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Baked Zucchini, Beet and Sweet Potato Fritters

February is American Heart Month - let’s show your ticker some love! Why is heart health so important? Heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the US. When I worked in the hospital, I spent time on multiple units dedicated to patients with heart disease. It really can have devastating effects on your life and your ability to perform daily activities. There is some good news about heart disease, though, in that good lifestyle choices have a huge effect on preventing it! Some of the major risk factors for developing heart disease are smoking, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and being overweight. Keep loading up your plate with veggies and exercising, and your heart will be in good shape.

As a dietitian, it’s my job to help you navigate the diet portion of the whole lifestyle picture. How can you optimize your diet specifically for heart health? The Standard American Diet (SAD) falls short in heart healthy foods. It is high in saturated fat, processed meats, refined grains, sodium and added sugar. Diets consisting of lots of red meat, butter, margarine, deep fried foods and processed foods can lead to atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) and hypertension. On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet is a really great eating pattern to choose for heart health. This diet includes plenty of fresh produce, fish and seafood, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats coming primarily from olive oil. This eating pattern is naturally high in heart healthy nutrients like potassium and antioxidants, and low in sodium and saturated fat. Consume an abundance of these foods on a regular basis for optimal heart health!

While I don’t think it’s possible that eating a specific food can prevent or cure a disease, there are a few particular foods that are especially important for heart health. Try adding the following foods to your diet more regularly!

  • Salmon or fatty fish: These foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Aim for about 8 oz of seafood a week, or consider taking an omega-3 supplement.
  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber, which can help decrease the amount of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol absorbed into your bloodstream. Aim for 5-10 grams per day.
  • Beets: Beets are rich in nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in your body, which helps lower blood pressure. They are also rich in antioxidants and fiber. I love to keep a few packs of Love Beets in my fridge to quickly throw into salads or grain bowls!
  • Beans: Beans are an amazing source of plant based protein. They also contain resistant starch, a nutrient that is fermented by your gut bacteria and may lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Try replacing meat with half a cup of beans for one meal next week!
  • Olive Oil: This is a staple ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, and is one of my favorite cooking oils. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, high in monounsaturated healthy fats and low in saturated fat. Choose olive oil when cooking to replace butter, lard or margarine, and drizzle it over salads with vinegar for a simple dressing.

I made these delicious fritters to add to my lunches over the week! I picked up a big package of Love Beets at Costco, and wanted to experiment with using them as an ingredient for a heart healthy recipe. This recipe features lots of good-for-your-heart nutrients, like nitrates, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats. I also baked these fritters with olive oil spray, rather than deep frying them to  keep them light and limiting added fat. They’re delicious on their own, or spread with a heart healthy dip like guacamole or hummus!

This recipe made 9 large fritters, but might vary for you based on the size of your veggies.

 Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 package of Love Beets organic cooked beets
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • Half of 1 large white onion
  • 1-2 eggs
  • ¼ cup spelt flour (or all purpose)
  • ½ tsp each salt and pepper
  • Olive oil spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with olive oil spray.
  2. Grate the zucchini, beets, sweet potatoes, garlic and onion using a grater or food processor with grater attachment. Use a clean tea towel to squeeze out excess liquid with your hands. I grated each vegetable and squeezed out the liquid individually (because the zucchini and beets have more liquid than the others), then combined them in a large bowl.
  3. Scramble 1 egg and add to the bowl of veggies, along with flour, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. If you are unable to form loose patties with your hands and ingredients are not sticking together, add another egg to help bind ingredients.
  4. Form round patties, about 3 inches across, using your hands, squeezing out extra liquid once more in the process. Place each patty on the prepared baking sheet. Give the patties a quick spritz of olive oil spray on top.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until patties begin to brown and crisp up, then flip and bake for another 10 minutes.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature. I served these with a simple avocado mash with lemon juice, salt and garlic powder.

If you guys try this recipe, tag @daisybeet on Instagram so I can see your creations!

Thank you Love Beets for sponsoring this post! I’m grateful to partner with brands I love to cook with, and all opinions are my own.

Featured

Mixed Berry Oatmeal Crumble Bars

I’ve been wanting to make a recipe like this for a while. With the snow on Monday and lots of frozen fruit in my freezer, it seemed like the perfect day for a baking experiment! I’m so glad I went for it, because these will be such a treat to munch on all week.

I’m usually more of a chocolate person when it comes to dessert. Brownies and chocolate chip cookies are irresistible to me. But, if there is a fruit based dessert with a warm, cinnamon crumble situation going on, then you’ve got some competition! I absolutely love crisps and cobblers with whatever fruit is in season.

I had an unopened bag of mixed berries (cranberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries) which sounded like the perfect blend for a winter crumble. I highly recommend using this blend if you try these bars, as the cranberries add bold flavor and a little tartness. They also add a big boost of antioxidants! In addition to heart healthy oats, I used almond flour and almond butter to add healthy fats, fiber and protein to these bars. With less than ½ cup of added sugar, these bars are nutritious enough to have for breakfast or a snack, and will keep you fuller for longer than a traditional dessert bar.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tbsp cinnamon
  • ¾ cup creamy almond butter
  • 1 ½ cups frozen mixed berries (I used Cape Cod Select Power Berry Blend)
  • 1 ½ tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 ½ tbsp chia seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a square baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Combine almond flour, oats, salt, baking powder and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add almond butter and use your hands to mix it into dry ingredients. Mixture should be cohesive but crumby.
  4. Add about 2/3 of the crumble into the baking dish. Use your hands to press down firmly into a single layer.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes.
  6. While crust is baking, make the filling: heat berries in a shallow pan on medium heat until berries are soft and break to release their liquid. Stir in maple syrup and chia seeds. Heat for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally then remove from heat to thicken.
  7. Remove crust from oven and spread the chia jam in an even layer on top. Sprinkle the remaining crumble on top of the jam layer.
  8. Bake for another 25-30 minutes, until crumble starts to brown.
  9. Let cool completely before slicing into squares.

If you guys try this recipe, tag @daisybeet on Instagram so I can see your creations!

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Zucchini Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado Cilantro Cream Sauce

Ben and I took a quick trip to NYC last weekend to visit our family and friends. We went to the Guggenheim and out for dinner and drinks with a group of our NYC people. I love Boston and I know this is where I am meant to be right now, but a piece of me will always belong to New York. The energy there is palpable and unmatched to any city I’ve ever been to. We both have close friends there, and we’ve kind of made a promise to each other to visit when we can so we don’t lose touch with them. Even though we were there for less than 48 hours last weekend, I met up with a good friend of mine for a workout class and coffee date and it was like no time had passed. Those couple of hours we got to spend with each other meant a lot to me, and reiterated the importance of keeping in touch!

Besides friends, another part of NYC I miss is the FOOD. There are an endless number of amazing establishments I would kill to have open in Boston. We didn’t have time to hit up all of my favorites, but I got in plenty of good eats, including Levain cookies. When you’re staying 4 blocks away from the bakery, it’s a sin not to go! After a weekend indulging in cookies and wine, I was craving something light yet filling and super flavorful this week. We both love Mexican food, so I decided to try a lightened up version of enchiladas! These babies are stuffed with some of my favorites (sweet potato, black beans, spinach and red pepper) and wrapped in zucchini! Using zucchini in place of tortillas, the veggie filling and dairy free avocado cream sauce makes these enchiladas quite filling, but not to the point where you want to unbutton your pants and take a nap. There’s a time and a place for those decadent meals, but this recipe is totally what my body was craving!

You can absolutely use tortillas in place of zucchini for this recipe – it will just make fewer total enchiladas because the zucchini ones are smaller than usual. This recipe makes about 20 three-four inch long zucchini enchiladas.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into ½ inch cubes
  • ½ tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 cup diced onion (red or white are both fine)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 large zucchinis
  • 2 cups red enchilada sauce, store bought or homemade. I made my own, adapted from Oh She Glows

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1 ½ tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1 ¾ cup low sodium vegetable broth
  • Salt to taste

Avocado Cilantro Cream Sauce

  • 1 ½ avocados
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup water

Instructions

  1. If making enchilada sauce: Heat oil over medium heat and stir in corn starch until mixture starts to thicken. Add spices, stir to mix and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Stir in tomato paste, vegetable broth and salt. Keep on low heat, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. In a medium pot, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add diced sweet potatoes, return water to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes until fork tender, then drain.
  4. Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, peel zucchinis into long strips. The first couple strips might be too thin to roll, so you can discard them or use them for another recipe.
  5. For the filling, heat avocado oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, spices, salt and pepper, cooking another 2 minutes until fragrant. Add bell pepper and cook until soft. Stir in spinach, sweet potatoes and black beans and cook until spinach is wilted. Stir in heaping ½ cup of enchilada sauce, then remove from heat.
  6. Spread ¾ cup enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9”x13” baking dish.
  7. Prepare the enchiladas: take 3 zucchini strips and lay them together on a clean cutting board, so that they overlap with each other and make a rectangle. Place about ¼ cup of the veggie filling and roll up to enclose filling. Place in baking dish, with the seam side down.
  8. Repeat until pan is full – I made 2 rows of enchiladas. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce on top of enchiladas.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until sauce is a little bubbly.
  10. While enchiladas are baking, prepare the avocado cream sauce: add all ingredients to a food processor or blender (I used a NutriBullet) and blend until creamy. Add water 1 tbsp at a time as needed to help blend.
  11. Remove enchiladas from oven. Top with avocado cream sauce before serving, along with chopped fresh cilantro if desired.

