Superfood Spotlight: Lentil and Potato Stew

Lentils are a part of the legume family and are believed to have originated in the Near East or Mediterranean area.  Much like beans, they are a great source of protein (18g in one cup) and fiber.  By eating lentils, you can benefit from all the minerals and vitamins, at the cost of essentially no fat.

One cup of cooked lentils has a whopping 16g of fiber, almost half the daily recommended amount for women.  The fiber-filled lentils can lower cholesterol, help prevent heart disease, colon disease and diabetes.  The cardiovascular benefits can give credit not only to fiber, but to the effects of folate and magnesium on the bloodstream. See All About Fiber or more information.

Lentils are also a great source of iron, providing 37% of your daily recommended intake in one cup.  Iron is essential for hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to the body.  It also plays a role in energy production and metabolic processes.  Women are particularly at risk of iron deficiency.  Since I don’t eat red meat, lentils are an excellent way for me to obtain my iron needs.  Also, lentils are a better source of iron than red meat because they are significantly lower in calories and fat. 
With the help of one of my favorite blogs, Generation Y Foodie, I made a lentil and potato stew.  Even though I love eating lentils, it was my first experience with making them myself.  I had my girlfriends over for an Oscar party and it ended up being a hit!


Lentil and Potato Stew
from Generation Y Foodie


Ingredients

1.5 cups lentils, washed (you can use green, brown or red)
1lb red potatoes, washed and cut into 1″ chunks
4 medium carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups low sodium veggie broth
2 cups water, divided
1 tbsp fresh or dried thyme
2 springs fresh thyme, or 2 tsp dried
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 8oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes


chopped celery and onions
Directions
1. Add lentils, vinegar, thyme, bay leaf, tomato paste and veggie broth and bring to a boil
2. Cover and reduce to med-low heat until broth is absorbed, 20-25 minutes
3. Sautee onion, garlic, carrot, and celery in olive oil until soft, 5-7 minutes (on medium)
4. Add potatoes, cook for 2-3 minutes,
5. Add water and tomatoes.  Continue to simmer until potatoes and lentils are soft

adding the veggies
stir frying…

add potatoes
mix it all together!

Cheers to a delicious and warming stew 🙂

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Why Go Whole Grain?

Everyone always says whole grains are better for you… but why exactly is this the case?  First off, bread is made from grain kernels, and within grain kernels, are three parts—the bran, the germ and the endosperm.

  • The bran and germ are the nutrient rich and fiber-dense parts
  • The endosperm is the starchy, carbohydrate part 

    Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain – the bran, germ and endosperm. By using the entire grain, nutritional value is maintained.

    Refined grains have been milled (ground into flour or meal) which rids the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm.  Without the bran and germ, the grain loses 25% of the protein and many vitamins, minerals and fiber… leaving the grain significantly less nutritious.

Whole grains contain many disease fighting phyto-chemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, iron and fiber.  By choosing whole grains, you will not only reap the nutritional benefits, but also feel more full and won’t need to eat soon after.  Because whole grains hold much more nutritional value than refined grains, they significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity.  Aim to get 3-5 servings a day.  If you are new to whole grains, start off slow and eventually, you will begin to love the heartiness and nuttiness in the whole grain products.
    Oats are always whole grain
    Food marketers are tricky.  Don’t be fooled, LOOK AT THE INGREDIENT LIST!
    • For breads, the first ingredient should begin with the word “whole.  (ex: whole grain, whole wheat)  If it begins with just “wheat”, it is made from refined wheat flour
    • For rice, the first ingredient word should be “brown
    • For oats, you are getting “whole oats” no matter what!
    “Unbleached wheat flour”, “wheat flour”, “Multigrain”, “Grain”, “natural” does NOT mean the product is from whole wheat!  Some examples of whole grains are: brown rice, whole wheat breads and pastas, oatmeal, buckwheat, wheat berry and barley
    Trader Joe’s has my favorite whole wheat pizza dough.  It makes pizza really easy to make, and healthy too!  It always comes out nice and crispy 🙂 

    half marinara, half pesto, loaded with veggies and chicken

    ready to eat!

    On Morning Workouts…

    Work has been getting pretty busy (as my posts have slowed down) and I am realizing how essential it is to stay active.  When I make time in the morning to run or do yoga, it makes all the difference in the day.  Without doing something active, I get terribly antsy and anxious.  
    Working out doesn’t have to be a chore; it should be something that you truly enjoy.  For me, it’s my ‘me time’—time where I can completely lose all thoughts, feel my heart race and enjoy the outdoors.  There is something about that post-workout high, that mood-booster, and the gratifying exhaustion that I revel in.   My thoughts and worries fade away, giving me a peace of mind, a state that comes so rarely.   
    I feel that I own my life, it’s all mine and each day will be what I make of it.
    I recently found a great route along the beautiful California coast.
    Cheers to a great work out and a great day!

    Sour Cream Coffee Cake

    Sour cream coffee cake is one of my favorite cakes.  I attempted to make it a little healthier by making a few alterations– using half the flour as whole wheat flour, less butter and a little applesauce.  It still turned out moist and delicious!
    Sour Cream Coffee Cake – reduced fat
    Makes 6 mini bundt cakes
    • 3/4 c White flour
    • 1 c. Whole Wheat flour
    • 1 1/3 tsp Baking Powder
    • 2/3 tsp Baking Soda
    • 1/4 tsp. Salt
    • 1 c. sugar
    • 4 Tbsp butter
    • 1/3 c. applesauce
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract 
    • 1 c. Light Sour Cream
    • 1/2 c. brown sugar
    • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 c. chopped walnuts
    Using Whole Wheat Flour
    the walnuts get caramelized and add great texture!

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Lightly butter or spray the baking dish
    3. Mix the butter, applesauce and sugar 
    4. Add the eggs one at a time.
    5. Add vanilla and sour cream.
    6. Add in baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour
    7. Sprinkle the sugar mixture at the base of the bundt tin
    8.  Pour half the batter, then sprinkle the rest of the sugar mixture.
    9.  Cover with the rest of the batter
    Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean

    The sugar filling and topping

    fill the tins with the topping, then pour in batter

    fresh out of the oven
    mini steamy bundt cakes
    Sour Cream Coffee Cake

    Nothing better than a cup of coffee to go with the coffee cake! 🙂

    Tri-Color Quinoa: Cajun-style

    Last night, I cooked another quinoa dish, but this time, I used the Organic Tri-Color Quinoa, from Trader Joe’s. With the blend of colors, it turned out to be one of the prettiest dishes! 🙂
    As you may have seen, the native Peruvian quinoa plant bears seeds on top that range in a variety of colors—from white, orange, red, purple, to black.  What’s the difference? 

    Organic Tri-Color Quinoa, Trader Joe’s, $4.99
    The colors depend on the variety of the plant, but there is no nutritional difference.  They are all rich in protein, high in fiber and a good source of vitamins.  The most common colors are white, red and black.
    • White quinoa, sometimes a pale yellow color, resembles white rice when cooked because of the fluffiness.   It is the most common and has the mildest flavor of all varieties.
    • Red quinoa, varying from dark red to orange, turns a brownish color when cooked.  It resembles brown rice in color and also in its earthy, nutty flavor.  The red type is a slight bit chewier and crunchier. 
    • Black quinoa is a hybrid that was first grown in the Colorado Rockies.  It is the darkest, crunchiest, and nuttiest in flavor than the other varieties.
    I love cooking with quinoa because the mild flavor absorbs a range of ingredients, including most herbs, broths, sauces and vegetables.  A completely different meal can be cooked, just by changing the spices and additions!  Here is the one I made…
    Quinoa: Cajun-style
    1 cup quinoa
    2 cup water
    1 1/4 tsp cumin
    1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    1/4 tsp basil
    1/2 c. green onion
    1/2 c. celery
    1 can beans
    1 c. frozen corn
    1 T olive oil
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Lime juice to taste

    Directions:
    1. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with water; cook according to directions. 
    2. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, and basil.  
    3. Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans, green onion, celery.
    4. Add olive oil, salt, pepper and lime juice to taste
    adding green onions and celery to the mix

    the final product!
    You might also want to try…

    Sunday

    Sunday is, hands down, my favorite day of the week.   I 100% agree with you, Craig Morgan.  And this is why I love Sundays…

    • I usually get to sleep in,
    • I get to go to the farmer’s market,
    • There are lots of people out Sunday brunch-ing,
    • I clean and do laundry, resulting in fresh clothes and a clean apartment,
    • Sunday football (sadly it’s over now),
    • and usually a yummy family dinner to cap it off.

    For me, it’s a day where I don’t have to do anything… but I end up getting a lot of things done.  And the things I do get done, I thoroughly enjoy!

    I had the most wonderful day today– working out, cleaning, going to the farmer’s market, drinking a latte and reading in the sun… what more could I ask for?  Well, our Grammy’s party and the quinoa salad and salmon dinner will cap it off just perfectly 🙂

    Baldwin Hill Scenic Outlook steps, picture from SheribienStock Blog
    the view from the top, picture from SheribienStock Blog
    Brentwood Farmer’s Market
    Veggie Stand

    the prettiest basket of peppers I have EVER seen

    enjoying a latte over my book 🙂

    A great start to a new week!

    Apple-Cinnamon Oat Bran Muffins

    I bought oat-bran for the first time because I have been wanting to make bran muffins (my favorite) for awhile now!  I finally got the time to make some last night.  I attempted to bake something healthier but still yummy, which led me to this recipe.

    Apple-Cinnamon Oat Bran Muffins (from Women’s Health Magazine)
    makes about 24 muffins

    1 c. oat bran
    2 c. whole wheat flour
    .5 c. flaxseed (I used an extra .25c of oat bran instead)
    2 tsp. baking soda
    3 tsp. baking powder
    2.5 tsp. cinnamon
    2 tsp. nutmeg
    2 eggs
    8 T. canola oil
    .5 c. sugar
    2/3 c. applesauce (I used 2.25 c. for moisture)
    .5 c. chopped nuts
    (I also added 2 tsp vanilla extract.. I love that stuff!)

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together bran, flour, flaxseed, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
    3. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg and oil until smooth. Stir in applesauce and sugar (and vanilla extract). Combine mixtures and fold in pecans.
    4. Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin cups. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool on a wire rack.


    I sprinkled a pinch of oatmeal on each one, just for looks 🙂  They were very tasty!  The added applesauce definitely gave it moisture, but I would like to try adding a bit more cinnamon and use brown sugar.  They make for excellent breakfast muffins.  Plus, they are whole wheat and have 3 g of fiber each muffin!

    mixing in the oat bran

    Fresh out of the oven!

    so fresh and steaming hot 🙂
    I also made little baby muffins!

    Nutritional Information: (per serving)

    Calories
    141.6 cal
    Fat
    8.6 g
    Saturated Fat
    .9 g
    Cholesterol
    17.6 mg
    Sodium
    162.4 mg
    Carbohydrates
    16.2 g
    Sugars
    5.1 g
    Dietary Fiber
    3 g
    Protein
    3.3g
    Enjoy!!