Brussels Sprouts: Three Ways

If there’s any one group of vegetables deserving praise, it’s the cruciferous family, which includes Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, Swiss chard, kale, rutabagas and turnips. All these vegetables bear four-petal flowers that resemble the shape of a cross. Tasty and versatile, they pack a serious punch nutritionally, and best of all, they really shine this time of year. Crucifers are rich in antioxidants, a great source of fiber and full of vitamins such as A and C. Research increasingly suggests these vegetables may be valuable allies in the fight against many cancers.

For those of us who love the piquancy of bitter flavors, Brussels sprouts are a tremendous pleasure. Roasted or sautéed, paired with bacon or butter, these tiny cabbage-like vegetables – probably developed in 15th-century Belgium – add a sophisticated note to the menu. If you decide to sauté, blanch first and then introduce them to the skillet; blanching produces a milder flavor. Currently, Brussels sprouts are having a moment – here are three easy ways to incorporate them into meal plans this season:

As a Salad
Quarter unpeeled redskin potatoes and simmer for 2 minutes before adding whole Brussels sprouts. Simmer an additional 8 minutes, then drain and toss with chopped ham, minced green onion and a dash of apple cider vinegar. Top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

As a Pasta Dish
Roast halved Brussels sprouts, quartered small onions, and halved carrots at 375° for 30 minutes. Toss with just-cooked pasta, a splash of balsamic vinegar and crumbled feta cheese.

As a Gratin
Simmer 10 whole Brussels sprouts for 5 minutes, then coarsely chop and mix with 3/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1 clove of minced garlic. Gently press into a greased 9-inch glass pie plate, sprinkle additional Parmesan on top, and bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until top is brown and bubbly.

Ham FAQs

How long can I store my ham?
Unless otherwise specified, refrigerate ham in its original packaging for up to 7 days. Leftover cooked ham should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking and kept refrigerated for up to 4 days.

How do I prepare a “pre-cooked” ham?
When heating precooked hams, you should add a liquid to the baking dish to guarantee a moist end result. Bake ham at 325° for 12 to 15 minutes per pound. Using a glaze will provide additional flavor.

What’s the difference between “bone-in” and “boneless” hams?
Bone-in hams contain the butt-end and the lower portion of the leg, and are cured, smoked and typically sold in smaller portions. Some boneless hams contain the whole muscle, and others are formed from fresh boneless ham meat that is reformed into a characteristic ham shape. Boneless hams are easier to carve, while bone-in hams tend to be more flavorful and are harder to cut.

Can I freeze my ham? If so, how long?
For the best quality, avoid freezing leftover ham as it will change the flavor and texture. If freezing is necessary, wrap ham in a moisture-proof cover and freeze for up to 2 months.

How much ham should I plan for per person?
Plan for 1/4- to 1/2-pound per serving for a boneless ham and 1/2- to 3/4-pound per serving for a bone-in ham.

What can I do with the leftover ham bone?
Don’t toss the leftover ham bone. You can freeze the bone and use it later to flavor a lentil stew, split pea or white bean soup, or braised collard greens.

Ham Glazes

About halfway through baking, remove ham from oven. With sharp knife, lightly score outside of ham, making parallel 1/2-inch-deep incisions in crosshatch pattern. Brush with glaze and return ham to oven. Brush with additional glaze every 15 minutes.

Pepper-Peach Glaze

In small saucepan, heat 1 jar (8 ounces) hot pepper jelly, 1 cup peach preserves, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar and 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves to simmering over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove saucepan from heat.

Spiced Orange Glaze

In small saucepan, heat 1 jar (12 ounces) sweet orange marmalade, 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, 2 tablespoons each balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and orange zest, 1 tablespoon each pumpkin pie spice and whole grain mustard and 1 teaspoon dry mustard to simmering over medium heat; simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar and simmer 2 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Remove saucepan from heat.

All About Artichokes

All About Artichokes

Artichokes are the immature flowers and stems of the artichoke plant, an edible thistle in the sunflower family. Along with broccoli and cauliflower, they are classified as an inflorescent vegetable, meaning a vegetable with an edible flower. Artichokes left to mature on the plant actually blossom into large violet flowers.

A full-grown artichoke plant reaches a height of three to four feet and can cover an area up to six feet in diameter. The plants begin to produce edible flowers during their second and third growing seasons. Larger artichokes grow on top of the plant while baby artichokes grow lower on the plant. Artichokes are sometimes considered a luxury due to the crop’s low yield per acre and high harvesting costs.

