Eggplant Three Ways

When it comes to growing eggplant I was something of an overachiever this year. My 5 plants yielded half dozen or more fruits each.  That’s a lot of eggplant for a two person household.

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My husband is content to slice eggplant, brush it with oil, and throw it on the grill but I prefer to use it in other types of dishes. Here are a couple of my favorite recipes and a new one I tried recently:

  • Caponata
  • Easiest Eggplant
  • Eggplant and Tomato Bulgur

Caponata – #1 Favorite

Caponata is a sweet and sour relish that can be used as a bruschetta topping or served over pasta.  I use this recipe from Epicurious.com. In the past I’ve varied the ingredients by using fresh tomatoes in place of the canned and adding additional vegetables like zucchini and peppers.  It’s a great recipe for this time of year for that reason. Here is my pan full of fresh ingredients and the finished product served over toasted slices of whole wheat baguette.

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A few years ago I worked on a garden project with a local summer day camp and we grew eggplant in the garden.  I made caponata for the kids to taste and one young man told me it was “better than candy”.  Therefore, I can confidently say this recipe is kid tested and approved.

Easiest Eggplant – #2 Favorite

Eggplant Parmigiana may be the one eggplant dish that most people are familiar with.  It’s usually prepared by breading and frying the eggplant and then covering it with loads of tomato sauce and lots of melted cheese.  Here’s a healthier alternative. I’ve also used this recipe with sliced green tomatoes. The original recipe comes from Allrecipes.com.  This is my version:

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 4 tablespoons (or less) mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I put a slice of bread in my mini food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with non stick aluminum foil. Combine the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, and parmesan in a shallow dish. Coat each slice of eggplant on both sides with mayonnaise. Press into the bread crumbs to coat.

Brushing and breading on both sides can get a little messy but I figured out a neater method. Lay the eggplant slices on a cutting board and brush them with the mayonnaise on one side.  Flip the mayonnaise coated side of each slice into the bowl with the bread crumb mixture and press down to adhere the crumbs.  Brush mayonnaise on the top, flip the slice over with tongs and press down again.

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Place coated eggplant slices on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Flip slices over, and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes to brown the other side. I top each serving with some of my homemade marinara sauce.  So good!

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Eggplant and Tomato Bulgur

I found this recipe in the “Nutrition Action” newsletter published by the Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).  The CSPI is a non profit organization that focuses on improving the health and safety of the U.S. food supply.

Each issue of Nutrition Action focuses on food ingredients in packaged and restaurant meals and how they affect our health.  They also throw in a few recipes using whole, fresh, ingredients and this one l caught my eye.  I think you could use any kind of cooked grain or small pasta with good results (i.e. rice, quinoa, couscous).  I used kasha which is bulgur that has been toasted.  This comes together quickly so would be a good weeknight meal:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup bulgur (or substitute one cup of another cooked grain product)
  • 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small eggplant (1/2 lb.) cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup no salt added crushed tomatoes (I used chopped fresh plum tomato)
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil and/or parsley leaves, chopped (I used a combination of both)

Soak the bulgur in 3/4 cup hot water for at least 10 minutes.  (Bulgur is a quick cooking grain; if you substitute something else you will want to cook your grain according to it’s own package directions.) Meanwhile in a large non-stick pan heat oil over medium high heat.  Saute the eggplant, turning occasionally for 5-8 minutes until it browns on 2 or 3 sides.  Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper flakes.  Simmer an additional 3-5 minutes until the eggplant is tender. Stir in the bulgur and cook until any liquid is absorbed, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the herbs.  Season with salt if desired. This serves 4 people; 180 calories per serving.

You could serve this as a side dish; I added chickpeas to make it a complete meatless meal.

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Hope these recipe will inspire you to try this underappreciated vegetable.

 

You Can Beet This

I’m always surprised by people who say they don’t like beets.  I enjoy them in all forms; pickled, roasted, steamed, etc. I planted two different varieties in the garden this year and since I remembered to thin them, they did pretty good. Here’s a portion of my harvest.

