Friday, December 31, 2010

3.2.1. Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve is filled with many things. Excitement to wear that new sparkly dress; anticipation over who will be the lucky winner of your midnight kiss; and last but definitely not least: alcohol. Most every New Year’s Eve party comes with a toast of champagne, not to mention an open bar. A typical dietitian’s advice would be to avoid the extra calories and stick to 1 or 2 drinks. But, since this night is usually celebrated for many hours, 1-2 drinks just may not cut it. The next best thing: choose the right type of drink.

Vodka: 68 calories per oz; typical serving size= 1.5 oz; 102 calories per shot
Wine: 20 calories per oz; typical serving size=5 oz; 100 calories per glass
Beer: 12 calories per oz (light beer= 9 calories per oz); typical serving size= 12 oz; 144 calories per bottle (108 for light beer)

Now how about those chasers??
Soda water= no calories
Tomato juice= a few calories
Juice/sweetened mixers/soda/tonic water= lots of calories
*If you’re gunna go for this last category, try to stick to 100% juice. That way, you will at least be getting a great Bang for your Bite (AKA lots of nutrients as opposed to none for the calories you are drinking)

Check out Food and Wine’s guide to champagne. This tells you which bottles to choose, how to get a great bargain, and how to make delicious champagne cocktails, including Champagne Mojitos- yum!

So lets say you end up having more than 1 or 2 drinks tonight, who’s counting? Maybe no one, but tomorrow morning, those achy, nauseous, I-am-never-drinking-again symptoms we like to call the Hangover will definitely know your count. And while there is truly no “hangover cure” except time, there are a few things you can do to ease the pain of the dreaded “morning after.”

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Well….you really haven’t, but no worries because being proactive against your hangover is definitely doing your body a good thing. The main culprits for those miserable side effects are dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. This is especially what fuels that massive headache. In addition, our bodies break down alcohol about 4 times as quickly as it breaks down glucose (carbohydrates) so drinking actually slows down the metabolism of carbohydrates and electrolytes, leaving you feeling weak and nauseous. The solution therefore is simple, re-hydrate, re-claim your electrolytes, get some carbs in your stomach.

1. Drink water before going to bed and when you wake up.
2. Drink a sports drink like Gatorade, which will replenish your carbs and electrolytes.
3. Settle your stomach with some bland foods (think dry toast, ½ a whole wheat bagel, crackers).
4. Eat a banana: bananas are filled with potassium, a major electrolyte lost during a night of drinking.
5. Take an ibuprofen (rather than aspirin or acetaminophen like Tylenol) to ease your headache. When your body breaks down alcohol, it produces some unfavorable byproducts that lead to inflammation; therefore, a small dose of an over-the-counter pain killer will help fight the inflammation along with easing your head’s pain.
6. And the true cure…Go Back To Bed! Time heals all, from a broken heart to a killer hangover…

Although you are now well-equipped to fight the morning after, it is still a good idea to drink in moderation-(ish). Oh, and drop-it-like-its-hot! Dancing the night away is a great way to get rid of some extra calories. And if you party like a rockstar tonight, there is definitely no judgment!

Happy New Year!!!

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Have a little nosh with that toast

New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest drinking nights of the year. From festive pomegranate cosmos to champagne toasts, I never feel too great the next morning. Aside from drinking lots of water, did you know that eating a good meal before and healthy snacks while drinking can help curb that hangover?

Why have you done a good thing?

Having food in your stomach slows the entrance of alcohol into your bloodstream by preventing it from entering your small intestine, which absorbs alcohol faster than the stomach. Foods that contain high amounts of protein and healthy fats are best at slowing down the effects of alcohol. Although the traditional party fav mini hotdogs are delicious, preparing your own appetizers can help keep calories in control.

Here are some Healthy New Year’s Eve Snack Ideas to keep your New Year’s Eve party going:

Green Apple Slices with hummus and pistachio nuts

Artichoke Hearts (find in freezer section) topped with chopped cooked spinach, salt, pepper and brie. Pop under the broiler until browned

Roasted Beet Dip – roast beets until tender and puree with goat cheese, salt and pepper. Spread on toasted bread

Proscuitto Wrapped Dates

Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella skewers drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Stuffed Tomatoes with low-fat chicken or egg salad

Spiced Pecans

1 lb pecans

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp fresh chopped thyme

1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine spices and sugar in a bowl. Bake pecans until fragrant, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly and add olive oil. Toss in spice mixture and serve!!

