Month: April 2014

Orange is The New Black: The Savory Version

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jalapeno corn cakes with black bean and orange salsa

I had to delete everything I wrote for this post and start over. Curious? I had been feeling a little meh about writing it and only had 2 short, sad paragraphs. For inspiration (and to see some gross teeth) I decided to google-image “scurvy,” a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, when I came across a gem. Something so awesome I had to revamp everything. There is a website, www.limestrong.com, dedicated to eradicating scurvy. On top of that, May 2 has been designated International Scurvy Awareness Day. That’s THIS FRIDAY!! On top of that, there are funny pictures of cats wearing oranges and limes on their heads. Maybe it’s the dietitian in me, but this really tickled my funny bone.

jalapeno corn cakes with black bean and orange salsa

Scurvy used to be seen in sailors on long voyages that lacked access to fresh fruits and vegetables. While it’s a rare disease in the 21st century, there are still reported cases. Groups at higher risk include smokers, alcoholics, infants that are fed cow’s milk, and those without access to fresh fruits and vegetables. A classic symptom is bleeding gums and loose teeth, as well as wounds that won’t heal. The reason is that vitamin C plays an important role in collagen synthesis, a protein that helps hold the body together. Without vitamin C helping form collagen, body tissues start to break down. Don’t want your teeth to fall out? Eat some fruits and veggies every day!

black bean and orange salsa

I know, scurvy is generally a disease of yore, but I had to talk about it since there’s a day dedicated to it. Besides wound healing and keeping your teeth attached, vitamin C does some other cool things. Most of you probably know it’s an antioxidant, which means it helps neutralize free radicals that can cause damage over time and are associated with aging and various diseases. With regard to cancer prevention, a diet rich in fruits/vegetables is recommended, however vitamin C supplementation alone has not shown definitive proof that it reduces cancer incidence. The common cold has a similar story. Research has not shown that vitamin C reduces your risk of catching a cold.

corn cakes

Enough of the science lesson, let’s talk food. Sure, oranges are great for breakfast alongside a hardboiled egg and toast, or, for you fancy folks out there, these delicious crepes, but how can we incorporate them into something savory? It’s easy to get into a food rut, where you find yourself eating the same things in the same ways, and I hope this recipe can help shake up your routine and broaden your dinner horizons. This is a great weeknight meal and easy to whip up. These corn cakes work for anyone out there who is gluten-free, or, if you’re like me, want to try something new. I topped them with this black bean and orange salsa, but you could also add the salsa to some fish or chicken, or just eat it out of the bowl like my mom did.

Now run to the grocery store, pick up these ingredients, and make this recipe Friday to celebrate International Scurvy Awareness Day!!

jalapeno corn cakes with black bean and orange salsa
jalapeno corn cakes with black bean and orange salsa

Ingredients

  • Jalapeno Corn Cakes (makes 4 large or 6 medium cakes)
    • 2 Tbsp canola oil
    • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 cup corn meal
    • 5 Tbsp non-fat milk
    • 2 Tbsp honey
    • ½ jalapeno, diced
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Black Bean and Orange Salsa
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, diced
    • Juice from 1 lime
    • ½ tsp cumin
    • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 14 oz can black beans, rinsed
    • 1 large orange, peeled, chopped
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • 2 green onion, chopped
    • ½ jalapeno, diced
    • 1 avocado, cut into chunks
    • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Directions

Corn Cakes:  Mix the corn, eggs, corn meal, milk, honey, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet. Add batter, you should be able to fit 2-3 cakes depending on the size. Cook 2-4 minutes or until set. Flip and cook other side.

Black Bean and Orange Salsa:  Mix first 6 ingredients (dressing) in small dish. Taste and adjust seasonings and/or lime juice based on your preferences. Combine beans, orange, bell pepper, onion, jalapeno, avocado, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Toss bean and vegetable mixture with dressing. Top corn cakes with the salsa.

Nutrition Facts

Corn Cakes (based on yield of 4)

  • 308 calories
  • 8 g protein
  • 49 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fiber
  • 11 g fat
  • 90 mg sodium

Salsa (divided into 4 servings)

  • 279 calories
  • 10 g protein
  • 35 g carbohydrate
  • 10 g fiber
  • 12 g fat
  • 318 mg sodium
Yes, I put an orange peel helmet on Hugo. So?

