Cranberries Go Way Beyond Thanksgiving

 

If you think that cranberries should only be eaten at Thanksgiving, you’re missing out on the multiple health benefits of this little red gem. Multiple studies have found that the profile of cranberries biologically active components set it apart from other berries.

As you know, daily consumption of a variety of fruit is necessary to promote the intake of a wide variety of phytochemicals which will ultimately improve our overall health. Berries can play an important role in that mix of fruits. The lonely, yet lovely, cranberries contain vast amounts of compounds called polyphenols, which deserve a place in your diet beyond their annual appearance on the Thanksgiving table.

The polyphenol compounds in cranberries include remarkably high levels of anthocyanins, which contribute to the berries bright red color. Yes, they are quite tart, but toss in a bit of sugar, ginger & citrus & you have a powerful, delicious bowl of nutrition. Being that cooking is the healthiest way to eat, I am naturally referring to whole cranberries, not the jellied form which is processed and canned. Spend a few minutes to prepare the following recipe & I promise, you will find yourself stocking up on fresh cranberries & freezing them to prepare them throughout  year.

Below is the recipe I follow. Over the years, I have reduced the amount of sugar, (I use closer to 1/3 cup) as I am trying to de-program my taste buds,  & find that I enjoy them even more!

Cranberry Pecan Relish                                                                                       imagesJAX29BXA

1/2 cup         sugar

½ cup           orange juice

¼ cup            water

1 Tbsp            grated orange peel

½ tsp            ginger

4 cups           cranberries

½ cup           roasted, chopped pecans   (place pecans on pan in toaster oven & toast for 2 or 3 minutes)

Bring first 5 ingredients to simmer over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add berries & stir until they pop. Stir another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in pecans. Refrigerate.

Have a Healthy Thanksgiving!

Liz

 

 

 

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Giving Thanks for the Nutritious Pumpkin Seed

pumpkin

When my 4 kids were little, each Halloween we would carve 1 pumpkin per child. Being that waste of any type does not sit well with me, & realizing that I was literally tossing good nutrition down the drain, the thrifty dietitian in me emerged & I decided to collect the seeds & roast the pumpkin to use the delicious pulp for pies & breads (the pulp freezes well:).  As for the seeds, also known by their Spanish name pepitas, I rinse them in a colander, pat them dry with a cloth towel, place them on a jelly roll pan lined with wax paper overnight, (avoid using paper towels as the seeds will stick as they dry), then roast with a bit of salt & herbs.  These powerful little seeds are packed with nutrition! Not only are they very good sources of phosphorus, magnesium and manganese, minerals helpful in building strong bones, but they also contain decent amounts of copper, zinc and iron

Pumpkin seeds provide a variety of antioxidants, including vitamin E. Antioxidants are molecules which help repair cell damage that occurs daily in our bodies, and help ward off infections and disease. These green seeds are a good vegetarian protein source with 9 grams per ¼ cup! Pumpkin seeds are becoming popular as snacks, much like the sunflower seeds I’ve always enjoyed. Both seeds, shelled, have 187 calories and 16 grams of fat per ¼ cup. While the fat content is high, three-fourths of it comes from the more healthful mono and polyunsaturated fats.

The white outer pumpkin seed shell is also edible. Eating the entire seed can help reduce calories as ¼ cup has only 71 calories. Whole seeds also have triple the fiber at 3 grams per ¼ cup compared to only 1 gram for the same amount of kernels alone.

Have you noticed how popular pumpkin has become? There is the ever popular PSL, (pumpkin spice latte:), pumpkin hummus, ice cream, bars, cake & on & on. Get in on the craze by roasting your own pumpkin seeds, using a recipe from your favorite cooking site or visit http://www.eatingwell.com or http://www.prevention.com (my go-to sites for healthy recipes). It doesn’t take much to incorporate savory flavors into your roasted seeds….a bit of cumin, salt, onion & chili powder will give them a little ‘kick’.

Pumpkin seeds can also be used in recipes as you would other nuts and seeds. Use as a topping on salads and cooked vegetables. Add to your favorite hot and cold cereals, granola or trail mix, or for added protein, crush or grind the seeds and add to your meat or veggie burgers. Substitute them for nuts in cookies and muffins and in banana, zucchini or other quick breads.

At this time of year, pumpkin seeds are available fresh straight from the pumpkin. You can find them at many area grocers year-round: shelled, unshelled, raw, roasted and prepackaged or in bulk.

Hands down, the best salsa I have ever eaten is Pumpkin Seed Salsa. Last February, very dear friends who also happen to be very experienced vegetarian cooks, gifted me an 8 oz jar of this delectable ‘gold’ . Once I tasted it, I knew it was going to be a year-round addition to my fridge. Needless to say, they shared the recipe & I have made it multiple times, tripling it each time:) I use it as salad dressing, a condiment to my entrée, or as a dip. I have included the recipe below.

PUMPKIN SEED SALSA

The following is the recipe I’ve used- I adapted it from some other recipes I’ve found, so it is certainly tweak able to make it however you like. Enjoy!!

