Cooked to Perfection, En Papillote

Looking for a new way to cook fish?  What if I told you it was easy and almost fool-proof?  You wouldn’t believe me, right?  But, it’s true.  The trick is to cook fish “en papillote” or in little parchment packets. This method cooks the fish using steam (produced by whatever liquid you introduce into the packet) which keeps fish moist and perfectly flaky.  Another bonus to this type of cooking?  You can infuse so much flavor!  This means you can take almost any mild fish, add herbs, wine, vinegar, and other aromatics and turn it into a delicious masterpiece!  Check out the recipe below I created for Food and Nutrition magazine.  And if you want to learn more about parchment, read more about it here!

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Barramundi En Papillote with Almond Gremolata

Perfectly steamed barramundi fillets topped with lemon juice and freshly chopped herbs and almonds

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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup chopped sliced toasted almonds
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest (about 2 small lemons)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green bell pepper
  • 6 sprigs, parsley, cleaned
  • 6 barramundi fillets, 5 oz each, skinned and boned
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup dry white wine

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400’F.
  2. Cut parchment paper into sheets, approximately 12×16-inches, then fold each piece in half lengthwise. Trace a half of a heart onto each piece, using the fold as the center of the heart. Cut along the traced edges. (You did it correctly if you open the folded paper and see a full heart)
  3. To make the Gremolata: Combine the almonds, chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Stir until well incorporated.
  4. Toss the onion and peppers together in a bowl. On one half of each parchment heart place approximately a ½ cup of the vegetable mixture and a sprig of parsley. Top with a piece of fish and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fish with the gremolata, evenly distributing among the packets. To seal the packets, begin by folding over the heart. Starting with the pointed end, begin making small folds up the open sides of the parchment. Before fully sealing, fill each packet with 2 tablespoons of white wine. Fold closed.
  5. Place packets on a sheet pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until fish reaches an internal temperature of 145’F for 15 seconds.
  6. The dish can then be served either within the packets or portioned onto plates. If desired, serve with lemon slices or a splash of lemon juice prior to serving.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 6
  • Calories: 352
  • Sugar: 4
  • Sodium: 133
  • Fat: 15
  • Saturated Fat: 2
  • Unsaturated Fat: 11
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 8
  • Protein: 40
  • Cholesterol: 119

 

It’s All about the Kids! Celebrate the First Ever Kids Eat Right Month!

August is Kids Eat Right Month

 

“To highlight the role everyone plays in ensuring a healthy future for our nation’s children, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its Foundation announce the first Kids Eat Right Month, to be celebrated each August. Kids Eat Right Month will focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles for children and families, featuring expert advice from registered dietitian nutritionists.”  http://www.kidseatright.org/

I love kids.  They are fun, hilarious, honest and care-free.  Basically, they are everything that I strive to be!  Kids find joy in so many things and it is a wonder to watch them learn and explore.  That’s why I am very excited that August is now officially Kids Eat Right Month!

This means that we as parents, friends, family members, caregivers, health-care workers and dietitians, have a special month dedicated to teaching the most spectacular people in our world the benefits of healthy eating.  We can take this month to honor our children’s desire to learn and explore by teaching them how amazing food really is.  We can get them into the garden or take them to the grocery store.  We can pull up a stool and have them help us in the kitchen.  Do whatever you can to expose them to the benefits enjoying healthy, wholesome food.

I encourage you to take this month to reach out to your children or the children in your community and teach them the life skills of healthy eating and living.  Teach them and be a role model for them.  If you need clues on how to bring these ideas to life, the Kids Eat Right website is full of helpful information.  Click on this link and get out there and celebrate Kids Eat Right Month!

An Easy Swap

Tired of rice?  Why not try quinoa?  This seed is a true gem in the nutritional department and makes a great replacement for most recipes that call for rice.  What makes it so amazing?  Besides being one of the few plant sources that is considered a complete protein (a real plus for Vegetarians!), it’s loaded with fiber, iron and magnesium.  Another reason to love it?  It’s easy to prepare and only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook. Need some recipe inspiration?  The recipe below is simple and versatile.  It’s delicious as a side dish for any Mexican meal or can be used as a filler for tacos or burritos or even as a topping for a taco salad. Looking to get more mileage out of this recipe?  Amp up the flavor by adding more cilantro along with some chopped green onions.  Want a spicier version?  Try dicing up a jalapeno and cook it along with the cumin.  Need a more satisfying dish?  Stir in black beans, grape tomatoes and corn to make a hearty salad…really the options are endless!  

