Guys…this recipe. So easy and so delicious. And it uses everyone’s favorite ingredient this season, pumpkin. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A from the beta-carotene, dietary fiber, and packed with great vitamins, such as vitamin K. This hearty dish will make you feel all cozy inside after a long fall day, but won’t make you feel as heavy as you do after a standard fettucini alfredo. So enjoy and try not to lick the remnants off your plate!
Pumpkin, Goat cheese, and Sage Linguini
Yield: 4 servings
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 sage, fresh leaves (2 Tbsp for cooking, 2 leaves for garnish)
4 cups spinach
1/2 lb linguini
1-2 tbsp butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup light mozzarella cheese
2 oz goat cheese
15 oz light coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
First, rinse the spinach and place on paper towel to dry. Chop the sage and set aside (save 1 Tbsp for garnish). Next, melt the butter in a large saute pan and saute the garlic in the butter for about 2-3 minutes. Add the pumpkin puree, coconut milk, sage, chicken stock, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Cook on medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
Bring 3 quarts of water and a dash of salt to a rolling boil and add linguini. Cook uncovered for 10-11 minutes and stir occasionally. Drain.
Add goat and mozzarella cheese to pumpkin sauce. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes. Place 1/2 cup fresh spinach on each plate. Mix linguini into pumpkin sauce and layer pasta on top of the spinach. Garnish with fresh sage leaves.
This past Monday, I did a segment on Fox 17 news about how you can have a healthier Halloween by making just a few simple swaps. Watch the video here and be sure to check out the fun recipes below…it’s spooky how easy these swaps are muhahaha (ok, I couldn’t resist).
According to CNN, consumers are projected to spend an average of $2.1 billion on Halloween candy each year. With Halloween just a few weeks away, the Halloween candy is flooding the shelves at the grocery store. According to recent reports, kids consume up to 7,000 calories on Halloween. With the American Heart Association warning against excessive added sugar intake in the American diet, it’s important to not let the temptations of Halloween candy debunk you or your children’s healthy lifestyle. By making just a few changes this Halloween, you can help avoid extra weight gain associated with the holiday season.
What’s the general rule of thumb to keep weight off this Halloween?
By following the “Rule of One”, in other words, limiting your sweet or candy intake to one daily around Halloween, you can still participate in the fun, but not over-do it with added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons daily for women and 9 teaspoons for men.
What are some simple swaps for a healthier Halloween?
Create a healthy and fun environment –
Start the evening off right by feeding your children a healthy dinner before trick or treating so they are less likely to over-indulge on candy all night.
Instead of only having candy and sweets available when friends come over, provide healthier snacks, such as pumpkin clementines, ghostly bananas, or apple monsters. You and your children will be more likely to consume nutrient-dense foods, instead of added calories from sugary candy all night.
Change your mentality –
Offer miniature-size or snack-size candy bars instead of full size candy bars to help keep the added calories at bay. Two fun size candy bars or 4 miniature candy bars provide close to half the calories of a full size candy bar, while still allowing you to enjoy this fun holiday without the extra weight gain.
Rather than giving out only candy to the trick or treaters, try handing out fun and inexpensive toys, such as wax fangs, spooky tattoos, and plastic spider rings. Kids tend to love new toys about as much as candy.
Cut calories – Try healthier spins on some of our favorite Halloween sweets or foods.
Swap out caramel apples for a pumpkin, peanut butter yogurt dip served with apples or phyllo apple cups.
Instead of sugar-laden candy corn in a bowl, spice it up with mini candy corn fruit parfaits, using fresh pineapple, oranges, and vanilla yogurt.
Construct a plan –
Out of sight, out of mind. This saying tends to be true particularly when considering your Halloween candy both before and after Halloween. Rather than buying your candy ahead of time in preparation for Halloween night, wait to get your candy a day or two before the big night to avoid temptation to break open the candy before the holiday night.
This also applies to after Halloween. Don’t let that leftover candy linger around the house even if it is only the miniature or snack size. Make a plan to donate your extra candy to a local food pantry, shelter, or non-profit organization.
Try these easy recipes
I’d like to share the recipes involved in these simple swaps to make your Halloween a healthier one.
