Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Season of Giving



I was reading this article: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/11/22/what-food-says-about-class-in-america.html which is all about how healthy, organic food is something that is not really affordable for everyone. It's another example of how health care is not available to everyone, even the simplest form of trying to take care of yourself. For those of us who are better off, we have the choice to shop at Whole Foods or other grocery stores with healthier and more selective options. While Americans who are struggling to make ends meet are often facing not just access to healthy food but also the inability to afford healthier food.

As someone who places a high value on healthy food choices, it upsets me deeply to think of people who are not only hungry, but also people whose only choice is to buy cheap and unhealthy food. We should all be more critical of our food systems and the politics behind food distribution and food industry subsidies. Why should vegetables be more expensive than soda? Health care is a hot topic. If everyone had the same access and ability to afford healthy food, how far would that take us in terms of preventative health care?

Stepping off the soap box for a minute. What can we do to help? Besides educating ourselves and becoming involved with organizations who are helping to create change, we can also help the immediate need with donations.

So if giving food this time of year is part of your holiday tradition consider these ideas, and if giving food is not part of your tradition consider making it one.

  • Give healthy foods that pack a nutritional punch; canned tuna or wild salmon in water, dried blueberries, walnuts, whole grains like rolled oats, brown rice or popcorn, green tea, canned beans or lentils, nut butters, extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil are all non perishable and healthy options.
  • Ask your food bank if they will accept donations of non perishable items, most do. Frozen meat or fish and fresh vegetables are a critical need.
  • If you are part of a CSA or order Door to Door Organics, contact them to see if you can purchase a share or box to be donated to the local food bank. They may already have a system in place to deliver there.
  • If you don't have time to shop, donate money to a food bank. Most food banks have the ability to stretch your dollar further than you can because of their non-profit status and bulk buying power.
  • Give all year long. Food banks have needs throughout the year for donations, not just during the holidays. During the summer months needs can be even greater since kids are out of school and parents may be struggling to provide three meals a day instead of one or two.

Check out http://superfooddrive.com/ or http://feedingamerica.org/ for more information on what and where to donate.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wasting Food?



Even those of us with a compost pile hate to throw out food. Or at least hopefully we do. With a growing family and expanding food budget I am super conscious of any food that ends up in the trash. I feel guilty when I don't use the left over chicken carcass from a meal of roast chicken to make chicken soup or scraps from veggies to make veggie broth. But even with the best of intentions, when I do a cleaning of my refrigerator, inevitably things get thrown out. Perfectly good veggies that got lost in the back and rotted or condiments that are past their prime.



After reading this article: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/from-farm-to-fridge-to-garbage-can/?hp in the New York Times, I realized just how big a problem food waste is. On a global and personal scale, how many of us can afford to throw 25% of our food and grocery budget in the trash?



It's particularly unnerving as a nutritionist who is constantly telling people to examine their priorities in their budget. The truth is quality, nutritious food costs more. Do I believe it's cheaper in the long run, yes. It will save us money on health care and time lost from work. Never mind that it's an investment in our quality of life, our children's health and the health of our environment and food chains. When we want to buy high quality food, we're going to pay more. Which means we need to allocate more money to our food budgets. So how sad is it that for many of us 25% or more of that might get thrown away?



If you are using your food budget to buy quality ingredients, organic produce and grass fed animal products, you should also take steps to make sure that all that food gets used. The NY Times article offers some tips for making sure food doesn't go to waste, and here are some of my own:


  • Keep a white board on your fridge and/or freezer that lists what's in stock and mark things off as they get used. Use this to create a shopping list.

  • Each week create a meal plan that lists breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Check to see what you have in the house and then make a detailed list for what you don't have. Stick to the list when you're in the store. And stick to the meal plan when you get home.

  • Try to make one meal a week that relies on what you have in the pantry or freezer without buying new ingredients.

  • If you are concerned about the temperature in your fridge and/or freezer, check it.

  • Keep a container of quick and easy snacks in an easy to reach place in your fridge and in your pantry.

  • Try to clean out your freezer and pantry every month and take stock of what's there and make sure it's organized. A well organized pantry and freezer make them easier to use and easier to make meals.

Let me know if you have other suggestions for making sure we throw out less food!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nutrition 101 Class-Sunday June 27th


Join us on the farm for a day of work, learning and fun!
Sunday, June 27th, 9am -1:30pm
Ekar Farm, 181 S. Oneida, Denver CO 80224
I will be co-teaching a class with a fellow nutritionist, Jo Schaalman at Ekar Farm. At 9am, there will be a class on Permaculture, and at 11am Jo and I will teach Nutrition 101. The class will be:
A discussion on the health and nutrition benefits of being involved with and eating food from a communal Jewish farm. We'll cover a little bit about basic nutrition, why fresh produce is best, how to prepare freshly harvested food so that it retains the most nutritional value, as well as some Jewish thoughts on nutrition. Taught by Jo Schaalman and Juliet Glaser, Master Nutrition Therapy Candidates.
Work, Learn, and Fun!
With our herb spiral chugging, we will plant a Forest Garden, demonstrating Permaculutre concepts and innovative growing techniques. Really cutting edge stuff. This work and class will begin at 9 AM. At 11 AM, Jo Schaalman and Juliet Glaser will be teaching Nutrition 101. Around 12:30 we will kick back and enjoy. For those who are not Community Gardeners, Founding Sponsors or Work Share members, a contribution of $18 is appreciated but not required for participation in the Permaculture course. Please RSVP. The class size is limited.

Monday, June 14, 2010

One of my favorite things:


No pregnant lady jokes. Yes I am going to talk about pickles, but more specifically I want to talk about fermented foods, and even more specifically: probiotics.
I think everyone hears a lot about probiotics nowadays. But maybe some of us are still wondering what they are and whether we really need them or not. Over the course of a year I have become a big believer in probiotics and now firmly believe everyone should include them in their diet. Here's why:
Probiotics is the term given to the beneficial bacteria which reside in our intestinal tract. It's been estimated that there are more bacteria living in our intestinal tract than there are cells in our entire body. Which is a pretty awesome fact when you think about it. Now these bacteria can be good, bad or neutral for us. What we want is the good bacteria and a balance between all the rest. Essentially, we want to encourage the good ones to proliferate and discourage the bad ones.
There are lots of things in our lives and environments that effect the bacteria living within us. Poor diet, high stress, lack of physical activity, illness, certain medications, and environmental toxins all have a negative impact on our intestinal tract. Making sure we keep our good bacteria healthy and growing can have a positive impact on our lives. Good bacteria can have a positive impact on lowering our cholesterol, lactose intolerance, yeast infections, rotovirus, boosting immunity, food allergies, digestion and cancer prevention, just to name a few things.
My first real experience with probiotics was when I started my then 18 month old daughter on a probiotic regime after she had to take a course of pretty heavy antibiotics for an infection. The antibiotics managed to give her digestive issues and mess with her GI tract. She was obviously suffering from stomach aches and experiencing diarrhea. After only a few days of being on the probiotics, things returned to normal. After reading about the positive impact probiotics have on immune health while researching nutritional support for avoiding colds and flu, I kept her on the probiotics. I don't attribute it all to the probiotics, but she is definitely one of the healthiest toddlers I know. I recently attended a lecture on probiotics and since then have committed to making them a part of my daily routine as well. I highly recommend making them a part of your diet and your children's diets as well.
You may also have heard about prebiotics. Prebiotics are basically the food that probiotics eat. So you want to make sure to get plenty of these in your diet to support your probiotic health. You might question whether to take probiotics while taking antibiotics. Of course you should consult with your doctor, however I would say that taking probiotics while on an antibiotic medication is a good thing. Hopefully you will be able to counteract the damage to your good bacteria by getting plenty into your system. And probiotics will not counteract the effect the antibiotic will have on your bad bacteria, namely the reason you are taking the medication.
Support your good bacteria by eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat foods rich in prebiotics; artichokes, bananas, barley, berries, dairy, garlic, green leafies, leeks, honey, legumes, onions and whole grains. Drink lots of water every day. Exercise! Get enough sleep (7-8 hours/night) and rest when you need to. Try relaxing exercises like yoga, or meditation.
You can take a probiotics supplement (I recommend this) as well as eating foods rich in probiotics. When taking a supplement look for something that has at least 10 billion live or active cultures per dose. For normal use you'll want to take 10 billion per day. If you are using probiotics therapeutically (see a doctor or nutrition professional for advice on this) you'll want to take up to 10 billion three times a day. You also want to make sure the supplement includes more than one strain of bacteria, the more the better. Or alternate the types of strains you are taking.
Fermented foods contain these good bacteria. Fermented foods include yogurt, kefir (which may be more tolerable for people who are lactose intolerant), sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and kim chi.
Cucumber Kim Chi
Kim Chi has always scared me, until I tried these and they were awesome!
Make them and you won't be sorry!
15 to 20 small cucumbers
2 tbsp red chili flakes
2 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp raw honey
Slice cucumber into bite size pieces. Put them in a large bowl, ass about two flat tbsp of sea salt and toss well. Allow salted cukes to sit overnight at room temperature to create a natural brine. Add 1 tbsp minced garlic, chili flakes, honey, and vinegar. Give everything a good toss. Pack the kim chi away into glass jars and add a couple tbsp of the brine per container. Place tops on jars. Leave closed jars out in room temperature for 24 to 48 hours to give it a chance to ferment. After 24 to 48 hours, transfer jars to fridge. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Moving Forward