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Now that they are out of the ground I need to do something with them! (I’ll get to those eggplants next time…)

  • Red Salad
  • Quick Pickled Beets
  • Chilled Beet Soup

Red Salad

Thank you to my friend Peg for pointing me in the direction of Fergus Henderson’s Red Salad.  Now I can add “raw” to the list of ways I enjoy beets. This recipe combines beets, red cabbage, and red onion in a refreshing and elegant presentation. You must go read the instructions because Fergus has an interesting way with words.

While Mr. Henderson’s language is very descriptive he’s not very precise when it comes to measurements.  I used about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of walnut oil (in place of the olive oil) in the dressing. I didn’t use the crème fraiche because:

a. Where the heck am I going to find it?

b. Crème = cream = saturated fat!

Instead I complemented my salad with a scoop of vegan cream cheese.  You could use fat free yogurt, sour cream, or even some soft goat cheese if you are not avoiding dairy products. Fresh chervil is also hard to locate in this area; my herbs on the side are tarragon and parsley.

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P.S. – When you are working with beets you are going to make a mess.  Just sayin’.

Beet Soup

I made a warm beet soup for Valentine’s Day this year but since it is summer I thought I would experiment with a chilled version.  I found this recipe for “Chilled Beet Soup with Buttermilk and Dill” at Epicurious. It’s a  soup that’s traditional to Poland.  I love that it uses the beet greens.

To save a step or two (and a pot or two – I hate doing dishes) I peeled, sliced, and steamed my beets. After 15 minutes I placed the chopped beet greens on top of the beets and steamed an additional 5 minutes or so until the beets were soft and the greens were wilted. I chopped the mixture in the saucepan with this handy utensil and added the remaining ingredients.

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I don’t eat dairy products so I used cashew milk and a tablespoon of white vinegar to replace the buttermilk and skipped the sour cream entirely.  Please note – if you use the full amount of pickle brine plus the pickle this soup has over 600 milligrams of sodium per serving.  That’s almost half of what most Americans should have in a full day.  You can cut back on the pickle brine as I did, or just make sure to watch your sodium for the rest of the day.

Quick Pickled Beets

I don’t do any large scale pickling or canning but I wanted to turn some of my beets into a pickle that would keep for a while.  I found this recipe at simplyrecipes.com.

The recipe offers two different methods for preparing beets; either roasting or boiling. I preferred to steam them as I did with the soup recipe.

Here are my pickled beets.  They are going to make a nice addition to salads and relish trays if I can keep them out of my husband’s clutches this week. The pale ones are from a pretty candy cane striped beet variety that I planted.

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I hope you will give these recipes a try and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

Fruit…Sweet!

We all love sweet things but sugar, and especially the highly refined sugars that are present in many processed foods, can really do a number on our waistline and our health.  Artificial sweeteners come with their own problems – they may damage our gut and cause us to crave sweet things even more.

I feel the best way to address our natural preference for sweet tasting foods is by eating fruit every day.  Most of the time that should be in the form of whole fresh fruit enjoyed as a snack or dessert but sometimes I step it up a notch and use fruit to sweeten something really decadent.  Case in point:

  • Chocolate Power Bar Balls
  • Chia Seed Jam

Chocolate Power Bar Balls

The recipe for these Chocolate Power Bar Balls comes from one of my favorite sources for gluten free and other healthy recipes, Elana’s Pantry. Although there is a small amount of refined sugar in the chocolate, the “sweet” is achieved primarily with dates. Dates are so sweet that you can use a really dark chocolate (70-80% cacao) here. The higher the cacao content the less sugar! I usually buy a good quality bar and chop it into pieces for this recipe.

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These are so easy to make; the only preparation required is to chop the chocolate bar and the dates into small pieces and throw everything in the food processor.  I only added a tiny bit of water because my dates were really juicy.  As you can see I used a small cookies scoop to portion out the mixture.  I like to put them in the refrigerator to firm them up.

