Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey Tip #3

Turkey Tip #3:  Keep it Balanced

If you look at the basics of a Thanksgiving meal, it doesn't look all that bad.  Turkey is a wonderful source of lean protein and cranberry sauce is packed with antioxidants.  Even red wine has its health benefits.  It's once we hit the mash potatoes and gravy and skip the greens and salad that we go down hill.  Just like any other meal, keep your Thanksgiving meal balanced.  Make some room on your Thanksgiving table for some delicious, yet healthy options. Eat veggies and healthy grains along with your Turkey and keep the sugar and starchy carbs to a minimum. You will have a fantastic and healthy meal.  And even better, you won't have to feel bad about your extensive dessert sampling.

These sides are a great way to balance out a Thanksgiving table and they will put your stuffing and mash potatoes to shame.  Quinoa is a wonderful grain that is also high protein (a complete source of all the amino acids!) and has a unique nutty flavor.  In addition to being a power vegetable, Brussels sprouts can be a substitute for baby potatoes or a greens topped with cheese (hint: no broccoli with cheese sauce). In addition to being very easy to prepare, these dishes are vegetarian so they will take the pressure off worrying about  an unknown guests dietary needs. What you didn't know your son's new girlfriend was vegetarian?!

Baked Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts

1 lb. Brussel sprouts
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tsp. honey
Sea Salt

Clean the brussel sprouts and bring a pot of water to a boil.  Blanch the brussels sprouts by boiling for about 3 minutes then removing and immediately submerging in a bowl of ice water. Remove and drain on a towel. This step can be done in advance, even the day before.

Add the brussels sprouts to a baking sheet.  Add walnuts and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle sea salt.  Toss to coat.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, occasionally tossing to cook evenly on all sides. Remove, finish by tossing with 1 teaspoon of honey.

Quinoa with Almonds and Golden Raisins

1 cup red quinoa
1tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins

In a pot, bring olive oil to medium heat.  Add quinoa and stir to coat evenly.  Raise to high heat and add water until it comes to a boil.  Once at a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Allow to cook until all the water has been absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove the lid and add slivered almonds and golden raisins.  Toss and allow to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy :)

Turkey Tip #2

Turkey Tip #2:  Remember Portion Size
Even the healthiest of us can not resist stuffing and gravy on Thanksgiving.  Try to tell me not to eat a piece of pumpkin pie?  It won't be pretty.  We are going to eat our favorites during the holidays and pretending to restrict yourself or worse, feeling guilty about it, is going to wind up back firing.  Instead of denying yourself or over indulging, remember that portion size is a great way to regulate calorie intake.  We all know that after three bites of pumpkin bite we are happy.  But then we think of poor children in a far away country, or the calorie race we are having against our cousin, and for some reason we feel like we need to eat the whole dang thing.  Put the fork down.  Eat what you want- in moderation.  Indulge, but do so until you have had enough, not until you've had so much you can't move out of your seat.

These pumpkin pie bites will help you resist temptation.  You won't even need to cut yourself a smaller piece because these little guys are small enough.  They are the perfect size to get in all the Thanksgiving flavor required, but not so large that they will break your belt.

Pumpkin Pie Bites
Makes about 24

1 regular cupcake pan
Cooking spray
Flour (preferably whole wheat)
Pie Crust Dough (from a box or homemade just not pre-made)
Pumpkin Pie Filling
Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Brown sugar for finishing

Prepare the pie dough and the pumpkin pie filling.  For this recipe I prepared Libby's pumpkin pie filling using the 30 oz can and substituting low fat evaporated milk in place of regular.  Spray the cupcake pan with cooking spray and smear with a paper towel to ensure even coating.  Sprinkle flour in each cupcake mold and then shake the pan to make sure the flour has evenly coated each mold.  Flip the pan upside down and tap to remove any excess flour.  Form the dough into tiny balls about 1 inch in size.  Place one ball in each mold.  Press the dough into the bottom of each mold to form the crust.  Allow the dough to reach up the sides of the molds as well.  Fill the molds with the pumpkin pie filling (about 2 tablespoons).

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes.  Do not follow the instructions on the pie box or the pumpkin filling.  The temperatures needed to be adjust due to the small size.  Insert a toothpick and if it comes out clean, remove from the oven.  Allow to cool for about 30 minutes.  Remove from the pan by using a sharp knife to go around the sides of each pie.  This will allow for easy removal.  Place onto a plate.  Finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar.  Allow to cool completely.  Refrigerate or serve.  Enjoy :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

How Big is Your Turkey?

In America we kick off the holiday season with the most indulgent day we could possibly muster up.  I can guarantee that the Pilgrims and Indians did not fill themselves to the brim with turkey, stuffing and alcohol.  But I personally think it's a shame they missed all the fun of a modern day Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It trumps Christmas and New Year's and obviously, Halloween.  Every year I spend it with the best people, eat the best food and drink more wine than most people find acceptable.  However, there are a few rules that I try to maintain so I don't pack on 15 pounds in a single sitting. For the next few days leading up to the big celebration, I will share my tips and some recipes, for making your Thanksgiving a better one!

Turkey Tip #1: Cook real food and eat real food

I recently had the pleasure of listening to Anthony Bourdain speak and even though his points were many and his extreme humor distracting, he did share one particular point that stuck with me.  He said:

"Food is personal.  People are telling you something about themselves when they offer you food."

