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4 Great Grains To Add To Your Diet Today

Posted: October 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Pantry staples | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Whole grains are ideal foods to add to your lunches. Healthy and versatile, a small portion of grain can help fill you up and leave you satiated. They can be tossed with vegetables to make a pilaf, added by the handful to soups, or mixed in to salads to add texture and flavor.

While most people are used to using only a handful of grains (or perhaps even just rice), there are so many options in a range of flavors and textures. Try adding one of these five toothsome grains to add new dimension to your mid-day meal.

Bulgur Wheat

image (Photo: PurcellMountainFarms)

A type of grain originally from the Middle East, made by cooking wheatberries, drying them out, and cracking off the bran. It’s the main ingredient in Tabbouleh, a middle eastern salad with tomatoes and parsley. Bulgur cooks quickly in under 20 minutes – either soaking in boiling water or simmering.

Millet

image  (Photo: Enlightened Cooking)

Millet is a staple grain in India, although it is eaten all over asia and even in some areas of eastern Europe. It is commonly served as a porridge, but lends itself well to curries, and served with beans and squashes. It is best cooked by toasting the grains lightly, and simmering with a liquid for 35 minutes or so.

Quinoa

image (Photo: OrganicJar.com)

Not a true grain, Quinoa is technically a member of the grass family, very high in protein. It was historically eaten by the Incas, and is widely used in South America, particularly Peru. It’s taste is slightly nutty, and can be used in place of rice. It tastes particularly delicious with fruit and nuts as a breakfast grain. To cook, rinse quinoa well (to remove the saponins – natural plant defense – which cause bitterness), and cook for about 15-18 minutes.

Buckwheat

image (Photo: Gratio)

Buckwheat is a grain most commonly used in Eastern Europe (the ingredient in Kasha – a pasta dish with buckwheat and onions) as well as in Asian cuisine as the main ingredient in Soba noodles. It is also commonly ground into a flour, and used (for example) in pancakes. It is nutty in flavor, and cooks in 15-20 minutes.

Ready to start cooking? Here are a few cookbooks filled with useful grain recipes to help get you started.

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Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living – for quick weekday meals, with very simple ingredients and ideas for experimentation and substitution based on what you have in your pantry.

Lorna Sass’s Whole Grains for Busy People: Fast, Flavor-Packed Meals and More for Everyone – For quick, everyday recipes based on whole grains in a variety of different preparations and flavor profiles.

And a few more ideas on the subject over at The Second Lunch:


8 Healthy Breakfasts

Posted: July 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

How many days do you wake up and consume only a cup of coffee before heading out to work? We all know that eating breakfast is the right choice – but how often do we just live our lives skipping that oh-so-important meal? If you aren’t in the habit of eating breakfast – start now! Here are eight of my favorite breakfasts – ranging from traditional, to not so traditional.

1. Oatmeal: Cook a pot of steel cut oats at the beginning of the week. Serve yourself 1/2 a cup of cooked oats, with an optional 1/2 cup of milk (or almond milk), a tablespoon of nut butter. When you get into the habit of eating oatmeal, you can have a lot of fun with it. Sometimes I add coconut butter, or dried fruit, or maple syrup, or fresh berries. I’ll stir in a spoonful of nutella for a sweet kick, or go savory and add spinach, garlic and soy sauce.

2. Open faced sandwich – A slice of whole grain toast, topped with a tablespoon of nut butter (peanut, or go peanut free – I like Barney Butter) and a large orange. Or, instead of nut butter, I might top it with hummus, and serve it with carrot sticks or red bell pepper.

3. Whole Grain Pancakes – Make your own pancake mix, or use a healthy (just add water) mix such as Bob’s Red Mill, or Kodiak Cakes flapjack mix. I like these because I can make myself a single pancake, and not have to crack open any eggs. Top with 1/2 cup of fresh berries such as raspberries or blueberries, and a tablespoon of real maple syrup.

4. Eggs – 2 egg omelet with 1/2 cup chunky salsa. If I’m hungry, I’ll add a half cup or so of cooked beans as well. Also tastes delicious with a boatload of spinach.