A word about dates – although I’ve seen dozens of recipes in old cookbooks for date bars, breads, cookies, etc. I don’t ever remember eating a date while I was growing up.  When I started reducing the sugar in my diet a couple of years ago I tried them and I am hooked.  I always have a container or two of Medjool dates on hand.

Blackberry Chia Seed Jam

Chia seeds have come a long way since the 1970’s when they were used to sprout greenery on the iconic chia pet. They are now one of the “pets” of the nutrition world because they are packed with healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Their fiber is in the soluble form that helps to absorb dietary fats and cholesterol. That solubility also gives these seeds a unique quality that makes them “gel” in liquid. They can be used as a thickener, egg replacement, or to create jams.

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There are many recipes for chia seed jams. The first one I tried was this one from the Oh She Glows website. Since then I’ve made jam with strawberries, raspberries, and even rhubarb.  The chia seeds don’t require heat to do their magic so I even made a raw version recently as a topping for strawberry shortcake dessert.

This time I used the Oh She Glows recipe and frozen wild black raspberries I picked from my back yard earlier this summer. Don’t worry if everything looks a little dry when you put it in the sauce pan – the berries will release their juice as you heat the mixture. The jam should keep for up to a week in the fridge and freezes well.  Use it to stir into plain yogurt or to top oatmeal, toast, etc. This went on top of my overnight oats this morning!

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There are some people out there who may be avoiding fruit because they are concerned about the fructose content. I don’t think you should be worried about  that if you are consuming whole fruits.  I’d like to direct you to this video from Dr. Michael Greger’s website nutritionfacts.org in which he describes the results of a weight loss study involving women who added fruit to their diet (and consumed more calories than the control group). They lost more weight than the group eating fewer calories but no fruit.

I highly recommend Dr. Greger’s website and his new book “How Not to Die” if you would like to learn more about eating for your health. I was privileged to hear him speak recently and to meet him.  He’s a wonderful person!

DrMichaelGreger

 

Cream Without the Cow

Scientists believe that mouth feel has something to do with our enjoyment of food. One of the textures we enjoy most is the fatty, “creamy” mouth feel of foods like ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.

Of course I enjoy a creamy texture, too but I am eating and drinking far fewer dairy products than I used to to avoid saturated fat. Luckily, there are other ways to achieve creaminess without relying on farm animals. Nuts, nut milks, and nut butters with their healthy fat are one notable example as with the ranch dressing recipe I posted recently.  You can also achieve a creamy texture with foods that have no fat at at all. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Banana Soft Serve
  • White Bean Gravy

Banana Soft Serve

I always have bananas in the freezer. I use them as a base for smoothies and they make a pretty awesome milkshake.  I freeze bananas when are really, really ripe.  This makes them extra sweet and I can often save money at the grocery store by buying the reduced price bananas.

I used to slice bananas and lay them out on a cookie sheet to freeze but I have discovered that a whole, frozen banana is fairly easy to slice with a sharp knife so now I just peel and freeze. To keep them from getting brown or freezer burned, put them in a large ziploc, insert a straw, close the zipper as tight as possible around the straw, suck out as much air as possible and close the zipper.

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Here are my bananas along with a bag of frozen cherries; the ingredients in my current favorite milkshake recipe:

  • 1 frozen banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (or more) plant milk of choice – I like almond or cashew

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.  You may need to add a little more milk to get it to blend properly.  Enjoy!

And now for the banana soft serve.  If you don’t mind having an extra gadget or two in the kitchen look for a YoNanas machine.  I saw it at a cooking demonstration and bought one soon after. It turns frozen bananas into soft serve ice cream.  Period.  You can add other frozen fruits and mix in other flavorings but it’s hard to beat the simplicity and pure wholesomeness of a one ingredient frozen treat.

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The machine is available at Amazon and also at Bed, Bath. and Beyond. It’s easy to use and the parts that come in contact with food can be disassembled and cleaned in the dishwasher.

