Archive for the ‘Beauty Foods’ Category

chick peasIt’s possible to eat chickpeas  for breakfast, lunch and dinner in homes and restaurants across the globe.  Easy to grow  and packed  with vitamins and protein, chickpeas deliver delicious  nutrition for practically pennies.

A Nutritional Profile to Brag About

To put  it in technical terms, chickpeas rock! One half cup of cooked chickpeas  clock in at about 160 calories and 9 grams of almost fat-free protein.  While it has about 30 grams of carbs equal to two slices of bread,   chickpeas contains enzymes  that limit blood sugar spikes  associated with other carbs.

That same 1/2 cup of chickpeas also includes zinc, folates and 8 grams of fiber– about 20% of recommended daily intake.   But wait there’s more.   That little   serving of  chickpeas   has 50 grams of calcium.  Nice.  Since studies have  shown that a high protein/ low fat diet is associated with fewer wrinkles, I think that chickpeas  have earned the right to be called a beauty food.

These days its hard to pick up a cookbook or menu and not find  a dish that uses  chickpeas.   In an Indian restaurant chick peas are ground into flour called besan and is used for crepe like pancakes  dosa or fried into  balls called pakora.  In fact throughout Southeast Asia, chickpeas   in stews, snacks and batters are the major source of protein in the meal. In Spain they are added to stews and salads  while in the Middle East  they are ground up into hummus,  fried as falafel and added to couscous platters.

There  is  certainly no shortage of great chickpea recipes, but there is  a lack of  good tasting nutrition packed snacks.  Here is my new favorite adapted from SteamyKitchen.com.

Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:  one 15 ounce can chickpeas ( aka garbanzo beans), 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, sea salt and onion powder to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 400F.  Drain the can of chickpea,s rinse in a strainer  under running water and shake well to remove  excess moisture. Place two layers of paper towels on a baking sheet, spread out beans to a single layer  and top with more paper towels.  Roll the beans around  with the paper towels to  both dry them and remove the thin skins of the beans.  Remove the paper towels and loose skins, but  keep the chickpeas on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle olive oil over beans and massage  them with your hands to coat  them evenly with oil. Roast for 35 minutes until beans are deep golden brown and crunchy.  Remove tray from oven and  sprinkle with sea salt and onion powder to taste.  Serve warm.


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GPGreen peas don’t get the respect they deserve.  All too often they  are the spot of green in a TV dinner  or boiled to a paste in Britsh pubs ( aka mushy peas).  IRL  peas actually  pack  alot of nutrition in a tiny pod.  Peas are  a legume like cannelli or navy beans and share the same nutritional payloads  of fiber, protein and vitamins.  All too often, nutritionists disparage peas  for their carbs ( 25 grams in 1/2 cup) and calories ( 80 in a cup).  However  these are the same nutritional  statistics  for every nutritionists favorite- dried beans- and IMO  green peas taste better.

One half cup of peas  has just as much protein ( 5 grams) as an egg or one tablespoon of peanut butter, but without the fat or cholesterol. Fresh peas  are only avilable from from April to June, but frozen  peas retain all the  taste and nutrition of fresh peas  at a fraction of the cost and are available all year long.   Canned peas are not so lucky.  They have lost much of their vitamin content, taste funky and are packed with not that helpful salt and sugar.  One half cup of  green peas ha  over 200 mg of soldium– while  the sodium load of  frozen peas clock in a about 70mg.

I use green peas in a Cuban chicken salad, stirred into a risotto  and  paired with sauteed mushrooms.  But my favorite way to eat green  peas is called “French Style” cooked with slivers of ham and scallions.  Serrved alongside a store bought  rotisserie chicken it is the making of the meal.

Peas Francaise

Ingredients:  8 ounces frozen peas, 1/4 cup water, two scallions, slivered, in one inch pieces, 2 slices of low sodium boiled ham, slivered, 1 teaspoon butter 

Directions: Combine all ingredients , except ham and butter.  Cook peas scallions and water for 2-3 minutes.  Pour off any remaining  waterr and fold in  ham and  butter. Cook until butter melts and ham is heated through.

One final thought:  Traditional  Peas Francaise  also includes  slivers of  Boston lettuce.  No one in my family would  eat  it this way, so I  just  left over this standard ingredient.  If you have less picky eaters in your  home, the lettuce adds both  flavor and texture.

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sweet bell peppers Round,  smooth and  and glowing, bell peppers are  some  of the most photogenic veggies at a farmer’s market.  But do they share their good looks?     They  were first discovered by Columbus on his second search for peppercorns of India.   These Spanish explorers brought back bell pepper plants from the New World  where they grew easily throughout Europe.  Its hard to think of a cuisine that does not use bell peppers.   Cooked or raw, easy to grow  and affordable, bell peppers are  not just another pretty face.  Red, green, yellow or orange these pepper are packed with first rate nutrition.