Candy Corn Fruit Cocktail
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup diced pineapple
4 clementine, peeled and segments separated
½ cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. candy corn
In a clear parfait glass, layer pineapple, then clementine, followed by Greek yogurt and candy corn.
Apples, cut into slices
Almond butter (or other nut butter)
Semisweet chocolate chips
Place one apple slice flat on a plate and then spread the back edge with some nut butter. Stick another apple slice into the nut butter so that the two apple slices look like an open mouth.
Stick some slivered almonds vertically into the nut butter to add teeth and then stick two chocolate chips into the upper apple slice to add eyes.
Semisweet chocolate chips
Slice a banana in half and then stick two chocolate chips into the top of the banana to make eyes and add one more chocolate chip underneath those two to make a ghoulish mouth.
Pumpkin, Peanut Butter, Yogurt Dip
1/2 cup Pumpkin
1/4 cup Plain low fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Peanut butter or flour (or PB2)
1/4 cup Baking stevia (or 1/2 cup sweetener that measures like sugar)
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Pumpkin pie spice
Place everything in a small bowl and stir until smooth and creamy. Serve with apples slices.
Apple Phyllo Cups
Non-stick cooking spray
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch chunks
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
4 (9×16) sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
1 cup fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a standard muffin pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
In a large pot, combine the apples, cranberries, lemon juice, zest, agave, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the juices in the pot thicken and very little syrup remains, about 10 minutes, set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, mix the melted butter and water. Unfold the phyllo, lay one sheet on a cutting board, and brush the dough with the melted-butter-water mixture — be sure to keep the pastry you are not working with covered with a damp towel to prevent it from drying out. Repeat three times, stacking the layers of dough on top of each other so that you have four layers.
Cut the stack of phyllo sheets three times crosswise and then cut again lengthwise twice so you have 12 even squares. Lay the phyllo squares in the wells of the muffin pan and gently press them into the cups, letting the edges fold and overlap naturally.
Spoon ¼ cup of cooled apple mixture into the phyllo cups. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until nicely browned. Let the apple cups cool in the pan before trying to remove them. Serve warm with a small spoonful of frozen yogurt.
*Quick Tip: Short on time? Buy the pre-made phyllo cups. You just add the filling and bake! Easy peasy.
Earlier this month, I did a TV segment with WZZM 13 news on the recent guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics on how to talk to your teens about weight. Interestingly enough, the takeaway was don’t. In the AAP’s article, they discuss the conundrum between addressing unhealthy eating or lifestyle behaviors while avoiding disordered eating. You may be reading this and wondering, why is this so important? Well here’s why. Thirty four percent of teens are categorized as overweight or obese, however eating disorders are the third most common chronic condition in adolescents. In other words, there is a fine line between addressing these unhealthy behaviors and doing harm.
I don’t have any children (unless you count two dogs and cat), but I know how I grew up. I was lucky enough to be constantly involved in athletics and regularly sat down to family meals made by my Mom during the week. I certainly believe I grew up in an environment that fostered healthy eating behaviors and just an overall healthy lifestyle (thanks Mom and Dad!).
However, I have met many friends and individuals along the way of my 27 years on this earth, that have not had the same upbringing. Some that did not have a healthy relationship with their parents, which affected family meal time and in turn their outlook on food. Some that were not involved in athletics and have struggled with weight all their life. And some that had a very unconventional childhood, but still managed to learn healthy lifestyle behaviors, whether that be from the example of their parents or self-taught.
Nonetheless, the impression made by our parents during our childhood makes a huge impact on our view on weight and lifestyle behaviors as an adult (whether we want to believe it or not). As stated before, I am not a parent, but knowing how challenging it can be to talk to adults about their weight as a dietitian, I know that it must be even more challenging to address weight and healthy eating behaviors with teens and children.
So let’s talk about strategies for promoting these healthy lifestyle behaviors.
1. Dieting. Discourage dieting, skipping meals, or use of diet pills. Dieting or caloric restriction has been shown to be a risk factor for both obesity and eating disorders. Similarly, a recent study revealed that dieting behaviors among adolescents were associated with a two-fold increased risk of becoming overweight and a 1.5-fold increased risk of developing eating disorders. Rather, focusing on healthy eating and physical activity behaviors that will continue long term, such as planting their own fruits or vegetables at home or encouraging participation in school clubs or sports.