*Notice my vastly improved photos? It’s all thanks to my dad. I have terrible lighting in my apartment and no fancy camera equipment, so when I was home around Easter I enlisted my photographer father to help me. Using his tripod and lights really helped! Now I have to devise a way to “borrow” them long-term…

 

 

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Eggsalad Easter

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The hunt is over. You pat yourself on the back because you just found 25 spectacularly colored hard-boiled eggs! What a champ! So you neatly display them like a trophy in your fridge so that every time you open the door you see beautiful colors splattered across an eggshell canvas. Who would want to eat such beautiful works of art? But finally, if you’re like me, a couple days pass and you begin to get hungry and brainstorm ways to use all these eggs. My search led to a few tasty and creative ideas; but first, let’s spend a little time talking about the nutrition that makes these eggs so golden.

Eggs are kind of a big deal. They are cheap, delicious, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. This goodness is found in both the yolk and the whites, so eat it all up, people! Research shows that eating whole eggs actually increases HDL cholesterol (the good guy who prevents cardiovascular disease) and a growing number of studies show that dietary cholesterol does not impact blood level of cholesterol.

The yolk contains one of the richest dietary sources of choline, which helps with inflammation and neurological function. Lutein and zeaxanthin fight for your vision while sulfur aids in Vitamin B absorption, liver function, and the growth of hair, nails, and skin. Let’s not leave the whites out, though. The whites are a great protein source and top-notch quality as the essential amino acids are easy to digest.

And there you have it: nutrition in an eggshell!

Enough with the nutrition lesson, let’s get cookin’! Here are some eggcellent ways to use up hard-boiled eggs:

  1. Scotch Eggs
  1. On top of Wedge Salad
  1. Garam Masala Deviled Eggs
  1. In a Breakfast Burrito
  1. Smoked Salmon and Egg Canapes
  1. Campanelle Salad
  1. English Muffin Egg Pizzas
  1. Pan Bagnat
  2. Salad Niçoise Lettuce Cups
  3. Eggs Mimosa

 

Food safety tip: hard-boiled eggs kept in the fridge should be eaten within one week and keep the shell on until you are ready to use them.

 

Orange is the New Black: The Sweet Version

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Fun with citrus!

This week I’m shining the spotlight on oranges. Who doesn’t love a good orange? Sweet, juicy, and really fun to peel, oranges are one of the most consumed fruits in the US. Their biggest nutritional claim to fame is the vitamin C content. One medium orange has about 70 mg of vitamin C, and the recommended intake for men and women is 90 and 75 mg, respectively. Don’t want to remember numbers? Yea, me either. Just remember that eating an orange plus almost any other fruit/vegetable will provide you most of the vitamin C you need in a day.

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What about juice or those vitamin C lozenges you might buy when you start to feel sick? When it comes to juice, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. The issue, however, is that most juices have added sugar, and even those that don’t are lacking fiber that’s found in the whole fruit. This means you’re drinking calories but not feeling full because your body doesn’t have to take any time to break down food. As for vitamin C lozenges or powders, I still say eat the fruit instead. Your body can only absorb so much of the vitamin, so whatever your body doesn’t need is excreted in your urine. The whole fruit will always be your best choice because it has all kinds of goodness within its peel.

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I love oranges because they’re so low-maintenance. Just throw it in your bag on your way to work or school and you’ve got a snack ready to go. Oranges helped me through many lectures during grad school. I really enjoy peeling all the white stuff (pith) off the fruit, so when I started to feel sleepy in class, I’d pull out an orange and start peeling.

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Although the orange can stand alone, that doesn’t make for an interesting recipe post:

Ingredients: orange

Directions: Peel. Eat

I turned this low-maintenance fruit into an arguably high-maintenance meal. Crepes may seem like something reserved for Sunday brunch at a restaurant, but I assure you that it’s possible in your own kitchen. The most time-consuming part of this recipe was cutting the pith from the peel since we will be eating the peels! How fun is that?! I used some wonderful in-season Cara Cara oranges, and while researching I came across this cool chart from Sunkist that shows the growing season for various citrus fruits. The crepe recipe comes from Whole Foods and the orange compote was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I reduced the simply syrup because I felt it was too sweet and used a honey tangerine instead of a grapefruit, although any citrus would work.

