In honor of National Heart Month, I once again asked Aviva Goldfarb for a favorite red food recipe–and for many, including my husband, you just can’t beat beets! This lentil/beet salad with honey lemon dressing from SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue is sure to please, so try it out. I’ll be happy to post your photos of this dish at the end of the blog post, so please share them!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Makes 4 servings (about 1 ¾ cups each)

Aviva says “This is the most delicious combination, especially if you are crazy about beets like I am (I’m growing my own for the first time this year!).  For this salad, I used pre-cooked and vacuum packed lentils and beets from Trader Joe’s, but it’s also terrific with freshly cooked lentils and fresh steamed beets.  Serve it with Sugar Snap Peas with Cashews and pita bread or Indian naan.”

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked lentils (or 1 cup uncooked)

4 beets (pre-steamed, if available), quartered and diced

½ cup crumbled goat or feta cheese

½ lemon,  juice only, about ¼ cup

1 Tbsp. honey

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. fresh dill, finely chopped, or use ½ tsp. dried dill

Directions:

(Start the sugar snap peas first, if you’re making them.) In a medium-sized bowl, combine cooked lentils, steamed beets and the cheese (if lentils and/or beets aren’t pre-cooked, see instructions below). In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, oil and dill, and pour it over the salad. Toss gently, and serve immediately or chill it for up to 3 days.

To cook the lentils, rinse 1 cup lentils in a colander or bowl. In a medium saucepan with a lid, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil.  Add the lentils to the boiling water, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer the lentils for 25-30 minutes until they are tender to the bite. Drain any remaining liquid. Season the lentils with salt to taste. (This makes more than two cups of cooked lentils, so measure them before adding them to the salad.) You can make the lentils up to 2 days in advance.

To steam the beets, scrub the beets, and cut off the greens, leaving about 1 inch of stems attached to the beets. In a saucepan, bring about 1 inch of water to a gentle boil.  Steam the beets, covered, for 45 minutes, until they are fork tender. Drain the beets, rinse them in cold water, and peel the skins, using your fingers or a vegetable peeler. You can make the beets up to 2 days in advance.

Scramble Flavor Booster: Use the juice of a whole lemon to make the dressing and season the salad with freshly ground black pepper.

Tip: The sweet taste of beets reflects their high sugar content making them an important raw material for the production of refined sugar; they have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, yet are very low in calories. As a general rule, the smaller the beet, the sweeter it is.

Side Dish suggestion:  In a small skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add 8 oz. (about 2 cups) sugar snap peas and sauté them, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chopped cashews and sauté them for about 2 more minutes and serve.

Side Dish suggestion:  Serve it with pita bread or naan, either warmed in the microwave for about 1 minute or wrapped in foil and warmed in the oven at 300 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes.

Nutritional info per serving:

Calories 270, Total Fat 11g, Saturated Fat 3g, Cholesterol 10mg, Sodium 490mg, Total Carbohydrate 34g, Dietary Fiber 11g, Sugar 12g, Protein 13g.

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How does your pantry stack up? Do you feel prepped (at least most of the time) to whip together a healthful meal that also tastes good?

I invited Suzanne Irene Natz, a dietetic intern and graduate student pursing a Master of Science degree in clinical nutrition at New York University, to guest blog on how to perk up your pantry (and refrigerator, and freezer…)–a timely topic especially when the weather is cold and getting around (especially on snow-covered streets and sidewalks) is more like doing an obstacle course. Suzanne also provided some bean and pasta recipes to help you make use of many wonderful pantry items. Enjoy!

Couldn’t get to the grocery this week? We’ve all been there, and it can sometimes seem difficult to get a healthy meal on the table for yourself and your family, especially when your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer is empty. But by strategically stocking your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, you’ll be in a better position to whip up a satisfying, delicious, good-for-you dinner, even when your trip to the grocery store doesn’t fit into your schedule.

