Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fiber, Beans and a Recipe for Roasted Vegetable Rice & Bean Salad

We know, we know.  We talk a lot about fiber.  

Why?  Because fiber is just so good for you!  Over and over again, studies show diets high in dietary fiber help you to maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.  Research has even shown that increasing fiber intake improves our mood!

Roasted Vegetable Rice & Bean Salad, Recipe Below
Both children and adults need 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day, depending upon age and gender.  However, most people get much less fiber than that!  You can increase the fiber in your diet by following a Mediterranean-style diet, one rich in whole grains, beans and legumes, and fruits and vegetables.

Beans happen to be a particularly great source of fiber, with about 15 grams of fiber per half-cup serving!  Recently, I've had a lot of people asking me how to cook with beans.  Here are a few thoughts.  

Canned beans and cooked dried beans are equally good, although I think home-cooked beans taste better.  It depends on how much time you have.  Canned beans are a great convenience food.  Just rinse them before using in your favorite recipe.  Aside from the taste, cooking dried beans can save you money.  Soaking beans before cooking helps the beans cook faster.   If you have time, soak them, either with an overnight soak or using the quick soak method.  If you don’t have time, skip the soaking, and cook the beans longer.  Fresher beans need less soaking time than beans that have been on the shelf for a while.

Overnight Soak
Rinse the beans and place them in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain and then re-cover with water to cook.

Quick Soak
Rinse the beans and place them in a large pot with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour.  Drain and then re-cover with water to cook.

Place the drained, soaked beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 to 2 hours.  Wait until beans are tender before you add salt or acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, vinegar or molasses, as these will make the beans tough.

Here are some ideas of how to eat more beans at breakfast, lunch dinner and for snacks:

At breakfast...

-      Breakfast burrito with whole wheat tortilla, scrambled eggs, beans, leftover veggies (any kind) and salsa.  You could also leave out the egg and still have a good source of protein.
-      Breakfast bowl with stewed beans (homemade would be best here), topped with a poached or fried egg, salsa and a sprinkle of cheese. 

At lunch and dinner...

-       Bean soups.  There are so many to try!  Look at and for some great bean soup recipes.  Some of my favorite combinations are kale, chicken sausage and white bean; black beans and stewed tomatoes; and tomato, swiss chard and chickpea soup. Or McKenzie's Game Day Chili.
-       Bean and grain salads.  Combine beans and whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley) with roasted vegetables and drizzle with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
-       Bean and corn salad.  Combine beans with fresh or frozen corn, halved cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, diced feta and toss with lemon or lime juice and extra virgin olive oil.
-       Bean wraps.  Make a wrap with a whole grain tortilla filled with a bean spread, spinach, shredded carrots and avocado.
-       Bean tacos.  Corn tortillas filled with the beans of your choice and topped with salsa, cheese or other taco toppings.  Serve with cabbage salad.
-       Bean burritos.  Stuff a whole wheat burrito with beans, brown rice, and vegetables.  Roll, top with cheese and put in 350 degree oven until the cheese melts.
-       Bean enchiladas.  
-       Bean bowls.  Fill a bowl with braised beans (either homemade or canned), a whole grain (like brown rice), braised greens (like kale), and top with an egg and either pesto or a romesco sauce.  Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

For snacks...

-       Make your own high fiber bean dip using whatever canned beans you have on hand—chickpeas, black beans, white beans, etc.  Then dip with veggies, whole grain crackers or pita chips.
-       Crispy oven-roasted chickpeas.  Rinse canned chickpeas and dry well.  Toss with olive oil and desired spices.  Place on a baking sheet and roast in 400 degree oven until browned and crispy, about 30 minutes.

Roasted Vegetable Rice & Bean Salad

Makes about 10 – 12 servings

4 cups cooked brown and wild rice blend
2 cans cannelini beans (or any beans you like), rinsed and drained
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, roasted*
1 large summer squash, sliced ¼” thick, roasted*
2 large zucchini, sliced ¼” thick, roasted*
1 red onion, sliced and roasted*
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 – 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Seas salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Toss and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving, to allow flavors to blend.

*To roast tomatoes and vegetables:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Toss vegetables in extra virgin olive oil (about 1 – 2 tablespoons) and sea salt.  Place in single layer on baking sheet.  Roast for about 20 – 25 minutes or until browned and caramelized.  Let cool.  Do not roast tomatoes and vegetables in the same pan, as the juice from the tomatoes will prevent the vegetables from browning.

Monday, April 21, 2014

{Recipe Redux} Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Everyone has an activity that calms them, centers their mind and takes away the stress of the day.  Some escape through the pages of books, some garden, some sweat it out.  I cook.

Okay, I sweat it out, and then I cook.

Cooking is my meditation.  I can spend hours in the kitchen chopping, stirring and tasting while praying, planning, reflecting, and letting my mind wander around the present and to the past.  Either through a recipe or an ingredient—or a cast iron skillet—cooking has a way of connecting me to family and friends who may be separated by miles or by spirit.  