 

Whole Wheat Crepes with Vanilla-Infused Citrus Compote
Whole Wheat Crepes with Vanilla-Infused Citrus Compote

Ingredients

  • Crepes (makes 6 crepes)
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 egg whites
    • 2/3 cup non-fat milk
    • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 tsp canola oil or unsalted butter (for cooking the crepes)
  • Vanilla-Infused Citrus Compote (makes ~2 cups, enough for 4 crepes)
    • 1 orange
    • 1 honey tangerine (or any in-season citrus fruit you like)
    • 2 Tbsp water
    • 2 Tbsp sugar
    • ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
    • Pinch of salt

Directions

Crepes:   Combine and mix the eggs, egg whites, milk, and butter. Add the flour and salt, mixing until the batter is smooth. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer, but a hand-mixer would also work. Cover and refrigerate the batter for 1 hour.

If you have a crepe pan, awesome! I’ll venture to say many of us (including                                                               myself) do not, so a flat skillet will DSC_6388also work. Heat your pan over medium-high and add a teaspoon of oil or butter to coat the pan. When ready, pour ¼ cup of the batter into your pan and swirl it around to form a thin circle. Cook until you see the edges start to brown and the top has set, then flip and cook until golden brown. Crepes cook very quickly, so keep your eyes on it. I stacked my crepes on a plate and put a piece of parchment paper in between each one. You can store any leftover crepes for 1-2 days in the refrigerator.

Compote:  Begin by removing the peel from your fruits. I use a technique where you “supreme” the orange:  cut the peel and pith, then remove the segments from the membrane. Confused? Here’s a Youtube video to demonstrate. Place the fruit segments in a bowl and squeeze the juice from the membrane into the bowl. Next remove the pith from the peel and cut the peel into thin slices.

Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Add the peel slices and cook for 1 minute then drain. Heat the 2 Tbsp water, 2 Tbsp sugar, and vanilla seeds and pod in the saucepan over medium-high until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and add the juice, peels, and salt, cooking for 2 minutes. Cool completely, discard the vanilla pod, and toss with the fruit.

Add ¼ of the citrus compote to a crepe and top with some flaked coconut.

Nutrition Facts

  • 145 calories
  • 18 g carbohydrate
  • 5 g protein
  • 6 g fat
  • 117 mg sodium

Carb Hating

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As Cassie recently analyzed our love/desire/obsession with protein, I figured it’d be a good time to address a major food discrimination I’ve seen creeping on our plates. I call it Carb Hating and it’s very real. Like most hatred, it comes from a misguided and often uninformed place. A place where bagels are evil and whole grains taste like cardboard.

Now, I’m not saying that Carb Haters are wrong. Or prejudice. Or, um, narrow-minded. They have evidence to support their hate. After all, research has shown that carbohydrates are major culprits in diabetes, heart disease, and organized crime. But maybe if you got to know the carbs you’d see that they can actually be quite diverse, nutritious and really fun to drink on a Friday night.

Carbohydrates are foods that break down into sugars (glucose, fructose, galactose). On average, they account for 65% of our daily caloric intake and are our bodies go to nutrient for energy. They are necessary to keep energy levels high and muscles intact. They are also crucial for brain health, as the main nutrient our central nervous system uses for fuel.

Carbohydrates often come paired with some really fun nutrients such as fiber, b-vitamins, and minerals. They can (contrary to popular wisdom) help us lose weight by increasing satiety and digestive health.

However, popular diet trends do not always agree. And lately, many have started to view carbohydrates as an unnecessary food group that we’re just too weak to resist, rather than an essential nutrient necessary for survival. This became apparent to me during a recent conversation with a health conscious friend:

 

Well-informed male fried: “Oh you’re a nutritionist, that’s cool”

Me: “Yeah, definitely. Thanks”

Well-informed male friend: “My main goal right now is to eliminate carbohydrates from my diet entirely”

Me: “Don’t do that. You’ll die.”

 

Lucky for those trying to kill themselves through carbohydrate deficiency, it’s nearly impossible to do. They are in everything. Milk, grains, fruit, sweets, yogurt, nuts, beans, legumes, beer, Klondike bars. Total elimination would take a combination self discipline and insanity only seen in someone like this (had to steal it Cass):

arnold1

Most Americans have experienced Carb Hating simply by trying a low carb diet. Going low carb can result in dramatic initial weight loss. However, the mechanism behind the effect is not magic. These diets work by either initiating ketogenesis – which can be harmful if sustained. Or by the reduction in calories that naturally occurs when you take out a food group that accounted for 65% of your intake. They can be a good fit for some people. But as anyone who has come off the Atkins diet knows, they’re difficult to sustain.

