Very Veggie Spaghetti

Recipes

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Few Americans get in the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Consuming five servings of produce day in and day out can be daunting, especially if you’re a toddler, or a first grader… or an adult. This recipe incorporates a variety of veggies into a tried and true favorite that even the kiddos will enjoy. Combine them with lycopene-rich crushed tomatoes and you’ve got a recipe for health (admittedly, that pun was very much intended).


Very Veggie Spaghetti

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INGREDIENTS:

½ medium onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
½ bell pepper, diced
1 lb ground pork
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, anywhere from a smidgen to a generous dash
1 tsp dried basil or 3/4 cup fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
¾ cup button mushrooms, sliced16 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil

balsamic vinegar, a healthy drizzle
1 cup kale, rinsed and packed (feel free to substitute fresh or frozen spinach as desired)whole wheat pasta

DIRECTIONS:

Salt and boil water for pasta. [Tip: Add in a bay leave to add flavor to the pasta.]

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and bell pepper to oil. Once onion starts to become translucent add ground pork, dried basil (wait until the end if you’re using fresh basil), salt and peppers to taste.

Once meat is mostly browned, add garlic an mushrooms into vegetable/pork mixture. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in canned tomatoes, kale and balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook until kale is wilted, but retains a vibrant green color.

Fun fact: Cooking tomatoes helps to release lycopene from its plant cells. Lycopene is a carotenoid (yup, that’s the same class of phytochemicals found in carrots) and may help to reduce prostate cancer. This is great news considering prostate cancer is the most common cause of death in men over 75. 

Indian-Spiced Root Vegetables

Recipes

dsc_0320The people of India have a gift of creating multidimensional flavors. One of my favorite flavor combinations is cumin, coriander, and turmeric. These three spices are a delicious addition to many vegetables and proteins, and also contribute a notable punch of nutrition.

These spices have powerful medicinal qualities. Turmeric in particular contains an active ingredient called Curcumin that is used to treat everything from irritable bowel to arthritis. In short, this anti-inflammatory is practically a wonder drug in a spice jar.

Coriander, too, is rich in phytonutrients such as flavonoids, and are believed to aid in cholesterol and blood sugar control. Cumin aids in ameliorating digestive problems, such as diarrhea and gas.

Just like most medicinal herbs and spices, I am not a huge advocate for consuming it in supplement form, as it has several adverse side effects when taken at a therapeutic dosage unless prescribed by a physician.

I hope you enjoy this powerful trio when generously added to turnips and radishes. Please feel free to substitute your favorite root vegetables in this recipe: potatoes, yams, beets, carrots, etc. will all work beautifully in this recipe.

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Indian-Spiced Root Vegetables

Serves 4

Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:

Root Vegetables (two bunches or about 4 cups), cut into bite-sized cubes

2 tbsp. grapeseed or melted coconut oil

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F.

Combine spices in a small bowl. Spread vegetables out on a large sheet pan. Drizzle vegetables evenly with oil. Sprinkle spice evenly on vegetables. Using hands, rub spice mixture into vegetables, coating evenly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Recipes

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It finally dropped below unbelievably hot yesterday, so I decided to get into the holiday spirit with some hot chocolate. I went to put a few drops of vanilla into my usual homemade hot chocolate and realized the only extract in my pantry was peppermint! Thus, came the inspiration for this simple, (almost) guilt-free holiday treat.


I love the sinful, sugary drinks of Starbucks. I could probably drink a new one every day and never find one I didn’t like. However, they don’t like me back. Even with skim milk and no whipped cream, those flavored lattes are so loaded with sugar my blood sugar is up and down faster than a public toilet seat.

This drink is satisfying without leaving a sugar hangover. Just for fun, I’ve included the nutrient analysis from the Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks and my Peppermint Hot Chocolate.

Starbucks Peppermint Mocha©ˆ                        Peppermint Hot Chocolate˜

16 oz                                                                  16 oz

440 kcal                                                              312 kcal

15 g fat (10g saturated)                                     15 g (10 g saturated)

54 g sugar                                                          28 g sugar

13 g protein                                                       15 g protein

ˆ This nutrition analysis is for a standard Peppermint Mocha prepared with 2% milk and whipped cream.

˜ This nutrition analysis is for a Peppermint Hot Chocolate prepared with whole, raw milk and 1 tsp raw sugar.

Coffee drinkers, please feel free to add a shot of espresso to this hot chocolate. If you don’t have an espresso machine at home (guilty as charged) brew a strong cup of coffee and add in the hot chocolate mixture in a 2:1 ratio.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Makes 16 oz (a Grande at Starbucks)
Cook time: 5 minutes

16 oz milk (Recommend: Plain Almond, Plain Coconut, or Raw Whole Milk)
1/4 cup organic cocao powder
1-2 tbsp raw sugar (may substitute agave or coconut sugar)
3-4 drops peppermint extract

In a large saucepan, combine ingredients with a whisk. Heat over low-medium heat until milk begins to simmer. Remove hot chocolate before it begins to boil to prevent the milk from curdling.

I recommend enjoying this large cup of joy on your back porch around sunset.

