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Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic vinegar glaze

Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic vinegar glaze

If you’ve shunned Brussels sprouts, perhaps you’ve never tried them roasted? Roasting vegetables mellows their flavor and provides a crispy, crunchy texture and reduces the bitterness of these tiny cabbages. Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetable family- a powerhouse of vegetables high in vitamin C, folate, potassium and cancer-fighting nutrients including kaempferol, a nutrient found to reduce inflammation and cancer cell growth. Other cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and collard greens.

Like other green leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts also provide a hefty dose of vitamin K– the fat-soluble vitamin needed for blood clotting and bone health. Your gut bacteria also produces vitamin K, so keep eating high fiber foods to keep it alive.

With less than 50 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates per cup, Brussels sprouts are also easy on the waistline and won’t wreck your blood sugar. Below is a simple recipe to give this great veggie another chance!

Ingredients:

20-25 fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered

2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (can sub apple cider vinegar)

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place cleaned Brussels sprouts on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  3. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together to make a dressing.
  4. Drizzle the sprouts with the balsamic dressing then roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until browned and crispy.

Makes 4 servings. 

 

Tomato cucumber salad with balsamic dressing and basil

Tomato cucumber salad with balsamic dressing and basil

I’ll admit- I don’t have a green thumb. Give me a plant and it will likely be brown within a week. Maybe it’s because my schedule in the past was more hectic and I’d forget to water my plants. With COVID19, I’m home and enjoying my deck more often where my basil plant resides. I also have a tomato plant that’s doing quite well, thank you very much! I hope they are ripe by August to use.

Being a huge fan of Mediterranean food, I love having fresh basil to toss in pasta, salads or veggies. I had some leftover white beans from another dish as well as a few dying cucumbers and ripe tomatoes. I chopped a few things and now I have a new salad.

What’s funny about ‘salad’ is that most people assume it will just be some greens and other veggies and dressing. When you add beans, lentils, edamame or chick peas to a salad, it makes it more of a meal. All types of dried beans and legumes are high in protein and fiber, which are way more filling to eat than just romaine or spinach. These also add color and texture to your salads to make them more interesting.

Here’s a tasty salad to try:

Ingredients:

1/2 cucumber, chopped

1 ripe tomato, chopped

1 small handful fresh basil leaves, ripped

1 can white beans (Navy, Great Northern or canellinni)

1 Tbsp. feta cheese

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Dash of salt

Directions.

  1. Combine the cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, beans and feta cheese in a large salad bowl.
  2. Whisk vinegar and olive oil together and drizzle over the salad.
  3. Toss salad with a dash of salt and serve cold.

Makes 4 servings.

Cinnamon dusted sweet potatoes

Cinnamon dusted sweet potatoes

While I realize it’s summer, I still have favorite foods that I incorporate in my meals all year long. Sweet potatoes are one of them. Despite their name, sweet potatoes have a slightly lower glycemic index than white potatoes, which means they don’t raise your blood sugar as quickly after eating. Eating the skin of potatoes increases fiber consumption- just be sure to scrub the skin well to remove any dirt or pesticides.

In addition to fiber, that beautiful bright orange hue of sweet potatoes is compliments of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene gets converted to vitamin A in the body, and is found in other brightly colored fruits and vegetables including carrots, cantaloupe, acorn and butternut squash, apricots, peaches, nectarines and mangoes. Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin and immunity and is best to get in your diet VS supplements.

Long term beta-carotene intake (> 18 years) from food, has been linked with improved cognition in older adults in one study of over 4,000 men. In addition, foods high in beta-carotene are protective against lung cancer and reduce the risk of macular degeneration- a disease of the eye that impacts vision. Beta-carotene is more bio-available when cooked VS raw. So, when you eat cooked carrots, your body actually absorbs more of the antioxidant.

Fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene have also been linked with cancer reduction due to their high anti-oxidant content, which help fight free radicals that damage cells and DNA in your body. Fruit and vegetable intake (in addition to not smoking, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise) is one of your best defenses in preventing cancer. Include more if your diet whenever you can (especially vegetables, which are lower in calories).

Sweet (and white) potatoes also provide potassium– an essential mineral that aids in blood pressure reduction. Potassium has recently been added to the food label because of its role in blood pressure. You can also find potassium in green leafy vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, mustard and collard greens and broccoli. I eat something green and leafy at least once a day, but typically more.

Below is the recipe for this simple side dish:

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes, cleaned and cut into 1/2″ discs, then cut in half

Non-stick cooking spray

Cinnamon

Cumin

Seasoned salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Spray a large baking pan with non stick spray.
  3. Place the cut sweet potatoes on the baking pan and spread them out.
  4. Spray the potatoes with non-stick spray.
  5. Dust the potatoes with one pass of each: cinnamon, cumin, and seasoned salt.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 15 minutes until potatoes are slightly soft.

Makes 4 servings (roughly 1/2 cup each).

 

Sweet cabbage slaw with fresh pineapple and sunflower seeds

Sweet cabbage slaw with fresh pineapple and sunflower seeds

Looking for a deliciously different salad this spring? Try this one! I picked up a bag of cole slaw mix the other day thinking I’d sautee it with onions and serve it with egg noodles. For anyone familiar with Hungarian cuisine, this combination is called Haluska or Haluski, in some circles. It’s a popular dish served at weddings in my home town in Northeastern Ohio and is considered comfort food.

But since the temps have gotten higher, the thought of being over a hot stove cooking cabbage and boiling egg noodles was not so appealing. So I opted to make a new salad.

This salad is simple, fresh, nutritious AND delicious. My motto is, “food is for eating”. If it doesn’t taste good to you, why bother?

