Saturday, February 26, 2011

Roll me up some Escarole

As a dietitian, I am always preaching, “Eat your green leafy vegetables!” And it’s not only me, I feel like advertisements on the health benefits of green goodies are everywhere these days. Yea, you got your spinach, your kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens…but what about Escarole?? Poor thing- this nutrition powerhouse gets no credit! Well, here it is…

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

As part of the green leafy vegetable family, escarole is loaded with vitamins A, C and K. In just 1 cup of cooked greens, you can far exceed your daily K and A needs, and come close to your C needs. Vitamin A helps your vision and supports healthy growth. And when you get a little cut? Vitamin K comes to the rescue and allows your blood to clot (or stop coming out). And as an avid Your Secret Ingredient reader, I’m sure you know plenty about C’s function. Escarole is also filled with folate (an important nutrient for us females). And not to dote- but this green gift also supplies you with some calcium, iron, and fiber too- wohoo!

What to do with it?

  • Chop it up and use it for salad greens (Go Nuts- 1 ½ cups has a mere 15 calories,0 fat, and 2 g fiber)
  • Add it into a whole-wheat pasta dish (pre-steamed or boiled, add right before serving).
  • Sautee it as a side dish with some EVOO, garlic, and crushed red pepper (Boil escarole in salted water first for 5-10 minutes, and then sautee.
  • Make a soup with escarole, white beans, and veggies
Check out for this Mediterranean Rice-Stuffed Escarole recipe

So next time you are looking for some healthy leafy-greens- leave the traditionals’ aside and give escarole some face time!

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

Thursday, February 24, 2011

All they're cracked up to be...

As a child, I used to love de-shelling nuts for my Dad. One by one, I would work on each nut, giving my Dad his favorite snack. From peanuts at a baseball game to pistachios as a late afternoon snack, I found it so much fun! Now I know that de-shelling nuts, particularly pistachios, is well worth the work…

Why have you done a good thing?

Pistachios are a great source of monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, copper, manganese, phosphorus, B vitamins, and fiber. Pistachios have also been shown to be a great source of plant sterols, which have been shown to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Most importantly, pistachios are the lowest calorie nuts. One serving size of pistachios is 1 ounce or 49 nuts, which is 170 calories and 3 g of fiber, making pistachios a great snack that is much more satisfying than other nuts. Pistachios are a great snack to eat in from of the TV or at your desk because you can see the evidence of what you have eaten (the shells); if you are unable to cheat, you can’t overeat!!

How can I eat pistachios?

  • Sprinkle de-shelled pistachios onto green or grain salads
  • Mix pistachios into your trail mixes
  • Add pistachios onto cold or hot cereals, yogurts, and cottage cheese
  • Mix into healthy low-fat muffin recipes
  • Experiment with pistachio flour (especially if you are gluten intolerant
  • Use pistachios in pestos (see our previous posts on how to make pesto!)
  • Or just grab a handful and de-shell!!

              • Pistachio Encrusted Salmon (serves 1)

                1 salmon filet

                1 tbsp flour

                salt and pepper

                1 tsp grated garlic or garlic powder

                1 egg beaten

                ½ cup crush pistachio nuts (put nuts in a bag and beat with a rolling pin!)

                1 tsp olive oil

                Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, salt, pepper, garlic, and crushed nuts in one bowl. In a separate bowl, beat egg. Dip salmon into egg first, making sure it is well coated on both sides. Then dip salmon on both sides into flour/nut mixture. Then preheat a pan with oil and sear salmon for 1 minute on each side. Finish by baking in oven until desired doneness.

                Get Cracking!!!

                --Amy Santo, MS RD

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It’s pizza pizza pizza daddio!!

One of the best kitchen gadgets I have invested in is a pizza stone. I absolutely CRAVE pizza and am always looking for healthier ways to eat it. From brunch, dinner, yes even dessert, making your own pizza can be great for fast weeknight dinners and a really fun way to entertain!!

Why have you done a good thing?

I love pizza as much as the next girl but it can be loaded with calories. At some pizzerias, 2 slices of traditional NY style pizza can cost you up to 1200 calories and a hefty serving of saturated fat and sodium. Making pizza at home allows you to control the calories by choosing your type and amount of cheese and reducing slice sizes. You can also up the fiber content by loading on the veggies or purchasing whole-wheat pizza dough. This is also a great way to get the kids in the kitchen and trying new veggies!

