When it comes to supplements, it seems everyone has an opinion. Honestly, I find it all very confusing and try my best to get the vitamins and minerals I need by eating a wide array of fruits, vegetables, grains, fish and meats.
That said, I have been spending nearly $40 a month on probiotics supplements and beginning to wonder why. It seems everyone is taking the pills containing good bacteria, so about a year ago, without much thought, I jumped aboard the probiotic bandwagon…even though I didn’t have digestive problems.
So it was with a great deal of interest I came across an article about probiotics in Consumer Reports’ “On Health” publication claiming to have the “scoop” on the so-called beneficial bacteria.
Besides helping digestion and preventing infection, probiotics are very much like some microorganisms that already live in your body. They’re the “good” bacteria and yeasts that can help balance out “bad” bacteria that appear when your system is thrown off by illness or antibiotics.
You’ve probably noticed many of your favorite foods…from trail mix to chocolate bars…may contain added probiotics. Millions of Americans with digestive problems take probiotic supplements or eat fermented foods, such as yogurt, which contain both naturally occurring and added probiotics.
But, do they work?
That depends. One Harvard Medical School researcher says the quality of the research has been weak. Some studies touting the benefits of probiotics have been small, poorly designed or sponsored by those with a vested interest in the outcome.
The good news about probiotics? There is some evidence they may shorten a bout of diarrhea caused by antibiotics, a virus or contaminated food and can also help manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Most doctors advise considering probiotics if you’re on antibiotics for more than a few days, you’re taking two simultaneously or you’ve switched from one to another.
It takes billions of colony-forming units, or CFU’s for probiotics to have any impact. And guess what? Consumer Reports did a little comparison and found that your favorite yogurt is a probiotic powerhouse, beating out supplements five to one!
As for those probiotic snacks, don’t waste your money or calories. They have much lower levels of CFU’s than yogurt and are laden with lots of fat and sugar.
Bottom line? Probiotic products may have some benefit, but scientists are still sorting out the evidence. And they’re certainly not a cure-all. Don’t count on probiotics to help with allergies, asthma, celiac disease, constipation, Crohns’s disease, eczema or respiratory and urinary tract infections.
So, based on the research, I’ve decided to keep probiotics on hand in case I eat something bad or have to take a course of antibiotics. The key is choosing the right type. The most effective probiotics are combinations of L. acidphilis, L. casei, L. rhamnosus and S. boulardi. The most effective dose? More than 10 billion CFU’s per day.
Finally, if you decide to get your probiotics naturally, with yogurt, look for the right logo. The National Yogurt Association’s Live and Active Cultures seal tells you the yogurt contains at least one hundred million live cultures per gram.
So there’s the “scoop” on probiotics for now. Stay tuned.
(All this talk about yogurt? I could go for a cup right now…with a little honey stirred in?)
For more information on probiotics, talk to your physician or registered dietician.
Ten years ago, few Americans had ever heard of gluten. Today, according to one survey, nearly a third of us are trying to avoid the protein found in grain.
Is going gluten-free one of those health crazes that will eventually fizzle like so many other dietary fads? Probably not. For some, gluten can cause miserable symptoms ranging from diarrhea to a life-threatening condition called Celiac disease. But for others, avoiding gluten may be a waste of time, effort and money.
A friend of mine, who has struggled with her weight for years, decided to try a gluten-free diet to shed some pounds. Three months later, she’d gained ten more! Clearly, gluten was not the source of her weight problem!
It seems gluten-free lovers may be in for a surprise. Many health experts say there is no proven benefit to going without gluten except for a small sliver of the population whose bodies cannot process the protein.
There are two ways to approach a gluten-free diet. Eat only foods that are naturally gluten-free (no processed foods). This diet allows you to eat meat, vegetables, fruit and some dairy, and eliminates pasta, bread and baked goods. This type of diet could lead to some weight loss but that should not be your main reason for eliminating gluten from your diet.
The other approach to a gluten-free diet is to replace foods containing gluten with gluten-free substitutes. According to nutritional food labels, many of these gluten-free foods contain fewer vitamins, less fiber and more sugar (to make the wheat-free products taste better). It’s a point, according to a recent Wall Street Journal health report, many food makers don’t dispute, saying they’re simply responding to consumer demands without making any health claims.
