Monday, January 24, 2011

Siggi's Icelandic Skyr

Yesterday in the mail I received some gift certificates from Siggi's yogurt. The full name is Siggi's Icelandic style skyr. I love that name, "skyr". It invokes visions of a white-grey sky over a craggy, rocky Nordic mountainscape, the harsh land below riddled with snow and melting glacial ice caps.

Of course, I'm being unreasonably poetic, since skyr translates to "strained non-fat yogurt". However, my curiosity was definitely piqued, so  the next time I saw Siggi's in Whole Foods, I used my certificates to take home a few of these skyr yogurts to sample.

I chose to try the orange and ginger, plain, and pomegranate and passion fruit flavors. Other flavors include blueberry, acai, vanilla and grapefruit (!), but unfortunately Whole Foods either wasn't carrying these flavors or they were out of them. I would love to try a grapefruit yogurt, I would imagine that it would be fairly interesting to have such a citrus flavor in yogurt, but they do make lemon yogurt, so why not?

Acai reminds me of those incessantly annoying popup ads about the acai berry phenomenon (as seen on Oprah!), so that right there is a turnoff, but it might be nice to try the acai flavor without being forced to subject oneself to a dieting scam.

The skyr that I brought home were all delicious. I opened the pomegranate and passion fruit and was surprised by its pale color. I stirred it around but there was no syrupy, gelatinous fruity glop to stir up from the bottom, what you saw was what you got:

A virtually blinding white skyr, like the blinding white sky, or whatever. Anyway, the taste was quite unusual and difficult to describe: the mouth feel was unlike any yogurt I'd ever tasted - although it was a nonfat yogurt, it had a thick, creamy and almost cheesy consistency (slightly like farmer's cheese), in a sinfully delightful way (I go for that kind of thing, sorry to say) along with a nicely tart bite. The pomegranate and passion flavor was a delicious tangy combo and quite strong considering the paleness of the yogurt. The fruit flavors sprang out at you, and they were so unusual - by golly, I can't remember the last time I had a pomegranate (or passionfruit, for that matter) yogurt! So here we have unusual texture and quite different flavor, subtle yet significant.

The next  yogurt to try was the orange-ginger skyr. With this flavor, I have to say: YUM! I like orange and ginger just fine, together in a yogurt I'd had my doubts, but this yogurt had flecks of fresh ginger throughout the container. It was a spectacular combination, I never thought I'd like orange yogurt but it was really delicious and unusual. How often do you taste fresh ginger in anything processed? The ginger flecks were tiny exclamation points in a cup of creamy, tangy yumminess.

The plain yogurt was fine but without the fruit flavoring, it was excessively tart. It still had the dense, cheesy consistency, but was too tart to eat on its own. However, most people eat plain yogurt mixed with fruit or grain because it's too tart, so this wasn't atypical. I tend to mash banana into it, from a health food breakfast recipe that my sister served me years ago. Her version included a European skim ricotta that isn't available here, into which you mashed a banana and added the juice of one lemon, then topped with ground flax seed. It was quite yummy and kept the hunger dogs away until lunchtime. I've varied this recipe with nonfat Greek yogurt, banana and occasionally wheat germ or granola sprinkled on top. I mashed a banana into the plain skyr, and it was perfectly fine.

So my review of this yogurt is that it is unique, flavorful, filling and healthful. Compared to FAGE yogurt, it has a carbohydrate of 6g with FAGE 9g, sodium is 70mg with FAGE 85mg. However, protein is lower (17g vs 20g) and so is calcium (20% vs.25%). So the gain is mostly in a lower carbohydrate and sodium content.

Siggi's skyr is also more expensive than other yogurt, roughly double what you might pay for Brown Cow or Stonyfield Farm yogurt.

Siggi's skyr has some flavor selections, however, that you won't find in any other brand of yogurt. While Siggi's does carry the usual blueberry, vanilla and plain, the other flavors are atypical. I give it a thumbs up and suggest you try it, whether you are a yogurt fan or not. You will be in for a treat with an unusual consistency and flavor, satisfying and fat free.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Egg Drop Soup, Celeriac Slaw and other Delicacies

Our cup runneth over on Wednesday at the Suppers luncheon with some delicious choices: egg drop soup, celeriac slaw, sauteed broccoli and bok choy and antibiotic and hormone free flank steak stir fry. As an added treat, Karen dropped by with some almond flour cheese bread, a boon to those of us who have gluten sensitivity.

We started by chopping up the shitake mushrooms to add to the soup.

That is my work, slivering the mushrooms so they are thin but will still be a presence in the egg drop soup. I used Dorothy's kyocera knife and extremely sharp and efficient it was too. I have some terrific Henckel knives from William-Sonoma that weren't as sharp as this knife.

Meanwhile, thinly-sliced  beef was stir frying on the stove with a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and some olive oil.

Along with the beef, broccoli and bok choy were stir frying in some coconut fat and grated ginger.

