Monday, September 20, 2010

Cuban Dish #2: Cuban Sea Bass (um… Tilapia)

I am still on the mission to force health eating upon people, along with becoming more ethnically diverse, so I decided to try my hand at another Cuban dish. This time, I simply found a dish that was relatively healthy to begin with rather than editing a less healthy dish.

The recipe was for Cuban Sea Bass. However, when I go to the grocery store, I was unable to find sea bass, so I decided to settle for tilapia.

Cuban Tilapia (or whatever other fish you decide to stick in it)
2 tb olive oil
2 white onions, sliced
1-2 cloves minced garlic
4 chopped tomatoes, seeded
1.5 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup slices olives
1/4 cup drained capers
crushed red pepper
~ 1 pound of fish
1 tb butter
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  1. heat olive oil in a pan/ wok and cook onions and garlic.
  2. Add tomatoes, cook until soft.
  3. Add wine, olives, capers, and red pepper. Allow sauce to simmer.
  4. Add fish to sauce. Cook 10-15 minutes until fish is easily flaked.
  5. Remove the fish from the sauce.
  6. Add butter to sauce and turn up the heat. Add cilantro. Cover sauce, and allow to thicken.
  7. Serve sauce over the fish.

I served my dish with fresh steamed green beans, black beans, and a brown rice/rice pilaf concoction.

It came out pretty good in my opinion. I am not a huge fan of olives, so if I did it again, I think I would omit them, but overall tasty.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Eating Healthy for the Busy Person

"If you need something done, give it to a busy person!"

Ah… how true it is. It does seem the more we have to do, the more we get done.
Of course, it's also easy to let certain things go when you are really busy, such as going to the gym and eating healthy.

So here's the key:

My professor always complains that people say they are either organized, or they are not. She states, "Organized people are organized because they take the time out of their day to get organized," which, in the end, saves time!

- plan what kind of meals you want to make for the week.
- make a shopping list
- go to the grocery store
- at some point soon after going to the grocery store- take the time to prep any of the healthy food that requires effort that might later deter you from eating it.

If you set out to chop/ peel/ prep a bunch of stuff at once it takes much less time than going through the process each time you want to eat something. Plus, think of the time and energy you'll save on washing the knives, vegetable peeler, and cutting board.

I personally go through this process not only because I am busy, but because Jordan is lazy, and I know he will not bother to use vegetables if they are not ready to be used.

Last week at the grocery store I bought a 5 pound bag of carrots for $1.99! but of course, whole carrots require a bit more effort than baby carrots, so I took the time after I went shopping to peel and cut them up.

Along with a bag of green peppers, I cut up a few into strips to be used for whatever my heart desired at the moment. They can always be chopped smaller later on if desired.

It also seems we are more likely to go through fruit in our house if it is cut up and mixed together (in this case, apples, bananas, plums and nectarines are all pretty easy to eat anyway, but I do enjoy the variety. It works even better if there is something that required cutting up such as a melon.
Then finally- once I am all done prepping I stick it all in the fridge in tupperware for easy access and quick meal making throughout the week :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I say Tomato, you say Tomahto: Antioxidant Series

Lycopene: Heinz tomato ketchup did a lot of promoting of lycopene, especially in the late 90s, but what is it?

Lycopene, is another phytonutrient! It is the bright red carotenoid pigment. It's usually associated with tomatoes, but it is also found in:
pink grapefruit
pink guava
red bell pepper

Unfortunately for any raw-foodies out there, lycopene is more bioavailable after is is processed or heated. It is even better when consumed with a fat (such as olive oil). The processing is what makes ketchup and tomato sauces a good source of lycopene, whereas raw tomatoes, are not.

As per usual with antioxidants, there is a lot of missing or conflicting research. However, based on empirical data there is an inverse relationship between consumption of lycopene/serum lycopene levels and chronic diseases, including cancer.

Lycopene works it's magic by quenching free radicals on a mission to steal from your cells. In vitro, (like test-tube-lab-studies) lycopene has been shown to decrease DNA damage, decrease oxidative stress, decrease oxidation of LDL, and prevent lipid peroxidation.

In vivo, (in living creatures), lycopene's metabolism is much less understood, and its overall health benefits still remain controversial. More research is needed especially in the area of how lycopene interacts without metabolites and environmental factors.