This month’s Recipe Redux challenge was to share a recipe inspired by treasured family cookware.  Looking around my kitchen, I’m blessed to be surrounded by the energy of the other women in my family who shared their love through food—the wooden spoon my Mamaw used to churn butter, the petite etched green juice glasses from my Granny Dixon, my Mom’s first Cuisinart stand mixer, my Granny’s gravy boat.  But, the piece I use almost every day—from frying an egg to caramelizing onions—is my cast iron skillet.

When I graduated from college and had a house of my own, my Granny gave me my Mamaw’s (her mother’s) cast iron skillet.  There are a lot of family meals secreted in that pan—brown gravy, cornbread, fried eggs, bacon, country ham—made in a Kentucky farmhouse kitchen.  My Mom and my Granny tell me I’m a lot like Mamaw.  She used to sit on the front porch swing and read cookbooks, and she loved to cook for people.  I like that connection.

In the spirit of Kentucky cooking and the history of my cast iron skillet, here’s my recipe for Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits.  Smother them with gravy, sandwich a piece of country ham between the halves or slather them with homemade rhubarb-strawberry jam (like I did).  They taste like home.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined.  Add the butter and rub into the flour, either with a pastry cutter or your fingers, until the butter is combined into the flour and you have pea-sized pieces.

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the buttermilk.  Stir together with a wooden spoon until combined.  Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times.  Form into a circle about an inch thick. 

Using a three-inch biscuit cutter (or a juice glass), form the biscuits and place in your cast iron skillet (or on a baking sheet).  Brush the tops with butter and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes or until the biscuits or browned and cooked through.

Enjoy, preferably with someone you love.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Yoga Confession & A Recipe for Fruit Leather

I was beyond excited to write a blog for friend and fellow Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, writer, and blogger, Caroline Kaufman.  Since she moved to Los Angeles this past winter, Caroline and I have been busy crossing things off of our Southern California bucket list. So far, we’ve made our way through the Rose Bowl Flea Market (wear comfortable shoes!), strolled through the Venice canals (I can't believe I haven’t done that before), and enjoyed some delicious meals at Lemonade and True Food Kitchen. Next up, we’re enjoying a cocktail on a rooftop. We’re using this list as our guide.

But, back to Caroline's blog. Here, I offer some thoughts about fitness, reveal my "big" yoga confession, and also share a recipe for my super easy (two ingredients, easy!) recipe for Homemade Fruit Leather.

Hope you enjoy! And stay tuned for a blog featuring Caroline, too!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Raspberry Coconut Smoothie

Aren’t there some foods that instantly transport you to a happy place? The smell of homemade cinnamon rolls, for example, transports me straight to my grandma’s house where I’m surrounded by family (and often in my yoga pants and free of make-up). The taste of spicy black beans reminds me of my 5-week adventure in Central America a few years ago with some of my very best friends. And, raspberries and coconut? Doesn’t that just shout “warm weather, sunshine, and beach.” Those are all very happy things. 

We think that warm weather and the fun that comes with it calls for a celebration.

Today, we’re sharing our recipe for a Raspberry Coconut Smoothie. We hope it makes you happy.

1 cup frozen raspberries
½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup ice

Combine raspberries, milk, and coconut in a blender. Blend until smooth and add ice as needed. 

Enjoy, preferably with someone you love (and with a little tiny umbrella in your drink).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Dietitian Is In: Live & Active Cultures

When we meet someone for the first time and share what we do, it often seems to open the gateway to a game of 20 questions. “What do you think about the Paleo diet?” “It’s a good thing to give up gluten, right?” “Is a banana bad for me?” “So, do you always eat healthy?” When we’re asked these kinds of questions, we’re happy to answer them. We feel grateful that people feel comfortable enough to ask. Here's a recent question we were asked...and here's the answer!

Question: What does the “live and active cultures” seal mean?

Answer: The “Live & Active Cultures” seal is restricted to yogurt products, according to the California Dairy Research Foundation. Developed by the National Yogurt Association, the seal is intended to help consumers distinguish between products containing live cultures of bacteria and those that have been heat treated, subsequently killing all bacterial strains. The seal is available to any refrigerated yogurt or frozen yogurt manufacturer and requires products to contain a standard amount of lactic acid bacteria per gram at the time of manufacture. While helpful to consumers, the seal is limited in that it does not differentiate from added probiotics—those beneficial bacteria that populate our intestinal tract and have been linked to specific benefits, such as improved digestion and immunity—and the starter culture bacteria (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles) used in the fermentation process for producing yogurt. As for other products containing probiotics (that may not carry the seal), such as granola bars, cereal, and chewing gum, additional research is required by the consumer to investigate whether the products contain adequate quantities of probiotics, whether they are alive at the time of manufacture, and whether research has determined that the probiotics listed in the product are beneficial.

Greek yogurt (with Live & Active cultures) topped with blueberries

This Q & A was written by McKenzie for the December 2013 issue of Environmental Nutrition.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Whole Wheat Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Roasted Fennel and Tomatoes & Goat Feta

Last week, a young friend of mine came over to hang out for pizza night and a movie. (Cloudy with a Side of Meatballs, if you’re wondering).  She loves to cook and is always thrilled to learn something new.  Last time she came over, we made butter.  Her Dad said she kept talking about that for days.

