Showing posts with label health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label health. Show all posts

Friday, December 21, 2012

Developing Flavor: Influences and Implications

Eating - it's complicated! Eat what you want? Watch what you eat? Processed or unprocessed? Organic or conventional? The decisions can be overwhelming. And that's just for deciding for yourself. For parents, there is the added responsibility for making food choices for your little (and progressively bigger) ones. For my class this semester, Experiencing Food Through the Senses, we read a fascinating book entitled Neurogastronomy by Gordon Shepherd. For one of my writing assignments, I wrote a piece taking one of the ideas presented in the book and questioning how it might affect children's flavor preferences. Below is the piece I wrote for the assignment. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions. I highly recommend this book - really fascinating to think about how you perceive flavor.

Chapter 27 of Gordon Shepherd’s book Neurogastromony discuss why flavor matters and what implication it has for affecting nutrition and food policy. Shepherd discusses the “six ages of flavor”. From infancy through adolescence the brain flavor system is a developing work in progress (Shepherd, 2012). As a parent, I wonder how I influence my son’s brain flavor system and ultimately his flavor experience. How will his hard-wired preferences combined with my actions impact him as he grows up and develops?
How do the mother’s preferences play a role in these developing flavor images? In the initial stage, Flavor in the Womb, Shepherd discusses existing research on the topic. The infant shows a preference for flavors of mother’s food eaten during pregnancy, describing that “learning of these preferences in utero and their emotional expression are therefore incorporated into this hard-wired system” (2012). Moving through in infancy, the flavor preferences of the mother continue to affect flavor preference in the infant. Through diet, breastfeeding mothers transfer flavor influences through milk.

At the next age stage, introducing solid foods, the infant’s brain flavor system continues developing. There are varying schools of thought on starting babies on solid foods. I cannot reflect on how other cultures address this, just what I have researched in the United States as a new parent. The amount of information is overwhelming. Sources of information range from family and friends, the American Pediatric Association, your baby’s pediatrician, and books too numerous to count authored by doctors, moms, and nutrition experts. There is the “traditional” method of introducing fruit and vegetable purees and mashes starting at six months. There is also a newer method called baby-lead weaning, where purees are skipped all together and soft solid foods are introduced from the beginning. Some sources suggest solids at four months while others advocate other to wait until at least six months. There are varying opinions on what foods to introduce and what to avoid. If, as discussed in the chapter, there is a short learning period in which infants “can be trained to different flavors” of up to six months, how does the traditional recommendation to start solids at six months impact future flavor images, perceptions, and preferences?

In addition to the timing for introducing foods, how do the types of foods offered in these different approaches impact the development of flavor images? Does a baby who starts with whole squash pieces develop a different flavor image than the baby who starts with squash puree? Does the difference in texture impact the resulting flavor image? Within these various methods there is the variable of how the food is prepared or packaged. Similar to adult foods, many baby foods are packed in convenience packaging. They are single-serve, shelf-stable, portable containers. From personal experience, I have found that the flavor from a homemade mashed carrot and prepackaged 100% carrot puree are very different. The prepackaged carrot puree was much more intense. If an infant is given only these prepared foods, how will this influence their flavor preferences later in childhood and adulthood?

Does this intensity of flavor in prepared baby foods impact infant’s flavor preferences moving into childhood? Shepherd discusses research showing that children do prefer intense flavors. Shepherd states, “this makes them especially vulnerable to the main culprits we have identified as leading to overeating – sweet foods, salt, and fat – through sensations that overwhelm the brain’s control systems” (2012). He suggests that more research needed to understand why children’s brain flavor system is so vulnerable. It is interesting to think of this preference for intense flavor in childhood, in the context of plasticity of the brain with relation to food preferences. Once the preferences are developed, it is hard to reverse them. If children become sensitized to a high sugar diet, this has implications for their health as they grow up into adulthood. Sweet is the most marketed flavor toward children, with marketers using bright colors, characters, games to attract children. In addition to marketing, there are cultural meanings associated with sweets – especially with holiday foods. In daily life, should sweets be treated as a special reward, giving them special status? Or should they be incorporated in moderation as part of the regular routine. How does this impact your child’s desire for the food – and the preference and association they develop with it?

There are many unanswered questions and unknowns. As the field of neurogastromony advances and expands the understanding of the brain flavor system, it will be important to use the findings to impact policy and thinking around children’s nutrition and eating habits. Understanding the underlying systems will help to design health and nutrition guidelines and systems to support the development of healthy children. 

Bibliography Shepherd, G. M. (2011). Neurogastronomy: how the brain creates flavor and why it matters. Columbia University Press.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Daring Cooks Challenge: Healthy Potato Salads from Around the World

After sitting out a few challenges, I’m excited to be back for the June Daring Cooks challenge! Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana.

This was my kind of challenge – a theme and ingredients and the freedom to create! I had a weekend cookout to head to where the hosts don’t eat any onions, garlic, or spicy foods. So I wanted to create something that met everyone’s tastes and was delicious!

