Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spice it up…Antioxidant Edition

One of the hardest things about experimental cooking is seasoning. I always find it challenging to play with my spice cabinet and fresh herbs, never knowing if the combination I choose will be delicious or a failed experiment. Because of these worries, a lot of my clients choose to stay away from spices except for the basics: salt, pepper, garlic powder. By leaving out more interesting herbs and spices, you are missing out on more than you think…

Why have you done a good thing?

You always hear us dietitians preaching to eat your fruits and vegetables for a diet rich in antioxidants. In addition to the wonderful nutrients fresh fruits and vegetables provide, herbs and spices are packed full of antioxidants as well, protecting your body from free radicals and therefore potential chronic diseases such as cancer or heart disease. Herbs and spices have even been shown to reduce carcinogens, or HCAs, formed from grilling meats. Prevention of HCAs is crucial as studies have shown that high consumption of well-done, fried, or barbequed meats significantly increases risk for colon, pancreatic or prostate cancers. Most importantly, when using fresh herbs and spices, you are likely replacing added salt and sugar, which in large amounts is not good for you. Best rule of thumb: when adding flavor spice it up, don’t salt it!

Here are the top 5 antioxidant rich spices to include in your diet:

Oregano. Oregano holds major player antioxidants called thymol, rosmarinic acid, and vitamin E. Research shows that the antioxidants in oregano work best when paired with thyme, sage, rosemary, mint and sweet basil.

How to use it: Mix oregano into your next spaghetti sauce, on top of homemade pizza, mixed into omelettes or salad dressings, in your low-fat grilled cheese, as a seasoning on your chicken or steaks, or infuse oregano into olive oil for cooking or dipping bread.

Try this dish on for size:

Ginger. Gingerol, a powerful antioxidant in ginger, helps to ward off many types of cancers. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties reducing symptoms of arthritis and IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. Ginger also has been shown help with nausea and other stomach ailements.

How to use it: Try making fresh ginger tea (hot or cold) by steeping a 1” piece of peeled ginger in 1 cup of tea. Experiment by making homemade unsweetened iced teas. Other ways to use ginger include in Asian stir-fries or noodle dishes, marinades or salad dressings. Try also adding ginger into your oatmeal, low-fat homemade muffins or breads, on top of sweet potatoes, mixed into a morning protein-smoothie, or grated on your morning toast.

Try this dish on for size:

Storage tip: A little ginger goes a long way so it’s hard to keep it fresh! I peel my ginger completely and store in a plastic bag in the freezer. That way, it’s fresh when I need it, and it’s much easier to grate!

Cinnamon. Containing a antioxidant called cinnamaldehyde, yes really that’s what it is called, cinnamon packs a powerful punch. Cinnamon has also been shown to help improve blood sugar control in some studies.

How to use it: More versatile than you might think. Cinnamon is of course great in hot cereal like oatmeal, plain yogurt, on top of whole-wheat toast with peanut or almond butter, or mixed into coffee instead of sugar. It also enhances the flavor of chocolate and is great wherever you eat chocolate such as chocolate dipped fruit or low-fat chocolate cupcakes. Cinnamon also goes great baked apples, pears or low-fat baked goods. Cinnamon is also delicious in savory cooking including many Moraccan dishes with lamb or chicken or grain dishes such as quinoa.

Try this dish on for size:

Clove. Rich in polyphenol compounds, clove is one of the most antioxidant rich spices. Clove also happens to be a great source of manganese and omega-3 fats.

How to use it: Due to its strong flavor, clove is best used in small amounts and can be included wherever you use cinnamon or ginger. Try using clove in your oatmeal, low-fat muffins, cookie recipes, baked apples or pears, or whole grain pancakes.

Try this dish on for size:

Tumeric. Containing a powerful antioxidant called curcumin, tumeric has been linked with reducing the risk for cancers, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Tumeric has also been shown to reduce inflammation, helping arthritis and many IBS sufferers.

How to use it: Try adding tumeric to curry dishes or on top of roasting vegetables, grain or lentil/bean dishes or stews.

Try this dish on for size:

Don’t limit yourself to just these herbs and spices! Stay tuned for more Spice It Up blog entries including a near-future edition on me, planting my summer herb garden…

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Friday, April 13, 2012

Passover Success

This year's Passover menu was our best ever. The food was absolutely delicious! As promised, here are some picts of the dishes I told you about last week (with some slight changes).

Potato, carrot, and zuchinni kugel- AMAZING! I followed the general recipe, however, for half of the potatoes I finely chopped them, instead of blending them, for a firmer texture. I also added some onion and garlic powder, for flavor. YUM.
Next up is the slaw. I changed it a little in the name of time. All I did was chop a head of red cabbage, add rosemary spiced pecans and craisins from Trador Joes, and made a vinaigrette with red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Big Hit!
And here are the rosemary potatoes. I have to admit that we had a hard time keeping the potatoes together while placing them on the rosemary sprigs, so we only did a few like that and used the rosemary more as decoration. But the potatoes were amazing!
And finally.....the whole buffet
We had a healthy, delicious, family-filled fabulous Passover....hope you did too!! And feel free to share your favorite dishes with us!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Basket full of treats

While perusing the pharmacy the other day, I noticed how colorful the candy aisle is this time of year. Whenever Easter rolls around, the food industry gets particularly creative, packaging orange Reese’s pieces to look like carrots or breeding a rainbow selection of marshmallow chicks. I love Easter candy treats as much as the next jealous Passover observer but I thought this year, I would get creative too. What else could you put in that Easter basket besides candy?

