Antioxidant-Rich, Healthy Cranberry Compote

Maine LR-4301

This antioxidant-rich and healthy cranberry compote deserves a place at the table year-round. Because cranberries bring a lot more to the table than just tradition and a dash of ruby-red. That favorite holiday condiment is actually a potent anti-microbial. In fact, cranberries could help keep you feeling festive all year-round.

Originally, researchers attributed the protective effect of cranberries to their acidity. This has long since been disproved. We now know that cranberry’s anti-microbial properties are due its high levels of a chemical compound called proanthocyanidins (PACs).

In plants, PACs provide protection against pathogens and predators. In humans, a unique structure of the PACs in cranberries essentially renders whatever bacteria it comes in contact with a non-stick surface. So, cranberry’s PACs help prevent an overall bacterial invasion that can result in an outright infection. If bacteria can’t stick to our cell walls —it can’t infect. And, if it does stick, it will have less chance of spreading.

Research shows that the PACs in cranberries inhibit bacteria (especially E. coli) from sticking to bladder walls, reducing urinary tract infections and may help prevent ulcers by suppressing H. Pylori infections. They may also prevent cavities by inhibiting unhealthy oral bacteria. This same non-stick ability may also lower the risk of atherosclerosis by inhibiting platelet aggregation and adhesion and by reducing cholesterol.  Clearly, cranberries have a place on the table the other ten months of the year!

HEALTHY CRANBERRY COMPOTE

Serves: 8
Preparation Time: 25 minutes

This quick, easy and healthy cranberry compote recipe uses fresh cranberries, rather than canned. Citrus, apple, pomegranate and cinnamon create a much more interesting and healthful flavor profile than a bunch of sugar ever could. This sauce is only slightly sweet, providing a nice contrast to the overall richness of holiday dinners.

If you don’t care for (or don’t have) pineapple, leave it out. However, you may want to adjust the sweetener. The arrowroot thickens the sauce, but is also optional as the pectin from apples acts as a thickener as well. Alternatively, thicken the sauce by either adding in a few tablespoons of chia seeds before cooking or cook it longer to reduce the liquid further.
 
Get creative in how you use this sauce. Surprisingly versatile, it’s not just for turkey! Try it with other savory items, such as sweet potatoes, as a topping on pancakes or even as a condiment for sweet dishes.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 12 ounce bags of fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pineapple chunks (fresh or frozen)
  • Juice and zest (reserved) of 2 organic oranges
  • 2 organic red apples, cored and coarsely chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or raw honey) or to taste
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup of filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot (optional)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place cranberries, pineapple, apples, cinnamon stick in a sauce pan.
  2. Combine the water and arrowroot, blending well to make a slurry, then add to the cranberry mixture.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium heat.  Stir constantly until the cranberries start to burst (about 10-15 minutes) and the mixture is thick and smooth.
  4. Cool completely, adjust sweetener as needed, then mix in the pomegranate seeds.
  5. Garnish with orange zest before serving.

REFERENCES:

Zhang L1, Ma JPan KGo VLChen JYou WC. Efficacy of cranberry juice on Helicobacter pylori infection: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial. Helicobacter. 2005 Apr;10(2):139-45.

Concentrations of Proanthocyanidins in Common Foods and Estimations of Normal ConsumptionJ. Nutr. March 1, 2004 vol. 134 no. 3 613-617

Ofek I, Goldhar J, Sharon N. Anti-Escherichia coli adhesion activity of cranberry and blueberry juices. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1996;408:179-83. Review.

Woods, Rebecca. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York: Penguin Books, 2010.

Carter, Jean. Food Your Miracle Medicine. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.

Do you enjoy cranberries outside of the holidays? If so, please comment below and share!
 
Originally published 12.19.15

Grilled Caesar Salad with Gluten-Free Croutons

grilled caesar saladGrilled Caesar Salad—because grilling is one of the easiest ways to put a fresh twist on a classic. And Caesar salad, an uber classic, is as welcome at a backyard BBQs as sit-down dinners. But, for Grilled Caesar Salad, select small, compact Romaine hearts, ideally about six inches in length. Anything bigger, anything floppy, skip it. Those greens simply won’t hold up to the heat of the grill. Continue reading

How to Make Mushroom Bacon

Mushroom BaconWe all know that ‘mushroom bacon’ is not really bacon. I’m talking about “bacon”. And while I get annoyed with food marketed as something else (tofurky), nothing communicates quite like a good metaphor in air quotes. So, while I’m not going to fool the pork lovers out there, using the ‘B’ word is aptly descriptive. It infers what you’re going to get; an earthy, dense bite of savory, slightly salty immune-boosting goodness. 