Cabbage is an often overlooked vegetable, but it shouldn’t be. It’s part of the cruciferous vegetable family along with broccoli and cauliflower. It’s an excellent source of vitamins K and C as well as anti-oxidants and phytochemical that help prevent disease, notably cancer. In addition, it’s low in calories and provides some folate, a B vitamin needed to protect DNA (kinda important)!

I used green grapes in this salad, but red grapes would add more color to the dish. If you don’t have poppy seed dressing you could use a honey mustard or other sweet vinaigrette. Pineapple boosts the fiber and vitamin C content of the salad as well as the texture and taste. It’s also in season now, so take advantage!

If you don’t have sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds would make a good substitute or slivered almonds would work well, too. I like to add nuts or seeds to my salads for texture, taste and heart-healthy fats.

Ingredients:

1 (10 oz) bag cole slaw mixed or 1 head cabbage, shredded

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pineapple chunks

1/2 cup green or red grapes, cut in half

1/2 cup poppy seed dressing

Directions:

  1. Place cole slaw mix in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add sunflower seeds, pineapple chunks, grapes and poppy seed dressing.
  3. Toss slaw and fruit to coat.
  4. Serve cold.

Makes 6 servings. 

Mediterranean hummus and veggie wrap

Mediterranean hummus and veggie wrap

Sometimes the simplest combinations are the most delicious! Trying to use up our “pandemic canned goods”, my husband and I decided to try our hand at hummus. How hard could it be?

Hummus is a traditional Mediterranean spread made with chick peas that’s often used as a dip with vegetables, but we’ve used it before as a spread in place of mayonnaise or mustard. You can change the flavor quite a bit by adding roasted red peppers, olives or cayenne pepper. We decided to use it in place of meat for a wrap.

We used whole wheat tortillas, 2 Tbsp. hummus, red pepper strips, 1 tsp. feta cheese, 4-5 grape tomatoes cut in half and a handful of chopped olives in our wraps. Whole wheat or regular pita bread would work as well. Keep in mind I am a food neRD. Store bought hummus would be just as tasty in this wrap.

Hummus uses tahini (sesame paste), which may or may not be in your pantry. Never fear! Peanut butter makes a great substitute. You will need a food processor or high powered blender to get the hummus nice and smooth. We used bottled lemon juice in place of fresh lemons. If you’re out of garlic, use 1/2 tsp. garlic powder instead. We added extra cumin and a dash of cayenne pepper to give the hummus a little extra kick.

Recipe credit to http://cookieandkate.com

INGREDIENTS
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
½ teaspoon baking soda (if you’re using canned chickpeas)
¼ cup lemon juice (from 1 ½ to 2 lemons), more to taste
1 medium-to-large clove garlic, roughly chopped
½-1 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
½ cup tahini
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water, more as needed
½-1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Place the chickpeas in a medium saucepan and add the baking soda. Cover the chickpeas by several inches of water, then bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Continue boiling, reducing heat if necessary to prevent overflow, for about 20 minutes, or until the chickpeas look bloated, their skins are falling off, and they’re quite soft. In a fine-mesh strainer, drain the chickpeas and run cool water over them for about 30 seconds. Set aside (no need to peel the chickpeas for this recipe!).
2. Meanwhile, in a food processor or high-powered blender, combine the lemon juice, garlic and salt. Process until the garlic is very finely chopped, then let the mixture rest so the garlic flavor can mellow, ideally 10 minutes or longer.
3. Add the tahini to the food processor and blend until the mixture is thick and creamy, stopping to scrape down any tahini stuck to the sides and bottom of the processor as necessary.
4. While running the food processor, drizzle in 2 tablespoons ice water. Scrape down the food processor, and blend until the mixture is ultra smooth, pale and creamy. (If your tahini was extra-thick to begin with, you might need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons more ice water.)
5. Add the cumin and the drained, over-cooked chickpeas to the food processor. While blending, drizzle in the olive oil. Blend until the mixture is super smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor as necessary, about 2 minutes. Add more ice water by the tablespoon if necessary to achieve a super creamy texture.
6. Taste, and adjust as necessary—I almost always add another ¼ teaspoon salt for more overall flavor and another tablespoon of lemon juice for extra zing.
7. Scrape the hummus into a serving bowl or platter, and use a spoon to create nice swooshes on top. Top with garnishes of your choice, and serve. Leftover hummus keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week.

And that’s a wrap!

Spring spinach salad with berries

Spring spinach salad with berries

Despite not being at the grocery, you’ve likely been able to get some beautiful berries through Instacart or Click list. Personally, I miss picking out my own produce, but in the age of COVID19, I am fine to stay home and let someone else do the shopping. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my produce.

Strawberries are one of my favorite seasonal fruits and I will eat them daily until August when the season is more or less over. I’ve always been a huge fan of adding fruit to salad and this spinach salad is a keeper.

The combo of spinach and strawberries is a nutritional powerhouse. Both contain a heavy dose of vitamin C (good for your immune system these days), as well as fiber, antioxidants such as lutein (good for your eyes) and anthocyanin (good for your heart). I like to toss in either blue cheese or feta cheese and drizzle a sweet dressing over it such as honey mustard or poppy seed. Poppy seed dressing also goes well over kale salad as it tends to be more biter and the sweetness balances it well. I added a few chunks of leftover grilled chicken, which made the salad more satisfying.

Ingredients:

2 cups cleaned spinach leaves

4-5 large strawberries, cleaned and cut in half

1 Tbsp. feta or blue cheese

1 Tbsp. poppy seed dressing

Directions:

1.Place greens in a bowl and add strawberries and cheese. Drizzle poppy seed dressing over salad and toss.

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