Cooking with Siggi! (+how to choose a yogurt)

2016-03-01 14.15.56.jpg

A word about yogurt

Here’s the sad truth: most yogurt on the shelves in the US is basically a light dessert, at best.  Many brands add tons of sugar (or artificial sweetener), colors, flavors, and stabilizing ingredients so that the resulting product is far from the nutritious, versatile food that it should be!  Siggi’s is one brand I like a lot – their claim is “simple ingredients, not a lot of sugar,” and in fact their cups always contain more protein than sugar.

What to look for in yogurt

Those criteria alone will get you far (and rule out most of the options on the shelf), but read the ingredient list to make sure they don’t contain gelatin, starches, gums, carageenan – all just thickeners that are hiding low-quality yogurt.  Milk, cream, and active cultures are all you need to make yogurt!

With lots of flavors and several in the 2% and whole milk categories (I’m partial to the whole myself), Siggi’s is competitive with other brands out there.  And with the outreach they do for dietitians, they’re at the top of their marketing game!  Today they hosted a lunch based on Nordic cooking – we got to see how to filet a whole fish, and then cooked in groups.  My team had the mushroom and arugula salad, which had just a dollop of plain yogurt to give some tangy creaminess.

Best of all, Siggi himself was there – he is a jolly Scandinavian fellow, and it’s amazing how he’s grown the company in just 6 years.

The whole meal was delicious – thanks for having us, Siggi’s!

2016-03-01 13.17.58
The full meal – mashed sweet potatoes, roast root vegetables, arugula and mushroom salad, and the pan seared salmon with edible flowers, seasoned yogurt, and raspberries (an amazing combo!).

*This event was sponsored by Siggi’s Dairy.  I was not compensated for my time financially.*

Is red meat bad for you? (+grilled flat iron steak + peach salsa)

IMG_2506

I received beef product mentioned in this post at no cost. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Beef Checkoff and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Red meat: how much is too much?

Some people will tell you that any amount of red meat is unhealthy.  Some will tell you a diet of mostly meat is the way to go – so who’s right?  The truth is probably somewhere between the two: in the US, we eat a LOT of meat, and a healthy diet is all about balance.  We rank 3rd in world beef consumption at 85.5  pounds/person/year consumed (behind Uruguay and Argentina, in case you were curious), and the hamburger is basically synonymous with American food culture.

I believe the problem with way we eat red meat in this country is threefold: in context, amount, and source.  Context: most meals are based on meat and refined grains/fried foods (hamburger on a roll, steak and fries, meatballs over pasta, etc).  Amount: portions are huge!  Source: cheap meat is cheap because the animals were fed inexpensive grains, which alters the nutrient content from those fed a grass-based diet quite a lot.  If you change the context (a balanced meal, with lots of produce), the amount (small, to reflect that you don’t need much and 30-40g of protein is ideal for digestion/absorption), and the source (choosing grass-fed meat with a higher amount of omega-3’s), the healthfulness of the meal is drastically increased.  Eating meat this way, for a few meals a week, is good way to practice moderation while still enjoying the variety of cuts and luxury of availability we have!

For this recipe (part of a RecipeRedux contest), I wanted to combine some unexpected flavors: the sweetness of peach salsa with savory meat – it’s the onion and cilantro that really take it over the top!  I got my flat-iron steak from Country Vittles, a farm near my hometown about 2 hours north of DC.  The cattle spend their life from birth on the farm, and are grass-fed by the family who have generations in the business.  What I love most about buying from them (and all the market vendors) is that you can ask questions, hear the story, and get tips directly from the people who are doing the farming.

They were sold out of the skirt or flank steak I wanted by the time I got to them last week, but suggested using the flat iron instead, and it worked perfectly.  At $13/lb, it was one of their less expensive cuts, and I know that sounds like a lot – but remember, meat should be expensive!  It’s extremely labor and resource intensive, and reflects more closely the real price of eating animals (that you don’t have to go out and hunt yourself!).  A little reverence & gratitude for the life of the animal who provided it might also be in order!

So here it is: the recipe!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on eating meat, eating meat with fruit, and how you find balance…and don’t forget to check out the rest of the beef recipes by clicking the blue frog!