White Bean Gravy

This recipe contains zero fat or flour so it’s great for heart health and for those wanting a gluten free alternative to other gravies.  It couldn’t be easier to make; you just blend a can of beans with some seasonings and spices. I found a basic recipe here at Potato Strong.  To increase the savoriness and depth of flavor I sauteed some onion and garlic slices in a little water until soft and blended them with the other ingredients.  I heated up a small portion of the gravy and served it over a baked potato.

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The next day I took things a step further. I sauteed sliced baby bella mushrooms and seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  After the mushrooms were cooked I added the gravy and 2 cups of chopped kale to the pan and heated everything through until the kale was wilted. The results were so good I may try to sneak this one by my family for Thanksgiving!

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Here’s a note about canned beans.  They can vary greatly in terms of sodium content and that’s why I usually avoid them. Since this recipe uses the liquid from the beans I shopped around to find the lowest sodium option.  This one had only 90mg per serving.

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Hope you enjoyed this post.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

No Oil Salad Dressings

  • Vegan Ranch Dressing
  • No Oil Maple Dijon
  • Unholy Guacamole

Are you familiar with the work of Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dean Ornish? Their research with patients has shown that a whole food plant based (WFPB) dietary pattern can successfully reverse (yes, I said reverse!) heart disease.

This information and my own family history of heart disease have led me to attempt a primarily plant based diet.  It’s a learning process; definitely a work in progress; and I have had to rethink many of the things I formerly considered healthy.

Case in point; oils. It was disconcerting for me to learn that vegetable oils are not necessarily considered a healthy choice in my new WFPB way of eating. What? No olive oil? No canola oil? According to the wisdom of Dr. Esselstyn and Ornish, oils are refined foods. They have been pressed, refined, and processed into a very concentrated source of fat calories.

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That posed a problem because salads are a staple for me especially at this time of year and what’s a salad without a salad dressing? Luckily I’ve discovered several recipes for dressings that contain no oil.  Here are just a few. I can personally vouch for them being delicious.

Ranch Dressing

I went looking for a whole food version of ranch dressing to dress the red and green leaf lettuce from my garden and stumbled across this recipe from The Rawtarian.  I knew it would be creamy because I’ve already experimented with cashew cream to make pasta sauces and casseroles. The spice combination in this recipe really knocks it out of the park. I’ve adjusted the proportions a bit and left out the oil in  the original recipe. I also soaked the cashews for a few of hours to increase the creaminess.  The result was really thick; perfect for dipping vegetables.  I add a little extra vinegar and water to make a thinner dressing for salad.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw cashews (I found in bulk food section at my grocer)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey, or maple syrup – I used agave)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Soak the cashews in the water for a minimum of 2-3 hours and up to 24 hours. Add them with the water and the remaining ingredients to your high speed blender and process until everything is completely smooth. Refrigerate and use within 3-4 days.

 

No Oil Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

I attended the Cleveland Clinic’s annual Obesity Summit last October and one of the highlights for me was a cooking demonstration presented by Dr. Esselstyn’s wife and daughter.  They are the creators of the cookbook that is companion to Dr. Esselstyn’s bestseller, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”.  The basic recipe comes from the book where you will find several other no oil salad dressings and hundreds of additional WFPB recipes.   Here is the version I made to top a salad of beet greens, corn, and red kidney beans.

Jane’s Favorite 3,2,1 Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard of choice (I used Dijon)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of white pepper (optional)

I add all the ingredients to a small jar and shake until smooth.  It’s a very tart dressing so you may want to add a bit of water or fruit juice to taste.

If you are reading closely and paying attention you may be saying “Hey, can mustard, vinegar, and maple syrup be considered “whole” foods?  The answer would be no, but since Dr. Esselstyn’s research points primarily to dietary fat as the culprit in heart disease you will find that small amounts of highly flavored condiments and natural sweeteners can be included in this eating plan.

I’m amassing quite a collection of signed cookbooks and I was pleased to add this one to my collection!

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Unholy Guacamole

This one’s my favorite and I use it often to dress Southwestern style salads and bowls.

