Cooking

Shameless Product Placement of April: Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmomy

Some say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. When it comes to quinoa, I beg to differ. Quinoa is the ‘moving on up’ of whole-freaking-grains so get ready to be amazed by what THR is about to throw at your noggin!

Whole grains are obviously a hot topic of discussion here on THR. This post isn’t about to stray far from that very subject today. Quinoa is one such example of a whole grain, despite it actually being a pseudo-cereal (we’re getting to that). And for those swearing off gluten, for medical or fad purposes, it also happens to be gluten-free!

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Quinoa is a ‘pseudo-cereal’ meaning it’s a food similar to grains in how it’s cooked and eaten, as well as it’s nutrient profile. Having been harvested back nearly 4,000 years ago in the Andes region is what gives this seed its ‘ancient grain’ moniker. Us late-blooming Americans must be pretty late to the game because this protein-rich seed seems to be just now making its way into the forefront of the dietary world and current grain research. Such newbs. How late? Well, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” Yeah, that late. Sure America doesn’t make up the United Nations, but you get my point. 

Grains (and their look-a-like counterparts) are often thought of as mainly carbohydrate, but quinoa bucks the traditional views of the grain world with its high protein-to-carbohydrate ratio. Whole grains contain three parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The bran and germ make up 25% of the grain’s protein content. Keeping that in mind, the germ of a quinoa seed takes up 60% of the grain’s real estate. To put this in perspective, the germ of a kernel of wheat makes up a measly 3% of the grain. Psh! What’s that wheat? I can’t hear you over quinoa’s awesomeness. 

Letmegeekoutforaminute. To dig a little deeper on this protein point for one hot second, those in the nutrition world look at protein in two categories: complete and incomplete. Sometimes it’s not just about quantity, but rather quality. The distinction between these two forms of protein lies in the number of essential amino acids the protein contains. Essential amino acids are deemed ‘essential’ because our stupid human bodies cannot make them, but are necessary for survival. Animal proteins are complete. Plant proteins? Not so much. But I’ll give you one guess as to which plant contains all nine essential amino acids. You guess it! I hope. Quinoa!

Now that you know why quinoa is so great, we are FINALLY to the Shameless Product Placement of April:

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmony Blend

Image from ancientharvest.com

Image from ancientharvest.com

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmony Blend is a combination of traditional, black and red quinoa. While I enjoy traditional quinoa, the blend is a fun way to jazz up salads, serve in place of rice or pasta and works well when manipulated into burger form. The blend retains the natural nutty flavor of traditional quinoa that pairs well with a variety of ingredients. Do not be afraid to experiment with this beautiful product.

One rule to keep in mind prior to preparing: rinse the quinoa. Yeah, I know it says it’s ‘pre washed’, but quinoa develops a natural bitter coating called saponin that fends off pests and helps it grow without the necessity of chemical pesticides. I agree with the Whole Grain Council on this one, the extra rinse may help remove any residue left on the grain. Hey, a little extra water aint’ never hurt nobody (my words, not theirs).

One quarter cup of this tri-blend quinoa (dry) contains 170 calories, 2.5 g fat, 30g carbohydrate, 5g of protein. Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmony Blend is certified USDA Organic and is a non-GMO food, if you’re into that stuff. Sold in most natural foods stores, click this link to find your nearest retailer.

Come back next week for a Harmony Blend quinoa recipe!

Resources:
wholegrainscouncil.org
http://www.whfoods.com

Lentils Are The New Beans

I hope we all enjoyed the Mini Turkey Parmesan Meatloaves. I know you all made them over the past week. Don’t lie, it’s unbecoming. As Spring settles in and beach season approaches, if you’re like me, there’s one thing on that fine mind of yours: How can I eat more lentils? No? Oh that’s just me then. Let me put it to you this way, if lentils were ingestible self-tanner, I’d be Snooki.

Clearly lentils have nothing to do with beach season, but rather everything to do with finding an alternative, non-meat protein. I will not lie to you. I love a good piece of steak or salmon just as much as the next red-blooded American, but damn, can we ease up on the animal flesh? I don’t boast being a vegetarian, but I do try to limit animal proteins to one meal per day (excluding eggs, those things are absolutely delicious).

Lentils are one such example of a solid vegetarian protein source. They house themselves in the legume family along with their sister, beans. Little known fact, lentils are actually seeds originally harvested in central Asia. Grown in pods, you can find these little guys in either the whole or split variety. I prefer the whole lentils; I find them to be a bit meatier. Lentils are also available in a range of colors, but the green and brown varieties tend to hold their shape best during the cooking process. Readers take note: lentils can deteriorate under heat. Choosing the proper form and cooking technique are essential to avoid eating colored mush for dinner. Prepare as directed and trial and error are my two best recommendations when it comes to cooking lentils. Alas, I am not a cooking expert on everything.

