Crown Point, IN

September 28, 2023

Why You Can’t Stop Eating Junk Food

“Who ate all these chips?!” You look around and, alas, not even a dog to blame. Oops. It’s not your fault.  If you’ve had this experience—r

September 21, 2023

Harvesting the Balance of Autumn

September 23rd ushers in the autumn equinox, a time when day and night are in perfect balance. It also opens the official season of cozy sweaters, pum

September 14, 2023

More Brain-Boosting Foods

Last week I shared a list of brain-boosting foods with the promise of more to come. Here are some additional foods that you may choose to include in y

September 7, 2023

Ten Brain-Boosting Foods

Thank you for the many recommendations of farm stands with tasty corn on the cob. Mr. Non-Compliant happened to be in the vicinity of VanDerGriends Fa

August 31, 2023

Mr. Non-Compliant’s Unwavering Passion for…Corn

Mr. Non-Compliant LOVES corn on the cob. Since the corn season is rather brief, I do my best to oblige him with this indulgence. And as my dear cousin

August 24, 2023

Tips for a Sluggish Thyroid

Lately, I’ve been getting lots of questions about the little gland known as the thyroid. It seems to be underperforming for many of you. Hypothyroid

August 17, 2023

Healthy Anytime Toast

Since my encounter with bar food last week, I’ve been focused on eating more plants. I came across this idea to enjoy “toast” and get more veggi

August 10, 2023

Confessions from The Antler

What does one eat when in a bar? Bar food, of course. The bar options: The Brown Bear vs. The Antler: Horniest Bar Around (There were deer heads with

August 3, 2023

6 Ways to Enjoy a Staycation at Home

August. Already. Is summer slipping by too quickly? Feel as though you’ve not experienced enough lazy days? Can’t manage to get away for one reaso

July 26, 2023

The Wonder of Apricots

When I think about the abundant fruits of summer, apricots make the list. Although some of you may not be fans, I ask that you consider giving this da

Love Chocolate

The good news is that chocolate is actually healthy for us.

The bad news is that we must be selective in the quality of chocolate we choose in order for it to work to our benefit. Lots of chocolate on the market is not nutritious and can work against us.

So, before you go out and start chomping on handfuls of M&M’s, keep reading. (Yes, Mr. Non-Compliant, this means YOU!)

High quality dark chocolate of at least 70% cocoa (or cacao) contains an assortment of minerals, including manganese, copper, and magnesium. (I’m using cocoa and cacao interchangeably here, although there are slight differences.)

In the same way that whole foods offer the best form of nutrients, so does pure cacao.

A serving of 100% cacao powder (2½ tablespoons) contains 4 grams of protein, 49mg of caffeine, and 195mg of flavanols.

The flavanols in cocoa can protect against sun damage, improve blood flow to the skin, and increase skin density and hydration. (This is in addition to your current skin care routine.)

In spite of this, may I suggest that you not take your chocolate treats to the beach on a hot summer day.

Cocoa antioxidants boost heart health when eaten in moderate amounts, about one ounce, several times a week. These same powerful antioxidants are found in blueberries and acai berries.

A regular treat of a square or two can reduce stress hormones, help lower blood pressure, and improve circulation.

Chocolate may even improve brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain.

Minimally processed with few added ingredients and low sugar, dark chocolate is a treat that makes lots of people happy. It also contains unique natural substances that create a sense of euphoria similar to the feeling of being in love.

People all across the globe would benefit from eating some chocolate. My friend Barb stated, “A day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine.” There you have it.

At your next gathering, consider offering a snack or dessert tray with assorted berries, nuts, and squares of dark chocolate. There are a variety of chocolate bar brands that comply. You could even make your own Chocolate Nut Clusters using a dark chocolate that best suits your taste buds, increasing the cacao amount as you get used to the richer chocolate flavor.

I like to make a hot cocoa drink with oat milk (use your milk of choice), about a tablespoonful of 100% cacao powder, a scoop of collagen, and a dash of pure maple syrup. It’s a treat that satisfies as well as offers lots of nutrients.

In summary, the higher the cacao amount in your chocolate, the lower the sugar content and the greater the health benefits. Keep serving size to about an ounce.

Remember, you can train your taste buds over time. You cannot train the taste buds of your loved ones (unwillingly), unless you’re very, very sneaky.

Grateful for chocolate,

 “Chocolate comes from cocoa, which is a tree that makes it a plant. Chocolate is salad.”–Anonymous


Chocolate Nut Clusters

1 cup bittersweet (at least 70% cacao) chocolate, chopped or wafers
1 cup raw almonds                                                                                                                         

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the almonds out in a single layer on the sheet. Toast in the oven until golden brown and aromatic, about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Bring a few inches of water to boil in the bottom half of a double boiler. Place the chocolate in the top half of the double boiler and set it on the bottom half. Heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is almost melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk until completely melted. Add the almonds and stir to combine.

Drop the nut clusters by spoonful onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Allow to cool and harden. May refrigerate to speed up the process. Store in an airtight container in layers separated by wax paper for up to 2 weeks.

