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Healthy Cooking: Pumpkin Power, by Val Wilson

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Before you know it, there will pumpkins everywhere!

This signals it is Halloween time. The temperature will start to cool down, all the colorful leaves will fall from the trees, and many of us will take part in an ancient celebration of our ancestors. Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1st. At the end of summer, the Celts thought the barrier between our world and the world of ghosts and spirits became thin. As part of the celebration, people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off ghosts. To outsmart these ghostly beings, people would put on masks when they left their homes after dark so the ghosts would think they were fellow spirits.

Every year around October, people start asking for pumpkin-flavored desserts.

Pumpkin is very versatile. I have used it in many sweet dessert recipes, and created many savory pumpkin dishes too. It is in the winter squash family of vegetables. Pumpkin is high in fiber, making it a great food for heart health. It’s also high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that turns into Vitamin A in your body, which can help your body fight off infections and strengthen your immunity. Pumpkin also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that help protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts. This incredibly healthy vegetable also contains potassium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, E, and several forms of B.

Pumpkin used in baked goods, such as cookies or muffins, gives an incredibly moist texture and tremendous flavor. If you use fresh pumpkin instead of canned pureed pumpkin, look for the small pie pumpkin. It’s smaller, sweeter, and has better overall flavor than the others. Leave the large pumpkins for decorative carving. Simply cut the small pie pumpkin in half, lay flat side down on an oiled cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until fork tender. Let cool, then scoop out the flesh, and puree for a smooth texture.

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Cookies

½ cup dried apricots
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup brown rice syrup
2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. each: ginger, allspice, cloves
Pinch sea salt
1 ½ cups rolled oats
2 cups oat flour
Raisins

Put the apricots, pumpkin puree, olive oil, brown rice syrup, spices, and sea salt in a food processor. Puree to chop the apricots into small pieces. Put the rolled oats and oat flour in a mixing bowl. Add the pureed mixture and mix all together. Spoon the dough onto an oiled cookie sheet. Press the cookie dough down with a fork. Decorate the cookies with raisins to create faces on the cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool before eating.

Adapted from Year Round Healthy Holiday Cooking, copyright 2019, Valerie Wilson.

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her new cookbook, Year Round Healthy Holiday Cooking, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macrval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Healthy Cooking: Wild Blueberry Ice Cream, Val Wilson

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There is nothing more delicious in the summer than wild blueberries grown in the U.P. They are sweeter and juicier than any other blueberries I have tasted. It is always a thrill when you come across some wild blueberries growing in the woods and get to pick them for yourself. And you are getting extra health benefits from the wild ones.

Although all blueberries have a high amount of antioxidants, wild ones contain more of the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin. Anthocyanin may be responsible for some biological activities such as preventing or lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. And it’s responsible for the beautiful blue color of the berries. If you are lucky enough to pick a bunch of blueberries, you can make some ice cream with them.

Have you heard of Aquafaba?

It is an exciting ingredient used in many vegan recipes. Aquafaba is the water left over when you cook chickpeas. You can cook the chickpeas yourself and save the water, or you can use the water from canned chick peas. Something amazing happens when you whip the Aquafaba in a mixer for about 10 minutes—it gets fluffy similar to a meringue created by egg whites! It increases five times in volume when you whip the chickpea liquid. For best results, you need to add a stabilizer. Cream of tartar works best.

Once the Aquafaba is whipped up and you’ve added the flavors you want, you freeze it to make great ice cream. Because Aquafaba is basically bean water, it contains very low amounts of calories, fat, protein, or carbohydrates. The ice cream is vegan, and the only fat or calories it contains are what you add to the Aquafaba, making it a great low-fat, low-calorie dessert.  It is a soft ice cream and melts fast, so packaging it in small, one-serving containers to freeze works best.

Aquafaba Blueberry Ice Cream

1/2 cup Aquafaba
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup maple syrup

Put the Aquafaba and cream of tartar in the mixing bowl of a standing mixer. Using the whisk attachment, start on low speed, slowly increasing the speed until you reach high speed. (With a Kitchen Aid Mixer, whipping it on #8 works great.) Whisk the Aquafaba for 8 to 10 minutes until you have achieved a stiff consistency and it has increased in volume about 5 times.

While whisking the Aquafaba, put the blueberries and maple syrup in a sauce pan and heat on low until warm. Gently fold the blueberry syrup into the whipped Aquafaba. Put in small, one-serving containers (half pint containers work well). Cover and put in freezer for a couple of hours until completely frozen.

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her new cookbook, Vegan Cooking with Kids, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macrval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Healthy Cooking: Spring Sour Power, Val Wilson

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Spring is a natural time of cleansing, making it an ideal time to feed and nurture our liver, gallbladder and nervous system. The main job of these organs is to purify the blood. The flavor associated with spring, and that helps to feed and nurture these organs, is sour. Foods that make your mouth pucker are sour, such as limes, lemons, plums, pomegranates, sauerkraut, and naturally fermented pickles. The signature flavor of sour is featured in the recipe below and complemented by sweet and bitter chocolate.

