Monthly Archives: February 2017

Whole Grains Burn Calories, Boost Metabolism

Looking for an easier way to to control your weight? Whole grains could be a game changer, according to findings from a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Simply swapping refined grains (white bread, white rice, and pretzels, etc.) for 100% whole grains encourages the body to burn calories and boost your metabolism. Jackpot!

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More Whole Grains: A Step in the Right Direction

Here’s what’s so exciting about this study.

The group of men and women in the study who replaced refined grains with whole grains took up fewer calories from the food they ate, and burned more calories without exercising more.  Those losses amounted to about 100 calories a day compared to the group who ate refined grains.

A consistent intake of whole grains could help head off unhealthy weight gain that tends to occur with age.  While weight control isn’t a precise science, swapping 100% whole grains for the refined kind could add up to a “savings” of 36,500 calories a year, or the equivalent of about 10 pounds – as long as you don’t increase calorie intake or decrease physical activity.  Balanced diets rich in whole grains also help reduce the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, too, which is nothing to sneeze at!

How to Get More Whole Grains 

Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice, contain the entire grain kernel. Whole grains are naturally high in fiber, phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) and other nutrients.

Experts suggest making half of the grains you eat whole grains, for a minimum of three servings of whole grains daily. A portion is 1-ounce slice of bread, 1/2 cup cooked grain, or about 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal.

OK, so you’re not totally on board with whole grains, but it may be easier, and more delicious, than you think to get the whole grains you need.  Here’s how to work more whole grains into your eating plan:

• Have oatmeal (I make oats with dairy milk for the calcium, vitamin D, and protein it provides) or a whole grain ready-to-eat cereal such as plain Cheerios or the store brand equivalent with milk and fruit for breakfast, or as a snack.

• Add 1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal to your favorite fruit smoothie recipe.

• Substitute 3/4 cup 100% whole wheat flour for all-purpose white flour in recipes for pancakes, muffins, and quick breads.

• Swap white bread for 100% whole grain bread.  Make sure you see the words whole wheat, oatmeal, or whole oats as one of the first terms in the ingredient list.

• Experiment with whole grains such as farro, freekeh, quinoa, millet, teff, and whole grain barley as side dishes.  Make extra whole grains and add to soups, stews, casseroles, and salads.

• Switch to whole grain cornmeal when making muffins, cornbread, and polenta.

• Make your own trail mix using 1/2 cup whole grain cereal, dried fruit, and nuts.

• Enjoy whole grain crackers instead of highly refined white versions, and whole wheat English muffins instead of a plain bagel.

• Munch on popcorn instead of pretzels or snack chips.  Popcorn is a whole grain!

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• On pizza night, opt for prepared whole wheat crust or whole wheat pizza dough.

• For a sweet treat with a serving of whole grain in every portion, try these no-bake peanut butter cereal bars.

 

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Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream”

Eating a more plant-based diet doesn’t mean ditching dessert.  Indulge in this Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream.” It’s satisfying, heart-healthy, vegan, and it’s even gluten-free!

Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter "Ice Cream" with frozen bananas is vegan

Frozen bananas and peanut butter make this “ice cream” vegan, gluten-free, and delicious!

Is Ice Cream Bad for You?

I’m not a big believer in “good and bad foods” because it takes away from the importance of an overall healthy eating pattern.  Healthy eating patterns can include all types of foods.

I didn’t set out to make this ice cream vegan or gluten-free; it just happened that way! I just looking for a dessert that would satisfy me as much as real ice cream. While ice cream has more fat and added sugar than this homemade creamy chocolate peanut butter concoction, I still eat it. Choosing this vegan alternative provides a delicious way to include more plant foods.

How to Make Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Vegan Nice Cream

Bananas are the silent ingredient in this healthy frozen delight, and they make it unnecessary to add dairy products and sugary sweeteners. The ripest bananas are the sweetest and make the creamiest “nice cream.”

Bananas also offer fiber and potassium, and are responsible for the smooth, rich texture of this creamy chocolate peanut butter treat. One portion of “nice cream” also supplies a serving of fruit.

I keep chunks of frozen banana in the freezer to use on a moment’s notice. You can also freeze chopped bananas for at least two hours before making this, or other recipes, such as smoothies. You can also buy bags of sliced, frozen bananas to have on hand.

frozen sliced bananas in resealable plastic bag

Keep frozen bananas on hand to make “ice cream” fast.

