Recipe: Cinnamon Chocolate Strawberry & Vanilla Ice Milk Cups

February is the month of LOVE.  As we think about heart health, we also think about affairs of the heart.  What better food to soothe and comfort the heart than chocolate?  Chocolate with its silky smooth texture, decadent flavor and tantalizing aroma, makes you want to rejoice in its presence.  (Can you tell that I love it!?)

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Now that I teach others the art of evolving their eating, I indulge in dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa).  Don’t fall for milk chocolate to get heart health benefits – the darker the better as the rich dark type contains beneficial compounds called flavanols, which can improve blood flow to and from your heart. However, try to stick with an ounce a day as it will cost you about 160 calories for that daily dose!

Savor every bite by eating it slowly and being aware of the taste and flavor of it on your tongue. By mindfully eating chocolate, you’ll enjoy every bite. My friend and mindful eating guru, Dr. Susan Albers is hosting a Mindful Eating Chocolate Challenge – check it out!

I am always dreaming up ways to enjoy chocolate healthfully.  Here’s a recipe I created that is simple to savor and excites the senses as it’s cold, creamy and crunchy all at the same time. Plus, it combines the richness of dark chocolate with hazelnuts (think Nutella) – yum! I love it so much that I am entering it The Foodie Blogroll Recipe Contest 1, 2, 3 Cook & Snap!   

Cinnamon Chocolate Strawberry & Vanilla Ice Milk Cups

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Ingredients:

Serves 4 (1/2 cup each)

1/2 cup dark chocolate, melted

4 – 5 large strawberries

1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 cup milk, 1 percent fat

1 teaspoon vanilla, pure extract

For crust and topping:

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/4 cup golden flaxseeds

1 tablespoon honey

Directions: Make the crust first and put to the side.  Put hazelnuts, flaxseeds and honey in a blender and pulse until ingredients are combined and nuts are completely chopped.  

Melt dark chocolate either over the stove top in a pot or pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds, stir and put in again for 20 seconds.  Spoon it into a blender (or Vitamix) with strawberries, cinnamon, milk and vanilla.  Blend until smooth, but not too runny.  Using a spatula, put into a bowl, cover with wrap and place in the freezer for a couple of hours.

Put a layer of hazelnut mixture at the bottom of 4 small ramekins.  Place a dollop of the chocolate and strawberry ice milk mixture into each ramekin.  Top with freshly cut strawberries and a sprinkle of the hazelnut mixture.  Savor and enjoy!

Nutrition Information (per 1/2 cup serving): Calories: 407, Total Fat: 31 g, Saturated Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 2 mg, Sodium 20 mg, Total Carbs: 28 g, Dietary Fiber 8 g, Sugars: 15 g, Protein: 8 g

Enjoy evolving your eating today!

-VSR

Recipe: Red Pepper & Rosemary Hummus

If you are a hummus-lover like I am, you want to mix different veggies, herbs and spices into this fiber and protein powerhouse dip. Homemade hummus is super simple to make and you can store it in the fridge in a sealed container for a good two weeks. I suggest stirring it every day or two to keep maintain  consistency and blend the oil and flavors together. In this recipe, I add rosemary and a mini sweet red pepper for extra flavor.  Healing hint: Rosemary comes from the mint family and contains tons of beneficial antioxidants.  It contains a compound called carnosic acid, which can help fend off bacterial growth, thus rosemary is used as a natural preservative in foods.

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What to do: Combine 2 15-oz. cans of garbanzo beans (drain a can, a use the other can with the liquid), 1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds, 1 small spring rosemary needles, 1 mini sweet red bell pepper,  1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice (or juice of a large lemon), 1/4 cup water, 2 garlic cloves, peeled, 1 teaspoon cumin, pinch of salt in a blender and blend until pureed together well. (If using a Vitamix, set to puree and let it run the cycle until it turns off).