So, before jumping aboard the gluten-free bandwagon, how can you tell if you really can’t tolerate gluten? According to WebMD, if you’ve experienced at least four of the following symptoms after eating foods containing gluten, it might be time to think about modifying your diet.
Some of the most common signs of gluten sensitivity include gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
A number of psychological issues relating to mood, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and frequently changing moods can be helped by cutting gluten from your diet.
Aching joints are often a symptom of gluten intolerance caused by inflammation. Swollen and painful joints…especially the fingers and knees… might be indicative of sensitivity to gluten.
Feeling tired or foggy after eating a meal with gluten is a common symptom of gluten sensitivity. Many claim cutting wheat and other gluten-containing grains from their diets feel a dramatic increase in energy.
A 2001 study found that eating gluten may trigger migraines and intense headaches for those who are sensitive to it.
Because inflammation and prolonged exposure to gluten can put the body on high alert, autoimmune disease can develop in people intolerant to gluten…including lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, scleoderma and multiple sclerosis.
Infertility, PCOS and irregular menstrual cycles are often related to gluten intolerance, due to inflammation that puts stress on the adrenal glands…upsetting the balance of the entire endocrine system.
Dizziness, poor balance and vertigo…as well as numbness and tingling can all be an indicator of inflammation in the nervous system caused by gluten-induced responses within the immune system.
Fibromyalgia and a bumpy skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris may also be reason to check with your doctor about your tolerance to gluten.
So before you give up gluten, make sure there’s good reason. If you’re experiencing several of these symptoms, go gluten-free for a while and see whether gluten really is the culprit.
For more information on Celiac Disease or a gluten-free diet, see your physician or a Registered Dietician.
I’ve been binging…again. It’s embarrassing, but I just can’t stop.
Oh, the problem isn’t with consuming too many adult beverages or watching back-to-back episodes of “Law and Order” all weekend.
My compulsive behavior is seasonal. As soon as summer’s fresh fruits arrive, I lose all control…helpless as a kitten…as I bite into my first Bing cherry of the year. Binging on Bings has been a problem for years! Once I start, the binge doesn’t end until my stomach starts churning or the bag is empty…whichever comes first. If not for the pits and stems, I wouldn’t even slow down to breathe!
It could be worse. At least cherries are a treat with health benefits. In fact, they may be small and sweet, but cherries are actually nutritional powerhouses! They’re packed with compounds that can protect your heart, provide antioxidants that may prevent cancers, ease arthritis pain and help you sleep.
But beware. According to Cathy Kapica, Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University, only real cherries deliver the goods! The pigment that gives cherries their signature shade is also what gives them their disease-fighting power. The deeper the red, the better.
But what if you want the benefits of Bings all year?
When fresh isn’t an option, go for frozen, sweet cherries. Picked and chilled at the peak of ripeness, frozen cherries are an excellent alternative and come conveniently pitted and washed. They’re great in smoothies or throw them into off-season fruit salads. (Just make sure the bag lists cherries as the only ingredient—without any added sugar.)
When it comes to the dried version, many brands use tart cherries, which are too sour to eat…so you’ll get some added sugar. Just know a full cup has 533 calories and more than 110 grams of sugar. But full of fiber and potassium, a quarter of a cup or less will liven up trail mix or salads.
Some studies suggest that tart cherry juice can help you sleep better and recover faster after a tough workout. Whether it’s straight up or blended with other juices, you’re looking at nearly 140 calories per cup. I cut my juice with seltzer or down a “shot” of juice before bed…for a good night’s sleep.
That said, avoid cherry jams and spreads…unless they’re all-fruit and use juice concentrate as a natural sweetener. And don’t be snookered by that healthy-sounding cherry yogurt. There might be a single cherry…maybe one and a half per container…and that lonely fruit is usually swimming in sugary syrup. You might consider buying plain Greek yogurt and swirl in fresh or frozen cherries.
Maraschino cherries? Don’t waste your calories! The fruit is bathed in salt to remove flavor and color, then soaked in sweeteners, dipped in artificial dye and packed in sugar syrup. Need I say more?!
Turns out, the cherries used in pie filling are close relatives of the maraschino! At eight to one hundred calories per one-third cup, with 20 grams of sugar and artificial coloring, I’m thinking special occasion only food.
Bottom line? If you want the health benefits of cherries, by-pass the cherry soda (it’s mostly flavored, fizzy water!) and go for the real deal.
Just don’t eat the entire bag at once!
I’m a terrible cook. And it’s my mother’s fault! Don’t get me wrong. Mom was an incredible cook. But she “enabled” me to become an inept cook by failing to insist I learn my way around the kitchen. Oh, I had to clean and do yard work on weekends, but sports and other after-school activities didn’t allow time for learning the fine art of separating eggs or reducing sauces. After swim practice, I’d come home to a foil-covered plate in the warming oven with a beautifully balanced, healthy meal…a la Mom!
I got away with it for years. Working the night shift is a great excuse for an empty fridge. Even my long-suffering husband tolerated his wife’s lack of culinary skills. Tom never once complained…even when dinner was a bowl of raisin bran with a side of apple slices!
And now that I’ve run out of excuses, I’ll be honest. When it comes to cooking, I would still rather address a joint session of Congress than prepare a meal for anyone! That’s why I’m sold on salads! Even I can toss a decent salad…and with a little planning, I can include enough nutritious additions to turn a salad into a meal!
Lately, I’ve been using a chart I found in the Mayo Clinic Health letter that has been enormously helpful to me in planning tasty, but well-balanced and filling dinner salads. Even if, like me, you’re a kitchen-phobe…I promise, you CAN build a better salad.
YOUR SALAD SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS…..
Extras—Choose any one or no more than two: No more than 1 tablespoon (T) mayonnaise, 2 -T salad dressing, 3 -T sour cream or 1 teaspoon oil; ¼ avocado, about 6 nuts; about 8 olives; 2 –T chopped pickles; 2 –T dried fruit or ¼ cup salsa.
Herbs—As desired: Basil, chives, dill, fennel, mint, oregano, parsley, cilantro or tarragon
Carbohydrates and whole grains—Choose any one: Whole grains:1/2 cup barley, bulgur, couscous, kasha, millet, quinoa, pasta, brown rice or wild rice. Whole-grain breads and such: 1 small bagel, a slice of bread, a roll or pita. One serving, according to the label, of whole-wheat crackers, crisp whole-wheat bread, matzo, melba, pretzels, rice cakes or ½ cup croutons.
Protein—Choose any one: Meatless: ½ cup lentils, peas, tofu, tempeh, beans such as soy, black, pinto, garbanzo, white or kidney, or one egg. Lean meats, fish and seafood: Up to 2 ounces beef, lamb, pork, poultry, tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, scallops, shrimp, clams or crab. Low-fat dairy: Up to 1 ounce of cheeses, such as cheddar, cottage, goat, feta or Swiss.
Vegetables and fruits—Choose two or more totaling 2 cups: Artichoke, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, green onions, jicama, pea pods, peppers, radishes, squash, apples, apricots, berries, citrus sections, grapes, mango, melon, peaches, pears, pineapple, pomegranate or watermelon.
Leafy greens—Choose 2 cups or more: Among the varieties are arugula, watercress, cabbage, Belgian or red endive, escarole, collards, bok choy, cabbage, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, green or red lettuce, bibb lettuce, iceberg lettuce, mesculin, radicchio, watercress, romaine and spinach.
Then…just add your favorite dressing…perhaps a lite, creamy style or squeeze on some lemon juice or drizzle a little red wine vinegar or olive oil over your salad. Go ahead! Create a healthy salad.
Summer’s almost here. Think about replacing your favorite hot meal with a full-meal salad that’s cool and delicious. With so many possible combinations of good, healthy foods, you and your family will never get bored.
I love Wednesdays! That’s the day each week I get to join some seventy-five of the coolest women I know for Community Bible Study (CBS) in Coronado. We gather first in small groups to discuss and apply the previous week’s lesson…then join everyone else to hear a lecture that takes a deeper look at the historical perspective of the scripture text.
