Savor the Flavor of Eating Right

NNM2016GraphicMarch is National Nutrition Month and this year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to learn how to “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.”

I often encourage my clients to savor the flavor of their food. Too often, people mindlessly eat and don’t really taste the flavor of their food. Slowing down and appreciating all the flavors of food and beverages, helps prevent overeating and increases the pleasure of eating.

Today, less time is spent purchasing, preparing, eating and enjoying food. How is all this fast-paced eating affecting us? Unfortunately, research shows that people who eat quickly are more likely to be overweight than those who eat slowly.

Why? It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the signal of what has been eaten. Eating slowly allows one to feel full while eating less calories. If you’re feeling stuffed after a meal, you’ve eaten more than your body actually needs. This leads to weight gain.

Eating slowly helps you fully enjoy each bite, sensing flavors and textures and increasing satisfaction. When you eat, focus on eating instead of multi-tasking, chew foods thoroughly, and put utensils down in-between bites. These habits will help you slow down your eating pace. Savor the flavor of healthy eating and enjoy your meals more for better health.

For more information, visit The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics two websites, www.eatright.org or www.kidseatright.org, which include practical articles, recipes, videos and educational resources that promote good nutrition and an overall healthy lifestyle. For interactive National Nutrition Month games, visit www.nationalnutritionmonth.org/nnm/games.

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Squash Surprise

WP_20150725_018 1I love farmers markets! We have so many in Allegany County, MD and each has a different variety of farmers. It’s great to visit the different stands and see the great variety of products for sale.

Friday at the Frostburg farmers market, I found a variety of squash that was new to me. I asked the woman at the booth what kind it was and she didn’t know the exact name, but said it was nicknamed buttered potato because it tastes like a buttered potato. I bought a couple to try.

They were delicious and easy to roast and it resembled a baked buttered potato/sweet potato combo. I highly recommend them and will buy them again. Funny thing, when I looked up what kind they were online, I couldn’t be sure if they were carnival squash or sweet dumpling squash.

According to Epicurious, carnival squash is mixed breed of the acorn squash and the sweet dumpling squash. They recommend using carnival squash wherever acorn squash or butternut squash is called for in a recipe. They recommend using sweet dumpling squash in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin.

I bought 2 and was able to roast them in the toaster oven. One half squash was more than enough of a serving for each person. The skin is edible and slightly crunchy like delicata squash.

To prepare, I scrubbed and washed each one and cut in half. I sprayed them with olive oil spray and placed them cut side down. I roasted them at 350 degrees F. for an hour. At the table, I seasoned mine with a small amount of a butter and olive oil blend and salt and pepper.

According to David Grotto, RD, LDN, author of The Best Things You Can Eat, winter squash is typically high in vitamins A, B6, C and fiber and also a good source of folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, niacin, thiamine and vitamin E. In addition, they are rich in zeaxanthin, a plant nutrient important to eye health.

What are your favorite varieties of squash?

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Scrumptious Sweet Potatoes & Spinach

WP_20150404_013I love new recipes – especially ones that my friends have already tried. This week, my friend Cathy Webb told me about a recipe that sounded scrumptious. Since I already had most of the ingredients, I made it today.

It was wonderful and I will definitely make it again! It was quick and easy, flavorful and nutrient-rich. The sweet potatoes and spinach provide vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. The roasted onions and dried cranberries add a delicious sweetness to every bite.

Cathy told me they had adapted the recipe from one called Butternut Squash with Baby Spinach from Wegman’s grocery store. They substituted sweet potatoes for the squash, and so did I. Here is what I did today.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Baby Spinach

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes

1 sweet onion, preferably red

1/2 -1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 – 1 Tablespoon sodium free herb blend or substitute ½ – 1 tsp dried thyme or 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, 1 tsp dried rosemary or ½ Tablespoon fresh, and dried garlic to taste or 1-2 cloves minced garlic (I used an herb blend and didn’t measure, so this is an approximation)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

6 ounces baby spinach

¼ – 1/2 cup dried cranberries, as desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Scrub and cut sweet potatoes into ½ by 1 inch cubes. Chop onion.