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Lentils are an excellent source of B vitamins and iron. You menstruating or pregnant? You’re going to love these little suckers! Sorry boys. Lentils also carry a sizable fiber punch – one half cup serving contains 8 grams of dietary fiber. I’m talking the good stuff, the fiber that helps lower your cholesterol. Just dare me to take care of my heart! I’ll do it too, don’t test me dude! Lastly, as mentioned above, they are well endowed in the protein department with 9 grams (a little over 1 ounce) per half cup.

While lentils are loaded with nutrients, one to not ignore is their carbohydrate content. Lentils are what we dietitians call a ‘dual food’. Yes they pack the protein, but they also carry carbohydrate. Not a bad thing, but something to be conscious of nonetheless. If we return to the half cup portion example, lentils have about 20 grams of carb (equal to an average slice of bread). This doesn’t make them off-limits. Just don’t fool yourself eating them with a load of brown rice, a few potatoes and peas smothered in yellow curry sauce. Easy does it young grasshopper.

I have a few lentil tricks in my wheelhouse. Throw them onto salad or into a broth based soup. A favorite post-run snack of mine is lentils atop steamed broccoli and a little marinara. See below for picture-based knowledge.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada

In closing, if you want to get a little fancier, I really enjoy lentils in vegetable marinara. Free (hidden) recipe alert! Oh wait, this is all free for you. For 4 people, I’ll sauté 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1 chopped yellow pepper, 8 ounces of chopped button mushrooms, a few minced cloves of garlic and some chopped fresh herbs. Stir in marinara and precooked lentils. Serve over some whole-wheat pasta, top with a little shaved Parmesan cheese and BAMB! You got a mighty tasty din-din at your fingertips.

Come back next week for my all-time favorite lentil recipe. Clue – they are delivered in patty form and incorporate cashews. Get so freaking excited. I mean it, right now!

Mid-Monday Pick Me Up

Good afternoon you back-on-your-daily-grind Monday minions. As a shout out to the growing efforts of The Healthy Revival (THR), I thought we’d throw it back to yesterday’s Instagram. Oh right, this little old blog is now on Instagram! See side bar to the right for you link to the account. Follow THR at ‘healthyrevival’ on Instagram for weekly posts on recipe previews from the test kitchen, what the dietitian behind the blog is eating and culinary adventures of a healthy foodie. Check it and follow!

For those of you already following THR on Instagram, you saw the glorious, yet simple brunch photo yesterday. I thought I would announce the launch of The Healthy Revival on Instagram by giving you this beauty’s recipe. Happy Monday people!

Photo Cred: Kimberly Sabada's iPhone

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada’s iPhone

 Goat Cheese Ricotta Bruschetta with Egg

Serves One:
1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted
2 Tablespoons fat-free ricotta cheese
1 Tablespoon goat cheese
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes
1 egg
Salt and pepper
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place whole cherry tomatoes in a small baking ramekin, coat tomatoes with non-stick cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Bake tomatoes uncovered until bursting and juicy, about 30 minutes. Remove tomatoes from ramekin and give them a quick rough chop to help cool and release more juice. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine ricotta and goat cheese. Spread cheese mixture onto whole wheat toast, top with chopped roasted tomatoes. Cook the egg however you prefer, I cooking mine sunny side up! Plate and serve.

Note: This was a brunch idea would not be a horrible weeknight dinner idea for those of you on the go.

Come back later this week for a knockout dinner recipe that’s sure to please both children and adults!

Easy Weeknight Dinner: Part Six

Seared Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Asparagus and Creamy Polenta

Serves 4

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Ingredients:

1 pound marinated pork tenderloin*
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 medium-large yellow onions, sliced
HR’s Creamy Polenta
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pan over high heat, heat ~2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sear pork on each side, about 5 minutes per side. Once browned, place pork in a 9×13 baking dish, place in preheated oven and bake until internal temperature reaches 140. Let pork sit for 10 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 145 through carry over heat. Slice and set aside.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Meanwhile in a separate medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil over low-medium heat. Add sliced onions and cooked until caramelized, stirring frequently – 30 minutes. Set aside.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

In a large pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add prepared asparagus to pan. Sautee asparagus until tender and slightly browned, about 10-15 minutes.

Prepare polenta as directed – see link above for directions

Plate polenta on serving plates, top with caramelized onions, sliced pork and asparagus. Serve and Enjoy!

Recipe Notes:

Pork Tenderloin – I used a cracked black pepper corn and garlic marinade with an olive oil base. Marinade pork for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best.

