Healthy Barbecues: How to Pull it Off!

Healthy BarbecuesWe are finally in full summer swing. Of course, this time of year is noted for sizzling grilled burgers, brats, and hotdogs. Grilling can be a great way to entertain and not heat up the house on a hot summer day. It keeps overall calories low because there are no cream sauces or excessive amounts of fats added to the meats. However, the high smoke and heat of grilling has it’s own dietary pitfalls. But, by following some simple steps, we can still pull off healthy barbecues. According to a new report noted by American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), the goal is to prevent the heat and smoke produced in grilling to affect the food. The heat and smoke of grilling can cause cancer causing compounds to form on the food. By tweaking our grilling habits, it’s still very easy to pull off healthy barbecues.

According to the AICR, here are easy steps for pulling off a healthy barbecue

  • Vary your meat selection. Too much red meat (beef, pork, lamb) increases your risk for colorectal cancer. “Too much” is defined as more than 18 oz. per week and this applies to all red meats regardless of cooking method.
  • Always marinate. Cooking any meat on the grill causes the formation of cancer causing compounds. Marinating meat for 30 minutes reduces the formation of these cancer causing compounds. Using marinades with vinegar, lemon juice, and wine along with oils, spices, and herbs seems pretty key to a healthy barbecue.
  • Partially precook. By doing some cooking prep ahead of time, there is less time for cancer causing compounds to form from the smoke.The likelihood of cancer causing compounds forming with grilling decreases as grill time decreases.
  • Food safety reminder: get that partially cooked meat on the grill to start grilling immediately after the precooking. Otherwise, you run the risk of bacteria growing on the raw part of the meat.
  • Use a low flame. Lower heat will reduce cancer causing compounds by reducing the possibility of charring and burning.
  • Get colored foods on the grill. Try some grilled corn, sweet potatoes, or zucchini. Start adding color to your grilled menu with the fruit kabob recipe below.

More tips for healthy barbecues

  • Always wash your hands before handling food. Don’t handle raw meat and then handle something like raw vegetables that will be served uncooked.
  • Wash produce as well. Fruits and vegetables are a source of bacteria. Here are 7 tips for cleaning your produce.
  • You should consider using smaller cuts of white meats. By decreasing your portion of meat while increasing your fruits and vegetables (grilled or as a side), you are automatically providing for healthier barbecue menus. Charred sections should be removed before serving.
  • Invest in a good quality thermometer so that you can check the internal food temperatures of your grilled foods. This is key to keeping your family and guests free of food poisoning. Internal temperatures for properly cooked foods vary, so be sure to check the guidelines.
  • Separate your plates and cutting board to prevent bacteria cross-contamination. Do not reuse utensils, plates, or cutting boards that had raw meat on them.
  • After the food is grilled, do not let it sit out on a hot day for more than 1-hour. If it’s not an excessively hot day, then you have up to 2-hours. It’s never worth eating foods  handled incorrectly, as you could end up with food poisoning. And for some, that means a trip to the ER or worse.

Recipes to help you start your healthy barbecues

healthy bareques should add mango lime salsa

Mango lime salsa on lettuce leaves.

Try grilling some salmon or chicken and top with this mango lime salsa. My client provided the recipe and photo, and noted how delicious it was. She kindly calculated the calorie content as well (she’s a good student too)! Thank you Marie!

Mango Lime Salsa-makes 2 cups; prep time about 30 minutes; 50 calories per 1/2 cup serving

1 small red onion diced small
1/2 red pepper 1/4 inch dice
1 jalapeño (or to taste)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 large limes)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 mangos peeled, pitted and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
salt & pepper to taste

In medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. The salsa will keep 2 days in the refrigerator. Serve with baked tortilla chips, or over any grilled fish or chicken. You can also top lettuce leaves with salsa and serve as a side dish.

Next, for a great healthy side and alternative to fatty side dishes such as creamy potato salad, try grilled fruit kabob to give that splash of color to your barbecue meal.

Grilled Fruit Kabobs

1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
juice from 1 fresh lime and lime rind
1 tsp. cinnamon

In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, brown sugar, grated lime rind, lime juice, and cinnamon until the sugar is dissolved. Use any fresh fruit cut into one-inch pieces such as pineapple, apples, nectarines, melon, bananas, or large whole strawberries. Thread the fruit alternately onto metal skewers. Brush kabobs with butter mixture and place on barbecue grill. Grill for 6-8 minutes, turning frequently and brushing generously with butter mixture until the fruit starts to brown and is heated through.

Happy and healthy barbecue grilling

Enjoy your smaller servings of white meats more than red. Always marinate your meats and precook them prior to grilling to minimize charring and prevent cancer risk. Grill your meats to the proper temperatures for the best juiciness and thorough cooking to prevent food poisoning. Once grilled meats are cooked, serve hot and then refrigerate within 1-2 hours, depending on how hot the day is.

Make sure you keep all utensils, cutting boards, plates and work surfaces in touch with raw meats separate from other foods. You are trying to avoid food poisoning!

Last, but not least, add as many grilled fruits and vegetables (or raw) to your menu as possible. This will always increase the nutritional quality of any menu.

And, add a beer? Check out some of those health benefits here.

If you enjoyed this post, please share with a friend. I’d like to grow my readership.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Ice Cream Cake Roll: A Versatile Holiday Recipe

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Cake ready to serve.

I have been making this sponge ice cream roll cake for over 4 decades. It has become a favorite holiday recipe and even the in-laws and grand kids ask for it each holiday. It was passed down to me from an Aunt and I hope my own daughters eventually make it to keep it in the family. For now, they will assume it’s my job!

  Here’s what I like about it:

  • I love that it can be made in advance of the holiday. Whip it up and put in the freezer.  I’d say it could freeze for months, but it will most likely never last that long.
  • I call this a chameleon recipe because it can be changed so many ways to suit dietary needs or taste buds.  You can use a gluten free flour mix and make it a gluten free recipe. After cutting out most wheat, I have used gluten free baking flour for this recipe and no one can tell the difference. I still get a treat and no one is the wiser. You can also use lactose free ice cream and make it lactose free as well. You can even modify this recipe and make it a vanilla roll or put a different flavor of ice cream in the roll. There’s pretty much something for everyone.
Chocolate Ice Cream Roll Cake (about 10 servings, 
depending on your greediness)

Ingredients:

6 eggs, separate the egg whites into one bowl and the egg yolks
into a second bowl
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. cocoa
4 Tbsp. sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
confectioner’s sugar-have at least a cup to spread on foil
and use to wrap up the roll
About 3 cups of ice cream

Get Ready to Bake

Preheat the oven to 325 ⁰. Grease a 15.5 x 10.5 jelly roll pan with vegetable spray. On top of that, insert a piece of wax paper onto the pan and spray that as well.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and add ½ tsp. cream of tartar. Gradually beat in ½ cup sugar. Set aside.  Beat the egg yolk until thick. Add ½ cup sugar. Mix the cocoa and flour and add to the yolk mixture. Mix and then add the salt and vanilla. Fold the egg yolk mixture gently into the egg white mixture.

Spread in the well greased jelly roll pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, just until the surface springs back when touched lightly with finger (be sure to avoid over baking as it will crack while rolling up).  Loosen the edges with a knife and then immediately turn upside down on a large sheet of foil that is sprinkled with a generous amount of confectioner’s sugar. At this point, layer your ice cream on top (don’t wait for it to cool). I usually put at least a quarter inch of ice cream across the top, but it can be more. If the sponge cake starts to stick on the foil, just roll some confectioner’s sugar on that as well.

IMG_3106

The warm sponge cake topped with ice cream and ready to roll up.

To make this a vanilla roll, I just replace the 4 Tbsp. cocoa with 2 Tbsp. of flour (so a total of 6 Tbsp. flour) and follow the rest of the recipe.

~200 calories, 8 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein~ Happy Easter

 

Without Wheat: Blueberry Streusel Teff Muffins

I decided to finally try using the teff flour I bought months ago. Muffins always seem like a forgiving baked product to start on, so teff muffins it was. It seems as though a lot of the available recipes require another flour in addition to the teff flour. The teff flour can make a drier product so a recipe that has sweet potatoes, bananas, applesauce, and berries would seem to be a good fit. I took a conventional recipe and modified the flours.

1/4 canola oil
1 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 cup teff flour
1 cup Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten free Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup frozen organic blueberries, thawed and well drained

Streusel Topping:
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Heat oven to 400º . Mix the streusel ingredients into a bowl and set asside. Generously grease or spray muffin pan. Mix the milk, oil, vanilla, and egg together. Stir in both flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt until moistened. Fold in the drained blueberries. Divide batter in 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the streusel topping on top and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the pan immediately.

These muffins, as is the case with all muffins, freeze well for a quick grab start to the day or easy snack. 

Yeild 12 muffins: Each muffin has 199 calories, 6 g fat, 30 g carbohydrates, and 4 g protein

If you are looking to experiment with another wheat free flour, try my buckwheat muffin recipe.

Have you used Teff flour in a baked product?

Without Wheat: Buckwheat Flour Muffins

Buckwheat muffins with chocolate chips

Buckwheat flour muffins with chocolate chips

I started my life without wheat by making buckwheat flour muffins

Personally, I REALLY enjoy eating whole grains. And, I used to eat a ton of wheat. Sadly, my wheat days are basically over due to my food sensitivity testing. I started weaning myself from wheat by making these buckwheat flour muffins.

For others, it may be apersonal decision to pull back because you need or want to be gluten-free (products labeled gluten free are also wheat free). Whatever the circumstances, there are definitely some grain alternatives out there for those that love whole grains. I started living without wheat by making the pictured buckwheat flour muffins. The verdict was they were delicious!

Keep in mind that two of these grains noted here are not gluten-free, only wheat free or differing in the gluten profile. Barley, rye, wheat, and oats that are not processed in a dedicated gluten free facility are not allowed on a gluten free diet. For those choosing to live without the ubiquitous wheat found in standard grocery stores, the challenge is to find alternative products that may be better tolerated.

Here are some other wheat-free options:

Rye

Most commercial store brands of rye bread actually contain wheat. For instance, Pepperidge Farm rye bread notes: unbromated unbleached enriched wheat flour as the first ingredient, followed by water, then rye. To find a rye bread made entirely of rye flour, you may need to go to a bakery. In the Chicago area suburbs, there is a little bakery that only uses rye flour. For those going “wheatless”, breads using only rye flour are a delicious alternative. Don’t assume every bakery uses just rye flour, you will need to ask the staff.

Spelt

Spelt is an ancient grain. According to one bakery website (kolateksbakery.com), spelt needs more steps to harvest and then bake, so it fell out of favor and eventually took a back seat to our now popular wheat. Spelt is technically part of the wheat family, but it possesses a different gluten profile. Those with a wheat sensitivity may be able to tolerate spelt better than wheat. I found this bakery’s Tata bread to be very “normal tasting” and almost reminiscent of whole wheat bread days!

Buckwheat

Here’s an actual gluten-free alternative. It’s actually not a grain, which is why there is no gluten! It’s a type of seed called a pseudo-cereal. I’m trying to get in the kitchen a bit more making my own wheat-free alternative foods, because so many of the commercial mixes are just way too high in sugar and calories. Here’s a great buckwheat muffin recipe:


1.5 cups buckwheat flour
¾ cups oatmeal (use gluten-free oats for a GF diet)
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup skim milk or milk of choice
2 tbsp. oil of choice
¼ cup applesauce
1 mashed banana
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup chocolate chips

Combine ingredients. Mix until moistened.  Bake at 350º for 18-20 minutes. Yields 12 muffins. 150 calories per muffin; 5 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat

There are other grains to try such as Teff which is gluten-free as well.  Anyone else have experience focusing on these grains along with great recipes?

 

Homemade Chicken Soup: Oh So Good and Good For You!

chicken soup

Homemade chicken soup made in my favorite Cuisinart electric pressure cooker

It seems as though sinus infections, the stomach flu, bronchitis, and muscle aches are making the rounds in my large family and we don’t even live in the same house! I finally found both the energy and time to take out my favorite cooking equipment, my pressure cooker, to make some virus fighting fuel.  We have all heard that even canned chicken noodle soup can help fight a cold, but I was eager and ready to taste the rich flavorful type of chicken noodle soup I could make with my electric pressure cooker. At this point, I decided I would enhance the rich flavor by making the chicken stock base in my pressure cooker rather than using low sodium chicken broth.

Pressure Cooker Homemade Chicken Stock Ingredients

2 pounds of chicken wings
small onion
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 bay leaves
5 parsley sprigs
2 quarts water

Cook all ingredients on high pressure for 40 minutes. Use a natural release to continue extracting the flavors.  Strain the stock. Cool the stock in order to skim the fat off.  If time is short and you need to use the chicken stock before it is completely cool, use a chilled lettuce leaf to help skim the fat off the stock.  The chilled leaf will actually attract the fat in the broth to allow for removal.

On to the Chicken Soup….

  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste
  • 6 cups of your homemade chicken stock recipe or 6 cups low sodium packaged chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 cup egg noodles (may substitute rice or orzo)

Saute the celery, onion, and carrots in the tablespoon of oil for a few minutes.   Add the chicken breasts, thyme, salt, pepper, and stock or broth.  Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes; when done release the pressure quickly.  Add in the chopped parsley and then cook the egg noodles or other pasta or rice in the hot soup.

