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Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

guacamoleMy counter-top vegetable basket typically houses garlic bulbs, onions, shallots, and one or two avocados in various states of ripening, or rotting, as the case may be. When one appears on its way out, rather than feed my compost bin, I make guacamole. For my plain and simple guacamole, I’ll be honest, I don’t chase authenticity; I prevent waste. Because I like to taste a bit of acid, heat, and garlic I focus on ingredients to satisfy those flavors, and then if I have the inclination, and ingredients, I dress it up: fresh cilantro, chopped tomato, or diced red onion are always winners. If I don’t have the inclination, or extra ingredients, it’s just fine plain and simple. This recipe is easily doubled, or tripled, or….

No matter how you devour an avocado it remains full of MUFA’s (monounsaturated fatty acids). Research is proving MUFA’s to be good for your heart, your brain, and despite their high calorie/fat content, avocados don’t contribute to “belly” fat, or as I like to say a “muffin top” (if you know what I mean, ladies.) Why not make avocados a staple in your kitchen? When they start to turn soft it helps to remember a bowl of plain and simple guacamole is only a few mashes away.

Makes one bowl of guacamole, depending on the size of your avocado

1 Hass avocado (not a large Florida avocado. Most supermarkets sell the Hass variety)
1 teaspoon fresh lime or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large dashes Tabasco Sauce

Using a sharp knife cut the avocado in half by running the knife around the entire avocado from north pole to south pole and back up to north pole, not around the equator. (I hope you were paying attention in geography class.)

Twist the avocado and it should come apart in two pieces. One piece will house the pit, and the other piece pit-free. Using a spoon, or the tip of the knife, CAREFULLY remove the pit. (This can be tricky, but if your avocado is ripe, or just beyond, removing the pit is easy. Unripe avocados squeeze their pits, for various reasons I’ll can’t explain, making them quite difficult to remove.)

Holding one half of the avocado in a cupped hand, use a large spoon and scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin. Place the flesh in a bowl. Repeat with the other half. This technique I find so much easier than trying to peel an avocado and all the while chasing the slippery beast around on the cutting board.

Using the back of a large fork mash the avocado to your favorite consistency – chunky or smooth – it’s a free country. It’s your choice. Add lemon or lime juice, garlic, salt, and Tabasco. Mash again until all ingredients are well blended. Enjoy with chips, or as a topping on burritos, black beans, tacos, pork tortilla soup, …..the list is almost endless.

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Mad About Nuts

Research supports that nuts are all they’re cracked up to be. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has an approved qualified health claim stating, “Scientific evidence suggests eating 1  1/2 ounces of most nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”  That’s some news I can live with. Walnuts also contain the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids  and are rich in MUFA’s (monounsaturated fatty acids).  My favorites nuts, walnuts and almonds, along with the other seven varieties of tree nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews , macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, and hazelnuts hit the right flavor profile with cooks and snackers alike. 

Nuts are crunchy, rich in flavor, sometimes salty, promote satiety, and with respect to nutrition they are terrific packages of protein, fiber, and as discussed above, healthy fats.No wonder the FDA deemed nuts healthy and snacking on a handful of nuts every day good for the heart. Here are some creative ways to include more nuts in your diet:

Breakfast– Sprinkle chopped nuts on yogurt, hot or cold cereal, or mix in cream cheese to spread on a bagel. Add chopped macadamias or pistachios to your favorite bread, pancake, waffle or muffin recipe.

Snacks – Nuts are perfect as a tasty snack between meals, and research has shown that they may keep you full longer. For better portion control, divide your favorite nuts into 1  1/2 ounce portions and store them in individual bags. Grab a bag of nuts on your way out the door, or keep several bags in the car or our desk for easy snacking. When snacking at home, mix toasted nuts with popcorn or trail mix to boost the nutrition content.  A bowl of whole nuts in the shell becomes an edible centerpiece or table decoration. Place a nutcracker and a dish for the shells nearby and soon you may find your family, or guests, sitting around the nut bowl, cracking and eating away.

Appetizers – Top softened Brie or Camembert cheese with chopped pistachios for a simple, elegant treat. Add your favorite nuts to any cheese and cracker platter, or as above, simply serve them straight up in a bowl.

Soups – Sprinkle chopped nuts on a bowl of soup for added flavor and texture. For example, garnish potato soup with finely chopped pecans or hearty split pea with hazelnuts.