Another bonus: if you don’t have the best oven (especially if you live in a rental in NYC), keeping a pizza stone in your oven while you use it keeps your oven calibrated and gets it hotter.

How to make your own pizza:

You can make your own pizza dough, but honestly who has the time? Stop at your local pizzeria and purchase pizza dough. Most pizzerias now are even selling whole-wheat dough as well. Whole Foods market and Trader Joe’s also sell DELICIOUS pre-made pizza dough.

It’s super easy! Just 3 simple steps!!

Step 1: Preheat oven to 500 degrees or as hot as it will get.

Step 2: On a floured surface, roll out your pizza dough on pizza stone using a rolling pin until about ¼ - ½ inch thick and just slightly bigger than the stone. Form a crust on the edges.

**Note: if you don’t like bubbles in your crust, lightly prick the crust with a fork and this will avoid bubbles.

Bake crust for 7 minutes or until it starts to brown slightly.

Step 3: Carefully remove pizza stone with crust from oven. Top with your choice of toppings and bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until browned like pizza should look!!

For traditional pizza toppings, try these on for size in any combination:

Fresh mozzarella cheese, goat cheese, fontina cheese, ricotta cheese, artichoke hearts, asparagus, tomatoes, tomato sauce, pesto, fresh garlic, onions, grilled chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, peppers, eggplant, olives, zucchini, yellow squash, spinach

For brunch pizza, try:

Scrambled eggs, hardboiled eggs, Canadian bacon, cheese (of any variety: recommend cheddar, Monterey jack, Swiss, gruyere), and any veggies or your choice.

For dessert pizza try these ideas:

-Nutella or peanut butter with dark chocolate chips, banana and strawberries

-Ricotta cheese with fresh lemon juice and fresh fruit such as berries

-Cinnamon sugar with baked apples and plain yogurt

-Graham cracker crumbles, marshmallows, and dark chocolate chips

**N0te: when making breakfast or dessert pizza, bake the crust one time for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Then put toppings on just until cheese or chocolate melts, for example.

What’s a dietitian’s advice for going out for pizza?

-Order extra veggies on your slices to reduce the amount of cheese used or ask for low-fat cheese

-Order whole-wheat sometimes

-Order one traditional slice and a salad on the side.

-Try “healthier” low-fat pizza places like Slice or Rev’d Up in NYC

-Or make going out for pizza an occasional treat and have the real deal…J

--Amy Santo, MS RD

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lucky Tomatoes

Is it a fruit? Maybe a vegetable? The truth is- it doesn’t matter to me! This lucky item is a SUPER-food! And it’s also how a special someone won me over. Those who know me would surely agree that the way into my heart is definitely a home-cooked meal. So, how did he win me over? Bruscetta! It’s delicious, and jam-packed with health-promoting nutrients, too!

Why have you done a good thing?

Tomatoes are:

· A great low-calorie snack that are high in fiber

· Filled with phytonutrients, specifically lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in red, dark yellow, and dark green vegetables. In many studies, people who consumed more lycopene from foods had fewer incidences of certain cancers (such as breast and prostate) and heart disease.

· Good sources of vitamins A (helps vision), vitamin C (antioxidant), folate (promotes healthy fetal growth), and potassium (helps with blood pressure)

· Better when heated (in terms of the lycopene- it is easier for the body to absorb when heated)

· Best in the summer months (here in NY). Nothing better than farmer’s market tomatoes, or better yet, tomatoes from your own garden!

What to do with tomatoes:

· Sautee some onions, cherry tomatoes, and olives- great topping for fish.

· In the summer, you can throw them on the Barbie with a little vinaigrette

· Make a homemade tomato sauce

· Use that tomato sauce and mix it into a big pot with some onion, peppers, and cubed chicken- easy meal!

· Throw them in a salad (regular, cherry, or sun-dried)

· Eat them whole, as a snack (slice in half and add some salt- I know, I’m a dietitian, but it tastes good! Just a tiny pinch, though, ok?)

And now presenting, the BRUSCETTA that won my heart (I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing!)


