Archive | March 2013

Smoky BBQ Salmon

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This is an easy way to add a lot of flavor to salmon. I’ve been doing this one for years now at the Kenai Riverside Lodge in Alaska. It’s always a favorite amongst the fisherman. The little bit of added sugar goes a long way with the flavor, but the glycemic effect is minimal. Enjoy the great taste of this salmon as well as its many health benefits. Salmon is a great source of protein and heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, and it is a sustainable fish that is low in Mercury. Consumption of salmon has been linked to reduction in inflammation, cancer prevention, increased cognitive function, and improved cardiovascular, eye, and skin health.

Ingredients:

1 pound of  Salmon filet, skin and pin bones, removed

– 2 tablespoons brown sugar

– 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

– 2 teaspoons granulated garlic

– 1 tablespoon freshly chopped or dried dill

– 1/4 cup, sweet BBQ sauce

– salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Season salmon liberally with salt and pepper and sear in a small amount of oil in a pan or on the flat top until nice and golden brown on one side (optional).

2. Mix brown sugar, smoked paprika, granulated garlic, and dill together in a bowl (add a pinch of salt and pepper if needed). Apply mixture to the seared salmon filets, rubbing it into the flesh.  Lightly brush BBQ sauce over each filet as well.

3. Cook in a 400 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes until desired doneness is reached.

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Homemade Energy Gel

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Have you ever wondered what’s inside those little energy gels that you are squeezing down your throat in the middle of a race or at the back end of a workout? I have. I recently became curious about those little blood glucose life-savers, so I began doing some research on what it takes to make one. Nothing I found was all that alarming, yet I can’t say that I was all that thrilled with what was in the packages either. I knew that they would all contain a simple or a similar-acting complex carbohydrate, such as fructose and/or maltodextrin, which I had no problem with, as that is the desired source of fuel when trying to avoid “hitting the wall” during periods of intense exercise. However, I was a bit displeased to find a list of other less-desirable ingredients on the packages with familiar names such as preservatives, natural flavors, pectin, xanthan gum and gellan. In addition, I also found some other more appealing words like antioxidants, but after a more careful glance, I realized they were nothing more than a supplement of vitamins C and E (I won’t waste any time here debating whether vitamin supplements are of any benefit to us).

So, I decided to make my own simple, tasty, and unprocessed energy gel that would not only serve its purpose as an energy booster, but that might contain a little added bonus nutritionally as well.   As soon as I began to brainstorm with ideas to test in the lab, my good friend, triathlon competitor, and very well-seasoned home cook David Robinson sent me an email with a recipe for a homemade energy gel attached. It seemed a little divine (or at least coincidental) that his email popped up in my inbox at exactly the time I was heading off to do a little R&D. However, I appreciated his help nonetheless, and I even more appreciated this easy, delicious and very nutritious homemade energy gel.

This recipe is great because it not only contains a quick-release carbohydrate, a bit of caffeine and a nice mix of flavors that are the standard requirement of any good energy gel, but the binding element and most abundant ingredient is nothing more than a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds. If you are not familiar with chia seeds, then you should get acquainted. They have more calcium than milk, more omega-3s than any other plant food, and unlike flaxseed, they do not have to be ground up for the body to digest it, therefore making them an excellent source of fiber. Another nutritional bonus with our new energy gel is that it is flavored with cocoa and coffee, which not only provides a hint of mocha, but also adds a nice antioxidant punch. Researchers at Cornell University have found that cocoa contains nearly twice the antioxidant properties of red wine and up to three times that of green tea.  Coffee has also gotten some nice press in recent years for its high antioxidant properties as well. So, while getting a quick energy boost during some serious exercise, you can feel good knowing that you are doing it naturally, while also getting a bit more in the way of nutrition than just a sugary gel with a chemical binding agent.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons chia seeds

2 tablespoons honey or agave

1 tablespoon brown rice or maple syrup

2-3 tablespoons of salted water with sea salt

1/4 teaspoon finely ground coffee

1/2 teaspoon cocoa

1 3oz travel shampoo bottle

Preparation

1. Take the 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and mix them with the salted water. Let them hydrate for a few minutes until they puff up a bit and feel like they could almost be formed into a ball.

2. Once they are hydrated, mix together the rest of the ingredients. (Note: One of the tablespoons of water can be a tablespoon of already mixed coffee that gets absorbed into the chia seeds. This adds a more consistent coffee flavor throughout, however the stronger hints of the ground coffee within the gel are pleasant as well).

3. The recipe yields about 3-4 ounces, enough to fill one 3oz travel shampoo bottle with a little bit left over. I found that the best way to get the mix from a bowl to the bottle is by using a funnel. Little 1-2 ounce Ziplock bags work great for storing the gel too, especially the leftover ounce (or two) from the recipe.

4. The recipe yields 3-4 servings, with 1/3 of your bottle being ideal for the shot of energy needed during times of exertion.

