Every food has its day and November 3rd has been designated ( not sure by whom originally) as National Sandwich Day.
What’s your favorite?
From hero to gyros, sandwiches are easy to eat and even easier to love. History or legends that became history tell us that John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich in jolly old England ‘invented’ what became know as the sandwich in the 1700’s. The story goes that he was an avid gambler and rather than leaving the hot pursuit of winning cards to take a meal, he ordered meat between two slices of bread so he could use one hand to keep the cards going and one hand to fend of hunger.
The most popular sandwich in the US, according to a number of polls, is the …drum roll……. turkey sandwich, followed by ham and chicken. But, sandwich lovers and sandwich crafters know no bounds of creativity.
Here are a few ideas to add style and good nutrition to the great sandwich.
Add blueberries to a grilled cheese sandwich. Why not? the sweet pop of the blueberries warmed on the griddle and matched with a melty gouda or white cheddar is delicious.
We all know the BLT, bacon, lettuce and tomato. But why not make a BLAT and add slices of ripe avocado to the stack. Avocados add a luscious creaminess and healthy fats to the mix.
Pile your sandwich high with salads inside. The Chopped Chicken Sandwich with Crunchy Pecan and Apple Slaw is great way to enjoy veggies and fruit right between the bread. Recipe is from my Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon.
Perhaps the Earl of Sandwich would have been even luckier at the tables with this healthy improvement over simply meat and bread.
Freezing is “nature’s pause button” and preserves the taste, texture and nutrients in foods. Flash freezing at the time of harvest means fruits and vegetables are picked at the premium point for freshness and great taste. It also means nutrients are at their highest level. In fact studies show that some frozen fruits, including blueberries, are actually a bit higher in antioxidant and vitamin content as compared to fresh.
Frozen Foods Aisle Really Heating Up!
I was shopping recently for my favorite frozen foods staples (chopped spinach, lima beans, sweet peas, and individually quick frozen chicken breasts) and I was amazed at the selection and variety of frozen vegetables and vegetable blends including vegetable blends with beans and grains. So fast and easy to prepare! You know how long it can take to cook brown rice so I like buying the frozen precooked packages of brown rice to quickly cook up on stove top or in the microwave oven. I love butternut squash and buy it fresh all of the time to roast in the oven, but I also keep packaged frozen butternut squash which is cut up into cubes to add to soups or to prep quickly as a dinner side dish.
Also, a big improvement is that frozen vegetables in cream sauce or cheese sauce seem to be on the wane. And there’s a new wave in chef-inspired frozen entrees such as Lean Cuisine‘s line of delicious and nutritious culinary creations such as Chicken Pecan with white and wild rice, pecans, sweet potatoes, apples and cranberries. One of my favorites is the Sweet & Spicy Korean-Style Beef. To balance the meal just add some vegetables on the side such as broccoli florets or green beans. #balanceyourplate
Did you know that Lean Cuisine entrees have been pleasing palates for three decades? And guess what? Chefs and dietitians working together in the Nestle USA Culinary Center in Solon, Ohio have developed recipes to lower the sodium content from 1000 mg of sodium per serving to less than 600 mg per serving by adding flavors from herbs and spices. Now that is a win-win for taste and health!
Let’s Make a Pizza!
Frozen pizzas are one of the most popular items in the frozen food aisle. I like buying thin crust cheese pizzas and topping with lots of vegetables to create a fabulous and balanced pizza meal. Toss a side salad for even more good nutrition and great taste. Here are two ideas with DiGiorno Thin Crust Four Cheese pizza. #sponsored
Healthy dining advice on the pizza box tells us that one serving is one fifth of the pizza. Delicious by the way!
Taco Pizza – top with precooked ground meat seasoned with chili powder, salt and pepper or a taco seasoning mix, place green pepper slices on top of the meat and bake pizza according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped tomatoes, salsa, avocado slices and fresh cilantro.
Tuscan Pizza– top the pizza with fresh mushroom slices and bake according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped canned artichoke hearts, sliced black olives, thinly sliced deli ham (optional) , and lots of arugula.
Here’s a great resource from Nestle USA that reveals 7 Facts why Frozen is Fabulous for taste, health, easy meals, reducing food waste and saving money.
There are lots of recipes in The Slim Down South Cookbook that feature frozen ingredients including Tomato-Lima Bean Relish ( made with frozen lima beans ) and Sweet Pea Crostini, which is a hummus like spread made from frozen green peas, olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt and pepper. It’s an appetizing vibrant green color and a hit at parties. Top with feta cheese crumbles. For a holiday look and for vegans, top with pretty red pomegranate arils!
The same can be said of the tiny wild Maine blueberry being harvested this time of year on otherwise barren rocky fields.
In fact, the land in northern Maine where these short scruffy bushes grow is referred to as ‘the barrens.’
About one third of the size of cultivated blueberries commonly sold in most supermarkets, Maine’s petite deep purple wild berries have been popping up on their own without human help for more than ten thousand years.
“The plants are not fast growing but they’re long lasting,” says David Yarborough, wild blueberry specialist and professor of horticulture at the University of Maine. “I eat my way through the fields and have wild blueberries with oatmeal for breakfast every day.”
To learn how wild blueberries are different from the tame (that’s what the US Department of Agriculture calls cultivated blueberries) I joined a group of food bloggers for an educational farm to table tour called “Blog the Barrens!”
We braved a little cold and rain but blessed the weather conditions as ‘good for the berries!’ and enjoyed wonderful meals together as we tasted and talked – it was all about the wild Maine blueberry.
