Great Grains: Farro

Farro is one of my *favorite* ancient grains, and it lives up to the hype of Super Food for sure!

One serving is 1/4c dry (about 1/2-2/3 cup cooked) and packs 6 grams of protein plus 5 grams of fiber to keep you satisfied and energized!

Whole grains intake is linked to lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer. The USDA recommends that at least half of your grains be whole grains, so it’s important to incorporate things like farro, quinoa, brown rice, or whole wheat into your day.

If you’re looking for a new whole grain to swap into your diet, try throwing farro into soup, making it into a healthier risotto, adding it to salads, or cooking as a side dish on its own.

Fall Flavors: Acorn Squash

Fall weather calls for fall flavors! Here in New Jersey, the temperature has dropped and it’s officially time for comfort foods. Instead of making a heavy high-fat dish, try to capitalize on fresher fall flavors that pair well with other seasonal flavors. I recently made a sweet spaghetti squash and wanted to try a savory spin on a different autumn classic: Acorn squash.

I have to admit that this was a first for me! I love eating squash, but it wasn’t a kitchen staple for me until this year. I am a busy, health-conscious home cook, so I look for three things when food shopping:

  1. It has to be easy! If there are too many steps, the odds of me making it after a long day at work drop significantly. If I know I can throw it together in under 15 or 20 minutes, it makes the cut.
  2. It has to be healthy! My body and wellness matter to me, so I want to know that my meals are nourishing.
  3. It has to be delicious! I am a foodie through and through, so if it doesn’t taste good, why bother making it? Sure, I want my food to be nutritious, but I also want to crave it again and again.

img_20181015_190856659-01-e1539825224401.jpeg

This recipe hits all of the sweet spots and brings fall to your table:

  1. Cut the squash in half and pierce the skin a few times. You can cut piece off of the bottom to create a flat surface so the squash can rest steadily when placed open-face up
  2. Scoop out the inner seeds and pulp.
  3. Coat with olive oil, pepper, and a little salt. You can also try other herbs like garlic or onion powder, thyme, sage, or rosemary.
  4. Roast at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes, or until fork tender.

My favorite thing about squash is that it is high in fiber (5 grams per half cup) which not only keeps you full but is linked to lower blood sugar spikes and to intestinal health, has healthy complex carbs (a half cup has about 15 grams, which is equal to one carb exchange for carb counters), and is filling with very little calories (about 60 for a half-cup serving).

Feeling fancy? The shape of an acorn squash is perfect for stuffing! Try adding any of the following to elevate this squash from a side to a main feature:

  • Quinoa cooked with orange juice, topped with toasted almonds
  • Farro tossed with olive oil and craisins
  • 2 oz of crumbled lean turkey sausage with sauteed onions
  • Top with sliced pork medallions

Remember to follow The Peoples Plate for more recipes or for personalized nutrition counseling! What is your favorite fall ingredient?

My Egg Obsession

Scrambled, poached, over easy, hard boiled, tossed into salads, floating in ramen… eggs can be added to any meal!

The myth that eggs cause high cholesterol has been debunked (your body makes more cholesterol from saturated fats, but the 200mg cholesterol in an egg won’t cause a corresponding spike in blood lipids), and the benefits of eggs are clear:

  • Protein! Eggs are one of the few non-meat items that provide all of the amino acids you need in your diet, and though the egg whites are known for this protein-punch, egg yolks also provide the nutrient.
  • Choline- this important nutrient is needed for brain health and neural development.
  • Lutein- a type of carotenoid that protects eye health
My egg splurge: eggs on a BLT with avocado, atop seven grain toast

Healthy Baking Swaps

I love to bake, though when I first started experimenting in the kitchen, my recipes originally fell into two distinct categories:

  1. Delicious and decadent desserts that I bring to parties, holidays, or gatherings not made up of nutrition buffs
  2. Healthy, whole grain, low/natural sugar, lower-fat recipes that most my family kindly refers to as ‘cardboard’

I’ve since done more research on how to improve the nutrition of a recipe without sacrificing flavor, consistency, or appearance. Here are some stellar tips that I find particularly helpful from the experts at King Arthur Flour:

  1. Understand what will change if you cut sugar! 
    Sugar helps give baked goods the signature brown crust with a good crunch, so lowering the sugar will make a lighter product with a fluffier, more cake-like texture rather than crispy.  King Arthur’s has done some fun experiments showing that a recipe suffers if you cut the sugar by more than 50% (http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2017/03/15/reduce-sugar-in-cookies-and-bars/) Hint: Natural sweeteners have just as many grams of sugar, though they may have trace amounts of other benefits and are generally less processed.
  2. Adding bran? Add more water!
    If you’re adding bran to a recipe for increased omega-3’s and the signature nutty taste, be aware that your product will likely small and dense unless you also adjust the water and add a bit more flour for rising.
  3. For high-quality whole grains, combine your flours.
    While some people do love a 100% whole grain bread (I know I do!), others like the fluffiness of a white bread. This same principle goes for cookies, cakes, etc- some whole grains may add flavor, but too many will make your product denser and will change it drastically from its original shape. Try using half all purpose flour and half whole wheat or other flour alternative for the best of both worlds.

For more tips, check out:

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2017/07/11/baking-with-reduced-sugar/
http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2017/02/10/baking-ancient-grains/

 

Protein of the Day: Octopus!

I went out to dinner last night and ordered one of my favorite things: an octopus salad. If you’re new to octopus and feeling squeamish at the idea, don’t judge it till you’ve tried it!

3 ounces are packed with 25g of protein but only 140 calories, and it’s a solid source of iron (8mg per serving, which is almost half of your daily requirements) and other essential minerals like potassium and zinc.

Because it is rich in flavor, it tends to be paired with sweet and sour flavors like fruit, tomatoes, olives, or cheeses like feta. Next time you see it on a menu, give it a try!

Summer Munchin

Enjoying the fruits of the season… very literally! Berries are full of anthocyanins, colorful pigments that are not only beautiful but also potent antioxidants. They help protect your cells from the oxidative damage that can contribute to disease risk, which lowers your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Any deep red or purple produce tends to be a good source, so take advantage of the fresh summer fruit!

  •  Add berries to yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Mix them into your pancake mix
  • Swap jelly for sliced berries on peanut butter sandwiches
  • Toss them into a salads with a tart cheese or dressing to balance out the sweetness (try goat cheese or feta with a balsamic drizzle!