Monday, December 30, 2013

Salmon Croquettes

We're back from a week long trip to the Arizona. It was beautiful, sunny and warm - a much needed getaway from the frustrations of snow and cold! While I love being at home, I didn't get to cook much at all, and  I've definitely missed it!

The one  problem of coming home after a long trip? Almost zero fresh food in the fridge. Well, almost zero fresh food, except for the orange that I left out on the counter, which had completely rotted away. Disgusting.

Leaving work, I did a quick run through of what little food we had left in the pantry - didn't I have some canned salmon? I'd never cooked with it before and a good friend - and amazing florist! ;) - had recommended a salmon croquette recipe after my previous post on zucchini fritters. Done - salmon croquettes it was. I just had to swing by the little Italian market near us to pick up a few fresh ingredients on my way home.

This is a really simple and delicious recipe that requires minimal effort. You'll be done in 30 minutes, max. The only real preparation is chopping shallots, garlic, and green onions. After that, mix, form patties, and cook through. Serve with a side of green beans or potatoes for a quick, healthy dinner. The hefty protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber from the cooked oats makes this one powerhouse of dish. This recipe makes 9 croquettes, so you'll likely have leftovers too!

Salmon Croquettes

1 can (14.75 oz) Alaskan wild-caught salmon (I used Bumble Bee)

2 sprigs green onion

1 shallot (or 1/2 onion)

1 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp dill (fresh or dried)

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 large egg

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

Pepper to taste

Olive oil

1. Chop shallot and garlic. Saute in a large skillet until translucent and fragrant

2. Add shallot and garlic to a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients

3. Mix until thoroughly incorporated

4. Form into 1/4 cup patties

5. Fry lightly until heated through and lightly browned

I can't believe I haven't discovered canned salmon earlier. Nutritionally, it's just as sound as fresh fish (just as high in omega-3 fatty acids and even higher in calcium, if bones are included), and the shelf life is obviously much longer. I've tried frozen salmon before, but I find that it just never tastes quite the same when reheated. Eating fresh fish requires frequent trips to the store - and not only am I usually pressed for time, but the anemic pale-pink farmed salmon at the closest supermarket just doesn't look that appealing. If only Whole Foods were closer...

Of course, with canned fish (tuna, salmon, etc), there's always the concern for exposure to chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA). But so far, there has not been conclusive evidence of harm in human adults (most of the concern stems from animal studies). There is a somewhat higher level of concern with BPA exposure in pregnancy/childhood, but more human studies are needed to corroborate the existing animal data. You can read more about BPA at the NIH website. For now, occasional consumption of this highly nutritious fish will be a delicious part of our life!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rosemary & Goat Cheese Biscuits

It's freezing here - below freezing to be exact. The snow is just so beautiful and I love the feeling of being enveloped in a soft white cocoon when I step outside. This winter beauty almost balances out the frustrations of winter driving - something that I'm very new to! This cold weather has left me craving something rich and delicious. I've been meaning to waste less food, and we currently have a large container of goat cheese in the fridge. I've heard of using goat cheese in savory shortbread cookies (so delicious!), so I thought - why not a biscuit? 

These are delicious and as always, filled with simple wholesome ingredients: whole wheat flour ans olive oil. The more indulgent element is the goat cheese - but just a little goes a long way! The goat cheese lends a different, tangy and creamy flavor to these biscuits. And something about herbs and goat cheese is oh-so-right. They're perfect warm from the oven - as soon as you bite into them, you'll see what I mean. Warm, tangy, herby, and creamy - is there anything better? 

Disclaimer: This recipe does not make a traditional fluffy-fluffy biscuit, although there are still layers of flavor. This is because whole wheat flour retains all parts of the grain (the good-for-you, fiber and vitamin-rich bran, germ, and endosperm) and is therefore denser. It won't puff up as much as your traditional biscuit, but it is still undeniably delicious. I'm more than happy to trade some fluff (literally!) for more nutrition - are you? Give these a try - I think you'll like them :)

Rosemary & Goat Cheese Biscuits

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but this is flexible)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and rosemary leaves in a large bowl

3. Stir in milk, olive oil, and goat cheese

4. Mix until just combined

5. Flatten dough into a rectangle, approximately 1 inch thick

6. Cut circular rounds (this should yield 8 biscuits)

7. Bake for 13 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on the pan. Enjoy! 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pomegranate + Kale & Walnut Quinoa

This is a quick, healthy, and beautiful recipe that I adapted from a recipe at Pinch of Yum. It's the best kind of food - great inside and out. The salad is simple - quinoa, pomegranate seeds walnuts, and kale. The slightly sweet and tangy dressing can be easily made in a food processor with just a few simple ingredients. I'm not sure you could get healthier than this:

 - quinoa for whole grains and plenty of protein (also great for those on gluten-free diets)
 - pomegranate (lots of antioxidants)
 - kale (cruciferous vegetable packed with calcium, vitamins, and minerals),
 - walnuts (omega-3s)

I mean, this is really a powerhouse of a salad. And it's beautiful to look at!

