Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Beyond Meatless Monday…Our Delicious go-to Breakfasts

Growing up, most of my family thought I was destined to become a vegetarian. As a child, I would pick at the roast beef or grilled chicken on my plate but would gobble down my cooked cauliflower or carrots without a moment of hesitation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a burger at a summer barbeque as much as the next person – but if I absolutely had to give up meat, I could do it without adjusting my eating habits too much. Giving up bread on the other hand – well, that wouldn’t be so easy.

In a recent post, Lisa mentioned that Americans tend to eat too much meat as it is. And it’s true. But, I don’t want to scare you. When consumed in moderation, meat has some wonderful health benefits. It’s an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, and protein – the building block for your body’s cells and tissues. Protein is also important for muscle growth and repair.

That being said, good quality protein can also be found in these meatless sources:

eggs, cheese, milk or milk alternatives, yogurt (Greek yogurt especially!), nuts & nut butters, beans, lentils, edamame, and tofu…

….and these are starting to get more attention.

There’s been a recent rise in “flexitarianism” — an eating style that reduces the amount of meat in one’s diet without completely “going vegetarian.” Shifting the focus of your meals from meat to plant based sources of protein, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables definitely has its perks. It’s good for your body and the environment, while also being good to your bank account.

To show you how delicious and satisfying a vegetarian meal can be, I thought I would start with breakfast.


Because breakfast is one of the easiest meals to skip meat. Who needs bacon or sausage when you can feast your eyes on one of our delcious ideas below?

Also, most people tend to skip breakfast due to lack of time. Preparing meatless breakfasts are often simple, quick to do, and still completely satisfying. Since Lisa and I are both such advocates of starting your day off with some good quality nourishment, we’re also big fans of making breakfast more achievable.

Have 20 minutes?

Try our Hazelnut Pancakes topped with berries of your choice.

Or Try our Whole Wheat Biscuits with an egg and small glass of OJ.
Have 10 minutes?

Make one of our favorite egg sandwiches.
Cook an egg well done (so the yolk isn’t runny) and combine with a slice of really good cheese (Beecher’s Flagship is our favorite) between a whole wheat English muffin. Grab a small piece of fruit for an extra balanced meal.

Or have The Lisa-McKenzie Breakfast staple.
Whole wheat toast topped with sliced avocado or a little sautéed spinach. Top with an egg. We prefer our yolks runny for this one.

Or try our Perfect Berry Oatmeal:
Combine about one cup cooked oats with about one cup berries, a spoonful of ground flaxseeds, cinnamon, vanilla & topped with almonds slivers.

Have 5 minutes?

Have an early dose of Heart Health.
Spread a slice of whole wheat toast with nut butter & ground flaxseeds. Top with half a banana, sliced.

Or make a Breakfast Parfait.
Layer Greek yogurt with sliced fruit and a little Nourish granola.

Have 2 minutes?

Grab a nutrition bar with both protein and fiber (Luna Bar is our favorite) & a piece of fruit.

Or grab leftovers from dinner last night.

Enjoy. And remind yourself that by eating breakfast, you’re showing yourself a little love.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hazelnut Pancakes

Breakfast is our favorite meal of the day. And we've been known to eat breakfast for dinner. Yes, even pancakes.

 So in honor of National Pancake Day, we're sharing our favorite pancake recipe for hazelnut pancakes, made with ground hazelnut flour. If you can't find hazelnut flour (we get ours from local Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards) you can substitute buckwheat flour, corn meal or another whole grain. But the hazelnut flour adds sweet, nutty deliciousness. Stir in chopped, toasted hazelnuts for an extra-nutty crunch.

 Enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner, preferably with someone you love. 

Hazelnut Pancakes 
Makes 6 medium-sized pancakes

1 cup milk
2 large eggs, preferably organic
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat all-purpose flour
¼ cup hazelnut flour (found in specialty stores)
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
Butter for pan
Jam or maple syrup, for serving

In a small bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, honey and melted butter.   
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, hazelnut flour, sea salt and baking powder.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Whisk just until combined.  Do not over mix of the pancakes will be tough.  It’s okay if there are some lumps.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Add a little bit of butter.  Wait for butter to melt and then add pancake batter, about ¼ cup at a time for medium pancakes.    

When bubbles begin to appear in the tops of the pancakes, they are ready to flip.  Flip and cook on the other side, until golden brown.

