Saturday, March 31, 2012

Steamed egg pudding

I've written about egg custards before, and I have been making them fairly regularly in the microwave - especially in the colder months.

Recently, though, I saw a link to a recipe for Korean style creamed eggs, and I really like that it's something you can make quickly on the stovetop.  The one in the link is a savoury recipe, while I like experimenting with chocolate pudding and ever so slightly sweetened (with Stevia or Splenda) lemon custards, but the principle is the same.  You could even make a crustless pumpkin pie this way.


You prepare a custard, and steam it in individual ramekin dishes in about an inch of barely simmering water in a stockpot for 8 to 10 minutes.  It's that simple!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Making Mayonnaise and Sauce Hollandaise

Making your own mayonnaise isn't hard, though many recipes call for just the egg yolk, and I hate that.  I don't mind separating eggs, but I hate having to put either the yolk or the white away, and then having to remember to use it.  It just spoils the spontaneity of cooking, don't you think?

The main ingredients used in mayonnaise are eggs, oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and seasoning.  Mustard, salt and pepper are the most common, though you can also add garlic or cayenne pepper.

Why would you make your own mayo?  Well, it can taste amazing, and it allows you to control the type of oils used.  Commercial mayonnaise is made with vegetable oils and they are rich in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids.  You could opt for olive oil mayonnaise, but if you check the labels, you'll see the primary ingredient is still likely to be an oil other than olive oil, so it's not really a more nutritious choice.

If you have never made your own mayonnaise before, the two most important things to know are that you need to ensure the eggs are at room temperature, and that you must add the oil extremely slowly - just drops at a time, in the beginning.

I have some more tips, and I have an excellent recipe in an old favourite cookery book, The Impatient Gourmet, by Isabel Jones.  Unfortunately it's buried away somewhere in a box while our house renovation proceeds at a snail's pace.    If you want to learn more, it's easy enough to find a decent recipe online, like this tutorial at All Recipes.

But I do have another idea, one that doesn't involve digging up this brilliant but out of date book.   It occurred to me that if you wanted to reduce your consumption of seed oils, the alternative could be to make mayonnaise with butter instead.   And there's already a wonderfully delicious sauce that uses the same ingredients:  Sauce Hollandaise.  Why not use this sauce instead of mayonnaise?

When I was growing up, I loved Sauce Hollandaise, which we would use as a decadent dip for steamed artichokes or asparagus.  My mother would make it au bain marie, which again, is not hard, but it is rather tedious.  These were rare treats, since we grew up in a health conscious household and she diligently followed the prevailing dietary advice to limit fat intake.  

I once made the mistake of buying a packaged Sauce Hollandaise, and threw away the product once I had mixed it up.  It was disgusting!  Please don't ever do that!  

Later, after leaving home, I experimented with making this sauce in the microwave, and discovered that it's extremely quick and easy, though for the longest time I was guilt-ridden about the fat content.  

But how things have changed since we realized it's all about the carbs!

Last week, I served up an impromptu adaptation of Eggs Florentine for dinner - steamed baby bok choy topped with poached eggs and a generous swathe of Sauce Hollandaise.  We all loved it and the kids couldn't stop asking for more.

You should try it too.  You can use any green vegetable for the base.  For the sauce, you will need:

2 eggs       
1/4 of a package of butter (125g or one stick)
Juice of 1 lemon  (I used 2 limes)                     

Microwave Method:
Melt butter on high in a small bowl or jug.  Add lemon juice and stir.  Add lightly beaten eggs.  Microwave at 50% until thick, stopping every 20 to 30 seconds to whisk sauce, about 2 minutes.  Don’t overcook!

 Traditional Method: 
Stir eggs and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until butter is melted.  Whisk the mixture until it starts to thicken, about 10 minutes.  Add lemon juice slowly while continuing to whisk. 