Bell Pepper Nutritional Profile: A nice fresh bell pepper has 2-3x the vitamin C payload as an orange. Since vitamin C is the vitamin that has the greatest influence on skin aging, bell peppers can qualify as a beauty food. But wait there’s more. A whole bell pepper has just 27 fat free, sodium free calorie.

Bell  peppers  can be roast, pureed, stuffed, stir-fried, and stewed.  Raw, they can be added to salads, sandwiches, crudite platters or just snacked in strips.   Study after study  has shown that  the biggest  health benefits of vitamins and anti-oxidants  are found in natrual foods rather than pills and supplements.  A  red  bell pepper has 300% of the RDA for both vitamin C and beta carotene.  Yes, they are that good.

One of my favorite bell pepper recipes is adapted from the Rao restaurant cookbook.

Roasted Red Pepper  Antipasto

Ingredients:  3 red bell peppers, 2 tablspoons of  olive oil,1 tablespoon raisins, 1 tablespoon pine nuts, 1 teaspoon chopped flat leaf  parsley

Directions:  Cut off the top and bottom  of each pepper, slice open and lay flat. Place on tin foil  lined cookie sheet and  broil until  the skin is blistered and blackened.  Remove from the grill and when the peppers acool enough to touch, peel off blackened skin. Cut peppers into half inch strips and mix with  all the other ingredients. Allow flavors to blend at room temperature for at least an hour.  I  like to serve these peppers as a light lunch with a wedge of runny brie and a chunk of crusty italian bread.   A glass of Pinot Grigio would also not be  out of place.

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chocolateIts hard to miss the signs. The supermarket has shelves are packed with  red heart shaped candy  boxes, the bakery is offering  heart shaped cookies and  the drugstore card aisles   are overflowing with  rows of  red and white cards.  Valentines  Day is right around the corner– and Americans  will be spending more than one billion dollars on chocolate.

For more than 2000 years, chocolate has been viewed  as an aphrodisiac.  It was said the the Aztec ruler Montazuma would drink a big cup of hot  chocolate  before he paid a visit to his harem.  Centuries later scientists  confirmed  his choice of beverage actually identifying a chemical in chocolate ( phenylethylamine to be  technical) that promotes  feelings of attraction and arousal.

For much too long chocolate had been lumped into the “unhealthy” column  along with sugar and fat.  Now researchers  have identified very welcome  psychological and  medical benefits . Chocolate  and its similar ingredient, cocoa can increase levels of endorphins and seratonin that improve  mood and reduce depression.  The flavenols in dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain  and reduce risk of blood clots.

But don’t trade in a bunch of kale for a bag of chocolate kisses just  yet.   The active healthy ingredients  in chocolate  are reduced with every step of processing used in the manufacture of chocolate products.    In addition the natural health benefits of chocolate can be  sabotaged if it has  been paired  with fat and sugar  such as in chocolate mousse, chocolate cheesecake or a chocolate doughnut. 

Plain dark chocolate has the highest levels of flavenols.  Look for bars of organic  dark chocolate with at least 65% cococa and keep  serving size to a perfect one ounce chunk.    If you select an organic fair trade chocolate product you will improve   both  your life as well as the lives of people who work in the cocoa fields.    To my mind, nothing says I Love You  than  a gift that benefits   both you and the planet.

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bok choyI love to buy fruits and vegetables at Farmer’s Markets.  I think the food  is fresher, tastes better  and I can pick up  new varieties   not found in supermarkets.  Last week I  scored   what I thought was a gorgeous head of sparkling fresh spinach.   It was 15″ inches across, weighed about 3 pounds and was only $3.  What a buy!  But when I got  home and nibbled on a leaf, I discovered it was bok choy not spinach.  Bok choy is a popular form of  chinese cabbage that is used in soups, stir fried combo’s and  as  side vegetable dish. But from a nutitional  stand point, how does it compare to  the nutrient packed spinach?

Turns out, not too bad.  Bok choy clocks in at just 13 calories in a four ounce serving.  And those 13 calories also deliver 30% of RDA vitamin A and 50% of RDA of Vitamin C.  Since vitamin C is the vitamin  most closely linked to youthful skin, bok choy  can genuinely be considered a beauty food.   Add that to some fiber, iron, and calcium and bok choy  earns  its spot on healthy eating plans.  I love  to serve a double portion of sauteed bok choy with an order of steamed  chicken dumplings– a low fat dinner  plate of flavor and nutrition.

Stir-Fried Bok Choy ( adapted form Foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients:  one  tablespoon corn oil, 2 cloves of garlic, slivered, 1 tablespoon of  chopped  fresh ginger, 8 cups of chopped bok choy ( cut into one inch pieces), 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce 

Directions:  Heat the oil in a  large non-stick saute pan.  Toss in garlic and ginger and cook about a minute.  Add bok choy and soy sauce and cook  over medium heat for  5 minutes until leaves are wilted and stalks are crisp but tender. 

