Chickpea Shawarma Pitas with Hummus-Dill Dressing

Ever since the United Nations declared 2016 the Year of the Pulse, I’ve been trying to include at least one serving a day in my diet. Pulses, otherwise known as beans, dry peas and lentils, are fiber and protein powerhouses — not to mention that, at roughly a dollar a pound, they’re dirt-cheap. Thankfully, they also taste delicious.

Since “chickpea” sounds a lot like “chicken,” I thought chickpeas would be a natural swap in these Mediterranean-inspired shawarma pitas. Covered in spices and roasted to crispy perfection, they are then tucked into warmed pita bread and covered in a creamy hummus-dill sauce. Add in a few colorful vegetables and you’re left with a flavor-packed sandwich that’s perfect for lunch or dinner.

At first glance, this recipe may seem like it takes more ingredients than it’s worth, but they’re mainly spices that can be found in well-stocked pantries. To me, my spice pantry is king, giving me the ability to add maximum flavor without added fat. In healthy cooking, seasoning is everything, and for that, spices are worth their weight in gold. If you find that you don’t need a large jar, head to the bulk-bin section of your local grocery store for just the amount you need.

For a “cook once, eat twice” approach, transform any leftovers into a chickpea shawarma salad: Layer the vegetables with roasted chickpeas and top it with dollops of hummus-dill dressing.

Chickpea Shawarma Pitas
Yields 4 pita sandwiches; 3/4 cup hummus dressing

Chickpeas
2 cups cooked chickpeas, patted dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Sandwiches
4 pitas
1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 large tomato, sliced thin
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion

Hummus-Dill Dressing
1/2 cup hummus
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine the chickpeas, olive oil, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until browned and slightly crispy.

Wrap pitas in foil and place in the oven the last 2 minutes of cooking to warm.

While the chickpeas are cooking, whisk together the hummus, lemon juice, garlic and dill. Thin with water, if needed, for desired consistency.

To serve, divide the cucumber, lettuce, tomato and red onion among the pitas and top with chickpeas. Drizzle with hummus dressing and serve.

Per serving (1 sandwich with 2 tablespoons dressing): Calories 342; Fat 7.4 g (Saturated 0.6 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 561 mg; Potassium 577 mg; Carbohydrate 62 g; Fiber 8.2 g; Sugars 3 g; Protein 13.4 g

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.” 

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This Week’s CSA: Tomatoes at Last!

Finally! Sweet summer tomatoes have arrived in this week’s CSA from Mountain View Farm. For a cook, being handed a bag full of unadulterated produce is like being a kid handed an ice cream cone; it’s a moment of pure wonder. Still, it’s easy to grow weary during a long season of squash, squash and more squash.

Don’t get me wrong — summer squash is outstanding roasted, tossed into stir-fries and grated for slaws. But sometimes you yearn for something more … something just like a sweet, juicy tomato.

Now that we’ve gotten our wish, here are a few ideas for what to do with those fresh-from-the-farm tomatoes.
Salads: What says summer more than a fresh tomato salad? Good produce means very little work is required; just a simple vinaigrette, some fresh herbs and light seasoning will make the natural sweetness in your tomatoes pop.

Soups: Since it’s hot outside, chill down your soups. Make a vibrant gazpacho with other in-season produce, like cucumbers, peaches, bell peppers and more.

Sauces: Concentrate all that ripe tomato flavor for the best sauce. Can it so you can keep enjoying the taste of summer long after the warm weather is gone.

Sandwiches: Every good sandwich needs something that’s crunchy and savory and has just the right amount of juiciness when you bite into it. Simply slice tomatoes and add them to grilled cheeses, subs, club sandwiches and, of course, BLTs.

