Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The latest and greatest...

(Post preface:  While I did have some food classes in college, the majority of what I studied was: "What's in the human body?  How does it work?  How do nutrients, vitamins, and minerals affect body processes?"  I am not a chef.  However, I am a very willing cook.  This means a few things:  1.  I don't usually create my own recipes.  2.  I spend a lot of time looking up other people's recipes.  3.  It might not always taste the best, but I can tell you 10 solid health reasons why we should eat it anyway.)

As I plan my menu each week, I usually peruse my favorite cooking sites or the latest Taste of Home magazine to find new recipes to try.  Each week, I'm going to try to recommend to you at least one recipe that I've found and prepared.  So without further ado...

Healthified Chicken and Broccoli-Parmesan Pasta

Find the full recipe here at Eat Better America.

Prep time:  10 minutes
Start to finish:  30 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
8 oz. dried whole wheat pasta (2 1/2 cups) - I used penne
3 cups fresh broccoli florets (you could definitely use frozen though)
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp adobo seasoning (homemade)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/8 tsp black pepper
Shredded Parmesan cheese

1.  In a Dutch oven cook pasta according to package direcctions, adding broccoli for the last 5 minutes.  Drain well.  Return to hot Dutch oven.
2.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine chicken pieces and adobo seasoning; toss to coat. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds.  Add chicken; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, stirring occasionally.
3.  Add chicken to drained pasta and broccoli.  Stir in mayonnaise and pepper.  Cook over low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.
4.  To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Nutrition Analysis:  Calories 320, Total Fat 10 g (Saturated Fat 1.5 g), Sodium 380 mg, Total carb 33 g (Fiber 3 g), Protein 24 g.

In an effort to save money and to prevent an unnecessary intake of preservatives, I have been trying to make my own seasonings when possible.  I had never heard of used adobo seasoning, a Latin spice blend, until I tried it in this recipe.  I found a recipe for the seasoning here.  It was great!  It definitely gave it an unexpected flavor that prevented this from being another boring pasta recipe.  This is not considered a low-sodium dish, but with most of the sodium coming from the seasoning, it would be easy to decrease the amount of salt you use in the adobo seasoning.

This was a very quick dish to make.  I appreciated that the chicken was prepared with the meal and did not need to be pre-cooked.  I liked this recipe so much that I have made it two weeks in a row!

Health Bonus: 
Fiber from the pasta and broccoli
Calcium from the broccoli and cheese
Lean protein from the chicken
Heart-healthy fats from the olive oil and mayonnaise

Word of warning:The recipe calls for adding the broccoli to the pasta for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.  This is a very long time and results in broccoli that falls apart.  I actually liked that the broccoli fell apart because it made for a more cohesive dish and gave it a nice green color.  But if you want to keep the broccoli fully intact, I would recommend adding it only 2-3 minutes before the end of cooking time.

Hubby's reaction:  Although he was leary at first and didn't really like that the broccoli was added to the pasta when it was cooked, he ate all of it and really liked the seasoning too.

Let me know if you make it and/or how you would change it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Surprise! Still not potatoes.

When I plan my weekly menus, I normally try to make meals that I know my husband will enjoy.  But sometimes my tastebuds can be more adventurous (and healthy) than his.  I learned early on in our marriage that I couldn't express how much I was looking forward to making whole-wheat penne with arugula, pine nuts, and Gorgonzola for dinner without immediate groaning and the inevitable question, "Is there meat in it?"  I was laughing the other day, because I've realized that I have some strategies for those nights when I introduce a new meal that could bring a negative response.

I like to fix vegetarian dishes at least once a week.  But it's never the same day of the week.  There's no "Meatless Mondays" at our house - that's just asking for trouble.  I also tend to be very vague on vegetarian nights when asked about dinner.  Veggie lasagna becomes "lasagna" and mushroom-feta quesadillas become "quesadillas".  If there are further inquiries, I don't lie about the contents of the meal, but why open that can of worms unnecessarily??

Another strategy is to say, "Just try it first and let me know what you think."  This is the calm smile approach.  This is how he tried steamed turnips with butter (surprise! not potatoes).  Unfortunately, this is not the best method of introducing new foods.  If he's questioning me as soon as he sees it, I know it's a longshot.

Most of the time, I don't say anything at all until dinner is over - or until he's consumed a decent number of bites.  I certainly don't point out the parsnips that I've added to the roast (surprise! still not potatoes).  Or I pretend not to notice the asparagus tips in the spaghetti sauce (those must have slipped in there...). 

While there have been some failures, many of these once-secret dishes have become family staples.  Now, you may be thinking, "I can't believe Alex is so awful and forces her husband to eat foods that he doesn't like." 

