Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato and Spinach

Quinoa Past and Present

Even though quinoa was a staple in the diet of the Andean people 3,000 years ago in South America, it only become popular again over the last six years or so.  It is so popular these days, that the United Nations declared 2013 as the "International Year of Quinoa".  Contrary to what you might think, quinoa is a seed, not a grain and is in fact a complete protein containing all of the nine essential amino acids.

Quinoa and Diabetes

According to Stacey Hugues, a registered dietician:  "I often recommend using it (quinoa) in place of white rice or pasta.  The extra fiber allows the digestion of carbohydrates to be slowed, assisting with blood sugar control." Yes you will find mixed opinions on the internet but to be quite honest, I like this one so I hope that it's right.

The Recipe

In April, when my husband and I were in Italy, we met up with my sister in law and her husband who travelled all the way from Australia. At this special meeting one of the presents that we were showered with was the "Quinoa for Families" cookbook by Rena Patten.  This recipe is my adaptation of one of the recipes in the book and has been a real hit in my house especially with my 19 year old vegetarian twins.  The original recipe called for mushrooms (despised by my twins) and dijon mustard ( despised by me).  I did not replace the mushrooms but I did replace the mustard with Silan/date honey. Yummarooney!


1kg (2 lb 4 oz) sweet potato
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 cup quinoa (the original recipe calls for red quinoa--to date I've only used white but only because that's what they sell at our supermarket)
1 1/2 cups water
200 g (7 oz) baby spinach leaves
1 red onion haved and thinly sliced


2 Tbsp Date honey 
juice of 1-2 lemons
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and ground blck pepper


Preheat oven to 180 C(350 F) and line a tray with non-stick baking paper.
Peel and cube sweet potato, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss well and place on the baking tay in a single layer.
Roast in the over for 20-30 minutes until sweet potato is tender and crisp.
In the meantime place the quinoa in a small pot with the water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes until all the water is bsorbed.  Remove from heat and cool.
Place sweet potato, quinoa, spinach and onion in a bowl and gently toss together until combined.
Mix together all dressing ingredients, pour over salad and gently toss. Leave to stand for about 1/2 hour before serving.

Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4-8 (depends on if you serve it as a main course or as a side dish)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Yogurt with Flaxseed, Granola, Cinnamon and Walnuts

Yogurt with Flaxseed, Granola, Cinnamon and Walnuts

I need to begin this post with a preface.  I am not a health expert, I am not a guru and I am not even always a good follower of the instructions that I am given by my health professionals.  I can't even promise that all the recipes in this blog will be 100% healthy.  All that said, I started this blog with the purpose of sharing recipes and information and to include you all on my gastronomical journey towards better health. 


Flaxseed, flaxseed, wherefore art thou flaxseed?  Preliminary studies show that Flaxseed  may help fight heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer. I had encountered Flaxseed in the past when my daughter had some minor health issues and the Homeopathic doctor that we were seeing added Flaxseed oil to her diet but that was around 9 years ago and since then Flaxseed hadn't entered my front door.  No particular reason.  But then last week, my dietician gave me her "recipe" and for the last week I have been having flaxseed every day in my yogurt except yesterday when I skipped the yogurt and opted for oatmeal. 

Note:  Flaxseed can cause gas and stomach upset, I learned this the hard way (TMI?) .  Do not exceed, 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed daily and it is recommended to start with a smaller amount to build up your body's ability to digest it. I did not do this and paid the price (more TMI, sorry!).


Granola, my old friend, who goes into my low fat yogurt everyday has now been upgraded to sugar-free, oil-free granola.  I miss my old granola, but a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do!  Granola's main ingredient, Oats are very beneficial as they help in regulating blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.


There's that cinnamon again!  Yes, a half of a teaspoon of cinnamon a day can help significantly reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.  And I love cinnamon! So there is no problem for me whatsoever in adding it to my daily diet.  Just remember, cinnamon rolls don't count! That would sort of defeat the purpose.


I like nuts! Walnuts are not necessarily my favorite but they're ok. But this is what my dietitian said to put in the yogurt and for good reason.  There are a number of small studies that show that walnuts help lower cholesterol and have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (which I am not 100% sure of what that means health wise but I know that it's a good thing!).

The Recipe

1- 1 1/2 % fat unsweetened yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed (see note above)
2 Tablespoon oil-free, sugar-free granola
2 coarsely chopped walnuts

Mix it all together in a bowl and eat!  I somanetimes add a little bit of honey even though my dietitian raised an eyebrow about that.  Balance, people, balance!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Welcome to Blueberry Oatmeal with Cinnamon

Welcome to My Blog

Hi I'm Cindy.  I am happily married and a mother of five girls between 10-20.  I am originally from Skokie, Illinois and have been living in Israel for 27 years!

I've been talking forever about starting a blog.  I love cooking.  Actually,  I am obsessed with cooking and all things food. In recent years I have become much more health conscious but always with balance.  I.e. I use grains, legumes, whole wheat bread, olive oil, etc. etc. but things like choc chip cookies, hamburgers and pizza still would make their way into my home at least once a week (ok, probably more...).

A few months ago my blood tests showed that I have borderline diabetes (pre-diabetes) and borderline cholesterol.  My doctor instructed me to go to a dietician and to follow her plan for three months and she basically said that if I don't or if I do and it doesn't work then she will have no choice but to put me on medication, for the pre-diabetes not the cholesterol.

As this condition can often be controlled with diet and exercise, that sounded like a good plan except that this scenario took place right before the Jewish holiday of Purim when we eat Hamantashen (yummy jam filled cookies) and exchange Mishloach Manot (food packages).  A month after Purim comes Pesach (Passover) where we consume large amounts of carbs (Matza and potatoes) and tons of eggs.  Yet another reason to procrastinate... Immediately after Pesach my husband and I were going on our long-awaited dream trip to Italy and how could I not enjoy all the pasta, pizza and gelato!  So we came back from Italy and I had my appointment all scheduled but for technical reasons I had to push it off and then it was Shavuot--the holiday when we eat Cheesecake and lots of highfat cheesy things.

So... the excuses finally ran out, we now have no Jewish holidays until September.  I went to the dietician and found out that I don't have to make such major life changes as I thought but now I am much more conscious of what I eat and drink and how it effects my health.  In this blog, I plan to share lots of recipes, most healthy and some others and to share with you my experiences on my journey to control my health. So on to the recipe which holds the name of this blog.

Blueberry Oatmeal with Cinnamon

I have now embarked on a journey to heal myself through nutrition or more correctly, to prevent future health issues through nutrition.   I've begun to learn that to lower cholesterol and sugar in your blood is not only about what not to eat but also about what you should eat.  There are many foods that you can eat to help increase your HDL (good cholesterol) and lower your LDL and there are others(or some of the same) that can help you control your sugar.  The good news is that I like most of these foods! And guess what three of these foods are blueberries, oatmeal and cinnamon!  

So today, I went grocery shopping and couldn't wait to get home and start making my late breakfast.

The Recipe

Serves 1

1/2 cup of quick cooking oatmeal (I used organic--not for any reason besides that it was on sale!)
1 cup low fat milk
1 teaspoon brown sugar (I know that I should probably leave this out but my dietician said it's sort of ok)
1/2 T cinnamon
1/4 cup frozen blueberries (if you have fresh then go for it--we can't find them around here)


  1. Put milk, oats, cinnamon and sugar together in a small saucepan on the stovetop and bring to a boil while stirring
  2. Cook for approximately 2 mins until thick
  3. When fully cooked stir in blueberries they will defrost inside the oatmeal
  4. Eat and enjoy!