Monday, September 15, 2014

Wheat Free Alternative Grains and Other Plant Sources

Whole grains are a big part of a healthy diet. They make up a large part of the bottom of the food pyramid. But it’s not just whole wheat and brown rice. As you take on the wheat-free lifestyle, you soon discover the wide variety of grains to choose from.

In recent years there has been a frenzy of interest around quinoa. It’s just one of the grain alternatives you can choose from. All of these are healthy swaps in your favorite breads, pastas and side dishes.
Quinoa an alternative to wheat flour.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)

This is a nutritious super-food that’s actually a nut from Peru. Quinoa has a slightly nutty flavor. It cooks faster than rice, in about 15 minutes. It’s a versatile ingredient that’s good as a hot cereal or ground into flour. It adds moisture to baked goods. Try it in a dish like Autumn Root Vegetables with Quinoa.


This seed has a nutty flavor. They need to be ground to get the most nutritional fiber value, although they can be toasted whole first than Flax seed an alternative to wheat flourground for later use. Add them ground to add to salads, cereal and bread dough.

Liquid flaxseed oil is also available. Try this recipe Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Breast with Flax and Wheat Germ Breading.


This alternative to wheat is not a member of the wheat family and it isn’t technically a grain, but it’s often used in place of grains. It’s a good alternative for those with wheat allergies. Diets rich in buckwheat seem to promote lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Buckwheat is sold both roasted and raw and used whole, cracked or ground into flour. Use as a flour in pancakes with this recipe Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes.


The amaranth is a broad-leafed, bushy plant that grows about six feet tall. It has brightly colored flowers that can contain up to 60,000 seeds. The seeds are nutritious and are ground into flour. Not a true grain, amaranth is often called a pseudo-cereal. Amaranth belongs to the plant family that includes beets, chard, spinach, and some weeds. Try these recipes made with Amaranth flour, like Amaranth Pasta , Amaranth Pancakes, or Traditional Amaranth Atole Recipe.

Rice flour

Rice flour is used to enhance other grains. Available in both white and whole grain brown, rice flour is finer than wheat.


Millet is a drought-tolerant grass. The seeds can be used as a sorghum substitute. It can be used like rice, served creamy or fluffy.

Oat Flour

Oat flour is another great alternative to wheat. When using oats you should select gluten-free oats. These are specially-selected varieties that have eliminated the cross-contamination with wheat, barley and rye.

There is also Almond flour and Coconut flour that are becoming the top of the list alternatives to using wheat.

These are the most popular whole grains or other plant sources you can find to substitute for wheat. Each has its own unique flavor and can be used in many different ways to add variety to your cooking and baking.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lunch Ideas For Back To School

Back to school time is the perfect opportunity to start packing a healthier lunchbox with these healthy kids lunch recipes and kids snack ideas. Our easy lunches for kids are quick to pack, especially our bento lunchbox recipes. Pack our Pizza Roll-Up Bento lunch for a healthy kids lunch your child won’t be willing to trade!

Egg Salad Bento Lunch

This egg salad bento box is a hearty lunch and snack all in one. Spoon the egg salad into a lettuce “bowl” to keep it looking pretty and enjoy with cocktail bread and veggies. Toss banana and blueberries with yogurt to keep the bananas from turning brown. Save the chocolate chips and pistachios for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Pizza Roll-Up Bento Lunch

This easy pizza-inspired roll-up is a kid-pleaser. Make crunchy vegetables more appealing by selecting colorful varieties like orange and purple cauliflower—and don't forget the dip! Keep 'em smiling with watermelon cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Toss leftover cooked chicken with barbecue sauce and crunchy carrots for a quick and healthy lunch.

Turkey, Corn & Sun-Dried Tomato Wraps

Fresh corn kernels, tomatoes and lettuce fill these hearty turkey wraps. This wrap is great for picnics or when you need to have dinner on the run. Add some crumbled feta or shredded cheddar for another layer of flavor. Serve with carrot sticks, sliced bell pepper or other crunchy vegetables plus your favorite creamy dressing.

Salmon Salad Bento Lunch

Watercress acts as a tasty divider between the salmon salad and crackers. Multicolored peppers and grapes add color to this bento and boost your daily servings of fruits and veggies.

Broccoli-Cheese Pie

If you want to give this a fancy name, call it a crustless quiche. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the Canadian bacon.

Soy-Lime Tofu & Rice Bento Lunch

Tofu, rice and vegetables are classic bento ingredients. Make extra rice for dinner and roll leftovers into balls for lunch. To keep green veggies vibrant and crisp, cook them briefly and immediately dunk them into a bowl of ice water. You can also use cubed store-bought baked tofu in place of the roasted tofu.