Grilled flat-iron steak and peach salsa

Ingredients
  • 8 ounces flat-iron, skirt, or flank steak
  • 4 lg peaches
  • 1 lg onion
  • 3 banana peppers
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 bunch cilantro
Directions

How to grill (or broil) the perfect steak:

  1. preheat grill to high; ensure that grates are well-oiled
  2. dab meat dry with a paper towel, then season with salt & pepper
  3. with grill hot (~450F), lay the meat down and close the lid
  4. cook for 5 minutes, then open grill and flip, close lid then cook for 5 more minutes (this will be rare; cook longer for medium or well-done)
  5. remove from the grill and place on a plate.  Allow to rest for 8-10 minutes (crucial step!)
  6. slice against the grain (make cuts perpendicular to the direction the muscle runs)

Dice and combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl to make the salsa.  Serve over strips of steak. (8 ounces raw meat should serve 2 servings of 3 ounces each cooked; salsa will yield 4-5 cups and is excellent as a dip for chips, too!)

IMG_2487 IMG_2489 IMG_2495 IMG_2500IMG_2504

California Raisins: pear crostini with goat cheese, prosciutto, and spicy raisin compote

IMG_1213

RecipeRedux time!

This week’s competition is with California Raisins – which I use often as part of a snack, but don’t cook with often enough!  They’re naturally sweet, sun dried (How It’s Made did an episode I happened to catch a few months ago – never knew they dried on the vine!)  so they make a great addition to dessert and savory recipes.  Dried fruit is a great way to add sweetness, and lots of nutrients (notably fiber and potassium) in an unexpected and economic way, and raisins are the most versatile.

This little recipe is the perfect appetizer for holiday entertaining.  Simple ingredients, but all bring out and balance sweet spicy, and savory flavors.  Replacing crostini with a pear slice cuts out refined flour, and the cheese, prosciutto, and nuts add filling protein.  Delicious with some festive champagne!

Pear crostini with goat cheese, prosciutto, and spicy raisin compote

Ingredients

  • 1 lg pear
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • 3 slices prosciutto
  • 1/4 c toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 c golden Califonia Raisins
  • 1/2 c water
  • dash nutmeg
  • dash ground red pepper

Directions
Roughly chop the raisins, and simmer for 5 minutes with water and spices (water should be absorbed, raisins soft).  Slice the pear from top to bottom to create rounds (dip in lemon water to prevent browning if not serving immediately).  Spread with one teaspoon of goat cheese. Roll each slice of prosciutto and cut into ribbons; unwrap and place on top of cheese.  Top with raisins, then add nuts.

IMG_1201 IMG_1206

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Raisin Marketing Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Build a better sandwich (+gluten-free turkey & brie crepes)

2014-05-06 14.14.00

I received free samples of Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax and Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic from Dare Foods Incorporated mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Dare Foods Incorporated and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

With a blog & business called “WhyFoodWorks,” I spend a lot of time thinking about not only why certain food combos are good for you, but also how to easily distill combining foods that taste good together.  People make their food choices primarily based on taste, and I don’t think anything I do for the rest of my career will change that!  Nor should it – but the combo in your mouth needs to have as good an impact on the rest of your digestive system, and certain pairings just work better than others.  Hence my “5 Rules for a Healthy Breakfast,” “Sarah’s Rules of Pesto,” and the “3 P’s of Healthy Eating” that I use to base all my food decisions on and talk about at length during dinner parties, lunch presentations, and cooking classes.

Basically, I want to create guidelines so you can follow a blueprint to better eating for flavor and health.  Sandwiches are one of the easiest lunch or snacks to grab, but can easily go awry nutritionally with portion size, ratio of ingredients, and omission of veggies!  So, here’s the hack:

  • Pick a protein (2-3 oz of meat, sliced egg, cheese)
  • 2 veggies – at least! Many people think that sad little romaine slice counts as a serving – it’s not enough!  A handful of greens and another veg will take you much farther! (Kale, spinach, arugula, roasted red pepper, slices of cucumber or squash, tomatoes, even fruit like apples and pears will make your sandwich next-level.)
  • Season it! A few twists of the pepper grinder, sprinkle of garlic powder, a seasoning mix like Mrs. Dash (we love those and Trader Joe’s  Everyday Seasoning grinder at my house!) will go a long way to make your sandwich or wrap restaurant quality.
  • Spread and bind. Think beyond mayo – a soft avocado, pesto, a greek yogurt-based dip, or even salsa work well.
  • Go whole grain. Bread choice is a whole other post by itself, but skip the white bread!

As my third and final entry to the Breton contest, I used the above to create a sandwich filling that would work on bread, in a wrap, or even in a savory crepe!  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cracker crumbs work well to hold the crepe together, and this was sampled in my pottery class (check out those handmade plates!) by gluten eaters and avoiders alike with equally pleased palettes.

