A walk on the plant side — vegan trends for summer 2021

Wile this blog is not a vegan blog, we do keep our eye on food trends of all sorts and wanted to pass on a summary of a story we saw recently entitled The Next Big Things: Our Top 5 Plant-Based Trends for Summer.

Among those five are vegan fish alternatives, vegan grilling options and vegan gourmet cheeses.

“While using nut-based milks and ingredients like black garlic truffle, dill Havarti and chive is unique, plant-based cheesemakers are also replicating the methods used to make dairy cheeses for more authentic textures and flavors. Including a plant-based cheese will be sure to take your picnic basket to the next level,” the article states.

On the grilling front, “Remember when corn ribs broke the internet? Buckle up for more plants hitting the grill this summer that go far beyond the veggie burger: Think plant-based products like hot dogs, Italian-style sausages and even jackfruit BBQ. From algae-based casing to hickory smoke concentrate, these vegetarian options have unique ingredients making it easy (and flavorful) to incorporate more plants into your cookout. Mixing up your classic grilling go-tos will leave meat lovers and vegetarians alike wanting more,” it notes.

The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis.

And, “Get ready for a new wave of seafood substitutes that will be sure to surprise and impress! Ingredients like legumes and banana blossoms are being used to mimic the flaky texture of the real thing. This means alternative fish sticks, no-tuna sandwiches and a whole new depth of flavor in an otherwise simple fish dinner.”

We were recently in Minneapolis where my veggie-eating daughter bought fake meat at this vegan butcher, one of the first in the world, called The Herbivorous Butcher. She gave it a glowing thumbs-up.

One word of warning, many vegan creations add lots of salt to give the products flavor. If you’re on a salt-free diet, do your bestt o always check labels or get nutritional information from suppliers.

A fat-free sorbet for July 4th cookouts

No-Churn Strawberry-Lemonade Sorbet sounded like an easy, fat-free dessert that anyone could make easily at home. It has only two ingredients, strawberries and lemonade mix. How difficult could it be?

Harder than it sounds, I discovered. Here’s the recipe”

Ingredients

16 ounces (about 4 cups) frozen strawberries

3 tablespoons frozen lemonade concentrate

Directions

  1. Add the strawberries and lemonade concentrate to a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until scoopable, about 1 hour. The sorbet will keep for up to 2 months.
My lemon-strawberry sorbet, heavy on the leomn.


The three tablespoons of frozen lemonade concentrate stopped me because my concentrate was frozen and liquid. I measured out three tablespoons of the frozen part and added some extra liquid, which proved to be too much lemon (and I love lemon flavor). So I’d recommend dialing down the amount of lemon you use to suit your taste.

I’d also probably opt for fresh strawberries next time. A pound of frozen ones cost me $3.99 but this time of year, fresh ones are often on sale for less ($2.50) and they likely will be more flavorful.

With all those tweaks in mind, this can be a tasty July 4th fat-free dessert option. It does still have sugar (the amount is difficult to determine without nutritional info in the original recipe).

Americans aren’t managing their diabetes very well, new study finds

Roughly 10% of Americans ahve diabetes and how they’re managing that condition is deteriorating, according to a new study. While this blog is about healthy eating and doesn’t pretend to give medical advice, this topic is important enough to discuss. Sugar is one of the three evils Americans eat too much of and too much sugar is the issue for diabetics.

The new study, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found thatover the last decade, people with diabetes in the U.S. have become significantly less successful at controlling their blood sugar,” reports Medical News Today.

“These are concerning findings. There has been a real decline in glycemic control from a decade ago, and overall, only a small proportion of people with diabetes are simultaneously meeting the key goals of glycemic control, blood pressure control, and control of high cholesterol,” said study senior author, Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, of the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology.

If you;ve developed diabetes later in life, remember it’s not jst sugar you need to watch your consumption of, it’s also breadstuffs, potatoes, any food that converts to sugar in your bloodstream. American eat way too much bread, not to mention French Fries, both fo which contribute to this problem.

