Healthful Giving: Holiday Gift Guide

It’s holiday gift giving time. This year, give your kids, parents, siblings, spouse, nieces/nephews, boss, co-workers, friends, teachers a healthy gift. A healthy gift is a gift that keeps on giving. So corny, yet so true.

1. Active Gear. For kids think a new ball, bat, cleats, jump rope, bike, scooter, snowboard or even Wii dance and other active games. For adults try sneakers, sporting goods, work out attire, yoga mat, pedometer, hiking gear, ear warmers for running. Don’t want to get that personal? A gift card to a sporting good store will do.

2. Get Moving. Purchase some classes at the new yoga or dance studio that opened in your ‘hood or try a gym membership. Better yet, buy a package of classes that you can split between you and your gift-ee to go together. And to those who like winter sports, a ski lift ticket is a sure win. For an adventurous friend try a trapeze or aerial yoga class.

3. Learn. Search online for local culinary schools/centers to purchase public classes (maybe one to attend together). Whole Foods on Bowery in NYC has some parent/adult-child cooking classes. The Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC has a ton of healthy cooking classes.

4. Stay Hydrated. There are tons of cool (PBA-free) water bottles to help kids and adults stay hydrated during sports, school and work. Helping the environment isn’t a bad thing either. My two favorites are :

Vapur “Anti-Bottles” 

They’re re-usable, foldable, washable (dishwasher safe) and only about $10.

Bobble Water Bottle

They have a built in filter to purify tap water. And, they come in fun colors.

5. Cookbook.  Can’t go wrong with a healthy cookbook from Ellie Krieger or a subscription to EatingWell magazine. There are also a couple of cookbooks for kids.

6. Sprout. Indoor gardening kits for kids are great, especially for those who don’t have yards. I started a small make-shift “garden” in my NYC apartment, which I will update you on at a later date. But, I sprouted a black bean! It brought me back to elementary school when I had to do sprout a bean at home.

7.Tea Of The Month Club. No further explanation needed.

8.Artisan Ingredients. Try a really nice olive oil and vinegar set or a spice rack with fresh spices.

9. Kitchen Gear. For a little gift, look for a small kitchen gadgets. For a bigger gift, think a set of pans, coffee maker, mixer, or blender to make fresh smoothies. A lot of the flash-sale websites, like GiltGroup.com and OneKingsLane.com, have good deals on great quality kitchenware. For kids, think fun cooking gadgets or a monogramed apron to make your lil’ guy feel like a chef.  WilliamSonoma.com has a lot of really cute kid’s kitchen gear, though it’s a bit pricey. Check out personalized kid’s Star Wars aprons and Star Wars spatula.

 10. Assortments. Instead of chocolate, candy and chocolate covered popcorn, send an assortment of fancy nuts or dried fruit. 

And yes, this post was a scheme to publish my wishlist :-)

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Turkey Day Survivor Tips

I found a lovely video to demonstrate some of the food craziness that goes down on this holiday. You may have heard of the turducken (chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a chicken), but have you heard of a turbaconducken? Only in America, eh…

Now for the survivor tips. I’m not gonna sit here and tell type you not to eat 5+ courses, skip seconds, avoid stuffing and dessert because, well, that’s unrealistic. But, I will give you some effortless tips to make your meal a little healthier for you and the family.

1. Make it colorful. Incorporate fresh salads and veggies (see previous post for recipe ideas) to at least get in some low calorie, high fiber and vitamin choices to balance some of the heavier foods.

2. Avoid adding sugar and sweeteners to foods that don’t need it. Carrots and sweet potatoes (hence the name)  taste so sweet and delicious when roasted with a little salt, pepper and herbs. No need to find recipes that call for adding brown sugar, honey or maple syrup.

3. Lighten up salads. Since you will give into your cravings for certain things, try to cut  the sugar and fat in salads and dressings. Make a simple light vinaigrette, lemon + mustard dressing or hummus thinned with water, lemon juice and olive oil instead of the creamy, cheese- based, mayonnaise and sugar rich dressings. Avoid salads that call for candied nuts or even dried fruit, which can add about 130 extra calories per 1/3 of cup.

