Friday, April 23, 2010

Mexican Night!

Ever since we moved from Arizona to Minnesota, we try to make Mexican food at least once a week. Maybe we miss the southwest or maybe we are just accustomed to culinary traditions of Phoenix. Either way, the smell of cilantro, jalapenos, and cumin in the kitchen immediately make our mouthes start to water. One of my all time favorite dishes to make on these nights is Tortilla Soup. The flavor is hard to beat and it surprisingly incredibly filling for a soup. Try making this one night to accompany your favorite Mexican entree. You won't be disappointed!

Tortilla Soup

1 tablespoon canola oil (We've been using this a lot more recently with all the talk of Omega 3's)
1 medium size jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 medium size yellow pepper (or 1 small yellow one and 1 small orange one), diced
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 teaspoons cumin (depending on your taste preference)

*In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once oil is heated, add the above ingredients and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occaisionally

1 tablespoon tomato paste
5-6 cups of low sodium chicken stock (We like to make big batches of chicken stock and store it in the freezer. So much better than the canned variety. But we still go to the canned stuff in a pinch :) )
~1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small chunks
~1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice

*Add tomato paste, stir well, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Next add the chicken stock and cook for about 10 minutes on low heat with the lid on. Add the raw chicken to the soup, stir well, and then cover. Cook for another 10-15 minutes on low heat. Add the cilantro and the lime juice, cover, and cook for about 3 more minutes.

You can stop there and it will be really good. But to send it over the top...

Top the soup with a small dollop of sour cream, some chopped avocado pieces, and some tortilla strips that you can cut and bake in the oven with a little bit of salt on top until crispy.

Mmmm..I think I'll go for a second bowl now...

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Nutrition Soap Box

Anyone that knows the two of us, knows that we LOVE to travel. And since there is nothing better on a plane than a good book, my library card is invaluable. Recently, my favorite topic to read about is nutrition. I love being in shape but hours at the gym are to no avail if we come home and have trans fat, empty calories, and a complete lack of nutrient rich food. The more I read though, the more I want to get on my soap box and preach about what I’ve learned. So I have come up with my top 5 things I think everyone should know when it comes to what we eat every day.

1.) I think we forgot what a serving size is. Sure, some people look at labels and say “Hey, it’s only so many calories per serving. That’s great.” It may be great, but eat 2-3 servings at one sitting and you are getting 2-3x those calories. For the most part, a serving size for meat is 3-4 ounces. That is about the size of a deck of cards! I know that we have a tough time keeping within those portion sizes. I think the main thing to really be careful with is serving sizes of soda, snacks, and carbs. Watch those and you’ll be good.

2.) Mutligrain bread is not necessarily Whole Grain Bread. Bread is a staple in most of our diets. And if you are going to be eating bread, the best bread to eat is whole grain bread. The recommended daily allowance of grains is 5-8, with a minimum of 3 of those being whole grains. However, be careful when you snag a loaf of bread off the shelf. The first ingredient listed should ALWAYS be “Whole Grain” in some form. Next time you are at the grocery store, check out the ingredient list on some loaves marked “multi grain.” I was surprised to see how many had a first ingredient of “Enriched Flour.”

3.) The myth that eating healthy is too expensive is just plain false. I think this can go hand in hand with serving size. Our diets should include way more fruits and vegetables than anything we can buy off a shelf. One of the best tips when grocery shopping is to stay on the perimeter. The middle aisles are most likely the processed foods that we don’t need (and if you look at the ingredient list, you really don’t want). Buy what’s in season and you’ll be spending less on the fruits and vegetables. If the ones in seasons are not ones that you are a fan of, stock up on the frozen varieties. Also, eating less will cost you less. Eating a 16 ounce pack of cookies that cost you $2.00 will pack on the pounds a lot faster than a pound of apples at 99 cents a pound.

4.) The food pyramid still exists. Remember that pyramid that we all learned about as kids? The government still has recommended daily allowances because research has shown that those servings are best for our health. The pyramid may have changed by minor details over the years, the main idea still exists. Get your whole grains in, your fruits and vegetables next, and then round off your day with proteins in dairy, meat, and other non meat proteins. That small tip of the pyramid that is made up of fats is a small portion for a reason. I think that we tend to forget that and our pyramid, and our bodies, quickly becomes out of shape.

5.) Vitamins that are added to food are not better than the foods with vitamins already in them. There is a line in a commercial that says that grapes are “the original grape flavored food.” So many processed foods are “vitamin fortified.” However, the foods sitting on the shelf are not healthier than the good old real thing hanging out in the produce aisle. There is something to be said about eating something natural; something that came from the earth, not a lab.