In a bowl, mix olive oil and seasonings with sweet potatoes and onions and spread on large baking sheet in single layer.

Roast 25 – 30 minutes, until brown.

Remove from oven and toss in an oven proof bowl with spinach and dried cranberries.

Put bowl in oven for a few minutes to further wilt the spinach.

Enjoy!!

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Time for kalettes or kale sprouts?

WP_20150301_006 1Sometimes veggies take the culinary world by storm. Such has been the case with both kale and Brussels sprouts. And now, we welcome a new hybrid of these two trendy veggies. Called kalettes or kale sprouts, they’re a perfect blend of these two nutrition powerhouses. Since they’re two of my favorites, I was thrilled to find some kale sprouts at Trader Joe’s this weekend.

I found the following description of kalettes (trademarked) on their website, kalettes.com. “Kalettes are the product of 15 years of hard work and dedication (using traditional breeding techniques) from the British vegetable seed house Tozer Seeds. Kalettes are a non-GMO vegetable developed through traditional hybridization and not genetic modification. Known as Flower Sprouts in the U.K., this delicious vegetable has now made its way across the pond and is called Kalettes in North America.”
What I found at Trader Joe’s this weekend were called kale sprouts. On the package, they’re also described as a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. While I found numerous recipes online, I decided to try my favorite, simple way to roast both kale and Brussels sprouts. I simply washed, dried, cut in half and added olive oil, pepper and fresh garlic, massaging into all the leaves. I then put them in a single layer on parchment paper and roasted in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F. for 10 minutes. After taking them out of the oven, I sprinkled with a small amount of sea salt. Yes, they tasted great!
They’re a delicious blend of all I love about roasted kale and Brussels sprouts. Nutritionally, one cup has only 50 calories, 7 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. They’re low sodium, rich in both Vitamins C and A and a good source of both calcium and iron. I highly recommend them as a nutrient-rich, delicious, low calorie veggie to eat to your heart’s content.

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Discovering Delicata Squash

WP_20140928_13_47_25_Pro 1I love discovering new foods and this week, on a trip to the farmers’ market, I bought some beautiful pumpkins and gourds for Fall decorations and along with these, I found some fancy delicata squash. Although considered a winter squash, delicata actually belongs to the same species as summer squash.

After eating it, I wondered why I hadn’t eaten it sooner. After all, I have enjoyed so many kinds of squash my whole life, so where has this beauty been? All I know is that I will be eating it going forward. It’s beautiful, delicious and nutritious. A winning combination!

Delicata seems a perfect name to describe the squash’s mild flavor and beauty. The skin is thin enough to eat. Like other winter squash, it’s an excellent source of beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A and is also a good source of vitamin C. A half cup serving provides only 20 calories and supplies almost half of an adult’s vitamin A need for the day. They can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. I will be stocking up.

I sliced the washed squash into thin rings, removed the seeds and then tossed in a small amount of olive oil and sodium-free garlic and herb seasoning. I placed them in a layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet and roasted at 425 degrees F. for about 30 minutes until they were browned. I then sprinkled with a small amount of sea salt.

 

They were a hit with my whole family, soft but firm enough to eat as a finger food and with a nice occasional crunch. I look forward to trying other recipes, but I could eat them prepared this same way over and over. For more information about delicata squash and other fruits and veggies, visit the Fruits and Veggies More Matters website at www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

What are your favorite types of squash and do you eat delicata?

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Sweet as a Peach

Summer brings to mind eating sweet juicy fruits, such as peaches. This has been a good peach season in Mountain Maryland and I happily purchased peaches today from Rice’s Orchard at the Farmers’ Market at Canal Place in Cumberland.

Originally from China, peaches are members of the rose family. A medium peach has only about 60 calories and is a good source of fiber and vitamins C and A. Peaches are great eaten fresh, mixed in fruit or veggie salads and salsas, and they are also great cooked alone or in a sauce with poultry. And let’s not forget about delicious peach pie or peach cobbler.

