Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dark Spiced Hot Cocoa

Check out my first guest blog post on Kitchen Tested where you can find my recipe for dark spiced hot cocoa!  And if you haven't already read my post about the heath benefits of dark chocolate, read it here.  Happy New Year's to everyone and thanks for all your support!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Layered Bean Dip: Recipe Redux

Bean Dip with Pita Chips

The annual latke potluck party took place on the second night of Chanukah this year.  This is the third year we have done it but the first year I am hosting.  Debbie and Aaron brought the Potato Latke ingredients, Yoni and Benjo were responsible for the salad and donuts (an absolute must!), and Brad and I were on Entrée duty- we decided on Lasagna.  Then I joined The Recipe Redux.
From the left: Brad, Benjo, Yoni, Lyla, and Debbie
Founded by Registered Dietitians, The Recipe Redux is a recipe challenge club focused on taking classic yummy dishes and enhancing the nutritional components while retaining the flavor a.k.a Recipe Makeover.  Every month there is a new theme that the group has to work with to create a delicious healthy dish.  This month’s theme is “Putting the P(ea) in Potluck” where we have to use legumes in a party-friendly dish.
I knew I would want to feature my Redux dish at the party but where do legumes fit into a Latke party?  Then it hit me- appetizer!  Part of the fun of a Latke party is making the latkes together.  Between peeling potatoes, cracking eggs, grating, and frying, there is a lot to do and it takes time.  Everyone is so hungry while the latkes are being made - wouldn’t it make sense to have something delicious to snack on while we were working?
Layered bean dips are a classic party food and since they’re typically overloaded with added fat and calories, they have a lot of potential to be Redux’d.  Here is my rendition of a classic party favorite:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sports Nutrition: Working Out Without a Gym (Part 1)

Healthy living is most definitely a two-sided coin.  Normally I focus primarily on the eating component of a healthy lifestyle but I want to discuss the undeniable importance of the other side: exercise.  A nutritious diet is great but it will only get you so far in your journey for overall health.  Regular physical activity helps control weight, reduce the symptoms or risk of disease, and boosts our energy.  The U.S. Government ‘s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans says we need 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week (i.e. brisk walking).  That’s typically divided into 30 minutes of exercise for 5 days a week.  We also need to do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.  For those of you who exercise more intensely (i.e. running), you only require 75 minutes a week plus muscle-strengthening workouts at least twice a week. 
This seems like a lofty goal but keep in mind that you can divide it up into smaller segments as long as each is at least 10 minutes long.  For those of you who can afford gym memberships, make sure you actually go!  For the rest of you  (myself included) who can’t find room in their budget for this luxury, here are some tips for fitting more physical activity into your busy schedules.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Low-Down on Chocolate

One of my favorite ingredients, chocolate has a way of being there for us whether we’ve had a stressful day, an insane headache, or a run of the mill sweet tooth craving.  So how can something that’s lifted our spirits time and time again have such a bad reputation?  Well, the problem isn’t in the cocoa, which happens to be loaded with lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help lower blood pressure and protect from heart disease. The culprits are the cream, sugar, caramel, and nougat found in many chocolate bars.

Ounce for ounce, dark and milk chocolate have about 150 calories and 9 grams of fat each but dark chocolate has more nutrients, specifically antioxidants, so it’s healthier overall.  Keep in mind that dark chocolate is still high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.  If you prefer sweet, look for dark chocolate with a 60-70% cacao content.  Anything higher is going to have a bitter aftertaste but a lower sugar content. Typically, higher-end chocolates will advertise their cacao percentage and are usually not alkalized.  For cacao content on a variety of chocolates click here. Personally, I'm a fan of Ghirardelli's line of dark chocolates with high cacao percentages.

It's important to avoid chocolate that has been Dutch-processed or alkalized.  This process makes the chocolate darker and gives it a milder flavor but it also destroys most of the flavonoids, stripping the dark chocolate of its healthy components.  Hershey’s “Special Dark” chocolate is alkalized and no better for you than Hershey’s milk chocolate so stop fooling yourself.  It will say in the ingredients if it has been alkalized.  Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder is natural and not Dutch-processed so I approve of it.
Natural vs Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder

Chocolate makes us feel better because it contains serotonin, a natural anti-depressant.  It also stimulates endorphin production which leaves us feeling warm and tingly.  So the next time you’re feeling blue, snack on a couple squares of high quality dark chocolate, a natural pick-me-up.

Check out my guest post on Kitchen Tested for a decadent recipe for spiced dark hot cocoa.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Versatile Zucchini

Zucchini is such an adaptable vegetable because of its natural blandness.  Like tofu, it takes on whatever flavors surround it.  Versatility is a great quality for a vegetable and makes it super easy to incorporate more veggies into the diet.  One serving of zucchini (1 cup raw) with the skin provides 3g of fiber and is packed with vitamin C and antioxidants.  Bottom line: it fills you up while providing good sources of nutrients with minimal calories.  Try cutting zucchini up into sticks and dipping them into hummus or dill sauce for a simple way to enjoy.  It just takes on the flavors of the dip but with a satisfying CRUNCH.  If you prefer it cooked, here are some great zucchini recipes that I have made recently.

Zucchini Feta Fritters
Adapted from: Closet Cooking
These fritters are great paired with fish or a side salad.  I love how flavorful they are with bursts of salty cheesy goodness in every bite!
(Makes 8 pancakes)
1 large zucchini (grated in food processor, and squeezed to drain)
1 handful fresh herbs (I used dill and basil from my herb garden)
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup Bulgarian cheese, crumbled (you can use feta too)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons oil (for pan frying)

  1. Mix the zucchini, herbs, green onion, cheese, flour, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl.
  2. Heat oil in the griddle.
  3. Spoon the zucchini mixture into the pan, flatten, and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.

Potato Zucchini Muffins
Adapted from: whatjewwannaeat

These muffins taste just like potato kugel but they’re so much healthier!  It’s also a great way to sneak veggies into a family favorite in case you have a picky eater on your hands.
(Makes 18 muffins)
2 Potatoes
2 Zucchini
½ Onion
3 Eggs ( 2 whole, 2 egg whites)
2 Garlic cloves
¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp whole wheat flour
½ tsp Salt
¼ t pepper
1 pinch of sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Grate potatoes, zucchini, garlic and onions in food processor- place in colander to drain excess liquid.
  3. In a bowl, mix together oil, eggs, flour, salt, pepper and sugar.
  4. Add potato mixture to the egg mixture and combine.
  5. Grease muffin tins and fill up with batter to the top. 
  6. Cook 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Veggie Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite American holidays.  The table is spilling over with scrumptious dishes, family and good friends surround me, and who doesn’t love a couple days off from work?  I’d say the only thing missing from this almost-perfect holiday is a green vegetable (don’t get me started on green bean casserole).   I’m referring to real, whole, un-canned vegetable goodness.  I know a lot of people who are always struggling with the vegetable component of their meals.  This explains why I was put in charge of the vegetable side dishes for the last holiday I spent at my parents.  Vegetables are supposed to make up half of our plate as depicted in this plate:

Unfortunately, most thanksgiving meals look like this instead:

This holiday, let’s try to get some more nutrition on our tables!  Here are some easy recipes for yummy healthy veggies. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Roasted green and white Asparagus with Dill Sauce
·   1 bunch green asparagus
·   1 bunch white asparagus
·   1 tsp garlic powder
·   salt and pepper to taste
·   extra virgin olive oil

Arrange all asparagus on baking pan and drizzle oil over them.  Then sprinkle with seasoning.  Roast for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees.

I serve the DILL SAUCE on the side as an optional addition or you can drizzle it on top for a nice contrast to the white asparagus:

·   2 T White Wine Vinegar
·   1 T Fresh Lemon Juice
·   1 T Minced Shallot
·   4 T Chopped Fresh Dill
·   1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
·   1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
·   1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cider Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts
·      1 T olive oil
·      2 cups brussel sprouts, halved
·      1 large apple, diced
·      1 large pear, diced
·      1 cup apple cider
·      1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large pan over medium heat, heat oil. Cook brussel sprouts cut side down, flipping once, until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add apple and pear; cook until soft, 5 minutes. Add cider and cinnamon; simmer, stirring, until all liquid cooks away.
Credit to

Savory Green Bean Sauté
  ·      1 T olive oil
  ·      3 cloves garlic, crushed
  ·      1 large onion, sliced
  ·      4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  ·      1 tsp garlic powder
  ·      1 tsp onion powder
  ·      salt and pepper to taste
  ·      2 lbs green beans, trimmed (I prefer pre-trimmed/washed)
  ·      2 T soy sauce

In a large pan over medium heat, heat oil.  Sauté garlic, onion and mushrooms until light brown.  Add salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder. 
Steam green beans separately (I put pre-trimmed green bean bag in microwave according to instructions).
Add green beans to sauté pan with soy sauce and toss with sautéed veggies.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lovin Lentils

 I decided to change the name of my blog to "A Slice of Nutrition" since I think it better represents the essence of my blog.  I want to teach nutrition tidbits to my readers that are backed by nutritional science.  I'm also going to start incorporating more recipes into my posts.  I hope you like my new logo!  Without further ado, here is my latest topic...

Red Lentil Soup with 12-Grain Cheesy Toast
Lentils are a nutritious legume that provide the following benefits:
1.     Good source of vegetarian protein (9 grams per ½ cup)
2.     Very good source of fiber (8 grams per ½ cup)- fills you up, not out!
3.     Rich in essential nutrients such as folate, manganese, and iron
4.     Quick to prepare- no need to soak overnight like beans
5.     Available year round!
6.     Best of all: they’re dirt cheap

So it’s no wonder Esau was so willing to trade away his birthright.  He must have known all the health benefits of lentils!  Lentils come in different colors: red, brown, and green.  Brown and green hold their shape well when cooked and add a great texture.  Red pretty much disintegrates in soup acting like a thickening agent while still providing all the vital nutrition. 

I love making soup for dinner when the weather starts getting cooler.  This past week I made a red lentil soup, a mirpoix-based (onion, carrot, celery) soup with red lentils and wild rice.  It has been a staple at our dinner table for years. The final product was so creamy since the lentils completely dissolved.

Red Lentil Soup
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Vidalia or sweet onions, halved and sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed (I use 3 frozen crushed garlic cubes)
Salt and pepper to taste
1tsp Garlic powder
1tsp Onion powder
8 c Water + 2 Tbsp consommé
1 c Dry red lentils, rinsed
¾ c Pearl barley, rinsed
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 Tbsp Red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar

1.     In a large stockpot sauté onion, celery, and carrots in oil on medium-low heat until onions start turning light brown. 
2.     Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder on onions and celery while cooking. 
3.     Once vegetables appear soft, pour in water + consommé.  Raise heat to high, cover, and bring to a boil.
4.     Once boiled, add lentils and barley and bring back to a boil.  Once boiling, bring to a simmer and cover.
5.     1 hour into simmering, add lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and brown sugar
6.     Simmer for another 30 min-1 hr (total 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally)
7.     Enjoy with some rustic bread!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Organic Defined

What exactly does Organic mean in regards to produce and animal products?  Are these foods more nutritious or are they just safer?  Should I make the switch to organic foods?  These are some questions I have been asked over the years.  Usually I rattle off a vague answer about how we don’t fully understand the effects of non-organic on our bodies since it’s a relatively new trend and there aren’t enough long-term studies.  It’s amusing because a lot of the people who ask these questions have bigger “fish to fry” than pesticide content on their plates.  For example, a mother of a patient with Newly diagnosed Kidney Failure wanted to know if she should make organic a priority in her son’s new diet.  The Renal diet involves a long list of forbidden foods so following those guidelines should be her main priority.  Once one fully understands their special diet, I’d be happy to talk about organic.  That’s why I’ve always given vague answers- the population with whom I was working didn’t need to know about this stuff.  Now that I’m blogging about nutrition for the common man, organic seems like a pretty good topic to discuss.

What does Organic mean in regards to produce and animal products?
In order for produce to receive organic certification, it must be grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetic modification, or ionizing radiation.  Animal products can’t be given antibiotics or growth hormones.  The USDA governs organic labeling in which there are 3 categories:
  • 100% Organic
  • Organic: made with at least 95% organic ingredients
  • Made with Organic Ingredients: made with at least 70% organic ingredients and no genetic modifications
Is organic more nutritious?
Some recently published studies have shown organic tomatoes to have higher phytochemical and vitamin C levels than their non-organic counterparts. However, there aren’t enough studies to make this conclusive evidence yet.  Since a lot of non-organic produce is genetically modified to grow faster or ripen slower, their flavors and nutrient content may be compromised.  The faster an orange grows, the less time it has to absorb all the valuable nutrients from the soil leaving the consumer with an inferior product.  Many gourmet chefs are insisting on cooking with organic foods now because they believe they provide a superior taste and quality.  Keep in mind that processed organic foods are not necessarily healthier.  They may still be high in sugar, fat, or sodium.

Is organic safer?
Conventional foods use chemical pesticides to protect their crops and a lot of them retain pesticide residue.  Organic produce has much less pesticide residues so eating organic will limit your pesticide exposure.  However, all produce must abide by government safety limits so nothing in the supermarket will have toxic levels of pesticide.  One of the best guarantees with organic produce is that there are no additives, preservatives, artificial colorings, or MSG.

What are some cons to buying organic?
  • Cost: this is due to higher costs of farming and no subsidies from the government
  • Shelf-life: produce tends to spoil faster due to the lack of preservatives or genetic modification

If you can afford an organic lifestyle than that’s great.  For the rest of us (myself included), the Environmental Working Group has created a list of produce with the highest levels of pesticide residue.  I recommend  using this convenient wallet card to determine which produce is more important to buy organic:

Wallet Card for Easy Shopping

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Color Your Plate Today

The term “Limey,” an old slang nickname referring to sailors, is believed to originate from the practice of giving lime juice to British sailors to prevent scurvy.  In a sense, this was the first functional food claim.  Although functional foods have no legal meaning in the United States since it is a marketing phrase and not a regulatory phrase, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) have defined it as foods which provide additional health benefits which may help reduce disease risk and/or promote optimal health.

What are the different types of functional foods?  Functional foods can be broken up into four categories: conventional foods, modified foods, medical foods, and foods for special dietary use.  Today I will discuss conventional foods: the simplest form of functional foods.  This category is composed of foods in their original state such as fruits and vegetables.  Some examples are garlic, nuts, tomatoes, and berries.  These foods are rich in nutritional components that may help boost the immune system and reduce the risk of cancer.

The color of your fruits and vegetables signify the nutrient you are consuming.  The chart below exhibits some of the most common nutrients found in specific colors. 

Ellagic Acid
1.    Reduce the risk of prostate cancer
2.    Lowers blood pressure
3.     Antioxidant (fights harmful free radicals)
Vitamin C

1.    Reduce the risk of prostate cancer
2.    Reduce age-related vision issues
3.    Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
4.    Antioxidant
5.    Promotes healthy joints

Vitamin C
1.    Reduce cancer risks
2.    Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
3.    Help with digestion
4.    Antioxidant
5.     Boost immunity
Vitamin C
Ellagic acid
1.    Support retinal health
2.    Lowers cholesterol
3.    Boost immunity
4.    Help with digestion
5.    Improve mineral absorption
6.    Fight inflammation
7.     Reduce tumor growth
EGCG (antioxidant)
1.    Boost immunity
2.    Reduce cancer risks
3.    Balance hormone levels
4.     Antioxidant

By eating a variety of colors, you are guaranteed a diverse amount of essential vitamins and minerals.  Try to eat a different color every day!  Use the list below to get ideas of colorful produce to incorporate into your meals.  Then, go to the supermarket and pick out 1 veggie or fruit from each color.  Remember, don’t rule out frozen fruits and veggies (as long as there are no added ingredients).  If you have kids, take them with you to help pick out the weekly colors.  This can be a fun activity for kids and will help keep them interested in healthy foods.

Today, food is not just seen as a way to get carbohydrate, protein, and fats into the body.  Rather, food is seen as a route to the best possible wellness.  Consumers are constantly on the prowl for the next trend in nutritional health but it can become confusing to determine which foods will provide an additional physiological benefit beyond that of meeting basic nutritional needs.  The research being done on functional foods is continuously expanding and it is a very exciting time to get on the functional food bandwagon!

Here are some pictures of colorful dishes my family and I have cooked recently:
Roast chicken with yellow squash and quinoa


Pan-fried Tilapia with corn and roasted brussel sprouts

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