Tuscan-Style Tuna Salad

This streamlined version of a northern Italian idea is perfect for a summer evening: no-fuss, no-cook and big taste. You can even make it ahead and store it, covered, in the refrigerator for several days. If you do, use it as a wrap filling for the next day's lunch.

Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip

Stir lemon pepper into cottage cheese for a quick and healthy vegetable dip. We like carrots and snow peas, but any crunchy vegetables you have on hand will do.

Zesty Bean Dip & Chips

Stirring salsa into versatile canned refried beans makes a quick and healthy bean dip. It also works well as a sandwich spread with your favorite vegetables and a sprinkle of cheese.

Frogs on a Log

Give this childhood treat a savory twist by swapping the peanut butter and raisins for cream cheese and olives. For a spicy snack, try chopped pickled jalapenos instead of olives.

Lemon-Parm Popcorn

Perk up your popcorn with a bit of lemon pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Chocolate-Banana Grahams

A graham cracker smeared with Nutella and topped with banana and coconut is a light way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Recipe: Lighter Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Spinach & Red Peppers

We are getting into the days when hearty casseroles and warm cheesy things are starting to sound like a good idea again. My absolute favorite time of year. Put this casserole on your list — it's a veggie-filled riff on baked mac 'n' cheese that doesn't require a roux or even much prep at all, beyond cooking the pasta. It hits that sweet spot of comfort food that has enough redeeming nutritional qualities to justify having it both for dinner and lunch the next day.

This "lighter" baked macaroni and cheese casserole relies on a combination of cottage cheese, sour cream, and shredded cheese for its creamy base. This somewhat surprising combo is one I've been using for years, ever since discovering it in Heidi Swanson's recipe for Mushroom Casserole on her blog 101 Cookbooks. I love this sauce because it requires zero stovetop cooking or fussing with a roux to make béchamel, and it's just as creamy and satisfying. If you're not a fan of cottage cheese or even (gasp!) sour cream, never fear — everything melts together into one deliciously cheesy sauce.

I've made this casserole with both whole and low-fat versions of cottage cheese and sour cream, and honestly, I couldn't tell much of a difference. If you're looking to shave a few more calories off this dish, this is definitely an option. Just stay away from no-fat versions — they'll work, but you can definitely tell that the dish is lacking some essential awesomeness.

The only thing that needs cooking before throwing this casserole in the oven is the pasta. You can also assemble the whole shebang the evening or the morning before and put it in the oven when you walk in the door (just extend the initial, covered, cooking time by about 15 minutes). This casserole can also be frozen, uncooked or cooked; just cook the pasta very al dente so it doesn't get mushy.

Are you craving this yet? I hope so. I can't wait for dinner tonight.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Spinach & Red Peppers

Serves 8
12 ounces macaroni (2 1/2 cups dry macaroni)
12 to 16 ounces baby spinach (7 to 8 large handfuls)
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
2 (12-ounce) jars roasted red peppers, drained and diced
Fresh pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 3-quart casserole dish with nonstick coating.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water generously and add the macaroni. Cook until the pasta until it's just barely al dente — a little bit of chew is fine here. Drain and immediately transfer the hot pasta to a large mixing bowl.

Add the spinach and toss to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dinner plate and let the spinach wilt in the heat of the pasta for about 10 minutes. Shake the bowl occasionally to mix up the pasta and spinach — some of the spinach may not completely wilt; this is fine.

Whisk the eggs until well-combined, then whisk in 2 cups of the cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and salt. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and wilted spinach. Add the diced red peppers and gently stir until combined and all the ingredients are evenly coated with sauce.

Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil. At this point, the casserole can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking.

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top of the casserole. Bake, uncovered, for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and you can hear the casserole bubbling. (If baking straight from the fridge, extend the covered baking time to 45 minutes.)

Let the casserole cool for a few minutes before serving. Leftovers will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to a week.

Recipe Notes

  • Substitute low-fat (1% or 2%) cottage cheese and sour cream if desired. Non-fat substitutes can also be used, but the casserole will be looser.
  • To freeze: The entire casserole can be frozen, baked or unbaked, but cook the pasta very al dente so it doesn't get mushy. Warm baked casseroles in the microwave or a low oven until warmed through. Cook unbaked casseroles straight from the freezer for an hour, then uncover, top with cheese, and continue baking until bubbly.
[via The Kitchn]

Friday, September 5, 2014

Glycemic Index 101

Curious what the glycemic index actually means and if it’s relevant to you? Find out here what it is and why you should keep it in mind when shopping and eating.