The Health Benefits of Cocoa Powder

You’ve probably heard that dark chocolate is good for you.  Milk and dark chocolate are a mixture of ingredients, including sugar, and cocoa butter, the fat that is removed from cocoa beans during processing.  Cocoa powder is the dried solids that result from that processing and it is ground up, packaged, and found in grocery stores.

Unsweetened cocoa powder contains flavonoids, which are plant-based compounds. An eating plan rich in flavonoids is linked to  less inflammation in the body, proper blood flow, and reducing blood pressure. Cocoa powder that is not “Dutch-process” is richer in flavonoids.

I use unsweetened cocoa powder in my “ice cream” because it delivers deep chocolate flavor without any added sugar. You can also add cocoa powder to savory dishes, such as chili, to amp up flavor and nutrition.

 

Bowl of unsweetened cocoa powder.

Cocoa powder provides intense chocolate flavor without the fat.

 

Why Peanut Butter is Good For You

“Is peanut butter bad for you?” is a question that I get a lot. My answer: only if you are allergic to peanuts!

Peanut butter is a source of several nutrients, including protein, heart-healthy fats, and potassium. Just two tablespoons of peanut butter provides an excellent source of manganese (not to be confused with magnesium!).  Manganese is a mineral that your body needs to make energy, protect cells from damage, and support a healthy immune system, among other functions.

Natural peanut butter is often free of added sugar. If you’re want  to limit sugar, check the package to be sure the peanut butter doesn’t contain added sugars.  Learn how to make homemade peanut butter with no added sugar from Sally Kuzemchak over at Real Mom Nutrition. (Hint: It’s easy!)

creamy peanut butter adds healthy fats to vegan ice cream with frozen bananas

 

Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter "Ice Cream" (Vegan)

This dairy-free vegan "ice cream" is delicious and offers a serving of fruit, too!
Prep Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 5 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chocolatepeanutbutter, dairyfree, peanutbutterdessert, vegan, vegandessert, veganicecream
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 medium ripe bananas, cut into chunks and frozen (Freeze for at least 2 hours.)
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter (with no added sugar, if desired)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped peanuts

Instructions

  • Place bananas in a large food processor. 
  • Add the peanut butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  
  • Blend until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
  • Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with peanuts. Serve immediately.

Notes

 
Per serving: 
252 calories; 12 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat); 0 cholesterol; 132 milligrams sodium; 29 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 7 grams protein

bowl of creamy chocolate peanut butter vegan ice cream with no added sugar

How to Make Do in the Kitchen with Ingredient Substitutions

My mother taught me a lot about food, including how to work with what you have on hand to make nutritious meals. She lived through many years when money was tight, and her creativity, coupled with a refusal to waste food, served her well for feeding a family of five. My mom’s how-to-make-do in the kitchen attitude has stuck with me, shaping how I cook, which, of course, includes ingredient substitutions!

Vegetable quiche

Making quiche is a great way to use up vegetables, cheese, and eggs.

 

It’s easy and delicious to make ingredient swaps 

When I came across an Ellie Krieger recipe in the Washington Post for Roasted Salmon with Artichoke Topping, I wanted to make it for dinner. Problem was, I only had half of the ingredients in the house, and I wasn’t going to the store at 6 PM to get the rest. So, channeling my mother’s flexibility with food, I changed Ellie’s recipe by:

• Using canned, drained artichoke hearts instead of the frozen kind.

• Whipping cottage cheese in the food processor to stand in for ricotta cheese.

• Swapping in half as much dried parsley for fresh.

• Using sundried tomato pesto instead of plain sundried tomatoes.

• Substituting regular salt instead for sea salt.

• Relying on minced, prepared garlic instead of fresh

The result? Scrumptious! It goes to show that the best recipes, like Ellie’s, will turn out just fine, even when tweaked quite a bit.

 

salmon with artichoke topping on a plate

My version of Ellie Krieger’s Roasted Salmon with Artichoke Topping. Almost the same, but not quite.

You don’t always need a recipe to cook 

Improvisation in the kitchen comes naturally to me, but I have to admit that I had doubts about messing with Ellie’s recipe because I was sure that she had worked hard to get it just right. However, as Jacques Pepin explains in this video, even if I had used the same ingredients, my results could have turned out differently than Ellie’s.