2014-05-06 14.14.22

 

Speaking of my pottery – you can win a ring holder on Capitol Romance’s blog this week!

Gluten-free turkey & brie crepe with spinach & pesto

Ingredients:

Crepe:

  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c Breton Gluten Free Herb & Garlic cracker crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter + 1 Tbsp butter for coating pan
  • Dash salt

Filling:

  • 8 oz sliced turkey
  • 2 oz brie, sliced
  • 2 c spinach
  • 1 c zucchini ribbons (shave a squash with a peeler)
  • 4 Tbsp pesto
  • A few twists of Everyday Seasoning or other mix or herbs

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg with milk and melted butter until evenly combined.  Stir in the cracker crumbs and mix.  Heat an 8″ nonstick pan on high and add butter to coat.  When hot, pour 1/4 c of the batter into the pan and immediately move pan so that it coats the bottom thinly and evenly; reduce heat to medium-high.  Using a spatula, flip once after the first side is set and lightly browned (~2-3 minutes) and cook the second side until light brown blisters form.  (There’s a good tutorial that demonstrates the flipping here, though he has slightly different directions.)  Makes 4 crepes; filling ingredients between the crepes.

2014-05-06 14.14.42

2014-05-06 14.16.51

Click the frog for more delicious and healthy Breton cracker recipes!

On Healthy Desserts (+gluten-free crepe with pears and ricotta)

DSC_0345

I received free samples of Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax and Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic from Dare Foods Incorporated mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Dare Foods Incorporated and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know my stance on desserts: strongly PRO!  Apparently the word is getting around, because I was quoted in this article last month about dietitians’ dessert go-to’s, and my most popular post on “cheesefake” is now over a year old!  But I have some criteria for desserts that are consumed frequently: they should be packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, just like dinner.  And they should be in addition to your healthy meal, not instead of!

I love using yogurt, fruit, fruit purees, and naturally high-fiber ingredients like nuts, dates, and cocoa powder to get the party started – and as anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Chopped knows, you can use crepes as a vehicle for just about anything.  You probably already have the ingredients in your pantry, and by adding a nutrient-dense filling you can make a simple shell go a long way to get a delicious and sweet ending to a meal – without a single regret.

Crepes are, of course, usually flour based.  By using the Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax crackers, you can offer your friends with Celiac’s Disease (hello, it’s their month!) this classic French treat for a fraction of the calories found on Parisian streets.  My crepes are modestly sized, use less butter, and with some ricotta cheese and fruit you get a dessert that’s both light and satisfying.  Bon appetite, oui?

DSC_0344

Gluten-Free Crepes with Ricotta and Pear

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter + 1 Tbsp to coat pan
  • 1/2 c Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax crackers,
    ground in a blender or food processor
  • Dash nutmeg
  • Dash salt
  • 1/2 c  cinnamon-vanilla ricotta
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced (or other fruit as desired)

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg with milk, vanilla, sugar, melted butter, and spices until evenly combined.  Stir in the cracker crumbs and mix.  Heat an 8″ nonstick pan on high and add butter to coat.  When hot, pour 1/4 c of the batter into the pan and immediately move pan so that it coats the bottom thinly and evenly; reduce heat to medium-high.  Using a spatula, flip once after the first side is set and lightly browned (~2-3 minutes) and cook the second side until light brown blisters form.  (There’s a good tutorial that demonstrates the flipping here, though he has slightly different directions.)  Makes 4 crepes; divide cheese and pear evenly between the crepes to fill.

DSC_0342

 Check out more Breton cracker recipes here:

Getting crunchy with Breton (+gluten-free goat cheese & quinoa croquettes)

DSC_0358

I received free samples of Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax and Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic from Dare Foods Incorporated mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Dare Foods Incorporated and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

This week the RecipeReduxers are posting gluten-free recipes using Breton’s Gluten Free crackers in honor of Celiac Disease awareness month…and of course as a part of a no-holds barred recipe death match that will crown a winner for best recipe at the end!  I have a couple up my sleeve…

As a gluten eater (and lover) myself, the cracker aisle has never been a problem to navigate.  But when you start looking for gluten-free options, there are only a few brands available.  I’ve personally never been a fan of the rice wafer, so if you eliminate those at least half the options are out!  These Breton crackers are – well, crackery.  Like wheat-based crackery, even a little Ritz-esque.