Glycemic index and glycemic load offer information about how foods affect blood sugar and insulin. The lower a food's glycemic index (or glycemic load), the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. You can view an extensive list here.

Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Low GI Foods (55 or less): 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread, oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli, pasta, converted rice, barley, bulgar, sweet potato, corn, yam, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes and lentils, most fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots

Medium GI (56-69): Whole wheat, rye and pita bread, quick oats, brown, wild or basmati rice, couscous

High GI (70 or more): White bread or bagel, corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal, shortgrain white rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese from mix, russet potato, pumpkin, pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers, melons and pineapple

What’s the difference between glycemic index and glycemic load? The glycemic load takes into account serving size.

Glycemic Load gives a relative indication of how much a serving of food is likely to increase your blood-sugar levels. Glycemic load estimates the impact of carbohydrate consumption using the glycemic index while taking into account the amount of carbohydrate that is consumed. For example, watermelon has a high GI, but a typical serving of watermelon does not contain much carbohydrate, so the glycemic load of eating it is low.

As a rule of thumb, most nutritional experts consider Glycemic Loads below 10 to be "low," and Glycemic Loads above 20 to be "high." Because Glycemic Load is related to the food's effect on blood sugar, low Glycemic Load meals are often recommended for diabetic control and weight loss.  Click here for examples of glycemic load.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

12 Recipes for Healthy Homemade Chips

Crunchy and salty, how we love this snack time power couple! There’s no substitute for the crave-worthy flavor and satisfying texture that make carb-centric snacks so delicious. But store-bought chips are usually fried in an unhealthy amount of oil, which packs a significant amount of fat. Instead, try baking your own homemade chips by using vegetables, fruits and whole-wheat pitas. We’ve rounded up this list of healthier chip recipes that will certainly cure your case of munchies. Just don’t forget some salsa, hummus or dip!

Baked Sweet Potato Chips with Orange and Thyme

Orange juice and blood orange zest give an unexpected twist to the classic sweet potato chip. If you need to use more than one baking sheet, make sure to adjust the 20-minute bake time accordingly. Bonus: These are paleo-friendly!

DIY Pita Chips

It’s quick and easy to make your own pita chips, and this recipe tells you the how much of each spice is optimal for seasoning. Try adding Parmesan if you want a cheesy taste, or use nutritional yeast if you’re vegan. We recommend using whole-wheat pitas for a serving of heart-healthy whole grains.

Homemade Taro Chips

Known as the “potato of the tropics,” taro is a purple root vegetable that’s a good source of vitamins B6 and C. Eat these sophisticated chips au natural or class them up for a party by using them as a crunchy base for salmon tartar.

Garlic Bread Spinach Chips

Breadcrumbs, Parmesan and garlic give green leaves a kick in this savory snack that delivers a healthy serving of iron. Don’t skimp on the olive oil otherwise the delicious seasoning won’t stick to the spinach. And, be sure to use parchment paper on your baking sheet so your chips don’t burn.

Photo and Recipe: Veronica / The Vegetarian Ginger

Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips

Transform your apples into a cinnamon-y sweet treat! This recipe requires a three–hour baking and cool time, but the end result is worth it. We say fitting in a workout is the best way to make the time pass!

 Photo and Recipe: Dana / Minimalist Baker

Baked Chili Cheese Fritos

Tortillas, spices and olive oil come together to give your taste buds a spicy punch in this gluten-free and vegan recipe. It’s got all of the flavor and none of the suspicious ingredients found in the store-bought version that used to turn your fingers orange. Sprinkle these crisps on to chili or a hearty winter soup.

 Photo and Recipe: Belinda / The Moonblush Baker

Tofu Chips with Sesame and Miso

Asian-inspired seasoning made of miso paste and sesame seeds will take time to make, but the savory umami flavor is sure to get your taste buds’ attention. Pro tip: Make sure to press your tofu to release excess liquid before slicing it.

 Photo and Recipe: Amy / Kid Cultivation

Beet Chips with Curried Yogurt Dip

The sweetness of beets enhances these veggie crisps. To save some calories, skip the frying and bake these instead. They’ll pair perfectly with a mild dip that’s got extra protein from Greek yogurt.

 Photo and Recipe: Karielyn / The Healthy Family and Home

Lemon Dill Zucchini Chips

Tart taste lovers, rejoice! Lemony flavor steals the spotlight in this recipe. To slice your zucchinis as thin as possible to reduce baking time, use the thinnest setting on a mandolin slicer.

 Photo and Recipe: Zach and Clay / The Bitten Word

Microwave Sweet Potato Chips

If you don’t have an oven or a dehydrator, you can still make homemade chips with minimal equipment and ingredients. To prevent burning, make sure you keep a close eye as your sweet potato slices bake for 8 minutes or so since some microwaves emit an uneven amount of power.

