Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Trans Fats (from the Mayo Clinic)

Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health             AKA BEWARE OF THE SNACK MACHINE
Trans fat raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol. Find out more about trans fat and how to avoid it.
When it comes to fat, trans fat is considered by some doctors to be the worst of them all because of its double-barreled impact on your cholesterol levels. Unlike other fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol.
A high LDL cholesterol level in combination with a low HDL cholesterol level increases your risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women. Here's some information about trans fat and how to avoid it.
What is trans fat?
Trans fat comes from adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats are more solid than oil is, making them less likely to spoil. Using trans fats in the manufacturing of foods helps foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a less greasy feel.
Trans fat in your food
Commercial baked goods — such as crackers, cookies and cakes — and many fried foods, such as doughnuts and french fries — may contain trans fats. Shortenings and some margarines can be high in trans fat.
Trans fat used to be more common, but in recent years food manufacturers have used it less because of concerns over the health effects of trans fat. Food manufacturers in the United States and many other countries list the trans fat content on nutrition labels.
However, you should be aware of what nutritional labels really mean when it comes to trans fat. For example, in the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat. Though that's a small amount of trans fat, if you eat multiple servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, you could exceed recommended limits.
Reading food labels
How do you know whether food contains trans fat? Look for the words "partially hydrogenated" oil. That's another term for trans fat. The word "shortening" also is a clue: Shortening contains some trans fat.                                   Adapted from Mayo Clinic Health Eductation website

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Eggs for dinner

I have too many eggs this week.  When I got my first dozen eggs from CSA I still had a whole 18 egg cartoon in the fridge.  Well this fits in well on eating less meat-we will have eggs for dinner.  With that in mind I came up with this recipe. 

Truth about eggs:
Eggs are a good source of protein.

Eggs are good for your eyes.

Eggs are a good source of choline which helps regulate the brain, nervous system, and cardiovascular system. aka good for your memory.

Eggs have 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated (bad fats) each.  To further reduce fat eat the whites only.

Do eggs raise cholesterol? Contraversial. Older studies say yes newer ones say no- maybe even help protect your heart.
American Heart Association says that one egg a day is acceptable.  If cholesterol is a concern (those with heart disease, diabetes, or a high level of LDL 'bad' cholesterol) choose a small or medium egg or eat the egg whites which have no cholesterol.  I find mixing a whole eggs with 1-2 egg whites to be quite good and avoids the artifical food colorings in egg substitutes. If you are limiting cholesterol and eat eggs you should choose foods that are not high in cholesterol the rest of the day to keep overall cholesterol intake down.

Bottom line: Moderate consumption of eggs is fine. Like everything else it is about moderation.  Eating a high protein and healthy food like eggs will like reduce cravings for less healthy simple carbohydrates.  Bottom line: You may actually comsume less bad stuff by eating eggs. 

Eggs with spinach, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes

3 slices bacon, diced (can change to 1 tbsp olive oil for vegetarian meal)
1 cup mushrooms coarsely chopped
2 cups spinach, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil; drained, oil reserved, chopped
8 large eggs , lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup Milk/whipping cream
1 cup  mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tsp kosher salt to taste
1/2 tsp Pepper to taste
1 tsp herbs de providence
4 slices whole wheat bread

1. Brown bacon in sauté pan until crisp.  Remove bacon.  Reserve fat for cooking. 

2. Chop mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and bacon in food processor- course chop- not too fine.  Also chop bread into course crumb.

3. Sauté mushrooms 2 minutes, add spinach 3 minutes, add tomatoes, cook one more minute.

4. Spray 9x13 casserole with cooking spray.  Add bread.  Pour veggies mixture over the top.

5. Add milk and spices to eggs.  Pour over bread mixture.  Stir.  let stand 20 minutes.  Add more milk if dry should be runny when putting it into oven.  While mixture standing preheat oven to 350 degrees.