Happy things are happening this month. Michelle Obama's Let's Move program released its action plan to fight childhood obesity. The goal they set is to reduce the rate of childhood obesity to 5% within a generation. To give you an idea of what that means, current childhood obesity rates vary from state to state between 25 and 30% and in some cases are over 30%. Colorado was the only state in 2008 that had a rate less than 20%, which of course is still way too high. These statistics are from the CDC, you can check them out on their website, http://www.cdc.gov/.


To accomplish this huge goal the Let's Move program rolled out a very comprehensive, and in my humble opinion, pretty darn good plan. It addresses everything from prenatal care to access to healthy food issues. I definitely recommend reading the plan, it's not too terribly long or written in much "bureaucratise". You can find it here: http://www.letsmove.gov/taskforce_childhoodobesityrpt.html. I think it's worthwhile for anyone who is a parent to look it over. Even if you are not necessarily concerned about the weight of your children, this is a plan that addresses overall health (which any weight management program should) and has good info on how to keep our kids healthy in general.


Two other things I recently came across that made me really happy were reading about some more gardening programs for kids. This article in the Denver Post features the Junior Master's Gardener program: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_15066022. For more info on the program check out: http://cmg.colostate.edu/. CU Denver also has some info on why gardening is so great for kids: http://www.cudenver.edu/Academics/Colleges/ArchitecturePlanning/discover/centers/CYE/Publications/Documents/CYE_FactSheet3_Benefits%20of%20Gardening%20for%20Children_July%202009.pdf.


From my own personal experience, my daughter loves digging around in dirt and is starting to notice how my seedlings are turning into plants. I just enjoy spending the time outside with her. I really don't think anything entertains kids as much as dirt.


For those of us in Colorado, hopefully the weather will mellow out soon and we can really commit some time to being active outside with our kids. For those of you in the rest of the country where it is actually spring, go outside and enjoy it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Beyond Lettuce



As the weather turns warmer, steaming hot foods become less appealing. Salads are always one of my favorite meals, and during the summer they are my number one pick for what to eat. The thing is, salad doesn't have to just be about lettuce and cold veggies. Salad can be anything you want and when you need a super fast and healthy meal, salad can be your best friend.
Generally I do start with lettuce, but not always. I like to keep a spring mesclun mix on hand, or a head of romaine or red or green leaf lettuce. Iceberg lettuce is something I stay away from. It has virtually no nutritional value, and if you are trying to pack in the nutrients, stick to the other lettuces. Generally the darker the lettuce, the better it is for you. Spinach of course is great on its own or in a blend of other lettuces.

Leftovers are a salad's best friend. In the salad above, I started with lettuce and added some leftover carrot salad, grilled zucchini, roasted potatoes, and some broccoli salad. All of these were leftover from previous meals. I love cooked veggies in a salad, cold or warm. Another favorite addition is beans. Any kind, garbanzo, black, pinto, white, etc. Canned beans are a wonderful thing to keep on hand because they are so versatile and nutritious. If you have some leftover cooked grains like rice or spelt or buckwheat, throw some of that in too. Lentils are great in salads.

If you have all veggies and beans and grains in a salad, you don't even really need to add additional protein, but I really enjoy fish in a salad. Canned tuna or salmon, smoked salmon, anchovies or sardines, all make great salad ingredients. But if you just have some leftover grilled trout or halibut or poached or roasted whatever, go ahead and throw that in the mix. Leftover chicken or beef is also great. Nuts are another source of protein and good fat, so another good option. Cheese is another protein you could add, and of course any kind you want to use is great.

If I have some fresh herbs on hand I generally throw in a handful. I love parsley in a salad, but any herb works. Another favorite of mine are sprouts. I love sprouts on a sandwich, and they are great in a salad too. Sprouts are super nutritious for you, and fun and easy to grow yourself. One word of caution, they are not generally recommended for elderly or pregnant people because they could possibly contain bacteria on them that these groups are more susceptible to. I feel like if you make sure your sprouts are fresh then you are probably ok, and I have been eating them during my pregnancy and am doing fine. But of course you should decide for yourself.

I have to admit I am a sucker for salad dressing. I have slowly gotten over my addiction to store bought dressings (at one point my husband counted at least 12 in our fridge, like I said, I do eat a lot of salad). There are some really great dressings in the store, so many different flavors and there are quite a few natural brands that don't contain a lot of junk or chemicals in them. Basically follow my rules for buying processed foods and I think you can find a good brand of dressing.

Salad dressing is of course super easy to make yourself. Combining an oil with an acid (vinegar or citrus juice) and adding a few seasonings, whisk together and you are good to go. I like using olive oil and lemon juice, salt, pepper and a seasoning blend from my favorite spice shop. Mrs. Dash is another seasoning you could add. Using a little mustard in the dressing is also yummy. Play around and see what you like. One hint is to start making your dressing in the bowl, then add your other ingredients and then toss it all together.

Have fun and think beyond the lettuce. A couple super yummy recipes to try:

Corn and Tomato Salad
great as a side dish on its own or add to another salad

Sweet corn kernels (canned, frozen and thawed, or fresh)
Your favorite tomatoes cut into wedges if it's larger or halves for cherry types
Whisk together about 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, a couple tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp vinegar (white or red wine or balsamic) add salt and pepper to taste, then toss in the corn and tomatoes.

Cucumber Avocado Dressing
makes 2 cups

2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cucumber
1 avocado
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
2 spring onions or green onions
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
pepper and salt to taste
Puree all ingredients with 3/4 cup water until smooth. Yum!









Thursday, April 29, 2010

Convenience Food Tips



I have to start out by apologizing for not writing for a while. The truth is I have been fighting off a cold. I hate getting sick, especially when I feel like I take good care of myself. But germs do get the best of us sometimes and all we can do is rest and take care of ourselves, and be patient. So aside from not feeling up to blogging, I haven't been cooking anything to blog about. My husband has graciously taken over dinner duty while I have been out of commission. He is actually a great cook, but not very experienced with planning meals. He mostly resorted to things within his repertoire or leftovers and things we had in the freezer. We even ordered take out one night.

While I still believe that when most people say they don't have time to cook, it's really just a matter of not knowing what to make. Most of the meals I make my family take between 20-30 minutes, I save more elaborate meals for company and holidays. Granted I really enjoy cooking and do it often enough that it comes easily to me. I think if you can make a commitment to cooking for your family and work on building up a repertoire of fast meals, you really can cut out most processed "convenience" foods from your diet. But if this last week of being sick proved anything, it proved to me that sometimes you really do need to have a few convenience items on hand. And I understand that people live busy, hectic lives, and sometimes you come home from work to hungry family and you're so tired you just want to pull something from the freezer or pantry and have it practically make itself.

