Friday, June 3, 2011

The Benefit of Beans

Fact: Remember the song, “beans, beans they’re good for your heart..?” Well, the reason why beans are good for your heart is because they are an excellent source of carbohydrates.  The amount of carbs in beans varies between the different types. For example, one cup of chick peas or garbanzo beans has about 55 grams of carbs, while red kidney beans only have about 10 grams. Besides providing all the benefits of carbs, beans are also rich in protein and fiber, while also being naturally cholesterol- and saturated fat-free. Clearly, it is easy to see why beans are considered a super-food.

What are the benefits of beans? Beans are a great way for vegetarians to get the necessary amount of protein that every diet needs without having to consume meat products. Although that fact is true, vegetarians should not be the only people to eat beans. Since they are so low in fat, sometimes they are a good substitute or compliment to a piece of meat, poultry or fish. Beans are also very inexpensive! They truly give you a lot of bang for your buck, and by bang I mean energy from the protein and carbs beans provide.

Picnic Perfect Recipe: Beans have a very long shelf life whether dried or canned. They provide a nice creamy addition to most dishes such as salads or soups.  Beans also stay fresh without refrigeration for several hours which is perfect for outdoor picnics or barbeques. For a perfect summertime bean recipe try Corn and Black Bean Salad with Basil-Lime Vinaigrette courtesy of the Food Network. The corn and mango chunks add the perfect sweetness to balance the acidity of the vinaigrette, while the two different types of beans provide all the carbs, protein and fiber you could ever want in a salad. Like always, don't be afraid to customize any recipe to suit your taste.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fun with Fruits

Because carbs are in there too.
Fact: Fruits contain carbohydrates. This fact is surprising for most people because everyone assumes that fruits are a great substitute for traditional carbs. For example, instead of getting a bag of chips to accompany your sandwich, some people choose a fruit salad. Depending on which fruits are in the salad, it could all be the same thing.
Carbs are everywhere! Some fruits are considered high in carbohydrates and I am positive that the list will shock and awe some of you. First, a banana has 26.95 grams of carbs. Whenever I put bananas in my cereal I feel like I am balancing my carbs, but in reality I am adding more carbs. WHO KNEW! Another fruit full of carbs is grapes. In fact, one cup of grapes is almost as many carbs as a cup of yellow corn. Tropical fruits like pineapple, mango and kiwi are all loaded with carbs, averaging about 20 grams of carbs per serving. Clearly, all of these fruits are delicious and should be eaten in moderation, but not only because they are high in carbohydrates; these fruits are also very high in sugar. Some fruits that are particularly low in carbohydrates are raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, lemons and limes. Note, these fruits tend to be more tart than those listed above. Think about it this way: the sweeter the fruit, the higher the carb content.
The fruits of our labor. Once you understand and embrace carbs there is no need to fear when they pop up unexpectedly in some foods. Just because some fruits have a higher carb content does not mean you shouldn’t eat them. Fruits are a great way to start off your day or provide a boost with an afternoon pick-me-up. A great fruit recipe is a smoothie. You can add any combination of fruits you like, so don’t be afraid to customized and make it your own. My favorite smoothie is raspberry with orange juice. To make it I first add a large handful of raspberries to the blender, followed by about a container of vanilla low-fat yogurt. I blend until smooth then add a few splashes of orange juice to taste. Pulse the blender a few times to mix, pour contents over ice and enjoy.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Using your Noodle

Carb smart guide to choosing your noodles.
Fact: Most people cannot even taste the difference between regular and whole wheat pastas. That means there is no excuse to not starting eating healthier. Furthermore, most people eat pasta at least one time a week. That’s about 52 times per year! If you think about it, this is a small change that can make a huge difference in your diet and your overall health.
It’s important to be informed. There are many different types of noodles and pastas that people should be aware of. First we will look at whole wheat and whole grain pastas. Many people assume that they are the same, but in reality there are slight differences. Whole wheat products go through a refining process that can remove some of the nutritional value, while whole grain products do not go through a refining process. That means there is no loss of fiber, vitamins and minerals in whole grain products. Of course, I am not knocking whole wheat products because compared to white and refined grains, where there is a loss of 75% of the protein and about 25% of the fiber, whole wheat is a great alternative. Clearly, the decision should be an easy one. Another type of noodle you must be aware of is soba noodles. Soba noodles are full of protein and amino acids, especially compared to other types of noodles and pastas. This noodle is made from buckwheat flour which is high in iron and zinc and is completely gluten free. Now that you understand the difference between some of the healthiest and most delicious noodles, you can make an educated decision when making your next meal.
Let’s use these noodles! Now that we are equipped with noodle knowledge, it is important to use them in delicious dishes. Personally, pastas and noodles are a staple in my life because they are inexpensive and quick cooking, which is perfect for a busy and slightly lazy college student. Due to these benefits, I eat them multiple times per week. One of my go-to recipes is soba noodles with broccoli rabe and a little bit of olive oil. It’s quick and easy for a weekday meal, but for something a little more special try Honey-Jalapeno Chicken with Sesame Soba Noodles courtesy of the Food Network.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grilling Carbs

Fact: Most people do not realize that grilled carbs are just as delicious as any protein or vegetable. The common carb the most people think about grilling is corn, but this method of cooking enhances the flavor of other carbs as well. Besides adding an additional layer of flavor, grilling as take the heat from inside your kitchen and brings it outside. As the summer months approach, these techniques will prove useful for more than toasting your hot dog buns.

Grilling Techniques: Grilling involves using different skills than indoor cooking. Since there is a direct connection to an open flame, you need to be concerned with burning or charring your foods. You also need to understand which areas of your grill are the hot and cool spots. Once you learn about your specific grill, its time to tackle some tricks. First, when you are grilling carbs you must be aware that they can burn quickly due to the sugar in them. To remedy this, try limiting the amount of time that the item is on the direct heat. For example, when grilling corn, keep it wrapped in its husk to avoid burn while still getting that smoky grilled flavor. Secondly, make sure to keep an eye on your carbs because they do not require much cooking at all. Once you master the basic techniques, you will be cooking with gasoline in no time.

 A new approach to grilling carbs: If you are tried of the same grilled foods, try something new like grilling pizza. My family does this all season long, creating an interaction while picking individual toppings. Don’t limit yourself to a regular margarita pizza, but instead try new and adventurous toppings, like prosciutto, sautéed onions, eggplant and portabella mushrooms. One of the favorite combinations in my house is a white pizza with sautéed onions, garlic, kalamata olives, Parmigiano cheese and arugula. Making the grilled pizza is so fast, easy and interactive. So, next time you want to grill, but don’t want another boring hamburger, try grilled pizzas and expand your carb horizons.

Grilled Pizza:
Either buy or make pizza dough.
Roll out the dough and rub with some olive oil.
Place on the grill on an area with medium heat to avoid burning. 
After about five minutes (the dough should release easily from the grill) flip the dough.
Immediately, add your desired toppings and close the lid (especially if you are using cheese to let it melt). In about five minutes open the grill and check the doneness of your pizza. For a crisper crust, roll the dough thinner, but be careful because if you roll it too thin it will burn very easily.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Party Time

Fact: Many appetizers use carbs as a vehicle for other flavors. Crackers, breadsticks and other crispy chips often appear in appetizers that don’t use a skewer.  In all cultures, there is some form of carbs that are used to complement dips and toppings. In Mediterranean cuisine we see pitas often paired with hummus or feta cheese. In Italy, bruschetta provides the perfect amuse-bouche (or single, bite-sized hors d'œuvre) for multiple foods. A staple in Mexican food is tortilla chips and salsa. Basically, there is no need to avoid the crispy vehicles because they are delicious and much more useful than a skewer.
What to avoid: Most people follow diets that tell them to eliminate or limit their carbohydrates, but sometimes the appetizers that lack carbs are the worst for you. For example, bacon wrapped scallops, coconut shrimp and BBQ glazed wings are all full of fat, which is much worse that consuming carbs. Although these are delicious and can be eaten in moderation, sometime pita chips and hummus is a better alternative. It’s important that you are aware of what you are consuming, being careful not to stereotype some appetizers due to their utilization of carbs.
I’m throwing a party... HELP! Being of Italian origin, carbs are a major part of almost every meal, even party appetizers. There is no need to feel overwhelmed by throwing a party and making finger foods. Everyone understands that appetizers are only there to hold you over until the main event, but that doesn’t mean they need to be store bought. I recommend making a bruschetta bar with multiple toppings. For the easy and delicious party appetizer recipe see the instructions below.
Bruschetta: (serves 4)
Purchase a whole wheat loaf of Italian bread.
Turn on the oven to broil.
Cut the bread ¼ inch slices on a diagonal.
Lay the slices on a baking sheet and brush them with olive oil and sprinkle them with garlic powder and kosher salt.
Place them in the oven. (Leave the oven light on and watch the slices because they burn very quickly)
Remove from the oven when they are golden brown and crispy (to make sure they can hold the juicy tomato mixture). Let them cool and place them in a napkin lined basket.

