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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Health

Key ingredients of the Mediterranean cuisine include olive oil, fresh fruits, vegetables, protein-rich legumes, fish and whole grains with moderate amounts of wine and red meat. The flavors are rich and the health benefits for people choosing a Mediterranean diet — one of the world’s healthiest — are hard to ignore. These people are less likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol or become obese.

Numerous research studies suggest that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may be many: improved weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression, to name a few. Eating like a Mediterranean has also been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

If you’re trying to eat foods that are better for your heart, start with the principles of Mediterranean cooking.

Stock your pantry and cook at home.

Use whole, unprocessed ingredients and control portion sizes, salt and calories.

Make sure your pantry and freezer are stocked with Mediterranean-inspired staples like canned tomatoes, olives, whole-wheat pasta and frozen vegetables.

Love Italian food, then a bowl of pasta for dinner is a no-brainer. Typical standbys are Penne with Vodka Sauce or Pasta with Broccoli Rabe.

Experiment with “real” whole grains that are still in their “whole” form and haven’t been refined. Quinoa, a grain that was a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet, cooks up in just 20 minutes, making it a great side dish for weeknight meals. Barley is full of fiber and it’s filling. Pair it with mushrooms for a steamy, satisfying soup. A hot bowl of oatmeal with some fresh summer berries is perfect for breakfast. Even popcorn is a whole grain—just keep it healthy by eating air-popped corn and forgo the butter (try a drizzle of olive oil instead).

Supplement your intake with other whole-grain products, like whole-wheat bread and pasta. Look for the term “whole” or “whole grain” on the food package and in the ingredient list—it should be listed as the first ingredient. But if you still find it too hard to make the switch from your old refined favorites, phase in a whole grain by using whole-grain blends of pastas and rice or mixing whole grains half-and-half with a refined one (like half whole-wheat pasta and half white).

By displacing meat at some meals, you can lower your saturated-fat intake while adding healthful nutrients, like fiber and antioxidant-rich flavonoids. If you eat meat every day right now, try making a vegetarian dinner, like Multi-Bean Chili, once a week. Swap out most of your red meat and replace it with skinless chicken and turkey, fish, beans, nuts and other plants. Start by making a few small changes.

Aim to eat fish of any kind—except for fried, of course—twice a week. Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna are especially good choices: they are rich in omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat, linked with improved heart health. Make the focus of the meal whole grains and vegetables and think of meat as a flavoring; for example, use a little diced pancetta in a tomato sauce for pasta. If you do have a hankering for a steak, it’s OK to indulge, just do so occasionally and choose a lean cut, like top loin, sirloin, flank steak or strip steak and limit your portion size to 4 ounces.

Use heart-healthy olive oil as well as other plant-based oils like canola and walnut oil instead of saturated-fat-laden butter, lard or shortening—even in baking. There are many dessert recipes now that use olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. A high-quality extra-virgin olive oil seasoned with balsamic vinegar is delicious for dipping bread and is a healthier alternative to butter. Other plant-based oils, such as canola or walnut oil, are also rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Aim for 4 to 8 servings of vegetables a day. A serving size is 1/2 to 2 cups depending on the vegetable. Pick vegetables in a variety of colors to get a range of antioxidants and vitamins. Start your day out with a spinach and Cheddar omelet, have a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch and have roasted carrots and a green salad for dinner. Big green salads are a great way to include several vegetable servings at once.

Snack on a handful of almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds in place of chips, cookies or other processed snack foods, which are often loaded with sugars, saturated fat and trans fats. Calcium-rich low-fat cheese or low-fat and nonfat plain yogurt with fresh fruit are other healthy and portable snacks.

Generally a good source of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants, fresh fruit is a healthy way to indulge your sweet tooth. If it helps you to eat more, drizzle slices of pear with honey or sprinkle a little brown sugar on grapefruit. Keep fresh fruit visible at home and keep a piece or two at work so you have a healthful snack when your stomach starts growling. Lots of grocery stores stock exotic fruit—pick a new one to try each week and expand your fruit horizons.

Research indicates that people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who abstain. Alcohol appears to raise “good” HDL cholesterol. Wine, in particular, “thins” the blood (making it less prone to clotting) and also contains antioxidants that prevent your arteries from taking up LDL cholesterol, a process that can lead to plaque buildup. Remember, “1 drink” equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor.