Serve the pancakes to your family and friends, hot out of the pan with jam, fresh fruit or maple syrup.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Beyond Chicken and Beef...a Recipe for Rabbit Ragu

I grew up in Kentucky in a family of farmers, hunters and fisherman, so I’m no stranger to raising or catching my own dinner—or at least being used to the concept.  The baby lambs born in the spring often ended up on the table for Easter dinner, and the cattle grazing in the field behind the house filled the freezer every fall.  My brother, Clay, and I went fishing for bass, bluegill or catfish with our Pappy, and sometimes we would tag along with Dad to hunt for rabbit or deer. 

We always knew where our food came from.  It was just a way of life.  McKenzie grew up the same way, raising vegetables in her Grandma’s garden.

Perhaps you’ve heard this before, so maybe it’s not ground-breaking news.  But in general, meat, eggs and milk from grass-fed or wild animals are lower in fat and calories and higher in antioxidants and omega-3 fats than commercially-raised animals.  Plus, they’re more likely to be humanely-raised on sustainable farms without the use of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.  Humanely and sustainably-raised animals support a system that’s better for the animals, the environment and for our health.

If you doubt this, see Dan Barber’s TED Talk, The Foie Gras Parable.

The catch?  It’s more expensive.

We have a few ideas to make it more affordable for you to purchase meat and eggs from sustainably-raised animals for you and your family.  Here we go:

1.      Eat vegetarian some of the time. 
Yes, we know, that’s not really fair.  But if you eat less meat overall, then you can afford to buy really, really good quality meat for your family on the days you do eat it.  And really, Americans eat way to much meat as it is, about eight ounces a day—twice the world average.  Plus, there are so many delicious vegetarian recipes out there these days.  You can experiment with vegetable- and grain-rich dishes that are hearty and satisfying.  Stay tuned for some of our ideas. 

2.      When you do eat meat, eat a little less.
A serving of meat is actually only three to four ounces, not the mammoth eight to 12 ounces you might be served at many restaurants—or are even used to at home.  How do you make three to four ounces of meat feel like a meal?  This brings us to #3.

3.      Be adventurous, and try different cooking methods 
Slow cooking meat in a sauce or with vegetables in a soup, stew, casserole or other dish stretches the meat to feed more.  Think beef stew, pasta Bolognese, carnitas tacos or a spicy southwest chili That doesn’t sound like deprivation, does it?  Which brings us to #4…

4.      Be adventurous, and try different cuts of meat
Some of the time, try replacing your traditional steak, chop or breast with a larger cut of meat (or whole bird) that can be slow-cooked or braised to tender, succulent deliciousness.  Larger, tougher cuts of meat that need to be slowly roasted or braised are always a less expensive option.  

5.      Be adventurous, and try new types of meat.
While sustainably-raised beef, pork or chicken might be more expensive than their conventionally-raised counterparts, there are many other varieties of meat to try, which can be more affordable.  Think about alternatives like lamb, bison, elk, deer, duck, quail and rabbit.  To find sources of these meats in your area, try your local natural food store or co-op or the website Eatwild.

To help you get started, here’s a recipe following several of the above tips—a rabbit ragu over creamy polenta.  Rabbit meat is extremely lean—low in fat and calories and high in omega-3 fatty acids.  It has a texture similar to chicken—but even better—and is quite delicious. 

Give it a try.  What do you have to lose?

Rabbit Ragu over Creamy Polenta

Serves 6

3 strips bacon, chopped (preferably organic or from sustainably-raised pigs)
One 3- to 4-pound rabbit, quartered or in pieces
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 – 3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup red wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or water

Place a dutch oven or similar heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat.  Add bacon and cook slowly, rendering the fat, until bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon.  You should have about two tablespoons fat in the pan.

Raise heat to medium-high.  Add enough rabbit pieces to cover the bottom of the pan.  Do not crowd pan.  Brown rabbit on both sides.  Repeat with remaining pieces, if necessary.  Remove rabbit to a plate.

While rabbit is browning, add onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until finely ground.    

Reduce heat back to medium.  You should still have some fat left in the pan.  If it’s too dry, you can add a little olive oil.  Add red pepper flakes, onion, carrot, celery and garlic mixture to pan.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.  Add bay leaves and thyme.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and caramelized, about 20 - 25 minutes.

Add tomato paste, cooking and stirring until fragrant, about another 3 – 4 minutes.  Add the browned rabbit pieces back to the pan.  Add wine and stir, scraping bottom of pan.  Cook until wine is reduced to a few tablespoons.  Add broth or water.  Bring to a boil, stir, and then reduce heat to very low.

