Archive for Beans

Love Your Heart Week – Heart-healthy ingredients

One in four deaths in America. 600,000 deaths each year. The number one killer in the country. Do you know what it is?

It’s heart disease, and February is the month we hope to raise awareness and learn how to our risk of disease. The good news (well, from a food-blogger’s perspective) is that diet is one of the major ways we either help or hurt our hearts. So I’ve pulled together a week’s worth of recipes that feature foods rich in fiber, phytonutrients, healthy fats and more, to help keep hearts in tick-tock shape.

Chocolate (the darker, the better). It’s not for nothing that chocolate and heart-themed Valentine’s Day are paired up in our collective consciousness. Full of heart-friendly flavonoids, chocolate can help control blood pressure if you eat the high-cocoa content stuff (70% or more) regularly. And if you try it in my chocolate veggie enchilada recipe, you’ll also get some healthy fats from avocado and a good dose of vegetables.

Nuts. Your heart goes nuts for the mono- and polyunsaturated fats and phytosterols in foods like walnuts and almonds. And the little buggers are tasty, too, especially when ground up into creamy nut butters like the simple maple walnut butter from Eating Well With Janel.

Legumes. Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you… reduce your risk of heart disease! Yeah, my version isn’t as melodic (or amusing to first-graders), but it casts these fiber-rich, vitamin-packed legumes as the nutritional powerhouses they are. Give lentils a while in my curried lentil shepherd’s pie, or check out Bean Week for more recipes.

Berries. Blueberries, cranberries, cherries, elderberries, and more – they’re all packed with phytonutrients (flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenols) that have been shown to promote cardiovascular health with regular consumption. Work them in easily as a snack or dessert with Cooking Light’s blueberry orange yogurt parfait.

Green vegetables. Well, duh, green vegetables are healthy for you. But foods like broccoli, spinach and others are especially good for the ol’ ticker because they’re rich in carotenoids, fiber, and potassium, among other nutrients. Epicurious has a simple, colorful side-dish recipe for chard with pine nuts and golden raisins that can ease anyone into the green-vegetable habit.

Orange vegetables. Carotenoids give foods like carrots, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes their lovely orange hue, and contribute to their associated with lower risk of heart disease. So orange you glad there’s a recipe like carrot “pasta” with kale parsley pesto from Betacyanin?

Fatty fish, flaxseeds, and other omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods. There’s some confusion about unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids’ role in heart health, because supplementation hasn’t conclusively been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. But there’s ample evidence that eating foods rich in omega-3s does reduce your risk. So if you put down the pill bottle, pick up your fork (or spoon) and try adding fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and other good food sources to your diet. Cooking Light has a pan-seared salmon with jalapeno-pineapple relish recipe that sounds great for fish eaters, and veg-heads like me might want to throw some flaxseeds on their yogurt or into a bowl of oatmeal.

The Missing Week: Magnesium’s turn in the spotlight

There are several rockstar nutrients – calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin C – who can’t seem to share the spotlight with the rest of the cast. But somewhere a few steps off the red carpet, there’s a lesser known but hard-working mineral that deserves some attention: magnesium.

This salad will make a lot more sense after a few paragraphs.

Magnesium keeps bones strong, helps nerves zzzzap like normal, and is needed for a few other minor tasks like, oh, keeping your heart beating. (Lots more info here) But apparently that isn’t glitzy enough for the average eater, because nearly half of people age 1 and older have inadequate intakes (pdf).

Why? Well, our love of refined grains may be one culprit – wheat’s germ and bran are rich in magnesium, but those get stripped out when processed into flours and such. Green Veggie Phobia is another contributor, because if you aren’t eating your greens, you’re not getting the magnesium-rich chlorophyll.

I think we all agree that we like non-brittle bones and still-beating hearts, so what should we eat to get more magnesium? In general, whole grains, vegetables (especially the green ones), legumes, seeds and nuts are the way to go.

And that brings us to the salad I tossed (har) together that boasts several magnesium-rich foods on the marquee: garam-masala-roasted cashews, curried black lentils, and spinach, along with sweet potato and a simple dressing. Not only does this salad have a sweet and spicy crunch, but it delivers approximately half the magnesium required daily by the average adult.

The salad recipe follows below, and here’s a few additional ways to add more of the magnificent mineral to your meals:

  • “Good morning blend” yogurt parfait from Rodale (here)
  • Poached egg with walnuts and spinach from Cooking Light (here)
  • No-bake molasses, dates, seed and nut bites from Oh My Veggies (here)
  • Jumbo prawns with balsamic-orange onions from Eating Well (here)
  • Grilled halibut with roasted tomatoes from Rodale (here)
  • Papaya avocado salad from Eating Well (here)

Spiced cashew, curried lentil and sweet potato salad

(4 servings, approx. 460 calories each)

Ingredients:
1 cup cashews (unsalted)
1 Tbs garam masala
3 Tbs orange juice, divided
½ cup dry black lentils
2 cups water
1 tsp curry powder
2 medium sweet potatoes
6-8 cups fresh spinach
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar

Roast the cashews: Heat the oven to 250F. Mix the cashews, garam masala and 1 Tbs orange juice in a bowl. Spread the cashews on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring once or twice during that time.

Cook the lentils: Combine the lentils, water and curry powder in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-22 minutes.

Cook the sweet potato: Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork. Microwave each for 3 minutes on one side, then flip and microwave another 2-3 minutes.