2. Family meals. Making family meals a priority at home not only allows time for parents to interact with their adolescent, but they have also been associated with improved dietary quality, specifically increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, fiber and calcium-rich foods. This time also provides an opportunity for parents to model healthy eating behaviors for their teens or to address any eating-related issues early.
3. Healthy body image. Close to half of teenage girls and one-quarter of teenage boys are dissatisfied with their bodies. Having an unhealthy body image has been shown to also be a risk factor for eating disorders and disordered eating. Emphasizing that a healthy body comes in different shapes and sizes can help promote a positive body image. Teens with a healthier body image were more likely to have parents that encouraged healthy eating and exercising for energy, instead of dieting.
4. Weight talk. Try to avoid unhealthy comments about your weight as a parent, weights of other individuals or family members, and last, but not least, the weight of your teen. Even if well intended, these comments can quickly be taken the wrong way. These comments, even if they are not intended for your teen send a message that the most important thing about that person is their weight. Several studies have shown that parental weight talk with an emphasis on dieting has been linked to overweight and eating disorders. Instead of focusing on numbers on the scale and dieting, don’t be afraid to talk openly about the importance of eating a variety of foods and the benefits of exercise. Make trying a new food or exercise a part of your regular trips to the grocery store or gym, instead of talking always about limiting food intake.
With overweight and obesity rates on the rise among teens and with such an appearance-focused society, it is imperative for parents to address these issues appropriately and model the right lifestyle behaviors. Still feel like addressing these weight issues is over your head as a parent? Contact me at email@example.com or contact a local eating disorder specialist.
After quite a little hiatus there consisting of family weddings, wedding showers, and mini vacations, I am ready to get back at it my friends. I apologize for being gone for so long, but sometimes everybody needs a little R&R. But don’t worry, this fall, I am back on the grind!
Not only am I about to blow your mind with this amazing fig flatbread recipe, but my following posts will update you on my latest and greatest media work and also…FALL. Fall is my favorite season. Yes, yes, yes I know, classic Mid-western love of pumpkin spice-everything, hoodie sweatshirts, crackling dried leaves of all colors, scary movies, leggings, baking (actually the only time of the year I enjoy it), Halloween, and lots and lots of football. Having lived away from Michigan in Texas before, I am always more and more appreciative of the four beautiful seasons we are blessed with in Michigan (some longer than others-clear of throat-“winter”). But before I really start ranting about my endearing love for fall, I’m going to update you on one of my favorite recipes from this past summer…Pancetta and fig flatbread.
This flatbread consists of local Grand Rapids’ pizza dough, figs, arugula, pancetta, caramelized onions, and feta cheese. So easy, yet so delicious. Let’s talk about figs for a second. This was my virgin cooking experience with figs. I have always wanted to cook or bake with figs, but have just never gotten around to it…until now. Being that I am a native Michigander and the majority of figs are produced in Texas and California, it makes sense that Mid-westerners often don’t use figs in cooking. Figs are initially native to western Asian and the Mediterranean. The beginning use of figs dates back to 5,000 B.C., which is pretty incredible if you ask me. Some of the most popular ways of fig consumption include fresh, dried, or preserved in jams or pastes. Most figs are usually in season between June and September with some even into the fall. Figs have a sweet taste, yet crunchy texture on the inside with a smooth skin on the outside.
Did I mention that prior to cooking this flatbread, my only experience with figs was fig newtons? Yep, those yummy little sandwich pastries you ate as a kid, stuffed with processed fig paste and added sugar. Delicious, yet maybe not the most nutritious. Try them raw or cooked folks. A serving of figs (4-5 figs or 1/4 cup) is low in calories and a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, and calcium. They make an easy snack, healthy dessert, or unique topping to pizzas. Be sure to try this fig flatbread before they go out of season this fall!
Fig, Caramelized Onion, and Pancetta Flatbread
Yield: 1 (~10″) pizza
Prep time: 20-25 mins, Cook time: 10-12 minutes, Total time: 35-40 mins
8-12″ Pizza crust or dough (we use Martha’s Vineyard fresh pizza doughs)
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. garlic powder
5 fresh figs, sliced
1/2 cup yellow onions, sliced
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
4-6 oz. pancetta, cubed
1 cup fresh arugula
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the onions and pour 1 Tbsp of olive oil into a stainless steel skillet. Add onions to the skillet on medium, high heat. Let the onions caramelize for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally every 3-5 minutes. While the onions are cooking, slice your figs and chop the pancetta.
