Sunday, April 28, 2013

Do-It-Yourself, Veggie-Packed Hot Sauce

In order to prepare for the upcoming gardening season, I decided I should use up some of the hot peppers I have in the freezer. Hot peppers are one of the things that grow well in our garden; groundhogs, squirrels and deer don't seem to have an affinity for these spicy morsels. In fact, we have so many hot peppers in the freezer, I can't remember which season they are from. I need to start labeling freezer goods.
For those of you who know me, you know I don't fit the Latina stereotype when it come to eating spicy foods. But lately, baby Wyatt and I have been craving hard cooked eggs with homemade hot sauce, like the one my coworker Carina once made, that I have been dreaming about. Thanks Carina Robich, for the inspiration!!


Do-It-Yourself, Veggie-Packed Hot Sauce

 Makes 6 ½ cups
3 Tbsp. olive oil
10-15 cloves garlic
2 medium Spanish onion, chopped
2 orange or red bell pepper, chopped
1¼ cups chopped carrot
2-3 oz. hot chili peppers*, such as cayenne, steamed and seeded if desired
1 ½ cups red wine vinegar, plus 1-2 Tbsp. to finish
1 ¾ cups water, plus  ½ cup to thin/cool at the end
2 ½ tsp. kosher salt
 Nutrition Facts per 1 Tbsp. portion Calories: 5, Total fat: 0g, Sat fat:0g, Trans fat:0g, Chol:0g, Sodium: 40mg, Carbs:1g, Fiber: 0g, Sugars:0g, Protein:0g, Vitamin A:6%, Vitamin C: 10%, Calcium:0%, Iron:0%
I used about  cayenne 19 peppers of varying sizes; if using habaneros, use about 1/2 the amount, or even less.
*use caution when working with hot peppers; wear food safe gloves and keep away from eyes and skin. Seeds from peppers are hot; remove as desired depending on taste.

In large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Sauté garlic, onion, peppers, carrots and chilies for about 15-20 minutes, lowering heat as needed. Add vinegar, water and salt; simmer for about 20 minutes until tender.
 Let sit for about 10 minutes to cool slightly. Remove from heat and process in a blender until smooth.
Stir in remaining water and vinegar as desired to thin sauce.
Awesome on hard cooked eggs, and almost anything!! Makes great gift too; make sure to tell your friends to keep it refrigerated.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Should You Be Adding Coconut Oil Into Your Diet? Try this Coconut- Agave Spread

With our huge diet and fitness frenzy, everyone seems to be trying to incorporate coconut oil into their diet. But should they?

Coconut oil is not a miracle fat, but has been touted for its many potential uses: preserving lean body mass, decreasing body fat, nutritional support for athletic training, improving absorption and antiviral properties.

Some research has shown that it can aid in decreasing waist circumference, increasing energy expenditure and even reducing trunk mass (1-5).

These studies have limitations, and of course more research is needed.

The bottom line is that it is a fat, and should be treated as a fat; eaten in moderation, while it replaces other fats in your diet. There can certainly be space for it in your diet, and as more research emerges, more health professional may be willing to change their position on this tasty oil.

Here is a quick and easy recipe to get you started:

2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 Tbsp. agave syrup

Place ingredients in a small bowl.

Mix well until well combined.

Spread on whole grain toast, bagels, French toast, pancakes (you get the picture). Top with grated coconut just for fun.


 Check out these articles for more information:
1. Liau KM, Lee YY, Chen KC, Rasol AHG. An open label pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of virgin coconut oil in reducing visceral adiposity.ISRN Pharmacology. 2011;1-7.

 2. Ogawa A, Nosaka N, Kasai M, Aoyama T, Okazaki M, Igarashi O, Kondo K. Dietary medium and long chain triacylglycerols accelerate diet induced thermogenesis in humans. J of Oleo Science. 2007; 56:283-287.

3.  St-Onge MP, Bosarge A. Weight loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. American J of Clinical Nutrition. 2008; 87:621-626.

 4.Onge MP, Bourque C, Jones PJH, Ross R, Parsons WE. Medium versus long chain triglycerides for 27 days increases fat oxidation and energy expenditure without resulting in changes in body composition in overweight women. International J of Obesity. 2003;27:95-102.

