Cooking Tip: Sneak Fiber-Rich Flaxseed Into Your Food

When I first heard about flaxseed I thought the same thing I normally do about healthy food -- "yeah, yeah, it's good for you. But does it taste good?" And so, I shied away from it for some time before finally trying it out. As it turns out, this seedy super food can either be tasty... or can go virtually unnoticed in your dishes. If you're wary about flax seeds, try sneaking them into some of your already-existing recipes. I like to blend it smooth in my daily breakfast green smoothie, and I like adding it to baked recipes, like banana bread and dark chocolate biscotti. But first, you may wonder, what's so healthy about flaxseed? WebMD breaks it down:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These "good fats" are good for your heart. 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
  • Fiber: It offers both the soluble and insoluble types, so it's good for digestive health.
  • Antioxidants: The seeds contain lignans, which have estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Lignans help fight free radicals, which can damage tissue.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, adding flaxseed to your food gives it an added texture. So what else can you add it to? Try these:

  • Breakfast: Add a tablespoon of ground (or whole) flaxseed to your morning cereal or to yogurt.
  • Lunch: Add a teaspoon of it to your sandwich spread, like mayonnaise or mustard.
  • Baked goods: Add two tablespoons to any bread or muffin recipe. Aside form texture, the flaxseeds add an extra richness or thickness to your finished treat.

Flaxseed photo by Flickr user Alisha Vargas.

Quick And Cold: Iced Coffee

This morning, on this hot summer day, I needed an ice cold pick-me-up. So I Googled iced coffee recipes and was surprised to see all the trouble people go through just for a glass of the caffeinated treat. People crush their own whole beans, strain them through a warm brew, and let the mixture sit overnight. No thanks -- when I want a cup of coffee, I want it immediately. I did a few more searches for an easy iced coffee, and I was more than pleased at the resulting drink I had ready in less than five minutes.

Serves: 1 glass Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients: 2 teaspoons instant coffee 1 teaspoon sugar 2 tablespoons warm water 8 ounces cold milk Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional) Whipped cream (optional)

1. Add all ingredients -- except for the cinnamon -- in a cocktail shaker and shake well for several seconds, or until the mixture is well-combined and frothy. Pour over ice. If desired, add whipped cream and/or a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

My Notes: Why would I even have instant coffee? If you're a coffee snob, chances are you don't have a jar of the instant stuff tucked away into your cupboard. Ordinarily, I wouldn't drink it -- I just keep it stashed in my kitchen, reserved mainly for cooking and baking recipes. But because iced coffee is made primarily with cold milk instead of hot water, the strong, even bitter flavor of regularly brewed coffee isn't necessary. In fact, that bite probably isn't a taste you even want. Plus, chains like Starbucks use the instant stuff anyway -- so why bother paying those extra dollars for drinks you can easily make at home?

What about different flavors? If you want sweeter coffee, add a dash extra sugar. If you want a thicker, milkier taste, try using 7 ounces cold milk and 1 ounce half-and-half. And of course, you can always nix the sugar entirely.

A Guaranteed Show-Stopper: Red Velvet Pancakes

Red velvet pancakes. Need I say more? Whenever I hear the words "red velvet" my ears instantly perk up. Cake? Cookies? And this time, pancakes? A friend of mine linked me to this recipe not too long ago and just by glancing at the ingredient list, I could tell this was a must-eat. So I zipped over to the grocery store and stocked up on the necessities. Even though many of the ingredients weren't already lurking in my kitchen, it was well worth it. It was easy to make and difficult to screw up. The end result is moist, fluffy and absolutely irresistible. I wish I could brag that I made all sorts of changes to the recipe, but I didn't change much at all. The full credit goes to a food blog called From Portland to Peonies.

Serves: About 6 Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: About 10 minutes

Ingredients: 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons white sugar 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1 large egg, lightly beaten 3/4 buttermilk 1/4 cup sour cream 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1 tablespoon red food coloring 2 teaspoons vanilla extract Maple syrup or whipped cream (optional)

1. In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients first. Add in the egg, buttermilk, sour cream, melted butter, red food coloring, and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.

2. Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium high heat. When hot add non-stick cooking spray, followed by a small scoop of the batter. Wait for the pancakes to bubble, about 2 minutes, flip and cook for a minute or two more. Top with a pat of butter and maple syrup, or whipped cream.

My Notes: Creme fraiche or sour cream? If you're like me, you probably frequent grocery store chains like Ralph's or even Whole Foods. Creme fraiche can be hard to find, so I made these pancakes with sour cream -- and I wouldn't change a thing.

More vanilla and baking soda: I love the fragrant, floral sweetness of vanilla, so in this recipe, I added a little dash extra. I also used extra baking powder to ensure a fluffy yet dense pancake.

Make it dessert: A friend of mine declined the butter and decided to take this treat to the next level. Instead, he added a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Ice cream makes just about any food better, and these red velvet pancakes are definitely no exception. If you decided to go with ice cream topping, you may want to make your pancakes a tad smaller. The portions will be less filling and ultimately, less guilt-inducing!

Get Old-Fashioned at Top Pot Doughnuts

What: Doughnuts, pastries, coffee and tea

Where: Top Pot Doughnuts in downtown Seattle, WA.

Must Order: Old fashioned doughnuts, including glazed and pumpkin; ovaltine latte

The Verdict: So what? They're just doughnuts. Ah, but often, it's the simpler foods that catch our eye. Certainly, unusual foods pique my interest, but when I hear about an ordinary dish that's served up in a memorable way, I do a double-take.

You may have heard of Top Pot Doughnuts in the news recently; President Barack Obama stopped by in October and treated himself (and, I assume, his sizable entourage) to a few dozen doughnuts. The friendly staff at Top Pot revealed that the president himself enjoyed the Pumpkin Old-Fashioned Doughnut. That, indeed, was one of the establishment's better doughnuts, but my personal favorite was Old-Fashioned Glazed. It was simple, it was sweet and best of all, it packed that ever so slight resistance when I bit down.

Sweet treats aside, another must-order is the Ovaltine Latte. I'm a big fan of both hot chocolate (when it's made correctly) and lattes. Top Pot fuses them together with this drink. With the sweetness of the chocolate and the kick of the coffee, you get the best of both worlds in this velvety drink.