A Jamaican take on tilapia — Jamaican-Style Lime-Poached Fish

Tilapia has become a fish you can easily buy in most supermarkets these days, I’ve included several rcipes for it already on my recipe page, such as Greek Roasted Tilapia and Tilapia with Chilis. But I’m always looking for more recipes, so was intrigued by this one for Jamaican-style lime-poached fish. The recipe suggests several types of white fish work in it, including tilapia.

Here are the ingredients, I’d leave out the salt, there’s plenty of flavor here without it.

Ingredients:
½ bunch fresh Italian parsley
4 cloves garlic
2 small, fresh jalapeños
2 cups no-salt-added vegetable stock (or broth), divided
¼ cup lime juice (plus additional for serving, optional)
1 cup diced yellow onion
½ teaspoon pepper, divided
3 oz sliced green onions, divided
2 (6 oz) white fish fillets (such as haddock, snapper or tilapia, about 12 oz.)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

The instructions:

  • Chop parsley (1/2 cup) and garlic finely. Dice 1 jalapeño and slice remaining jalapeño thinly, removing seeds and membranes, if desired.
  • Combine 1 cup stock, lime juice, yellow onions, garlic, diced jalapeños, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and one-half each green onions and parsley. Place fish in shallow dish (wash hands) and pour mixture over fish. Marinate 30 minutes.
  • Remove fish from marinade (wash hands). Pour marinade and remaining 1 cup stock into large sauté pan and bring to a boil on high, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Carefully nestle fish into mixture; cover and simmer (do not boil) 8-10 minutes until fish is opaque and flakes easily. Remove fish and sprinkle with salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Top with jalapeño slices and remaining half green onions and parsley.
  • Serve fish with poaching liquid, accompanied by rice and additional lime juice, if desired. Always check fish for bones and cook to an internal temperature of 145°F.

If you try it, let me know how it turns out.

Can your cookouts be healthy? Yes, if you plan ahead and shop wisely

When I was a much younger man, I would routinely have a start-of-summer cookout at my house with a menu that included Italian sausage and peppers, ribs, chicken legs, fatty hamburgers, hot dogs — in other words all the things I can’t eat now that I’m dealing with heart issues. So I stopped having those cookouts, not wanting to serve people foods I can’t eat and assuming they would not be happy with what I could eat.

But that was then, this is now, some nine years after my first stent went in and I changed my eating habits.

I haven’t had a large cookout party in some time, especially not last year when we were all isolating, but I have developed healthy cookout menus for us.

A recent article I saw, Nutrition: Making summer barbecues healthier from the Duluth News Tribune, can help you make your cookouts healthier as well.

The article covers the basics — grill lean proteins like fish and chicken, use whole wheat breadstuffs when you must have a bun, grill fruits. It even touches on how high in salt most condiments are and suggests finding substitutes for those as well.

A good place to start grilling healthier is my recipe page. The Memorial Day special meals (under special occasion meals) all deal with grilling, for example. And check my smart shopping page for tips on low- and no-salt condiments.

Roasted Garlic Lemon Broccoli, one healthy recipe out of nine ‘amazing’ ones

When I see a headline like “9 Amazing Broccoli Recipes Everyone Will Love” I have to stop and read it. AS I suspected, however, most of these ‘amazing’ recipes were high in salt, or fat, or both. I did find one, however, that would fit our low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar criteria, roasted garlic lemon broccoli.

The recipe is simple to make as well:

  • Preheat the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a bowl, toss the broccoli pieces with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and pepper. [LEAVE OUT THE SALT, IT’S NOT NEEDED WITH GARLIC]
  • Spread the broccoli on a baking sheet and bake for at least 15 minutes until the broccoli is tender.
  • After 20 minutes, transfer roasted broccoli into a serving platter.
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the preparation and serve with a tangy twist.