Just for definition's sake, when I say convenience food I mean any food you buy that has been processed, from cereals to frozen pizza. Even juices, baking mixes or canned soup. Anything more than just pure, whole ingredients.

Most people have heard the line "if your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it." But the truth is we have been processing our food for a long time. And while more chemicals started being used in food processing after World War II, some things have been around for a lot longer. The best way to approach processed foods is to be an educated consumer, and be wary of marketing that companies use to sell their products. I recommend eating as little processed foods as possible to really be eating nutritiously, but whatever the level of processed foods included in your diet, there are some things to look out for. And this can be overwhelming so start with one or two items each time you go to the grocery store. The next time you go really look closely at the cereals or breads your family buys and pick out some you feel good about giving to your family. On the next trip pick one or two other items, and then little by little you can makeover your grocery list and feel confident that you know what you are feeding yourself and your family.

Tip #1 Don't Trust the Front of the Package
Companies know that people want to feed their families good food, and so they use words like "natural", "sugar free", "low sodium", "fat free" and "light" and a whole slew of other adjectives to describe their food. The problem is that there are a lot of loop holes around what these words mean on food labels. So basically, just ignore the front of the package.

Tip #2 Read the Nutrition Facts Label &
Look for Calories, Calories from Fat, & Sodium
This will help you get a general idea about the real "healthiness" of a product. Remember to judge calories by serving size. Something may seem okay, but then the serving size is very small. Calories are not the "be all and end all" of nutrition, it's just a good idea to have a general awareness of how many are in foods, especially processed foods. Calories from fat should always be less than or equal to 20% of total calories. Fat is okay, we need it, just in the right amounts. Sodium is kind of the kicker here. In general we should consume between 1200-1500mg of sodium per day. On average, Americans consume between 3000-5000mg/day. And most of that is from processed foods. The best way to reduce your sodium intake isn't to cut back on how much you salt your food at the table, but to reduce the amount of processed foods you eat. Look for a 1:1 ratio of sodium to calories on the nutrition facts label. Anything more that that and you may want to reconsider the product.

Tip #3 Read the Ingredients List
In case you are not aware of this, ingredients are listed in descending order according to weight. Meaning the more of something there is in the product, the higher up on the list it will be. The first ingredient is the most plentiful in the product. Make sure you are getting what you want from a product. If you want something whole grain (and you do) but whole grain isn't listed until the middle of the label, unless there are only a couple of ingredients, chances are you want to buy something else. Personally, I think the less ingredients there are, the better. I also like knowing exactly what the ingredients are. If I don't recognize something, I don't buy it. Who wants to have to carry a dictionary when buying food? Also beware of added sugars. A rule of thumb, if sugar is one of the first three ingredients, put it back. Might as well just eat a a few sugar cubes. There are a lot of different kinds of added sugar and names for sugar. If something ends in "ose" it is most likely a sugar, and don't forget High Fructose Corn Syrup. Sugar has many disguises. I'll have to devote a blog to sugar, but for now I will try to keep it simple.

Tip #4 Food Additives to Avoid
Food additives are a huge subject. There is a ton of research out there on the dangers of some additives and I highly recommend looking into it for yourself. In the meantime please avoid: Propyl Gallate, Glutamates (MSG), Nitrates or Nitrites, BHA/BHT (this one is already banned in infant and baby food), and Potassium Bromate. Colorings to avoid: FD&C Blue #1, FD &C Blue #2, FD&C Red #3, FD&C Yellow #5, FD&C Yellow #6. A lot of these additives (and more) have been linked to ADD/ADHD, have been shown to be carcinogenic, can cause various ailments etc.

Tip #5 Be wary of Fat and Sugar Replacers/Substitutes
Again a huge area where I recommend doing your own research. Personally, I don't eat sugar or fat replacers. Period. As for fat, again it's something our bodies need to function properly, not just for energy and to build cells (every cell in the body uses fat) but also to absorb certain vitamins properly. While we don't need a lot of fat, we do need some, and eating foods that contain fat replacers or substitutes don't give us what we need and may be detrimental to our health. As for sugar substitutes and replacers, these have been shown to be neurotoxins, as well as having other detrimental effects on our health. I don't want to eat these things and I don't want my family eating them either. We all enjoy sugar and fat, they're yummy. And we do need them in moderate amounts. If you feel you have an issue with eating too much fat or sugar, it may not be the easiest thing to do, but you will benefit in the long run by simply reducing the amount you eat versus looking for alternatives. Some of us may have conditions where we really have to watch the amount of fat or sugar we intake. And again, if we are trying to do the right thing for our health by cutting out sugar, why would we want to risk our health by eating something dangerous in a different way?

These are just some general guidelines. Use them how you see fit to judge the products you buy and consume. I encourage everyone to do their own research, and if you have more questions, please feel free to contact me. Some good places to start:
http://www.fda.gov/
http://www.usda.gov/
http://www.foodadditivesworld.com/
Twinkie Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger
A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives By Ruth Winter, M.S.
An A-Z Guide to Food Additives By Deanna M. Minich, Ph.D., C.N. www.caloriecontrol.org/sweetners-and-lite/fat-replacers
http://www.ewg.org/kid-safe-chemicals-act-blog/

Monday, April 19, 2010

Finally Some Peas!



Happy Monday of Earth Week! Earth Day is this Thursday, and it seems to be expanding into an entire week to celebrate the 40th anniversary. To kick of the week right, I made a "green" dinner, which also helped clear out some veggies from the fridge. This was super easy, and truly all I did was take some vegetables out of the fridge and freezer and mix with pasta.

I'm really into Whole Foods 365 organic brand whole wheat pasta. After trying a bunch of different whole wheat pastas, this one has a great taste and texture. Sometimes whole wheat pasta can be a bit chewy or taste just a bit off, and this brand seems to get it right. It comes in the whole range of pasta shapes, and the only ingredient is organic whole wheat flour. It's also pretty cheap, which I feel like pasta should be.

I cooked the pasta according to the directions on the package, and while the water was coming to a boil I chopped up my veggies. I started with a bit of olive oil in a frying pan, and added some frozen artichoke hearts. Then I sliced up some leeks thinly, and diced some zucchini. I used one leek and half a big zucchini. I added some crushed garlic, salt and pepper and sauteed for a while. When the pasta was done, I drained it and reserved about a cup of the cooking liquid. I put the pasta back in its pot over medium heat, added the veggies from the frying pan, threw in some frozen peas, and some chopped broccoli rapini and a little more pepper and olive oil. I added the reserved cooking liquid and let the peas and broccoli rapini cook and then served. Of course I had to add some freshly grated Parmesan over the top.

It turned out pretty tasty and the whole family approved. It was quick and healthy. Really you could use any assortment of veggies that you want. Dishes like this are meant to be simple. Take advantage of all the awesome spring vegetables that are out now, and make something easy one night this week.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Warning: You May Become Addicted to Broccoli

Ahh, broccoli. Don't listen to THAT president who didn't want to eat his broccoli. The rule should be a piece of broccoli a day keeps the doctor away. Truly a super food, and for so many reasons.

Broccoli is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, other members include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, bok choy, et al. In 1992 researchers at Johns Hopkins University found a compound in broccoli that can not only prevent tumors from growing, but can actually reduce the size of tumors that exist by 75%! Broccoli along with the other cruciferous veggies are awesome cancer preventing foods. So GO BROCCOLI!

But broccoli has so much more to offer. It helps boost the immune system, lowers risk of cataracts, supports heart health, builds bones, and can fight birth defects. It is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat, meaning for the amount of calories (30 calories in 1 cup of broccoli) you get the most nutritional bang possible. It's packed with polyphenols ( a type of antioxidant), and only beets and red onions contain more polyphenols per serving. There seems to be no way to get my husband to eat beets, and, well how many red onions can a person eat?

