Food, Nutrition and Cooking

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A barley by any other name

Purple Barley Risotto

Risotto is traditionally made with arborio rice. In this version purple barley is substituted. This barley takes longer to cook than the rice. If you don’t want to spend the time over the stove, you can parboil the barley for 30 minutes in plain water before adding it to the recipe. Drain excess water and add barley at the same point as indicated in the recipe. If you do parboil, you will be able to reduce the time you have to “fuss” over the risotto by ~ the the same 30 minutes spent parboiling. Either way the barley will have more of an “al dente” texture than arborio and the overall texture of the dish will not be quite as creamy as arborio rice.

2 T unsalted butter, divided

4 oz mushrooms, sliced (I like baby bellas)

1 small onion, minced

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup purple or black barley

32 ounces broth (vegetable or chicken), very hot

1 cup water (omit if barley has been parboiled), very hot

~10-15 aspargus, trimmed and cut into small pieces

Melt 1/2 the butter in a heavy skillet over medium/high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove mushrooms from pan.

Lower temperature to low. Melt remaining butter and cook onion and garlic about 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium/high. Add the wine and let it boil up and deglaze the pan. Cook liquid from wine down until the consistency is a bit syrupy.

Reduce heat again to medium/low. Return the mushrooms and add the barley to the pan and coat both with the onion/garlic “syrup.” Add 1 cup of the hot broth. Cook, stirring frequently until liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. It’s important to let the liquid absorb slowly; reduce the heat if the liquid absorbs too quickly.

Add another cup of broth and again cook about 15 minutes, until it has been absorbed.

Continue until all the broth and cup of water is absorbed. At the last addition of liquid, also add the asparagus and continue to cook until almost all the liquid has absorbed. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serves 2-4

All content of this posting and is the intellectual property of Sari Schlussel-Leeds, MS, RD, CDN

unless otherwise noted.

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You calling me Chicken?

Kitchen Sink Chicken Salad

This fresh approach to chicken salad adds fiber by pumping up the fruit and veggie intake for your day. It’s a great way to use up leftover chicken and incorporate small amounts of greens you may have (parsley, cilantro, sprouts).

1 small roasted chicken, (skin and wings removed), cut into 1-2″ chunks

1 stalk celery

1/2 small onion, cut into 4 pieces

1 handful pea shoots or other greens

1 small apple, in small chunks (leave skin on)

1/2-3/4 cup walnut pieces

2-3 T mayonnaise

1tsp-1 T curry powder (to taste)

In food processor chop onion, celery, pea shoots (or other mild greens) until finely chopped. 

Add chicken, apple, walnuts, mayo, curry powder and process, using pulse button, until desired consistency is reached. 

Serves 4-6

Who do you trust?

Only a Registered Dietitian (RD) has received the training to give accurate and up to date nutritional advice. Those claiming to be “nutrition experts” without proper credentials may be serving their best (financial) interests and not your best health interests. Know your source. 

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Fiddle me this

Although I love to cook and often the more ingredients the better, these very quick and almost too easy recipes were truly delicious. Usually I am not an aficionado of butter. However all the googling led me to feel that butter was probably the way to go here. And since my latest LDL reading was 90 – I figured I’d go for it. 

Fiddlehead Ferns and Polenta Pan-Sauteed in Butter

~ 1/4 lb fiddlehead ferns

1-2 T butter

Soak ferns in cold water, rub between your fingers to remove any brown “paper”.

Steam ferns for ~ 12 minutes – NOTE: Ferns MUST be cooked either by steaming or boiling prior to continuing with recipe to be safely edible.

1 package prepared polenta, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1-2 T butter

Melt butter for both ferns and polenta in non-stick saute pan. 

Add polenta and ferns and saute till polenta starts to brown on one side, flip polenta slices and saute on other side until lightly browned.  

Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serves 2-4


Gone Fishin’

Taco-esque Fish   Serves 2

1/2 lb mild fish such as tilapia, sea bass, brook trout

2 whole wheat flour tortillas

~ 3 oz cheese such as cheddar (or soy cheese)

3 cups tossed salad (with as many different veggies as you like, best with at least one ingredient that crunches)

2 oz avocado, sliced

Sriracha chili sauce to taste

2 T prepared salad dressing (your favorite)

Saute fish, in a pan prepared with cooking spray, until cooked through (~5-7 minutes), break into chunks

Heat tortillas and toast lightly to remove that raw taste but do not let them get crunchy.

