Let’s end on a bright note!

spicy_butternut_soup_ingredients2_122014It’s been a difficult year for me personally, but also one of growth. Being ever the optimist, I’m taking the opportunity to end 2014 on a bright, positive note. I’m back to my recipe and book writing, so here’s a peek at what’s to come:  I’ll be taking things to a whole new level of health and wellness, with a focus on prevention and healing.  To that end, this super easy soup has a “secret,” potent cancer-fighting combination of turmeric and black pepper with coconut oil. It’s made even healthier, spicier and more delicious with the addition of turmeric’s cousin, ginger. The oil and black pepper compound, piperine, help increase the effect of curcumin, one of the best known natural anti-inflammatory compounds (and a proven cancer-fighting substance), and is the active compound found in turmeric root.

Enjoy and eat to your health!

Susan’s Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

This rich and heavy-tasting soup is actually a light yet potent cancer-fighting combination that can be a meal starter or the “star” itself.  Make it vegetarian/vegan by switching to vegetable broth or water.  This bright, bold soup is nourishment for body, mind and soul!

1 butternut squash (about 3 lbs.)
2 Tb coconut oil
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
3 Tb chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp each cinnamon, black pepper, salt
½ tsp cardamom
4 cups organic chicken broth (low-sodium)
2 cups water

Cut butternut squash neck from base. Peel skin, remove seeds, and cut all parts into small chunks.
Melt oil in large pot over medium heat. Add shallots, ginger and all spices. Let cook until shallots soften, about 10 minutes.
Add squash chunks, stir and let cook 2 minutes, then add broth and water.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer 30 mins. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Alternatively, pour into blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Makes roughly 9 one-cup servings. Garnish with fresh parsley and 1tsp crème fraiche swirled on top if desired.

Nutrition information per serving: 90 kcals, 4 g pro, 13 g carb, 4 g fat, 320 mg sodium, 400 mg potassium, 2 gm fiber

Surf, No Turf

salmonsummersalsaSurf, No Turf — Summer is For Seafood!

 

It’s the season for grilling, but according to the National Fisheries Institute, any season and every season is good for seafood, thanks to both advances in aquaculture (farmed fish) and cold storage capabilities.  Since the national government is encouraging all of us to eat more seafood with its “MyPlate recommendation to choose seafood at least two times per week, those advances also make putting diet recommendations into practice more doable.

Take “MyPlate” a step further with The Healthy Eating Plate,” created by nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, which guides consumers to the healthiest choices in the major food groups.  When it comes to proteins, fish is listed first, with good reason.  Fish and seafood offer a wealth of nutrition.
Here is a seafood sampler:

Shrimp – These little sea creatures offer great low-calorie lean protein that’s loaded with the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, a red-orange carotenoid — like lutein and carotene — that also gives salmon its pink color and most likely contributes to the heart health benefits of both.  Shrimp also contain a variety of minerals, particularly selenium, and even boast a fair amount of vitamin D, which is imperative for bone health and immune system function.

Salmon – Most everyone knows salmon is one of the best sources of “good” omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for human health, but our body cannot produce them all; therefore they must be consumed through your diet. These essential fatty acids support our cardiovascular and immune systems, neurological development, and overall functioning.  Salmon are highest in DHA — one of three omega-3’s, and as with shrimp, salmon also gives us some great minerals and potent antioxidants from the natural rich red-orange color.

Trout and Tilapia – These are two delicious, delicate white fish that also pack in lots of lean protein, vitamins, and minerals for few calories. Their mild flavor makes trout and tilapia an excellent choice for kids meals.

Surf vs. Turf — Regardless of the seafood you choose, it wins out over red meat in the fat department.  Seafood is the heart-healthy choice, as it offers more good fat but lower total fat versus red meat, which is the main source of unhealthy saturated fats in the American diet.

 

Go-To Grill Foods

If that’s not reason enough, swimsuit season gives all of us motivation to focus on healthier plates and to make seafood some of our go-to grill foods for summer.

That’s an important point, because while summer and grilling are an obvious pairing, that doesn’t mean you should load up on burgers, steaks, hot dogs, and other meat.  For better health and great flavors, make your summer sizzle with fresh seafood complemented with a combination of fruits, vegetables and herbs straight from the garden.

Here’s a summer challenge: make it a goal to eat seafood in place of red meat and processed meats several times a week in order to boost omega-3 fats in the diet and displace some “bad” saturated fats, as well as lower calories and cancer risks.