Nonetheless, as with most antioxidants, the sources of lycopene are healthy overall. (tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit?) If you are getting your lycopene from ketchup, just remember its sodium and sugar content, maybe try a no sodium or natural kind.

So…. how do you say tomato?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My boyfriend's bento

Jordan is the antagonist in my plot to encourage healthy eating. No matter how many little tid bits I give him, or healthy-yet delicious foods I attempt to expose him to, he still insists he must eat the fattening foods he loves because he will not give up "flavor"

I have tried introducing him to new flavors, and incorporating his beloved flavors in a healthier fashion, yet, he still makes dietary decisions to make any dietitian/ health conscience individual cringe.

I have always said the main reason I want children is so I can feed them - which probably isn't the true main reason, but I do enjoy feeding people/ preparing them food, and getting them to eat healthy. So, I am using Jordan as my 'practice child' and I prepare his lunch for work most days.

I love Lunch in a Box blog about a mothers journey of preparing speedy-adorable bentos for her son, so I got inspired and bought a bento box. - as the baker I used to work for used to say "If it looks good on the plate, it tastes good going into the mouth."

So here is one sample of Jordan's Bento box:

* turkey sandwich: whole wheat bread, turkey, lettuce, cucumber, sauteed onion and pepper.
* carrots with hummus
* a cut up plum and nectarine
* reduced fat wheat thins with thinly slices cheddar cheese
* unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
* and a granola bar.

Sure, it's only one meal, but I am making healthy changes to that boy- one meal at a time :) And as per usual-- encouraging frugality, since we're saving money by packing lunched rather than going out and buying them every day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Red red wine… : Antioxidant Series

Alcohol gets very mixed reviews in the health profession. In my opinion, like food, everything is ok in MODERATION.

Red wine in particular has the benefit of being a good source of antioxidants, specifically, resveratrol (RSV). Like AVNs in oats, resveratrol is an phytoalexin, which is important to the grape plant as a form of protection from UV rays, infection, injury, and fungal attack.
RSV is found in grape skin, mulberries and peanuts. Red wine uses the grape skin during fermentation, whereas white wine does not, thus red wine is much higher in RSV and gets more press.

RSV acts as an antioxidant, and helps to activate or inactivate various important proteins in your body. Your body is constantly making new new cells to replace old or damaged ones, RSV plays a role in stabilizing the proteins that help to regulate this activity. This extra stability helps to prevent cancer by stopping mutation, and also has a positive effect on aging.

RSVs also help to prevent cancer in others ways, such as inhibiting cyclooxygenase (COX), which increases cell proliferation (we do not want a lot of proliferation), and limits immune surveillance.
In a nut shell: COX is bad, and RSV stops COX. RSV helps prevent cancer, which is good!

RSV is also thought to contribute to the "French Paradox" of the french eating a relatively high saturated fat diet, yet having low rates of cardiovascular disease. Perhaps it is all that red wine they are drinking that is acting as an antioxidant and protecting their cells!? maybe?
…More research is needed!

Note: The Negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption seriously outweigh any of the positives. Alcohol can ruin you physical health, mental health, and social health. If you are going to drink, drink in moderation, (a maximum of 1 drink a day for females, 2 drinks a day for males.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Picadillo is a Hispanic dish. Cubans, Brazilians, and Mexicans (and probably every other South American country) has their own variation on the dish. It is traditionally a dish made with ground beef that is served over rice, or can be made in to empanadas. Since Jordan is Cuban, I've had the great pleasure of trying his mothers Picadillo on several occasions.

Jordan always tells me that his favorite foods are Cuban foods, which have a lot of fat in them. I try to make the argument that he could make some substitutions in the recipes to make the dishes healthier, but he says it will make them lose their flavor.

So... a challenge?

I took this Traditional Cuban Picadillo Recipe I found online, and analyzed the nutrition and modified it. Usually Cuban Picadillo also contains raisins, so I added a cup of raisins to my modified recipe, and to the traditional recipe when analyzing.