Have a great New Year’s Eve everyone!!

--Amy Santo, MS RD

Monday, December 27, 2010

Canadian Bacon, EH??

Hello Secret Ingredient fans! Due to wonderful feedback and high demand, from now on rather than waiting all week to hear from us, we will post TWOGs. What’s that you may ask? Well, for those of you following us on Twitter (@SecretIngred411), Twogs are postings that will be bigger than a tweet, but smaller than a blog: hence, twog! We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for topics. Much thanks for your support!

The holiday season, among other things, means days off from work and a lot of days where restaurants are closed. For me, this has equaled many home-made brunches! I love egg dishes such as frittatas and eggs benedict, especially with a side of bacon. Although delicious, bacon has beyond its share of saturated fat, which does not do our hearts well. But, did you know that Canadian bacon has all of the same great taste with much less of the fat? That’s right, Canadian Bacon is a lean meat!

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?
A lean meat, such as Canadian bacon is 45 calories and 0-3g fat per oz VS. a high-fat meat, such as traditional bacon which is 100 calories and >8g fat per oz. SO, in 1, 3 oz serving of Canadian bacon (about 3 slices) you could save ~165 calories and >21g fat (mostly saturated “bad” fat).

Find Canadian bacon at most grocery stores or at the meat butcher.
Slice it extra thin if you want it to crisp up like the real thing.
Bake it in the oven on baking cooling racks, placed inside of baking sheets so the fat drips off, keeping it extra lean, and crispy. (You can also cook it on the stove, simply add non-stick spray)
Use Canadian bacon in:
-Any egg dish or egg sandwich (try using half eggs and half egg whites for added protein minus saturated fat)
-Pasta dishes that call for pancetta (use whole wheat pasta and load up on the veggies)
-Make a Canadian-BLT or turkey club sandwich (skip the mayo and try some avocado as a spread)

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Even a lonely Jew on Christmas can still have a homemade cookie…

I have always been a Jew with Christmas envy. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching my beautiful menorah all lit up. But 8 days of twinkling lights is not enough for me. I can’t help it; part of me has always wanted an excuse to fully decorate my apartment and for Hanukkah Harry to come put presents under a beautifully lit up tree. This year is no exception. I’ve spent the past month marveling at the light exhibits all over the city, ranging from the Under the Stars exhibit at Columbus Circle to the department store holiday windows.

Although I always feel left out on Christmas, there is one part of this holiday in which I could always participate. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, at this time of year, you are bound to have a Christmas cookie. But how many of those cookies are homemade? I grew up in a household where if you didn’t bake it, you didn’t eat it. A slice-and-bake cookie never graced my mom’s oven. Now as a dietitian, I know why.

Why have you done a good thing?

From bleached flour to mono-sodium what’s-that-you-say?, slice and bake cookies contain a whole host of unnatural chemicals, including a dietitian’s biggest enemy: trans fat. Commonly found in store bought cookie dough, frozen pizzas and dinners, hot chocolate and drink mixes, peanut butters, fried foods, prepared baked goods, puddings, pastries, margarines, candies, breads, and cereals, trans fat is a man-made fat that has been created through an industrial process of extreme heat and pressure, which makes an oil smooth like butter. Result: trans fat raises your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) AND lowers your HDL (good cholesterol), making it the unhealthiest fat and completely unnecessary to the diet. Trans fats are linked with heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes.

**Note: you may have heard that there are naturally occurring trans fats in animal products. Studies have shown that these trans fats do not have the negative health effects like the unnatural sources.

Food manufacturers love trans fat because it preserves the shelf-life of foods (making them last forever) and they are cheap. But advocacy work and public outrage from the health effects of trans fats has forced food manufacturers to change their ways. Trans fats are now banned in NYC chain restaurants, which is a great step forward. But food manufacturers have found their way around this: the law states that labels can claim to have 0g trans fat in their product if it contains less than 0.5g per serving for packaged foods. What’s the problem with this? Well firstly, you have to actually be eating what they deem to be one serving, and we all know the truth about portion sizes… Secondly, even as little as 1g of trans fat per day can increase your risk of heart disease significantly. One study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (published in the American Journal of Epidemiology) found that trans fat intake increased risk of heart disease by 33%. (to view study:

So make sure you are reading the nutrition label, specifically the ingredients list, for trans fat. Look for partially hydrogenated oil, fully hydrogenated oil, shortening, and margarine. Also try to avoid palm oil, as studies have shown that although this is technically a saturated fat, it acts in your body similarly to a trans fat, which is also why food manufacturers are switching to it.

