Inga's Indulgence

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beet the Summer Binge

Chilled Summer Borscht & Beet Gazpacho Shooters   

Light meals, laps in the pool, increased water consumption - these were bullets made back in May to characterize what I thought summer 2013 would be all about. And though partially fulfilled, these bullets were easily overrun by less ambitious, more realistic ones boasting "bbq" "beer" and "lounging."

But summer isn't over. Tans are deceiving. What do you say you and me actually justify putting on that bikini?

Beets! So maybe they are not your immediate solution to weight loss (no one food is), but we're not just talking about skinny, we are talking about healthy, which can equal a long term kind of skinny.

The beet, underutilized yet so full of potential! For starters, its gorgeous, royal reddish purple color is a screaming message in itself. The vibrancy of the red pigments responsible for this color, known as betacyanins, shouts "eat me, I'm good for you!" and rightfully so, because they are in fact phytonutrients possessing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may have the ability to fight cancer as well as suppress the growth of certain tumors.

A good source of folate and vitamin C, beets have also been shown to increase running capacity. That's good stuff. Now let's get to the grub...

It's summer, it's hot. You want to cool off, but you also want to eat...but you also want to leave the table with the same airiness that brought you there? SO, we need something good, cold, and light, but substantial.

Someone say soup? CHILLED please.

Here are two of my favorite summer soups, and surprise surprise - beets happen to be the star ingredient in both...

Chilled Summer Borscht
(6-8 servings)

4 small beets
4 hardboiled eggs, finely chopped
3 medium Persian cucumbers, finely chopped
5 medium radishes, finely chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1, 32 oz bottle kefir or buttermilk
32 oz spring water
2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
salt, to taste

Place beets in a medium saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low, simmering for 20 -30 minutes, until fork tender. Drain the beets, and rinse with cold water. Allow to cool.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot or container. Once beets have cooled, peel and grate. Add grated beets to the soup, mixing well to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Beet Gazpacho
(yield: about 1 quart)

1 medium beet, cooked, peeled, & roughly chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
2 radishes, roughly chopped
2 Persian cucumbers, roughly chopped
1 oz red onion, roughly chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 cups prepared salsa (mild or spicy depending on preference)
spring water, as needed
salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients except water in a food processor or blender. Adjust consistency with about 1 cup of water, using more if necessary. Season to taste with salt. Chill in refrigerator for a few hours before serving. Serve cold in bowls, or shot glasses.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Amen to Healthy Amends

A LOT has changed since last we spoke. I've returned to school to get my second degree. Guess what I'm studying. Nutrition!!! 
I know it's not much of a shocker, but I'm beyond excited to become a registered dietician, so that I can continue doing what I've pretty much been doing since I was a kid - putting people on diets ad feeding them at the same time. Except this time I'll be doing it with some important letters proceeding my name.
I'm also teaching cooking classes at, what may be the coolest place in the world, Oh My Girls! (OMG), a healthy living center for young girls. Man, I wish this place were around when I was growing up. The environment is so fun and girly, the girls are energetic and eager to cook (and eat), and I am there to teach them how to make the food that their bodies need in this critical stage of their lives. So rewarding!

Zelli, my 2-year old, is doing great. He just started daycare, and despite his spot-on rendition of the terrible, or as I like to call them, "atrocious twos," he's acquired a taste for fish, barley, and spinach.

So amidst all this excitement, I have a proposal for you guys. How would you feel if I were to share some of my newly acquired knowledge of healthy eating and diet in the form of recipes? A mutually beneficial relationship, if you will, in which I learn, I share with you (this will be my format of studying), and then I create recipes revolving around a specific area of interest or concern in the nutritional sciences. 
I'm neglecting one thing, right? The "mama" stuff around which this blog was initially structured. I'm not though, because as I'm learning, early life nutrition (even as early as in the womb) plays a very important role later in life. That's why I will continue to address baby/toddler nutrition as well as important components of a healthy prenatal diet. One last thing...where does the indulgence come in? The name of my blog, Inga's indulgence, may seem deceiving to some. It shouldn't. If you haven't already, you'll get to know that I'm all about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Knowing that I am reinforcing my family's health, my health, and hopefully yours, is perhaps as indulgent as sinking my teeth into a piece of chocolate (which you should also do on occasion, but that's a whole other post) 

So let's get to cooking already! Okay, believe it or not, the first revolutionary post of this revamped, even healthier Mama Chef will be addressing fiber. Yes, fiber. No, it's not just for your bowels. There's a reason why we are constantly bombarded with all these new fiber products and snacks, or why almost every cereal commercial makes it a point to emphasize fiber content. It's not because everyone is suffering from constipation, it's because fiber has a multitude of purposeful functions for our digestive tracts and overall health. 

Fiber is a polysaccharide (a complex carb) found in plants, that we as humans cannot digest. Weird right? If we can't digest it, what good is it? Well, where do I begin. Fiber functions as a prebiotic. This means that it promotes a good "microflora," or a healthy intestinal environment with good bacteria preventing the growth of bad bacteria that can lead to diseases. Fiber can also lower levels of cholesterol in the blood by binding it, and making it less likely to be absorbed into the blood. 
There are two categories of fiber - soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, found in oats, legumes, and some fruits, is like a sponge in that it absorbs water and swells up. This results in softened stool and generally makes elimination a lot smoother (no pun intended). Insoluble fiber, found in things like whole grains, carrots, celery, cabbage, and berries also moves things along nicely, but as a bulking agent. Since it does not absorb water and moves through the gastrointestinal tract pretty much intact, insoluble fiber helps to increase fecal volume. Though it does not soften stool per say, if consumed with a good amount of water, insoluble fiber functions to prevent constipation. Fiber can delay the movement of things through our GI tracts, which promotes feelings of fullness. This is a great tool for weight control and managing blood glucose levels. 

Now that we are all edumacated about all of fiber's wonderful contributions...let's eat!

The following recipe is one of my favorite go-to snacks, full of fiber, and all kinds of other good stuff. In addition to being really quick and easy to prepare, it has no added sugar, and the soluble (and insoluble) fiber in the oats and fruits makes this a great hold-you-over snack - meaning if you are busy and on the go, it will keep you full. Even if at home, where the fridge knows your name, you'll find yourself ignoring most of its pleas. I love these for what they do, my hubby loves them for their convenience, Zelli loves to munch on them because they're yummy, and I bet the girls at OMG will appreciate them for all of the above reasons, as we will be making them this week :)

 Chewy Fruit & Oat Squares
(yield: 16 squares)
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil or non-stick vegetable spray  
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups rolled oats (either instant or old-fashioned work)
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a square baking pan with oil.  
Stir remaining ingredients together in a large bowl, mixing thoroughly to moisten oats. Transfer mixture to prepared pan, patting down to form an even layer. Bake 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. Store in airtight container for up to a week (but they surely won't last that long).