So broccoli is our veggie of choice. As an added bonus, because broccoli is actually one of the most popular foods in the US it is easy to find broccoli for a decent price at the grocery store. Even organic broccoli is not too expensive. We eat broccoli, on average, about 3 times a week. Usually I just steam it lightly (no soggy vegetables, keep them somewhat crisp to retain the most nutrients) and squeeze some lemon juice over it. Maybe a touch of salt, or some other herb seasoning.

It's very yummy, but I will admit it can be kind of boring after awhile. Enter my latest addiction: Broccoli Salad. A classmate of mine brought this dish and recipe in for a meal presentation on cancer prevention. And now I can't stop eating it. Don't blame me, I warned you that it may be addictive.

Broccoli Salad
Serves 5 (or 1 depending on whether you let your husband and child have any)

1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 lemon zested
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch of black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb broccoli, cut into a fine dice (not as hard to do as you think, just chop into small pieces)
1/2 head escarole, small chop or shredded (type of lettuce, romaine would be good too, or any crisp green)
3 oz toasted hazelnuts (I used pine nuts because I couldn't get hazelnuts and it was still good)
2 tbsp basil chiffonade (thinly sliced basil)

Whisk vinegar, zest, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl. While whisking add olive oil. Add broccoli, escarole and toss to coat with dressing. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Stir in basil and nuts before serving.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quin-What?




I have a secret which may very well get me thrown out of nutrition school: I do not like quinoa. Quinoa is a tiny little grain that has been growing on popularity over the past decade. It's related to spinach and chard, and it packs a mighty nutritional punch. It's gluten free and super high in proteins. Although this is somewhat debated and I haven't found a definitive source yet, it may actually be a complete protein. Meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs, and usually has to get from an animal source. (Non animal sources usually contain only certain amino acids, so if you are eating a variety of foods, you are still getting all the amino acids you need.) Whether it is a complete protein or not, it certainly is considered a "super grain" and very popular among the nutritionists and fellow students at my school.


I have tried to like quinoa, but I don't. You can find it in both regular and red varieties. The red variety takes slightly longer to cook, and I find that version somewhat more palatable. I can also eat them mixed together. I'm not a huge grain fan to begin with. It has taken me a long time to like rice, and now brown rice. I have tried millet and amaranth and all sort of other grains, I just don't really care for them.


But grains are good for you. And eating a variety of foods is good for you. So I search for recipes to try and incorporate them into my diet.


This weekend I tried a new recipe with quinoa: Greens and Quinoa Pie. I figured I liked all the other ingredients, so maybe it would be a good way to "sneak" some quinoa into my diet. And the other bonus was that my husband who does not like leafy greens (except for spinach, he claims they are all too bitter) might be tricked into eating some good greens.


The experiment was successful. Both of us enjoyed the pie which is really more of a casserole. I got this recipe from Vegetarian Times. I couldn't find chicory at my whole foods and didn't realize until I got home that it's endive. Or at least that I could have used endive. So along with the romaine lettuce, I used some beet greens and Swiss chard that I happened to have on hand. I imagine any mix of greens would be good. I didn't find the quinoa to be overpowering at all and so when I make this again I may actually double the amount the recipe calls for in order to eat more of the stuff. I think you could play around with the cheeses too, I think a yummy Gruyere could be good, even a nice white cheddar.

Greens and Quinoa Pie

Serves 6

1/2 cup quinoa (rinsed and drained)

1 large bunch chicory cut into bite size pieces, hard stems removed

1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded

3 tbs olive oil (divided)

2 medium onions thinly sliced (or chopped)

2 green onions thinly sliced (1/4 cup)

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup grated aged goat cheese or Swiss cheese (I used Swiss)

3 eggs lightly beaten

Place quinoa in small saucepan and toast over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or until almost dry. Add 1 cup water, and season with salt if desired. Cover, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to large bowl.

Heat large pot over medium heat. Add chicory (or whatever greens you are using) and cook 3-5 minutes until wilted, tossing frequently. Add romaine and wilt 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer greens to strainer and squeeze out excess moisture. Stir into quinoa.

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in skillet over medium high heat (I used the same pot I used for the greens) and add onions, saute 10 minutes or until browned. Add cooked onions, fresh green onions, dill, feta, goat or Swiss cheese to quinoa mixture. Stir in eggs, season with slat and pepper if desired.

Pour 1 tbsp oil into 9 inch pie pan and heat 5 minutes in the oven. Swirl oil to coat bottom of pan then spread quinoa mixture in pan with spatula. Bake 20 minutes. Drizzle pie with remaining 1 tbsp oil and bake 20-30 minutes more, or until golden brown.

I didn't have a pie pan this would all fit into so I ended up using a plain old casserole dish and it turned out fine. I image a Pyrex lasagna pan would work well too. It seems like a lot of steps (most casseroles are) but this was great as a main course and it made a lot, so I am enjoying leftovers now.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Denver Happenings for Local Foodies & More



For anyone local to the Denver, CO area, there are some awesome things happening in the world of healthy and sustainable eating! Today the Denver Post's food section ran an article on how celebrity chefs are using their influence to help get people to eat healthier. Along with Jamie Oliver's new show "Food Revolution", which happens to be filmed in my husband's hometown, there are a lot of other efforts happening around the country, lead by celebrity chefs.

You can read the article here: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_14825348

Green Route Denver is also holding a Green Restaurant Tour of Denver restaurants. You can find more info about it here: http://www.greenroutedenver.com/tour.html. If you can't make the designated dates, I highly recommend checking out some of the restaurants on your own. I've tried Watercourse and Root Down, and I love them both!

Just a shout out to one of my favorite local shops-Savory Spice Shop. They now have their own show on food network! And they are going national, and opening up a franchise in Santa Rosa, CA. You check out their website: http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/.

I have also found some new sites that have great blogs and other resources for gardeners and anyone who might be interested in eating more locally grown, sustainable food.

http://www.feeddenver.com/index.html

http://www.localsustainability.net/

http://www.theweeklyveggie.com/

If you are having a hard time making it through this last month before the Farmer's markets open, there are a couple of year round farmer's markets that are really growing. (Pun intended) They are definitely worth checking out. http://www.denverurbanhomesteading.com/ and http://inseasonlocalmarket.com/.

There are some awesome efforts going on to take the CSA movement one step closer to home with NSA's, Neighborhood Supported Agriculture, where neighbors share their yard space to create the ultimate urban or suburban farms that are as local as they come! Wash Park has one and so do a few other neighborhoods across town. Here are the websites I found: http://www.eatwhereulive.com/, http://farmyardcsa.com/ and http://www.urbiculturefarms.com/.

Last but not least a couple of local restaurant chains are supporting the eat local movement by doing their part. Chipotle is donating 50% of their sales to the Grow Local Edible Gardens in the Park project on May 15th. This project is in conjunction with Denver Parks and Rec Dept. to build veggie gardens in local parks to showcase them. The hope is more people will start planting their own veggie gardens. Find out info here: http://growlocalcolorado.org/node/661

Chipotle is also helping out the Urban Farms and Feed Denver by donating portions of their sales from their Stapleton Restaurant on April 11th, this Sunday. You can find out more info here: http://www.feeddenver.com/.

And Noodles & Co. is donating a percentage of their sales to help Slow Food Denver's school garden programs. A project very near and dear to my heart. More info available here: http://growlocalcolorado.org/.

Some of the info in this post I gathered from the newspaper, but I also get e-newsletters from Slow Food Denver and Grow Local Colorado. I have both of their links listed on the right side of this page.

For those of you not local to Denver, CO, I know there are programs and events like these taking place all over the country. Go online and do some searches to see what you can find happening in your own backyard. And if there aren't things happening, then go ahead and start your own thing! It can be as small as hosting some friends for a "green" focused dinner, a seed sharing party or a bigger program like starting a community garden or NSA. All it takes is just one person to get the ball rolling!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons...



I am lemon crazy. There, I admitted it. I use lemons in nearly everything. I just love them. I generally go through about a bag of lemons a week. I kid you not. Usually it is for salad dressing as I make my own and eat a lot of salad. But we also eat a lot of fish, and I squeeze lemon over vegetables too. It's great over broccoli or asparagus, even potatoes. Yum!