I would like to play the helpmate card here. 

Taking care of my husband's nutritional needs is one way I feel responsible for him.  He knew what he was getting into when he married a dietitian.  Of course I don't ask him to eat anything he doesn't want to, but I do like to challenge his tastebuds.  And my husband is so very gracious to me and will eat whatever I make for him.  Usually it's a food that I know he loves. 

But every once in awhile I throw him a vegetable-topped curveball.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Garden 2011

Over the past weekend, I had the privilege of helping my mom plant her vegetable garden.  For the past few years, I have been thankful to receive fresh veggies from her garden but haven't been able to help her plant it.  Nothing beats fresh produce right out of the garden and it's such a fun way to spend time with my mom.

We planted these fair-weather crops this weekend:  Brussels sprouts, collard greens, carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, snow peas, sugar snap peas, and regular (English) peas.  As they pop up, I'm going to be posting some of my recipes for these veggies.  If you can't get them fresh out of the garden, these are all good things to be buying at the supermarket right now, as they are both in-season and cheaper right now.

Our little seedlings:

The green thumb and her apprentice:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don't trust a diet that limits your daily intake of papaya

Recently, my dad came over for dinner and I served grapes as part of the meal.  During the course of dinner, my dad commented something to the effect of, "I love grapes, but I probably shouldn't eat them so much.  Aren't they one of the worst fruits for you?"  Without even thinking, I immediately quipped, "Yes, because the problem with America is that we eat too many grapes."

His comment brought up something that always makes me cringe when I'm counseling patients:  putting fruits or vegetables on the bad foods list.  Doesn't that just sound ridiculous?

I honestly do not think that obesity is on the rise because we are all sitting around eating too many blueberries.  Now, as with any other food, we can certainly overeat blueberries.  But when you villainize a fruit alongside a piece of candy, you are also discouraging a great source of vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber. 

Plus, when you start categorizing fruits as "bad" it just makes nutrition all the more confusing!

So rejoice grape-lovers.  Eat your heart out!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hesitant to give up snack cakes and sin

Lately the Lord has opened my eyes to the fact that giving up unhealthy eating habits is a lot like giving up sins. When people are contemplating changing their eating habits, it's almost this panic because they'll have to give up the foods that they love:  ice cream, cookies, Twinkies, etc.  First of all, eating healthy does not mean that you have to give those foods up (I'm not sure why there is an all-or-nothing mentality to eating??  that's another post altogther.). 

I think people view me as the "bad guy" who is making them give up all their good foods for lesser foods like fruits and vegetables.  They want to hold on to their junk foods, but the reality is that they are missing out on more energy, improved health, weight loss, and, believe it or not, delicious, healthier foods.  Maybe you can help me answer this:  is it that we don't believe that eating healthy will make us feel better/lose weight?  Or is it that we don't think it's worth it?

Isn't this a lot like sin in our lives?  We tend to hold on to sins because it makes us happy or it comforts us.  Which mainly boils down to the fact that we don't trust that God has our best interest in mind or we don't trust that God's way is the best for us.  When God asks you to give up sins that maybe you've stuggled with for awhile, does part of your heart ever say, "but I need to do this, because..." or "well I'll give that up when such-and-such works out for me" or "but if I give that up this might happen...".  In doing this, though, I know that we miss out on some of the glorious riches of Jesus Christ.

I absolutely love when patients come back to me after changing their diets.  Even if only small changes have been made, they always tell me how much better they feel and how energized they are.  Eating better is always worth it.  But it's something that can never be fully realized until you actually try it.  In the same way, getting rid of sins in our life is always worth it! 

What do you think?  What made you finally decide it was worth it to put sin to death?  How has it impacted your own walk?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hello Blog World!

I have never been what you would call a trendsetter.  In fact, it usually takes me a few months or even years to feel comfortable enough to try something.  Case in point, it was a good year before I got enough nerve to try the whole slanted haircut trend (a mistake, by the way).  And I’m still not convinced about this whole skinny jeans thing.

But….after about 2 years of following a few blogs, I have decided to take the plunge into blogging.  I am not sure how it will turn out, and I know myself well enough not to get my hopes up.  As the oldest of 4 children, I learned early not to keep a diary/journal/Harriet the Spy notebook unless you wanted your thoughts or clandestine endeavors to be made public, so this is a little terrifying.

BUT…I created Faith and Nutrition nonetheless.  I want this blog to be a mix of personal and professional.  I want to share my journey as a Christian woman and a wife who daily clings to the grace of Jesus Christ.  As a registered dietitian, I also want to share my passion and perspective on nutrition. 

In my world, Faith and Nutrition collide everyday.  Join me, won’t you?

Me and my husband, November 2010: