Think inside the box

Shop the outer perimeter of the grocery store – that is where everything you need is found,” she said.  I was at a one day seminar on Nutritional and Integrative Interventions for Mental Health Disorders – rightly titled since that piece of advice makes me CRAZY!

 I find lots of good things in the outer perimeter.  I start there.  I fill most of my cart there.  








 But…may I please defend the inner aisles?  There are treasures to be found there!  Spices and salsa, mustards and marinades, grains and garnishes, beans and brown rice, need I go on?  So I stopped at the store, started in the safety of the outer perimeter, as usual, but with wide open eyes.  “Any of these foods are welcome to jump into my cart and follow me home,” I’m thinking.  But then…. I also spotted these “foods” in the outer perimeter.  








 Really? 

 So I wandered into the “inner aisles,” that place known for highly processed, nutrient stripped JUNK food.  The Dr. teaching the seminar would have me believe that I would gain weight and a couple of chronic diseases just pushing my cart into that forbidden zone.  And yes, there is a lot of packaging and processing going on in there, but look what else I found!




 

 My best advice – EXPLORE the STORE!  Take the good wherever you find it!  Eating well, shopping smart, and enjoying health is never as simple as some advice makes it seem, it is much more interesting than that!

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What’s so great about strawberries?

  Well, first of all, they are beautiful, all bright red with some green jester caps for the perfect accessory.  Look at one close – not many fruits wear their seeds right on the surface like that ; there are 200 or more of those little seeds on every berry.  In fact, technically they really aren’t berries since a true berry has its seeds on the inside (like a banana – ya those little black dots in there are seeds.). Botanists consider every one of those 200 little seeds on the outside of the strawberry to be its own fruit. 

I have always said, “food is prettier than flowers. Bring me a perfectly ripe strawberry, spare the roses!”  Well, turns out that strawberries are members of the rose family, but roses are $30/dozen and I’ve been buying their cute little cousin strawvberries for 99 cents/pound!  What a deal! 

 Nutritionally speaking, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C  – 1 cup of strawberries provides 89 mg or 149 percent of the DRI (daily recommended intake.)   Compare that to the 36.1 mg from a clementine (little Cutey or Halo name brands).  They are also a good source of folate – providing 36.5 mg from that same 1 cup ( for more info on folate, see what’s so great about asparagus)  and a good source of manganese providing .6 mg or 29 percent of a day’s need, important for bone production, skin integrity, and blood sugar control. 

 Another talent those strawberries have is as making you feel full and Satisfied. Their fullness factor come in at 4.3 out of 5, meaning they are super good at filling you up with few calories. 

 Buy them and eat them; they will only keep in the fridge for a few days.  Don’t wash them till just before you are ready to enjoy them; washing will speed up spoilage.  Wash under cool running water or fill two bowls with cool water.  Add the berries to one bowl and gently swish around a little, then gently lift from the water and place into the other bowl.  Dump the first bowl of water out and refill.  Continue till the water remains clean and clear looking. 

If you were hoping for a recipe…you actually don’t need one.  Wash and pop into your mouth or quarter them first so you can savor each quarter without juice running down your chin.   For a more meal- like use, add strawberries to a mixed vegetable salad – they add color and sweet variety and go particularly well with a tart dressing (my favorite is seasoned rice vinegar / red pepper flavor.). If you want to get all ‘gourmet’, simmer some balsamic vinegar till it gets syrup-like then put a few berries in your prettiest little dish and drizzle a teeny bit of the Balsamic reduction over them.  No whipped cream or shortbread needed for the perfect ‘dazzle your guests’ dessert!

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World Health Day – April 7

food safety 3

Since it is World Health Day, may I just clear my throat and give a speech?   I’ve noticed lately that while my “plant” friends are passionate about health and making food choices that lead towards health they may be a touch complacent about other choices that could have an even more immediate impact on their health.

So please allow me a just a moment on my food safety soapbox.  As a Registered Dietitian I have been involved in developing food safety protocols for hospital food service departments.  Food there must be safe for the most vulnerable of populations, the very young, the very old, the sick, and the immune compromised.  I have done food safety inspections in the community to keep you safe.  I also live with a Microbiologist who  owns a laboratory where food safety testing is performed each day.  So you could see me as a bit obsessed or as a source for information to keep you and the people you love safe – you decide.  I could go on and on…but I picked three key messages for today.

1.  Your mother told you a gazillion times – WASH YOUR HANDS!  Just do it – before touching food, between handling different foods, after using the bathroom, after touching your hair or face or someone else’s hair or face, after handling a pet, after leaving your food preparation area, and at any other time when you wonder if you should.  Just do it!  Wash with soap and hot water (110 degrees F) for at least 20 seconds.  One…one thousand…two….one thousand…three…one thousand…four….

