Pumpkin For Your Health

pumpkin

Well, I just can’t get enough of the availability of squashes this time of year!!! When I think of fall foods, pumpkin is one of my all-time favorites. Not just for entertainment purposes, such as piling the family into the car and driving to the pumpkin patch to choose pumpkins to carve or use for home décor, but for nutritional purposes, as well. Pumpkins are so packed with nutrition, that this cannot go unmentioned. I encourage you to create an activity with your family where you cut into your pumpkin to gather all the goodness packed inside and take advantage of the low-cost nutrition. The kids will have fun getting messy while working with foods from the earth!

Just the other day I dug into one of my pumpkins to scoop out the seeds to toast for snacking, and to make a batch of the most interesting, scrumptious salsa I’ve ever eaten. (recipe found in previous post from 11/19/2014).

Last night I attended a Halloween dinner party and had a lovely pumpkin soup with bacon. The hint of bacon gave the soup a really nice smoky flavor. I have had pumpkin or squash soup with coconut milk or curry, but not with bacon. I strongly encourage you to try preparing this pumpkin soup (yes, you can substitute with another squash).

Pumpkin Soup with Bacon         makes about 8 cups                                                                                   Food_SoupLARGE

1/3 pound of bacon
1 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 clove of garlic, minced
3 # of squash or pumpkin flesh, seeded, peeled and cubed
5 C of water or low sodium chicken broth
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T fresh thyme leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds
thick slices rustic bread

Fry the bacon in a soup pot. Remove the bacon and drain. Pour off one tablespoon of the fat into a medium-sized frying pan, leaving the rest in the pot. You just need enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Discard remaining fat.

Sauté the onions in the fat until they are translucent. Add the garlic and cook gently for about 2 minutes or until it is fragrant. Add a pinch of salt and some pepper. Add the squash and water, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook until the squash is very soft, about 20-30 minutes. Puree the soup until very smooth.

While the soup is simmering, spread bread with olive oil and toast. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the bacon in each bowl. Garnish with the thyme leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve with toasted bread.

Bon Apetite!

 

The Ultimate Tomato Pie

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Last weekend I was in the lovely city of Louisville, Kentucky watching my son participate in an Ironman competition. We had the pleasure of staying with friends who are avid cooks, gardeners and lovers of the good, simple things in life. When the grueling Ironman was complete, all of us sat down to a lovely home-prepared, comforting meal of perfectly grilled steak, freshly tossed salad and one of the most sumptuous items I have put in my mouth in a long, long time….a tomato pie prepared with heirloom tomatoes from their shared garden. Oh my gosh!! As I sat at the kitchen counter watching Elizabeth effortlessly toss this pie together, I took notice because of the ease of the preparation which included only 5 ingredients. Needless to say, as the 5 of us were devouring the entire plate of nutritious goodness, along with the steak and fresh salad (which were delicious in their own right), I promptly snagged the recipe from her to share with you. Talk about one celebratory meal that was about easy, nutritious, and absolutely divine………ummmmm:)

Tomato Pie

1 pie crust (you can use the refrigerated Pillsbury crust or your favorite recipe)
2-4 tomatoes (depends upon size and type of tomatoes)
1 sweet onion
fresh basil leaves
shredded cheese: a combination of parmesan, gouda and Havarti works well

Unroll pie crust in dish. Layer the ingredients on top of crust. Bake at 350 until bubbly:)

Bon Apetite!

Chicken and Spinach Soup with Fresh Pesto

I told you I make a lot of soup during this time of year! This soup takes advantage of quick-cooking ingredients-chicken breast, bagged spinach (or frozen) & canned beans. It features a simple homemade basil pesto swirled in at the end to add a fresh herb flavor. I found it at eatingwell.com in 2009 & have prepared it countless times, of course adding any additional veggies which I have in my fridge. It is absolutely delicious, nutritious, easy & quite satisfying! Serve alongside a slice of rustic bread & you have one healthy, light meal!