The Dish on Eggs

Diet Myths Debunked

For the past few decades we’ve been taught to decrease our consumption of eggs for fear of increasing our risk of heart disease. This is a major bummer for people like me, who crave that tasty gold yolk swimming alongside their pancake syrup. The medical and scientific community long thought the high cholesterol content of eggs would increase levels of cholesterol in our bodies. More recent studies have shown that regular consumption of eggs (one egg per day) has actually been found to prevent heart disease. So, let’s unscramble the egg conundrum. (That’s the one and only egg pun, promise).

 

Say It Ain’t Science

Shall we begin with the mind-numbing science globblety gluck? Feel free to skip this paragraph as complete disinterest wills. Without delving too deeply into chemical structures, it is helpful to know that in order for cholesterol to be transported through our circulatory system it has to be gift-wrapped in protein. Depending on the ratio of fat to protein in this cutely packaged “micelle”, the cholesterol inside it is either delivered to:

a)  the liver, where it is processed and eventually leaves the body (I’ll spare you the gory details, as you can probably imagine its route). This is called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also known as the “good cholesterol”. Or,…

b)  the tissues, where it can add to plaques in our arteries, which lessens the amount of blood that can travel through them, thus increasing the likelihood of stroke and heart problems. This is called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, forebodingly coined the “bad cholesterol”. The bad news is: we all have plaques in our arteries. The good news (for the humble egg and all of its admirers) is: we now know that the mix of fats in our diet has more of an impact on our heart health than the amount of cholesterol.

 

What does this mean for us? The long-accepted idea that eating cholesterol has a direct positive correlation on our blood cholesterol has now been largely disproven. Several studies on healthy subjects have not found an increased risk of heart disease with regular, even daily egg consumption. The USDA has also recently revealed the amount of cholesterol content within eggs has been overestimated by 14%. What’s more is that most of the fat eggs contain is the kind that’s good for you- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (the stuff that decreases inflammation, which includes, ironically, heart disease).

 

Nutrition in an Egg Shell

The nutritional content of eggs cannot be eggsagerated (okay, I lied about the lack of puns). Eggs are the highest quality protein you can find (which makes sense when you think about the fact that they’re an entire animal in a neat, little shell). This means that eggs contain all the essential amino acids our bodies need and they are readily available for us to use (not so for plant proteins). One egg is only 70 calories, and contains 11 different vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin). Because of their wholesome goodness, eggs are attributed with building/maintaining muscle, brain development and prevention of dementia, as well as vision health.

 

Egg on Your Plate

If you’re not sold on eggs yet, you may be once you find yourself in the kitchen for any extended period of time. The culinary uses for eggs are impressive. Eggs leaven, emulsify, aerate, bind, glaze, coat, enrich, and thicken. Alton Brown has been quoted as calling them “the Rosetta Stone of the kitchen”. Eggs are a staple and they should be handled appropriately because of their moisture/protein content (two things bacteria love). To ensure minimal risk of Salmonella poisoning, cook eggs until yolk is firm and heat egg-containing products to an internal temperature of 160°F.

 

Yes, Do Get Fresh with Eggs!

As the proud parent of ten dozen laying hens I could tell you that eggs from pastured/free-range/grass-fed chickens (and by this I mean chickens who can spend their days with the wind in their feathers, snacking on grass and bugs in the great outdoors) look, smell and taste better than their grocery store counterparts. The laughable definition of free-range offered by the USDA- “producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside”- doesn’t stipulate diet, time frame, or other conditions. But I digress…The yolks of these eggs are often a bright or deep orange instead of the pale icterine of store-bought varieties and they lack the all too familiar smell of hydrogen sulfide. I’d never experienced a fried egg with such depth of flavor until my husband whipped two up for me on our fourth date. The words bliss and divine came to mind. People often ask me if farm fresh eggs are better for you. Anecdotally I could vehemently exclaim, “YES!” but it wasn’t until a recent article from my friends at Mother Earth News came out that I was able to quantifiably say farm fresh eggs have: 4 to 6 times as much Vitamin D, 1/3 less cholesterol, ¼ less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, twice as much omega-3 fatty acids, triple the Vitamin E and 7 times as much as beta-carotene.

 

Don’t know about you guys, but I’m sold. Anyone else hankerin’ for an omelet?

 

References

Harman Nicola L, Leeds, Anthony R, and Griffin, Bruce A. Increased dietary cholesterol does not increase plasma low density lipoprotein when accompanied by an energy-restricted diet and weight loss. European Journal of Nutrition.2008; 47:287-293

Qureshi A, et al. Regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke or cardiovascular diseases. Medical Science Monitor. 2007; 13(1): CR1-8.

Tran NL, et al. Balancing and communicating risks and benefits associated with egg consumption – a relative risk study. Presented at Experimental Biology 2007, Washington, D.C.

Lee A and Griffin B. Dietary cholesterol, eggs and coronary heart disease risk in perspective. Nutrition Bulletin (British Nutrition Foundation). 2006; 31:21-27.

Katz DL, et al. Egg consumption and endothelial function: a randomized controlled crossover trial. Int J Cardiol. 2005; 99:65-70.

Kritchevsky S and Kritchvesky D. Egg consumption and coronary heart disease: an epidemiological overview. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000; 19(5): 549S-555S.

Hu FB, et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA. 1999; 281:1387-94.

Long C and Alterman T. Meet Real Free-Range Eggs. Mother Earth News. October/November 2007. http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/tests-reveal-healthier-eggs.aspx#axzz30sxNBQOK. Accessed May 5, 2014.