Nutrition Info:

Calories: 90 / Fat: 3g / Saturated Fat: .5g / Carbohydrates: 16g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 1.5g

Quinoa with Garlic Chickpeas and Wilted Spinach

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If one of your goals for the new year is to eat a bit cleaner, then you should definitely try this month’s recipe. Study after study shows the many benefits of eating a diet high in fiber, yet we Americans most often come up very short on this recommendation. Quinoa is always a great high-fiber vegetarian option, as it contains all of the complete essential amino acids that are found in animal products, plus it has the added bonus of being a whole grain. Chickpeas are also high in fiber and protein and contain phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. The immune-boosting and detoxifying onion and garlic, the healthy fat in the olive oil and the high nutrition value of the spinach make this recipe all the more nourishing.

Enjoy this for either lunch or dinner, as a main course or as an accompaniment to fish or chicken. There is much room to improvise with this recipe by adding other vegetables and spices. I often add a little soy sauce, sweet chili and mirin for an Asian kick. It serves 8.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup royal quinoa
  • 1 can organic chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • 1 small to medium-sized onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or Tabasco
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups baby spinach, packed tightly

Preparation:

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. (Generally, the preparation is similar to that of rice, being 1.5 times the amount of water for the amount of quinoa in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for a few minutes until the water is absorbed.)
  2. Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the olive oil at medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue sautéing until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the chickpeas and the white wine and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about 5-8 minutes while stirring often.
  3. Once most of the wine has evaporated, remove from heat, add the quinoa to the chickpea mixture, along with the lemon juice and cayenne (or Tabasco), and season well with salt and pepper. Last, incorporate the baby spinach a handful at a time.

Nutritional Facts:

Calories: 196 / Fat: 6g / Saturated Fat: 1g / Carbohydrates: 31g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 7g

What is Quinoa?

Though relatively new to the United States, quinoa has been cultivated in the Andean mountain regions of Peru, Chile and Bolivia for more than 5,000 years, and it has long been a staple food in the diets of the native Indians. The Incas considered it a sacred food.

It’s often thought of as a grain, but quinoa is actually the seed of a plant related to beets, chard and spinach. These amino acid-rich seeds area very nutritious – and very delicious. Cooked quinoa seeds are fluffy and creamy, yet slightly crunchy. They have a delicate, somewhat nutty flavor. While the most popular type of quinoa is a transparent yellow color, other varieties feature colors such as orange, pink, red, purple or black.

Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. Quinoa is also a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, folate and phosphorus, and may be especially valuable for people with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Mediterranean Hummus

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Hummus, which originated in the Middle East, has become quite popular in America over the last couple of decades. It is sold in nearly every grocery store around the country, and it has become a common item on restaurant menus as well. Thankfully it is generally pretty nutritious, because if you are like me, then you have very little self-control when there is a tub of it within reach. Few foods can get my mouth watering like a bowl of hummus that is done right. This recipe is great for a standard batch. Feel free to flavor it however you wish with things like herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, or curry powder. Hummus is very versatile, as it can be served as a dip with crackers, chips, bread and vegetables, or it can be used as a spread for sandwiches. Another lesser-none use for hummus is to thin it out into a salad dressing with water, broth, vinegar and/or wine.

While you have to be careful to not go too crazy with the portions, a 4 oz (1/2 cup) serving of this recipe is only 200 calories. For a dip or spread, it packs a pretty powerful nutritional punch offering a significant amount of fiber and protein, as well as a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, thiamin, phosphorus, and zinc.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/4 cup water or liquid from chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • dash hot sauce

Preparation:

  1. Place garlic and oil in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer at medium-high heat. Simmer slowly (reduce heat a bit) for 1 minute on the stove and then remove from the heat. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add the garlic and the water or the liquid from the chickpeas. Blend for 2-4 minutes on medium-low while pouring the garlic infused oil through the top of the blender/food processor in a slow, steady stream. Blend until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

Nutrition Facts: 

Calories: 200 / Fat: 8g / Saturated Fat: 0g / Carbohydrates: 24g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 4g

Open-Faced TEA Sandwich

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As a professional chef, I am almost always guaranteed to get asked one of three questions each week. People always have to ask me, what is your specialty? What is your favorite thing to cook? And, what do you like to eat when you get home at the end of a long work day? I still have not really come up with a definite answer for the first two, but I do have a response to the last one. Most of my friends in the business will say something along the lines of a frozen pizza or whatever fried goodness is on the bar menu at the local pub in the wee hours of the early morning. However, with my “specialty” being somewhere in the realm of nutrition, and my favorite thing to cook (at least for myself) being something quick, full of flavor and nutrient dense, I usually go for some type of sandwich. While, I was never a PB&J fan, and I have to admit that packaged lunch meat and American cheese is a bit beneath me, I can leave the table quite satisfied after chowing down on an open-faced sandwich such as this one. Don’t let the TEA confuse you. It is not a tea sandwich like your grandmother used to serve in the afternoon, but rather T-E-A as in tomato, egg and avocado. I always do it on whole wheat bread, sometimes home-made if I was really feeling motivated that week, and I always sprinkle it with a strong flavored cheese, such as feta or goat cheese. You can prepare it in about 5 minutes, and it makes a great breakfast, lunch or dinner that provides an excellent source of protein, fiber, and healthy monounsaturated fats. I often make this as a mid-afternoon snack when I’m coming in off of a workout, and I usually serve it with a side of fruit or roasted vegetables.