  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or apple cider vinegar
  • Optional: A bit of cumin or Tajin seasoning (found in the Hispanic section of your grocery store)

Add all the ingredients to a ziploc bag, close the bag and squish everything together to blend (just like the topping for the Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes featured earlier here.)

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I can put this in my lunch bag along with my salad. The combination of the airtight bag and the acid from the lime juice and vinegar keep the avocado from turning brown.  At the office I just snip a corner of the bag and squeeze the contents over my salad ingredients.  One of my favorite combination is 1/2 cup of thawed frozen corn kernels (quinoa or brown rice also work well) and 1/2 cup of black beans over some type of greens.

Of course oil free does not necessarily mean fat free or low calorie. The ranch dressing and the guacamole dressing contain a significant number of calories from healthy fat but you are also getting the fiber and anti-oxidants of the whole food. If you think of the ranch dressing as a serving of nuts and the avocado as a serving of fruit (avocado is a fruit) they make sense in terms of your daily calorie intake.

Besides, a little dietary fat helps your body absorb some nutrients like the Vitamin K found in many dark leafy salad greens.

 

This Mug’s for You

Controlling portion size is so important for people who are trying to watch their weight. What better way to control portion size when cooking than to prepare just enough for one serving?

I’ve been experimenting with single serve microwave recipes prepared in a mug and I was surprised by the number of options I found. Here are just a few:

  • Vegan Muffin in a Mug
  • Meatloaf
  • Peanut Butter Cake

Muffin in a Mug

I started with this recipe from Feasting on Fruit but made a couple of modifications. I don’t usually keep oat flour on hand because I have found that it is very easy to create my own using my handy high speed personal blender.  Do you own one of these things?

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To yield the 1/3 cup flour for this recipe just put 1/2 cup of whole rolled oats into the blender and whir them for 30 seconds or so.  Voila – oat flour!  I also used it to quickly chop a couple of tablespoons of walnuts to add to my muffin.  My last modification was to replace blueberries with some frozen raspberries I had on hand.  Here is the finished muffin:

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My mug is huge so the muffin is bigger than it looks.  Mine needed a total of about 3 minutes to cook.  At 2 minutes it still looks wet in the middle so I microwaved it for an additional 30 seconds two times.

This recipe is vegan and gluten free if you make sure to purchase gluten free oats.

Meatloaf

I like this recipe because it does not require any eggs.  Instead you get some added fiber and healthy fat from the ground flax seed meal.  I preferred using the barbecue sauce but be sure to look for one that is lower in sugar.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tablespoon ketchup or BBQ sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed meal
  • 2 Tablespoons oats (quick cooking or old-fashioned)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/4 pound 90% lean ground beef

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the milk, BBQ sauce (or ketchup), flax seed, oats and onion. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Pat into a microwave-safe mug or custard cup coated with cooking spray. Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes or until meat is no longer pink and a thermometer reads 160°; drain. Let stand for 3 minutes. Serve with additional ketchup or BBQ sauce if desired.

Peanut Butter Mug Cake

As cakes go this is a pretty healthy option.  I found this recipe on the Kitchen Treaty website.  I think you could also eat it for breakfast – maybe top with some chopped apple instead of  the chocolate?

PBmugcake

And speaking of chocolate (and portion control) I have to tell you that I almost never have chocolate chips in my pantry.  If they are there I will hunt them down and devour them.  I do have small quantities of high quality dark chocolate in the house. I find that the darker the chocolate the less I require. For this recipe a single square chopped fine and sprinkled on top did the trick for me.

Here’s another note about these microwave meals.  Do allow them to sit for several minutes before consuming.  Some carry over cooking will occur and right out of the microwave they are HOT! Take it from me, the voice of experience. The roof of your mouth will thank me.

 

 

 

Eating More Than You Think

Our ancestors probably spent a lot of time walking around looking for food. Food was scarce and if they found something they would eat as much as possible because they never knew where the next meal might be found.

That was very poor conditioning for our modern world.  In these times food is plentiful and you don’t have to go far to find it.  More calories and less activity means too many pounds for most of us.  Ergo, we need to give more thought to our eating habits (and figure out how to move more, of course.)

