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 EntrĂ©e 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.
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