Cover (leave the lid slightly ajar to allow some steam to escape) and cook until meat is tender and nearly falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove rabbit from sauce and set aside to cool slightly.  Shred rabbit meat off the bone and add meat back to the pot.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Spoon over creamy polenta and serve hot. 

Creamy Polenta

For truly creamy polenta, you need to let it cook for a long time, so be sure to start this several hours in advance.  Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t need a lot of babysitting, but it does take time.

3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 shallots, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Heat a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter, shallot and red pepper flakes.  Cook shallot 2 – 3 minutes, or until translucent.  Add water and salt.  Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.

Carefully sprinkle the polenta into the water, stirring briskly.  Be careful not to let the polenta splash back at you.  Lower the heat to a simmer and let cook, stirring often, for about an hour.  At this point, the polenta should be thickened, but not too thick.

Cover the polenta and place in the oven, for about 2 hours or so.  Every 20 minutes, open the oven and give it a stir.  When you’re ready for dinner, remove from oven and stir in last 2 tablespoons butter and parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately, as it will begin to harden as it cools.

If you have leftovers, just pour them into a shallow dish and store in the refrigerator.  Sauté squares of leftover polenta to serve as a base for eggs, or cut them into cubes and sauté for polenta croutons.  Delicious.   

Monday, February 13, 2012

Have Your Chocolate...And Enjoy it Too!

We’re going to share our favorite recipes to help you make a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for your sweetheart—or even just for yourself.  Remember, it’s important to love yourself, too! 

But first, we’re going to talk about fats.  Because fats get a bad rap and fats are an important part of any Valentine’s Day celebration. Think chocolate. 

So, here we go. 

Registered Dietitians also get a bad rap. 

 We’re often considered the ‘food police,’ professionals sucking all the pleasure and joy out of eating.  When people find out we’re Registered Dietitians, they hide their plate of french fries or chocolate bar, saying, “I don’t usually eat like this…”

We’re here to change the way you view Registered Dietitians—and the way you view food—and fats. 

We don’t focus on what you can’t eat—we focus on what you can eat.  And what you can and should eat is real, delicious food—including fats—in moderation, of course. 

Fats are an essential part of our diet and are necessary to help our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K).  They are a great source of energy and essential to glowing skin and shiny, healthy hair. 

We know all of the nutrition information out there can be confusing, so we’ll try to make this as simple as possible. 

There are three main fats that we eat--unsaturated fat, saturated fat and trans fat All real foods are made up of a combination of unsaturated and saturated fats, with very little naturally occurring trans fats.

Unsaturated fats are made up of both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids.  From a health standpoint, monounsaturated fats give you the biggest bang for your buck and may be the best choice for heart health.  Monounsaturated fats lower total cholesterol and may actually help to raise HDL (good) cholesterol.  Sources include avocados, many nuts (like almonds, peanuts, cashews and hazelnuts), olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil and olives—all good and good for you! 

Polyunsaturated fats also help lower total cholesterol.  Sources of polyunsaturated fats include trans-fat free margarine and mayonnaise, walnuts, some oils (corn, flaxseed, grapeseed, safflower, soybean), and seeds (flaxseed, pumpkins seeds and sesame seeds).

Omega-3 fatty acids are also a type of polyunsaturated fat, and are found mainly in cold water fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and halibut.  Omega-3 fatty acids may help to lower blood pressure and reduce the level of triglycerides (fat) in the blood.

Saturated fats are those fats that are solid at room temperature—with sources like bacon, butter, cream, hard cheeses, coconut and fat in meats.  Saturated fat has taken a beating over the years, named as a primary culprit in the development of heart disease.  This relationship is debatable, and the evidence between saturated fat and heart disease actually suggests that highly processed foods (think hot dogs, lunch meats and processed bacon and sausages) that are also high in saturated fat, are likely to blame.    

We approve of using naturally derived saturated fats (like butter, lard or coconut oil) over artificial fats.  Butter is always, always a better choice than margarine or any sort of fake butter.  Butter contains Vitamins A and D, and fatty acids--butyric acid and lauric acid—shown to have numerous health benefits, including boosting HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood.  Coconut oil is also high in lauric acid, and can be a delicious baking alternative for those looking for a vegan cooking source. 

On the other hand, trans fats—contained in many margarines and processed baked goods— should always be avoided, when possible.  Trans fats are vegetable oils that have been chemically processed to turn a liquid fat into a semi-solid state and can raise total cholesterol and have been linked to heart disease.  To recognize trans fats, it is important to read labels!  Look for the word “hydrogenated” on the ingredient list—if the food has a hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list, it contains trans fats.   

And, since this is Valentine’s Day, what about chocolate?

The fat in chocolate—cocoa butter—is made up of both monounsaturated and saturated fats.  The monounsaturated fat in cocoa butter is oleic acid, the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil.  Research shows the saturated fat in cocoa butter has a negligible effect on cholesterol levels.  So go ahead, eat small amounts of chocolate—with at least 70% cocoa content—when the craving strikes

Image reprinted with permission from and
Real food is always better than fake food.  Or at least, we can’t think of a reason to ever eat something fake.  When it comes to fats, we trust cows and pigs and plants more than chemists. 

Hopefully this primer has helped you understand a little bit more about fats.  If your eyes glazed over through the details, just remember this:  Eat real food—including fats—in moderation, and enjoy them with those you love.

And now, for Valentine’s Day recipes that will make your sweetie’s heart—and your heart— happy.

Pomegranate & Beet Salad

Beets are very high in antioxidant-rich flavonoids, which studies show may help to prevent cancer.  Beets are very nutrient dense, high in folate, which is crucial for brain functioning, metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, and very important during child-rearing years.  Betalains, the red and yellow pigments in beets, may help to reduce inflammation in the body.

Image reprinted with permission from and
Serves 4

2 medium beets
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 head butter lettuce leaves
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place beets in baking dish with water.  Cover dish with foil and roast beets until beets are tender, about 50 minutes – 1 hour. Cool. Peel beets and cut into 1/3-inch-thick wedges.

Whisk pomegranate juice, vinegar, mustard, honey and olive oil in a large bowl to blend.  Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.  Add sliced beets and pomegranate seeds to vinaigrette in bowl.  Toss. 

Top butter lettuce leaves with beets and drizzle with vinaigrette. 

Pan-Seared Wild Salmon with Red Currant Salsa Verde

Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (a type of polyunsaturated fat), which can help lower triglyceride levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.  Olive oil is a source of monounsaturated fat, which can help lower total cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. 

Serves 4

4, 4 ounce wild salmon fillets
Zest of one lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat a cast iron or heavy-bottom skillet over medium high heat.  Coat the skin of the salmon with olive or canola oil.   Place the salmon, skin side down, in the cast iron skillet.  Cook for 4 minutes.  Turn the fish over.  Cook another 4 minutes for medium salmon and 5 minutes for salmon that is completely cooked through.  Remove from heat.  Serve with Red Currant Salsa Verde.

Red Currant Salsa Verde

2 tablespoons currants
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
Zest and juice of one lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons of olive oil

In a small bowl, cover red currants with boiling water.  Let set about 5 minutes to soften, and then drain.

In a medium bowl, combine parsley, oregano, capers, currants, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Whisk in olive oil.  Serve over seared wild salmon.

Cauliflower Puree

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, which are high in antioxidants and may have cancer-fighting properties.  Cauliflower is an excellent source of Vitamin C, with 1 cup containing almost as much Vitamin C as an orange. And Vitamin C is a known mood-booster!

Serves 4

1 large head cauliflower
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut cauliflower into florets and place florets and garlic clove in a steamer basket.  Fill a medium pot with about 2 inches of water.  Bring to a simmer and place steamer basket with cauliflower and garlic over pot.  Cover and steam about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is very tender.  

Put the florets and garlic in a food processor. Add the olive oil.  Puree until smooth.  Season with sea salt and black pepper.   

Add back to the cooking pot and keep warm over low heat until ready to serve.

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

While chocolate is best enjoyed in moderation, studies show that having a serving of dark chocolate is actually good for your heart. Dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.  The cocoa bean is high in a subclass of antioxidants called polyphenols that help to counteract the damaging effect of free radicals in the body.  Dark chocolate also contains serotonin, a natural mood-boosting anti-depressant and helps to stimulate the pleasure-inducing endorphins.

Serves 12

6 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
12 large strawberries

Chop the chocolate into pieces and place in a small glass bowl in a microwave for 20 seconds. Stir the chocolate and continue to microwave for 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the chocolate is smooth and shiny.  Do not overcook.

Dip each strawberry into the chocolate and place on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.  Set aside until chocolate hardens, about 30 minutes.

Enjoy this meal this Valentine’s Day, with the one (or ones!) you love.