This is a great salad to serve for the holidays - it's pretty (the pomegranate seeds look like little rubies), filling, and a great complement to almost any dish. I love the subtle fruity burst when you bite into the pomegranate seeds. If you like, a sprinkling of goat cheese or feta can work with this too. This salad can easily stand on its own for lunch or a light dinner as well!

Pomegranate, Kale, & Walnut Quinoa 

For the salad... 

1 cup pomegranate seeds (if you're new to pomegranate, please take a look at this tutorial on extracting the seeds. Otherwise you'll have blood-red mini bombs exploding all over you)

2 cups chopped kale

2 cups cooked quinoa

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

1/4 cup goat cheese or feta cheese (optional)

For the dressing....

1/2 cup minced onion or shallot

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp honey

1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

Juice of half a lemon

1. Prepare two cups of cooked quinoa. While cooking, prepare pomegranate seeds and chop kale and walnuts. Combine ingredients in a large bowl. 

Aren't these pretty?

2. Prepare dressing. Start by cooking shallot/onion in 1/2 tbsp olive oil until fragrant

3. Combine shallot/onion, remaining 1.5 tbsp olive oil, honey, water, apple cider vinegar, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor

4. Pulse until thoroughly combined 

5. Pour dressing over salad and toss lightly

6. Stir in 1/2 cup of feta or goat cheese if you like

This salad is a great way to end or start the year on a healthy note - Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Organic Whole Milk: More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Yesterday, NPR's The Salt blog featured the article Fresh Research Finds Organic Milk Packs In Omega-3s. The study is published in PLOS One and spans 18 months, comparing milk from conventionally fed cows (feed rich in corn and soy beans) and organically fed cows (pasture-fed, including grass and legumes). The findings? Organic whole milk contains approximately 60% higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and 25% lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids. 

The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids has been studied extensively, and currently evidence supports  a target omega-3/omega-6 ratio of 2.3:1 to minimize cardiovascular risk. The typical Western diet typically contains dramatically higher omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids (the ratio is estimated to be around 10-15:1. The tendency to shy away from full fat dairy products (for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends switching to reduced fat milk by age 2) stems from the relatively high amount of saturated fat, which has been linked to higher LDL levels. Yet, there has not been a lot of research into the potentially cardioprotective effects of dairy products. 

Alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the three main omega-3 fatty acids, all of which play a vital role in controlling inflammation, blood clotting, and numerous other functions for optimal health. In particular, inflammation has been posited to play a role in a variety of disease states, including autoimmunity and cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids dampen inflammatory cytokines, while omega-6 fatty acids to not, hence the goal of higher omega-3 fatty acids to achieve a overall anti-inflammatory state. 

This is the first large study in the United States comparing omega-3 and omega-6 content of organic vs. non-organically raised cows and arguably, further studies should specifically assess the health outcomes (cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmunity) of those whole consume organic, full fat dairy products. 

For now, there are already many well-established rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids - flax seeds, walnuts, and salmon are the big three that come to mind. Although dairy is higher in saturated fat, it is certainly not overwhelming if consumed as part of an overall balanced diet. This new data promises to bring a delicious new actor to the omega-3 fatty acid stage. I'll drink a tall glass of organic whole milk to that! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Peppered Rosemary Pear Crisp

I recently came across a recipe for rosemary pear crisp. I love rosemary - and the woodsy, pine-sy (is that a word?) scent is just right for the holidays. Rosemary is one of those great herbs that can do just as well in sweet and savory dishes. The combination of rosemary, lemon, and pear - topped with pepper was just enough to intrigue me - reminiscent of one of my favorite kinds of chocolate: dark chocolate with lemon and pepper. There's just something about that unexpected kick that hooks me immediately. 

This delight of this recipe is in the unexpected - pears with a subtle rosemary perfume, just enough rich streusel, topped off with a peppery surprise. To top it off, there's little added sugar, so this is something you can feel good about eating for dessert and breakfast! 

The ingredients for this are simple - pears, rosemary, lemon, pepper, and a simple streusel topping. I wanted the pears and rosemary to be the stars of the show, so I modified the recipe slightly, cutting down the amount of streusel sprinkled on top. If you want more streusel, just double the ingredients for it. So without further ado...

Lemon Rosemary Pear Crisp

4 Bosc pears 

Juice of half a lemon

2 sprigs rosemary

1/4 cup oats (quick or rolled are both fine)

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp butter

1/8 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Cube pears into bite-sized pieces (approximately 1 inch cubes)

2. Toss pears with lemon juice

3. Lightly spray the bottom of your pan and place the two rosemary sprigs at the bottom

4. Mix the whole wheat flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in butter and use a fork to combine until a coarse streusel mixture forms

5. Add pears to pan, placing them on top of the rosemary sprigs. Top with streusel

6. Crack some freshly ground pepper (generously!) over the streusel

7. Bake for 40 minutes, or until pears give when pierced

8. Top with ice cream, whipped cream, or yogurt - and enjoy. 

Hope the little bit of spice keeps you warm during these chilly days - Happy holidays! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

It's a lazy Sunday morning here and boy is it cold - the high is 36F today! As much as I'll grudgingly admit that winter is here, I refuse to completely say goodbye to fall. Because that means saying goodbye to pumpkins - just ask my husband how much I love pumpkins. One of our earlier dates was going pumpkin picking in the fall (I'm pretty sure he was wondering - what are you, 5 years old??). But, being the sweetheart he is, he went anyway. My parents took us apple and pumpkin picking every year when we were little - hayrides, apple cider, the pumpkin patch - the whole deal. I'm still working on growing up, so why stop pumpkin picking now? 

Since it's the perfect day for a relaxed breakfast at home, I made whole wheat pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes. If you miss Thanksgiving, these are perfect for you - the pumpkin and spices will take you right back to.....last week. I know. I get nostalgic easily. These are really great whole wheat pancakes - they're thick yet light and fluffy, filled with whole grains, and touched with fall spices and dark chocolate. Paired with a cup of coffee, they're the perfect start to a slow weekend morning! 

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 large egg
1 cup milk 
1/2 cup pumpkin 
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Mix dry ingredients (flour, oats, salt, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice) in a large bowl

2. Whisk egg and milk together and stir in pumpkin, yogurt, vanilla, and brown sugar)

3. Mix until just combined

4. Stir in chocolate chips

5. Heat griddle over medium heat. Coat with olive oil or cooking spray

6. Once hot, drop 1/4 cup of batter on the griddle. Cook until the edges are dry and bubbles start to form on the center or sides, approximately 1 minute

7. Flip and cook until cooked through, approximately 2 minutes

8. Top with maple syrup, butter, or anything you like - and enjoy! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pear + Apple + Berry Bake

The holiday season is full of delicious spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, ginger, just to name a few. I'm feeling the holiday spirit and nothing makes home more cozy than holiday decorations and the warm smells of these spices! I wanted to create a healthy baked fruit recipe that can be enjoyed as dessert, or just as easily as breakfast. Aside from the natural pairing of apple with cinnamon and nutmeg, I added pears and berries for a little extra tartness and zest.

As for the topping, I wanted to avoid butter-ladened streusel, so I opted for pre-made pie crust, cut into strips instead.  You can think of it as an upside-down pie. I've never had the patience to roll out pie crust on my own, but if you have the inclination, I'm sure it would work just as well!

This is a delicious recipe and so very easy to put together - just slice up the fruit, mix with spices and sugar, and top with your crust. You don't need a lot of sugar (baking will bring out the natural sweetness of the fruit), which is great. This will smell heavenly as the fruit starts to bake and blend with the cinnamon and nutmeg.

You can vary the types of pears and apples you use, depending on your preferences. Some fruits will bake better than others, due to varying water content - for example, don't try to bake Macintosh apples or Bartlett pears. They'll literally melt. Just so you have a few more bake-friendly apple and pear options:

Apples: Granny smith, Crispin, Pink Lady, Fuji, Cortland
Pears: Bosc, Anjou

I love this recipe because it's versatile, easy to put together, and full of great fruits that pack a hefty dose of fiber, vitamin C, and natural sugars to fuel your body healthily - things we all need, especially during the holidays! 

Pear + Apple + Berry Bake

3 pears (I used medium-sized Bosc pears)
1 large apple (I used Honeycrisp)
1.5 cups mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 cup brown sugar
Pie crust, cut into strips

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Slice apples into 1/4 inch wedges and pears into bite-sized chunks (very precise, I know)

2. Add mixed berries

3. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Toss to combine thoroughly

4. Lightly grease the bottom of an 8 x 12 inch pan

5. Add fruit to pan, cover with strips of crust

6. Brush top with milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar

7. Bake for 50 minutes. Test for doneness by piercing apple with a fork; it should give easily.

The warm tartness of the apples and berries are a perfect complement to the luscious, sweeter pear. Enjoy with a small scoop of ice cream for dessert, or with some yogurt for a quick and healthy breakfast! 