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5 Snacking Pitfalls

We’ve become a nation of snackers. Supermarket shelves are lined with snacking options, and many focus on the health-conscious consumer, providing snacks that are gluten-free, sugar-free, organic, vegan, kosher, dairy-free and/or GMO-free. However, you can overdo it even with the healthiest intentions. Here are five snacking mistakes that many folks make and what you can do to prevent them.

#1: Over-Grazing
Many folks tend to eat small snacks throughout the day, also known as grazing. If this habit is not kept under control, the few hundred calories you’re munching at each snack time can quickly add up and lead to weight gain over time.

Instead: Even if you’re a grazer, snacks and small meals should be scheduled throughout the day. This way you know when you’re eating, so you can have more control over what and how much you eat.

#2: Misconstrued Portions
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans stressed the importance of the type of fat consumed. Unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, avocados and nut butters are all promoted in a varied, balanced diet. However, healthy fats do carry with them a higher calorie tag, so portion control is of utmost importance. For example, 1 ounce of (or 23) almonds is a portion and contains 162 calories, 14 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. Many folks dig into their stash of almonds and eat more than 23, which add up to hundreds of calories pretty easily.

Instead: Do your homework. Always read the portion of the foods you are eating. Once you know how much you should eat, portion it out so you know how much you’re truly getting.

#3: Emotional Snacking
Having a tough day at work? Kids driving you crazy? Oftentimes stress and fatigue cause folks to grab the nearest snack food and start munching. Even worse is when you’re having a busy day and don’t even realize you’re shoving food into your mouth.

Instead: Schedule three small meals and two or three snacks of about 150 calories each so you know when it is time to snack. If you find yourself hungry at other times, ask yourself if you are really hungry or whether it’s emotionally driven. If it is, sometimes a quick walk around the block, a cup of tea or even five minutes of “me” time in your bedroom or office is all you need.

#4: Falling for the Health Halo
A snack may be organic and free of every nutrient you wish to avoid. However, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy for you. Many processed snack foods, like vegetable chips, bars, granola and cookies, are promoted as being better than the rest.

Instead: When choosing snacks, read labels! Think about which good-for-you nutrients a snack food is providing, as opposed to what it’s avoiding. Snacks are opportunities to take in vitamins and minerals you may not be able to get during your regular meals.

#5: Mistaking Thirst for Hunger
If you recently ate something, you really shouldn’t be feeling hungry. If you are, it could be your body’s way of telling you to drink something. Many folks confuse thirst with hunger, which can lead to eating many more calories than needed.

Instead: Drink a glass of water or seltzer and wait 15 minutes to re-evaluate how you feel. If you no longer feel hungry, you were probably thirsty. Keep a water bottle near you to prevent this from happening regularly. If you’re still hungry, then grab a healthy snack.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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Back-to-School Recipe Roundup

It’s that time of year again: You need breakfasts that are quick to make and eat, lunches you can pack the night before, and after-school snacks that will keep kids going strong till dinnertime. To get the school year off to a healthy start, we’ve rounded up some great ideas and easy-to-make recipes that will help get you and the kids out the door on time.

 

Breakfast in a Hurry

Pumped-up pancakes: Add some shredded kale and apples to your regular pancake batter for an extra dose of nutrients.

Yogurt parfait: Layering plain or vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit and granola makes this fun breakfast a complete — and filling — meal.

Overnight oats: Prep these the night before and your kids can dig in as soon as they get up.

Breakfast burritos (pictured above): These wraps are a hearty and healthy breakfast — perfect for kids who are extra-hungry in the morning. And if you’re really in a rush, simply wrap a scrambled egg in a tortilla and hand it to your kid on his way out the door.

Frittata: Make this yummy dish on Sunday and your kids can eat it for breakfast all week long.

Packable Lunches

Waffle sandwich: Make extras next time you have waffles for breakfast and turn them into a fun sandwich by spreading them with peanut butter, honey and sliced banana.

Sampler platter: Finger foods are especially appealing to little hands, so put together a mix of cheese cubes, deli meat slices, raw veggies, crackers and a dip (such as hummus or ranch dressing).