Here are some tips for what to keep on hand so you can mix and match a healthy meal in no time:

In the Freezer

Keeping on hand some frozen fruits and vegetables (preferably made without added sugar or fat) is an inexpensive, easy way to get the 3-1/2 to 5 cups a day most of us need, especially if you ate that last banana yesterday. Try adding some frozen berries to low-fat yogurt for breakfast, or sauteeing some frozen broccoli and snap peas and serving over brown rice.

In the Fridge

Citrus fruits can keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, so you don’t have to sacrifice freshness during your busy week. Some best bets include oranges, clementines, grapefruit, and pineapple.

In the Cupboard

Root and tuber vegetables like sweet potatoes, celery root, and Jerusalem artichokes and various forms of squash are great roasted and will keep stored in cool, dry places longer than other vegetables.

Whole grains can be purchased in bulk and stored in airtight containers in your pantry. They add some fiber and texture to any meal!  Some choices include whole grain, high fiber cereals, oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat crackers, and of course popcorn. Be adventurous and try some that you haven’t before–you may even find a new favorite!

Canned beans (preferably “no-salt added” or “low-sodium”) can give your last minute meal a boost of protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates to keep you healthy and satisfy you.

In the Spice Rack

An assortment of dried herbs and spices can make rice and beans or a veggie quinoa salad a lot more exciting. To help yourself use them when cooking, choose a part of the world to serve as your theme (like Morocco–see my recipe for “Moroccan Spiced Beans” below), and choose a variety of spices used in that cultural cuisine. As your spice cabinet grows, so will your ability to select your own flavor combinations.

The next time your vegetable drawer is empty, try out these clean out your pantry recipes:

Black Bean Burgers

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

¼ cup oats

8.5 oz can black beans (no salt added)

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 egg

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

½ tsp chili powder

2 Tbs olive oil

Optional serving suggestions:

Salsa

Caramelized onions

Avocado slices

Whole wheat English muffins or hamburger rolls

Directions:

1.    In food processor, pulse oats until finely ground. Remove from food processor and set aside.

2.   Pulse beans in food processor with jalapeño and garlic until well mixed. Mix spices in bowl with oats. Add in along with egg and pulse until well mixed.

3.   Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes.

4.   Remove mixture from refrigerator and form patties using about ½ cup of the mixture per patty.

5.    Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet and cook patties until one side is browned, then flip. Once both sides are browned and mixture is warmed through, transfer patties to a plate. Repeat this step using the rremaining tablespoon of olive oil and the rest of the patties.

6.   Serve with optional toppings.

Nutrition info per serving: 150 calories, 9 g total fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 630 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar, 6 g protein.

Moroccan Spiced Beans

If you’re craving something ethnic, this takes as little time as ordering take out and will save you some time (and keep your sodium down for the day!) Try it with a side of steamed Brussels sprouts or a classic green salad.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total time: 20-25 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 Tbs olive oil

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 lb lean ground beef or lamb (optional—if using, use only half can of each bean)

1 Tbs paprika

1 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 can (8.5 ounces) garbanzo beans (no salt if available), rinsed and drained

1 can (8.5 oz) black beans (no salt if available), rinsed and drained

1/2 cup dried fruit, such as chopped apricots, chopped dates, or golden raisins

1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped, or 2 Tbs dried

1/2 teaspoon salt (leave out if using salted canned beans)

2 cups low sodium chicken, vegetable or beef stock

8 oz whole wheat couscous or quinoa

Directions:

1.    In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add carrots, onion, paprika, allspice, and cinnamon, and cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender (if using meat, add after about 3-4 minutes).

2.   Increase heat to medium-high and stir in beans, apricots, parsley, salt, and 1/2 cup broth. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly.

3.   Meanwhile, prepare couscous or quinoa as label directs, substituting remaining stock for some of the water called for to prepare couscous.