2-3 Tomatoes, whole

1 handful Basil, chopped

Garlic (4-8 cloves), finely diced

3-4 T Olive oil

Salt and pepper

  1. Boil water. Add tomatoes and cook for 90 seconds.
  2. Remove from pot and peel of skins. Chop tomatoes into 1-inch pieces and put all juice/seeds in a separate bowl.
  3. In a bowl, combine garlic, basil, and enough olive oil to cover the mixture. Use the back of a fork to mash into a paste.
  4. Add chopped tomatoes (NO juice/seeds) to the mixtures. Mash only slightly with the back of a fork and then mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To make the toasts:

Slice a French baguette into 1-inch pieces. Mix some of the reserved tomato juice with olive oil and drizzle over the sliced bread. Take a peeled clove of garlic and rub it on each slice. Bake in the over at 425 degrees for 10-14 minutes

Spoon bruscetta onto toast and serve.

You can impress them with your chef abilities first, and then let them know why they are doing a good thing!

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Give ‘Em Your A Game

I wasn’t exactly the bravest little girl, OK, I was a scaredy-cat, especially of the dark. If I would have known then that vitamin A can help your eyes adjust better when going from light to dark, I would have never left all those carrot sticks on my dinner plate!

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Vitamin A (AKA pro-vitamin A, Retinol-which comes from animal sources, & Beta-carotene-which comes from plant sources) helps with:

  • Vision (protects against night blindness)
  • Growth and development in children and adults
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Can decrease severity of measles and diarrhea
  • Often helps fight a certain leukemia called APL
  • Treats certain skin diseases such as psoriasis

What Has Vitamin A?

  • Deep green leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, peas,broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as squash, peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, peaches, mangos, apricots, cantaloupe-Eggs
  • Liver
  • Fortified milk & some milk products
  • Vegetable oils (palm oil)

How Much Vitamin A Should You Have Per Day?

  • 700-900 ug/day (more if breast feeding)

No need for vitamin supplements, How Can You Up Your Vitamin A INTAKE?

  • Include dried apricots or mangoes in your next trail mix
  • Make an apricot glaze using apricot preserves for chicken, turkey, or pork
  • Switch your salad greens for spinach leaves
  • Snack on carrots sticks or peppers with hummus or peanut butter
  • Experiment with dark leafy greens, using them in healthy dips, omelets, side dishes
  • Eat a hardboiled egg for a snack or eggs for breakfast 2-3x per week
  • Make a squash & carrot soup
  • Make an orange-colored fruit salad
  • Eat sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes
  • Delicious Sweet Potato Fries: Mix 1 sweet potato, sliced French-fry style, with 1T EVOO, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin and bake on a cookie sheet for 12-18 minutes at 400 degrees F.

So please, give us your A-game and load up on these vitamin A-filled foods. The next time you wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you may notice how well you can see in the dark!

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

Monday, February 14, 2011

To all you chocoholics, fantasies can come true…

For those who know me well, they are well aware of my chocolate addiction. And as you can tell from my last posting, I love dessert and baking. But dessert just isn’t dessert without some aspect of chocolate, especially on Valentine’s Day! It tastes so good, it can’t be good for you, right? Turns out fantasies can come true; chocolate can do more for you than give you comfort...

Why have you done a good thing?

Cocoa has been used for 1000’s of years for medicinal purposes, since the time of ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Without all the fancy research of today, these societies knew that chocolate had wonderful benefits. Today, science has shown that 100% pure cocoa powder has been found to reduce your risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer by 10% due to a mega dose of cocoa flavanoids in their activities as antioxidants.

Some studies have even shown that cocoa can have a positive effect on mood, helping those suffering from depression.

But not all chocolate is created equal! Cocoa content of chocolate varies, with milk chocolates having as little as 15-20% cocoa and some dark chocolates ranging up to 85% cocoa. The higher the percentage of cocoa in your chocolate the better. Researchers at Cornell University found that eating cocoa powder is the best way to obtain health benefits from cocoa, as pure cocoa has the lowest percentage of saturated fats compared to milk and dark chocolates. For the best health benefits, use 100% non-alkalinized cocoa powder from a quality manufacturer.

So after a long day, it’s ok to reach for some chocolate: 1 portion is 1 oz of dark chocolate (the darker the better, and more satisfying!).

Or for something decadent, here is that low-fat brownie recipe I promised you. I made them last weekend and they are sooo fudgy!!

