Mayo-less Broccoli Cashew Salad and Spinach Dip

As promised, I have include the Broccoli Cashew Salad and Spinach Dip recipes that accompanied my Easter Ham! I love these dishes, but the typical mayo version has more fat than my liking.  I substituted the mayo with Fage Greek yogurt and I promise, you couldn't tell the difference.

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Superfood Spotlight: Chia Seeds (and Overnight Chia Oats)

Ch, ch, ch, chia (seeds)!  These little guys have become quite popular in the health and nutrition realm.  After receiving a few questions from friends about them, I decided to do a little research and try them out.


Just a little background: Chia seeds are part of the Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant of the mint family.  This plant is cultivated in Mexico and Guatemala.  Chia seeds have been a staple food source for Native Americans for centuries. Aztec warriors (yes, warriors!) would eat chia during hunting trips, and on trips to trade products in which they ran from the Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean.  

In summary:  Eat chia = run for hundreds of miles= become a warrior.  Need I say more?

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Benefits of Japanese Soba Noodles

I am obsessed.  I can’t. stop. eating. these.  I’m not sure what it is.  Between the chewy texture, hearty taste, salty flavor, thin-ness of the noodles and intriguing color- I can't resist.  They were so good that I ended up eating half of the batch before I even tossed it with a sauce or seasoning.  Now I'm probably building them up (I always do that) but really, you need to try!

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My First Superfood Spotlight

         I originally started this blog as a health blog, and my goal was to post healthy information along with healthy recipes.  When I realized how long some posts can take, I started getting lazy and my blog has evolved into a recipe book for me.  I know blogs tend to evolve, but I really want to veer back to the core of my passion, health and nutrition.  I still want to continue cooking and talking about food, but I hope to add more nutritional value to my posts.
‘Superfoods’ has become a common term in the health realm.  In my attempt to redirect towards nutrition and healthy eating, my goal is to start a weekly Superfood Spotlight.  I will delve into a superfood, it’s benefits, and a possibly a good recipe to try.  There, I said it.  It is written down for everyone to read.  And I’m hoping it will keep me accountable!
What are Superfoods?
These foods are rated by nutritionists as the most powerful foods.  They are foods full of nutrients and vitamins that benefit our bodies in multiple ways.  By eating these foods, you will receive more nutrition with a smaller amount of food. 
 
By incorporating these foods into your diet, you will receive many more nutrients, vitamins and minerals to make your body healthier.  Once adapting to a healthier diet, you can really tell the difference.  Once I started eating more natural foods and a well-balanced diet, my skin was clearer, my nails were sturdier, and I had much, much more energy.  

Some superfoods are salmon, walnuts, blueberries, spinach, quinoa, beans, and the list continues to grow.  The first superfood I am diving into is… YOGURT!
Lowfat and nonfat Greek and regular yogurts contain 20% or more of your daily calcium needs. The mineral slows production of cortisol, a hormone that contributes to belly fat.  Additionally, yogurt is a probiotic which is essentially healthy bacteria that helps with your digestive system.  It can help yourimmune system, prevent bloating and constipation, and even decrease yeast infections.
Beware of some yogurts.  Some contain up to 35g of sugar!!!  To give you an idea, one regular sized Snicker’s bar has 30g of sugar, and a 12oz Coke has 39g.  As many people think of yogurt has a healthy snack, if you pick the wrong kind, it can be pretty unhealthy. Also, watch out for the fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts, those pack a lot of sugar.
Almost every day, I eat plain Fage 0% Greek yogurt and add a little bit of jelly.  There are a whopping 18g of protein in one serving.  That is more protein than some protein bars even contain!  Plus, with yogurt, you are foregoing all the hydrogenated oil and high amounts of sugar in the bars.  Fage yogurt has ZERO grams of added sugar, and the 7grams of sugar that it contains, is natural lactose sugar.
Yogurt is great as breakfast, a snack, a post-work out snack, and in cooking, as it can replace sour cream/creams.  Fage can be a little thick for first time greek yogurt-ers, but some of my other favorites are Chobani and Oikos!


Mediterranean Couscous

Couscous is another grain that I love to cook with.  It is similar to rice and pasta but couscous stands out because it contains many more vitamins and nutrients.  It has about the same ratio of protein as pasta does, but a little more than rice does.  Couscous has a 1% fat-calorie ratio, whereas white rice has a 3% ratio and pasta 5% ratio.

As you may have seen, there are various types of couscous.  Three of the most common are:

  • Morrocan couscous: tiny grains of semolina
  • Israeli couscous: semolina pellets that are a little bigger than Morrocan
  • Lebanese couscous: this is the largest kind, about the size of small peas
Recently, I made a Mediterranean Couscous… it is a great dish to make ahead of time and pack for lunches/snacks for the week.
Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat couscous (from Trader Joe’s)
2 cups water
2 zucchinis
1 tomato
1 cup spinach
Feta cheese
All I did was cook the couscous according to the package, chop up the ingredients, and add it to the couscous.  Such an easy and quick dish!
Add zucchinis and tomatoes
add as much cheese as you like

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 🙂