My recommendation? Don’t eliminate carbs. Just watch the type and amount you eat. Fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes are rich in dietary fiber and digested slowly, reducing glucose spikes that can lead to type II diabetes. Eat them in combination with other foods to help slow digestion and absorption. Eat a cookie every once and a while because, what is life without cookies? Love the food you eat and take everything in moderation 🙂

Now ask yourself: Are you a Carb Hater?

Your Ticket to the Gun Show

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arnold1

Protein. Protein. Protein.  These days it’s allllll about protein.  Want to lose weight?  Eat protein + buy protein shakes.  Want to train for a marathon?  Eat even more protein + get those protein shakes in.  Want to look shredded?  Eat a ridiculous amount of protein + supplement with protein powder.  Want to visit your grandma more?  Eat protein all day and bring her 3 protein shakes!

Wait, slow your roll, buddy!  While protein is very important in your diet, it should be balanced and come from the best nutritious sources: food.  Your ticket to the gun show doesn’t need to cost you a fortune in protein supplements.  Let me tell you why:

The average person needs about 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight.  The average endurance athlete needs about 1.2 g of protein per kg of body weight.  If you are a strength athlete trying to increase skeletal muscle mass, your goal would be around 1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight.  Not only does this protein level range with specific activities, but it also varies greatly with weight.  If you are a female endurance runner weighing 120 lbs, your protein goal will be about 65 g.  However, if you are a male football player training for the upcoming season weighing 240 lbs, you may need 185 g of protein.

Let’s convert these gram numbers to real food.  In order for our 120 lb runner to get adequate protein for the day, she could eat a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 1 cup Greek yogurt (14 g), and ½ cup of black beans (20) = 66 grams of protein.

Our football player could eat 1 cup of quinoa (24 g), 6 oz chicken (42), a four egg omelet (24 g), 1 cup almonds (20), 1 cup lentils (18 g), a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 3 glasses of milk (24 g), and 2 cups broccoli (6 g) = 190 grams of protein.

The recommended range is 10-35% of calories from protein.  It is important to provide your training and healing body with the necessary amount of protein.  However, exceeding this range may be detrimental to health.  There are few studies done on long-term protein intake and therefore we can only forecast that constant high protein intake could be harmful to your kidneys.

I hope I didn’t distract you with too many numbers and ranges.  My main point was to show you that sufficient protein intake can be achieved through food.  No supplements required.   I don’t think protein supplements are the devil; I just think more often than not, they are unnecessary for the average athlete or individual at the gym.*

When you are determining your protein choices, it is important to choose proteins that are easily digested and rich in essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein.  These foods include fish, lean meats, eggs, and milk.  Other healthy sources of protein are found in legumes and other plant proteins like spinach, nuts, and seeds.

Remember, your ticket to your very own gun show can be earned by eating some deliciously nutritious plant and animal protein sources.   And if it gets you to visit grandma more, maybe you can bring a couple protein shakes to enjoy together.

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*Note:  Vegetarian, vegan, and extreme intensity athletes may need to supplement.  It is best to seek professional attention or a sports dietitian to go over specific dietary needs as well as the added caloric demands of exercising.

Mini Greek Yogurt Cheesecakes

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Guys, this is a safe place, and in safe places, we can confess things we are not proud of. With that being said, I have a confession. Sometimes I turn into Cookie Monster. This past Saturday I was grumpy when I got home from work (thank you, Chicago traffic), and because I had been traveling the week before and had no food in my apartment, I decided to walk down to a pizza place to get something to go. Next to the register was a case of chocolate chip cookies whispering, “buy me… buy me.” Who am I to refuse a cookie?? What I didn’t realize when I bought the cookie was that there were 2 wrapped together. When I got home, I told myself I would eat one and save the other, but is that what happened? No, no it is not. I ate both, only regretting it after the last morsel disappeared.

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I would have been happy with just one cookie, craving satisfied, but my willpower faltered when it came to that second cookie. Sometimes avoidance is the best policy. Certain foods, especially chips, crackers, and cookies are addicting, and if you keep them out of your home, you don’t have to worry about exercising restraint.

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Okay, Courtney, that’s all well and good, but what about when that sweet tooth won’t shut up? You are in luck today because I have an answer: CHEESECAKE! And not just cheesecake, but MINI cheesecake. I rarely bake because I don’t want an entire cake tempting me, so when something can be made as an individual serving, I’m a fan. The ingredients are for 4 individual servings, so it could be made for a small dinner with friends, or you could make one serving and then refrigerate or freeze the rest until you’re ready to make another (I wouldn’t keep it in the fridge much more than a week). Using Greek yogurt really lightens up the cheesecake without sacrificing flavor or richness. I made homemade strawberry compote to swirl into the cheesecake, but in a pinch you could use strawberry jam instead.

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At the end of my recipes you’ll find nutrition facts. Cheesecake is not typically a “healthy” dessert, but for the sake of comparison, I looked up The Cheesecake Factory’s Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake. One piece has a whopping 730 calories, 29 g saturated fat, and 430 g sodium. While fruit is always a good dessert option, sometimes a girl’s gotta have some cake, and in those situations, this mini cheesecake is much better that anything you would buy. And it’s just so cute!

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Ingredients (4 servings)

  • Crust
    • 4 graham crackers
    • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Filling
    • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
    • ¼ cup honey
    • 1 eggDSC_6142
    • ½ tsp vanilla
    • ½ Tbsp cornstarch
  • Strawberry Compote
    • 2 cup strawberries
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • Juice of ½ lemon

Directions

Preheat oven to 375⁰

Crust:  You can make 4 crusts at once or each one on a separate occasion. Place graham crackers (1 per cake) in small blender or food processor; pulse until a coarse powder is formed. Melt butter (1/2 Tbsp per cake) in 7 oz ramekin. Add graham cracker crumbs to butter and mix with your fingers, pressing into the dish. Bake for 6-7 minutes.

Filling:  Place all ingredients in blender and blend until well-mixed. You may have to stop and scrape the sides a few times since the honey is sticky. When the crust has cooled slightly, pour ¼ of filling into each ramekin. If you are making one serving at a time, you can store the remaining in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze it.DSC_6180

Compote:  Add strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Use a potato masher to smash the strawberries. Simmer mixture until it starts to thicken, ~15-20 minutes. Spoon a small amount (1 Tbsp) into the ramekin and use a toothpick to swirl it in with the filling. You will likely have compote leftover, and it’s a great topping for pancakes, toast, or ice cream.

Bake cheesecake 35-40 minutes. It will start to separate from the sides of the dish and turn a golden color. Chill for 2 hours, top with fresh strawberries, and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts 

  • 262 calories
  • 35 g carbohydrate
  • 8 g protein
  • 10 g fat
  • 5 g saturated fat
  • 130 mg sodium
Hugo is addicted to donuts
Hugo is addicted to donuts

Spotlight on Spices: Coriander

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I hope everyone is ready for some spicy and flavorful posts! My goal is to provide some helpful insight on how to use all those spices sitting around in your cupboard. And, if my rhyming abilities allow, you may get a catchy poem each time, too.

Today we will focus on the bright and fresh plant, Coriandrum sativum, aka coriander. We know the green stem and leaves as cilantro, but when the plant grows and matures, it produces seeds. The coriander spice in our cupboards is the ground up version of the plant’s seeds.

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Though some people identify the herb as being somewhat bitter, the delicate leaves and seeds of the plant have a citrusy note that go quite well in a multitude of dishes. I encourage you to explore the recipes found below in my nutrition rendition of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham!

Do you like this coriander?

I do not like it, RD Kerr.

Would you eat it here or there?

Would you eat it in soup with pear?

I would not eat it here or there.

I would not eat it in soup with pear.

Say!

Would you, could you in chimichurri?

Or maybe in a spicy curry?

I would not, could not in chimichurri.

And definitely not in a curry!

Would you, could you in a quiche?

In fish tacos on the beach?

Not in a quiche.

Not on the beach.

I do not like this coriander!

I do not like it, RD Kerr!

You do not like it.

SO you say.

Try it! Try it!

And you may.

Try it and you may I say.

RD Kerr!

If you let me be,

I will try it.

You will see.

.green-eggs-and-ham-happy-sam-2

Say!

I like this coriander!

I do!! I like it, RD Kerr!

And I would eat it in chimichurri.

And I would eat it in a curry.

I would eat it in a quiche

And in fish tacos on the beach.

It is so goodm so goodm you see!

So I will eat them here or there.

Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!

I do so like this coriander!

Thank you! Thank you, RD Kerr!