Cinnamon-Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Hello Sweet Potato!  Before I dive into this dish, I have a confession.  There have been one too many times where I’ve purchased sweet potatoes and never used them.  Let’s just say I’m extremely late to the sweet potato toast game-as in maybe made it once.  This morning, I saw these two beautiful sweet potatoes on my counter and knew I had to make something with them and wanted to liven them up to be more than a simple roasted or mashed potato.  These sweet potatoes are dressed with pure maple syrup, a touch of butter and cinnamon..making them a lil sweet and a lil savory.  Here are a few nutritional facts about sweet potatoes and why we should all be eating them more often (including your truly!).  Oh and don’t confuse yams with sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are nutritionally superior.

  • Sweet potatoes are rich in calcium, potassium and Vitamins A & C
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Anti-inflammatory benefits
  • contain about 140 calories and 2 grams dietary fiber per 3 1/2 oz portion, uncooked
  • sweet potatoes are satiating, meaning they help to keep you feeling fuller longer
  • eating sweet potatoes can help to satisfy your sweet tooth without the addition of refined sugar as they are naturally sweet, delicious and good for you!

How to use them:

  • add cooked sweet potato to smoothies
  • blended as a base for soup
  • add to stews
  • sweet potato toast-which I now have a simple recipe for (slice sweet potato thinly and bake at 350 for about 15-18 minutes until tender but not fully cooked.  Then stick them in the toaster to get crispy or allow to cool and place in a container with tight fitting lid and keep in the fridge until ready to use.  When ready, place in the toaster or toaster oven and toast until crispy).
  • as a vehicle for another dish like ground turkey chili or a vegetarian dish.  Simply cut the sweet potato in half, roast until tender, scoop it out and fill it!

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1  teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with parchment paper.
  3. Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in the lined dish.
  4. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  5. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.
  6. Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 40-45 minutes or until tender.
  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.   When ready to serve, reheat at 350°F until hot, about 15-18 minutes.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Quesadillas

I think quesadillas are totally underrated.  They can be filled with much more than chicken and cheese.  Since a quesadilla is basically a grilled sandwich-it’s perfect for using with leftovers or anything you would typically include in a sandwich. Oh and kids love them! It’s a fun a different way of serving food.  If you find your little one is no longer eating their beloved sandwich or unwilling to move past peanut butter & jelly, try making it in a quesadilla form!  My older son loves them with veggies (peppers, mushrooms, broccoli) and cheese but I also make these strawberry-cream cheese quesadillas which they love and are super delicious!  It’s actually one of my personal favorites too 🍓🍓

Easy instructions:

  1. simply spread lowfat cream cheese on a whole wheat quesadilla.
  2. top with chopped strawberries.
  3. fold the quesadilla in half and grill over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until golden and flip.
  4. Continue grilling for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  5. Also, if you choose other fillings, simply grill the same way until cheese melts (which may require an additional few minutes on each side). Enjoy!

No Bake Choconut Banana Bites

Have you ever baked with banana flour?  Maybe the better question is, have you ever heard of it?  I was recently asked to provide a list of high satiety foods for a Prevention magazine article and started to do research on unripe bananas, specifically green banana flour.  The nutritional profile is pretty incredible and I’ll be the first to admit that even as a dietitian, I really wasn’t fully aware of the potential health benefits of underripe bananas until recently.    Here is what I’ve learned about banana flour that is backed by research.  But first, what exactly is banana flour?

Yes, it’s made from bananas but if you’re like me, I had many questions about how it’s made.  In a nutshell, young, green bananas are picked and peeled before most of their starch has had a chance to ripen into sugar.  Next, the bananas are dried slow enough to maintains vitamins, nutrients and resistant starch (which I’ll talk about below) and ground into flour.  That’s about it!