 

Happy Cooking!

Creamy Polenta

Here we are! It’s time for my whole corn recipe. As mentioned last week, polenta (or corn grits) is a source of whole grain corn. I love making this recipe during the week when looking for an alternative starchy side dish. In terms of labor intensity, it’s similar to mashed potatoes and much less work than the carpal-tunnel-inducing risotto. Polenta pairs well with the likes of chicken, pork, lamb, steak or seafood. It also serves as a wonderful bed for roasted garlic tomatoes with sautéed greens like kale, spinach or swiss chard.  HR’s creamy polenta is a simple quick fix for impressing your dinner guests or enjoying solo on a mundane weeknight.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

 

Creamy Polenta

Serves: 4-6
*See bottom of post for recipe notes

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Ingredients
1 cup polenta (coarse ground cornmeal/grits)*
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1 TBS unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt
Pepper

Directions
In a medium size sauce pan, bring broth to a boil. Whisk polenta slowly into broth, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Stir polenta frequently to prevent clumping. Remove from heat, stir in milk, butter, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy! Yep, it’s that simple.

Recipe Notes:
Polenta: I use Bob’s Red Mill Polenta (corn grits)
Polenta Variation: Fold in caramelized onions or roasted garlic for an added level of savory flavor.

Come back next week for another one of HR’s Easy Weeknight Dinner!

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Happy Cooking!

Corn – The Forgotten Whole Grain

Slama lama ding-dong, let’s kick off this Wednesday with a discussion on the long forgotten whole grain, corn. It is a vegetable people often write off their diets (much like peas) when it comes to eating ‘low carb’. Sure, the summer months bring this vibrant grain back around, but why do we forget about it the other 9 months of the year? It deserves more attention than that! You see, carbohydrates are an essential part of the human diet. They provide our bodies with the energy necessary for day-to-day living and it’s a macronutrient found in many different types of foods. Whole grains live in one featured corner of the carbohydrates world. Wheat, wild rice, oats, quinoa, millet and barley are just a few of the heavy hitters. These days, it seems as though everyone is either swearing off grains all together or trying to find the next ‘it’ grain. We’re here today to talk about one sadly forgotten whole grain, corn.

For a refresher on whole grains (what are they and why are they important?), please see The Healthy Revival’s Holy Whole Grains post.

Corn

When we think of ‘bad’, natural foods many will reference potatoes, peas and corn. Corn. Psh! It’s just a carbohydrate trying to pass itself off as a vegetable! In some ways, sure. But corn is not the enemy nor should it be forgotten. Taco shells are one prime example of this corn misconception. While out to lunch with a friend a few short weeks ago, I recall my eating partner changed her entrée of choice due to the fact her fish tacos were to be served in corn tortillas. When I inquired what made her change her mind, she simply replied ‘corn tortillas’. Now I wasn’t about to get into the fact that she probably could have asked our server for an alternative option because it took her a solid 20 minutes to decide between Fresca and lemonade. I’ve learned to pick my (nutrition) battles. But really? Are we all under the impression white flour tortillas are healthier than their corn counterparts? I got news my friend, they ain’t.

Corn Tortillas

To focus on tortillas for a minute, corn tortillas have fewer calories than flour tortillas. They are also a whole grain, unless you’re buying whole wheat tortillas – then it’s all the same. Corn tortillas are typically smaller than flour, so you’re also exercising portion control in the process. Don’t let the fact that something is made from wheat fool you like it did my dear lunching friend.  The key when looking for corn tortillas (or anything corn derived) is to make sure the words ‘degerminated’ are not used in the ingredients list. Opt for products with ingredients listing ‘whole corn’.

You see corn is a great source for fiber (both soluble and insoluble), folate, vitamin C, potassium and protein.  Corn is a grain that has a lot to offer your diet and as long as you don’t confuse it with eating a vegetable, I think we’ll all be okay. It’s a grain developed nearly 7,000 years ago in Mexico, spread to the United States and Peru (thanks to Columbus) and is now grown on every continent expect Antarctica.  Corn also happens to be an agricultural titan of the United States’ food industry – which I think may be another turn off for some. Corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup. Guess what. I’m not some corn junkie asking you to go to your nearest food store and purchase their last 20 bottles of Karo syrup. It should be clear by now I am pushing for whole corn.

Beyond tortillas, as mentioned above, other sources of whole grain corn include popcorn, polenta, corn muffins, corn on the cob, and corn cakes. Not to mention, eating corn with beans creates a complementary mix of amino acids (protein) which increases the protein value for our bodies. Just be sure that when you’re combining the two, you have plenty of non-starchy vegetables on the side.