Pepin says a recipe is merely a point of departure, and that ingredients and preparation can, and must, change to fit each particular situation.  As a recipe developer, that’s music to my ears.  I want my recipes to “work” so badly for my readers that I get panicky about home cooks getting the same results as I do, but I guess I shouldn’t worry so much.  Changing up ingredients offers the opportunity to make food that suits your tastes.

It seems as if my mother was on the same page as Pepin, in her everyday-cook sort of way.  As a mom with a full-time job, she managed to have a home cooked dinner on the table for us every week night. I’m not sure she thought too hard about how a recipe would turn out; she seemed to know that her results would be OK, even with alterations. And that’s all that matters.

Older woman smiling

My mother taught me a lot about making do in the kitchen.

Common ingredient substitutions to make do in the kitchen

Being willing to improvise, and knowing how, helps you to be a better, more efficient food manager (which saves money), and helps you get food on the table without fussing. These days, it’s likely you are improvising more than ever.


Out of yeast? Try my yeast-free pizza dough recipe. 


avocado, fresh asparagus, garlic, egg, tomato

Use what you have on hand to make delicious, easy meals.

Coming up short on ingredients shouldn’t deter you from making most recipes, especially baked goods. Here are the ingredient substitutions I use to make do in the kitchen, which also include healthy swaps and vegan ingredient substitutions.

• Baking powder: Here’s what to use in place of baking powder, and these are equal to a 1 teaspoon substitution: ¼ teaspoon baking soda mixed with ½ teaspoon cream of tartar OR 1/2 cup plain yogurt plus 1 teaspoon baking soda and reduce the liquid in what you’re baking by 1/2 cup.

• Bread: Tortillas, crackers, tortilla chips, lettuce leaves, English muffins, bagel

• Brown sugar (1 cup): 1 cup granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons molasses or dark corn syrup

• Butter: Use equal amounts of plain canned pumpkin; or make this butter to vegetable oil conversion by using ¾ as much vegetable oil, such as canola, as butter in the recipe.

• Buttermilk: (1 cup): Pour 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar in a cup measure and fill the rest of the cup with milk; or use 1 cup plain yogurt thinned out with 1 tablespoon milk.

• Cornstarch (1 tablespoon): 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• Chocolate (semi-sweet, 1 ounce): 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar

• Chocolate (unsweetened, 1 ounce): 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon butter

• Cream (for a creamy soup): Puree cooked garbanzo beans, lentils, or any cooked legume and add to soup; or add mashed potatoes to soup for extra creaminess.

• Dates: Try this easy recipe for raisin paste.

• Egg (1): These work best in recipes that don’t require eggs as a leavener: ½ medium mashed banana; or ½ cup applesauce as a replacement or other pureed fruit, such as prunes; or 1 tablespoon ground flax seed or chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water (allow to rest for at least 1 minute before using). See this post for other egg substitutes.


Learn how to use the fluid from canned garbanzo beans in place of eggs! 


•Flour, all-purpose (for thickening soups and sauces only, 1 tablespoon): 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch

• Flour (all-purpose, 1 cup): Use 1 cup rolled oats or 1 ½ cups oat flour. To make oat flour, place uncooked oats in a food processor and process into a fine, flour-like texture.

• Honey: Equal amount of maple syrup; or 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar plus ¼ cup water; or molasses; or agave syrup.

• Lemon juice substitutions: Try lime, orange, or grapefruit juice, or plain or flavored vinegars, depending on the recipe.

• Mayonnaise: Equal amount of mashed ripe avocado or hummus. Plain Greek yogurt is also a healthy substitute for mayonnaise.

• Meat or poultry: Beans, lentils, edamame, textured vegetable protein, tofu, or tempeh. Use an equal amount of chopped, sautéed mushrooms or cooked beans, to extend meat or poultry in dishes such as chili, burgers, lasagna, and pizza.


Read all about how to make less meat feed more people! 


• Milk (1 cup): These milk substitutes can be used in baking: ½ cup evaporated milk plus ½ cup water; OR nonfat dry milk prepared according to package; OR an equal amount of plain yogurt or sour cream; OR 1 cup of water plus 1 ½ teaspoons melted butter.

• Nuts: Equal amount of dried fruit, such as raisins; or sunflower, chia, or hemp seeds.

• Pizza crust: Tortilla, English muffin, sandwich wrap, pita bread, Naan, bagel, deli flats.