Nutrition Information (per 1/4 cup): Calories: 121, Total Fat: 4 grams, Sat Fat: 0 grams, Protein: 5 grams, Fiber: 4 grams, Carbohydrates: 16 grams, Sodium 143 mg, Cholesterol: 0 mg.

Enjoy this hummus as a dip with whole grain pita chips and veggies or dollop into lettuce cups or spread in a tortilla wrap with shredded carrots and cucumbers.

Please let me know if you give it a whirl.  Enjoy evolving your eating today!

-VSR

Simple Diabetes Recipe & Tip #1

Welcome to my diabetes tips and simple recipe series!  November is American Diabetes Month and awareness is key to stop – and lessen the severity, of this devastating disease.  Many of us have been touched with diabetes whether it’s you or a family member who has the disease – it’s a pervasive illness.  American Diabetes Association stats reveal that 26 million adults and children in America have diabetes and 79 million Americans have prediabetes or are a risk for type 2 diabetes. So let’s eat for prevention – and if you have diabetes, aim for blood sugar control ultimately. Food is your first line of defense against diabetes – as well as many other diseases.

Today’s Tip: Fuel Up with Fiber.  Fiber is found in a lot of foods, primarily plants.  Choose beans, lentils, peas and whole grains.  They help keep blood sugar stable and you feel full on fewer calories. You can add fiber to your day in so may ways.  I stuff veggies with beans and whole grains. Try making this for a delicious, blood sugar controlling meal. (Aim to get about 30 grams of fiber every day.)

       Chickpea Stuffed Zucchini

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What to do: Take a zucchini and cut straight down the middle length-wise. Spoon out some of the flesh to form a hallowed out center. In a small bowl toss together chick peas (canned, rinsed and drained); a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved; two or three basil leaves, sliced; drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil; a dash of smoked paprika; pinch of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese; sea salt and pepper to taste.  Add chickpea filling to zucchini halves and place on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes – remove from oven when zucchini is tender.   Fiber fact: 1 cup of chick peas contains 12 grams of fiber (that’s about half the fiber you need in a day!).     

If you try this dish, I’d love to know what you think…

Enjoy evolving your eating today!

-VSR

 

Top 3 Foods for A Healthy Heart

Wear Red for Heart HealthHappy February!  Today kicks off American Heart Month with “National Wear Red Day” to show your support and create awareness about ways to prevent heart disease.  Your heart health is important – heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women in America.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 90 seconds a women has a heart attack in the United States.   So, let’s talk prevention.

With healthful eating being one of the major tenets for keeping your heart healthy (along with decreasing alcohol use, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and physical inactivity); try to get some of these foods in.

Top 3 Foods for Heart Heath

 

TEA

Glass teapot and tea cup

Image courtesy of karenhickman.wordpress.com.

Make time for tea today!  There are over 100 studies on tea and heart health and statistics show that 160 million Americans are drinking tea daily with black tea topping the list with 85 percent of people choosing black tea.

Research for the Fifth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health,  revealed that drinking only a cup a day of black tea can keep your blood vessel functioning well (even after a high fat meal) and lower blood pressure, reduce the incidence of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular disease by 10 percent.

The good news you are getting a lot of nutritional value for your buck – it costs a mere 3 cents to brew a cup of tea at home.  Steep it for 3 – 4 minutes to get the best benefits – and choose it unsweetened, iced or hot.

BERRIES

Strawberries

Image courtesy of driscolls.com.

Who doesn’t love to sweet pop of a fresh berries in your mouth?  From strawberries to blueberries to raspberries, exciting research is pinpointing a “berry benefit” for your heart.  Recent research in the American Heart Associations’ journal, Circulation, revealed from the Nurses’ Health Study II, which recorded the eating habits of 93,600 women ages 25- 42 years old over 18 years, that women who regularly ate (3 servings per week) strawberries and blueberries lowered their risk of heart attack by one-third over those women who didn’t eat berries regularly.  What’s the magic in berries?  It’s the bold colors from compounds called anthocyanins that are believed to dilate arteries and prevent the build up of plaque or the condition, atherosclerosis, from occuring.  This bodes well for heart health.