Eating like a Mediterranean is as much lifestyle as it is diet. Instead of gobbling your meal in front of the TV, slow down and sit down at the table with your family and friends to savor what you’re eating. Not only will you enjoy your company and your food, eating slowly allows you to tune in to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. You’re more apt to eat just until you’re satisfied then until you’re busting-at-the-seams full. This is the perfect time of year to make some changes to your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful and local fresh caught fish is more available. These delicious dinners can all be enjoyed during a leisurely, relaxing dinner on the patio on a warm summer evening.

Fusilli with Green Beans, Pancetta and Parmigiano

Serves three.

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. whole grain fusilli or other twisted pasta
  • 4 oz. pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1/2 -inch squares (3/4 cup)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled but kept whole
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (2 cups)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)

Directions:

Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until just barely al dente, about 1 minute less than package timing. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, put the pancetta in a cold 10-inch skillet and set over medium-high heat. When the pancetta starts sizzling, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until starting to brown, 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the pancetta until golden, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. If the pancetta has rendered a lot of its fat, spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Add the beans to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they’re crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the garlic and season the beans with salt and pepper. With the pan still over medium heat, add the pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the olive oil. Toss to combine. Add another 1/4 cup pasta water and 3/4 cup of the Parmigiano. Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper. If necessary, add a little more pasta water to loosen the sauce. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Grind black pepper over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Sea Bass With Citrus-Olive-Caper Sauce

Buy Eco-friendly Mid-Atlantic Sea Bass

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 sea bass fillets (about 5 oz each), skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 lemons, peeled and thinly sliced, segments halved
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

Directions:

Place broiler pan as close to heating element as possible and heat 5 minutes. On a plate, coat fillets on both sides with 1 tablespoons oil. Carefully remove pan from broiler and place on the stovetop.

Arrange fillets on pan, skin side down; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Broil fish 6 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together lemon slices, juice, oregano, capers, olives, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining 3/4 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoons pepper.

Place fish on platter; top with citrus-olive-caper sauce.

Grilled Chicken with Feta and Red Pepper Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients:

Grilled chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Red pepper sauce:

  • 2 pounds grilled red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces sliced feta cheese (4 slices)

Spinach leaves for serving plate

Directions:

To prepare chicken: place chicken, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a zip-top plastic bag; place in refrigerator and marinate 2 to 24 hours.

To grill the peppers: preheat grill. Place peppers on the grill and cook, turning until charred all over. Place peppers in a paper or plastic bag to let steam for 10 minutes. Peel and seed peppers.

To prepare sauce: place grilled peppers, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth.

Preheat grill to medium and oil grill grates. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chicken 7 minutes, turn, place feta cheese slices on top of the chicken and cook 7 more minutes or until cooked through.

Arrange spinach on serving plate, top with chicken and serve with red pepper sauce.

Orange and Olive Salad

Serve with flatbread or pita.

Ingredients:

  • Two heads romaine lettuce
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, pitted, sliced in half
  • 1/2 red onion, diced small
  • 2 oranges, peeled and chopped
  • Orange slices and orange zest for garnish

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

Directions:

Wash and dry the romaine and arugula. Toss in a large bowl with the olives, onion and oranges.

Add freshly ground black pepper to taste (the olives may be salty, so don’t add any salt at this point).

Whisk the dressing ingredients, seasoning it to taste. Slowly pour some of the dressing over the salad while tossing well to coat all.

Be careful not to use too much dressing for the amount of greens. Garnish with very thin slices of orange and orange zest.

Spaghettini with Tomatoes, Anchovies and Almonds

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, cored and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Large pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds
  • 3 large oil-packed anchovies
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 pound swhole grain paghettini (thin spaghetti)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes with the shredded basil, scallions, olive oil and crushed red pepper. Season lightly with salt and black pepper and let the tomatoes stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, pulse the almonds with the anchovies and garlic until finely chopped. Add the 1/2 cup of pecorino cheese and the capers and pulse to combine.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve a little pasta water in case the sauce needs thinning. Drain pasta and add the pasta to the tomatoes along with the chopped almond mixture and toss well. Serve the pasta, passing extra cheese at the table.

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage

For stuffing:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large green or red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large cabbage

Cooking sauce for cabbage rolls

  • 3 containers (26-28 oz. size) tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Bring 2 cups of water to boil, adding the rice and turmeric. Return to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

Cook the lentils in 3 cups of boiling water until soft.