6. Add diced bacon and 1 cup of shredded cheese and stir.

7. Place in oven and bake 20 minutes or until top firm and just starting to brown slightly.

Servings: 8

Ratings: (everyone loved it and enjoyed breakfast for dinner) 
Jamie ****
Meredith ****
Clay ****
Colin ****
Lexi ***

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (5.4 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 266.13
Calories From Fat (61%) 163.47
% Daily Value
Total Fat 18.32g 28%
Saturated Fat 7.39g 37%
Cholesterol 239.07mg 80%
Sodium 618.12mg 26%
Potassium 383.69mg 11%
Total Carbohydrates 10.51g 4%
Fiber 1.66g 7%
Sugar 3.35g
Protein 15.39g 31%

Basically this is the days limit of cholesterol for those with heart disease and over 1/3 of the days fat intake for everyone.  If you do not consume a lot of high fat foods throughout the day this is a fine meal for supper.  You can reduce the fat and cholesterol in this recipes to create a more health friendly version by omitting bacon and using olive oil to saute.  Replace 4 of the eggs with 6 egg whites.  Use reduced fat cheese or use 1/2 cup feta which is stronger so you don't need as much.

Serve with fruit salad

Can use any cheese.  Mozzarella gives a nice mild flavor.  You could use 1/2 cup feta cheese
You can change the flavor with different cheeses.  Can try white cheddar or 1/2 cup feta.
I recommend using 2% milk.  You can use some cream for a a richer dish, you can milk cream and milk, two types of milk- get the ide

Monday, March 14, 2011

Maple Kale

Today we visited a maple syrup producing farm.  The kids loved seeing the process of turning sap to syrup and getting to taste several maple syrup treats. They had a pancake breakfast with maple syrup of course.  A savanger hunt was thier favorite.  Insipired by the days event I came up with this simple recipe.  We had it with Lemon Chicken from the Rao's cookbook over brown rice.  This was our first meat from the CSA and the chicken was excellent.  I am still not convienced the whole chicken will be a long term thing for me since it is more time cousuming but on occasion was a treat.

If you have not cooked with kale it is a leafy green vegetable- it is in the cabbage family and close relative to collards. It has a different flavor then spinach closer to collards but even more mild.  Kale has powerful antioxidant and is considered to be anti-inflammatory and thought to have anti-cancer properties as well.  It is rich in in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin Avitamin C, calcium and others.  

Maple Kale

2 pounds kale chopped in bite sized pieces
4 cups water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tsp salt
4 slices maple cured bacon (optional)

Brown bacon in pan until crisp then set aside.  Alternatively heat 2 tsbp olive oil in pan.  Add water, vinegar and maple syrup and bring to a boil.  Add kale.  You may have to add some and allow it to cook for a few minutes and then add the rest- it wilts quickly.  Allow to simmer 20-30 minutes until tender.  Serve with crumbled bacon on top.


Jamie *****
Meredith ****
Clay *****
Colin *****
Lexi **

I can do without the added sweetness- but the added maple flavor was a huge hit with the boys who all had 2 servings.  I made enough we were able to reheat as a side the next day. 

If you are omiting the bacon you can add some garlic to the olive oil for some additional flavor.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pasta with Butternut Squash and Walnuts

Pasta with Butternut Squash and Walnuts

1 butternut squash peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 box pasta
1/2  cup olive oil (plus a few tbsp for roasting squash)
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tsp dried sage (or 2 tbsp fresh)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Gouda cheese or Parmesan cheese
1 TBSP garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup reserved cooking water

1. Mix the butternut squash with a 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil- enough to coat.  Add garlic, 1 tsp kosher salt.  Roast at 350 degrees for 50 minutes until tender but not mushy.

2. Cook pasta until al dente

3. Heat olive oil in saute pan.  Add walnuts and shallots and cook until light brown (about 10 minutes on low heat) Add sage.  fresh sage would be best- some diced and a few whole leaves for "fried" sage leaves as a garnish.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Toss cooked pasta with sauce adding 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid.

