Thursday, January 30, 2014

One Nutrient You May Be Lacking and 19 Delicious Ways you can add it in

I just got back from the Food & Fiber Summit in Washington, D.C.  – I loved it.

OK, I know, fiber isn’t an overly sexy thing to talk about. In fact, those at the conference agreed that fiber is in need of a new PR agent. Despite fiber’s somewhat dismal reputation, it’s so important. 

And as two dietitians who not only love nutrition, but love food – fiber doesn’t have to have the bland and boring persona we give it. Adding in fiber to your diet doesn’t necessarily equate with chomping on bran muffins from dawn till dusk. Fiber is found in the beautiful plant world of foods. Think: farro topped with dried tart cherries and roasted hazelnuts, a winter salad featuring roasted cauliflower and pomegranate seedsbaked pears topped with an oat crumbleor fresh raspberries. 

Fiber can look good.

Roasted Vegetable Farro Salad

Roasted Cauliflower & Radicchio Winter Salad
Pear Crumble
fresh raspberries

And it’s good for us, too.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate in plant foods –fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.  We can’t digest fiber—our bodies don’t have the enzymes to break it down—so it moves through our body intact.  Depending on the type of fiber, it either acts as a gel, absorbing “bad cholesterol” and carrying it out of our body, or acting as a big scrub brush inside our intestines.

And why do we need fiber? Besides from keeping us…yes, regular, fiber has many other benefits, too.

  • Fiber helps with achieving a healthy weight.  It keeps you feeling fuller for longer, helping to prevent weight gain and can potentially help you to lose weight.
  • Research shows a high fiber diet protects us from developing diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer.
  • Fiber keeps our blood sugars steady, by slowing the release of sugars into the blood stream.
  • Fiber helps to support a healthy environment for probiotics—those good bacteria in our gut that help keep us healthy.
  • Some research has even shown that increasing fiber intake improves our mood!

    And how much fiber do we need?  Both children and adults need 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day, depending upon age and gender. Yet, we’re averaging 16 grams/day. We have a little bit of work to do. 

Here we’ve outlined some delicious, flavorful ways you can boost your intake of this nutrient:

At breakfast...

  • Stir fresh or dried fruit, flax or chia seeds, and nuts into your oatmeal or hot breakfast cereal for a fiber- and protein-packed breakfast.
  • Make your own granola, using oatmeal, dried fruit and nuts.
  • Make a fruit smoothie, adding fresh or frozen fruit, and either flax or chia seeds.
  • Plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh or frozen fruit, nuts or seeds, and a drizzle of honey.
  • When choosing breads for your morning toast, look for those that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Vegetables are great for breakfast!  Try leftover roated potatoes, sauteed kale or roasted broccoli topped with a poached egg. 

At lunch....

  • Soups can be a great vehicle for fiber!  Add beans, lentils or whole grains to your vegetable-based soup for extra fiber and protein.
  • Try a salad loaded with extra vegetables, beans or whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley...), nuts and seeds.  Drizzle with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Make a wrap with a whole grain tortilla filled with a bean spread, spinach, shredded carrots and avocado.  Delicious!
  • Add a bowl of fresh fruit to your lunch, for extra fiber and a sweet treat.

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.
  • Homemade popcorn makes a great high fiber snack.
  • Homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit.
  • Cookies made with oatmeal, nuts and dried fruit.
  • For homemade cookies, cupcakes or brownies, replace the all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour.   

At dinner....

  • Fill at least half your plate with vegetables!  Try a new variety each week, to keep it interesting.
  • Oatmeal can be used in a variety of ways, other than a breakfast cereal.  Try adding oats to your meatballs or meatloaf, in place of bread crumbs.
  • Sneak vegetables into your favorite dishes!  Add shredded carrots or zucchini to your meatloaf, meatballs or burgers.  Shred carrots into your tomato sauce.  Add pureed cauliflower to your macaroni and cheese.  The ideas are endless!
  • Use whole grains!  In place of white rice, use brown rice, farro or quinoa.  Choose whole grain pastas, including gluten-free varieties like corn and quinoa. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Craving Tomatoes, and Roasted Tomato Soup

I know it’s still winter, and tomatoes aren’t in season.  But, I still crave tomatoes—on pizza, in pasta sauce, in a caprese salad, on my egg in the morning.  And today, in soup.

Tomatoes are a nutrient powerhouse!  High in vitamin C and potassium, they are also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.  Choose deep, dark red tomatoes, as these have more lycopene and overall antioxidant activity than yellow, gold, or green tomatoes.  Another tip for getting the best nutrition out of your tomatoes—go small!  The smaller the tomato, the sweeter it is and the higher the lycopene content.  Store fresh tomatoes at room temperature, since chilling tomatoes makes them less delicious.   