Mix up the dressing: Whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and remaining 2 Tbs orange juice in a small bowl.

Put it all together: Divide the spinach among four bowls. To that add ¼ cup of the roasted cashews, one fourth of the cooked lentils, ½ of a sweet potato (sliced/cubed), and ¼ of the dressing (roughly 1.5 Tbs).

 

Stalking the Week: Waving the magical celery wand

Maybe it’s the wand-like shape of a celery stalk which suggests it is imbued with magical, “negative calorie” powers. Let’s just get this out of the way up front: it’s a myth that you burn more calories digesting celery than are actually in the celery itself. And nutritionally, it’s not really a big standout – there’s a reasonable amount of water and vitamin K in each stalk, but mostly it’s just a fiber delivery system.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy this relative of carrots and parsley for its other merits, like the crunchy texture and clean, distinctive flavor. Those firm green ribs stand up great to all sorts of dips and schmears, making celery a perennial favorite on the veggie-and-dip tray at parties. But there are several other ways to enjoy it, especially in crunchy salads with fruit or other veggies.

The recipe that got this all started for me was a vegan creamy celery soup in the recent issue of Vegetarian Times. But that recipe isn’t yet posted on their site, and I’m not a big fan of copyright infringement, so I can’t share it with you here. I did manage to find a very similar recipe from Pamela Goes Primal, however, linked in the recipe list at the end of this post.

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Hello, Stranger: Someone’s not going to be invited back

Sometimes, your friends have a new, awesome Friend that you haven’t met yet. This Friend is talked up as the funniest/daringest/best-looking/most-traveled person around, and your friends insist you just have to meet them. So one thing leads to another and a dinner party or kickball game or whatever the kids do these days is arranged, and you finally meet The Friend. But after small talk falls flat, or maybe The Friend rudely snatched the last Pretty Things brew from the fridge, or maybe they just aren’t as good-looking as promised, you’re left wondering what do they see in this Friend?  Well, it turns out that I met one of those friends in this fourth installment of Hello, Stranger.

Who failed to meet expectations in this latest round of experimentation with foods I’ve never eaten or prepared myself?

Hemp milk. That’s right – despite all the praise heaped on help milk by other nutrition nerds I know, this just didn’t cut it for me.

Now, I like non-cow milks, don’t get me wrong. And I’m all for foods can boast about their omega fatty acid profiles. So I gave hemp milk several chances to win me over: I bought unsweetened, plain (sweetened), and vanilla, and tried each with my regular cereal, in oatmeal, in chia seed pudding, and straight from the glass. But in every incarnation, this stuff tasted like pressed facial powder (see: Cover Girl or similar), and I just couldn’t get past it. I might be tempted to give it one more go in a smoothie, like this chocolate banana one from The Naked Dish, but it would take a lot of convincing (and a big sale/coupon).

But thankfully, a few tastier foods were also invited to this meet & greet. Follow after the jump to strike up some small talk.

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The Missing Week: Fiber

Fun fact: for a year during middle school, I was a cheerleader. Pleated skirt, herkie jumps, the whole nine yards. Back then, I was cheering for our basketball team (go, Bulldogs!); but since then, I’ve focused my boosterism on an entirely different area.

If you can’t make out that scribble in my anatomy & physiology class notes, it says, “Yay colon!” I’ve researched it for work, read about it in school, and even toured it (twice!) when the Colossal Colon exhibit visited Boston many years ago.

Inside the Colossal Colon (photo by David Lapidus)

Sadly, not everyone shares my love for the large intestine. Why else would roughly half of North Americans fall short of their daily recommended fiber intake? (For reference, women should target 25 grams daily if under 50 years old, 21 grams if 50+; men should get 38 grams if under 50 years old, 30 if 50+) So why do we care? Head past the jump…

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Speed freak: Eating The Week gets Superfast again

If that title made you worry that I’m going to bore you to death with more off-topic running/marathon nonsense, relax. This week’s speed isn’t happening at the track but in the kitchen, with a trial of seven recipes from Cooking Light’s Superfast collection.

I tried this before and found it was a fun way to explore new dishes and learn some quick-prep tips. So when Cooking Light (via Facebook and Twitter) put out the call for Superfast fans to potentially be featured in the magazine, I grabbed my pretend stopwatch (iPhone app) and got cooking.

In the spirit of Superfast, no rambling musing over each dish this week – just seven quick reports on time spent, changes made, and tastiness achieved.

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A few more bean photos

Last but not least, I posted photos on flickr of the lentil-barley burgers I included in this week’s bean-powered recipe list. If you’re a Where’s Waldo fan, you might enjoy trying to find me in the making-of photos (hint: reflection).

Beans, beans, the magical week

If I had any decent skills with a sewing machine, I would consider making teeny little capes for legumes to wear. Before anyone has me committed, I’ll explain: these guys are food superheroes.

It wasn’t until I took an introductory nutrition class that I fully appreciated them. In nearly every section of that class, legumes popped up as great sources of vital nutrients. Fiber and complex carbohydrates? Oh, heck yes. Economical, non-animal protein? One of the best sources. Iron? Yep. B vitamins? They’re in there. Potassium? Sure. Seriously, I could have written in “legumes” for every answer on my exams, and gotten 8 of 10 correct without even trying (not that I actually did that, she says to the people currently considering her grad school applications).

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