Fun-shaped sandwiches: If you make a sandwich on bread, use a cookie cutter to turn it into a flower or a fire engine. Take a sandwich wrap and cut it into pinwheel-shaped slices.

Pasta salad (pictured above): This is a great make-ahead recipe that can fill lunchboxes all week long.

Quesadillas: Make a cheese-and-veggie quesadilla the night before and pack it with a side of salsa or guacamole for dipping.

After-School Snacks

Banana walnut smoothie (pictured above): This healthy smoothie is indulgent enough to make your kids feel like they’re drinking a milkshake.

Graham crackers with peanut butter and banana slices: This combo makes the perfect power snack, with just enough sweetness.

Trail mix: A blend of your kid’s favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruit makes a great on-the-go snack when shuttling between after-school activities.

Energy balls: Replace the cliched cookies and milk with these protein-packed no-bake treats.

 

Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.

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Raw Cheese: Good or Bad?

Buying artisanal, local foods, including unpasteurized cheeses made from raw milk, is very popular at the moment. Some advocates even claim that raw cheese is healthier, but of course there are two sides to every story. Read on for the pros, cons and the verdict on eating raw cheese.

The Good
According to Carlos Yescas, program director at Oldways Cheese Coalition, “the benefits of eating raw milk cheese are many, amongst the most important are the diversity of the microorganisms that are present in these cheeses.” Although there are many questions that still remain due to the complexity of the human microbiome, these microbes found in raw milk cheese can help fight infection and disease.

Many folks, including myself, have food safety concerns when it comes to raw milk cheese. Yescas explains that in order to keep food safety under control it is important to source good milk. The raw cheese producers must pay attention to the quality of the milk, which included the living conditions of the animals, the nutrition of the dairy cows, and animal husbandry. “Because the processing of raw milk will not go through pasteurization (heat treatment) it is even more important to ensure that the conditions around the milking parlor are clean and safe,” says Yescas. Further, producers are mandated to constantly train their employees, as well as follow food safety guidelines (known as HACCP) that ensure that the points of contamination where pathogens can be introduced are carefully supervised.

Raw milk also contains the same nutrients found in pasteurized cheese, including protein and calcium, and is just as tasty as its pasteurized counterpart. Plus, many smaller artisan producers make raw milk cheeses, so purchasing these cheeses are a good way to support local agriculture and rural economic sustainability.

The Bad
Cheese is typically pasteurized, or heat treated to destroy pathogenic microorganisms while maintaining the nutritional quality of the end product. It is a way to help ensure the cheese does not contain harmful bacteria that can potentially make you sick. Those with a lower immune system, like kids, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older folks, and those with chronic disease (like cancer or HIV) are advised not to eat raw milk cheese.
Many of these artisanal unpasteurized cheeses are sold at local farmers’ markets where they sit outdoors all day in the hot sun. These poor handling and temperature control practices can lead to bacterial growth and ultimately cause the customer to become sick.

Further, although there may be some beneficial microorganisms found in raw milk cheese, the research of the microbiome is still just emerging.

The Verdict
If you choose to eat raw cheese then make sure you know where you are buying it from and how the producer treats and raises their milking cows.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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Nutrition News: Healthy Eating and Teens, TV Ads and Kids, and Fatty Fish and Eyesight

Healthy Eating: The Teen Scene
If you want to instill healthy-eating habits in your children, obsessing about your own weight around them is not a great idea; it may increase the risk that they will develop eating disorders or obesity during their adolescent years and beyond. That’s according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has released new guidelines on preventing obesity and eating disorders in adolescents. The AAP recommends that parents discourage their children from dieting, severely restricting their calorie intake or skipping meals. Parents should encourage healthy eating and physical activity; make family meals, where adults model healthy eating, a priority; refrain from “weight talk,” either about their own or their children’s weight, and instead focus on “healthful-eating behaviors”; steer clear of “weight teasing” and try to encourage a healthy body image overall; and be aware of bullying or extreme weight-loss efforts in overweight or obese teens. Overall, UPI notes, a focus on a healthy lifestyle, rather than a weight, is the way to go.