And while I enjoy all the teaching and talking—I really look forward to our monthly fellowship “feeds!” Seriously, There’s something about women of faith and food! (Think church potluck!) We all bring something yummy to share after class. (They usually have me bring fruit…something I can’t screw up!)
Fortunately, we can always count on Trish, my small group leader, to show up with a piping hot pan of her famous “crust-less quiche!” Everyone loves it! No heavy, thick dough…just Trish’s fabulous combination of eggs, milk, cheese, onions and spinach. Surprisingly, her quiche slices neatly and firmly…even without a doughy foundation. Trish says it’s the cheese settling to the bottom of the quiche that creates the faux crust.
One day, after downing a super-sized slice of Trish’s mouth-watering, cheesy egg concoction… I asked her how she, a busy, young mom of four finds time to cook?! With a big smile, Trish assured me her quiche recipe is simple! I begged her to share it with me…then she agreed to let me share it with you!
Now that eggs are once again finding favor with doctors and nutritionists…I’ve been looking for ways to include the incredible edible into my diet regularly.
So here’s an easy egg recipe that’s big on protein, low in carbs and positively DEE-lish! (Did I mention it’s also gluten-free?!)
Trish’s Crust-less Spinach Quiche
1 TBLS vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 10-oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
5 eggs, beaten (Trish confided sometimes she throws in a sixth!)
3 cups shredded Muenster cheese (or any other cheese blend)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until soft. Stir in spinach and continue cooking until excess moisture has evaporated. In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and stir to blend. Scoop into prepared pie pan. Bake until eggs have set—about 30 min. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Since I can remember, a high-fat diet has been a big, fat no-no.
For years, that message has been firmly ingrained in the minds of every American…touted by doctors, lawmakers and food suppliers. From grocery stores to vending machines, we’ve been told low fat (or no fat) is the way to go.
Despite the decades-long fight against fat in food, obesity rates and health complications, including heart disease, continue to rise. After all this time, a growing number of scientists, doctors and dietitians are not only questioning the low-fat doctrine, they now admit the theory that consuming fat causes heart disease is based on bad science.
Are you kidding me?! All those years of sacrificing rich, whole milk and creamy yogurt for their watery, tasteless fat-free substitutes was for naught?
The findings come from the recent publication of a major analysis by a team of British and U.S. researchers. The report looked at previous studies on the topic and concluded there’s no significant difference in death rates in people who ate less saturated fat than those who didn’t.
Not only that, according to the analysis, while reducing fat intake did result in lower total blood cholesterol levels, it did not correlate with any discernible health benefit. (Check it out in “Open Heart,” a publication of the British Medical Journal)
Apparently, the original evidence for the dietary fat/heart disease connection was shaky, but once published, took on a life of its own, causing lawmakers and medical professionals to act without good, scientific validation including:
- No randomized, controlled trials
- Statistically insignificant study results
How could this happen?
It seems a number of studies done in recent years have found the link between dietary fat, weight and heart disease is exaggerated. And get this - researchers now say being slightly overweight isn’t harmful and might even be beneficial.(What next? Twinkies found to be a superfood?!)
If these studies and new analysis hold up, the implications for the medical system could be huge. How will doctors advise their patients? Companies could lose billions in sale of low fat fare. Government dietary guidelines would need a major makeover.
But before you run to the store for a quart of Haagen Das, there’s no consensus yet, as the debate rages.
Some not only question the validity of the new findings, they wonder how (or even whether!) to inform the public about them. Some say the possible paradigm shift would cause mass confusion. Others say (and I agree) medical science should be concerned with facts first - not with an overly simple message- when the truth is complex and nuanced.
What to do? For now, I’ll continue to eat plenty of the “good” fats found in nuts, avocadoes and fish. But I’m done with see-through skim milk, chewy non-fat cottage cheese and eggs without yolks. For now, I’m eating food the way God made it…until I know more.
Prunes. The word alone can still make me smile.
As kids, Mom would fix stewed prunes for my sister, brother and me whenever we had trouble, well….going! For years, I actually thought prunes were medicine…like aspirin or cough syrup!
By junior high, I knew better, but still laughed hysterically with my friends while singing,
“Prunes, prunes, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel. So let’s have prunes at every meal.” (rolling on the floor laughing!)
