Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Golden Beet and Strawberry Salad

This picture perfect salad is only $2.60 a plate.  It's sweet, citrusy and packed with health benefits!

1 cup baby romaine
3 large strawberries sliced
1/2 golden or yellow beet, steamed, cooled and sliced
2 teaspoons lemon fused olive oil (substitute regular olive oil and 1 lemon wedge, squeezed)
1-2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar, based on your taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat leaf italian parsley (optional)

Toss and enjoy!!

Monday, April 13, 2015

4 Ways To Curb Salt and Sugar Cravings

If you're like most Americans, you are in the need to train your brain to enjoy food rather than crave additives. Cravings are not entirely your fault.  Science and economic recessions have led to our addiction to processed foods.

Research on harmful effects of too much salt and sugar are endless; just Google it and you'll see.  The point of this post is help you stop the insanity! Stop adding salt and sugar to your foods so you can enjoy food the way it is intended and ultimately feel more satisfied after meals.

So here are 4 steps you can take to put yourself on the path to "recovery:"

1) Dump the Sweet Tea

I live in the south so Sweet Tea is as prevalent here as Coffee Milk is in New England.  The common thread is too much sugar and sugar substitutes are not the answer.  I know why might you choose "diet," versions.... you feel it saves on calories but the chemicals in synthetic sweeteners can be as addictive and more dangerous than their natural counterpart.  Google that, too.

To start, cut back using a one to one ratio of soda and sweetened drinks to unsweetened drinks.  Not all unsweet drinks are tasteless or bitter.  For example, adding unsweetened pineapple juice to iced white tea is pretty good and both are at your local grocery store.  Compare that mix to a $1.00 large Sweet Tea at a fast food place and you save money, too ($1.00 verses $.54 beverage that comes with way more added health benefits.... yeah).

2) Drop the Box

Almost everything in a box at the grocery store comes with added sodium and based on new research, those nutritional labels may be skewed and not skewed in your favor.  Whole, raw foods already have sodium; enough for your body to thrive.  Adding table salt, even the Pink Himalayan kind is not necessary.  What you are most likely missing is the need for flavor, not salt.

So add something else to your meals!  Flavor can come from two easy substitutes; raw fruits and veggies as well as herbs.  Try undercooking or roasting veggie sides such as broccoli, carrots or green beans and add garlic and white pepper rather than salt to your serving.

3) Take Risks With Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs are a great way to add flavor in lieu of salt or sugar!  Using fresh herbs feels risky to some so here's a tip: start small.  Add fresh dill to squashes (like cucumber or zucchini) and thyme to root veggies (like potatoes and carrots) to start. Cut with scissors or dice herbs into small pieces and toss before you are ready to serve.  You can also mix-n-match herbs; hearty herbs have stronger stems and delicate herbs are leafy.  Toss herbs with olive oil verses butter; the health benefits are worth it.

If you don't want to take a risk this big, Mrs Dash in your local seasoning isle is a great start.  Just remember, dried herbs take longer for the flavor to unfold.  Give your food time to absorb the flavor of dried herbs before you turn your nose up and go for the salt.

4) Pace Yourself For A Marathon 

The best thing you can do for yourself is commit to the end result and be willing to make mistakes along the way.  Do your best to not take steps... backwards.   For example, if your ice tea idea doesn't work out... don't add sugar to try to make up for it.  Instead, try a new mix of fruit and tea.  If your chicken is too dry and tasteless, try cooking it at a higher temp for less time or with different herbs rather than add salt in an attempt to make it better.  Embrace your mistakes and experiment to find what you and your family really like.

A transition like this is harder for adults who have been conditioned so-to-speak to need added salt and sugar because of easy to prepare processed foods, government regulated school food and quick serve restaurants (a.k.a. Fast Food).  Children introduced to food for the first time typically don't have a predisposition to want more salt and sugar.  We take a natural aversion to texture and taste as a need to add artificial flavor.  To help stop the cycle, give kids the chance to like something new.  Research indicates kids should try a food at least 10 times before we can confirm the really don't like it.

Your body doesn't need added salt or sugar.  So take the time to reprogram your mind and create new habits.  I used to crave diet soda all day, down a can of Pringles during a movie and eat a Heath Bar before bed.  Now, I don't like soda (at all), can easily turn candy and prefer to skip the chips with my sandwich.  Some can go cold turkey and make changes overnight with success.  Some can't.  Don't take it all on at once but do stick with it.

The Weekday Breakfast Burrito: Less than $1.25 a plate

This breakfast burrito is a staple breakfast item for our busy weekdays.  If your family is like mine, I feel like every day before school or before early weekend soccer games are mad dashes to the bathroom, laundry room and then maybe the dining room for breakfast.  Once I started serving these breakfast burritos mornings got easier and the kids stayed fuller, longer.

What you'll need:
Scrambled Eggs
Black Beans
Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Taco size soft tortillas (flour or whole wheat)

You can add:
Sour creme
Hot sauce
Cilantro sprigs
Chopped Jalapeño

Plan ahead to save time:
I recommend cooking bacon and scrambled eggs ahead of time.  These items will easily keep for 5 days cooked ahead of time and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator.  For example, I bake my bacon in the oven on Sunday nights while I make dinner and empty the black beans into an airtight container I can spoon from each morning.

To make:
On a microwave safe plate, lay one tortilla flat.  In the center of the tortilla spread out 1-2 tablespoons  of black beans, a tablespoon or 2 of scrambled egg, 1 strip of bacon and a palm-full of shredded cheese.  Cook on high for 20-30 seconds or until cheese is 1/2-3/4 melted.

Remove the plate and add sour creme, hot sauce, cilantro sprigs and jalapeño (all to taste).

Wrap as a burrito and you're done!  If you have extra time, you can try grilling the finished burrito in a non-stick pan with a little olive oil spray.  My kids love these either way I cook them.

The breakdown on cost:
I shop at a large grocery chain (Kroger). These items can be found at or around these prices in most cities and towns.  Feel free to swap out sausage for bacon, or turkey products for pork products.  You should still be able to keep this breakfast to under $2.00 a plate even if you use more expensive meats and eggs.

Bacon: store brand, center cut for $3.59 (12 slices= $.30 a slice)
Eggs: $3.50 for organic dozen (.$30 per egg)
Black Beans: organic store brand for $1.00 (serves 8 if using 1-2 tablespoons= $.12 a serving)
Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese: store brand for $3.00 ($.10 for a serving)
Taco size soft tortillas (flour or whole wheat): $2.00 for a pack 10 Ole brand ($.20 a tortilla)
Sour creme: store brand, all natural for $2.50 (23 servings, .$10 or so per serving)
Hot sauce: $2.30 for large bottle of Chulula brand (a few drops is nominal at maybe $.02 a serving)
Cilantro sprigs: organic bunch in produce isle is $.79 (a few sprigs is nominal at maybe .03 a serving)
Chopped Jalapeño : $.20 each (chopped is nominal at maybe $.04 a serving)

Total cost: $1.21 a plate