Next, roll out the pizza dough (if needed). Brush 2 Tbsp. olive oil on the pizza dough and sprinkle garlic powder on top. Spread the arugula across the surface of the pizza. Next, add the sliced figs, pancetta, and crumbled feta. Once onions are fully caramelized, spread on top of the pizza.
Bake pizza directly on aluminum foil or baking sheet in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes (depending your desired browning of the pizza crust).
Recently, I have been out of town for the last 3-4 weekends straight. In other words, another beautiful Michigan summer is upon us and Michiganders know far too well to enjoy it before it’s gone as quick as it came. These weekends have been filled with tubing down rivers, cannon-balling into brisk Lake Michigan water, wine tasting at breathtaking wineries on the Leelanau peninsula, and tooling around historical northern Michigan villages on bicycles. All the while consuming tall glasses of Chardonnay, cold beer, and fresh herb-infused cocktails without regrets. These are by far some of my fondest memories as a young adult (26 is still young right? I hope so) and I’m sure many Michiganders can agree with me on that.
However, by the time I get home Sunday afternoon, I tend to feel like I have grown a beer, brat, corn on the cob, and pasta salad belly resembling the size of a 2nd or 3rd trimester pregnant woman. Needless to say, my boyfriend and I are usually ready for a light dinner to cap off the weekend and propel us into another great week. I am not big into heavy sweets much anymore but I have recently wanted something also light and sweet to finish off my weekend while watching Game of Thrones. With all the local and abundant, fresh produce in season right now in Michigan, options are really endless. Also, as a dietitian, I always find great reward in transforming the idea of “dessert” into another serving of fruit for the day.
These goat cheese and pistachio-coated strawberries really hit the spot and were incredibly easy to make (thanks to two purple figs for the great idea!). Be sure to try this slightly savory, but sweet recipe this summer. This recipe will not only satisfy and surprise the masses, but is chalked full of monounsaturated fat (aka the good fats) from the pistachios and vitamin C from the strawberries. This dessert leaves you wondering if you are eating a dessert or another fruit serving…or is it both?😉
1. Wash your strawberries, remove the stem and lay out to dry on a paper towel while prepping the other ingredients.
2. Mash the goat cheese with a fork in a small bowl. Mix in the thyme, honey, and salt. Set aside.
3. Stir your pistachios and thyme together in a separate medium size bowl.
4. Roll a small ball, slightly smaller than a ping pong ball, of the goat cheese mixture. Then, flatten the cheese in the palm of your hand and place your strawberry in the center of the goat cheese. Fold the cheese around the strawberry until covering the majority of the strawberry. Remove any excess cheese.
5. Place the goat cheese-covered strawberry in the medium bowl containing the pistachio/thyme mixture. Roll the strawberry in the pistachio mixture until evenly covered.
6. Place your pistachio and goat cheese-coated strawberries on a plate or cookie sheet. Then, refrigerate the strawberries for 1 hour and serve.
Vietnamese po’ boy for an American po’ girl? Why yes, yes, I think so. Apparently, I just can’t get away from that Vietnamese food. New Orleans’ street food has just made too much of a stamp on me. It was a week night and I was trying to use up ingredients from the fridge. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. What I had on hand…cilantro, red onion, cucumbers, carrots, and white bread. A lighter version of banh mi came to mind and I couldn’t resist trying to make my own version at home.
