My Top 2 Kitchen Shortcuts

1. Cutting Fruits

We all know that consuming fresh fruits and veggies is healthier than consuming canned and sometimes frozen varieties; however, one of the downfalls of purchasing fresh produce is that you have to cut it yourself. Most grocery stores offer pre-cut varieties but these items are more costly due to the labor cost factored into the price. I always purchase whole fruit, but sometimes cutting these items can be quite timely! This short tutorial will give you tips on how to decrease your time spent cutting fruit in the kitchen.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_wDZnypJTA]

 

2. Separating the Eggs

I’m not a big proponent for cutting out the yolks in eggs. The yolk is a nutrient powerhouse (choline, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A and D for example) and research finds that the cholesterol found in egg yolks really have no effect on our serum cholesterol levels. However, if you are someone with Chronic Kidney Disease (specifically with stage III or stage IV), you may be recommended to cut back on consumption of egg yolks due to their phosphorus content (a mineral that the kidneys help filter in the blood). They do make egg products without yolks such as Egg Beaters; however this product now contains food dyes and preservatives. In general, the fresher the food item is, the better it is for your body. Here is a quick tip on removing egg yolks from whole eggs.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAp8pEaWB1Y]

A New Kind of Breakfast Muffin

egg muffins“I don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning” “I don’t know what I can eat for a healthy snack.” I am going to knock out two birds with one stone for this one: egg muffins.

This is one of the easiest recipes that will have you stocked up with healthy breakfast and snack options throughout the week. Cooked eggs will stay good for 5 days, so if you make a batch of these on Sunday night, you will be good to go for the week.

Eggs are like a blank canvas when it comes to adding additional ingredients. I feel almost all vegetables go great with eggs, so the possible flavor combinations are endless! I have provided a suggested mix of my favorite veggies to go with eggs, but you can certainly substitute with other items like zucchini and yellow squash, diced carrots, red onion, tomatoes, you name it! Try to avoid adding cheese if you can. Typically, most Americans already consume too much cheese in their diets.

This is a healthy protein-packed, low-carb dish. Grab two with a piece of fruit for breakfast or take them to work to help fight that afternoon sugar craving!

 

Egg Muffins

6-8 eggs
½ bell pepper, diced
½ onion, diced
½ cup chopped mushrooms
½ cup chopped spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Coconut oil
1. Pre heat oven to 350 F. In a sauce pan, melt 1 tbsp of coconut oil for 2-3 minutes. Once heated, add chopped vegetables and sauté for about 5 minutes. Once cooked, set aside and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs together in a medium-sized bowl. Add sautéed vegetables into whisked eggs and then pour about 1/3 cup mixture into each cupcake container.
3. Place in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until eggs have puffed up. Use a butter knife to stick into egg muffin to make sure it comes out clean.
4. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy as a quick on the go breakfast or protein-packed snack choice.
5. Variations to the vegetable mix can include zucchini, carrots, red onion, meat, tomatoes, etc.

Get Eggy Wit It!

Eggs really are egg-traordinary!

Eggs are a wonderful source of vitamins, nutrients and high-quality protein. They are cheap, easily available and can be prepared in a countless number of ways. Unfortunately, eggs have been given a bad reputation due to their natural cholesterol and fat content, which is found specifically in the yolk of an egg.eggs-fe006757a870f68c0c9a48bf958044699860e7b7-s6-c30

“I can’t eat eggs. I have high cholesterol.” This is a statement I have heard many times. It has been long believed that in order to reduce one’s serum cholesterol levels, one should avoid foods that contain cholesterol , specifically the yolk of the egg. Many individuals choose to go with Egg Beaters or egg whites in efforts to consume the high quality protein but without the fat and cholesterol from the egg yolks. However, the yolk is also home to a variety of nutrients that are vital in our diet. Here are a few key points about this great protein source that may help you re-think how you prepare your eggs.