Decadent Fudgy Brownies (serves 12-14)

8 ounces dark chocolate bar, chopped

1 cup all purpose or cake flour

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

¼ tsp baking soda

2 large eggs

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup applesauce

6 oz plain, vanilla or coffee low-fat yogurt

1 tbsp canola oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ bag dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray.

Melt 8 ounces dark chocolate bar in a double boil over simmering water, stirring occasionally (meaning put a bowl on top over a pot of water).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the yogurt, applesauce, oil, and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the melted chocolate and beat until blended. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Gently mix in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the mixture the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until edges have started to pull away from sides of pan and brownies looks like they have set. (Does not jiggle in the middle). Toothpick should NOT come out clean. Do not overbake. Allow to cool for 30 minutes and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Cut into squares and enjoy!

You can even cook savory dishes with dark chocolate:

Try this Cocoa Flank Steak recipe or Vegetable Chili Recipe with a chocolate twist

Or to escape from this cold, try making your own hot chocolate instead of reaching for a pre-made packet. You’ll avoid all the chemicals, high sugar, and added trans-fats and saturated fats from store-bought hot chocolate. Use 1% or skim milk and hot cocoa as a great way to boost your calcium intake, especially if you or your kids don’t like the taste of plain milk.

Homemade Hot Cocoa (don’t worry, it’s very simple!!) (2 servings)

2 ½ cup Skim or 1% milk (can also use soy milk)

1 tbsp and 1 tsp unsweetened 100% cocoa powder

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon or 2 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp instant espresso/coffee powder (optional)

Simmer the milk gently with cinnamon on stove top. Remove from heat and add cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, and if using espresso and whisk vigorously. Put back on stove top over low heat until warmed for drinking. Serve immediately.

You can also substitute espresso for chili powder for some spicy Mexican hot cocoa!

Enjoy a warm mug of hot cocoa for a satisfying weeknight dessert or a decadent chocolate brownie with your sweetie. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

--Amy Santo, MS RD

Friday, February 11, 2011

Oh You Fancy, Huh?

The other night, my friend and I ordered in dinner from our favorite Downtown Italian spot, Max. We were in need of some serious comfort food, so rather than denying ourselves their famous (and truly extraordinary) fettuccine bolognese, we went for portion control and split it. We decided to split a salad, as well- I mean hey, we’re trying to be healthy here! So, when she asked me if I wanted the fennel salad, I though “Oh, you fancy, Huh?”

I was skeptical at first, thinking about the whole black licorice flavor, that I do not like, but I decided to try it. And boy was I surprised- I loved it!

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Fennel is a great BANG for your BITE. With only 27 calories per cup, you get 3g of hunger-fighting, cholesterol-lowering fiber! Not to mention the bone-protecting calcium and muscle-controlling potassium. Phytonutrients in fennel act as damage-fighting, health-improving, anti-oxidants. Also, fennel has been known to help alleviate all sorts of digestive issues, such as gas, cramps, and indigestion.

How do you eat it?

Well, you could have it delivered…

OR, you can

1. chop it up into a salad (bulb only), add some Parmesan cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette (just like they do at Max)

*Learn how to slice up the bulb with this quick video!

2. Make fennel tea by boiling the fennel leafs

3. Use fennel seeds to spice up almost any meat or vegetable dish

4. Roast fennel with some EVOO and balsamic (bulbs, only)

So even if you think you don’t like fennel, I urge you to go ahead and give it another try- I bet you can be pretty fancy too, huh?!

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You won’t even know what you’re missing…

For years, I have listened to my mother, the most wonderful baker I know, teach me that the secret to baking is measuring properly and using full fat, natural ingredients. And this is definitely true when baking the real deal on those special occasions. The only problem is that I don’t only want baked goods on those special occasions; I love chocolate cake way too much to wait that long (yes, even dietitians love chocolate). So although I always listen to my mother when I’m baking for that special, once-and-while treat, I have learned ways to make substitutions and change my favorite baking recipes into everyday treats.

Why have you done a good thing?

Although I love baked goods as much as the next girl, I know they are loaded with sugar and saturated fat, both which are linked with type II diabetes, gaining weight, and heart disease. By using substitutions, you can successfully reduce the amount of calories and fat in your recipe by 50-75%, and even turn some recipes into healthy ones! Try using these tips when baking your muffins, cookies, cakes, and brownies. Trust me, you won’t even know what you are missing!