At your next outdoor party, serve up seafood ceviche, vegetables, and hummus instead of cheese and crackers or chips and dip as appetizers.  For the main event, grill a variety of seafood, including fish and shellfish in place of brats and burgers, and be sure to avoid burning it.

For whatever reason you choose, making summer synonymous with seafood is easier than ever. If you’re not on vacation at the beach surrounded by fresh, local selections, you can still simply enjoy being “in vacation mode” at home and cooking great seafood from local supermarkets.  Paired with summer’s fresh produce, you’ll find that going for the surf with no turf makes for some great summer grilling that’s bursting with nutrition and flavor.

Salmon is my top pick for summer cooking, whether indoors or on the grill. Here’s a quick, easy, and delicious way to enjoy sunshine on a plate!

 

Salmon with Summer Salsa

salmonsummersalsaSalmon is my top pick for summer cooking, whether indoors or on the grill. Here’s a quick, easy, and delicious way to enjoy sunshine on a plate!

Salmon with Summer Salsa 6 Servings
(Adapted from my cookbook, “Cooking With Trader Joe’s: Lighten Up!”)       

1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup chopped fresh mango
1 cup peeled and chopped seedless cucumber (very small chunks)
1/2 cup sliced red onion (or sweet vidalia onion)
1 avocado
2 Tbsp each chopped fresh mint and basil
1 lime
1 1/2 lbs salmon fillets
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp ground cumin (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

 

1  Combine pineapple, mango, cucumber, onion, avocado and herbs. Slice lime in half and squeeze juice into salsa. Set aside or make ahead of time and let chill.

2  Rub salmon with 1 tsp. olive oil and sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper.

3  Grill the salmon over indirect flame until done, about 8 to10 minutes.  Alternatively, broil salmon for 8 minutes in the oven.

4  Remove from grill, turn onto serving platter and cover with salsa. Garnish with lime wedge and fresh mint or basil. Serve immediately on a bed of fresh arugula (or other greens) and  drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil.

When Southern meets European…you get Tasia’s Table

The great thing about being invited to join a virtual potluck is that you can be fashionably late and the food won’t get cold.  Despite being a bit “delayed”, I’m thrilled to be a part of this and introduce you — I mean ya’ll — to Tasia’s Table.

I’ll try to make a long story short, or at least shorter than what’s typical for me.  As fate would have it, more than 4 years ago my dear friend and neighbor Stephanie sadly moved from NJ to AL .  The story couldn’t be farther from sad, however.  Once she survived the initial culture shock, Stephanie embraced her “new life” with the help of her new neighbor and fast friend who happened to be a really amazing woman and entrepreneur named Tasia Malakasis.  Missing my old friend a lot, I made several trips down to Stephanie’s new home and met this super cool celebrity cheese-making friend I had heard so much about.  Voila! I now had two friends in Alabama! During that first trip (or so my memory tells me) we talked about Tasia writing a cookbook, and I wanted to be involved.  Actually I had always wanted to write my own too.  So what really happened was that she both motivated and inspired me to do it for myself.  … Here we are 4 years later, and both Tasia and I released our first cookbooks this year!  Woo hoo!!!   What’s even cooler is that the Stephanie I knew in NJ had her own darkroom in the basement of her very old, historic home when I met her, and photography was “just” her hobby.  Well…the move to AL brought out the food photographer in her, and I couldn’t be happier for her or more impressed by the beautiful work she did for Tasia’s Table.  Maybe I should pour a little bourbon and skype with Stephanie to gush more, but I’m late for that potluck, remember?

So… On a different trip to visit to AL, Tasia was putting on one of her simply perfect “Sunday suppers,” and I was lucky enough to be there.  (Even if it means flying across the country, if you ever have the chance to be a guest at one of Tasia’s suppers, GO!)  I was so impressed by it all, but I’m hanging on to memories of the “greens pie” and Tasia’s tradition of having the guests share three things they’re thankful for before starting to eat.   Since I’m a big greens eater and pie lover myself, that dish really hit home with me, as did the reminder to be grateful and give thanks often. (Not just daily in fact!)

Ok, fast forward to me opening the email about the book release and virtual potluck with instructions to pick which recipe I’d like to make, there was almost no question! Greens pie, baby!

The sad reality of my life right now is that I honestly have no time (and I really mean none) to be making perfect buttery homemade crusts, but as I was standing (no, make that running around) in my kitchen taking care of my family’s needs and wants (and there are many…)

Three simple ingredients…

… and thinking about how I’d like to be making the the greens pie recipe, the thought of the greens and goat cheese triggered what I’m calling  Tasia’s Greens Pie  turns Greens ‘n’ Goat Cheese Toasts in 3 Simple Steps.   I happened to have the three simple ingredients required on hand the other day, and I’m thankful I did. It’s my new favorite lunch, dinner and/or appetizer.