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2.  SHOP SAFE – STORE SAFE!  Some of you live in households that are not 100% plant – powered zones.  If you have animal products in your kitchen you need to have some extra safety measures in place.  When shopping, place animal products (eggs, milk, fish, poultry, etc.) in a plastic bag, place them in the lowest part of your shopping cart and take them home in  a seperate shopping bag.  If you use reuseable bags,  designate one bag for animal products and use that same bag for such foods on every shopping trip.   Wash your dispoable bags in hot water at least monthly.  Once home, place those animal foods in their plastic bag on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator.  Do NOT take any chance of having these foods drip on other foods that you will eat raw!

Date foods – keep a sharpy handy – write a date on things you buy or leftoevers you stash.  Leftovers should be eaten within 4 days.  If you have more than you will be able to use within that time frame, package and freeze immediately (don’t wait till day 4 to do so.)

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3.  KEEP SURFACES SAFE.  Develop a regular cleaning schedule for your refrigerator, your counters, and all food storage shelves.  Be particularly conscientous about your sink.  It seems so clean, afterall, it is the cleaning center of the home, but that is exactly what makes it so risky – it washes away a lot of stuff and not all of it goes down the drain.  Be sure to scrub and sanitize your sink OFTEN, particularly if it has had contact with any animal based foods.

Don’t put dishes, bowls, pots or pans away wet.  Nested containers with moisture between them make a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.  Allow dishes to air dry upside down and store once thoroughly dried.

You can make an inexpensive effective sanitizer by mixing 1 1/3 t bleach with 1 qt water.  More is not better, this is the maximum concentration considered safe for food surfaces.  It should remain on the surfaces for 2-5 minutes for a thorough kill.  That means, you must resist the urge to spray and wipe and dry and polish and shine.  Let it sit and do its work. When you are in a restaurant and see the table clearer spray down a table and immediately wipe it, remember not to eat off the table there!  Killing germs takes time.

Choose good food, keep it safe, enjoy life!

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What’s so great about ASPARAGUS?

 Well…it’s just one of favorite nutrition heroes, that’s all!

1. Asparagus is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid.  A 5.3 ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folacin which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease. Folacin has been shown to play a significant role in the prevention of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, that cause paralysis and death in 2,500 babies each year.

2.  Aspragus is low in calories, only 20 per 5.3 oz. serving, less than 4 calories per spear.  HALF of those calories come from protein (just in case anyone ever asks where you get your protein) and half of them come from carbohydrate.

3.  Asparagus contains glutathione (GSH) one of the most powerful anticarcinogens and antioxidants found.  GSH detoxifies and protects cells from oxidative damages, thereby preventing damage to DNA.  Asparagus had the highest GSH content of foods tested.

4.  Asparagus is one of the riches sources of rutin, a compound which strengthens capillary walls, which is only important if you’d like to keep the blood flowing to all your body parts and brain cells.

5.  Asparagus is DELICIOUS!  No recipe needed.  Just steam lightly (till it turns that beautiful bright green color), sit back and enjoy.  No utensils needed either – it’s the perfect finger food!

6.  Asparagus is FREE!  (well…used to be when I lived in paradise with ditchbanks…but I’ll gladly pay $2.99/# for this wonder food! 

So when you’re shopping for Easter dinner, throw some asparagus into the cart …a lot of it.  Or if you are really lucky, pluck some of the wild stuff from a ditchbank near you!
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Enjoying an old favorite – Quinoa Black Bean Mango Salad

When my youngest son comes to visit I make lists of things I want to cook with him and for him.  He comes with his list too.  The kid got the foody gene.

Here is a salad that made my list.  I hadn’t made it for a while but knew he would love the combination of ingredients.  He did.  He ran right to the store to pick up ingredients for a second batch before the first batch was half gone.  He took the leftovers with him, “for the road.”

It was almost gone before I remembered to take a picture. 

Along with this, it was a perfect lunch. 

 

Quinoa Black Bean Mango Salad

2 c cooked quinoa (I used half red quinoa, half white quinoa)

1-14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium mango, peeled, pitted, and diced

1 red bell pepper, diced (I used green pepper because I had one)

1/2 red onion, diced fine

1 handful of cilantro, chopped (optional if cilantro haters were invited)

4 T red wine vinegar or rice vinegar

Juice of 1-2 lines

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together.  Toss.  Season.  Chill 1 hr before serving (if you can wait!)

Making a double batch may save a trip to the store.