1) Fat adds moistness, a tender texture, and flavor to baked goods. When modifying a recipe, trying substituting half of the butter for fruit and vegetable purees, such as applesauce, banana, pumpkin, sweet potato or pear puree. For example, if the recipe calls for ½ cup of butter, use ¼ cup of butter and ¼ cup of fruit puree. You can also use low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt (coffee yogurts give chocolate recipes a little something extra also). Similarly, use ¼ cup of butter and ¼ cup of yogurt. If your recipe calls for oil, substitute ¾ of the fat with fruit puree or yogurt. Also, when substituting for fat, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees and cook for longer as necessary.

**Note: Avoid substituting oil for butter or low-fat butter spreads in baking. Oil can make your product soggy unless properly reducing the amount of liquid. Butter spreads are not chemically designed to be at high temperatures and often produce funky results…

2) Substitute ½ flour for whole grain flour in your muffins and breakfast breads. This can be a great way to boost your fiber content. Experiment with different types of flours, varying from whole wheat flour to oat bran, chickpea, or quinoa flours. When using these flours, you may need to lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees and cook them longer.

**FYI, I personally do not use whole grain flours with my dessert items. I choose to get my fiber throughout the rest of the food choices, and keep dessert tasting like dessert.

3) Switch out sugar for honey or molasses. This is a great way to reduce your intake of refined sugars. Honey and molasses are more natural ingredients and honey especially has been shown to have many beneficial health effects, like anti-bacterial properties. You can substitute ½ cup of honey for a ½ cup of sugar. When using molasses, you may want use less of it as it is an overpowering flavor. When baking with either of these ingredients, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼. For instance, if you are using 1 cup of milk, use ¾ cup of milk when substituting honey for sugar.

4) Avoid overbaking. Making healthy substitutions can cause baked goods to bake faster. Check your baked good frequently to see if it is done; set the timer for earlier than it says to do in the recipe. The toothpick test doesn’t always work in low-fat baking. Instead look for lightly browned edges that are pulling away from the center or for cakes to spring back when touched.

Try experimenting with these rules for your next baking endeavor. Look out for our next posting in a few days for a GREAT low-fat baking brownie recipe, that is sure to make your Valentine feel very loving.

--Amy Santo, MS RD

Monday, February 7, 2011

Get Dressed!

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I’m sure there are women (and men) currently freaking out over how to cook the perfect meal for their loved one. The meal that will win over hearts, win over points, but mostly- win over kisses! One way to do this? Make a meal completely from scratch, including homemade salad dressing!

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?
  1. Homemade salad dressing tastes so much better.
  2. Because it is richer, you only need to use a small amount- saving you calories and fat, in the end.
  3. Store-bought salad dressing is often loaded with sodium, whereas you can control the salt level in your own dressing. PS- excess salt puts a lot of pressure on your already hard-working heart.
  4. Lets Compare Ingredients…

What’s in homemade dressing?

-Olive oil


-Possibly herbs

-Salt & pepper

What’s in store-bought dressing? (Using WishBone fat-free Italian)

-salt, garlic
-soybean oil
-high fructose corn syrup
-onion, pepper, spices
-Xanthan gum
-sorbic acid
-sodium benzoate
-calcium disodium
-vitamin E
-caramel color

So, which one would you rather eat?

And the kicker…making homemade salad dressing takes almost the same amount of time as going into the fridge and opening a bottle.

The Simple Dress:

Put 1 T vinegar in a bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in 2 T of olive oil.

The Accessorized Dress:

Put 1 T balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Add salt and pepper, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp honey. Whisk in 1-2 T olive oil.

Other option:

-Instead of vinegar, try lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider, or even fresh orange juice!

-Add chopped shallots or onions

-Add some more spices; try garlic powder, crushed red pepper, oregano, or fresh herbs

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

Friday, February 4, 2011

This time it’s OK to double dip…on portions that is…

Some swear by it, can’t get enough of it, so much so they feel it should be its own food group. Dip, of all varieties, is a staple in my family. Chips and dip, especially spinach dip, are at every family party and holiday celebration. Unfortunately, you can’t ever have just one dip in the dip right? As they used to say in the chip industry, “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop…” So we’ve come up with slimmed down versions of dip to help you enjoy this great snack in a healthy way.