Start a new tradition this holiday season to bake your own cookies; that way you control what goes into them. A baked good is culinary love, making baking a great way to show someone you care during the holiday season.

So get motivated and try these recipes on for size. You won’t regret it and your guests, friends and family won’t forget it!!

3-in-1 Sugar Cookies (From the Food Network Kitchens) (makes 4 dozen 2 inch cookies)

2 ½ cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup confectioner’s sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp finely grated orange zest

Coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Beat the butter and both sugars in another medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and orange zest missing until fully incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture, and continue beating.

Roll about a tbsp of dough by hand into a ball. Dip 1 side of balls into some coarse sugar and place them sugar side up on an un-greased baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between cookies.

Bake cookies until bottoms are golden, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool and decorate as desired.

Here is my personal butter-cream frosting recipe to use instead of frosting in a tube:

1 cup butter, softened

8 cups confectioner’s sugar

½ cup half and half

2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter with 1 cup of sugar and vanilla using an electric mixture. Gradually add the rest of sugar, slowly so not to make a mess. Mix well until thick and creamy. If desired, add food colorings.

Vanilla Crescents (makes around 20 cookies)

This recipe was passed down to me from my Viennese grandmother, who truly appreciates the art of pastry. Originally from a cookbook entitled Viennese Cooking, my Omy used to make these cookies for Hanukkah celebrations. My mother kept this recipe alive, baking these delicate sugar cookies for my family and teaching me to continue the tradition.

1 ¼ cup flour

¾ cup butter, softened

1 ½ cup grated almonds

2 egg yolks

1/3 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar (or vanilla sugar if you can find it)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine flour and granulated sugar. Do not use a blender or electric mixture for the next steps.

With a pastry blender (or fork) or food processor, using softened butter, cut the butter into flour mixture, combining gently (or pulsing gently if using a food processor). Mixture should not have come together yet; it will appear to be a crumble-like consistency. Gently add grated almonds. Add 2 egg yolks to form the dough. Do not overwork.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using your hands, scoop out a ¾” diameter piece of dough. Take the ball and roll in your hands until it is 1/2” in diameter and 2” long (should look like a snake). On the parchment paper, form into a C shape. Continue this process until all cookies are formed.

Bake cookies for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cookies cool slightly on baking sheets. Do not touch or cookies will fall apart. While still warm, dust with confectioner’s sugar. Serve cool.

**As an alternative, try dipping in melted chocolate as well.

For more holiday cookie ideas, check out the Food Networks 12 Days of Cookies at:

Merry Christmas to those who are celebrating! To all you other Jews out there, we hope you enjoy your Chinese and movie!! We know we will…

--Amy Santo, MS RD

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grainularity: Get Your Freak On, I Mean, FREEKEH

After the indulgences of holiday meals, perhaps you will be thinking about re-vamping your diet? Adding more fruits and vegetables is definitely one way to do it. But maybe you don't want the same old salad for lunch everyday? Here’s a way to spruce it up: try a grain salad! One of my new favorite grains is Freekeh (pronounced Free-ka).

Freekeh is a roasted green (whole) grain, similar to a wheat berry. Since it is harvested when it is soft and young, it is a “green” grain that retains tremendous amounts of nutrients and flavor. After harvesting, the grain is roasted and dried, (without additives or preservatives) to stop the ripening process and protect the nutrients from destructive enzymes.

Why have you done a good thing?

Compared to other grains, Freekeh is:

-Higher in fiber (6 grams/serving)à helps fight heart disease, protective against colon cancer, keeps you regular

-Higher in protein (5 grams/serving)à important for energy, bone, muscles, and many bodily functions!

-Lower glycemic index foodà blood sugar control

In general, whole grains contain many B vitamins, which are VIPs for our metabolism and nervous system. B vitamins help the body get energy from carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Whole grains also contain important minerals, such as magnesium and selenium. These key players are involved in building bones, releasing energy from muscles, protecting cells from oxidation, and support a healthy immune system.