So how are you going to get your three servings (at least) of berries a week?  Cut up strawberries over oatmeal, toss into salads and smoothies and sprinkle over plain yogurt.  Enjoy some berries for your hearth today!

PISTACHIOS 

Pistachio heart

Image courtesy of pistachiohealth.com.

Pistachios (and other tree nuts like almonds) are heart health powerhouses.  These little nuts offer a complete package of hearth health benefits as they are  jam-packed with plant-based nutrients called phytosterols, which are great for keeping cholesterol levels in check; heart-healthy, unsaturated fats for keeping blood vessels flexible; fiber for arterial and intestinal health, and plant-proteins for fueling muscles and keeping blood sugar levels steady.

Recent research in Nutrition Reviews revealed that pistachios have blood pressure lowering properties with their high potassium levels – and five randomised trials on heart health showed that pistachios are good for blood lipid levels – so they keep the LDL (bad) cholesterol down and the HDL (good) cholesterol up. So there are scientific reasons to suggest that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts like pistachios a day is good for your heart health.  Plus, their is research to suggest that pistachios help with weight management, as well blood sugar control – all good for your heart over the long term.

Grab a handful of pistachios as a snack or sprinkle pistachios into sauces, soups and yogurt.  A serving of pistachios is 49 kernels.

Enjoy feeding your heart well!

-VSR

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding Friendly Bacteria to Boost Immunity

Today, I am the guest blogger on The Professional Hypochondriac website (take a peek for recipes, too!).  My post was on the power of probiotics (and prebiotics) to boost your immune system.  It’s such a fascinating topic as we are born with natural defenses to fight off foreign (disease-causing) invaders.  Food can help fortify our bodies with a greater microscopic fortress…

Whether you have svelte, six-pack abs or a slight muffin top, what’s under your gut’s exterior is vital to your overall health.  Your gut
is a powerhouse of metabolic activity, which keeps everything in your body functioning in good order. The intestines, small and large, are an active organ teeming with trillions of microscopic bacteria – some are believed to be beneficial bugs called ‘probiotics’, which serve as a strong fortress of immune-fighting defense; others are disease promoting pathogens a.k.a  germs trying to wage war inside of you every day.   Although your gut has a mind of its own, research shows that there’s a close link between your gut and the
emotional centers of your brain – so what you put in your stomach is directly connected to your mental well-being, too. Thus, what you eat can either make for a smoothly running stomach – or just the opposite: an unhappy, bloated and noisy tummy.

Eating gut-friendly fare filled with probiotics – or beneficial bacteria, maintains microbial balance and well-being in your gut.
Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi (Japanese pickled cabbage), contain a good amount of probiotics and fortify the lining of your intestines with immune-defending bugs like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

Additionally, there are foods that feed the good bacteria causing them to propagate on a larger scale.  These foods are called ‘prebiotics’ – they are carbohydrates that are fermented in the large intestine and fuel the beneficial microflora of your gut.  Some prebiotic-rich foods include garlic, onions, wheat, and Jerusalem artichokes.  Scientific research validates prebiotics as a viable means to benefit the microflora of our guts, according to an article in the British Journal of Nutrition (2010), as they can change the composition of your gut’s ‘ecosystem’ by enabling the good bacteria to outnumber the harmful ones.

Prebiotics may also work for a leaner gut.  Promising research in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology (November, 2011) revealed that the living landscape of your gut may have the potential to fend off fat accumulation around your middle. How does this work?   When non-digestible fiber is fermented in your large intestine by masses of microorganisms they release energy, as well as fatty acids called short-chain fatty acids (SCFA).  The microscopic munching has shown to potentially help increase energy release and metabolism – all good for promoting efficient use of your food for fuel, which can mean a leaner waistline for you!

