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More Birthday Meals, Weight Watchers & Cinco de Mayo Too?!?

Original post made by Jacqui Love Marshall, San Ramon, on May 5, 2011

==B A Month of Birthday Meals:== Well, my month of birthday meals is coming along well. I've had 2 great lunches and 1 delightful dinner; there are 3 more celebratory meals scheduled over the next week. The variety for next week is nice too: ==I Laurus== in Blackhawk, ==I La Boulange== in Danville and ==I Yanagi Sushi== in Dublin. One meal even comes with a movie…I can't wait to enjoy the company of friends over good food.

==B Cinco de Mayo:== In addition to those outings, I'm meeting some friends at Maria Maria tomorrow to imbibe and devour in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. From 4pm 'til 2am, they're offering a Beer Garden on the patio in Sam Ramon, complete with taco and margarita bars. If you stop by, please come over and wish me ==I "Happy Birthday"== or share a CdM toast with me. To honor the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, here's one of my favorite summer salads:

==B Avocado Mango Salad (serves 4)==
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 avocados, diced
2 ripe mangoes
½ red onion, sliced
½ large or 1 small red pepper, cut into thin strips
½ cup cilantro, chopped
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Assemble first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl; gently blend together.
2. Whisk together remaining ingredients to make a light vinaigrette. Pour vinaigrette into salad mix and blend gently before serving.

==B Weight Watchers:== By the way, I'm on my 4th week of Weight Watchers under the new point system. Despite all the birthday and travel indulgences, it looks like I've dropped 4.5 pounds. I love the ability to eat fresh fruits and veggies with no points assigned, especially as we move into summer. I have denied myself very little but I have definitely monitored and moderated my consumption of high-calorie foods and late-night snacks. And speaking of fresh fruits and vegetables, the ==B San Ramon Farmer's Market== is located in Bishop Ranch 9 as of May 1. Look for the familiar banners near Whole Foods.

==B Chick Peas:== Several of my reader-friends have called me about the chickpea meatloaf piece. They wanted to know more about the nutritional value of chickpeas. Interestingly, I've seen articles on chickpeas in food magazines and Sunset recently. Is May chickpea month? Anyway, here's some interesting data about chickpeas. ==B Chickpeas -– or garbanzos, ceci beans (Italy), chana (India)--== are the third most consumed legume in the world. They provide a major source of protein for many citizens of the globe. Rich in protein, calcium and phosphorus and potassium, they are one powerful bean. They contain two different nutrients: antioxidant phytonutrients and insoluble fiber, both of which can fight heart disease and colon cancer. The thicker skin of the "desi-type" chickpeas (as compared with the more common, rounder bean types) are said to account for their higher concentrations of antioxidant phytonutrients. The "power bean" also contains vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene but phytonutrients such as flavenoids kaempferol, myricetin, and quercetin, and the phenolic acids, caffeic, chlorogenic, ferulic, vanillic anthocyanins delphinidin, cyanidin, manganese and petunidin are the real health treasures hidden away in this odd-shaped legume.

The benefit of the insoluble fiber is easier to explain. Because of the thicker skin and insolubility, the fiber makes it all the way to the large intestine and helps feed the good bacteria. "Hip Hip Hooray" to chickpeas for feeding the good bacteria! On that note, here's a simple variation on hummus, the familiar dip:

==B Chickpea Dip with Cilantro (enough for an appetizer)==
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained (liquid reserved) and rinsed
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp fine sea salt
2 cloves hard-neck garlic, peeled, halved, minced
1 cup fresh cilantro – reserve a few leaves for garnish
In a food blender or food processor, combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, garlic, and most of the cilantro leaves. Blend until smooth, adding 5-6 Tbsp of the reserved liquid if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency. Season to taste. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves before serving.

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