  • Choline: an essential nutrient that promotes cardiovascular and brain function and maintains the integrity or cell membranes. Choline is also a component of phosphotidylcholine and one of its uses is for treatment of high cholesterol. Yes, you read that correctly; a component of the egg yolk can actually help lower one’s cholesterol! Without adequate amounts of phosphotidylcholine, fat and cholesterol can accumulate in the liver.
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These two antioxidants are key players in eye health. Many eye-health supplements include a concoction of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fats; however, research suggests that the lutein found in eggs is absorbed more efficiently than when found in supplemental form. Lutein, which happens to be a carotenoid, is also better absorbed when consumed with a fat source (such as the fat found in the egg yolk). The same goes for all carotenoid sources such as sweet potatoes. This is why I always sauté my sweet potatoes in a small amount of coconut oil.
  • Vitamin B12: This nutrient is essential for blood and nerve health. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products; however there are some foods that are fortified with B12 such as cereals and non-dairy milk substitutes. This is why it is vital for individuals following a vegetarian diet to find a good Vitamin B12 source or take a supplement.blood_ISS_7525_00006

In efforts to reduce calories, many people (including myself) take out the yolks of the eggs or purchase products like Egg Beaters. With knowledge of the healthy benefits of the egg yolk, it would be best to include at least 1 whole egg in the recipe when making an egg dish (omelet, scrambled, hard boiled). Items like Egg Beaters are more processed and contain preservatives, food dye and added chemicals so in my opinion, it is much better to go with the natural product.

 

 

Figge’s Favorite Groceries

grocery shoppingWith the success of  Figge’s Favorite Things blog post, I thought I would follow up with a list of some of my favorite foods that frequently occupy my shopping list. Years ago, my diet heavily consisted of processed luncheon meats, frozen dinners and snack bars. Today, fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are typically what fill up my grocery cart. This was no overnight process, but slowly, I began to step outside my comfort zone and taught myself how to prepare and cook with fresh ingredients. To stay healthy, I rely on clean, minimally processed foods. Combined with a healthy dose of physical activity each week, clean eating helps keep my cholesterol down, energy up and promotes a good night’s sleep.

  1. Eggs. Eggs have been hounded over the years for their fat and cholesterol content. However, with today’s research on eggs, we are learning that 1) the cholesterol found in eggs is not what is causing high cholesterol in individuals and 2) the benefits of the yolks include a Vitamin B12 source, eye-healthy lutein , zeaxanthin antioxidants, and choline, which is essential for cardiovascular and brain function.
  2. fresh-spinachSpinach. This green giant gets sautéed in with my eggs each morning and makes several appearances in other meals throughout the week.
  3. Peanut or almond butter. If I could eat almond butter every day, I would; but because the cost of it is often more than peanut butter, I tend to go back and forth between these heart-healthy fat and protein snack additions.
  4. Cauliflower. My kitchen often looks like a cauliflower war zone. For those of you that regularly cut up cauliflower, you know what I’m talking about! My preferred way of cooking it is steaming in a sauce pan and then mashing it in my food processor. Add a pinch of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and garnish with chives and you have a great vegetable side dish (not to mention for the cost of $3 or less!)
  5. Spaghetti Squash. We have been having a lot of fun with spaghetti squash this winter. It is a great substitute for pasta in recipes. To me, it is not very tasty when served plain, but if you add mixed vegetables, seasonings, sauces or a homemade mayo to the mix, you’re set-to-go for a delicious meal.
  6. Chicken. This is the most popular protein consumed in our household. For that reason, I am constantly finding new ways to season and prepare it. We also consume beef, pork and fish but chicken definitely takes the podium for most consumed.
  7. Apples. This fruit is a good source of antioxidants and soluble fiber. I usually have at least one and sometimes two apples a day with my peanut or almond butter for heart-healthy, filling snacks.
  8. Whey protein powder. Since both my husband and I do Crossfit, we need a quick source of protein for our post-workout snacks. One scoop of protein powder poured in 8 oz. of almond milk allows my body to quickly refuel after a workout, promote lean tissue growth and speed up recovery time.
  9. Ground flaxseed. This antioxidant powerhouse can be easily mixed into recipes or sauces or can even be sprinkled on top of foods to add fiber, omega-3 and healthy lignans to any dish.
  10. Sweet potato. These Vitamin A giants interestingly are most often consumed with my breakfast meal. I’ll sauté a medium-large sweet potato in 1 Tbsp of coconut oil on Sunday nights and then portion out servings to grab and go for the week. NCI5_POTATO