Tomato and Basil Salad (Pomodoro) Topping:
1 pound ripe plum tomatoes
5 leaves fresh basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 cup of olive oil

Cube tomatoes and place in a serving bowl.
Chop garlic and pan sauté until golden.
Chop basil.
Add garlic, salt, pepper, red onion, basil, and vinegar to tomatoes. Mix well. Next, add extra virgin olive oil. Toss again. Let sit so all flavors mix well.

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sweet Endings

Fact: Some desserts can use up to a pound of butter or shortening. These are deadly desserts for any dieter. However, just because we are watching our weight does not mean we can’t treat ourselves every now and again. Dessert makes us feel like we are rewarding ourselves and satisfying our sweet tooth. Besides, who doesn’t get chocolate cravings that you just can’t shake? There is no need to deter the cravings, but instead, learn how to satisfy them in the right way.

Restaurant Guide to Desserts: Eating out is hard enough, but once everyone at the table starts ordering desserts, I’m already planning my gym schedule for the week. We need to be able to take the rules we have established with our other meals and apply them to desserts. There are some important things to remember.

1. Sharing is caring: When you are craving something sweet at the end of a meal, share with your friends and loved ones. It cuts the calories in half, while still allowing you to taste the sweetness.
2. Avoid pastry dough: The dough itself is 90% butter, so you’re turning something that’s already a treat into something even worse.
3. Try getting dessert someplace other than the restaurant: Sometimes you have a craving that will pass if you let yourself forget about it. Try getting dessert at another location, because your craving may subside.

These tips are great way to indulge without being overindulgent. I hope the next time you are out to eat and you find yourself in this situation, you can use these suggestions to make an educated dessert decision.

Can I eat dessert at home too? Dessert doesn’t have to be something you only get on special occasions. Treat yourself often (in a smart way) and you won’t feel like you’re missing a thing. For a great recipe to satisfy your cravings, try Devil’s Food Cupcakes courtesy of the Food Network. To make them even moister, I suggest adding apple sauce. Don’t be afraid to alter recipes to suit your taste!

Friday, May 13, 2011

What’s for Dinner?

Fact: Dinner carbs should be half the amount of protein and vegetables you are eating. Many people make the mistake of solely eating carbs during dinner, but it’s proven that a balanced meal provides the most nutrients and energy for consumers. Think about your plate cut in threes. The carb section should be the smallest, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. Even when you are craving pasta, consider that you should be eating it with vegetables and proteins to lessen the amount of carbs per serving.
So what are some good dinner carbs? Brown Rice, Baked Sweet potatoes and whole wheat pastas are all great ways to get your carbs without consuming simple carbs. Simple carbs should be limited because of their excess sugar. They are normally sweeter tasting to tongue receptors and come in many forms like white potatoes and rice. We should be focusing on complex carbs. These are generally found in grains, vegetables and legumes. Surprising, there are many common vegetables that are high in carbohydrates. Some are peas, lentils, carrots, corn and so many more. When choosing your dinner carbs, focus on the complex.
I’m tired of the same boring sides! With summer right around the corner, everyone will be grilling and lounging by the pool, but it’s important to not forget about carbs. Instead of loading up on hamburger buns and potato salad, try making some delicious sides that offer the needed carbs and hold the mayo.  A classic recipe in my house for barbeques is Sesame Noodles. The Asian flare pairs beautifully with a soy-ginger glazed grilled flank steak or chicken breast. Enjoy!
Sesame Noodle
List of ingredients:
1 lb thin Whole Wheat Spaghetti
6 Cloves of Garlic
2 Tablespoons crystallized Ginger
2 tablespoons sesame oil
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons Rice vinegar
6 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese hot oil
3 tablespoons of Sugar
6 Scallions (diced)
Dried Cilantro

Must make the day before you plan to serve!
Combine oils in a sauce pan. Add garlic and ginger until soft, but do not brown.
Add rice vinegar, soy sauce, hot oil, and sugar and bring them all to a boil.
Once al dente, drain spaghetti and let it cool.
Mix sauce into noodles and refrigerate overnight.
Before serving toss noodles with diced scallions and generously sprinkle with dried cilantro. Serve room temperature.