June 26, 2019

Lily’s Chocolate Bars, sugar-free

Here is a reprint and update of an article I wrote about this delicious and healthy treat.

I have a major jones for chocolate but the sweeteners contained in bars and chips send my blood sugar to the moon. Finally, I found a commercial chocolate that doesn’t cause that familiar sugar spike and ensuing dip. Lily’s Chocolate Bars and Lily’s Dark Chocolate Premium Baking Chips and Bark fill the bill.

Sweetness is provided by stevia and erythritol, supposedly safer sweeteners than aspartame or saccharin. Lily’s has come up with a recipe that balances healthy fats with sweetness, with all products being gluten-free and several dark chocolate flavors vegan as well.

Cynthia Nice started Lily’s Sweets in 2010 as a result of starting a sugar-free lifestyle. Diabetics and other health-conscious people have been enjoying these products ever since. Ingredients are non-GMO and harvested using Fair Trade practices to boot.

Now, the chocolate still has fat and caffeine, so this is not something you can eat like popcorn, but 60 little mini chips are 55 calories with 4 grams of fat and 5 carb grams.
Not bad for the occasional splurge.

Some the 70% Dark flavors include Blood Orange, Salted Almond and Sea Salt. There’s even an Extremely Dark with 85% Dark Chocolate. Over the holidays, someone served me a Lily’s Gingerbread Chocolate Bar, and let me tell you, I plan on keeping an eye out for that seasonal version next December.

Check out some of the delicious sounding sweet recipes at their site.

https://lilyssweets.com/

Frieda’s Sunchokes

The new year finds me wanting to investigate some new food items. I ran across Frieda’s Sunchokes at Mariano’s and could not resist trying them. You will find them in the refrigerated produce area along with other exotic food stuffs.

Some people refer to these gnarled roots as a Jerusalem Artichokes, but they are neither from Jerusalem nor related to the artichoke family. Instead they resemble ginger root in appearance and potatoes in taste. Unlike ginger root, one can eat the skins of sunchokes, and while potatoes need to be cooked, sun chokes can be eaten raw, as well as baked or fried.

I tried these Native American tubers baked with olive oil, salt and pepper and fell in love the nutty and comforting flavor. Nutritionists say sunchokes contain the carbohydrate inulin which gives them a sweeter taste than potatoes and are considered a folk remedy for diabetes, keeping one’s blood sugar stable.

Finding a sun choke soup recipe is my next order of business since this produce item promises a sweet, velvety texture. Sun chokes can be grated or sliced for salads, too.

Specialty produce purveyor Karen Caplan is carrying on the family business started by her mother Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan. The Caplans have been challenging our palates one vegetable and fruit at a time.

https://www.friedas.com/sunchoke/

Amazon Basics Electric Kettle

If you need an under $20 gift for someone, let me recommend the small, but mighty Amazon Basics Electric Kettle with a one liter capacity.

While staying at the home of a host French dentist in Paris last fall, I fell in love with an appliance that boils water in about a minute. At home, I had been doing water for tea the old-fashioned way over a gas flame. How last century!

Lo and behold, Amazon has been featuring a mini-version of this little work horse for the low price of $15.29. I paid $17 and some change so the price has actually gone down. If you are an Amazon Prime member, the shipping is free.

My favorite feature is that the appliance shuts off when the water reaches a boiling point. No more scorched tea pots for the absent-minded. Guilty.

As I said, this makes the perfect little gift for a person you like. Which may be YOU.

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Stainless-Steel-Electric-Kettle/dp/B072DWYBL7/ref=sr_1_4?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1544213506&sr=1-4&keywords=amazon+basic+electric+kettle

Varidesk for working while standing or sitting

I had been reading about the benefit of standing while using the computer or doing general desk work but this new office idea was merely on my wish list.

Much to my delight, my husband secured me a de-accessioned Sit/Stand Converter by Varidesk. This two level extension sits on the top of my regular desk and has easy to use toggles on the sides to facilitate having the keyboard and screen higher or lower.

A large screen computer sits on the top level so I can view it at eye level when standing. The computer keyboard is on the lower level and allows me to work with the perfect hand, wrist and elbow angle when on my feet.

My husband prefers to use the computer sitting so he merely uses the toggles to lower the Varidesk to the regular desk level.

Marital harmony restored in the home office! You may want to investigate this option in your work or home environment.

https://www.varidesk.com/shop

Salad greens get an update

Remember the days when Iceberg lettuce was the only game in town for entree and side salads?

Gladly, American cuisine has diversified with leaves of spinach, baby kale, Romaine, Boston or Bibb, red leaf, and mesclun.

Although a little more expensive, I also love using Belgian or curly endive, radicchio for that punch of white and purple color, watercress and escarole.

My current favorites include Organic Girl pea shoots which have an appreciable amount of protein and Organic Girl mache which is also known as Lamb’s lettuce. Other leaves I may experiment with in the future are mustard, beet and collard greens as well as Sorrel.

Salad dressings could be a large separate article, but let me say I no longer buy bottled dressings. High grade olive oil and vinegar along with additions such as garlic, mustard, fresh or dry herbs, pepper and sea salt are all one needs to make a delicious custom-made dressing.

Bring on the salad days, even in autumn and winter. How about a warm bacon dressing?

Farmhouse Culture’s Kraut

The latest buzz words in nutrition are “probiotic” and “kraut.” A nutritionist recommended that I add sauerkraut to my diet. Out I went to purchase a head of cabbage and pink Himalayan salt. After a failed attempt to make my own sauerkraut, I ended up buying a commercial version by Farmhouse Culture which is more expensive, but infinitely easier to add to my meals.

What should I find but Farmhouse Culture’s Garlic Dill Pickle Kraut in the refrigerated area of Mariano’s produce department. The cabbage and brine are packaged in a re-sealable plastic bag that has a Ferment-O-Vent which, according to the company “keeps our live active probiotics happy and this tasting oh-so-amazing.”

Garlic Dill Pickle Kraut tastes like its name and I find myself adding this vegetable condiment to rice or as an accompaniment to meats and other entrees. The company suggests adding this zesty-tasting kraut to eggs, salads, sandwiches or wraps. Yum.

The Farmhouse web site lists a variety of sauerkraut flavors such as Classic Caraway, Golden Turmeric, Smoked Jalapeno, Horseradish Leek or California Style Kimchi. All of these flavors can also be purchased as liquid brine Gut Shots. This is a harder sell for me, but I’m sure my dietician would like me to consider this product, too.

Farmhouse also manufactures bags of live-culture vegetables like Ginger Beet, Orange Ginger Carrots or Taqueria Mix with carrots, daikon radish, jicama, onion and jalapeño. Kraut Krisps are the company’s version of rice crackers using probiotics.

Not all of their products are savory. Farmhouse makes kvass-style sparkling probiotic beverages with names like Cherry Cacao, Cola, Ginger Lemon, Mango Guava or Strawberry Hibiscus sweetened with erythritol. You are still getting the gut-friendly brined cabbage in these juice drinks however. Talk about sweet and sour.

If you want to supercharge your nutrition or wake up your palate to new sensations, Farmhouse has some products worth checking out. Their web site lists places where their food items are for sale which include Whole Foods and Mariano’s in the Chicago area. Your taste buds and your microbiome* will thank you.

*Microbiome: the microorganisms in a particular environment including the body or a part of the body; a microbiome that protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy and produces vitamins.