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Veggie Prep + Fall Veggie Recipes

I don't know about you, but my life is pretty hectic sometimes. A million things can be pulling me in different directions causing me to get in an eating slump pretty dang quick! This last week could have been a prime example.  I took a trip to my parents' home in Wisconsin to visit and catch up on some family time.  Wisconsin is such a beautiful, wild place. I love to soak up the quiet, peaceful mornings and take them back on the road with me as we travel for work.  As many of you know, nothing can set off an eating extravaganza like a mini-vacation. It's the perfect storm for over-indulgence on unhealthy choices. I'm all for vacationing and splurging and treating yourself here and there, but if left unchecked those nasty little choices can become habits when you get home.

Turning a blind eye to all the glorious, golden cheese in Wisconsin, I decided to use my parents' large kitchen to do some veggie prepping and stock-piling healthy foods to bring home with me.  My first stop was their local Farmer's Market.

Anyone living in the Minneapolis Metro Area, (Western Wisconsin included) needs to check out their local farmer's markets.  Ya'll have these amazing farmers both local Wisconsinites and the beautiful Hmong immigrants. Hmong are immigrant farmers typically from the hills of Laos who were refugees settled in the US after fleeing from the Laotian Civil War.  The Hmong people are some of the best farmer's I have ever met. They are kind and generous with their crops and can grow vegetables & fruits in ways not many can.  Their produce is just spectacular!  So I loaded up on Fingerling Potatoes, Green Beans, Hmong Long Beans, Beets, Purple Onions, Lettuce, Jicama and Cucumbers! And all for such great prices.

I headed back to the house and began trimming my beans, scrubbing my potatoes, boiling the beans and blending my cucumbers.  I'll explain more in depth on the cucumbers as I can see you scratching your head and thinking I'm crazy :)

After trimming my green beans, I blanched them in boiling water until they turned bright green, maybe a minute or two. I pulled them out and plopped them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. After they had cooled, I packed them in quart sized baggies for the freezer. These green beans come out of the freezer super fresh after thawing and can be eaten with hummus as if they were fresh or added to a number of recipes! I'll list a couple of my favorites below.

The beets are one of my favorites. (They never used to be!) I trim the top and bottom of each beet, tossing the beet greens as they as look pretty ragged.  I plop them in boiling water and let them cook anywhere from 15-40 minutes depending on the diameter of the beets.  I try to boil like sizes together so they all get done at the same time. A simple fork test by piercing the beets will tell if they're done. Kinda like a baked potato.  I immediately drain them and refill my pot with cold water. I let them sit for 5 minutes to cool so I can handle them. After they've cooled slightly, I begin peeling the rough skin off.  Not with a pairing knife, but with my hands alone. By boiling and then cooling the beets, the skin slips off them very easily.  After they're peeled, I cube or slice them and pack them into quart sized bags for freezing. Beets thaw VERY well and do not change in texture or taste in the least bit.

Lastly I began prepping my cucumbers. I'm not a huge fan of cucumbers, but I do love Cucumber Water. Cucumbers are a natural diuretic, meaning they help reduce water weight and help the body flush itself of excess sodium. But they don't keep in the fridge very long, so "stocking up" can be difficult, but I found an easy way.  I first peel my cucumbers completely.  Peeling them will remove any gritty or tough textures when blending.  Then into the Vitamix Blender they go! Once they're liquified I pour them into a ice cube tray and freeze them! With every glass of water I drink, I remove a cucumber puree cube from the freezer and add it to my glass! Fresh Cucumber Water!

With the last of my produce, potatoes, onions and jicama, I simply keep those on the bottom of my refrigerator in the vegetable crisper. Important note: Do not store potatoes and onions together as they encourage spoilage of one another.

Bacon Wrapped Green Beans
Green Beans with Red Pepper and Garlic
Steamed Green Beans with Carrot Dill Dip

Ruby Red Beets & Carrots with Dill
Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze
Beet Chips

Good vs Bad: A Healthy Guide to Fat

For years, both doctors and nutritionists were continually preaching that low-fat diets were the way to not only lose weight, but to save the generations from things like heart disease and high cholesterol. Fat in the 1980’s and 1990’s was the enemy. Fat free sour cream, fat free crackers and cookies, fat free ice cream…everything became fat free.

Now we are learning through the studies and research of men like Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, author of the new book, Brain Maker, that all fats are not created equal. “One of the myths I’m always trying to dispel is that fat is unhealthy. Most people think those high-fat foods are the reason their pants are fitting a little tighter.” He says in his article Exposing the Secret of Healthy Fats. He goes on to share that it’s less about the quantity of fat and more about the type.

