Welcome 2012 + Return Home + Little Bites Updates

Happy 2012! 

Right now I am en-route from Israel back to NYC. And what a loyal blogger am I, sitting at the gate posting. I am  5+ lbs heavier after eating my weight in hummus, rugelach (I told you I eat cookies), and the freshest produce. Here are some visuals of my trip:

Yum. Fresh cheese at the shuk (main market in Jerusalem). Thanks to my Sis-in-law, we were granted much too many samples, including pesto-and chocolate flavored cheese. I’m not one for jazzed-up cheese – the simple sharp cheddar was my favorite.


Firm lookin’ green beans make a nutritionist happy.

Now, for the most delicious part of the trip – my nieces and nephews, who play the crucial role of my lil’ nutrition students:                                                                        

Eating falafel

No food/nutrition relevance, he’s just too cute not to include

A highlight from my trip was a baking session. Using a car cake pan from Williams Sonoma we made and decorated car cakes. You can use any simple white cake recipe; try to substitute at least half the flour with whole wheat flour, especially in this case when the cakes are more about the fun than taste. The kids had a lot of fun decorating their cars (though I didn’t have cleaning up. Warning: decorating gets messy). Due to lack of advanced planning and supply readiness, we had to settle for some sub-optimal decorating tools. But, next time I want to use some fresh fruit to jazz up the colors of the car.

                                                               

Now Onto Updates: 

1. To visit, you can now just go to Littlebitesnutrition.com. No more .wordpress.com.

2. Stay tuned for some website updates – both in layout and content. I appreciate all feedback, so don’t be shy.

3. If you like drinking, but want to learn how to do so more nutritiously, come to my SkillShare class: A Nutritionist Guide to Boozing (And Some Classier Cocktails).  January 18th@ 7:30 pm. Mixology included.

Quinoa 101 + Spiced Quinoa & Avocado Salad Recipe

Gotta love kids. I watched this 10+ times. Every time I made an edit, I insisted on re-watching it.

Quinoa is grouped in the grain category because of its taste and texture. But, it’s actually an edible seed from a dark leafy plant similar to spinach. For those visual learners, this is a quinoa flower:

Quinoa is pretty much a nutrition power house. It has a higher % protein by weight compared to most grains. According to the USDA, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa has ~8 more calories compared to couscous and brown rice,  yet brings more protein, fiber and iron.  Unlike most grains like wheat, rice and oats, quinoa is a complete protein. Meaning, it has all of the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein primarily found complete in animal proteins), that our bodies cannot make and must get from food, making it a good option for vegetarians. And, it’s a good source of minerals like magnesium and phosphorus.

Quinoa is gluten and wheat free for all those allergy-ied and sensitivity-ied. Be on the look out for quinoa flours and pastas popping up on the market. Quinoa has a mild taste and fluffy texture, making it very easy to like because it tastes so darn good. And, my favorite part about it? It’s super easy to make (cooks only in 10-15 minutes compared to 30-40 minutes for rice).

Making It:

1. Rinse in small colander under running water – wash away the soapy foam that will appear.

2. Pour quinoa and water into a pot, it’s usually 1:2 ratio (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water), cover, boil for 10-15 minutes until fluffy. You will start to see small white squiggles,which are just the outer germ rings, separatting from the seeds. Have no fear- they are harmless.

3. Now for the good stuff… Mix it onto anything. Substitute for any rice, barley or couscous dish. Mix with veggies, add any spices or herbs, why not some (low fat) cheese, throw in a salad or soup, add to a wrap, stuff into a pepper, mix with some honey, almonds and fruit for breakfast.

Now for a recipe. I wouldn’t dare post this without including a recipe to keep my dear friend and co-worker Jess reading.

Quinoa & Avocado Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette Salad

Adapted from Fine Cooking (another fav)

Photos getting better, eh?

Ingredients:

3 tablespoon raisins (preferably a mix of dark and golden)
1 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
Kosher salt
1 large lemon
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-1.5 teaspoon ground coriander  — pretty sure I added even more after tasting
1-1.5 teaspoon ground cumin  — pretty sure I added even more after tasting
2 medium firm-ripe avocados (6 to 7 oz. each), pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 medium scallions thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Directions:
1.In a medium bowl, soak the raisins in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups water, the quinoa, and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Immediately fluff the quinoa with a fork and cool to room temperature.
3. Grate zest from lemon and squeeze then squeeze as much juice as you can into a small bowl. Whisk lemon zest + juice, olive oil, spices, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss with quinoa, raisins and avocado. Season with pepper. Tastes really good room temperature or chilled.

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.

Kids In The Kitchen: Fun Cookin’ Gear

If the food itself isn’t doing the trick, entice kids into the kitchen using these whacky gadgets. They are made for kids, but is it wrong if I want them for myself (hint hint, my birthday’s coming up soon, well kinda…)?

They are a perfect gift for the holidays or for the next kid’s birthday party you go to. There is a high likelihood that the child you are purchasing for will have the lego, video game, or that new arts and crafts, but will they have a pair of woodpecker poultry shears? I think not.

Check out some of the goods by the Animal House line at Boston Warehouse. They were featured on a flash sale site Fab.com, but you can also buy them at Boston Warehouse website. Thank my friend D for sending this our way.

If you don’t have kids, I bet you have a lil niece, nephew, cousin, sista, brother, god child, kid of a friend that should have a birthday coming up one of these days.

Too good not to blog about. I wish you a weekend full of fruits + veggies.