Note:  If the sauce refuses to thicken or curdles (probably because it has got too hot), there is a remedy.  Rinse out another mixing bowl with hot water, then put in 5 ml lemon juice and 15 ml of the curdled or thin sauce.  Beat with a wire whisk until they thicken together, then beat in the rest of the sauce a little at a time, whisking each addition well until quite smooth before adding the next.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tom Naughton explains why low fat diets are wrong

You may or may not know who Tom Naughton is.  He is a former stand up comedian, a journalist, and more recently, a low carb blogger and the maker of the movie Fat Head.  Here he gives an excellent 20 minute speech that explains why so many people never conquer their overweight in spite of diligently reducing their calorie intake, exercising and consulting the experts.  Finally, disillusioned after being accused of not following their diet properly, they realize the conventional advice to cut the fat and up the grains isn't working for them.  Success follows when they discover that carbohydrate restriction works for them to reduce their weight and control their blood sugars.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hungry for Change

A new movie is premiering online starting today:  Hungry for Change - Your health is in your hands explains in plain English how it isn't fat that is making us fat, but the sugar that the western diet is filled with.  Watch it online for free at this link until March 31.

I'm not as crazy about the message in the second half of the movie, which includes a fairly heavy dose of pro-vegan footage.  However, the movie is not quite as dogmatic as Forks Over Knives as regards promoting the more socially acceptably-termed "plant-based diet". 

And above all, I am in total agreement with the premise that boxed and processed foods are harmful.  We need to be eating foods that in their natural state instead.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gluten link to Reflux Disease

I recently bumped into an acquaintance I hadn't seen in a while.  She suffers from chronic reflux disease and it has been affecting her quality of life quite significantly.  Not only does she take prescription medications, but she also avoids chocolate, caffeine and a long list of other foods which she believes will worsen her symptoms.  A year or two ago, when things started getting really bad, she started making a concerted effort to incorporate more legumes and whole grains into her diet.  Her reflux is now so severe that she can't eat after mid-afternoon, and has started discussing the possibility of surgery with her doctor.

When I asked her if she had considered giving up grains, this was a completely novel idea to her.  Clearly it wasn't something her doctor had recommended.

I couldn't help wondering how medical specialists can justify discussing surgical options before first suggesting that their patients try a gluten-free diet for a while.

I completely understand that physicians have to be careful not to cross the line into areas beyond their expertise.  They are not trained or qualified as nutritionists, so I am aware that they need to tread carefully.

But still, I find it very difficult to understand why a risk averse physician couldn't say something along the lines of, "There is a body of thought that the proteins in wheat are inflammatory and some patients find that their symptoms diminish considerably when they stop consuming grains.  Before we talk about surgical options, I wonder if you would consider going on a gluten-free diet for six weeks".

I sincerely hope the reason for this is not that the specialists themselves are completely unaware of the inflammatory effects of gluten.  I don't expect our doctors to be totally on the up and up with all the latest nutritional thinking - that is not what they are trained for, after all - but it's not unreasonable for them to be at least somewhat familiar with dietary alternatives that affect their area of expertise.

It doesn't take more than a couple of minutes of internet searching to find plenty of resources and testimonials from others with reflux disease who were able to control or even reverse their symptoms by switching to a Paleo diet.  There are even peer-reviewed papers that suggest a relationship between celiac disease and acid reflux.

The risks of surgery to treat a non-acute problem always outweigh the risks that accompany a temporary change in diet involving the avoidance of a particular food that does not provide essential nutritional value.  Surgery is always costly, and often cannot be reversed.

Some people are such strong believers in alternative remedies that they avoid potentially life-saving surgery.  It has been speculated that Steve Jobs might still be alive today if he had had more faith in traditional medicine.  However, we need to distinguish between the need for surgery to fix an acute problem, as opposed to the treatment of a chronic one.  When it comes to a chronic disease like reflux oesophagitis, there is more leeway in the treatment options.  And it's very hard for me to understand what harm could come of giving up bread, crackers and muffins for a couple of weeks.