Make Rhubarb Happen this Summer

After patiently waiting out winter, I think it’s safe to say summer is here! A sure sign of summer, aside from 90-degree days, is the bright, glossy stalks of rhubarb that have started showing up in my garden, as well as the local farmers’ market and in the produce section at the grocery store. Rhubarb is a sweet and savory, diverse vegetable that can be incorporated into beverages, breakfasts, sides and desserts.

I highly recommend rhubarb: If you haven’t tried it, you must! Here are four rhubarb-full recipes to start.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Smoothie

Ingredients
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup frozen banana, sliced
  • 1/2 orange, juiced
  • 1 cup milk (almond, cow, soy or coconut)
  • 1–2 tablespoons protein powder, optional (whey, pea, hemp)

Instructions

  • Blend all of the ingredients until smooth.

Strawberry Rhubarb Overnight Oats

Ingredients

Oatmeal:

  • ½ cup oats
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

Topping:

  • ¼ cup fresh rhubarb, chopped
  • 6 medium strawberries, diced
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the oatmeal ingredients in a jar or container with a lid, stirring well. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next morning, put chopped rhubarb, strawberries and water in a small skillet and heat over medium heat.
  3. Cook 3–5 minutes, or until fruit is softened and cooked down.
  4. Add honey, and then remove from heat.
  5. Top the oatmeal with the fruit and serve immediately.

From Sinful Nutrition

Pork Chops with Ginger Rhubarb Compote

Ingredients

Pork chops:

  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4boneless pork chops that are about 6 ounces each
  • 4small fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish (optional)
  • olive oil for grilling or cooking the chops

Compote:

  • 2teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2small red onion, diced
  • 1clove minced garlic
  • 4large stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/4-inch crosswise slices
  • 1 large orange, juiced
  • 1teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • salt
Instructions
  1. Pull the pork chops out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high and sauté the onion until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or so.
  3. Turn the heat to low, add the rhubarb, orange juice and ginger, and then stir. Cook, stirring occasionally until the rhubarb gets tender without completely losing its shape. Add the honey and a generous pinch of salt. Stir until the compote is ready (taste and adjust seasoning if needed) and then take off the heat.
  4. Prepare your grill so it’s at a medium-high heat. Brush the grill with oil and lay on the chops. Cook to your desired doneness, about 3–4 minutes per side for “medium.” (You can also cook the chops in a heavy skillet or under a broiler.)
  5. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and serve with rhubarb compote on the side.

From Mom’s Kitchen Handbook

Healthy Strawberry Rhubarb Bread

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups strawberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup rhubarb, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350o
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the almond milk, eggs, sugar and coconut oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix lightly until combined​.
  4. Mix the strawberries and rhubarb into the batter. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.
  6. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from the pan and allow to cool completely.

From Fannetastic Food

Alternatives to frying

Many of us grew up with fried foods, and we all know they bring a sense of comfort, can be a quick and easy way to fix the main dish of your meal and are so very yummy! However, fried foods are not the most beneficial for your health. We know now that not all fats are created equal: healthier fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, natural saturated) are better for you and even desirable compared to unhealthy fats (trans fat). Frying food can eliminate everything that’s healthy about a food, so here are some terrific alternative cooking methods to frying.  

Sautéing/Stir-frying

This method of cooking can be quick and easy and give foods an enriched flavor. Plus, a lot more nutrients are saved through sautéing or stir frying. Sautéing involves cooking food, typically vegetables and proteins in a pan over high heat with oil (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, butter), liquid (broth or water added 1-2 tablespoons at a time to cook and brown food without steaming) or homemade sauce. Stir-frying is similar, except the food is cooked at higher heat and faster speed. It needs to be constantly stirred and tossed so it doesn’t burn.

Roasting/Baking

I recommend this form of cooking when you’re trying a new protein or vegetable. Roasting or baking caramelizes food with a dry heat, creating a sweet and savory flavor out of the natural sugars of the food. Season the food, add oil if you want, put on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and put in the oven.

What’s the difference between roasting and baking? Meats or vegetables that are a solid structure are roasted. Foods that don’t start as a solid structure (muffins, cakes, casseroles) are baked.