5. Yogurt cup – 1/2 cup of plain, full fat yogurt. Top with 1/4 cup granola or rolled oats, a tablespoon of jam, and if desired some sweetener such as a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup. Add fresh berries if you have any.

6. Cereal –  If you adore cereal, look for cereals with HIGH FIBER (5 grams per serving or more), and LOW SUGAR. A favorite of mine is Trader Joe’s High Fiber Oh’s. Stick to the serving size, and actually portion out the cereal rather than pouring directly into the bowl.

7. Overnight Oats – The night before, add half a cup of rolled oats (raw), 1/4 cup of yogurt, and 1/4 cup of milk or almond milk. Top with a few dashes of cinnamon, and stir. In the morning, take it out, give it a stir, and eat! Sometimes I pour some real maple syrup or honey on in the morning as well, and top with fruit if I have some.

8. Turkish Breakfast – a small slice (1 ounce or so) of Turkish white cheese (brands such as Valbreso or use feta), a few slices each of cucumber and tomato, a few olives. And a hard boiled egg if desired. Serve with a slice of toast or pita, and honey or jam to drizzle.


5 Healthy and Tasty Summer Snacks

Posted: June 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Healthy Snacks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Have you noticed yourself aimlessly eating as you prepare your dinner? Maybe a few bites of something as you gather your ingredients from the fridge. A little piece of cheese… A spoonful of peanut butter… A few tears of the loaf of bread that you have to eat with your meal which turns into eating half the loaf?

Although I prefer to eat three square meals, I find that a small afternoon snack often helps reduce my tendency to munch before dinner. And I don’t even think about those ‘100-calorie snack packs’ which leave me hungry and craving the real thing- my snacks are real food that pack in nutrition rather than the calories.

Here are my current five favorite summer snacks.

1. Oatmeal parfait – In a small container, layer 1/2 cup raw rolled oats, with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup blueberries, and 1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt. For a hint of added sweetness, add a tablespoon of real maple syrup. You can make this in the morning and take it to work with you for the afternoon – it tastes better if the yogurt has time to soften the oats.

2. Vegetable and Hummus Bento – Chop up celery, carrots, red pepper, zucchini sticks, or any vegetable you have on hand, and place in a small tuperware or lock ‘n lock. In a small muffin tin place a quarter cup hummus, nestle it in between the vegetables, and dip! (You might notice in the photo above, I added up a crumbled up Wasa cracker and a small piece of dark chocolate to add a little variety. Tasty!)

3. Mint Melon Agua Fresca – In a blender, place 1/2 a melon (honeydew or cantaloupe) cubed, a few fresh mint leaves, the juice of 1/2 a lime, 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional), and some ice. Blend, pour into a cup, and become instantly refreshed!

4. Pita Pizza – top a small whole wheat pita with a thin layer (about a tablespoon) of marinara sauce (or salsa, or barbecue sauce) and top with one ounce of grated pepper jack cheese. Bake in the oven at 450 degrees until the cheese is just melted and pita is crisp. (This also works well on an english muffin.)

5. Chopped Cucumber and Yogurt – top 1 cup of chopped cucumber with 1/2 cup thick greek yogurt, and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Squeeze on the juice of half a lemon, a drizzle with a teaspoon of good olive oil, and if desired, add a few tablespoons of freshly chopped dill. (Also works well with cottage cheese.)

What are your favorite summer snacks???

For more healthy snack ideas, check out these great posts:

My Post on Healthy Snacking via Healthylunchidea.com
Spicy Cruncy Chickpea Snack – via JustHungry.com
Chile Lime Tequila Popcorn – via 101cookbooks.com
Crunchy Granola Bars – via Apartment Therapy
Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars – via KathEats.com


Hiking the Dipsea

Posted: May 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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One of the goals that my study group is holding me accountable to is doing one fun exercise activity each week. This can be something new – a spin class, rock climbing, walking to some crazy new destination, etc. For this week, I chose a local bay area hike – the Dipsea – 679 steps + a 6 or so mile hike out from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. I recruited my friend Sondy, a Bay Area native, and friend from college to lead the way.