Adapted from OurBestBites.com

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Thai Inspired Chili

 

Thai inspired chili Nothing like a little fusion food when a winter storm grounds you for the weekend.  The potatoes make it feel stick-to-your-ribs stew-like while the coconut, curry and jalapeno zing your tastebuds like your favorite Thai restaurant.  You ought to try this one!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lg onion, diced
  • 3 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 c red lentils
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 c vegetable broth
  • 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 T Thai red curry paste
  • 1/2 can (15 oz) light coconut milk
  • 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes

Instructions

Saute onion and peppers in medium size pot over medium heat for 5-7 min. If they stick to pan, add small amount of water. Add garlic and sauté a min more. Add chili powder, potatoes, lentils, salt and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 – 20 min. When lentils are cooked and potatoes are tender, add remaining ingredients (beans, coconut milk, curry paste, tomatoes) and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Adapted from PPK.

 

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Friends talk fiber – 25 foods with more fiber than a slice of whole wheat bread

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A favorite friend accused me of holding out.  “If you were a good friend, you would give me a simple diet.” I’d prefer to not talk diets with my friends; love them just the way they are – really do.  But she had just thrown out a challenge, and I had to respond…if I was a good friend.  So I mentioned the study in the news this past week where one group followed the American Heart Association diet (not a simple diet there) while another group were simply asked to eat 30 g of fiber a day.  Fast forward one year.  Both groups lost weight and improved their blood pressure readings.  Both groups were also found to be more responsive to insulin, an important factor for avoiding diabetes and obesity.  If both groups had success, you might ask….what’s the big deal?  Well, counting grams of fiber is a simple sustainable thing to do, like it could become a habit!  And as people focus on fiber, they will find themselves eating more vegetables, more fruit, more beans, more whole grains – the best of all foods, which will leave them feeling full – that’s fiber’s job, actually.  Fiber absorbs fluid and feels heavy, leading to a full and satisfied feeling (less drawn to the refrigerator.). And all those high fiber foods I mentioned also happen to be nutrient dense power foods!  And that’s the kind of secrets good friends share.

The group mentioned above were shooting for 30 g of fiber a day.  That’s about two times what the average American eats.  So friend here’s a secret for you.

25 Foods with more fiber than a slice of whole wheat bread:

split peas – 16.3 g per 1 cup, cooked

lentils – 15.6 g per 1 cup, cooked

black beans – 15 g per 1 c, cookedseed

lima beans – 13.2 g per 1 cup, cooked

whole wheat pasta 6 g per 1 cup, cookepearl barley – 6 g per 1 cup, cooked

oatmeal 4 g per 1 cup, cooked

flax seed meal – 3.8 g per 2 Tablespoon portion

chia seeds – 5.5 g per 1 Tablespoon

avocado – 6.7 g per 1/2 avocado,  raw

raspberries – 8 g per 1 cup, raw

blackberries – 7.6 g per 1 cup, raw

pears – 5.5 g per medium fruit

kiwi – 2.1 g per 2″ diameter kiwi

banana-3.9 g per 1 cup, sliced

apple – 4.4 g per medium apple

peas – 8.8 g per 1 cup, cooked

artichoke – 10.3 g per medium artichoke

brussel sprouts – 5,1 g per 1 cup, cooked

sweet potatoes – 3.8 g per 1 medium sweet potato

carrots – 3.4 g per 1 cup carrot strips

asparagus – 3.6 g per 1 cup, cooked

wheat berries – 6 g per 1 cup, cooked

brown rice – 3.5 g per 1 cup, cooked

quinoa – 5.2 g per 1 cup, cooke

heart of palm – 2.4 g per 1 cup, canned

I didn’t include dried fruits (which are good sources of fiber) since they are calorically so dense I wouldn’t want to include them in a discussion about fiber leading to weight loss.  I also left out processed foods that can be high in fiber  (think foods like fiber bars, high fiber cereals, fiber supplements, etc) because I believe in the power of whole foods!

Source: USDA nutrient database

Disclaimer – A good friend would also caution – increase fiber intake slowly to avoid intestinal discomfort (and all that goes with that) and always drink plenty of water so fiber can do its job.

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Should you MIY?

red pepper hummusThere are some things I buy – I admit it – I don’t make my own ketchup. There are some things I make myself – I make great whole wheat tortillas and I have made some wonderful homemade mustards before. Sometime I make it myself because I’m a cheapskate, sometimes because it is quick and easy and convenient to just make it at home, and sometimes because homemade tastes best! Bonus points when I find a MIY that does all three!

So, with hummus becoming so popular and now that its available everywhere…do you MIY or do you buy it?