  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon of feta or goat cheese
  • 1 fried or poached egg
  • ¼ avocado, sliced
  • ½ Roma tomato, sliced
  • 1 light pinch of salt, pepper, and garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 basil leaves, chiffonaded into thin strips
  • After toasting your bread and preparing your egg to fit your preference, then simply layer the rest of the ingredients in order.

If you would like a whole wheat bread recipe, then please feel free to email me at brandonmcdearis@hotmail.com.

Whole-Wheat Banana Almond Bread

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Banana nut bread was always a favorite of mine growing up. While some desserts just aren’t the same after they have been “lightened”, I have always found it a little ridiculous that most banana bread recipes call for a cup of sugar, a half cup of butter and more than a cup of white flour. Banana bread is not something that has to be thought of as a guilty pleasure. With the right ingredients, it can be a healthy addition to the diet as mid-morning snack, a little pre-workout fuel or just a bite after a meal to cure the sweet tooth brought on by a craving for dessert.

The whole wheat flour in this recipe is not just a substitution, but in my opinion, it actually enhances the texture of the bread. The almonds and the plain yogurt both add a bit of nutritional benefit and the honey and bananas give the bread just the right amount of sweetness. There have been a plethora of books written over the years that state why it is a good idea to cut back on sugar intake, but avoiding all baked goods isn’t the only way to eliminate it. A dietitian friend of mine taught me a trick that works great for most baked sweets. Just substitute the amount of sugar in a recipe with half the amount of honey. Make sure to use the real stuff from a reputable source and you may even find that it enhances the flavor. This recipe makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cup whole-wheat flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the mashed bananas with the yogurt, honey, eggs, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until blended. Do not over mix.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake the loaf for 40 – 50 minutes or until it comes clean with a toothpick.

Note: This bread can be baked as muffins (both big and small) and as small loaves as well. If this recipe isn’t sweet enough for you, then you can add up to 1/4 cup more of the honey or cut the mix with a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Adding a bit of applesauce is another way to add a bit of sweetness as well.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 286 / Fat: 12g / Saturated Fat: 8g / Carbohydrates: 46g / Fiber: 6g / Protein: 6g

Power Smoothie

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Anyone that knows me well knows that I’m a smoothie fanatic. I began making smoothies a part of my daily routine one summer when I was working at a lodge on the Kenai River in Alaska. I would come into work most days, make a large batch of smoothie with whatever fruits and vegetables were available, and sip on it throughout the morning (and afternoon). I found it to be a great way to stay fueled no matter how busy I was, and it kept me from constantly sampling whatever not-so-lean foods we might have been preparing on a particular day.

The high amount of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, along with the high liquid content of this smoothie, will keep you beyond satiated for most of the day. A huge added bonus is that it is probably one of the most nutrient dense things you could put in your body. If you are familiar at all with the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) score, which is the brainchild of Eat Right America founder Dr. Joel Fuhrman, then you will be pleased about the score of this smoothie. Whole Foods Market stores have recently implemented the ANDI score to show the nutrient density of a food on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities. The score for a smoothie such as the one below would score around 3,000. Compare that to a McDonald’s Big Breakfast, which scores about 50!

This recipe makes about four servings that fill up most standard size blenders. One serving will make for a very nutritious breakfast and the rest will be fine in the fridge for another day (you may want to pulse it again in the blender before reserving). However, drinking the whole thing throughout the day is fine as long as you aren’t using it as a chaser for other meals. You may be surprised at the taste of it. The avocado, banana and yogurt give it a creaminess, and the flavor from the protein powder and the blueberries make it taste like a milkshake. Once you start drinking it, you may forget that you even added green vegetables. Enjoy!

 Ingredients:

1 avocado

1 banana

½  cup chopped kale, stems removed

½ cup spinach

1 cup frozen blueberries

½ cup nonfat Greek Yogurt

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

2 T chia or ground flaxseed

1 cup almond milk

½ cup water

juice from 1 orange or lemon (optional)

Directions:

Simply mix all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more water if needed for a thinner consistency.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:

Calories: 195

Fat: 7g

Saturated Fat: 1.5g

Carbohydrates: 24g

Fiber: 7.5g

Protein: 10g