Sunday, April 19, 2015

Olive Hummus

Simple Olive Hummus (with no Tahini!)

This is another one of my grandmothers recipes. 
It's a delicious and healthy snack 
that's super easy to make and only uses 5 ingredients.

1 can Chickpeas
1 can pitted Black Olives
1 jar Green Olives (with pimentos)
4-7 cloves Garlic
Olive Oil
Optional pinch of Salt

Drain the olives and chickpeas.
Cook the garlic in olive oil
Add ingredients in a blender and puree.      
Add oil as needed/desired.     
8-10 servings 

Nutrient Facts:        
Olive Hummus
Portions: 9
Food Groups Amount Per Portion
Vegetables ¾ cup(s)
Beans & Peas ¼ cup(s)
Other ½ cup(s)
Oils 1 teaspoon
Limits Amount Per Portion
Total Calories 188 Calories
Nutrients Amount Per Portion
Protein 4 g
Carbohydrate 13 g
Dietary Fiber 5 g
Total Sugars 2 g
Total Fat 14 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 10 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Minerals Amount Per Portion
Calcium 62 mg
Potassium 123 mg
Sodium 804 mg
Vitamins Amount Per Portion
Vitamin A 18 µg RAE
Vitamin C 5 mg

Remember that you can get nutrient facts for your own recipes at

Homemade Apple Sauce

It's easier than you think to make delicious home-made apple sauce!

4 Apples*
3/4 cup Water
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

Directions: Peel & chop apples. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cover with a lid and cook at low/medium heat for 20-30 minutes until apples become soft. Allow the sauce to cool before mashing the apples. Serve warm or cool in the fridge.

Ingredients in the pot:                         After cooking for 10 minutes:

^After cooking for 20 minutes          ^ After cooking for 25 minutes &
                                                            cooling. I started mashing
                                                                          with a fork                                                        

**Note on Apples: the type of apple you use makes a huge difference! I recommend McIntosh apples for applesauce because they really break up on their own, you wont really have to mash them. This time I tried Gala apples so that's what you're seeing in these pictures. It turned out great but I had to put more effort into mashing than with McIntosh apples.
Best Apples for Sauce:
-McIntosh (my favorite for apple sauce so far)
-Golden Delicious
-Honey Crisp is okay
-Gala is okay
-Red Delicious
-Pink Lady is okay

Nutrient Facts:
Homemade Apple Sauce
Portions: 4
Food Groups Amount Per Portion
Whole Fruit 1¼ cup(s)
Limits Amount Per Portion
Total Calories 125 Calories
Empty Calories* 50 Calories
Added Sugars 50 Calories
Nutrients Amount Per Portion
Protein 0 g
Carbohydrate 33 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Total Sugars 28 g
Added Sugars 13 g
Total Fat 0 g
Minerals Amount Per Portion
Calcium 25 mg
Potassium 167 mg
Sodium 8 mg
Vitamin A 4 µg RAE
Vitamin C 6 mg
Vitamin K 3 µg

Remember you can go to to get nutrient information for your own recipes.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Vegan Brownies

Recipe for Delicious Vegan Brownies:
1 1/2 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Cocoa Powder
3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3 cup Oil
1 cup Almond Milk

Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes

Some of the Ingredients:

Finished Brownies:

Nutrient Analysis:
Vegan Brownies
Portions: 8 Large Brownies
Food Groups Amount Per Portion
Grains 1½ ounce(s)
Refined Grains 1½ ounce(s)
Oils 3 teaspoon
Limits Amount Per Portion
Total Calories 318 Calories
Empty Calories* 98 Calories
Solid Fats 3 Calories
Added Sugars 95 Calories
Nutrients Amount Per Portion
Protein 3 g
Carbohydrate 46 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Total Sugars 27 g
Added Sugars 24 g
Total Fat 14 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 10 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Calcium 85 mg
Potassium 90 mg
Sodium 241 mg
Copper 150 µg
Iron 2 mg
Magnesium 21 mg
Phosphorus 62 mg

Remember, you can do your own nutrient analysis of your recipes or daily diet at

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jamaican Cuisine

As part of a final project for a class at Queens College called Aspects of food FNES 104 that I took in fall 2013, we were assigned a country to study it's cuisine. I was assigned Jamaica which was perfect since I was living in Jamaica Queens at the time. I did alot of research on Jamaican culture. So many aspects of the culture influence the Jamaican diet.

DemographicsJamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea with a population of about 2.5 million people split evenly between rural and urban areas. English is the national language. Eighty percent of the population is Christian, meaning they celebrate christenings, baptisms, Christmas, Easter and other Christian holidays. Some Jamaicans are Jews, Muslims, Rastafarians, and some other African based religions. Their national motto “Out of many people, one people” speaks to the diverse backgrounds of the population. (Jordan 2013) This country has fought for independence from Spain and Britain. Wealthier Jamaicans are Anglo-Saxon Protestants while the middle class is comprised of Africans, Middle easterners and East Asians. Jamaicans celebrate their Independence Day on August Sixth. For a few weeks in August they celebrate with huge festivals of food and dancing. In October they celebrate National Hero Day. Jamaicans are fond of cricket and running track. The fastest man in the World, Usain Bolt is a national icon for winning 6 gold medals in the Olympics for running. 
RastifariAs a result of the slave trade many Africans were displaced, creating an African diaspora. Rastafari beliefs empowered these people and helped them connect with their heritage. The Rastafarian movement in Jamaica was largely started by Marcus Grivey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the early 1900’s. “Garvey urged his people to know their history lest they be doomed to repeat it. He preached the importance of Africans worshipping God in their own image. ‘We Negroes believe in the God of Ethiopia, the everlasting God, the one God of all ages; we shall worship him through the spectacles of Ethiopia,’ Garvey said.” (RexRuff) Garvey is now honored for his contributions with his face on the 25 cent, 50 cent and 20 dollar Jamaican coins. 

In 1925 Charles F. Goodridge brought The Holy Piby to Jamaica. The controversial book by Robert Rogers became known as ‘the black man’s bible.’ Jamaican Rastafarianism is a mix of Christian and African beliefs. They use the Ethiopian flag as their symbol because they believe Ethiopia is the Promised Land as well as their heritage. The lion on the flag represents their Messiah and is often referenced by rastas for example Bob Marley’s song about being Iron like the Lion of Zion. Rastafari has risen above other Afro-Jamaican religions, drawing attention from all around the world. It differs from traditional religion in that it has become a cultural movement, a consciousness.

Rastafari was largely spread by Reggae music. In 1960 Knigston Jamaica ska music was being mixed with rock steady to create the first reggae songs. Reggae music often features accents of the third beat. By 1970 Bob Marley was furthering the movement with famous songs like “Natty Dread”, “Rastaman Vibration” and his most political album “Survival”. Bob Marley remains an icon today because of the way his songs speak for the people and their suffering. (RexRuff) In 1985 Reggae was for the first time recognized as a genre in the US grammy awards. In the UK, Reggae influenced punk rockers like The Clash and The Slits. Today bands like Slightly Stoopid and The Dirty Heads are considered progressive reggae while more traditional artists like Yellowman are still very popular.  
HistoryJamaica is a very diverse population. Before 1492, the indigenous Arawaks (also referred to as the Taino Tribe) grew guava, papaya, cassava, and cashews. They stayed near the coast, depending on the water and fish. (Before Columbus) 

In the late 1400’s Jamaica was invaded by the Spanish who brought coconut, bananas, lemons, limes, goat and sugarcane to Jamaica. (Advameg Inc.)Spanish influence on Jamaican cuisine is seen in dishes like Escoviche (a fish dish). Many of the foods we think of as being Jamaican were actually introduced by Spain. The Spanish took slaves from West Africa creating Maroons, escaped slaves that often fled to islands such as Jamaica. The Maroons brought many foods to the islands including the country’s national fruit Akee, peanuts, okra and jerk cooking. 

Jamaica has also been influenced by the British who seized the island in 1655 granting them independence in 1962. (National Geographic) British influence can be seen in Jamaican dishes like Gizzadas. Gizzadas are a pastry tart filled with coconut and nutmeg among other spices. These desserts are a Jamaican take on European pastries introduced to them by the British. (Jordan)

Jamaica Today: Jamaicans use a mix of traditional and biomedicine practices. Typically they try home remedies before seeking healthcare. In Jamaica traditional gender roles are expected. It’s considered Taboo for a man to be overly feminine or for a woman to smoke. Women can leave the home alone, but never go to a bar or club unaccompanied. While some Jamaicans are Rastafarian or Muslim, many Jamaicans see it as taboo to not be Christian. Jamaicans do not eat iguana or snails, considering these foods to be taboo despite their being delicacies in other countries. (Wellesley) In Jamaica homosexuality between two males is illegal. Any kind of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender activity is considered Taboo. Many Caribbean reggae songs promote violence against homosexuals. While some of these attitudes are starting to change, violent crimes against the LGBT community continue. In 2006, Time magazine called Jamaica “the most homophobic place in the world” (Padgett) Incidents of mob violence and the celebration of the murder of two prominent gay activists have concerned many human rights activists. Modern Jamaican politics have been a see-saw of power between the Jamaica Labor Party and the Peoples National Party. In 2006 they elected their first female Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, who is still in charge today. (Jamaica Guide)

Jamaica trades primarily with the US, Canada and the United Kingdom. Their number one export is bananas, and they also trade coffee, sugar, spices, citrus fruits, rum, aluminum and pimentos. (National Geographic) The national fruit of Jamaica is the akee. The akee fruit was actually introduced by West African Maroons but has become very popular. Native Jamaican flora includes pineapple, mango, papaya, guava, bamboo, breadfruit, plantain, soursop, callaloo, pimento (allspice) and cactus. Native Fauna include mongoose, wild boar, bats, frogs, as well as a variety of reptiles, birds and fish.

There is a large wealth gap in Jamaica, the average GDP per capita is U.S. $3,800. (National Geographic)Wealthier Jamaicans are able to eat a wider variety of foods. Street foods like the Jamaican beef patty and bammys are popular. A typical Jamaican dinner might be spiced beans and rice with chicken or pork. For Christmas, Jamaicans have a red drink called sorrel which contains rum. (Fay Deleon) Other special occasion foods include the Caribbean Christmas cake and Jamaican Easter Spice bread.

Jamaican Jerk cooking involves dry rubbing or marinating the meat in spices creating a uniquely Jamaican taste. The spices used in Jamaican Jerk include allspice, cinnamon, thyme, nutmeg, garlic, onion, pepper and salt. (Rita Recipe) Jamaican Jerk chicken and pork are common dishes, usually served with rice and beans. Another common Jamaican dish is Bammys (Bammi’s), a flatbread made from cassava flour. Cassava is a starchy root vegetable. Bammys can be thick or as thin as tortilla shell. There many different ways to make and eat bammys. Today they are most often served as a side dish or eaten as a snack. (TypiKelly) Other common meals in Jamaica include curried goat, salt fish, Jamaican patties, rum, and blue mountain coffee.

Jamaica Queens: When Jamaicans immigrate to America, there are large Jamaicans and Caribbean communities to make them feel at home. Most Jamaicans are able to find professional, management, technical or sales jobs. It’s amazing how many Jamaican foods and products are available in the United States. I went to a Jamaican market in Queens to see what they would have. I was expecting more exotic fruits and vegetables but most of the foods in the store were packaged. There were a lot of spices and herbs including allspice. I noticed flavoring extracts for coconut, nutmeg, vanilla and banana. I also saw boxes of Fufu flour which came in plantain, cassava or cocoyam varieties. I purchased two plantains and a Jamaican ginger beer. As we left the store and walked down the street, I noticed multiple Jamaican restaurants. One was a patty shop that was closed; another was a tiny walk-up restaurant with a long line of people out front. It smelled delicious and I could hear Reggae music as we passed.

In my research I found many videos and blogs created by Jamaicans and Jamaican Americans. One was an American girl whose father had grownup in Jamaica. He was white and she made a video to show people that there are Caucasian Jamaicans. In a strong accent he describes some of his favorite Jamaican foods which include akee and salt fish, curried goat with rice, bammy, and goat belly soup. (TypiKelly) He describes Jamaica as a sunny paradise filled with the nicest, most friendly people in the world. Many comments on the video included the national motto “out of many people one people”. (youtube) This reaction indicates a strong sense of national unity and pride among Jamaicans even after they leave the island. Another great source I found for my research was a website of recipes, some with cooking videos, of Jamaican food by a Jamaican American woman Fay Deleon. (Fay) Her recipes are great because they all include pictures, easy to understand and the videos are helpful too. She has recipes for sorrel, plantain tarts, soursop juice, fried breadfruit, curry goat, Jamaican jerk chicken and ginger beer along with many others. (Fay) It’s great to see older people using the internet to its full possibilities. Fay has a website and blog as well as a twitter, facebook, youtube channel and pintrist. She’s sharing traditional foods from her culture with the world, keeping her traditions alive. She started the website as a way to share recipes with her daughters and soon realized other people wanted to watch them too. Fay continues to post new Jamaican recipes.
As part of this project, we had to present our countries cuisine to the class. I made fried plantain chips to bring in. It was a food I had never eaten before but I thought they turned out pretty good. I followed an instructional video from Fay.

