Archive | February, 2013

Think outside the cereal box: Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

26 Feb

Last week, I tuned into a webinar provided by the good folks at California Raisins. As a dietitian, I have to maintain credentials by completing 75 continuing education credits, and online webinars count as such. I had the pleasure of attending the raisin breakfast at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo last October in Philadelphia, and the presentation really opened my eyes to raisin potential. Basically the punch-line was that raisins are more than ants on a log. In fact, the #1 most economical fruit in the United States boasts a good deal of potassium, fiber and calcium. Fun fact? As the sun naturally dries the grapes into raisins, potassium, fiber and calcium increase! While dried fruit often gets a bad rap as being a caloric trap, raisins have many benefits and, let’s face it, we need people to eat more fruit – no matter what form it comes in, right? My favorite fact that I gleaned from the presentation is that raisins can be used as an exercise recovery tool, much like those expensive sports beans, chews, and gels. They taste much better, and are much cheaper than the packaged foods advertised as runner’s must-haves. Chef nutritionist Michelle Dudash was one of the panelists, and illustrated possible ways to utilize raisins in cooking to add flavor and nutrition. I have been wanting to make Chef Dudash’s oatmeal breakfast cookies from her awesome book Clean Eating for Busy Families: and when she reiterated this recipe during the webinar, it served as just the gentle reminder I needed. Below is the recipe. If my hypothesis proves itself correct, these cookies would be excellent on the go with a latte, broken up into large chucks and served over yogurt, or tossed in your bag for your late morning snack. These versatile fiber-loaded cookies can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 1 week at room temperature, or up to 1 month in the freezer.

Some possible ways to incorporate more raisins in your life (adapted from California Raisins):
•Stews, chili
•Trail mix & granola
•Smoothies & sauces
•Salads
•Snack bars
•Cookies & desserts
•Taco meat, meatballs, burgers
•Nut butter spreads & toppings
•Cheese pairing

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Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies (adapted from Michelle Dudash, RD)
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour (or mixture of white and whole wheat flours)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1/3 cup canola oil (or coconut oil)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins (or any dried fruit of choice: cherries, apricots)
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons slivered almonds (or any chopped nut of choice: cashews, walnuts, pecans, peanuts),
Preheat oven to 350*F and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Assemble dry ingredients: oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda. In a second bowl, whisk egg, oil, milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, and beat until dough is moistened. Add dried fruits and 1/2 cup nuts at the end of mixing. Drop scant 1/4 cup scoops of dough onto the pans at least 2 inches apart. Pat gently with waxed paper and top cookies with slivered almonds (or other nuts). Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

An easy weeknight staple

19 Feb

Every home cook needs a go-to staple dish that can be whipped up in a flash, with (ideally) very simple ingredients. As I was scratching my head for topics to write about, I thought that writing a little ditty in honor of my weeknight staple was long overdue. At least once a week, I rely on this simple lightened up Fettucini Alfredo from Cooking Light circa January 2010. It was cookbook binder-worthy at first glance. Of course, the straight-forward recipe is delicious as is, but I take advantage of it’s “blank-slate” nature by add my own twists. Such twists involve whatever vegetables – fresh or frozen – that I happen to have or want to include. That is what I love so much about this one-pot wonder (well, two if you count the pasta pot): you can make it seem like a really robust dish by adding bulk from the vegetables. As a rule of thumb, I add frozen vegetables just before adding the pasta to the sauce. Fresh greens like kale and spinach wilt quickly in the sauce once the pasta has been added. You can play around with it and, oh, and that’s the other thing: you can use ANY pasta shape of your choice – short or long. I have even tried this with brown rice pasta. And, if you are vegetarian or do not eat pork, the bacon can be omitted. This, like most pasta dishes, tastes even better the next day for lunchtime leftovers.

Some of my favorite add-ins: fresh baby spinach (see recipe below); frozen whole spinach; thyme-roasted butternut squash; fresh kale; frozen green peas; fresh or frozen broccoli; frozen artichokes; cherry tomatoes

Rigatoni Alfredo with Wilted Spinach and Bacon (adapted from Cookling Light, January 2010) 

Serves 6-8

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Ingredients

1lb box of pasta (rigatoni, fettucini, linguine, penne)
4 slices bacon, chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1/4 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 7-ounce bag fresh baby spinach

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

While pasta cooks, add bacon to a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings. Add garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Sprinkle flour over garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk and cream, stirring constantly; cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and slightly thick, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Gradually add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in salt and reserved 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add hot pasta to pan; toss well to combine. Add baby spinach in 3 batches, cover pan with lid to promote wilting. Sprinkle with bacon, parsley, pepper and additional cheese if desired. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

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