A couple of ingredients you may not be familiar with in the recipe are agar flakes and kudzu. Agar flakes are small, almost-clear flakes to thicken the dessert once the dessert has cooled. Agar is freeze-dried red algae, making it one of the healthiest foods you can consume. It’s high in calcium, iron, phosphorous, Vitamin, A, B complex, C, D, and K. 

Kudzu root is the root of the kudzu plant that has been dried. You will find it in stores in a bag and it looks like white chunks of chalk. To cook with kudzu, you have to dissolve the white chunks in water before adding them to any recipe. Kudzu thickens liquid and in the recipe below, it helps to create a creamy texture for the filling. Kudzu helps to alkalize your body, lower cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure, and contains bioflavonoids that dilate blood vessels to help alleviate migraine headaches.

Chocolate Lime Squares

Crust
2 cups cookie crumbs
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
2 T. rice beverage (or favorite non-dairy beverage) 

Topping
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips
4 T. rice beverage (or favorite non-dairy beverage)

Filling
1 cup rice beverage (or favorite non-dairy beverage)
1/2 cup lime juice
3/4 cup brown rice syrup 
2 T. maple syrup
5 T. agar flakes
pinch sea salt
4 T. kudzu root (dissolved in 1/4 cup water)

To make crust: Using low heat, slowly melt the chocolate chips and 2 T. rice beverage. Stir as it melts. Mix in the cookie crumbs. Press firmly into the bottom of an oiled 8” square casserole dish. Refrigerate until cold. 

To prepare filling: Put the 1 cup rice beverage, 1/2 cup lime juice, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agar flakes and sea salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the kudzu mixture. Whisk as it starts to thicken to prevent clumps. Once it has thickened, pour over crust. Refrigerate until cold and firm. 

To make topping: Using low heat, slowly melt the chocolate chips and 4 T. rice beverage. Once it is melted, drizzle over the top of dessert. Put back in refrigerator for topping to set. Cut and serve. 

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her new cookbook, Vegan Cooking with Kids, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macrval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Healthy Cooking: Apples & Sweet Potato—A Sweet Deal, Val Wilson

Want to do your heart a favor? Try eating more apples and sweet potatoes. The natural sweet taste of the sweet potato mixes very well with apples to create a delicious dessert. Both are a great source of potassium to help your heart stay healthy. Potassium can help lower blood pressure, reduce stresses on the heart, and aid regulation of your heart rhythm and muscle contractions. Manganese is another mineral shared by both. It helps produce collagen to promote healthy skin and bones. Plus, both apples and sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin C, E, and B. 

Apple Sweet Potato Pie 

Filling
4 cups apples (peeled and cut up)
2 cups sweet potato (peeled and cut up)
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 pinch sea salt
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup arrowroot

Crust
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pinch sea salt
2 T. brown rice syrup
1/2 cup water
3 cups oat flour 

To make the crust, whisk together the olive oil, sea salt, brown rice syrup, and water. Stir in the oat flour until you have firm dough that will hold together. Divide dough in half and form two round discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours, until cold. Roll out one disc of dough at a time. Place the dough in-between two pieces of plastic wrap, and roll with a rolling pin. Put in an oiled pie dish.

To make filling, put all filling ingredients in a sauce pan. On low heat, slowly heat the filling, stirring a couple of times to mix all the ingredients together. The filling will thicken as it heats on the stove. Once the liquid has thickened, pour into pie crust. Roll out the other crust dough, and place over the top. Pinch the sides of the crust together, and poke a couple of holes in the top crust. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Let cool before cutting. 

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her new cookbook, Vegan Cooking with Kids, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macroval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Healthy Cooking: Quinoa, Queen of the Grains for an Active Summer, By Val Wilson

Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wa’) was the mother grain of the Incas. They considered it sacred and held ceremonies honoring quinoa.  In South America, in the high altitudes of the Andes mountains, quinoa has been grown, harvested, and eaten since at least 3,000 B.C. Because of its hardiness, being able to survive at such high altitudes, quinoa is considered a strengthening food.

Although botanically quinoa is a fruit, we classify it as a whole grain. In fact, quinoa is the signature whole grain for summer time. As one of the easiest whole grains to digest, it gives us a tremendous amount of energy so we can be very active in the summertime. Quinoa is high in calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese, and is a complete protein. Quinoa is high in quercetin and kaempferol, two flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory, anti- viral, anti-cancer, and anti-depressant properties.

Quinoa cooks up quickly and has a nutty flavor, making it ideal for creating cold salads for summer.