What else could you expect from a bunch of pre-adolescent goof balls who believed bodily functions were the source of all humor?!
The poor prune’s reputation as a laxative may be unfortunate because it overshadows the fact that prunes are not only sweet and tasty…they’re also a rich source of nutrients!
Did you know just one prune contains up to five percent of the recommended daily intake of many essential minerals and vitamins…in addition to its legendary dietary fiber?
Not a fan of prunes? You’re not alone. In fact, women ages 25 to 54 react so negatively to the idea of prunes, the California Prune Board pressured the FDA to change their name to the more appealing “dried plums” (which they technically are!)
And it worked! Sales of the super-healthy purple fruit have hit new heights! But prunes (or shall we call them dried plums?) are proving to be far more than a digestion remedy.
Because they contain high levels of phytonutrients called phenols, prunes can protect the brain from free radical damage and can help prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Prunes and plums help prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity. They’re high in the soluble fiber that help keep blood sugar levels stable.
The soluble fiber in prunes also helps lower cholesterol, improves bone health and are a good source of vitamin K and beta carotene…nutrients that can actually make you happier! So you see, my childhood song is true!...the “more you eat, the better you feel!”
Still, when it comes to constipation, the prune is a rock star…more effective than psyllium, according to recent studies. Only 30 calories, the soluble fiber in prunes also makes you fill up faster.
So for a whole bunch of reasons, I snack on prunes, chop them up in salads and oatmeal and include them in recipes…like this de-LISH dish from my friend, Susan Haber. This one’s SO good, I make it for company!
Susan’s Chicken Marbella
(adapted from the “Silver Palate” Cookbook)
½ cup olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 cup pitted prunes
½ cup pitted Spanish green olives
½ cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
¼ cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 chickens (2 1/2 pounds each), quartered
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dry, white wine
¼ cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1. Combine olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350.
3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
4. Bake, basting frequently with pan juices, until thigh pieces yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice when pricked with a fork, 50 min. to 1 hour.
5.With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass the remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.
Soooooo good! Enjoy!
Throughout my TV news career, covering elections was by far the most stressful and difficult. Hours of live reporting with no script...my head exploding trying to recall details about the candidates, campaigns and issues.
What got me through those chaotic election nights? Weeks of study, detailed notes (cheat sheets!) and a three-egg omelet with cheese and veggies for before work.
Seriously, eggs are my go-to food whenever I need to be sharp, calm and focused for the long haul.
It may be a cute marketing slogan, but I can give you a half dozen reasons for replacing your usual breakfast with the “incredible, edible egg” when you need to be at your best.
If you start your day with cereal or toast instead of eggs, here’s a wake-up call. Eggs have six grams of high quality protein. A protein-packed breakfast helps sustain mental and physical energy throughout the day (or night of election coverage!)
Eggs are rich in choline, which promotes normal cell activity, liver function and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. (It’s like a commuter train for vitamins and minerals!)
ZERO CARBS—NO SUGAR
With no carbs or sugar, you get eat a well-balanced breakfast without widening your waistline!
AMINO ACIDS and VITAMINS
Eggs have all nine essential amino acids…leucine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, histidine, valine, threonine and isoleucine. And while they may be hard to pronounce, these amino acids really ARE essential.
Eggs also packed with Vitamins B2, B12, A and E.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Unlike most cereals and yogurt, eggs don’t come with a complicated, lengthy ingredient list because they contain only one ingredient. Eggs. Period. And at fifteen cents a serving, eggs are the least expensive source of high-quality protein.
NO GLUTEN? NO PROBLEM.
Of course, eggs are naturally gluten-free. Always have been. Always will be. That’s good news because there are relatively few gluten-free breakfast options.
But, what about cholesterol, you ask? Well, recent studies have exonerated the misunderstood egg as a contributor to coronary heart disease. In fact, a University of Connecticut study found eggs actually improved good cholesterol in adults with metabolic syndrome.
So, give yourself permission to crack open a couple of eggs! It’s a great way to get a health boost (and power through the toughest day.)