Saute the onion, pepper and garlic in olive oil in a skillet.

Mix the cooking sauce ingredients together in a bowl.

For the filling: in a large bowl, combine the sauteed vegetables, rice, lentils, almonds and raisins.

Fill each cabbage leaf with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup filling, beginning at the thick end of the leaf. Fold this end over the filling, folding the edges in as you go to make a neat roll.

Place the rolls in one or two casseroles, covering with the sauce.

Bake the cabbage rolls covered at 350 degrees F, 45-60 minutes until cabbage is tender. Cool slightly and serve from the dish they were baked in.

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If you already follow a healthful meal plan filled with whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, and lean protein, congratulations! You’re on your way to a long, healthy life and are taking a major step in controlling your weight and blood glucose levels. Plus, you’re probably already eating most of the foods on this list.

For those who are taking the baby-steps approach to eating better, this list is even more helpful. Not only are these power foods high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they’re also familiar and easy to find. That means you don’t have to hunt down any exotic ingredients or shop at specialty grocery stores to find foods that will help you get on track with a healthy meal plan.

Some fruits, veggies, and grains are so good for you that they practically have superpowers. These power foods are packed with antioxidants and other disease-fighting nutrients. Plus, they’re delicious in recipes. What are they, you ask?

Asparagus

Asparagus is high in folate and vitamin C, which both contribute to a heart-healthy diet. It’s a non-starchy vegetable with only 5 grams of carbs per serving and nearly 2 grams of dietary fiber. It is also high in B vitamins, folate, vitamin C and an antioxidant called glutathione. The cardiovascular benefits of folate and other B vitamins have been studied in relation to lowering homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood, that has been linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease. As a result of these studies, the American Heart Association recommends including foods containing folate and other B vitamins in your diet to help lower homocysteine levels. A serving of asparagus is a 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces cooked, and provides 33 percent of the daily recommendation of folate, according to the FDA.

Blueberries and Raspberries

Enjoy the benefits of blueberries on their own or in a variety of foods, including smoothies and pancakes. Blueberries provide dietary fiber, vitamin C and flavonoids, a type of phytonutrient that offers antioxidant protection, such as boosting your immune system and fighting inflammation. A phytonutrient is a chemical compound that occurs naturally in plants.

Blueberries get their dark blue color from anthocyanins, plant pigments that are another disease-fighting antioxidant, that may benefit heart health. Blueberries have also been studied for their potential to protect and improve vision. One serving is 3/4 cup and has 15 grams of carbs. You can enjoy fresh, in-season blueberries May through October or buy the frozen varieties year-round. So next time you make pancakes, add a cup of blueberries for a healthy boost.

Raspberries are packed with fiber (partly due to their tiny, edible seeds) and are high in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that the body can only get through food. Vitamin C is beneficial for bone and skin health as well as cancer and heart disease prevention. These delicate berries are also rich in anthocyanins, which give red raspberries their color and more antioxidant power.

Beans

Beans are high in fiber and protein and are a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as folate, iron, magnesium and potassium, which are essential for the water balance between the cells and body fluids, such as electrolyte balance. The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of foods to get the necessary soluble and insoluble fiber needed daily–about 25 to 30 grams a day, which is twice the amount the average American adult normally consumes. One serving of navy beans is 1/2 cup and has 5.8 grams of fiber per serving.

There are so many delicious varieties of beans to choose from, such as black, kidney, garbanzo, white, lima or pinto. It is easy to find ways to incorporate beans in your diet. Soak and cook dry beans or use canned beans. Try substituting beans as your main protein source for lunch or dinner a couple times a week. Protein is an important part of your daily nutrition, which helps the body repair and produce cells and build muscle and bones.

Broccoli

The vitamin A in broccoli promotes healthy vision, teeth, bones and skin.Truly a super food, this non-starchy vegetable has more vitamin C per 100 grams than an orange and is considered a good source of fiber and the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A. Vitamin C is essential for healing wounds and is a disease-fighting antioxidant. One serving of broccoli is 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked. Pick up fresh broccoli in the produce section or your local farmer’s market or try the frozen food section for cut florets.

Carrots

Cooked or raw, carrots are a healthy addition to any meal plan. Have them for a snack with 2 tablespoons of light ranch dressing or include them in your main course or as a side dish.