Banh mi is basically Vietnamese for bread, traditionally the baguette. It is also known in New Orleans, Louisiana as a “Vietnamese po’ boy”. The baguette is generally a single-serving, making the sandwich part pretty easy after slicing the bread in half. There are several ways you can make a banh mi sandwich depending on which ingredients you choose to use. Common protein ingredients include cold cuts, sliced pork or pork bellies, pork sausage, head cheese, liver pate, or tofu (for the vegetarians). These proteins are often paired with native Vietnamese ingredients, such as cilantro, cucumber, and pickled carrots and daikon. Other favorite condiments include spicy chili sauce, sliced chilies, mayonnaise, and cheese. From my experience, when the sandwich is finished, it is dipped in a chili or soy sauce. Although my white bread was no whole grain, it was much less bread than a whole baguette, making it a lighter version. If you want something easy, fun, and completely different than your normal weekly meal, try my delicious spin on banh mi🙂
2 Tbsp. white vinegar (rice vinegar can work here too)
3/4 cup red onion, sliced length-wise
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup English cucumber, sliced
1/3 cup shredded or thinly sliced carrots
1/2 jalapeno, sliced width-wise
Handful of cilantro leaves
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup Thai or sweet chili sauce
Slice the cucumbers (and carrots if needed) and combine with carrots and vinegar in a small bowl. Toss to coat. Slice the jalapeno and pepper jack cheese and set aside. Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan and saute for about 5 mins until translucent.
On a plate, begin to assemble your banh mi sandwich. Spread the mayo on the inside of a slice of bread. Next, add your ingredients. Mine went as follows: mayo, slice of proscuitto, pickled cucumbers and carrots, jalapeno slices, a few cilantro leaves, glazed red onion, and pepper jack cheese. I decided I wanted a hot banh mi so I placed mine in the panini grill (or George Foreman grill) for about 5 minutes. While cooking, pour the dipping sauces in two separate ramekins. Once the cheese is melted (~4-5 minutes), cut the sandwich in half and dip the sandwich in your desired sauce for each yummy bite.
A few week’s ago, I did a TV segment on WZZM 13 featuring nutrition tips on continuing the National Nutrition Month theme, “Savor the Flavor,” by growing and trying new vegetables and herbs this spring and summer.
National Nutrition Month focused on trying and experimenting with new foods and flavors; quote, “savor the flavor of eating right.” I want to follow up with National Nutrition Month’s theme by saying, “don’t stop here.” Continue your new food experiences into the spring by planting your own vegetable or herb garden. Planting your own vegetable or herb garden can almost guarantee that you and your family will be trying new foods and increasing the variety of your diet this spring and summer season, which in turn can lead to a healthier diet. So what are some key things to consider when starting your own garden?
The first thing to consider is the location of your garden. If you have the appropriate garden space, the vegetables and herbs will follow. The key components you want to consider when selecting the site of garden is:
Sunlight: At least 6-10 hours daily.
Water: Make sure your garden is located close enough to a clean and close water source.
Good soil: Be sure your gardening area is well drained or perform a soil test to best understand if fertilizers or organic matter are needed.
A word to new gardeners: start small. Be wary of the amount of space and time you have available to you in the upcoming months and then plan accordingly. You can plant your vegetables or herbs in various types of containers depending on the space you have available to you or how much time you are willing to dedicate to your new garden. These types of containers can range from burlap bags to planting pots to raised garden boxes. Quick note: Be sure to line the bottom of your garden bed with garden mesh before adding your soil to avoid any other roots invading your garden.
Start this spring by planting cool season crops that can last through frost and can tolerate colder/milder temperatures, such as:
Herbs: For perennials, try chives, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, thyme, or sage. For annuals, try parsley, basil, summer savory, or sweet marjoram. *Quick note: Be sure to grow your perennials and annuals in separate containers for best results!
These different types of herbs and vegetables will not only improve the variety in your diet, but it will also allow the experiment with fun, new recipes, such as:
Roasted Beet Hummus
Prep time: 5 mins, Cook time: 1 hour, Total time: 1 hour 5 mins
* 2 medium sized beets, skin on
* 1 can (14 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
* 2 tablespoons tahini
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* ½ teaspoon salt
* ¼ teaspoon cumin
Look at that rich pink color! Food is beautiful🙂
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).
2. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and roast them for 1 to 2 hours (it depends on the size of your beets) or until soft and tender.
3. Once the beets are roasted, remove them from the oven and let them cool.
4. Peel the skin and chop them into chunks.
5. Place the beets, chickpeas and garlic into a food processor and blend for 1 minute.
6. Add tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin, 1 teaspoon of water and blend until the hummus becomes smooth and creamy.
7. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed.
