Overnight Oatmeal with Apples and Maple Syrup

Overnight Oats

A hot breakfast is a welcome start to any day this winter in Chicago!  This recipe is a breeze since it cooks overnight and is ready as soon as you are in the morning.  Simply prep the ingredients in the slow cooker at night and set on low for 7-10 hours.  You’ll be happy to have this hot breakfast waiting for you the next morning!  And any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated for breakfast or snack time throughout the week.

Overnight Oatmeal with Apples and Maple Syrup (serves 6)

2 apples, sliced and cut into ½ pieces

1-½ cups low fat milkOvernight oats 3

2 cups water

1 cup uncooked steel-oats

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

Optional toppings: Chopped nuts, maple syrup, additional milk

If needed, coat inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Add all ingredients (except toppings) to slow cooker. Stir, cover and cook on low for 7-10 hours

Serve oatmeal into bowls. Add optional toppings. Enjoy!

NEW Dietary Guidelines for Americans

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Last month, the Obama administration released the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are revised every 5 years with the purpose of helping us make healthy food and beverage choices and to serve as the foundation for vital nutrition policies and programs throughout the U.S. If you are interested in learning more, here is a link to the Executive Summary http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/executive-summary/

After sifting through the report, I have prepared some noteworthy points to highlight. Let’s start with how healthy eating is defined by the Guidelines:

  • A variety of vegetables from all of the color groups–dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and others.
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese and or fortified soy beverages), fat free or low fat
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds and soy products
  • Oils

This healthy eating plan is nothing new, it models the USDA MyPlate.  But keep in mind, many people with a goal of ‘healthy eating’ may have cut dairy foods from their diets.  These dairy foods are recommended to help meet the calcium, vitamin D and potassium needs for everyone— these are the nutrients we are not getting enough of. The Guidelines recommend 3 servings of dairy daily for everyone 9 years and older. One serving equals 1 cup milk or yogurt and 1-1/2 ounce of cheese.

Next, let’s look at what the guidelines suggest we limit in our eating. You may have already heard the big news: cut down on sugar and sodium and keep saturated fat intake ‘in check’. Saturated fat is found mostly in animal protein foods. By purchasing and preparing lean cuts of meat and varying your protein choices to include legumes and fish, this recommendation is manageable.

The sugar recommendation includes any sugar added to foods but does not include the natural sugar found in foods like fruit and dairy. The recommendation is to cap added sugar to about 12-1/2 teaspoons (50 grams) daily (that is, 10% of calories for a 2,000 calorie diet). This can add up quickly if you enjoy sweet desserts and sugared beverages. But please know that hidden sugar counts, too. Common sources include jarred pasta sauces, energy drinks, canned fruit, and breakfast cereals. Food labels are a valuable resource to determine the sugar content of packaged foods.

For sodium, the cap is 2,300 mg daily. This amount of sodium is found in a teaspoon of salt. To meet these guidelines, it does help to avoid the salt shaker at the table, but unfortunately a major part of the sodium in American diets (80%) comes from processed and packaged foods. These foods include: frozen meals, canned or pickled foods, snack foods, condiments, and soda. Cutting sodium from your diet may make foods suddenly taste bland. But over time, your taste for salt will adapt and you will be able to use less for the same flavor. It will also be important to rely on herbs and other seasonings to bring more flavor to your palette. That is how many recipes on this blog are seasoned!

Reading labels for both sodium and sugar content is the only way to know what you’re eating. However, eating foods without labels is the best kind of eating! The less processed, the better. Making small changes that stick with you over time is the best strategy for tackling these latest recommendations. As stated in the Guidelines, “A lifetime of healthy eating helps to prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes… it is one of the most powerful tools we have”.

Sweet Orange Chia Seed Pudding

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Chia seeds are a new ingredient in my kitchen.  What first intrigued me was their unique  nutritional profile.  Just 2 tablespoons provide 5 grams of fiber and 4500 mg of alpha-linoileic acid (omega 3’s) along with protein, calcium, vitamins and other minerals.  When these seeds are hydrated in liquid, they form a gel and suspend in that liquid.  They add texture to smoothies and are the gelling agent in this pudding recipe.  If you are a veteran user of chia seeds, please share your favorite way to use them.  If you are new to them, this recipe is a great place to start!