5. Mix 1/2 cup shredded cheese in pasta and put rest on top.  Allow to melt and serve.

Servings: 6

Sorry I don't know why the underline won't come off.  I gave this a try tonight to use a lovely squash a co-worker gave me. I thought the gouda would go well with the walnuts but I think Parmesan would work equally well.  This recipe is high in total fat but low in saturated fats (the bad kind).  I like to use the Barilla pasta.  I have never acquired a taste for whole wheat pasta- but this is loaded with good stuff and you can barely tell that it is not regular white pasta.  The label did not photograph well but it is loaded with healthy whole grains- great product.  I made enough butter squash for 2 meals when I roasted it- i can freeze it and have it ready next time.  


Jamie ***
Meredith ****
Colin ***
Clay ***
Lexi ***

Colin doesn't like nuts but did not seem to notice them.  None on is crazy about butternut squash except me but they all ate some (except Colin) but he LOVES pasta so we are even.

Note: This was even better the next day with a little Parmesan on top.

Community Supported Agriculture

Have you ever heard of Community Supported Agriculture?  It is when you "buy a piece of the farm".  Basically you buy a share of the farms crops- if they have a good season you get a lot bad season not so much. You share the risk.  Some other models several farms work together an you get different crops from different farms- blueberries from one, potatoes from another ect.. this way you get a wide variety and consistent supply.  That is the model I am trying out. I heard about it last year when someone came to talk one who brought the sweetest strawberries you had ever tasted.  Nothing like the jumbo but flavorless ones from the grocery store.  I did not sign up however.  I had several excuses: 1. the drop site was too far 2. What if I don't have time to cook it all? 3. I like to pick stuff out (but actually I really just cook with what I have a lot of the time) 4. It cost to much.  Well I decided to revisit this.  Basically: they have a drop site that is not too far away.  I cook anyway and I will use what I have.  The last one is the toughest.  It is more expensive BUT it is organic, local, and fresh- so I will share my experience as I ask myself is it worth it?

Currently fresh produce is not in season so we are starting with dairy and meat.  The extra cost is really the meat but it is grass-fed, no hormones, antibiotics ect..  Recently we decided to eat less meat but eat a higher quality.  We are adding more vegetarian meals and fish.  When you do it this way the extra cost of the meat doesn't have as much impact. 

One of main reasons for deciding to give this a try is that is a win-win with supporting local farms.  The main reason America's meat is filled with antibiotics and hormones is the consumer demand for an inexpensive product.  Unfortunately there seems to be  a price to pay.  In my field we see more and more girls with precocious puberty and a growing problem with antibiotic resistance.  While these products are not solely to blame I am concerned they are playing a role- and I don't want to find out the hard way.  In our regions a lot of tobacco has been produced and several farms are switching to other products.  This gives them a consistent market and we get a guarantee on the quality of our food- see win-win.

Well follow along and we will find out together if what seems good in theory really works out.

Ok here is the first order.  We got a dozen farm fresh eggs, 2 local artisan cheeses, 1 farm raised whole chicken and 2 sirloin steaks (we are signed up for mixed meats you don't know what you will get each week)- what a pleasant surprise! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Recipe Makeover- Jambalaya

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and healthy do NOT belong in the same sentence. I mean the whole point of Mardi Gras is to indulge in all of the things about to be given up during the Lenten season.  However, we like to enjoy a little Mardi Gras celebration at our house (esp after 4 years in Mobile, AL) and our favorite part is the King Cake!  This year we decided on some Jambalaya.  If this was the only high fat food we would encounter for the week then it probably would not be a big deal but lets face it.  There will be Girl Scout cookies passed around the office, cupcakes at school for the next birthday ect..  We are far from perfect with this whole nutrition thing but if I can at least have healthy food in the home it is a step in the right direction.  That is where a recipe makeover comes in.

