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Archive for 2013

TIP OF THE DAY: Indulge In Smaller Portions

Don’t bring a serving dish to the table:
Spoon out portions into—or directly bake
them in—ramekins. Photo courtesy Blake’s
All Natural.

 

Healthcare professionals and everyone who’s successfully kept off weight will tell you: You don’t have to give up your favorite foods. Just eat them in small portions.

Unfortunately, we live in a “supersize me” culture. When we pay to eat out, we want our money’s worth: We’re pleased by huge portions and comment negatively on smaller ones. Research shows that, although people are more aware of the higher calorie intake of large portions, they tend to feel justified eating the amount that’s put in front of them.

But when you cook at home, your advantage is the ability to control the amount of food they prepare as well as the portion size.

With that, our tip of the day is: Make it mini.

One way to ensure smaller portions is to buy smaller muffin tins for cheesecake, cupcakes, muffins, potato and pasta dishes, starchy sides and other carb-laden treats.

 

Or, bake mac and cheese or scalloped potatoes in ramekins or parchment cups. We put our PaperChef Parchment Cups—Tulip Cups and Lotus Cups—to use. Beyond baking with ease, parchment cups are great for portion control with an attractive presentation.

Steer away from bringing a serving dish or pot to the table. Pre-fill parchment cups, ramekins or other small dishes with individual portions and bring them to the table, where everybody gets one. To avoid seconds, pack any extras from the recipes into portion-control cups and stick them into the freezer.

This recipe is by Matthew Kadey for PaperChef.com.

MINI MAC & CHEESE CUPS

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 ml) whole-grain elbow pasta
  • 1½ cups (375 ml) shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoon (about 150mL) grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) low-fat milk
  • ? cup (80 ml) plain low-fat yogurt, preferably Greek-style
  • ½ cup (125 ml) chopped sun-fried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) chopped chives
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) grainy or Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml)salt
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) panko (Japanese-style) bread crumbs
  • 12 PaperChef Tulip Cups
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the macaroni according to the package instructions, until al dente.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F.

    3. DRAIN the pasta, return it to the pot and stir in the Cheddar cheese and ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese.

    4. LIGHTY beat the eggs and stir in the milk and yogurt.

    5. ADD the egg mixture to the pasta mixture along with the sun-dried tomatoes, chives, cayenne, nutmeg, mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

    6. DIVIDE the mixture among 12 parchment cups (this recipe used PaperChef Tulip Cups).

    7. HEAT the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.

    8. STIR in the bread crumbs and cook until browned, stirring regularly.

    9. STIR the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese into the toasted bread crumbs, sprinkle over the pasta mixture and bake until set, about 15 minutes.

    10. COOL for 5 minutes before unmolding.

     

    MINI SCALLOPED POTATO CUPS

    Ingredients

    This recipe yields 12 appetizer-size servings.

  • 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup fat-free half and half
  • 1 cup shredded Jarlsberg or Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup each sharp Cheddar and smoked Gruyère cheeses
  • 1/2 cup 1/4-inch diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup real bacon bits or crumbled pieces
  • 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
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    Use ramekins to control portion sizes. Photo courtesy PotatoGoodness.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F and spray 12 small ramekins with nonstick cooking spray.

    2. PLACE potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile…

    3. MELT butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute more. Slowly stir in half and half, cooking until mixture is smooth.

    4. ADD cheeses, a little at a time; then stir in remaining ingredients.

    5. SPOON into prepared ramekins and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.
     
    Do you have a favorite portion control tip? Please share!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Branzino, a.k.a. European Seabass & Loup de Mer

    Grilled branzino with heirloom tomatoes and
    kumquat compote at Paggi House in Austin,
    Texas. Photo courtesy Nations Restaurant
    News. Read the full article.

     

    According to Datassential MenuTrends, which tracks more than one million different menu items at more than 7,000 chain and independent restaurants, shrimp, tuna and salmon are among the top seafood items on American menus.

  • Shrimp is the most common seafood item, appearing as an appetizer, entrée or side dish on more than two-thirds of all restaurant menus.
  • Tuna appears on 42% of menus.
  • Salmon, sought by the health conscious for its omega-3 essential fatty acids, appears on 40% of all menus.
  •  
    The fastest-growing fish entrée on restaurant menus is not catfish or tilapia, but a lesser-known fish.

    Swimming onto menus nationwide, branzino, a silvery denizen of the Mediterranean Sea and a member of the bass family, currently appears on just 1% of all menus. But it is the fastest-growing fish or seafood, showing up on 28% more menus since 2008—maybe even more if you combine all the different names by which it is known.

     

    Branzino is the Northern Italian name for the fish, which is called Mediterranean seabass in the U.K.; loup de mer in France; branzino, branzini, bronzini, spigola or ragno in different parts of Italy; lubina or róbalo in Spain; levrek in Turkey and lavraki in Greece.

    Branzino/European seabass was one of the first varieties of fish, after salmon, to be farmed commercially in Europe. It was historically cultured in coastal lagoons and tidal reservoirs. Mass-production techniques developed in the late 1960s took production inland.

    Today, branzino is the most important commercial fish widely cultured in the Mediterranean. Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Croatia, and Egypt are major branzino farming countries.*

     

    HOW DOES BRANZINO TASTE?

    Branzino has a very mild flavor, with sweeter flesh than most white fish. It’s very easy to eat whole off the bone, or to fillet at home.

    A popular preparation is to roast branzino whole, stuffed with lemon and herbs. You can roast the whole fish at a high heat, stuffed with fresh lemon and parsley or thyme; then cook it briefly under the broiler to crisp the skin.† Or, try these recipes:

  • Roasted branzino fillets with lemon and fennel, a recipe from Giada di Laurentiis.
  •  

    Branzino fresh from the farm. Photo courtesy Aquanor-USA.com.

  • Whole-roasted branzino with lemon vinaigrette, a recipe with instructions for grilling any whole fish.
  • Grilled and servesd with warm potato, tomato and olive salad, by one of our favorite Greek chefs, Michael Psilakis, owner of Fishtag, Kefi and MP Taverna in New York City (video recipe).
  •  
    You can substitute branzino in any recipe the calls for striped bass or red snapper.

     
    Find more of our favorite fish and seafood recipes.
     
    *Source: Wikipedia.
     
    †Rinse fish, pat dry and place on a lightly oiled baking pan. Brush fish inside and out with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff cavity of each fish with 2-3 lemon slices and a few parsley sprigs. Bake, uncovered, at 400°F for 4 minutes; turn and cook 4 more minutes. Turn on broiler and cook fish 3 to 5 minutes or until skin blisters and fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fish from oven, and transfer to serving plates.
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat More “Brain Foods”

    When they’re in season, load up on delicious,
    low-calorie asparagus. Photo of grilled
    asparagus with romesco sauce* courtesy
    California Asparagus Commission.

     

    Many people make New Year’s resolutions about general health and appearance: Dieting is Americans’ #1 resolution. But how about brain power?

    Many recent studies indicate that certain nutrients can positively affect the brain—specifically in areas related to cognitive processing. They promote stronger blood flow which leads to mental sharpness, and reduce the risks of heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

    Several studies led by Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, Ph.D, a leading neuroscientist at UCLA, show that the super fats your brain needs most are omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain converts them into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which enhances neuronal communication and promotes neuronal growth.

    In other words, the right nutrients can help our health, aging process and more efficient brain-body functioning.

    To boost your brain power, eat these foods recommended by Michael Gonzalez-Wallace, the author of Super Body, Super Brain and the website SuperBodySuperBrain.com.

     

    NIBBLE ON THIS LIST OF BRAIN FOODS

  • Apples: Eating an apple a day protects the brain from oxidative damage that causes neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The nutrient that acts as protection is quercetin, a phytonutrient (antioxidant).
  • Asparagus: Asparagus is rich in folic acid, which is essential for the metabolism of the long chain fatty acids in your brain.
  • Berries: Studies show that people who eat blueberries, strawberries and other berries improve their memory and their motor skills. In addition, their antioxidant properties can protect the brain from the oxidative process.
  •  

  • Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate helps with concentration powers. Cacao has very powerful antioxidants (polyphenols and flavanola) that contain natural stimulants that increase the production of feel-good endorphins. Trick: For optimal benefits, you need to eat dark chocolate with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Look for bars with 70% cacao or higher.
  • Lean Beef: Lean beef is rich in vitamin B12, iron and zinc. These vitamins and minerals have been shown to maintain a healthy neural tissue. (Sorry, but most burgers are not made from lean beef.)
  • Salmon: Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown to be essential for brain function.
  • Dried oregano: Certain spices have powerful antioxidant properties. In several studies, oregano has been shown to have 40 times more antioxidant properties than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries or strawberries. However, by weight spices are minimal compared to other foods, so you’ll need to sprinkle it on everything from eggs to salads, sandwiches, soups, pastas and and other mains. Here are six more antioxidant spices.
  •  

    Salmon and succotash. Photo courtesy McCormick.com. Here’s the recipe.

  • Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and B6, which all promote healthy neural tissue. They are also the most heart-healthy nut (details).
  • Whole grains: Whole grains deliver fiber and vitamin E that help promote cardiovascular health, which helps improve the circulation to the brain. On another front, they are great cholesterol-fighters (details).
  • Yogurt: Yogurt and other dairy foods are filled with protein and vitamin B that are essential to improve the communication between nerve cells. You can enjoy it at every meal and for snacking (turn it into a garnish for soups and vegetables instead of sour cream).
  •  
    “Life is about choices,” says Gomez-Wallace. “Selecting the right nutrients can play a key role in your health.”

    It’s easy to include several of these brain foods in your daily meal and snacking plan. Just keep a list with you to remind you of why, for example, an apple a day instead of a pear keeps the doctor away.

     
    *Romesco sauce (salsa romesco) is a nut and red pepper-based sauce that originated in Catalonia, Spain. It is typically made from roasted or raw almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil, bitxo chiles and/or nyora peppers (a small, round, variety of red bell pepper). Other common ingredients can include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onions. It is a popular sauce with seafood (with fennel or mint leaves added) and anything from poultry and lamb to vegetables.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Healthy Food Resolution For The New Year

    Plain Greek yogurt substitutes well for sour
    cream and whipped cream. Photo courtesy
    Salad-In-A-Jar.com, which offers a recipe for
    homemade Greek yogurt.

     

    The new year means new beginnings. That’s why we have the tradition* of New Year’s resolutions: to set goals, make lifestyle changes, accomplish big projects, and so forth.

    Dieting is on the New Year’s resolutions list for many people, and was always at the top of ours for most of our life, significant weight loss was at the top of our list. And it rarely was achieved.

    So 10 years ago, we revised our resolution strategy and instead chose to make one healthy food change each year: a simple and easy switch of one food for another. There’s no sacrifice; just a trade in of one food for a different, equally tasty food. We’re very pleased with the results.

    So our tip of the day is: Make one healthy food resolution this year. Here’s what we’ve done so far: 16 great trades. Please contribute your own favorite food switches.

  • BUTTER: Switch butter for olive oil. Whether for cooking eggs, sautéeing or as bread dipper instead of butter, you’ll trade cholesterol—an animal fat that is never good for you—for a heart-healthy oil (here’s a list of the “good fats”). Olive oil is also delicious in cakes.
  •  

  • DESSERT: Trade pumpkin pie for mashed sweet potato, topped with nutmeg and cinnamon (and artificial sweetener, if you like it), plus chopped walnuts or pecans. It’s “diet pumpkin pie.”
  • DESSERT: Trade ice cream for sorbet. It’s cold, it’s sweet and it has no cholesterol. That means fewer calories as well. Check the labels: Some fruit flavors have half the calories of superpremium ice cream.
  • DESSERT: Trade other desserts for fruit with nonfat Greek yogurt. Sweeten plain yogurt with cinnamon and artificial sweetener: delicious, and you get a Health Pyramid fruit serving plus a protein serving.
  • GRAINS: Switch refined grains for whole grains. Here are the benefits of whole grains, plus a collection of whole grain recipes from the Whole Grains Council.
  •  

  • PASTA: Trade pasta for “mock” pasta: lightly sautéed fresh veggies (bell pepper, eggplant, onion, mushroom, zucchini, etc.) topped with spaghetti sauce and a teaspoon of grated cheese. This switch is very satisfying, largely because plain pasta is pretty bland. Veggies have more flavor; and with a good tomato sauce (add herbs, capers, olives) and some grated cheese, you can happily make the trade. When we’re in a hurry, we simply slice the zucchini into circles before steaming; but to make it more pasta-like, shred raw zucchini in the food processor or cut it into julienne strips. Or, try spaghetti squash.
  • PASTA: Switch white flour pasta for whole wheat pasta primavera. If you want to eat pasta regularly, make it the more nutritious whole wheat pasta. Then, fill the bowl with half pasta, half steamed veggies: bell pepper, eggplant, onion, mushroom, zucchini, etc.
  • POTATOES: Trade potatoes for bean dishes. Potatoes have become a default starch for many of us. At least twice a week, substitute bean dishes: from casseroles and sides to salads and soups. Beans are a nutritional powerhouse, putting potatoes to shame. It’s easy to open a can of beans (although cooking from scratch lets you control the amount of salt). Check out recipes from the US Dry Bean Council.
  •  

    Mix equal amounts of pasta and vegetables for a healthier Pasta Primavera. Photo courtesy FatFreeVegan.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

  • POTATOES: Trade mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower. Many moms know this trick: Kids don’t notice the difference! You get lots more nutrition, including cancer-fighting antioxidants, and far fewer calories. We steam the cauliflower in the microwave, and often pulse it in the food processor for a silky purée. You can also use turnips or rutabaga, a cross between a cabbage and a turnip (rutabaga is commonly called yellow turnip). If you don’t want a mash, top the steamed or stir-fried vegetables with plain nonfat Greek yogurt or lowfat cottage cheese and garnish with fresh herbs: a basil chiffonade, minced dill, oregano or parsley.
  • SOUR CREAM: Trade sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt. We grew up on sour cream and had a pint-a-day habit. The switch to Greek yogurt was surprisingly easy. Greek-style yogurt is less tangy and more like sour cream. We use it with Mexican dishes, cottage cheese, fruit salad, and as the base of every dip. Mixed with noncaloric sweetener and perhaps some cinnamon and vanilla extract, it’s a low-calorie, fat-free alternative to whipped cream. Try different brands: Even plain yogurt tastes different from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  • SOUR CREAM: Discover fromage blanc. The French answer to yogurt, fromage blanc is a fat-free, fresh and slightly drained cows’ milk cheese with the consistency of sour cream. It’s high in protein and calcium, luscious and elegant. Because it’s only made by artisan creameries, it’s pricier than Greek yogurt. But treat yourself to a tub: The entire container from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery (8 ounces) is just 120 calories. Mix in fresh herbs and garlic for a quick dip, add sweetener for a dessert topping, serve with granola, fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.
  • STARCH: Add fiber and nutrition to plain starch dishes. Garnish plain white rice or a baked potato with diced tomatoes, shredded carrots, slivered almonds or pine nuts to brown rice or couscous
  • SOUP: Make healthy homemade soups. Soup is filling and can be very low calorie and healthful. When you make your own, you control both the nutrition and the sodium. Look for healthy soup recipes. Make large amounts and freeze in portion-friendly containers.
  • SNACKS: Trade empty calorie snacks for nourishing snacks. Heart-healthy nuts, fiber-filled fruit such as apples and pears, peanut butter, raw vegetables with yogurt dip or hummus, and plain low-fat yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit are all good choices.
  • SUSTAINABILITY: Eat Greener. Carry a water bottle instead of landfill. Water bottles have become a fashion accessory: Check out all the options on Amazon.com. This Nissan Intak Hydration Thermos Bottle in 6 colors has a meter to count how many glasses of water you’ve had.
  • VEGETABLES: Add a new vegetable every month.
  • Even if you love broccoli or spinach, for example, they can lose their charm if they’re on the table every night. Pick a “vegetable of the month” and add it to your repertoire. You may find that you adore chard, kale and turnips, for example.
     
    Not a resolution, but a good thing to do in the new year:

  • GET TO KNOW SLOW FOOD USA, an organization that fights for better, cleaner food for all of us.
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    *The practice of making New Year’s resolutions developed partially from Christian Lenten sacrifices, but the tradition goes way back: Ancient Babylonians made promises to the gods at the start of each year. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the first month of the year is named. Medieval knights took the “peacock vow” at the conclusion of each Christmas season that re-affirmed their commitment to chivalry. Some Christian groups created watchnight services, held late on New Year’s Eve, preparing for the year ahead by praying and resolving. During the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jews reflect upon their wrongdoings over the prior year and seek and offer forgiveness.

      

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