Any raw nut or combination may be substituted for the almonds. Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes may also be added. Higher quality chocolate results in tastier clusters.

This recipe first appeared in the February 2021 issue of Get Healthy, a publication of The Northwest Indiana Times. 

Rice Substitutes and Recipes

While rice is a staple food item around the world, there may be those occasions when a substitute is in order.

Whether you’re looking to have more variety, increase your protein, or decrease carbohydrate intake, there are a number of other options.

  1. Riced cauliflower. Not my favorite, however most everyone I know loves this stuff. You can buy it already riced in the frozen foods section of most grocery stores. You can also make your own by chopping a head of cauliflower into several pieces then grating them with a box grater. Sauté in a bit of extra virgin olive or avocado oil over medium heat until tender and lightly browned, then season to your liking. A ½ cup serving has only 13 calories compared with 100 calories for white rice. You also get the benefits of counting this as a vegetable serving. 
  2. Riced broccoli. Like it’s buddy cauliflower, broccoli can also be riced. Prepare the same way. I think I may like this alternative, since broccoli is one of my favorites. It adds eye appeal to your dinner plate, especially if you’re serving chicken or a white fish. ½ cup has about 15 calories and 2 grams of fiber.
  3. Quinoa. ½ cup of this offers 4 grams of complete protein and tastes like a grain. I recommend adding some fresh chopped vegetables and a simple dressing to make a side dish or even a main dish by adding chicken or beans. Serve it warm or chilled. I’ve tried eating it plain, like rice, and it’s a bit too dull for my liking. Quinoa is also gluten free. Click here for a quinoa salad recipe.
  4. Chopped cabbage. Another healthy vegetable alternative that’s low in carbs and calories. Choose purple or green, finely chop, sauté, and season. I’ve also cut it in ½” thin wedges, placed in a single layer on a pan, and roasted in the oven. Before roasting, season the cabbage with extra virgin olive oil, Kosher salt, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Bake for 30 minutes in a 400°F oven, or until it’s golden brown and forks tender.

Other possibilities include whole-wheat couscous (pasta), barley (grain), whole-wheat orzo (pasta), farro (whole grain wheat), and bulgur wheat (grain, commonly used in tabbouleh). The grains add a nutty, earthy taste and chewy texture to your dishes. The whole-wheat pastas contain fiber and protein.

If these, as well as unusual rice varieties, are not available in your local grocery, try online. 

As you can see by the photo, Mr. Non-Compliant and I enjoy a rice substitute (purple cabbage) as well as white rice. Lemon chicken took the stage with these sides.

Eating well must never be boring. I challenge you to experience a new (simple) food adventure in the coming week.

Much love,

“Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.”—Anthony Bourdain

Brown vs. White vs. Wild Rice

Rice is a staple carbohydrate in our house. The big question when I serve rice as an accompaniment to a meal: which variety?

White rice actually starts out as brown rice.

A milling process removes the rice’s husk, bran, and germ, making it white. You’ve probably already guessed this: the process also removes most of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

White rice is artificially fortified with nutrients and polished in order to look more appealing. Brown rice ranks higher in fiber, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium. The exact nutritional components will vary depending on the rice manufacturer.

Rice is probably the single most commonly eaten food in the world. It can be short, medium, or long grain. 

There are over 8,000 varieties of rice. Some of the more popular ones are Basmati, jasmine, arborio, sticky, red, and black.

Rice in its natural form is gluten free. This includes sticky or “glutinous rice,” as this term merely refers to the stickiness of the rice.

White rice has a higher glycemic index, which means its carbs convert more quickly into blood sugar than brown rice.

Brown rice should be kept in an airtight container in a dark, dry cupboard for up to three months, or in the fridge for up to six months. It can become rancid more rapidly due to the presence of the oil-rich germ, not found in processed white rice.

White rice is more stable and may be kept in an airtight container in a dry, dark area such as a cupboard for up to a year.

Rinsing rice before cooking removes its starchy coating, helps prevent sticking and clumping, and gives it a fresh and clean taste.

Once rice is cooked, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.

Wild rice is a semi-aquatic grass that grows in water, such as lakes, rivers and bays, between two and four feet deep, and is technically not a rice. It’s slightly higher in protein than most whole grains and is a good source of fiber, folate, magnesium and a slew of other beneficial nutrients.

Wild rice has a durable storage time. If you keep it an airtight jar, it stays fresh. Keep it in a dry place in a cool environment. Rinse thoroughly before cooking.

It’s commonly mixed with other rices due to its high price.   

The downside. The rice plant accumulates more arsenic than most other food crops. This becomes a problem where soil or water sources are contaminated with arsenic.

High intake of arsenic can cause a variety of health problems. Varieties that contain lower amounts are jasmine, basmati, as well as rice grown in the Himalayan region.

Additionally, arsenic tends to accumulate in the bran. As a result, brown rice contains higher amounts of arsenic than white rice.

The bottom line: vary your diet and choose varieties lower in arsenic.

 Stay tuned for next week’s blog on some substitutes for rice.

Much love,

“If you give me rice, I’ll eat today; if you teach me how to grow rice, I’ll eat every day.”—Mahatma Gandhi