This time, we made pizza, including the dough.  She was thrilled when kneading the dough suddenly made sense, and it started to “look like pizza dough!” as she put it.  You can find our recipe for whole wheat pizza dough here

When it came time to bake the pizzas, I set out a variety of toppings—caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, roasted fennel, spinach, fresh basil, basil pesto, kalamata olives and two different kinds of cheeses—so she could make her own.      

She was a little wary of the onions at first, until she tried them.  “Those are delicious!” she said.  It’s a good strategy if your kids don’t really like vegetables—cook them until they become sweet and caramelized.  This means cooking onions for a very long time over low heat, until their sugars develop.  Or with other vegetables, roast them in a hot oven until they become brown and delicious.  Kids (and adults!) will eat them like candy.

You can’t beat pizza and a movie (or pizza and games) for spending time with kids.  It’s an easy way to get them in the kitchen with you, and is sure to make dinner time a fun experience for everyone.

What are your favorite ways to get kids in the kitchen with you?  We’d love to hear your ideas! 

Here’s a basic recipe for caramelizing onions.  You don’t actually need a lot of fat in the pan, just low heat and a long time, stirring occasionally.  If you need a little help cutting the onions, McKenzie wrote a great tutorial here.

Caramelized Onions

2 onions, thinly sliced
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Place a cast iron skillet (or heavy bottomed skillet) over medium-low heat.  Add the olive oil to the pan and let it get hot.  Add the onions, salt and red pepper flakes.  Cook stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the onions are very soft and very brown and taste sweet.  If the pan starts to get too dry, you can add a little water, chicken stock or wine.  The onions will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days.    

You can also add any other herbs you like.  Thyme is delicious.

Basic Recipe for Roasting Vegetables

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut all vegetables to the same size.  Toss with olive oil, salt and any spices, if you like.  Spices like smoked paprika and cumin are delicious.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place seasoned and oiled vegetables on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Don’t let them overlap or they will steam and not brown. 

Roast for between 20 and 30 minutes, depending upon the type and size of the vegetables.  Your nose will tell you when they are done, as they will start to smell sweet.  Take them out of the oven when they are caramelized to your liking. 

Something like broccoli might only take 20 minutes, while sweet potatoes may take 30 or more.

If you are roasting tomatoes, don’t put any other kind of vegetable on the baking sheet, as the juice from the tomatoes will prevent the other vegetables from browning.

Roasted vegetables will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days.  They are great for snacking, salads and side dishes!

Basic Recipe for Cooking the Pizza

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven to preheat for at least 30 minutes.

If you are making the dough from scratch, divide the dough into three equal pieces.  Each of these dough balls will make one large pizza or two to three individual pizzas.

Stretch the dough to the desired thinness and size.  Place the dough on a pizza peel that has been generously dusted with flour or cornmeal (so you can slide the pizza from the peel to the pizza stone).

Top your pizza with desired toppings.  For this pizza, I topped it with caramelized onions, roasted fennel, roasted tomatoes, some spinach ribbons and goat feta cheese.  Try not to add too many wet toppings, as this can make for a soggy pizza.

Slide the pizza from the pizza peel to your pizza stone.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, just place the pizza on a baking sheet and put in the oven.

Bake the pizza for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the toppings are bubbling.

Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes.

Enjoy, preferably with people you love!  And a movie is great, too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How To Cut An Onion

“It’s hard to imagine civilization without onions.” ~Julia Child

Julia is so right. Onions can make their way into any meal of the day –whether it’s a breakfast omelet, an afternoon salad, or a dinner stew.

And while we can sometimes take this kitchen standby for granted, the health benefits of onions are worth noting. Onions are abundant in sulfur-containing compounds, such as quercetin and allyl sulfides, which have been linked to lowering the risk of some cancers and maintaining a healthy heart. And those sulfuric compounds are also the reason we cry when we’re cutting an onion. To cut down on the crying, chill the onion. Also begin cutting at the top, leaving the root end uncut as long as possible as it contains the highest concentrations of sulfur compounds.
Photo courtesy of Alice Henneman on Flickr
And cutting an onion takes some practice. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to cut an onion:
1.      Cut off the top/stem of the onion. Peel off the outer layers of skin.
2.      To dice, cut the whole peeled onion in half, from root end to stem end.
3.      Lay each half cut side down on a cutting board. Make multiple, evenly spaced cuts from root end to stem end of onion, being careful not to cut through the root end. Adjust the space between each cut to obtain the desired dice size.
4.      Hold the onion together and make horizontal cuts parallel to the cutting surface. Again, be sure to leave the root end in-tact.
5.      Make multiple cuts across the onion, adjusting the number of slices for desired dice size. Dispose of the hard root end.
6.      Add onion pieces to recipes!

You can view this entire step-by-step guide from the National Onion Association here.

Or watch Cynthia Lair of Cookus Interruptus show how to cut an onion in this instructional video here.