Month: September 2014

Baba Ganoush: Don’t underestimate the Eggplant! 5 easy ways to enjoy this summer vegetable.

Baba Ganoush: Don’t underestimate the Eggplant! 5 easy ways to enjoy this summer vegetable.

Surprise, it’s actually a fruit! Although we mostly know it as the purple strange looking, pear shaped vegetable, eggplants can vary from any shade of black to almost white! When picking eggplant at the store look for the ones with the length of a cucumber and the circumference of an apple or pear. The larger ones tend to have more seeds and be a bit bitter. They can’t be consumed raw because it contains a toxin, solamine, which can cause gastrointestinal problems when uncooked. They also don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator, they are a summer “vegetable” after all.

eggplantEggplants are a phenomenal source of fiber as well as several phytonutrients. They contain an impressive array of many minerals and vitamins including folate, potassium, manganese, vitamins C, K, B6, niacin, thiamin, phosphorus, copper and magnesium. The whole plant can be used, the leaves and roots are juiced or even boiled in some cultures to relieve stomach troubles and inflammation. Their dark purple skin is where you’ll find their most powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants are crucial for reducing free radicals in the body and protecting cell membranes from damage, which explains eggplants protective qualities against heart disease and cancer.

Even though they are relatively easy to grow in America, even in your own backyards, people aren’t enjoying as much eggplants as they could! A big reason is the lack of recipes or familiarity with the strange looking vegetable. So here are 5 ways to enjoy eggplant that will make you run to store and start adding them to your menu: (or go get some seeds! They are so much fun to grow and beautiful too!)

Grilled: This is your easiest way to enjoy eggplants. Just wash it well and slice it medium thick, brush both sides with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle some salt and pepper. Grill 7-9 minutes on each side.  Try it as a topping for your turkey burgers, or forget the buns and use the eggplant instead!

Baked: No time to go outdoors, no worries. Just turn up your oven to about 450F, wash your eggplant well, prick with a fork a few times around, place in baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. You may also slice it up first, brush with olive oil and sprinkle some salt, pepper and garlic. They make great “noodles” for a vegetable lasagna!

Boiled: Wash eggplant well, you may peel or leave the skin on. Cut it up into chunks and place in pot with about twice as much water as eggplant. Bring it to a boil then lower to simmer and cook for about 10 minutes or until eggplant soft. This method is great for adding the chucks to a dip or for serving it as a side dish. Just season with olive oil and fresh herbs.

Pan seared: Wash eggplant and slice it making about 0.5 inch thick slices. Then drizzle a pan with olive oil, turn to medium heat and pan sear your eggplant until soft and golden brown on both sides. They are a great side item to a summer barbecue, or make a great appetizer too! After cooked just place them in a paper towel to reduce the moisture, sprinkle some cheese and serve them on a multigrain cracker.

Pureed: You can be as creative as you’d like to be here. After roasting it in the oven at 450F for about 20 minutes the center is soft and can be scooped out with a spoon. That soft center is the perfect dip ingredient when added to a food processor. A traditional Mediterranean dip called: Baba Ganoush is simple to make and has a delightful earthy taste that goes so well with pita chips. Check out the recipe below.

… have fun with summer vegetables,

Carolina

baba ganoushBaba Ganoush

1 eggplant
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp garlic paste
1/5 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp Once Again Nut Butter Organic Tahini
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Wash eggplant well, prick with fork and place in 450F oven to bake for about 20 minutes. Slice it in half and scoop out the center with a spoon. Allow it to cool and place it in food processor until you have a smooth puree. Now add the salt, garlic, lemon juice and mix well. The last ingredient to add is the Tahini which gives it the perfect texture and flavor. Enjoy it fresh or place in refrigerator to store. Perfect as dip for pita chips, or try a dollop on top of a Greek burger!

Funny fact about eggplants: ancient Mediterranean people nicknamed it “mad apple” believing that eating eggplant every day for one month would lead to insanity.

Sunny Granola Bar and Menu Planning 101

Sunny Granola Bar and Menu Planning 101

Summer break has been fun, memorable, adventurous, inspiring but also long and hot! My kids are so ready to go back to school, and honestly so am I. I’m not sure how many more projects, fun activities and days I can plan.  The kids are anxious to play with their friends and get back to learning.