The most common artichoke variety available is the green globe. The bottom portion of the outer layers of leaves is tender, but only the leaves closer to the center may be eaten whole. Mature artichokes contain an inedible fibrous mass called the choke, the portion that would have transformed into the flower. Baby artichokes are entirely edible as the choke has not yet formed. At the center of the artichoke, just below the choke, lies the highly prized, tender heart. While the heart is superb eaten with just a squeeze of lemon juice and a little salt, it also lends itself well to marinating, roasting or deep-frying.

Unwashed artichokes can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag up to five days. Don’t wash artichokes until you are ready to use. The best way to flush out any dirt between the leaves is to plunge them up and down in cold water.

Crab & Shrimp Boil 101

Crab & Shrimp Boil 101

Give the grill a break and cook up this indulgent summertime feast. For many, preparing a seafood boil is an art: deciding which type of shellfish to use, what type of seasonings and vegetables to include, and whether to add sausage. Give this impressive yet simple recipe a try, then grab some beer, plenty of napkins and dig in!

1. Onion Root
When trimming the root end of the onion, make sure to leave a portion of the root attached. This will help the onion wedges stay together as they cook.

2. Seasoning
Seafood boil seasoning bags are very convenient because they eliminate the need to decide which and how much of each herb and spice to include. As the mixture comes to a boil, the seasonings will infuse the cooking liquid with aromatics that perfectly complement the shellfish.

3. Perfect Timing
The trick to a seafood boil is timing the addition of the ingredients. Sturdier vegetables require a longer cooking time than softer vegetables, crab, shrimp and smoked sausage. Play around with your favorite ingredients, but just remember the timing trick. Try other vegetables like mushrooms, halved garlic cloves, chopped celery and halved Brussels sprouts.

4. Dig In
Pouring the strained mixture out onto a covered surface makes for both easy serving and cleanup. Have several shellfish crackers, small seafood forks and hot sauce on hand, as well as a few empty bowls for discarding the shells.

Stocking a Healthy Pantry

Stocking a Healthy Pantry

There’s never an excuse to let healthy eating in the workplace or at home be reduced to carry-out and microwave entrées. With a well-stocked pantry, you can be inspired to prepare healthy and scrumptious meals that will benefit the whole family.

Save Time and Money
Most of us know that eating out leaves wallets slim and waistlines growing. But unfortunately, finding the time to plan, grocery shop, and prepare meals Monday through Friday can be a real challenge, particularly when you’re trying to stick to a budget.

Start by keeping fresh fruits and veggies in your crisper and stocking your freezer with extra batches of homemade soups, lean proteins and frozen produce. Next, move over to the dry pantry where a nourishing and healthy meal that doesn’t sacrifice on nutrition or convenience is just a shelf away.

Stay Healthy
As research extols the health benefits of a plant-based diet, beans and legumes are gaining in the nutrition limelight as budget-friendly and protein-packed vegetarian meal options. From canned to dry and from garbanzo to black, their versatility can be used to make practically any dish heartier, more nutritious and more economical.

Stock your pantry with an array of low sodium and no sugar added tomato products like crushed and stewed tomatoes and tomato paste to reduce your risk of cancer and enhance Tuesday’s rigatoni or meatloaf.

In addition, bump up the nutrition factor of your pantry shelf by switching from white breadcrumbs to whole wheat. And maintain a diverse spice and herb rack, both of which have powerful disease fighting and health-promoting properties, to liven up your favorite comfort foods.

Be Prepared
Unexpected houseguests don’t need to send you into a nervous frenzy. Rather than doubling your takeout order of Pad Thai and sticky rice, be prepared by lining your pantry with the right assortment of items like jars of cured olives, marinated artichoke hearts, imported oil-packed tuna, roasted red peppers and an assortment of crackers for easy and effortless entertaining. Slice some fresh fruit and a few wedges of cheese, uncork a bottle of wine, and you have an impressive and appetizing antipasto platter in minutes that will delight your guests.

Stay Organized
The key to creating a quick, healthy and delicious supper is keeping your pantry organized. Take some time to refresh your pantry by tossing out unhealthy or expired items. Replace them with nutritious go-to items that make it easier to prepare a healthy meal in less time (and money) than it takes to have a pizza delivered to the front door. Arrange items in shallow rows so that they are easily visible. Also, store food in marked or clear airtight containers, group similar items together, and make sure your pantry is ventilated and receives low light and low humidity.