4. Have at least 1 fruit based dessert (try these chunky cinnamon balsamic apples)or an eye catching fruit plate to add to the spread of chocolate cake, pumpkin bread and pecan pie.

5. Serve olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette with bread (preferably whole wheat) instead of heart-clogging butter.

6. Look for a stuffing recipe that is full of veggies (peppers, celery, apples). Try epicurious.com for some ideas.

7. If you plan to serve a lot of grain dishes like rice, couscous, quinoa then have more non-starchy veggies and limit the number of dishes with starchy veggies (yes that means corn, squash, potatoes).

8. Use the opportunity to cook with kids and involve them in preparation and table setting. Show them what a pumpkin looks likes, so they learn it’s more than just orange mush from a can.

9. Eat SLOWLY. Chew. Talk to your aunt. Yes, it can be that simple. If you pay attention to the food in your mouth rather than just robotically picking up the next piece on your fork it will give you a chance to digest and you will eat less. Give yourself at least 5 minutes before diving in for seconds.

10. Don’t eat the skin! It’s all fat, and not the good kind. Look what I found on University of Illinois Extension’s site. Choose your piece of the carving wisely. The info is based on a 3.5 oz piece of turkey:

11.Stay hydrated. Our bodies often confuse hunger for thirst. Make sure to drink water before, during and after the meals. Before getting up for leftovers have at least a half a cup of water. And, this is definitely the day to cut out soda, juice, iced tea and lemonade.

12. While you’re cooking, get a’ moving. Every step counts.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Banging Thanksgiving (And Everyday) Sides

Nothing makes me happier than a colorful table filled with tons of colorful plant based dishes. I am totally okay with stuffing, bread, butter, oil, meat, dessert as long as there is a fair amount of healthy, light, veggie-based sides to balance out the meal.  Tis’ the season to be sharing, so let me share some of my favorite sides (and 1 soup that I love too much not to include) that I would make at any meal and definitely on Thanksgiving. Most of these recipes are easy, but between the peeling, chopping and roasting they are time consuming, which is why advance planning is key because they shouldn’t, or couldn’t possibly be made at once.

Commission kids to help with all of these recipes and involve them in the feast preparing. Let them be the peeler (age permitting), refrigerator/ingredient go-getter, time keeper, herb pull-aparter, spice adder, veggie washer, dressing mixer.

1. White Bean Butternut Squash & Rosemary Soup

Adapted from Barefood Contessa/Ina Garten cookbook. I substituted chicken broth for vegetable broth + water; added butternut squash

Barefoodcontessa.com; will turn out more orange when adding butternut squash

Serves 6

  • 2 cans white cannelli beans (sorry I made canned goods an exception here)
  • 4 cups yellow onions
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 quart veggie broth + 1 quart water
  • 1 butternut squash (or 1 package pre-cut), peeled and diced into very small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Directions:
  1. In large stock pan, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent, 10-15 minutes
  2. Add garlic and cook over low heat for 3 more minutes
  3. Add drained and rinsed white beans, rosemary, stock/water, butternut squash – cover, bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring frequently for 30-40 minutes or until squash is soft
  4. Use immersion blender (or place in food processor) and blend until coarsely pureed

2. Spicy Lentil & Sweet Potato Salad

Little Bites Original (after some experimenting of course)

                                              Actual pics taken from my dining room table

Serves 6-8

  • 5 medium sized sweet potatoes, diced into small 1″ cubes. Leave skin on to keep the fiber and vitamins
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb cooked lentils or about 2 1/2 cups  (I used 1 package of Trader Joe’s ready to eat lentils and heated in boiling water as instructed on package)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (up to a tablespoon if you like a kick)
  • Few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Place diced potatoes on baking sheet or in thin pan, coat with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, thyme (as much removed from springs as possible). Cook in oven for 25-30 minutes, gently stirring once or twice, until potatoes are soft (but still maintain structure). Allow them to completely cool
  3. While potatoes are in oven, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in frying pan. Add onions and cook on low-medium heat until translucent but not mushy, about 2-3 minutes.
  4.  Add cooked onions, lentils, 1/2 teaspoon salt into large bowl
  5. When potatoes are completely cooled add into lentil/onion mixture. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon more of cayenne and additional salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently. Add additional 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar if needed