4.   Serve bean mixture on top of grain.

Nutrition info per serving (for recipe made with couscous): 520 calories, 10 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 17 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar, 19 g protein.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Vegetable Sauce

Great when you’re out of fresh vegetables but craving something healthy and satisfying. Top with grilled chicken breast (or have it plain–it’s delicious as is!) and serve with a side salad.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 Tbs Olive Oil

1 Onion, diced

2 Garlic cloves, minced

1 cup frozen artichoke hearts, quartered

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets

8.5 oz can Canellini beans (no salt if available), rinsed and drained

8.5 oz can diced tomatoes (no salt/low sodium if available)

1 Tbs dried basil or ¼ cup fresh, chopped

1 tsp dried or 2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1 tsp crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

8 oz whole wheat pasta of choice

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1.    Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent. Add broccoli and artichokes and sauté an additional 5 minutes. (Now is best time to boil water for pasta).

2.   Add tomatoes and canellini beans, and spices. Bring to slight boil. Reduce to simmer and continue to stir occasionally.

3.   While simmering, drop pasta and cook to al dente. Once cooked, drain pasta and add to skillet.

4.   Toss with cheese (if using) and serve warm.

Nutrition info per serving: 390 calories, 10 g total fat, 1 g sat fat, 240 mg sodium, 13 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugars, 13 g protein.

Email Suzanne at suzanne.natz@gmail.com.

How do you perk up your own pantry? If you make one of the above recipes, please let us know how you enjoy it; snap a photo and you may very well see it on The ZIED GUIDE blog.

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A new set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) was unveiled on Monday, January 31, 2011. These new food rules, issued every 5 years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are designed to promote health, prevent disease, and create the foundation for federal nutrition programs. In anticipation of the new guidelines, I asked registered dietitians around the country about their hopes for the new guidelines (read the blog here). Read on to find out what wishes came true, and where the guidelines fall short in the eyes of some experts.

Counting Calories

Karen Ansel, MS, RD, a Syosset, New York-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association says “The new dietary guidelines definitely granted my wish! They send a clear message that calorie control is the key to weight loss.”

The new guidelines highlight the fact that to achieve and maintain a healthier body weight, and to be healthier overall, we need to consume only enough calories from foods and beverages to meet our needs. To reduce obesity and overweight, it states the obvious (though something that’s easier said than done)—that we need to cut calories in the diet and at the same time, burn more calories through increased amounts of physical activity.

Not All Sugars the Same

Janel Ovrut, MS, RD, LDN, a Boston-based dietitian, wanted the new guidelines to highlight the difference between natural and added sugars. According to Ovrut, “The guidelines noted that solid fats and added sugars (called SoFAs) make up about 35% of calories in the American diet, but they don’t provide any information about the difference between added and natural sources (for example, added sugars are found in candy, soda, and baked goods, and natural sugars are found in milk and fruit). Most Americans don’t realize how much added sugar lurks in seemingly innocent foods like tomato sauce or bread. While the guidelines recommend cutting back on added sugar, consumers may still not be entirely clear where it comes from in their diets. So I guess my wish didn’t totally come true this time around – and that we dietitians have our work cut out for us when educating clients and consumers about sugar!”

Positive Push for Plants

Hoping to see more of a focus on plant sources of protein, Connie Diekman, M.Ed, RD, LD, FADA,
 Director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri was not disappointed. “I’m happy to see a section called “Building Healthy Eating Patterns” that lists sources of plant protein and how much is needed in a 2000 calorie eating plan for both vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians. This is a first step in helping people who want to choose plant proteins know how what and how much to choose” says Diekman, a past president of the American Dietetic Association.

Hoping for more of an emphasis on vegetables, New York City-based registered dietitian Tammy Lakatos Shames said she was quite pleased that vegetables weren’t overlooked. She especially liked that the recommendations went as far as to emphasize consuming a variety of specific colored vegetables.

The new guidelines also encourage us to “make half our plate come from fruits and vegetables” which can go a long way in increasing consumption to about 3.5 to 4.5 cups a day—the amount most of us need daily.

Focused on Fiber

Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, from Alexandria, Virginia, was hoping the new guidelines would reinforce the importance of getting enough dietary fiber primarily through increased intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. She says “The new dietary guidelines recommendation to choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets comes pretty darn close to making my wish come to life. But what will really make my wish come true is if Americans turn this key recommendation into action one step at a time—for example, by having one more serving of vegetables or another piece of fruit, by choosing whole grain bread, pasta, and cereal, and by sipping one more cup of milk each day.”

