Tag Archives: sundried tomato

The Beef on Red Meat & Cancer (feat. Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Meatballs)

29 Mar

Red meat has been at the centre of much controversy over the past 6 months. Bacon-lovers were up in arms when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, released a report in October 2015 describing the association between processed meat and cancer risk. The report classified processed meat (such as hot dogs, ham, and sausage) as “carcinogenic to humans” and red meat (such as fresh beef, veal, pork, and lamb) as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

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Processed meats are thought to be cancerous because of the chemicals that form during salting, curing, fermentation, or smoking. These chemicals include N-nitroso compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Based on epidemiological studies, IARC felt that there was sufficient evidence to say that eating processed meats causes colorectal cancer. For every 50 gram portion of processed meat consumed daily, it is estimated that your risk of colorectal cancer increases by approximately 18%.

But what about fresh red meat? What makes it more likely to cause cancer than other meats, like poultry and fish? Unfortunately the experts don’t seem to fully understand. What they do know is that cooking red meat at high temperatures (for example, barbecuing or pan-frying) can lead to the production of carcinogenic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic aromatic amines. Epidemiological studies have shown a positive association between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer; however, the IARC is quick to say that the evidence remains limited because confounding factors could not be excluded in these studies.

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Does this mean that we should avoid all processed and red meat?

Yes and no. To all the bacon-lovers out there: I’m sorry to say this, but it’s probably a good idea to avoid processed meats as much as possible. Red meat intake, on the other hand, should be limited but you don’t need to completely avoid it. The World Cancer Research Fund International recommends limiting red meat to 500 grams per week, which amounts to approximately 6 deck-of-card sized servings. Keep in mind that the average North American is accustomed to eating portions of meat that are double this size, so keeping portions in check is an important way to reduce your cancer risk.

If you aren’t convinced that a small portion of beef or pork is going to cut it when you sit down to dinner, try using ground meat and incorporate other ingredients like veggies, grains, or legumes to add bulk. This way you can feel like you’re eating a reasonably-sized portion while keeping your red meat intake under 100 grams.

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Meatballs are a great way to stretch your meat portion without sacrificing nutrition or taste. I first stumbled across this spinach and sun-dried tomato meatball recipe several years ago, fell in love with the amazing flavour, and then promptly forgot about it and haven’t made it since. Until now.

Frozen spinach offers many healthy nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin K, folate, and fibre while adding a pretty green marbling to your meatballs. It doesn’t change the flavour all that much, in my opinion, which is where the sun-dried tomato comes in. Don’t skimp on this ingredient! The sun-dried tomato adds a pop of umami with every bite and is what make this meatball so irresistible. A bit of Parmesan cheese rounds out the Mediterranean-inspired flavours to add more depth and a hint of saltiness.

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Cora versus the Meatball tower

My favourite thing about meatballs, second to eating them, is how easily they freeze. I tend to bake a large batch, cool them in the fridge for a day, then toss them in a freezer bag for easy storage. When a quick protein is needed for dinner, I pop a few in the microwave and…voila! Dinner is served.

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Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Meatballs
(adapted from Kath Eats Real Food)

1 pound (454 grams) extra-lean ground beef
10 ounces (300 grams) frozen spinach, thawed and drained very well of all liquid (tip: wrap in paper towel and squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained well and chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup panko
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray (or coat lightly with vegetable oil).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients with your hands.
  3. Divide mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs (about 20) and place onto foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip each meatball. Bake for another 10 minutes, or until meatballs begin to brown.

Makes 20 meatballs. Per 4 meatballs: 250kcal, 8.6 g fat (2.7 g saturated), 15 g carbohydrate, 2.7 g fibre, 27 g protein, 363 mg sodium

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Mediterranean Broccoli Salad

11 Nov

If I had to rank my favourite vegetables, broccoli would be among the top 3. Hands down. For starters, its bright green colour gives off a healthy “halo” and adds visual appeal to any plate. Its firm texture and crunch means it takes a bit of chewing to ingest, which helps you feel more satiated than some other vegetables (like a serving of sautéed greens, which I can gobble down in seconds then immediately find myself wanting more). Broccoli is hardy, so it can be stored in the fridge for many days (even weeks!) without drying out. And it’s relatively affordable, so it won’t break the bank if you’re eating it regularly.

If you’re still not convinced, broccoli’s nutritional profile should make you a believer. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K, providing 100% of your daily needs of each in a one cup serving. Like many other dark green vegetables, it’s a source of folate and fibre, and contributes some (albeit a small amount) of calcium towards your daily requirements. As a member of the cruciferous family, it contains phytochemicals that have potential anticancer properties. One such component, diindolylmethane, has been used in clinical trials by the U.S. National Cancer Institute as a therapeutic against various forms of cancer.

Today I had the day off of work. Instead of catching up on errands and projects around the house, I thought I would bring lunch to a friend who is going through a difficult time. Broccoli salad popped into my head as a nice accompaniment to Moroccan quinoa salad and maple-Dijon-lemon-dill chicken breasts, but I was craving something different from the standard creamy version with raisins and bacon. Plus, raw broccoli doesn’t always agree with my tummy so I wanted a recipe where the broccoli could be cooked.