Carrots provide vitamin A from the antioxidant beta-carotene. This powerful phytonutrient may help prevent cancer and heart disease, Carotenoids found in yellow and orange produce may also help reduce insulin resistance. Carrots are another source of fiber and heart-healthy flavonoids, which can also be enjoyed juiced with other fruits and vegetables such as apples, beets, or the spice, ginger. One serving of carrots is 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked.

Fish

Fish is a great addition to your meal plan, especially omega-3-rich fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring. Omega-3, a type of polyunsaturated fat, can help lower triglycerides and can also help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of blood clots. Try preparing fish on the grill, baked, broiled, or steamed, instead of frying. Eating fish twice a week is the recommendation for a healthy meal plan.

Flaxseed

Flaxseed is noted for its alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a fatty acid that can be converted into omega-3 fatty acids, which offer similar benefits as the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish. ALA omega-3s are known for helping to lower triglycerides, reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of heart disease. High in both soluble and insoluble fiber, flaxseed is also a good source of lignans, a phytoestrogen that is considered beneficial in preventing cancer and heart disease. Lignans have also been shown to alleviate other estrogen dependent conditions, such as menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis. 

Flaxseeds are available whole, ground (milled), or as flaxseed oil. To reap the most nutritional reward from the nutty-flavored flaxseed, use ground flaxseed on salads and cereal or mixed into breads, smoothies, and dressings. So, if you do not like fish, add this omega-3 source to your meals.

Cranberries

Cranberries are a power fruit, packed with the disease-fighting antioxidants, that can be eaten year-round. Although best known for helping to prevent urinary tract infections, cranberries and their abundant phytonutrients, may also help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease studies suggest. Add cranberries to smoothies, salads, or chutneys. Look for cranberries packaged in bags in the produce section of your supermarket, in the freezer section, jellied, dried or juiced. One serving of dried cranberries is 2 tablespoons.

Apples

The soluble and insoluble fiber in apples can benefit people with diabetes and a diet high in fiber can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. One medium-sized apple contains 3 grams of fiber–12 percent of the recommended 25 grams per day. Plus, the soluble fiber in an apple may help slow digestion, help regulate cholesterol and stabilize blood glucose. Eating apples, especially with the skin, not only increases your fiber intake but provides vitamin C and flavonoids, a disease-fighting antioxidant.

Melon

A dessert straight from nature, melons come in many varieties including watermelon, cantaloupe, muskmelon, honeydew, casaba, crenshaw and Persian. While all provide good nutrients, watermelon is high in vitamins C and B6 and is a good source of the antioxidant, lycopene, which may help protect against cancer. Lycopene is commonly associated with tomatoes and tomato juice, but watermelon is another optimal source. Watermelon is also high in beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A.

Honeydew is high in vitamin C and a good source of potassium, which can help improve or maintain blood pressure, Cantaloupe is also high in potassium and the antioxidant beta-carotene, and it’s a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and folate. The American Heart Association recommends getting enough folate and other B vitamins in your diet to help lower homocysteine levels, which may help decrease the risk of heart disease.

Nuts

Nuts are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin E, flavonoids and are power-packed with monounsaturated fat. Plant sterols, known to lower cholesterol, also naturally occur in nuts. Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans and hazelnuts are just some of the nuts that can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, making them heart-healthy choices. Eat nuts in moderation and avoid salted, sugared, or chocolate-covered options that increase calories and decrease the nuts’ natural health benefits. One serving of almonds, cashews or mixed nuts is 6 nuts. One serving of pecans is 4 halves, a serving of hazelnuts is 5 nuts and a serving of pistachios is 16 nuts.

Oatmeal

The soluble fiber in oats can help lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure and stabilize blood glucose by slowing digestion. Oats are also a source of antioxidants that provide vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium, which may help lower blood pressure.There are several types of oatmeal to choose from. Steel-cut oatmeal has a dense, thick texture and can take up to 45 minutes to cook, while old-fashioned (or rolled) oats are thinner and take less time to cook. The less processed the oat, such as steel-cut oatmeal, the lower it is on the glycemic index. The glycemic index provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food. Quick cooking oatmeal and instant oatmeal are also available. Be sure to check the labels for added salt and sugar. One serving of oatmeal is 1/2 cup.

