Sprucing up your office snack with sweet and spicy pecans

Eating small snacks throughout the day helps you avoid dips in energy to keep you productive and alert at work. Choosing the right type of snacks can also help you maintain a healthy body weight, which is important for cancer and chronic disease prevention.

Foods that contain protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats slow the digestion process and lead to a longer feeling of satisfaction compared to processed, sugary snacks. A great snack option that includes all of these nutrients are nuts. Research has shown that eating nuts at least 4 times a week can reduce your risk of cancer. Nuts contain a variety of cancer-protective nutrients and phytochemicals, and are a good source of heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

This weekend I spruced up my usual snack of plain nuts by making homemade spiced pecans with a touch of sweetness and heat. Most candied nuts you buy in the grocery store are laden with sugar and excess fat, and expensive. Instead, I prefer to make my own – it’s surprisingly easy and with a few tweaks you can make a tasty, nutritious option at home.

This recipe only takes about 20 minutes and includes just 6 simple ingredients! Here’s the full recipe: Maple Cayenne Pecans.

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To prepare, mix the pecans with all the ingredients except the coconut oil in a medium bowl so they are evenly coated. Continue reading

The Origin of a Hot Wasabi Dressing

Hot foods are – hot. A trend I enjoy, it has me thinking beyond chile peppers and into exploring wasabi, which is seldom used as an ingredient. I love it because instead of sending burning heat down towards my belly, it shoots a head-clearing blast up my nose, opening up my sinuses just as spring overloads them with pollen.

While creating recipes for my latest book, The Power Greens Cookbook, which came out this month, I looked for ways to use wasabi and fell in love with it in salad dressings.

Wasabi Collage

wasabi root, in a powder and a paste

To make salads that work with wasabi-spiked dressings, I started by tasting wasabi together with various ingredients. The best vegetable pairings included tomatoes, cucumber, and avocado. It went well with several kinds of fish, and shrimp, as well.

Featured Recipe: Baby Kale Tuna Salad with Wasabi Dressing

So what salad dressing ingredients does wasabi blend well with? Buttermilk, and yogurt, for starters.

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How Home-made Cornmeal Crackers Can Help You Burn Calories

“With all the cooking you do, how do you stay thin?” I am not thin but being on my feet in the kitchen, moving constantly, does benefit my weight. Writing is when I tend to gain weight. To help minimize this, my laptop is set up so I work on it standing up. Still, I start every piece and write the first draft for recipes while sitting down, pen in hand, facing a yellow pad.

Like most writers, I feel anxious looking at the empty page. To get past this anxiety, munching on something savory with crunch works best. Yes, it is a bad habit. I wish celery sticks worked but they do not. Limiting my choices to foods with some health benefits, I rely on nuts, baked corn chips, and lightly salted crackers to comfort me until words start flowing.

Recently, I found a whole-grain cracker recipe that I have adapted here; munching on them helped me get this post going.

Cornmeal Crackers_06Making these herb-flavored crackers takes some concentrated, calorie-burning work: after you cook stone-ground cornmeal to make a thick, gritty polenta and mix in all the other ingredients to make a dough, you must roll it out by hand until it is very thin, almost thin enough to see through. Like making pasta, this takes effort. It produces crackers that snap nicely.

While making the dough, handle it as little as possible or your crackers will be tough. Rolling the dough out on baking parchment is fantastic. The non-stick paper lets you lift and release the dough easily so you can roll until it is even thinner than 1/16th-inch. The dough is forgiving—simply press tears together. For the final rectangle, this means you can cut pieces off where the sheet of dough bulges out and press them to fill in where it is narrow. After cutting the dough into neat, two-bite-size crackers, toss out any trimmings; rerolled, they make a sticky dough and tough crackers.

Using a light colored baking sheet is important. If you do not have one, line a dark sheet with baking parchment and allow a longer baking time. The crackers color unevenly, giving them a rustic look. They get crisper as they cool, so it is ok to take the colored crackers from the oven when they are still a bit soft.

These crackers are excellent with cheese, dips, or soup as well as for snacking.

Here’s the recipe: Cornmeal Herb Crisp Crackers.