5 servings, about 1 ½ cup each

Ingredients:

2          tsp plus 1 Tbsp olive oil
1          boneless, skinless chicken breast, approximately 8 oz.
½        cup carrot or diced red bell pepper (I always add additional veggies and much more than the recipe states)
1          large clove garlic, minced
5          cups reduced sodium chicken broth (I use my homemade veggie stock. See post for recipe from February 10)
1 ½     Tbsp dried marjoram
6 oz     spinach, coarsely chopped (yes, I add more:)
15 oz   can cannellini beans
¼        cup grated parmesan cheese (make sure you use good quality, fresh cheese)
1/3      cup lightly packed basil leaves, freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preparation

  1. Heat 2 tsp oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrot & chicken; cook, turning chicken & stirring frequently, until chicken begins to brown. Add garlic & cook, stirring for 1 more minute. Stir in broth & marjoram, bring to boil. Reduce heat & simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  2. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean cutting board to cool. Add spinach & beans to pot & bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
  3. For pesto: combine the remaining 1 Tbsp oil, cheese & basil in food processor. Process until a coarse paste forms, adding a little water & scraping down the sides, as necessary.
  4. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir chicken & pesto into the pot. Season with pepper. Heat until hot.

Per serving: 204 calories; 8 g fat; 16 g carb; 18 g protein; 6 g fiber; 691 mg sodium

 

Bon Apetite!

A Way to Warm Your Cool October Mornings: Lemon and Cardamon Muffins

Being that the cooler weather is upon us, I thought I would use that as an excuse to make these interesting and nutritious muffins. I found the recipe from The Culinary Institute of America. What caught my attention was the first ingredient: chickpeas….in muffins!! Honestly, I had not thought of baking with them until I saw this recipe. The more I work with chickpeas, the more I appreciate their versatility. When pureed, their texture is quite easy to work into so many recipes. While I did not have cardamom, I substituted cinnamon and nutmeg. The addition of ground almonds to the batter contributes a hearty nuttiness as well as healthy fats. Once I tossed the ingredients together & folded in the egg whites, they baked in a few short minutes. The house smelled great & I had these warm little bundles of nutrition alongside my berries and hot tea! Not only were the muffins delicious, but they sure started my day off on the right foot! So, think ‘outside your box’ & try this very worthwhile recipe……you won’t be disappointed:)

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LEMON AND CARDAMON MUFFINS                   Yield: 12 muffins

  • 1 ¾ cups chickpeas (a 15-ounce can), drained and rinsed
  • Zest from two lemons
  • Zest from one orange
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil.             *I actually used canola oil
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt                                   *I omitted the salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom        *I used a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg,  closer to 1 teaspoon
  • 1/3 cup ground almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon ground almonds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

Purée the chickpeas in a food processor until smooth.

Add the lemon and orange zest and juice, olive oil, sugar, and egg yolks. Purée until smooth.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. Stir in the chickpea mixture, then add the ground almonds.

Whisk egg whites until they hold semi soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

In a small bowl combine the ground almonds, sugar, and cardamom. Set aside.

Scoop batter into muffin tin. You can use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to do this, but you’ll only need to add a generous ¼ cup of batter to each muffin cup. Sprinkle the muffin batter with some of the almond-sugar-cardamom mixture.

Bake 12 to 13 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Nutritional information per serving (one muffin) :
Calories: 170 ⁄ Protein: 4 g ⁄ Carbohydrate: 23 g ⁄ Fiber: 3 g ⁄ Sodium: 230 mg
Saturated fat: 1 g ⁄ Polyunsaturated fat: 1 g ⁄ Monounsaturated fat: 5 g
Trans fat: 0 g ⁄ Cholesterol: 31 mg

Bon Apetite!

A Simple Nutritious Autumnal Spinach and Bean Soup

Now that fall has arrived, I find myself making soups (using my homemade vegetable stock which I store in my freezer) on a regular basis. Being that nutrition has a huge impact on my overall health, I prefer to cook at home where I have control of what I put in my mouth and use fresh and fewer ingredients. This allows me to continue to see and feel the benefits of eating for health. Not to mention it’s easier on the wallet! So let’s keep it simple. The following recipe from EatingWell magazine (eatingwell.com) is super-easy and takes minutes to prepare, yet provides tremendous nutritional benefits. It’s one delicious bowl of nutrition!