OK, I’m ready to get my Freekeh, where should I go?

No, not to the clubs...

Get it raw: or the Union Square Farmer’s Market

Get it Cooked: Try Trader Joe’s cooked Greenwheat Freekeh

So, like most of you out there, I had no idea what this grain was when I came across it at the Farmer’s market a few months ago. But luckily for you, I finished the experimental phase and after some (unsuccessful) attempts, I am finally ready to share my secrets for success!

Cooking this grain is quite simple: soak, boil, salt lightly, simmer! Once you figure out how to cook the freekeh (which is easy- or you can buy it cooked) you can mix it with just about anything you have in the house (fruits and veggies) and top it off with some vinaigrette.

I mixed mine with some dried apricots, dries cranberries, toasted pistachios, and scallions, and then added a homemade balsamic vinaigrette (i.e. olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper)- easy!

Winter Freekeh (serves 4-6)

1 cup dried freekeh

2 cups water or low-sodium chicken stock

¼ cup dried apricots, chopped

¼ cup dried cranberries, chopped

¼ cup toasted pistachios, chopped

¼ cup scallions, sliced


2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

-Soak freekeh in cold water for about 30 minutes, then rinse and drain.

-Bring water or stock to a boil. Add freekeh, salt lightly if using water, cover and reduce to a simmer.

-Cook until the water is absorbed, about 30 min.

While freekeh is cooking, chop and slice dried fruits, nuts, and scallions, respectively. To prepare vinaigrette, whisk olive oil and balsamic vinegar together. Add salt and pepper. When freekeh is finished cooking, give vinaigrette a final whisk and combine with freekeh. Add dried fruits, nuts, and scallions. Serve hot or cold.

Other ideas: Make a vegetarian meal by mixing in other veggies and beans or tofu. Mix into soup instead of rice. Substitute freekeh in your next risotto recipe. Next time you make chicken, serve freekeh instead of rice with this New York Times recipe:

So now that you now it's out there...GO ahead and embrace your Freekeh!

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gimme the Gelt...

As a young child, I remember the days before Chanukah vividly. Searching the closets, attic, and basement, all in search for the gold (AKA presents!) And then the night before…all 16 gifts lined up by the fire place (1 for each of the 8 nights for my sister and I), wrapped to conceal their identity. You never knew which one to choose first, bigger looks better, but as your parents always told you “good things come in small packages”…blah blah I always liked to assure that mine was bigger (and better) than my sister’s. And as we got older, this tradition gave way to the more teenage approach- asking parents for that 1 great bag you NEED to have and oh yea, “its only November, but can this please just be my Chanukah gift?” So now as an adult, the whole present giving thing has basically subsided (minus 1 amazing gift-giver who shocked me this year with a blowout Chanukah gift!) and what is left are the party invitations: “Vodka and Latkes”. Sounds better than presents to you? Ok, so being an adult does have its perks but it also means that we need to be a little more cautious with our Chanukah food selections than when we had those unstoppable metabolisms in the younger years.

Chanukah foods are known for one key nutrient: fat. Deep fried potato latkes are as much Chanukah as the presents that accompany them. But don’t be saddened healthy Jews- Secret Ingredient always has the answer to balancing indulgences and food traditions with a healthy lifestyle. And the answer is: Sweet Potato Latkes (baked, rather than fried) and home-made (or home-made by a healthy brand) apple sauce. (And yes, a little vodka with your latke shouldn’t be a problem- moderation is the key).

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Sweet Potatoes definitely do NOT get the street credit they deserve. Fine, they may look a little dirty and be shaped weird, some even have some roots coming out, but remember the whole “don’t judge a book by the cover” thing. Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene, which easily converts to the active form of vitamin A. Beta carotene is what makes our potato pal orange. And you can tell just how packed with vitamins it is by looking at the color. As we have mentioned before, the deeper the color, the more nutrient-dense the fruit or vegetable often is- this is the case with the sweet potato. Vitamin A helps our vision, especially at night as it helps our eyes adjust to the dark more efficiently. Without enough vitamin A in our system, risks include night blindness, drying of the corneas, and general decline in eyesight. And for some added credit, vitamin A has been studied for it its potentials in preventing cancer due to anti-oxidant properties. Vitamin A also helps our immune system function correctly and supports proper growth and development.

