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

 

A Gourmet New Year’s Celebration

In the US, we typically celebrate New Year’s with an abundance of gourmet food and drink to symbolize prosperity in the coming year. I’m not about to get between you and your coming prosperity so let’s gourmet it up! Bet you never thought a dietitian would be telling you to do that, right? Few know gourmet as well as the French. Ironically, France also has one of the lowest cardiovascular disease and obesity rates of any industrialized nation. There it is, the catch. This really is a healthy food blog! You might as well keep reading, though, because what follows are great ideas, taken from the French, on how to make your gourmet New Year’s both delicious and healthy.

  • Eat real food – You won’t find many highly processed, ready-to-eat foods in most French shopping carts. Gourmet is fresh. Shop primarily around the perimeter of the store where you’ll find fresh produce, breads, dairy, and meats. Your fresh New Year’s dinner can be as simple as pot roast, potatoes, and a greens salad or as fancy as stuffed mushrooms, butternut squash soup, chicken florentine, and hand-dipped chocolate strawberries.
  • Spend more time eating – On average, we spend about two thirds (2/3) as long as the French at each meal. Take smaller bites and enjoy more conversation while you eat this New Year’s. You’ll be surprised that you don’t need as much food when you take the time to savor it. Dividing your meal into courses can also help slow your pace and prevent the food from getting cold.
  • Reduce portion sizes – Traditional French meals feature more types of food but smaller portions of those foods than most American meals. Make an assortment of dishes for your New Year’s dinner and serve a small portion of each on salad plates. You’ll experience more sensory pleasure from the variety of flavors and consume fewer calories overall from the smaller portion sizes.
  • Cut snacking and soda – The French primarily stick to three balanced meals each day and avoid snacking. Sugar-laden soda can be an even greater calorie burden than snack foods. This New Year’s, eat your gourmet dinner and then call it a night. Leave a pitcher of lemon infused water for guests to drink instead of soda. If you do snack, snack on real food. Vegetables and hummus, nuts, or fresh fruit make great snacks.
  • Stick to your resolutions – Balance is something the French do very well. There’s nothing wrong with an exquisite and indulgent meal provided you are more prudent the next. Celebrate the passing of a year with good food and start the beginning of the next with resolve to eat healthier.

This New Year’s Eve, and in the year to come, make your food about quality, not quantity. Seek for fresh foods and eating environments that promote maximum enjoyment and moderate intake. Wishing you a healthy and prosperous New Year.

The Food of Kings

Revered for its tender shoots and delicious flavor but highly perishable, asparagus has been a status symbol in many cultures. To obtain the freshest asparagus, Roman emperors reserved a special fleet of ships to transport asparagus. In Italy during the Renaissance, asparagus was a delicacy only the wealthy could afford. King Louis the 14th of France had special greenhouses constructed so he could enjoy asparagus year round. Luckily, you don’t need to rule a nation to enjoy asparagus. Drop by your local grocery store and enjoy this tasty vegetable today.

Need a reason besides its wonderful flavor? Asparagus is also a wonderfully nutritious addition to your meal:

  • One cup of asparagus has all of the vitamin K you need for an entire day.
  • Asparagus is also a good source of vitamins A, C, & E; B vitamins; choline; and minerals.
  • In addition to providing fiber, asparagus may also support digestive health through a special type of fiber called inulin which helps healthy probiotics grow in your digestive system.

Asparagus is an easy vegetable to cook. It can be sautéed, boiled, steamed, mixed into a casserole, or even microwaved in a little water for about seven minutes. You will need to break the fibrous base off of most stalks, especially those that are thicker. Simply grasp the asparagus by its base and mid stalk; then bend it until the base breaks away. Asparagus is more perishable than most produce. After purchasing, try to enjoy your asparagus within two days for the best flavor and texture.

Asparagus season is just getting started. As one of the earliest vegetables to come in season, it’s a great buy in your local produce department. The season lasts until May so enjoy them while you can. Add some royal decadence to your next meal with a delicious and wholesome side of asparagus.

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.