 5. Clark M. Once a villain, coconut oil charms the health food world. New York Times. March 1, 2011.



Sunday, April 14, 2013

Quinoa and Soy Chorizo Stuffed Peppers

My inspiration for making this dish?-

1. To use up the soy chorizo that has been lounging in my refrigerator for a while; a "must-go" item".
2. To make sure we eat veggies with our Sunday dinner  (covered with cheese!).
3. To continue to get through the massive amounts of quinoa I have in the pantry.
4. The chance to use up some of the homemade salsa roja I have in the freezer.
As you can see, this is a meal with purpose!!
Quinoa and Soy Chorizo Stuffed Peppers

 ½ white onion, chopped
6 oz. soy chorizo (about ½ package)
1 cup quinoa (1/3 cup uncooked)
¾ cup shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts or pine nuts
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
Cooking spray
2 bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed
1¼ cups enchilada sauce, store brought or homemade (or any spicy tomato sauce such as salsa)
2 Tbsp. nonfat Greek yogurt,  plus more for garnish
  Makes enough for 4 servings, when accompanied by a dinner salad. We had them with baby kale, lemon vinaigrette, cranberries and avocado (and more walnuts)!! Delish and hubby approved (most hubbies should at least love the stuffed peppers).
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Sauté onion and chorizo in a medium skillet over medium high heat, for about 5-8 minutes, adjusting heat to medium to prevent over caramelizing.
Stir in cooked quinoa, half of the cheese, nuts and cilantro.
Coat a medium baking dish with cooking spray and arrange pepper halves atop.
Stuff each halve with a heaping ½ cup of quinoa filling.
In a small bowl, stir together sauce and Greek yogurt. Pour over top of peppers and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Coat a piece of foil with cooking spray to prevent cheese from sticking. Cover peppers, sprayed side down and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. Garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt and cilantro, as desired.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Goji Berries-Super Food or Just a Hype??

As you may know, I love working with trendy and functional foods. Recently, I have been doing some research on Goji berries (or wolf berries)for an upcoming workshop titled " The FUNtional Foodie: Making Trendy Foods Affordable to Fit my Plate". My colleague and I will be presenting at the Pennsylvania American Dietetic Association Annual Meeting and Expo held in Monroeville.
Yup, my big belly and I are kind of nervous, but what could be more fun than talking about fun foods and preparing recipes in front of a bunch of nutrition professionals! Baby Wyatt and I can't wait to be up on stage!

Here are some claims made on Goji berries:

People have used Goji berries to treat many common health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, fever, and age-related eye problems. They have been called the fountain of youth, due to their high antioxidant content.  In some Asian countries, Goji berries have been eaten for generations in the hopes of living longer. Some say they even aid in weight loss by decreasing waist circumference.
Some studies using Goji berry juice found benefits in mental wellness and athletic performance, quality of sleep, and overall good health. .


Here are the facts:

Goji berries can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried  and are used in herbal teas, juices and wines.
They are bright orange-red berries that comes from a shrub native to China.

In general , research shows that eating berries, such as blueberries, cranberries and  strawberries offers some health benefits. Berries, such as Goji,  are packed with antioxidants and other compounds that may help prevent cancer and other illnesses. It is well known that antioxidants may also boost the immune system.

Eating foods high in antioxidants minimizes damage from free radicals that injure cells and damage DNA. By doing so, antioxidants may  help reduce the risk of some serious diseases.

Goji berries also contain vitamin A, which aids in  protecting vision.

In two separate RCT in animal models, the berry juice was been shown to increase metabolic rate, reduce body weight  and produce general feeling of well being by increasing energy levels (Amagase et al.).
In another study in mice, supplementation of the berry polysaccharides was shown to protect against exercise induced oxidant stress (Changbo et at.)

In another animal study, the berry extract improved neurological deficits and cerebral edema in mice with ischemic stroke (Yang et al).

In a Chinese review study, experiments have shown that the polysaccharides components are the major contributor to the biological activities in the berries (Jin et al.).

Some research suggests that Goji berries may boost brain health and may protect against age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's. More research is needed.

While Goji berries are a rich source of antioxidants, and research may be promising for health benefits, it is unclear whether they are any more nutritious than compared to other berries. Also, it is unclear which variety( the raw, dried or supplement) are the most effective.

Try this new and fun recipe- to be used in the food demonstration component of our workshop:

Goji Berry Chocolate Truffles

 ¾ cup roughly chopped or sliced almonds
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
1 cup dried goji berries
1 cup apricots (or golden raisins, cranberries, cherries)
2 Tbsp. agave syrup (or honey)
½ cup unsweetened coconut for rolling (another trendy food!!)


I purchased these on Amazon!

Place ingredients in a food processor (except for agave and coconut) and process until finely ground.

 Add agave and pulse until thick dough forms.

Use a tablespoon or small cookie dough scoop to shape mixture into truffles. Coat scoop with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

 Roll in coconut and store in an airtight container.

Makes 30 small truffles.


If you are interested in the nutrition facts, contact me at