 

Count down to FOOD DAY! Recipe 6: Raspberry Green Tea Smoothie

FoodDayLogoLinear2Our count down finishes tomorrow as Food Day celebrations happen nation-wide tomorrow! I hope you enjoy a bevy of whole, fresh, locally-grown foods with your family, friends and community.  The goal of this day is create awareness for eating REAL foods daily.   Here’s a recipe to start your day with or use as mid-morning or afternoon snack.

Raspberry Green Tea Smoothie

This frothy smoothie has refreshing hints of raspberry with the clean green tea taste.

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Yield: 2 cups      Serving size:  1 cup    Prep time: 5  minutes

 

1 cup freshly brewed green tea, cooled

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

1 cup skim or fat-free milk

2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder

1.   Steep the green tea for 3 – 4 minutes in boiling water; let cool.

2.   Combine tea, raspberries, milk, and vanilla whey powder in a blender. Puree until blended well. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Nutrition Information:

145 calories

2 g total fat

1 g saturated fat

0 g trans fat

71 mg cholesterol

51 mg sodium

8 g carbohydrates

1 g fiber

4 g sugars

25 g protein

1 mg iron

 

Happy Food Day!  I look forward to hearing about your “Eat Real” experiences tomorrow!

-VSR

 

Count down to FOOD DAY! Recipe 5: Artichoke-Inspired Salsa

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Tonight I  featured this recipe at an event at The Book Cellar in Chicago, I appreciate the flavors, versatility and ingredients in this simple salsa.  As we get closer to Food Day, it makes perfect sense to highlight a salsa made with artichokes.

Artichoke hearts are a natural for salsa as they are chunky and offer a ton of mouthfeel.  Artichokes are jammed packed with health benefits as they feed the trillions of healthy bacteria in your digestive tract, they are rich in fiber and potassium.  The trick in this recipe is using marinated artichokes.

Artichoke-Inspired Salsa

Use this salsa on fish, chicken, lean beef, or baked potatoes; it makes a great appetizer with whole grain crackers or pita chips.

Yield: 5 servings       Serving size: 1/2 cup     Prep time: 10 minutes

2 cups marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

3 Roma or plum tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoon red onion, diced

1/4 cup black olives, diced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon small capers

2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

Salt and pepper

1.   In a medium bowl, mix together artichoke hearts, tomatoes, onion, olives, garlic, salt, and pepper.

2.   Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Nutrition Information:

90 calories

4 g total fat

1 g saturated fat

0 Trans fat

0 g cholesterol

254 mg sodium

13 g carbohydrates

6 g fiber

2 sugars

4 g protein

10 percent iron

 

Enjoy!

-VSR

 

 

Countdown to FOOD DAY! Recipe 4: Marinated Tofu Veggie Kabobs

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As we move to Day 4 of our countdown to Food Day, let’s talk tofu!   What would the preamble to a day celebrating real food be without a tofu recipe?  Tofu is essentially a white cake (or block) of soybean curd.  It’s jammed packed with high quality protein, powerful plant compounds called isoflavones, which can keep your heart healthy, and can contain a fair amount of calcium (if made with calcium sulfate – check the label).

Tofu tastes pretty bland on it’s own — yet, I must confess that my 4-year old daughter and I savor it plain, devoid of sauces, dressings or marinades.  However, most people prefer flavor, thus this recipe calls for lightly marinading the tofu before skewering it with your favorite veggies.  Tofu can be blended, scrambled, baked, stir-fried, grilled and dropped  into hot or cold soups.  It’s the perfect cameleon food as tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you expose it, too.   That’s why I love it…

Marinated Tofu Veggie Kabobs

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Skewer extra-firm tofu to make the kabobs.