A Grainy Situation

Nour El-Zibdeh, RD, from Fairfax, Virginia had hoped the guidelines would recommend only whole grains (instead of whole grains alongside refined grains). The 2005 guidelines asked Americans to make half their grains whole, and El-Zibdeh didn’t think that went far enough in promoting nutrient-dense whole grains.

She says “I’m disappointed that the new guidelines continue to recommend half–not all–the grains we consume to come from whole sources. They do, however, consider fiber to be one of the “nutrients of concern” in the average American diet, and many (though not all) whole grain foods are good sources of fiber.” Although she doesn’t feel the guidelines go far enough, she’s pleased that they ask Americans to limit their intake of foods that contain refined grains, especially since many refined grain foods contain a lot of solid fats, added sugars, and sodium.

Going Vegetarian

New York City based dietitian Rachel Berman, RD, CSR, CDN wanted the guidelines to provide more concrete examples for those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets. She says “The new guidelines outline that they’ve done research on the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, and specifically on the protein-rich foods people need. They also mention that beans and grains are sources of protein. However, all this information is buried deep within the guidelines. In months to come, the government will release more consumer-friendly materials to bring the guidelines to life. Hopefully, messages specific to those who consume vegetarian diets will be more prominent, and that the consumer materials will be marketed in a way that inspires and excites consumers to make real changes in what and how they eat.”

More Power to Potassium

Hoping the guidelines would highlight potassium, Marisa Moore, MBA, RD, LD, an Atlanta, Georgia-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says “Although sodium stole the spotlight, I’m happy to see that potassium made the list of nutrients to increase in the diet. I also like that the guidelines include a user-friendly appendix of food sources of potassium. People need to know that bananas aren’t the only good sources of potassium! Seeing examples of other potassium-rich foods and beverages is the first step to consuming them.”

What are your thoughts about the new dietary guidelines? Check them out here.

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I’m so excited for the unveiling of new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) policy document, scheduled for next Monday, January 31, 2011 (at 10:00 am EST to be exact). Released every 5 years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), these latest evidence-based nutritional recommendations are designed to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. According to the report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee launched last June, some changes are expected–big slashes in sodium, and perhaps more of a push for particular foods like nuts and fish. But we won’t know what will change (or stay the same) until the final guidelines are formally announced and posted on www.DietaryGuidelines.gov.

In anticipation of DGA, I’ve asked a few registered dietitians around the country to answer a simple question: If you had one wish for the new dietary guidelines, what would it be and why? Here’s what they had to say:

Counting Calories

“I wish they’d focus on calories as the most important factor for weight management. People are so worried about what foods they should and shouldn’t eat that they lose sight of the fact that calorie control is the ultimate key to weight management.”

~Karen Ansel, MS, RD, Syosset, NY-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association

Separating Sugar

“I hope they highlight sugar, specifically added and natural sugar recommendations. Consumers are confused when looking at a nutrition label because there’s no differentiation between natural and added sugars. We’re being told to limit our intake of added sugars, but most don’t understand how to do that besides doing the obvious–cutting back on soda and candy. Sugar is added to so many products consumers might not realize, like condiments, frozen meals, and even salty snacks. Implementing recommendations that help consumers understand more about natural versus added sugars would be a great addition to the guidelines.”

~Janel Ovrut, MS, RD, LDN, Boston MA

Pushing Plants

“I’d love to see a better, more specific focus on plant protein sources. Including them in the protein group is fine, but supporting information on how often and how much is desirable, and how to achieve these goals would help people shift their intake. This shift helps decrease consumption of saturated fat and boosts fiber and phytonutrient intake while maintaining protein quality.”

~Connie Diekman, M.Ed, RD, LD, FADA,
Director of University Nutrition, Washington University, St Louis, MO and past president, American Dietetic Association.