How much should we have?

RDA (Recommended daily allowance):
Men- 900 mcg or 3,000IU
Women- 700mcg or 2,310IU
Upper Limit- 10,000IU (since vitamin A is fat-soluble, the body can store it, as opposed to water-soluble vitamins like vitamins B and C that are excreted)
*BUT not to worry about over-doing it, the amount you get from foods is often well below safety levels!

Want to get some more vitamin A?

The beta-carotene as we have been discussing can also be found in carrots, cantaloupe, spinach, pumpkin, basically most deep orange or green colored fruits and vegetables, you get the picture… Another type of vitamin A, retinol, is extremely active in the body and is found in eggs, liver, milk (because it is fortified with vitamin A), and even cheddar cheese.

So now that we have explored all the great things about vitamin A- lets use it to celebrate Chanukah- Secret Ingredient style!

Sweet Potato Veggie Latkes (serves 8)

1 pound grated sweet potato
1/2 pound grated carrots
1/2 pound grated zucchini
1/2 cup matzah meal
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp canola oil

Squeeze out all liquid from grated veggies (as much as possible). Combine grated veggies with other ingredients. Using a fork, drop small amounts of mixture into hot oil. Lightly pan fry latkes in oil until they start to brown. Then bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until they are golden brown. Top with applesauce!!

Check out this video for a simple, home-made applesauce and serve it as a dipping sauce for the Sweet Potato Latkes!

Had enough cooking with the latkes? No problem- buy an applesauce that is made with natural ingredients and low in sugar. Try Trader Joe’s Chunky Spiced Apples. If you can’t find that exact type, stick to any Trader Joes or Whole Foods brand- they are usually pretty reliable!

Happy Chanukah and enjoy all of the holiday’s festivities!

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

Thursday, November 25, 2010

All that's leftover can become new again...

After enjoying generous helpings of turkey with gravy, mashed sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows, mushroom rye bread stuffing, along with double portions of pumpkin pie, I think I’m tapped out on gluttonous meals. But now I’m faced with a big problem; there is so much leftover and it’s all too good to let go to waste. Although I love leftovers, many members of my family refuse to eat the same thing two days in a row and it will be a challenge to eat the same meal for the next few days. Time to get creative and take all those Thanksgiving goodies and turn them into healthier dishes.

Why have you done a good thing?

Using leftovers to create new meals allows you to maintain a varied diet. As no single food can give you all the nutrients you need, eating a variety of different types of foods, in particular fruits and vegetables, is essential for maintaining a good weight and reduce the risk of disease such as heart disease and cancer. In particular, eating a rainbow of colors and different types of each color (such as bright orange and deep orange foods) helps you to make sure you are eating all your nutrients. Plus eating the same food everyday or the same leftovers for a whole week is boring, and who wants to eat boring food? Not to mention it is very “green” and economical not to let food go to waste…

So here is a HUGE assortment of recipes you can make to get rid of all your leftovers...including breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner!

Morning-after Quiche (serves 6-8)

2 cups of leftover stuffing

6 eggs

½ cup low-fat milk

1 cup shredded turkey leftovers or cheese (if keeping it vegetarian)

1 ½ cups leftover vegetables or potatoes

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Fresh parsley (if you have)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press stuffing into a greased shallow casserole dish. In a bowl, beat eggs with milk. Add turkey or cheese and leftover vegetables to egg mixture. Add salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture into stuffed lined casserole dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes until firm around edges but wobbly in middle. Let cool. Top with fresh herbs if you have. Serve warm or cool.

Mashed Sweet Potato Dip (serves 6-8)

2 cup leftover mashed sweet potatoes (sans marshmallows)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ tsp black pepper

¼ cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor slowly adding oil and blend until smooth. Serve with whole wheat crackers or baked chips.

Healthy Turkey Salad (Serves 4-6)

2 cups leftover turkey, shredded

3 tbsp low-fat mayo

¼ cup celery, diced

¼ cup carrots, diced

¼ cup diced apples

½ cup craisins

Fresh lemon juice

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients and top on toasted whole wheat bread, a scooped out bagel, or salad.

Turkey Cranberry Sandwich (serves 1)

Whole wheat bread, 2 slices

2 slices leftover turkey

1 tbsp leftover cranberry sauce

1 slice fontina cheese

Combine all ingredients and melt in a panini press. If omitting cheese, slightly warm turkey before putting in the sandwich and top with lettuce. Enjoy!!