At Havana restaurant in Bar Harbor, wild blueberries find their way into blueberry butter, blueberry vinaigrette sauce for scallops, and blueberry compote for goat cheese cheesecake. We were greeted with a wild Maine blueberry Mojito since Havana’s theme is a latin inspired menu.
We also spotted a very famous and discriminating ‘foodie’ and fellow blogger…Martha dining right next to us at Havana.
No we didn’t get a chance to chat but the Martha sighting had me craving more berries and appreciating the gorgeous views!
The bartenders at the Bar Harbor Inn shakes up blueberry martinis and executive chef Louis Kiefer makes a variety of wild blueberry salsas.
RECIPE: Wild Blueberry & Tomato Salsa
1 cup Wild Blueberries
1 cup quartered Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 cup diced Yellow Bell Pepper
Chiffonade of Fresh Basil Leaves
Pinch of Sea Salt & Cayenne
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons Walnut Oil (or olive oil)
1-2 tablespoons of Fruit Vinegar (Champagne vinegar, Blueberry vinegar! or Red Wine Vinegar for instance)
Mix well and serve- great with tortilla chips (duh) or on top of grilled fish ( as in photo above)
WILD ABOUT WILD BLUEBERRIES IN MAINE!
It’s easy to find blueberry pancakes and blueberry ice cream on just about every menu in Maine. (And as a design on table linens and other decor) Let’s get another look at that wild blueberry ice cream!
If they’re not using the state’s wild berry, I’m pretty sure they’d be run out of town.
Yarborough explains that while blueberries grow wild in Maine, farmers manage the fields where they grow to control competing weeds and insects to ensure a healthy crop. This year will be a banner year for wild blueberries because the weather was ‘honeybee friendly’ during the critical pollination phase.
Speaking of the harvest….there are mechanical harvesters but much of the crop today is still gathered as it has been for years…by raking the berries into a toothy contraption in back and forth motions so the berries tumble into the catch. It’s back breaking work and I had enough of it in five minutes. Cheers to those humble heroes who harvest our sweet crops!
Big Nutrition, Small Berry
Wild blueberries offer banner nutrition too. Because the berry is tiny there’s more skin to flesh ratio so the wild blueberry is twice as high in fiber and much higher levels of antioxidants as compared to bigger cultivated berries. Registered dietitian Kit Broihier, who works with the Wild Blueberry Association of North America says, “Tiny is huge when it comes to nutrition. The wild blueberry has concentrated levels of nutrients that support eye, heart and brain health.”
While the savoring of fresh wild blueberries is an annual celebration during harvest in Maine, the majority of the state’s crop heads immediately to the freezer. “It’s nature’s pause button,” says Yarborough. Freezing maintains the color, shape, and flavor of the fruit and creates a food product that’s available year round and worldwide.
And studies show that freezing not only protects but actually increases the availability of nutrients in blueberries. You can find wild Maine blueberries in most supermarkets in the frozen fruit section. Or….you can head to the state of Maine for the late summer harvest next year. Besides it’s the best time of year to visit Vacationland.
As the nation’s colors fly high over Independence Day-inspired menus, let’s take a look at how red, white and blue can help create a healthy plate.
The natural pigments in foods are colorful clues to the nutrients within. Called “phytochemicals,” these compounds found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and other plants provide a parade of protective effects such as curbing cancer, supporting immune function and improving heart, skin, brain and eye health. To tap into the benefits of this wonderful world of color, eat a variety of foods in every shade of the rainbow.
In Michelle Obama’s new book, “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America,” the first lady writes that encouraging Americans to eat more fresh produce is one of the main reasons she planted her vegetable garden. So, from the South Lawn of the White House to acres of growing foods for markets and restaurants across the Southeastern U.S., let’s taste the benefits of eating more reds, whites and blues.
Red fruits and vegetables contain the natural plant pigments lycopene and anthocyanin. Lycopene, which can be found in tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon and pink grapefruit, is associated with reduced risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Adding a little fat, such as olive oil, to a fresh tomato salad helps the absorption of lycopene and betacarotene. Anthocyanins in red fruits and vegetables are heart-healthy and act as antioxidants.
Forget the simplistic advice to “avoid all white foods.” White vegetables such as onions and garlic contain the chemical allicin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may help reduce risk of stomach cancer. Bananas and potatoes are good sources of potassium. Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and the phytonutrient quercetin.
Other great whites
The white color of milk comes from the protein casein. White fish is good for you, too. While salmon and tuna get the big billing when it comes to nutrition because they contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, white fish such as flounder, grouper, halibut and snapper are lower in total fat and are a great source of lean protein.
The red snapper with an aromatic herb and citrus broth served at the Optimist in west Midtown is a delicious and nutritious preparation. Enjoy it with a glass of white wine for added benefits. Red wine may have gotten the initial attention, but white wines contain heart-healthy effects, too, because it’s the alcohol content that seems to provide the protective punch.
Refined white flour may lack the dietary fiber found in whole-wheat flour, but if it’s enriched, you’re consuming more of other nutrients such as folic acid, which is important for heart health and prevention of birth defects. That’s why nutritionists say “make half your grains whole.” So if you like white bread with barbecued pork, that’s fine as long as you enjoy turkey on whole-wheat bread another time. Enriched white rice contains more folic acid than brown rice.
Blue-colored anthocyanin pigments in blueberries, blackberries, grapes, eggplant and raisins act as powerful antioxidants and may help reduce risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Other studies have shown that eating more blue foods or beverages made with them is linked with improved memory function and healthy aging.
Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.