Also, don’t be afraid to go for the canned tomato.  Out of season, canned tomatoes can be more flavorful than fresh tomatoes, since canned tomatoes are picked at the peak of season and immediately processed.  Cooking tomatoes (including canning and processing) actually makes them more nutritious, as cooking converts the lycopene into a form that is easier to absorb. 

 This is my favorite recipe for tomato soup.  Roasting the tomatoes bring out their sweetness even more, and the fennel just gives it that special something.  It doesn't taste like licorice--it's just good.  And it’s perfect with a grilled cheese sandwich.  There’s a reason classic combinations work.  They’re delicious and satisfying.

Roasted Tomato Soup
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 sprig of fresh thyme
3 strips of lemon peel
1 bay leaf
8 cups homemade chicken stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. 
  2. Place the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to blister and release their juices.  Remove from the oven and immediately pour the tomatoes and their juices into a bowl.
  3. While the tomatoes are cooking, heat a stockpot over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, fennel, carrots, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, thyme, lemon peel and bay leaf.  Sauté for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until the fennel and carrot are tender and starting to brown. 
  4. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid, and the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer uncovered for about an hour.  Remove the thyme sprig, lemon peel and bay leaf.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender or a regular blender.  Return to pot and taste for seasonings.  Adjust, if necessary.  Serve hot or cold.
Enjoy, preferably with someone you love!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Whole Wheat Raspberry & Cream Crumble

Raspberries are such a happy food. They remind us of summer. And since we have an absolute love affair with sunshine, picnics, long days at the beach, and the occasional glass of wine on a patio or pier – the thought of summer and raspberries – make us very happy.

Raspberries are also one of my comfort foods. It’s an unspoken tradition in my family that when you visit Grandma, you’ll be eating her raspberry “buns” – warm, homemade bread topped with her perfectly sweet raspberry jam. There’s something magical in her jam. It automatically puts me at ease and washes my worries of the outside world away.

And while fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you’re munching on raspberries, they certainly do pack in a bunch of it! It’s a long-standing joke with Lisa that I’m a bit of nutrition nerd when it comes to fiber. Americans just aren’t getting enough, and with Lisa, I’m hoping to help change that. The average individual in the U.S. is eating less than 15 grams per day – that’s less than half of the daily recommended intake of fiber. 1 cup of raspberries packs in 8 grams of fiber – nearly one-third of your day’s requirements.

Raspberries are also a source of anthocyanins—compounds responsible for producing the bright red, blue-purple, and even black hues found in plants. But, anthocyanins are much more than just a fancy name. These powerful health-promoting pigments, which also boast anti-inflammatory properties, are linked with a long list of health benefits such as cancer protection.

It’s easy to see why we love raspberries. They’re not only delicious, those little berries are packed with some serious nutrition. 

Whole Wheat Raspberry & Cream Crumble

Last weekend, we had some friends over for movie watching and dessert. I made this recipe because raspberries have the wonderful way of pleasing most everyone’s palate. I’m not even going to pretend this “healthier,” whole wheat version of shortcake isn’t decadent – but it’s a perfect dessert for sharing.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 cup buttermilk, or 1 cup whole milk + 1 teaspoon lemon juice

For raspberry topping
12 oz bag of frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
Zest of ½ lemon

For whipped cream
1 cup well-chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make biscuits:
1.      Preheat oven to 450°F.
2.      In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
3.      Add in butter slices.  Knead with your hands until mixture resembles a course meal.
4.      Add buttermilk and stir just until a soft, sticky dough forms.
5.      Drop dough in 6 mounds on dough on an ungreased large baking sheet and bake until golden, about 13 minutes.
6.      Transfer biscuits to a rack and cool for about 10 minutes before eating.

To To make filling:

1.      While biscuits are baking, put frozen raspberries, with sugar and lemon zest in a small saucepan on the stove over low heat.
2.      Stir occasionally. Use your spoon to mash a few raspberries to release their juices.
3.      Remove from the stove after about 10 minutes.

To make the whipped cream:
1.      Beat cream in large bowl with an electric mixer until it starts to slightly thicken.
2.      Add sugar and vanilla. Continue to beat mixture until it holds soft peaks.

To assemble:
1.      Cut biscuits in half horizontally. On the bottom half, layer with a spoonful of whipped cream  and a spoonful (or two!) of berries. Cover with the top of the biscuit.
2.      Top again with a spoonful of whipped cream and a spoonful (or two!) of berries. 

Enjoy, preferably with those you love!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

{Recipe Redux} Spinach and Basil Pesto, Roasted Tomato & Ricotta Pizza

It’s no secret that we love pizza.  We’ve shown you how to make it before.  We’ve talked about our favorite pizza places, including here and here.  It’s one of our favorite foods.