  1.  Slice 5 to 6 roma tomatoes and 1 red bell pepper. Lightly oil and salt and place on cookie sheet. Broil until slightly charred.
  2.  Place charred tomatoes, bell pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1.5 cups H2O in pot on high heat. Add sliced spicy peppers to taste (pasilla, chiles de arbol, or jalapenos are all good options).
  3.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to low simmer. Add 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 tablespoon smoked paprika. Let simmer for about 20 minutes.
  4.  Separately, toast 4 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds) in a small saucepan until just browned.
  5.  Add 3 tablespoons white vinegar to tomato mixture and simmer for 1 more minute.
  6.  Place tomato mixture and toasted pepitas in blender and blend to desired texture.
  7.  Optional to add finely chopped scallions and cilantro to salsa- I usually skip this step to keep it fresh longer, but its a tasty addition if being  served immediately!

Enjoy!

 

 

This Dietitian’s Thanksgiving

There are roughly 10 days until Thanksgiving, which means that there is still plenty of time to look for new and healthier versions of your favorite recipes. Have you ever wondered what a RD eats? Here is a sampling from my menu that I serve alongside my turkey.

Each year my menu for Thanksgiving seems to get healthier yet, “cleaner”, while at the same time, more delicious. By cleaner, I mean that the foods I serve are closer to their natural state. Instead of a green bean casserole, I simply prepare fresh green beans tossed in a bit of olive oil (I use a spritzer) with a touch of parmesean cheese sprinkled on top.

Being that I always serve at least 2 vegetables, I make a point of serving 1 vegetable that my family and friends may not eat on a regular basis. For instance, fresh brussel sprouts tossed in a very hot pan with a bit of olive oil & a hint of nutmeg. Or, fresh beets which have been wrapped in aluminum foil and roasted in the oven @ 350 until soft (approx 45 minutes). A green salad with spinach, roasted nuts and dried cherries or pomegranates and a bit of low-fat feta cheese with a light balsamic vinaigrette is always appreciated.

For the stuffing, I use a 100% whole wheat/grain baguette which I cut into cubes. Sometimes, I use a blend of rye and Italian breads too. I then use fat-free chicken stock with lots of veggies, dried fruits and seasonings. Apples and cranberries are a great addition to stuffing, as are celery and onion. Keep in mind that you can add anything that you like to your stuffing.

For the potatoes, I leave half of the potatoes unpeeled which increases the fiber and vitamin content. The trick to making mashed potatoes healthy is to keep it simple. As the potatoes simmer, I add 2 cloves of garlic-this allows the potatoes to soak up the flavor of the garlic. When mashing, I use a combination of fat-free chicken stock and skim milk with a little bit of butter (2 Tbsp). My secret ingredient is about 6 sections of roasted garlic along with chives. I guarantee they will love the potatoes!

Fresh sweet potatoes are so delicious in their natural state that one does not need to add much more than skim milk and a bit of brown sugar. After you puree the pulp of the sweet potato with milk and brown sugar, simply warm in the oven until hot.

I always use fresh cranberries. Once they have “popped”, I then add fresh orange peel, orange juice, sugar & some roasted pecans. This is the only recipe that I will use and, by far, the best recipe ever! ( I have included the recipe:)

Lastly………. dessert. There are so many festive autumn desserts that can easily be made from scratch. I always make my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe which I modify by using fat-free evaporated milk plus skim milk, & eggs, which I separate & then fold the whites into the mixture. Also, I serve it as a flan. In other words, to save calories, I do not use a crust. I simply pour the pureed pumpkin mixture in a pan & bake, as I would a pie. For those who do not like pie, I make pumpkin bars and pecan bars.

I hope that you find my modifications to otherwise standard recipes useful and more nutritious than their previous counterparts. There are many ways to cut calories, sodium and fat from your family recipes. But remember, the most important part of the season is to enjoy and be thankful for your family and friends:)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Cranberry Pecan Relish                                                        

1/2 cup         sugar

½ cup           orange juice

¼ cup           water

1 Tbsp           grated orange peel

½ Tsp           ginger

4 cups           cranberries

½ cup           roasted pecans

Bring first 5 ingredients to simmer over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add berries & stir until they pop. Stir another 5 minutes. Remove from heat Stir in pecans. Refrigerate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Puzzle of Eating For Health

                                                                                                                                         

I look at healthy eating as a puzzle, in which pieces fit nicely together. There are many pieces which fit into the healthy eating puzzle, but the best piece, the one that keeps all the other pieces in place is: eat more real whole food & less of the highly processed foods. This places the emphasis not on one single nutrient, but on the entire diet. I call this ‘eating with intelligence.’  My message is a simple one: we need to start to eat for one reason…………nutrition! Many Americans eat for all sorts of funky reasons: boredom, stress, entertainment, habit, ‘just because’ etc.. We need to shift our focus from eating for those reasons to eating to nourish these wonderful bodies of ours. Once we start to focus on nourishment, we will begin to feel better and therefore want to make smarter lifestyle choices which will bring us to an optimally healthy place:) It’s pretty cool!

Two easy tips to accomplish this are to choose foods:

  •  close to their natural state. For instance, fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, peas, legumes
  •  with shorter ingredient lists. Long lists indicate lots of additives and processing. If you can’t pronounce it, you should not eat it! For instance, a bag of kale should contain, well, kale.

So, I challenge you to acknowledge those reasons/habits which are keeping you from moving forward with reaching optimal health, & begin eating for the sole purpose of nourishing your body. Believe me, you will thank me later:)

Be healthy!