In addition to being a “comfort” food, chicken soup will fight inflammation, thin your mucous, and hydrate you which will all hopefully fight whatever ails you!

Do you have a favorite chicken soup recipe?  Interested in more soup recipes?

 

 

 

Crustless Pumpkin Pie & Minestrone Soup: Fall Recipes

crustless pumpkin pie recipeToday, some major plans fell through, and I very unexpectedly have the whole day free to tackle my kitchen and food preparation. With the fall chill in the air and mums on the front step, I am in the mood to make some of my favorite “fall” foods. These incude my crustless pumpkin pie and super effortless minestrone soup!

For a healthier sweet tooth fix, consider making crustless pumpkin pie. In my family, we eat crustless pumpkin pie all year-not just during the holidays. This is a slimmed down version, with literally half the calories of traditional pie The trick is to get rid of the crust calories, but still have the pie hold its shape. Using Bisquick mix (and you can use the reduced fat version), you will decrease the calories by 50%. This is a healthy dessert, full of anti-oxidants. You might even want to consider eating this for breakfast! My family uses this as breakfast food all the time.

Slimmed Down Pumpkin Pie Recipe (1/8 pie has about 100 calories)

15 oz. Can pumpkin pie

1 can evaporated skim milk

¾ cup Splenda or 1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. salt

½ cup Bisquick mix

Mix all the ingredients in bowl. Use baking spray and coat a glass pie pan. Add the mixture and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes, then turn down the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and continue baking approximately 45 additional minutes.

Soups are another fall favorite recipe. Soups are wonderful in that most can be frozen very well and then pulled out of the freezer for a very quick dinner when time is tight. A favorite soup in our family is quick minestrone. It takes virtually no time to assemble my version of this recipe. This is a true family favorite, and all of my adult children and daughter-in-law really enjoy this recipe. I hope you do as well.

 Very Quick Minestrone Soup (1.5 cup serving has about 200 calories)

1 cup carrots, thinly sliced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 small zucchini, sliced

one large can (28 ounces) of low sodium chicken broth

1 can light kidney beans (15 ounces), rinsed and drained

1-2 cans of stewed tomatoes

1 cup medium pasta shells, uncooked

1 cup frozen peas or Italian-style beans

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

Parmesan cheese to top soup (optional)

Directions

Toss all ingredients into a stockpot. Bring to a boil and simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle each serving with parmesan cheese if desired. Serve with whole grain bread and a light salad. This is a meal rich in anti-oxidants and fiber. And, serve some pie along with it.

Enjoy the autumn along with these favorite fall recipes.

Build a Better Breakfast!

 

My Creamy Berry Smoothie

 

Nutritionally speaking, there are a lot of important reasons to fuel up in the morning.  Research has noted that breakfast eaters have a jump-start on: maintaining a healthy weight, meeting daily nutritional requirements, and performing better physically and mentally all day.The “problems”, however, always seem to revolve around what to eat, how long will it take to prepare, and how fast can it be eaten! If you are getting tired of standard breakfast fare, consider the following as options:

Berry Creamy Smoothie

Blend 1.5 cups of blueberries (may start off as frozen and let thaw while in shower), ½ cup 1% milk fat cottage cheese, and ½ cup orange juice in a blender until thoroughly mixed.

Each 12 ounce serving has 260 calories, 15 grams protein, 48 grams carb, 2 grams fat, 7 grams fiber, and 275 mg. of potassium.

Oat Bran Muffins

Make from scratch.  This is about as easy as it gets and you know what is going into your body. They can be frozen after you make a batch, and then pulled out of the freezer when you get up in the morning. Let thaw as you shower. Enjoy with some orange or low sodium V-8 juice.

When evaluating an oat bran muffin recipe, if you are watching your waistline, consider recipes without dried fruits and nuts as ingredients. If a recipe calls for applesauce, that allows for a moister oat bran muffin.

 Oat Bran Muffin Recipe

Improvise with an English Muffin

Toast an English muffin, add one slice low-fat cheese and a slice of Canadian bacon.  Now you have an Egg McMuffin, sans the egg, and you don’t need to stop at the drive through and get tempted with hash browns.

What about English muffin pizza for breakfast? Toast each half to make it crispy.  Spread some pizza sauce on each half, some shredded mozzarella, and zap for a few seconds in the microwave.

Standby eggs

Consider hard boiling several to grab during the week. Each egg is a nice packet of nutrients and only about 80 calories. Or, consider making small cheese and spinach quiches in muffin pans and freezing. Making that little bit of effort ahead of time in order to grab these will be worth it as you head to work.

Bottom line, a better breakfast will mean a better you and better day.  If you are also thinking of lunch and dinner, here are some other suggestions! 

Do you have a favorite, fast, and healthy breakfast idea?

 

 

The Pressure (Cooker) is On!

I was a child in the 50s. Mothers back then frequently cooked with a “scary” piece of equipment called the pressure cooker. I remember being afraid of the loud sounds it made. I distinctly feared that the rattling piece of metal sitting atop the lid would fly off. When my mother gave me her pressure cooker after I myself became a mom, it sat in my cabinet and was never used. It was just way too intimidating to me with three small children to feed. After all, I was also concerned for their “safety”!

Fast forward to now. Like most people, I am very busy. I still work and I will always want to be eating healthier foods. Pressure cookers made today are much different than in the past.

Modern pressure cookers

The newer pressure cookers seem to be the perfect solution to preparing healthy food in limited time. They are equipped with a variety of settings, such as browning, sautéing, and warming, along with both low and high pressure settings, making it easy to prepare a complete gourmet meal in no time. For instance, rather than going through the hassle of soaking lentils overnight, with a pressure cooker you can cook with them immediately.

What’s more, modern pressure cookers have safety features to help prevent kitchen accidents. There are many other benefits to using a pressure cooker. Aside from saving time, using a pressure cooker limits nutrient losses. Because all the recipe components are in one pot and the liquid is part of the main dish, all nutrients are retained. Additionally, preparing a meal with a pressure cooker saves money. Tough and more economical cuts of meat can be used very successfully in the pressure cooker because the high pressure will tenderize the meat. Two of my favorite pressure cooker recipes can be found on this website.

So, if time is tight and healthy eating is a priority, consider lessening your personal pressure by increasing the pressure for cooking.

Do you have any favorite foods you enjoy making in your pressure cooker?

Fabulous Flaxseed: Easily Add to Your Diet

add flaxseed to your diet

Whole flaxseed

It’s relatively easy to add flaxseed to your diet in order to reap some significant health benefits. Flax seed is a rich plant based source of omega-3 fatty acids, making for a nice dietary alternative to fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are protective against heart disease, hypertension, certain cancers, and some autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Americans typically do not eat enough of these healthful essential omega-3 fatty acids so, understanding how to add flaxseed to your diet can help improve your diet.

Flaxseed and fiber

Flaxseed is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber aids in reducing blood cholesterol and insoluble fiber prevents constipation. The anti-cancer benefits of flaxseed are due to plant estrogens called lignans. Flaxseed contains more lignans than any other known plant material.

 Easy ways to add flaxseed to your diet

  • a topping for salad
  • a thickening ingredient for soups
  • a topping for cottage cheese
  • adding to yogurt
  • adding to condiments such as mustard or mayo when making sandwiches
  • using as part of a baked product recipe or pancake mixture*
  • adding to hot and cold cereal

Purchasing and storage

Flaxseed can be purchased as a whole seed, or a milled or ground meal. Whole flaxseed, such as pictured above, is shelf stable for up to a year, but needs to be ground up to derive the health benefits. If the product is purchased already ground or milled, once the package is opened it should be kept in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to 3 months.

Nutrition information

One tablespoon of flaxseed has 45 calories, 2 grams of fiber, a little protein, and a large amount of the omega-3 fatty acids. This is definitely food worth chewing on. Here’s a great recipe to use up that garden zucchini and get your flaxseed eaten:

Add flaxseed to your diet with this easy muffin recipe

*Chocolate Zucchini Muffins~ Recipe makes 24 muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup ground or milled flaxseed
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups finely grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and ground flaxseed in a bowl. Cream the margarine, oil and sugar in another bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and the applesauce. Then, add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients and lightly mix. Lastly, add the grated zucchini.

Use paper baking cups to line muffin pan or generously oil or use baking spray on muffin pans. Fill tin or paper cups half way. Bake about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean. Remove, cool and enjoy.

Nutrition information 

Calories-175             Fiber- 1 gram               Potassium-85 mg

Sodium-250 mg        Fat-6 grams                Carbohydrate-26 grams

Do you have a favorite recipe or way you add flaxseed to your diet?

For more detailed information on flaxseed, visit this site.