In general, underripe bananas are naturally high in resistant starch (which they start to lose as they ripen), a type of starch that resists digestion in the small intestine, which has been shown to increase satiety, reduce feelings of hunger and may lead to lower energy intake in subsequent meals.  A 2016 Journal of Functional Foods study showed that adding unripe banana flour (5g resistant starch/serving) to non-daily consumption of soup for 6 weeks promoted higher satiety, lower ghrelin (hunger hormone) and high peptide YY release (a hormone which helps to reduce appetite and limit food intake).  How’s that for some gluten-free flour?!  I was quite impressed with the previous and even more recent research on banana flour.  In fact, back in 2011, banana flour was touted as one of the most exciting nutritional breakthroughs.  Resistant starch has been suggested to help your body’s ability to burn fat while keeping you fuller, longer.  Studies have also shown that it improves blood sugar control, boosts immunity, and may even reduce your cancer risk.   This is an excellent option for just about anyone to try especially those with a gluten allergy or intolerance or anyone who is avoiding grains. 

According to Let’s Do…Organic, when replacing grain flour with banana flour in baking, use 25% less green banana flour (example: your recipe calls for 1 cup of wheat flour, so use 3/4 cup of green banana flour). No extra eggs or liquid ingredients are needed.

This recipe is adapted from Alison’s No Bake Banana Flour Banana Balls by Let’s Do…Organic.  When I first saw this recipe, I had to make it, especially since it included two of my favorite words “NO BAKE”!!  The main difference in my recipe is that I added in rolled oats for a boost of fiber and texture and vanilla extract for flavor.  With the addition of cocoa powder,  no refined sugar and solely sweetened with maple syrup, these balls of goodness will satisfy your sweet tooth without giving you a toothache!   This is a treat you can totally feel good about giving your kids too.  My boys (and husband) gobbled these up and asked for seconds! Let’s just say they didn’t last more than one day.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons Let’s Do…Organic banana flour
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • 3 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Let’s Do…Organic shredded coconut

Directions:

  1. Line a plate with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (except coconut and oats) and mix well.
  3. Slowly add in the oats and continue mixing until texture thickens enough to form balls.
  4. Take about one tablespoon of the batter and roll into balls, then roll in the shredded coconut and place on the parchment lined plate.
  5. Place the plate in the freezer and freeze for about 20 minutes and enjoy!

 

 

 

Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins

Looking for a healthy way to start your day?  Give these fiber-rich blueberry oat bran muffins a try!  I mean check out these bloobz.  I’ve been planning on using oat bran in baking for some time now and finally decided to use it in muffins.  The result was delicious, filling muffins that my kids gobbled up too.  Now you may be wondering what oat bran is.  In general, oats come in so many different ways that it’s easy to get dizzy from it all.   Oat bran is the outer layer of the oat and is the most versatile part.  With an exceptionally high fiber content, oat bran makes for the perfect and satisfying warm morning breakfast cereal and is a great addition to baked goods.  Compared to an equal serving as oatmeal, it contains more fiber and less calories.  Just 1/3 cup contains about 6 grams of dietary fiber (3 of it being from soluble heart-healthy fiber) and about 5 grams of protein!  Here are a few other ways to include oat bran in your daily intake:

-sprinkle on salads; add to smoothies, yogurt and cottage cheese; use in place of breadcrumbs; mix it into a soup or stew.

With baking, be sure to allow the oat bran to soak in with the liquid ingredients before baking.  I found that this helps to soften the bran and create a moister muffin.  Happy Baking!

Ingredients

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 1/2 cups oat bran

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup vanilla low fat or nonfat yogurt (I used Siggi’s vanilla)

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 1/2 cups blueberries (I used a mix of fresh and frozen)

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with muffin liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oat bran, flours, baking powder, soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, applesauce, vanilla and yogurt.
  4. Add wet to dry ingredients and mix until well-blended and let stand 10 minutes which helps the oat bran to soften.
  5. Fold in blueberries
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown

 

Savory & Sweet Cream of Wheat with Lentils

When I went to the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo last year, I stopped by the Lentils booth and tried this delicious dish that I have been re-creating ever since with my own little flavor spin! Savory & Sweet Cream of Wheat with Lentils.  You may not think lentils + cream of wheat go together but they do! and tastes amazing.  The addition of honey, dried cranberries, apples, cinnamon and vanilla make this warm dish extra flavorful and nutritious.  Not to mention that this dish is gluten free and you get a boost of fiber and protein from pulses!  The variety of toppings are endless and totally customizable to your taste preferences.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds (or pumpkin seeds)

