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You’ve probably heard the term “clean eating” in a fitness or fashion magazine.  There are some celebrities who swear by this diet method.  So, exactly what does it mean?  Simply put, clean eating is consuming more whole foods (real foods) and avoiding those foods that are ultra processed (think items like toaster pastries and ready-to-eat items).  The idea is to eat foods that are as close to their natural form as possible, this naturally omits any added sodium, sugar and fat from your diet.  In addition, over processed foods tends to strip the food of its natural fiber content and many times it loses valuable nutrients your body needs.

 

Does this mean you have to follow a new and complicated diet ritual to get the benefits that come with a “clean eating” mindset?  Not at all!  When you look at the basics behind some of the existing healthy lifestyle approaches, you’re already taking a step in the right direction.  Fruit and vegetables are a major part of clean eating.  Making them a focus of your meals will ensure you’re adding whole foods to each dining experience.  Here are a few other ways to “eat clean”:

 
  • Choose an abundance of fresh or frozen fruit and veggies
  • Opt for unrefined grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, quinoa, steel-cut oatmeal and popcorn
  • Choose dried beans and nuts
  • Buy unprocessed meat and choose pastured over grain-fed.
  • Opt for farm fresh eggs
  • Look for labels that have as few ingredients as possible
  • Cook your own meals rather than buying ready-to-cook options
  • When cooking, opt for flash cook methods like stir-frying or steaming for veggies
 

I found a couple of recipes that qualify as “clean eating,” but remember that it’s easy to simply incorporate fruit and veggies as half your plate (follow the MyPlate guidelines) and you’ll do just fine.  This recipe for Roasted Shrimp and Green Beans is fairly simple–using only the main ingredients and spices for flavor.

 

Shrimp-and-Beans
Photo courtesy of Clean and Delicious

 

Stuffed Bell Peppers are a great dinner option for busy weeknights.  This version uses ground turkey and salsa for the sauce, giving it a Mexican flare.

 

stuffed peppers

 

I’ll be back next week with some festive beverage options for your holidays.  Enjoy!

 

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December is National Pear Month and there is no better time to enjoy this delicious fruit. Fall and winter are the seasons that pears are at their peak flavor (and best price!), so scoop up some some savings and great taste the next time you visit your supermarket.  While most of us are very familiar with the common signature Bartlett pear–noted for its green/yellow appearance and juicy flavor (great for snacking!), there are a few other pear varieties in season right now, which are just as delicious.

 

pears
Photo courtesy of USAPears

 
  • Green Anjou – An all-purpose pear that makes it ideal for snacking, baking or adding to salads.  The color of this pear remains green while ripening so check the neck of the pear to see when it’s ready.
  • Red Anjou – Red Anjour pears have similar textures to Green Anjou pears and can be used the same way.  Their color adds a “pop” to salads or desserts.
  • Red Bartlett – Similar to their green counterpart, the Red Bartlett is sweet, juicy and perfect for snacking.  These pears turn a bright red as they ripen.
  • Bosc - Bosc pears can be easily identified by their long, tapered necks and brownish skin.  These pears are terrific for both eating as well as cooking.
  • Comice – Comice pears have a full shape and short neck.  They are most often green and can have some red spots.  They have a mellow sweetness that makes them ideal for pairing with cheese.
  • Concorde – Concorde pears are known for their long necks and firm, dense flesh.  The skin is golden green and holds up well in cooking.  This pear is also good for snacking.
 

 Aside from the flavor of this fruit, pears are a great source of dietary fiber, as well as a good source of Vitamin C–even more reason to add them to your daily diet!  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has put together their Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Pears.  From poaching to chutney …there’s something you’ll find on this list you’ll be sure to love.  I went digging myself and found a few recipes that feature pears that were different than the usual cobbler/muffin spin, I thought I’d share.

 

This Pear, Pomegranate and Spinach Salad is perfect for your holiday table.  Just look at those colors, not to mention the healthy ingredients!  Baby spinach, sliced pears, dried cranberries, pomegranate, chopped walnuts and feta cheese make up this savory salad.  A homemade dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey and dijon mustard finish this off.