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Tuscan Spinach, Bean & Sausage Soup

Note: Pantry staples like cannellini beans, frozen spinach and reduced sodium chicken broth make this soup a snap to throw together on a busy weeknight. Make it a meal. Serve with crusty whole grain bread & sliced tomatoes!

4 servings, 1 ½ cup each

Ingredients:

  • 1 link hot Italian turkey sausage (I usually buy aidell’s chicken and apple)
  • 1 19 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 14-oz can reduced sodium chicken broth (I use vegetable broth which I store in my freezer. See blog post February 10, 2015:)
  • 8 oz frozen spinach
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp dried marjoram
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese ( not the stuff in the green can!)

Preparation:

  1. Bring sausage & ¼ inch water to a simmer in small skillet over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, until water evaporates, 5-10 minutes. Continue to cook until sausage is browned on all sides, ~ 4 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board: cut in ½ inch slices
  2. Combine sausage, beans, broth, garlic, spinach & marjoram in medium saucepan. (I will also add any veggies which I have in my fridge such as carrots, celery, peppers) Cover & cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Stir in cheese just before serving.   **To get an additional ‘bump’ of nutrition, I always squish a few handfuls of raw spinach in the bottom of the bowl just before I ladle the soup into the bowl or mug

Nutrition:

Per serving: 143 calories; 4 g fat; 17 mg cholesterol; 19 carbs; 14 g protein: 7 g fiber: 590 mg sodium; 509 mg potassium

Bon Apetite!

Get Your Crunch On with A Light Broccoli Slaw Salad

 

broccoli slaw salad

Now that spring is in full swing, why not get your meals & snacks into the swing of it by incorporating more plants into your diet? As you know, a diet rich in fruits, veggies, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, legumes, & whole grains provides you with the wholesome energy your body needs. As you scan the recipe below, you may be wondering what a RD is thinking featuring Ramen Noodles! Well, I ask you to hold on for a few minutes to allow me to explain….I modified the recipe to make it healthier, while at the same time increased it’s flavor. I did this by cutting the sugar to 1/3 cup (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup, which is much too sweet & I use 1 packet of the seasoning, NOT 2). This salad is a crunchy, flavorful, light accompaniment to your lean protein. I invite you to use this recipe as a guide & explore your creativity by using other seeds, nuts or crunchy veggies. Cooking/preparing your own food is the best and most affordable way to nourish your bodies, so get chopping!

BROCCOLI SLAW SALAD

1 bag broccoli slaw
1 bag cole slaw
2 packages beef Ramen Noodles
1 bunch green onions
1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds

Dressing:
2/3      cup oil
½        cup cider vinegar
1/3       cup sugar
1           seasoning packet from the beef Ramen Noodles

In a large bowl, break the Ramen noodles into small clumps (reserve the seasoning packets). Add the remaining ingredients & toss well.

Prepare the dressing in a jar & shake vigorously. Toss salad with the dressing & enjoy:)

Bon Appetit!

 

The Refreshing Taste of Spring Salsa

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What a wonderful weekend it was. The taste and smell of spring have arrived & I can’t tell you how happy that makes me! When the weather is as mild and pleasant as it is now, I spend as much time as possible outdoors walking, planting, reading, or dining. It’s all things “SPRING” which, in addition to the green lawns, fragrant, beautiful flowers, translates into fresh local produce at the neighborhood farmer’s markets. Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood has a farmer’s market which is open each Wednesday from 4 until 7 pm. It’s a great place to shop for nutritious whole foods, chat with the farmers and enjoy fresh food and live music….. http://schlafly.com/bottleworks/farmers-market/

Last weekend I prepared a salsa at my house, which has become a staple and will therefore be a part of most of my meals and snacks for the remainder of the warm months. I  keep a stash of this salsa in my fridge to use as a dip, and/or to accompany my grilled lean protein. Heck, I’ve even mixed it in my wild rice salad! It’s a breeze to prepare & honestly, each time I feature it people rave & ask about it. So, I thought I would share this recipe with you which, as you will see, is clean, refreshing & nutritious, just the way spring eating should be:).  Another great thing about this recipe is it allows you to ‘think outside your culinary box’…….adjust it according to your preferences. In other words, there is no way to fail when you serve this salsa.

