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Easy Sweet Potatoes

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes may be one of nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene with a superior ability to raise our blood levels of vitamin A. This benefit may be particularly true for children. They come in many colors and varieties, all of which are nutritional goldmines. It’s important to have some fat in your sweet potato-containing meals if you want to enjoy the full beta-carotene benefits of this root vegetable.

(FYI: A true yam is a root vegetable belonging to the Dioscorceae family. Sweet potatoes belong to the Convolvulaceae family. It is sweet potatoes we find in the grocery stores although the long orange flesh varieties are often called yams anyway.)

Method #1 My absolute favorite way to make sweet potatoes (and I do prefer the orange flesh varieties for this one) is to scrub them well and put them in a 350 oven for 1.5 hrs. until they are soft all the way through. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store them uncovered in the refrigerator for up to a week. They taste like candy and can be eaten as a snack or as a side to any meal.

That almost isn’t a recipe. See, I told you it was easy.

Method #2 My second favorite way to make sweet potatoes is to peel them and cut them into 3/4″ chunks. Toss them lightly with olive oil and spread them in a baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes in a 375 oven. This is a better method when you have to get diner on the table in a hurry. Store the leftover in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge.

Some nutritional benefits from sweet potatoes simply may not be achievable unless you use steaming or boiling as your cooking method. Recent studies show excellent preservation of sweet potato anthocyanins with steaming, and several studies comparing boiling to roasting have shown better blood sugar effects (including the achievement of a lower glycemic index, or GI value) with boiling.

Method #3 This may well be the most nutritious of the 3 methods. Peel and chunk the sweet potatoes. Place chunks in a steamer basket above an inch of rapidly boiling water. Cover tightly and cook for 5-7 minutes or until chunks are soft enough to pierce easily with a fork.

And when picking out your cranberries, be SURE to get organic! Find out why.

ENJOY!

Chickpea Salad; A Perfect Pantry Recipe

The term “salad” does not do justice to this delicious, warm dish. It is tasty, tangy and full of the flavors of the Mediterranean. You could improvise and add a few olives, capers, or even Feta, but you may not want to; it is perfect just the way it is.

The real beauty of this recipe is that all of the items are “pantry” items; things you would likely have with no special shopping required. It is a great way to use up the last of head of celery, limp or not, carrots, fresh or not. And BTW, it is good for you!

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ onion, diced
  • ½ cup white wine (optional)
  • 1-3 tomatoes, chopped or pureed (canned tomatoes can be used)
  • 3- 8 leaves chard, chopped, stalk included
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained  – any other kind of beans can be used in addition or substituted
  • Juice of 2-4 lemons
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

Directions:

  1. Sweat carrot, celery, chard stalk, onion, and garlic until they are slightly soft.
  2. Add wine, and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add tomato, and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add chard leaves, beans, and cook for a few more minutes, until chard is cooked.
  5. Turn off the heat, and add lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.
  6. Put in a serving bowl, and garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley.

ENJOY!

Fast And Easy Chili

This is such a classic cool weather stand-by I almost hesitate to put up a recipe for it. But my version is very fast, very easy, and ultra healthy, so why not! It is also a Perfect Pantry recipe, so chances are you already have everything you need on hand right now (or would if you had my Perfect Pantry shopping list. Download free at: http://lindaliving.com/).

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef/chicken/turkey/lamb/pork/venison – please buy organic, and even better, grass fed/pasture raised.
  • 2 15oz cans organic kidney beans (other varieties are fine too), rinsed and drained
  • 2 15oz cans organic fire roasted tomato with green chillies (available at Trader Joe’s) – you can also use leftover salsa and diced fresh tomatoes if you have some that need to be used up.
  • 1 4oz can of diced green chillies
  • Seasoning to taste – I like the flavors of the main ingredients to shine through in my chili, so I go very light here and use only a dash of Mexican meat seasoning. Ground cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder are the traditional spices used in chili. If desired, use 1 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and 1 TBS. chili powder. Add salt only if absolutely necessary. The tomatoes and beans will have plenty in them already.

Directions:

  1. Brown the meat in a large frying pan deep enough to hold all of the ingredients. Have the lid or a frying screen handy.
  2. Drain off any fat created by cooking the meat.
  3. Add the tomatoes, salsa, and green chillies to the pan while it is still very hot. Allow to cook at a high heat for 5-7 minutes (covered to reduce splatter). Stir frequently and add seasonings all except for salt.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add beans. Cook for another 10 minutes covered. Add salt only if required.
  5. Serve over rice, quinoa, or with corn chips, with slices of avocado. (skip the cheese and sour cream; you will never miss it!)

