Archive for Seafood

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.

Recipe ReDux: Sea what you’ve been missing

There are some people who just aren’t going to be swayed by seaweed. It may be chock full of minerals – especially iodine and (compared with other plant-based foods) calcium – and useable in everything from sushi to salad to baked goods. But the pro-sea-vegetable arguments sometimes fall flat when people are presented with a bowlful of this:

Even if we pretty it up a little for photos…

…it does, frankly, look like something you’d take pains to avoid lest it spoil a beach stroll by goo-ily (sure, that’s a word) grabbing hold of your foot.

So even thought I like the stuff enough to eat it in sheets, plain, as a snack, I thought I’d use this month’s “Sea What You’ve Been Missing” Recipe ReDux to try my hand at (cue James Bond music) Secret Seaweed. Our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to hide this nutritious ugly duckling inside some tomato and clam soup.

When the Reduxers were charged with creating recipes that celebrate the more-obscure culinary treasures from the deep (little fished like sardines, or sea vegetables like seaweed), I knew I wanted to use seaweed. I have zero sushi-rolling skills, but figured seaweed soup was in my wheelhouse. Many traditional Korean seaweed soup recipes feature beef, which I don’t eat, but why not swap in clams? And while we’re at it, why not pretend the seaweed is like the spinach I use in a pasta with clams, tomatoes and spinach recipe, and base a soup on those flavors?

The result: an Italian-style seaweed soup (seriously, that’s a thing) that could easily be passed off as one of its “kale and beans and tomato” brethren. I even sprinkled on some Parmesan cheese (not kidding; cheese on seaweed) and it tasted great. So if someone at your dinner table is giving you a face full of seaweed skepticism, see if you can sneak it past the guards in this recipe.

Seaweed, tomato and clam soup (text file here)

4 servings, approx. 125 calories each

½ tbs olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ red onion, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
15 oz (1 ½ cups) diced tomatoes
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 6-oz can of clams
½ ounce dry nori seaweed

Soak the nori in water for a few minutes, then drain it and slice it into inch-wide strips.

Heat the olive oil over medium-heat heat in a nonstick pan. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook for 1-2 minutes then add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and just starting to brown on the edges.

Add the vegetable broth, diced tomatoes and juice from the clams to the pan, and remove it from heat. Allow it to cool slightly, then add the pan’s contents to a blender along with the sun-dried tomatoes. Puree until smooth.

Pour the blender’s contents back into the pan or into a stock pot. Add the clams and nori, and bring the soup nearly to a boil. Remove from heat, divide among four bowls and enjoy.

My fellow Recipe Reduxers have also been busy working with the lesser-known bounties of the sea; you can find links below to their contributions for this month:


A Great(ist) Week: Trying out 12-minute recipes from Greatist

A few more times than I’d like to admit, the hunt for something quick and easy to eat has taken me down a path ending with snacking straight out of a cereal box. Not only does that violate a lot of Nutrition Nerd Rules, it’s really not very satisfying. So when I came across Greatist’s list of 52 Healthy Meals in 12 Minutes or Less, I was game to give a week’s worth a try.

Loaded sweet potato from Greatist's 52 Healthy Meals in 12 Minutes or Less

I picked seven recipes from the list of 52, and clocked how long it took to prepare them. Curious which ones beat the clock and if they all hit the mark for tastiness? Head past the jump.

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Happy as a nutrition nerd eating clams

The phrase “happy as a clam” is baffling – really, who’s happy about living in a scraggly shell wedged deep in briny, sandy muck? But these guys certainly can bring a smile to the face of nutrition nerds.

Clams (and a few other shellfish)

Did you know that ounce-for-ounce, these little mollusks boast more iron than the red meats we typically think of as good sources? You’d probably guess that, as seafood, they’d have a favorable fat profile (read: lots of omega-3 fatty acids, little of the bad-for-you fats). But unlike many other seafoods, clams are typically low in contaminants and can be grown and harvested sustainably.

So what kind of foods can we prepare that take advantage of the nutritional value, substantial texture, and simple flavors of clams? Head past the jump.

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