People always seem relieved when they find out we love pizza.  It makes us normal, I suppose.  The truth is, we love good food.  Sure, we love kale salad and apples, but we also love carrot cake and pancakes.  And pizza.

This time, it’s pizza with a spinach and basil pesto, roasted tomatoes and fresh ricotta cheese on a homemade whole wheat crust.  

All of the recipes are below.  Here are some pictures, to help you as you create your own, which we hope you do.  (And we’d love to hear how they turn out!)

First, the crust.  Everyone is always intimated by the crust.  But it’s really easy.  I promise.  The trick is not to add too much flour to the dough, or the dough will be tough.  And give it some time to rise, and then time to rest.

You can divide the pizza dough into balls and either refrigerate or freeze them, to use later.

Also, use whole wheat bread flour (as opposed to all purpose flour), which has a higher gluten content.  The gluten gives the dough elasticity, which is what creates that great, chewy crust.

Next, the pesto.  I like to blend spinach and basil together in my pesto, because sometimes basil alone can be too strong for my taste.  You can use all basil if you like, or basil and parsley.  Those would be good, too.  If you don’t have a food processor, just use your blender.  It will work fine; you just might have to add some more oil.

Roasted tomatoes couldn’t be simpler.  Just toss in a little olive oil and put in a hot oven until they begin to burst.  It’s the perfect way to eat tomatoes out of season.

For the ricotta cheese, you can make your own, if you like.  It’s very easy.  Here’s the recipe I use, if you want to try.  Or, if you’re lucky enough to be able to buy fresh ricotta in your grocery store, then use that.  Fresh ricotta tastes best.  Or, you could absolutely use fresh mozzarella or feta or goat cheese.  It’s your pizza.

Here it is, right before it goes in the oven.

 And after.

We hope you enjoy creating this pizza, and sharing it with the people you love!

Spinach and Basil Pesto, Roasted Tomato & Ricotta Pizza

Makes one small pizza

1/6 of the whole wheat pizza dough recipe
2 – 3 tablespoons spinach basil pesto
1/4 cup roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh whole milk ricotta cheese

Place a pizza stone or cast iron griddle in the lower half of your oven.  Preheat oven to 500 – 550 degrees F for at least 30 minutes.

Place the dough on a pizza wheel (or a cutting board, if you don’t have a pizza wheel) that has been dusted with flour.  Stretch the dough to your desired thickness and place on the pizza wheel.  Top the pizza with a thin layer of the pesto, and then dot with the roasted tomatoes and ricotta cheese. 

Carefully slide the pizza from the board to the pizza stone that has been preheating in the oven  Use a back and forth motion to get the pizza to slide off.  As long as you’ve floured your board, it should be easy.  Bake the pizza for 10 – 12 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the toppings are bubbling. 

Easy Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 packet yeast (1/4 oz yeast total)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 tablespoon sea salt

Making the Dough

Add the two cups of warm water to a small bowl, with the sugar.  Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and stir or whisk slightly to incorporate the yeast into the water.  Let the yeast mixture set about 5 minutes, or until the top is foamy and you smell the yeast developing. 

In the meantime, in a very large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  After the yeast has developed, pour the yeast mixture into the flour and then add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Stir the dough with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough is formed.  Cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit for 20 – 30 minutes.  This lets the flour absorb the water and makes kneading easier. 

If you have a stand mixer with a dough attachment, use this to knead the dough for 10 minutes.  Alternatively, to knead by hand, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Try not to add extra flour – you want a fairly wet dough.  If your hands are sticking to the dough, wet your hands and the dough won’t stick. 

If you kneaded the dough by hand, return the dough to the bowl.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and then top with a towel.  Let the dough rise in a warm location for at least 2 hours or until doubled in size. 

Gently deflate the dough and divide into 3 equal portions for 3 large pizzas, or 6 equal portions for 6 small pizzas.  Shape each portion into a ball and place on a board that has been dusted with flour.  Cover the dough with a towel, and let the dough rest for another 30 minutes before baking. 

At this point, you can also refrigerate or freeze the dough to use later.    

Spinach and Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 ½ cups

2 cups baby spinach
1 cup basil leaves
1 clove garlic, if desired
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
pinch of sea salt
zest of one lemon
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Add the baby spinach, basil leave, garlic clove, pine nuts, salt, lemon zest and red pepper flakes to the bowl of your food processor.  Pulse until the mixture is chopped.  With the motor running, steam in the olive oil until the pesto comes together.  The pesto should be fairly thick.  Pour the mixture into a bowl and stir in the parmesan cheese.  The pesto will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for 4 to 5 days.

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Makes about 2 cups

1 pint grape tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the grape tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, sea salt and red pepper flakes.  Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for about 14 – 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to pop and turn brown.  Remove from the oven and immediately pour into a bowl, with all of the juices.  The tomatoes will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for 3 or 4 days.