You can also serve these over rice  or in a soup.

One last word:  Raw bok choy  can  be difficult to digest and  cause   cramps and bloating– so make certain that the vegetables  are throughly cooked  before serving.

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ChristmasWhen I lived in New Haven, the obesity research unit at Yale had a very simple diet for its in-patient program– boiled turkey and raw vegetables.   I tried it at  home to pare off post-baby weight and in  less than a week  I dropped more than 5 pounds.  Despite  the great results  I could not stay on it for long. It was the kind of diet that I think needs to be followed in a contolled, supervised setting.  But  I always wondered if there was something inherent in turkey that made it especially effective in weight control. 

Flash forward to  Thanksgiving this year and as I  prepped by the turkey for  dinner I wondered about turkeys nutritional profile.   Protein?  calories?  and how did it compare to chicken?  Was it healthier?  More fattening?  No difference?  A little research told me that the Yale  researchers had picked the right bird.

Turkey Nutritionl Profile

One serving of skinless   white meat  turkey has  116 calories, 14 grams of protein and just  ONE gram of fat.  For comparison, chicken breast clocks in at 165 calories, 26 grams of  protein and FIVE grams of  fat.  THe same size portion of of ground beef wrighs in a 230 calories and SIX grams of fat.  Lamb chops have 252 calories and almost 8 grams of fat.  Clearly  the low fat/low calorie package makes turkey  an anti-aging best bet.

But the low fat  profile almost  can  make turkey dry and stringy.  For that reason its sad but  true that too many  recipes for a holiday turkey add a stick of butter for basting– and another stick for the stuffing.  Over the years I’ve tried to find a healthy turkey recipe that would be succulent without adding butter.  I’ve served my share of turkeys that crumbled rather than sliced until I found a fat-free technique that delivered a perfect bird every time.

Bourbon Glazed Turkey

Ingredients:  10-12 pound turkey, 1/2 cup sugar-free maple syrup, 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce, 1 cup bourbon, 2 large onions cut into wedges, 3 large carrots cut in one inch chunks, 1 stalk celery cut into one inch chunks,  2 teaspoons dried rosemary,  a few sprigs parsley,  1 can low sodium chicken broth

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F.   Wash and dry the turkey and  place one onion, one carrot, all the celery, rosemary and parsley into the turkey cavity.  Toss the  rest of carrots and onions in the roasting pan and  place turkey on top of vegetables.   Combine the soy sauce and maple syrup  and spread the mixture  all over the turkey.   Pour the bourbon  and chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan  and cover tightly with tine foil.  Cook for 2- 2 1/2 hours without peeking.  Remove the tinfoil  and crank up the heat to  450 and roast another hour.   Use a meat thermometer to check that the bird is throughly cooked.  It should read 170 F in both  the thigh and in the stuffing.

Cooking under the tinfoil and bourbon  /chicken broth  allows the bird to gain rather than lose moisture.  Its the same principle that Yale researchers used when they boiled the turkey, but tastes much better– without added fat and calories.

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The first thing I learned about peanuts is that  they are a type of bean ( legume) rather than a traditional nut eg walnuts.  Peanuts  have 25% more protein than any nut and  are a rich source of niacin, folacin,  manganese and phospherous.  One half cup of dry roasted peanuts clock in at 24 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber and 0 grams of cholesterol.  I was thrilled  to learn  that  peanuts were high in linoleic acid– the oil that  is closely linked  to  fewer lines and wrinkles. That’s the good news.  The bad news?   Those 24 grams of protein are accompanied by 600 calories, 22 grams of carbs and a whopping 50 grams of  fat.

There are three basic forms of peanuts- boiled, dry-roasted and oil roasted.  Boiled peanuts have about half the calories, half the fat but with a full payload of protein, fiber  and all other healthy nutrients.  Another big shocker– oil roasted peanuts and dry roasted peanuts have the same amount of fat– but dry roasted  nuts have twice the salt content. 

Peanuts are certainly a nutritional good guy.  The challenge is to get the maximum benefits without  the heavy calorie and  fat  payload. Americans get most of their peanuts  as a hand snack  or in  a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  In Asia, peanuts are common ingredients in chicken and vegetable recipes. One of my favorite dishes is chicken satay with peanut sauce.

Chicken Satay ( adapted from Pillsbury)


 1 boneless chicken breast, 2 tablespoons of   creamy peanut butter, 2 packets of Equal or Splenda, 2 tablespoons   soy sauce,  2-3 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar, splash of  Siracha chili sauce, sesame oil


To make the sauce, combine peanut butter, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, water,  rice wine vinegar, Equal and Shiracha chili  and mix to a  smooth paste.  Slice the chicken breast into 1/4 inch wide strips. Sprinkle chicken with sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce  and thread on metal  skewers. Spray with cooking spray ( so they wn’t stick) and  grill for  about three minutes each side.  Top with peanut sauce and serve with basmati rice and broccoli.

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