Sunday, 23 February 2014

A Healthy Heart

In honor of American Heart Month, I wanted to showcase THE most heart-healthy sandwich I think I have ever eaten. Monounsaturated fat from the avocado, lycopene in the tomatoes and soluble fiber from many of the vegetables, all which can aid in heart health. This sandwich was amazingly tasty and left me feeling good after eating it. 

While cardiovascular disease is currently the #1 cause of death in the United States, it is preventable and there are many ways to keep your heart healthy through what you eat.  Here is a list of a few tips to help support your heart!

-To help lower cholesterol, focus on consuming foods high in soluble fiber, which can help to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the blood.  Soluble fiber is found in foods like oatmeal, apples, beans, carrots, barley and citrus fruits.  

-Reduce the intake of high saturated fat foods such as fatty red meats and full-fat dairy.  Instead, make the switch over to 1% or skim milk and yogurt, use olive oil over butter and choose leaner cuts of beef (ie sirloin, tenderloin).  Other healthier protein options include chicken breast, tofu, egg whites and fish.

-Eat more omega-3's! These are fatty acids that can help increase the good cholesterol (HDL) while reducing triglycerides (fat in the blood) and lowering blood pressure.  Many omega-3 sources come from fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, whitefish and halibut.  If fish isn't your thing, you can get your omega-3 fix from foods like olive oil, walnuts, and flax seed however it isn't absorbed as easily as omega-3's from fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish per week. 

-Consuming more unsaturated fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) can also help to improve cholesterol levels.  Most oils with these fats will be liquid at room temperature (olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil). Other great sources include all nuts, seeds and avocados.

-No more trans fat! While NYC has been off trans fat for a number of years, there are still many areas across the country that support its use.  Mostly, trans fat is man-made and created to help increase the shelf life of products. Consuming this type of fat has been shown to lower the good cholesterol (HDL) while raising the bad (LDL). It also has been associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes. No good all around!   

These are just a few of the ways to help reduce the risk of heart disease.  Along with diet, focusing overall on a healthy lifestyle is key. Reducing alcohol intake, minimizing stress and not smoking also are impactful on health.  Know your cholesterol numbers and see a doctor and a registered dietitan to help make your heart health a priority!


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Me Want Cookies

Last week, my Professor in my Food and Finance class asked the students: if they could choose their "last meal", what would it be?  While people dreamt of grand meals full of expensive wines and foie gras, the first thing that came to my mind was warm chocolate chip cookies.  And prosciutto (of course).

The chocolate chip cookie is an amazing thing. It can be slightly crispy yet chewy, a little salty and sweet. It's perfect. I decided to make these cookies for a co-worker on her birthday. It was also a really good excuse to have freshly baked cookies on a Thursday evening. 

While I'm not an advocate for the consumption of excessive sweets, I think eating something you really love is so worthwhile.  When it comes to higher calories meals or desserts, I always try and focus on "mindful eating." This practice attempts to bring the focus back to the food itself by removing distractions during eating (TV, internet, etc), taking smaller bites and really tasting the flavors and complexities of the food.  

Studies have shown that practicing mindful eating can help aid in weight loss and allows for higher appreciation of the food.  By putting the focus back into what you are eating and eating more slowly, it can help increase satisfaction with a meal and hopefully reduce cravings and overeating of high calorie foods.  

With that said, everyone should enjoy a really great cookie once in awhile and I guarantee this one is worth eating! 

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie 

This recipe can vary in how many cookies it can make depending on the size of the cookie.  I made around 3 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted 

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with oil. 

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set to the side. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well incorporated.

3. Beat the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk into the sugar/butter mix until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand or with a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/8 cup (2 Tbsp) at a time onto the baking sheets. Space the cookies around 3 inches apart as they spread while baking.  

5. OPTIONAL STEP: If desired, refrigerate cookie dough for an hour or more (can leave it for more than 3 days but who can be that patient?) Refrigeration helps the dough develop flavors and gain a better texture. This of course, is not mandatory, but certainly makes for a delish cookie.  

5a. OPTIONAL AGAIN: another addition to the cookie would be to add a really flaky sea salt like Maldon to the top of the cookie after it's baked and cooled slightly. Seriously, who doesn't love a salty-sweet combo? 

6. Bake the cookies off for around 15 minutes (that was my sweet spot) but I recommend checking around the 10 minute mark for smaller cookies and around 18 minutes for VERY large cookies. 

7. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely a few minutes after they're removed from the oven.

8. Enjoy with a nice cold glass of milk!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

2 countries, 3 cities, 3 days

This past weekend I took a nice long trip upstate to visit my sister at her college in Plattsburgh.  To be honest, I didn't have high hopes for the food scene upstate. I guessed there were just a ton of chain restaurants and a sub shop here and there.  I was pleasantly surprised and very wrong!

We ventured to a wine tasting shop, a food co-op and had Himalayan food! A rarity even for NYC dwellers. The Himalayan dishes below were fantastic.  They were spice-filled and super flavorful.  None of the food on the menu used butter and minimal oil was used when possible, which was a bonus.  The food of this region is very hearty and comforting which is perfect while upstate in 10 degree weather.    

While Plattsburgh was fun, we decided to cross the border into Canada to have the ever famous poutine. Essentially poutine is fries covered in gravy and topped with cheese curds.  The one below has an addition of different types of sausages and hot dogs which is also very popular with those Canadians. While this is certainly an amazing late night food, I wouldn't go back for seconds in the day time. 

Lastly we came to Burlington, Vermont.  While driving down the road we passed people ice fishing and saw beautiful landscapes which I could imagine look even better in the summertime.  Of course I had to try some Ben and Jerry's (just a little) at one of the shops on Church Street.  While we didn't go to the factory, this stuff still did the trick.  
After that we headed to the Magic Hat Brewery.  Who knew it was in VT?? There were a number of VT-only brews on tap which I got to try. Steve's Sour was my favorite--an IPA with passion fruit.  A plus at this place is that the tour of the brewery is free and it comes with 4 beer tastings (also free).  I highly recommend coming if you are a fan of Magic Hat.  

Seeing all these unique cities and trying their own specialties was a lot of fun and I can't wait for my next trip to see what interesting treats I can find!

Keep avidly eating.