Saturday, April 30, 2011

Food Scoop: Cooking with a Chicken Substitute

First of all, I wanted to give you guys some tips on how to switch to a chicken substitute after eating the real thing your entire life:

1. The first time you use it, do NOT try it as part of your favorite meat recipes. It will not taste the same, and the texture will be different. Chances are you won't like it because it won't taste how you expected.

OR even better, the first time you cook it, try it in a completely new recipe so the taste expectation isn't even there. (If you're planning on switching permanently to a meat substitute, you will eventually be able to use your favorite recipes. You just want to make sure you've gotten used to the new texture and taste of the substitute before you do this.)

2. Don't think of it as "chicken". If that's too obscure, then think of it as chicken that was ground and then mixed with a bunch of beans and veggies before being formed into a patty. Still expect a chicken taste to be there…but along with the taste of vegetables.

This recipe is measured for a dinner for two and uses the Gardein Chick'n Scallopini. Gardein is actually the only brand I've like so far because I find it's very simple and easy to use--and they have a bunch of recipes on their website. This is a modified version of a "Dinner Idea" I found on the back of my Gardein bag.

Chick’n Scallopini in a White Wine & Lemon Sauce
For a dinner for two, you will need (~approximately):
2 Chick’n Scallopini patties*
1 to 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour
~2 tablespoons of your preferred cooking oil
~1½ cups of white wine
A pinch of basil
~1 tsp of dry rosemary
1 tablespoon of butter
~2 tsp of lemon juice

What to do:
  • Dust Chick’n with whole wheat flour.  Pour the oil in your skillet and heat it up.
  • Add Chick’n to pan and cook both sides for 2 to 3 minutes without overcooking. Remove Chick’n from pan and put on a plate.
  • Add white wine to pan and bring to a boil. Toss in the basil and rosemary. Simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes until the wine is reduced by half.
  • Add the tablespoon of butter and cook until completely melted.  Add 1 to 2 tsp of lemon juice--I used fresh squeezed--Cook for another 30 seconds.
  • Turn off heat. Add Chick’n back to pan. Let Chick’n sit for one minute.
  • Serve Chick’n with preferred side dish.  I like to steam some carrots and broccili and then pour some of the sauce on them. Definitely drizzle some of the remaining sauce on top of the chick’n too. Some other meal combination ideas with this recipe would be pasta, couscous, brown rice, white rice or quinoa. I think an Italian vinaigrette or Mediterranean salad would go great with this.
* Gardein Chick’n can go directly from the freezer to the pan, no need to defrost.

I hope some of you will try this! At the very least you'll be able to impress the vegetarian in your life. Let me know what you think below or if you have any questions. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Food Scoop: Spring Spinach Salad

I was making one of my favorite lunches today and I thought I would share the recipe as my first Food Scoop! I used to buy a very similar salad from the Vons deli, but it is a lot cheaper if you make it yourself.

Ingredients you will need: Baby spinach leaves, a raspberry vinaigrette dressing, walnuts, a pear, and feta cheese. Optional: small red onion. If you're not a vegetarian, you could also prepare some grilled chicken to add to this.

I usually eyeball this to my personal taste, but here are some approx. mesaurements:
~5 oz of Baby Spinach (half of a 10oz bag)
~1/4 cup Walnuts 
~1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 Lg Pear
~2 TBSP Raspberry vinaigrette
OPT: 1/2 small red onion

For a less fat version (kind use reduced fat cheese and less dressing.

I usually buy the triple-washed organic baby spinach bag from Trader Joe's. It's always a good idea to rinse it once more in case they missed any dirt, and definitely rinse if you did not buy a pre-washed bag. Core the pear and cut up into small squares. To add an extra kick, cut a small red onion in half, then chop one half up into smaller pieces (I'm not a huge onion lover so sometimes I'll only use a quarter of a small onion, chopped).  Toss spinach, walnuts, onion and pear pieces together.  Drizzle with raspberry vinaigrette--and if using a bowl with a lid, attach lid and shake until ingredients are well coated.  If you prepared grilled chicken, you could add this now. Throw in some crumbled feta cheese on top and enjoy!

Substitutions to customize: if you're not a fan of spinach--personally I think spinach tastes amazing with a raspberry vinaigrette--then choose whatever your favorite salad leaf is; you could also do a strawberry or a berry mix vinaigrette; when I don't have walnuts, I use almonds or cashews; you could sub an apple for the pear, just keep in mind that apples brown once cut and exposed to oxygen, but they're still yummy; if you like a stronger cheese, then you can sub for blue cheese and if you prefer a milder cheese, you could sub for Parmesan, or no cheese at all. Also, if you have some fresh berries laying around, throw them in for extra sweetness.

There's quite a few variations of this out in cyberspace if you're looking for something slightly different.
And just so you know, I usually make big salads because I'm either really hungry or want some leftover to eat with dinner.  Just try to eyeball the ingredients to whatever personal serving size you want if this is too much. I hope you enjoyed this! Happy eating!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Scoop on Healthy Living: Juicing

Quick take: Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Juicing is one way to accomplish this!

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health completed a study on America's eating habits from 1988 to 2002. They found that less than a third of American adults consume the USDA recommended serving amounts of fruits and vegetables per day.  In fact, a forth of the participants in this study reported they do not eat ANY fruits or vegetables at all. Maybe you are part of that third that does eat their fruits and veggies or maybe you are looking for a way to incorporate more of them into your diet. Either way, I can't stress enough how important this food group is.

First of all, how many servings should you have? The USDA provides a Fruit & Vegetable Calculator to help you determine the minimum amount of servings you should consume a day based on your age and activity level. For a 20 year old female who is active 30 to 60 minutes per day, they recommend 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables. Click here to see what constitutes as a cup. Remember, this is the minimum needed to maintain a healthy diet, which is why you may see other nutritional resources recommending more servings.

Juicing is a fast and easy way to get the much needed nutrients that our bodies crave. Juicing is also a great way to increase the amounts of raw food in your diet. Raw fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, enzymes, minerals, vitamins and other great nutrients.  Do you hate the taste of raw vegetables? Juicing fruits and vegetables together is a great way to enjoy your vegetables because the sweetness of the fruits often cover the bitterness found in your darker greens. One thing to keep in mind is that the process of juicing pretty much removes any fiber content from the fruits and vegetables you juiced, since it remains in the pulp.  The great thing about pulp is that it can be added to a soup or if you're adventurous, it can be used in various recipes. If you'd rather not eat the pulp, you could also use it to make compost or throw it out.  This site  has some fun ideas and resources for juice pulp.

Juicers: how to pick the best one. Personally, I started off with a pretty cheap juicer when I first began juicing. It was a $50 model by Waring Pro that I got off of Amazon.

If I had done research on Juicers before buying this juicer, I would have saved for a nicer one.  This juicer works fine for a beginner, and since I didn't know any better, I used it pretty religiously everyday for about two months.  Unfortunately, this little guy takes a lot of effort to clean.  There is no pulp extractor, which means the entire bucket on the top half of the device is covered in pulp once you go to clean it.  Some of you may not mind this, if you have a good garbage disposal.  If you don't however, it is pretty difficult to clean. When I grew tired of cleaning it, I stopped juicing.

Now I have the Omega Big Mouth Juicer 330, and I will do a review on it once I've had it for a while.  The bottom line is, if you really want to incorporate juicing into your life, you don't want to skimp on the juicer.  This doesn't mean you need to get a $600 Breville or Omega juicer.  It really is up to you.  For me, a quick juicer that  requires little prep and is easy to clean is what I need to consistently juice. If you're looking for recommendations on a great juicer Best Juicer Extractor Reviews is one of many great resources. RawFoods and other Youtube users allow you to see them in action and taken apart as well.

Takeaway: Eat around 5 cups of fruits of vegetables per day! If you're going to invest in a juicer, buy one that you will love to use, or you won't use it.

Eating or drinking more fruits and veggies is the first step towards a healthier you! Thanks for reading, and feel free to ask any questions. Of course, you'll want to consume these as part of a balanced diet. If you're not sure what that means for you, the USDA released new Dietary Guidelines for Americans this past January.