Stopped into Whole Foods – $2.79 for measly little carton of Red Pepper Hummus (looked like single serving to me) carton – that’s $0.28 per oz.
Just to be fair, also stopped in at Costo to compare the giant economy size of Red Pepper Hummus – there it was $5.99 for 32 oz or $0.18 per oz.
Making it myself cost – $1.39 for 16 oz or $.08 per oz.
3 stars for cost (1 star would mean it cost more to MIY, 2 stars would mean it cost about the same to MIY, and 3 stars means MIY savings)

Taste tested at work with a hungry group of nurses, therapists, exercise physiologists and dietitians. Comments included, “this is the best hummus I have ever eaten,” and “what makes this SO good?” After trying lots of hummus recipes and techniques, this has become my go-to hummus recipe because I can make it in a hurry from pantry ingredients and it tastes GREAT every time!
3 stars for taste (1 star would mean store bought clearly tastes better, 2 stars would mean this tastes just like the stuff you buy, and 3 stars means this tastes DIY better!

Time to make – 5 minutes (really and that includes clean-up.)
Equipment needed – well I’d hate to live without my Vitamix but it can be done in a food processor or even with a potato masher or fork (some think hummus is most authentic when it is a bit chunky.)
3 stars for time (1 star would mean very time intensive, 2 stars would mean sorta time intensive, and 3 stars means lickedy split!

Ingredients
  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained with liquid reserved
  • or 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (I use peanut butter – hey I told I was a cheapskate and I use closer to 2 t)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (Confession – I use the stuff in the green bottle sometimes)
  • ⅛ teaspoon cumin
  • ⅓ cup roasted red pepper (I buy it in little bottles at the Dollar Store – 1 bottle makes 2 batches)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
 Instructions – Place all ingredients (except liquid from the beans) in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, adding liquid from the beans as needed, to reach desired consistency. Store in the refrigerator or just dip in!

Variations – throw in chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in place or the roasted red peppers. Or make it with black beans instead of the garbonzo beans and add a dash or siracha sauce and a capful of liquid smoke. Use your imagination or check out the flavors at Whole Foods for inspiration.

I declare Hummus a clear MIY winner!

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Green Magic

Watch this magic trick…

basil

Ta…Da…

pesto

I’ve always said food is prettier than flowers.  I really mean it – skip the dozen roses – bring me a perfect basil plant, or better yet a dozen perfect basil plants.  Someone did just that recently and last night I trimmed a few of them up and turned them into deliciousness!

No recipe just yet because I the research is ongoing.  My goal – create pesto that tastes like pesto (no make that the best pesto ever) without the use of any cheese or oil AND with only a minimal amount of whole foods that contain fat (nuts, olives, avocado).

What I have tried so far.  The above pictured version includes 2 T nutritional yeast and 1/4 c pine nuts but it also contained 3 T olive oil (1/2 the amount the original recipe called for but still TOO much – see the shine?).

Taste test?  – I’d give it 4 stars but certainly not a everyday food.  And since I have lots of basil plants, I’m still looking for a way to make everyday pesto – that I could serve to anyone while still maintaining a clean conscience.

I tried substituting 1/2 avocado for the olive oil – saved calories, saved fat, saved saturated fat and got a fiber bonus.

1/2 Avocado 3 T Olive Oil
Calories 161 378
Fat 15 g 41 g
Sat Fat 2 2 6 g
Fiber 5 g 0 g

I was afraid it would taste like pesto flavored quacamole but it didn’t.  Next up, can I reduce the pine nuts?  How much?  Would olives be better than avocado?  How much can I increase the plant content?  Double the basil and garlic maybe?  And then toss with some whole grain pasta and lots of roasted vegetables.  Oh yeah!  To the kitchen!  Stay tuned!

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Super easy, Super bowl food

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Super bowl Sunday is here, meaning one thing – snacky fun food to eat while watching the commercials.  This year called for quick (almost instant) easy snack fun food – here’s what I got… Continue reading

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Oh the weather outside is frightful

but the food inside is warm and wonderful….

harvest muffins from vegan dad

Try these muffins that include all the seasonal tastes of winter (pumpkin, apples, spices, hearty grains and did I mention deliciousness?).  Continue reading

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Best new Holiday side Dish

 

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And the best new Holiday side dish award goes to my daughter in law, Ericka  When Ericka brings something, pay attention.  The girl has taste.  Hey, she married my son!  This quinoa and sweet potato dish is perfectly spiced and tastes even better the next day.  Only problem is this dish is not that photogenic – but OH SO Good! Continue reading

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Comfort Food

bag of red lentilsI’ve had a ‘whole box of Kleenexes’ kind of week.  Needed something warm and comforting…. and easy for dinner.  And did I mention quick?

Continue reading

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Big and Beautiful

big bowl 2  Got to eat at somebody else’s house. The food was good but seemed great. Decided it must be because it was all served in Big Beautiful dishes. Decided I needed some of those. Continue reading

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Tamari Chickpeas

Found this recipe on-line – sounded good – sounded quick – sounded easy – had all the ingredients.  Tried it.  Took less than 10 minutes start to finish.  Best new food of the week!  Maybe the month!  Continue reading

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