One of the surprising treats was the egg drop soup - surprising in how easy it was to make. If you are in the habit of only eating this soup in a restaurant or as takeout, you will be pleased to know how quickly you can whip up a batch of this soup.

We boiled up some organic Better than Bouillon chicken broth (you certainly can use vegetarian broth as well) and then got a lesson from Dorothy on how to best make the egg drop "flowerettes" in the broth. Beat the eggs until they are completely blended and slightly frothy, then pour a bit of the beaten eggs in a steady stream into the hot broth:

Keep making different "flowerettes" by pouring intermittently until all of the beaten egg mixture is finished. Voila, egg drop soup!

And if that wasn't enough, we also had a fennel, celeriac and daikon slaw with Amy's delectable vinaigrette.

Plus we also had some gluten-free almond bread that Karen brought to the luncheon:

Another delicious and nutritious Suppers luncheon!  Next week we will be making our own curry paste according to Dorothy's recipe and taking some home to create our own healthful concoctions.

Egg Drop Soup

This recipe can be made vegan or ovo-vegetarian.
Following is the basic recipe with chicken stock.

4 cups chicken broth (we used Better than Bouillon organic)
4 scallions, sliced on the diagonal and using much of the green
1 egg, whipped

    1. Heat the stock and simmer the scallions for about 3 minutes.
    2. In a slow, thin stream, add the egg to the gently simmering stock and gently stir so that threads of egg form. 
    3. Serve immediately.

    Serves 4.


    • Use a vegetarian broth.
    • Add one thinly sliced shiitake mushroom per serving.
    • Add seaweed, re-hydrated according to the package directions
    • Add diced tofu.
    • Flavor it with tamari or sesame oil.

    Vegetable Stir Fry


    3 stalks of broccoli
    1 bok choy
    Coconut fat (available at most health food stores)
    2" piece of ginger
    Toasted sesame oil

    1. Cut up broccoli and bok choy into bite-size pieces.
    2. Heat up about a tablespoon of coconut fat.
    3. Add the grated ginger. Saute until golden.
    4. Add the broccoli and bok choy and saute until done (approximately 5-10 minutes).

    Fennel, Celeriac and Daikon Slaw


    Large Celeriac (size of a grapefruit)
    Large Fennel bulb
    1 Daikon radish


    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/9 cup white balsamic vinegar (1:3 ration of oil to vinegar)
    1 TBS diijon mustard
    1/2 lemon juiced
    Pinch of sea salt
    4 drops of stevia 

    1. Shred the celeriac, fennel bulb and daikon radish in food processor.
    2. Toss with dressing and serve.

    Almond Bread (Very Low Carb)

    Note: This recipe contains dairy products but no gluten.  The result is a sliceable, toast-able loaf, like a heavy pound cake.  It can be made sweet or savory.

    2 ½ cups almond flour
    3 eggs
    ¼ cup melted butter
    1 cup ricotta or dry curd cottage cheese
    1 scant teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
    ¼ teaspoon salt

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Place all ingredients except the almond flour in the food processor and process until thick and uniform.
    3. Add the almond flour and blend well.
    4. Butter and flour (with almond flour)  a 4 x 8 loaf pan.
    5. Use wet hands to shape the dough into a loaf and place in the pan.
    6. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until it is a little brown on top and a knife inserted comes out clean.  The top will crack a little.
    7. Allow to cool thoroughly.  You can loosen the sides by moving a knife or spatula long the sides.
    8. Remove and finish cooling on a rack. The texture will not be right if you slice it before it is done cooling.

    • For the cheese, try ½ cup plain Greek yogurt & ½ cup soft goat cheese, or goat Cheddar
    • Add a ¼-1/2 tsp dry stevia or 5 to 10 drops liquid stevia (to taste) and some lemon zest, food-grade lemon oil, vanilla or almond extract.
    • Add minced herbs such as rosemary or sage.
    • Add ½ cup chopped dry fruit like raisins or apricots. (not low carb 
    • Add caraway seeds for a result more like rye bread.
    • Add 2 TBS Chia seeds for added fiber and protein.
    Total loaf makes about 72 grams carbs with 36 grams fiber = 36 NET carbs
    For 12 slices/loaf = 3 grams NET carbs/slice

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Black Bean with Mango Stew

    At our Suppers luncheon, we had a rather unique and delicious vegetarian dish of black beans and mango stew. The stew presented a striking taste combination, the fruity sweetness of the mango and garnet yam were highlights upon a foundation of salty, earthy black beans.

    Even someone who isn't necessarily a fan of black beans (like myself) would enjoy this dish. And you can change the amount of the mango or substitute sweet potato or carrot for the garnet yam to create your own version of this dish.

    When the weather outside is frightful, my advice is to cook up a few of your favorite hearty soups and stews to fortify yourself. While I'm not a big fan of winter, I do look forward to these dishes, they are an amazing counterbalance to some seriously crummy weather.  What might be too hot or filling the rest of the year is just terrific in winter weather.

