Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shanah Tovah: Keeping the holidays light and simple

Some of my fondest memories growing up are cooking for the Jewish holidays with my mom. I loved waking up to the smell of braising brisket, roasted turkey, and sweet smelling desserts baking. As the holidays were always hectic, my mom liked to keep things simple with the menu filled with family favorites. Now as a registered dietitian, I love to experiment with new recipes, particularly healthy spins on traditional favorites. One dish my patients and clients always ask me about is noodle kugel…how can I make this fat-laden dish healthy and still taste delicious?

Why have you done a good thing?

Holidays, particularly the Jewish holidays, are always filled with food, food and more food. Although I always tell patients just to stick to their favorites, fill up on vegetables, and limit portion sizes, as some of those favorites are really calorically dense. So when you prepare noodle kugel, or high calorie dishes like it, it’s important to have helpful tips to lighten the load while still preserving that wonderful traditional flavor you look forward to. This is particularly simple when baking or making casseroles like noodle kugel.

Ways to lighten up a baking or casserole recipe:

1) Switch to skim/1% milk or cheese

2) Substitute cottage cheese for ricotta cheese

3) Substitute plain yogurt for sour cream

4) Use whipped butter or oil instead of stick butter

5) Switch out or reduce the amount of eggs, sugar, or butter for fruit purees like applesauce

6) Use non-stick cooking spray to grease pans

7) Mix in chunks of fruit or vegetables to bulk up the recipe

8) Reduce the portion size and still eat a tiny bit of your favorite prepared the way you know and love

Healthy Apple Noodle Kugel

10 ounces wide whole wheat egg noodles

2 tbsp unsalted whipped butter

2 large eggs

½ cup unsweetened apple sauce

¼ cup of corn starch

2 cups of 1% milk cottage cheese

2 cups of plain nonfat yogurt

1 cup of skim milk

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

½ cup raisins

½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs

2 tbsp honey

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 by 13 inch pan with non-strick cooking spray.

2) Cook noodles until just short of al dente (under-cooked), about 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside

3) Melt butter in a small skillet on a low heat. Cook until the butter is lightly brown being careful not to burn the butter. Pour into a bowl and cool.

4) Beat together the eggs, cornstarch, 1 tsp cinnamon, and applesauce in a large bowl. Mix in the cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, brown sugar, raisins, vanilla, salt, and browned butter. Stir in cooked noodles into baking dish.

5) Top noodles with bread crumbs, the rest of the cinnamon, and drizzle with honey.

6) Bake until browned for about 1 hour. Let cool for at least 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve as a side dish or for brunch the next day.

For more fabulous Rosh Hashanah Recipes, check out the NY Times holiday slideshow

Happy New Year to all fellow Jews! Don't celebrate Jewish holidays? Try noodle kugel anyway as it is a great casserole dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Monday, September 19, 2011

Your Secret Ingredient Lunch Box Learning: Rotisserie Chicken

As a child, I would never eat sandwiches at a deli. My mother struggled with me when preparing school lunches. I wouldn’t touch a turkey sandwich “like a normal child,” she would say. However, I loved a fresh chicken sandwich that was homemade. I realized as I grew up, I just really didn’t like the salty taste of cold cuts. Still to this day, I don’t like eating cold cuts and have to be creative to get around the “traditional sandwich” and still bring a sandwich to work!

Why have you done a good thing?

Turns out my dislike for cold-cuts was just fine and perhaps healthier for me. Using traditional cold-cuts or deli meats adds a ton of sodium, nitrates, and artificial fillers that are not natural to meat. Research shows that these meats should be eaten sparingly due to their association with cancer risk. Best thing to do? Use fresh roasted chicken, like rotisserie chicken or fresh roasted chicken or turkey from home, which gives you a healthy dose of protein and minerals with none of the unhealthy extras.

