Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Blueberry Apple Oat-Almond Crumble (with gluten-free option)

This time of year, the seasonal pickings are relatively slim. What I wouldn’t give for summer fresh, farmer’s market berries, tomatoes, and peaches! This recipe for blueberry apple crumble is a great way to shrug off winter and take advantage of blueberries frozen at their peak flavor in the summer months. 

Blueberry Apple Oat-Almond Crumble

A Chef in Residency dessert recipe wouldn’t be complete without a recipe rehab. This recipe rehab took a traditional crumble, then amped up the healthy components and decreased the refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats as much as possible without sacrificing taste.

The finished product was a total success! I made the crumble in the evening and took it to brunch the following day—it was devoured in minutes and several people asked for the recipe. No one could believe that it was a healthy dessert! (I don't recommend that you tell people...they'll never know.)

For the skeptics out there, I have listed both the healthy ingredients and the refined flours/sugars options so that you can make as many or as few of the alterations as you feel comfortable with. However, I urge you to try the recipe with all of the healthier ingredients since it is at least as delicious as the original.

This recipe is/has:
Notes of cinnamon

Blueberry Apple Oat-Almond Crumble (can be gluten-free)

2 pounds fresh or frozen blueberries
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped into ¼ to ½-inch cubes
¼ cup all-purpose flour, white whole-wheat flour or oat flour (sub with 1 Tablespoon+1 teaspoon of arrowroot powder for gluten-free)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup finely chopped dates (or ¼ cup granulated sugar)
Juice of 1 lemon (or bitter orange)
Zest of 1 lemon, chopped (or bitter orange)

Crumble Topping:
1 cup almonds             
1 cup of old-fashioned oats (or 1 cup all-purpose flour)
½ cup dates, packed (or sub ¼ cup granulated sugar PLUS 1/3 cup packed brown sugar)
¼ tsp salt
3 Tbsp canola oil (originally, 1 stick or 8 Tablespoons of butter)
½ cup old-fashioned oats, left whole
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Mix together filling ingredients: stir together blueberries, apples, flour (or arrowroot), sugar (or dates), cinnamon, lemon juice and zest and set aside.
3. Process almonds and 1 cup oats (or all-purpose flour) in the food processor until they look like flour. Add sugars (or dates), salt and oil; process until well combined. Stir in ½ cup oats, leaving unprocessed.
4. Spray a 13x9-inch cake pan with non-stick spray (or grease with butter or oil), then pour in blueberry mixture making sure that it is relatively level. Sprinkle with crumble topping (use all of the topping). 
5. Bake for 50-70 minutes on the middle shelf in the oven until blueberry juice is bubbling up through in places and the crumble is just starting to brown. Note: if baking in 12 individual dishes (as pictured) cut baking time to 45 minutes.
6. Cool for 15 minutes before eating. Cool completely before covering with a lid or plastic.

Serve as is or with vanilla ice cream. This is delicious reheated.

Makes 12 servings

Friday, February 19, 2016

Research Commentary: Organic Meats, Milk Could Have More Good-for-you Fats, Study Finds (CNN Health)

I was interviewed by Carina Storrs for CNN Health about the research article published earlier this week in the British Journal of Nutrition, "Composition Differences Between Organic and Conventional Meat: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis." Click here to read the interview.

Photo credit:
This study looked at studies conducted over the last 2 decades in Europe, Brazil and the US to try to determine if organic meat was more nutritious than conventional meat. There was not enough information to determine whether one was better than the other in terms of vitamins or minerals. 

The only component that there was enough information to compare was fat, and specifically omega-3 fatty acids. The study showed that there were higher levels of omega-3s in organic as compared to conventional meat, with this finding being driven mainly by beef. 

This makes sense policy- and biology-wise since organically raised cows must have access to the outdoors, whereas this is not true for conventionally raised cows. The omega-3s come from the diet, and diets high in foods eaten while grazing and foraging (namely green grass and other green plants) result in higher levels of omega-3s in the animals. 

The study did not make a distinction between grass-fed and non-grass-fed animals. It is reasonable to expect that non-organic, grass-fed animals would have similarly high levels of omega-3s as organic ones.

This particular study did not look at organic milk, which is reported in the same news article and, I assume, is from another source which I won't comment on here.

Want to know more about omega-3's?
The main omega-3 fatty acids in the diet are ALA, EPA and DHA. ALA is found mainly in nuts, seeds and leafy greens, whereas EPA and DHA are found more often in animal products like fatty fish, meat and dairy products. Seaweed also contains EPA and DHA (which is where the fish get it from). 

However, our bodies can convert ALA to EPA and DHA. This generally only occurs in significant amounts if our diets are lower in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6s are found mainly in vegetable oil, fried foods, processed foods, meat, dairy products, and poultry. This is because the enzyme that converts ALA to EPA and DHA also processes omega-6s to their downstream products.

(Click on image to enlarge) 
The downstream products of omega-6s include inflammatory arachidonic acid, prostaglandins and leukotrienes that contribute to diseases such as asthma, blood clots, arthritis, and atherosclerosis.

The downstream products of omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and are widely touted to have many health benefits.

My Take-home Messages:

Studies show that diets containing red and processed meats (e.g. sausage, bacon, hotdogs, etc.) put people at higher risk of some cancers, heart disease and diabetes. Even though organic and grass-fed beef may contain more omega-3s than conventional beef that is not grass-fed, it is better to get your omega-3s from plant and fish sources

If you do choose to eat red meat, try to save it for special occasions, cut down on your portion sizes, and limit it to 1 serving per week. Try to choose organic or grass-fed beef when possible to get more omega-3s and reduce the impact of meat production on the environment.