To get you started…here’s my favorite egg casserole recipe. It’s easy, yummy and a gift from my friend and awesome cook, Carol Morrison!
Carol’s Green Chile Frittata
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
10 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1 pound Jack cheese, grated
3 (4-oz) cans diced green chiles
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9X13-inch baking dish. Mix flour and baking powder. Add eggs and butter. Blend well. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour mixture in prepared dish and bake 35 to 45 minutes until set.
Great for brunch! Thanks, Carol!
Have I told you about my amazing nephews? I’ve been blessed to be “Aunt Carol” to three of the finest young men you’ll ever meet.
A gifted massage therapist, Colin is the oldest at 27. Handsome and bright, Colin also has a heart as big as all outdoors!
Nineteen year-old Devin, a sophomore at (his auntie’s alma mater!) the University of Northern Iowa is tall, blonde, adorably mischievous and can run like the wind.
Sadly, I don’t get to see them as often as I like because, along with their Dad (my little bro, Carter) and Mom, Dana, Iowa is home.
So imagine my delight when my middle nephew, Ian, announced he was moving to California’s Central Coast. Now that he’s just a five-hour road trip away, Aunt Carol and Uncle Tom get to connect with him a lot more often.
Good-looking, athletic and creative, Ian is also brilliant…with a great job at a large, computer software company in San Luis Obispo (SLO). What I didn’t know about the multi-talented “E-Man,” (as he’s affectionately known by friends and family) is he’s apparently also skilled in the kitchen.
With a little help from his Mom’s recipe (and a couple of “secret weapons,” Ian recently won a chili cook-off in SLO…hands down! Now that I’ve tried E’s chili, I’ve got to hand it to him. It’s absolutely delicious (and hot as a witch’s broom handle!!)
Ian agreed to let me share it with you…as long as his Mom gets proper credit. (I told you my nephews are amazing!)
Note the “secret weapons…”Mr. and Mrs. T’s Original Bloody Mary Mix and Baker’s chocolate.
LeBeau's Chili aka "Mom's Chili"
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 lb. hamburger
1 onion diced
3 celery stalks w/ leaves
1 t. salt & pepper (or to taste)
3-4 T. chili powder
3 T. Cajun seasoning
1/4 C. brown sugar
16 oz. pork n' beans
16 oz. dark kidney beans
16 oz. navy beans
16 oz. black beans
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can beef consume
2 squares of semi-sweet bakers chocolate
1 bottle Bloody Mary Mix (Mr. & Mrs. T's Original)
Brown the hamburger/sausage and use the grease to sauté your celery and onion. Add everything else! Simmer for one hour.
Make it the day before! And enjoy!
Thanks “E” and Dana!!
On our recent tour of western Canada and the majestic Canadian Rockies, my husband Tom and I learned many “fun facts” about our neighbor to the north. I can actually sing the lyrics to the Canadian National Anthem, “Oh, Canada!”
While Canada may not have an official national bird…because of the loon pictured on one side, Canucks refer to their one-dollar coins as “loonies.” (BTW…the two-dollar coin is called a “twonie!”)
There’s also an unofficial sweet treat unique (almost!) to Canada known as the Nanaimo (nuh-NYE-mo) Bar. If you’re into sugar highs, you simply must try this melt-in-your-mouth confection. And I’ve got the recipe!
But first, a little history.
According to local legend, about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo (city on Vancouver Island) housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry “Nanaimo Bars.” Her entry won a prize…promoting the town, as much as her baking.
Some American tourists may claim sovereignty over the dessert, referred to as “New York Slice,” which is sold in other places in the world. But Nanaimo residents refuse to accept this theory, believing that once you set foot on Vancouver Island, there are no other places in the world. The official Nanaimo Bar recipe became available as a handout, as well as on tea towel and apron souvenirs.
In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts held a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, nearly 100 different variations of the famous treat were submitted. The winner? Joyce Hardcastle.
Here’s her recipe:
½ cup unsalted butter (European-style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 Tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8” x 8” pan.
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar (confectioners)
Cream butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
Trust me; you don’t even want to know the calorie count. It is decidedly decadent. But this no-bake bar with an international flair may just wow your friends and family this holiday season.