Why have you done a good thing?

I enjoy and indulge my sweet tooth just like any chocolate lover, but with limits. Treating yourself to a 100-calorie sweet treat daily is healthy and perfectly acceptable for a balanced diet and maintaining your weight. Keeping sugar to a minimum, yes even on holidays, is important for a healthy lifestyle. This of course is always harder with big holidays meals and tables full of desserts. Research says that setting up family traditions that emphasize non-eating activities and traditions help us to make memories for the holidays and special occasions that aren’t just about food, preventing overindulgence in later life.

To help you out this year, we have some great ideas for your Easter basket that promote activities rather than purely eating candy. Of course, here are Your Secret Ingredient we are all about balance so here are ways to make your Easter basket filled with healthier ideas as well to make your holiday healthier and wonderful this year!

Creative Easter Basket Treats

Healthier Sweet Treats:

-Annie’s Bunny Grahams. Sweet, delicious, and festive, Annie’s bunny grahams have a great addition of fiber and less sugar than the average graham treat. Plus aren’t they just so cute?

-Homemade popcorn balls for a sweet high fiber treat

-Jellybean Trail Mix. Instead of a bag full of jellybeans, water it down with a healthy trail mix of nuts, dried fruits, and your child’s favorite cereal. Package the trail mix inside of plastic eggs for a festive touch. Don’t like jellybeans? Use Cadbury chocolate eggs for a festive touch and just a hint of candy.

-Cheddar Carrots. Fill piping bags (used for cake decorating) with Goldfish crackers and tie the end with a great ribbon or string for Easter bunny fuel!

-Fun shaped peanut butter sandwiches using these great cookie cutter from Crate and Barrel

-Baby carrots or sliced apples with Justin’s Nut Butter Packs

-If you are really craving peeps, try making your own. Thanks Martha Stewart!

More creative additions:

-Favorite Toys. Silly bandz, nail polish, bey blades, DaGeDars would make you their favorite on Easter morning!

-Go gardening. A mini plant or a gardening kit with seeds is a great way to start off Spring

-Sidewalk chalk. Get outside and color the driveway or sidewalk for an active Easter.

-Get in the kitchen. Let them help make breakfast Easter morning with great pancake molds. Here are adorable Easter-themed pancake molds from Williams Sonoma

-More products from Crate and Barrel for baking!

-Keep baking! Get out your favorite family cookie recipe. A great Easter activity, here is another great idea from William Sonoma: Easter Cooking decorating.

-A new book, like a copy of the Hunger Games if they haven’t read it

Happy Easter!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Perfecting Passover

Who’s ready to go full-blown Atkin’s style? Normally I would never support this; however, Passover is just around the corner, leaving us on a 7-day (almost) no carb diet- especially if you’re like me and don’t love matzah. Given this- you would think that Passover is a time for diet- not in my family! We like to eat. Especially on holidays, to celebrate the whole family being together. So clearly there will be lots of food- now it’s my job as a dietitian (and Passover co-chef of my family) to make sure that all (or at least most) of the dishes are packed full of vegetables, fruits, and powerful nutrients! You should do the same…

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Lots of food= lots of calories no matter how you slice it. So, might as well get the best BANG for your BITE. Keeping the Passover dishes full of fresh fruits and veggies will do a few things for you... One- decrease the calories of each dish. Two- add fiber, so that you’ll get full faster and thus, eat less. And three- fill your body with strong antioxidants that will keep your cells strong, fighting off potential enemies to your health!

Ok, so enough nutrition babble…let’s talk food!

My mom and I are in charge of the Passover dinner (with my sister as a dutiful sous chef), so here is the breakdown. She will be making a killer pot-roast and Matzah-ball soup while I am in charge of the sides. Practicing what I preach- I’ll be making lots of nutrient-packed dishes, so take a look:

Red Cabbage Slaw with Oranges and Walnuts (from Catherine Walthers’ Soups + Sides)- great book, highly recommended!

This recipe is colorful and crunchy, giving you many nutrients, incuding antioxidants, vitamin C, and omega 3’s.

Potato, Carrot, and Zucchini Kugel (from Epicurious)

I like this recipe because it adds in carrots and zucchini to a normally potato-filled dish, contributing vitamin A, fiber, and folate, to name a few

Spicy Potato Stacks (from Epicurious)

This dish is appealing for the look (stacked potatoes on a rosmary skewer) but also for its variety of nutrients that comes from mixing 3 different types of potatoes. From this dish, you will get things like fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and antioxidants from the deep red potatoes.

Stay tuned next week to see how these recipes come out! I’ll take pics of my Passover prep and the final dishes, including some guest comments on the taste.

What will you be making for Passover? Would love to hear your suggestions!

BTW, does anyone have a good place to hide the Afikomen? My cousins are getting too smart for me! Happy Passover, everyone!!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN