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Chia: not just your average seed


When it comes to recent food trends, it is almost impossible to ignore the increased use and popularity of Salvia hispanica L.

Salvia hispani… what?

Salvia hispanica L. is popularly known as chia seeds. This mint-related plant is leaving its mark on the food industry and is ever so prevalent on the Internet. If you do a quick Google search you will find plenty of recipes using chia seeds, and you are likely see people raving about this gluten-free seed on Pinterest and other social media networks, too.

Chia seeds, which date back to the ancient Aztecs, have shot to the top of the “superfood” lists, creating a craze with consumers. Perhaps it is their versatility that is so appealing. You can use chia seeds to make beverages, desserts, crackers, breading and more.

The seed can be consumed whole or ground, and may be easily added to foods such as yogurts, smoothies, oatmeal and other cereals. A unique property of the seed is its ability to turn gelatinous or gummy when soaked, allowing it to be used as a thickening agent in recipes.

This feature comes in handy when using chia seeds as a substitute for eggs in baking. To use chia seeds instead of eggs, soak one tablespoon of ground chia seeds in three tablespoons of water for five to 10 minutes. This is usually the equivalent of one egg. In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, it was found that 25 percent of eggs or oil in a recipe could be replaced with the chia gel without affecting the functional or sensory properties of the result. By using chia seeds instead of oil or eggs, it decreases the caloric and fat content of the final product. Continue Reading »

Nutritional benefits of Navy beans


Navy beans, you know them, those small off-white colored beans that look… well, pretty plain. Did you know they pack a nutritional punch?

Navy beans, like most beans, are high in fiber and low in fat – perfect for folks who want to eat healthier or who are watching their waistlines. These beans are high in potassium, which plays a role in blood pressure regulation. They are also high in protein, which is great news for anyone wanting to increase their intake of plant-based foods. They are a good source of iron, too.

Interesting fact: Navy beans got their name because they were a staple food in the US Navy during the 19th century. They are also referred to as the white pea bean, but Navy bean is its more popular name.

It is the bean most commonly used to make baked beans. They have a mild taste and this allows them to pair well with other foods. They can be used to make spreads or dips and take on the flavor of spices used in those recipes. Continue Reading »

Brown rice stuffing for Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, albeit an adopted holiday for me since Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Latin America, where I grew up. This holiday brings together family, friends and of course good food. My family grills turkey on a charcoal grill, serves mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a broccoli cheese dish, green beans, salad, cranberry sauce, homemade rolls and an assortment of pies (cherry, pumpkin, sweet potato, apple and sometimes pecan pie too). One of the dishes that has recently been added to our menu is stuffing; in part due to the addition of my niece’s husband to the family, who claims this is his favorite part of the meal. So in honor of our expanding family and palates, here is a recipe for a brown rice stuffing.

1/2 cup slivered almonds
2-3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 medium tart red apple, cored and diced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 cups cooked brown rice (cooked in chicken or vegetable broth)

Cook almonds in butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add apple, onion, celery, poultry seasoning, thyme and pepper; continue to cook until vegetables are tender crisp. Stir in cooked rice; cook until thoroughly heated.

Use as stuffing for poultry or pork roast, or bake tightly covered in a separate baking dish at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes. Continue Reading »

Apples: so much variety, so many benefits!


Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith—these are just a small portion of the 7,500 varieties of apples grown around the world. Apples come in all shades of red, green and yellow. With so many different types out there, it may be challenging to decide which apples to buy, especially now that we are in the midst of apple season and plenty of fresh apples are available.

All types of apples are good sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants with only slight variations in nutritional value. Below is a brief description of some of the most popular apples.

Red Delicious is probably the most recognized apple in this area. When you say ‘apple’ the Red Delicious is often what comes to mind. Red Delicious apples have the highest source of antioxidants and are great defenders against cellular damage.

Fuji apples are sweeter, crisper and have a longer shelf life compared to other varieties. In fact, when refrigerated properly, these apples can last up to a year without spoiling! In addition to their lengthy shelf life, these apples are high in potassium. Potassium is a mineral that acts as an electrolyte in the body and helps to regulate heart rhythm, blood pressure and muscle movements. Golden Delicious and Gala apples are also good sources of potassium.

Granny Smith apples are known for their crispness and tart flavor. While vitamin C is a nutrient found in most fruits and vegetables, Granny Smiths have particularly high levels. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, aids in wound healing and with repairing and maintaining bones and teeth.

Next time you are at the grocery store or farmer’s market, keep an eye out for the varieties of apples that are grown right here in Wisconsin! It is always a good idea to buy local products as they do not have to travel as far and are fresher in taste. Of the types listed above, Gala apples are most likely to be grown locally. Continue Reading »

Back-to-school nutrition supplies


Going back to school is a life event that brings a mixture of emotions for parents: relief that the erratic summer schedule is done, sadness at seeing their little ones start school for the first time or enter a new grade level, or pride in seeing their student reach milestones like high school or their first year of college.

My Facebook feed gets filled with school registration photos at this time of year, along with posts from parents stating how proud they are for beating the store rush and buying all of their school supplies a month ago. I was one of them, too. I also stocked up on healthy food items in preparation for packing my daughter’s lunch.

As you’re planning your student’s lunches, consider what would make for nutritious choices that she or he could consume in about 20 minutes that would also keep them full for a while. Below are my go-to choices for my daughter’s lunches this school year: Continue Reading »

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