Use real lemons people. Not the bottled stuff. I don't care if it does say 100% real lemon juice. There is something lost in the processing and you just don't get the same taste, or health benefits. Lemons are good for you, obviously they are high in vitamin C, but they also contain cleansing effects and despite their acidity, they can actually help balance your body's pH. Keeping your pH levels in balance can help prevent illness. Some people like to drink fresh lemon juice in some hot water in the morning as a "tea". Me, I just like using the juice in everything.

The other good news is that lemons are one of those foods that you can buy conventionally grown to stretch your grocery dollar. Since you are mostly using the inside, buying organic is not crucial. Although this week my grocery store had organic lemons cheaper than conventional. Also if you are going to use the zest, or candy the peel or preserve the lemon (basically if you are using the outside of the lemon in any way) then definitely get organic.

One of my favorite standby recipes is pan fried tilapia with lemons and capers. You can do it a couple of ways. First you can use almost any white fish, flounder, cod, trout, they all work well. You can dredge the fish first in a little flour if you want a crispier crust. I like it, it just depends on what I feel like doing. Season the fish with salt and pepper or sometimes I will use a fish seasoning like Old Bay or something just for variety. Put a little oil or butter in a pan over medium high heat. Slice half a lemon into thin slices. Cook the lemon slices in the oil or butter until browned, then add the fish. Squeeze the other half of the lemon over the fish. Cook the fish until just done, a couple minutes on each side depending on thickness. Then just at then end add some caper and a little caper juice. You can also add more lemon juice if you like. Then serve and enjoy. Sometimes I add white wine when I add the fish, I do this more if I haven't dredged the fish in flour. If I have it on hand I will add a little fresh chopped parsley at the end too. If you don't have capers, you could use green olives. Or just leave that part out.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Bread of Affliction


This week is the holiday of Passover. It's a holiday that celebrates the Jews being freed from Pharaoh and Egypt and starting their 40 years of wandering through the desert. One of the ways in which we commemorate the holiday is by eating matzah and not eating any leavened bread or bread product and certain grains and legumes are off limit as well. Matzah is like a dry cracker. I find myself really excited to eat it on the first night, and then after that I am done.
The other problem with passover is that suddenly there is all this junk food in the house. Soda, candy, Passover cake and brownies, jelly that is like 99% sugar and 1% fruit, you get the idea. And while I try to keep the way I cook fairly normal, I still make fresh vegetables and roasted an organic turkey, just like with any other holiday, sugary foods inch their way in. I blame my husband, but really I eat them too. It doesn't feel like Passover if I don't get jelly for my breakfast matzah or get to eat those little jellied "fruit" slices. Normally I don't even eat toast in the morning, but for Passover I eat matzah for breakfast.
It's an interesting experiment as an eater. My normal diet doesn't include a lot of sugar, and hardly includes any refined white flour or grain. For this week it's as if I am eating completely opposite. And I am feeling it. I have more headaches, and just feel generally more sluggish. Just a thought about what affect diet really has on us.
I bring all this up because I think holidays are challenging for all of us as eaters. We all have times of the year when our diet shifts, and that's ok. It's part of life. And food is part of celebrations, as it should be. For me, I know this one week I am eating a lot of things I wouldn't normally, and while I am feeling a bit worse for it, I am still going to eat these traditional holiday foods. And I know that once the week is over I will go back to my normal diet. Maybe I will even eat a little better for it.
I guess my point is that we don't have to feel guilty or berate ourselves for the occasional shift in our diets. Enjoy the holidays. Eat the Peeps. And once they are gone, go back to the more healthy, whole foods. And don't regret a few holiday festivities. That's the point of holidays coming around once a year.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spaghetti Squash/Spaghetti Sauce









I love squash! I love the varieties it comes in, I love winter squashes that you harvest in fall and can store through the winter, I love summer squash on the grill, I love it all (not to mention that pumpkins are one of my favorite foods).

One variety I am particularly fond of is the spaghetti squash. It's sort of an oblong yellow winter squash (a harder shell) that you can find in most grocery stores. Inside it has a yellow flesh, that when cooked comes out in strings that retain a certain amount of bite, or crunch. It's pretty easy to cook (most squashes are). Cut it in half, lengthwise, remove all the seeds and then place cut side down in a baking dish. You can add about 1/4 inch of water to the dish and then cook it in a 375 degree oven for about 45-60 minutes. The flesh will give easily to a fork when it is cooked.

Once it cooks, let it cool for a bit or use a pot holder to hold the squash and then use a fork to scrape the flesh out of the shells. You want it to be stringy. It ends up looking like, well, spaghetti. I like it with a dab of butter and some salt. Yum! Of course given the name you can also treat it like spaghetti and add some sauce.

Spaghetti sauce is not something I am fond of. Never have been. My daughter and husband however eat it like it's going out of style, and my daughter will pretty much eat anything if it's doused in spaghetti sauce first. As the main grocery shopper in our household, I really do not like buying spaghetti sauce at the store. It can be pricey (it's just cooked tomatoes for goodness' sake) and it's hard to find brands that don't have added sugars or some other additive in them. Why does spaghetti sauce need sugar?

So I make my own. It's easy, really. First I apologize to anyone who is Italian out there or who knows how to cook Italian food. I am not Italian, and as I mentioned before I don't really like the stuff, so this recipe is not a take all day spaghetti sauce. I am sure there are fabulous recipes out there that result in the most amazing sauce ever. The goal of this recipe though is to be quick, easy and nutritious.

Start with whatever veggies you have on hand; bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, beans, whatever (the more vegetables and variety you use the more end up in the sauce and the more you and your family will be eating-sneaky huh?). Puree them in a blender or food processor. Amounts are not important. If you want a chunkier sauce, leave the veggies slightly chunky. Heat some oil in a sauce pot and add the veggie puree. Add some chopped garlic (garlic powder works too), and season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, thyme, etc. Use fresh or dried spices, and use whatever combo you like. Let the veggies cook for a couple of minutes. Then add some tomatoes. Canned diced or crushed or freshly chopped. Again use what texture you want. Crushed will be a smoother sauce, diced or fresh will be chunkier. Fresh tomatoes will be fresher tasting obviously, and if you have the time grilled or roasted tomatoes would be yummy too. Cook for about 5 minutes more to let the flavors blend.

Use the sauce to top whatever you like. I used mine to top our spaghetti squash last night. It was pretty basic with red peppers, onions, crushed tomatoes and some spices. I added some baby spinach at the end so it just wilted. If I had had some garbanzo or cannelini beans on hand I would have added those. The result was this:

It was yummy, and both toddler and husband approved. A great way to get a kid to eat some vegetables. Spaghetti squash is a fun kid food, and of course spaghetti sauce is a classic. If you make your own sauce you'll know exactly what's in it, and there won't be any added sugars or other stuff, and you can throw in some extra veggies that your kids won't know about. It only takes a few minutes, it's way better for you, and in the long run, it's cheaper!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Taco Epiphany


Maybe this comes as second nature to some people, but it took me a while to figure it out. One day as I was sitting planning my meals for the week and writing out my shopping list, I got "cook's block". I could not for the life of me figure out what to make for dinner one night. I love experimenting and trying new recipes, but every meal can't be a gourmet feast. As much as I love to cook, after working long hours, sometimes you just want something fast, easy and mindless. And then it hit me: Tacos!

Who doesn't love tacos? I mean really. They're yummy, and a hit with kids and husbands alike. And now there are lots of ways to make them healthier and add some nutritional punches that no one will even notice.

I make mine with "soy crumbles", or textured vegetable protein, basically fake meat. Mostly because we don't eat a lot of meat. I'm not saying fake meat is any healthier than regular meat. We eat more vegetarian food because I don't think you need to have meat every day (you really don't) and also because I want to make sure we get the best meat out there, 100% grass fed and pastured meat, totally organic. 100% grass fed meat costs more, so we eat less meat, but the meat we do eat is wonderful.

