Monday, September 29, 2014

17 Delicious Apple Recipes for Fall

After you've stuffed yourself with Honeycrisps, Sweet Tangos, and Jonagolds at the farmers market, you should start thinking about ways to incorporate your favorite fall fruit into your daily meals. From puffed apple pancake for breakfast, to stuffed streusel apples for dessert, plus savory goodness like a roasted apple and winter squash soup, here are plenty of ways to get your apple fix this fall.

You can find apples to eat and cook with all year round, but you get the best variety in the fall. Apples are an incredible ingredient to use in recipes because they are inexpensive and are easy to work with. They also offer a wonderful sweetness to any recipe.

But before you go off gallivanting in the farmers market in search for apples to use in these recipes, you should know they are not all created equal. Some apples are best for baking, while others are best eaten on their own. Read this guide for finding the best apples for all your baking needs.

So which recipe will you make first? Will you delve into the apple loaf, or start of strong with an apple pie? Here are 17 recipes to get you started.

Apples for Breakfast 

Apples for Dessert

Apples for Lunch, Dinner, Snacks & More

[via the kitchn]

The Best Apples for Baking

Apples are one of our favorite fruits to bake with — they're inexpensive, easy to find, available year round, and last a long time. Whether they're baked into a pie, grated into muffins, or shingled into a beautiful tart, this fruit can do it all. But not all apples are designed for baking, so here's what you need to know!

Texture Is Key

When baking with apples, you need to keep in mind that texture is really important. Good baking apples have a balance of intense sweet-tart flavor and will not fall apart when thrown into the oven. They should hold their shape and not turn into mush — remember, you're not making applesauce!

Also remember that sometimes baking apples don't taste so great raw and out of hand but are delicious once baked up. Since there are so many apple varieties out there and what's available to you may be very region dependent, here's a list of some of our favorites.

Good Apples for Baking

  • Baldwin
  • Braeburn
  • Cameo
  • Cortland
  • Empire
  • Fuji
  • Gala
  • Golden Delicious
  • Granny Smith
  • Honeycrisp
  • Honey Gold
  • Jonagold
  • Jonathan
  • Melrose
  • Mutsu (Crispin)
  • Northern Spy
  • Opalescent
  • Orin
  • Pink Lady (Cripps Pink)
  • Rome Beauty
  • Rhode Island Greening
  • Winesap

Tips for Baking with Apples

  • Variety. Using a blend of tart and sweet apples makes for a more complex-testing pie. A blend of apples will also contribute varying textures.
  • Chopping. When cutting up apples for quick breads and muffins, cut some of the pieces smaller so they "melt" more into the batter as they cook and break down.
What apples do you like to bake with?
[via the kitchn]

Thursday, September 25, 2014

It's Harvest Time! 10 Snacks We Fall For

Falling for autumn we are; the cozy, warm harvest comes as a welcome reprise from the fruity wiles of summer. Crisp red apples, hearty sundry squashes, hot spices and comforting soups, what a celebratory time of plenty filled with gratitude for the fruitfulness of life and deliciousness wafting in the wind.

Here are our chosen autumnal evening snack recipes, designed to give you the sustained energy you need to take care of yourself, your family and your work – with some left over for playing in the leaves.

1. Apple Cranberry Baked Brie

Slice a wheel of Brie cheese (with rind) in half. Top the bottom half of the circle (sliced edge up) with a mixture of 2 tablespoons maple syrup, one tablespoon unsalted melted butter, one small chopped apple, ⅓ cup sliced natural almonds and ⅓ cup dried cranberries, saving a bit of the mix to go on top as garnish. Put the top section of Brie back on and bake at 350°F for 7 minutes. Garnish with the remaining fruit and nut mixture and serve with table-water crackers.

2. Pumpkin Soup

This easy and delicious soup is a great appetizer at an autumn dinner or on its own for a filling afternoon snack. Puree 2 cups of cooked pumpkin (or you can used canned) along with 4 cups vegetable stock, ½ cup milk, one tablespoon butter, one tablespoon Bragg’s seasoning and ¼ cup dry milk. Heat until boiling, and enjoy!

3. Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal Deluxe

Cook steel-cut oats according to package directions, then add any (or all!) of the following for a warm autumn snack that will keep you going for hours: butter, cream, brown sugar or maple syrup, chopped apples or applesauce, roasted nuts, raisins or dried fruit, plus a dash of cinnamon and salt.

4. Baked Squash Rings

Cut an acorn squash (any color) into ½” rings, discarding the seeds and membrane. Arrange slices in large baking dish, pour ½ cup of orange juice over the rings, cover with them loosely with foil and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. While the rings are baking, combine ¼ cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons each maple syrup and butter in a saucepan. Bring it to boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Brush this mixture over the squash slices and continue to bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the squash is tender and lightly browned.

5. Harvest Salad

Top your favorite greens with half of a chopped Granny Smith apple and ¼ cup each of dried sweetened cranberries and roasted walnuts. Crumble 1-2 ounces of blue cheese on the salad, and then finish it off with creamy balsamic vinaigrette for a delicious salad that is bursting with different fall flavors.

6. Apple Dip

This easy dip is great for apples or any kind of fruit. Combine one 8-ounce carton of sour cream with two tablespoons brown sugar and a half-teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir in ½ cup of toasted pecans or walnuts, and enjoy with your favorite kind of apple!

7. Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin is packed with nutrients, and these yummy pancakes are super moist and perfect for a leisurely brunch. Prepare pancake batter as usual. Add half a can of pumpkin-pie mix to the batter for each four servings of pancakes you are making. Top with maple syrup plus a handful of roasted pecans. Great for breakfast, an afternoon treat or a dinnertime dessert!

8. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

After you carve a pumpkin, don’t throw out the seeds! Instead, rinse them and cook on a greased baking sheet for 25-35 minutes at 325°F, stirring about every five minutes. Flavor simply with salt and pepper or get creative with other spices like cayenne, cumin and chili powder.

9. Autumn Snack Mix

Roast 8 ounces of pecan halves in 350°F oven for 4 minutes; stir, then roast for another 4 minutes (you can brush the pecans with butter before you roast them for added flavor). Cool completely, then salt the nuts lightly and combine with 4 ounces of dried, sweetened cranberries and 4 ounces of dried, sweetened apples. If you have a sweet tooth, you can add Reese’s pieces, candy corn or autumn-colored M&Ms.

10. Baked Apples with Cranberry Sauce

Preheat oven to 350°. Core four Granny Smith apples to within ½” of the bottom. Mix together ¼ cup whole-berry cranberry sauce or relish, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and then stuff into the apples. Put apples in baking dish and cover with foil. Bake in middle of oven until very tender when pierced and still intact, 1 to 1 1/4 hours (start checking apples for doneness at 45 minutes). Serve alone or topped with vanilla ice cream and a handful of toasted walnuts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What the ‘Organic’ Label on Chicken is Hiding

If you think buying organic chickens keeps you safe from added antibiotics, think again. Organic chickens are not necessarily 100% antibiotic-free. There is a loophole, allowing unhatched eggs and freshly born chicks to be administered small doses of antibiotics, including the powerful antibiotic gentamicin. Even if the label reads “organic”, the law regulating antibiotic use in organic products doesn’t kick in until the second day of life. So, while unhatched and during the first 24 hours, organically-destined chicks are allowed to be raised conventionally, including antibiotics. But, do unhatched chicks really need to be dosed up with antibiotics?