8. Refrigerate or use immediately. Serve with pita bread or your favorite vegetables. I enjoyed mine on toast with avocado slices and an egg on the side. Delicious food is sometimes the simplest of ingredients.
Recently, I dabbled in African cuisine. It is one that I can honestly say, have very little experience eating or preparing. I figured in light of trying new cuisines for National Nutrition Month, I once again should go out of my comfort zone and try something new. While perusing the web for some ideas, I came across an African yam stew. I tend to enjoy anything with sweet potatoes and also anything that’s warm and can be eaten out of a bowl, instead of a plate. Thanks to Forks over Knives for this delicious recipe! I cut this recipe in half and still had tons left over. But before we get to the recipe, let’s discuss how great sweet potatoes are for you. They are rich in vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. So in short, eat up!
African Yam Stew
Yield: 5-6 servings
Prep time: 20 mins, Cook time: 35-45 minutes
1/4 cup water
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Anaheim or jalapeno pepper, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, ground
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic granules
1 teaspoons cumin, ground
1 teaspoons coriander, ground
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 yams, peeled and chopped
1 cups vegetable broth
12 ounces tomatoes, chopped
7 ounces garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
7 ounces black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup corn
3 cups collards, chopped
In a large pot, sauté onion and pepper with water for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
Add ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and red pepper.
Cook and stir for 1 minute.
Mix in yams, vegetable broth, tomatoes, beans and nut butter.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Stir in corn and collards and cook for about 10 more minutes, until yams and greens are tender.
Serve over brown rice or other whole grain.Now that’s what I call a colorful plate! I served mine with pork🙂 Enjoy!
In honor of NNM, last week I decided to explore Korean cuisine. Before I get started, I’m just going to throw this out there right away…this post is not focused on the health or nutritious benefits of Korean food, but more about my experience and joy of Korean food (which if you remember last week’s post, enjoying other cuisines is very much a part of the NNM theme!). Moving right along. Now, the only real experiences I have had with Korean food is “Korea Day” in elementary school, cooking Bibimbap in an undergraduate food lab class at Michigan State, and food truck Kimchi fries on the streets of Houston, Texas.
Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a Korean classmate in elementary school that decided we were going to have “Korea Day” once a year, every year, dedicated to celebrating Korean food, traditions, and culture. Here is where I tried on my first jeogori (blouse-like top with long sleeves) and chima (long skirts) and also tried Bulgogi (thinly sliced sirloin beef marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, scallions, ginger, onions or mushrooms) for the first time. Oh yes, and we were also delighted to have a “jean day”. “Jean day” at a private Catholic elementary school meant we were allowed to wear street clothes, instead of our navy and white uniform (Go Eagles!). In other words, I was able to show off my newest “hand-me-downs” AND eat delicious food all day…life doesn’t get much better than that as a 10 year old.
When I lived in Houston, I stumbled upon a Korean-inspired food truck after a long night out at the bars. Here is where I tried Kimchi fries for the first time. LIFE CHANGER. Kimchi fries=French fries, shredded beef or pork, Kimchi, melted cheese, and a Sriracha mayo sauce drizzled on top. I will never forget sitting on that curb and eating those Kimchi fries for the first time. After I so innocently stumbled upon this lil gem, I discovered that this Korean food truck was by the same bar on the same street at midnight pretty much every weekend. [Insert evil laugh here] I then proceeded to make it a terrible habit to somehow convince whichever friends I was hanging out with on the weekends, that we should probably end up at this “great” bar. All the while, I was plotting to get more Kimchi fries. Honestly, lol right now. Sometimes, I wonder how I became a dietitian. I digress.
So what is this Kimchi I speak of? Kimchi refers to fermented vegetables. These vegetables generally consist of napa cabbage, radish, or cucumber in a brine of garlic, ginger, scallions, red chili pepper, and oyster or fish sauce. Some quick, fun facts about Kimchi. Kimchi is actually Korea’s national dish and was imperative to South Korean troops in the Vietnam War to help keep the”morale” up amongst Korean soldiers in the field. Kimchi itself actually provides a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamin A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and iron.