“I hope they put a special emphasis on vegetables since Americans aren’t getting enough of them. When it comes to vegetables, more is usually better. Eating them can promote weight loss by providing lots fiber (to help fill you up) and tons of valuable nutrients, yet often with few calories.  Consuming vegetables is also associated with a lower risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.”

~Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT, New York, NY

Focused on Fiber

“I’d like to see the guidelines once again reinforce the nutritional importance of eating enough dietary fiber and connect the dots between getting our fill of fibers by focusing on eating adequate servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Consuming more of these nutrient-packed foods will automatically help us get closer to the dietary fiber goal of greater than 25 g/day (not to mention help us get enough of other nutrients we fall short on in the diet including vitamins A, C, D, and choline, calcium, magnesium and potassium.) Essentially, getting sufficient fiber can lay the groundwork for nutritional adequacy in our diets.”

~Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, Alexandria, VA

Debating the Grains

“I hope they’ll take the sentence “make half your grains whole” out. Why not recommend that people make all their grain servings whole? People aren’t going to follow the guidelines 100% all the time, so why set the bar low at only half? People might be confused and think that having half of their grains as whole grains is enough, or that making more than half their grains whole is undesirable. Plus, the norm should be that all the grains we eat are whole, not the opposite.”

~Nour El-Zibdeh, RD, Fairfax, Virginia

Going Vegetarian

“I would love to see the new guidelines incorporate more concrete guidelines for vegetarians and vegans. Consumers who identify themselves as such are growing rapidly as is the marketplace and too many people don’t know how to eat properly on a meat-free diet. Many of the vegetarian tips and meal ideas in the old guidelines include swapping out meat for cheese, or mainly promote cheese-based meals. This can be confusing for the consumer since most of the readily available cheese-based meals in America, like pizza, don’t use reduced fat cheese and therefore make it tough to meet the guidelines’ recommendation to lower saturated fat intake. I hope the new guidelines discuss other ways people can follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and highlight foods like quinoa, a grain that contains protein and can be an integral part of a vegetarian diet.”

~Rachel Berman, RD, CSR, CDN, New York, NY

Passing the Potassium

“With all of the attention on sodium, I hope the guidelines highlight food sources of potassium; most Americans only get about half the recommended amount. Potassium has been shown to blunt the effects of sodium on blood pressure, a condition affecting 1 in 3 American adults. Increasing fruit and veggie intake is a great way to get more potassium.”

~Marisa Moore, MBA, RD, LD, Atlanta, Georgia-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association

Stay tuned….I’ll share with you all the findings of the guidelines and teach you how to make them your own in upcoming articles, blogs, and videos (and even on TV) in the upcoming weeks and months and years……

What’s your one wish for the guidelines?

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This delicious dinner is sure to please..what’s not to love? It’s made with chicken, a great source of lean protein, and red potatoes that give you not only healthy doses of vitamin C and potassium, but they’re the ultimate feel good comfort food. And we know carrots are loaded with vitamin A, important for healthy eyes and skin. These recipes also pack in tons more vitamins, minerals, and valuable plant chemicals–the fact that they’re delicious is just icing on the cake!

These recipes come courtesy of Robyn Webb; they’re from her upcoming book Comfort Foods: Foods to Fill You  Up, Not Out! which will be published by the American Diabetes Association in September, 2011.

According to Webb, “There’s nothing more comforting that chicken and veggies in a thick luscious sauce topped with a flaky crust.  The earthy aroma of this dish will fill your kitchen and beckon everyone to dinner.  And the secret to this ultimate comfort food? By using butter flavored spray and phyllo dough, we slash all the saturated fat and calories found in typical pie crust.  The phyllo dough topping is infinitely more interesting that a standard crust. You’ll see. There is a wow factor here!”

CHICKEN POT PIE WITH PHYLLO

Makes 12 servings.

Serving size: 1 ( 3×3 inch) square

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into ½ inch pieces
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup water
1 tsp olive oil
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, cut into ½ inch pieces, abuot 3 cups
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 pound small red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into quarters
5 sprigs fresh thyme
3 medium carrots, diced into ½ inch pieces, about 1 cup
1 large onion, diced, about 2 cups
1 ½ cups 1% milk
½ cup half and half
6 Tbsp flour
Kosher salt or sea and fresh ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces frozen peas
½ cup minced flat leaf parsley
8 sheets phyllo dough
butter flavored spray

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the diced chicken with garlic powder and fresh ground pepper and set aside. In a 2 quart saucepan, bring the chicken stock and water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive il in a medium skillet and add the mushrooms and garlic.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft.  Once the mushrooms soften, set them aside in a bowl.  Strain any liquid from the mushrooms.

3. Add in the potatoes and thyme leaves and lower the heat to medium.  Simmer the potatoes for about 8 minutes until tender. With a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and thyme to a bowl. Discard the thyme leaves.  Add the carrots and onions to the stock and simmer for 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove the carrots and onions to the same bowl with the potatoes.

4. Add the chicken to the stock and simmer the chicken for 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken to the same bowl with the vegetables.  Reduce the stock until reduced to ½ cup, about 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, whisk the milk, half and half and flour together in a bowl until very smooth. When the stock is reduced slowly add the milk mixture to the stock, constantly stirring until thickened, but you should have a smooth sauce.  Add the sauce to the vegetables and season with salt and pepper.  Add in the reserved mushrooms, peas and parsely, mix well.

6. Pour the mixture into a 9X13 inch pan.  Set aside.

7. Prepare the phyllo dough topping.  Spread one sheet of phyllo out onto a very lightly floured surface. Be sure to cover the remaining  sheets of phyllo with a towel to avoid exposing to air. The phyllo will crack if exposed. Coat with the butter spray. Add another sheet of phyllo on top of the first and coat with spray.  Repeat this process until all 8 sheets are used.

8. Carefully lift the phyllo dough stack and place over the chicken vegetable filling. Tuck the edges under.  With a sharp knife, make 3 diagonal slashes across the top of the dough. This will allow steam to escape.

9. Bake the chicken pot pie, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until the top is puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes. Cut into squares.

ROASTED POTATOES, CARROTS AND PARSNIPS

Webb says “When everyone else was bringing sweet potatoes capped with marshmallows to holiday dinners, our family would bring this lovely roasted mixture of potatoes, carrots and parsnips. The technique of roasting is actually the comforting part; the high temperature puts a crispy crust on root vegetables that beats sweet potatoes with marshmallows every time.”

Makes 10 servings.

Serving size: ½ cup

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cook time: 20-30 minutes

5 large carrots, peeled, ends trimmed, slice on diagonal
4 large parsnips, peeled, ends trimmed, slice on diagonal
2 sweet potatoes, peeled,  cut into medium cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh herbs ( thyme, oregano, sage or rosemary)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the vegetables with the oil, salt and herbs.  Toss to coat.

2. Arrange vegetables on two parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Roast until soft on the inside and browned on the outside, about 20-30 minutes.  Flip the vegetables halfway through the cooking.

3. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For more information about Robyn Webb, go to www.robynwebb.com.

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Here are some of my tips to help you milk your diet to get the key nutrients you and your family need. Enjoy! http://www.whymilk.com/column.php.

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Here are my video tips to help you build a better breakfast no matter how little time you have! http://fruitjuicefacts.org/video_zied2.html.

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I’m so happy to share two delicious recipes that can take you through your next afternoon slump or football game. They’re from Aviva Goldfarb’s new cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families” (St. Martin’s Press, 2010).”

Nacho Average Nachos

Prep + Cook Time: 30 minutes

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 lb. ground turkey, beef, or black beans
1 Tbsp. chili powder, or more to taste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder, or more to taste
1/4- 1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
6 – 8 cups tortilla chips
15 oz. canned black beans or vegetarian refried beans, drained and rinsed if using black beans
14 oz. petite diced tomatoes or chunky salsa, drained if using tomatoes
1/4 – 1/2 cup sliced hot peppers or olives (optional)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup guacamole, for serving, or use diced avocado (optional)
1 cup nonfat or low fat sour cream, for serving (optional)
1 cup salsa, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Brown the onions and meat, stirring occasionally, and season them with the chili powder, garlic powder and salt.  When the meat is cooked and the onions are softened, 6 to 8 minutes, remove the pan from the heat.

