Tag: healthy

Slow cooking for fast prep (+6 ways to use your crock pot!)

The beauty of bulk

Bulk cooking (also known as batch processing or food prep) is the secret for almost all people I know who eat well and have mostly homemade food.  When I hear “I’m too busy to cook” – it’s usually the truth.  Most people don’t have time to shop, prep, and cook all their meals fresh daily with the hour+ that entails.  But even though food doesn’t have to be your first priority every day, by making it a top priority on one day a week, you can stock and prepare enough food to get you through most meals.

For example, by cooking a batch of oatmeal on the weekend, and stocking up on berries and nuts, you can have breakfast ready every day in under 5 minutes.  Spending some time to buy salad supplies and pre-packing containers (dressing on the side, of course – no soggy salads here!) could be lunch.  My friend and fellow dietitian Amaris is the prep-ahead lunch salad queen, and makes a new round every week:

But when you want something savory, warm, and hearty, there’s no second to the slow cooker.  This set-it-and-forget-it miracle of modern life is one of the most important (and yet often least expensive) appliances you can have in your kitchen, and it makes both bulk prep and weekday prep a breeze.  Load it up, turn it on and in 5-7 hours you can fully cook a tender roast, a flavor-rich stew, or even a baked pasta dish.

To chili and beyond

Most people think of chili or other stews when they think about what they could make in a crock pot.  But it can do so much more! Bone broth (or veggie broth) – sure! Lasagna?  Done! Fajitas sans frying pan – so easy! Fresh bread, crunchy granola, and even snack mix?  Absolutely.  Your slow cooker should be in rotation to make something at least once a week.

Need more inspiration?

If you’re still not convinced that you need to get some slow cooking action into your routine, here are the some inspirational roundups to get your mouth watering and your menu plan rolling:

‘Tis flu season – mocktails to hydrate & heal

Smug as a bug

I was sitting pretty and feeling great when my boyfriend got a bad cold last week…I’d been drinking echinacea tea almost daily, getting enough sleep, and eating lots of wonderful winter veggies like squash and kale.  My immune system is strong, I thought, I am not susceptible.  Too smug!  It started in my throat and moved up to my head.  While I’m hopeful that this means I’ve paid my dues and will be healthy for the holidays, it got me thinking – what to drink when you want to feel festive, but know that alcohol will make you feel even worse?

Mocktails to the rescue

On top of being alcohol-free, mocktails are actually a great opportunity to get some much-needed hydration and virus-fighting vitamins & minerals.  But many of them call for added sugar in the form of concentrates, syrups, or sodas.  Here are 3 mocktails I “mocked” up to improve the nutrient balance.  It’s always a good idea to offer a non-alcohol beverage if you’re hosting, but you could bring one as a guest to contribute, too – most people just bring wine, so your concoction will get special attention.  Other great times to use these recipes: for kid’s parties, Christmas morning brunch, pregnant women’s groups, or church events!

Non-Alcoholic Sangria
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Cut out the 1/2 cup of sugar; instead brew with a fruit-infused black tea (less astringent!)

Cranberry apple cider punch
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Sub OJ for orange juice concentrate; infuse with sliced fresh ginger instead of ginger ale; add club soda

Blueberry Mojito
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Muddle blueberries with mint; eliminate sugar & add Buchi’s Elderberry Blueberry Coconut Kombucha to taste instead.

I’ve also pinned some on my Pinterest boards – check them out for extra inspiration!  If none of these hit the spot (though I’d be surprised!) try this: type in *herb of choice* + *fruit of choice* + *cocktail or mocktail* (use Pinterest or google) and something will come up…I haven’t found a combo that doesn’t yield something delicious-sounding yet!  Rosemary peach?  You bet.  Thyme apple?  Sure.  Lavender kiwi?  Sounds weird, but…yup, it’s there.  Post below if you do find a combo that doesn’t exist…maybe there should be a recipe for it!

School lunches made simple (+6 ways to use tortilla shells!)