3. Roasted Maple Horseradish Beets

Adapted from Wholefoods.com & the lovely AviG

Serves 4-6

  • 1 + 3/4 lb medium beets (3 + 3/4 lb with greens), stems trimmed to 1 inch
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons bottled white horseradish (not drained)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Wrap beets in foil and roast until tender, about 1 hour
  3. When cool enough to handle, peel beets and cut into eighths (will dye fingers), then transfer to bowel
  4. In skillet, add oil, horseradish, syrup, vinegar, salt & pepper over moderate heat
  5. Stir in beets and boil, stirring occasionally until liquid in skillet is reduced to about 1/4 and beets are coated, about 4-5 minutes. Tastes delicious served room temperature

4. Roasted Carrots

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa/Ina Garten cookbook. So simple, yet so good. Reminds me of carrots from chicken soup.                                                                                                                                             

Foodnetwork.com

Serves 6

  • 12 carrots peeled
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced dill (I’ve also made them with dried rosemary and fresh thyme, all are good)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Slice carrots diagonally 1 ½ thick slices, if carrots are thick cut them first in half lengthwise
  3. Toss in bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper
  4. Place on baking pan in 1 layer, roast for 25 minutes
  5. Halfway through cooking (~15 minutes), pull out oven rock, add in dill and quickly mix with carrots

5. Stuffed Mushrooms

Little Bites original (sorry I don’t have a pic, I haven’t made them since starting the blog)

Serves 10-12

  • 10-12 baby portobello or white, stems removed, leaving caps. Clean well, but gently, using paper towel (water will create a water/runny product)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced into small pieces
  • ¼ large red onion, diced
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line baking sheet with 1 teaspoon olive oil or cooking spray. Place mushrooms on pan, cap facing up. Pour a dash of balsamic on each cape. Bake for 25 minutes.
  3. While mushrooms are baking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet, add onions, peppers, teaspoon of salt and peppers, cook until soft, about 3 minutes on medium heat. Add spinach cook until wilted, 1-2 minutes
  4. Take mushrooms out of the oven and stuff the filling inside each cap. Place back in oven for 3 minutes

6. Kale & Brussel Sprout Salad

Adapted from Epicurious.com/Bon Appetit

Serves 8-10

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
  • ¼ teaspoon salt + pepper
  • 2 large bunches of kale (~1.5 lb total), discard center stem and thinly slice leaves
  • 12 ounces brussel sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with knife
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper in bowl. Stir to blend. Set aside to let flavors set.
  2. Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded brussel sprouts in large bowl
  3. Slowly whisk olive oil into lemon juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add dressing to kale/brussel sprout mixture. Add additional salt + pepper to taste.

7. Mustard Roasted Potatoes

Adapted from Smittenkitchen.com

Smittenkitchen.com

Serves 10

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • ½ cup whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 3 pounds mixed 1 to 1 ½ inch UN-peeled red-skinned and white skinned potatoes, cut into ¾ inch wide wedges

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Spray 2 large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray
  3. Whisk mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, lemon peel and salt in large bowl to blend. Add potatoes. Sprinkle generously with freshly ground pepper and toss to coat
  4. Divide potatoes between baking sheets, leaving excess mustard mixture behind. Spread potatoes in single layer. Roast for 45 minutes, mixing occasionally, until crusty on outside and tender on inside

Uh- oh, all this blogging is making me hungry.

Pop by tomorrow to see the Nutritionist’s survival tips for getting through Thanksgiving.