So go ahead and pick your protein, be it grass fed beef or veggie crumbles. Tacos are a great place to use ground turkey or chicken because you season them really well. (Again I recommend pastured turkeys and chickens.) You could make them with fish or just use beans.

Skip the packets of taco seasoning you find next to the shells, most of them contain MSG and a whole lot of other unnecessary and unhealthy additives. Experiment to make your own seasoning mix or buy a good quality blend from a spice trader, my favorite is Savory Spice Shop http://savoryspiceshop.com/ and they ship anywhere.

Now you can find whole grain taco shells, and some stores carry organic whole grain shells. Or if you prefer soft tacos, finding whole grain or multi grain organic tortillas is really easy, most mainstream stores carry them now. And the plus is they don't cost that much more than generic, and they're much healthier for you.

As for toppings, be creative and do what you like, but I tend to be fairly traditional with my tacos. I like lettuce (try Romaine or something other than iceberg for better nutrition), tomatoes, salsa and cheese. Try making your own fresh salsa, so much better than jarred versions, plus when you make your own you don't have to add the sugar that most brands have in them. And if you have an avocado on hand, add some slices of that for some extra nutritional punch and taste!

It's easy to update a classic meal to be more healthy, and it couldn't be faster to make! And that's our goal right? Healthy, fast, and easy meals to feed our families.

Basic Salsa recipe:

  • 6 chopped roma tomatoes (or tomato of your choice)
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 seeded and minced jalepeno pepper (add more for more heat or try different kinds of chiles)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Chile powder, salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped cilantro, scallions or parsley to taste

Mix all ingredients and let sit for at least half an hour for flavors to blend. Enjoy!

You can make the salsa any way you like by adding other vegetables (corn, beans, carrots, radishes) and different kinds of peppers and spice.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Spring!


After a week of 60 and 70 degree weather, it snowed the first day of spring, left 10 inches and then melted away today in 70 degree weather again. Ahh yes, it's springtime in the Rockies.
Here's a picture of my garden early in the season from last year. This year I plan to start a cool season crop in April and try to get 2 seasons out of my garden.
I've also become a member in a local farm that is starting up near me. The link to it, Ekar, is on the right. It's an exciting venture that community members are putting a lot of hard work, heart and soul into, and I cannot wait to see where the adventure leads.
So what do gardens and farming have to do on a food blog? Besides the obvious answer that those are places we get our food from, there are some other answers out there. I am not Michael Pollan or Barbara Kingsolver. I highly recommend their books though, because there are plenty of people who can explain more eloquently than I why having a connection with the earth, the soil and our food chain is so important. But here is my simple reason: connecting to our food increases the likelyhood that we will eat healthy.
I'm still relatively new to this motherhood thing, but I try to get my daughter to eat her vegetables by two methods: a blitz attack, and getting her connected to the veggies. The blitz method is simple, I let her try everything I eat. She surprises me, she passes up carrot sticks and loves salad, celery and peanut butter do nothing for her, but artichoke and leek soup she can't get enough of. The second method of connecting her to her food is more complex.
People often say getting your kids involved with planning and cooking meals will help them want to eat better, and I wholeheartedly agree. Older kids can help you plan a simple, healthy meal, shop for it and help you cook it. Preteens and teenagers can practically do this all by themselves. I did a lot of cooking as a child. Little kids can also get a great experience at the grocery store. I talk to my daughter when we food shop about the different fruits and vegetables and what we might do with them.
Take it one step further; help your kids plant their own veggies. If your kids are old enough let them plan a small veggie garden, or even a container garden to really get connected. Pizza gardens are very popular (tomatoes, garlic, peppers, basil) and who wouldn't love a homemade fresh pizza? (As a nutritionist I totally support this type of pizza!) Salad container gardens are easy too, pick out your favorite salad veggies and plant them in a pot for fresh salad all summer long. The variety of veggies you'll have access to if you plant your own garden will be amazing. Your kid doesn't like carrots, but loves the color purple? Plant purple carrots and see if they'll eat those.
If for whatever reason you can't plant a garden with your kids, take them to a local farmers' market, or a local farm for that matter. Go strawberry or apple picking. You can pick your own broccoli at some farms, hey kids might like it if they pick it themselves. Don't forget pumpkins are a vegetable and when you go pick your jack'o'lantern, pick up some pie pumpkins for the kitchen.
There are a million ways to get involved and get your kids more connected to the food they eat. In the long run, if they know where it's comming from and have a sense of connection and maybe even ownership, I bet they will be more likely to ask for fresh fruits, veggies and other fresh food versus the overly processed food that spits out of vending machines.
I think I'm rambling a bit here, but my point is that the more we can do to be involved with and understand how our food gets to us, the better (read: healthier) our food will be. I have listed a whole bunch of links to the right that can help you find ways to connect. Some of them are based near me, and some of them like LocalHarvest and EatWild will help you no matter where you live.
Here are your action items: find a local farmers' market in your area, join a CSA, plant a garden, visit a farm, let your kids help you plan a meal and shop for and cook it together. I promise, you will eat better for it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Of Cabbages and Kings...




My plan for a St. Patrick's Day dinner was to make Spring Artichoke and Leek soup and a pasta that had cabbage in it. Since it was a very warm day, soup didn't seem like a good idea so I switched to pasta and one of my stand-by's: Caesar Salad. I make my own dressing with plenty of anchovies, and I made my own croutons last night as well. My daughter was happy because the salad is one of her favorites. Just proof that kids have interesting tastes. I mean who would think that a 21 month old would enjoy anchovies? I use a head of Romaine lettuce washed and dried (the drier the better) and 1 can of anchovies, about one half of a lemon, juiced, salt, pepper, 1 clove of garlic for some real garlic taste or garlic powder for a milder taste. Mix all the dressing ingredients in a small food processor or blender or use an immersion blender. Blend until it is smooth. Drizzle some olive oil over the lettuce and then add the dressing. Toss the salad really well. You can adjust the lemon juice, olive oil or seasoning to taste. You could add some fresh Parmesan cheese and also some croutons. Yum!


As for the second part of the meal, well it was not as successful. I tried a new recipe that consisted of egg noodles tossed with some steamed cabbage and Swiss chard. It wasn't bad, but I probably won't make it again. It was somewhat blah, and didn't end up being as colorful as I had hoped. I decided to go ahead and include a picture, just so you can see what I'm talking about. It was really too bad, because cabbage is a wonderful vegetable that is usually underrated.

The cabbage family, Brassica, includes everything from regular green cabbage to red cabbage to bok choy and Brussels sprouts. While some of the fancier cabbages can be more expensive, regular old green and red cabbage are usually pretty cheap. I love shredded red cabbage in a salad for some added crunch. Cabbage is high in dietary fiber (good for everyone, but especially good for losing weight). It's also high in Vitamins C, K, A and B6, as well as Folate, Potassium, Manganese, Thiamin, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. So it is definitely worth adding to your diet.

One last note about trying new recipes and new foods. I try a ton of new recipes, and some of them make their way back to my dinner table over and over again, while some I try once and then never again. Sometimes I figure out how to adjust the recipe more to my liking, or it sparks an idea of how to make something else. Either way, you never know what will turn out to be a favorite and it can't hurt to try new things. You don't have to be an expert. I'm certainly not, I just try a lot of things, and the more I try and practice, the better I get. You can see from the picture above of the cabbage dish, it's not one of my best creations, but I'm glad I tried it all the same.

Besides, we had to have some cabbage for St. Patty's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

St. Patty's Day-Popeye Style






I realize it isn't St. Patty's day yet, but I figure if you want to try this I should give you the recipe early. More "green" food to come on Wednesday. My poor husband seems to only be getting green food this week, but I love a theme!
Hands down this is one of my favorites, it's fast, easy and super tasty. When I get around to writing a cookbook, it will be in there. In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day I choose to be generous and share it with all of you. (I don't know if St. Patrick was generous or not, he certainly wasn't to all of those snakes, but I don't really like snakes, so I'm not judging.)