10 ideas to do with rotisserie chicken

  1. Chicken peach quesadillas with low-fat cheese and whole wheat tortillas
  2. Homemade chicken salad with lite mayo and grapes. Serve on top of salad, in a sandwich, or as dip for sliced celery, carrots, or peppers
  3. Bulk up no salt added canned soup with shredded chicken
  4. Make an easy stir-fry with cubed rotisserie chicken, assorted veggies, and low-sodium soy sauce. Serve over brown rice or udon noodles.
  5. Throw sliced chicken on top of salad for lunch for work
  6. Make a sliced chicken (instead of cold cuts) sandwich with veggies and honey mustard on whole wheat bread
  7. Plain jane it; Make a dinner with a piece of rotisserie chicken, side of easy veggies like sliced carrots and a baked potato
  8. Mix rotisserie chicken into brown rice/lo-mein noodles, 1 tbsp canola oil, soy sauce, 1 egg, and veggies for homemade Chinese take-out
  9. Make a grilled chicken panini with low-fat cheese and veggies
  10. Mix into pasta sauces; serve on top of whole wheat pasta

Whole Foods makes rotisserie chickens every day that are wonderful and delicious, as well as hormone/antibiotic free and free range.

Still like that cold-cut taste? Try healthier versions in your sandwiches made by Whole Foods or delis. These vendors now make in-house roasted turkey and lean roast-beef, which is just sliced fresh meat to look like cold cuts. No nitrates or sodium and they taste much more natural and less salty.

Next best choice would be a brand like Applegate Farms, which has no nitrates but still unfortunately has a lot of sodium.

Don’t feel pressured to always make a sandwich full of meat! Alternatives to meat sandwiches:

-Tuna or salmon salad made with low-fat mayo and chopped veggies

-Chickpea/Low-fat Feta pita pockets with tomato, lettuce, and onion

-Mozzarella/Tomato/Basil Sandwiches

-Apple/Cheddar Sandwiches

-Cucumber/Hummus Sandwiches

-Peanut Butter/Soy Butter and Apple/Banana/Raisin Sandwiches

-Black Bean and Brown Rice Burrito Wraps (add salsa or a slice of avocado!)

-Baked Falafel pita pockets (make ahead of time for the work week)

Try this recipe!!

· 1 cup dried chickpeas or 16 oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans.

· 1 large onion, chopped

· 2 cloves of garlic, chopped

· 3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped

· 1 teaspoon coriander

· 1 teaspoon cumin

· 2 tablespoons flour

· Salt

· Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain chickpeas in a colander and rinse. Combine all ingredient together in a bowl (or in a food processor), mashing well making a paste. Form into small balls and bake until golden brown (about 10 minutes). Take 2-3 balls into a pita pocket with 1 tbsp of hummus, cucumber, onion, and lettuce.

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fried Food Makeover!

As we all get back into our daily routines, it seems we cannot hold onto the best part of summer…time! Wake up, pack lunch, go to school, go to work, drive the kids to soccer, squeeze in some gym time, make a healthy dinner for the fam… etc, etc. With all of these balls in the air, it is hard to avoid dropping one. Unfortunately, this could mean turning to a fast food meal for dinner; either bought or made at home. Rather than zipping through the drive-through, think about packing dinner along with lunch. Rather than making frozen French fries and chicken fingers at home, think about preparing some of these Your Secret Ingredient Fried Food Makeovers…

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Fried foods are extremely high in 2 main enemies: saturated fat & sodium. Pubic Enemy No 1, saturated fat, can lead to obesity as well as “clogging the pipes” of the arteries around your heart, which can easily lead to heart disease. Public enemy No. 2, sodium, can lead to high blood pressure, making your heart work much harder to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body. Obesity, heart disease, and hypertension are debilitating diseases, which in most cases can be prevented through a healthy diet. See below for a list of Fried Food Makeovers, which will have you on your way to a healthier life for you and your family.

Make These Your Secret Ingredient (NON) Fried Foods for your Family:

1. French fries: slice potatoes or sweet potatoes and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle 1 tsp olive oil per potato plus non-stick spray, salt & pepper, and bake at 425 F for 12-15 minutes.

2. Chicken fingers: Dip (free-range) skinless, boneless chicken breast in flour, then egg whites, then whole wheat bread crumbs; and bake in the oven at 375 F for 20-25 minutes or until your instant read thermometer reads at least 165 F. Serve with honey mustard.

