Go Red for Women

Today is National Wear Red Day, part of American Heart Month and the Go Red for Women Campaign. The purpose is to raise awareness of cardiac disease risk factors and prevention, especially in women. More women die from cardiovascular disease in the United States than all kinds of cancer combined. I think heart disease is thought of as a man’s disease, but it is a problem for women too.

The good news is that heart disease and it’s complications of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke are largely preventable. Diet and exercise can help lower your risks.

Hopefully by now you know you should be limiting your saturated fat and sodium intakes. But what are practical ways to apply this in your diet. Here are a few tips:

1. Sub in healthier fats. Canola oil and olive oil are healthier choices than butter, shortening, and other solid fats. Use these fats when possible.

2. Try cutting the fat in half. You can often cut down the fat in recipes without changing the end result. I often use half the recommended amount of butter in cookies. If making a roux, half the amount of butter generally works as well. If something calls for a high fat sauce or dressing, cut the amount in half or serve it on the side.

3. Stop adding salt. Beyond removing the salt shaker from the table, stop adding salt in your cooking. So many ingredients in your food will already have sodium. If you are worried about the flavor, add a high sodium ingredient that adds flavor along with sodium. Cheese and soy sauce are two easy additions that bring salt and other flavors to the party. Even these should be limited. Remember, salt is an acquired or learned taste. You can lower your tolerance.

What are you doing to help your heart? What can you commit to change? Let me know in the comments!

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Sweet Potato Tots

February is also National Snack Food Month, so it’s a great time to change up your snack routine and find some healthier options. I’ll be sharing a few over the course of the next weeks. Today is sweet potato tots.

I have a strange confession – I have never seen Napoleon Dynamite. But I know enough to know he’s gotta have his tots. Tater tots are delicious, but often not the healthiest snack or side dish. Why? Pre-made tots are high in sodium. If fried, they can be quite high in fat as well. While regular potatoes do provide nutrients, you can mix up your nutrient profile with sweet potatoes.

February is also National Snack Food Month, so it’s a great time to change up your snack routine and find some healthier options

But wouldn’t making homemade sweet potato tots be hard and time consuming? No, not really. These make a great after school snack with some ranch dressing or a fun way to mix up burger night. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Tots (Serves 4-6)

Sweet Potato Tots

1 sweet potato, shredded
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
⅓ cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir well to combine, until mixture will clump together.
3. Shape vegetable mixture into “tots” and place on baking sheet.
4. Bake for 8 minutes, flip then bake for another 8-10 minutes until golden brown.

Nutrition information:

Calories: 139
Protein: 6 g
Fat: 5 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 68 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Fiber: 1 g
Sodium: 208 mg

Recipe notes: You can mix up the veggies in these tots. We’ve done mixed veggies, like carrots and broccoli, with good results as well.

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Shakshuka

Happy Hump Day! Wednesday at our house is breakfast for dinner night. I love this tradition for several reasons. First, I don’t have to think about it too much when I’m meal planning. It’s set. Second, most of the time we use staples I already buy or leftovers to supplement our meal here, so I don’t have to allot grocery budget for it. Third, breakfast is fast to cook and quick to clean up. What’s not to love?

Setting aside nights as a specific meal or type of cuisine is a great idea for meal planning. Some people go further than I do, with each night of the week assigned. I’ve even recently seen someone who has the same seven meals every week. That isn’t my cup of tea, but I understand the appeal of routine and simplicity at dinnertime.

To continue our African Heritage Week and Black History Month theme from yesterday, I’m reposting an older recipe today – Shakshuka. It fits with breakfast for dinner at my house. It’s a surprisingly easy dish that is different enough to make breakfast for dinner night feel special. The dish is of North African or Middle Eastern origin.

Shakshuka (Serves 3-4)

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1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced (preferably 2 different colors)
1 jalapeño chile, sliced into thin strips
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon paprika
1 (14-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes, crushed through your fingers a bit
6-8 eggs (depending on how many eggs each person wants)
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
6 small or 4 large whole-wheat pitas or flatbreads (optional)

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook until beginning to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic; cook one minute more. Add all the peppers; sauté until they soften, about 5 minutes more. Add cumin, oregano, marjoram, and paprika. Cook one minute more.

2. Pour in the tomatoes plus half a can of water. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionaly.

3. Warm pitas or flatbreads, if using.

4. Make indentations in the sauce for each egg. Crack an egg into each indentation. Put lid on the pot. Cook the eggs to your desired level of firmness, keeping sauce at a simmer. Scoop eggs and sauce into pitas or onto flatbreads, if using, or just onto a plate. Garnish with feta. Eat immediately.

Nutritional Information (Amount per Serving):

Calories: 443
Protein: 23 g
Fat: 19 g
Saturated Fat: 7 g
Cholesterol: 389 mg
Carbohydrates: 44 g
Fiber: 7 g
Sodium: 606 mg

Source: adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Low iodine adjustment: Skip the feta and pita.

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African Tomato and Peanut Chicken Stew

It is African Heritage Week and Black History Month. What a great time to learn about other heritages and cultures through food. This week, I’ll be highlighting some dishes inspired by African flavors and seasonings. I hope you enjoy them!