The motto “Out of many, one people” is so appropriate for a melting pot like Jamaica. The island has been home to many different cultures, all of whom left their influence on Jamaican culture. So many of the foods we think of when we think of Jamaica, bananas, coconuts, goat for curry goat, jerk cooking, okra, and akee, all came from Spain and Africa. Today Jamaica is home to a diverse population who has created their own unique foods, music and way of life. 
National Geographic (2011) Jamaica Facts
Jamaica Tourist Board. (2013) About Jamaica: Culture and Food.
Margie Jordan, (April 9th 2013) 10 best foods to eat in Jamaica
RexRuff (2013)Bob and Rastafarian Beliefs
Usain Bolt (2012) Biography
The Miami News (Augest 12, 1962) Jamaica Culture Influenced by British, Arawark Indians
Tim Padgett (April 12, 2006) The Most Homophobic Place on Earth?

Segmental Info System (2004) Before Columbus
Advameg, Inc., (April 2001) Jamaica
Jenifer Plum Auvil,(2013)The Best Jamaican Cuisine
Rita (February 16, 2006) Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Recipe
Fay Deleon (2012) Fays Jamaican Cooking Recipes
Cook like a Jamaican (February 23, 2012) Caribbean Cooking Videos: How to Fry Plantains
Wellesley (February 2012) Jamaican Taboos taboos.html
TypiKelly (January 15, 2012) My White Jamaican Dad

Joe Linton and Stephen Murphy (December 28, 2011) Jamaican Childrens Christmas- Mixed

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Great Brownie/Oil Experiment

The brownie recipe I have used many times in the past, calls for:
1/2 cup Margarine melted
1 cup Sugar
2 large Eggs
1 teaspoon Almond or Vanilla extract
1/3 cup Cocoa powder
1/2 cup Flour
plus whatever Nuts or Chocolate chips you want

Bake at 325F in an 8x8 pan for 25-30 minutes.

At my apartment, we are currently out of margarine but have a whole dozen eggs to eat before the expiration date tomorrow! And so the great brownie-oil experiment begins... 

Note that the only thing changing in the recipes is the type of oil being used as a substitute for margarine in the original recipe. 

Basic Ingredients: 

Oils being tested:

For the first batch:
1/2 cup Coconut oil
1 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Almond extract
1/3 cup Cocoa powder
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

After baking for 35 minutes at 325F:
Tasted great, no distinct coconut flavor but 
a definite added sweetness. They were a little dry and quickly hardened.

For the second batch:
1/2 cup Olive oil 
1 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Almond extract
1/3 cup Cocoa powder
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

After baking for 35 minutes at 325F

Results: These brownies came out a grey-almost-green color. 
They were very moist and chewy, tasted great. 
I would maybe use a frosting in the future 
to cover the color. 

For the third batch:
1 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Almond extract
1/3 cup Cocoa powder
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

After baking in the oven for 35 minutes at 325F

Results: I thought these brownies looked the most like a brownie should. 
They were the right color but a little too moist, kept falling apart.

Nutrient wise when we look at the three oils:
Nutrient Info per ½ cup oil (per batch) Coconut Oil Olive Oil Smart Balance Vegetable Oil
Calories 940 cal 955 cal 2080 cal
Total Fat 109g 108g 224g
Saturated Fat 95g 15g 24g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g 79g 80g
Trans Fat 0g 0g 0g

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat. About 75% of the fat in olive oil comes from omega-9-fatty acid (oleic acid). Olive oil provides a variety of health benifits, from antioxidants protecting our blood vessels to monounsaturated fat decreasing LDL cholesterol levels, olive oil can be a healthy choice. Extra Virgin and Cold Pressed are highest in antioxidants.

The brownies made with olive oil were the healthiest and best texture, but not quite the right color.
The brownies made with coconut tasted the best to me but were a bit dry and got hard quickly.
The brownies made with vegetable oil looked the best but were the least healthy and almost too moist.

In the future I would probably use olive oil or just make vegan brownies.