Healthy Pantry Essentials

Beans and Legumes – Beans (black, cannellini, garbanzo and pinto), green split peas, and lentils (brown, red and yellow)

Beverages – Cocoa powder, bagged or loose teas (black, green and herbal), and wine

Canned Items – Broth (beef, chicken and vegetable), coconut milk, pumpkin puree, tomato products (crushed, diced, paste, sauce and whole), tuna and wild salmon

Dried Produce – Dried fruits (apples, apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries and raisins), dried vegetables (porcini mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and chiles), and shelf-stable veggies (potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squashes)

Flours and Sweeteners – Agave nectar, flour (whole wheat and spelt), honey, maple syrup, molasses, and sugar (turbinado and granulated white)

Grains – Rice (Arborio, brown and basmati), barley, couscous, millet, quinoa, soba noodles and whole wheat pasta

Herbs and Spices – Allspice, anise, basil, bay leaves, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, red pepper flakes, rosemary, thyme and turmeric

Nuts, Nut Butters and Seeds – Almonds, flaxseeds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts and nut butters (all-natural almond and peanut)

Oils and Vinegars – Oils (canola, dark sesame, olive and vegetable) and vinegars (balsamic, fruit-flavored, red or white wine, and rice)

Sauces and Spreads – Applesauce (no sugar added), fruit preserves (low sugar, all-natural), soy sauce (low sodium), pesto and teriyaki sauce

Healthy Cooking Techniques

Healthy Cooking Techniques

Flavor Boosters
Healthy ingredient alternatives can be used to build flavor in your dishes without relying on excess amounts of fat, salt or sugar. Experiment with different seasonings and flavorings to enhance recipes and your healthy dishes won’t miss a beat!

• Aromatic vegetables like green onions, leeks and shallots
• Caramelized onions and shallots
• Chile peppers
• Chopped fresh herbs
• Condiments like chutney, Dijon mustard, honey, horseradish, hot sauce, less sodium soy sauce, mustards and salsas
• Dried ground spices including black, red or white pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, curry powder, dry mustard, garlic powder, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, onion powder and paprika
• Dry rubs and marinades for meats, fish and poultry
• Fat-free vinaigrettes for marinades and sauce
• Flavored non-fat yogurt
• Fresh squeezed citrus juices
• Grilled fruits and vegetables
• Lemon, lime and orange zest
• Lemon, orange and vanilla extract
• Less-sodium broth and stock
• Puréed fruit and vegetable sauces
• Roasted or sautéed garlic
• Roasted red peppers
• Toasted and ground whole spices such as caraway, coriander, juniper, mustard seed and star anise
• Vinegars such as balsamic, champagne, cider, red wine, rice wine, sherry and white wine
• Wine

Healthy Cooking Techniques
Both dry- and moist-heat cooking methods can be used to cook foods with little or no added fat. Dry-heat cooking browns food resulting in rich flavors, while moist-heat cooking brings out food’s natural flavors.

Dry-heat methods that cook foods using air while excess fat drips away from foods as they’re cooked are suitable for healthy cooking. These methods include baking, broiling, grilling and roasting, and also sautéing using nonstick pans with a minimal amount of vegetable oil. Moist heat methods use water or other liquid to tenderize foods. These methods include boiling, braising, poaching and steaming.

Dry sautéing is a great low-fat cooking option. Simply heat a nonstick pan, spray with nonstick cooking spray and wipe out any excess with a paper towel. Heat the pan again before adding the food to sauté.

“En papillote” is the French term for food enclosed in a parchment or foil packet and then baked or grilled. This method of cooking surrounds the food with moisture, quickly cooking the food while preserving inherent nutrients, flavors, colors and textures. The “en papillote” cooking method results in great taste without the need for added fats, and is an ideal cooking choice for fish and vegetables.

Winter Vegetables

Winter Vegetables

Butternut Squash
Oh-so-sweet and good for you too, this veggie is great baked with a little butter and brown sugar. Want it even sweeter? Top with more brown sugar and pecans.

Carrots
These naturally sweet beauties make great stand-alones when sliced thin and baked with a little olive oil or butter.

Eggplant
Try making delicious “boats” by scooping out and cubing the eggplant flesh and sautéing it in olive oil with your favorite vegetables. Then fill the skins with the veggies, eggplant, a little cheese and bake.

Parsnips
Steamed or baked, these root vegetables have a sweet, nutty flavor. Try cutting them up and sautéing with butter and nutmeg for a sweet side dish.

Broccoli
This crunchy veggie is perfect for any meal. Steam broccoli spears and dip in butter or olive oil with garlic and lemon. Steam broccoli florets, then cool and toss with bacon bits, water chestnuts, green onions, almonds and top with your favorite dressing.

Cooking Gingerly

Cooking Gingerly

Fresh gingerroot (or ginger) is the knobby underground stem of the tall, flowery tropical plant Zingiber officinale, and is known as a “hand” due to its resemblance to the human hand. With a fiery yet sweet flavor and notes of lemon and rosemary, some believe it has medicinal qualities such as the ability to soothe upset stomachs and boost energy.