Today, it seems to be a fairly straightforward tomato and chicken stew, but then you season it with peanut butter. But it really works. And don’t be afraid of exotic foods when feeding kids. All of the not grumpy kids at my house asked for seconds of this. Serve it as is or with some rice. Enjoy!

African Tomato and Peanut Chicken Stew (Serves 6)

African Tomato and Peanut Chicken Stew

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into small pieces
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 (14.5 ounce cans) fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1. Add olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook for 1½ minutes, then toss and add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add ginger and cayenne pepper, and peanut butter, stirring to combine. Cook for 30 seconds.
3. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F and sauce thickens slightly.

Nutritional information:

Calories: 220
Protein: 21 g
Fat: 11 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 107 mg
Carbohydrates: 11 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 274 mg

Source: slightly adapted from Stone Soup

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Layered Greek Dip

I saw a funny meme awhile ago that said, “Do the chips and salsa end or do I just die or what?” It made me laugh, because I LOVE chips and salsa or any kind of dip. It’s hard for me to pass up a recipe for a new kind of dip to try.

This recipe is kind of a twist on the classic Mexican 7 layer dip. I love Greek or Mediterranean flavors. This dip is also extremely flexible – use the parts you like, leave off parts you don’t. Mix it up. This can also be made in smaller portions for a quick healthy lunch with crackers/pita chips, or made onto a bagel for a yummy vegetarian sandwich!

Layered Greek Dip (Serves about 8)

Layered Greek Dip

1 cup hummus
¾ cup plain nonfat greek yogurt (about 1 small container)
1 cup chopped spinach or lettuce
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
½ cup chopped kalamata olives
2 T. crumbled feta cheese

1. Spread hummus on serving plate. Carefully spread yogurt on top. Sprinkle remaining toppings in successive layers on top.

2. Chill or serve immediately. Serve with pita chips, crackers, or tortilla chips.

Nutritional information:

Calories: 107
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 7 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 3 mg
Carbohydrates: 7 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 231 mg

Recipe notes: I usually only put olives on half when I’m making this for a crowd, since they are kind of a divisive ingredient. If you have flavored hummus or tzatziki sauce, definitely use those in place of the regular hummus and yogurt.

Source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Steak and Feta Quesadillas

What game day foods are your favorites? Wings? Pizza? Chips and dip? We keep it a bit more snack and finger food at our house typically. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat only unhealthy foods.

Today’s recipe is great for your game watching party or a quick weeknight dinner. The spinach packs a great nutritional punch without being an overpowering flavor. Using cream cheese and just a sprinkling of feta lowers the sodium compared to a normal cheesy quesadilla. Enjoy!

Steak and Feta Quesadillas (Serves 4, as a meal)

Steak and Feta Quesadillas

1 T. olive oil
1 large (10-12 oz) sirloin steak, thinly sliced*
½ large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 ounces ⅓ less fat cream cheese
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
4 large whole wheat tortillas
¼ cup low fat sour cream

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook steak about 3 minutes, or until beginning to brown.

2. Add onions and garlic; cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until onion beginning to soften.

3. Add spinach, cream cheese, and feta. Cook, stirring, until cream cheese is melted. Remove from pan (if using same pan for quesadillas).

4. Wipe pan clean (if using same pan). Heat same skillet (or a griddle) to medium-high heat. Place one tortilla in pan. Cook for 1 minute, until beginning to warm. Flip. Spoon about 1/3 cup steak mixture evenly over half of tortilla. Fold tortilla in half. Cook for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until each side is crisp. Repeat with remaining quesadillas.

5. Cut into wedges to serve. Serve with sour cream.

Nutritional Analysis:

Calories: 420
Protein: 25 g
Fat: 24 g
Saturated Fat: 11 g
Cholesterol: 85 g
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 414 mg

Recipe notes: You could use a variety of different meats here. I’ve used sirloin, flank steak, and leftover tri-tip. It all turns out really well.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Buffalo Chicken Wings

The Super Bowl is this Sunday! I’m not a particularly huge football fan, but I do enjoy watching games with my husband. I also like all the food that goes along with watching the Super Bowl. It’s a fun time to make a spread of yummy snacks and spend time together.

Chicken wings are a classic game day food. With the skin on and frying them, these are typically not the healthiest snack. This recipe skips the frying to lower the fat content. If you put the wings on a rack during the broiling, some of the fat will also drain off. Top with whatever sauce you like. I used buffalo sauce for a traditional approach. This recipe is just a general guideline, so there won’t be any nutrition analysis this time. Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings – with the joint separated
Buffalo Sauce
Celery
Ranch or Bleu Cheese Dressing

1. Place chicken wings in slow cooker with ½ a cup of sauce. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until tender.

2. Heat broiler to hi. Line a baking sheet with foil. If possible, place metal rack on top of foil.

3. Carefully put wings on prepared baking sheet. Lightly coat each wing with sauce. Broil on high for 2-4 minutes, just until outside is crisping. You can turn partway through if needed to crisp all the sides.

4. Serve with additional sauce, celery, and dressing.

Recipe notes: You could use whatever sauce you like. The slow cooker makes the wings very tender and juicy. By cooking them in the sauce, the flavor is in the meat already, so you don’t need to coat them with as much sauce later.

What is your favorite game day food? Did you make this recipe? Let me know in the comments.

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