Monday, August 8, 2016

EcoM8s: Clams and Vitamin B12 for Brain Health

EcoM8s: Clams and Vitamin B12 for Brain Health: I really enjoy seafood, all kinds of fish, shellfish, and bivalves. I'm careful to purchase seafood that is sustainable, pole caught or ...

Clams and Vitamin B12 for Brain Health

I really enjoy seafood, all kinds of fish, shellfish, and bivalves. I'm careful to purchase seafood that is sustainable, pole caught or caught/fished in an environmentally friendly manner. The Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch app is my go to guide when I'm at the fish market purchasing my seafood.

There are all kinds of health benefits from eating seafood. Clams (along with mussels, sardines, crab, trout, and wild salmon) are high in Vitamin B12, an essential vitamin for brain health and healthy nerve cells. B12 is also absorbed and concentrated in animals (beef liver is an excellent source). If you are vegan or vegetarian it is important to take a B12 supplement. (FYI, the body can store B12 and you could go a couple years without supplementation before you start to notice symptoms of deficiency. Click here for more info for vegan and vegetarians. This article from the University of  Maryland Medical Center describes symptoms of deficiency, food sources of B12, and supplementation information. It is important to talk to your regular physician, a doctor of Naturopathy,  or dietician expert about supplementation; do not try and supplement on your own.

One of my favorite ways to get Vitamin B12 is by eating clams. Here is my go to recipe:

Clams Steamed in White Wine with Garlic and Shallots 
Serves 2-3 as main meal

3 pounds clams (if collected in the wild they need to be purged/cleaned and degritted -click here for more info).
2 small shallots, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is good; California style with lemon and citrus notes works well)
Chopped fresh parsley
Fresh crusty bread

If you purchased your clams from a seafood market, chances are the distributor has already purged the clams and they are ready for cooking. I buy and cook my shellfish on the same day so I don't have to worry about keeping them alive for very long. For info about storing click here.

Rinse clams under cold water and place in a colander.
Heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté shallots and garlic about a minute.
Pour in white wine. Boil until you have half of the volume, about 1/2 cup.
Add clams, cover and steam and until they start to open, about 5 minutes or so.
Add butter, cover, and cook until most or all of the clams open (another minute or so). Discard any that do not open. 
Sprinkle with parsley. 
Our family tends to just pull from the pot on the table (so they and the broth stay nice and hot).

 I serve mine with warm crusty bread, a green salad/Caesar salad, and fresh corn on the cob. It is summer after all!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Poaching Chicken

Eating nutritious foods along with regular exercise are the keys to staying healthy, happy, and feeling good about yourself. Science has proven over and over that if you feed your brain and body nutritious foods, the happier and healthier your life. My favorite recent books with the most recent science include The Happiness Diet and Eat Complete, both by Drew Ramsey, MD. I highly recommend these books - great information, humorous, and some excellent recipes too.

Chicken is one of my go-to proteins; easy to prepare and my family will eat it a variety of ways. For families on the go, it's easy to prepare poached chicken to store in the refrigerator to add to salads, quesadillas, stir fried rice, pasta, or whatever else you can conjure up. I buy organic or locally raised free range chicken. It costs a little more, but, I have a problem with conventional methods of raising chickens (inhumane in my opinion) and believe the stress that the animals go through finds its way into the meat and into me; no thank you. There is enough stress in life; I don't need to eat animals that were stressed out.

For those of you that say it takes time to prep food; yes, it does. But, you can prepare poached chicken while watching the evening news, a TED talk, while you watch over your kids doing homework, or while you get in a 30 minute exercise routine from the web or CD (I love Beachbody programs). I'm poaching a batch right now at 9pm.

So, here it is. My easy, tasty poached chicken breast recipe. The broth gets saved and frozen to use again for poaching and/or for a soup base.

2 whole chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Water (or if you have some leftover chicken stock, use it) to cover the chicken by about an inch
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
3-4 sprigs flat leaf parsley
1 onion, sliced
3-4 celery tops (the small stalk with leaves)
1 clove garlic, smashed
dash of salt and pepper

Place chicken breasts in a large saucepan or small stockpot.
Add stock or cool water to cover by an inch.
Add in wine/vermouth, parsley, onion, celery, garlic, salt, pepper.
Bring to a boil.
Turn off heat, cover pot, and leave on burner for 30 minutes (longer if breasts are very large).
Use a meat thermometer in thickest part of breasts; should read 160 degrees.

Remove from pot and let cool slightly. It's easiest to remove skin and meat from bones while still warm.

Remove skin and pull meat from bones. Remove any extra fat and chop into large pieces.

Strain stock and compost solids.
Stock will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Reusing this stock several times for poaching will give you a delicious rich chicken stock to use in the fall/winter months as a soup base.

Note: To poach a whole chicken, follow recipe but when water reaches boiling, turn to low and let simmer 10 minutes before turning off flame. Let sit 25-30 minutes and check with meat thermometer.

One final note: Be mindful of how much you are eating. Most people eat too much protein at one sitting. Two large chicken breasts (mine for this post were 2 1/4 pounds) yield about 4 cup of cut up chicken. A serving size is 1/2 cup. So, this recipe can serve about 8. It cost me $13 for two organic chicken breasts which ends up being $1.60 per serving.

And, a few scraps for my neighbor's dog, Ginger. :)