Interestingly, some people, like me, are allergic or sensitive to peach skin. Mild reactions affect only the mouth but others affect the skin, with rash and hives developing. I can eat the peach without the skin, but some people cannot eat raw peach at all. Some peach allergies may be from pollen-food syndrome or oral allergy syndrome (OAS). According to the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), most people affected by OAS can eat cooked fruits or vegetables because the protein allergens are sensitive to heat. For more information about OAS visit: http://www.foodallergy.org/related-conditions.

Lunch today included fresh produce from the Farmers’ Market, including Zucchini Parmesan Crisps, using Ellie Kreiger’s recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/zucchini-parmesan-crisps-recipe.html, Watermelon, Feta and Basil Salad, recipe on this blog, and Peach Smoothies, recipe below.

Peach Smoothie

2 large peaches
2 cups crushed ice
6 ounce vanilla Greek Activia yogurt
½ cup soy milk

Blend in the blender and top with slice of peach. I added chocolate mint from my garden, too. Serves 4.

I hope everyone is enjoying the best of the fresh produce while it lasts. For more information and recipes about peaches and other fruits and veggies, visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

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Wonderful Watermelon

Looking for ways to stay hydrated this summer? Watermelon is a refreshing way to whet your whistle. One cup of diced watermelon is about 92% water! No wonder it has the word water in its name. Since our bodies are made up of over two-thirds water, it’s a wonderful way to help meet daily fluid needs.

Watermelon is low in calories, providing only about 40 calories per cup. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and lycopene, both important antioxidants that help protect against cell damage and fight against diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It provides vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium and fiber, and is low in fat and sodium.

Watermelon is great to eat fresh by itself at room temperature or chilled, or added to salads and smoothies.

This juicy watermelon cooler is a healthy, nutritious and delicious treat!

Watermelon Cooler

1 cup crushed ice
1 cup seedless watermelon cubes
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Blend all ingredients in blender. Pour into 2 cups and garnish with a fresh squeezed lime wedge.

Watermelon Salad

For a unique and delicious salad, combine watermelon, fresh basil leaves, feta cheese and red onion. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and fresh lemon or lime juice.

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

For more information and recipes, visit www.watermelon.org.

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Wild about Wild Ramps

With my nickname from my next door neighbor being the onion queen because of my onion garden, and being Italian and loving garlic, I have long been intrigued by wild ramps. Ramps are an early spring perennial onion with a strong garlic-like odor and onion flavor. But until last year, they eluded me. Living in the mountainside of Maryland, I hear of numerous ramp festivals but only last year made it to one at the tail end of the food tasting where only a small sampling of potato and ramp soup remained. It was delicious and whet my appetite for more.

This week, I was thrilled to find some wild ramps and fresh asparagus at a local produce market. This is the first time I have seen ramps at any local market.

Ramps, allium tricoccum, are found growing wild across most of eastern North America. They are considered rare delicacies in Canada and a protected species in Quebec. They are considered a species of “special concern” for conservation in Maine, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

I quickly began researching recipes using ramps and opted for my own creation, adapted from numerous recipes I found online and from my own experience. Everyone in my house said it was one of their favorite soups. Hope you enjoy it.

Wild Ramps and Potato Soup
Serves 8

2 bunches of wild ramps, washed and chopped (include greens, as desired)
½ – 1 Tbsp. each butter and olive oil
2-3 lb. potatoes, scrubbed and diced (depending how thick you want soup – I used 2 lb)
2 – 32 ounce boxes of vegetarian broth, low sodium
1 bay leaf
1-2 garlic cloves
¼ tsp. garlic & herb seasoning (sodium free)
¼ tsp. (or more to taste) each thyme, oregano and parsley (if fresh, triple as desired)
½ cup half and half, fat-free (or milk if half & half not available)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Coat bottom of soup pot with butter and olive oil.
2. Sauté ramps, garlic, potatoes and garlic and herb seasoning for several minutes until ramps are      softened.
3. Add broth and bay leaf and simmer until potatoes are soft.
4. Use immersion blender and puree to desired consistency, leaving some potato cubes.
5. Add thyme, oregano and parsley.
6. Add a ladle or 2 of soup broth to half and half and mix well and then add back to the soup pot.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Have you eaten wild ramps?  If so, I’d love to hear about your favorite way to prepare them.

