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Healthy Living: Sweet Potatoes


Sweet PotatoesIf you could only eat one thing again and still stay healthy, a sweet potato is a pretty good bet.

Often called nature’s perfect food, sweet potatoes have a significant amount of beta carotene and can provide almost a day’s worth of the U. S. Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A.

They are a complex carbohydrate and a good source of dietary fiber. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin B5, vitamin B6, manganese and potassium.

You probably don’t want to eat a sweet potato raw, but that’s okay because cooking them actually gives them a higher level of vitamin C.

Sweet potatoes are great baked, roasted, sautéed and pureed for soups and stews.



Dine In: Fettuccine with Goat Cheese, Bacon and Cherry Tomatoes


Fettuccine with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Cherry TomatoesSeveral years ago, we had “Pasta Thursday” every week in my house. It didn’t really matter what the dish was, but it contained some sort of pasta.

We’ve gotten away from that in the past few years, and it seems like we don’t each much pasta in the summertime at all.

Now that it’s cooler, pasta and pasta dinners have started reappearing on our menus. The boys love pasta and let’s admit, it’s fast, easy and inexpensive.

This recipe, to me, combines the best of summer flavors with heartier fall fare. While I’d normally take out as much fat as I could, make sure you use the bacon drippings as called for in the recipe. It makes so much of a difference. The original recipe didn’t call for whole-wheat fettuccine, but that’s pretty much all we eat any more. I love the nuttier flavor and the extra bite in the pasta when you use the whole-wheat kind.

This dish is also great to feed a crowd. I think it’s going to make an appearance at a porch party one Friday night soon.

Fettuccine with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp thyme, chopped
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 strips center-cut bacon
1 Tbs olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp thyme, chopped
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
9 oz whole-wheat fettuccine pasta
3 Tbs basil, chopped chiffonade (into thin strips)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C). Toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon chopped thyme and 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary. Roast in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft and have started to collapse.

While the tomatoes are roasting, cook the bacon over medium heat in a skillet. Reserve the fat and drippings while cooking. Crumble bacon roughly with your fingers and set aside.

Without washing the skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and drippings to the skillet. Over medium-low heat, add the minced garlic cloves, and cook until fragrant and starting to brown, about a minute. Add the remaining chopped thyme and rosemary, and cook for another minute. Set aside.

Cook the fettuccine according to package directions for al dente pasta. When done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and drain.

Add the cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and bacon to the garlic herb mixture in the skillet over medium-low heat. Stir together and cook for about a minute. Then, add the cooked pasta and toss, cooking for another minute. Add reserved pasta water if the sauce needs more liquid, but this shouldn’t be a saucy pasta.

Serve with plenty of chopped basil on top.

Serves 3-4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 431, Calories from Fat: 205, Fat: 23 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 52 mg, Sodium: 515 mg, Potassium: 944 mg, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 11 g, Protein: 26 g.

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Healthy Living: Brussels Sprouts


Brussels SproutsMy kids recently discovered a new favorite vegetable: Brussels sprouts.

It’s more accurate to say that I recently INTRODUCED them to Brussels sprouts. I was lazy and took it for granted that they’d hate them because all kids hate them, right?

Nope.

My kids LOVE them now, as do several others I know. Brussels sprouts are a cultivar of German cabbage. One cup contains only 38 calories but has 342 grams of potassium, 3.3 grams of protein, dietary fiber and 3 grams of protein, plus 124 percent of the USDA for vitamin C.That’s a lot!

In addition, Brussels sprouts help you out with some cholesterol-lowering benefits, if you use a steaming method when cooking them. The fiber-related components in Brussels sprouts do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed.

So, steam them, roast them, grill them, bake them or enjoy them any way you like: they’re good for you!



Healthy Living: Chili Lime Burgers


Chili Lime BurgerWho doesn’t love a good burger? I love to nosh on a delicious burger, but I can’t always afford the calories and fat.

Chicken burgers are a great alternative to beef, but sometimes they get dried out. With this recipe, the addition of bell pepper and garlic helps keep the chicken moist.

The guacamole on top adds flavor and moisture as well. I add jalapeño to mine, but you can skip that if you don’t like the extra spice.

Chili Lime Burgers

Ingredients:
1 lb ground chicken
2 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeño, diced (optional)
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbs cilantro, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lime, cut in half
4 slices pepper jack cheese
2 large pita bread slices, cut in half
For the guacamole:
1 avocado
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Directions:
Combine chicken, green onions, bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, salt, red pepper flakes and juice of half a lime in a large bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined, then form into 4 patties and spray each side generously with nonstick spray.

Heat a large grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Grill burgers for 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked all the way through. Place a slice of cheese on top of each burger, then cover with a large pot lid. Allow to melt for about a minute. Remove burgers to a plate, tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Place each burger in a pita half, then top with guacamole.

For the guacamole, mash all ingredients together with a potato masher or fork.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 523, Calories from Fat: 249, Fat: 28 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 131 mg, Sodium: 724 mg, Potassium: 623 mg, Carbohydrates: 25 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 44 g.

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Healthy Living: Rainbow Salad


Rainbow SaladThis salad had me at “rainbow.”

I was the kid with the Rainbow Brite (did I just date myself?) backpack, the rainbow striped socks and the rainbow throw pillow. In art class, I wanted to draw rainbows and was a stickler for the (former) ROY G. BIV mnemonic device.

The rainbow is also good for eating, as Asian influence suggests. Different colored natural foods impart different vitamins, nutrients and minerals to our diets.

This salad is as beautiful as it is healthy, and I’m still obsessed with the dressing.

Rainbow Salad

Ingredients:
For the salad:
2 tsp olive oil
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp chili powder
2 cups grapes, halved
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 cups curly lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup almonds, chopped or crushed
For the dressing:
3 Tbs almond butter
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
3 Tbs water
1 Tbs stone ground mustard
1/2 Tbs raw honey
1/4 tsp salt, more to taste
1/2 tsp garlic

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with the salt, pepper and chili powder. Sauté in the oil for a few minutes, flipping the chicken now and then to cook through and get a nice golden color on both sides. When the chicken is cooked, remove from heat and set aside.

Cut and prep all the vegetables and fruits. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. You can either arrange the bowl by ingredient, like pictured, or toss everything together. Refrigerate to chill.

For the dressing, puree all the dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust to your preferences. Pour dressing over salad and serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 349, Calories from Fat: 196, Fat: 22 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 54 mg, Sodium: 582 mg, Potassium: 634 mg, Carbohydrates: 20 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 13 g, Protein: 21 g.

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Dine In: Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad


Lemon Orzo Chicken SaladFamily vacation at the beach entails 19 people in one house under one roof for a week. We love it, but let’s face it: even the closest of families can be so confined.

This year at the beach, it’s rained almost every day, further compounding our “togetherness.” We’ve played games, taken a trip to the local aquarium, had a dance off, played hide-and-seek with the kids (which ended badly with a downed shower curtain rod), watched movies and made T-shirts. There have been funny moments, and there have been a few tense moments.

However, there is always harmony during mealtime. Prep time constitutes happy hour. Then, we feed the kids. After the kids are full, they are dispatched to the “kids’ room” for Legos, pool or Toss Across while the adults eat.

The adults have taken to eating on the porch if the weather is conducive. This summer salad has the perfect, beachy flavors. Salty air, optional.

Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
1/4 cup orzo, uncooked
3 cups grilled chicken breast, chopped
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup pre-chopped red onion
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
6 Tbs (1 1/2 oz) goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:
Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.

Combine orzo, chicken and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.

Combine vinegar, oil, salt and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 274, Calories from Fat: 71, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 96 mg, Sodium: 215 mg, Potassium: 488 mg, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 38 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Produce


Healthy Living: Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn and Feta


Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn and FetaWith the bounty of available summer produce, I could really go meatless all during the hot months.

Quinoa, a complex grain, provides protein and corn provides a carbohydrate in this dish, giving you a balanced meal. The feta cheese adds tang to this dish, and the jalapeño peppers make it spicy and give great flavor to the grains.

Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn and Feta 

Ingredients:
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup quinoa
2 Tbs olive oil
1 bunch scallions, including 2 inches of the greens, thinly sliced
2 jalapeño peppers, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
4 ears worth of corn kernels (about 2 cups)
1 bunch spinach, leaves only
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 lb feta cheese, cut into small cubes
2 large red onions, thinly sliced into rounds
1/2 cup veggie broth or white wine
4 bell peppers

Directions:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, then the quinoa. Give it a stir, then cover. Simmer over low heat until the grains are tender and reveal their spiraled germ, about 15 minutes.
Warm half the oil in a wide skillet. Add the scallions and jalapeño peppers. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic, cumin, corn and spinach, along with 2 tablespoons water. When the spinach is wilted, add the cilantro, quinoa and feta; remove from heat. Toss everything together. Taste for salt and season with pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wide skillet. When hot, add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until they start to color around the edges after several minutes. Pour in the broth or wine; deglaze the pan, giving the onions a stir as you do. Season with salt and pepper, and distribute in a baking dish large enough to hold the bell peppers.

Slice the bell peppers in half lengthwise. Cut out the membranes and seeds. Simmer in salted water until tender to the touch of a knife but not overly soft, about 4-5 minutes. Remove. Fill them with quinoa mix and set them in the baking dish.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Bake the peppers until heated through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Switch the heat to broil and brown the tops. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 405, Calories from Fat: 149, Fat: 17 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 25 mg, Sodium: 374 mg, Potassium: 862 mg, Carbohydrates: 54 g, Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 10 g, Protein: 14 g.

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Healthy Living: Grilled Okra


Grilled OkraOkra is definitely a Southern thing.

While I bristle when people accuse me of being from the North (I’m from the capital of the Confederacy, people!), there were some things, like okra and sweet tea, that took some getting used to here in the Deep, Deep South.

Okra and I have progressed in our relationship. I tasted it. Then, I tolerated it. Then, I liked it. Recently, I had it prepared in such a simple, healthy way that I even have come to crave that dish again.

The beauty of summer, and of veggies like okra, is that you don’t need to do much to them to make a delicious, healthy meal. Let the flavor of the vegetable stand out, and don’t overcook it to preserve the nutrients.

Grilled Okra

Ingredients:
1 lb okra, washed
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs Tony Chachere’s seasoning

Directions:
Wash okra. Trim both ends. Toss with olive oil and seasoning.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Spray a grill pan with nonstick cooking spray and place okra in the grill pan. Grill, stirring at intervals, until okra is crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 97, Calories from Fat: 65, Fat: 7 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 8 mg, Potassium: 339 mg, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Healthy Living: Cucumber Radish Salad


Cucumber Radish SaladI used to work with a woman who would munch on raw radishes at her desk.

I thought it was gross.

But hey, she was a tri-athlete and in amazing shape and great health.

Maybe I should have munched on radishes, too.

I have to be honest; I never really understood their appeal. I didn’t mind them in small quantities, shaved over a salad, maybe, but I definitely didn’t want to eat one like an apple.

I do love them in this salad. It’s seriously low-cal but full of flavor. Radishes are said to soothe sore throats and aid in digestion, as well as eliminate toxins from the body and help protect against cancer.

Cucumber Radish Salad

Ingredients:

For the salad:
1 English cucumber, washed and cut into thin rounds
10 radishes, washed and thinly sliced

For the dressing:
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbs olive oil
1 garlic, minced
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper, or to taste

Directions:
In a salad bowl, combine sliced radishes and cucumbers; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing; taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Add the dressing to the salad; mix well and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 53, Calories from Fat: 33, Fat: 4 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 303 mg, Potassium: 153 mg, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Healthy Living: Kiwi


KiwiMy older son discovered kiwi this summer. I’d tried to give it to him before and was met with horrific face contortions, dramatic gagging gestures and rude noises.

However, for some reason this summer, it’s become his favorite thing and that’s great because kiwi, native to New Zealand, has more vitamin C than an orange. It’s also a great source of dietary fiber and potassium.

Eating just a couple of kiwifruit each day may significantly lower your risk for blood clots and reduce the amount of fats (triglycerides) in your blood, therefore helping to protect cardiovascular health, studies show.

My son doesn’t know any of this. He just knows they taste good. He still doesn’t love the texture of the skin, but I’ve taught him how to cut the fruit in half around the middle, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and eat it that way!



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