Make-Ahead Healthy Pasta Salad, Perfect for Cookouts

Memorial Day is right around the corner, making it the perfect time to start planning a cookout staple: pasta salad. Traditional pasta salad made with mayonnaise and white pasta is heavy and high in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates. But it’s actually an easy dish to lighten up — in calories and taste — with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Making the pasta whole wheat also adds fiber, which is known to reduce cancer risk and keep you full for longer.

The vibrant colorful ingredients make this Spring Pasta Salad pop and the flavor improves as it sits. You can store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days and use for leftover lunches or dinners. It is hearty enough to be served as a main, but also pairs well with grilled shrimp or salmon.

File_003This pasta salad includes some springtime favorites of mine: asparagus and fava beans. Continue reading

How Home-made Cornmeal Crackers Can Help You Burn Calories

“With all the cooking you do, how do you stay thin?” I am not thin but being on my feet in the kitchen, moving constantly, does benefit my weight. Writing is when I tend to gain weight. To help minimize this, my laptop is set up so I work on it standing up. Still, I start every piece and write the first draft for recipes while sitting down, pen in hand, facing a yellow pad.

Like most writers, I feel anxious looking at the empty page. To get past this anxiety, munching on something savory with crunch works best. Yes, it is a bad habit. I wish celery sticks worked but they do not. Limiting my choices to foods with some health benefits, I rely on nuts, baked corn chips, and lightly salted crackers to comfort me until words start flowing.

Recently, I found a whole-grain cracker recipe that I have adapted here; munching on them helped me get this post going.

Cornmeal Crackers_06Making these herb-flavored crackers takes some concentrated, calorie-burning work: after you cook stone-ground cornmeal to make a thick, gritty polenta and mix in all the other ingredients to make a dough, you must roll it out by hand until it is very thin, almost thin enough to see through. Like making pasta, this takes effort. It produces crackers that snap nicely.

While making the dough, handle it as little as possible or your crackers will be tough. Rolling the dough out on baking parchment is fantastic. The non-stick paper lets you lift and release the dough easily so you can roll until it is even thinner than 1/16th-inch. The dough is forgiving—simply press tears together. For the final rectangle, this means you can cut pieces off where the sheet of dough bulges out and press them to fill in where it is narrow. After cutting the dough into neat, two-bite-size crackers, toss out any trimmings; rerolled, they make a sticky dough and tough crackers.

Using a light colored baking sheet is important. If you do not have one, line a dark sheet with baking parchment and allow a longer baking time. The crackers color unevenly, giving them a rustic look. They get crisper as they cool, so it is ok to take the colored crackers from the oven when they are still a bit soft.

These crackers are excellent with cheese, dips, or soup as well as for snacking.

Here’s the recipe: Cornmeal Herb Crisp Crackers.

Can Whole Grain Vegan Chocolate Chip Bites Be Tasty? Indeed.

Even though I’m a registered dietitian, I still love sweets. It’s important to find balance and moderation when it comes to your eating patterns. This means following AICR’s recommendations for a New American Plate most of the time, while allowing for the occasional treat. This type of balanced eating pattern will help you reduce your risk of cancer and chronic disease while staying satisfied and enjoying all the foods you love.

One of my favorite treats is a homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Most cookies are made almost entirely with sugar, butter and refined (white) flour – ingredients that can quickly lead to weight gain and increase your risk of cancer. However, in my numerous past attempts to make healthier cookies I’ve generally ended up with bland or dry tasting “healthy cookies.”

I recently found the perfect solution to making healthier cookies that also taste great. This recipe combines the sweet, gooey-chocolate and nutty flavor I love in oatmeal chocolate chip cookies while using minimally processed, nutritious ingredients.

OatmealCookieingredientsThey are made with fiber-rich whole rolled oats and almond flour, which add great flavor and make the cookies gluten free. The fat from the flaxseed and nut butter are rich in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids and make this recipe more suitable for following a plant-based diet. Continue reading