Turkey Pasta Primavera (Serves 8)

1 lb whole wheat pasta

¼ cup olive oil

5 cloves garlic, diced

1 yellow onion

¼ cup white wine.

Leftover vegetables from table or crudite, cubed

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Fresh leftover herbs (rosemary, thyme or parsley), diced

2 cups shredded leftover turkey

½ cup parmesan cheese

If using raw vegetables, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat raw vegetables with salt, pepper and 2 tbsp oil and roast for 25 minutes or until browning slightly and tender. If using precooked vegetables, cut into small pieces. Boil salted water for penne. Cook pasta to just shy of al dente, drain and reserve 1 cup starchy cooking water. In a skillet, heat the rest of oil with garlic and onion. Add wine and simmer until reduced. Add roasted or precooked veggies, herbs, and turkey. Add pasta and keep on heat until pasta absorbs sauce. If need more fluid, add some starchy cooking water. Serve warm. If using cheese, top with cheese before platting.

End of Supper Soup (serves 6-10)

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

4 stalks of celery, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

Fresh herbs (whatever you have leftover ie. Thyme, rosemary, or parsley)

1 tsp tomato paste (if you have)

Leftover vegetables from the dinner table (anything you’ve got!)

Roasted turkey leftovers, shredded and off the bone

4-8 cups low-sodium chicken stock (depending on how much food you have leftover)

In a large soup pot, combine onion, carrots, and celery and lightly sautée in olive oil until onion has softened. Add fresh herbs, leftover vegetables, and optional tomato paste and sautee for another minute. Add roasted turkey and stock. Bring up to a boil and reduce to simmer. Allow to cook for about 20-30 minutes on simmer. Serve with leftover dinner rolls!

South of the Border Turkey Leftovers (serves 4-6)


1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups peppers, chopped

1 tbsp canola oil

1-3 of Chulula hot sauce (depending on how spicy you like things)

1 tsp salt

½ tsp red pepper flakes

2 cups shredded leftover turkey

1 cup low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed

Whole wheat soft tortillas (look for 3g fiber per tortilla or more)


2 avocados, mashed

½ yellow onion, diced finely

2 tbsp salsa (suggest Green Mountain salsa – mild, medium or hot)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

Sautee peppers and onion in oil. Add hot sauce, salt and pepper and cook vegetables until softened. Add black beans.

In a separate bowl, combine avocados, onion, salsa, and seasonings and mashed well until smooth with some chunks if desired.

Top each tortilla with 1 cup of filling mixture and top with 2 tbsp guacamole and more salsa if desired. To fold, fold top and bottom in first. While holding those in place, fold sides into each other. Hold securely to eat. **FYI: A good friend once told me, that if you don’t get messy while eating this recipe, then you are not eating great Mexican food.

We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and continue to enjoy delicious, and healthy leftovers with your family and friends!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Portion Control, Size Matters...

This weekend, I headed down south with some girlfriends to celebrate a friend’s birthday. As we were getting ready for her party, I came to a realization. My friend was deciding between two dresses and after choosing that night’s winner, she exclaimed that the other one was perfect for Thanksgiving day because it was loose-fitting on the belly. We all decided the perfect Thanksgiving outfit included, of course, a loose waistband! That’s when it hit me- are we really judging our outfits based on how they can best maximize our ability to stuff our stomachs full of food, to the point that they will no longer fit in our tight-wasted pants? Oh yes, we certainly are!

Thus this week’s topic: Portion Control. With the “big day” approaching, everyone has food on their minds- and a lot of it. People have been known to indulge on Thanksgiving and eat meals upwards of 5,000 calories (that is enough for almost 3 days!) So, as mentioned before, here at the Secret Ingredient, we never say no to indulgence, especially on your favorite dish, but let’s do it Secret Ingredient style! Here are a few tips for Turkey Day :

1. Eat a good breakfast before you start cooking. While some people may think it is smart to bank calories by not eating breakfast or lunch the day of Thanksgiving, this can actually be disastrous. I don’t know about you guys, but when I am hungry there is no stopping me- I will eat whatever is in front of me, and rather quickly. Make sure to have adequate protein and fiber (such as some Greek yogurt with fruit and some fiber-rich cereal or a Kashi Go Lean protein and fiber bar and a piece of fruit) for breakfast and a light but filling lunch. This will prevent you from mindlessly picking at dishes you are preparing.