Red Onions

Red onions don’t just add great color to salads, sandwiches, and stews. They also score highest in antioxidant power, with yellow onions not far behind and white a distant third. Onions are also a good source of fiber, potassium and folate-all good for heart health. The flavonoid, quercetin, found in onions may lower the risk of chronic illnesses. One serving of this non-starchy vegetable is 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked.

Spinach

This dark green leafy vegetable is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B2 and B6, folate, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fiber.  Studies of spinach have found it has the potential to decrease the risk of cancer, cataracts and heart disease. Spinach is high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body uses to make vitamin A. Beta-carotene helps protect the body’s cells from chronic illness and aging. Plus, just 1/2 cup of cooked frozen spinach has 145 mg. of calcium and 3.5 grams of fiber. You can find fresh or frozen spinach at your local market year round. One serving of spinach is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw, which is great for salads.

Tea

The next time you pour yourself a cup of white, green or black tea, you could be doing your health a favor. Tea contains antioxidant-rich flavonoids, called catechins, which have been studied for their effectiveness in preventing chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. White tea is the highest in antioxidants, with green coming in second, followed by oolong tea, then black tea. Tea can be enjoyed either hot or cold.

Tomatoes

The tomato is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium and is rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that is easier for your body to absorb from cooked and processed tomatoes, such as tomato juice, than from fresh, whole tomatoes. Adding a little bit of oil while sauteing or cooking tomatoes can help aid in lycopene absorption.

Studies suggest lycopene-rich tomato products may help protect against certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer, and may offer cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory protection. Check the Nutrition Facts food labels on packaged and canned tomato products to find those with the least sodium and sugar.

Yogurt

Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which helps promote the health of bones and teeth, as well as muscle and blood vessel function. Yogurt is also a good source of energy-boosting vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and protein. It also provides zinc, which can be deficient in some people, and aids in immune function and wound healing. Probiotic yogurt contains health-promoting bacteria that some research has proposed is beneficial for digestive health, including lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome. There are different yogurts to choose from on the market, including Greek yogurt, which is thicker than regular yogurt because it is strained before being packaged. One serving of 2 percent fat Greek yogurt is 6 ounces.

Resource: American Heart Association

Recipes Using Super Foods

Sautéed Shrimp with Asparagus, Tomato and Herbs

Sauteed Shrimp and Asparagus

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen large shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into ½ inch thick slices
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet and place the shrimp in a single layer. Cook about one minute on each side and remove to a plate.

Add garlic and asparagus to skillet, and cook one minute. Add tomato, green onions and wine, cook one minute, and return shrimp to the pan.

Cook 1 minute, until the shrimp are cooked and the asparagus is still crisp. Season to taste, stir in chopped herbs and serve immediately.

Broccoli with Feta Cheese and Walnuts

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound broccoli, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly slivered red onion
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

In a covered large saucepan cook broccoli in a small amount of lightly salted boiling water for 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together buttermilk, parsley, mustard, olive oil, thyme, red wine vinegar, garlic, kosher salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Add the broccoli and red onion; stir gently to coat. Top with walnuts and cheese. Serve warm.

Salmon and Spinach Salad with Flaxseed Dressing

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces cooked salmon, cut into chunks
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup quartered red onion slices
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup Flaxseed Dressing (recipe below)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine cooked salmon, spinach, cucumbers, and red onion. Pour Flaxseed Dressing over salad; toss gently to coat. Makes 4 (1-1/2-cup) main-dish servings.

Tip

Cook the salmon by grilling or broiling. You’ll need a 1-pound fresh or frozen salmon fillet to give 12 ounces salmon after cooking. Thaw salmon, if frozen. Rinse salmon; pat dry with paper towels.

To grill salmon: Measure thickness of salmon. Place salmon fillet, skin side down, on a greased grill rack directly over medium coals. Grill for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through grilling. Using a wide metal spatula, lift fillet away from the skin to a serving platter. (Scrape skin from grill rack and discard.)

To broil salmon: Preheat broiler. Skin salmon; measure thickness of salmon. Place salmon on unheated rack of broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through broiling.