Ginger is available in two forms – young and mature. Young ginger has a thin skin that requires no peeling, while mature ginger has a tough skin that must be peeled. It can be grated, ground, slivered or sliced and used in soups, curries, sauces, stir-fries, fruit compotes, gingerbread and gingersnaps.

Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel ginger. Once peeled, many gadgets are available to finely grate the bumpy, fibrous root. Running ginger along the finest holes of a 4-sided box grater or rubbing it along the 400 sharply ridged perforations of a Microplane® grater works well. A garlic press is perfect for pressing a small chunk into minced ginger.

To store unpeeled ginger, tightly wrap and refrigerate up to three weeks or freeze up to six months. To have ginger when you need it, cut peeled ginger into large chunks, place in an airtight container, cover with white wine, dry sherry or Madeira and refrigerate until ready to use. Not only will the fresh ginger keep up to three months, but the ginger-infused wine can be added as well to stir-fries, sauces and dressings.

Check out this video for helpful tips to help you enjoy freshly grated ginger.

Healthy Halloween Treats

Healthy Halloween Treats

Halloween can be ghoulish for people on a diabetic meal plan. With the help of this spooky treat guide, it’s fun to make and enjoy gluten-free, low-carb, low-sugar treats.

Apple Bites
Quarter and core an apple, cut a wedge from the skin side of each quarter, spread with peanut butter, then press slivered almonds in place for teeth. Baste the apples with orange juice to keep them from browning. Use sunflower or pumpkin seeds and sunflower seed butter for a nut-free option.

Finger Food
With a paring knife, cut a flat, shallow notch in the tip of a baby carrot. Then use a dab of softened cream cheese* to “glue” a sliced-almond “fingernail” atop each notch. Cut in a few more notches to shape a knuckle. Serve with your favorite vegetable dip. Use this same cutting technique with a piece of string cheese.

Spooky Spider Deviled Eggs
Use black or green olives to create spider toppers for deviled eggs. First cut a whole olive in half lengthwise. Then put one half on top of the deviled egg for the spider’s body. Thinly slice the other half of the olive for the spider’s legs. Put four legs on each side. Alternatively, place these olive spiders atop a carrot slice smeared with cream cheese*.

Orange Jack-o´-lanterns
Use Mandarins, clementines or oranges. Draw a face with a black permanent marker (it won’t penetrate the skin so the fruit won’t be contaminated). It’s fun for children to see how scary or funny they can make the faces.

Banana Ghosts
Press three chocolate chips* (two for the eyes, one for the mouth) into half of a peeled banana so that they resemble a ghost face.

Popcorn Witch Hand
Place something in each finger of a non-latex glove that resembles nails (raisins, candy corn*, almonds), fill glove with popcorn, tie off the end, and accessorize with a plastic spider ring.

Monster Eyes
Slice a big carrot into coins; smear one side of each slice with cream cheese*. Place a green olive with pimento slice in the center. Alternatively, make Monster Deviled Egg Eyes by placing a green olive with pimento slice on the center of the yolk of a deviled egg.

* Check package ingredient list as some brands may contain gluten.

Five Tips for Keeping your Pets Safe on Halloween

Five Tips for Keeping your Pets Safe on Halloween

Your furry friend is more likely to be a “scaredy cat” around this time of year. Follow these five simple steps to protect your pets from any frights in the night.

1) No Tricks: Keep your pets indoors on Halloween. Black cats are particular targets for pranksters on this hallowed evening. As the protector of your home, dogs may be spooked by costumed visitors at your door for candy. Try to keep them in a quiet room away from the front door.

2) No Treats: Danger not only lurks outside on Halloween but inside your home as well. Make sure to keep candy away from dogs and cats as it’s toxic, especially chocolate candy. Foil and cellophane candy wrappers also pose as potential choking hazards.

3) Costume Caution: While dressing up your pet for this holiday can be fun, many experience undue stress from playing dress-up. Check costume for small pieces that can be chewed or swallowed and make sure it is not constricting. This could cause injury to your pet.

4) Pumpkin Preparations: Take precautions when setting out a festive jack-o-lantern. If you light it with a candle, keep it out of reach. Cats tend to be drawn toward dancing flames and risk being burned. Dogs may accidentally knock candles over and could cause a fire. Try using an artificial candle that is powered by a battery.

5) Escape Plan: Practice this tip throughout the entire year, not just Halloween. Properly ID your pets with a collar and tag. If, for some reason, your pet manages to escape between trick-or-treaters, this will greatly increase the chance for a safe return.