Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Food of the Month: Black Lentil Dal

I'm barely sneaking this new food of the month into July! Lentils are an amazing food. As a legume, they possess wondrous amounts of fiber, high amounts of vitamins and minerals, blood sugar-stabilizing complex carbohydrates, and when they are combined with rice, you get a complete protein! This means that you are getting all of the essential amino acids you need to consume, just as if you were eating an animal protein. In fact, lentils have the highest amount of protein by weight of all legumes or nuts, besides soybeans and hemp.

I decided to try some black lentils, since I've already had a few of the other colors. I played with a recipe that could be made in the slow cooker. You can find the original recipe here.

Black Lentil Dal
Makes 10 servings (serve with rice)

2 1/4 cups black lentils
2 tsp ginger root
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 dried or fresh chiles (I used dried New Mexico chiles)
1 huge bunch of cilantro, about 1-2 cups
2 tsp cumin seed
2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp salt
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp chile powder
9 cups water
plain yogurt, cilantro, and hot sauce for garnish

Chop the ginger, garlic, peppers, and cilantro in a food processor. Mix with the lentils. Put into a 5 quart slow cooker with all the other ingredients, except the garnishes. Cook on low for 8 hours! It's that easy!

Yes, they turned out brown. But I promise you they were jet black when I started.

Unfortunately, the tool I normally use to calculate recipe nutrition information doesn't have lentils. Weird, right? So I calculated the calories and protein by hand for ya.

1 serving of dal (garnishes not included) = 170 calories, 11.25 g protein
1 serving of dal with 1/2 cup cooked brown rice = 280 calories, 13.75 g protein

Just so you know, I probably will not be posting for a couple weeks since we are visiting Ryan's family in Nicaragua. I'm won't be MIA...just on a little break. :)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Link of the Week: Raw Food--Friend or Foe?

Earlier in the year I posted about whether or not you should cook vegetables to get the greatest nutrient value out of them. My answer was a little complicated, due to the fact that it's different for different vegetables. Ryan stumbled upon this article the other day and showed it to me as he does with all nutritionistic things he comes across. I thought they did a fine, succinct job of explaining the issue, so I figured I'd share it with you! You'll notice they reference an RD, of course. :)

Health Myth: Is Raw Food Really Better For You?

I'm also linking to my old post in case you want a little more of a research-y take on the issue.

To Cook or Not to Cook: Vegetables

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Link of the Week: Don't Poison Yourself

Have you ever tried to follow a recipe that you wished had more instructions? Sometimes I wish I could go around and insert food safety procedures into recipes. Thaw the meat in this way and chop the vegetables on a different cutting board and when you're done eating here's how you should cool and store the leftovers, et cetera.

Now...don't get me wrong. I'm not a crazy germaphobe. I'm just a dietitian who has memorized loooooonnngg lists of foodborne illnesses you can contract and all the different ways you can get them and what all the symptoms are. Trust me. You don't want to experience these.

So. Take a moment to recall a time when you got sick from any kind of food and let that motivate you to brush up on your food safety skills! Even if you and your mom and your mom's mom have been doing something the same way your whole life it could end up getting your intestinal tract in trouble later on. Just because something has never happened doesn't mean it never will.

Please don't get too deep on that last sentence. Just trying to be inspiring.

OK I've pasted an extremely helpful infographic that sums everything up very nicely (You will need to click on it and it will load in a new page and then click on it again to make it a readable size) and I've also linked to a brief brochure that has a few more specifics. I hope you either find some important ways to make your food preparation practices safer or else get confirmation that you are already a jedi warrior against bacteria.

Be Food Safe Brochure

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spice-Rubbed Fish with Fancified Cheese Grits

Lately I've been trying to use up some of the things I have lurking in my cabinets. Many times I find myself ooing and ahhing over a recipe only to end up purchasing all these new ingredients. So I've found that the best way for me to save money AND get creative is to simply work with what I have.

'What I had' a couple nights ago was some simple frozen pollock and a drawer full of various pastas. Upon routing through this drawer I discovered a bag of stone ground grits from North Carolina that I had bought at the Asheville Farmers' Market a while back. Voila! Now I had something that went together.

Here's what I did.

Spice-Rubbed Fish
Serves 4

4 small fillets white fish (such as pollock)
1 tbsp of your favorite dry rub
1 tbsp canola oil

Preheat broiler to high. Rub the spices on the fish while heating a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp canola oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add fish. If the fish is frozen, cook 5 minutes. If the fish was already thawed or never frozen, then cook for 3 minutes. Flip and place the pan on the top rack in the oven with the door cracked. Cook for 3-5 more minutes or until done.

Fancified Cheese Grits
Serves 4

3 cups water
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup dry grits
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp dried parsley
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil. Add the salt then add the grits slowly, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until thick. Stir in the butter, cheese, parsley, and black pepper.

I served this with salad to make a well-rounded meal. Altogether it was quick and easy and very flavorful!

If you're making these at the same time, this is how I did it:

Put water on to boil.
Preheat broiler.
Sprinkle dry rub over fish.
Add salt and grits to water while preheating fish pan.
Add fish to pan. Cook. Make salad. Flip. Put in oven.
Add remaining ingredients to grits once thick.
Remove both foods from the heat and place impressively on the table!

Here are the nutrition facts for the grits:

Nutrition Facts
  4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Total Fat5.6 g
     Saturated Fat3.3 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat0.4 g
     Monounsaturated Fat1.6 g
  Cholesterol13.7 mg
  Sodium213.1 mg
  Potassium62.4 mg
  Total Carbohydrate31.3 g
     Dietary Fiber0.6 g
     Sugars0.2 g
  Protein6.6 g

The nutrition facts for the fish will vary depending on what fish you used. With the size of pollock fillets I had, I estimated that each fillet had about 130 calories after being cooked.