Archive | February, 2016

The 411 on Eggs & Cholesterol (feat. Huevos Rancheros)

21 Feb

Egg lovers, rejoice! The US government released their latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans last month and one of the most controversial changes was their decision to remove limits on dietary cholesterol. Historically people have been advised to limit their cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day in order to reduce the risk for heart disease. Since one large egg contains 186 milligrams of cholesterol, eating anything more than one egg per day was frowned upon.

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Why the new recommendation, you ask? Over the past several years, evidence has emerged to suggest that cholesterol in our diet is not the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol levels. Saturated and trans fats—most commonly found in fatty meat, full-fat dairy, and packaged and processed foods made with hydrogenated oils—have more of an impact on blood cholesterol levels, and the US government continues to recommend that we limit our intake of saturated fat to less than 10% of our total calories. For the average person, this amounts to no more than 20 to 30 grams of saturated fat per day.

Before you go hog-wild on eggs, there are a few other things that you should know. Studies have shown that eating up to 1 egg per day is not associated with increased heart disease or stroke in the general population; however, people with diabetes have an increased risk for heart disease if they eat 1 egg (or more) per day.  In people without diabetes, one whole egg per day—or 7 per week—is probably not going to do you any harm. Eggs are a good source of protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, riboflavin, and folate—and most of the egg’s nutrition is in the yolk. If you already have high cholesterol, heart disease or diabetes, be cautious about the number of egg yolks you eat and take into account other sources of saturated fat in your diet. Egg whites can be incorporated into scrambled eggs, omelettes, and quiches in place of some of the whole eggs for similar flavour and texture with much less saturated fat and cholesterol.

With all of this talk of eggs, I’ve had a major craving for my favourite brunch dish: huevos rancheros. It’s hard to beat Mexican flavours for breakfast, plus it happens to be a perfect gluten-free brunch dish when family or friends with celiac disease come to visit. I found this recipe following a search for beanless huevos rancheros, since legumes and my tummy don’t always get along. The simple yet spectacular chipotle salsa is top notch with its mild heat and smokiness, but the true star of the dish is the corn tortillas. We have the luxury of living 10 minutes away from a tortilla factory, but you can usually find them at specialty food shops or in the refrigerated or frozen section of your grocery store.

¡Buen Provecho! (the Spanish version of “Bon Appetit”)

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Huevos Rancheros
(adapted from Epicurious.com)

6 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
8 (5-inch) corn tortillas
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice (preferably no-salt-added)
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus additional for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used 1/4 tsp which tasted good, but E thought a bit more salt would be best)
8 large eggs
1 avocado, sliced

  1. Preheat oven to 200°F. For the sauce, purée tomatoes with their juice, onion, cilantro, chipotle, garlic, and salt in a blender until very smooth. Set aside.
  2. To warm the tortillas, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Stack 2 tortillas in skillet and cook 30 seconds, then flip stack over with tongs and cook 30 seconds more. While second tortilla cooks on bottom, turn top tortilla over with tongs, keeping tortillas stacked. Flip stack again and cook in same manner, turning over top tortilla and flipping stack again so that both tortillas are softened and both sides puff slightly, then deflate (do not let them become browned or crisp). Wrap tortillas loosely in foil and keep warm in oven. Cook remaining tortillas in the same manner, adding 1 teaspoon of oil to the skillet for each batch.
  3. Once tortillas have been warmed (and are resting in the oven), add tomato purée carefully to the hot skillet (it may splatter) and simmer, stirring occasionally, until salsa is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
  4. In a separate pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a 12-inch heavy non-stick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then crack 4 eggs into skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes for runny yolks, or to desired doneness. Transfer to a plate and keep warm, covered, then cook remaining 4 eggs in remaining teaspoon of oil in same manner. Season eggs with salt and pepper.
  5. To serve, spoon 1/4 cup salsa onto each plate and top with 2 tortillas, slightly overlapping them. Transfer 2 eggs to tortillas on each plate and top with some of remaining salsa. Divide avocado between 4 plates. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 405 kcal, 24 g fat (4.4 g saturated), 33 g carbohydrate, 6.3 g fibre, 17 g protein, 495 mg sodium.

 

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Loaf Potion #9: Cranberry Orange Nut Loaf with Zucchini and Carrot

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day! February is heart month, where national organizations in both Canada and the US strive to increase awareness of heart disease. In addition to achieving a healthy body weight (check here to see where you’re at) and being physically active, diet plays an important role in reducing your risk for heart disease. Limiting sodium, saturated fat, and trans fats can help prevent heart disease along with increasing your intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, and soy.

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Instead of making E’s favourite brownies for Valentine’s Day, I decided I would switch things up (much to his dismay) and make a healthy loaf full of whole grains, vegetables, and nuts— all for a happy heart. This loaf recipe has been one of my favourites since I discovered it many years ago. Grated carrots and zucchini add a hint of colour and texture, dried cranberries add a pop of sweetness, and the addition of orange zest and juice seem to bring all of  the flavours together really nicely. It tastes good the day it’s made, but even better the next, so make this loaf a day in advance for maximum flavour.