Fatty Fish and Eyesight
Can fatty fish lower the risk of blindness among those with diabetes? A study from Centro de Investigacion Biomedica en Red in Barcelona, Spain, suggests that just two servings a week of seafood, especially fatty fish, can combat diabetic retinopathy, a complication of Type 2 diabetes that stems from a retinal blood-supply reduction. Participants in the five-year study were divided into three groups: One followed a low-fat diet, the second a Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil, and the third a Mediterranean diet with 30 grams of Omega-3-rich nuts daily. The second group saw the vision benefits. “The team found that those who routinely consumed 500 milligrams (mg) a day of Omega-3 fatty acid in their diets (equal to two servings of fatty fish per week) were 48 percent less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy than those who consumed less,” HealthDay News reported, and the researchers noted that it was eating fish, rather than taking Omega-3 supplements, that did the trick.

Commercials and Impulse Eating
Another way to help kids eat healthy: Limit access to food advertisements. A small-scale study of kids, ages 8 to 14, has found that those who are shown food commercials on TV make faster, possibly more impulsive, decisions to eat “tasty” (not necessarily healthy) foods and that their brains’ reward centers “light up” in response to these ads. While kids in general choose foods based on taste rather than health, after kids watched food commercials, taste was even more important to them and prompted them to make faster decisions, and the part of the brain that is involved in reward valuation (the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) showed greater activity, the researchers reported in the Journal of Pediatrics. “Parents and pediatricians should be aware of these results so that they can put limits on screen time that involves food advertising,” lead author Amanda Bruce, of the University of Kansas Medical Center, told Reuters. “They should also discuss with children the importance of critical thinking about commercials.”

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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5 Lighter-Than-Usual Cocktails Starring Summer Fruit

Health experts unanimously agree that light or zero alcohol consumption is better than heavy or even moderate drinking, and we can’t argue with that. But for those of us content to live life by the “in moderation” mantra, the best we can do is steer clear of the true nutritional disasters: thick, creamy daiquiris and sickeningly sweet juice cocktails that pack half a day’s calories or more. On the other hand, light, effervescent drinks sweetened with whole fruit or homemade fruit juices will give you a buzz and a few additional nutrients. If you’re looking to get a little bit tipsy without going overboard, this is the way to drink — and we have a few cocktail recipes that will help keep happy-hour excess in check.

Pink Derby
This glamorous pink cocktail is best suited for the pageantry of the Kentucky Derby, but it will fit in with grace and ease at any other summer soiree. To make it healthier, the chefs in Food Network Kitchen used honey in place of white processed sugar, and the gorgeous pink hue comes from a blend of watermelon, kiwi and lime juices.

White Sangria
Ellie Krieger’s refreshing sangria is a citrusy mix of white wine, orange liqueur and brandy plus orange juice and sliced fruit. A splash of club soda provides a touch of fizz.

Watermelon-Strawberry Sangria
Bobby Flay combines two of summer’s defining fruits, watermelon and strawberries, to create the ideal refresher for a light brunch or summer cocktail hour. Cold rosé and orange liqueur form the sangria’s crisp-sweet base, perfect on a balmy day.

Red Wine Spritzers
Rachael Ray adds bubbly seltzer water to dry Italian red wine and flavors her spritzer with seasonal berries for a low-calorie and effervescent summer drink.

Frozen Mango Margarita
Skip the neon, bottled margarita mix and whip up a fruity base for this classic tequila cocktail instead. Ellie achieves sunny yellow color by blending orange liqueur, tequila and lime with frozen mango pieces.

Cool off with more refreshing summer cocktails from our friends:

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