Sprinkle each tortillas with 1/2 the cheese and melt ~ 30 seconds in microwave. Top each tortilla with 1/2 the fish, chili sauce to taste, 1/2 the salad, 1/2 the avocado and finish each with 1 Tbsp your favorite salad dressing. 

Fold in half and eat like a taco or go formal with a knife and fork. 



Put on your Exercise Panties

A former couch potato’s guide to get you off the sofa and keep you off:

1. Dress for Success:  Have your exercise panties at the ready. Exercise before work; have your exercise clothes laid out next to your bed so that they are the first things you see in the morning. Exercise after work; change into your exercise gear in the bathroom at work BEFORE you leave. If you are dressed in the appropriate clothing, you are much more likely to get out there and exercise.

2. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail: Have a plan. Some find it best to exercise at the same time everyday. Some of us have schedules that don’t allow for that. Either way, schedule your exercise. Before you go to bed at night, plan what type of exercise you will be doing the next day and when you will be doing it. Consistency is important. That said, you should schedule some days off; 1 or at most 2 days per week. That means on your days ON you have got to stick to your plan. Even when you don’t want to exercise, you will never regret that you did it once you are done for the day.

3. Loner or Socialite?: Some prefer the stream of consciousness that exercising alone allows for. Others find companionship makes for more pleasant exercise. I like a little of both. Joining a group exercise class can have the added benefit of socialization (before and after class, during is a big NO-NO). You make new friends while whittling your thighs and firming your core! Exercising alone benefits clear thinking and brainstorming.

4. Music, music, music (and maybe a good book): Fire up your MP3 player. Nothing sponsors a workout like your favorite tunes. Not a music aficionado (hard to believe!) but finding it difficult to get any reading in?- Books on MP3 will help you multitask. Caveat: If you are exercising outside with earphones be sure you are facing traffic so you can see any oncoming vehicles. Nothing ruins a good workout more than being hit by a car.

5. Start slowly: Beginning an exercise plan for the first time or picking up where you left off may have you overdoing it. The warning to check with your doctor before (re)starting is not a bad idea. Ease into exercise. Doing more than your body is ready for can lead to frustration and have you quitting before a week is up. 30 minutes a day is a good start, but if that is too much for you, start with 15 minutes or even 5. Before you know it you’ll be up to an hour a day; a good general goal.

6. Find something you like to do: Tennis, running, yoga, Zumba, swimming, elliptical; it doesn’t really matter as long as it challenges you physically and you enjoy it. If you hate the exercise you start with, switch to something else. If you’ve become bored with your regime, switch it up. Variety within a week can keep you interested while working different muscle groups.

7. Inside/Outside: Exercising outside is a great way to be one with the day. However some days the weather is totally uncooperative. Having a back up plan keeps you on track (literally or figuratively); even if the back up plan is walking around your home for 30 minutes and/or watching that worn out Jane Fonda workout tape (for those of us old enough to remember) for the umpteenth time. Maybe workout DVDs are your mainstay with the security of home being the place you are most comfortable working out. Finding the climate that works for you keeps you at it.

8. Be Safe: SUNSCREEN even on those chilly overcast days is a must. Many of us don’t think about those UVA/UVB rays unless we are at the beach or sitting around the pool but they are ALWAYS out there. Don’t forget your face. Wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses further protects your eyes and your face from the harm of the sun.

9. Good Gear: Even when you are starting out, you want to have the right clothes and shoes for the activity. Best to find a reputable athletic footwear store your first time out so you can find the brand and fit that works best for you. Expect to fork over a chunk of change for good footwear. Footwear is probably the most important gear purchase you will make. Be sure you are comfortable and that your feet are well supported. Once you do that,  you will find great discounts on many e-tailing websites for footwear. Runners and walkers need new sneakers frequently. When you find your shoes are no longer providing the comfort and support you remember having when you got them or when the soles look unevenly worn, it’s time for a new pair. Many find about 6 months to be the cut-off point. Exercise clothing is everywhere at every price point and higher prices don’t mean better quality or fit. Target and TJ Maxx always have trendy activewear in all shapes and sizes at affordable prices.

10. What’s in it for me?: Ah, the rewards. Of course you’ve got the improvement to physical and mental health that exercise provides. Somedays though (and that is almost everyday for me) a little gold star is needed. And I mean that literally. I get a sticker (yes, you read that right) on my wall calendar every day that I exercise. It may seem to simple to be true, but I find that I want that sticker every day. It’s the pat on the back for my good work.

So put on your Exercise Panties, get out of your chair and just do it. Remember, whatever it is you choose to do, you are lapping everyone on the sofa. You’ll be glad you did.