Summer no-salt shopping — my latest assortment of goodies

The Pandemic knocked a lot of no-salt food products off mainstream store shelves as retailers pared down their assortments to concentrate on stocking their biggest sellers. So those of us eating no-salt diets had to turn elsewhere, primarily online to places like Healthy Heart Market..

I’ve written about Healthy Heart before, noting it can get expensive to ship heavy food offerings. But sometimes there’s no alternative for a given product you want.

I’ve been buying reduced sodium pickles, for example, but really wanted salt-free ones. Healthy Heart has its own brand of no-salt pickles. Buying just two jars, though, doubled the cost when shipping was added in. So I decided to look for other items to spread out the shipping cost a bit.

My Healthy Heart Market purchase, and the bill.

I also bought some lite Greek dressing, which I’ve reviewed here in the past, some Mrs. Dash salt-free fajita mix since I can’t find that locally, a jar of no-salt tomato paste (not pictured) and some no-salt bullion.

I’m particularly interested in trying to bouillon since I rarely eat any soup these days because of the the high salt content.

My bill came to $52.36, of which $14.55 was shipping (I used a $5-off shipping deal).

Expensive, yes, but with my blood pressure rising all through the pandemic, despite my doctor adjusting my various medications, the more salt I can get out of my diet, the better.

An alternative for getting the salt out of your taco seasoning mix

I’m a big fan of all the Mrs. Dash salt-free products and have written before about the Mrs. Dash salt-free taco seasoning packets I buy. These are the best way to get salt out of your tacos, along with buying no-salt, or low-salt tortillas and using lean ground turkey or extra-lean ground beef to eliminate fat as well.

But Mrs. Dash products ahve become much harder to find during the pandemic as major food stores cut down on their variety of products to concentrate filling their shelves with their biggest sellers. So if you can’t find Mrs. Dash locally, what can you do? Buying online is a more expensive alternative. But you also can search for store brand offerings that are lower in salt.

Always check salt content, even for a product labeled reduced sodium.

I found this Signature Select store brand (sold by Jewel in the Chicago area, an Albertson’s supermarket). The package says it has 30% less salt than comparable products. The nutritional panel lists 250 mgs of sodium for two teaspoons, noting there are six servings in the packet, which means a total of 1,500 mgs of sodium in one package (a day’s supply of sodium, basically).

That is a ton more than Mrs. Dash but it is lower than some mainstream brands. Old El Paso, for example, lists 300 mgs times six servings or 1,800 mgs. A third off that would be 1,200 mgs, so the Signature Select 30% less doesn’t hold up here.

McCormick Taco seasoning has 380 mgs of salt times six servings so 2,280 mgs. A third off that would be 1,520, so maybe that was the brand used to make that 30% off comparison.

The bottom line here — there is a lot of hidden salt in taco seasoning. Use salt-free whenever you can, but if you must pick an alternative, read the nutrition labels and look for ones labeled reduced sodium.

Another answer for rising food prices — check the dollar stores

Food prices have been going up during the pandemic and continued to do so even as Covid is becoming less of a threat to those of us who have been vaccinated. So how do you cope, especially on a limited budget?

Where do you buy your produce?

Dollar stores are one alternative, and a recent study says dollar store produce is no lower in quality than traditional grocery produce.

“Researchers from this study found no distinct differences between the supermarket and dollar store produce quality, although the dollar stores offered slightly less variety. The only major difference was in the price of the produce, as fruits and vegetables purchased from a dollar store were 84 percent less expensive, on average,” reports CookingLight.com

The study looked at dollar stores and traditional supermarkets in Las Vegas. The farther west you go, the more likely dollar stores are to sell fresh produce. Those in the Chicago area I frequent do not, but I have seen pineapples for $1 in California dollar stores, for example.

So where you live will likely influence how helpful this tip is for your shopping. Also, keep in mind the dollar stores that do carry produce generally do not have organic products, so if you prefer those you still need to pay up.

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