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Quinoa with Cumin and Lime

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Set a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the quinoa and toast for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cumin and continue to stir, cooking an additional minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is cooked, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Drain any excess water. Add the lime juice and zest, cilantro, salt and pepper and toss until well combined.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 8
  • Calories: 96
  • Sugar: 0
  • Sodium: 23
  • Fat: 3
  • Saturated Fat: 0
  • Unsaturated Fat: 2
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 15
  • Protein: 3
  • Cholesterol: 0


Building a Better Muffin

 

It was starting to bother me. Those 3 bananas sitting on my counter were begging me to do something with them. I could almost hear them say, “Sara, listen, if you wait too much longer, we are going to get so brown and rotten that you’ll have to make our lives end by the way of the trash can. Wouldn’t you rather turn us into something more wonderful, something that says we were destined for more than just compost?” Geez, guilt-trip me why don’t you bananas!? Ok, ok, I hear you! So, I turned to my belly and asked it what it wanted. And without hesitation my belly said, “muffins!!!!” Good call belly. So I was off to discover a recipe to make what I wanted. But after some searching I realized that what I wanted wasn’t out there. Darn! Now what? The only answer seemed to be that I was going to have to make my own recipe. Because I just can’t bring myself to “snack” on anything that could potentially have zero health benefits, I made a recipe that included whole wheat flour, lots of walnuts and even chia seeds. It’s a satisfying snack and as it turns out, is not only a hit with adults, but kids too. And now I share it with you! Happy Baking!!!

 

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Banana Walnut and Chia Seed Muffins

A delicious mini muffin packed with nutrition.

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Ingredients

  • 1 ½ teaspoons chia seeds
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cup mashed ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350’F and line mini-muffin pan(s) with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a measuring cup combine the chia seeds and the water. Stir vigorously then let sit for 10-15 minutes, until a gel forms.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the chia mixture, banana and eggs.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Gently stir dry mixture into the wet mixture until just moistened, then gently fold in the walnuts.
  5. Using a small cookie scooper or a tablespoon, fill cups with batter, about two-thirds full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool, remove from pan and repeat with remaining batter.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 24
  • Calories: 110
  • Sugar: 7
  • Sodium: 69
  • Fat: 4
  • Saturated Fat: 2
  • Unsaturated Fat: 2
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 16
  • Protein: 2
  • Cholesterol: 21

The Return of the Green City Market in Chicago

Yesterday was officially the start of the outdoor Green City Market here in Chicago.  While a wee bit chilly, it was still a great morning.  Perusing the stalls left me feeling pretty darn grateful…and amazed!  How wonderful and beautiful all of the fresh produce, flowers and even the baked goods looked!

It is a real joy when the outdoor market returns to the city.  I always learn so much from the vendors and farmers.  They are always so willing to share what they know and offer tips on preparing or using their products.  A visit is always a lesson in something, and I love that!  So cheers to future months of learning and tasting!

Not in Chicago?  No worries!  There’s likely a great farmer’s market in your neighborhood!

Here’s a helpful link from the USDA that can help you locate one in your area: http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/

 

farmersmarket

Fresh farm produce!

It’s Never too Late to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

Have you ever…..

1) Purchased the delicious (yet VERY expensive) fresh guacamole from your local grocery store?

or
2) Purchased the not-so-delicious (yet still kind of expensive) prepackaged, weirdly-colored guacamole from your local grocery store?

If you answered “yes” to either of the above questions, then I have an idea that will save your wallet and your tastebuds!!!

My solution?  Glad you asked!  Make your own.  Yup, I said it, make your own.  Believe it or not, it’s much cheaper (I just bought an avocado for $1.00) and even more delicious because you control what goes in it.  I know, you are worried about picking the right one…am I correct?  Well, it’s easy…really.  

Most of the avocados in our grocery stores are Hass avocados from California.  Because they don’t ripen on the tree, they may arrive to your grocery store rock hard.  Depending on when you’re going to use the avocado, this may not be a bad thing.  For instance, you can absolutely buy the rock-solid avocado if you aren’t planning on using it within the next few days.  Just leave it on the counter and allow it to ripen at room temperature.  Once it’s ripe, just put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it (within a day or so would be good).  If you want to use your avocado right away, be sure to pick one that gives slightly to light pressure.  If it’s bruised or dented or super-soft to the touch, it’s not any good.  If you aren’t confidant, just ask the person working in the produce section.  Trust me, they would rather be helping you than stacking bananas on the shelf.    

Now that you have your perfect avocado, you will need to pick up a few other ingredients for this amazing guacamole that you’re going to make.  Those other ingredients include a yellow onion, fresh cilantro, a lime, garlic and a jalepeno.  Ok, now you are ready!

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Sara’s Homemade Guacamole

A simple, spicy guacamole recipe

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Ingredients

  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (more or less based on your preference)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeno (keep membrane and seeds for heat!), chopped

Instructions

  1. Place the avocado flesh in a bowl and mash with a fork or a potato/avocado masher.  Add remaining ingredients and stir gently to combine.  Season with salt to taste.  Done!

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4
  • Calories: 86
  • Sugar: 1
  • Sodium: 6
  • Fat: 7
  • Saturated Fat: 1
  • Unsaturated Fat: 6
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 6
  • Protein: 1
  • Cholesterol: 0

Heads-up, I am NOT the Food Police

I know, it’s just a bad habit that most people have.  They assume that just because I am a dietitian, I wear a badge and write tickets for every poor food choice they make.  Well, first let me say, that would be very cool, and I may need to invest in said badge and tickets….maybe that’s the secret to get people to change their ways.  But I digress, as you will find that I do sometimes.  I want you to know that even though I may glance at your plate or tray, it does not always mean that I am criticizing you!  I do this only out of habit, and it’s a hard habit to break.  But here’s the good news.  By having this characteristic trait (sounds cooler than “habit”), I am the first to congratulate you on the amazing variety of vegetables you tossed on your salad or that swell-looking wrap you made of black beans and quinoa!  Who doesn’t like to have their healthy habits noticed and pray tell, who doesn’t like a pat on the back for a job well done?  While I am not the police, if I do see something horrific on your tray, let’s say 12 donuts, I may have to say something.  Not because I am disappointed in you or that I want to mock your choices, but because I care…it’s my job…it’s my life…and now that I am a mom, it’s worse.  So here’s the deal, dietitians are NOT the food police.  They are people that genuinely care about your health and how you feel.  Our goal is to teach you how to make good, yummy, healthy choices and keep encouraging you to do so.  Next time you see your dietitian, give him or her a hug, because they care!  And watch out, because I might start wearing that badge!

Don’t Buy It, Make It!

It’s easy to buy granola, but why on earth would you when the label lists over 20 ingredients, half of which you can’t pronounce? No thank you. Sure, some of those 5-syllable words are harmless, but it just doesn’t taste the same as homemade granola. I mean, what’s better, ripping open a box and pulling apart a plastic bag or opening your grandmother’s old mason jar, with the scent of cinnamon tickling your nose, and scooping out your own version? Or how about the satisfaction of having coworkers gawk in amazement after watching you pour your homemade wonder into your yogurt at lunch! You will be the talk of the lunch table for sure…in a good way! Have I convinced you yet? The cool thing is that granola is super easy, fast and customizable! Woo hoo! So, here’s a base recipe, but add things and change it up how you like. Experiment and report back!

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Easy Homemade Granola

A simple granola recipe that you can make your own!

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, pistachios, etc), roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, etc)
  • 2 tablespoons mixed seeds (chia, sunflower, pepitas, etc)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300’F.
  2. Combine the oats, nuts, butter, honey, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and mix mix well.
  3. Spread the oat mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake about 25-30 minutes or until golden, stirring every 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and stir in dried fruit and seeds. Cool completely before storing.

Nutrition

  • Calories: 4281
  • Sugar: 93
  • Sodium: 644
  • Fat: 169
  • Saturated Fat: 47
  • Unsaturated Fat: 108
  • Trans Fat: 2
  • Carbohydrates: 595
  • Protein: 135
  • Cholesterol: 122

You Should Follow My Blog and Other Helpful Advice

Greetings and welcome! Do I know you? Well, I hope to! I am assuming you landed here after a random Google search accidentally dropped you here or maybe you were wondering why someone would put RDN after their name in their website address. It doesn’t much matter to me how you got here, it’s about getting you to stay and come back.

As you have probably noticed, this site is a bit under-construction. Please excuse my mess. I hope to bring much more pizazz and beauty to it in the upcoming months. Please bear with me.

Ok, so now to the real point here…why you should follow my blog. I don’t know about you, but I like things laid out for me. Paragraphs are nice when reading a novel, but not when you’re trying to get your point across. So, here you go, the reasons you should follow my blog, in no certain order:

1) Because you will learn stuff. Cool stuff. Not just why you need to eat more carrots or bok choy, but culinary stuff, too like recipes and cooking tips.
2) Because you are excited about nutrition and so am I! But really, who’s not?
3) Because you share a passion for cooking, eating and living a healthy life and you know I’ve got tips on that!
4) Because it’s your lunch break and you’ve already run out of things to research on the internet.
5) Because you know I will hook you up with really cool articles, recipes and other solid info from trusted professionals.

I think 5 points is enough for now. I certainly don’t want to overwhelm my new friend!

Check back often and see the progress that’s about to unfold before your eyes!

Welcome and it’s great to have you here!

It’s My Birthday!

It’s not really my birthday exactly, but more like my website’s birthday!  It’s been a long-time coming, but the birth of my website is here!  I hope to fill this site with not only info about me and what the heck it is I really do, but with practical and useful tips and info that you can use.  So, light a candle and wish my little website a “Happy Birthday!”

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