To me the great frustration for people who can’t have gluten must be recipes that are based on grains and starches they can eat, but then have one tiny element that contains wheat.  One example: potato or rice croquettes.  People with Celiac’s Disease can eat potatoes and rice, but the bread crumbs in croquette recipes are the problem!  So here I used quinoa (a nutritionally superior grain in terms of fiber/protein content) which is gluten-free and cooked like rice to make a croquette with a crunchy cracker coating (say that 4 times fast!).

DSC_0352

I served them over a salad of fresh greens with another recipe I was testing for a tahini cooking demo – raw vegan tabbuleh!  That one will be posted in the future…until then, whip up some quinoa & goat cheese croquettes!  They’d make a perfect appetizer or hors d’oeuvres, or part of the entree as shown here.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 c frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1.5 c cooked quinoa (I season mine with vegetable broth and some garlic powder!)
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c crushed Breton Gluten-Free Herb & Garlic crackers (I pulverized mine in a blender)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling (about 3 Tbsp)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375F. In a mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese and spinach by blending with a fork.  Chill in fridge while preparing the rest of the ingredients: cook quinoa, then fluff with a fork.  Add egg and parmesan; stir until blended thoroughly.  Put cracker crumbs into a bowl with a wide opening, or use a plate.  Remove goat cheese mixture from the fridge and shape into a ball the size of a truffle or large marble.  Gently shape quinoa mixture around it, patting it first onto one side and then the other.  Roll in bread crumbs and place on a cookie sheet.  Repeat until 12 balls are formed.  Drizzle with olive oil and then bake for 20-25 minutes, until slightly browned and crisp on the outside.  Serves 4.

IMG_1510

DSC_0354

 

Click the frog for more great recipes! 

Pistachio Pairings: Indulgent (+mascarpone & honey with wine)

I received free pistachio samples from the Pistachio Health Institute mentioned in this post. By posting this pairing I am entering a contest sponsored by Pistachio Health Institute and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.2014-02-05 16.48.32

This week is all about pistachio pairings!  I’ll be posting a few different examples as part of the above-mentioned contest, but I love the idea of creating a collection of complementary foods instead of a recipe.  With the better part of the country under a blanket of snow, I thought getting right to the richest category – indulgent – would kick things off nicely.

Though all nuts are rich in fat, which might be one indicator of indulgence, they’re also micronutrient and fiber dense.  If you aren’t already eating nuts on a daily basis, consider this:

From the Pistachio Health Institute:
“Pistachios make a great, everyday healthy snacking choice for people looking to satisfy a salty snack craving the smart way, and still do something good for themselves. Pistachios are a deliciously simple way to snack healthy. A one-ounce serving of pistachios equals approximately 49 nuts, which is more nuts per serving than any other snack nut, and a reduced serving of about 30 pistachios is just about 100 calories.

Crack ‘em, Chew ‘em, Love ‘em, Leave ‘em: Let the Pistachio Principle be your guide! Empty pistachio shells may serve as a “visual cue” of how many pistachios you’ve consumed, so don’t discard the shells after you’ve enjoyed the treat inside.  In fact, study participants who left pistachio shells on their desk reduced their calorie consumption by 18 percent compared to participants who discarded shells immediately after consumption.

People who consumed in-shell pistachios ate 41 percent fewer calories than those who consumed pistachios without shells.2 This suggests that empty shells may be a helpful visual cue as to how much has been eaten – thereby potentially encouraging reduced calorie consumption.”

A mindful snack is a good snack!  So get cozy by the fire this week, and warm up with this luxurious combo:2014-02-05 15.57.27

Mascarpone cheese on baked whole wheat crackers with a drizzle of honey, a semi-dry wine (like Malbec or Cabernet sauvignon), and of course – pistachios!

Mascarpone cheese is one of the fattiest, lowest-protein (and most delicious) cheeses there is…it’s like cream you can spread, and a little goes a long way.  Smear a teaspoon on, add a drop of honey, and crack a pistachio for the piece de la resistance!2014-02-05 15.59.15

2014-02-05 16.00.07

Check out more pairings here:

1. Painter, J. “The Effect of Pistachio Shells as a Visual Cue in Reducing Caloric Consumption.”  Appetite. 2011, 57(2):418-420.

2. Honselman, C.S., Painter, J.E., Kennedy-Hagan, K.J., Halvorson, A., Rhodes, K., Brooks, T.L., & Skwir, K. “In-shell pistachio nuts reduce caloric intake compared to shelled nuts.” Appetite. 2011, 57(2):414-417.