At the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, Dr. Bryan Wansink studies why and how we overeat. He believes that developing an awareness of environmental factors that influence our consumption can help us to avoid excess calories. Here are some examples of his work:

Bottomless Soup Bowl – In this study some participants ate soup from a bowl that was being surreptitiously filled from the bottom.  Others ate from a normal bowl. Individuals who ate soup out of self-refilling bowls ate more than those who ate out of normal bowls, but did not feel any more satisfied than the other group.

Bad Popcorn/Big Buckets – Movie goers were randomly given either a medium or a large container of free popcorn. Some of the popcorn was fresh; some was stale. The moviegoers who got the large buckets ate more, even if they received stale popcorn.

Candy Dish – A candy dish in an office setting was moved each day farther and farther away from the participants; and finally to a place where it could not be seen.  The further the distance from the participants to the dish, the less candy consumed.

These studies illustrate several things:

  • We rely on visual clues (like whether our plate is “clean”) rather than fullness clues to tell us when to stop eating.
  • The portion we are served (or serve ourselves) determines how much we eat; even if the food is not palatable.
  • The distance to food or visibility of food can affect how much we eat.

Some things you can do to change your “environment” and reduce overeating include:

  • Eat slowly and pay attention to your body’s “fullness” cues.
  • Use smaller plates, glasses, and utensils.
  • Serve meals from the stove; do not bring serving dishes to the table.
  • Keep kitchen counters clear and free of unhealthy foods (including sugary cereals.)
  • Don’t purchase “bulk” or economy size packages of unhealthy foods.
  • Never eat directly from a package – portion out small servings and put the rest away.

For more information about this research and other helpful tips please visit Dr. Wansink’s site mindlesseating.org.

Grow Your Own

My garden usually consists of 8-10 pots on the deck but this year my husband had the idea to purchase a cattle feed trough and turn it into a large container garden.  Here’s a picture of it earlier this spring:

GardenEarly

That’s spinach coming up in the back and if you look closely there are also some radishes and onions in there somewhere.  Fast forward a month or so and here is what it looks like this morning:

GardenJune

Sorry for the photo quality but I think you can see that my garden is flourishing. You may notice we added a couple of half barrels between the garden and the propane tank – one contains sweet potato plants and the other is growing red skin potatoes.

Our small garden has already provided lots of spinach, lettuce, and green onions. When I thinned the radishes we ate the sprouts and we’ll do the same with the beet greens when I thin the beets. When the spinach was done I replaced it with pepper plants. And we are definitely looking forward to tomatoes, eggplant, and those potatoes.

Why am I telling you about my garden in a healthy cooking blog?  Because growing your own food is one of those things that almost guarantees that you and your family will eat better. You can’t grow anything in a home garden that is bad for you and if you have kids you will find that they are more willing to eat something if they have helped to plant, water, and watch it grow.

I’m not a master gardener by any means but I get a great sense of accomplishment from my garden. I’m growing a lot of food for a little bit of money; I’m spending more time outdoors; and I am learning a lot in the process.  You should try it.

 

 

 

 

 

Dig Those Chicks

  • Full of Beans
  • Chickpeas are the Garbanzo
  • Roasted Chickpeas
  • Beans for Breakfast
  • Bean What?!

Full of Beans

Today I’m featuring chickpeas but before I get to that, I thought I would share this picture of my freezer drawer:

bean drawer

As you can see I keep a pretty good stockpile of beans. Dried beans are incredibly cheap and easy to prepare and freeze. They keep for several weeks and don’t have any of the sodium or other health issues involved with canned beans.  I do occasionally buy canned beans but more on that later.

Chickpeas are the Garbanzo

Chickpeas are also commonly known as garbanzo beans. They are popular in the middle east, India, Greece, and Turkey. They form the basis of hummus, falafel, many curries, and have gained in popularity here in the states.  Doesn’t “garbanzo” sound like the name of a super hero, magician, or WWF wrestler perhaps? The nutritional profile of the garbanzo bean, consistent with many beans, indeed makes them pretty awesome. They are packed with protein, fiber, and anti-oxidants.

Snacking on Chickpeas

Hummus is a great snack that is traditionally made with chickpeas.  I have featured a hummus recipe or two in previous posts but some people are turned off by the texture.  If you prefer something with a bit more crunch for snacking you can try this easy recipe for roasted chickpeas from Rachael Ray.  I have made these a few time when I am really craving something salty and crunchy.  They are addictive but much healthier than potato chips!

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Beans for Breakfast

I discovered chickpea flour, also called besan, when I was investigating gluten free recipes for a friend.  In addition to being gluten free, chickpea flour is high in protein and fiber. It’s not widely available but I found some in the organic section of a large supermarket in a nearby town.  Although it can be used to bake breads and cookies I used it to make this chickpea “omelette”. This is a very simple recipe and the options for spices and flavoring are endless.  You could make a sweet pancake and fill it with fruit but I like this savory version.

chickpeapancake  chickpeaomelette

Blistered Tomato Besan Omelette

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning of choice (I used Mrs. Dash Tomato, Basil, Garlic)

Combine chickpea flour with water and seasoning. Mix just until there were no lumps.

Heat oil over medium heat in small non-stick skillet. Add tomatoes. cook and stir until skin of tomatoes are heated through and skin appears blistered.  Remove tomatoes from pan.  Pour the chickpea batter into pan and cook until edges appear a bit dry.  Flip and cook on other side for 1-2 minutes.  Top the pancake with the tomatoes and flip one side of pancake over to form omelette.  Garnish with basil if desired.

Bean What?

Although they seem to be more readily available now, dried chickpeas are not always easy to find.  So yes, I do resort to the canned variety on occasion and I have recently run across an interesting culinary thread in searching for recipes that feature chickpeas/garbanzo beans. If you really, really, hate to throw anything away you might be interested to know that there is apparently a use for the the liquid that comes with the canned chickpeas.  It even has a name; “aquafaba”.

Apparently, the liquid has similar properties to egg whites and can be whipped into meringues, etc.  Haven’t tried this out yet but there is a pint jar of aquafaba in my frig right now just waiting to be experimented with…

 

 

Surviving Picnics, Parties, Barbecues

The fall and winter holidays are thought of as a time for feasting but there are lots of opportunities to overeat during the summer, too.  I thought I would share some of the tactics I use to control my calorie intake at events like this.  Most can be applied to any party or celebration involving food.

Eat before you go – You may be tempted to skip a meal or two during the day to compensate for extra calories. This can mean that you arrive at the party so hungry that you just fill a plate with everything that looks good.  To avoid this eat your regular meals during the day and consider eating a snack just before you go to take the edge off.

Take something healthy – If it’s a potluck and you’re taking a dish, make sure it’s something you can fill up on if there are no other good options.  You won’t be the only one who appreciates it.

Survey the spread – When you are standing in line with someone breathing over your shoulder you can feel pressured to move quickly and take a spoonful of everything.  Before you grab a plate take a moment to look over the offerings. This gives you an idea of what’s there to choose from and some time to think about what you are going to take.

Use a small plate – The size of your plate can influence how much food you take by as much as 30-40%.  If the only plates provided are platter sized ask your hostess if she has a smaller one (or take your own.)

Map your plate – A great visual for building a healthy plate is to picture your plate divided into quarters. Attempt to fill an entire half of your plate with fruits and vegetables; one quarter with a lean protein; and the remaining quarter with some type of starch.  For more information about this concept please refer to the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate information.

Be a picky eater – To fill your plate as I have described you may need to get creative.  Maybe the only vegetables available are the cherry tomatoes and broccoli in a pasta salad.  Don’t be shy about picking them out.  You can bet there is somebody behind you who is going to pick out only the pasta because they don’t want the vegetables.

These are just some of the habits I’ve adopted to navigate food related events.  I will share more of these “behavioral” tips in my next column.