August is upon us

While the weather is still sweltering here in the mid-Atlantic, belying the fast-approaching new school year, it’s almost time to start thinking about getting those kiddos back to class fueled up with the nutrients they’ll need to succeed.  And it matters a lot – kids who have better nutrition tend to get better grades and are less likely to have behavior problems (not even to mention the health benefits)!  Below I’ve put together a few guidelines for building meals, recipes, and tips for pulling it all off successfully.  What are your best tricks?  Feel free to add in the comments below!

Lunch: the approach

  1. Get kid’s buy-in: they’re more likely to eat what they participated in selecting.  But as the parent, you’re controlling what they chose from.

    • During grocery shopping, let them choose veggies – “do you want carrots or celery?  Green beans or broccoli?” There are an overwhelming number of choices so framing between two comparable selections keeps things simple (don’t just set them loose in the produce section!).
    • During home prep, let kids help pack…the wrap ideas below are all kid-chef friendly, and packing veggies in containers helps them to realize the work that goes into food prep.  It doesn’t have to be every single day – start weekly and go from there!
  2. Use these guidelines to make sure the box is balanced:

    • Protein + produce – whether it’s meat or plant-based, protein is a crucial meal component – beans, dairy, meat, eggs, nuts, and whole grains contribute protein, while produce like fruit + veggies complements with fiber.  The tortilla wrap combos below always follow this rule!
    • Veggies and fruits + dip = kids eat more produce!  A savory garlic & onion “ranch” dip made from plain greek yogurt works well for bell peppers, carrots, celery, and cucumbers, while creamy peanut butter dip is perfect for apples, bananas, and strawberries.
    • Sweet treats should be nutrient dense – ie, not cookies, cakes, or candies!  Save those for a special occasion and try energy bites (recipes below) or chia pudding (just put all ingredients in a lidded container and SHAKE & refrigerate!).  A low-sugar yogurt (like Siggi’s) with berries or granola (Michele’s is my favorite brand, while this is the best homemade recipe for granola I’ve found) is also perfect for a snack or dessert.

      (Energy bite recipes above from The Yooper Girl, The Creative Bite, and Gimme Some Oven, respectively.)

  3. Pack it up securely (and get that sharpie out to put names on anything you want to see again!)

    • Good Housekeeping has done the work of listing the best and 100 Days of Real Food has a small round up too…the ones below are Amazon-prime-ready to be at your door with no fuss, click to order! Target also has a wide selection – this is another great opportunity to provide 2 options for kids to choose between (after you narrow down what you want them to chose from!).
       

6 ways to use whole wheat tortilla shells

That word “whole” is crucial – if it’s not on the package, you’re likely holding a white-flour product, and minimizing refined grains in favor of whole grains is a great way to boost your fiber intake (which is dismally low for most people!).  If it says “100% whole” then all the better!  Easy to keep on hand (store in the refrigerator to extend shelf life) and dress up sweet or savory…there are countless combos and options (toast them to make chips!  Spread with sauce and cheese to make thin crust pizza! Breakfast wraps!) but here are six that kids will love:

  1. banana + Soom chocolate tahini spread (tahini is sesame butter; this brand is a great alternative to Nutella at 1/3 the sugar and only 3 ingredients!)
  2. apple + peanut butter (sweet enough for dessert, nutritious enough for a snack)
  3. turkey (or turkey meatballs!) + mozzarella cheese stick (microwave for a melt!)
  4. mexican cheese + black beans + diced peppers (microwave to bind into a quesadilla roll; serve with salsa)
  5. hummus + rainbow veggies (bell peppers, avocado, carrot, cucumber)
  6. cucumber + tuna with soy sauce (or just mayo if your child’s palate is less adventurous)

 Hope this helps!

Enjoy the end of summer and the fresh start of the fall…and stay in touch!  Find me on Instagram and Facebook…or stop by Potomac Vegetable Farms, where I’m working and learning how to grow the best food outside of Washington, DC.  I’m often working our stand at the Arlington Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings – come say hi!

Cooking with Siggi! (+how to choose a yogurt)

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A word about yogurt

Here’s the sad truth: most yogurt on the shelves in the US is basically a light dessert, at best.  Many brands add tons of sugar (or artificial sweetener), colors, flavors, and stabilizing ingredients so that the resulting product is far from the nutritious, versatile food that it should be!  Siggi’s is one brand I like a lot – their claim is “simple ingredients, not a lot of sugar,” and in fact their cups always contain more protein than sugar.

What to look for in yogurt

Those criteria alone will get you far (and rule out most of the options on the shelf), but read the ingredient list to make sure they don’t contain gelatin, starches, gums, carageenan – all just thickeners that are hiding low-quality yogurt.  Milk, cream, and active cultures are all you need to make yogurt!

With lots of flavors and several in the 2% and whole milk categories (I’m partial to the whole myself), Siggi’s is competitive with other brands out there.  And with the outreach they do for dietitians, they’re at the top of their marketing game!  Today they hosted a lunch based on Nordic cooking – we got to see how to filet a whole fish, and then cooked in groups.  My team had the mushroom and arugula salad, which had just a dollop of plain yogurt to give some tangy creaminess.

Best of all, Siggi himself was there – he is a jolly Scandinavian fellow, and it’s amazing how he’s grown the company in just 6 years.

The whole meal was delicious – thanks for having us, Siggi’s!

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The full meal – mashed sweet potatoes, roast root vegetables, arugula and mushroom salad, and the pan seared salmon with edible flowers, seasoned yogurt, and raspberries (an amazing combo!).

*This event was sponsored by Siggi’s Dairy.  I was not compensated for my time financially.*

Your guide to glutamate (+vegan queso salsa dip)

On savory flavor

There are many foods and food components that make food taste savory – that rich, complex taste that’s independent of salty, and sometimes described as “meaty,” and known as “umami.”  One molecule that contributes to those flavors is glutamate – an amino acid that’s found in meat, cheese, and even vegetables including mushrooms, broccoli, and tomatoes.  (Read more here about sensitivity to glutamates, MSG, and the low-glutamate diet for people who are sensitive.)  It’s also found in nutritional yeast, a flaky protein and vitamin-rich product made from yeast cells (I’d write a whole article about its uses, history, and nutritional properties, but this blog post does that quite nicely!).

A word about yeast & yeast extract:

In full disclosure, I was sponsored to help create that video – and I’m grateful to be given a platform for the message!

I was really excited to see my friend Elaine post a recipe that uses nutritional yeast and is both Superbowl friendly and genuinely healthy!  The yeast provides that cheesy flavor, while the creamy texture and cheddar color come from tahini and carrots, respectively.  And it’s nut-free for those concerned about allergies!

 

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picture from EatingByElaine

 

I decided to do mine with another twist, and sub canned tomatoes and chiles instead of soy milk for a Ro’tel-esque spin.  And let me tell you: this tastes AWESOME.  It even got the boyfriend seal of approval to bring to his friend’s Superbowl party today (which is not a healthy foodie oriented kind of crowd).

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Have you used nutritional yeast before?  Any other recipes I should know about?  Without further adieu, here’s the recipe – enjoy!

Vegan queso salsa dip (adapted from EatingbyElaine)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fresh, room temperature tahini (runny is best, Soom brand is excellent)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ large lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • Garnish: sprinkle of paprika, sliced green onions, fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil and add carrots
  2. When carrots are cooked (soft to a fork, ~10 minutes), drain and add them with all other ingredients except tomatoes to a high speed blender and puree until smooth
  3. Fold in tomatoes and chiles with a spatula
  4. Serve warm with chips or veggies and garnish with sliced green onions, paprika and fresh cilantro. You may want to microwave just before serving.

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Superbowl Snacks Roundup

Well folks, it’s that time of year again…I am completely ambivalent about the teams playing (as always), but super excited for some eating, drinking, and socializing!  It annoys me that healthy food has a bad rap for parties like this – if you’re doing it right, there is NO sacrifice of flavor, fun, or dramatic presentation.  If you’re doing it wrong…well, you get the sad tray of pre-cut veggies that your supermarket has and call that the “healthy option.”

Do not do that.

Here are some gorgeous and delicious options, rounded up from my food networks, and all fit the bill of being nutrient dense and game-day appropriate.  Enjoy!

baked-buffalo-cauliflower-bites-15 Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

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Healthier 7-Layer Dip


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Pollo Asado Fries

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Vegan Warm Nacho Dip (nut-free)

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Spicy Spiralized Sweet Potato Fries

Pizza hummus 2
Pizza Hummus

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Avocado Spinach Dip

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Sweet Potato Skins

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Spicy Salty Popcorn

spinachdip
Spinach Artichoke Dip

bbaflatbread
BBQ Chicken Flatbread

The *new* breakfast rule (+pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin granola)

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Not one but THREE pumpkins in this granola…if you count the pumpkin spice (which technically isn’t a pumpkin product, but it’s inherent to the spirit of any sweet pumpkin dish!).  Today I did a food demo/mini seminar at a business out in the Mosaic District, and baked up a huge batch of the granola as snacks for employees while we talked about breakfast.

I’m a big fan of breakfast – not just because of the foods, but because of what it can do for your day energetically when done right.  I’ve followed most of the same rules of thumb for years now, but recently added one: the 12 hour fast.  Pay attention to when you finish eating for the evening, and then how early you typically have breakfast the next day – is the time lapsed 8 hours? 10?  There’s science to back the idea that this could help with weight regulation, breast cancer rates, and even diabetes, and it’s actually a pretty easy tweak!

So track your habits for a week or so and see how those meals fall. Time for an adjustment?

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Pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin granola

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 c pumpkin puree
  • 1⁄2 c pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 2 c old fashioned oats
  • 1⁄4 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil + 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c raisins and/or craisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients but raisins in a mixing bowl, stirring until evenly distributed. Spread into a thin layer on a baking sheet with sides and bake for 1 hour, stirring to allow steam to escape and even heating every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before adding raisins. Store in an airtight container. Will keep for 1-2 weeks.

A Friendsgiving feast (+pistachio pumpkin biscotti)

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Happy Friendsgiving!

Yesterday I hosted my 11th Friendsgiving, which is a tradition I’ve loved since college.  Throwing an open-house style potluck with lots of friends is a no-fail way to have a great time, and this year was no exception!

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Along with this pecan pie, I also made biscotti. This month’s RecipeRedux theme is “creative quick breads,” and since biscotti are technically  a quick bread (leavened without yeast), I figured these fit!  Click the blue frog at the bottom of the post to see all the other healthier-for-the-holidays quick bread recipes from members.

No fewer than 3 different people at the party asked who made them, so they are as delicious as they are pretty!  Wrap some up in a cellophane bag with a nice ribbon, pair with a mug and you have a lovely hostess gift this holiday season. 😉

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Like the mug?  Check out StonewarebySarah for handcrafted gifts – lots of new items listed!

Pistachio pumpkin biscotti (adapted from Simply Recipes)

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 6 ounces shelled pistachios
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of pumpkin purée
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry ingredients (through pistachios) in a mixing bowl and whisk until evenly mixed.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla together, then add to dry ingredients.  Stir to combine, then used hands to knead into a ball.  Break into two even pieces and shape each into a flattened log.  Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment for 45 minutes, then remove and cool for 20.  Lower oven temp to 300F.  Slice rolls into 1/2 inch-thick pieces, lay out on baking sheet, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

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4 Turkey Alternatives (that will please any crowd!)

This morning I was featured on the local ABC7 to discuss alternatives to turkey for the holidays – my third DC area television appearance!  Check it out:

http://wjla.com/embed/features/good-morning-washington/turkey-alternatives-for-thanskgiving

Many thanks to the ABC7 team for making me feel so welcome and comfortable – they are as genuinely nice off the air as they are on it!

Want to learn how to do meal prep for healthy eating every week of the year with recipes personalized for you?  I offer personal nutrition assessment + cooking classes – check my package options to learn more!

Turkey Shortage?

A bout of avian flu in the midwest killed about 3% of the nation’s turkeys this year – though not before most of the frozen turkeys sold this November were already raised and frozen, according to the National Turkey Federation.  So prices may be higher ($0.59-1.99/lb for frozen birds in our area) but the supply is still robust.

To order a (DC-area) locally  raised turkey from a small farm, try:

But, since it’s unlikely that turkey as we know it was even present at the first Thanksgiving, why not buck the trend and offer something different?  Below are four ideas + recipes – each with their own claim to the place of honor as entree for the big day!

The other white meat: for meat-lovers who want something stuffed

A pork tenderloin is an impressive dish to serve, and could easily be stuffed with the same elements as a turkey – nuts, cranberries – and this recipe even include butternut squash!  The tenderloin has about the same amount of protein as turkey, and pairs nicely with similar ingredients.  Try this recipe by Gina (shes uses turkey tenderloin, but I used pork) – and don’t forget to visit your local farmer’s market to get higher quality, better-raised meats.

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The turkey shaped option: for visual effect

Cornish game hens are a breed or crossbreed of chicken; they’re very small, so these would make a nice individual-sized serving, or if on the larger side perhaps served by the half.  This recipe features some amazing fall flavors – lemon and sage – and Elizabeth shares my outlook on meat sourcing and portions to boot.

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The vegetarian/vegan option: for the meat-free

What would a holiday post be without something from Martha Stewart?  Her stuffed acorn squash includes beans, quinoa, and nuts for protein that the squash lacks with a beautiful outcome that any guest would be delighted to have.  It would probably go well with a bechamel sauce, too!

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The seafood version: a nod to our shellfish-eating forefathers

It’s likely that the early Thanksgivings included fish or shellfish, so serving a pescatarian option is very apropos!  Rosemary is one of my favorite cold-weather flavors, and oranges are in season now – added bonus, this dish takes under half an hour from start to finish: a big time savings so you can focus on side dishes.

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RecipeRedux: National Nut Day!

I guess there’s really a day for everything these days, isn’t there?  Really though, I try to encourage everyone to eat nuts on a daily basis – a handful is a serving, they’re high in protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats, and they can be stored at room temperature.  The perfect snack, breakfast component, and wonderful in dishes sweet and savory alike.   Easy to store and portion in the office, the car, your purse…and there’s got to be a seasoning mix to please everyone out there!  Ok – my ode to nuts is over, but definitely worth consideration if you aren’t already eating them regularly!

What if I’m allergic?

Turn to seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax…these have generally the same nutrient profile as nuts, but are different enough that most people with nut allergies aren’t triggered.  Make sure to check with your doctor if you aren’t sure which allergies you have!

Back to nuts

This recipe packs everything that tastes good about fall into one bite: pumpkin, pumpkin spice, apple, and almonds!  Add chocolate chips if you want a sweeter treat, and sub maple syrup for brown sugar if you have it on hand.  Delicious enough for dessert, but healthy enough for breakfast (try enjoying with plain greek yogurt!) – my favorite kind of recipe.  Don’t forget to check out the other nutty recipes by clicking the blue frog at the end of the post!

Pumpkin spice almond bars

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned (rolled) oats
  • 1 c slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 apple, diced (keep skin on for more fiber!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325° F.
  2. Spray an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl combine the oats, quinoa, almonds, chocolate chips, apple, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
  4. In a blender combine the sugar, banana, and pumpkin puree until smooth.
  5. Add pumpkin mixture to oat mixture and stir until all the oats are coated.
  6. Place oat mixture into the prepared pan and spread to be flat and even, packing down with the back of a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Let the bars cool, and cut into desired size (makes 10 snack sized bars).