No, I won’t bash legit bacon. I have nephews who would never forgive me if I did. But, it’s good to know that these umami bombs are totally unprocessed. And even more important, they are free from the cancer-causing nitrates added to many processed meats.    Continue reading

Does Gluten-Free Dining Require More Than a GF Menu?

gluten-free diningTIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL GLUTEN-FREE DINING

Dining out should be relaxing. But, if you have Celiac disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) gluten-free dining requires a bit of detective work —and perhaps a  bit of skepticism. The typical recommendations (ask for a gluten-free menu and let the server know about one’s dietary restrictions) are a good start, but may give you a false sense of assurance. As a dietitian who has worked in restaurant kitchens, I want to share some realistic tips for gluten-free dining. Continue reading

Miso Tip #8 – Try Miso Spice!

Miso SpiceAnd, Miso Spice makes 8! In the post, ‘7-Tips for Using Miso,’ I shared some miso basics and a few tips for using miso paste in cooking. Now, here’s one more tip for using this detoxifying, gut-friendly, enzyme-rich fermented food. Sprinkle it on savory dishes, showering them with umami goodness. Sprinkle miso on dishes as a condiment?  Continue reading

Turmeric Tofu Scramble is Breakfast Gold!

Tofu ScrambleTurmeric tofu scramble is a quick and savory option for any day. But, with its gorgeous sunshine yellow, this dish is also festive enough for guests. With about 8 grams of plant protein, it provides stable, yet light nourishment to start your day. Serve it with the suggested sides and toppings below, or bundle it up in a whole grain wrap and take it to go.

Not only quick and nutritious, this dish is also what I refer to as ‘a turmeric delivery mechanism’. That’s right, per serving, the scramble gives you a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, the anti-inflammatory ‘spice for life’. Further, it uses all   three ways to get the most from curcumin by using the whole turmeric spice and includes both fat and black pepper to maximize bioavailability.

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Honey Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussel Sprouts When the farmer’s market has Brussels sprouts on the stalk, one is coming home with me and roasted Brussels sprouts are suddenly on the menu. I can’t resist. There is something so novel and (literally) fresh about pruning the little cabbages from their stem. For an urbanite, it is close as we get to the ‘harvesting’ concept. That is, unless you are one of those people who have actually attempted and succeeded with urban gardening. That’s not me.  Brussels Sprouts Trunk

 

According to Rebecca Wood, author of The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Brussels sprouts become sweet and tender after a frost. So keep growing region in mind when purchasing. Most Brussel sprouts come from California’s mild coastal area. Deborah Madison, in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, recommends stronger flavors for sprouts harvested without a frost, such as mustard, capers, and lemon.

For the most flavor in Brussels sprouts from any region, select small sprouts with few yellow leaves. For best results, cut the sprouts in half or into quarters for bite-size pieces. They should all be cut about the same size for even cooking.

Prepped Brussel Sprouts

HONEY DIJON ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

This recipe is the Little Black Dress equivalent of Brussel sprouts recipes. It is classic and simple; a reliable ‘go-to’ recipe for weekdays or special events, which can not only be made in advance and reheat well, but can be dressed up in countless ways. It has just a hint of sweetness. So, you may want to increase the sweetener for some palates.

Try tossing in carmelized onions, roasted and chopped nuts, bacon, soaked current, chopped dried cherries or (of course) cheese to the roasted sprouts. You just might convert a skeptic with your creativity. And little will they know that with Brussels sprout’s glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, they are reducing cancer risk through with every delicious bite.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 trunk prepped (or 1 1/2 pounds) Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (1 tablespoon reserved for after roasting)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8th teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or fire cider or apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey (or maple syrup)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to the baking sheet.
  4. Roast the sprouts, stirring half-way through for even browning, until tender and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes, depending on their size.
  5. Return roasted brussels sprouts back in the bowl. Combine remaining tablespoon olive oil, vinegar and honey together and pour the mixture over the sprouts, tossing to coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Roasted Brussel Sprout Dish

Revised 10.22.16. Originally published 12.24.14.

No-Recipe Spaghetti Squash Dishes

The stringy flesh of spaghetti squash resembles traditional pasta in appearance. But, does it taste like spaghetti? Does it have that unique ‘toothiness’ of an al dente pasta? Of course not. But, with about one-fourth the calories and carbohydrates of traditional wheat pasta, it can be a very satisfying, grain-free alternative —and a novel, creative way to enjoy a carotenoid and antioxidant-rich meal.  And, like regular ‘noodles’ the spaghetti squash pulp is like a naked canvas for flavorings. Almost anything goes. Check out these 4 tips for making delicious spaghetti squash dishes and 5 ideas to get you started!

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Just like preparing traditional pasta, the process can be as free-form and improvisational as you want. No recipes needed. In fact, think ‘Operation Fridge Clear Out’. Cooking spaghetti squash is as easy as making regular spaghetti noodles. But, you just need to allow for longer cooking time, about 40 minutes at 375° F, either whole or cut in two. (For step-by-step instructions, see above link.)

Spaghetti Squash with OilSpaghetti Squash Strands4 TIPS TO DELICIOUS SPAGHETTI SQUASH DISHES

  • Preparation: drain off excess water. For the best and most pasta-like  results, place the strands in a strainer and press out as much excess water as you can. This step is optional. But, it’s worth the effort, especially if you are cooking the squash ahead of time and/or are not using a fat-based sauce, such as a marinara.
  • Dressing: go fat! Due to the high water content of spaghetti squash, I prefer fat-based sauces. Healthy fats in moderation will help modulate the blood sugar response and increase satiety as will adding in some protein. Or, indulge with a little browned butter. Try these!
  • Seasoning: go bold! Like regular pasta noodles, spaghetti squash provides is a neutral vehicle for any variety of flavors. But, unlike regular pasta noodles, the spaghetti squash pulp won’t absorb the sauce and its flavors very well. And, these noodles don’t have much flavor of their own other than a slightly sweet earthiness. So, go a bit more bold with your seasoning than you might with regular pasta.
    Try these seasonings!

    • Basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
    • Black pepper, Cinnamon, chili flakes, nutmeg
    • Garlic, onions, scallions
    • Soy sauce or shoyu
    • Tomatoes (sun-dried or paste)
  • Add contrasting textures. Fold different textures into the strands and on top of the dish. These variations in texture gives makes the dish chewy similar to al dente pasta. Try these additions and toppings!
    • sautéed mushrooms
    • Toasted, chopped nuts, such as hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts
    • Bread crumbs or panko (regular or gluten-free).
    • Beans, such as adzuki, black, garbanzo or kidney
    • Cheese, such as mozzarella, parmesan or Gruyère

Cacio Y Pepe Spaghetti SquashCacio y Pepe-Inspired Spaghetti Squash

Base: Olive oil and garlic
Seasonings: A generous amount of fresh ground black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms, roasted and shopped walnuts
Garnish: Italian parsley and basil

Spaghetti squash with mushrooms

Spaghetti Squash with Cinnamon-Nutmeg Vegan Cream Sauce and Nuts

Base: Cashew cream sauce
Seasonings: Cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms, toasted and chopped walnuts.
Garnish: Italian parsley

Spaghetti Squash with Indian Sauce

Indian-Inspired Spaghetti Squash

Base: Store-bought Indian simmer sauce (Maya Kaimal brand)
Additions: Garbanzo beans
Garnish: Cilantro or Thai Basil

Spaghetti Squash with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Southern Italy-Inspired Spaghetti Squash

Base: Olive oil, garlic and tomato paste
Seasonings: Red chili pepper flakes, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions, chopped or pureed sun-dried tomatoes
Garnish: Italian parsley or Basil

Spaghetti Squash with Pesto

Spaghetti Squash Tossed with Avocado Pesto and Kale

Base: Vegan avocado pesto
Seasonings: Lemon, garlic, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: Wilted kale
Garnish: Basil and roasted, chopped pecans

REFERENCES:

  • USDA National Nutrient Database
  • Page, Karen. The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2014.

How do you like to prepare spaghetti squash? Share a tip! Leave a comment below.

 

Overnight Oats -Your Breakfast BFF

Overnight Oats ParfaitI know, I know… Overnight oats are hardly a culinary innovation. But, they’re the ultimate no hassle, no-cook, nutritious whole foods breakfast. Besides, who doesn’t love waking up with breakfast already made? —even if the breakfast fairy was you. And, simply layer your overnight oats ingredients into a parfait and you’ve got a colorful feast worth waking up for. But, for the ‘parfait look’ assemble the parfait after you’ve soaked the oats. Otherwise, just wake, stir and eat.

With endless ingredient options, think of it as breakfast arts and crafts. Keep just a few staples on hand you can have breakfast prepped in about five minutes. Include the little ones and have them make their own. Or, better yet, make one of them your personal overnight oats chef.  

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Dairy-Free Cacao Fudgsicles

Healthy FudgsiclesFudgsicles were one of my favorite summer cool treats. There was something about the way they slowly morphed from a frozen solid into creamy, chocolate pudding. Unfortunately, three of the top six ingredients in those fudgsicles are sugar, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Keep reading the label and you will find other goodies, such as cellulose gum and polysorbate 80. No thank you.

The good news is that it is incredibly easy to make fudgsicles that are actually healthy. These fudgiscles also have the rich, creamy texture, which makes a fudgsicle a fudgsicle.  No dairy. No gluten. No cooking. No kidding! Continue reading