Oh, the smell of winter is in the air. The colder temperatures, snow, ice, winter coats, skiing, sledding and root vegetables. Can you tell this is an enjoyable time for me?
No, actually it isn’t. I don’t like cold, I don’t like skiing, and I’m not a big fan of snow. Yeah, yeah I know, I live in Illinois, but I’m still not use to it! However, I do love root vegetables because you can roast these vegetables and they are fabulous to eat. They are like a guilty pleasure, almost too good to be good for you! Plus, it is super, super easy to do.
Hello, my name is Megan Klemm and I’m so glad to be writing this guest blog post, but more so, I’m finally here as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator for Springfield Clinic! I’m also a very busy mom. So how do I manage to put a decently healthy meal on the table with my hands full and working part-time? My secret is a crock-pot! I love to make all sorts of meals in the crock-pot, and many times you can make a complete meal all in one.
In our house we follow the plate method (¼ plate carbohydrate, ¼ plate protein, and ½ plate non-starchy vegetables) to plan our meals and make sure we get in each food group, especially at dinner time. The recipes I use ones where you can throw everything in the night before or the morning of, set the crock-pot and walk out the door. If the recipe takes too much prep time, you can be assured that I will not use that recipe. Additionally, if the recipe says to cook less than 4 hours, I’m not going to use it either. It would be burnt by the time I got home.
I’ve gone so extreme as to have a crock-pot meal almost every night of an entire month. I did allow 1-2 nights a week for leftovers and if the leftovers can be frozen, I will do that to stretch the meals for another time.
Jicama (HEE-kah-ma) is becoming more common in grocery stores and restaurants, but is still unfamiliar in the kitchens of many. So what is it exactly? Jicama may also be referred to as a “Mexican yam” or a “yam bean.” That is because jicama is technically part of the bean family. From the outside, it can easily be mistaken for a brown, Idaho potato! The inside is white and crisp. The flavor is slightly starchy, but also sweet and tangy. It is similar to biting into a raw potato combined with a tart apple.
The peak season for jicama runs from fall into early spring. It is made up of 80-90% water, so it is a great hydration source. It’s an excellent source of fiber, and contains a type of prebiotic that is good for digestive health. It also contains potassium and vitamin C. It can be eaten in a variety of ways:
Raw! Once the outer skin is peeled, slice into strips and dip in ranch dressing or hummus. This may be a good way to try it if introducing to kids.
Sautéed. Jicama makes a great addition to stir-fry. It can be cut into strips or chunks and incorporated with the other vegetables. It can easily take the place of water chestnuts, as they have a similar texture.
Roasted. Peel the outside and cut into cubes. Drizzle with olive oil and favorite spices. Pop into the oven alone or with other root or hearty vegetables.
Toppings. Makes a great addition to any salad!
Jicama, Avocado and Radish Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
1 medium-size bunch radishes (5 ounces), trimmed and sliced very thin
1 large Hass avocado, diced
1 medium jicama (about 400g), peeled and sliced in matchsticks or julienned
4-5 Bird’s-eye chili or any dried red chili, roasted and ground for garnish
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
salt to taste (optional)
Dry-roast dried chili peppers in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes until darkened, but not blackened. Keep stirring to get all sides toasted evenly. Remove from heat and let them cool before grinding. When cooled, remove the stems and grind them using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. This makes about 1 tablespoon or so. Keep the ground chili pepper in a jar in the pantry for up to a year.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and salt. Add olive oil in a thin stream into a bowl while whisking, about 10 seconds.
In a large bowl, combine radishes, avocado and jicama. Add vinaigrette to taste (all may not be needed), and toss gently. Add salt to taste (optional). Sprinkle with ground dried chili (used 2 teaspoons) and chopped cilantro leaves
Advance preparation: The vinaigrette can be made a few hours ahead. The salad keeps well for day or two in the refrigerator. Keeping: Store the vinaigrette in a covered container and use within 3 days. Whisk before using. Note: For a spicier version, add 1½ tablespoons freshly ground dried chili instead.
One of the first things that come to mind during winter is getting cozy with a nice, warm mug of (fill in the blank). Many people don’t realize how many of their daily calories come from beverages, and this is especially true during winter months. Every year, retailers come out with holiday drinks to get us in the holiday spirit. A 16 oz salted caramel hot chocolate made with whip cream from Starbucks has 480 calories, 17 g of fat, and 71 g carbohydrates. McDonald’s white chocolate mocha with whip cream has 320 calories, 11 g of fat, and 47 g of carbohydrates. These calorie amounts would be more ideal for a meal vs. a drink that we sip as we do holiday shopping!
Here are a few tips on enjoying these drinks in a healthier way:
Skip the whipped cream. As this does add a decorative touch, whipped cream is high in fat and calories. Almost 100 calories can be deducted with this change alone!