2. Stick to your favorites. As we have mentioned before in our Halloween blog, it is important to indulge sparingly so pick your 2 favorite side dishes and your 1 favorite dessert, and enjoy them in a normal-ish portion size (I mean, I’m not going to lie and tell you that my serving of sweet potato pie is the size of a ping-pong ball. It’s not, and I love it!)

3. Don’t eat from the Dish (namely, the pie dish). Eating straight from the dish allows us to eat continuously without any sense of portion size. Maybe that is a good thing for the guilt-factor since you can never really tell how much you ate, but for a guilt-free indulgence, simply take an appropriate-ish piece of the pie and enjoy (and maybe put the pie away- It can be very hard to resist seconds, at least for me!)

4. Fill half your plate with vegetables. Whenever you are at a dinner party, if you have control over what is served to you, always pile up half your plate with non-starchy vegetables (we are not talking about potatoes or stuffing here!). The fiber from the vegetables (i.e. broccoli, brussels spouts, and salad) will fill you up faster on healthier calories, preventing you from overeating.

5. Enjoy the company! Yes, Thanksgiving is mainly about good food, but it is also about being together with friends and family, so take advantage and engage in some satisfying conversation, as well as satisfying food. When you engage in conversation while eating, you are more likely to eat slowly and therefore, consume less.

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

This one is short and sweet.

Unhealthy portion sizesà increased calorie intake (as little as 500 extra calories per day)à weight gainà a number of health-related consequences associated with being overweight or obese (such as Diabetes, Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, etc.)


Indulging in healthy portions of your favorite things once in a while (such as on Thanksgiving)à satisfaction and satietyà normal eating habits and portion sizesà healthy lifestyle!

So, what exactly is a healthy portion size? As an on-the-go New Yorker, I am certainly not taking the time to measure out everything I eat, especially at Thanksgiving dinner, SO, here is a quick fix using pictures to estimate how much you are eating, for kids and adults!

A few more portion tips…

1 Serving Size

Looks Like…

3oz red meat

Deck of cards or the palm of your hand

1oz cheese

1 Domino or your Thumb

2 Tablespoons peanut butter

1 Golf ball

1 slice of bread

CD case (for those of you who still have them!)

2 Tablespoons almonds

Palm of your hand (spread in 1 layer)

Small apple

1 Tennis ball

1/2 cup broccoli

Bulb part of a light bulb

Just one more tip. Make a fist. This is about 1 cup of anything!

You are now ready to be a healthy eater all holiday season long, so go enjoy (and don’t forget to indulge every once in a while!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

More than just pumpkin pie....

Fall, especially November, in the City is pumpkin month. Restaurants, coffee shops, and even diners are bursting with pumpkin muffins, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin ice cream, and even pumpkin chai lattes. With all of these limited-time pumpkins products pushed on us everywhere we go, it’s hard to resist. Especially because pumpkin is just so delicious and so hard to prepare yourself. I thought carving a pumpkin for Halloween was hard. Cutting it up a full pumpkin to roast is just impossible. And in a New York City kitchen, who has the room?

Luckily pumpkin manufacturers have developed the greatest thing since sliced bread. Canned pumpkin!! I’m not talking about pumpkin pie mix, which is loaded with sugar and is already seasoned. I’m referring to pumpkin puree, purely the good stuff. Most of us only buy canned pumpkin for Thanksgiving, but there is so much more you can do with it, all season long.

Why have you done a good thing?

Pumpkins are a nutritional super food, loaded with carotenoids, which give them their bright

orange color. Carotenoids are antioxidants that protect our bodies from dangerous free radicals, which are linked with cancers and eye diseases. Pumpkins also contain high amounts of iron, zinc and fiber, which are important for red blood cell development and bowel health respectively.

Even pumpkin seeds are nutritious. Pumpkin seeds are high in essential fatty acids and phytosterols, which have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and maintain heart health. Pumpkin seeds also are a great source of protein, as well as vitamin E and A, which act as antioxidants and boost immunity.

And for just $.75 cents – $1.50 per can, canned pumpkin is a great bang for your bite and wallet!!!