I started thinking about dressing options and decided on Greek yogurt. From there, the answer came quickly. Potato salad with tzaziki dressing. It would be light, fresh, and perfect for a hot afternoon. And a great accompaniment to burgers & corn. To make the dish even more festive, I used a mix of red, blue, and gold potatoes. This made enough to serve 6 as a side dish.

Tzaziki Potato Salad
Approximately 3 pounds of baby red, Yukon gold, and blue potatoes, rinsed well
1 single-serve container of Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
1/2 of an English cucumber
Zest of 1 medium lemon
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
A few sprigs of parsley for garnish
Kosher salt
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Prepare the cucumber
This will eliminate excess moisture from the cucumber so that the potato salad isn’t soupy
Wash the cucumber well
Using a box grater, grate the cucumber into a colander set over a bowl
Add a sprinkle of kosher salt and toss to combine
Put a plate on top of the grated cucumber and place a heavy can on top
Leave the cucumber to drain while you prepare the rest of the ingredients

Step 2: Cook the potatoes
Add the rinsed potatoes to a large pot
Fill with cold water until the potatoes are covered by about 2 inches
Bring to a boil over medium high heat
Cook for 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are tender, but still a little firm when you stick a knife into them
Drain and return to the hot pot for a minute to dry them off
Pour potatoes onto a baking sheet and allow to cool completely

Step 3: Mix the tzaziki while the potatoes are cooking
Zest the entire lemon and place zest into a small bowl
Juice the zested lemon into the bowl, being careful not to let any seeds get in
Add the chopped parsley into the bowl and mix the ingredients together
Remove the cucumber from the colander and squeeze out any remaining moisture with your hands
Add the cucumber to the bowl and mix to combine
Add the Greek yogurt into the bowl
Mix until well combined
Taste and add salt and pepper to taste

Step 4: Assemble the salad
If any of the potatoes are large, cut so that they are of even size
Add to a large serving bowl (or storage container if transporting)
Add tzaziki mixture and gently toss, making sure to coat all of the potatoes
Garnish with parsley and serve chilled

Serves 6 as a side dish
Cook time: 10-15 minutes for potatoes
Prep time: About 30 minutes

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Healthy Snack Wednesday: Bright, Fresh, and Healthy

I just came back from a fantastic weekend in Washington DC at Eat Write Retreat filled with wonderful people, inspirational seminars, and plenty of food. This food blogger conference was full of practical, hands-on activities mixed with a good dose of expert panels and networking.  I'm still trying to process all of the great information I took in, so a full recap will follow later.

Not all of the weekend eats (chili cheeseburger) make the cut for Healthy Snack Wednesday, but there was one dish that fits perfectly! On Saturday afternoon we had the opportunity to attend a cooking demonstration and class at CulinAerie, a cooking school in the heart of downtown DC. Founder Susan Holt created three delicious and easy recipes using endive and other fresh ingredients.

Left to Right: Me, Maisha, Christina, and Isabelle

My fellow participants and I learned proper knife skills techniques and tips to create beautiful and flavorful dishes.

The dish that makes the Healthy Snack Wednesday cut is a salad of endive, avocado, tarragon, and grapefruit. This was bright, fresh, and healthy! Depending on how adept at supreming a grapefruit you are, this is a quick and easy recipe (I was not very smooth...).

As I was thinking about this recipe tonight, I realized that it fits in perfectly with the celebration of May as National Mediterranean Diet Month. I've been checking out recipes and information from Oldways since I found them through twitter last year. Oldways has been promoting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet since 1993 and are continuing to spread the word. I'm not a believer in diets - but what they really promote is eating fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats. That is something that I believe in!

Take a look at their Mediterranean Diet Pyramid (you can download a copy here) - there are great tips to keep in mind for healthy eating. Looking at it, I realize that I actually do most of their recommendations. I ALWAYS eat breakfast, try to add fruits and vegetables to every meal, and include healthy dairy in my diet.

As part of National Mediterranean Diet Month, Oldways offered to give one of my readers a signed copy of “The Oldways Table,” by K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott. All you need to do to win is leave a comment with your favorite Mediterranean inspired dish or tell me how you incorporate healthy habits into your diet. I'll pick the winner next Tuesday and announce the winner on Wednesday. For now, I hope that you enjoy this recipe.