Flaxseed Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon flaxseeds
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots or green onion
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place flaxseeds in a shallow baking pan; bake for 10 minutes. Cool. Place toasted flaxseeds in a spice grinder and pulse until ground to a fine powder. In a small bowl, whisk together ground flaxseeds, vinegar, olive oil, water, shallots, mustard, and garlic. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Tabbouleh with Cranberries

6 servings; ¾ cup serving

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 1 cup chopped, seeded cucumber (1 large)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges (optional)

Directions:

Coat a large nonstick saucepan with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat over medium heat. Add shallots; cook and stir about 3 minutes or just until tender. Add broth; bring to boiling. Stir in bulgur. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a large bowl. Cover; chill about 3 hours or until cool.

Add cucumber, cranberries, mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, and pepper; mix well. Serve with lemon wedges.

Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the tabbouleh as directed. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours.

Italian White Beans

Use these beans as a side dish for dinner or add to a salad for lunch.

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon. olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, crushed, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 (14-oz.) can cannellini beans (Italian white beans), drained or 2 cups cooked dried beans
  • 2 cups chopped canned plum tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons. red wine vinegar or to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sage. Sauté about 2 minutes.

Add drained beans and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir gently to combine. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 10 minutes.

Uncover pan and remove from heat. Immediately add basil and vinegar and serve.


Eat more fiber. You’ve probably heard it before. But do you know why fiber is so good for your health?

Helps Control and Fight Disease

Because fiber clears unwanted material out of your colon, it helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. If this isn’t enough of a benefit, a high fiber diet has also been advocated for people with high cholesterol because it has been shown to lower overall cholesterol levels.

Keeps Your Blood Sugar Steady

Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the body and reduces the insulin response, keeping our blood sugar at reasonable levels instead of bouncing it up and down throughout the day. High fiber foods are recommended for people with hypoglycemia and diabetes to help steady blood sugar levels.

Helps Control Hunger

In addition to making us store fat, our insulin response leaves us feeling drained, tired, and wanting another sugar pick me up. The more sugar we have, the lower our blood sugar drops, and the faster we get hungry again. Fiber is a great way to stop this cycle in its tracks. It keeps us feeling fuller longer so we end up eating less.

Selecting tasty foods that provide fiber isn’t difficult. Try these suggestions:

Add fiber to your diet slowly: Make the following changes over at least a few weeks.

Start with breakfast: Eat a cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.

Leave the skin on! Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet will add fiber, but only if you eat the skin.

Try some split pea soup: Just one cup contains 16.3 grams of protein

 Add crushed bran cereal or unprocessed wheat bran to casseroles, salads, cooked vegetables, and baked products (meatloaf, breads, muffins, casseroles, cakes, cookies)

Eat whole grains: Whole grains are higher in fiber because they haven’t had the outer skin removed through processing.

Eat more beans:. Add them to soup or salads.

Eat more nuts: Peanuts and almonds are especially great sources of fiber.

Which Foods Have Fiber?  

Examples of foods that have fiber include:

Breads, cereals, and beans

  • 1/2 cup of navy beans 9.5 grams
  • 1/2 cup of kidney beans 8.2 grams
  • 1/2 cup of black beans 7.5 grams
  • 1/2 cup of All-Bran 9.6 grams
  • 3/4 cup of Total 2.4 grams
  • 3/4 cup of Post Bran Flakes 5.3 grams
  • 1 packet of whole-grain cereal, hot 3.0 grams (oatmeal, Wheatena)
  • 1 whole-wheat English muffin 4.4 grams

Fruits

  • 1 medium apple, with skin 3.3 grams
  • 1 medium pear, with skin 4.3 grams
  • 1/2 cup of raspberries 4.0 grams
  • 1/2 cup of stewed prunes 3.8 grams

Vegetables

  • 1/2 cup of winter squash 2.9 grams
  • 1 medium sweet potato with skin 4.8 grams
  • 1/2 cup of green peas 4.4 grams
  • 1 medium potato with skin 3.8 grams
  • 1/2 cup of mixed vegetables 4.0 grams
  • 1 cup of cauliflower 2.5 grams
  • 1/2 cup of spinach 3.5 grams
  • 1/2 cup of turnip greens 2.5 grams

Whole Grains

If switching from white rice to brown sounds like a bore, try one of these alternative whole grains:

Wild Rice

It has a nuttier taste and a firmer, chewier texture than white or brown rice. (It’s actually not a true rice—it’s technically a grass!)

