Friday, January 30, 2015

Skinny Super Bowl Recipe Round Up

    With the Super Bowl only two days away I thought I would compile some of my favorite skinny Super Bowl recipes created by fellow food bloggers. Each recipe is definitely touchdown worthy and guilt free. Enjoy and GO PATS!!

Crispy Spiced Chickpeas via The Foodie Physician

Spaghetti Squash Cheddar Bites via Bite of Health

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Spaghetti Squash Cheddar Bites

             This may be one of my favorite posts just because it's all about cheese!! Yes, I admit cheese is one of my favorite foods. Cheese, in moderation, makes a great high protein snack and can add a ton of flavor and creaminess to dishes.  Cheddar cheese is one of my top favorite cheeses, because a little goes a long way with flavor and the sharper the better!  Also, did you know cheddar cheese is naturally lactose free? So those of you with lactose intolerance can indulge as well! 
         I was lucky enough to receive free samples from Cabot Farm to do some recipe testing. I love that Cabot is a local sustainable family-farmer owned cooperative with more than 1200 farms throughout New England and New York.
     Cabot is challenging us to come up with a healthier appetizer or snack using Cabot Cheddar cheese. The Super Bowl (Go Patriots!!) and my love for mac and cheese were the inspiration for my healthier Spaghetti Squash Cheddar Bites. I wanted a healthy finger food that would please just about anyone. These cheddar bites definitely are a crowd pleaser.  Using spaghetti squash instead of macaroni helps cut down on the carbohydrates and calories and the sharp cheddar brings in a ton of flavor and protein. Cooking them in a muffin tin also helps with portion control. Each bite is only 75 calories! 

Spaghetti Squash Cheddar Bites

Makes: 12; Servings: 6

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 6 ounces Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • olive oil spray
  • 1/4 whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1. Preheat oveen to 425 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place on baking sheet cut side up. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 35-40 minutes or until tender.
2. While spaghetti squash is baking.  In a medium saute pan on medium heat add 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute onions for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or until frangrent. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl mix together Dijon mustard and egg.
4. Once spaghetti squash is cooked remove from oven and turn oven heat down to 375 degrees. Let squash cool for 10 minutes then shred with a fork, then add shredded squash to colander to drain any water then pat dry with paper towel. (This is key to prevent the squash from being to soggy!)
5. In a large bowl mix together squash, with egg mixture, then add in onions and cheese and mix to combine.
6. Spray muffin tin with olive oil spray. Add equal amounts of squash mixture to each muffin tin. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and paprika.
7. Bake mixture for 20 minutes. Then place muffin tin on top rack and broil for 2-3 minutes.

Nutrition (per 2 bites): 154 Calories, 12 g carbohydrate, 9 g protein, 10g fat

Disclosure: I received free samples of Cabot Cheese mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe challenge sponsored by Cabot Creamery and am eligible to win prizes. I was not additionally compensated for my time.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Balance is Key to Health and KIND Bar #Giveaway

      My goal for the New Year was to bring you a weekly blog to inspire a healthier you...and then school started. So now my hope is to bring you new tips a couple times a month!

      For this week's blog series, "A Healthier You in 2015", I want to get you to think more carefully about the foods you put in your body.  Food is more than just calories; it provides us with essential nutrients that impact our health.  Choosing a balance of high quality nutrients will positively impact our health, decreasing your risk for a variety of poor health outcomes including cancer and diabetes.

      My goal for you this week is to start choosing meals and snacks that are balanced and provide a source of lean protein, fiber and healthy fats.

      One perfect balanced snack is a KIND bar. They are perfectly portioned; each bar is around 200 calories and is made with whole ingredients that provide heart healthy fats, protein and fiber to keep you full and satisfied.   KIND bars come in 4 different varieties; Fruit & Nut, Plus, Nuts & Spices, and STONG & KIND, all of which are gluten free and made with non GMO ingredients that you can see and pronouce®.  My newest favorite is their Nuts and Spice Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan Bar. With 5 grams sugar, 7 grams fiber and 5 grams of protein it's the perfect balance of nutrients and calories. The bars are also perfect to take with you on the go. I packed a few with me for my recent trip to San Francisco. One bar plus a banana helped keep me satisfied during my 6 hour flight, preventing me from having to purchase any expensive and not so healthy airplane snacks!