Braising/Stewing

Braising and stewing are best done with heartier vegetables and lean proteins, as the foods become soft and tender and full of flavor. You can braise in water, broth or any flavorful liquid. Put everything in a pot and cook over low heat for several hours. For the most flavor, I recommend sautéing the vegetables before adding them to the liquid. You can also use this cooking method in a slow cooker.

Grilling

I used to be afraid of grilling, as it’s easy to cook the outside and not the inside, especially with lean proteins. But, with practice, I’ve gotten much better at it. Grilling can provide a rich, deep, smoky flavor to all your foods, and vegetables caramelize as well while getting crispy. Marinate, season and place on the grill to cook. With vegetables, so they don’t fall through the slits, wrap in oiled aluminum foil.

Steaming

When I recommend steaming, many people think of bland and stringy food. However, when done right, food, especially vegetables, can become tender and flavorful while keeping most of their nutrients. Delicate foods, such as most vegetables and fish, are good candidates for steaming, but there are other possibilities. I recommend steaming over the stove or in the microwave.

Whichever method you choose to prepare your foods—if it’s not frying, it’ll be beneficial to not only your health, but also your waistline!

Bake or Bake not—But there is no fry!

Popular fried foods include fish, chicken strips, corn dogs, cheese and French fries. But thanks to our Illinois State Fair, we have learned that you can deep fry just about anything.

What’s the difference between fried and baked food?

The main difference between a fried menu item and one that is baked is the amount of calories and fat. When foods are deep fried, they lose their water content and absorb more fat. Depending on the food item, the caloric value can double or even triple when fried. If your goal is to lose weight or even maintain a healthy weight, fried foods are not a good choice.

We now know that fat is actually very healthy for us. Unfortunately, fried foods have the highest content of trans fat, which is a terrible source of fat for your body and arterial health.

What are some healthy fat sources?

Healthy fats like those found in salmon and avocados are excellent for reducing inflammation in your arteries and joints. However, the oils most often used for frying contain high amounts of inflammatory fatty acids. Consuming fried foods can cause inflammation in the gut and aggravate joint and muscle pain.

One last thing…

Don’t be fooled by frozen fried foods. Those frozen chicken strips and French fries that you are “baking” in the oven? They were fried prior to being frozen. Baking is simply the method preferred for reheating them.

Ready to try a non-fried fish meal? Check out my easiest salmon recipe ever for a delicious and nutritious baked dinner!

School’s Out! Now What?

School is almost out for the summer, and, honestly, I’m not really looking forward to that. Yes, I will love having all three of my kids home, but I keep thinking about two things:

  1. I’m going to be refereeing a whole lot more!

and

  1. My grocery bill is going to skyrocket in two weeks.

What is it about kids being home all day that makes them so hungry? Sure, I’m the dietitian, and I should be providing the answers, not asking the questions. I think we can all agree that it’s tough being asked for something to eat all day, so here are a few things I plan to work on this summer to help my own children eat right while they’re home.

Schedule/Routine

As with adults, when we are bored we tend to want to eat more—kids are no exception. So still trying to have routine or schedule during the summer can help alleviate the feeling of always being “hungry.” (Note: I do believe there’s nothing wrong with kids being bored and having to figure out things to do for themselves. However, a daily routine will still help keep them from boredom snacking.)

Snack Drawer

Having a snack drawer in the fridge and in the cabinets will allow the kids to go help themselves. However, you’ll have to make sure the snacks are ready to go, so here are tips for having the food prepared and portioned out.

For the fridge:

  • Cut up strawberries, watermelon, cucumber, celery, peppers
  • Blueberries, grapes, baby carrots, pea pods, grape/cherry tomatoes
  • Fruit cups of peaches, pears, applesauce, mandarin oranges
  • Hard boiled eggs, string cheese, sliced cheese, Greek yogurt, hummus, single-serving containers of natural peanut/almond butter

For the cabinet/drawer:

  • 100 calorie packs of nuts
  • Single-portion baggies of cheese its, pretzels, goldfish crackers, animal crackers, vanilla wafers, trail mix
  • Single-serving containers of peanut butter
  • Suckable applesauce, applesauce cups, fruit cups

Food Activities:

Having the kids “play” with their food takes time for the kids and also can get them exposed to new foods. 

  • Try having kid’s string fruit and cheese onto a stick or necklace. No more candy necklaces required.
  • Make watermelon popsicles, with slices of watermelon and popsicle sticks.
  • Create playful scenes with vegetables. Check out com for more information—such a cute idea!
  • Have your child help an adult make fruit ice cream, popsicles and smoothies.
  • Make a meal on a stick, such as pizza kabobs with pita, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, vegetables and pizza sauce.

Physical Activity:

Help your children incorporate physical activity into their daily routine. Keeping kids active will help keep their minds off food and prevent weight gain over the summer. My personal goal is for the kids to have a set number of minutes of activity before they can have screen time. Now, realistically, I know this is not going to work every day, but it’s certainly something to work toward and on. As my motto goes, progress not perfection.

Hydration:

Hydration is often overlooked on a day at home and more thought about when out and about. However, this is one of the most important things for both kids and ourselves during the summer. Plain water is most certainly the best option, but with all these great fruits and vegetables coming in, experiment with fruit infusing waters.

A Pasta Salad You Can Feel Good About!

As warm weather (finally!) descends upon us, you might find yourself attending more picnics, potlucks or other outdoor events you have to bring food to. Often, the problem with potlucks is that dishes that most people would enjoy at a party tend to not be the healthiest. But with minor substitutions, this pasta salad is sure to be crowd-pleaser while still being a healthy option.

Italian Pasta Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces whole wheat pasta
  2. celery
  3. cucumber
  4. tri-colored bell peppers
  5. 16 ounces Olive Garden light Italian dressing
  6. 1 packet Good Seasons Italian dressing seasoning mix
Instructions
  1. Boil pasta until al dente (firm to bite), then drain, rinse and cool.
  2. Chop desired amount of veggies and put in a large bowl.
  3. Add the Italian dressing and seasoning packet and mix well.
  4. After the pasta has cooled, add it to the veggies and mix well.
  5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Serve the next day, or make ahead a few days in advance.
Something to Chew http://somethingtochew.com/
 

The Benefits of Spring Cleaning on Your Mental Health

For many, spring means warmer, brighter weather—and that means it’s time to throw open the windows and start spring cleaning!

We’ve discussed before how spring cleaning has health benefits. Opening the windows to let in fresh air can actually improve the humidity and change the oxygen balance in your home. Even sunlight coming in through the windows can help clean the air. But spring cleaning also has associated mental health benefits, including improved mood, decreased stress and heightened creativity. Here are some specific mental health benefits of spring cleaning:

Gets you moving

Spring cleaning is a physical activity, and it gives you a sense of accomplishment. Cleaning gets the happy chemicals moving around in your brain, propelled by an increased heart and respiratory rate. Spring cleaning can give you some of the same mental health benefits as physical exercise, such as running or biking. What’s more, a disorganized space is associated with less physical activity, while organization and order have been associated with choosing to eat more healthy and taking charge of your general health

Reduces stress

Clutter and stress are related, and we know stress is bad for mental health. For example, piles of paper can create a false image that work is endless, and that even when we finish what we are working on, there is more to be done. Looking at the clutter in your home can bring on the anxiety of incomplete tasks or just make it more difficult to accomplish your daily routine. Many Americans feel that home organization and cleanliness are among their biggest stressors. Women specifically have shown to have chronic levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, if they perceive their homes as cluttered. Attacking that clutter can help reduce that stress.

Invites a fresh start

Sometimes mental health issues seem overwhelming because of their long history. You can fall into a pattern of poor mental health and get stuck there. Spring cleaning makes you feel like you are getting a fresh start. When your house looks different—decluttered and clean—you feel a greater ability to change the state of your mental health as well.

Tips for “spring cleaning” your mental health:

If you’re struggling with your mental health, why not try giving it a fresh start as well? Spring cleaning is not only a deep house cleaning, but an exercise of the mind!

  • Create a targeted, personal to-do list of what you want to achieve emotionally.
  • Divide goals into dream goals as well as short and long-term goals.
  • Get at least 20 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • Get up at the same time each day to create a better sleep routine.
  • Schedule regular social activity.
  • Nourish your body and mind with a healthy diet.