Wait…isn’t fat…fat?

Nope! In sharing this with my clients, I immediately get some strange looks and questions… “You want me to eat more fat? Are you sure?” and I answer with a resounding “YES!” This is one of the main reasons that our American Society is overweight and by allot! According to the Center for Disease Control, one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of US adults are obese compared to 1970, before the fat free craze began, when only 11.7% of adults were overweight. That’s a big jump and it all started with the overly processed, fat-free fever.

Most foods contain several different kinds of fats, and some are better for your health than others. So how do you weed through years of information and get down to the source of health? Don’t worry…I’ve done it for you! Here’s a look at the different types of fat, their effects and the healthy fat choices you should be making.

Harmful Dietary Fats

Trans Fat: This type of fat rarely occurs in natural foods and if so, in very small amounts. Most trans fats are made from oils through processed foods through a method called “partial hydrogenation”. By partially hydrogenating oils, they become easier to cook with and less likely to spoil in your pantry. Studies show that an increase in trans fat increases unhealthy LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL (good cholesterol). This unhealthy concoction can drastically increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, overall cholesterol levels and your risk for Type 2 Diabetes.

What to Look Out for: Processed Foods sold at room temperature usually contain the most saturated and trans fats due to the lack of spoilage. But be aware, these unhealthy fats are stored all over the grocery store. Try to avoid or limit things like potato chips, French fries (frozen section), snack cakes or pies (sorry Little Debbie), shortening, crackers, cake mixes and frostings, pancake and waffle mixes, chicken nuggets (frozen section), certain flavors of Haagen-Dazs ice cream, non-dairy creamers, microwave popcorn, high fat yielding meats, cookies, jerky or meat sticks, canned chili and packaged pudding. These tend to have the highest levels of trans fats.

Instead Opt for foods that are as unprocessed as possible.
Homemade baked goods using coconut oil instead of canola oil or shortening.
Air popped popcorn with a little grass-fed butter and sea salt.
Baked Veggie Chips or one of my favorite Black Bean Chips, Beanitos.
Homemade Ice Creams or Puddings.
Grass-Fed Butter in moderation instead of margarine.
Goat cheese instead of cheddar.
Part Skim Mozzarella instead of processed nacho cheese.
There are alternatives to almost everything! Check out our Recipe section for more ideas!

Saturated Fat: This type of fat comes mainly from animal sources such as red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Now before you run to the fridge and freezer and start chucking your steaks and butter, let’s take a closer look. Saturated fats, when paired with a high carbohydrate diet, raises total blood cholesterol levels and LDL, which are your low-density lipoprotein levels. This can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. The Saturated fat & high carb combo may also increase your risk of Type 2 Diabetes by increasing the fat storage in the liver and around the intestine, impairing insulin action. Now, that being said, there is a balance needed to a meat-eating diet. When looking at our healthy plate, here is the breakdown. A Healthy plate should contain one-fourth protein, another half vegetables and the remaining one-fourth grains is an important ratio when trying to control your health risks for diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as your waste line.

Choose cuts of meat that provide a great amount of protein, flavor and have low levels of saturated fat and eat them in the right proportions. These are lean cut meats like chicken breasts, beef round roasts, sirloin steaks, salmon or halibut, turkey breast and pork tenderloin. Remember before cooking to remove any unnecessary animal fat. We all know fat means flavor, so add a couple teaspoons of a healthy fat like olive oil to meat before sautéing or grilling! Replace the bad with good!

Healthier Dietary Fats

These types of fats are mostly unsaturated and are a critical need for our bodies. As Dr. Perlmutter says, “The body needs a balance of two types of essential fats: anti-inflammatory omega-3’s and pro-inflammatory omega-6’s. This balance needs to be closer to a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio to ward of diseases like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. But due to our American diets of a 20:1 ratio….we are simply unbalanced.

Monounsaturated Fat: We’ll call these MUFA’s. They improve blood cholesterol levels decreasing your risk for heart disease while benefiting insulin levels and blood sugar control!

Polyunsaturated Fat: Found mostly in plant-based foods and oils, we’ll call PUFA’s, also improves cholesterol and blood sugar levels!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These fatty acids are in direct relation to the health of your heart, so not only are they lowering cholesterol, but they are decreasing your risk of coronary artery disease. Say goodbye to early heart attacks with Omega-3’s! These fats also protect against irregular heartbeats and lower blood pressure. The best foods to increase your Omega-3 intake are fish! I’m not much of a fish lover, so I can understand the disappointment when I tell my clients to cut back on the bacon and add fish to their diet, but I have found some really yummy ways to help you enjoy fish a couple times a week. Check them out here!