3. Mozzarella sticks: As above, dip a low-fat mozzarella string cheese (try Trader Joe’s fresh mozzarella sticks) in flour, egg whites, and then whole wheat bread crumbs; bake at 400 F for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with homemade or Your Secret Ingredient pre-approved tomato sauce

4. Fried zucchini: slice into circles or strips. Flour, egg, breading as above; bake at 425 F for 10-15min, flipping half way through. Serve with homemade or Your Secret Ingredient pre-approved tomato sauce.

5. Here in Mexico, a staple fried food is the Empanada. While I must admit that these fried delicacies are scrumptious, I can do my body well by making them at home, baked- not fried! It is a bit time consuming, but you can make large batches at once (think of it as a Saturday family-fun event) to freeze and create a delicious and healthy meal for you and your family any night of the week. Check out this great-looking recipe from Eating Well!

Oil has about 14 grams of fat per Tablespoon. Thing about how much oil it takes to deep-fry… Plus, when someone else is adding the salt to your foods (in a fast-food restaurant or in a factory that makes frozen meals) you better believe that they are more concerned about the preservative effects of sodium and the flavor over your heart.

So, I hope this makeover edition blog has empowered you to take control of your health and the health of your families, while still indulging in these Your Secret Ingredient (NON) Fried Foods!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Your Secret Ingredient Lunch Box Learning: Some Fresh Ideas…

As the summer winds down, I always love the back-to-school feeling. Although I was always sad to see the summer go, I loved getting all my books and supplies ready for school; and hanging out with my friends from home again. But one thing I do remember about going back to school is the hardship of thinking of ideas for lunches to bring to school. Now that I’m an adult, it’s still hard sometimes, especially with dinner to think about too. Here is a start to a new series we are launching this Fall called Lunch Box Learning where we will give you some fresh ideas for lunches (and dinners) for back-to-school (and for us adults, too).

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Packing lunches for your kids can help improve concentration during the school day, as well as ensure that your kids are eating a nutritious meal. ‘Cause let’s face it, school lunches are not the best or at least not as good as you can provide for them. When you know what goes into their food, you know it is a healthy choice. Making lunch fun and interesting

Same goes for you adults. Planning for lunch when you grocery shop, not just dinner, helps you out a lot. Instead of wasting money on a store-bought salad or school lunch everyday, bringing fresh foods from home is not only more economical but healthier too. Restaurants often sneak in unhealthy, extra calories. Research shows that people that bring food from home or eat more dinners at home weigh less and have an easier time with weight maintenance.

Lunch Box Meals

Healthy sandwich made on whole wheat bread or stuffed in a whole wheat pita pocket. To make sandwiches extra fun for kids, use cookie cutters to make fun sandwich shapes! Pack with a side of fruit or easy sliced veggies like cucumbers, peppers, carrots, sugar snap peas, snow peas, or green beans. See filler ideas listed here:
  • 1 tbsp of hummus with cucumbers
  • A few slices of roasted or rotisserie chicken with lettuce
  • Homemade egg salad or tuna salad made with lite mayo
  • Homemade chicken salad with grapes and lite mayo
  • 2-3 slices of organic turkey or other organic cold cuts (suggest Applegate Farms or Whole Foods in-house made meats)
  • Soy nut butter and banana

Sushi roll-ups: For a fun spin on sandwiches, pack sandwich fillings in a whole wheat wrap and roll into a long log. Slice into 2 inch pieces, like sushi!

1 hardboiled egg with low-fat string cheese or Baby Bell cheese with sliced fruit and veggies.

Pasta salad with diced grilled or rotisserie chicken, 1 slice of cheese or beans with veggies

1 Sabra Individual Hummus container or bean dips with sliced veggies and whole wheat crackers (suggest Kashi TLC crackers) with sliced fruit

Ants on a log: celery with soy nut butter and raisins

Thermos ideas (to keep warm for lunch time!)

  • Soup or chili with a side of whole wheat crackers
  • Quesadillas – 2 whole wheat tortillas with melted cheese and sliced peppers in between. Dip in a side of guacamole.
  • Homemade mac and cheese (or Annie’s lower sodium varieties) or baked ziti
  • Grilled cheese strips to dip in a side of salsa or tomato soup

Look out for more additions to the Lunch Box Learning series this Fall!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN