All posts by Bret Gallacher

Healthy-ing Up Your Pancakes

Pancakes are often thought of as a hearty breakfast option. Perhaps this is due, in part, to rich tales of burley, plaid-shirted, flapjack-eating Paul Bunyan and his axemen. I hate to ruin your illusion, but this gargantuan lumberjack was not dining on your typical fluffy, white pancakes to fuel his heroic exploits. Traditional pancakes, made primarily from water and whole grains, were first consumed more than 30,000 years ago and have been a nutritious staple of many cultures since, including the lumberjacks of the north east that inspired the tall tales. It’s only in the past 100 years that we’ve transitioned to sugary batters made with refined flours and covered in syrups, sauces, jams, and jellies. While the modern dessert-like pancake is not likely to provide the solid nutrition you need to start your day, you can healthy it up. Here are a few tips to bring the hearty back to your pancakes:

  • Look for 100%-whole-grain mixes – You don’t have to be Julia Child to make a great hearty pancake. Bob’s Red Mill, Hodgson Mill, Wheat Montana Farms and Bakery, and Kodiak Cakes all make great pancake mixes from 100% whole grains.
  • Watch for added sugar – Buy pancake mixes with less than 4 g sugar per serving and look for recipes with no more than 1 tbsp sugar per cup flour (1/4 cup sugar per 4 cups flour). You can reduce the sugar or completely eliminate it from your recipes yourself as well.
  • Think portions and food pairings– Eating a small sugary pancake with a more nutritious entre can still be a healthy meal. A favorite brunch of mine is a frittata made with egg and sautéed vegetables and a four inch pancake with strawberries and whipped cream for dessert.
  • Flavor with fresh fruit and spices – Skip the syrup and use fresh bananas, berries, peaches, unsweetened applesauce, or other fruit to top your pancakes. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla are among the many spices that can add flavor to your pancakes without the sugar.
  • Add nuts – Nuts are a great source of fiber, protein, healthy fats, and a variety of other nutrients. Chopped nuts can be added to any pancake recipe or mix without modifying it and nut butters make delicious spreads.
  • Incorporate veggies – Pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, and carrots all make great sweet pancakes. Zucchini, onion, and leafy greens are best as savory pancakes. Pumpkin or sweet potato pancake mixes are also common but look for one with at least 25% of your daily intake of vitamin A to ensure it has a substantial amount of these vegetables.

Wishing you a heartier start to your day,
Ron

Lettuce Agree to Eat More Lettuce

Nearly 2/3rds of all lettuce we eat is iceberg. Unfortunately, iceberg has far fewer nutrients than any other lettuce type. For example, romaine has 2x the fiber, 17x the vitamin A, 8x the vitamin C, 4x the vitamin K, and 5x the folate of iceberg lettuce! With numerous lettuces available in your produce department that are more flavorful and nourishing than iceberg, I think it’s time we start changing our lettuce habits.

Lettuce and salad greens are often used interchangeably because they are eaten in a similar way. While lettuce is a type of salad green, there are many greens, including arugula, cabbage, dandelion, kale, and spinach, that are not lettuce. In general, lettuce is generally tenderer, with a milder flavor than most other salad greens. While all salad greens are great additions to your diet, the following is a description of common lettuces you’ll find in your grocery store and how to start using them.

  • Butter/Boston – Butterhead lettuces are one of the more tender varieties available and come in small heads. They lack the stiff center rib of many other lettuces which gives them a smooth texture…smooth as, well, butter.
    HOW TO USE: Butter lettuce is often used in lettuce wraps because the leaves are pliable and easy to roll. It also makes a great addition to salads or other dishes when you don’t want the texture of the lettuce to detract.
    CAUTION: butterhead have a mildly sweet flavor that can work well to compliment your dish or can detract when a bitterer flavor is needed.
  • Red & Green Leaf Lettuce – The nutrition and flavor of red and green lettuce are very similar. The mature leaves have a crunchy stem with soft, delicate leaves. The leaves are wavy and can contribute a unique texture to a dish.
    HOW TO USE: Chopped, leaf lettuce has a unique texture that makes it a great choice for salads and wraps. It also has a mild flavor that works for both sweet and savory dishes. While it works on sandwiches, the difference in texture between the stem and leaf can be a turnoff for some.
    CAUTION: Some claim that red lettuce is more prone to spoilage but the aesthetic appeal of the color may be worth the slightly reduced lifespan.
  • Romaine – Romaine has a crunchy texture throughout the leaf. It will last the longest of any lettuce (besides iceberg) in your fridge so don’t be afraid to buy this lettuce in bulk.

HOW TO USE: Romaine is commonly used in Caesar salads but works well anytime a crunchy texture is desired. Due to its hardy nature, romaine is one of the few lettuces that can be cooked with good results. Try roasting entire heads or stir-frying the torn leaves.
CAUTION: When all excess water is removed, chopped romaine can last for a week or longer in the fridge without going brown or losing its crunch. Tearing, rather than cutting, causes less damage to the leaves and can prolong its life even more!

  • Spring mix – Incorporating a balance of mild and bold flavors as well as a variety of colors and textures, spring mix is one of the most popular mixes. Spring mix contains lettuces and greens, both of which are immature, making them tenderer than their mature varieties but just as nutritious.
    HOW TO USE: Found in ready to wash containers, these are an easy base for salads, great to throw on sandwiches, or can be chopped and mixed with pastas or grains. The greens impart a bold and often peppery flavor when used in a dish.
    CAUTION: Due to their tender nature, the lettuces and greens in spring mix won’t hold up in your fridge or under high heat cooking as well as other prewashed mixes, lettuces, and greens.

Whether using butterhead for its smooth texture, red or green leaf for their wavy but delicate leaves, romaine for its crunch, or spring mix for its ease and bold flavor, substituting these for iceberg will provide a more nourishing and satisfying meal.

Healthy Game-Time Grub

Nachos and soda and wings! Oh my! NACHOS and SODA and WINGS! OH MY!…

Tailgating and game-day snacking can leave me feeling like Dorothy, making my way through a forest of ferocious (but tempting) beasts. Cheering on your favorite football (or other sports) team doesn’t have to turn into a calorie-laden binge fest, however! Follow these suggestions so you, Toto, and the rest of your gang make it safely to the emerald end zone.

OR

Avoid Game Time Gains with These 7 Game Time Snacks

Whether tailgating, attending a party, or watching the game from home, chances are you’re going to be snacking. Finding healthy game time grub can be a no brainer at your local grocery store. This season, follow these snack suggestions and leave the gains to your team’s offense, not your waistline.

  • Vegetables and dip – pick up fresh-cut vegetables or prepare them yourself. Add hummus or one of Bolthouse’s fabulous yogurt dressings for a healthy dip.
  • Fruit and dip – apples and pears are in season and delicious! Skip the caramel and try a lightly sweetened Greek yogurt or creamy nut butter instead. Use an apple slicer/corer to speed prep.
  • Nuts – pistachios are the perfect game time treat. The shell keeps the nut clean from dirty fingers in the community bowl and also helps your guests pace their snacking.
  • Chili – chili can be a perfect accompaniment to a crisp fall day. Try Amy’s or Stag or, especially if you’re watching your salt intake, make your own. A crockpot not only easily cooks the chili, but will also keep the chili warm for up to an hour after it’s been unplugged.
  • Popcorn – plain popcorn is low calorie and high in fiber (just watch your toppings). Try Boom Chicka Pop’s or Smartfood’s pre-popped sea salt popcorn (available in the chip aisle). Or make your own – use a pump sprayer to add oil and flavor with salt and/or parmesan cheese.
  • Chips & Salsa – Beanitos offers a tortilla chip made from beans that’s high in fiber and protein. Try it with a fresh salsa from our produce department or Full Circle Organic Salsa.
  • 100% Fruit AND Vegetable Juice – water is the best drink while watching your game but when you need something sweet, a 100% fruit and vegetable juice blends like Bolthouse or Naked may be a good options.

Ron

The Easiest Way to Eat Healthy

It’s on the counter. You’re not in the kitchen but you know it’s there. The image of a sheet pan and the delicious treat inside has been burned into your mind. All that is between you and those chocolaty morsels is a short walk and a thin layer of plastic wrap. You start to imagine how satisfying it would be to bite into a sweet, gooey brownie…again. It’s a battle of willpower between you and a second helping and you’re losing.

Too often we blame our poor choices on a lack of willpower. A better solution may be to simply get rid of the temptation. This won’t be possible in all circumstances and may take some creativity if not everyone in the house is as gung ho as you. But with a little creativity and planning, you can get the brownies out of the kitchen! Here are a few solutions to get you started:

  • Make and buy less: Food should be enjoyed. Don’t be afraid to indulge, just do so in appropriate servings and on special occasions. Making half (even quarter) recipes or buying smaller packaged in the grocery store can help.
  • Food waste is bad but sometimes the lesser evil: Given the choice between wasting food and force-feeding junk food to friends, family, or myself, I say throw it away.
  • Lay down the law: Make rules about what will and won’t be available in the house. Make sure everyone follows them. They’ll be healthier for it.
  • Out of sight: Sometimes simply leaving the food hidden in a cupboard, rather than a constant reminder on the counter, is enough to curb the snacking.
  • Take it up a notch: Cupboard not enough? Consider an inconvenient storage location, such as a high shelf that requires the stepstool from the garage to reach.
  • Break out the big guns: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Swap out the cookie jar for a lock box or put a pad lock on the snack drawer. Forbid anyone from telling you the combination or granting you access.

Once you’ve removed the temptation, the next step is to replace it with a healthy alternative. Sometimes we go for the brownie simply because there’re no fresh berries to curb our sweet craving instead. By minimizing unhealthy snacks and increasing nutritious options, eating healthy can be as easy as pie…a healthy pie.

Full Circle Brown Rice Bowl

Ready to eat in 90 seconds, Full Circle Brown Rice bowls make it easy to increase your intake of whole grains. A diet rich in whole grains has been shown to help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer as well as heart disease. Whether using it as a quick snack, making a lunch at work, or incorporating it into a meal at home, Full Circle Brown Rice bowls are a good solution to help support your health. With no added salt or seasonings, the rice is surprisingly versatile, just don’t try and eat it plain unless you’re prepared for a bland experience. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use ready to eat brown rice:

Meal:

  • Eggs Over Rice – Warm rice and top with chopped green onions, soy sauce to taste, and a soft fried egg.
  • Curry and Rice – Kitchens of India have a Red Kidney Bean Curry and Mashed Vegetable Curry. Both are shelf stable and perfect to serve on top of rice. Note these are not low sodium.
  • Power Pack Soup – Whole grains can be added to a variety of soups to turn a side into a complete meal. My favorite to add rice to is Progresso Light Beef Pot Roast. Sodium in the soup is a little high.
  • Taco Salad – Over a bed of greens, add hot rice, Bush’s Grillin’ Beans Black Bean Fiesta, fresh tomato, and avocado. Again, not a low sodium option.
  • Topped with a Flavorful Entre – A great choice to serve over the top of your rice is our Pork Chops with Mushrooms, Onion, and Pear.

Snacks or sides:

  • Rice and Avocado – Add Cholula or your favorite seasoning to rice and top with sliced avocado.
  • Garlic Rice – Add a small amount of Chef Shamy’s Gourmet Garlic Butter to the rice.
  • Black Bean & Corn Salad – Mix into Rico’s Black Bean & Corn Salad to boost the fiber of an already very healthy side.
  • Side Salad – Rice can be a rather unobtrusive addition to just about any salad. Simply sprinkle a small amount on top.

With its ease, versatility, and nutritional quality, Full Circle Brown Rice bowls are one of Ron’s Food Picks. Full Circle Quinoa bowls are an equally good choice. Though not organic, Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Brown Ready Rice and Minute Whole Grain Brown Microwavable rice cups are also good options. If you have the time, the most affordable option is to make your own brown or wild rice in large batches and portion into small, microwaveable containers. No matter how you do it, try some or all of the suggested meals and snacks to increase your intake of whole grains today.

A Perfectly Healthy Pot Roast

Pot roasts can be surprisingly healthy, affordable, and easy. In fact, you should probably add it to your meal-planning calendar right now and then come back to finish reading. Done? Ok, let’s continue. To achieve that succulent, fall-apart-in-your-mouth texture, pot roasts rely on moisture and long cooking times rather than naturally tender cuts or fat content. This means a leaner and less expensive cut provides the same (often better) degree of tenderness as another cut. And ease? Simply braise the beef, mix the ingredients together, and leave in your crock pot or oven for several hours.

Tip: for the busy working adult, take 15 minutes to prepare your pot roast the night before, leave in the fridge overnight, then, as you walk out the door, put on low to cook while you work. When you get home, you’ll be greeted by the delightful aroma of a perfect pot roast.

Here are some ways to make your pot roast especially healthy:

  • Portion – You can either cook up a smaller roast, save it for a time when you’re cooking for a large group, or just plan on having lots of leftovers. No matter how you do it, try to keep your portions between 3 and 4 oz. per person. If you forget, the suggested serving of 4 oz. is on the package.
  • Sides – USDA My Plate should be a guide, even when eating a steak and potatoes dinner. This means half your plate can be pot roast and potatoes, the other half (no not dessert) is fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Adding a whole piece of fruit and prewashed greens with cherry tomatoes and a light vinaigrette? Now you’re following My Plate and it required almost no effort.
  • Lean – The sirloin tip and tri tip beef roasts are both lean cuts, as are the sirloin and New York pork roasts. Opt for these over other cuts where possible. If you do use a fattier cut, consider roasting your potatoes and other root vegetables with a little olive oil and cook your roast separately. That will limit the fat that is infused into your vegetables.
  • Use herbs – Some roast recipes can be high in salt. Look for a recipe that uses savory herbs like rosemary, thyme, bay, sage, and/or mustard. A generous amount of onion and garlic are also musts for a flavorful roast that doesn’t rely on salt for its flavor. You can also experiment with using beer to help make your roast moist and flavorful (the alcohol cooks off so it’s safe for kids).
  • Toss the juices – While you might be tempted to turn the leftover juice into gravy or simply drizzle a little on each plate, doing so just adds more salt and fat. Avoid the temptation and toss it. A well flavored roast shouldn’t need to be bathed in gravy or drippings.

Next time you anticipate a busy evening or when you’re just looking for some good old fashioned comfort food, put on a pot roast and enjoy a healthy, affordable, and easy meal.

Ron

Easy and Delicious Spaghetti

With a sauce made from whole vegetables, your sense will delight in the fresh and bold flavors of this spaghetti. And with only 15 minutes of preparation, it’s an easy meal to squeeze into a busy evening.

Easy Spaghetti
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces whole grain spaghetti noodles
  • 3 each medium zucchini (spiralized)
  • 6 each roma tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil OR 2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/4 cup white onion
  • 1/4 cup carrot
  • 1/4 cup celery
  • 1 cup liquid (water, chicken stock, veg stock, turkey stock, etc.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions
  2. Using a sauté pan on medium heat, add oil and garlic and cook 2 minutes or until garlic is golden brown
  3. Add lean ground turkey and cook until completely browned
  4. While noodles and turkey are cooking, in a high powered blender add tomatoes, basil, onions, carrots, celery, and liquid; blend on high until completely pureed
  5. Spiralize or julienne slice zucchini
  6. Once turkey is completely browned, turn the burner down to medium low and add the tomato sauce
  7. Salt and pepper to taste then simmer on medium low for 10 minutes; you may need to add a little additional liquid until desired consistency is reached
  8. Once noodles are cooked to al dente, strain and portion into 4, 2 oz servings, evenly portion out zucchini on top of noodles, then add sauce and enjoy a healthy fresh plate of spaghetti

Healthy Homemade Arugula Salad

Healthy Homemade Arugula Salad

With its rainbow of fresh produce, a salad can be a delicious and striking part of your meal…not to mention loaded with nutrients! Now, if dousing your salad with a calorie-laden dressing is the only way to get your picky eaters to enjoy it, I’ll call that a win. A better option (double win?) would be to use a lighter, healthier dressing and ingredients. Here is a simple recipe for an  arugula salad with grape tomatoes and shaved red onions. There’s beauty in simplicity with this quick and easy salad. The peppery arugula is complimented perfectly in taste and appearance by a few simple savory ingredients.

Enjoy making this healthy salad and get that double win at your next meal!

Ron

Arugula Salad with Grape Tomatoes and Shaved Red Onions
Makes 1 salad

Active time: 5 minutes
Total time: 5 minutes

There’s beauty in simplicity with this quick and easy salad. The peppery arugula is complimented perfectly in taste and appearance by a few simple savory ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 6 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/8 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place arugula on plate
  2. Top with tomatoes and onion
  3. Drizzle with oil, vinegar, and lemon juice
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste

 

Healthy(er) Holiday Neighbor Gifts

During the holidays, friends’ and family’s homes are overrun by gifts of cookies, caramels, and pies. Make your gift memorable with these wholesome or deliciously indulgent food kits that are sure to please serious foodies and casual cooks alike. Visit your local grocery store where you’ll find everything you need for the perfect gift.
Recipes
Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn
Shopping list:
• Brown paper lunch sacks
• Ribbon or raffia
• Minicups with lids x2 (available with the plastic ware)
• Popcorn
• Olive oil
• Fresh rosemary (finely chopped plus whole sprigs for garnish)
• Block parmesan (substitute Bob’s Red Mill nutritional yeast for a vegan recipe)
• Salt
• Black pepper
• Lemon extract

Preparation:
1. Place heaping ¼ c popcorn kernels in paper sack
2. Fold paper sack over twice; punch two holes near center and tie bag closed through holes with ribbon or raffia
3. Attach recipe card and rosemary sprig.
4. In a saucepan, combine 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp rosemary (multiply by number of gifts being prepared); gently heat over medium heat 4-5 minutes until rosemary becomes fragrant
5. Allow oil to cool and portion into mini cups
6. Add ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and ½ tsp lemon extract to each mini cup
7. Finely grate parmesan and place 1 tbsp in a separate minicup
8. Place lids on minicups

Recipe card:
1. Leave bag tied and place upright in microwave
2. Heat on high for 3 minutes or until popping slows to 1-2 seconds between pops
3. Remove from microwave and place popcorn in bowl
4. Shake oil and herb mixture thoroughly and drizzle over popcorn
5. Stir to mix and top with parmesan cheese Mason Jar Bean Soup
Shopping list:
• 1 quart mason jars
• ½” or 1” ribbon
• Ziploc bag, snack size
• Dried kidney beans
• Dried great northern beans
• Dried black beans
• Dried pinto beans
• Split peas
• Onion powder
• Beef or vegetable bouillon granules
• Dried parsley
• Dried basil
• Lemon pepper
• Chili powder
• Garlic powder
• Dried oregano
• 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

Preparation:
1. Layer ¾ cup of each of the beans and peas in mason jar so they form colorful layers and screw on lid and band
2. In a Ziploc bag, combine 2 tbsp dried onion, 2 tbsp beef bouillon granules, 2 tbsp dried parsley, 2 tsp dried basil, 2 tsp lemon pepper, 1 ½ tsp chili powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp dried oregano.
3. Seal bag and punch a hole in top corner above seal
4. Wrap ribbon around neck of mason jar and attach recipe card and spice bag
5. Include can of crushed tomatoes with each mason jar of ingredients

Recipe card:
1. At least 12 hours before preparing soup, remove spice bag and pour beans into pot full of water; ensure water is at least 2 inches above beans
2. Add 1 ½ tbsp salt to water, stir to mix, and allow beans to soak for at least 10 hours
3. Pour beans into colander and rinse with water
4. Place beans in a large pot and add 8 cups water, canned tomatoes, and seasoning mix
5. Cover and bring to boil
6. Lower heat and simmer 1 ½ hours or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally
7. Add additional salt to taste if needed Mason Jar Hot Coco (indulge responsibly)
Shopping list:
• 1 quart mason jars
• ½” or 1” ribbon
• Mug
• Wrapping Paper or Cloth
• Whole milk
• Half and half
• vanilla extract
• cinnamon stick
• 5 oz gourmet dark chocolate chips (60-70%)

Preparation:
1. Add 2 ½ cups milk, 1 cup half and half, and 2 tsp vanilla extract to mason jar.
2. Sandwich wrapping paper or cloth between lid and band and screw on to jar
3. Wrap ribbon around neck of mason jar and attach recipe card
4. Slip cinnamon stick through ribbon
5. Place chocolate chips in mug and cover with wrapping paper or cloth and secure with ribbon

Recipe card:
1. Heat milk mixture and cinnamon stick on medium heat to a low simmer stirring frequently
2. Remove from heat and allow to sit 15 minutes
3. Place dark chocolate in microwave safe bowl and melt in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds
4. Remove cinnamon stick from milk and whisk together milk and chocolate
5. Bring to a low simmer, stirring frequently
6. Pour into mug and enjoy!

Healthy Holiday Oranges

We sprinkle a little lemon juice over guacamole and apple slices to keep them from turning brown but have you ever wondered just how lemons work their magic? It’s the antioxidants. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that turns apples brown, causes rust to form on your car, and is also responsible for the hardening of your blood vessels – the first stage of heart disease. Antioxidants help prevent oxidation and they’re in all citrus, not just lemons. While vitamin C is the most well-known antioxidant in citrus fruits, there are more than sixty bioflavonoids that are also antioxidants.

Hesperidin is one of the most studied of these bioflavonoids. It has been studied for its potential role in preventing cardiovascular disease. In addition to its antioxidant activity, it’s also been found to interact with your genes to help improve cardiovascular health. So is eating an orange a better way to get your daily vitamin C than relying on your multivitamin? Definitely!

What does all of this mean for you?

  • Eat citrus! The average American doesn’t get enough vitamin C in their diet and that probably means they could do with more bioflavonoids too. That’s embarrassing because 1 orange has all the vitamin C you need in a day. Come on America. We can do better. Tangerines and grapefruits also have a significant amount of vitamin C as well as those wonderful bioflavonoids.
  • Juice can help. Citrus juices have just as much vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium as the whole fruit (even from concentrate). They also have a significant amount of bioflavonoids. The only thing juice doesn’t have is fiber (even with the added pulp). Since most Americans don’t get enough fiber, eat the whole fruit where possible. When you do drink your vitamins and bioflavonoids, limit yourself to no more than 1 cup (8 oz) per day due to the sugar content.
  • -ades don’t cut it. Lemonade, limade, orangeade…stay away! –ade is Latin for cheap drink flavored with sugar and lacking nutritional benefits. Or at least that’s what I remember it meaning… Regardless, one glass of lemonade has the same amount of sugar as orange juice but less than 10% of the vitamin C and is also proportionately lacking in bioflavonoids.

No excuses. Perfectly ripe California navel oranges are here, along with blood and cara cara oranges, tangerines, and clementines. They’ll stay deliciously sweet through April. Nutritious and delicious. What more could you ask for? Enjoy them before they’re all gone

Fun fact: Bioflavonoids contribute to the taste and appearance of citrus fruit. Variations in bioflavonoids are a big part of what make each fruit unique. Bioflavonoids are responsible for the dark color of blood oranges. Naringin is a bitter bioflavonoid primarily responsible for the unique flavor of grapefruit. The peel of citrus fruits is also a concentrated source of bitter bioflavonoids. Not all bioflavonoids are colored or bitter, however. Hesperidin has a neutral taste and appearance.