To find out more information about KIND Snacks and what KIND is doing to help improve our community check out KIND Movement and KIND Causes.
Want to win some of your own KIND snacks?

To enter for your chance to win, leave a comment here with your favorite healthy snack or KIND snack and send your email address to (your e-mail will remain confidential and is just a way to contact you if you win!)

You can enter additional times by:
  1. Tweeting about the giveaway: “I just entered @laurensharifiRD #giveaway for FREE @KINDSnacks bars”
  2. Following my Facebook page @ Bite Of Health
The giveaway will run from January 26th through 29th and I’ll pick a winner using and announce the winner later in the week.

If you would like to purchase your own KIND bars use promo code KINDNUTRITION @ to receive one case of KIND for 15% off plus free shipping through the end of February.

Good Luck!

 Disclosure: This giveaway is sponsored by KIND Snacks. I was compensated for my time by receiving free samples of the products mentioned. All opinions stated are my own.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Slow Cooker Cauliflower Mediterranean Stew with Harissa

      This month's recipe redux theme is inspired by recent food trends of smoky flavors and spicy foods. I am not a big fan of spicy foods, but have become more daring recently! Capsasin found in spicy foods like chili peppers have been shown to have positive health benefits including reducing cravings for fatty and sugary foods as well as increasing your metabolism. Depending on your heat tolerance chili peppers are a great addition to a variety of dishes.

       I decided to heat things up with a Mediterranean chili pepper paste called Harissa. Harissa is made with  roasted red peppers, serrano peppers, chili peppers and other seasonings including garlic paste, coriander and caraway seeds. It packs a punch of heat and is full of flavor. It can be used as a rub on meats and fish or added to grains like coucous or to stews. Harissa can be found in the ethnic section of most grocery stores or Middle Eastern grocers.
       With the winter season here in full swing, I decided to add the harissa to a stew using seasonal produce and bring in some sun and warmth by adding in Mediterranean ingredients including chickpeas and Freekeh. Freekeh is a whole grain used in Mediterranean cuisine that is made from young green wheat that has been roasted. Its taste and texture reminds me of barley or brown rice but it contains three times as much protein and fiber per serving.
         I decided to use my new stove top safe slow cooker for this recipe.  That's right, the insert can be used on the stove making cooking and clean up a breeze! I was able to sauté some of the vegetables on the stove then move the pot into the slow cooker to finish cooking. Cooking the stew over low heat helped impart the heat and flavors to all the ingredients in this dish.

The recipe below is moderate in heat. To increase the heat add one additional tablespoon of harissa, or for a mild heat cut back one tablespoon of harissa.

Slow Cooker Cauliflower Mediterranean Stew with Harissa
 Servings: 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1½ tablespoons harissa (can substitute with Sriracha or chili paste)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup freekeh, uncooked (can substitute with barley, quinoa or brown rice)
1. Heat a skillet or stove top safe crockpot over medium heat. Add in olive oil to heat then add in onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in cumin, coriander, curry powder, cinnamon, harissa and tomato paste and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
2. Move ingredients to slow cooker and add in all remaining ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. 
3. Remove bay leaves before serving.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pears with Pistachio Goat Cheese and Fig Butter

           If I haven't mentioned this already, one of my biggest pet peeves is food waste. I hate having to throw away food that has gone bad, it's a waste of money and food that could have been enjoyed! So when I am trying to come up with a last minute snack or meal I usually end up using random ingredients left over in my pantry or fridge. And, most of the time, my creations come out pretty delicious!  
        This time I was trying to come up with a quick appetizer for a family New Years party and had a bunch of pears that needed to be used up. Pears are a great seasonal snack, but I wanted to spice them up a bit and so was born these sweet and savory pear bites!  For something savory I added goat cheese and pistachios and for natural sweetness I used some leftover fig butter. Who says cheese needs to go on crackers anyway? All in all these tasty seasonal snacks are packed with flavor and texture and make a easy appetizer for your next dinner party.

Pears with Pistachio Goat Cheese and Fig Butter

  • 3 pears, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup fig butter
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, crushed
1. For each pear slice, spread on 1 teaspoon goat cheese, 1 teaspoon fig butter and sprinkle on 1/2  teaspoon pistachios.

If you don't have these ingredients you could substitute another soft cheese (i.e. brie, light cream cheese, or Neufchatel etc.) for goat cheese; apples for pears; apple butter or pumpkin butter for fig butter; and crushed walnuts or pecans for pistachios. Be creative and let me know what you come up with!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Blood Orange Cranberry Muffins

          I recently spent a few days in Portsmouth, NH for a little weekend getaway and spa trip! This was much needed after working the holiday and holiday weekend (yes dietitians are that important they need to work on Christmas!).

        During my trip to Portsmouth I made a stop at Stonewall Kitchen, or as I like to call it "foodie heaven". I probably spent a good half hour in there browsing and came across Blood Orange Marmalade which gave me a little inspiration for a yummy seasonal muffin using blood oranges and cranberries.
        If you have never tried blood oranges, you are missing out! Their high anthocyanin/ antioxidant content gives them their bright red/maroon color. They are also high in Vitamin C, making them the perfect food for fighting and preventing that winter cold! Blood oranges (also called Moro) taste similar to Navel oranges but have a sweeter berry flavor.

        For the muffins I balanced the sweetness from the blood oranges with tart cranberries. The added cranberries make these muffins an antioxidant powerhouse and the perfect combination of sweet and tart. I added the marmalade to the middle of the muffins as a sweet fun surprise. By doing this I was able to cut back on the added sugars in the muffin mix. These Blood Orange Cranberry Muffins make for a delicious breakfast, snack or dessert this winter season!

Blood Orange Cranberry Muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup blood orange juice
  • 1/2 cup milk, fat-free
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons blood orange zest
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar, or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (can substitute with dried cranberries)
  • 1/4 cup blood orange marmalade (can substitute with orange marmalade)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tin with oil spray or line with paper liners.
2. In a medium size bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.
3. In a standing mixer mix together eggs, juice, milk, oil, zest, sugar and vanilla extract. Then fold in cranberries.
4. Fill each muffin tin 1/3 full with batter, then add 1 teaspoon of marmalade, then layer on more batter to fill each muffin tin approximately 2/3 full.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
6. Let muffins cool for 5 minutes then remove and place on wire rack to finish cooling.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Healthier You in 2015 #1

        Happy New Year!! To ring in the New Year and inspire a healthier you this year, over the next several weeks I will be giving you some of my top tips for improving your health! This week I am giving you my low down on my favorite “diets” or as I like to call them lifestyle approaches for health. A healthy lifestyle includes consumption of foods that promote health, prevent chronic disease and help manage your weight as well as includes physical activity. There are two diets or healthy lifestyle approaches that I recommend, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean Diet, because they focus on balanced eating and encourage healthy lifestyle habits that are sustainable. The biggest issue with a lot of fad diets like Paleo and Atkins is that they restrict important food groups cutting out essential nutrients from your diet and often leaving you unsatisfied and going back to your old ways. So my new year’s resolution for you is to make health goals you can stick to and my hope is these diets will help give you some inspiration and guidance.

1. DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)

       The aim of the DASH diet is to prevent and lower high blood pressure by focusing on foods high in potassium, calcium, fiber and protein that promote heart health while cutting back on foods high in sodium. Some of these foods include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low fat dairy, whole grains and heart healthy fats. The diet also promotes making gradual changes to your diet, eating foods in moderation and encourages exercise, all of which is important for weight management. For more information of the DASH diet check out this link from the National Health Institute.

2. Mediterranean Diet
         The Mediterranean diet is another diet that aims to improve your health and prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The foods recommended are similar to the foods consumed by those living in countries near the Mediterranean Sea. These folks have been found to live longer and suffer less from chronic disease. The diet is high in produce, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seafood, moderate in eggs, dairy and poultry and low in sweets and red meat. For more information and recipes check out this website .

What are your New Year’s health goals?

What are some of your health tips that you have found successful?