Last weekend, I prepared it using grapes but you can substitute pineapple, berries, mango, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, or any other fruit or veggie which you prefer, or have in your fridge. The options are endless!! The other 4 ingredients remain the same (feel free to adjust the amounts too!)

Spring Salsa

1 cup grapes, halved or quartered
1 Tbsp red onion, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped finely
1/2 tsp salt
juice from 1 lime

Toss ingredients into a bowl to let the flavors blend for at least 30 minutes. Serve alongside a basket of tortilla chips, and/or grilled chicken, meat or fish and taste the flavors pop!

Bon Appetite!

Let’s Spring Into Health with Watercress & Roasted Veggie Salad

 

 

watercress  I happily announce that at long last, spring is upon us! As we move from the cold days of winter to the mild days of spring, we also change our meals from bowls of hearty soups & stews to light, clean, fresh salads loaded with the bounty of fresh produce which spring has to offer. One true gem in the spring line-up of nutritional goodness is watercress. Grown in water, as its name implies, this zesty, sweetly pungent green is the most widely cultivated of the cresses, the common name for more than a dozen small-leafed members of the mustard family. The tasty little leaves are unquestionably a powerhouse of nutrition: Gram for gram, watercress contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas. It’s also been promoted as a breath freshener, aphrodisiac, blood purifier and diuretic.

Powerful as the plant is nutritionally, I mostly love it for its peppery bite. Though cultivated year-round, watercress is at its best and sweetest right now, before warmer weather brings on bitter-tasting blossoms and tougher stems. You can also find the more piquant wild-harvested variety at farmers’ markets. When selecting watercress, be sure to avoid bunches with dark or moist spots or wilting, yellowed leaves. Wrapped loosely in a tea or paper towel and placed in an open plastic bag, a fresh bunch should last about a week in the refrigerator. When the plant is raw, everything but the very thick stems is tender enough to eat; in cooked dishes, you can use every last, splendid morsel!

Watercress and Roasted Veggie Salad                                                                             watercress salad                

Ingredients:

1 large head cauliflower, broccoli, or a mixture of your favorite roasting veggies broken into large pieces
Olive oil, for roasting
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 bunches watercress, tough stems removed, roughly chopped
2/3 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 bunch spinach leaves, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup dried cherries or currants

For the walnut vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons Sherry or balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
1/3 cup walnut oil

1. Roast the veggies: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss veggies with oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast until tender and golden, 35-40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut into small pieces.

2. Meanwhile, whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl, emulsify in a blender or shake in a jar.

3. Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with enough vinaigrette to moisten and flavor. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Bon Appetite!

 

 

 

Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle

 

NNM_Logo_2015March is National Nutrition Month & the theme for 2015 is Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle. You can achieve a healthier lifestyle if you take small steps, or ‘bites’, one day at a time. Look at a ‘bite’ as a small change with daily commitments that lead to a greater cause….meaning making better choices which will improve your overall health. With a positive attitude, one can accomplish darn near anything, & over time these small, steady changes lead to big rewards! Remember to create a healthy body, you must have a healthy mind!!!

So, I challenge you to start taking small steps, or ‘bites’ toward your “optimal self.”

  • Eat 2-5 servings of fruits/vegetables per day, 5 days a week.
  • Reduce sodium intake by reading food labels. Look for items that contain less than 20% of the daily value for sodium per serving.
  • Reduce red meat consumption to 2-3 times per week.
  • Eat more whole grains by consuming at least 3 servings of whole grain products per day, 5 days a week (1 serving is equivalent to 1 slice of 100% whole wheat bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat-cereal, or ½ cup of cooked brown rice, whole grain pasta or cooked cereal)
  • Drink plenty of water…………..a minimum of 8 8-oz glasses each day
  • Use one of the fitness apps (myfitnesspal or myplate) to track your activity.