If you guys make this recipe, tag @daisybeet on Instagram so I can see your creations! 🙂

Featured

Buffalo Cauliflower Lettuce Wraps

Let’s talk party snacks. Just like pretty much everyone in America, I love me some good finger foods. Chips and guac, cheese and crackers, bruschetta and mini quiches – I’ll take them all! I’m not really into football, but I’m always down for a Super Bowl party to scope out the snack scene. Sometimes it’s fun to have a whole bunch of mini foods to munch on instead of a formal meal!

The problem with these mini foods is that they are usually not very nutritious. They are often high in sodium, saturated fat and pack more calories than they let on. Looks can be deceiving – one pig in a blanket packs almost 100 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat and 200 mg sodium. These little snacks add up fast!

As you guys might know, my philosophy surrounding nutrition and eating is never about strict calorie counting or taking extreme measures to eat healthier. I focus on eating whole foods (mostly plants) that are nutrient dense a majority of the time, but still leave space to enjoy less nutritious foods. I always want eating to be pleasurable for you, and restricting yourself from enjoying a food you love will likely backfire in the long term.

Tackling situations like Super Bowl parties, where decadent food is in abundance, can be one of the most challenging scenarios to navigate if you are trying to stick to certain health goals. Here are some steps I like to go through with myself in these situations. They help me stay in tune with my body and ensure that I don’t overeat to the point where I am uncomfortably full (and believe me, I’ve done this before and it is no fun)!

Right before the party, I take a second to really check in with myself. I assess how hungry I am. Rating your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 can help! This will help guide my eating choices during the event. Once arriving, I say my hello’s, offer to help out, and do a quick survey of the snack scene. I like to see all the creative recipes people made, and see if any snacks really jump out to me. I usually find 2-3 treats that I’m salivating over, and know I’ll want a taste of those! When it’s time to eat, I fill half my plate with some nutrient dense, lighter options, such as salad, veggie sticks and hummus or grapes. More often than not, your party will have some sort of crudité platter, so load up on these foods freely! Then, I save the other half of my plate for moderate portions of those less nutritious snacks I’m eager to try  (Spanakopita! Mozzarella sticks!) I try to eat slowly and enjoy each bite of food. Before running back for seconds, I check in with myself again to see how hungry I am, and this helps determine how much, if any, extra food I’ll take.

I hope these tips help! It can take a while to get to the point where you are comfortable listening and acting on your hunger cues, but it really is a freeing feeling! Thanks for reading, but now it’s time for the real reason you came here – buffalo cauliflower lettuce wraps!

Ben and I hosted our friends for the Super Bowl on Sunday, and I overestimated the amount of buffalo cauliflower to make, so we had a lot left over. I also had some fresh butter lettuce in the fridge, and thought the combination would be perfect! The warm and spicy cauliflower bites, paired with the cool crisp lettuce works sooo well. A little tangy goat cheese, pickled red onions and creamy guacamole really took these to the next level. To make these cauliflower bites a little more nutritious, I used whole wheat breadcrumbs and almond flour as the coating, baked them instead of frying in oil, and found this sauce that uses pineapple juice as sweetener! The less processed, the better.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite size florets
  • 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
  • 2-3 eggs
  • Avocado oil spray
  • 1 12 oz bottle buffalo sauce (I used this brand)
  • 1 tsp avocado oil
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese, guacamole and pickled red onions for topping

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 420 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine breadcrumbs, almond flour, garlic powder and Italian seasoning in a small bowl.
  3. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl.
  4. One by one, dip each cauliflower floret into the egg, then coat with breadcrumb mixture. Space out evenly on baking sheet and spray with avocado oil spray.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
  6. Combine buffalo sauce and avocado oil in a small bowl. Dip each cauliflower floret into mixture to coat, and return to baking sheet.
  7. Bake for another 15 minutes. You can broil for a minute or so at the end to get them extra crunchy, just be careful and watch that they don’t burn!
  8. While cauliflower is baking, pull off whole leaves from lettuce head, wash and pat dry.
  9. Top each lettuce leaf with 2 cauliflower florets, a dollop of guacamole, a sprinkle of goat cheese and a few red onions. Enjoy warm!

If you guys try this recipe, tag @daisybeet on Instagram so I can see your creations! 🙂