Kasha

It’s also called roasted buckwheat groats. Coat it with a little raw egg or a bit of oil before cooking so the grains don’t fall apart. Try mixing it into ground turkey or lean beef instead of bread crumbs when making meatloaf.

Quinoa

Though it’s considered a whole grain, quinoa is actually a protein-rich seed that contains about twice as much protein as other grains. It’s also rich in essential minerals like iron and magnesium. Add sautéed onions or carrots to it for extra flavor and texture.

Bulgur

It’s loaded with fiber and cooks very quickly. People often combine it with lemon juice, mint, parsley, salt and pepper to make tabbouleh (a Middle Eastern grain salad).

Barley

Look for the “hulled” kind (check the label). It contains the same type of fiber found in oatmeal, so it can help lower cholesterol. Try it in stuffings or vegetable soup.

Whole Wheat Couscous

Couscous is a good base that takes on the flavor of your add-ins. Look for the whole-wheat variety (regular couscous is not whole-grain)

Fiber Rich Recipes

Grain-Filled Bell Peppers                                                                                                  

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup brown basmati or brown jasmine rice
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup medium grind bulgur
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking barley
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Fontina cheese (about 5 ounces)
  • 6 bell peppers (yellow, orange, green and/or red)

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook 3 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with oil, 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, 2 cups chicken broth, water and tomato paste. Stir well to dissolve tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, 35 minutes.

Add bulgur, quinoa and barley and stir. Simmer, covered, until grains are tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 minutes. Let cool. Stir in cheese.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice 1⁄4 inch off the top of each pepper; reserve tops. Using the tip of a paring knife, remove seeds and membranes from peppers, leaving shells intact.

Fill peppers with grain mixture. Place in a deep baking dish close together. Place tops on peppers. Pour remaining chicken broth into bottom of dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until peppers are almost soft, 20 to 25 minutes.

Beef and Barley Stew                                                                                                                           

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds extra lean beef stew meat, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 5 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks*
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped roma (plum) tomatoes
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup medium barley
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Directions:

Season meat to taste with pepper and thoroughly coat with flour. In a 6-quart nonstick Dutch oven coated with nonstick cooking spray add olive oil and heat. Add meat and cook meat over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add onion and garlic, sauteing for several more minutes. Add carrots, parsley, and thyme; saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Add broth and water and bring to a boil, scraping bottom of the pan.

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, and barley. Return to boiling; reduce heat and continue cooking, covered, over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Add peas, stirring for one minute.

Kamut Pilaf with Cashews and Apricots                                                                                                                                      

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Kamut, soaked 8 hours or overnight in cold water to cover
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced dried apricots

Directions:

Drain Kamut and place in a medium saucepan with broth, onion, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; stir well, cover, and lower heat until the mixture just simmers. Cook until Kamut is fairly tender, about 1 hour. Discard bay leaf and add cashews and apricots. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Toss with a fork and serve hot or room temperature.

Farro with Sausage and Mushrooms

Serves 6

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup farro
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 pound button mushrooms,cut into small pieces
  • 1-pound Italian pork or turkey sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium tomato juice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Fine sea salt to taste

 Directions:

Place the farro in a 2-quart saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In the same saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion until lightly brown. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until they soften. Stir in the sausage and cook it until it loses its pink color.

Return the farro to the pot and stir to combine well.

In separate bowl, combine the tomato juice, tomato paste and red wine. Pour the ingredients into the pot and stir the ingredients well.

Cover the pot, lower the heat to medium low and cook about 20 minutes, or just until the liquid is almost absorbed and the farro is cooked through but still chewy.

Stir in the cheese and salt to taste and serve hot in soup bowls.

Pass extra cheese on the side to sprinkle on top.

 

Whole-Wheat Nut and Fruit Biscotti                                            

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves or sliced almonds or other nuts
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit, such as cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir in nuts, chips and dried fruit. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Add to flour mixture; stir just until combined.

On a lightly floured surface, with floured hands, divide dough in half and pat one part of dough into a log about 1 inch thick, 2 1/2 inches wide (and about 7 inches long); transfer to one baking sheet. Repeat with second half. Bake until risen and firm, 20 to 25 minutes; cool completely on  baking sheets. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place logs on a cutting board, and using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch-thick slices; place slices in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake, turning once after 15 minutes, until dried and slightly golden,  30 minutes; cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 month.



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