Spinach Burgers
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • A little less than 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients in food processor, blend well and season with salt and pepper. It won't be smooth, more like a chunky dough. Shape into 4-5 patties. Heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium high heat in non stick skillet and add burgers. Cook until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Add more oil if necessary.

I serve mine with a tahini sauce and Israeli salad. I use raw tahini, but regular will work too. 2 tbsp tahini to about 2 or more tbsp water, a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper then mix really well till it's creamy. You can add more water or tahini depending on the consistency. Water thins, tahini will thicken. I also added some chopped cilantro because I had some left over from last night.

For the Israeli salad, be creative. Typically it's tomatoes, onions and cucumbers diced small with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. I added some parsley, radishes and red peppers.

Put the spinach burgers into whole wheat pitas, top with tahini and salad and enjoy!

Eat your spinach. It's good for you. That's what Popeye was trying to tell us. This meal is packed with good stuff, all the nutrients in the spinach, tahini and raw veggies really add up. This meal will give you about 16 grams of protein!

Bonus: they are toddler approved! My daughter crams them into her mouth and asks for more.

Phabulous Pho


One of my all time favorite soups is Vietnamese Pho (fuh). Traditionally pho is made with all sorts of meats to create a fragrant and tasty broth. While I do make a pure beef broth, I was delighted to come across this vegetarian version. We tried it last night and it was delicious. Husband was happy, and daughter ate some of the tofu and a bite of mushroom. In the future I may make her a bowl with some additional veggies in the broth. She generally likes vegetables from soup broth (miso broth is her favorite). Parents of older kids might want to note that I started eating this soup when I was probably 9 or 10. It's fun to add your own toppings and personalize your soup. (The pictures above are of my bowl of soup and the toppings plate.)
On the health side, sometimes we forget that the herbs and aromatics we use while cooking are as beneficial to us as the nutrients in the food. In this soup, which has lots of garlic (that you don't necessarily taste) there are plenty of immune boosting properties. The shitake mushrooms add some cholesterol lowering properties as well. The garlic and cinnamon together have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and antiviral attributes. And ginger is pain reducing, anti-inflammatory and nausea fighting.
Pho
(serves 6)

Broth

  • 6 cups low sodium veg. broth
  • 3 larges shallots sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms
  • 10 cloves of peeled, crushed garlic
  • 12 1/4 inch thick slices of fresh ginger
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy broth
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (I used brown rice vinegar)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 5-6 basil stems, leaves reserved for soup
  • 5-6 cilantro stems, leaves reserved for soup

Bring all ingredients to a boil with 8 cups water. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Strain and return to pot, discard solids.

Soup

  • 1 8oz package rice noodles
  • 1 8oz packages of Asian flavored baked tofu, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 2 cups watercress, arugula or spinach
  • 4 scallions sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 lime cut into wedges
  • a few fresh mint springs

Cook noodles according to package. Drain and rinse with cold water. Divide noodles among 6 bowls. Add some of the tofu to each bowl. Ladle broth over noodles. Serve, allow each person to add their own toppings.

Alternatively to make a meat soup, you could start with a beef broth (or veggie, either will work) and then slice a skirt steak into really think slices. The trick with this version to get the meat slices really thin, put them on top of the noodles in each bowl and then pour really hot broth on top so that the meat slices cook in the broth in the bowls. It does work and is delicious. Although you'll want to be careful of the heat with small kids.

Enjoy!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pancakes! Pancakes for Breakfast!



Before I get into pancakes, I need to clarify a few things from my "fish sticks" post. Who knew fish sticks were such a hot topic?! Firstly, an apology to my mother. Everyone should know that she never fed me fish sticks for an entire year. My mother always made homemade meals, no fast food or TV dinners for me. In fact I truly do credit my mom with my healthy eating habits and general love for out of the ordinary food and for cooking. It was my grandparents who fed me the fish sticks when I visited them. And they did it out of love. Because I really do love fish sticks.
Secondly, the point of the post was not to suddenly get a craving for fish sticks and go out and buy them. The point was to eat whole, fresh fish. The point was also that we need to give our kid's palates more credit than we do. They will eat more than just mac and cheese and hot dogs, we just have to offer it to them.

Okay. Enough about fish sticks already! On to pancakes...

Pancakes are a particular love of mine. I remember once for Hanukkah when I was a kid, getting a brand new spatula especially for pancakes. And I know my mother will back me up on that-she gave it to me. It's just not a weekend without them.

I used to be a Bisquick girl. However, in an attempt to be healthier and offer more variety I have started making buckwheat pancakes from scratch. They honestly take no more time than making a mix, and offer so much more nutritionally.

First off, refined white flour is something our body doesn't really need. It is really high on the glycemic index, meaning eating it raises our blood sugar really fast. Most of us are aware that refined white flour is not a whole grain, and even when enriched, just does not offer the same nutritional benefit as a whole grain. It's taken me a long time to make the switch over to eating more whole grains, but I do believe it is worth it for our health.

Buckwheat on the other hand has lots to offer us. Buckwheat is low on the glycemic index as well as being a gluten free grain. Buckwheat offers a lot of protein, fiber and complex carbs. It's a good source for B vitamins, which are so crucial to our health. It's also high in Zinc, a nutrient most of us are deficient in. 1 serving of buckwheat offers 100% of your daily requirement for magnesium. Super grain!

But I don't like to eat it whole. So for me, using buckwheat flour is a good solution, and now you can find it in almost any grocery store.

Here's the pancake recipe. I like to serve it with strawberries on top. In the winter I use frozen organic berries. Strawberries are another food you always want to get organic. Heat them up on the stove and they produce their own little syrup. No need to add additional sugar. Organic butter and pure maple syrup are other healthy, delicious toppings.

Buckwheat Pancakes
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup milk (can substitute soy or rice milk)
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil

Combine all ingredients until just blended. Drop in 1/4 cup scoops into pan that is over medium heat. When edges start to dry, flip. Cook until done. Makes about 8-10 standard size pancakes.

Note: these don't really "bubble" up like other pancakes when they are ready to be turned, so flip right after edges start to dry.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

1 Potato, 2 Potato, 3 Potato, 4!



When my husband travels for work, I find myself falling into that trap that a lot of us have. Cooking for one. Well, for me it's really cooking for 1.5. But still, even for me, who loves to cook, it's hard to justify making an entire meal for one and a half people. But we gotta eat.

One of my favorite, made for one meals is the loaded baked potato. Quick, easy, nutrititous and varied, it makes for great solo eating. And of course you could make it for more than one too.

I use Idaho russets, but any decent sized baking potato will do. ALWAYS buy organic potatoes. Potatoes grow in the ground and by their nature soak up so much nasty pesticides and chemical fertilizers. So if you have to use your grocery dollars carefully, make sure that potatoes are on your list of veggies to buy organic.

If you are watching your carbs, you might be worried about eating white potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a great substitue, so go ahead and use those. Also depending on what you add to your potato, fats and proteins will help slow down the metabolizing of the carbs in the potatoes and so loaded potatoes are in fact a better choice than just plain potatoes.

Some of my favorite toppings:

  • Steamed broccoli (or any veggie you like, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, etc), cheddar or parmesan cheese. (Natural bacon bits/soy bits are yummy too)
  • Vegetarian Chilli (or just black beans), sour cream, chopped tomatoes and green onions (surprisingly good with sweet potatoes)
  • Turkey (ground) sauteed with some bell pepper and garlic, then add 3tbs chilli powder, 1 and 1/4 cups beer, 3/4 cup chilli sauce or ketchup, 4 ounces diced green chiles and 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce. Simmer until the mixture thickens. Garnish with green onions.

While there is a lot of debate about cooking in the microwave, I myself use it. I make sure to always microwave in glass (no plastic) and use it sparingly. If you prefer to bake your potatoes in the oven, you can do that too (I like the taste of this method better, but in terms of quickness, I use the microwave.)

