Monthly Archives: November 2015

What You Should Know About Eating Meat

Are you struggling to understand recent reports about beef, bacon, and hot dogs? You’re not alone.  Here’s how make sense of the science, and my favorite way to keep meat on the menu.

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The Beef with Meat 

A couple of weeks ago, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report suggesting that eating more processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham, is linked to an increased risk for colorectal cancer, the second leading cancer killer in the United States.

In addition, the IARC said a higher intake of red meat, including beef, pork, veal, and lamb, is probably carcinogenic, but the evidence isn’t as strong as for the processed kind. Poultry and fish were not fingered in this report as problematic.

Scary, right? At first glance, yes. But some perspective is in order.

Risk is relative.  While the report indicates that greater meat intake results in greater cancer risk, it’s important to note that about 34,000 cancer deaths yearly around the world are linked to higher intakes of processed meat, while 600,000 are attributable to alcohol. Smoking cigarettes causes one million cancer deaths a year worldwide.

It’s OK to Eat Meat

If you like meat, it’s OK to have it as part of a balanced eating plan.  The question is what type and how much meat is safer to eat.

While the IACR report says the risk of cancer is linked to the amount of red meat consumed, it doesn’t provide a specific level to include in the diet. However, the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) suggests limiting red meat to 18 ounces (cooked) weekly.

The IACR doesn’t ask people to stop eating processed meat, but it does makes it clear that lowering consumption can reduce the risk for cancer. The AICR suggests avoiding ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, sausages, and other processed meat, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Processed meats contain nitrate salts that form powerful carcinogens called nitrosamines in the body.

Does that mean the occasional hot dog, ham sandwich, or bacon with eggs on the weekend causes cancer? No, but I consider processed meats, including cold cuts, as “sometimes” foods rather than everyday fare, especially for children.

The upside to eating less meat is the opportunity to include more plant foods, which are rich in compounds that help to ward off cancer and other chronic conditions. Whole grains including quinoa, freekeh, and farro, are filling and are higher in protein than many other grains. Adding vegetables to meat dishes reduces meat intake and stretches your food dollar, too.

Mushrooms and Meat: A Perfect Pair

Mushrooms blend well with meat, in part because they take on the flavors in the dish, including that of the meat.

Many Sliced and Whole Whites

I substitute an equal amount of cooked mushrooms for half the beef in many of my favorite recipes, including Mushroom Burgers, Mushroom Pizza, and Almost Lasagna. Just chop the mushrooms to match the consistency of the meat, cook, and blend into the recipe. Here’s one of my favorite beef stew recipes made over with more mushrooms and less meat. Enjoy!

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Beef and Mushroom Stew

Makes 6 servings

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 pound boneless beef bottom round roast or other stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ teaspoon salt

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried thyme leaves

2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth (you can use an equal amount of red wine and broth if you like)

16 ounces sliced baby portabello mushrooms or any other type of mushroom

2 cups chopped carrots or baby carrots

1 cup frozen peas

 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and black pepper. Add the meat and coat it with the flour mixture.

In a large stockpot, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, add the meat to the pan and brown. Remove the meat from the pan. Season meat with salt. Reserve.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in the stockpot. Add the onions, garlic, and thyme. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat or until onions have softened. Add 1 cup of the beef broth and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until the browned bits attached to the bottom and sides of the stockpot are dissolved. Stir in the remaining broth.

Return the meat to the stockpot. Stir in the mushrooms, cover the stockpot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 1/4 hours. Add the carrots to the stockpot. Cover, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the beef and carrots are fork-tender. Stir in the peas and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Per serving:

256 calories

8 grams fat

283 milligrams sodium

20 grams carbohydrate

4 grams fiber

27 grams protein

40 milligrams calcium

 

 

3-Ingredient Broccoli Cheese Calzone

Warning: These are possibly the worst food photos of one of the most delicious meals I make on a regular basis without a recipe. Here’s why I’m posting them, and the recipe.

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Last week, I was making one of my go-to, get-it-done, dinners (which also happens to be delicious) and I decided to document the process.  There was no natural light in the kitchen, and I was too tired to style the food. The result: instructional photos, not food porn.

If you like pretty pictures of food, you may want to look away now. If you’d like to get dinner on the table using just three ingredients (OK, four, if you count the olive oil), and you can tolerate some reality, keep reading.

Let’s get started.

You need 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided; 10 cups of chopped 1-inch broccoli florets (fresh or frozen); 1 pound of prepared white or whole wheat pizza dough; and 16 ounces of block cheddar cheese. That’s it.

Heat oven to 400˚F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet with 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Steam the broccoli.  While the broccoli is cooking, slice cheddar cheese into ¼-inch slices. (You can substitute packaged shredded cheese.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pizza dough into a rectangle of about 10” long by 16” wide.   Place half the cheese on the pizza dough lengthwise to within a half inch of the edge of the dough. The cheese forms a barrier between the dough and the broccoli to keep the calzone from getting soggy.

 

When broccoli is fork-tender, rinse with cool water. Drain well and blot with a clean towel to remove excess moisture. Arrange broccoli evenly over the cheese.

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Cover the broccoli with the remaining cheese.

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Fold dough in half over the broccoli and cheese filling. Seal edges with tines of a fork. Using your hands, gently scoop up the calzone and transfer it to the baking sheet. Brush with remaining olive oil.

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Cook for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Allow the calzone to rest for at least five minutes before cutting. Makes at least 8 servings. Serve with fruit and milk for a balanced meal.

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If there’s any leftover, warm for about 7 minutes in a 300˚F oven, or for about 30 seconds in the microwave. The oven is better, but I’m usually in too much of a hurry to wait!

Here’s the nutrition information using regular pizza dough. Whole wheat pizza dough will increase the fiber. Use reduced-fat cheddar cheese, such as Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar (no, they are not a client), to reduce calories and fat.  (Serves 8)

Per serving:

399 calories

22 grams fat

825 milligrams sodium

32 grams carbohydrate

5 grams fiber

22 grams protein

460 milligrams calcium

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