Grapes for Dinner: Sauteed Chicken with Roasted Grapes and Onions

by in Healthy Recipes, October 4, 2016

This time of year, dozens of clusters of green and purple grapes take over the outside wall of my garage. I pop them into my kids’ lunches every day for weeks at a time and serve them again as an after-school snack. They also make an easy appetizer, set out in a pretty bowl with a hunk of good cheese. Inevitably, though, my family’s ability to eat endless amounts of raw grapes starts to wane. Before I know it, the fruit is spilling out of my refrigerator and I’m racking my brain to find new uses for it.

Most recipes for grapes — jellies, jams and desserts — call for combining them with a lot of sugar. These uses also often dispense with the skins, which provide healthy fiber. Besides containing fiber, grapes are an excellent source of antioxidants known as polyphenols, which are associated with a reduced risk for developing several types of cancers.

To retain all that healthy goodness, it was time to think beyond dessert. That’s when I came upon the idea of roasting grapes to make savory compote. Bonus: That would help me sneak grapes into dinner too.

Roasting grapes at high heat intensifies both their flavor and sweetness. For balance, I mix them with a little balsamic vinegar, some red onion and a few sprigs of rosemary — an herb that grows just a few feet away from my wall of grapes. After they cook for 20 minutes in the oven, I’ve got a delicious topping for any type of meat. In this recipe, I’ve paired the compote with sauteed boneless, skinless chicken, which is low in saturated fat and an excellent source of protein, but this compote would also be a good match for pork tenderloin or chicken sausage. Leftover roasted grapes are tasty spooned onto rye crackers spread with goat cheese or ricotta cheese — lunch for the adult set. Read more

Kombucha: Good or Bad?

by in Is It Healthy?, October 2, 2016

With the exploding popularity of fermented foods, it’s likely that kombucha has ended up on your radar or even in your fridge. But is this drinkable fermented tea worthwhile?

The Good
A concoction of tea, sugar, fruit juice, bacteria and yeast are combined to create a pungent and slightly fizzy beverage. Homemade and store-bought versions require a jelly-like substance known as the “mother” or “scoby,” which introduces bacteria and yeast into the flavored liquid that’s then allowed to ferment. This drink is often touted for its tummy-pleasing probiotics plus numerous B vitamins. Some blends also include additional fiber and Omega-3 fats from add-ins like chia seeds, greens, herbs and algae.

The Bad
A potential downside of these drinks is the wide range of nutritional variation. Depending on the ingredients, calories can range from 60 to 160 per (16 fluid ounce) bottle. The fermenting process also creates a small amount of alcohol. Though they are desirable for their probiotic content, these beneficial bacteria are destroyed by pasteurization. Unpasteurized or “raw” varieties are available but could pose a food safety risk, as potentially harmful bacteria could grow in the liquid. For this reason, folks with weaker immune systems, including young children, elderly people and pregnant women, should steer clear. Read more

Greek Pizza with Pour-able Crust

by in Healthy Recipes, October 1, 2016

Yes, you really can make and bake homemade pizza crust in less than 30 minutes! The trick is whipping up a pour-able crust: Eggs, milk and salt combine with a cup of flour to produce a mix that can be poured right into a rimmed baking dish. Leavening is provided by the two protein-rich eggs. The final baked crust is chewy and satisfying.

For this pizza, I was going for a Greek theme, so I went for toppings like roasted eggplant and bell peppers; my cheese of choice was feta, and I grabbed a can of artichokes from the pantry. For a bit more flavor from Greece, I added mint and lemon as fresh toppings. (You’ll love the way a few squirts of acidic lemon juice brighten up the hearty flavors of fall all season long.)

While eggplant is often thought of as a summer vegetable, I love it when the weather gets cooler too. Its sturdy structure melts into stews and baked pastas, providing almost-creamy texture; plus, it beefs up the nutrition of nourishing autumn dishes with fiber, copper, folate, magnesium and potassium. Eggplant also contains flavonoids (antioxidants), which may fight against viruses and damaging bacteria. So it could be smart to add eggplant to your menus right as cold-and-flu season gets going.

Whatever you add to your pizza, just don’t ever try tossing this crust into the air before baking it! Read more

Nutrition News: Best Metabolism Booster; Sleep, Stress and Belly Fat; and Gardening and Kids’ Health

by in Food News, September 30, 2016

Reaping What We Sow

Want to raise kids who are lifelong healthy eaters? Hand them a trowel, some seeds and a watering can, and point them to the garden. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida suggests that college kids who either gardened when they were kids or currently garden consumed more fruits and vegetables — 2.9 cups daily, on average, about a half-cup more — than those who did not. “We found that if your parents gardened but you did not, just watching them did not make a difference in how much fruits and vegetables you eat in college,” lead author Anne Mathews told HealthDay News. “Hands-on experience seems to matter.” Read more

All the Ways to Eat Cauliflower

by in Healthy Recipes, September 29, 2016

Many people claim they don’t enjoy the taste of cauliflower — that it’s too bland or too crumbly, especially when served raw. If you’ve only encountered the firm white bundles as a component on a crudite platter, we can’t argue with you there. Maybe you’ve tried it boiled; sadly, this does nothing to enhance the flavor either. But roasted, pureed or worked through a ricer? The cream-white florets take on a whole new identity. Thanks to their mild taste, they’re an excellent canvas for all varieties of sauces and spices. Now that cauliflower is abundant at the farmers market, there’s even more incentive to use this nutritional powerhouse as the base for hearty fall meals. Here are a few of our healthiest ideas.

Roast It
Even meat eaters will flock to the table for a taste of these roasted cauliflower bundles. The Dijon mustard rub concentrates in flavor as it roasts, resulting in a heady dose of umami. In order to really lock in the flavor, prep and brush your cauliflower ahead of time, then let it sit at room temperature until you’re ready to cook.

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Apple-Cinnamon-Walnut Skillet Cake

by in Cookies & Other Desserts, Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipes, Vegan, September 28, 2016

Fall is in the air! And what better way to celebrate than with a slice of healthy and delicious Apple-Cinnamon-Walnut Skillet Cake?

Start by choosing your favorite variety of in-season fresh apples. I’m partial to “sweet-with-a-hint-of-tang” Honeycrisp apples, but it’s always fun to see what new varieties are popping up in grocery stores, farmers markets and CSA boxes this time of year.

In addition to naturally sweet apples, other nourishing ingredients in this Apple-Cinnamon-Walnut Skillet Cake include Omega-3-rich walnuts, along with a duo of fiber-rich flours: whole-grain buckwheat and brown rice. Cinnamon takes the flavor up a notch, and with no eggs or dairy, this cake is perfect for anyone following a vegan diet.

Even better? It’s totally acceptable to pair a slice of this Apple-Cinnamon-Walnut Skillet Cake with some protein-rich Greek yogurt and happily declare “Breakfast is served!” Read more

Easy Weeknight Bibimbap

by in Healthy Recipes, September 26, 2016

Bibimbap, the flavorful and vibrant Korean rice bowl meal, gets its alluring sweet-and-sour flavor from a sauce called gochujang. The vinegary, mildly spicy sauce can now be found on many grocery store shelves, where it is positioned to become the new hot-sauce darling. (Look out, Sriracha!)

(Note: If your market does not yet carry gochujang, you can make a tasty substitute by combining 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons Asian chili garlic paste and 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar.)

To make bibimbap, you don’t need a lot of time — but you do need lots of small bowls! It is beautifully served as a composition of the separate ingredients, which are balanced to lend an assortment of flavors and textures, from grassy to sweet and chewy to crisp. The runny yolk on top, when pierced, serves as a rich sauce that unites the entire dish.

Bibimbap is healthful, satisfying and beautiful — a triple dinner winner. Read more

Healthy Rosh Hashana Menu Planner

by in Healthy Holidays, September 25, 2016

The Jewish New Year is a two-day celebration where it’s customary to dip apples in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. The evening feast includes delicious foods such as pomegranate to represent fruitfulness and a round challah to signify the cycle of the year. Here are several dishes you can make for a healthy, delicious holiday.

Planning Your Menu
With back-to-school in full swing and work commitments, it’s a busy time to prepare a holiday menu. Proper planning, however, can help you have a delicious holiday meal. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

• Select one or two healthy recipes and start preparing a few days in advance so you don’t get stuck in the kitchen pulling an all-nighter.
• Make a grocery list according to the flow of the market, which will help you save time when food shopping.
• If soup is on the menu, prepare it a few days in advance. If you prepare it a week or more in advance, store it in the freezer.
• Prep vegetables the night before. If you can recruit a few helpers to assist with the prep, that’s even better!
• If you still feel overwhelmed, ask each family attending to bring a dish. To ensure they bring a healthy dish, send them a preselected recipe (like one from the list below!). Read more

Think Following the “5-Second Rule” Keeps Food Safe? Think Again!

by in Food Safety, September 24, 2016

When food falls on the floor, it’s always a judgment call as to whether that food goes into your mouth or into the trash. And many of us, when making that call, defer to the so-called “five-second rule” — that long-standing and widely accepted notion that if food spends five seconds or less on the floor it hasn’t had enough time to be contaminated by whatever bacteria is on the floor. But is the five-second rule based on any actual facts, or is it just a myth that we perpetuate every time we let our kids pick up and keep sucking on that lollipop they dropped?

Turns out, scientific research on the topic has been pretty limited … until now, that is. A team of researchers at Rutgers University’s School of Environmental and Biological Sciences put a variety of foods — watermelon, bread, bread with butter, and gummy candy — through their paces. They dropped them onto four different surfaces — carpet, stainless steel, ceramic tile and wood — and left them for less than one second, five seconds, 30 seconds and 300 seconds. All of the 128 possible scenarios were repeated 20 times; in the end, the researchers had a total of 2,560 data points to analyze. Read more

Nutrition News: Sparkling Water Safety, Parsing Probiotics, Eating and Reading

by in Food News, September 23, 2016

Eating and reading
You want your kids to eat healthy for all sorts of reasons. Here’s a new one: It may make them better readers. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyvaskyla found that students’ reading skills showed greater improvement between first and third grade if they ate a diet composed primarily of vegetables and fruits (especially berries), along with fish, whole grains and unsaturated fats, and ate very few sugary treats and red meats, HealthDay News reports. “The associations of diet quality with reading skills were … independent of many confounding factors, such as socioeconomic status, physical activity, body adiposity [fat] and physical fitness,” study author Eero Haapala said in a study news release. But don’t worry too much if your kid is a picky eater — the study showed only a correlation, not cause and effect.

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