The prolific use of antibiotics in livestock has raised significant concern over antibiotic resistance in humans. Two million people develop antibiotic resistant infections each year, over 1% of which prove to be fatal. The increase in this number is associated with our increased use of antibiotics in everything from livestock feed and water to unhatched eggs. By giving all of our livestock mass amounts of antibiotics, we may be encouraging antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Regardless, organic chickens should be antibiotic-free from the egg. You would think that there would be a stipulation in the law stating that all organic chickens must come from organic, no-antibiotic hatcheries. But, alas, there isn’t. Therefore, an organically raised chick may have come from a non-organic hatchery, meaning that chicken spent its crucial development stages in non-organic, antibiotic-laden conditions. In many such hatcheries, eggs are poked with a thin needle to inject sterilizing antibiotics to prevent common chicken diseases. This unnecessary, as many have found a decreased incidence of disease once moving away from antibiotics since the hole leaves an opening in the shell for unwanted antibiotic-resistant bacteria to potentially slip through. (Note: This practice isn’t used in eggs meant for eating.)

Antibiotic-free means that no antibiotics were ever administered, so make sure you look for that phrase on your organic eggs. Interestingly, Perdue recently announced its shift towards 100% antibiotic-free hatcheries. The company steadily made the shift away from administering antibiotics to its chickens, and the eggs are a final piece of the puzzle. They have succeeded in keeping 80% of their hatcheries antibiotic-free thus far — to great success — which is a tremendous step for the massive corporation and an example for other large companies.

The blanket use of antibiotics in mass scale livestock production has been deemed inappropriate and unnecessary by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Make sure you know what you’re buying — do your research and read the labels. If you don’t want antibiotics injected in chicks, sign this Care2 petition.

[via Care2]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Protein 101

At this point, everyone has heard talk of high-protein diets. But what do you really know about protein? You know you can get it from meats and beans — but if that’s all you know about protein, then you have a lot to learn.

First thing's first: What the recommended daily serving is for men, women and children? According to, serving sizes are different depending on your sex and age. Teenage boys and active men need three daily servings (7 ounces total), while women, children ages 2 to 6 and the elderly need two servings (5 ounces total), says. Older children, teenage girls, active women and men who aren’t as active need 6 total ounces, or two servings.

But What, Exactly, is Protein?

Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, a blogger at Fannetastic Food, explains: “Protein is a macronutrient that is a vital structural plus working substance in all cells. Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids, which all have the same basic structure. There are nine essential amino acids — essential means that the body can't make them itself so we must get them through food.

“Protein is necessary in body growth, repair and replacement of damaged tissue,” Mauney continues. “It can also facilitate or regulate body reactions (as an enzyme); is a major structural component of all cells and the building blocks of muscle, skin, blood, bones, teeth, ligaments and tendons; and can act as hormones, transporters or antibodies as well.”

So why does everyone talk about eating protein in order to maintain weight or aid in weight loss? Mauney says it’s all about satiety. “Protein is the most satiating macronutrient,” she adds, “which means that eating protein helps send signals to your body that you are getting full.”

Straight to the Source

According to the CDC, there are many sources of protein: animal-based foods, such as red meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs and cheese; legumes; tofu; nuts; and seeds. But what are the best forms of protein to eat?

“Protein from animal sources is higher quality because it contains all of the essential amino acids," Mauney says. "Vegetarian protein is an incomplete protein, as it does not contain all the essential amino acids, but simply pairing foods together that have complementary proteins (e.g., rice and beans) is a great way for vegetarians to get all the essential amino acids.”

Bonus tip: “You don't have to have all the essential amino acids in one sitting, either — having those complementary proteins at different times of the day is also fine,” according to Mauney.

Everything in Moderation

While high-protein or so-called low-carb diets are very popular, when trying to lose weight, Mauney prescribes to the “everything in moderation” school of thought. “If you are lacking protein, it's certainly important to add some in, but limiting carbs more often than not just leads to disordered relationships with food and a lot of guilt around mealtime, which can lead to restrict/binge cycles,” she says. “Don't be scared of carbs!”

