vegetarian

Fantasy Fruitball

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It has been said “You’re not American if you don’t do Fantasy Football”. This time of year embraces that statement as many are listening to podcasts, searching the web for current fantasy hype, completing mock drafts, and getting together with friends to build the best football team possible.

fruit stadium

What if people put the same passion into selecting their fruit this fall season? Or better yet, use this selection of fruit to incorporate into tailgating snack choices to stay healthy this fall? Of course, just like fantasy, there would be your top draft picks such as super foods like lemon and blackberries. Then moving up on average draft picks you might find other berries, grapes, cherries, bananas, and some higher sugar fruits like pineapple.

 

Don’t forget about the breakouts and sleepers. Dragonfruit, rhubarb, and heirloom apples were trending fruit last year and will likely continue to be popular and relevant this year. The sleepers might include hardy currants and lingonberries. Many might not realize their benefits but these fruits really pack an antioxidant punch!

dragonfruit

When selecting your winning team, keep in mind you will need variety. You may want to select fruits from different teams (or families) and a variety of colors. For example, it may not be in your best interest to eat only apples and pears. You are missing out on certain antioxidant properties from the family of dark berries and some other vitamins and minerals you might find in orange fruits like mango or papaya.

 

It is important to plan ahead if you want to make eating well a priority in your life. Set your winning line up each week with your starters, but make sure you have a strong bench, too. If the starters aren’t working for you, mix it up a little with players on your bench. Always keep a core assortment of fresh fruits in your fridge, but don’t forget to pull the frozen berries from your freezer to blend in a refreshing smoothie for a new twist to your week!

 

My fantasy team will keep me on my toes watching the NFL players, but I know I’ll get just as excited at the grocery store setting my fruitball line-up each week this fall:

 

Starters (8)

Blueberry         Strawberry

Peach                Honeycrisp apple

Rhubarb           Pear

Craisin              Mango

Defense (1)

Lemon

Bench (6)

Banana             Orange

Plum                 Cherry

Kiwi                  Pineapple

 

What does your Fantasy Fruitball team look like this fall? Share your team below!

fruitball

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Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

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brussels sprouts are the best!

Brussels sprouts are the BESSSSSST!

Not your initial reaction when reading the title of this post? I can’t say I blame you. This diminutive cabbage is the object of childhood nightmares, up there with the Boogey Man and the Quadratic Equation. To be honest, I didn’t try my first brussels until a few years ago. I remember being told that they “taste like boogers…literally.” How this person knew what boogers tasted like, I’ll never know. But that cemented in my mind that I would NEVER eat brussels sprouts.

Roasted Brussels sprout salad with Dijon vinaigrette

So what changed my mind? This salad, of course! I think Dijon can make anything tasty, and here it really complements the warm, slightly crispy Brussels sprouts. The sweetness from the grapes, the bite of the onion, and the full flavor that comes from roasting nuts come together to make one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Sometimes you hear “salad” and fall asleep standing up because they can be so boring, but I’m telling you, give this one a try. You won’t regret it. And if your inner child balks at the idea of eating a Brussels sprout, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are members of the Brassica family, which includes other nutritional powerhouses like kale, broccoli, and cabbage. The Brassica family is known for having some smelly members, which is due to the release of a sulfur compound in the cooking process. Over-cooking your Brussels sprouts will bring out this strong taste and smell, so be careful! Steaming and stir frying are sure-fire ways to retain the most nutrients and not overcook your sprouts, although I haven’t experienced any adverse smells when I’ve roasted them.

roasted Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts and other Brassica members have been heralded for their health benefits. Of course, like most things green, they are high in vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamins C, B6, and K, folate, thiamin, potassium, and copper. Also like all things green, they are low in calories and high in fiber. Cruciferous vegetables are thought to have cancer-fighting properties due to the high levels of phytochemicals, specificially isothiocyanates, which act as detoxifiers. As with most diet-related claims, more research and more powerful studies are needed; however we do know that a mostly plant-based diet rich in varied fruits and vegetables is associated with lower cancer risks. So go ahead, add this Brussels sprout salad into your meal rotation. It’s just another example of how delicious healthy eating can be.

Roasted Brussels sprout salad with Dijon vinaigrette

Ingredients (serves 4)

Salad

  • 20 brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups spinach or arugula
  • 3/4 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • ½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 450. Remove any discolored leaves and trim the Brussels sprouts by cutting off the hard base, and then cut in half. Some leaves may fall off, that’s ok. You can still roast the loose leaves, but keep an eye on them as they will crisp up faster. Toss the halves with the olive oil and roast, turning halfway through, for 15-18 minutes or until browned. I like some burnt pieces, but roast them until you reach your desired level of doneness.

While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, prepare your other salad ingredients. I like to toast walnuts in a skillet on med-low, but be careful here as they can burn quickly (it’s happened to me on more than one occasion). When the Brussels sprouts and walnuts are finished, set them aside to cool. Once cool, combine all salad ingredients.

Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and toss with the salad.

Nutrition Facts

  • 240 calories
  • 7 g protein
  • 19 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fiber
  • 17 g fat (9 g monounsaturated, 5 g polyunsaturated)
  • 118 mg sodium

Spring Pasta

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Spring Pasta

Spring has sprung!! Technically it sprung March 20th, but I believe at that time we were experiencing the last vestiges of a polar vortex. It’s time to forget those cold, dark days because grey has been replaced with green, there are flowers to behold, and my face is beginning to lose its “ruddy” look. With the warmer days and thawed ground comes one of my favorite things about spring: asparagus.

asparagus, a spring favorite

Seasonal eating is tricky when supermarkets carry most types of produce year-round, regardless of growing season. My grocery cart, regardless of the season, typically has broccoli, spinach, grapes, and apples to name a few. But there are those special fruits and vegetables that, for both taste and price, I only buy when in season. Asparagus is definitely on this short list. Not only do I refuse to pay upwards of $5.99 a pound for asparagus, but have you tasted it when it’s not in season? I find it woody and lacking in flavor. It’s absolutely wonderful, though, in the spring.

spring pasta ingredients

Asparagus is a nutritional powerhouse. One cup has a mere 40 calories but 4 g of fiber, which is 14% of your daily needs. That’s a lot of fiber for a small amount of energy! It’s loaded with folate and vitamin K, at 67% and 100% of your daily needs, respectively. Folate is especially important for any ladies out there of reproductive age as a deficiency can lead to neural tube defects in embryos. It’s a good source of vitamins A, C, E, and some B vitamins. This veggie can really help you spring into a healthy lifestyle (see what I did there?!). A random fun fact I learned is that the white spears you occasionally see at the store or farmers market are the same variety as the green but lack chlorophyll. The shoots are covered with soil while growing to prevent photosynthesis, resulting in the white color. This version has a tad less fiber and tastes a bit sweeter.

asparagus

Asparagus can be eaten any number of ways and makes an excellent side dish. In this recipe, however, I wanted to incorporate it into a simple vegetarian main dish that can be prepared on the busiest of weeknights. What’s great about this recipe is its simplicity. You can buy the artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes far in advance without risk of them spoiling like fresh vegetables. Most of us have some form of pasta hiding in the cupboards, and I don’t know about you, but my cheese drawer is usually well-stocked. A simple sauté of the asparagus with a squirt of lemon juice is really all it takes to get this dish on the table, ready for a delicious meal showcasing a spring-time classic.

Spring Pasta

 

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 1 16 oz bag whole wheat pasta (here I used penne, but use any noodle you like)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 6.5 oz jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 7 oz jar sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • Fresh lemon juice from ½ lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add asparagus and red onion and sauté until asparagus turns bright green, ~2-3 minutes, then add the lemon juice. Cook for 1 minute, then add the artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, and garlic. Sauté for 1-2 minutes until everything is heated through.

Combine the pasta and asparagus mixture. Add grated parmesan, fresh basil, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine.

Nutrition Facts

  • 576 calories
  • 26 g protein
  • 101 g carbohydrate
  • 17 g fiber
  • 12 g fat
  • 521 mg sodium
Hugo loves Spring
Hugo loves Spring

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…

 

 

Spicy Chickpeas with Carrots and Couscous

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Welcome, readers, to my inaugural food post!!  I hope you’re ready for a delicious, spicy weekday dinner recipe that will really titillate your taste buds.  But first, we have something to discuss.  And that something is couscous.  Couswhat?  You may be thinking “blah blah, trendy food alert” but I assure you, you are mistaken!

DSCN1677Couscous has been around for ages, and while it doesn’t look like it, it is actually a tiny pasta.  A staple in many parts of the world, especially North Africa and areas of the Mediterranean and Middle East, it is often served with vegetables and aromatic herbs and spices.   Traditionally it is prepared by hand and steamed, however supermarkets carry a presteamed and dried packaged version that needs only to be reconstituted in boiling water.  I admit I haven’t tried handmade couscous, but after reading about it I am ready to fly to Morocco to try some!

Marrakech dreams aside, the whole wheat couscous in my cupboard will have to suffice.  Most grocery stores carry couscous, whole wheat couscous, and flavored couscous.  I included pictures of various brands that are common in many grocery stores to help in your search.  I encourage you to avoid the flavored ones as they contain a spice packet that is loaded with salt.  Just dust off your spices and create your own flavors!  Between plain and whole wheat couscous, I suggest the whole wheat version.

plain couscous ww couscousseasoned

 

 

 

 

 

Both originate from durum wheat, a hard wheat with a high protein content, however the difference lies in the processing.  Plain couscous is made from semolina, which refers to a processing technique, in this case the grains left after the durum wheat is milled.  The whole wheat version retains the bran and germ of the durum wheat, resulting in a nutrient-packed product that has triple the fiber content compared to the plain couscous!

You won’t see couscous on a list of superfoods (quinoa, I’m talking to you), but that doesn’t mean it should be disregarded.  It has a mild taste that lends itself well to many dishes, and if you prepare the whole wheat version, you’ll be getting 28% of your daily fiber needs in one serving.  Now that is an excellent source of fiber!  If you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to check it out at your local grocery store, and if you like spicy food, then try the recipe below.  As a recent poor graduate student, this meal is budget friendly and quick to prepare on a busy weeknight.  The ingredients reflect 2 servings, and it makes a great next-day lunch.  Most importantly, it’s packed with lots of nutritious goodness from the vegetables, chickpeas, and COUSCOUS!

Spicy Chickpeas with Carrots and Couscous
Spicy Chickpeas with Carrots and Couscous

Ingredients (2 servings)

  • Spice rubDSCN1633
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • pinch of salt
  • 1 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 med carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 med red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 med onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 1/4 cup cooked whole wheat couscous (~1/2 cup dry)
  • handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp Sriracha (per serving, optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400⁰

Prepare couscous according to package instructions.

Mix together ingredients for spice rub.DSCN1640

Drain and rinse chickpeas; lay them out on paper towels to dry.  Transfer to a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Sprinkle chickpeas with the spice rub (save some to season the veggies) and toss to coat.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until browned and crispy.

While the chickpeas are roasting, peel and thinly slice/julienne the carrots.  Thinly slice the bell pepper and onion and dice the jalapeno.  The amount of jalapeno used will make the meal more or less spicy, so use as much or as little as you like.

Heat remaining teaspoon of olive oil on med-high in a large skillet.  Add vegetables and sauté, occasionally stirring for 4-5 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender.  If you have leftover spice rub, add some of the seasonings to the veggies while they cook.

Combine veggies, couscous, and roasted chickpeas in a large bowl.  Add the cilantro, and if you like, add a bit of Sriracha to your bowl for some added kick.

Nutrition Facts

  • 500 calories
  • 88 g carbohydrate
  • 18 g fiber
  • 20 g protein
  • 10 g fat
  • 340 mg sodium
Dogs want to be healthy, too!!
Dogs want to be healthy, too!!