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Amongst a sea of mayonnaise-based recipes, I found a Mediterranean-style broccoli salad that combined sundried tomatoes, olives, and feta in a lemony vinaigrette. It was fate, I thought, since my fridge had all of these ingredients tucked away. I made a few modifications, including less olive oil to keep the salad lighter and less salt as the ingredients themselves seemed salty enough. To keep my digestive tract happy, I steamed the broccoli briefly then dried it well to minimize added moisture (if raw broccoli is your thing, the original recipe does NOT call for cooking so skip this additional step). My only mistake was that I tossed the salad last night, forgetting that acid turns green vegetables brown (my undergrad food science professor would be so disappointed!). Luckily, the dull greenish appearance of the salad didn’t bother my friend and didn’t detract from the delicious taste.

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This salad is simple yet flavourful. The umami from the sundried tomatoes and olives adds a punch of flavour, which is balanced nicely by the earthy roasted almonds. A great make-ahead dish for potlucks, or for every day!

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Mediterranean Broccoli Salad
(adapted from CookieandKate.com)

Broccoli Salad:

1 large head of broccoli, florets removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup minced shallot or red onion
1/3 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, patted with paper towel and chopped coarsely
1/8 cup thinly sliced kalamata olives
1/8 to 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup slivered or slices almonds, toasted

Dressing:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of red pepper flakes

  1. In a large pot, steam broccoli until just slightly tender (do not overcook!). To quickly stop the cooking process, rinse broccoli with cold water, then plunge into a bowl of ice cold water. This will also minimize browning.
  2. In a medium serving bowl, combine shallots, sundried tomato, olives, and feta. Add broccoli once cool.
  3. In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and whisk until combined. Toss salad with dressing approximately 30 minutes before serving. Add almonds just before serving.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 200 kcal, 12 g fat (1.7 g saturated), 20 g carbohydrate, 6 g fibre, 8 g protein, 650 mg sodium

Make-ahead Breakfast Strata

28 Dec

Happy holidays!  It’s been a busy yet relaxing week filled with many Fs: family, friends, fun, and fabulous food.  I feel particularly thankful around this time of the year as I know there are many less fortunate than myself.  Despite living in different cities, my immediate family was able to connect again this year.  As we get older and life gets busier, work may not always allow us to travel to spend the holidays together.

Sand-sculpted nativity scene spotted on the beach on Christmas Day

Sand-sculpted nativity scene spotted on the beach on Christmas Day

Christmas morning is the perfect time for a wholesome, make-ahead breakfast to balance the feast that follows later in the day.  This year my mom suggested a strata and I had the perfect recipe in mind.  If you’re not familiar with the term, a strata is essentially just a savory bread pudding.  This strata uses whole grain bread, an equal ratio of egg to egg whites, and is brimming with veggies.  Outside of the holidays, this recipe is perfect for cottage weekends– a bit of quick prep the night before and the dish is ready to go into the oven the following morning. No fuss, no dishes to wash.

I wasn't able to sneak a photo before we dug in-- everyone was too hungry!

I wasn’t able to sneak a photo before we dug in– everyone was too hungry!

I recently bought myself a new camera (Merry Christmas to me!) so you’ll have to bear with me and my many photos as I learn to navigate its settings.  Stay tuned for a few more recipes over the next week or two.  It’s been a treat having the time to cook proper meals!

Layers of goodness

Layers of goodness

You may want to keep an eye on the strata at the 45 minute mark to prevent charring on top!

Keep an eye on the strata at the 45 minute mark to prevent charring on top!

 

Broccoli, Mushroom, and Cheese Breakfast Strata
(adapted from Foodnetwork.com)

4 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups), and preferably a sweet onion, e.g. Vidalia
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups (8 oz) sliced mushrooms
5 cups cubed, whole grain bread
8 eggs and 8 egg whites
2 cups low-fat milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1o oz frozen broccoli, thawed (or you can steam fresh broccoli, then cool)
1/3 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated extra-old cheddar cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced sundried tomatoes, reconstituted
2 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp salt  (the original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp but some reviewers said it was too bland)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 1 minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a medium bowl and allow to cool.
  2. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in the skillet and saute the mushrooms until they release all of their water, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  3. Spray a large rectangular glass dish (9″x13″ or larger) with cooking spray. Arrange the bread cubes in the dish.
  4. To the onion mixture, add mushrooms, broccoli, and sundried tomato.  Pour over bread cubes, ensuring vegetables are evenly distributed.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, egg whites, milk and mustard until incorporated.  Add Parmesan and cheddar cheeses, thyme, and salt and pepper and stir to incorporate.
  6. Pour mixture over vegetables and bread, making sure liquid saturates bread.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.
  7. The next day: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the plastic wrap from strata and bake for 60 minutes, or until top forms a light brown crust and no liquid remains when knife is inserted into centre. You may want to place a baking sheet under the dish to prevent any spillage. An extra 15-20 minutes may need to be added to the baking time depending on the size/depth of your dish – cover dish with foil during this period to prevent the top from burning.

Makes 9 servings. Per serving: 297 kcal, 22 g CHO, 4 g fibre, 15 g fat (5.1 g saturated), 21 g protein, 710 mg sodium.