Thanks for reading! What are your favorite fruit recipes? 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Greek Yogurt Substitution Chart

Since I've been on such a greek yogurt fix lately, I thought i'd share this handy chart, courtesy of Chobani.

The possibilities are endless - for baking, main courses, etc. For example, I'd love to try a cheesecake with some greek yogurt substituted in. I hope you find this helpful!

What's your favorite recipe using greek yogurt?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

School Lunches - Virtually Nonexistent

The article "These Days, School Lunch Hour is More Like 15 minutes" was featured in NPR's food blog, The Salt. I can't quite recall how long my school lunches were, but I'm fairly certain lunch period was more than 15 minutes. I believe it was closer to a 30-40 minutes.

The irony of this whole situation is that the government has tried to impose new standards to encourage healthier eating, through increased consumption and availability of fresh produce. Failing to realize that preparing healthier, whole foods takes more time simply makes these well-intentioned changes moot. The whole reason why school cafeterias turn to processed foods is that they are faster and cheaper to make, serve, and eat. I think it's virtually impossible to apply the fast food "time table" if schools realistically want to serve healthier, less processed foods. If we try to apply fast food timing to healthy food, everyone ends up back at square one.

In my opinion, the lack of attention paid to food and nutrition generally reflects our society's workaholic culture and subsequent obsession with convenience. Many of the original fast foods (like hamburgers and hot dogs) were designed with factory workers in mind - eat quickly and get back to work. While these meals filled stomachs, they were obviously  not nutritionally ideal.  Since most modern Americans are generally more sedentary today, this eating style is maladaptive. As a country, we need an serious attitude overhaul when it comes to food.

In the backdrop of our country, where up to a third of children and adolescents are obese, establishing healthy eating patterns needs to start early, in the home and in school. And that means not giving students 15 minutes to scarf down unhealthy, processed foods. While the political backdrop makes offering healthy choices to students difficult, there have been some encouraging examples (see an example in a Brooklyn school here). Many schools are facing budget cuts and increasing pressure to increase instruction time to boost standardized test scores. However, it makes no sense whatsoever to cut time from lunch. Investing in childrens' health, well-being, and education should be paramount for our society. Why are we choosing only one or the other?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Greek Yogurt Egg Salad

I love eggs. I always have - just ask my parents. I could knock back 3 to 4 at a time when I was little!  But really, what's not to love? Eggs are a fantastic source of protein, lutein (crucial for eye health), and vitamin D.

 Although eggs (yolks specifically) are high in cholesterol, the degree to which dietary cholesterol affects blood LDL cholesterol levels is somewhat variable and depends on your genetic makeup. If you are healthy with normal cholesterol levels, the American Heart Association recommends up to 300 mg cholesterol a day, and up to 200 mg/day if you have heart disease or elevated cholesterol. A single egg (with yolk) has approximately 186 mg cholesterol.

To all fellow egg lovers out there, this is a great egg salad recipe to try. Instead of mayo, slash calories and saturated fat by guessed it: greek yogurt. As much as I love traditional egg salad, the yolks are creamy enough by themselves. There's really no need to slather them in mayonnaise when greek yogurt is just as creamy - and much, much healthier. Is there anything I won't put Fage in/on? The answer is no. 

Best part about this recipe? It makes a lot of egg salad - lunch next week anyone?

Greek Yogurt Egg Salad

9-12 eggs
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dill 
1 tbsp dijon mustard
dash of salt and pepper 

1. Boil Eggs (if you're new to this, there is a great guide here). This will be the most time consuming part (warm up to finish, about 20 minutes)

2. When eggs are cooked, submerge them in a cold water bath.

3. Drain water from bowl, dab eggs to remove excess moisture.

4. Peel eggs and return them to the same bowl.

5. Mash eggs with a fork into bite sized pieces. Have fun with this.

6. Add dijon mustard, paprika, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

7. Mix well and enjoy.

Let me know how this turns out for you!


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Monday, December 2, 2013

The Masculine Mystique

Browsing the NYTimes, I came across the article "The Masculine Mystique", which details the expanding client base of women and transgender men who want expertly tailored, masculine-looking suits. Everyone knows that a great outfit can boost your mood and help you feel more confident. Why should anyone be constrained to - as one woman put it - clothes that either don't fit your physique or don't fit your sense of self?

I love this - it's inspiring. I'm glad that someone is making suits that make these women look and feel handsome and empowered - keep up the good work!