I found a nice looking Jambalaya recipe in this month's Bon Appetit Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya- you can find it at Epicurious.com.  Problem was the saturated fat.  An adult eating a 2000 calorie/day diet should not have more then 20 grams of saturated fats a day. Basically Saturated fats are the artery cloggers- they raise your cholesterol.  For kids their total dietary fat intake should be 25-30% of their diet- that is for all fats not just saturated.  So basically the whole family benefits from limiting saturated fat.  The original recipe has 50 grams of fat and 17 grams of saturated fat per serving!  That is an entire day of fat in one meal and we want to eat King Cake for dessert!  Imagine a restaurant now where the portion size is 2-3 servings- you are getting 2-3 days of saturated fat in one meal- that is why the American diet is such a problem.

So here goes the recipe makeover; 1. Decrease the sausage from 1 1/2 pounds to 3/4 pounds.  2. Decrease the amount of applewood bacon but don't eliminate it or substitute turkey bacon it won't get the smokey flavor you need for Jambalaya  3. Reduce chicken thighs (higher in saturated fats) and add some chicken breast (lean and low in saturated fats) 4. Add some shrimp 5. Change from white to brown rice 6. Eliminate cayenne pepper and use mild sausage so the kids will eat it (but can be made with cayenne and spicy sausage for those wanting an authentic version).

The makeover version is still not health food but look at the difference:
                           Original                                     Makeover
Total Fat             51 grams                                   20 grams
Saturated Fat    17 grams                                  6 grams
Sodium               2527 mg                                    1044mg
Calories              754                                            361

Here is the recipe- this is NOT quick and easy but worth the effort when you are craving some Cajun flavors.

Meredith's Chicken, Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya

6 oz applewood-smoked bacon, diced
3/4 lb mild sausages, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch cubes
1 lb chicken breasts
3 large skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch piece
1  large onions, chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 8-to 10-ounce red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 8-to 10-ounce green or yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
6 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
I love the colors seen while this dish sautes
1 Tbs chili powder
1/4 tsp (or more) cayenne pepper (optional)
1 can 28-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes and green chiles
2  cup chicken broth
1 pound shrimp (peeled and deveined), chopped into bite sized pieces
2 cup brown rice
8 green onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
Chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Cook bacon and sausage in very large pot over medium-high heat until brown but not yet crisp and sausage start to brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Mix in chicken. Cook until outside of chicken turns white, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in paprika, thyme, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional). Cook 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes with chiles and broth; stir to blend well. Add more cayenne, if desired. Mix in rice.

2. Bring jambalaya to boil. Cover pot. Place in oven and bake until rice is tender and liquids are almost absorbed about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and add chopped shrimp. Leave covered about 10 minutes until remaining liquid absorbed and shrimp cooked thoroughly.  Sprinkle jambalaya with chopped parsley and serve.

Servings: 8-10

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Jamie *****
Meredith *****
Clay ****
Colin ***
Lexi ***

Jamie said he liked this version as much as any of the full fat versions he has tried- maybe better- "I don't like really greasy food"!

I don't think the modifications lost any of the rich flavor we love in Jambylaya!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chicken and Black Bean Quesadilla

 Black Bean and Chicken Quesadilla

This is a family fun recipe.  It is quite simple and fun for the kids- they get to assemble their own dinner.

Since we are focusing on whole grains lets start with choosing the tortillas.   Here is the label from ours- these are whole grain tortillas.  Notice the flour is enriched wheat flour- this is not as good as "wheat flour" which would be 100% whole grains.  However, the fiber content is 4gms likley from the addition of a multi-grained blend.  They also do not have partially hydrogenated oils often found in tortillas to enhance shelf life. More on this to come but basically partially hydrogenated oils raise your bad cholesterol and should be avoided. 

Next selection is the cheese. This is an inexpensive meal so the cheese is the place to make sure to get a high quality product.  This variety is hormone and antibiotic free (more on this to come later as well).  By using a reduced fat product you also decrease saturated fat intake which is what gives cheese its bad reputation.