1 tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup

2 cups of unsweetened almond milk

1/4 cup Cream of Wheat

1/4 cup split red lentils

1/2 apple, finely chopped

1 cup of water

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the lentils and water.
  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, in a small bowl combine the apple, almonds and 1 teaspoon of the maple syrup. Set aside.
  4. Pour milk into a medium saucepan, bring to a light boil and whisk in cream of wheat.
  5. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the cranberries, vanilla, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of maple syrup.  Whisk to combine.
  6. Once lentils are cooked and soft, pour into a mesh strainer and use a whisk or spoon to extract any excess liquid from the lentils.
  7. Pour lentils into the cream of wheat mixture and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.
  8. Portion out mixture into individual bowls and top with the apple and almond mixture.  Serve warm.

The FDA’s Warning on Consuming Raw Flour-What every parent needs to know

As parents, we always make sure our children know to never eat raw eggs and wash their hands after coming in contact with them due to risk of Salmonella.  However, according to a recent statement issued by the FDA, flour, regardless of the brand or type (ex: unbleached, all-purpose, self-rising), can also contain bacteria that cause disease.  Raw dough could transmit harmful or evenly deadly pathogens which can make adults and children sick, while cooking the dough through methods such as roasting or baking-kills the bacteria.  Aside from cooking, doing crafts that include raw flour such as making play-doh can be just as dangerous if the dough is consumed.  See the link below for the complete FDA statement which includes tips on handling food safely but in the meantime, please see my tips on ways to help keep your children safe in some situations where they may be exposed to raw flour.

How to keep your kids safe

With the holiday season in full swing, Christmas cookies are one baked item that I make often and even give as gifts to family and friends. And whenever I make cookies, I always get my kids involved to help with the preparation and decorating and with this new FDA warning on raw dough, it’s important for parents to know how to keep their kids safe when making homemade cookies. Although cooking with kids is very important, it’s even more important to make sure they are safe and not consuming any potentially harmful ingredients. Here are a few tips that I use to keep my kids safe while baking cookies or even making crafts that require flour.

  • Hand washing! I can’t stress this enough. Washing hands after coming in contact with raw dough or raw flour is very important. To ensure my kids wash their hands immediately after handling either of these raw components, I have them wash their hands right at the kitchen sink while standing on their stools. This way, I can make sure it gets done right in front of me instead of relying on them to head to the bathroom to do it (which is where they usually prefer to wash their hands on their own). I then wash any utensils or work surfaces that have come in contact with the raw dough and flour.
  • Keep your kids informed. Often times, kids understand more than we realize so be sure to take the time to explain this raw flour/dough warning and what can potentially happen if they eat raw dough. Also, explain the rules of the kitchen and baking with mommy or daddy, and include “no eating raw flour or dough” and “hand washing after preparation”, etc. as part of those rules.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods. Due to it’s powdery consistency, raw flour can spread easily. Be sure to keep any other food products far from the flour and your work surface when preparing cookies or other baked goods that require flour. Kids often like to spread the powder as well, so removing all other foods items from this area will prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading.
  • Keep dish or paper towels close by.  Having some type of dish cloth or torn sheets of paper towel to wipe up excess flour (which parents know can get out of hand while baking with kids) will help to keep it from going on their little hands.
  • Be cautious when making homemade crafts that require flour. Homemade play-doh is a ton of fun to make with kids and makes the perfect rainy day activity but since it requires raw flour, it’s important that you have it in your sight at all times and be sure to have children wash their hands immediately after making it. I would also suggest discarding it afterwards or keeping any homemade play-doh in a safe area, far from where the kids could reach it. You may also want to save a craft like this for older children who do not mouth objects and have a better understanding of why raw flour cannot be consumed.

 

https://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm508450.htm?utm_campaign=11.27.17%20CU%20Raw%20Cookie%20Dough&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua

Sweets & Treats for kids: My thoughts as a dietitian and mom

Tis the season to be jolly and eat…and eat…and eat some more.  The grocery store aisles are filled with treats galore, from flavored candy canes to marshmallow Christmas trees and chocolate snowmen-food brands really know how to lure you in!  But when it comes to kids and sweets, how much is too much?  and should we be allowing our kids to indulge in sweets during the holidays at all?

First I’ll share that when it comes to counseling adults and children, including my own, I don’t have a deprivation mentality and don’t think any food should be labeled as “bad”. Children should learn to develop a healthy relationship with food and as parents, we need to encourage this.  With that said, I see holidays as an opportunity to teach children that all foods could be included in an overall healthy diet when used in moderation.  Most times, when children have restrictions like “no sweets, no cookies, no cake”, they often seek it elsewhere and when faced with the opportunity to indulge, they easily will and then some!

Although parents insist that sugar is the cause for their child’s hyperactivity, it’s important to note that substantial body of research shows there is no link between the two.  However, sugar is linked to obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes, but micromanaging your kids’ candy consumption may actually make them crave it more.  Now does this mean you should give your child a free pass to shove candy in their mouth, absolutely not!  Instead, be supportive and ask questions about how they feel after eating it and explain the importance of eating nutritious foods and how this can benefit them.  Children who eat loads of sugar tend to eat less healthy foods, so be sure to be a good role model and eat healthy foods along with your child and be sure to keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy, easily accessible foods such as a bowl of fresh whole fruits on the kitchen counter or a plate of veggies its dip in the fridge.

Recommendations for added sugar with children.  What’s the latest?

According to a scientific statement released by the American Heart Association in 2016, children should eat less than 6 teaspoons, equivalent to 100 calories or 25 grams, of added sugar daily with recommendations that advise children under 2 to not consume any added sugars from food or beverages.  By July 2018, most foods will require the newly designed nutrition facts label which includes a separate line showing the amount of added sugar in the product.  However, in the meantime, be sure to read nutrition labels, especially for snacks geared toward kids and be mindful of the amount of sugar they contain.  Stick with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy and healthy fats as the main sources for your child’s calories.  Regarding 100% fruit juice, according to a new policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit to children under age 1 and should not be included in their diet.  The new recommendations state that 100-percent fresh or reconstituted fruit juice can be a healthy part of the diet of children older than 1 year when consumed as part of a well-balanced diet.  Fresh fruit is also promoted versus fruit juice.  Here are the policy recommendations:

  • Intake of juice should be limited to:
    • at most, 4 ounces daily for toddlers age 1-3.
    • For children age 4-6, fruit juice should be restricted to 4 to 6 ounces daily
    • and for children ages 7-18, juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit servings per day.
  • Toddlers should not be given juice from bottles or easily transportable “sippy cups” that allow them to consume juice easily throughout the day. The excessive exposure of the teeth to carbohydrates can lead to tooth decay, as well. Toddlers should not be given juice at bedtime.
  • Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits and be educated about the benefits of the fruit as compared with juice, which lacks dietary fiber and may contribute to excessive weight gain.
  • Human milk or infant formula is sufficient for infants, and low-fat/nonfat milk and water are sufficient for older children.
  • Consumption of unpasteurized juice products should be strongly discouraged for children of all ages.
  • Children who take specific forms of medication should not be given grapefruit juice, which can interfere with the medication’s effectiveness. In addition, fruit juice is not appropriate in the treatment of dehydration or management of diarrhea.

Although it’s nearly impossible to get away from sweets and added sugars around the holiday season, it’s important to talk to your kids about how treats could be enjoyed in moderation.  You can also set an allowance for your kids on how much candy they can have.  For example, if you allow for them to have one piece of candy as a dessert after dinner, they will then see it as a dessert versus a snack.  I actually did this with my kids for Halloween. When they came home with a huge bag of candy, I stored it and made an agreement with them that they could choose one piece of candy from the “treat” bag to have as a dessert after dinner and some days they wouldn’t even ask for it at all.

As parents, we should lead by example and follow the same rules you’re setting for your children.  Teach them lessons about nutrition early one and they will carry it with them throughout their lives.

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