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In my opinion, there’s no better way to say “I love you” than with a heart-healthy loaf this Valentine’s Day. Or at least that’s what I keep telling E…

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Loaf Potion #9: Cranberry Orange Nut Loaf with Zucchini and Carrot
(from The Looneyspoons Collection)

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (the original recipe calls for all-purpose flour)
2/3 cup oat bran
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated, unpeeled zucchini

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or coat lightly with oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, oat bran, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Make sure you get all of the lumps out of the brown sugar. Stir in cranberries and nuts.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, eggs, orange juice concentrate, and orange zest. Stir in carrots, and zucchini. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake on middle oven rack for 45 to 50 minute, or until loaf is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in centre of loaf comes out clean.
  5. Cool loaf in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and cool completely on rack. Cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature or in fridge. To serve, cut loaf into 8 thick slices, then cut each slice in half (this is easier than trying to cut into 16 thin slices!)

Makes 1 large loaf (16 slices). Per slice: 150 kcal, 5.3 g fat (0.8 g saturated), 24 g carbohydrate, 2.6 g fibre, 268 mg sodium, 4 g protein

The Great Vitamin D Debate (feat. Seafood Chowder)

1 Feb

Vitamin D has been in and out of the news over the past few years, but it really made waves this week thanks to an attention-grabbing campaign by the Yukon government. If you haven’t seen the ads, learn more here.

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Vitamin D is well-known for its role in bone strength, but also plays an important function in keeping our immune system healthy. There is growing evidence that vitamin D may also reduce cardiovascular risk, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers.

Much of the world can obtain adequate vitamin D from the sun. UVB rays from the sun convert a vitamin D precursor on the skin to a form called vitamin D3, which is then transported to your liver and kidneys to be converted into active vitamin D. Sounds easy, right? Not so fast. If you live north of the 37th parallel (e.g. San Francisco), it’s virtually impossible to meet your vitamin D needs year-round from the sun. And since Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods, obtaining adequate amounts from the diet is challenging. In fact, it’s the only nutrient that Canada’s Food Guide recommends obtaining in supplement form for adults over the age of 50. Kind of a big deal since the food guide always promotes food first.

So how much vitamin D do we really need? In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM; a trusted organization that sets dietary targets for vitamins and minerals) updated their vitamin D recommendations to 600 IU per day for children and adults aged 9 to 70 years. Several years later, research groups from Alberta and California independently reported on statistical errors in the IOM analysis and suggested that the current vitamin D recommendations are too low to promote health. The US researchers stated in a 2015 press-release that the current IOM recommendations for vitamin D are “only about one-tenth those needed to cut incidence of diseases related to vitamin D deficiency.” Health Canada currently recommends that adults over the age of 50 take a daily supplement containing 400 IU, while Osteoporosis Canada advises healthy adults between ages 19 and 50 to take 400-1000 IU daily (with those over 50 years and younger adults at high risk of osteoporosis needing 800-2000 IU daily).

If you’re still confused, the good news is that vitamin D is relatively safe. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for Vitamin D ranges from 2500 IU for children, to 4000 IU for adults over 70 years. Not convinced that you need a supplement?  Try to get more vitamin D from your diet by regularly consuming cow’s milk (or fortified plant beverages) and fatty fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, or sardines. Even still, it can be challenging to get enough unless you eat fatty fish daily (3 ounces of salmon contains 300 IU) and several glasses of milk (1 cup contains only 100 IU).

An easy fish chowder, like this Maritime seafood chowder, can help you meet your vitamin D needs (tip: use salmon to optimize your vitamin D intake). It’s the perfect meal if you’re short on time and looking to pump up your bone health!

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Classic Maritime Seafood Chowder
(from Dairy Farmers of Canada)

1 tbsp butter, margarine, or oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried dill or dried thyme (use 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced (I leave the skin on)
2 cups water or fish stock
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 cups chopped raw skinless fish fillets or cooked seafood (shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab, clams, oysters) or a combination
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Optional: Add up to 1-1/2 cups chopped carrots, red bell pepper or corn kernels with the onion for extra colour and nutrition.

  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat; sauté celery, onion, bay leaf, dill, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper for about 5 min or until onions start to brown. Stir in potatoes; sauté for 2 min.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high; stir in water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and boil for about 5 min or until potatoes are almost tender.
  3. Whisk flour into milk and stir into pot; bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in fish or seafood; simmer, stirring often for 5 min or until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork or seafood is hot. Discard bay leaf. Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. Per serving: 266 calories, 5 g fat, 38 g carbohydrate, 4.1 g fibre, 19 g protein, 290 mg sodium.