Holy Guacamole!

Avocado on whiteYes, one of my favorite fruits is the avocado. In fact, I eat half an avocado almost every day. If I don’t slice it on top of my eggs in the morning, it usually tops a salad later on in the day. Historically, avocados have had a bad reputation because of their high fat content. We now know the fat found in avocados and other plant-based foods like nuts, peanut butter and oils is actually very good for us!

Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat, specifically omega-9 fat that can also be found in olive oil, canola oil and nuts/seeds. The reason it is important to include these healthy plant-based fats in our diet is because monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) can actually help lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. Reducing the bad cholesterol level can help reduce one’s risk for heart disease. Research also indicates that this type of fat can also help insulin levels and blood sugar control, which is very important for those with diabetes. MUFAs also help our bodies absorb specific vitamins. These are just some of the reasons why fat is important in our diet.

Avocados also contain antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for their role in eye health. This green fruit is also a good source of fiber and potassium. An avocado is ripe for eating when the skin gives gently when pressed on. If you buy a hard avocado, it will usually soften within a few days. There are many varieties of avocados and they ripen at different times of the year. This is why avocados are in season all year long! Avocados are a mildly sweet fruit and can be combined in many traditional dishes. Here are few ideas to get the molé rolling:

  • Slice avocados and add to your favorite breakfast egg dish (omelet, scrambled, frittata, over easy)
  • Add slices of avocados on top of sandwiches or salads.
  • Mash ½ avocado on 1 slice of whole wheat toast and top with 1 egg and low-fat cheese for an on-the-go breakfast.
  • Top whole grain cracker with avocado slice and smoked salmon for a delicious appetizer.
  • Create delectable salsas by combining avocado slices, tomato chunks, onion, black beans or corn kernels with cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Remember “fat-free” and “low-fat” products are often more processed and contain higher amounts of sodium and added sugars. Consuming only fat free products may put your body at risk for becoming deficient in certain vitamins and essential fatty acids. However, consuming too much fat (even the good kind) can lead to excessive caloric intake. A healthy fat intake level is achieved when 20-35% of total calories consumed come from good fat sources. Monounsaturated fats are one of the foundations of the Mediterranean diet, which in most studies has been linked to lower rates of heart disease. Check out this Mediterranean semi-gourmet sandwich http://www.tastespotting.com/features/green-goddess-grilled-cheese-sandwich-recipe for a great Sunday brunch idea!

For even more ways to incorporate avocado into your diet, Check out these amazing recipes adapted from www.theamazingavocado.com

Avocado and Citrus Salad with Dijon Avocado Vinaigrette http://www.theamazingavocado.com/recipes/avocado-and-citrus-salad-with-dijon-avocado-vinaigrette/

Portabella Burgers with Avocado Spread http://www.theamazingavocado.com/recipes/portabella-burgers-with-avocado-spread/

New York Breakfast Pizza http://www.theamazingavocado.com/recipes/new-york-breakfast-pizza/

Have you ever heard of a BLT stuffed avocado? Neither have I until I came across this fantastic twist on an old classic: http://www.farmgirlgourmet.com/2013/01/blt-stuffed-avocado.html

**For healthy recipe substitutions, choose mayonnaise that has been made with olive oil and use whole wheat bread instead.