I wish Stephanie were here to have photographed these, but trust me, they didn’t even last long enough to get a photo done the first time!  If you love goat cheese and ciabatta and think you like kale but don’t know what to do with it, here you go!  Expect to see them in my next cookbook. 🙂

Roasted Kale & Chevre Ciabatta

1 bag chopped kale
Olive oil
Sea salt
1 fresh ciabatta loaf
1 log (8 oz)  fresh goat cheese, preferably Belle Chevre of course

(I’m not exact on the amounts, but for this one you don’t need to be.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with about 2 or 3 Tbsp olive oil. Toss evenly coat kale, then turn onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt.  Put in oven to roast for 10 minutes.

2. Slice ciabatta in half lengthwise, then cut into smaller pieces or leave as two long pieces.  Spray grill pan or electric skillet with olive oil cooking spray and grill or toast bread on the cut side until golden brown.

3. Spread goat cheese on top of toasted bread and using tongs, top with roasted kale. (You may need to press kale down a bit.)

Serve & enjoy!

Melt-in-your-mouth good!

Note:  Leftovers can be wrapped and refrigerated for several hours or a day. Reheat in oven at 400 degrees for  4 or 5 minutes.

I’m hoping to still get to the greens pie someday… but in the meantime I’ve already picked out a few recipes from the book that I must do, and the first is Fennel Goat Cheese Mash. Oh! So excited for this one, and I’m serving it alongside a simple grilled steak with Tasia’s “compound butter.”   Now if that tempts you, then be the first to tell me and you’ll win a free signed copy of Tasia’s Table.  Simply email me at: susan@susangreeley.com or tweet me @SusanCGreeley #TasiasTable.

Finally, I’m going to close with 3 things I’m thankful for at the moment. (The first may surprise Tasia to learn that I also have both a Southern and a Greek connection…)

1. My Kentucky-girl mother who made kick-ass chicken ‘n’ dumplings, homemade pies, loved all greens and who claims I was conceived in Greece 🙂  (God bless her!)

2. Sea salt and olive oil (I use them together, so I’m counting them as one.)

3. Virtual potlucks.  I’m thankful to be a part of this, Tasia!

 

October is National Seafood Month

By Susan Greeley, MS, RD

The start of autumn may not typically trigger thoughts of seafood,
but there’s good reason it should — October is National Seafood Month!
Hot or cold outside, seafood is in.

Why?

Simple, healthy shrimp!

National Seafood Month feature recipe

In case you don’t know or need a reminder, eating seafood as part of your weekly diet has health benefits across the lifecycle:

Here are the known compelling reasons for eating seafood:

  • Help with healthy brain development of infants and children.
  • Maintaining good heart and cardiovascular health — The cholesterol question was answered more than a decade ago, and it appears that not only fish but shellfish, such as shrimp, improves heart health.
  • Weight control — The combination of lean protein with a lack of saturated and trans fats but containing good fat is to credit for helping with weight control.
  • Anti-aging — Omega-3’s and antioxidants are at play to prevent memory loss as we age.  There is also reason to believe seafood helps us look younger longer and that fish oils and antioxidants may even prevent muscle damage and loss associated with aging.

Scientific studies have attributed most of these health benefits to the “good” omega-3 fats found in seafood, but it goes beyond that.  Seafood offers a variety of vitamins and minerals, including selenium, which is one mineral that acts as an antioxidant, helping the body rid itself of damaging free radicals that can age our cells and cause disease, including cancer and heart disease.  As for the best anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer seafood, shrimp and salmon are the best choice. The pink color in both comes from a compound called astaxanthin, a  carotenoid phytochemical (plant nutrient) and antioxidant known for its powerful free radical scavenging effects. Shrimp and salmon get this plant nutrient from eating specific algae that naturally contain it.  The benefits are passed to the shrimp and salmon and other seafood that eat the specific pink or red algae, much the same way that salmon get their omega-3 fatty acids from eating krill.

In other words, seafood can help you look and feel great.

When?
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans calls for Americans to eat at least two servings of seafood per week and for the general population to increase amount and variety of seafood consumed. This means now is  the perfect time to add seafood to your weekly meals repertoire and party menus.

How?
As for socializing this fall, from tailgating and game nights to Halloween and Thanksgiving get togethers, think seafood.   For small or large groups at home, cook up a savory seafood cioppino (seafood stew) or simply set out some shrimp cocktail. If you’re heading to an outdoor tailgate party, pack up some “peel & eat” seasoned shrimp or grilled shrimp with dipping sauce. For daily meals as well as special occasions, there is great variety of fresh seafood to be found in supermarkets everywhere. The fresh seafood offerings have expanded nationwide due to improved farming methods (responsible aquaculture) creating abundant, healthy and sustainable supplies of fresh seafood.  For nutritional comparisons, more information can be found on the National Fisheries Institute website at www. aboutseafood.com.

If you’re looking for a simple, healthy everyday recipe, here’s a quick and colorful (= vitamin-rich) way to enjoy shrimp any time of year.

 

Garlic-Herb Shrimp & Quinoa

Enjoy Susan’s quick and delicious shrimp recipe any time of year.

Garlic-Herb Shrimp over Quinoa

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup quinoa (any color), rinsed
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. fresh or frozen, de-veined uncooked shrimp (rinse frozen to thaw)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or basil)
1/2 each red, green and yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil for drizzling
1 avocado (optional)

1.  Bring water to a boil in a small pan. Add quinoa, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 15 minutes.
2. While quinoa cooks, toss shrimp with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic, and cilantro in a bowl.
3. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a grill pan over medium heat. Add bell peppers and a pinch of salt.  Let cook for 4-5 minutes, until tender but still crunchy.
4. Transfer peppers to a bowl or plate and return pan to the heat. Add shrimp, a pinch of salt, and cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, turning to cook on both sides and until slightly browned and no longer translucent.
5. Spoon quinoa onto serving plate. Top with peppers and about 8 shrimp per person (5-6 for jumbo shrimp).
6. Add several avocado slices to the plate. Drizzle quinoa and shrimp with olive and a sprinkle of remaining salt.

Serve immediately and enjoy.

Back-to-School Brain Food

Back-to-School Brain Food   by Susan Greeley, MS, RD

As the kids head back to school, many moms (and dads) hit the books too — cookbooks, that is! Back to school means back to the kitchen. Good nutrition habits may have gone on vacation with the family this summer, but when it’s time to get back into a routine, parents look for ways to get nutritious meals on the plate every day.  Moms in particular start thinking about making meals that keep kids focused and fight the flu.  Eating fish can help with both!  It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital in brain development of infants and young children and also support a healthy immune system. These good fatty acids may even help children who deal with anxiety and attention issues, and the lean protein and minerals found  in fish are needed for young growing bodies.

 

Tips for getting young ones to eat fish

There’s knowing and then there’s doing.  Parents can tell their children that the fish on their plate is good for them or may even help make them the smartest kid in class, but how do you get them to actually eat and enjoy this brain food?  The following tips may help make meal time more pleasant by making fish a family favorite.

1. Keep it simple.  Most kids don’t want fancy or gourmet or UFO’s (unidentified food objects) when it comes to dinner time. If they can’t identify what they’re eating, they often turn up their noses.

2. Make it crispy or crunchy.  There’s a reason breaded and fried foods, such as fish sticks and nuggets, are kid pleasers. They offer texture and flavor that kids like, and there’s nothing unhealthy about making fish this way at home. Breadcrumbs, cereal, and even potato chips can be used to make a tasty, crispy fish enjoyed by the entire family.

3. Fun food tastes better. Okay, maybe not, but kids are more likely to eat it if you give a dish a silly name, so why not try it?!

For a favorite back-to-school dinner that can teach basic shapes to young ones or simply amuse your older geometry student, try my easy recipe for a cornflake-encrusted pan-fried tilapia that guarantees clean plates. As a nutrition side note that parents will feel good about, you can get as much as 160 mg omega-3’s per 3-ounce serving of tilapia.  

 

 

 

Cornflake-encrusted Tilapia

Cornflake-encrusted Tilapia

Tilapia Triangles and Trapezoids
(Serves 4-6)

2 cups cornflakes
2 eggs
3 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tilapia fillets (about  1 1/4 lbs.)
1 Tbsp. Emeril’s original essence seasoning, or a mixture of 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. each of pepper, paprika, garlic powder
Lemon wedges

1. Pour cornflakes into a Ziploc bag, seal and crush flakes well.  Pour cornflake “crumbs” onto a plate.
2. Crack eggs into a shallow dish or wide shallow bowl and beat together with milk until well blended.
3. Pour olive oil into a frying pan and heat over medium-low heat.
4. Sprinkle or rub each fish fillet with some seasonings on both sides.
5. Dip fillets into egg wash and then dredge in cornflakes and immediately place in hot oil in frying pan.
6. Cook fish roughly 4 or 5 minutes per side or until golden brown and white and flaky on the inside (not translucent.)

Cut into triangles, trapezoids, quadrilaterals or other shapes! Serve immediately alongside some colorful vegetables and roasted potatoes.  Watch your loved ones enjoy their fish without a fuss.

Cinco de Mayo lightened up!

I confess I did not know the reason for celebrating “Cinco de Mayo” until I Googled it. It’s the day the Mexicans kicked some French butt and prevented us eating Napoleons on this day.  (Had the battle been between the Mexican & French cuisines, we all know who would have won!)

Growing up in the Midwest, I don’t remember ever celebrating “Cinco de Mayo” or even knowing what it was.  Does it count that in my early teens my friends and I loved to go to Chi-Chis to chow down on baskets of nachos with salsa and drink virgin margaritas?!  (Thankfully Tex-Mex food has come a long way since then…)

Somehow my move to Boston after college would be my first introduction to the 5th of May festivities, which at the time meant decorating the hospital cafeteria, playing Mexican music and serving what was considered Mexican fare — burritos, tacos, nachos with cheese, etc. After work was time for real margaritas — you get the idea.

As I get older and lose the desire to drink tequila on a “school night” since I still have to function as a mom the next day, I would rather honor the day that is celebrated more in the US than in Mexico as it were, in a more subtle way and with some healthier food than what one typically eats that day.

If you’re trying to follow my “2-week challenge,” you don’t have to let Cinco de Mayo sabotage it.  Start the day with a hearty, delicious vegetarian version of my “Healthy Huevos.  Removing the flour tortilla, refried beans and cheese and replacing it with TJ’s frozen organic brown rice, fresh avocado slices and salsa is a great way to enjoy a lighter huevos rancheros. I apparently like strong flavors and wash this down with 2 cups of black coffee.  (Did I mention I have 4 boys?)

Black coffee isn’t necessarily a part of a Cinco de Mayo menu, but I definitely think black beans should be! If you weren’t planning on including them, I’m hoping my twist on a black bean salad entices you to.  This “Loaded Black Bean Salad” — which you may recognize as the cover shot for Lighten Up! — is my favorite way of eating black beans when they’re not in a soup! I make this salad over arugula for nutritional value but primarily for the great, strong flavor of arugula sort of as a replacement for cilantro. I love this “soapy” herb, but it has a polarizing effect on people’s taste buds, so I just try to avoid it since I don’t want to turn off cilantro haters from even trying my recipe if they see that ingredient!  In any case, here it is — a healthy way to get loaded on Cinco de Mayo!

Healthy Huevos & Frijoles on Cinco de Mayo

Healthy Huevos
Single serving           Total Time 5-10 minutes                

This is my gluten-free, lower calorie version of  huevos rancheros, which typically has fried eggs over refried beans and then topped with cheese and salsa. For meat eaters, add a couple strips of nitrate-free bacon, as I do in my cookbook.  To make it vegetarian, this version adds an egg and avocado and removes the bacon. Either way, enjoy your huevos and whole grains for breakfast or brunch before you head out to party on Cinco de Mayo!

1 cup (1/2 pouch) frozen Organic Brown Rice
2 eggs
Olive oil or canola spray
1/4 cup Double Fire Roasted Salsa (or other)
1/3 avocado, sliced

1.  Microwave brown rice according to directions (3 minutes) and place 1 cup on plate.
2.  Spray frying pan with cooking spray. Over medium heat fry eggs until yolk is firm.
3.  Place eggs on rice and top with salsa.  Add dash of salt and pepper if desired. Serve with avocado slices on the side.

NUTRITION SNAPSHOT
Per serving:  400 calories,17 g fat, 4g saturated fat, 17g protein, 43g carbs, 7g fiber, 425mg sodium


Loaded Black Bean salad
2 servings        Total Time 6 minutes   

This doesn’t involve tequila, but it is a delicious way to “get loaded” on Cinco de Mayo!  Toss these few ingredients together for a winning weight loss salad that’s loaded with vitamins, fiber, phytochemicals, a little good fat, and great flavors. It’s such a simple salad to assemble in minutes  — great for lunch or as a side dish.

1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed
2 cups arugula
1/2 cup sliced grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup chopped bell peppers (any color)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil

1  Combine beans, arugula and vegetables in a bowl.
2  Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder.
3  Drizzle with oil and vinegar and toss well before serving.

NUTRITION SNAPSHOT
Per 1.5 cup serving:  160 calories, 4g fat, 0g saturated fat, 6g protein, 25g carbs, 7g fiber, 500mg sodium