Enjoy!

Healthy Cooking Tips And Tricks For Busy Families

As summer draws to near to a close, my thoughts turn toward getting my kids ready for the new school year. I love the free flow of summer, always eager for the break in routine that summer brings. By the end of summer I am also just as ready for the return to routine and structure.

As the mother of two boys, autumn also brings on a shortage of discretionary time. Between the pressures of sports, homework, quality time, and bedtime, keeping up with healthy meals can be a challenge. I know first hand what a struggle it is to put (a healthy) dinner on the table night after night. The temptation to do quick-and-not-so-healthy can be hard to resist.

Here are some suggestions, tips and tricks that will help you make the most of your time in the kitchen, save you money, and keep your family at the peak of health.

Suggestion #1 — Start the season off with a clean pantry

Take everything out –and I mean EVERYTHING and clean the space. Paint it, re paper it, or whatever. Make the space look attractive and appealing. Be selective when putting things back. Toss anything that is expired or you would not want to eat. Get rid of items that undermine healthy habits. Stock the shelves with things like beans, tomatoes, whole grains, and canned fish like tuna, salmon, or sardines. Stock the freezer with chicken, ground beef/turkey/buffalo, frozen vegetables and home made soups.

Suggestion #2 — Make your own frozen entrees to freeze for later

You can do this by setting aside a couple of hours one day a week, once a month, or by simply making enough extra to get another meal out of it. Be sure to choose recipes that will freeze well like soups, stews, lasagna, and cooked grains too. (See my recipe for gluten free hi protein lasagna)

Tip #1 — Do some meal planning at the beginning of each week

It does not have to be fancy, just some notes of what is for dinner the different nights. Each morning refer to the list and be sure you have everything you need, or need to defrost.

Trick #1 — How to defrost something in a hurry

The best way is NOT in the microwave. It diminishes the taste and texture, not to mention the healthfulness of your food.

The best way to defrost rice or other whole grains is to put them in a strainer and run them under warm water. It only takes a minute.  For other things fill a large bowl with very warm water. If the item you are defrosting is watertight, submerge it weighted down with a glass jar filled with hot water. If it is watertight, put it in a zip lock with all the air pushed out or in an empty plastic produce bag with the open end above the level of the water. Submerging it will push the air out. Change the water as it cools down. For best results, defrost meat completely before cooking.

 

I wish you a happy, healthy, and stress free back-to-school season—whether you have school aged kids of not!

 

 

Burrito in a Bowl

Ok, this is not really a burrito although it does have all of the best components– minus the ones that you would not think you would never miss. It has no tortilla, no cheese, no sour cream, and does not require rice. I LOVE burritos, and this recipe TOTALLY satisfies my desires for the more authentic version. As an added bonus, I feel good after I have this one.

To start, cook up some of your favorite burrito filling (chicken, pork, carne asada (steak), beans, or even grilled vegetables). I usually make a combination of seasoned ground beef (or buffalo) and kidney beans and I always make enough so that I can have a quick lunch or simple dinner without having to cook again.

Burrito in a Bowl – serves 4

Ingredients:

“Filling”:
* 1 lb ground beef (substitute buffalo, elk, ostrich, or even turkey for a lower fat alternative)
* 1 15oz can organic kidney or black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 medium onion, diced
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
* 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder or other Mexican meat seasoning
* 1 tablespoon olive oil

Other components:
* 2 cups cooked brown rice
* non-fat Greek style yogurt
* salsa (make your own or use pre-made)
* 1-2 avocados
* cilantro and minced onion for garnish – optional

Directions:
-Saute onion and garlic in a skillet over a medium heat until it is translucent and aromatic.
-Add the meat and break it up into pieces. When it is about 1/2 cooked, add the cumin and chili powder.
-Continue cooking until the meat is completely cooked. Add the beans and mix thoroughly to incorporate.
-Taste for seasoning, add salt if desired.

To assemble the burrito heat the rice and put 1/2 cup (or desired amount) in a bowl. Top with 3/4 cup of “filling”. Add a dollop of yogurt, salsa to taste and diced avocado. Sprinkle finely minced onion and cilantro on top.

Enjoy!