As ready as I am for the routine to resume, after about one week there will be the “panic” phase. The routine requires discipline and lots of “ahead of time” preparation. As a nutritionist, the most common request I receive is for menu planning.  In my new graduate years I would help my clients with menu planning but it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, as I became a mother and had my own family to manage I have grown to appreciate the need for menu planning! After all, once you have a menu set you can do groceries, prep ahead of time and eliminate last minute stressors.

Therefore I thought I’d share with you some of my tips on how I put together menus for clients and my own family so that you can develop your own menu. It is much easier and simpler than you may think, and by doing it yourself you’ll be able to personalize it and focus on things that are important to your family!

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Make a list of at least 5 of your meals/recipes that you want to make for your family. For this step you may have to find inspiration on the web or cookbooks; or start simple by listing your family favorite recipes that you already prepare often. Try to organize the list by adding the estimated prep/cooking time next to each recipe.
  2. Make a list of favorite fruits and vegetables for your family, this should contain at least 10 items.
  3. Make a list of foods you are working on including/increasing in your family’s diet.
    1. For example: add more fiber = add foods such as flax seeds, wheat germ, beans.
    2. Add more protein = nuts, nut butters, beans, fish, chicken, meat
    3. Add more vitamin C = citrus, berries and green leafy veggies

Now it is time to put it together, it will feel quite like a puzzle. Use a large sheet of paper, or use your tablet computer to map out from Monday through Friday. Start with the 5 days of the week and with time you can expand into weekends as well. Pick one meal per day based on which days you have more or less time to cook. The meal should be your lunch, it may require that you make it the night before if you work so that you can take it with you and send it with your family. Each meal you prepare should be doubled so that it will work as a make once, eat twice concept. But keep in mind, you can add or take away ingredients to spice it up for the next meal so that you are not eating exactly the same thing twice daily.  Your fruits and veggies should be combined with your “list of foods you need to increase/add to your diet” to make up your breakfast and snacks.

Let me give you an example: Meal: Fish Tacos, and as a family we are working on increasing protein and fiber. Therefore our Monday menu will look like this:

Breakfast: Smoothie (made with Once Again Nut Butter, Lightly Toasted Almond Butter, 2 fruits, Spinach and chia seeds). Boiled Egg and Toast.

Snack: Homemade Sunny Granola Bar (see recipe below)

Lunch: Fish Tacos, loaded with lots of tomatoes, avocados, green peppers and lettuce.

Snack: Carrots and Celery sticks with Tahini Hummus

Dinner: Fish Taco Salad: leave out the shells and just start with greens and top it with crushed chips to add the crunch to this salad. You’ll still use the same ingredients as from lunch but it will be a brand new meal.

Once you have your first week done you can easily write up your grocery list from that. The following weeks will just become modified version of your master week menu. You’ll surprise yourself on how much time you’ll save and how much better you’ll eat as a family! Avoid going to the grocery store when you are starving because you will always come home with some sort of unnecessary junk food that “caught your eye”. Same concept is true for meal times, if you leave it to the last minute to prepare a meal when your family is ready to eat and hungry, it is much easier to look for faster and less nutritious meals such as fast foods.

…. Plan ahead and reap the benefits,

Carolina

Sunny Granola Bar

Sunny Granola Bar

serves up to 10

sunny granola bar 1 Ingredients:

1 cup Sunflower Seed Butter by Once Again Nut Butter
1 medium banana, mashed
½ cup melted butter
2 ½ cup oats
½ cup chia seeds
½ cup flax seeds
1 cup dried fruits (combine your favorite such as raisins, blueberries and goji berries!)
½ cup dark chocolate chips

Mix Sunflower Seed Butter with melted butter and banana until well mixed. Then add the oats, seeds and dried fruits. sunny granola bar 2Lastly fold in the dark chocolate chips. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 8×8 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread mixture in baking pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until golden brown. Once cooled, cut into squares and you can keep it in the refrigerator for 7-8 days.

Note: if you use Gluten free oats, this bar will also be gluten free! And it is nut free as well.