Have fun and experiment. Make it a meal by adding a salad on the side (I loved bagged salad greens with some salt & pepper, olive oil and lemon juice on top), or if you already topped your potato with a veggie, it's a whole meal by itself!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The "Lure" of the Fishstick









I like fishsticks. There, I said it. In fact, I think for at least one year of my childhood I lived off of fishsticks (from the freezer section) and mac and cheese (the kind in the little blue box). I think I spent another year in college doing the same.


And parents seem to like giving kids fishsticks. They're easy and most kids seem to like them. There seems to be some unwritten rule of parenting that kids won't eat fish unless it is in the form of fishsticks. We want to give our kids fish because it is good for them, and an easy meal. Lots of fish is chock full of Omega-3 fatty acids that are so important for brain health and development, not to mention tons of other healthy stuff.


Fishsticks, unfortunately are not really going to meet this need. Let's hope that most fishsticks found in the freezer are made from cod. Cod is a great fish, but unfortunately after all the processing, battering/breading and frying that happens to create the fishstick, you aren't really left with the original nutritional value.


Fresh fish on the other hand will give you all of that fabulous nutrition. And fresh fish shouldn't be "fishy". If it's too "fishy" tasting, it wasn't fresh. In virtually the same amount of time it takes to cook those fishsticks in the oven, you can bake or grill a piece of fish. Salmon happens to be one of my favorites. Always buy wild caught. It's better all the way around, tastewise and healthwise. Wild caught is also lower in mercury levels. And my 20 month old daughter eats it like it's going out of style.


3 of our favorite ways to prepare salmon filets:
  • 2 tbsp honey and 4 tbsp low sodium soy sauce mixed together, pour on top of the salmon before cooking, the honey will caramelize and turn dark, especially on a grill, but don't worry, that's just making it more yummy

  • BBQ sauce (store bought or homemade, my husband doctors his up with a little bourbon) either poured on top before putting in an oven, or applied while on the grill

  • A little olive oil drizzled on top, salt pepper, dill sprinkled on top and then cooked

Generally I cook salmon in the oven at 350 F for about 18 minutes, depending on the thickness, or on the grill over medium-high heat for about 12-15 minutes (times will vary depending on ovens and grills). You don't want to overcook the salmon, so watch it and when it turns opaque, it's ready. If you press the thickest section it should be firm, but still give just a little bit. You can always try it and if it needs more time, put it back on the heat.



Saturday, March 6, 2010

Just Desserts



I was inspired to try some "healthy-ish" desserts this week by a client. She professed to loving desserts, and really, who doesn't have a sweet tooth for something? Part of my take on eating better is that food is meant to be enjoyed, and tasty and healthy are not mutually exclusive.

I was happy to try this recipe from Vegetarian Times Magazine for an Apple Custard Pie with Oatmeal Crust.

It's a great dessert choice because the oats and the apple are packed with nutrients. Oats contain plenty of protein, B vitamins, calcium, iron and a form of fiber that helps lower your LDL cholesterol. An apple a day of course, keeps the doctor away.

A few recipe hints: if you can't find oat flour or milk you can substitute with whole wheat or white flour (of course I recommend whole wheat flour) and either soy or regular milk. Make sure to use old fashioned oats (not the instant kind) and use an 8 inch pie pan so the crust turns out ok. You can also cut the sugar in half, literally, trust me it will still be sweet. Just use 1/8 cup brown sugar in the crust and 1/8 cup sugar in the filling. You can omit the extra sugar on top. Also the original recipe calls for vegan margarine instead of butter, but I recommend real butter, organic if you can, it's a much better choice health wise...more on the butter vs. margarine debate later.

Apple Custard Pie with Oatmeal Crust

Crust

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) butter melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, coat 8 inch pie pan, greased with cooking spray or butter

Stir together oats, oat flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, in large bowl. Stir in butter and 1/4 cup of water until dough forms. Press dough into bottom and sides of pie pan, moistening fingers with cold water to prevent sticking. Place pan on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until crust is light brown and bottom looks dry.

Filling

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2tbsp, divided
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup oat milk
  • 3 small apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges each (I used one and a half large apples)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Whisk together eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla in bowl. Whisk in oat milk until smooth. Arrange apple wedges on bottom of prebaked crust. Pour filling into crust, over apples, and return to oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling is set. Stir together remaining 2 tbs of sugar and 1/8 tsp of cinnamon, sprinkle over hot pie. Cool on wire rack.

This was a very tasty dessert and a hit with everyone around the dinner table.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Green Rice & Vegetable Stir Fry




Last night's dinner consisted of one of my new favorite "quick and easy" meals: Stir Fry. While I am generally not a huge fan of Chinese food in restaraunts, I do enjoy a fresh home made stiry fry and it seems everyone else at home does too.

I usually make it as an end of the week meal and use up left over veggies, but my mainstay vegetables for stir fry are red and green peppers, mushrooms (plain old button ones), broccoli, and carrots. Last night I added some water chestnuts, spinach and scallions. You could use whatever veggies you have on hand (peas anyone?). I make a quick sauce consisting of 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp water and then whisk in 2 tbs of low sodium soy sauce, about 1 inch worth of minced fresh ginger, 2 tsp of some sort of chile sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. You could also leave out the ginger and garlic and use about 1 tsp of Chinese Five Spice. Whisk it all together, and then when your veggies are stir fried to the level you like (I like mine with a little "bite" to them) pour the sauce over the veggies and mix a little more.

I like to serve my stir fry over rice, and my rice of choice these days is Lotus Food's Jade Pearl Rice. It's a pearl rice mixed with bamboo extract. I like it becaus it is light in flavor and cooks in 20 minutes. It's rich in chlorophyll, fiber, iron, vitamin C and magnesium. It's a great choice if you love white rice but want to try something a little less processed and don't really like brown rice. In fact I recommend all of Lotus Food's rices. They are all yummy.

I also like to cook some tofu slices till they are nice and brown and crispy and put them on top of the stir fry. Altogether it makes a great, hearty meal that satisfies husbands and children alike (some kids love foods that are funky colors, and so green rice can be really fun). Last night I served some pineapple chunks and madarin orange slices on the side.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Egg Follow-up

Here is what I turned those delicious fresh eggs into. Salmon-Veggie Benedict. Whole grain English muffin, wild caught smoked salmon, tomatoes, spinach, poached egg with Hollandaise sauce a la Julia Child. Yum! My daughter enjoyed the tomatoes and a bit of the muffin with some egg on it.

Proof



My daughter loves artichokes, which is indisputable proof that we are related.

Artichokes happen to be one of my favorite foods and I eat them whole and steamed fairly often. At first I would just give her the leaves to play with, at her request. Then I started giving them to her and realized she was scraping the "meat" off of them, pretty tricky for a toddler. Now she and I eat them together. She also loves artichoke heart omlettes and artichoke ragout. I made the ragout with onions, crushed tomatoes, mushrooms and red peppers, served it over whole wheat rigatoni and it was a huge hit.

Artichokes are not everyone's favorite I know, but it just goes to show that kids will eat things that will surprise you (aside from rubberbands and grocery lists). Chances are if you like a vegetable, you child will too, so why not try giving it to them?

And just so you know, artichokes are a great source of fiber, have more antioxidants than red wine or chocolate, contain as much potassium as a small banana, have Vitamin C and Magnesium, as well as 4 grams of protein.

So along with your peas, eat your artichokes!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Yummy Birthday Presents




My birthday was this weekend and one of my friends brought me fresh eggs from his chickens as a birthday present. The eggs came in the six-pack box for "Farmer's Friend" Ale. My husband is angry because this friend was supposed to keep his backyard chickens a secret from me, but really it's only a matter of time before I start a chicken coop in the backyard. Anyhow, I cannot wait to put the eggs to use in the kitchen. I'm thinking eggs benedict, with smoked salmon instead of ham. Yum! Only I am the only one in the house who likes eggs benedict. My daughter has never had fresh eggs like this, maybe she will like them better than grocery store eggs. Even though I get only organic, vegetarian fed, cage free, eggs that are as local as I can get, it's still not the same as eggs harvested the day before from chickens who I know are happy and living real chicken lives.