Sweet Orange Chia Seed Pudding (serves 4)

1 cup of low fat milk

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Zest of 1/2 orange

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup non fat plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup Chia seeds

Toppings: orange sections and shredded coconut

In a small bowl, mix together milk and maple syrup. Add Chia seeds and mix well. Let sit for 5 minutes and stir again. Refrigerate for 2 hours (or overnight), stirring again after first hour. When ready to serve, stir in orange juice, zest and yogurt, and thoroughly combine.

Pour into individual serving bowls and top with orange sections and shredded coconut. Enjoy!

Savvy Slow Cooking Class

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Savvy Slow Cooking with Dina Bair on WGN Midday News!

The quickest cooking class I’ve ever taught was this past Friday on WGN Midday News.  In less than 5 minutes I demonstrated two of my favorite slow cooker recipes.  That’s funny, isn’t it?  A quick class of slow cooker recipes?  Anyway, if you want to watch Friday’s segment, here’s the link.  And here are the links to my featured recipes: White Chicken Chili and Jalapeño and Portobello Braised Beef.

The real purpose of the WGN segment was to promote my upcoming Savvy Slow Cooking classes.  The first one scheduled on Thursday, February 4th is sold out but a second one has been added on Friday, February 5th at Marcel’s in Glen Ellyn.  In this class scheduled from 9:30-11am, I will demo three different recipes:  Maple Brown Sugar Steel Cut Oatmeal with Apples, Fiesta Chicken Tortilla Soup, and Asian Moo Shu Pork.

Slow cooking answers the 5pm question, ‘What’s for Dinner?’.  My own slow cooker stays on my counter most of the winter and I use it weekly to make flavorful and healthy family meals.  With these upcoming classes, I hope to encourage you to dust off your own slow cooker so that you will have an answer to the ‘Whats for Dinner’ question at your house!

Will you join me for a morning in the kitchen tasting, learning, and sharing?  I hope so!  To register and for more information, click here!

Italian Chicken and Orzo Soup

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It’s soup season!  Think of this one as a spin on traditional chicken noodle, loaded with veggies and some orzo pasta. Start to finish, it will be ready in just under an hour.  I do hope this recipe helps you stay warm and healthy this winter!

Italian Chicken and Orzo Soup (serves 6)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound skinless chicken breast

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 small onion, diced

2 stalks celery, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 quart chicken stock

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

1 (15 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1 cup orzo pasta

3 cups baby spinach

parmesan cheese, shredded

In a large pot, heat oil. Sauté onion and celery until onion is translucent. Add oregano, garlic and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant. Sprinkle in salt and several grinds of fresh pepper. Add chicken, stock, water, and tomatoes. When brought to a boil, reduce heat and simmer (partially covered) for 30 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and shred with fork. In the meantime, add the orzo and simmer aggressively for 10 minutes. When pasta is done, return chicken to pot and add parsley and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve into bowls and top with shredded parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Upcoming College Class: Give the Gift of Cooking!

 

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Tortellini and Vegetable Soup

Greetings!  In just 8 days, we will be celebrating Christmas.  If you are anything like me, you may have a few gifts left to buy.  If anyone on your list is in college or just starting out in a new kitchen (for example, a first apartment or new house), I may have the perfect gift!  My upcoming College Cooking Class at Marcel’s Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn, is designed with these new cooks in mind.  On January 7th, from 6:30-8:30pm, we will make three deliciously easy and nutritious main dishes. No fancy equipment is necessary for these stove top recipes. And, I promise not to forget dessert!  On the menu: Tortellini and Vegetable Soup, Cheesy Beef and Tomato Pasta Skillet Supper, Tangy Orange Chicken Thighs and Rice, and Dunkable Monster Cookies.

For more information and to register, click here!  HO, HO, HO!

And please check out the full listing of my cooking classes at Marcel’s for the first quarter of 2016 HERE!

Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew

Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew

When the weather gets cold, I love to make soups and stews. Typically, stew takes a few hours to cook because moist heat is needed to tenderize the meat traditionally used in stew.  But start to finish, Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew from Cooking Light, cooks in less than one hour.  This is because this stew starts with an already tender cut of meat, a pork tenderloin.  The pork is seasoned with spices resembling Mexican pork stew, Posole, with ancho chile powder at center stage.

Ancho chile powder can be found in many grocery stores but can also be made at home.  For DIY ancho chile powder, purchase dried whole ancho chiles (2 ounce package yields 1/4 cup powder). Slit peppers with a paring knife, and shake out seeds. Remove stem. Tear skin into 1 inch pieces. Using a coffee grinder, place pieces into a coffee grinder and process until finely ground (you may have to process in batches). Store in airtight container until ready to use.

Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew (serves 4-6)

2 tablespoons ancho chile powder

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 large onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2-1/2 cups chicken stock

1-28 ounce can hominy, drained

1-15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Shredded Mexican cheese, as desired

Combine chile powder, oregano, paprika, cumin and salt in a bowl. Set 1-1/2 teaspoons aside. Toss pork pieces into spice mix. Coat evenly.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned and fragrant. Remove pork from pan. Add remaining olive oil. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes until tender. Return pork to pan. Add broth, hominy, tomatoes and reserved spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and partially cover to simmer for 25 minutes. Serve with cheese, if desired, and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!

Adapted from www.CookingLight.com

 

Thanksgiving Sides

Thanksgiving is upon us!  Time with family, a break from work and school, and great food all mean that there is so much to look forward to!  Here are two new sides you may want to try for Thanksgiving:  Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad and Oven Baked Butternut Squash Risotto.  What’s unique about both of these is that they can meet the special dietary needs- gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, and nut free- of anyone coming to dinner. If you are looking for something easy, yummy and good for everyone, try these!

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Lemon Zest (serves 6)IMG_3114

1-1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts

1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds

1/4 cup yellow raisins

2 peeled hard boiled eggs, diced (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Prepare Brussels sprouts by trimming bottoms and removing discolored or tough outer leaves. In a food processor with a grating attachment (or with a box grater), grate sprouts. Collect into a medium bowl (about 10 ounces total). Toss with sunflower seeds, raisins, and eggs (if using). In a separate small bowl, whisk lemon juice, vinegar and mustard. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking to combine. Add zest and shallots. Toss salad with dressing.

This salad can be served immediately or place in fridge for up to an hour. Toss again before serving and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Adapted from www.chow.com

Oven Baked Butternut Squash Risotto (serves 6)IMG_3115

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1-1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and diced (4 cups)

4 cups vegetable stock

1 bunch curly kale (or Lacinato/Tuscan kale), tough stems removed and cut into ½ inch strips (about 4 cups loosely packed)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium Dutch oven or oven proof pot with a lid, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté shallots until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until edges of rice are translucent, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add wine. Stir and cook until wine is absorbed. Add squash and stock, bring mixture to a boil. Stir in kale. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake for 20 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Serve hot and garnish with parmesan. Enjoy!

Adapted from Meatless by Martha Stewart

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!

‘Anytime’ Mini Stratas

Mini Stratas

Stratas seem like they’re reserved just for special occasions.  Made from bread and eggs, this dish typically takes some planning including an overnight in the fridge before cooking. That explains the annual strata recipe I make for our family’s Christmas brunch.  But, to my great surprise, I found a brilliant new way to enjoy strata.  Make them MINI.  Thanks to the Power Up Muffins in the 2015 ‘The Dairy Good Cookbook:  Everyday Comfort Food from America’s Dairy Farm Families’, I am sharing my newest favorite strata recipe and calling it ‘Anytime Mini Strata’.  In fact, I just made these after church for my family this weekend.  Not only did everyone enjoy them, they were simple to assemble, sit to soak for only 10 minutes and bake in just 20 minutes. Here it is!

Anytime Mini Strata (makes 1 dozen)Anytime Mini Stratas

6 large eggs

1 cup plan non-fat Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon each:  onion powder, garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup packed spinach, chopped

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup cubed whole grain bread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.  Using a whisk, beat eggs in medium bowl with yogurt.  Add up to a tablespoon of water if mixture to thick to blend.  Whisk in onion and garlic powders, salt and pepper.  With a spoon, mix in cheese, bread, spinach and mushrooms.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Stir once again and evenly distribute amongst the 12 muffin cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden brown.  Allow a few minutes to cool before serving. Run a small knife around each to help pop them out of the muffin cups.  Enjoy!

For the Love of Stew!

Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew

Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew

Cool weather has arrived just in time ‘For the Love of Stew‘ this week at Marcel’s in Glen Ellyn.  On Thursday morning, November 12, 9:30-11am I am teaching:  Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew, Lamb & Butternut Squash Stew, and Skillet Jalapeño Cornbread. Come to relax with a cup of coffee while I make deliciously easy recipes for you to taste and enjoy!  These stew recipes are unique as they are each ready in just 30 minutes.  You’ll leave class easily knowing what you are making for dinner that night!  For more information and to register click HERE.  I hope you can join me!