Healthier Fats can be found in olive oil, safflower oil, salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring. Also flaxseeds, flax oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and other seeds like sunflowers and walnuts are super healthy for your heart!

Healthy Fat Recipes
Smoked Salmon Spread on Gluten Free Crackers
No Mayo Deviled Eggs
Goat Cheese Arugula Pizza
Dairy Free Pumpkin Latte
Homemade Almond Milk
Skinny Breakfast Tacos
Pecan Crusted Chicken Breasts
Veggie Beef Lasagna
Salmon Parmesan Fish Sticks
Mexican Salmon Burgers
Gluten Free Black Bean Burgers

Roasted Avocado Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Roasted Avocado Tomatillo Salsa Verde

2 ½ lbs. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 large onions
10 cloves garlic
4 jalapeños
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. salt
1c packed cilantro
3 avocados
1 lime (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Peel and chop the onions into quarters. Place the tomatillos, onions, garlic and jalapeños on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil.

Roast in the oven for 15 minutes—until the exteriors are blistered but the insides are still slightly raw.

Meanwhile, half the avocados, remove the seeds, and scoop out the flesh. Cut the jalapeños in half and scrape out the seeds. Discard seeds.

Place HALF of the tomatillos, onions, jalapeños and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until mostly smooth.

Add HALF of the cumin, salt, cilantro and avocado. Pulse until the avocado is pureed into the mixture. Taste for salt.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients. If you desire an extra tart quality, add a bit of lime juice at the end.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

One of my favorite things in the world is Mexican Food! So much so that I married a hispanic man to feed my need for Mexican Food because he's so handsome & sweet :) So when I came across a recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup, I had to do a recipe makeover!!  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have!

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1/2c green beans
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
1 medium jalapeno
4 cloves garlic
1 lb. chicken breast
6c low sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes w/chiles
1 tsp oregano
½ tbsp cumin
1 medium lime
½ bunch cilantro, chopped

Dice the onion, green beans, carrots, celery, and jalapeno (scrape the seeds out of the jalapeno before dicing). Mince the garlic. Cook the onion, green beans, carrots, celery, jalapeno, and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until tender.

Add the chicken breast, chicken broth, canned tomatoes with chiles, oregano, and cumin to the pot. Bring the whole pot up to a boil over high heat then reduce the heat to low, place a lid on top, and let simmer for one hour.

After simmering for an hour with a lid on, carefully remove the chicken breast from the pot and use two forks to shred the meat. Return the meat to the pot. Squeeze the juice of one lime into the soup. Get as much juice as possible from the lime by using a spoon to scrape the inside of the lime.
Rinse the cilantro and then roughly chop the leaves. Add to the pot, give it a quick stir, and serve.

Family Recipe: Baked Swedish Meatballs

The last several weeks I have been doing some genealogy research on my family and came across some cool information dating all the way back to the 1700's.  Tracing my ancestry back to Germany, Sweden and Norway, I found my mouth watering for my Grandmother's Swedish Meatballs!  With my diet restrictions in mind (dairy & gluten free) I decided to conquer her recipe while substituting my healthier options when necessary. To my surprise they turned out AMAZING!!  I really enjoy them with roasted veggies like carrots, asparagus and a few fingerling potatoes.  I hope that you enjoy the warmth of my favorite family comfort food as much as I have.

*Recipe Note: It's important to use 80/20 ground beef when making meatballs so they don't get dried out. We will be baking them on a rack to allow excess fat to drip off.)

Baked Swedish Meatballs

3 slices of gluten free bread (I use Udi's)
1/2c unsweetened almond milk
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp butter, divided
2 large eggs
handful of fresh parsley, chopped (you can use dried herbs too)
2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
salt & pepper to taste

In a large bowl, break apart the gluten free bread into large pieces.  Add almond milk and toss to coat. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, saute onions and butter until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add chopped garlic and cook 2 minutes. 

Drain off excess almond milk from bread.  Add sauteed onions and garlic to bread.  Stir, then add eggs, parsley and salt & pepper.  With a handheld mixer, mix ingredients on low-med until well combined.  Add ground beef and continue mixing with handheld mixer until all ingredients are well combined.

Preheat oven to 400F. With a spoon, scoop mixture into your hands and roll all remaining mixture into meatballs.  Place meatballs on a rack that fits into a baking pan.  Place meatballs in the oven and bake 20 minutes or until no longer pink inside.

Remove from oven and serve or refrigerate for up to 5 days.  These meatballs also freeze really well!
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