This week of NNM, I focused on making my own Korean-inspired Kimchi fries. Considering my brother-in-law just happened to be desiring to make homemade potstickers on the same day, we gladly headed to our local Asian market together. After we purchased our needed ingredients, we got back in the car to head home. After the last car door shut, we both looked at each other with cringed noses saying, “what is that smell?!”. We both realized the smell of Kimchi is not for the weak at heart. I’m not quite sure how to describe this smell to you, but let’s just say for future reference, double bag that sucker and tie the bag shut when transferring. Now time for the noshing.
For this recipe, you’ll need:
For the fries:
5-6 russet potatoes, cut length-wise (a Mandolin slicer works best here)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
For the beef with marinade:
1 or 1 1/2 pound beef ribeye, thinly sliced
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
7 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
For the Kimchi:
1 1/4 cup Kimchi
1 Tablespoon sugar
For the chili sauce:
3 Tablespoons Sriracha sauce, or to taste
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (light mayo works here too)
2-3 scallions, chopped
5 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
Start with your beef and marinade. Once you’ve added the onion, garlic, sugar, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil to a gallon size Ziplock bag, then add your thinly sliced beef. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut your potatoes into fries with the Mandolin slicer. Toss with olive oil, paprika, and salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 30-45 minutes to your desired crispiness. Be sure to toss the fries halfway through for even browning.
While these fries are baking, get started on the meat. Place your marinade with the meat in a medium skillet. Cook on medium-high heat until the beef is to your desired done-ness (we cooked ours for ~5 minutes), then remove the beef and continue cooking the sauce until it reduces/caramelizes (~5-10 minutes).
Next, mix the Greek yogurt with Sriracha sauce in a bowl and set aside.
Add the Kimchi and sugar to a saute-pan and cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Quick side note here: In my making of this recipe, I forgot to add the sugar to the Kimchi. The result: Kimchi was a little fermenting tasting…let’s just say, I won’t forget this step next time. Set the kimchi aside.
When the fries are done, either sprinkle the cheese directly on top of the fries on the baking sheet or place the fries in a baking dish before adding the cheese on top. Place back in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted (about 2-3 minutes).
Now it’s time to plate. Top your melted cheese fries with the caramelized sauce and beef. Next, top with the Kimchi, Sriracha sauce, and scallions. Voila, delicious, homemade Kimchi fries. Enjoy!
Giddy up ladies and gentlemen! National Nutrition Month (NNM) is officially underway.
This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right”. Specifically, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlights the importance of eating healthier to fit your unique lifestyle. Let’s real quick talk about that point. Many times in nutrition education sessions, patients are commonly astounded by how small and “easy” some tips for improvement in their health or nutrition I recommend. However, what we all often forget is that it is the small and (what appears to be) easy changes that fit our lifestyle that will actually make the difference and be sustainable long term. National Nutrition Month also highlights getting back to the experience and traditions behind consuming food. In other words, always remember to enjoy and have fun with the experience of eating food, whether that be the people you are with, where you are eating, the traditions or events you are celebrating, or the amazing depth of flavors of the food you are eating.
I take this month as an opportunity to not only reflect on my health and nutrition, but also to explore the flavors of different diets from a health and ethnic standpoint, understanding that it is not one diet that fits all. I started NNM this past week with a vegan, gluten free, quinoa, black bean, pumpkin soup. Woof, that was a mouthful. Now hear me out. I am no vegan or regular gluten free-er, but like I said before, NNM is the perfect time to go outside of your comfort zone and try new diets and food experiences. And believe me, this soup was worth it. It was flavorful, nutrient-dense, filling, and incredibly easy.
Quinoa Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
Prep time: 10 mins, Cook time: 25 mins (or slow cooker), Total time: 35 mins
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, diced
1 red chili pepper, diced
3 cups cubes pumpkin (or 2-15 oz cans 100% pure pumpkin)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup quinoa
15 ounce can low-sodium black beans (rinsed and drained)
5 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 avocado, cubed
handful cilantro, diced
1 lime, cut into wedges
Heat oil in pan over medium heat and cook onion for a few minutes. Add garlic and red chili pepper and cook until aromatic.
Add pumpkin and spices and cook for a couple minutes.
Add 2 cups of the vegetable broth and quinoa. Bring a boil and cook for 5 minutes before adding the remaining vegetable broth. Bring to a boil.
Add beans and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Served garnished with cilantro, avocado and lime juice.