Salads – Restaurants often serve creative salads with various nuts and fruit. Do the same at home by adding whole, sliced, or chopped nuts to your favorite salad recipes. For instance, toss pecans or walnuts with blue cheese or Gorgonzola to add zip to a spinach salad, or garnish chicken salad with slivered almonds.

Vegetables – Nutty vinaigrettes made with chopped hazelnuts or Brazils add pizzazz to steamed vegetables… even the pickiest of eaters may give vegetables a try when dressed with nut vinaigrette.

Pasta – Pine nuts have always been the secret ingredient to a tasty pesto, but other nuts, such as walnuts, can add protein and flavor to pesto. Sprinkled on top or mixed in with a sauce, nuts give a special flair to any pasta dish. Fettuccine with toasted walnuts is always a hit.

Homemade GiftSpiced nuts make a tasty homemade gift. They require no special handling or refrigeration and can be made ahead and stored until gift giving time. Wrapped in a cellophane bag with a festive bow, the gift of homemade spiced nuts will surely please.

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Cold and flu season is just around the corner. I tend to think positive. I’m not going to get sick this year. Children are the primary carriers of cold and flu viruses and because I spent a lot of time with my three crumb-snatchers I plan to be proactive in prevention. Here are some helpful food, nutrition and cooking ideas to help you stay healthy:

Eat Healthy

For this to happen planning is the key. Pick a day (I like Thursdays) to go grocery shopping. Visit a farmers market if you can sometime during the week or weekend. Plan meals in advance and make extra to take for lunch, or for your kids to take for lunch. I always think it’s just as easy to make soups, stews, and chilis in a double portion and freeze or eat the leftovers. Stick to a menu created around vegetables, fish, grains, poultry, fruit, and smaller quantities of meat – and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. I find this even hard to do, but I try to use as many ingredients in my cooking as I can, not just heat and serve foods.

Eat Immune-boosting Foods

Garlic is antibacterial and antiviral. Turmeric has curcumin, a polyphenol with strong cold and flu-fighting properties. Oregano’s antioxidant activity is due to its high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. Ginger is spicy and sweats out colds and flu, among many other healing properties. This is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak about the health benefits of food. When used in cooking garlic, turmeric, oregano, and ginger are delicious, not to mention the health benefits from the good foods cooked with these ingredients.

Sleep

A reasonable amount of sleep every night is a must and if at all possible go to bed at about the same time and wake up at the same time. I personally prefer the 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. routine.

Exercise

A very important key to keep your body strong. Strong people are fit and energetic. Make a plan to put on your walking shoes and get outside everyday. When I do that I am successful at walking at least 5 times a week.

Drink Tea

Green, white, or black. So soothing during the chilly days of fall and full of plant-based phytochemicals that enhance health and maybe are even protective against heart disease, bad breath, and osteoporosis.

Take Care of Yourself

Eat well and be well. You deserve to be in peak condition when the cold and flu season hits. The kitchen, and all the wondrous ingredients we have access to, used for creating a delicious meal is the best place to start.

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Forget the hotdogs cut to look like squid or wrapped in crescent roll dough to look like mummys. Make dinner tonight with lots of nutritious bang for the buck and then you might not feel so bad when they fall into bed with a belly full of Snickers and without brushing their teeth.

What my kids need tonight is more nutrition than hotdogs can offer. Here are my trick-or-treat dinner solutions:

1. Have dinner ready earlier than usual. I plan to eat around 5:00 pm. Trick or treat starts at 6:00 in our world and there is always a little pre-trick or treat costume comparison with the neighborhood kids. Maybe I’ll feed them at 4:30.

2. Plan a good source of lean protein – chicken, fish, legumes, turkey breast – and make the kids eat a lot of it. We’re having leftover lentil soup from Tuesday night.

3. Hydrate the kids with about 8 – 10 ounces of low-fat milk or water. Make them use the bathroom before you head out. Don’t let them say, “I don’t have to go”, or else you might be saying “trick-or-treat and can Johnny use your bathroom”?

4. Offer some good sources of fiber, preferably vegetable oriented. I’m making some dip with fresh veggies – carrots, cucumber, and cauliflower pieces. Whole-wheat bread with butter would work well too.

5. Avoid a high-salt, overly processed meal. If you’re night is going to be anything like mine, there will be plently of salt and sugar over the next 24 hours. Candy, chips, and sodas are sure to appear at our neighborhood get together, especially since it’s Friday.

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