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.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some Like it HOT...

I am back in Mexico City and have been thinking about the perfect Mexican ingredient to feature this week. As I strolled through the market yesterday, it hit me; the perfect Mexican ingredient to feature is not a fruit or vegetable, but a SPICE. Duh, what is Mexican food without some PICANTE (spicy) flavors? And now thinking back I realize that they really do put hot spices on everything here. This weekend at a friend’s house in Acapulco, they served coconut pieces with hot sauce, accompanied by some peanuts (with two kinds of hot sauce on it), followed by fruit with chill powder! And no meat dish or quesadilla is served without some chipotle sauce or spicy salsa! Good thing I like it hot, a taste that has developed over the years.

I was first introduced to hot sauce in college, when a good friend convinced me that the dining hall food would taste much better with hot sauce poured all over it. True. But it went further than that to even putting hot sauce on scooped out bagels- a little disturbing looking back. But there began my love for spicy foods that is so nicely satisfied in Mexico. So if you are also a SPICY fan, good news: you’re doing your body well!

Scientists have isolated the compound capsaicin, found in chile peppers, which is responsible for the pungent “hot” taste as well as the nutritional benefits. This compound is found in all hot peppers from jalapeño and chipotles to anchos, serranos, and habaneras. The spicier the pepper, the more capsaicin (hence the habanero, serrano, and jalapeno take the cake, in order from most to least spicy)

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?
Capsaicin and chili peppers have been linked to a number of health benefits over the years, ranging from weight loss and improved circulation to preventing cancer and improving sleep. Here at Secret Ingredient we like to trust, but verify, so lets see what the science says…

ArthritisCapsaicin fights inflammation and arthritis is an inflammation-derived disease, makes sense. A 2010 study in Thailand’s Journal of the Medical Association found that patients with knee osteoarthritis treated with capsaicin rather than placebo experienced significantly better outcomes in terms of pain control and disease depth.

Anti-Cancerous Preliminary research does support capsaicin as killing cancerous cells, but for now, the effect is seen only in the lab…so stay tuned.

Analgesic the bursting heat from the peppers can actually stop nerves from transmitting pain signals to the brain, wow. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that our spicy star was helpful in alleviating mouth pains related to cancer treatments when capsaicin was consumed as a sucking candy. Plus- other studies have found this crazy chile compound to be associated with better pain control when applied to the skin for localized pain or taken orally post-operatively.

Weight loss Capsaicin revs up metabolism, which makes the body burn calories faster. In addition, people who consume spicy foods tend to eat smaller portion sizes (I mean, how much of a very spicy dish can we eat at a time?), which leads to less caloric intake and weight loss. And oh, when Nelly said, “it’s getting hot in here…” he may have been having a chili pepper-filled meal since capsaicin raises body temperature, making you sweat, which can lead to weight loss and possibly the other half of that song line. A 2010 study in Nutrition & Metabolism showed increased energy expenditure (aka- burning calories!) with capsaicin intake.

Anti-bacterial While people once believed that eating spicy foods could give you ulcers, train of though has changed and recent research supports that chili pepper compounds seem to aim their spice at unwanted bacteria in the stomach, especially H. Pylori (a bacteria with potential to cause stomach ulcers)

Hypertension 2010 study from Science Times shows lowers cholesterol in hypertensive rats and further points out that countries with higher rates of dietary capsaicin have lower rates of hypertension (high blood pressure) and vise versa.

Just to be clear spicy foods are great for their flavoring ability and for their health benefits, but they should be consumed in moderation to prevent heartburn or indigestion. If you do feel these symptoms than the spice factor may not be for you- feel it out! But not to be alarmed, because with the extreme hotness of these foods, it would be difficult to consume a large amount from food alone, so any amount you are consuming on a daily basis is likely in moderation!

One more thing, if you are like me in college and love to douse things in hot sauce- be careful. Sodium contents of most hot sauces are pretty high, so try using fresh chili peppers or limit hot sauce consumption to 1-2 teaspoons per day so as not to over-do the recommended sodium intake of less than 2400mg or 2.4g per day (1 tsp hot sauce averages over 120mg or 5% of daily sodium, which may not seem like so much, but can definitely add up very quickly!

So...lets break it down (sodium per 1 tsp serving size of original flavors):
Frank's Red Hot- 200mg
Cholula- 85mg
Texas Pete- 120mg
Louisiana- 240m
Winner is Cholula, and I personally think it tastes the BEST!

What if I over-do it?
Ah yes…we all know that dreadful burning feeling when we bite off more than we can chew (literally). I have seen first hand what this can do to a person, mainly talking about my father, a 65-year-old man sticking his tongue into a glass of ice water at a fancy restaurant after accidentally consuming an entire jalapeño pepper by mistake. Ouch. So…here is the trick: Drink fat-free or one-percent milk! The main protein in milk is casein, which can alleviate the part of the pepper that makes your mouth and throat feel like it may explode. So next time this happens to you (especially in public) you can ask for a glass of milk rather than sticking your tongue into someone’s water glass.

Easy ways to incorporate spicy foods into your diet:

1. Make guacamole and/or salsa and add a jalapeño pepper (make sure to keep in some of the seeds: since the seeds are the true source of the pepper's heat, the more seeds you use, the spicier it will be, and the more capsaicin it will have)

2. Make “Jicima Fries” by slicing a jicima (large white root vegetable) into long strips and mixing them with lime juice and chili powder

3. Next time you are making chicken, try marinating it in a chipotle and soy sauce mixture, and then grill it in a pan.

4. Do like the Mexicans: serve your mango, papaya, pears (and any other fruit you can find) with chili powder. Next time you have friends over for cocktails, add some hot chili sauces to the peanut bowl.

5. Chipotle peppers (which are derived from Jalapeños) have a wonderful smoky and flavorful taste, not un-similar to that of bacon (but minus the health risks of saturated fat). So, add chipotle peppers or dried chipotle powder to any savory dish, from bean chilis and meat stews, to grain salads and sauteed greens.