My Modified Picadillo Recipe Included:
*4 cloves of Garlic
*~ 2 tb olive oil
* 2 medium onions, finely chopped
* 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
* 1 tsp cumin
* 1 tsp oregano
*1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 cup beef broth (can use vegetable/ chicken/ just water)
* 1 Package Shady Brook Farms Lean Ground Turkey (20 oz raw, about 1 LB cooked)
* 2 small cans tomato sauce
* 2 medium potatoes (roughly peeled), diced
* 10 large green olives, cut
*~ 1 cup raisins

1. Saute onions, peppers and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until softened.
2. Mix meat with spices, then add to pan with vegetables. Add broth, and tomato sauce. Let cook, covered at medium heat for about 15 minutes.
3. Add potatoes. Cook for an additional 15 minutes.
** note- I stated 'roughly peeled,' the original recipe said peeled, but frankly I enjoy the peel- and its where all of the fiber is! so basically I just lazily peel a potato so that about 2/3 of the skin is off, so the texture is better but I still can have the fiber and nutrients from some of the peel. You could do as you wish.
4. Add in olives and raisins, simmer until potatoes are fork tender.
5. Serve over (brown) rice or with a whole wheat tortilla!

Note- instead of ground turkey you could use a lean ground beef, ground chicken, or even diced up chicken breast or other lean meat. Megan actually came over for dinner, so I made her a batch that had tofu, and no beef broth- and she seemed to enjoy it as well! So be creative!

According to the website I got the original recipe from, the recipe makes 4-6 servings, which I found to be way off! There were 4 of us eating good size portions, and I'd say I still have at least 1/3 left. So honestly, I would say this makes about 8 servings. But of course, that may have something to do with my adding more vegetables. To be as fair as possible, below I compared the two recipes dividing them into 6 servings each:

The Nutrition Break Down:

The Original Recipe:
  • 400 calories
  • 20 grams fat- 6 grams Sat Fat, 10.5 MUFA,
  • 35 grams carb- 4 grams fiber
  • 23 grams protein
My Modified Recipe
  • 360 calories
  • 12 grams fat- 2.5 Sat fat, 6.5 MUFA
  • 40.5 grams Carb- 5 grams fiber
  • 23 grams protein
So, the nutrition facts do not look that much different, but again, honestly, considering volumetrics, you would not eat as much of the modified version as you would the original version (as in 1/6th of the recipe).
And Saving 8 grams of fat certainly is not too shabby!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Another Reason to love oats!!: Antioxidant Series

Oats are wonderful for so many reasons: they are a whole grain, low fat, a good source of fiber, full of nutrients, and are a delicious and filling.

Considering the amazingness of oats on a whole, it isn't surprising that they are also a good source of antioxidants! Oats contain an antioxidant called avenanthramides (avns for short).

Avns are part of a group of antioxidants called phytoalexins. They are important to oats as plants because they help make them resistant to diseases. In humans, avns act as antioxidants to help protect our cells from oxidation. Oats and avns are associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (related to prevention of over fed macrophages!) Avns, even isolated from oats, help to reduce cytokines (inflammatory markers) in the body, and help reduce cholesterol.

As with all antioxidants, more research is needed, but overall, oats have everything going for them… but just in case you needed one more reason to eat some- there you have it: avns :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Coffee's Health Benefits: Antioxidant Series

Coffee, is a great love of mine. Its warm, tasty, wakes you up, and is great to dip things in.

Other than all of those benefits, didja know coffee also contains molecules that are antioxidants?? (See my last post for my attempt at explaining antioxidants.)

Coffee contains these wonderful compounds called polyphenols. And in fact- coffee consumption actually provides more than 60% of antioxidants consumed in America.

Epidemiological studies have shown that coffee consumption correlated with less ‘oxidative stress’, aka, less cells with their identity stolen, and less inflammation.

Sometimes coffee gets a bad wrap, in regards to it staining teeth, or its caffeine being bad if you have high blood pressure, but overall it’s hard to really analyze coffee. Many studies looking at specifically at coffee consumption in humans is difficult to translate, because often coffee drinkers also have other negative lifestyle factors such as smoking, or not consuming many fruits and vegetables.

Looking at coffee in animal studies, in vitro (just looking at the cellular interactions), and some human studies have shown positive results for coffee as an antioxidant. Coffee has been associated with decreased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, liver disease and type II diabetes. It does this through preventing oxidative reactions, or stopping free radical reactions.

Currently there is no absolute proof that coffee is beneficial, however, it is known that the antioxidant polyphenol compound does exist in the beverage. More well controlled human studies are needed.

But in my opinion, if you enjoy your daily cup of java, go ahead and enjoy :) your body just might thank you later.

Photo by Jessica Leibowitz @