So what can I do with it besides make pumpkin pie?

I personally could eat pureed pumpkin straight from the can I love it so much. However, since most people don’t like their pumpkin straight up, we wanted to set out to show how to use canned pumpkin for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert too! You can use these recipes while you are entertaining houseguests for Thanksgiving or if you are like me and just love pumpkin.

Breakfast: Baked Pumpkin French Toast (serves 6)

6 eggs

1 cup 1% milk

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp vanilla

1 15 oz can pureed pumpkin

Whole wheat challah bread (raisin if available) or brioche bread, cubed with crusts cut off

Pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat eggs with milk, spices, sugar, vanilla until combined. Add pumpkin puree and mix until smooth. Into a greased casserole dish, add cubed bread. Pour pumpkin mixture over bread. Bake for about 30 minutes or until pumpkin has set (like a soufflé consistency). Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup over top. **Note – if entertaining with this dish, bake in individual ramekins for a nice presentation.

Lunch: Roasted Butternut Squash, Parsnip, Carrot and Pumpkin Soup (serves 6-8)

1 pound carrots, peeled

1 pound parsnips, peeled

1 small butternut squash, peeled and seeded

1 tbsp olive oil

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

3-4 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie stock

1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the carrots, parsnips, and butternut squash in 1 to 1 1/4-inch cubes. Place all the cut vegetables in a single layer on 2 sheet pans. Drizzle them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss well. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.

In a large saucepan, heat 3 cups of stock. Coarsely puree vegetables a food processor fitted with the steel blade (or use a handheld blender). Add pumpkin puree and stock and puree again. Pour the soup back into the pot and season, to taste. The soup should be thick but not like a vegetable puree, so add more chicken stock and/or water until it's the consistency you like.

Dinner: Pumpkin Stuffed Shells (serves 4-6)

1 box of stuffed shells

1 28 oz can of pureed pumpkin

16 oz low-fat ricotta cheese

1 ½ tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground nutmeg

1 ½ cups shredded parmesan cheese

½ cup chopped walnuts (or breadcrumbs if allergic)

½ chopped fresh sage leaves

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) Boil water for shells. Salt water generously. Cook penne until slightly before al dente. Drain shells and put in a greased baking or casserole dish.

3) For the pumpkin filling, combine pureed pumpkin, ricotta cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg, ½ cup parmesan cheese (reserve ½ cup of cheese for topping).

4) Gently, with a spoon (or pastry bag if you have it) fill the shells with pumpkin mixture. Top stuffed shells with chopped walnuts and remaining parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese has melted and slightly browned.

5) When done baking, top with fresh sage leaves. Serve hot.

Dessert: Pumpkin Mousse (inspired by Barefoot Contessa) (serves 8-10)

1/2 cup 1% milk

½ cup of half and half

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

1 cup brown sugar

6 egg yolks

½ cup cold water

2 packets of unflavored gelatin

2 ripe bananas, mashed

2 cup heavy whipping cream

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup crushed Graham crackers

Heat the half-and-half, milk, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water until hot, about 5 minutes. Whisk the egg yolks in another bowl, stir some of the hot pumpkin into the egg yolks to heat them, then pour the egg-pumpkin mixture back into the double boiler and stir well. Heat the mixture over the simmering water for another 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly. You don't want the eggs to scramble. Remove from the heat.

Dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water. Add the dissolved gelatin, banana to the pumpkin mixture and mix well. Set aside to cool. Whip the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the granulated sugar and vanilla and continue to whisk until you have firm peaks. Fold half the whipped cream into the cooled pumpkin mixture. Top with graham crackers and serve chilled.

**Note: As you can see, this dessert is more decadent than usual. Since it’s the holiday season, we figured we’d give you a fun treat. But always remember your portion control.

Other ideas for pumpkin puree:

1) Bake with pumpkin replacing half the fat with pumpkin puree

2) Combine pumpkin with Greek yogurt for breakfast

3) Mix pumpkin puree into whole grain pancake mix

4) Mix pumpkin puree with low-fat cream cheese to serve as dip with graham crackers or ginger cookies

5) Mix pumpkin puree into mashed potatoes

The possibilities are endless. Have fun and experiment with this absolutely delicious superfood. If you come up with something creative, please share it with us! From one pumpkin lover to another, you can’t ever have enough ways to eat pumpkin.