6 whole grain torillas
2 cups cooked chicken cut in bite sized pieces
1 cup shredded cheese
1 can black beans drained
diced cilantro
Pepper and onion blend sauteed (this was a frozen variety- if not using organic make sure to rinse even if frozen to reduce residual pesticides)

Spray one side of tortilla with cooking spray and turn over.  Assemble with toppings of choice- basically do not use more then 2 spoonfuls of each or you cannot fold it in half. 

Place onto griddle over med-low heat and grill until cheese melted and tortilla crisp.

Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.

We also had a mixed green salad.

Ratings:- I will put ratings for each meal to give you the family perspective.  This gives you an idea of how 2 seven year olds and a 4 year old did with the meal!

5 stars- I want this every night!  My favorite!
4 stars- I want this again-loved it.
3 stars- Very good. Would make it again.
2 stars- Good.
1 star- OK
0 stars- yuck! Never agian- we are ordering out tonight.

Jamie: ****
Meredith: ****
Clay: ****
Colin: ****
Lexi: **

Whole Grains are Better!


We are starting with whole grains because this is where my familie's food adventure began.  It is amazing how little nutrition is taught in medical school. It was not until I was in practice I realized how important this subject is to patient care and how little I knew!  I made it a point to learn and continue to do so.  About 7 years ago we started the switch to whole grains.  It was not easy having been brought up on white bread, rice and pasta (that has been the hardest to switch!).  However, now we do not even enjoy the plain taste of white bread compared to the flavorful whole grain varieties.  If you are resistant than start slow (like we did)- I will be exploring different whole grain products in future post, how to read the label and some tips on making the switch.

What is Whole Grains?

 There are three parts to a grain kernel- bran, germ and endosperm and each provides nutrients.   Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel.  Refining removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. This stripes the grain of about 25% of it's protein and at least seventeen key nutrients. Enriching means that the processors add back some vitamins and minerals to enrich refined grains, so refined products still contribute valuable nutrients. But whole grains are healthier, providing more protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals.

Why choose whole grains?  (adapted from the Whole Grain Council)

Known benefits of whole grain include: 
  • stroke risk reduced 30-36%
  • type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
  • heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
  • better weight maintenance
Other potential benefits include:
  • reduced risk of asthma
  • healthier carotid arteries
  • reduction of inflammatory disease risk
  • lower risk of colorectal cancer
  • healthier blood pressure levels
  • less gum disease and tooth loss
 Where do I find Whole Grains?

The most common whole grounds you will encounter are in flour used to make bread, pasta and other processed foods.  It also is in rice and a variety of products sold with the whole grain in it's natural state.

Examples of whole grains include:
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Millet
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers
  • Wild rice

How do I know if the food I am buying has whole grains?

The food label needs to say "whole grain".  It also might state the percentage of whole grain in the product.  To be labeled as whole grain it must have the same proportions of bran, germ, and endosperm as the harvested kernel does before it is processed.

How much do I need?
(adapted from MayoClinic.com)

 Look at the label and try to select items that have at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving.

Eat whole-grain versions — rather than refined grains — as often as possible.

Whole-grain versions of rice, bread, cereal, flour and pasta can be found at any grocery store. Many whole-grain foods come ready to eat. These include a variety of breads, pastas and ready-to-eat cereals.

Additional resources on whole grains:
www.wholegrainscouncil.org- has a very in depth list of the scientific studies done on whole grains 

Saturday, March 5, 2011


 Every day as a physican I see the impact of the American diet on today's children and the growing problems related to poor nutrition and obesity.  As I mother I strive to teach my kids about leading an active and healthly lifestyle and enjoying healthy foods.   I am working hard to protect my family from the dangers of the American diet. One way that we are doing that is being active in Community supported agriculture.  we are supporting our local farms and community while getting local and fresh foods without chemicals, antibiotics and additives.  This blog shares how we use our local CSA foods through orginial recipes, adapted recipes and recipe reviews.