I think this message is extremely relevant, especially around the holidays.  Aunt Sally's cheez whiz and crackers do not constitute real food.  Do not be the person who shows up to a holiday gathering with a tin of processed popcorn or dips in containers.  Send the message that you are happy to spend the holidays with people you care about; that you are happy to share real, delicious food. Savoring bites of food that were not only prepared from scratch but prepared with love will keep you more satiated than a box of Entenmann's.  Likewise, put a little love into the dish you bring to your Thanksgiving table or share with your family.  After all, you will be sending them a special message about what they mean to you during the holiday season.

This dish represents all the wonderful flavors of fall- walnuts, apples and cranberries.  However, it is easy to prepare and can even be done in advanced.  I used to bake this dish but the brie gets too oily and we all know how precious oven space is on Turkey Day.  Now, instead I make it in a pot on the stove.  If you are spending Thanksgiving in someone else's home you can just reheat it quickly when you arrive, without interfering in their kitchen.  If you are the host, make the topping the day before and reheat quickly to serve the day of.

Brie with Apples, Walnuts and Cranberries

1 wheel of Brie
2 tbsp. honey
1 Golden delicious apple, 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup of water
pinch of salt

In a pot, add diced apples and honey.  Heat over low.  Add walnuts, cranberries, cinnamon and nutmeg. Increase the heat to medium-high stirring continuously for about 2-3 minutes.  Then add 1/4 cup water.  Return to a simmer and cook over low heat until the apples are soft and the water has evaporated.  Place the brie on a serving dish or desired plate.  Pour topping over the brie. Serve with crackers or toasted breads.  Enjoy :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tofu Stir Fry

As we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season, we get more and more limited on free time.  We also get stressed about how we are going to stay thin and prevent holiday gluttony from making us gain 100 pounds.  In honor of holiday preparation, my sister and I decided to commit ourselves to eating healthy until the holiday season hits us with temptations we won't be able to resist (then it will be time to hit the gym!).  This healthy, simple stir fry is the perfect dish to have on hand as the holiday madness approaches. It is vegetarian, so you can save your meat points for Turkey Day and loaded with healthy veggies.  It has an amazing flavor profile, so you won't be tempted to reach for the pumpkin pie, even a day early.

It is really easy to make a stir fry healthy.  They already have tons of vegetables so there is no need to up the anti there.  However, we need to cut the excess oil, high sodium and upgrade the noodles or rice.  To do this, use a flavored oil, like sesame so you won't need to use extra for flavor.  Use a low sodium soy sauce to cut back on the high salt content and substitute whole grain pastas for whatever noodle you are using and brown rice for white rice.  Traditionally, we see whole grain pasta being used for Italian dishes, but they work just as great in Asian dishes- you just dress them up in a different outfit!

Tofu with Bok Choy and Carrots

1 package organic extra firm tofu
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 cloves of garlic, mined
1 carrot, julienned (medium)
1 bunch of bok choy, cleaned
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. ground ginger
5 oz. whole wheat linguine (about 1/2 box)
Sesame seeds to finish

Rinse the tofu in water, pat to dry and cube into 1/2 inch pieces.  Spray a pan with cooking spray and heat to medium.  Cook the tofu until it is crisp and lightly browned on all sides.  Set aside.

In a pot, bring water to a roaring boil.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt.  Cook the past until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

In a separate pan, heat the sesame oil to medium. Add the minced garlic and saute.  Add the carrots, ginger, soy sauce and mix.  Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes, then add the boy choy.  Mix and allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes until the boy choy is tender.  Add the tofu and continue to cook until well mixed.  Toss in pasta to coat in sauce.  Add an additional drizzle of sesame oil and soy sauce if needed.  Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds to finish.

What makes this bite better?
Making your own stir fry at home is a great way to know how much oil and sodium are being added.  You can never be sure of this information when you order in (but you can safely assume it's a much higher quantity and the ingredients are much lower quality).  Also, even though some places now offer brown rice options, I have yet to see a whole wheat offering as substitute for lo mein or chow fun. You can feel good about eating this upgraded stir fry!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fall Overflow

There are a few things I get really excited about during fall.  Along with scarves, lattes and boots, fall fruits top my list.  I honestly can not stop myself from compulsively buying bags of fall fresh apples.  Recently I spent an entire morning at the Union Square market drinking apple cider, buying different types of apples and munching on an apple cider donut. That being said, I always have more apples on hand than I can eat. My plethora of apples leaves me thinking about creative ways to cook them. The thought of delicious crisp fall apples going bad is just too upsetting.

Homemade applesauce is always a perfect way to cook a large amount of apples, especially to preserve the apples.  Applesauce is a great accompaniment to fall dishes like roast pork or baked chicken.  It is also a wonderful topping for a scoop of vanilla ice cream or to blend into oatmeal in the morning. In this recipe, I added some fall pears (another compulsive purchase).  The pears do not break down as easily as the apples so they provides some structure in the applesauce and are ideal if you want to create a chunky sauce.  I keep the skin on both the pears and apples because I like the texture and flavor it provides.  Not to mention, that's where most of the nutrients are located!

Pear Applesauce
6 fall fresh apples (Gala were used in this recipe)
2 pears
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons of honey
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups of water, divided

Clean and dice the apples and pears into an approximately 1 inch dice.  Add the apples, pears and 1 cup of water to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to a simmer.  Allow to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After most of the water has been absorbed add additional water in small amounts, allowing it fully absorb each time.  Continue to allow the sauce to simmer, adding water and stirring until it cooks down into an ideal texture.  Add the cinnamon stick, honey, salt and nutmeg and simmer for about 10 more minutes.

What makes this bite better?
This homemade applesauce beats a store bought sauce by reducing the amount of added sugar. The honey adds the sweetness without using any additional processed sugar.  Keeping the skin on maintains nutrient content and using pear adds texture and additional flavor.  It is the perfect side to have on hand all fall long.