 

Yield: 4 kabobs     Serving size: 2 kabobs

Prep time: 15 minutes       Cook time:   10 minutes

 

 

 

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/2  tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 green onion, finely chopped

8 oz. tofu, extra-firm, cubed

1 cup baby bella mushrooms, quartered

1 zucchini, trimmed and sliced into round chunks

8 cherry tomatoes

4 mini pita breads, split in half

1.   Combine soy sauce, honey, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and green onion in a small bowl.

2.   Put tofu in a shallow bowl and pour over marinade. Cover and let soak for an hour.

3.   While tofu marinates, soak four skewers in water to stop them from burning under the broiler.

4.   Thread tofu cubes and vegetable pieces alternatively onto the skewers. Brush with some of the marinade. Cook under a hot broiler or on the grill for about 3 minutes on each side, basting occasionally, or until vegetables are tender and tofu is browned.

5.   To serve, slide kabobs off the skewers, arrange in the pita pockets, and garnish with salad leaves.

Nutrition Information:

419 calories

21 g total fat

2 g saturated fat

0 g trans fat

0 mg cholesterol

572 mg sodium

45 g carbohydrates

7 g fiber

20 g sugars

18 g protein

22 percent iron

 

Enjoy!

– VSR

 

 

 

 

Countdown to FOOD DAY! Recipe 3: Fire-Roasted Turmeric Eggplant Bake

Our countdown to Food Day continues (Day 3) with another real food recipe from my book, The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods.  Today’s feature is an eggplant dish that is reminiscent of Middle Eastern-style culinary endeavors.  This dish will ignite a fire in your belly and help to fend off inflammation with the interplay of the scientfically-praised spice, turmeric (with it’s active compound curcumin), that has been come to mean heart healthy by keeping cholesterol levels in check, and smokey paprika –  the red  hot sister to the subtle ruby pepper powder that garnishes many dishes all over the world.

Fire-Roasted Turmeric Eggplant Bake

Serve this dish with grilled salmon, chicken breast, or baked tofu. A dollop of plain yogurt will cut the spice if the spiciness is too intense. You can also put all of these ingredients in a food processor and make a tasty dip.

Yield:  2 servings     Serving size: 1/2 cup

Prep time: 5 minutes   Cook time:  30 minutes

 

1 medium eggplant, diced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon smokey paprika

2 tsp. turmeric

A pinch of salt

1.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.   Place eggplant and garlic in a baking dish, toss with olive oil, paprika, turmeric, and salt. Bake until eggplant begins to brown and get crisp; check and toss every 10 minutes.

Nutrition Information:

198 calories

14 g total fat

2 g saturated fat

0 trans fat

0 cholesterol

19 mg sodium

18 carbohydrates

10 g fiber

7 g sugars

3 g protein

8 percent iron

Enjoy this delightful eggplant bake and let me know if you do…

-VSR

Countdown to FOOD DAY! Recipe 2: Spicy Tomato and Olive Quinoa

It’s Day 2 of our countdown to Food Day.  Today’s recipe from my book, The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods, is a quinoa dish.  Quinoa (pronouced “keen-wah”) is near and dear to my heart as it imparts such a bevy of culinary possibilities, captures a variety of flavors well and is a protein-packed, fiber-filled grain.  Celebrate the power of whole grains with this tasty dish.

Spicy Tomato and Olive Quinoa

This zippy quinoa, a Mediterranean grain, is delicious by   itself as a maindish or along side tofu, shrimp, chicken, fish, and lean beef.

Yield:  6 servings    Serving size: 1/2 cup

Prep time:   5 minutes    Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup water

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 green onions (scallions), chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup black olives, pitted and sliced

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Salt to taste

1.   Rinse quinoa and add to a medium pot over medium heat with broth and water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with a fork.

2.   Add oil, green onions, cherry tomatoes, black olives, paprika, and a dash of salt. Stir gently to mix. Serve warm on a bed of leafy greens.

Nutrition Information:

174 calories

8 g total fat

1 g saturated fat

0 g trans fat

0 mg cholesterol

324 mg sodium

21 g carbohydrates

3 g fiber

2 g sugars

4 g protein

8 percent iron

 

What do you think of quinoa?  I’d love to know…

-VSR