Here’s to your health!

Liz

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Learn more about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Eat Simply and Cleanly For Heart Health

 

 

 

HEALTHY HEART

February is American Heart Month and as the month comes to a close, I would like to highlight the heart healthy foods you should eat regularly. Keeping with my theme of eating simply and colorfully, which includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, your diet should include:

Fish:

Many studies show that people who consume fish are at lower risk for cardiovascular disease than people who do not consume fish. The decreased risk may be attributed to the nutrients within the fish that may prevent blood clots, clogged arteries, inflammation, elevated blood pressure and high triglyceride levels. Try to:

  • Eat 12 ounces of fish per week – that’s the equivalent of four decks of playing cards.
  • Ensure at least 1 to 2 servings are oily types of fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, and rainbow trout, which contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • Make healthy seafood selections, avoiding deep-fried fish fillets or dishes with cream, cheese or buttery sauces.

Nuts:

Numerous studies show eating nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Packed with nutrients, eating nuts may help lower unhealthy cholesterol levels, improve dilation of blood vessels and combat elevated blood pressure. Try to:

  • Snack on ¼ cup or handful each day.
  • Add to salads, stir-fries, cereal, yogurt and side dishes. To bring out their ‘nuttiness’, try roasting them for 2-3 minutes before tossing on a salad.
  • Aim for lightly salted or unsalted types.

Whole Grains:

Much research reveals eating whole grains is associated with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. The fiber and antioxidants within the whole grains are credited with its health promoting benefits. Try to:

  • Check package labels on breads, cereals and crackers and look for the words “100% whole”. Try to make sure it is the first ingredient as well.
  • Substitute half whole-wheat flour in recipes calling for flour.
  • Explore “ancient” grains such as amaranth, kamut, millet.

Legumes

Beans, dried peas and lentils not only improve cholesterol levels but also blood pressure. One meta-analysis involving 26 clinical trials found 1 daily serving was associated with a modest but significant reduction in LDL cholesterol levels. Try to:

  • Aim for at least 2 meatless meals per week.
  • Puree beans and add to meat  or soups as an extender.
  • Rinse canned beans to reduce their sodium content. This will also decrease the gassy side effects of legumes.

Olive Oil

While many oils contain monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats which have been linked with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, extra virgin olive oil contains many phenolic compounds – phytonutrients associated with anti-inflammation and vasodilation or enlarging of blood vessels. Try to:

  • Enjoy a bit of olive oil on bread, in salad dressings and with vegetables including substituting for milk, cream and butter if making mashed potatoes.
  • Drizzle rather than pour to ensure you don’t use more than you need.  An olive oil spritzer is inexpensive & a great way to reduce your intake:)
  • Choose extra-virgin variety. Make sure you check the ingredient labels on olive oil as  you do not want a blend. You want the real deal!

Try this Heart Healthy Recipe for Minnestrone. I have prepared this soup numerous times using all sorts of veggies, beans & grains. It’s easy & packed with nutrition!

Ingredients:

 

2 tsp               olive oil

1 ½ cup         chopped onion

1                      carrot. This is where I take the liberty to add lots of carrots & celery

1 clove            garlic

½ cup             long grain rice. if you don’t have the long grain, experiment with wild rice or any of the ancient grains.

1 tsp                 dried Italian seasoning. I also add oregano, marjoram etc

2 ½ cups        water

(2) 14 oz         chicken broth, low sodium. Actually I purchase my soup base at Penzy’s in Maplewood:)

1                      medium zucchini-if I have more than 1 zucchini or other variety of squash, I add that, as well

¼ tsp              pepper

15 ½ oz          cannellini beans, drained

1 pkg               frozen spinach, thawed & drained

2/3 cup          parmesan cheese

Preparation:

1. Heat oil in large pan. Add onion, carrots & garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes.

2. Add uncooked rice & next 4 ingredients. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat & simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Add zucchini, salt pepper, cannellini beans & spinach

4. Cook additional 5 minutes

5. Ladle into bowl & sprinkle with cheese

 

Bon Apetite!