight cancer. Interestingly, preliminary studies suggest the anthocyanin cyanidin may prevent genetic mutations that can lead to cancer and keep cancer cells from growing out of control. While tart cherries contain some anthocyanins, sweet cherries pack nearly three times as many (two-thirds are found in the skins). The riper the better: as cherries darken, they produce more antioxidants.

Shape your body and overall health through weight management

Anthocyanins in sour cherries may activate a molecule that helps augment fat burning and decrease fat storage. Recently, researchers have shown that rats that received whole tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight or build up as much body fat as rats that didn’t receive cherries. Interestingly, their blood also showed much lower levels of certain inflammation markers linked to heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than their cherry-deprived counterparts.

Let’s eat some sour cherries when they are in season!

References

http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/cherry_nutrition_benefits

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/natasha-turner-nd/cherries-benefits_b_3757989.html

Spinach Broccoli Creamy Soup

… don’t be afraid by the bright green colour, it is all natural!

Making a creamy soup without using any starchy vegetables like potatoes or the addition of cream is a healthy alternative. I have learnt from my mum and grandmothers that a vegetable soup needs to contain potatoes, and it took me years before I have been able to understand that potatoes doesn’t need to be one of the main ingredients in soups. Changing habits can take time!

This soup is one of the most simple soups I am making regularly. It contains olive oil, onions, two green vegetables – broccoli and spinach, some old cheddar cheese (or French Comté or Gruyere), salt and peppercorn. This is it!

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I love this soup, not only because of its bright green color that invites us to enjoy without delay the first spoon of this green nectar, but also because of its fresh and tasty flavors. The secret, the broccolis are cooked slowly for more than one hour; this helps them to develop a sweet and nutty flavor and not the cabbage flavor that is so familiar when they are overcooked. The spinach are added at the end, just before to puree all the ingredients together.  You can enjoy this soup for dinner and keep the left over for your lunch.

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Adding green leafy vegetables to your diet is really important for your health – everybody knows this. But sometime putting this adage in practice is another story. Finding different ways to accommodate these green vegetables can be challenging. Meals where green vegetables are the main ingredient can be boring if your only solution is to  cook steamed them. Stir fry, salad, smoothie, soup, pie… There are no limits. It is yummy! Every day, a new culinary adventure  for you and your family!

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I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe (adapted from America Test Kitchen).

The recipe

4  to 6 servings

Ingredients

3 to 4 small onions, diced

1 bunch broccoli

1 bunch spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 to 5 cups chicken stock

80 grams old Cheddar (or Comte or Gruyere)

Salt and peppercorn

Directions

Cut the broccoli florets from the stems. Peel the tough outer skin from the stems and trim off the fibrous ends. Cut the stems into small pieces.

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Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and cook until light brown. Add the broccoli, lower the heat to low, and cook for 1h.

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Add the stock, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and leave it to rest for 5 to 10 min.

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Puree the soup in a blender in small batches. Add some of the spinach and some of the Cheddar to each batch and then puree it.

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Return the soup to the pan and reheat over gentle heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Thin the soup if necessary. Keep warm.

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It is time to enjoy… Bon Appetite!

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Served with graded cheese, roasted peanuts and bannock …. Yummy!

If you want to learn more about the nutrition and health benefits of these two vegetables, there are more information for you below:

spinach 1

Does cooking affect significantly the nutritional value of these two green vegetables? Not necessary

Boiling broccoli leads to the biggest losses of cancer-fighting nutrients. Steaming for up to 20 minutes, microwaving for up to three minutes and stir-frying for up to five minutes produced no significant loss of cancer-preventive substances. Raw broccoli maintains all of its nutrients, but it can irritate your bowels and cause gas.

Cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits. Just half a cup of cooked spinach will give you twice as much nutrition as one cup of raw spinach. One of the main explanation is the fact that the body cannot completely break down the nutrients in raw spinach for its use.

As an exception to the advice above (and this happens a lot in nutrition and health sciences), research studies have shown that taking spinach in juice form is actually the healthiest way to consume it. Blend spinach with other vegetables or fruits to create a delicious glass of juice, or try a green smoothie.

Spinach is one of the best sources of magnesium… so important for your health

Magnesium is a key nutrient that contributes to overall cellular health and plays an important role in more than 300 different bodily functions. For example, magnesium is needed to regulate calcium, potassium and sodium, which together all control neuromuscular signals and muscle contractions. This is why a magnesium deficiency can sometimes result in muscle pains and cramps. Magnesium deficiency is also associated with insomnia, mood disturbances, headaches, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for diabetes. One major concern is the fact that a lot of adults in developed nations are actually experiencing a magnesium deficiency. The good news is, magnesium in spinach stays intact after being cooked.

On the other hand, freezing spinach diminishes its health benefits. The way to get the best from the leaf is to buy it fresh and eat it the same day.

Add spinach to your ‘organic shopping’ list, mostly because the leaf tends to be sprayed heavily with pesticides that don’t come off with normal washing. In contrast, if you are budget limited, you can buy and enjoy conventional and/or local broccoli without problems.

 

 

 

 

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References:

1) http://www.livescience.com/45408-broccoli-nutrition.html

2) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/love-it-or-hate-it-broccoli-is-good-for-you.html

3) http://draxe.com/spinach-nutrition/

4) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-surprising-health-facts-about-spinach.html#ixzz3VGarHWnm

5) http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/ss/slideshow-to-buy-or-not-to-buy-organic