 

pear salad
Photo courtesy of Cooking Classy

 

Check out this Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Artisan Pizza .  I love that it uses a whole wheat crust (there is a link for the crust recipe as well). Fresh mozzarella, sliced pears, onions, chopped walnuts and a bit of arugula make this a simple, but flavorful topping.

 

Pear pizza
Photo courtesy of 2 Teaspoons

 

Enjoy and I’ll be back next week with a look at one of the latest buzzwords …exactly what is “clean eating?”

 

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One of the great things about preparing those massive holiday meals is having lots of leftovers to enjoy afterward.  However, after the third turkey sandwich you might be looking for something a bit more exciting for your taste buds.  This holiday season, I’ve got some ideas for using your leftovers in creative ways that will have your family thinking you’ve started from scratch.  Better yet, these recipes are also good for you!

 

One of the best things my mom always did with the leftover turkey carcass was make soup.  Of course you’ll want to leave some meat on it and add in your favorite veggies like carrots, onion and celery.  This is a classic recipe just like my mom’s that starts with a leftover turkey carcass.  Add veggies, egg noodles and herbs for flavor.  This soup is perfect for chilly days and can be enjoyed right away or frozen for future use.

 

turkey soup
Photo courtesy of Simply Recipes

 

A terrific recipe for leftover turkey is this one for Turkey Enchiladas.  This recipe uses lots of flavors (salsa verde, red onion and cilantro) and the addition of Great Northern beans boosts the fiber and protein content of the dish.

 

 

Turkey enchiladas
Photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

 

If you have lots of leftover stuffing and mashed potatoes here is an interesting recipe I discovered–just go easy on this one as it has more calories and fat than I’d usually recommend.  I’d save these for a decadent appetizer.  They are Mashed Potato and Stuffing Patties and they combine both side dishes along with a bit of leftover turkey.  Finely chopped onion is added to the mixture and then they are lightly fried (much like a potato pancake).

 

 

mashed potato stuffing pockets
Photo courtesy of Pocket Change Gourmet

 

 Finally, if you want to stick with the turkey sandwich, here are two ideas to keep it interesting …first, try this Apple Cranberry Turkey Salad for a different twist.  It’s got diced apple, dried cranberry, chopped pecans and diced celery–you’re sure to have a “crunch” in every bite!  This recipe suggest rolls, but I’d prefer a wrap, pita or whole grain bread.  This would also be delicious atop a bed of mixed greens.

 

Turkey salad

 

How about this Turkey Pesto Cranberry Melt?  This looks unbelievably delicious!  Sliced turkey, pesto, leftover fresh cranberry sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese on rustic bread make this a hearty sandwich.  Reduce the fat/calories by using a low-fat cheese option and use a whole grain bread.

 

Turkey pesto cranberry melt
Photo courtesy of The Hopeless Housewife

 

 I hope I’ve given you some ideas for your holiday leftovers than are outside the norm this year.  Check the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters recipes section for more healthy ideas.

 

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Thanksgiving was always a big holiday in my house growing up.  My mom cooked the holiday feast and we would typically host my uncle who worked for a produce supplier.  I recall him dropping off a box filled with the freshest fruit and veggies the day before Thanksgiving in advance of the big dinner.  Among the crisp apples and juicy pears, there would be some very specific items that my mother would prepare, which were tradition for our Italian heritage–artichokes for the steamed artichokes with garlic and mushrooms for the marinated mushroom salad.

 

I’ve shared how to prepare artichokes in a prior blog, but I wanted to share our family’s marinated mushroom salad recipe with you this week.  It’s a very tasty side dish and one that can be prepared ahead of time, which is something that is quite helpful with all the day-of prep that’s happening on Thanksgiving.  Mushroooms are also in season right now and you can easily find them at your local supermarket at a great price.  Your Produce Man has some helpful tips on selecting the perfect mushrooms for this delicious recipe.

 

Marinated Mushrooms

 

2 pounds white mushrooms, washed and cut in half or quarters, depending on size
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
juice of 1 lemon

 

Cover mushrooms with water in a large pan with 1 teaspoon of salt and the juice of 1 lemon.  Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes.  Drain mushrooms and cover with 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water.  Marinate in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, save 2/3 of the water/vinegar mixture and drain the rest.  To the mushrooms, add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 3 teaspoons of fresh parsley, finely chopped, 1/8 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil and 2/3 of the water/vinegar mixture you saved.  Refrigerate and continue marinating for at least 12 hours.  You can garnish this dish with a bit of extra fresh parsley when serving.

 

marinated mushrooms
Photo courtesy of Running with Tweezers

 

My husband, who is Italian and loves marinated mushrooms loves this dish.  It’s very authentic and has a tart vinegar “pop” to the taste, which comes from the long marinating period.  However, if you’re looking for a similar flavor, but one that doesn’t require as much marinating time, I did find this recipe for Marinated Mushrooms that’s ready in about 10 minutes.  You’ll find there are some similarities–garlic, lemon and vinegar–but this recipe uses bay leaf and thyme as flavors.

 

 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and look for next week’s blog when I’ll have some healthy alternatives for all those Thanksgiving leftovers!

 

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November is National Diabetes Month.  In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the numbers of people becoming affected by this serious disease and, even more concerning, the age of onset of those impacted by Type 2 diabetes is lower than ever before.  Part of the problem, according to medical experts, is an increase in obesity and a lack of physical activity, both risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.  While Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes (when the pancrease ceases to produce insulin)  is not preventable and has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle, managing it is very similar to Type 2 diabetes–it involves a healthy diet and regular exercise.

 

According to the American Diabetes Association, a healthy diet should consist of vegetables, fruit, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy.  In fact, they have compiled a list of Diabetes Superfoods.  Any guesses on what mainly makes up this list?  You got it–fruit and veggies!

 
  • Beans
  • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Citrus Fruit
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Whole Grains
  • Nuts
  • Fat-Free Milk and Yogurt
 

One reason these items make the superfoods list is that they are ranked low on the glycemic index, which measures how carbohydrate containing foods can affect your blood glucose.  Foods with a high glycemic index will impact your blood glucose more than those with a low glycemic index.  It’s important to recognize the difference.  A great example is if you’re looking for an afternoon snack and you reach for a candy bar.  This has a high glycemic index and will send your blood glucose soaring.  Ever notice how you’ll get that “burst” of energy quickly and then kind of “crash” a little while later?  That burst of energy isn’t sustained.  Compare that with a snack like nuts and fruit, which has fiber, protein and carbohydrates.  This is much lower on the glycemic index and it takes your body longer to process it.  It provides you energy without sending your glucose levels soaring (and then crashing quickly).

 

 

As the wife of a Type 1 diabetic, I’ve had to be aware of carbohydrates and how they affect my husband’s sugar. The benefit of this is that by cooking healthy, it helps to keep the rest of our family in check as well.  Honestly, it’s really not that hard to do …I find it’s easiest if I follow the MyPlate guidelines and try to fill half our plates with fruit and veggies at each meal.  The remainder of the plate I fill with lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy.

 

 

Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has some featured healthy plate recipes that can help get you started like this Apple, Fennel and Chicken Salad with Couscous.  Sweet and savory is the perfect way to describe the flavor of this dish.  The lemon balsamic vinaigrette is perfect finish to this salad.

 

apple fennel chicken couscous

 

Easy Oven Packet Tilapia with Pears and Carnival Roasted Potatoes are a healthy addition to your dinner menu.  Red potatoes, green beans, bell pepper, onion and Roma tomato make up half your plate.

 

grilled tilapia

 

I love these Fiesta Frescada Lettuce Wraps and Bellafina Boats!  This is such a creative and fun way to add more veggies to your plate.  This recipe calls for using tilapia filets, but I’ve also substituted shrimp in mine.  The southwestern spices go perfectly with the veggies and seafood.

lettuce wraps

 

Even if you or someone in your household isn’t diabetic, it’s never a bad idea to start following these healthy guidelines, especially if you’ve got young children in your home.

 

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