Forego any additional toppings such as chocolate shavings or sprinkles.
Many coffee shops have the option of adding “flavor shots.” Unless they are sugar-free and calorie-free, these shots will add just that! Always order the smallest size. Some of the larger drinks can be upwards of 600 calories!
A healthier alternative would be loose leaf tea. Depending on the ingredients, most loose leaf teas are virtually free of calories. These can be flavored with lemon or a drizzle of honey once brewed. If needing an afternoon pick-me-up, choose black coffee. Plain coffee is low in calories and high in antioxidants. Lower calorie, lower sugar lattes can be made using soy or almond milk, with Stevia or Truvia for an added touch of sweetness! You can also download our “Rethink Your Drink” tip sheet for more ideas.
Two key players in an athlete’s diet are carbs and protein. Ideally, the two should often be consumed hand-in-hand. While fat is still incredibly important in the diet, carbs and protein work together to fuel and recover working muscles.
Carbohydrates help open up cell doors to allow glucose and amino acids into the muscles. Athletes need a consistent source of carbs in the diet to maintain adequate muscle glycogen stores. Sources of carbs can include: vegetables, fruits, sweet potatoes, beans, rice, oats, as well as other grains such as pasta, cereal and bread. Try to focus on more natural sources of carbs and less on processed, sugar-sweetened carbs.
Protein assists with muscle growth and repair. It stimulates synthesis and growth within the muscle and can prevent excessive breakdown and degradation of the muscle fibers and tissue. Protein can be found in meats, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts, peanut butter and additionally in supplements such as protein powder and bars.
Athletes should strive to eat every 2-4 hours. Consistent protein intake throughout the day can assist with good blood sugar control. This will help prevent any midday crashes in blood sugars and energy levels as well as properly fuel an athlete for an after-school practice or game. Prior to a big sporting event, it’s best for the athlete to consume familiar foods consisting of quick digesting carbs and lean proteins. High fat or high fiber foods may be too slow to digest and can cause an upset stomach when exercising. It would be recommended for an athlete to avoid pizza or fried foods immediately before a sporting event.
Eating protein and carbs within 30 minutes after a heavy workout or game will provide the greatest benefits to recovering muscles. During this period of time, there is increased blood flow to the muscles creating a better opportunity for nutrients to be absorbed. The enzymes that produce glycogen are also most active during this time frame so your muscles can quickly replenish their energy stores. Try to shoot for a goal of 15-45 grams of protein with a carbohydrate source as your recovery snack/meal.
Examples of recovery protein can include:
3 eggs/6 egg whites
¾ cup cottage cheese
1 cup Greek yogurt
3 ounces chicken, meat, fish
3 ounces hard cheese
6 Tablespoons peanut butter
1 scoop of protein powder
Carbs can be enjoyed from fruit, sweet potatoes, rice, unsweetened cereal, whole grains, milk or a combination of foods! I recently gave a sports nutrition presentation to a local football team and made these Peanut Butter Energy Bites. They were gobbled up instantaneously!
Stir all ingredients on low in a mixing bowl. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Once chilled, roll into whatever size balls you prefer (1 ½ inch diameter is a good goal). If not consumed immediately, they can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container and will be good for up to 1 week.
Why? Because doggone it…sometimes, you just need a good steak and potato meal! In the Figge household, we typically consume a plethora of lean white meat. I have nothing against red meat; it’s just not something I crave all the time. So when I do decide to make steak for dinner, I make sure it’s a darn good one! This meal offers a ton of fresh ingredients with a few convenience menu items. My motto is, if you can make at least 75-85% of your meal/plate from natural ingredients, then it’s perfectly fine to use some convenient food items. In addition to the steak and potatoes, I also served up a fresh salad using a ton of veggies from the farmers’ market.
Preheat oven to 450*F. Place cut potatoes in a large Ziploc bag and add soup mix. Add 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and close bag. Gently mix oil and soup mix with potatoes so they are evenly seasoned. Line a baking pan with foil and non-stick spray. Pour contents of bag onto pan and bake for 45-50 minutes until potatoes are crisp-tender. Serve with steak and salad and enjoy!
To make the Chimichurri sauce, blend all ingredients (parsley, cilantro, garlic, oregano, shallot, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil) in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. You can vary the amount of olive oil you use to manipulate the texture of the sauce.
Slice flank steak into strips and place in Ziploc bag. Put in about 3 tbsp of Chimichurri sauce in bag and massage over meat. Let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour.
When ready to cook, preheat your grill to medium heat. Grill meat about 4-5 minutes per side, turning once. Remove steak from grill and let sit on cutting board for a few minutes. Spoon remaining Chimichurri sauce over steak and serve.