Additionally, Mauney recommends eating protein throughout the day. “Whether you want to lose weight or just maintain weight, I'd always recommend having some form of protein at each meal of the day, and at snack time, too. Adding some protein to breakfast in particular is a great way to feel more satisfied through the day/morning.”
[via HellaWella]

Friday, September 19, 2014

Meet Muesli, Oatmeal’s Cool Cousin

What the heck is muesli? The term “muesli” (pronounced “MEWS-lee,” as in rhymes with “loosely”) is derived from the Swiss-German word “mus” — meaning, appropriately enough, “mixture.” The mixture consists of rolled oats, nuts, seeds, fresh or dried fruit and other whole grains, like rye or barley. Admittedly, this makes muesli sound an awful lot like granola. Although both foods can be good sources of whole grains, fiber, fatty acids and protein, granola is often toasted in oil and sweetened with honey or a syrup, making it much higher in fat and sugar.

Muesli, alternatively, consists of raw ingredients either eaten like cereal, with milk, yogurt or even fruit juice added right before serving, or it can be soaked ahead of time. Soaking muesli creates a texture similar to chilled oatmeal, making it an attractive breakfast option during the dog days of summer. Of course, muesli also can be heated, if desired. Muesli Fusion, a cereal manufacturer, suggests cooking a half cup of muesli with a half cup of water or milk over medium heat until boiling, stirring frequently. Alternatively, microwave equal parts muesli and water or milk on high for two minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir. Cold, hot, raw, soaked — muesli is a choose-your-own-adventure type of cereal.

According to The Kitchn, soaking muesli also might provide greater nutritional benefits because a substance called phytic acid in unsoaked grains’ outer layer joins forces with such nutrients as calcium in your body to hinder absorption. You wouldn’t want all your healthy-eating hard work to go down the drain, would you? Personally, as muesli lacks the enjoyable crunch of traditional granola, I prefer the texture of soaked muesli — even adding the milk half an hour before breakfast makes the cereal much more palatable. The oats and grains drink up the milk, becoming tender and soft, while the dried fruit rehydrates and plumps up. Yum!

The invention of this nutritious breakfast is credited to the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner in the early 20th century, developed as a means to help alleviate and prevent disease in his patients. The original recipe allegedly consisted of oats, raw apples, condensed milk and lemon juice. Eventually muesli was mass-produced, which led to the addition of dried fruits, a very concentrated source of sugar. Some packaged varieties of muesli boast of their 50% fruit content, luring unsuspecting dieters into consuming more sugar over breakfast than they would in a chocolate bar.

Alternatively, making your own muesli and adding fresh berries or fruit is a good way to get plenty of dietary fiber without the sugar high. One cup, or 85 g, of muesli provides 6.2 g of dietary fiber, according to the USDA Nutrient Database. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends adults consume 25 g to 38 g of fiber each day. Although muesli is not a low-calorie food — a half-cup contains anywhere from 144 to 250 calories, depending on the brand and ingredients, and that does include the added calories from milk, yogurt or juice — the fiber and protein content of muesli creates a feeling of fullness to keep you going until lunchtime. The USDA reports that a half-cup of muesli contains 4 g of protein, providing 9% of women’s and 7% of men’s recommended dietary allowance. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, high-protein foods move more slowly from the stomach to the intestine, and the body uses more calories to digest protein than it does to digest fats or carbs. So, while muesli is not a light breakfast, per say, it can help end your mid-morning snack habit.

My favorite store-bought muesli is the German-made, all-natural Seitenbacher Muesli #2 (Berries Temptation), which contains no trans-fat, cholesterol, sugar or artificial colors and preservatives. Although fairly calorie-conscious, with 160 calories in a 2/3-cup serving, the inclusion of dried apples, dried raspberries and raisins does boost the sugar content to 11 g per serving — and I like to add fresh peach or banana slices to bulk it up a bit, meaning, well, more sugar. Those wanting to tame their sweet tooth and make their own nutrient-dense muesli in bulk can check out this gluten-free and vegan recipe from the food and nutrition blog Nutrition Stripped. This muesli version includes lots of good-tasting, good-for-you ingredients, like quinoa flakes, pumpkin seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, goji berries and ground cinnamon.

Making muesli is pretty fool-proof, as you can throw in your favorite nuts and fruits into the mix and almost certainly create a tasting, satisfying breakfast. You’ll never go back to boring old oatmeal again.
[via HellaWella]

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 b├ęchamel, 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.