Meanwhile, spread the chips in the bottom of a large flat baking dish with sides (a metal roasting pan is ideal.)  Top the chips evenly with the meat mixture, then the beans, tomatoes or salsa, jalapeños or olives (optional) and cheese.

Bake the nachos for 8 to 10 minutes until everything is hot and the cheese is melted, but before the edges of the chips get browned. Serve it immediately, scooping the chips and toppings onto each plate, and topping it with guacamole or avocado, sour cream and extra salsa, if desired.

Scramble Flavor Booster: Double the chili and/or garlic powder and add the optional jalapenos.

Tip:  If you like the cheese on the top of your nachos browned, stick the baking dish under the broiler for the last minute or two of cooking.  Just watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t get too well done.

Side Dish Suggestion:  Serve it with 2 mangos, peeled and sliced.  To slice a mango, stand it on its end and slice each of the halves off as close to the oblong pit as possible.  Score the flesh into strips or squares, turn the skin inside out, and cut the flesh off of the peel.

Nutritional Information per serving (with ground turkey):
Calories 410, Total Fat 18g, Saturated Fat 6g, Cholesterol 50mg, Sodium 840mg, Total Carbohydrate 34g, Dietary Fiber 6g, Sugar 3g, Protein 28g

My tip: To save on sodium, you can rinse the canned beans and forego the salt shaker. The nachos will still taste great, I assure you!

To learn more about Aviva Goldfarb, owner and CEO of The Six O’Clock Scramble, go to www.thescramble.com.

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I recently had the pleasure of attending a lecture by orthopedic surgeon Vonda Wright. I was also proud to endorse her book Fitness After 40, and as a 41 year old was inspired and encouraged by what she had to say.

I’ve been a fitness buff (not an extreme one—but I have consistently done basic weight training and walking–and just a bit of running–for years. I’ve also loved being active and playing sports with my sons. But one day, at the ripe age of almost 41, I woke up with pain in my left wrist that would keep my left arm out of commission (and wreak havoc with my spirits!) for more than 8 months. At first, a hand surgeon told me that an MRI showed synovitis—that’s inflammation, and was likely the result of one too many push ups and supporting all my body weight on my wrists. After 7 long months that included 3 months of hand therapy, 2 cortisone shots, splinting, anti-inflammatory meds, 3 hand surgeons, and lots of head scratching, a second MRI revealed a small ganglion cyst. I decided that since conservative treatment was not working, I would have the cyst surgically removed. I started therapy earlier today to regain function. My next goal is to get my strength (and biceps!) back so that I can grow old gracefully and feel as young on the outside as I do on the inside.

Because I know that as we get older, our muscle mass naturally wants to diminish and our fat mass wants to increase, and because I have a longer way to go than most to regain the strength I’d been building up for years, I was especially interested to learn how to reduce the likelihood of that happening.  Fortunately, it is possible to preserve muscle and keep fat at bay according to Dr. Wright. Here’s my recent interview with her. I hope after you read it you’ll be encouraged to take the steps she recommends to make the most of and keep what you have for years to come.

Can You Prevent a Mid-life Muscle Crisis?

If you don’t use it, will you really lose it? Is it a given that as you age, you’ll gain fat and lose muscle? These aren’t wives’ tales. But does that mean we should throw in the towel (or save it to collect our tears!), and accept our fate (unless we start doing some heavy lifting right now)?

“It’s true that after age 40, you naturally lose muscle mass–up to eight percent per decade” says Vonda Wright, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and author of Fitness After 40. (Full disclaimer: Vonda Wright is a spokesperson for Ensure.) “The good news is that although muscles can deteriorate with time, studies show muscle atrophy is reversible at any age” says Wright.

Wright thinks of muscles as celebrities that deserve special treatment. “Muscles help our bodies move, our hearts pump blood, and our organs work. The more they’re used, the better equipped they’ll be to support activity, keep your body strong, and slow–and possibly reverse–aging” she says.

