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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Easy and Healthy Chicken Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of my comfort foods, I'd say. In fact, not very many of my comfort foods are American. There are not many foods that make me happier than authentic pad thai or creamy curry with naan bread or a Korean hot pot where the rice crusts to the bowl or steaming hot mussels over silken pasta. However, those are all a little time-consuming. Fried rice, on the other hand, is quick and easy and modifiable.

Many restaurants make their fried rice main dishes with about 75% rice, 20% meat, and 5% vegetables. To me, this is unacceptable. I prefer percentages closer to 30-40% rice, 20-30% meat, and 30-40% vegetables. This way when you scoop out a serving you truly are getting an accurate serving size of grains, meat, and vegetables!

I've made fried rice many times and never really standardized what I do into a recipe. A couple days ago I paid attention to the process and here it is! So next time you cook up some rice, make a little extra and use it the next day to make this super yummy and healthy fried rice!

Chicken Fried Rice
Makes 5 servings (about 1.5 cups each)

2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp sambal oelek (chili-garlic paste...you can find it at the supermarket in the ethnic section)
1 tsp sesame oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of extra fat

3 cups cooked brown rice, preferably leftover (I used basmati because I ran out of brown, but brown is healthier!)
1 green (or other color) bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
10 baby carrots, quartered lengthwise (Or about 3 big carrots, julienned)
2 eggs
1 tbsp canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced ginger root
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar (unseasoned)

Start by mixing the ingredients for the sauce for the chicken in a small bowl (hoisin sauce through sesame oil). Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Baste the chicken with the sauce. Spray the pan with cooking spray and place the chicken in the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from pan and let cool. Chop into bite-size pieces.

While the chicken is cooking and cooling, you should prep the other ingredients.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Spray the pan with cooking spray and scramble the eggs. Remove the eggs from the pan.

Drizzle in the canola oil and then throw in the minced garlic and ginger. Stir for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until lightly browned and fragrant. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell pepper and carrots. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until the onion and pepper are soft. Stir occasionally.

Add chicken to the pan and cook for another minute. Mix the 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp rice vinegar in a small bowl. Add rice to the pan and then sprinkle the sauce over, stirring well. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in the scrambled eggs, breaking them apart into smallish pieces. Grind some black pepper over it if you feel like it. Serve with hot sauce, if desired. We used sriracha! Mmmm...

P.S. You won't need salt...even the low sodium soy sauce adds enough.

Nutrition Facts
  5 Servings
Amount Per Serving
Calories  249.6  
Total Fat  8.2 g     
  Saturated Fat  1.4 g     
  Polyunsaturated Fat  2.2 g     
  Monounsaturated Fat  3.3 g  
Cholesterol  109.0 mg  
Sodium  572.2 mg  
Potassium  291.8 mg  
Total Carbohydrate  30.1 g     
  Dietary Fiber  2.9 g     
  Sugars  0.6 g  
Protein  14.7 g

Friday, July 5, 2013

Link of the Week: The SuperTracker

This week I'm linking to an awesome site. It's called The SuperTracker. After creating a basic profile for yourself, it not only tells you about how many calories you should be eating and how much physical activity you should get, but it ALSO breaks it down into how many servings of each food group you should have.

You can use it like any other tracking sites by entering in your food, activity, and goals. However, this site is unique in that it also offers weight maintenance advice, sample individualized meal plans, a Food-A-Pedia where you can look up and easily compare the nutrition information for different foods, and fancy graphs to chart your progress! Take a peek by clicking the link below.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The 100-Calorie Brownie

Let's have a show of hands. How many of you have whipped up something sweet...pie, cake, brownies...and found yourself constantly coming back to it in your kitchen, slicing away for just a little taste? Maybe straightening that "edge"? Because it's just a shame for a pan of brownies to be sitting there unattended after it's been crookedly sliced. After a while you lose track of how much you've really eaten (I mean, who knows??) but now the pan is half empty. Hey, my hand is up there with yours!

How do you fix this? There are a few possible solutions, including not making sweets at all. But there are certain times this solution cannot be used...for example, special occasions, house guests, or just the simple desire for something sweet. It's my strong belief that even brownies can fit into a healthful diet.

One solution that I favor is making a healthier version of the recipe and dividing it into serving sizes. Don't hide the nutrition information from yourself. That way you know exactly how much of a splurge you are really making.

Hence the development of this 100-calorie brownie. It's really quite amazing how the calories add up in typical brownie recipes. The normal standard-sized brownie is somewhere between 200 and 400 calories. Then there's those varieties with frosting and peanut butter and nuts and caramel and all other manner of caloric additions.

As I was searching for "healthy" brownie recipes I came up with a few options. But pretty much all of them featured one or more of these ingredients:

Black beans. I've had these pureed in brownies. It's ok. But...no.
Artificial sweeteners. I try to stay away from these. Except stevia. But it still whispers "fake" on your tastebuds.
Gluten free flour. Ok what? This doesn't make it healthier. Unless of course you have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant.

In frustration I decided to make up my own recipe. I sort of started from this recipe.

Here goes!

100-Calorie Brownies
Makes 20

1.5 tsp instant espresso powder OR 1/2 cup strong coffee
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9x13" pan with cooking spray.

If using, mix espresso powder with 1/2 cup hot water. Set aside.

Whisk dry ingredients together (whole wheat flour through salt...not the chocolate chips). Stir in wet ingredients (including the espresso or strong coffee) until thoroughly moistened.

Pour in prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over. Bake about 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (not counting melted chocolate chips!). Let cool and then cut three times lengthwise and four times widthwise, making 20 100-calorie brownies!

Here they are going in the oven:

Here they are coming out!

So...the big question... how do they taste?? Moist, not-too-sweet, super chocolatey, and just a hint of tartness. That came from the yogurt. If you wish to avoid that, then reduce the yogurt to half a cup and increase the applesauce or coffee by half a cup. Also, they taste their best when completely cool or stored in the refrigerator.

And I know some of you are wondering...what did Ryan think? He loved them! He said his favorite thing is that they are not overly sweet.

Nutrition Facts
  20 Servings

Amount Per Serving

  Calories 101.6  
  Total Fat 3.2 g     
    Saturated Fat 1.8 g     
    Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g     
    Monounsaturated Fat 0.2 g  
  Cholesterol 0.0 mg  
  Sodium 138.9 mg  
  Potassium 71.3 mg  
  Total Carbohydrate 19.1 g     
    Dietary Fiber 2.1 g     
    Sugars 11.8 g  
  Protein 2.8 g