Quinoa, Black Bean and Fresh Basil Salad

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
4 cups broccoli (cut up)
2 scallions (thin, round slices)
1 carrot (grated)
3 radishes (grated)
1 cup corn
1/4 cup minced parsley
1- 15 oz. can black beans (drained)
Dressing:
3 T. tamari
3 T. brown rice vinegar
2 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves (minced)
3 T. fresh basil (minced)

Put the quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to the lowest possible temperature, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Put hot quinoa and corn in a bowl and stir together. The heat from the quinoa will lightly cook the corn to bring out its flavor. Steam the broccoli until fork tender, approximately 7 minutes. Add broccoli to the bowl along with the scallions, carrot, radishes, parsley, and black beans. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad. Mix all together and serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold. 

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her cookbook, Perceptions in Healthy Cooking Revised Edition, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macrval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Healthy Cooking: Brawny Barley, Spring Cleanser, by Val Wilson

Spring is the time of year when we become more active, go outside, and reawaken after the more sedentary winter energy phase. Our bodies go through a natural cleansing at this time of year. It is easy to see how the organs associated with this phase are the liver, gallbladder, and nervous system, the organs associated with detoxing the body. The liver and gallbladder are primarily responsible for purifying the blood. When these organs are working properly, they neutralize poisons and toxins and remove them from the blood. The liver also regulates the release of sugars into the body for fuel. If the liver is overtaxed from the over-consumption of dense fatty foods such as dairy foods, it cannot properly give the body energy. To make sure these important organs are working properly, we can incorporate the signature whole grain for spring, barley.

 
Barley is the whole grain known for cleansing the body. It is one of the oldest grains, originating in Southwest Asia around 8500 B.C. Roasted barley was one of the main foods of the gladiators because of its strength-building properties. Known for strengthening the blood and intestines, barley contains potassium, iron, calcium, protein, and fiber. When buying barley, look for whole barley. Pearl barley has the bran polished off, losing the fiber and other nutrients. Barley is excellent in soups, stews, salads, and vegetable dishes. It has a chewy, creamy texture, and a nice sweet taste. If you have gluten sensitivities, substitute brown rice for any recipe using barley.

Barley Vegetable Stew

9 cups water
1 cup barley
4 inch piece kombu
1 onion (diced)
5 garlic cloves (minced)
3 carrots (diced)
2 yellow summer squash (cut in small cubes)
2 celery stalks (diced)
2 cups mushrooms (cut up)
1 (15 oz.) can white beans (drained)
1/3 cup dark miso
1 tsp. sea salt

Bring the water to a boil in a soup pot. Add the kombu and cook for a couple minutes until kombu is soft. Remove from water, cut into small pieces, and add back to pot. Add the barley and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, yellow summer squash, celery, and mushrooms. Continue simmering with cover on for 20 minutes more. Add the beans and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Take some of the hot broth and dissolve the miso and sea salt in it. Add back to the pot, turn off heat, and mix all together.

 
Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her new cookbook, Perceptions in Healthy Cooking Revised Edition, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macrval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Healthy Cooking for Fall, by Val Wilson

When cooking tasty fall dishes it is important to use rich, aromatic seasoning to satisfy our taste buds. We have been enjoying the light fare of summertime foods and now it is time to add more seasonings and richness to our food. In the fall we turn our ovens back on and enjoy casseroles and start to crave warming soups.

Two important seasonings we can enjoy in the fall are toasted sesame oil and tamari. Toasted sesame oil has a nutty, earthy flavor that works very well when sautéing. A unique natural by-product of sesame seeds, sesamol, protects sesame oil from oxidation. This means the oil is less subject to rancidity and loss of flavor over a period of time. Toasted sesame oil is also high in linoleic acid, one of the three essential fatty acids our body cannot produce. Tamari is a wonderful, salty condiment used to flavor all kinds of dishes. It is simply the salty liquid that comes from the fermenting of soybeans. Good quality tamari contains enzymes and amino acids that aid in digestion. Tamari also has the unique ability to neutralize the extremes of being over acidic or over alkaline. The lactic and phosphoric acids in tamari absorb excess of being over alkaline. And the saline nature of tamari acts upon acid foods to neutralize them. When shopping for tamari it should be wheat free and naturally fermented.

Brown Rice, Tempeh and Squash Casserole

3/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice
2 cups water
1 package tempeh
1 onion (diced)
4 cups butternut squash (cut in cubes)
3 cups chopped portabello mushrooms
5 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. Paprika
Sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup tahini
2 T. tamari

Pot boil the two rices in the 2 cups water for one hour. Steam squash until fork tender. Sauté the onions in toasted sesame oil and a dash of tamari until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for just one more minute. When done, put in a large bowl. Using the same pan sauté the mushrooms, when done add to the bowl. Still using the same pan, brown the tempeh in toasted sesame oil and tamari, and add to the bowl. Whisk together the sauce ingredients and add along with the rice and steamed squash to the bowl. Add spices and mix all together. Pour into an oiled casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, uncovered.

French Onion and Black Bean Soup

2 onions (thin half moons)
toasted sesame oil
tamari
8 cups water
3 (15 oz.) cans of black beans (drained)
6 T. tamari
1 tsp. basil

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website; to purchase her new cookbook, Perceptions In Healthy Cooking Revised Edition, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, www.macroval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food. 

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2007 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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