    Black Bean with Mango Stew

    1 pound of black beans
    5 TBS olive oil or coconut fat
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    1 sweet potato or garnet yam, peeled and diced
    1 16 ounce can tomatoes (or fresh, in season)
    juice of one lime
    1 mango, diced (or 1 cup of frozen mango)
    hot sauce to taste
    salt, if permitted
    1 bunch cilantro, chopped

      1. Prepare the black beans according to the package directions and adding 2 of the 5 TBS of olive oil or coconut fat while simmering.

      2. Saute the onion, pepper, and sweet potato in the remaining oil or fat until onion is a little golden. 

      3. Add the tomato, lime juice and just enough water to simmer until the sweet potato is tender.

      4. Combine black beans with vegetables. 

      5. Add the mango, hot sauce, salt and half of the cilantro ten minutes before serving and simmer. 

      6. Serve the rest of the cilantro for garnish.

      Wednesday, January 12, 2011

      An Interview with Karen Rose Tank, Health, Nutrition & Diabetes Coach

      The first post of Health Fare is about my friend Karen Rose Tank, who is a Health, Nutrition & Diabetes Coach located in Central New Jersey. In the years I have known Karen, she has always been incredibly energetic and a great source of information about health, fitness and diet.

      Karen lives and works by her motto "You can take control of your health."  She has experienced such control firsthand in her own life's journey when at age 39 she developed Type 1 diabetes. Since diabetes is a complex and difficult disease, staying healthy required she completely modify her lifestyle, with a necessary reexamination of her diet and exercise habits.

      Karen found that the medical community provided few answers to the conundrum of what kind of diet people with diabetes should be on, other than that she should "mainly eat anything you want, just count all your carbs and take the appropriate amount of insulin."  She found the standard ADA diet contained too many carbohydrates to properly control her blood sugars, and it was a constant struggle to maintain her health. While Karen discovered a faction of diabetes specialists (such as Dr. Richard Bernstein) who were promoting a low carbohydrate diet as the best method to stabilize blood sugars, such a diet was difficult to sustain without feeling deprived. However, once she became involved with the Suppers program run by Dorothy Mullen, she learned how to prepare the delicious low carbohydrate dishes that were satisfying as well as appropriate for good nutrition and health.

      The Suppers program was incredibly successful in keeping Karen healthy.  Then Karen decided along with Dorothy to start  a more specific table-based support group called Suppers for Stable Blood Sugar.  Karen has greatly enjoyed facilitating this group, whose members are not only people with diabetes but people experiencing fluctuating glucose levels and therefore at risk for future problems.

      The next natural step was to seek more information from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which is the only nutrition school integrating all the different dietary theories—combining the knowledge of traditional philosophies with modern concepts like the USDA food pyramid, the glycemic index, the Paleo Diet, the Zone and raw foods. Karen graduated from IIN in the summer of 2010 as a Certified Health and Nutrition Coach. She is currently continuing her training with IIN through their yearlong immersion program. She has grown into the position of helping others manage their blood sugars and finds it to be a fulfilling and exciting opportunity to share what she has learned in her journey. "I love working with people and showing them how to manage their diabetes/health through healthful eating. The other day I was in my kitchen with a client teaching her how to make kale chips. It was so much fun!" Karen says.

      One of the major goals for Karen has been to not only get her clients off the constant carbohydrate cycle but to give them satisfying alternatives so they don't feel deprived. She finds that her clients often need help with meal plans, so she brainstorms with her client and they devise a meal plan that is appropriate to the client's lifestyle but also delicious. "Change is small and incremental," Karen says,"And takes practice as well as support and caring." When someone feels supported and cared for, he or she will then feel empowered to change.

      Karen offers a complimentary health consultation where she and her client explore the current state of his or her health, what the struggles and challenges are and how she can be of support. Clients always leave with at least one "Aha!" moment on how to improve their health.

      She works with clients in weekly or biweekly sessions over several months.  A client did not get to his current state of health overnight, she feels, and healing involves incremental change over time. In every session she and her client discuss what the successes have been, and how he can turn his challenges around.

      Another very important part of her program is working with clients to come up with specific actions to incorporate those small, healthful changes as they work towards their goals: sometimes they cook together, sometimes they eat out together, sometimes they tour a health food or other grocery store... it is always fun.. for both of them.

      Karen says that she needed to grow into the position of helping others. She didn't work for a bit while she was raising her two boys. She was also learning how to cope and live optimally with her diabetes, while understanding what she has to offer the world in her personal knowledge of living with this complex disease along with her nutrition  background.

      She plans to continue to learn tools that will help her clients heal both their physical selves with nutrition and movement, and their emotional and mental selves through mentoring with love, empathy and compassion!

      Karen Rose Tank 
      Health, Nutrition & Diabetes Coach