15 Foods You’re Not Eating (But Should!)

My approach to healthy eating focuses on eating more, not less.

Feast more on certain “nutritional rock stars” that are good for your heart, stocked with vitamins and low in calories.

Many of these superfoods also help you feel full longer — a great thing for shedding weight.

Eat more of These superfoods

These foods might not be a staple for you – yet. But they have the potential to transform meal time (or snack time) into a healthier experience.

  1. Oats: Heart-healthy. Fills you up so you eat less.
  2. Canned/fresh tuna: Full of vitamins. Also heart-healthy.
  3. Salmon: Similar benefits as tuna. Also full of brain-boosting fats.
  4. Greek yogurt: Lots of protein. Can energize you and keep you healthy.
  5. Berries: Good for the heart! May help reduce your risk of diseases.
  6. Nuts: Another heart-healthy superfood. Watch your portions. Nuts are calorie-rich, unlike many other foods on the list. Step outside your comfort zone and feast on pistachios, walnuts, and pecans.
  7. Water: Curbs your hunger. Helps you lose weight.
  8. The following veggies are super low in calories. They’re full of vitamins, such as folate, which helps prevent birth defects. Don’t know how to cook these tricky foods? Here are some ideas:

  9. Cauliflower: Try roasting its florets. Cauliflower mashed potatoes is another popular, healthy alternative.
  10. Brussels sprouts: Another great candidate for roasting. Toast with olive oil or Parmesan cheese.
  11. Kale: A great green for salads. Toss with your favorite dressing and toppings. Baby kale tends to be more tender. Or “massage” regular kale leaves to tenderize them.
  12. Arugula: Another salad staple. Or, sauté with other vegetables.
  13. Bok choy: Use its leaves in salads or sandwiches. Or, drizzle with olive oil and throw on the grill.
  14. The following foods are great protein sources. They can serve as a healthier alternative to meat, which tends to have more fat and contains cholesterol.

  15. Beans: Try garbanzo beans for a super healthy kick.
  16. Dried peas: Consider adding to soups. Split pea soup is a classic.
  17. Lentils: Very versatile. Try them in stews, salads, soups and side dishes.

A surprisingly delicious summer salad

I didn’t expect this “farro” salad to be tasty. Farro is a kind of super-healthy whole grain that at first glance looks unappetizing. It looks like you’re eating a big bowl of barley!

Turns out I was wrong. Farro has a nutty and pleasant taste that is extra scrumptious when paired with diced apples, raisins and sliced almonds.

As a bonus, farro is rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Like many whole grains, farro may also help lower your risk of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.

So whip up a bowl of this farro salad at your next summer shindig. Surprise your guests with this unusually tasty side dish.

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Apple & Almond Farro Salad
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Instructions
  1. Mix everything together and add oil and balsamic mixture. Feel free to add chopped tomatoes, diced cucumbers, red peppers or other veggies.

Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato Bake

Buffalo chicken. Is there anything better? I’d submit to you that there is not. However, it is generally not a nutritional practice to eat buffalo chicken wings and dip on a regular basis. That is, until I discovered this casserole that’s equal parts nutritional and flavorful. This is our family’s go-to recipe for any event or occasion, and great for feeding a crowd or freezing for later.

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Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato Bake
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You'll need:
Additional toppings:
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You'll need:
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil or ghee, and add the bell pepper and onion. Season with salt and pepper, and saute until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. In a bowl, mix hot sauce of your choice (6 tablespoons get you a "mild" heat, 4 tablespoons is good for kids, 8 tablespoons is for your heat lovers!), with 1 tbsp of olive oil or ghee, 1 tbsp of paprika, 1 tsp of garlic powder and salt and pepper. Stir in the raw chicken to coat, then add the sweet potatoes. Then stir in the seasoned bell pepper and onion. Mix together in a baking dish, and bake, covered at 350 for 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  4. At 40 minutes, remove and add the crumbled bacon and stir in the greens. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sweet potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the oven and top with the green onions and another swirl of hot sauce.
  5. Serve with assorted toppings. Pairs nicely with a cold beer!
Recipe Notes

Make it vegetarian: Use firm tofu or tempeh! Pat your tofu dry, then dice. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet. Season your tofu with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder. When the oil is hot, sear the tofu until browned on each side. Stir into the baked sweet potatoes, vegetable and sauce mixture with 10 minutes left.

Weeknight hack: Use rotisserie chicken to reduce your cooking time!

Homemade Sauerkraut is Easier Than You Think

I’m mostly Irish and German and my wife is mostly Polish and Irish. Thus, explaining why we make our own sauerkraut seems indulgent, but here I go anyway. I love sauerkraut with my hot dogs and Reubens, and she loves to use it to make pierogi and kapusta. We both love it with some kielbasa. And like most everything else food related, it tastes better when it’s homemade.

Whether or not you have a genetic predisposition for pickled cabbage fermented in lactic acid bacteria, read on, as I share with you my family’s recipe for sauerkraut. This recipe comes from my mother and stepfather, who passed it on to my wife and me.

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Sauerkraut Recipe
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Instructions
  1. Wash and then cut the heads of cabbage into pieces small enough to fit into the food processor. Using the appropriate blade for 1/4-inch slices, process one head of cabbage and place the result into the fermentation crock. Sprinkle a little salt on the cabbage. Massage the cabbage vigorously with your hands to bring out its moisture (this process forms the brine). Do this for 10-15 minutes with each head, using the rest of the salt. Let it sit for one hour.
  2. The next step is to pack the salt and cabbage mixture down into your crock. The brine should cover the kraut completely. If there is not enough brine to cover the cabbage, you need to massage the cabbage some more. When you are done packing, spread a sheet of cheesecloth across the top so that, later, when a layer of scum or moldy residue appears on top, you can easily remove the cheesecloth, rinse it off, and replace it. Then place the fermentation weights on top of the cheesecloth; these weights will keep the cabbage submerged in the brine. Finally, cover the crock with a top. We have wooden fitted tops with handles, while my stepfather uses a flat piece of plywood and a brick. Either will work.
  3. Allow the cabbage to ferment for approximately three weeks at room temperature. Feel free to give the cabbage a taste after one or two weeks to see how it's going, but try not to open the crock repeatedly. When you think the kraut is done, transfer it to quart-size freezer-style zip-lock bags and freeze them.
  4. With the sauerkraut in these bags, it is so easy to, say, pull a couple of bags out, run them under hot water for a minute to loosen the kraut, put the contents into a crock-pot with two kielbasa, sit it on low for 5.5 hours, and you will have a delicious dinner waiting when it's done!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Tasty Winter Squash Bake with Feta

There are a few dishes in my cooking rotation that I can make in my sleep. This winter squash bake with Feta cheese is one of them – thanks to my sister-in-law who first made this dish for us a few years ago. It’s evolved to take in estranged vegetables, like that last head of broccoli or a handful of spinach. You can swap out any vegetable you like, make this vegan or vegetarian. It’s easy to make ahead, freeze, is great comfort food and travels well. Even the pickiest eaters in our family will eat this one. Enjoy!

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Winter Squash Bake with Feta
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
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people
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Heat your olive oil and brown your sausage. Once browned, remove the sausage.
  3. Add another swirl of olive oil to the pan drippings. Stir in garlic, onion, bell pepper and broccoli. Cook for two minutes.
  4. Stir in the squash and coat with the oil mixture in the pan. Add oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Stir in the spinach and squeeze some lemon juice on top of it. Stir for just a moment until it wilts.
  6. Combine the vegetables and sausage in a baking dish. Swirl in a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and some more salt and pepper.
  7. Cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes or until the squash is fork tender. Once it is, or slightly before, remove foil and add feta cheese.
  8. Bake for another 5 minutes or until the feta is bubbly and delicious. Serve with some crusty bread!

What You Might Not Know about the Festival of Holi

It’s almost spring! For me, that means it’s almost time to celebrate Holi, the Hindu celebration marked by a festival of colors.

Different parts of India have different traditions to celebrate Holi, a festival that falls this year on March 1. Holi marks the arrival of spring and the victory of good over evil.

A Two-day celebration

I’m originally from the state of Maharashtra in the western part of India. Growing up in this region of India, Holi was a two-day celebration. My mom would start the first day by making a big feast. The highlight of the meal was always the dessert “Puran Poli,” a sweet flatbread filled with lentils, sugar, cardamom, and nutmeg. The dessert is topped with “ghee,” also known as clarified butter. Later that evening, we’d have a neighborhood bonfire.

A Festival of Colors

The big “festival of colors” happened on the second day of Holi. To celebrate the coming of spring – we’d throw colored powders at each other while the kids would spray each other with water guns filled with colored water.

The author with her family as they celebrate Holi.

Celebrating Holi in Upstate N.Y.

Now I live in Clarence, N.Y., and haven’t lived in India for almost two decades. I still make my favorite Puran Poli dessert. I’ve included the recipe below.

My family and I attend the temple at the Hindu Cultural Society in Getzville, N.Y., where we celebrate the festival with our local community by throwing colors. Everyone from kids to adults enjoy this fun event.  We wear traditional clothing during the festival.  Despite what you might see in the Bollywood movies, we’re not wearing white clothes during the festival.

The one thing I miss about celebrating Holi in India is just how big the festival could become. Everyone celebrated Holi where I’m from. Here, we celebrate at the temple with only 100 to 200 people. It’s still fun and meaningful, but definitely not as big!

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Puran Poli
Prep Time 2 hours
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Ingredients
Prep Time 2 hours
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Instructions
  1. Wash the chana dal 2-3 times. Add 5 cups of water along with the dal in a heavy-bottomed pot. Let the lentils cook on medium-low heat for an hour, stirring a few times. Remove any white foam that may rise up.
  2. Drain all the water. Add sugar, nutmeg powder, cardamom powder, and saffron. Mix well, and cook stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Cool down the cooked dal for 10 mins. Blend it to a smooth consistency with a hand blender or food processor.
  4. Knead soft, pliable dough with 1 cup of whole wheat flour, salt, and oil. Let the dough rest for 30 mins.
  5. Start making balls for the dough and the stuffing, which should be of the same size.
  6. Put a heavy griddle on medium-high heat. Roll the dough by using the dry wheat flour that is kept aside for rolling. Make a 3-4 inch diameter circle. Put the stuffing in the middle of the rolled dough and then gather all the sides of the dough on top of the stuffing to enclose it. Roll the bread softly using more dry flour. Gently put the rolled bread on the heated griddle. Cook evenly on both sides to a perfect golden brown color. Serve with ghee on top.

Flavorful Escarole and Pastina Soup

This delicious Escarole and Pastina soup includes many Italian flavors that remind me of my childhood. What little Ragazzo or Ragazzi didn’t grow up feasting on ingredients such as escarole, tiny pastina, and cannellini beans?

Alisa Fanara, my co-worker (and fellow Italian), shared this recipe. This soup is perfect for a wintery day. Add chicken or sausage to make the soup heartier.