Why have you done a good thing?

As we’ve said before here at Your Secret Ingredient, we love to snack!! We encourage it always as a way to keep your metabolism going and preventing you from overeating at meal times. Healthy dips can be a great go-to snack, especially when paired with fresh cut veggies. You or your kids not the biggest veggie fans? Instead of covering veggies with cheese or traditional ranch dressing, introduce healthy dips to eat with your veggies. This is a great trick for you and your kids to eat more veggies per day. Dips are also a fun, easy cooking activity to do with your kids and plus, they love to dip!! I know my niece and nephews do… Also, bringing healthy dip as your contribution to a party helps you have good options to nibble on. And the person who brings the dip is always a hit.

Here are some SUPER easy, healthy spins on traditional dips favorites. Try these recipes at your Superbowl party on Sunday!!

Homemade Ranch Dip

½ cup nonfat buttermilk

1/3 cup lowfat mayo

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

½ tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together until combined.

A Slimmer Spinach Dip

1 onion, diced

½ cup low-fat cream cheese

½ cup low-fat cottage cheese

¼ cup non-fat plain yogurt

1 tbsp lemon juice

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

6 ounces baby spinach (or frozen spinach – thawed and drained)

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.

French Onion Dip

1 tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

¾ tsp salt

14 oz low sodium beef broth

2 tsp onion powder

1 cup reduced fat sour cream

2 tbsp white vinegar

1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt

In a large skillet, heat oil, onions, salt, onion powder until onions begin to brown, about 5-10 minutes). Add broth and vinegar and simmer until liquid is almost evaporated and onions are a deep brown color. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Combine sour cream and yogurt in a medium bowl and add onion mixture. Chill for 30 minutes and serve.

You can serve any of these recipes with cut up veggies. But sometimes you just want a chip. Try these Secret Ingredient picks on for size:

FoodShouldTasteGood Multigrain, Blue Corn or Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips

PopChips Original Potatoes

Mediterranean Snack Food Company Baked Lentil Chips

Kettle Brand Baked Potato Chips

Terra Original Vegetable or Sweet Potato Chips

Beanitos Black Bean Chips

SunChips Original Flavor

Corozonas Black Bean Chips

Humbles Baked Hummus Chips

CapeCod Reduced Fat Potato Chips

Happy Dipping Everyone!! For more superbowl recipe ideas, check out our Get Your Game On post from January...

--Amy Santo, MS RD

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Presto Pesto!

I am always on the hunt for an easy, weeknight supper. Whether I only have time for a quick chicken dinner or simple pasta dish, a go-to item that I learned to make in Italy and that I use to make any dish complete is pesto!

Why have you done a good thing?

Despite common misperceptions that pestos are unhealthy for you, pesto sauces are loaded with mono and polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, and fresh herbs. Pestos are also a good way to get more calcium into your diet from dairy in small manageable doses. Whether you are cooking for one or a whole family feast, pestos are easily made ahead of time. Freeze in big portions or in individual portions in ice cube trays for convenient saucing during the week.

How to make basic pesto: (yields 4 cups)

½ cup pine nuts

2 tbsp chopped garlic

5 cups fresh basil

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put all ingredients except olive oil in a blender or food processor. Process for 30 seconds. Add oil a little at a time and blend again until combined. Don’t have a food processor, just use a really sharp knife to chop everything and then combine with cheese and oil. If freezing, add a small layer of oil on top prior to putting into the freezer.

See, no need for store bought pestos. Voila, presto pesto!

Other variations: Constants in a pesto are the oil, garlic, salt, pepper, herbs/greens and hard cheese. Mix it up with different kinds of nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachio, etc or combinations) and various herbs (parsley, mint, basil, cilantro). Substitute herbs with arugula, spinach, or any greens you can think of! Try different cheese such as fontina or Romano cheese.

Cooking ideas:

Toss whole wheat pasta with pesto and roasted or sautéed veggies and cheese.

Grill chicken or fish and marinade in pesto

Make homemade pizza and use pesto instead of tomato sauce

Add extra oil to thin pesto for salad dressings

Use as a condiment to your sandwich

Top your next omelet with a dollop of pesto

The possibilities are endless. Making pesto one of the most diverse sauces in cooking, so much so that you will never get bored.

--Amy Santo, MS RD