The trail is outrageously beautiful, and includes sections through woods, out in the open, around big hills, and up and down them. Not for the totally out of shape hiker, but not particularly challenging for someone in shape.

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I wore my Vibram Five Fingers, odd looking shoes certainly, but supremely fun to wear. And to meet people with – I must have been asked about them five times by hikers on the trail. Sondy, the amazing woman she is, did about 6 of the 7 miles *actually barefoot*.

As for food on the trip:

Before the hike: Oats in a jar – steel cut oatmeal, in the bottom of an (almost empty) Barney Butter jar with a tablespoon of Nutella. Portable and easy for my commute to Mill Valley. (MUNI and Golden Gate Transit).
During the hike: Dried dates – you know, the little date pieces that look like worms. (About 1/2 a cup, total). Water. A piece of dried mango, offered up by another hiker.
Post hike: Meal at the Sand Dollar – a (small) hamburger with cheese and no bun, fries, a pickle, and lettuce.
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After lunch, we wandered around Stinson Beach until the Stagecoach came and picked us up to head back to Mill Valley. When we arrived, we walked the mile and a half back to our car. Yeehaw!


3 Easy Weeknight Dinners

Posted: May 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Dinner, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

After a few weeks of a lack of moderation, I’ve come back to a healthy focus. That’s what healthy living is about – finding moderation, and course correcting when you’ve been a little bit too loose with yourself. For me this means:

1) 1 hour of exercise at least 5x a week (if not all seven days). Ideally, it would be 350 minutes of exercise per week, and a combination of low, moderate, and high intensity.

2) Planned dinners (and leftovers for lunch) I eat most of my meals at home, but planning my meals ahead of time ensures that I have food on hand for making dinners, and that I make balanced choices ahead of time instead of getting hungry, cranky, tired, and making less than healthy choices.

3) Happiness boosters! I find that when I’m living the healthiest, I’m not just focusing on food and fitness, but about making a point to spend time with friends, doing fun things, and doing new things. It helps fill an emotional hunger and keeps me satiated with my food choices.

Here are some of my dinners over the past few days:

1. Spicy Moroccan Fish Stew from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Mine had cod, shrimp, and rather than couscous, I served it over some bulgur pilaf. I also added in a handful of edamame and frozen corn. This only got better the next day for leftovers – I ate all the fish during dinner, but the shrimp kept quite well the next day, and the flavors really had a chance to mellow. I’ve been having really good success with this cookbook.

2. Carrot Salad with lemon dressing and parsley, Israeli Cous Cous (Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend), and a ground beef saute. For this dinner, I sauteed some onion and frozen bell pepper mix until soft and slightly browned, and then added in the ground beef with some oregano, salt and pepper. This is one of those mish mash meals that didn’t quite go as planned (I was going to make turkish meatballs) but tasted good just the same. The carrots were from my Farm Fresh to You box.

3. Grilled Pork Loin, with Roasted Baby Potatoes, and Spinach Salad with Tomatoes, Grilled Asparagus and Lemon Dressing. After going on a long walk this afternoon, I stopped by Bi-rite market to look at all the BEAUTIFUL produce. I ended up grabbing some spinach, asparagus, and (I-know-they-are-out-of-season-but-I-wanted-them-anyways-tomatoes). This meal was so simple to put together. As soon as I got home I put the potatoes in the oven to roast at 450. I then grilled the asparagus and set them aside. I put together the salad, made the dressing. Then I grilled the pork for about 10 minutes – getting a good sear on both sides, and deglazing the pan with a little white wine. At the end I broiled the potatoes for about 5 minutes while I let the pork rest. Then tossed the asparagus into the salad, dressed it, and served everything up!

A little note on accountability: After struggling for the past few weeks to get things under control, I met with my health coach study group. At the end of our meeting, we each set goals for ourselves for the week, and shared what we wanted to be held accountable for. My goals for the week are – daily exercise, avoiding eating until stuffed, and doing one new and exciting fitness activity.

Today’s Exercise: 10k steps (walking to work + 1.25 hour walk through the castro/mission)

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