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Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right

I often hear people joke, “If it tastes good, it’s not good for you.” Have you ever felt that way? Many of my clients do. Many think that healthy and tasty don’t go together. But this isn’t true!

March is National Nutrition Month, sponsored by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), and this year’s theme is, “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”

Taste rules when it comes to food choices. If it doesn’t taste good, you won’t eat it, even if it’s nutritious. So, making healthy foods in ways that promote their best flavor is of the utmost importance. Some tips to help maximize both flavor and nutrition include:

1. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Produce purchased in season is less expensive and more flavorful. Visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org for a list of what’s in season.
2. Roast vegetables. Roasting brings out the sweet and smoky flavors of vegetables. Toss in a very small amount of olive oil and roast in a 350-450 degree F oven for 20-45 minutes.
3. Season foods with fresh herbs to add maximum fresh flavor. Start now to plan your herb garden. There’s nothing like picking fresh herbs straight from your own garden. If you don’t have garden space, that’s no problem. Fresh herbs are easily grown in containers. And most grocery stores now sell fresh herbs in the produce section.
4. Experiment with spices, such as fresh ginger, for lively sauces. And expand your taste palate by adding healthy curry powder to poultry and soups.
5. Finish off a dish with freshly-squeezed citrus, such as lemon, lime and orange. Grate fresh citrus peel to add vitality and flavor. A microplane is a handy tool for easily grating citrus peels.
6. Experiment with different vinegars, such as balsamic, rice and raspberry. These add flavor without a lot of calories.
7. When roasting or cooking meat in a crock pot, sear on all sides in a skillet first to intensify flavors.

There are many ways to bring out the best flavors of fresh, healthy foods. For more information, including recipes and videos, visit www.eatright.org/public. For more about National Nutrition Month, visit www.eatright.org/nnm.

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Kale and Beans – a Winning Combo!

Watching The Kitchen on the Food Network, I learned that kale is the second most searched food on their website, right after chicken and right before quinoa. That’s great news since kale is a nutrition powerhouse. A member of the cabbage (cruciferous) family, kale is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K and potassium. It’s also a good source of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium and lutein. It’s very low in calories – only 33 calories per cup.

According to David Grotto, RD, LDN, in his book, The Best Things You Can Eat, kale is one of the best. Kale is good eaten raw, cooked or juiced. Grotto reports that a study of men with high cholesterol who drank a little over a ½ cup of kale juice daily for 3 months saw their HDL (good) cholesterol significantly increase and their LDL (bad) cholesterol decrease. Also, high intakes of cruciferous vegetables may lead to reduced risk of developing breast, prostate, lung, esophagus and mouth cancers.

Beans are also nutrition powerhouses. They are high in protein, potassium, magnesium and folate. They are one of the best sources of fiber and help to promote regularity, reduce cholesterol and decrease the risk of certain types of cancer.

Since I love both kale and beans, I looked up several different kale and bean soup recipes and combined them to make this soup. It was a winner with my family.

Kale and White Bean Soup

Ingredients:

• 1 onion, diced
• 2 stalks celery, diced
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 Tbsp. olive oil
• 6-8 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth or water, depending how think you prefer your soup
• 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
• 1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus 1 small piece rind, if available
• 1/4 cup small pasta (pastina) – I used stars
• 2 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 bunch of fresh kale (about ½-1 lb), broken into 2 inch pieces (stems removed)
• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat olive oil in soup pot and add onion and celery and cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook until soft. Add chicken broth, pastina, beans, rosemary and parmesan rind. Increase the heat, cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and lower heat to a simmer for about 5-10 minutes until all is soft. Remove the parmesan rind and stir in ½ of the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with the remaining cheese.

I served this with Portuguese saloio bread that was sliced, lightly baked with olive oil, garlic and herbs and a tossed salad. Enjoy! Do you have a favorite kale soup recipe?

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