Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Ingredients:

1 pouch StarKist Hickory Smoked Tuna
1/2 cup Colby-Jack cheese blend, shredded
1/8 cup Green onions, thinly sliced
1-1/2 oz. Cream cheese, softened
1/8 cup Roasted red pepper cut into small strips
2 Flour tortillas, burrito size Directions:

In a small bowl, mix tuna, cream cheese, shredded cheese, pepper strips and sliced onions until blended. Spread tuna mixture on one tortilla shell, to the edges. Top with the other tortilla shell. Spray a large skillet, lightly, with vegetable spray and heat. Brown the shell in the skillet until golden brown on each side, approximately 2-3 minutes each side. Cut shell into 8 wedges and serve.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Natural Anxiety Soothers

The other day I heard from a friend of mine with a new baby -- her second in three years. She sounded harried... hardly a surprise. She described her life as an endless round of attending to her two children, caretaking her husband, housekeeping and managing her career. She's not sleeping well and frequently feels jittery and anxious. Not being one to turn automatically to pharmaceuticals, she called to ask if I knew of any natural remedies for stress and anxiety.

Fortunately I knew the best expert to call about botanical and natural medications: Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council. He had a number of suggestions for products that are soothing, relaxing and helpful in overcoming anxiety symptoms. Some have even been found to help improve sleep.

TO HELP YOU RELAX

Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. A 1999 study measured the brain activity of volunteers after a single 200 mg dose of theanine. Researchers reported that the supplement helped generate alpha brain waves, which are usually considered to be associated with relaxation. Theanine (also known as L-theanine) is available in natural food stores.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is among the most important neurotransmitters in the brain, involved in relaxation and inhibition. In fact many of the pharmaceutical drugs used for treating anxiety, including Valium, act by enhancing the effects of GABA. Some research suggests that as a supplement, GABA works better when combined with other ingredients like theanine. If you can find the two together in a supplement, it makes sense to take them that way.

Lemon balm (a plant, Melissa officinalis, in the mint family) is another mild sedative. One study of 24 healthy volunteers published in Phytotherapy Research in 2006, found that a single dose of 600 mg of a product combining valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and lemon balm reduced reported anxiety.

Kava is from a plant called Piper methysticum. Though there has been controversy associated with its use, kava has a long history as an herbal medicine to relieve anxiety, stress and insomnia. A 2006 review of randomized clinical trials on herbal remedies that relieve anxiety published in Phytomedicine found evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" for kava's effectiveness in the treatment of anxiety. "It relaxes skeletal muscles without causing drowsiness, so you can become physically relaxed but remain mentally sharp within just 15 minutes of taking a product containing kava," Blumenthal said. Recommended kava products are 70% standardized extract, sold in 100 mg doses, thus containing 70 mg of kavalactones (it will say so on the label).

Blumenthal cautions against taking kava with alcohol or with drugs that have an adverse effect on the liver (e.g. acetaminophen, or Tylenol). Also, kava has been associated with some liver problems. It is not considered safe for breastfeeding women, pregnant women or people with a history of liver disease.

Lavender is associated with relaxation, often used as aromatherapy in spas and as an ingredient in supposedly soothing lotions and teas. Just breathing the aroma of natural lavender oil -- in a spray or infuser, or as a massage oil -- has a mild relaxing effect, Blumenthal told me.

NATURAL SLEEP AIDS

While the above products can help ease tensions during the day, sometimes you need some additional help at night. According to Blumenthal, these sleep inducers may work as well as the popular pharmaceutical drugs, but without their adverse side effects:

Valerian is "a natural sleep aid and daytime sedative," Blumenthal said, adding that contrary to the popular myth, it is not related to the pharmaceutical drug Valium. Small doses of valerian can be used for calming during the day and higher doses as a sleep aid about a half hour before bedtime. Valerian can be taken in combination with lemon balm or other mildly sedative herbs (e.g. chamomile, hops, etc.), which makes it an even more powerful sleep aid.

Hops (Humulus lupulus) can also be helpful, according to Blumenthal. Yes, this is the same ingredient used in making beer -- it is a gentle sedative that promotes relaxation and is available in pills, as well as in tincture and bulk flower form in health food stores. It can be taken together with valerian, Blumenthal noted.

HELP YOUR DOCTOR HELP YOU

As a general precaution, do not take any of these products while pregnant or breastfeeding. While all are available at health food stores and online, it is important to take them only under the supervision of a trained practitioner. If anxiety and/or insomnia are more than an occasional problem, you may need to take a broader look at your life and make some changes -- whether it's delegating responsibilities at home to family members or professionals, or shifting job obligations or saying "no" to some committees. Anxiety is a message that something's not right. Natural or pharmaceutical, nothing will solve such problems except solving the problem itself. You can't take care of everyone if you don't take care of yourself.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Teriyaki Salmon and Green Onion Kabobs


3/4 cup Ginger & Sesame Teriyaki Marinade
3 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. O Organics™ Granulated Sugar
1/8 tsp. hot chile flakes
8 10-in. metal or wooden skewers
2 lbs. boneless, skinless salmon fillet, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 1 1/2-in. cubes
2 bunches green onions, white and light green parts only, cut into 1-in. lengths

1. In a medium bowl, mix terikyaki marinade, ginger, garlic, sugar, and hot chile flakes. Add salmon and mix gently to coat. Cover and chill 45 minutes. If using wooden skewers, put them in a shallow pan with water to cover and soak at least 20 minutes.

2. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for direct, high heat (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 in. above the cooking grate only 2 to 3 seconds; visit our Grilling Essential section for complete instructions). While grill heats, drain wooden skewers, then thread cubes of fish onto skewers, alternating with pieces of green onion.

3. Place skewers on well-oiled cooking grate; cover gas grill. Cook about 4 minutes. Using a wide spatula and tongs, gently turn each skewer over. Cook just until salmon is browned on the outside and no longer translucent in the center (cut to test), about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a platter.

PER SERVING 461 CAL., 49% (225 CAL.) FROM FAT; 48 G PROTEIN; 25 G FAT (5 G SAT.); 10 G CARBO (1.5 G FIBER); 1,056 MG SODIUM; 134 MG CHOL.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Salmon Burger with Dill Tarter



This burger is easier to handle if they are chilled for one hour before grilling. It is great with rice salad and cucumber slices. Grilled pound cake topped with crushed sweetened strawberries and whipped cream makes a luscious finale.

Ingredients:
10 ounces skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup purchased tartar sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 sesame-seed rolls, split
Red onion slices
4 Bibb lettuce leaves
Preparation:
Place salmon fillets, 3 tablespoons tartar sauce, 1 tablespoon dill, salt, and pepper in processor. Blend using on/off turns until coarsely ground. Form into two 1/2-inch-thick patties. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk 1/2 cup tartar sauce, 1 tablespoon dill, and lemon peel in medium bowl to blend. Grill rolls until toasted. Transfer to 2 plates and spread bottom halves generously with sauce. Grill patties until fish is cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Place burgers atop sauce on rolls. Top each with onion slices, 2 lettuce leaves, and top half of roll. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.