Corn can be used a multitude of ways; fold it into salsa, steam corn kernels as a side dish, mash with cumin and tomatoes, throw into salads or added to soups. Bringing this dietary staple back into your diet is simple! Fresh, frozen or canned, it’s available 365 days a year! A food often featured in the summer months has plenty to offer your diet September through May.

Come back next week for a featured whole corn recipe!

References:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/summer-corn-more-than-delicious
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=90

Shameless Product Placement of March: Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce

Shake off those dust bunnies because Shameless Product Placements are back! Readers take note – I receive no monetary compensation for the products in any of my posts. Now let’s get started!

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

I tried Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce by accident because an emergency. You see, yours truly doesn’t always develop five-star recipes. It’s rare, but occurs about once or twice a year. A few weeks ago, I decided to try to make my own chicken curry in the slow cooker. After 8 hours of simmering, I absolutely hated it. The minute I walked into my apartment from work, I knew I’d made a misstep. The smell wasn’t right. It wasn’t appalling, but definitely not what I wanted nor expected after dumping five ingredients into my slow cooker at 6am. In order the rectify the situation, I hustled up to Trader Joe’s to look for a supplemental Thai/curry sauce to doctor up the devil dish. I picked up two sauces, used one and was left with a bottle of Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce in my pantry for the past month or two.

Cut to a few weeks ago, when an impromptu dinner party sneaks onto my schedule midweek. On my train ride home from work that night, I contemplated ingredients I had on hand – basmati rice, zucchini, sesame oil, tofu and…oh yeah, TJ’s Red Curry Sauce. I picked up a few extra items from the food store and got to cooking. Now then, I did have a moment where I contemplated making my own curry sauce. You see, I don’t exactly love this sauce from a nutrition perspective. For starters its high in sodium, like so many bottled sauces before it. Its saturated fat content is also a little disappointing. One serving of TJ’s curry sauce contains 3.5g saturated fat (5 servings per bottle). So I pondered what I would use to make my own sauce, light coconut milk being at the top of the list. But then I remembered, ANYTHING containing coconut milk will be high in saturated fat even if one uses the ‘Light’ version. One serving of light coconut milk (1/3 cup) carries 3 grams of saturated fat (5 servings per can). So I’ll do the math for you. One bottle of Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce has 2.5 more grams of saturated fat than one can of light coconut milk. I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, but in a pinch, I am willing to accept it.

Shameless Product Placements on The Healthy Revival can do a few things. I do these post to (1) help foster healthy snacking, (2) provide you with alternative products for substitutes when trying to cook healthier recipes, and/or (3) simply making home cooking a little bit easier. I believe, as a whole, our society has lost touch with cooking at home. So many people are under the impression that in order to put dinner on the table it has to be complicated and time-consuming. It’s one of my many quests in life to make people aware of this misapprehension. If that means you need to buy a pre made sauce (be it marinara, a good marinade, salad dressing, etc), then so be it. We can start there.

Per serving, one bottle of TJ’s Red Curry Sauce has 80 calories, 6g fat, and 3.5g saturated fat. As mentioned above, it is high in sodium so keep that in mind – ergo: do not add salt. You don’t need to.  Feel free to adjust the vegetables in this curry, there’s honestly no rules on this one! I used basmati rice, but as a dietitian, I recommend using brown rice. Do as I say, not as I do.

The Healthy Revival’s TJ’s Red Curry with Tofu

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Serves: 5-6

Ingredients

16 ounces of Extra Firm Tofu, drained, pressed and cubed (see below)
1 small onion, diced
1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 red pepper, chopped
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup uncooked Basmati rice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Cilantro
1/4 cup water

Sriracha or your preferred hot sauce

Directions:

Prepare basmati rice according to directions.

To press tofu, line a large dinner plate with one layer of paper towel. Place tofu on plate, top with another layer of paper towel cover with a cutting board and weigh down with canned goods, a brick, etc. See below for image.  Let press for about 30 minutes, replacing paper towels halfway through. Once tofu has been pressed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Preheat oven to 375. Toss cubed eggplant in olive oil, season with pepper and place on an aluminum lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes until browned and tender. Set aside.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat with sesame oil and 2 tsp of olive oil. Add tofu, season with pepper and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Add 1 tsp of olive oil back to pan. Once reheated, add onions, zucchini and red pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes. Stir in roasted eggplant and tofu, reheat.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Add the whole 11-ounce bottle of Trader Joes Red Curry Thai Sauce, once emptied, fill bottle with ¼ cup of water, replace cap and shake. Add contents of bottle back to pan. Stir, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Plate rice and top with curry mixture. Garnish with cilantro and hot sauce if preferred. Serve and enjoy!