Photo and Recipe:  Branny Boils Over

Hint of Lime Baked Tortilla Chips

A dash of citrus ups the ante on your standard Tex-Mex spread. The secret? Bake tortillas until they start to crisp, sprinkle them with a zest and salt mixture and then return to the oven for a few final minutes… Olé!

Photo and Recipe: Jaymee / E is for Eat

Pita Cups with Homemade Hummus

Though not technically a chip, these pita cups make a unique — and healthy! —  appetizer. Use an empty can or cup to make circular pita rounds, press them into muffin tins and voilà! You’ve got yourself a handy little cup just begging to be filled with hummus, salsa or artichoke dip.

Easy Ways to Eat Seven a Day

A new study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that adults who eat seven servings of fruits and veggies per day reduce their risk of premature death (e.g. from cancer and cardiovascular disease) by 42 percent. Find it challenging to eat your seven-a-day? Try these doable tips.

An apple a day? It might take a few more, according to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. After adjusting for factors including alcohol use, age, and physical activity, researchers found that adults who ate seven servings of fruits and veggies per day reduced their overall risk of premature death—particularly from cancer and cardiovascular disease—by 42 percent. Vegetable intake appeared to promote longevity the most.

Find it challenging to eat your seven-a-day? Try these doable tips.


  • Top Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries and fresh raspberries.
  • Stir 1 cup fresh blueberries into muffin or pancake mix.
  • Mix chopped kale into your scrambled eggs.


  • Top cooked quinoa with sliced tomato and artichoke hearts. 
  • Blend up a batch of chilled gazpacho with cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and more. 
  • Top pizza with balsamic vinaigrette-dressed arugula.


  • Mash half an avocado with salt and pepper; spread on toast.
  • Pair lightly blanched broccoli florets with hummus.
  • Spear cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, and small mozzarella balls onto toothpicks.


  • Sauté chopped or sliced red bell peppers, red onion, tomatoes, and cilantro; eat with soft corn tortillas.
  • Add capers, chopped olives, and roasted eggplant to linguini.
  • Drizzle carrots, beets, and parsnips with olive oil, salt, and pepper; roast until tender and serve with meat or fish.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Food Trends to End Summer in Style

This past summer, we've been noshing at and enjoying wine, beer and food festivals in the area. Booze and food just about makes any summer event near perfect. After all, summer is all about great eats against the backdrop of the season's longer days and warmer weather.

With it all about to come to a close with August's end, here are the hot late summer food trends to wrap your summer up in style and kick off fall right when it comes to what you're eating:

1. Peppers -- The pepper has always held a place in the food world, whether it were hot and spicy or crisp and sweet. Cayenne pepper is turning up in everything at the moment from chocolate to beverages and drinks, and just about everything in between. Whole peppers stuffed with everything from cheese to meats are equally as trendy. The great part is this is an easy trend to play with at home -- just add a little cayenne to whatever it is you're eating.

2. Leaf Vegetables in Unexpected Pairings -- Leafy vegetables might seem to be standard and a little bland or plain, but the new way to eat this classic food item is in ways you wouldn't expect. It goes beyond the lettuce wrap to leafy greens paired with everything from pasta to couscous or quinoa. Mustard greens and beet greens are also on trend at the moment -- try them sautéed with a little olive oil as a side to any dish.

3. Root Vegetables at Breakfast
-- The explosion of low carb eating has brought a lot of unexpected vegetables to the breakfast table. Tomatoes on the side has always been a classic, but now roasted or even raw root vegetables are fast making a spectacular appearance.

4. Herbs -- Many herbs are in season during August through early fall, but the trend of using herbs of all kinds has been a big thing in the food and drink world this past year. Sprigs of rosemary, fresh sage, thyme, you name it -- especially in desserts and sweets. It's a savory twist to a lot of classics. Have fun and experiment!

5. Fruit at Dinner -- The appearance of fruits at the dinner table isn't new, but it's certainly making the rounds as a chic menu play. Grilled peaches with meat or fish, persimmon served in a savory sweet sauce over chicken and rice, apples raw or baked into everything from turkey dishes to sandwiches, have been popular.

6. Creative Vegetarian -- The vegan and vegetarian dishes at the moment are incredible -- and rarely signal to being completely free of meat. Long gone are the days of bland and strange tastes and textures! There are so many incredible pairings, creative ideas, and unexpected dishes everywhere. Even meat eaters will crave it! It's particularly popular in cheese alternatives -- cashew cheese is so good, you won't know you're eating something dairy free.