• Riccotta cheese: Equal amount of pureed plain cottage cheese.

• Rice: Equal amount of farro, freekeh, barley, millet, quinoa, or oatmeal.

• Sour cream replacement in baking, dips, and side dishes: Equal amount of plain regular or plain Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt also makes a healthy substitute for mayonnaise.

• Sugar (granulated): ¾ cup honey for every cup of sugar in baked goods; mashed bananas, applesauce, and other fruit purees add natural sweetness to muffins, pancakes, and quick breads.

• Sugar (powdered): Place granulated sugar in a food processor and process until the sugar has a fine texture.

• Tomato sauce: Combine equal amounts of tomato paste and water.

• Chocolate hazelnut spread: Melt ½ cup dark chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl. Stir in 1 cup smooth peanut butter until well combined. Cool.

• Vegetable oil substitutes in baking: Use equal amounts of applesauce as a replacement, or plain canned pumpkin puree, or other pureed fruit; or 1¼ as much butter as called for in the recipe.

• Vinegar: Use equal amounts of lemon juice.


What are your favorite ingredient substitutions?


blueberry muffins cooling on a wire rack pin for how to make do in the kitchen

 

 

 

 

Easy Beef and Bean Chili

bowl of chili with beans, beef, yellow and red bell pepper

Using beans in chili cuts down on the meat in this hearty dish.

Chili is the perfect meal for cooler days, and you can put it together fast with canned goods, such as beans and tomatoes. Easy beef and bean chili is is lighter on beef than most recipes, packed with vegetables, and features a secret ingredient that boosts flavor and nutrition without overpowering the dish.

It’s a good idea to make a double batch of this easy, nutritious dish, especially when you have lots of mouths to feed. Freeze what you don’t use for later.

Why canned beans are good for you

Canned beans are a godsend. Beans supply protein, fiber, potassium, and many other vitamins and minerals. And, as part of a balanced diet, beans can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood that lead to clogged arteries and heart disease.

In addition, beans are rich in prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in your gut, which benefits your health in several ways.  Most of your immune system is located in your gut, which is why it’s helpful to eat foods that promote the beneficial bacteria that help prevent you from getting sick.

two hands holding uncooked legumes (beans)

It’s OK to used canned beans, which are already cooked!

I choose canned beans for the sake of convenience and because I usually forget to buy dried beans and soak them! Rinse canned beans to reduce their sodium content by as much as 40%.

How to make vegetarian chili 

This recipe is flexible.  Skip the meat and add more beans and tomatoes to make a vegetarian chili, or use different types of beans, such as white kidney beans and garbanzo beans.

Also, I’m a wimp, so I keep the heat to a minimum. You can add chili powder, jalapeño peppers, more cumin, or any other spice you like. It’s your choice!

bowl of cocoa powder

Unsweetened cocoa powder intensifies the flavors in chili and other savory dishes.

 

How to Use Cocoa Powder in Chili

You may be used to cocoa powder in brownies, cake, and smoothies. While cocoa powder is often associated with desserts, I also use it in this chili recipe. Unsweetened cocoa powder upgrades easy beef and bean chili by intensifying the flavor, and you won’t even know it’s there.

Cocoa powder is also good for you.

Cocoa contains antioxidants called flavonoids. While it’s unclear exactly how flavonoids benefit health, they may help to lower blood pressure, which protects the heart and the brain.

Buy unsweetened cocoa powder that hasn’t been treated with alkaline, which reduces flavonoid content. Avoid Dutch-process cocoa, which has lower flavonoid levels.

Easy Beef and Bean Chili

Delicious and nutritious chili that's easy to make from pantry staples and is ready in about 30 minutes.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beans, chili, easydinnerrecipe, groundbeef
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces 95% lean ground beef or 100% ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, not drained

Instructions

  • Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, breaking it up into very small pieces.  
  • Season meat with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the oil to the saucepan and heat over medium heat.  
  • Add the onion and saute for two minutes or until soft. 
  • Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.  
  • Add peppers, and continue to cook until peppers are soft, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the beans, tomatoes, cocoa powder, and meat to the pan. Combine thoroughly. 
  • Cover, and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Notes

Nutrition facts per serving: 291 calories, 21 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams fiber, 9 grams total fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 33 milligrams cholesterol, 586 milligrams sodium 

bowl of easy beef and bean chili pinterest

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