The benefits don’t stop there. Wright says “Exercise also strengthens bones, and helps the body burn more calories.” Engaging in regular physical activity that includes aerobic, muscle- and bone-strengthening exercise may also help lower the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers (including colon and breast).

So can we really sidestep a mid-life muscle crisis?

F.A.C.E. Your Future: According to Wright, this means exercising smarter than we did when we were kids with a focus on Flexibility every day, Aerobic Exercise 3 to 5 times per week, Carrying a load (doing functional resistance training 2 to 3 times per week) and daily Equilibrium and balance training. She says “Start small by taking a brisk walk every day, or climbing stairs instead of using the elevator. These may sound trite, but simple, functional activities you do daily can dramatically rejuvenate your muscles” says Wright. She adds “Once these basics become habits, you can build from there.”

Raise the Bar. For regular exercisers, Wright recommends mixing it up. “Your body gets used to what you’re doing, so it’s important to tweak your routine and challenge your muscles in different ways” says Wright.  For example, if you usually walk, you can increase your pace or take a different path. Or you can try different modalities on a treadmill or instead, hop on a bike or elliptical machine.

Set Goals. Current Physical Activity Guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS) recommend that American adults aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking where you’re sweating but can still carry on a conversation) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (such as jogging or running). Muscle strengthening exercise that works all the major muscle groups is also recommended at least twice a week. Wright recommends seeing where you are, and setting small reasonable goals (for example, adding 5 minutes to a walk, or doing an additional set of bicep curls) until you meet your quota. She also believes those who are chained to a desk for more than 40 hours a week may need even more exercise.

Feed Your Muscles: Wright recommends a balanced diet that’s consistent with current Dietary Guidelines–one that’s loaded with protein-rich foods (including fish, skinless chicken, beef, and legumes), high fiber whole grains (such as whole wheat pasta, cereal, crackers, and brown rice), and colorful fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. This is a dietary pattern that provides fuel to support your brain and muscles. Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, recommends that active people should aim for about 0.5 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day (for a 150 pound person, that’s about 75 to 113 grams.)

Plan for Success: Wright sums it up well by saying “It’s an urban myth that life goes downhill when you get older. My 40s have been the best years of my life mentally, physically and professionally. These can be the best years of your life too. The key is to stop freaking out, and to plan for physical success just like we would for professional success.”

What do you do to stay fit and strong?

“Can You Prevent A Midlife Muscle Crisis” originally posted on caloriecount.com.

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Have you resolved to expand your culinary (and taste) horizons in 2011? If so, there’s a user-friendly app for that. Pairing her love of both food and travel, Registered dietitian and radio host Rebbeca Subbiah created the food blog chowandchatter.com; out of that grew the new Chow & Chatter app. It includes a small but growing collection of recipes from around the world designed to inspire us to think outside our neighborhood when cooking for ourselves, family, or friends. The app, which can be downloaded for only 0.99 cents onto your iphone, ipad, or itouch, allows us to search recipes by dish, ingredients, or cuisine (currently there are 19 cuisines ranging from ever-popular Italian and Chinese cuisines to more obscure ones like Fusion, Turkish, and Vietnamese.) The app provides simple cooking directives as well as photos of the finished products. When you find recipes you love and want to share them with others, you can email them directly from the app.  The app also let’s you go directly to Subbiah’s food blog to see other recipes and any new ones posted.

Subbiah plans to add more recipes over time to help novices and seasoned cooks alike bring some extra flavor and flair to their home cooked meals. While I would have liked to see more recipes for each cuisine as well as nutrition information and serving sizes, this app is definitely a real bargain and can certainly be a useful and tasty tool to use in the new year. The app can be purchased here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chow-and-chatter/id400685844?mt=8.

Have you tried the Chow & Chatter app? Please share your comments or thoughts, or a favorite recipe here…..

FULL DISCLOSURE: I learned about the app from the author and sprung for the cost myself; I received no compensation for this review and will not receive compensation for any purchases made for the app. Just wanted to share it since I thought you might enjoy it!

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