Salad of Endive, Avocado, Tarragon, and Grapefruit
Recipe Created by Susan Holt, Chef/Instructor at CulinAerie
Serves 4

8 bulbs red endive
1 large grapefruit
1 medium ripe avocado
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves (I forgot to add this!)
Finishing salt and fresh pepper

Cut the endive bulbs on a bias into 1 inch pieces, discarding the core
Supreme the grapefruit by removing the rind with a sharp knife and separating the segments from the membrane
Set segments aside in a bowl and juice remaining membrane over the segments
Slice the avocado open lengthwise and remove the pit
Using a large spoon, remove the avocado half from the skin
Using a sharp knife, slice the avocado lengthwise into thin slices, leaving them attached at the root end
Use your hand or the back of the knife to gently press down and fan the avocado on a serving plate

Sprinkle the chopped endive around the avocado and place grapefruit segments on the avocado
Combine the olive oil with the grapefruit juice and tarragon
Spoon over the avocado, endive, and grapefruit
Sprinkle plate with finishing salt and pepper

Cutting board, knives, bowl, measuring cups and spoons, serving plate and utensils

Don't forget! Leave a comment with your favorite Mediterranean inspired dish or snack to be entered to win a signed copy of the Oldways Table. Happy health snacking!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Healthy Snack Wednesday: Strategic Snacking

Happy Healthy Snack Wednesday! When things get busy, I tend to rely on some of my favorite snacks to fuel me through the day. Today's post will feature a few of my favorite snacks and my newest go-to healthy breakfast. I hope you enjoy!

Before we get to the snacking, first is the winner of last week's delicious giveaway from Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom. Congratulations to MaryBeth, who said "I'd love to try the smoked chicken mole... sounds intriguing :-)!" I hope you and Timmy enjoy the 5lbs of sausage! I'll contact you with details on how to pick out your flavors.

Now on to the snacks. I'm a snacker at work, I tend to eat smaller breakfasts and lunches and supplement them with a snack around 10 am and 4 pm. I try to follow the guideline for 1-2-3 snacking that I learned from Boston University's Nutrition and Fitness Center. They are a great resource on campus for students, faculty, and staff. I took advantage of their nutritional counseling service for staff to help fine tune my meal planning and eating. What I like best about their nutritional advice is that it's easy to follow and leaves you with a lot of room to customize your own plan. Their 1-2-3 snack plan calls for foods that give you:

1. Energy You Need Right Now (whole grain crackers, bread, chips, cereal, etc.)
2. Filling Power (non-starchy vegetables or fruit like carrots, celery, apples, or grapes)
3. Protein to Make it Last (dairy/lean meat or plant protein like nut butter, yogurt, hummus, and nuts)

I took this information from a handout from Boston University Nutrition and Fitness Center

For example, yesterday I knew I had a meeting that was going to run past my normal lunch time. I made a snack of whole grain crackers, a medium apple, and a Laughing Cow mini-babybel cheese. It helped me make it to lunchtime without passing out from hunger.

With those guidelines in mind, here are some of my favorite snacks!

I love to mix crunchy cereal like grape-nuts or granola into my yogurt. Earlier this year I found a fantastic lactose-free yogurt and haven't stopped buying it! This is great afternoon snack to fuel my train commute home. If you don't have yogurt, you can also mix grape-nuts into a cup of applesauce.

I don't eat these snacks together, but wanted to show a picture of some of my favorites. I will often make my own trail mix with dried cherries, dried cranberries, pepitas, and nuts. This way you can add exactly what you like.

One of my all-time favorite snacks is olives. Yes, they are high in fat (if you eat the whole can like my hubby). But I like to have olives and carrots mixed together along with some crackers or cheese.

And LARABARS are great! They are all fruit and nuts and they taste great! I always go for the apple pie and cherry pie flavors. This week I decided to give the cinnamon roll flavor a try. Some of my other favorites include Clif Z bars (the kid bars) and Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax crunchy granola bars.

When I'm snacking at home, I love to pop up a fresh bowl of popcorn. My popcorn maker requires minimal oil, which keeps the popcorn light and healthy. Since I was a little girl, I've always paired my popcorn with a large, ice cold glass of orange juice. What's your drink of choice with popcorn?

And last for this week's post, my newest go-to breakfast! I usually eat in the car on the way to getting dropped off at the train station. Keeping the 1-2-3 principles in mind, I put together a healthy breakfast that is ready in less than 3 minutes! Spinach, egg and cheese wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.

I tried to get an interior picture on the way to work, but the roads were pretty bumpy and they all came out blurry. This breakfast is a great start to the day! But you can see that it isn't enough to make from 7:30 a.m. all the way until 12:00 or 12:30 pm. That's where the snacks come in.

3 Minute Breakfast Wrap
1-2 eggs (I usually do 1)
Handful of fresh spinach, stems removed
1 inch block of cheddar, cut into small pieces
1 8-inch whole wheat tortilla

Spray the bottom of a small microwaveable bowl with cooking spray
Crack the egg into the bowl and break up the yolk a little bit
Cover the egg completely with the spinach leaves
Microwave for 1 minute on Power-level 8 (this may vary by microwave)
The egg will be just set and the spinach will have wilted
Place the egg & spinach onto the tortilla and top with the cheese pieces
Wrap like a burrito and then wrap in a paper towel
Microwave for 15 additional seconds to warm the tortilla and melt cheese

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Return of Healthy Snack Wednesday (and a giveaway)

Healthy Snack Wednesday is back! I had class on Wednesday nights this semester and that made it difficult to post a new healthy snack idea each week. I still had plenty of snacks, just no time to share them with you! Now that class is done for the semester, I’m excited to bring back Healthy Snack Wednesday (HSW)! For the return to HSW, I have a delicious new treat to share (plus a giveaway!). Take a look at past HSW entries here.

Back in March I was contacted by the marketing manager at Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom. She asked if I was interested in trying out their new low-sodium sausage minis. They sounded like the perfect match for HSW – 75% less sodium than their full-size counterparts and just 40 calories per serving. Here's a look at the nutrition information.

First, have you heard of Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom? I had never heard of them so I headed over to their website to find out. It turns out that Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom has been serving up gourmet sausages and hot dogs on Venice Beach since 1979. Now they have multiple franchise locations and sell their products online on their website. And last week I saw them featured in one of those fun Cooking Channel shows featuring great eats (I can't remember which one)! According to their website, their “gourmet sausage is made the old-fashioned way coarsely-ground with love, care and only the finest, freshest ingredients; and it is made the new-fangled way reflecting contemporary cuisine, new health concerns and a desire and demand for more flavor and value in every bite.”

Logo from

I could definitely see that in the sausage minis that I sampled. I received three flavors to try – chicken mango, chicken apple, and turkey maple. Here’s a close-up look at the chicken apple. You can see the chunks of apple and the spices. All of the sausage minis are made with a natural lamb casing. It had a good snap and kept in the the juiciness of the ingredients.

Time for a confession – I don’t know how to cook sausage! We never buy it, since we don’t eat pork in the house and haven’t fallen in love with any turkey or chicken sausage from the grocery store. I turned to my favorite sources (Joy of Cooking and other books in my collection) with no luck. Why would anyone just write “put it in a hot pan and cook until done”? So I heated up my skillet to medium, added a few sausage minis and kept turning until they seemed completely cooked. I also may have used my instant-read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the sausage mini. Hey, I’ve never cooked it before and just wanted to be sure!

We tried the turkey maple first for breakfast. I served it on the side of scrambled eggs and whole wheat cheese quesadilla. Yes, that would make for a great breakfast burrito but I love lots of components to my meal.

The turkey maple was my favorite – I loved the maple flavor and I especially loved that it wasn’t terrible for me! The chicken apple was filled with juicy chunks of apple. All of the flavors were juicy and full of flavor. These are great to add extra protein to breakfast (or really any meal). This weekend I plan to turn the chicken sausages into 'pigs' in a blanket for a get together. I think they will be delicious! Thanks to Jody Maroni’s for letting me sample their new products!

Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom has generously offered to give one lucky winner a t-shirt and 5 lbs of  sausages (your choice of any flavors, including the minis)! You can enter up to four times – be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. Winner will be selected by and announced next Wednesday, May 11. All entries must be received by 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10. Winner must be in the continental U.S. The prize will be shipped directly from Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom.

How to Enter:
Leave a comment below letting me know your all-time favorite sausage flavor or what sausage flavor you'd try if you win (check out for all their flavors). (1 entry)

Like Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom on Facebook. (1 entry)

Follow Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom on Twitter and tweet, “I just entered to win from @GoodCookDoris & @JodyMaronis - you can too at” (1 entry)

Subscribe to Good Cook Doris by email or become a follower via the Google Friend Connect widget on the right sidebar.

Full disclosure: I was contacted by Jody Maroni’s and provided with complementary samples of sausage minis. I was not compensated monetarily or obligated to review the products. All opinions are completely my own!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Poppin' Munch Madness!

Besides being my birthday month, March is also host to other fun food-friendly activities! With a full month of March Madness basketball, you'll need to to pace your game-time snacking. Keeping that in mind, here's a budget and healthy snack!

The friendly folks at popchips contacted me about a Boston Blogger recipe challenge for their "Munch Madness"  celebration. I had a blast creating a poppin' recipe for my Healthy Snack Wednesday series, so I knew I was was on board for this challenge! The winner gets to take home $250 to Roche Brothers, a $100 AMEX gift card, and a one-year supply of popchips! As an entrant in the recipe challenge, popchips provided me with a snack pack of popchips, coupons to pick up popchips, and a handy recipe notebook. 

A quick note about the contest. All entries will be posted on the popchips Facebook page in the Munch Madness photo album. The two bloggers with the most 'likes' on March 21 will be pop into the 'champion-chip' round! The final round will be an taste test event at Roche Brothers where the winner will be selected by a panel of expert snackers. If you like my poppin' creation, I hope you'll vote and 'like' my photo and spread the word! You can get to the album and vote by clicking here! You also have to 'like' Popchips on Facebook.

With my snack packs ready and assorted ingredients in the pantry, I put on my thinking cap and started brainstorming.

Chicken fingers...too easy. Mini-quiches...already done. What would show off the flavor of the popchips, be delicious, and still be healthy? The idea struck and I got to work - baked falafel!

In order to please fans of multiple teams, I decided to make a few pieces of falafel in each flavor. First step is  creating the popchips crumbs. Start with one flavor at a time and give them a whirl in the food processor. Be careful to label your flavors (I scribble when I write recipes, don't mind my spelling error)! 

Your popchips crumbs should be light and fluffy, and small enough to substitute for breadcrumbs. Each snack sized bag of popchips yielded approximately 1/2 cup of crumbs.

The next step is to make your falafel mixture. Using the food processor, blend garbanzo beans, parsley, scallions, a dash of olive oil and eggs until well combined. The texture should be like a chunky hummus. Split the mixture into five even portions for mixing. Starting with one portion of falafel mixture, add in half of one of the flavors of crumbs. Mix and continue to add crumbs until the mixture comes together, but is not completely dry. The first picture below is the falafel mix. The second picture is after mixing in the popchips crumbs.

Score each combined falafel and crumb mixture into four equal parts. Form balls and flatten slightly. Add the patties to a labeled baking sheet (you don't want to mix up the flavors!) and continue the process until all flavors are completed. I used a pencil to write the flavors on parchment paper, you can see it at the top of the rows below.

Bake for 10 minutes and then flip and continue baking for 10 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. I served these with low-fat plain sour cream. To spice up the celebration, you could make flavored sour cream or yogurt dip to match the flavors. Another great idea would be to use your favorite hot sauce and mix it with sour cream for a spicy dip. Really, there is no limit to what you can add! The patties themselves are healthy and leave room to add more decadent toppings!

Here's a look at each of the flavors, topped with a garnish representing the popchips flavor. Cheddar for cheddar, salt for salt and vinegar, barbecue crumbs for barbecue, peppercorns for salt and pepper, and scallions for sour cream and onion! The flavor of the chips came through and really worked with the falafel!

An interior look at the patties:

Here's hoping that  my bracket picks will be as successful as my poppin' recipe! And remember, if you have  minute to vote, head over to the popchips Facebook page and 'like' my photo in the Munch Madness photo album! You also have to 'like' Popchips on Facebook.

Poppin' Munch Madness Baked Falafel

5 snack sized bags of popchips (Salt & Pepper, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Cheddar Potato, Barbecue, and Sour Cream & Onion)
2 15-ounce cans of no-salt added garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 scallion (whites and greens), cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and label 5 rows with your selected flavors
Working with one flavor at a time, process popchips until the consistency of breadcrumbs and set aside
Add garbanzo beans, eggs, parsley, scallion, oil, and salt & pepper to the food processor
Pulse until the consistency of chunky hummus
Pour equal amounts of the garbanzo mixture into five separate bowls
Using one flavor of crumbs at a time, mix into a bowl of garbanzo mixture until well combined (you may not need all of the crumbs)
Form four equal sized patties and place on the parchment paper lined baking sheet
Continue until all flavors are used
Bake for 10 minutes and then flip and continue baking for 10 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through
Serve with sour cream, greek yogurt, or hot sauce

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Food processor, cutting board and knife, bowls, spatula, baking sheet, parchment paper, serving plates and utensils

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Healthy Snack Wednesdays: Goat Cheese (Yes You Can Make it At Home)

This is the last official week of the office weight loss challenge! Our final weigh-in will be on Friday and the top three 'losers' will be awarded their prize. I'm still down 4 pounds, a respectable amount for eight weeks of incorporating healthier eating and more activity into my daily routine. I started wearing a pedometer and its just a small tool to motivate me to be more active. If I see that I don’t have enough steps in, I’ll take the stairs during my afternoon break or walk the long way to the train. It’s a great way to burn a few extra calories. I've hit 12,000 steps on a few days (almost 5 miles). As a comparison, most people with desk jobs have somewhere between 3,000-5,000 steps a day.

Also, don’t forget to read through the post to find out last week’s winner of the MultiGrain Cheerios prize pack!

One of the other things I've been doing lately is trying to be more thoughtful about my food purchases. And making an effort to use all of the food we buy. I've been cooking a lot from the pantry and trying to use up everything in the freezer and refrigerator. For this week's healthy snack post, I have two easy and delicious recipes to share.

Last week I came across a recipe (more of a technique) for making goat cheese at home. I was instantly intrigued - fresh goat cheese is one of my favorite cheeses - and I picked up a half gallon of goats' milk from Whole Foods and a few lemons for juicing.  I followed the recipe exactly and was impressed with results. It was very similar to making ricotta (part of my dinner party). The recipe is pretty simple, goats' milk and an acid, and any mix-ins you like for flavoring. I left mine plain and paired it with honey for a snack. I also used it to top huevos rancheros inspired eggs.

Homemade goat cheese with local honey 
and a whole wheat cracker

Whole wheat tortilla, fried eggs, avocado, goat cheese, 
hot sauce, and cilantro with a side of beef bacon.

I still had half the milk leftover and decided to whip up a second batch with my own twist. For this batch I swapped in lime juice for the lemon juice. And for my mix-in I used fresh chopped cilantro. The bright flavors of lime and cilantro was a perfect match for the creamy cheese.

Step by step pictures for easy homemade goat cheese

The cheese is incredible alone, but I had some other ingredients hanging out waiting to be used for something creative. From the freezer I grabbed a bag of whole cranberries. From the refrigerator I grabbed orange peels and limes. The other day I had an orange for a snack and it struck me that I waste precious zest everytime I throw the peel away. I peeled off the flavorful outside and saved it to add to recipes later in the week.

Looking at the ingredients, I decided to make a zesty and tangy citrus cranberry sauce. There’s not much to making cranberry sauce. Just be sure you have a good heavy sauce pot and a stain-proof spatula! You add your ingredients, cook until it’s your desired consistency and then enjoy! I didn’t add a lot of sugar to this version because I wanted it to be more savory to pair with the cheese. The resulting sauce is bright and indeed zesty! This would be great with roasted turkey or chicken, as a sandwich condiment, or on a cheese plate. I took pictures at work on my phone, please excuse the lighting.

The smooth, fresh taste of the goat cheese paired well with the tanginess of the cranberry sauce. The goat cheese has also been a great addition to breakfast. I made a sandwich with a whole wheat sandwich thin, cilantro-lime goat cheese, a fried egg, and a big handful of spinach.

Easy Homemade Goat Cheese
Inspired by recipe on Kiss My Spatula
1 quart goats' milk (just pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized)
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (or other herbs)
Salt to taste

Supplies Needed:
Thermometer (candy, deep fry, or instant read)
Kitchen twine, or string
Heavy bottomed pan
Stirring spoon
Large bowl

Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth
Set over a large bowl
Cut kitchen twine for tying

Add milk to a heavy bottomed sauce pan
Heat over medium heat until temperature reaches 180 degrees F, stirring occaisionally
Remove from heat and add citrus juice
After about 15-20 seconds the milk should look cloudy and you should see little specks separating
Ladle carefully into the cheesecloth lined colander (slowly, so it doesn't overflow)
Once all milk is in, pull together the four corners and tie with twine
Tie to a spatula handle and hang over a clean bowl
Let hang for about an hour, until consistency is soft, but not dry
Add to a bowl and mix in any herbs and seasonings
Will stay in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days (if you don't eat it all first!)

Zesty Cranberry Sauce
1/2 pound fresh, whole cranberries (rinsed)
1/4 cup sugar
Juice from 2 limes
1 tablespoon finely diced orange zest
1/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients together in a medium sauce pan
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat
Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly
The cranberries will burst and the mixture will begin to thicken
Serve immediately or cool completely before storing in the refrigerator

Giveaway Winner!
I used to select a winner from the 24 entries for the MultiGrain Cheerios prize pack! For complete randomness, the hubby ran the numbers and sent me the result. The winner is....

Congratulations to Renee! She said:

"Stairs, stairs, stairs! That is my commitment to being healthier! And to do 1 week of food logging to see exactly what kind of calories I'm taking in".

Congratulations Renee, hope this stylish gym bag and water bottle help you reach your goals!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Healthy Snack Wednesdays: Granola

We're getting down to the wire for the office weight loss challenge! There are 3 weigh-ins left in the competition.  I won't be taking home the grand prize (the current leader has lost 5% of their body weight!). However I'm happy to report that I'm down 3 pounds from the start of the competition, a healthy rate of weight loss. I've been making an effort to take the 4 flights of stairs up to my office and getting out for a walk at lunchtime. Starting a whole new fitness routine isn't in the schedule, so I've been adding in activity where I can. While school and work are getting busier, it's been harder to squeeze in snack making. So this week I'll share an easy recipe for granola.

Granola packs a nutritional punch - healthy oats, nuts, and dried fruit. But you have to be careful, sometimes the store bought granola contains a lot of calories and fat.  Making it at home is something I have been meaning to try for a while. I wanted a healthy and tasty recipe.  There are a lot of great resources at BU for healthy eating, so I started my recipe search on the Sargent Choice website. I wish that Sargent Choice was around when I was an undergrad at BU! They offer healthy dining options on campus - both in the dining halls and in the student union. They also offer healthy eating resources for students, faculty, and staff.

On the 'What's Cooking' page, I found a recipe for a granola and yogurt parfait and decided to put my spin on the granola. My granola included oats, roasted unsalted pepitas, sliced almonds, and dried cherries. I also added a dash of salt (I like the contrast of a little salty granola with sweet yogurt). The preparation was easy, but you will need a scale to measure the ingredients. Also, I found that mine cooked in much less time than the recipe called for. You'll have to watch the oven to make sure your granola doesn't burn - it can get overcooked in an instant. I'll be mixing this into my favorite yogurts for healthy snacking the rest of the week.

Sargent Choice Granola (minus the parfait)
Adapted from Sargent Choice
5 ounces rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon whole wheat flour
1/4 cup roasted, unsalted pepitas
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I think I added a full teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces maple syrup (Grade B)
1/2 ounce honey
1 1/2 teaspoon orange infused olive oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (as I typed this, I realized I forgot to include it)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
In a large bowl mix oats, pepitas, almonds, cinnamon and salt
In a separate bowl, whisk together syrup, honey, olive oil, vanilla, and water
Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix together with a rubber spatula
Pour the granola mixture onto the baking sheet and spread evenly
Bake, checking every 20 minutes and stirring to ensure even cooking
Mine was done after 40 minutes

Cool completely
Mix with dried fruit
Store in an airtight containers

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes - 2 hours
Mixing bowls, whisk, spatula, baking sheet, parchment paper

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Healthy Snack Wednesday: Cheese, My Favorite Snack

In addition to being Healthy Snack Wednesday, this is also the 200th post on Good Cook Doris! In honor of the occasion, I present to you my favorite snack and one of my favorite foods.  Cheese!  But first, a quick update on my semester in Anthropology of Food.

This week I've been busy working on my first paper of the semester, a food centered life history. I conducted an hour long interview, listened and transcribed my recording, and put together a narrative based on the interview data. It was a great experience. I love to talk with people about food. Food is something that everyone has experience with. Whether it's hunger, excess, likes or dislikes. Everyone has something to say about food! There are so many things that you can learn through talking with someone about food - their heritage, culture, religion, family history, personality, and more.

I'm used to quick, on the fly, interviews at farmers markets and food events. I don't always know that I'll be conducting an interview and of course won't have prepared questions. This was a structured interview with plenty of preparation time. I still have a lot to learn in the the interviewing department - like organizing my questions and narrowing my focus. There are so many things to cover that an hour long interview goes by in no time. 

One of the things I love to find out from people is if the way they are in the kitchen is the way they are in the rest of their lives. Think about it! Are you a rigid recipe follower? Is your desk perfectly organized with nothing out of place? Or are you a creative cook who whips up something new all the time? Are you spontaneous and like to beat to your own drum? Think about the people you know - it's a fun exercise when you are waiting for a late train or an appointment.

Now on to this week's snacking goodness! The winners of the popchips contest are at the end of today's post.

In the comments last week there were a lot of great snack ideas. I was surprised that more people didn't mention cheese. I could eat cheese for every meal of the day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. Anything but blue or Swiss and I'm a happy girl. Because I spent my time writing instead of cooking this week, here are a few ideas for snacking that involve my favorite dairy product.

Cheese is great alone, but making your own cheese plate is even better. I picked up an assortment of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in DC when I was there over the holidays . I paired the three cheeses with assorted marinated olives (from the olive bar at Whole Foods), baby gherkin pickles, fig jam and toasted baguette slices. This satisfies my love for a variety of dishes. Also, you end up eating slower because of the number of items and often are full before the plate is empty. Here are a few close-ups of the delicious cheese.

Cowgirl Creamery Devil's Gulch with sweet and hot peppers

Mimolette...Almost looks like cantelope.

Serena Goat Cheese with ash on the rind

Another great way to build a cheese plate is to incorporate healthy vegetables and fruit. For an award show watching party, I put together sliced pears, cherries, cucumbers, and celery. The fruits paired wonderfully with the cheese. For the vegetables I made a quick cucumber dip with non-fat Greek yogurt. 

Of course you can just eat a few slices of cheese, but you're likely to eat more than you need. By pairing it with healthy accompaniments you have a delicious and nutritious snack.

What's your favorite cheese? If I was forced to pick my top cheeses, they would be brie, super sharp cheddar, and creamy goat cheese. 

Weekly trip to the Copley Square Farmers Market

Now for the winners! Each winner receives a 1-month supply of popchips!

Winner #1: Robin, who said, "I can't wait to try the quiches!"

Winner #2: Michelle, who left a comment on the Good Cook Doris facebook page.

Please email me at lara [at] goodcookdoris [dot] com and we'll make arrangements for you to get your prize. Thanks for entering and welcome to all the new readers!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Health Snack Wednesdays: Snacks that Pop!

This week is full of snacking opportunities – snow days, Healthy Snack Wednesday, and the Superbowl! Part of the reason we started this series is that snacking can get boring. So this week’s post is dedicated to snacks that pop!

First, congratulations to the winner of two vouchers for Veggie Patch Products! The winner, as selected by is Jordi, who said” my favorite veggie is cucumbers or celery. i like to eat them raw with some italian dressing (on the cucumbers)”. I’ll be in touch to get your mailing address and the vouchers will be sent your way!

To celebrate this week’s popped up recipes, popchips™ has generously donated two one-month supplies of popchips! Two readers will each win one box full of popchips to snack (see if they last the month!). If you haven’t heard of popchips, they are popped potato snacks. Think potato chip crunchy without the greasiness of a regular chip or the cardboard taste of baked potato chips. They are made for snacking – and one bag of original flavor will set you back just 120 calories and 4 grams of fat (more nutrition info here). If you are a potato chip lover, than popchips are a healthier option to satisfy your craving. They even have a Snacker’s Credo!

Quick disclosure: popchips sent over a sampler pack of chips to use in this week’s healthy snack recipes and two boxes of chips for the giveaway. I was not obligated to use or review the products and I was not compensated financially. All opinions belong to me. Now on the fun!

This week I have two popping recipes for you to try out. I am admittedly not a potato chip lover – I usually go for tortilla chips if I have a chip choice. I wanted to come up with a creative way to use popchips in a healthy snack good for weekdays or maybe a Superbowl party. We’ve already made dips a few times and that really isn’t incorporating the popchips. I thought about potato chip cookies (saw them on a few blogs), but every recipe involved a lot of butter or shortening. After thinking about it for a few days, I decided on making mini-quiches with popchip crusts. It is similar to last week’s snack, but this is more party ready! You can pick your own combination of flavors for the crust, but I chose to mix original, salt and pepper, and cheddar for flavor that popped. I didn’t use any cookbooks or recipes for this, so while it could use some tweaking I had blast putting it together!

This is a fairly quick dish to put together. It can be served hot or cold and you could make them the day before and keep them in the refrigerator until party time. Just reheat  before serving. To have a crispier crust, make sure to coat the entire mini-muffin tin with the popchip mixture and only fill to the top of the crust (I got a little excited and overfilled mine). Only a few came out with crispy crusts due to the extra filling, but they tasted like little egg & hashbrown bites. I didn’t add any extra seasoning, because of the flavors in the popchips.

Poppin’ Mini-Quiches
Makes 24 mini-quiches

3 bags of popchips (I used 1 original, 1 salt & pepper, 1 cheddar)
3-4 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (about 1 teaspoon)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Lightly spray a mini-muffin tin with cooking spray
Add popchips to a food processor and pulse until they are the texture of panko breadcrumbs
Pour into a mixing bowl and mix the crumbs with butter, add a little oil if it is not moist enough
Spoon a little of the crust mixture into each muffin cup (you might have extra mixture)
Using a tart shaper, or your hand, press the crust mixture down firmly into the bottom and sides of the cups
Bake for 5-7 minutes, until slightly golden brown
Remove from oven to fill

4-5 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
About 15 spinach leaves (I forgot to measure!)

Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender
Mix until frothy
Pour on top of prebaked crusts in muffin tin

Place tin back into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until puffed up and golden brown
Remove from the oven and serve immediately, or cool on rack and refrigerate
Serve with a dash of hot sauce, if desired!

Popping Snack #2
For my second snack, I popped up one of my favorite treats, popcorn! During the last snow day I played popcorn roulette, mixing up three different flavors and then spinning the bowls around. One bite could be lavender, the next za’atar, and the last green chili. I have an Cusinart Crazy popper and can control the amount of oil I use when I pop – and be sure that my popcorn isn’t loaded with oil, butter, and other funny chemicals. I wanted to make a sweet popcorn for this week. The hubby loves kettle corn and caramel corn, but the store bought versions are loaded with fat and sugar. I popped up a batch of red popcorn kernels from the farmers market and made a quick glaze to add on top. After the popcorn glaze dried, I packaged it into sandwich bags in appropriate serving sizes. It’s great to throw in your bag for the car, an afternoon snack, or a something to tide you over until dinner.

Maple-Sesame Popcorn
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon canola oil
Pop popcorn in a popcorn popper (say that three times fast!)
Makes about 6 cups of popped popcorn

Maple-Sesame Glaze
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used Grade A Dark Amber)
1/2 tablespoon water
1/2 tablespoon butter

Add all ingredients, except sesame seeds, into a small sauce pan
Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook for about 10 minutes, until slightly thickened
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees
Drizzle half the glaze over the popped corn in a large bowl
Add sesame seeds and mix
Add remaining glaze and toss to coat

Pour onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes until popcorn has dried
Try not to eat it all while putting into bags.

Now, on to the giveaway!

There will be two winners for the giveaway. Each winner will receive a box containing a one-month supply of popchips! I didn't count the bags, but you will be snacking for a while! There are a few ways to enter this week, please leave a separate comment on the blog for each action. You can do any or all of them for a chance to win!
  • Like popchips on Facebook and leave a comment on their wall saying "@GoodCookDoris sent me! Thanks for the giveaway!". Come back and leave a comment below telling me you did so.
  • Leave a comment below letting me know your all-time favorite snack food, no healthy answers needed.

Popchips provided me with the boxes to give to the winner. If you are local in the Boston area we can meet up, or if you are somewhere else in the country I can ship them. (U.S. addresses only, sorry!)

Entries accepted through Tuesday, February 8. Winner to be announced on Wednesday, February 9. For an extra entry, head over to Renee's blog at Eat.Live.Blog. and be sure to check out her snacks that pop!

Happy Snacking!


Related Posts with Thumbnails