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Tuesday
Jun012010

A Is for Avocado

...B is for banana, C is for cucumber. Now that Jake knows the ABCs tune, we love to make up silly songs. With avocados singing in my head, I decided to revisit this super fruit. Even though it's not sweet, it's classified as a fruit looking like one big berry with a really big seed. The fat content scares off some but it contains a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, like in nuts, that studies show helps lower cholesterol, especially the "bad" LDL cholesterol. It has more potassium than bananas and is a great source of fiber. Avocados also contain a disease-fighting carotenoid called lutein that may help promote eye health. Diced onto salads, they add a creamy and satisfying richness, but the fat in avocados also improves the absorption of nutritious carotenoids found in other common salad ingredients like carrots and tomatoes.

Avocados pair well with citrus flavors, so I came up with this fresh colorful salad recipe. For protein, I added shelled edamame but you can use other protein sources like beans, nuts, eggs or lean meats.

Avocado Citrus Salad

Ingredients

11⁄2 T olive oil

1 T lemon juice

3 T orange juice

1 T honey

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Dash salt and pepper

1 10 oz can mandarin oranges, drained

1 ripe avocado

1 10 oz bag Spring Salad mix

1/2 cup diced red onion

1 cup edamame

Directions

  1. Dressing: Whisk oil, lemon juice, orange juice, honey, mustard, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl to blend.
  2. Remove avocado flesh from the pit and cut into small chunks or slivers.
  3. Add avocado and oranges to bowl and mix well with dressing. Add the salad mix, red onion, and edamame and toss gently to combine.
  4. If desired, garnish with a sprinkling of almonds or tortilla strips for extra crunch.
Tuesday
May252010

New Cheese on the Block

I'm not a fan of commercial diet programs that entail lots of money to eat their food, but many provide one-on-one support and tight structure, which some dieters need for success. So admittedly they do work, at least to get the weight off initially. Weight Watchers is the grand poobah of diets (been around for 45 years!) and although the program currently teaches a "points" system, I like that it encourages the use of real food including whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and dairy. They sell an extensive line of packaged foods, but their website and free e-newsletter also contain a treasure of free healthful and easy recipes.

I recently sampled Weight Watchers new cheese line. No breakthroughs here, they taste and look similar to other cheese products, available in wedges, cream cheese, string cheese, slices and shreds. What's nice is that the whole line is reduced in calories and fat without tasting "diet," many contain fiber, and some have less sodium than comparable brands (overly salty flavor is my main gripe with cheese). I prepared a cream cheese spread based on a Weight Watchers recipe using their whipped cream cheese. Sooo scrumptious! It's got the 3 C's in texture: crunchy, chewy, creamy. The orange zest adds a bright sunny flavor, sure to perk you up in the early morn. This recipe is not only ideal for breakfast but as a satisfying snack for kids and is elegant enough to serve at a brunch or afternoon tea. Spread it on toasted 100 calorie sandwich thins or whole grain crackers. Feel free to reduce the amount of honey if you're not a sweets person, as the raisins also add sweetness. Note that I halved the recipe, which still made enough spread for 2-3 "thins" sandwiches.

Sweet Almond Orange Cream Cheese

Ingredients

8 oz whipped or regular reduced-fat cream cheese

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp orange zest

1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds

1 Thins Bread (Thomas’, Pepperidge Farm, or Arnold makes these)

Directions

  1. Place cream cheese, raisins, honey and orange zest in a food processor; pulse until combined, scraping down sides if needed.
  2. Add almonds; pulse to combine.
  3. Refrigerate for an hour or more to allow flavors to combine.
  4. Toast the Thins Bread and spread with 1 tablespoon of cream cheese mixture on each side

*Want to try these new cheeses for free? Weight Watchers will send one FitMamaEats reader five free coupons for any of their cheese products. Just click on "Contact Me" and send me your name and email address. I'll randomly pick a winner on May 31!

Tuesday
May182010

Giveaway Time! Create Your Super Cereal

People who skip breakfast lose. It's the easiest way to down a big chunk of your daily nutrient needs: a fortified high fiber cereal with low fat milk provides otherwise hard-to-get nutrients (particularly for women) like iron, calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Add fresh fruit and a small cup of OJ and you're armed with disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients. Here's another motivator: studies have shown that breakfast eaters weigh less. They tend to be less hungry the rest of the day and make better food choices (perhaps because they avoid those hunger-driven impulsive high calorie choices).

Nutrition power aside, hot or cold cereals are one of the best breakfasts because they're tasty, economical, and require minimal prep. And so many choices. I'm a cereal blender as I like certain things about different cereals: crunchy clusters in one, extra iron in another, high fiber in yet another. So making my bowl of cereal is a ritual of pouring from two or three boxes to create one perfect blend. Then I saw this cool dispenser and fell in love. These useful gadgets are common in bed and breakfasts but I never thought to own one! It's perfect for cereal blenders like me but you can also store any small particle food: coffee beans, dry pasta, nuts. The jars stay air tight with a top lid and a lower lid that secures under the dispenser shoot. The handle releases about a 1/4 cup per crank.

Here's my gift to motivate you to eat breakfast every day: CSN Stores is offering a free dry food dispenser like the one shown above (or a gift certificate for a gadget of equal value) to one lucky FitMamaEats reader! Just click on "Contact Me" and send your name and email address. A random winner will be picked on May 24 and contacted by email.